After five years and $71,061, Kickstarter backers were waiting for news, any news, from the team at Cipher Prime. Their last backer communication had been a post promising more transparency in 2016. After a year of total radio silence, they’ve finally posted another update. Auditorium 2: Duet is officially canceled.
The project was a cooperative multiplayer sequel to their 2009 launch title, Auditorium. After funding Auditorium with Paypal donations, Cipher Prime tried turning to publishers. Unsatisfied with this traditional model they decided to bring their newest project to Kickstarter in February of 2012.
Their most recent update/apology to backers revealed that the Kickstarter funds ended up paying for backer rewards, and not much else. In the campaign video, the developers said that they expected the game to take 6 months to a year to complete. Yet, that same video also showed them admitting that the $60,000 goal would only keep the studio running for 3-4 months.
“In 2012, no one had successfully funded a game for its full budget. This Kickstarter that you funded proved that people wanted a sequel to our beloved game, but it wasn’t enough to provide us with a full development budget—we didn’t ask for what we really needed.”
Short on money, the developers relied on client jobs and smaller projects to remain afloat. This lead to a cycle of Cipher Prime having to divide an already small team among multiple projects. With no clear focus, the development for Auditorium 2: Duet quickly fell behind schedule.
For the first 2 years, updates slowly continued to trickle in on Kickstarter. The team delivered their physical campaign rewards. Backers even received bonus copies of the games produced by Cipher Prime as they continued working on Duet. While they were clearly trying, it was obviously a struggle.
By November of 2015, backers had grown tired of delays and apologies. Cipher Prime attempted to own up to their mistakes and lack of communication. Unfortunately, they still weren’t sure how to fix the problems. They promised to step away and make a plan regarding the future of, not only Auditorium 2: Duet, but also Cipher Prime as a studio.
This was followed by the fateful December 2015 update. Cipher Prime announced their plan to reduce the external responsibilities taking time away from the project. Most of these additional responsibilities centered around the Philly indie game community. Cipher Prime had spend the last 3 years offering mentoring to a collective of upcoming game developers at the Philly Game Forge.
Solving Problems With New Problems
In the same update where they discussed their need to dedicate more time to Auditorium 2’s development, they showed off pictures from a Duet themed art show. The show did motivate them to make progress on Duet. They planned out major acts, UI, level transitions, thematic inspiration for each musical piece, and the overall story of the game. The show also took additional time away from development as they worked out a Light Selfie Application, constructed a booth, and printed art and promotional materials. This would be their last update.
A full year went by with no word from Cipher Prime. More than enough time for backers to begin crying foul. Some even took to Facebook to set up a support group of sorts for fans who had backed the project. Things were looking grim, and backers had begun reporting the project to Kickstarter.
Today, a “backers only” update released on Kickstarter finally confirmed their suspicions. The update (edited to remove backer specific information) was promptly shared on Reddit. The post details the trials and missteps made by the team through the years.
“During this entire project, we knew we were stuck in a loop and didn’t know how to get out of it, because we hadn’t stopped to figure out what mistakes we were making.”
According to the update, Cipher Prime had spent the past year trying to secure publishers or investors to finish the game. Ultimately none of their efforts panned out. Finally they had to admit they couldn’t complete the project.
Backers were provided a link to an archive of all of the playable builds created throughout development. In retrospect, the devs acknowledged that they should have shared the game’s progress with backers all along.
It’s a disappointing end for the 2,037 backers of Auditorium 2: Duet. Only time will tell if the project’s failure will go down as merely disappointing or completely devastating for Cipher Prime.