Roughly one month out from the release of his popular prison break sim sequel, we reached out to Chris Davis of Mouldy Toof Studios to recap his success with The Escapists. Davis has come a long way from being a one-man development team crowdfunding his ideas. Through email, he offered some insight into his breakout franchise.
It’s worth noting that Davis had already experienced crowdfunding success before launching his campaign for The Escapists. He’d crowdfunded another game, Spud’s Quest, a year prior. Ready for his next challenge, Davis returned to Kickstarter and raised £7,131 (twice his asking price) to make “the ultimate prison break game.”
“When I started it was just a small, interesting idea- I didn’t expect much so didn’t ask for much,” Davis explained. At the time he was working as a self-employed roofer, so the Kickstarter funds were primarily for living expenses while he developed the game. “It was just me at the start, and I intended on doing everything myself (graphics, coding, music) so there wasn’t much in the way of outgoings.”
Getting The Gang Together
Publisher, Team17 reached out to Davis near the end of his Kickstarter campaign. Davis touts this early partnership as one of the reasons the series has done so well.
“I don’t think you’d have even heard of The Escapists if I’d have self-published. I initially did that with an earlier game, and due to my inability to self-promote I wasn’t able to reach much of an audience.”
Needless to say, this wasn’t an issue for The Escapists as YouTube creators were quick to jump on the quirky concept. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why it did well, I guess it just offered something fresh. The open nature and not-too-serious tone of the game makes it a good fit for streamers too, that always helps push a game,” Davis wrote.
When development began on The Escapists 2 the series was popular enough to break away from crowdfunding. With Team17 taking on in-house coding duties, Davis was free to oversee development from a more design oriented role. This allowed him to focus on the most requested features and updates from his fan base.
“Nearly all the changes and additions for the sequel were based on feedback and requests from the original. Multiplayer was the big one, but there was also smaller changes like the removal of the insta-bust mechanic and tweaks to stat decay. It’s always been a community driven game.”
One special feature included in the multiplayer for The Escapists 2 is a 4-player split screen mode. Davis was adamant about including this in his game. “It’s a feature sadly absent from a lot of games these days, but I grew up playing split screen games so for me it’s important.”
The Escapists 2 currently has a ‘Mostly Positive’ user rating on Steam, despite some early release bugs. Right now, Davis said his focus is on growing the game after its recent release. However, he hinted that he’s still got some fun ideas for the series.
“There was talk about a gang feature during production. It wasn’t too in-depth, basically just cliques of inmates who tend to hang around certain areas and share reputation, so if you harmed one of them the others would be on your back. Didn’t quite make the cut this time, but I think it could be an interesting addition one day.”