by Joseph Leray
"I never thought you could get the amount of money you need for a full game budget on Kickstarter."
Double Fine CEO and creative director Tim Schafer said this last year, during the first episode of the documentary following the development of "Broken Age," the adventure game he and his team successfully Kickstarted to the tune of $3.3 million. Turns out, he was right: with the Kickstarter budget dwindling, Double Fine is taking "Broken Age" to Steam's Early Access program in an attempt to raise more funds to finish the game.
In an e-mailed update to Kickstarter backers, Schafer explained that his team "have been looking for ways to improve our project’s efficiency while reducing scope where we could along the way. All while looking for additional funds from bundle revenue, ports, etc."
"But when we finished the final in-depth schedule recently it was clear that these opportunistic methods weren’t going to be enough."
Schafer estimates that "Broken Age" wouldn't be ready until 2015 without major features being cut, and that nearly 75% of the planned design would have to go to keep it under it's Kickstarted $3.3 million budget. Soliciting publishers for more cash "ut of the question because it would violate the spirit of the Kickstarter," and launching another crowdfunding campaign "seemed wrong," wrote Schafer.
"Clearly, any overages were going to have to be paid by Double Fine, with our own money from the sales of our other games," Schafer continued. "That actually makes a lot of sense and we feel good about it."
Still, to keep from draining the coffers -- and to keep players from waiting almost three years for "Broken Age" -- Double Fine have decided to cut the game in half and sell the first act on Steam's Early Access program, which is typically used to sell early builds of games to consumers, with the promise that the full version will be free once it's released.
"That means we could actually sell this early access version of the game to the public at large, and use that money to fund the remaining game development," Schafer wrote. :The second part of the game would come in a free update a few months down the road, closer to April-May." The crux, of course, is that Kickstarter backers automatically get access to "Broken Age, Part 1," and that nobody who buys in early will have to pony up again for "Part 2."
One of the other benefits of Double Fine's plan is that it puts a much firmer point on the time frame and scope, something Schafer self-admittedly struggles with, according to his e-mail. "I think I just have an idea in my head about how big an adventure game should be, so it’s hard for me to design one that’s much smaller than 'Grim Fandango' or 'Full Throttle,'" he wrote. "There’s just a certain amount of scope needed to create a complex puzzle space and to develop a real story."
However, Double Fine's new plan "balances the size of the game and the realities of funding it pretty well."
If everything goes according to plan, then, adventure game fans will have a bigger, better game sooner, at no additional cost to Kickstarter backers. Specific release dates and prices for the Early Access version are still being settled on.
Those that missed the initial Kickstarter but would still like to contribute can do so here.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter