There have been some, not so subtle, hints that CrashGem had run into trouble with development of their turn-based RPG, Churbles. Initially funded for $28,487 on Kickstarter back in late 2013, the project blew right past it’s expected 2014 release date.
News of the delay came after the developers had already decided to scale back the project. They planned on making Churbles an ongoing series of episodic games, rather than the single RPG promised in the campaign.
When announcing the delay, CrashGem was quick to apologize to their backers. They claimed they just hadn’t understood “the scope of the project and the magnitude of work it would require.” Most crowdfunded projects face delays so backers initially remained supportive. The project was still in development and CrashGem seemed to have every intention of completing the game. Until, suddenly they didn’t.
A Slow And Quiet Death
In February of 2016, CrashGem posted a backers only update to the Churbles Kickstarter page. This was the last anyone would hear about Churbles until November. Behind the scenes, the team quietly deleted all social media accounts associated with Churbles. This is usually the death knell of crowdfunded projects. The team quietly removes any mention of the game and hopes that nobody notices. Not surprisingly, their 662 backers noticed and were not pleased.
It seems that someone over at CrashGem has finally decided to step-up and acknowledge what backers have suspected for some time, development on Churbles has officially ended. In, what I have every reason to believe will be their final update, CrashGem says they are unable to finish the project.
“In the end we put too much focus on art and animation, and not enough on programming and development skills.”
It turns out there was a good reason that the updates only showed concept art and animations. That’s all there was. The lack of actually developing a game engine or mechanics wasn’t enough. The developers also decided that crowdfunding had contributed to the game’s failure.
“…we should have avoided crowd funding, as the money we acquired from the Kickstarter was very quickly allocated to licensing, contractors, and additional programming & art assets. Crowdfunding also added additional complications with content bloat, as we made several mistakes during the campaign of over promising bigger and better assets.”
The Churbles assets still exist, but CrashGem hasn’t mentioned distributing them to backers. Instead, backers have been given a vague promise to be notified if another project comes up. Because, you know, I’m sure they’ll want to lose money a second time.
Ah yes, about the money. Anyone hoping for a refund, or indeed any sort of compensation need not continue hoping. CrashGem has clearly stated that they have exhausted far more effort and resources than the campaign raised. All the money raised is long gone. The only reconciliation they offered is that the majority of the team have gone on to better things. At least something came out of the $28,487 they accepted from backers.
Learning From Mistakes, Or Not?
On the one hand, I appreciate the developer finally coming forward and admitting that they have given up. On the other? This isn’t a decision they came upon suddenly. They knew they were in trouble long before now and should have begun to plan accordingly. At the very least backers should be provided the digital art assets the team managed to produce prior to closing shop. It will be small comfort to most, but it at least shows a good faith attempt to deliver what they could.
Promising to contact backers, maybe, someday, if the project ever goes back into production while holding onto the assets just feels like yet another slap in the face. When you break up with someone you don’t keep all their stuff and tell them you’ll give them a call if you ever decide to give it back. CrashGem needs to make a clean break and backers need to be free to move on to projects beyond Churbles.
(ed: At the request of some Churbles backers we reached out to CrashGem multiple times over the past several months to get the lowdown on the status of the game. We never heard back. In the unlikely event we ever hear back from them we’ll update this article accordingly.)