In December of 2011, a young development team went to Kickstarter to fund their new project. Jazza Studios raised $21,740 to develop their massive story-based, choice-driven RPG, Ortus. The game combined all the best of classic RPGs into one playable experience. Six years later, the developers are still trying to make things right with their 292 backers.
As time has passed, many backers have written the project off as yet another Kickstarter scam. Accusing the developers of running off with the funding with nothing to show for themselves. Jazza Studios finally decided to address these accusations directly in a recent Kickstarter update.
Initially, a dedicated team of 4 was responsible for the development of Ortus. Early in development, Armor Games kept the project afloat with sponsorship payments. Realizing they would need more funds, the devs decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign for what they assumed would be enough to complete the project. Unfortunately, this assumption, along with their belief that the game was nearly done, ultimately proved false.
“When we Kickstarted the project, the funding was what we believed would carry us across the finish line. Unfortunately the creation and implementation of the substantial additional content in the form of Kickstarter rewards took up a LOT of our time and developmental resources to make happen, so that by the time we were wrapping up the additional content for rewards and moving back to the game content itself, funding was already drying up and we were right back where we started – an ambitious game to finish with nothing to sustain us through the end,” the update explained.
All told, after Kickstarter/Amazon fees, and unfavorable exchange rates the actual amount the devs received was closer to $17,000. Most of the remaining funds were divided up to pay for subcontractors. This lead the core team scrambling to secure outside income to pay living expenses. The resulting financial pressure and creative tension resulted in a schism that caused at least one member of the team to quit. “In addition to the work aspect, it was a falling out between friends, and it was a hugely sad moment for us.”
Where We Go From Here
The fallout left Jazza Studios without a script for Ortus. The emotional toil also took its toll and stifled development while the remaining team scrambled to hold the project together.
The team has kept development ongoing, albeit at a slower pace and reduced scale. One of the remaining devs has recently wrapped up their portion of the project and also moved on. The two remaining members of the original team are still struggling to complete Ortus, but they admit the pressure is often staggering. “We do it quietly because we are so unhappy about how it’s all played out, we mostly don’t know what to say. We don’t want to build people’s expectations, we sometimes feel demoralized and paralyzed by our losses and the heavy load that two of us are left carrying.”
The Burden Of Integrity
The developers remain determined to deliver what they’d promised. Most backers who commented on the update were supportive, despite the severe delay. Although several questioned if the devs shouldn’t just move on at this point. Most backers have already written the project off as a loss and the flash game market isn’t nearly as robust as it once was. At what point do developers just admit defeat and move on with their lives? It’s hard to say now, but hopefully we won’t be waiting another six years to find out.