Author Topic: Time for some straight talk: Release Raptor is being pulled and refunded.  (Read 37286 times)

Offline x4000

  • Chris McElligott Park, Arcen Founder and Lead Dev
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Original post:

First up: as promised, Alpha 16 is now out.  This includes fixes, improved and extended AI, a new robot, and a minimap.


In A Nutshell, What's Up?

I'm going to give all the customers of In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor a full refund and let them keep the game, then take the game off sale.  The game is selling extremely poorly, even below what happened with Starward Rogue.

Isn't Part Of Early Access "Don't Make A Game You Rely On EA Sales For?"

Yes, this is very true.  However, I stated upfront that our reason for doing EA with this game was partly as a market survey of sorts.  I felt like that would be a way of determining how big this game could get.  With Starward Rogue, and indeed some of our other past commercial failures, we put in everything and the kitchen sink and then there wasn't a market there.

I never expected that one option even on the table with this one would be "actually don't do it at all," because the premise is incredibly exciting to me and seemed like something other people would also be very interested in.  But just from the concept alone, we have a lot of pushback from press; and despite some quite positive coverage from some reasonably biggish youtubers, that isn't moving the needle at all.

We don't need Release Raptor to be our sole source of income, or even our largest one.  However, if it's going to be our largest expense it also has to vaguely earn its keep or at least show the promise that it will someday do so.  That's what is missing here.


Why Not Just Build Out A Stripped-Down Version 1.0 That Is Worth $5?

I honestly don't think there's any way that a lot of people wouldn't be left grumbling at that.  I personally will also lose far more money trying to do that than I already am, and probably some of what little staff we have left would have to be released.  It's just far, far too risky.  I'd rather be known for honorably pulling a game than slapping a 1.0 sticker on something -- whether or not that experience is worth $5 or not, we both know the perception would be there.

So Are You Untrustworthy, Or What?

The immediate idea is probably to think "wow they delayed it a ton and then are possibly canceling it right after it comes into EA?"

My response to that is that this is exactly how you want a game company to comport itself.  I held back the game while I didn't feel like there was enough there for other people to catch the vision I have for what it would turn into.  I'm not going to take anybody's money and run; in fact, I'm going to eat a big fat loss out of it and you get a free game if you bought it.

You can certainly argue that I have overreached or have at least misjudged the market in several instances, but I'm not going to sell you a turd and call it ice cream.


Is Release Raptor A Bad Game?

I certainly don't think so, in any form.  I play it, and it gives me a feeling of joy.  I just love going through and doing things with the raptor.  It has an elemental fun factor to it that myself and a number of other people have reacted well to.  I thought that it would be enough to provide this, and then the promise of more enemies and tactics and whatnot (sheesh that's what we're known for, people ought to have some faith in THAT bit if nothing else).

That said, people have different degrees of warm feelings toward the controls.  That doesn't help.  People have different reactions to the environments.  Etc.


Was This Just Youtuber Bait?

No.  This is a project that I freaking love, and that is based around my favorite animal (velociraptors).  It's something I very, very much wanted to see happen.

That said, I won't deny that the idea of a game that appealed to a larger audience and more easily picked up video views was an attractive one.  I even considered calling this "Raptor Simulator," to the dismay of my staff.

This was never intended to be like Goat Simulator (which I've never played, but my understanding is that it's a silly bug-fest just centered around messing about and not doing anything).  I figured we might be able to pick up some of the Goat Simulator crowd since you CAN come in here and just mess about, but what I didn't realize was that this would create a stigma that would lead people to then to think it's more vapid than it is.

Which, launching with less content in terms of enemies and tactical situations than I would like, only reinforced that perception I suppose.  "There's not enough to do" is probably the number one complaint, and I thought I had made that clear enough from the start.  And we've been managing daily updates with substantial new content, which I think is pretty darn impressive.

Then plan was to put out more content in a month than most other EA games put out in a year, and just keep on trucking with it.  We've done it before with other games, multiple times, and it's something we were well geared-up to do this time, too.


What Went Wrong?

I... am not entirely sure, honestly.  People's perception of this was not matching up to what it was, partly.  Also I suppose I should have made more grandiose claims and been mysterious and vague instead of transparent and clear.  It's way more exciting when you don't know what's going on and "it could be anything -- it could be EVERYTHING!!"

I'm all for enthusiasm, but hype is not something I really like.  We had a lot of hype for A Valley Without Wind, and that burned the company and myself in some fairly profound ways.  So I'm really wary of hype; that was our one game that had it, and it was distinctly unpleasant.  Well, okay: I guess there's also hype around Stars Beyond Reach at the moment, which is another project of ours that I refuse to release yet because I don't think it's good enough yet.

Ultimately I don't think it can be blamed on any one thing.  I do know that in the past -- going back to 2014 with the release of The Last Federation, and then everything before it -- we made almost all of our sales via Steam and people finding our stuff on Steam.  We'd see a bump in sales for a few hours after a Kotaku piece or a Total Biscuit video, and literally no other website or youtuber made any bump that we could discern.

Being on the front page of Steam was the big thing.  We've had one title in the past that have reached the #6 top seller spot on Steam as a whole (IIRC it was The Last Federation), and multiple titles that have hit the top 10 sellers on Steam as a whole (even A Valley Without Wind).

It used to be super concerning if we weren't in the top 20 bestsellers on Steam for at least a day or two, and when we dropped down into the 60s on overall game sales it was basically game over until the next discount promotion.  Discount promotions, even as recently as 2015, had more weight behind them, too.  The lack of gamification of recent seasonal sales has been bad for the small developers, in my opinion.


Overall the market is more crowded now, and gaining visibility is harder.  We tried advertising this time, but we literally spent more money today on advertising than the game made.  Win!!  So this is some sort of New Market now, anyhow, with something approaching the App Store effect that we've seen on Apple devices.  I was incredibly paranoid that would happen going all the way back to 2009, and then I gradually got less worried about it, and now here we are.  How many indie developers do you know of who have made more than one or two games at this point?  That's a bit scary to think about.

It's not all doom and gloom in the market, obviously: in some ways, opportunities are larger now than they ever were.  And it's certainly a better market now than in mid-2009 when I first started out with AI War.  So it's certainly not all market forces, and I don't mean to imply that.

At the end of the day, for whatever combination of reasons, this doesn't seem to be the right game at the right time.  Might we pick this project back up in the future?  I'd like to think so.  As I said, this is a personal passion of mine (raptors), not some Goat Simulator knockoff to me.  But such is life.


What Next, Then?

One of my core conclusions from this, despite how much I have tried to defy this my entire career as a game developer, is that folks pretty much just want strategy games from me/us.  This is not all I want to do!  I want to make games where you shoot things, and games where you're a raptor, and all sorts of other things!  I have varied interests and tastes, and I don't want to do one thing for the rest of my life.

That said, given the choice between leaving the industry and making strategy games, the choice there is freaking obvious.  I absolutely love making games, despite the many negative sides to it.  So that's what we'll do: we'll make you another strategy game.

Lab Two Reactor

Specifically, we'll go back to the game that is still our top seller, AI War: Fleet Command, and we're going to do a proper updated sequel.  But at this point I can't afford to do half a year or a year of development "on spec" to then find out if you're interested or not.  So we'll likely run a Kickstarter for this, as much as I've avoided Kickstarters and never wanted to do one.  And if that doesn't work out in a way that feels financially safe, then there are some other options on the table, too.

At any rate, people have been clamoring for this for years: an AI War sequel with a better UI, better performance, better networking, better graphics, moddability, and so on.  We're now in a position where we know how to do all those things, and goodness knows we know how to make AI War better than we know how to make anything else under the sun.  That's our freaking bread and butter right there.

I suppose there will be some people who are thinking "yay, end of the stupid raptor game, and we get the AI War sequel that has been quietly talked about for a year or so now!"  And if that's how you feel, fine.  But you were going to get that anyway, and I just wish that I also got to make this raptor game to go along with it.


Be Wary Of Knee-Jerk Reactions

It's very tempting for me to blame the state of the market, or whatever other external forces.  Really it was a combination of things.  So I have to be pretty careful of not giving in to negative emotions on my side.

On the other end, as an outside observer I hope that you also look at this for what it really is, and not the knee-jerk reaction that you might have.  I am the Anti-Sean (cough).  I will treat you fairly, communicate clearly and often, release frequent substantial updates (just look at our history), and try to over-deliver.  This is what you want.

In an ideal world nobody ever makes a mistake.  In the actual world, we have to think about how we want people to behave when mistakes inevitably do happen.  I am sorry this had to happen, though.  I wish it would magically change, but we're well past that point I think.  I want to take a moment to thank everyone that did support the project, though -- it really meant a heck of a lot to me.

Very Best,


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Offline Castruccio

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You are making the right decision.  I don't know if everyone feels the same, but this is absolutely the right decision.  Good for you for pulling the plug early this time, and for returning to strategy games.  It shows that you won't let your ego get in the way of your company or your employees.  That's an admirable thing.  It is rare that the admirable thing and the right decision coincide, but in this instance they do.  So there's that to hang your hat on.

Offline x4000

  • Chris McElligott Park, Arcen Founder and Lead Dev
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Thank you, I appreciate it.  I am now waiting for Cyborg to come in and remind me that he called this months ago.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline garpu

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Aww.  For what it's worth, I was having fun with it.

Thing is, I expect quirky twists on "normal" genres from Arcen.  I like your brand of odd.  I can see why a game like ICOERR wouldn't do so well in this climate, though, and among some gaming channels. :(

Offline Toranth

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But I don't WANT a refund... :'(

Very sad to hear that Raptor isn't doing well.  I was hoping that with the good talk before EA started, it would do at least decently.
On the other hand, with a Kickstarter I can finally use the credit card I've been holding in reserve all these years to give you the money you deserve...
« Last Edit: August 26, 2016, 11:15:55 pm by Toranth »

Offline Logorouge

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So people just weren't interested in a raptor game. Sigh. That's a damn shame.
I still prefer watching a game I like getting pulled than seeing a game studio I love bleeding out to death.

You did everything you could to make this work and I thank you (and the rest of the team that worked on Raptor) for that.
I'll still have fun playing this one from time to time. (And I won't get lost so much anymore.)

Offline Pumpkin

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 :'( :'( :'(

I already bought a copy or RR for my fiancée and was unsure if/when to take one for myself. Reading that, I immediately went to the Steam store, worried it would have already been pulled out, and bought it for me. And if I get a refund, I'll find a way to give you it back-back.

*search* *search* *search*

I KNEW IT! I knew I saw a little yellow "donate" button somewhere on the site!
A refund for a "pay for what you get now" (instead of a "pay for what you think you'll get later") is more than a noble gesture. $5 for the game as it currently is seems good to me. But I also fully understand why you prefer pulling it out rather than letting it be there. So you'll refund it, and peoples happy with their $5 little game will have the choice to still give you these $5.

Be brave, Arcen. I wish you luck.
And above all else, thank you for your honor and your dedication.
Please, never stop making games.
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Offline TheVampire100

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Ouch, haven't excpected this. That took me totally off guard. I'm not sure if I should refund this. You need the money now more than ever.
I really hoped this work out this time for you guys.

Offline nas1m

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Oh man, that sucks. Best of luck for all your future endeavors! Please don't stop making games. It would be a loss to the industry not easily remedied - at least in my book.
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Offline Misery

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Well, this sucks.  For what it's worth though, I think you made the right decision.  I'll not go into why here on the forums.   Though I do want to say one thing:  everything I said about thinking this game had high potential was (and remains) absolutely true.  There were alot of good ideas there that sadly, people wont get to see. The concepts you had set out for this game have so much promise, at least to my view.  But when something has to be done, it has to be done.

Also, I understand what you mean about not wanting to be stuck doing the same sorts of games over and over... and I'd also love to see you guys be able to try more new stuff like this.  Your strategy games are great and all... particularly BD, for me... but it's your others that caught my eye originally.  AVWW was the one that brought me here and still remains a favorite of mine among my big collection on Steam, and I quite like it's sequel too (aside from those stupid pigeons, those guys are jerks, I've always said so).  And while Starward didn't sell too well, I personally love the direction you went with it and the way it turned out.  And not because of my own involvement.  I was really looking forward to seeing how the raptor game would evolve, as those did over time.  Not to mention other non-strategy games too.  But now you're kinda forced back into strategy stuff, at least for awhile, which.... yeah, that's gotta be disappointing.  Though, for what it's worth, I'd enjoy AI War 2 just as much as most here would.

If there's anything I can do to help with that or whatever, anything at all, let me know, I'd be happy to do so.   

Offline TelcontarVI

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Inmediately after reading this i have purchased In case of Emergency Release Raport, which i didn´t know it was for sale (i have been on holidays). I dont want a refund, i want you stay here, making awesome games.

And i'm super excited from de Kickstart for AI War Reloaded or whatever name you choose.

Offline Nargasse

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Pretty sad post for sure. I like all what you did, and even if AI war is probably one of my favourite game of all time, i really like all you did experimenting, and had fun with every one of your game (well, maybe not TLF, did'nt get the feeling with this one). Your post remember me one of Winter wolf, another company from wich i read the blog. And it's pretty much the same thing : The guy explain that experimental games that he have fun making are not worth enough, and that he must come back to something more streamlined and safe to make a living. That make me sad, but anyway, i'll keep following you anywhere. Still my favorite indie companie ever.
Just never forget to have fun. :)

Offline tombik

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Rather than allowing everyone to refund, you could gift an additional copy to everyone that got the game before, so that they would be getting the same total value with the former purchase price. And after adding some tiny tweaks this would be already a game that worths 5 dollars.

And that would also work like a marketing move.

This was EA, all buyers already knew the existant risk, so giving a full refund making all responsibility on your shoulders, even though customers already knew they are buying an EA product.

Still, good luck with your other games, I was positively surprised by the first versions of the game, and I am looking forward to the days where you are more financially free so you can just finish whichever game you want to finish.

Offline Bambusek

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So people just weren't interested in a raptor game. Sigh. That's a damn shame.

Nah, they would. Problem is - shortsighted people saw this game as nothing more than another Goat Simulator follow up.

And I was about to get it on Steam, but I guess there is no point now :(

Offline Huw

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Well this was heartbreaking to read, Chris.  I'm so sorry you've had to abandon/postpone your beloved project; I can't imagine what that must feel like.

I want to pick up on one thing you said:

One of my core conclusions from this, despite how much I have tried to defy this my entire career as a game developer, is that folks pretty much just want strategy games from me/us.

I don't think it's necessarily that people want strategy games from you.  Whenever I see Arcen discussed around the net it's invariably mentioned that you're good at subverting genre expectations and are incredibly inventive.  All true.  I personally think, however, that strategy is simply what you're best at.  In my own personal opinion AI War and The Last Federation stand head and shoulders above your other games, and that's not to take anything away from the others.  They're just the best you've made.

I hope you don't take any offense from what I said.  Anyway, I'm almost hesitant to say this now in light of your post, but dammit, I am looking forward to a sequel to AI War.  As always I wish you every success - there's no other developer more deserving of it in my opinion.
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