Last month we took a quick look at the Kickstarter updates for monster-raising RPG Toby’s Island. Noting that the project should have been over 3 years into production, I wasn’t particularly impressed by what was there. As it turns out the updates didn’t do much to convey the full picture. Developer Matt Beer reached out to clear up some of the confusion about his game and his setbacks.
“We had the entire story worked out from start to finish about 2 months after the Kickstarter,” Beer said. Over the course of development Toby’s Island has delivered over 80 updates to its 773 backers. Often with new additions such as better controller support or new creatures. Sometimes though, Beer uses the updates to retouch on older information to make sure it still resonates with his audience.
“When you work on a project for so long, over the course of that time, your feelings about what you’ve already made change. I get bored of my existing work or maybe I’ve improved my skills since making them and I start to second guess the work, so I like to show off old stuff and talk about it with my backers to get feedback.”
This open communication and full transparency with backers has proved essential for Beer. Despite the setbacks and delays he’s faced while working on Toby’s Island his backers have remained supportive and helpful. Offering not only encouragement, but also insightful feedback into proposed mechanics. This became especially important once Beer became the sole developer on the game.
In July of 2015, Mvisioning co-founder Ben Chambers left the project, leaving Beer alone to complete the game. As part of the split Beer retained the coding and game engine Chambers had created for Toby’s Island, but had to part with most of the visual assets, maps, and even the sprites for his titular protagonist.
The Long Road Forward
Overall, Beer estimates this set him back about 8 months in terms of development. He was able to recreate the lost assets and surpass where he once was, but it wasn’t easy. “The hardest part was emotional. It was scary to look at the mountain I had to climb alone. It was even scarier to have to tell my backers what was happening. I was extremely lucky that they were so supportive.”
Beer currently works full-time and spends his free time and personal funds to continue developing Toby’s Island. He has already completed all of the creatures, plot, and game systems/functionality. Roughly 75% of all visual assets for maps and about 25% of the music to be used is also done. The majority of what remains is mapping out the island and “eventing” different interactions throughout the world.
“I’d like to have the game finished by the end of this year but it’s so hard to say. Life has a habit of interfering with plans. I never planned to be working on this alone for example,” Beer said.
While he’s not ready to commit to a full alpha build in the near future, Beer is hoping to release a new demo over the next few months to show off more of the game. “I’m proud of how far I’ve come alone and I really want nothing more than to give everyone the game they have been waiting for,” he said.
Talking It Out
His Kickstarter backers have remained incredibly patient. Beer attributes this to maintaining open communication with them throughout the project. Especially when things went wrong.
“A lot of developers hide when things go wrong and leave their fans to guess. This gives time for rumors to start and the devs get eaten alive by pseudo facts. I have tried my best to not claim to be more than I am. I am an ordinary dude who decided I wanted to make something that I wish already existed. I am not hiding behind a guise of professionalism. I will never pretend I am more impressive than I actually am and that’s important.”
This determination to push forward on the project has helped to rally backers to Beer’s cause. Although it’s not something he seeks to advertise. “I’m actually trying very hard to keep social media numbers to a minimum… so less people are waiting on my game’s completion,” he admitted. “I don’t need that stress.”