Lessons Learned from Hero’s Song

Lessons Learned from Hero’s Song

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All the signs were there. Only a week ago I posted that things looked grim for Smed’s startup studio. Sadly, they were the embodiment (even if unintentionally) of what’s wrong in the early access and crowdfunding models.

Hero’s Song looked fun. I never played it because I wasn’t willing to take the risk, but I wish I had at least been able to try it out. I think it contained many ideas that I would have enjoyed, and I wish they were able to finish and support it.

Smed stated in his announcement on Pixemage’s website that he’s wanting to refund people. That’s classier than what most would do in this position which is simply disappear.

I hope both developers and players can learn the signs of trouble. While not always a guaranteed sign of failure, only a tiny bit of thought is required to evaluate the risk.

Rushing to early access isn’t a PRO, it’s a CON (pun intended)
If a studios is relying on early access to continue funding development, then they are probably already screwed. Early access should be a nice boost to the coffers, but in no way the only feasible options to keep the doors open. This is a sign that a studio is poorly managed.

Does it look like it should have been made by a smaller team? Then maybe it should.
Another big red flag I think people forget about is that in 2016 games can be made by really, really small teams. Does it look like the team is burning cash and hiring way out of their league compared to the type of business model they’re building? Are they boasting staff and resumes over showing gameplay? Chances are the game isn’t going to speak for itself.

Do the promises match the expected deliverable?
This one is huge, and should be used as a metric for measuring even projects with AAA budgets. If it sounds to good to be true, and too good for what you expect, then proceed with caution.

Was the first crowdfunding a huge success?
If so, there’s probably enough interest for the studio to have a proof of concept and obtain additional funding. If the studio fails to achieve their first round of crowdfunding, then proceed with EXTREME caution. Chances are very good that the company lacks many things ranging from a game people actually want down to the ability to market their game.

Best wishes to the team at Pixelmage Games. I hope you all find new opportunities to succeed.

  • Early Access can be a good way to finishing funding a game if the game is far enough along. Both Mordheim and Darkest Dungeon did this well, and now Battle Brothers is on that track. Basically the games came out in EA as fully playable and enjoyable, but with a lot of subsystems missing or variety (different unit types, different enemies) missing. If you bought the game early, you could still have a lot of fun with it, even though you could see it will eventually be a fully fleshed out game.

    With Hero’s Song, what was released in EA was barely a game. You can’t do that. Of course people will demand refunds (negating you getting funding), or write a negative review (driving future buyers away). But in a way, that shows that EA is working. HS didn’t pass the test on Kickstarter because the general idea didn’t appeal to enough people. Then it didn’t pass the test in EA because what was created wasn’t worthwhile to many. All of this is good, in that the market (players) are more in control of what games we want, even if the process to get there is still rife with scams and bad gambles.

    • While I don’t disagree, early access can also hit games so hard and stunt their potential growth.

      Many early access games are super incomplete or have bugs. Technically, those aren’t necessarily the game’s fault. Many have so much missing that they aren’t truly as fun as they could have been. Best case, they try it and don’t tell anyone about it. Worst case, they dislike it enough to spread the word and the game is dead.

      Early access really has three outcomes, and more of the roads lead to a negative result.