Developing an ancient language for a video game takes quite some dedication. Being able to teach that language to players in a quick and meaningful way requires far more planning and commitment than most people are willing to endure. Grant Kuning learned this the hard way after his Kickstarter for Sethian was funded.
The premise behind Sethian is that the player must take on the role of an archaeologist in the future. They are tasked with exploring the ruins of an abandoned colony and communicating with an ancient computer in the native language of the colony. Using puzzle mechanics, players would study and decipher the language of this lost civilization to uncover the planet’s mysteries.
It’s an interesting, if niche idea, that managed to raise $11,568 of an $8,000 goal. Reward tiers ranged from digital copies of the game, to digital lore books, and the ability to help design a character for the gameworld.
Beyond The Bumpy Road
Now Sethian has finally been released on Steam and itch.io. Kuning has posted an update to Kickstarter detailing his development journey. He doesn’t just cover what went right though, he painstakingly details all of his missteps and trials.
“I committed to this project before I really understood how to make this game.”
Missteps like offering to let backers create their own notable character. As the project changed and developed, Kuning realized this wasn’t a feasible goal. After a bit of “moving goalposts” to make the game more manageable he decided on, what he hopes, will be an acceptable compromise.
“Backers at the highest tier are named for characters and other things that are just really important to know about,” Kuning wrote. He added, “I still want to be fair, and do what I can, but I simply can’t do what said I would.”
It’s an interesting read, particularly for any future developers. It offers a brutally realistic take on development creep and fulfilling backer promises. It’s far more honest than most dev blogs I’ve read, particularly when he talks about his now finished product.
The Elephant In The Room
“If this project had never been funded, I probably would have given up on it. It stopped being what I wanted to do, and it stopped being something I wished existed. The success of the Kickstarter pushed me to finish it, to see it though to the end. I felt I was bound not only financially to produce a product I could be compensated for, but also bound by honor to make something for the people who funded this project.”
Despite the eye-opening nature of this update for many naive young developers, it does end on a positive note. In-spite of everything, Kuning still wants to try making another game, someday. In the meantime he’s planning a long overdue break from development.