One of the most intriguing dead Kickstarters I have come across is Dwarfcorp. Reading through the updates, there is no indication of trouble. In fact, the campaign’s apparent abandonment seems entirely unexpected. This led me to wonder if it was intentionally abandoned or if something happened to the two-man-team behind it. I doubt we’ll ever truly know, but thought it would be interesting to explore this “Mary Celeste” of Kickstarter campaigns.
Dwarfcorp is a game I would back any day. It’s meant to be a cute amalgamation of Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft with a satirical leaning. It was funded for more than double its goal back in 2013 and did a wonderful job of regularly updating backers. In fact, Dwarfcorp had just released it’s Alpha 2.01 on the 22nd June 2015, just three days before its disappearance. The developers logged in one final time to give one of their backers a Steam key and never logged on again.
“We hope this will make our development progress more transparent, and will help us keep track of bugs and feature timelines better. It will also hopefully improve the possibility for modding/porting the game later on.”
Update 41, Dwarfcorp
In the update prior, developer Completely Fair Games had uploaded Dwarfcorp code to Github to, “make [their] development progress more transparent.” I can’t help but think this would be a strange thing for someone planning to abandon the project to do. I’ve seen it argued that this was to help them escape legal liability but, with the game already in Alpha, why not just finish it? Let’s face it, Dwarfcorp had the making of a smash hit just waiting to happen.
While researching this Kickstarter I came across a postmortem Matt Klingensmith (one-half of Completely Fair Games) wrote about Dwarfcorp. A couple of things stuck out to me as I read through the article. Matt and his unnamed friend were young and in graduate school when they brought Dwarfcorp to Kickstarter. They clearly had passion but as for wisdom and experienced it seems safe to say they were lacking. Reading that postmortem made me realize there were loads of reasons for them to quit early on, such as the hostility of the community.
They didn’t, though, and a lot of those reasons shouldn’t have dragged it down two years down the line. The only thing I could come up with that might have worn them down was the way they were being treated by the community. They mentioned the hostility they received when they started advertising their Kickstarter even in places they’d previously been encouraged. On top of that, it seems they were receiving a deluge of dumb questions on a regular basis from people who thought Kickstarter was an iphone app store. I can only begin to imagine how wearying and frustrating that would be.
Despite that, I don’t think they would abandon the project after 2 years just because they were constantly having to explain how Kickstarter worked to backers. Personally, I am hoping to see them return to Dwarfcorp. I hate to think that Completely Fair Games were chased away from the project by peoples’ attitudes, especially since they were both young developers. Unless they come back, we may never being able to solve this Kickstarter mystery. I’d love to hear your theories about what happened to Dwarfcorp and check out the Post Mortem Matt wrote about the game.