Double Fine's Broken Age Episode One Early Access Begins Jan. 14th

Double Fine's Broken Age Episode One Early Access Begins Jan. 14th

Tim Schafer ships his first adventure game in 16 years.

Back in 2012, Double Fine Productions took the path less traveled and decided to fund its next game via Kickstarter. Now, two years later, it's finally about to arrive. According to a recent tweet from Tim Schafer, the first episode of Broken Age will arrive via Steam's Early Access program on January 14th.

"Haven't shipped a game of my own in 4.5 years, an adventure game in 16, a point-n-click in almost 20." Schafer tweets. "Next Tuesday is going to be exciting!" While the full game won't be out for months, backers should get Steam codes that let them go ahead and sample the game that they've patiently waited almost two years for. However, this will be only the first half of the game. Even if you didn't preorder, you can still purchase the first episode via Steam's Early Access, and those sales will help fund the second episode.

Broken Age started out life with the placeholder name "Double Fine Adventure". It follows two characters, Shay and Vella, as they leave their protective lives to follow the call of adventure. Shay lives alone on a motherly space ship, while Vella escapes her fate as a human sacrifice. The voice acting cast is filled with familiar names, such as Elijah Wood, Wil Wheaton, Jack Black, and Commander Shepard herself, Jennifer Hale. Here's hoping the game is worth the wait!

Source: Twitter

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Am I the only one that's tired of early access? I'd really prefer to just have the full game later that part of it now.

bigmitch256:
Am I the only one that's tired of early access? I'd really prefer to just have the full game later that part of it now.

Then just wait. No reason why there shouldn't be early access. The only bad thing about it is, that some indie developers get lazy or ambitious and then ambandon their early access game claiming it's finished.

I am so fucking excited for this. I backed it back when the Kickstarter launched, and have been following it since. And it looks really, really good. Like, better than I ever expected it would be. The game is beautiful, the voice acting is top notch, and all of the other parts of the game appear to be going together nicely. It looks like this game will be well worth the wait, and I am so looking forward to Tuesday.

Early Access of a First Episode? Really? What started out as a simple adventure game got a bloated budget, then went over budget, then got split into multiple episodes. One of which is now coming to Early Access. All while the company making the game has roughly 2-3 other major projects going. Seriously, they are ticking off every checkbox in recent non-AAA game development paradigm, and it's starting to annoy. This game better be solid gold and cure cancer, otherwise I'm starting to feel like Schafer is the next Molyneux...

Jandau:
Early Access of a First Episode? Really? What started out as a simple adventure game got a bloated budget, then went over budget, then got split into multiple episodes. One of which is now coming to Early Access. All while the company making the game has roughly 2-3 other major projects going. Seriously, they are ticking off every checkbox in recent non-AAA game development paradigm, and it's starting to annoy. This game better be solid gold and cure cancer, otherwise I'm starting to feel like Schafer is the next Molyneux...

The alternative being they cut down the game to fit in the budget. In a choice between making cuts to the game and making cuts into the game's profits, how is it possibly a bad thing, from our perspective, that they went for option 2?

Early access for an episodic game? what next early access for trailers or demos? This just seems absurd. If people want to throw money at this that is fine it is there right to do so but I think it is not good for the industry in the long run.

Jandau:
Early Access of a First Episode? Really? What started out as a simple adventure game got a bloated budget, then went over budget, then got split into multiple episodes. One of which is now coming to Early Access. All while the company making the game has roughly 2-3 other major projects going. Seriously, they are ticking off every checkbox in recent non-AAA game development paradigm, and it's starting to annoy. This game better be solid gold and cure cancer, otherwise I'm starting to feel like Schafer is the next Molyneux...

To be fair this has always been Schafers problem. He's more of an excited artist then a business man. Psychonauts sold poorly, and as a result we never got the full story. Brutal Legend was actually designed to be twice as long as it was, but Schafer realized his plan was too ambitious for his actual budget. He planned Brutal Legend to be two parts, but of course the second part never got made. Here we see the same thing happening again, where his budget only covered half the gme because of his ambition.

In this case I don't really mind. It actually looks better then I thought it would. I'm excited to see it release.

I think they've clearly overreached on their original 1 million dollar goal.

Maybe the reason big publishers stopped working with Double Fine is their horrible money management.

random_bars:

The alternative being they cut down the game to fit in the budget. In a choice between making cuts to the game and making cuts into the game's profits, how is it possibly a bad thing, from our perspective, that they went for option 2?

Maybe they should have designed the game to fit the budget from the outset, then it wouldn't need cutting down.

Amaror:
No reason why there shouldn't be early access.

For any halfway decent dev, there is a very good reason not to do early access:

The instant you start selling your product you become responsible for supporting that product. That means having an active customer support system, communication with fans, and timely bugfixes. You have to constantly be monitoring the community and responding to their feedback or risk having them explode with anger, and smaller companies can't afford to have what fanbase they have get angry at them.

As long as the product isn't in early access, the team doesn't have an entire community breathing down their necks. They don't have to worry about real time tech support or developing in such a way that saves don't break in the future. There's a huge amount of pressure and work put onto a company once they go live that they can avoid by not starting Early Access.

Weaver:
I think they've clearly overreached on their original 1 million dollar goal.

Maybe the reason big publishers stopped working with Double Fine is their horrible money management.

random_bars:

The alternative being they cut down the game to fit in the budget. In a choice between making cuts to the game and making cuts into the game's profits, how is it possibly a bad thing, from our perspective, that they went for option 2?

Maybe they should have designed the game to fit the budget from the outset, then it wouldn't need cutting down.

The thing is, the game WAS originally designed to fit the budget. Then they got WAY more money than they needed, so instead of releasing the little tiny game they had planned, and be blamed for squandering all the extra funds they got, they expanded the hell out of the scope of it, so people didn't feel ripped off.

Now people feel ripped off because the game isn't finished/being released as one game, because DF tried to do the honest thing and not waste the money people donated.

Just another case of a vocal bunch of people that can't be happy no matter what is done.

Seriously, the amount of "knowledge" the vocal gamer groups have about business management/game design/programming/marketing/sales/supply chain logistics/micro processor and miniature manufacturing on a global scale/Localisation/Writing/AI Developement/Everythingunderthefuckingsun it makes me wonder why they are sitting on forums and not off making their billions with the perfect PC/Console Hybrid with the Perfect Game that encompasses everything everyone loves.

I personally think that DF have done a damn good thing with what they had. They have taken a gamble with ALL of their profit basically, to try and give a very large and unique gaming experience, rather than the initial project while pocketing all the extra donation money.

I find all the drama amusing. I pledged to the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter because I wanted to see Double Fine create an adventure game, and because I wanted to see what happened when a well known developer goes off the rails and publishes independently(which was a somewhat novel concept before every developer with a dog and a well known name tried the same thing). Looks like I'm getting both expectations fulfilled. What complaints should I have when things don't seem as smooth on the surface as when there is a big publisher and their vigilant PR crew working hard to ensure that the turbulence doesn't make visible waves?

synobal:
Early access for an episodic game? what next early access for trailers or demos? This just seems absurd. If people want to throw money at this that is fine it is there right to do so but I think it is not good for the industry in the long run.

I'ts not an episodic game. It's a standalone game where the first half is being released a couple of months ahead on early access to help with funding the second half.

Weaver:

Maybe they should have designed the game to fit the budget from the outset, then it wouldn't need cutting down.

Hahahah, welcome to games development (hell software development in general). When the main thing you're paying for is people's time, designing to fit the budget is pretty much just wishful guess-work. You can put together some prototypes and get a sense of how long things take, but once your design starts colliding with reality, guaranteed you will hit all sorts of fun problems, whether just a section you thought was simple taking much longer than expected, or process problems like bottlenecks in the pipeline (eg. at one point the art was all going through one person, they also didn't have enough animators and had to outsource some of it)

This is talking about designing from scratch, obviously if you've got a pre-established team working with a familiar pipeline and toolset to a scope and game type they're familiar with (ie. you're making a sequel or something the studio specialises in), it's much easier to come up with a realistic figure. That wasn't the case here though - they're not using their normal in-house engine, they've never done an adventure game as a studio before (or hand-painted 2D), and pre-production didn't even begin until after the Kickstarter was done because they wanted it to be part of the documentary.

I'm not saying Schafer didn't ridiculously bite off more than he could chew or that this couldn't have been predicted (he absolutely did and they realised that quite early on), just that this is 100% normal, it just generally happens behind closed doors and we don't get to hear about it. At the end of the day most projects reach that point where they have to compromise on some things or get more money; if Double Fine are happy risking doing the latter, then that's cool by me.

random_bars:

Now people feel ripped off because the game isn't finished/being released as one game, because DF tried to do the honest thing and not waste the money people donated.

Daft thing is, I've seen very few backers complain about being ripped off. it mostly seems to be a bunch of people with no stake in it being outraged on our behalf, which is just... kinda funny really. It's cool guys the game's coming out and even in the highly unlikely event that it's shit, we have 15-odd hours of professionally produced documentary to keep us entertained, you don't need to come to our rescue :P.

Illessa:

Daft thing is, I've seen very few backers complain about being ripped off. it mostly seems to be a bunch of people with no stake in it being outraged on our behalf, which is just... kinda funny really. It's cool guys the game's coming out and even in the highly unlikely event that it's shit, we have 15-odd hours of professionally produced documentary to keep us entertained, you don't need to come to our rescue :P.

I agree with this 100%. I have yet to see a single backer complain about the release strategy. Double Fine has been completely transparent with us the backers about all of the problems and their solutions so nothing came as a devastating shock to any backers, and their solution is elegant and doesn't require the backers to invest anything more into the game while at the same time dramatically increasing the value of our investment.

Even if the game never saw the light of day I still don't regret my ~$100 pledge because the documentary and free stuff was worth it for me.

SO excited for this to finally launch!

My god, that looks gorgeous.

I've also noticed that the people that seem borshed off by the episodic thing are non-backers. Everyone who backed the Kickstarter, and, as such, has something at stake with the completion of the game, is just excited, encouraging, and supportive.

Weaver:
Maybe they should have designed the game to fit the budget from the outset, then it wouldn't need cutting down.

Why should they have done? If they want to pour as much of their own money into the project as they wish, why shouldn't they? It's a risk financially, but how is it in any way detrimental to the people who will be playing the game rather than hoping to profit from its sales?

I'm a backer. We've known about this for months {July 2nd, 2013} and it was all done with the best intentions for the end result of the game. The documentary is awesome and worth way more than backing costed and it's been a joy watching it come together. When this information first came out the same response was seen by the public, but not with the backers. They have thoroughly addressed this in forum posts, project updates and in several documentary videos.

Tim said it best in an episode when he stated that all that matters if the game is good. People never say, 'I really liked that game. It had such a reasonable production"

Also,

This is inaccurate. Beta of Part 1 FOR BACKERS and SLACKER BACKERS is January 14th. For general public (being sold on Early Access) the current date is 1/28 but any major issues in backer beta could affect that date.

Double Fine also expects Part 2 beta for backers at least in April.

Illessa:
Daft thing is, I've seen very few backers complain about being ripped off. it mostly seems to be a bunch of people with no stake in it being outraged on our behalf, which is just... kinda funny really. It's cool guys the game's coming out and even in the highly unlikely event that it's shit, we have 15-odd hours of professionally produced documentary to keep us entertained, you don't need to come to our rescue :P.

This was just what I was going to say. It seems like the people that are complaining are people that have only following the project by the occasional news story on the game and just want to see a high profile game like this fail, for whatever reason. Or they're just bitching for the sake of bitching, which is more likely but no less pathetic.

The game looks cool and this model seems fine. BUT. What if they don't earn enough money from early access to make episode 2? Most people who would have bought this game already did that by pledging their kickstarter.

Pero:
The game looks cool and this model seems fine. BUT. What if they don't earn enough money from early access to make episode 2? Most people who would have bought this game already did that by pledging their kickstarter.

I highly doubt that "Most people who would have bought this game already did that by pledging their kickstarter."

first of all, kickstarter still doesn't have as much worldwide attention as, say, Steam, so I'm sure a ton of people dont even know this exists yet.

Second, I'm sure a lot of people just aren't really that familiar with Double Fine's games. double fine has always been kind of a cult hit developer but never gets that much mainstream attention.

Third I'm sure there's a lot of people who a) either don't pay for kickstarter games/unfinished games on principle or b) didn't want to invest in a game which literally had no information about it while the kickstarter was ongoing.

Never underestimate the boost in sales to be gained by having your game showcased on Steam.

As to your other comment about it not making enough money, let me just say this. The game WILL get finished regardless. The early access/ split was made to supplement the money that they are putting into the project. The are also putting in revenue from their humble bundles and other game sales. This game means too much to them for it to not get finished. If they fail to make this game then their reputation will be forever ruined, and they won't let that happen.

bigmitch256:
Am I the only one that's tired of early access? I'd really prefer to just have the full game later that part of it now.

I'm sick of it.

True, I don't have to buy it, but it's out there, it's playable, and it's not complete. In the case of some games, it won't be complete for years.

"Years" is entirely too long to wait for a product that is already in your hands, in my opinion. When the game is finished, I don't think that I'll enjoy the game with as much enthusiasm as I did when I first got it.

random_bars:

Jandau:
Early Access of a First Episode? Really? What started out as a simple adventure game got a bloated budget, then went over budget, then got split into multiple episodes. One of which is now coming to Early Access. All while the company making the game has roughly 2-3 other major projects going. Seriously, they are ticking off every checkbox in recent non-AAA game development paradigm, and it's starting to annoy. This game better be solid gold and cure cancer, otherwise I'm starting to feel like Schafer is the next Molyneux...

The alternative being they cut down the game to fit in the budget. In a choice between making cuts to the game and making cuts into the game's profits, how is it possibly a bad thing, from our perspective, that they went for option 2?

How about setting reasonable design goals that can be achieved with the allotted budget? And the budget they got from KS was generous indeed. But even after that, all we've seen from Double Fine have been more methods of monetizing the damn thing because they keep breaking the budget, again and again and again. This is usually a very bad sign when it comes to game development and usually means that what comes out eventually will be a mess.

Jandau:
How about setting reasonable design goals that can be achieved with the allotted budget? And the budget they got from KS was generous indeed. But even after that, all we've seen from Double Fine have been more methods of monetizing the damn thing because they keep breaking the budget, again and again and again. This is usually a very bad sign when it comes to game development and usually means that what comes out eventually will be a mess.

What? They've not added more methods to monetise - all they're doing is releasing the game up to a natural break point a couple of months before the full game is complete, in the hope that it will take the pressure off the company bank account a bit, as they're currently sinking their own money (profits from their self-published back catalogue) into keeping the project running beyond what they got from the Kickstarter. Since the backers and anyone who buys early access are going to get the second half when it comes out, it's not gaining them any extra money, just getting them some of the money they'd get anyway a little bit earlier.

As to "Breaking the budget again and again" I believe it's been public knowledge that they increased the budget for the project *once*. If you have backers access you'll know there were two budget revisions, both predicted beforehand, discussed and dealt with. It's hardly Daikatana or Duke Nukem Forever, in fact everything I've heard from developers (and my own experience of non-game development) leads me to believe it's pretty par for the course.

I also wouldn't call $2,232,465 (the budget for the game after KS fees, fulfilment of backer rewards and the documentary team's cut are removed) a "Generous" budget for game development. That's roughly the budget of a small downloadable game like Costume Quest or Stacking. By all accounts this game is going to have an awful lot more content and production values than Costume Quest (hell all the voice acting and the orchestral elements of the score alone must have cost a pretty penny) turns out when you add them all together, man hours are expensive!

I'm amazed at how apologist people are the moment "Double Fine" appears on the cover, it's an unknown company or something like Activision and people would be screaming bloody murder. Thing is, ok, the backers are all ok with this, so it's all fine and dandy, the problem is that the game NEEDS early access to do the second part, that means it has to be sold to people that initially never backed, and as such has to be new buyers. The scary part is when you remember that pretty much all of Double fine's games have been financial disasters (reason why almost no publisher works with them anymore, over budgeted mess that sells poorly is not the best of financial plans, looking at you brutal legend), which means that maybe not that many people will actually buy the game outside of all the backers. I mean, the game got a ton of money, but I highly doubt there is that much interest outside of the double fine fans and the old adventure game guard, it's very hard to revive a genre after all.

Also, yes, the game looks beautiful right now, but god forbid it doesn't live up because some bad PR can kill part two of the project pretty quick, I mean, I barely am getting any impression of gameplay out of the trailers and times have changed quite a bit from what was acceptable 15 years ago. Yes, double fine games are famous for being all quirky and I don't doubt that charm won't be there, but there are also known for having very debatable playability, be it shoddy platforming in psyconauts and a lot of annoying mechanics in brutal legend. The ideas are strong, but the executions sometimes suffers, though they are supposed to be old adventure game veterans.

Also, I doubt very much Tim Schaffer has any sort of ill will, he just sucks at planning, that doesn't mean people should be all "aw, it's fine cause he's so charming and artsy!", no, he should be chastised for fucking up with that, I assume he will make due the best as he can (reason why he did the whole early access dance after all) and if the project hopefully pulls through he will hopefully learn something and happy ending for all and if not, well, he'll have to dedicate some resources from other projects to finish it or let it die, with both of those options being less than stellar.

Also, call me crazy, but it's better to have a full game than have half a game that may not be finished, just saying and over ambition is the fastest way to go bankrupt, reason why there has to be a balance between ambition and resources.

Jandau:
How about setting reasonable design goals that can be achieved with the allotted budget? And the budget they got from KS was generous indeed. But even after that, all we've seen from Double Fine have been more methods of monetizing the damn thing because they keep breaking the budget, again and again and again. This is usually a very bad sign when it comes to game development and usually means that what comes out eventually will be a mess.

Because usually when it happens, it means the game will be cut down, and released unfinished. In this case, Double Fine have decided not to do that but instead to eat into their own profits in order to finish the game how they intended.

Look, the game may well not be any good, I'm not trying to defend its quality before it's even out. But I think "they spent some extra money to finish it rather than cut it down to fit within the budget" is a really nonsensical and stupid reason to assume it will suck. Yes, going over budget and spending more than planned on the game is bad - but it's bad for the company's finances, not for the people who will be playing the game.

 

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