An animated, wise old man once cryptically stated that “you can’t rush art“. However, when you’re a backer, you typically fall into one of two camps: The Investor or The Customer. Where The Investor will gladly back the campaign with an amount that they’re comfortable with and hope for the best, The Customer feels entitled to what was initially advertised and expects results.
Simply popping into the comments section of any successfully backed yet MIA campaign will give you a pretty good illustration of how the latter conducts themselves. But when it comes to developer Steve Grand and his highly anticipated AI game Grandroids, you have to consider that the post-funding behavior is par for the course of a dedicated artist, and he even warned us that would happen, you know, since it happened before during the development of Creatures.
In that instance, it was Grand’s first attempt at creating digital AI creatures, and though it is widely lauded, it also endured core changes throughout development as focus was taken away from in-game mythology to focus more on the AI aspect. The result? Players loved it and soon after, lively online communities for Creatures began forming, even being the largest of its kind at the time.
According to his past history, Grand’s development process seems to constantly be in flux, but through sheer grit, he is still able to release a highly praised game that unites players from all over the world. Of course, these changes could potentially push out any concrete release date multiple times, which may not sit well with the aforementioned Customers.
Who’s to say that the same thing isn’t happening with Grandroids? And given Grand’s past behavior, is that such a bad thing?
Where The Investor would be alright with 2+ years of radio silence in the Kickstarter’s Updates section, The Customer may feel incensed. I fall into the camp of The Investor myself when considering which projects to back, but in the case of Grandroids, let’s look at the facts and see if we can reach an explanation as to why this specific game hasn’t been released yet.
Steve Grand has a proven track record of thinking outside the box. He even dropped out of college and yet through sheer brilliance, was still able to scoop up an honorary doctorate and membership in prestigious research fellowships anyways.
In 2002, Grand was described by the New York Times as a “maverick artificial life expert” whose “breathtakingly innovative computer game Creatures” represents “the nearest approach to artificial life so far“. Though he may have accomplished this feat before, Grandroids promises to be something on a much larger scale.
Throw in that Grand is a “professional loner” who was a “terrible student“, you have no choice but to regard him as a brilliant developer who gets things done, but in his own time and in his own way. A big part of choosing which projects to back includes whether or not the developer’s personality meshes up with your expectations. Do they have a large team at their disposal? How did their past projects go, if any?
Sporadic Updates Explained
Though the Kickstarter update page may appear dormant, Grand does provide backers regular updates on the Grandroids website. According to Grand, this was done to provide backers with an exclusive platform for them to track Grandroids progress. Non-backers are unable to access this page however, which may give the false impression that development for Grandroids has been stalled.”
Despite a lack of public updates to his blog, it appears that Grand is still hard at work on Grandroids, even logging his progress in a publicly viewable Programming Journal. The link to this Journal was originally published in a now archived Reddit thread, and will hopefully give anxious backers and future buyers some peace of mind on the fate of Grandroids.
I personally feel that Kickstarter would be considered a much more welcome medium for indie developers to seek funding if we consider ourselves as Investors, not Customers. A compulsive yet dedicated developer practically screams delays, and a little research beforehand would be in the backer’s best interest.
Where AAA corporations have the benefit of multiple employees, these smaller studios typically don’t, and Grand works with no one but his wife, which is perfectly fine considering the trainwreck that can result from creating shotgun development teams who don’t understand each other’s quirks.
I have reached out to Grand personally and he assured me that he has been doggedly working on Grandroids, though it has grown into something much larger due to some new technological developments that he wanted to incorporate. Grand also described it as “his life’s work” and that the initial release is “just the first step“.
That honestly doesn’t sound like someone who’s in a hurry to release a broken game only to add multiple patches in a desperate cash grab. Grand is a scientist first and foremost who actively contributes to artificial intelligence, which unfortunately, could lead to delays in Grandroids development, but has assured me that the project is far from dead. .
I’d consider Grand’s multiple delays to be good news.
Further, the industry is absolutely lousy with broken games being released anyway, and given that, I’d consider Grand’s multiple delays to be good news. Release dates are merely projections, and even AAA companies like Nintendo can miss them sometimes, possibly due to developments like an anticipated console release. Grand is less interested in rushing out a product than he is in perfecting it, and that’s not a bad thing.
Given my own outlook as an Investor, I’d be comfortable backing Grandroids, and when it finally arrives, I’m sure it will be amazing, and will only get better as time goes on, as Grand promises to continue building on it even after release. Perhaps the industry could use more of these mavericks?