Stealth Studios recently posted an update regarding backer rewards for their 3D battle RPG, Zombie Playground. In a concerning trend, some backers have noted discrepancies between what Stealth has delivered and what the campaign promised. While most of the issues appear relatively minor the developer’s silence about the lack of content updates speaks volumes.
Zombie Playground was funded on Kickstarter back in 2012 to the tune of $167,590. Based on the iconic illustration by Jason Chan, the game promised an online team-based battler with RPG elements. The campaign (launched by Massive Black Inc.) featuring more of Chan’s artwork would deliver a scaled down version of the dev’s overall goals for the game. Players would only get 2 character classes to choose from and a map that didn’t include the titular playground area. Even so, 3,787 backers enthusiastically gave their support and the project was successful.
Things seemed to be going well on the project. The team even entered a partnership with Alienware in 2013 which promised extra attention for the game through Alienware Arena promotions. Then things began to slow down and problems began to emerge. Updates became sporadic, often with months passing without any news. This trend continued even after the announcement that the core team was branching off from Massive Black to form Stealth Studios and take over development on the project.
It’s always a red flag when a project switches hands in the middle of development. However, backers had little available recourse and mostly just settled in for the ride. When the game finally came to Steam Early Access in 2015 things seemed to be getting back on track, but Stealth’s lack of clear communication lead to more problems after they made the jump to official release.
Leaving Backers In The Dust
Remember that Alienware partnership? Well, when Zombie Playground was ready to leave early access behind, Stealth Studios tapped Alienware to help with the game’s release. One such promotion involved Alienware giving away 10,000 free game keys. These keys included backer exclusive DLC. This didn’t go over well with the backers who had back $15+ during the Kickstarter to secure game keys. (Zombie Playground currently retails on Steam for $9.99).
When backers called them out on what they considered an unfair practice, Stealth basically shrugged off the complaints and carried on as normal. Things have never quite turned around for Stealth even though they moved the game out of early access last fall.
As a large number of Steam reviews point out, the game still exists in the “scaled down” version envisioned back in 2012. Rather than continuing to add to the offerings, the team seems content to let the project languish. Despite boasting 4 player co-op the team never advanced past the two starter classes. The actual playground is also noticeably still absent in favor of a larger classroom area.
It’s an unfortunate ending for a promising concept based off an amazing image. This late in the game it’s probably too much to hope that Stealth will turn things around for Zombie Playground.