It’s never a good sign when the most recent update on a Kickstarter page is titled something along the lines of “Still Alive!” but dated nearly a year ago. Such is the case for the space exploration game Limit Theory, an ambitious multi-genre hybrid that has received over $180,000 of backer support. With a campaign approaching four years on Kickstarter without a finished product released, some backers appear to be growing understandably doubtful about the future of the project.
The most recent update from developer Josh Parnell, dated September 2015, contains a rather candid description of the life and mental health struggles that have contributed to his silence and lack of updates on the project. According to Parnell, “It’s coming, way later than any of us wanted it to, but by God it’s going to be something truly special.” Aside from unfinished developer builds, there have yet to be any released playable pieces of the project, and the silence has resumed.
Normally, I would be quick to dismiss this kind of campaign as dead, especially given its ambitious pitch and the complex demands of design that come with a genre-spanning procedural experience. All too often we see developers biting off more than they can chew and proposing projects that will satisfy everyone. Yet I can’t help but feel a sense of hope about this campaign. The in-progress footage seems like it is at least on the right track and while, “mental health issues,” have been used as an excuse to drop a project before, Parnell’s words seem genuine and passionate. There is no doubt that he wants to finish work on Limit Theory, only doubt that he actually can.
Recent comments show signs of frustration from backers who have been waiting multiple years for the game, without even anything playable on their hands yet. As recently as a few days ago, Parnell has stated he is still working on the game, though concrete updates have not manifested and there is only his word to go by.
It’s not clear how much longer backer patience will last, but personally I’m not ready to call this one completely dead yet. That there exist somewhat functional developer builds already suggest that the game may someday become playable, if not actually completed to the full extent of its potential.
Whether that is ‘enough’ for those backers who have waited years for their money to be put to good use is not hard to say. It almost definitely isn’t. But unlike many slow-moving projects that fire my cynicism motor right up, I hope the best for this one and would be delighted if it someday does come to fruition, just for its multitude of ideas and clear passion.
Were this merely a personal self-funded project, Limit Theory might be seen as a hopeful story of a developer overcoming all obstacles for his vision, but Kickstarter has made these kinds of long-term projects seem like failures rather than valiant efforts. Then again, without the backer money in the first place, most of these projects would never see the light of day at all. So, while it’s fun to root for the little developer that could, I may be biased by just how late I’m coming to the party, not forced to endure the same waiting game as people who have put down their own money years ago.