Should game developers promise features that might get cancelled?

Should game developers promise features that might get cancelled?

In the Monday Musings I try to talk about the stuff that’s happening in the world of Game Development, from interesting game releases, to interesting technology, and game business happenings.

When ever you start working on a game, you start to envision how the end game will look, feel and play. During development you come up with a lot of ideas and you might talk about those in public. However, game development is also linked to time and money, and technical limitations. And in most cases the idea on paper sound great, but once you implement them, they are somewhat disappointing.

Last week Blizzard announced that some of their plans for Overwatch 2 won’t happen as they focus on different aspects of the game. This made me think about the many promises I made over the years about my games and their content.

The four continents

Let me start with a lesser known plan I had for one of my games: Ashworld. The game is an open-world adventure, and it was always going to be a huge undertaking for just a single developer. The game, as it was released, was originally just a small part of the full game I had in mind!

Even tho the game has a lot of gameplay in there already, and many, including me, would see it as a completed game. The plan was always to have other regions of the Ashworld available to play in. Right now it all happens in a dry, desert like, world. But during development I was also working on a more snow-covered area which would be unlocked once you completed the main missions of the current game.

With development of Ashworld taking up about a year, and me not having much energy left to keep myself interested for many more months, I decided the cancel the Snow area and any other area’s I wanted to add. Luckily for me, not many people knew about those plans.

Space exploration

A whole different thing happened to my recent game Residual. The game had a kickstarter, a publisher, and I got myself hyped up for a much bigger game release!  So I had build plans for a “v2.0” release of the game.

The main game is many hours of gameplay, a single planet can take up to 7-8 hours, and with a 125 planets available, you got a lot of game time already. Crashing on a random planet on every new game, your goal is to fix your spaceship, close some portals and take off from the planet.

The v2.0 ideas were pretty cool tho.. once you escaped at least 1 planet, the second part of the game would open up, and you would find yourself flying around a whole new galaxy (the original 125 planets were in 1 out of 8 galaxies) and in that new galaxy you would fly from planet to planet, or even visit space-bases and trading posts.

It was a huge idea, and even tho it’s not available to players, the landing/taking-off from those planets was fully build into the current game – just hidden!

What went wrong

The reason I never continued working on it was a couple of reasons. First reason was that the game did fine financially, but not good enough to validate working on it for much longer. The second reason was that the publisher simply lost interest in the game and somewhat dropped the ball on marketing/pushing the game. It took a few months to have all things sorted out in such a way that I regained all the publishing rights and access on all platforms, and by then I was somewhat tired of the whole game and everything around it, and also deep into development of Regulator City.

I still think the concept I had was very solid, and at some point I hopefully get to work on all of that for a Residual II game, which at this point would make more sense.

Doing that update now, to a game that did nice but not huge numbers, is mostly me wasting my time on it. Most players have since stopped playing the game and would probably not return to it, if only to check out the update for a bit. And it wouldn’t be interesting enough to gain any press or other attention, so the update would land quietly and not make much money.

Don’t overpromise?

So the question is, should a developer stop “promising” or talking about every game design idea they have? Or should gamers understand that sometimes game ideas will not make it into the final product?

I honestly don’t have the answer! I think you should be careful of talking about your vision for a game, so you don’t overhype it in the way that Peter Molyneux always did for his games (and I think he got a “stop talking!” ban from his PR agencies).

But !  and especially as smaller “indie” developer, it’s always a good thing to talk about your game, and see how ideas are landing and if they gain any traction.

So what would you do? Keep all your design plans to yourself? or share it with the world? Let me know over on the Discord!

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