Over four years ago, I jumped on the Kickstarter bandwagon along with so many other adventure game fans. One of the earliest campaigns that I had backed was SpaceVenture, a spiritual successor to one of my favorite series growing up, Space Quest. I jumped in head first as soon as I saw it launch and I wasn’t the only die-hard Sierra fan that did so. However, the campaign wasn’t without its controversies and it nearly didn’t get funded.
Four years later, we still wait for SpaceVenture. It’s frustrating to see in a project that I’ve given so much money to, but I still have faith that it’ll be available eventually. As such, I reached out to Chris Pope, Scott Murphy, and Mark Crowe for an interview on the past, present, and hopeful future of the game.
How about a quick history lesson before we start? As we all know, Kickstarter really was put on the map when Tim Schafer made millions on his idea and both Scott and Mark felt it was time to team up again after so long apart. With the help of Chris they ended up launching the SpaceVenture campaign a couple months after Double Fine. They had originally wanted to make a new Space Quest game, which is what a lot of us hardcore fans wanted, but in the end Activision said no.
Not for lack of trying on the part of the Two Guys From Andromeda and the “Space Pope”. According to Chris, “In the end, they told us that they were not interested in selling the rights, or coming to any other agreement in regards to us working on a new Space Quest. They mentioned that they were actually interested in doing something with it themselves. Possibly a hidden object type game. Needless to say, none of us were thrilled about that idea. From there we decided it best to do a spiritual successor.” And thus SpaceVenture was born.
SpaceVenture almost didn’t come to pass. It started out strong, but there was a long, two-week silence where we didn’t hear from them. Since then, it has come to light that there was a potential issue with Activision and the three of them nearly had to cancel the campaign for fear of legal action. Backers learned it was all a hoax on the part of whomever had “leaked” this information. It was never revealed who the person was that did it, though.
Another problem that plagued the funding campaign surrounded concerns about HTML5 “playable prototypes” they released. SpaceVenture was one of the first gaming projects that I’m aware of to actually try to release a demo for a crowdfunding campaign. Unfortunately, the decision to use HTML5 to show off that Scott and Mark could still work together and produce quality content nearly backfired and almost caused the campaign to crash to a halt just as much as the silence did.
Of course, a lot of us knew that the final game wouldn’t be done in HTML5. Sure, they hadn’t decided on a platform an engine to develop the game in at the time but these prototypes were there just to have fun with. A lot of people Many, though, feared that it was going to be written in that language and will be exclusive to Google Chrome. “All in all, I don’t regret the playable prototypes and I don’t think they hurt us much. They were fun and accomplished what we wanted, which was to have something that backers could enjoy while the campaign was going on.”
There have been a few reasons why development is taking so long. One of the hurdles was deciding on what platform to use, ultimately choosing to go with Unity. According to Chris, “In the beginning, the biggest problem we had was learning Unity and getting solid programming. The three of us bit off more than we could chew with Unity.” Ultimately, they had to learn a language that they weren’t familiar with and they also had to spend time finding people with this knowledge to help out.
They eventually went with the second option as they didn’t feel right asking people who had already given of themselves for more. That, and due to personal issues surrounding Scott Murphy, Chris and Mark decided to work on what would become the Cluck Yegger game. Cluck had been announced as an alter ego to Ace Hardway, and a homage to the beloved Astro Chicken in Space Quest, but we didn’t know exactly how he fit into the lore.
Cluck Yegger is a fictional avian pilot who just happens to be Ace’s personal hero and during the game, according to Chris, “Ace will stumble upon a chance to play the latest Cluck Yegger video game while it’s still in beta. During this Cluck Yegger sequence, Ace will learn a very important plot twist that involves the rest of the game.” Which is where the Five Nights at Freddy’s style story comes into play. You can read my thoughts on that here. And it, along with a couple other arcade sequences, will be pretty much entirely optional should you have an adverse reaction to having action in your adventure.
Let’s get probably the most anticipated question out of the way now, namely when SpaceVenture is going to launch. With one of the latest updates, we got treated to a November release date. Both Chris and Mark are hopeful that they’ll still make it despite the setbacks that have befallen the project.
“My confidence meter is running at 80% right now. But we’re making good strides towards
closing the gap and hitting that target.”
– Mark Crowe
Unfortunately, the release date has been pushed back more than once. While there are some, myself admittedly included, starting to get frustrated at the delays, Chris tried to alleviate some of my concerns. “Ultimately, we do take responsibility for the fact that the game is taking a long time to come out,” he said. “We also know that this is in some cases due to bad decision making on our part.”
The major factor in SpaceVenture taking so long is its scope. “From the start we kind of set our sights on a game that is the size of Space Quest 4. It’s probably closer to Space Quest 5 in length at this point. Half a million dollars is a lot of money, but it’s still tough to make a game this size on that budget.” Understandable, especially since Chris has stated they don’t want to release a “half baked” game. They’re looking to give both longtime fans and newcomers something to enjoy and are making sure that every little detail is up to their standards.
“We are taking that fact very seriously and really appreciate everyone hanging in there with us.”
– Chris Pope
In the end, everyone has been working hard to get the game out as quickly as possible without sacrificing their vision. Unfortunately, half a million dollars isn’t a whole lot to work with in creating a game of this scope and they ended up having to make a choice to help supplement the funding. Their choices essentially boiled down to returning to the well and asking backers for more money or to release a small portion of the game as a standalone at a cheap price.
To date, there have been 110 updates discussing the development of SpaceVenture. They’ve shown off some rather cool art, videos, and music by Ken Allen but outside of the Cluck Yegger mini-game and a short alpha tease we haven’t seen a whole lot of actual gameplay. All that will hopefully start to show itself as the testing phase begins. Until then, we’ll just have to wait patiently as November rolls around. And, hopefully, we will see a release by the end of the year.
“I know all of us are very thankful to everyone for continuing to stick with us. SpaceVenture is a long time coming and I really do feel like the wait will be worth it once you guys get to play it. Keep an eye on our Kickstarter updates. We’ve got another one that will hit probably not too far after this article comes out.” – Chris Pope
“I know all of us are very thankful to everyone for continuing to stick with us. SpaceVenture is a long time coming and I really do feel like the wait will be worth it once you guys get to play it. Keep an eye on our Kickstarter updates. We’ve got another one that will hit probably not too far after this article comes out.”
– Chris Pope