We here at Cliqist haven’t written about Kickstarted 3D platformer Lobodestroyo since August. It’s been rather quiet on that front, with developer Left-Handed Games keeping their cards close to their chest.
Crowdfunded back in December 2013, Left-Handed Games did a phenomenal job keeping backers in the loop, releasing on average about one update a month for two years straight. Then, starting in December 2015, the developer went quiet. We went digging and wound up speaking to James Guy, founder of Left-Handed Games and lead developer of Lobodestroyo. Not long after that interview, Guy posted their first Kickstarter update in six months. He promised promising a return to a more consistent update schedule. We even declared that the game had triumphantly returned.
Eight months later, and Left-Handed Games have gone silent again.
Lobodestroyo’s Kickstarter page remains a ghost town. To Left-Handed’s credit, they are providing a smattering of updates and behind-the-scenes looks here and there. There are screenshots of developmental builds on the developer’s Twitter page. A recent blog post via their website mentions the possibility of a Nintendo Switch port. The most definitive statement came from Guy himself in the Kickstarter comment section back in December. Responding to a backer, Guy stated that they would “resume regular updates in January ,” that they have “shuffled team members again,” and that they have “made some strides [Guy is] keen to showcase and share with you all.”
In our interview, Guy talked about how many on the team were still working full time jobs. He said it was difficult, and eventually some team members had to walk away. “We are at a stage right now [where] we are restructuring the team; bringing on new people, and shuffling the responsibilities of others.” To hear the developer still struggling with staffing issues is disappointing, though not unsurprising. The $43,831 of the funding raised isn’t much for a video game, and considering it’s now been four years, it’s hard to imagine the money isn’t running out.
Rather than producing regular updates as originally planned, Left-Handed Games will now post updates only when certain development milestones are hit. “We have opted to keep news closer to the chest and then have more to show for it, rather than being overly vocal about minimal movement. As [one commenter] has pointed out the twitter feed is the best way to get bite-sized nuggets and will be more active come Jan.” Such an update hasn’t seen the light of day yet.
It’s a risky strategy. The few commenters still lingering around are wondering why there haven’t been any updates. Promising regular updates would return before changing your mind (without saying as much for six months) that you would instead only release updates when you had something to show inevitably leads to some backers fearing the worst. With each passing month without an update, seven for Lobodestroyo so far, it will only cement in people’s heads that the game is in dire straits, especially after four years of development and no end in sight.
That’s not to say there are no positives to this move. I’ve long believed that developers should frequently post updates, even if they don’t have anything, at least to let their backers know they’re still plugging away, if nothing else. But there comes a point where “hey, still got nothing to show, ok bye” would only annoy backers. It only serves to draw attention to the fact that you don’t have much, if anything, to show. In that case, the best thing a developer can do is continue working in the background, without any distractions, lest they become the next Keiji Inafune – constantly promising a release date and ne features, only to have to push that date back and cut those features.
We reached out to James Guy once again for comment, and he had the following to say: “Give us a few weeks and we’ll be showing all the progress we’ve been making on the game. It’s looking loads better and I am excited to showcase it.” It’s not much, and it doesn’t address why there’s been a now two month delay on the update, but it’s something. If there is a lot of a better looking game to show, than that truly is something to get excited about.
For now, there’s not much to say about Lobodestroyo. It’s almost the opposite situation of We Happy Few. Its seven month journey through early access has been rough, debuting to negative reviews, and despite new updates improving the quality of the game, it’s fallen off everyone’s radar. Left-Handed Games seems to be going the other route. Instead of dispersing small updates over the course of years, debuting on early access, they want to have as much information available in small bursts to not only grab attention, but to hold it. As frustrating as that can be to backers, it’s a smart move for a studio that wants to sell a game, not just deliver a Kickstarter product.
Once again it comes down to the ethics of crowdfunding. Is it okay for a developer to withhold information about development for an extended period of time? There are no rules dictating the frequency of updates, or even mandating them. But is it fair to backers, and does it really matter? Unfortunately it’s not as black and white as that.
Kickstarter backers are notorious for being impatient, even when a developer is offering frequent updates. Whether that reputation is itself fair or not is worthy of its own article. As with many smaller Kickstarter campaigns like Lobodestroyo, it seems the majority of its backers are being patient, they’ve given up hope, or they’ve just forgotten about it. You can’t blame (some) backers for being upset though, with the sheer volume of developers who take the money and run, or those who earned thousands of dollars before realizing they’re out of their depth and silently scarp their work.
Neither James Guy nor his team have shown any indication that they’re not in control. The slow stream of pictures on Twitter and updates on Left-Handed’s website is enough of a progress report, however slow. What we have here is a classic case of “all is well, nothing to report.” It’s easy to forget what interests us in Kickstarter campaigns when months and years go by with no updates. Having patience always helps, as do a few updates every now and then.
Lobodestroyo is the perfect example of that. Kickstarter backers need to have a little patience. Updates would be nice, sure, but none of us are entitled to them. If you’re not comfortable with that, why are you using Kickstarter?