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When a successful studio gets backlash for announcing a new game
When a successful studio gets backlash for announcing a new game
July 28, 2014 | By Mike Rose

July 28, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

"Our strategy at the moment is to hire talented people to make the games they want to play. We’re not asking you to fund this. We're not starting a Kickstarter and begging you for money – we're funding it."
- Facepunch founder Garry Newman responds to criticism about his studio's latest game Riftlight.

The game company revealed space shooter Riftlight late last week, and internet commenters quickly began claiming that the studio was abandoning huge Early Access success story Rust in favor of this new game.

Newman took to the Facepunch blog to explain that Rust is far from being abandoned, but rather, Facepunch is looking to take on multiple projects and hire lots of new people to create games under the Facepunch name.

"Should every person in the company be working on the same thing?" He quipped. "Should HBO make one TV show at a time? Should Warner Brothers make one movie at a time?"

No, he says -- and Facepunch is currently using the cashflow it earns from Garry's Mod and Rust to fund the development of Riftlight and other prototypes.

"Arguing that we should be re-investing that money back into only those games is like telling Apple they can't spend the money they made from iPhone and Macs to fund the development of the iPad," he said. "Keep in mind that we spent money Garry’s Mod made to develop Rust – and that turned out pretty good, right?"

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Jacob Crane
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My only thing I find strange is that Rust is not out of early access. I think the reason people are upset or even slightly perplexed is Rust by all accounts is "not done."

Kris Graft
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No, it's definitely not time to take Rust out of Early Access...

Facepunch actually does a great job of keeping players up to date, and the last few weeks in particular have shown a lot of progress with the Experimental version of the game. It seems like they're doing most everything right when it comes to open development, but with an audience this big, you can't please everyone, I guess.

Jacob Crane
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Hey, I edited out the last part of my comment. That's unfair to say and I know because I am also an Early Access Developer.

That being said, I just think they will receive some fall out due to what I think is the common view of what Early Access is.

I think right now, most players feel the money they put into a game that is not done is going into finishing that game. While I know that this is not necessarily how Early Access is explicitly suppose to work, but from a consumer side I think this is the conception most people have.

It is something we see a lot.

David Paris
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You can't simply wave your hands at a game and say "be done!"

The team working on Rust is likely still working on Rust, but the company may have the funds to do other things at the same time, so they can have other teams working on other projects.

I admit to not being particularly familiar with Rust, but there's nothing that keeps these things from occurring at the same time.

Marvin Papin
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But they have a project and as said in their arguments, they still did not have grown up. That PROBABLY means that the actual devs who are working on rust may want to change. So they COULD move on a next project and hire some staff to work on rust. And in that case, I'm not sure about the future of the game. but the project does not come from nowhere and they are still a small team.

The problem with early access is about getting money without systematically having the things WELL or TOTALLY done and there comes the problem. I hope they know where they are going, but with the things we've seen, that's not 100% reassuring.

Mark Velthuis
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There are plenty of studios that are working on multiple games at the same time. Some of the most successfull like Blizzard and Double Fine even. I can understand people want Rust to be finished sooner, but it's not like you can make that happen by just throwing money against it. Some things just take time.

Ron Dippold
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I think fans have a very hard time understanding that a studio 'needs' multiple projects if they don't want all their eggs in one basket. If you want to be long term and it's not just one person's labor of love you want at least one other project to hold you while one ramps down and another ramps up, or while a publisher is blackmailing you.

Best example is probably Double Fine - It took them a long time to learn that, and they were always on the edge of going under. Now they've got some stability. ( Good reading here: )

That said, I didn't think Newman did a good job of explaining that at all in his blog post. It's implied by the comparison to movie studios, but it doesn't explain why they do that either.

Steven Stadnicki
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It's even more than that - the specific disciplinary needs on a project shift over time; generally a multi-person game wants to overload on programmers at the start of the project to get basic tech in place, with just a handful of (mostly) lead designers and artists on the project to build style guides, offer design guidance, etc.; then slowly bleed off those programmers to other projects while ramping up the content teams to build out the actual structure of the game (designing e.g. missions and the like, fleshing out levels, etc).

Obviously you still need a handful of programmers around all the way through the project to tackle all the various things that can come up, and you may flood the box at the end again to get bugs beat back, but the point at which a game in development needs all its programmers is vastly different from the point where it needs all its designers or all its artists, and at a mid-sized studio if you don't have something else for that talent to go to then you run the risk of either losing people, wasting them, or falling into 'too many cooks' traps.

Ian James
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I'm also a developer at Facepunch and, like Adam, I'm also working on a prototype game and not on Rust. I was gearing up to announce my game this week but following the response to Riftlight I'm inclined to hold off.

As Garry has mentioned there is a devblog every week for Rust. There's even a twitter account that tweets every checkin to our source control

I just don't understand how people can think that by announcing a prototype worked on mainly by just one person is going to affect the development of Rust.

When I joined Facepunch, Rust hadn't been released and there were 4 or 5 people working on it, now the team has grown to at least 18!

Saurian Dash
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I feel very strongly that something needs to be done about the massive discrepancy between what the gaming audience understand game development to be and what game development actually is.

We have a gaming audience who largely gain their insight into the game design process by reading reports from the gaming press, who in turn just regurgitate press releases from the publishers. This has created a situation where we have an audience who do not understand the slightest thing about what goes in inside a game design studio or how games are made, the result of which we are seeing here with the announcement of your new projects.

Look at the comment from "Peter Bollok" above. This is what I'm talking about; the vast majority of the gaming audience know absolutely nothing about game design or development.

Catalin Marcu
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Ian, I don't think you should hold off your announcement just for this reason.

Some people don't understand how a company works or have unrealistic expectations. For me, if I buy a game on Early Access it means both that I want to play it and that I support it to be finished.

In Rust's case, everybody who bought it can play it right now and most likely it has secured more than the funds necessary for it to be completed. Anything extra makes sense to be used for additional, possibly more awesome games. It doesn't have to affect Rust in any way. If Rust makes 100 millions, would it be normal for all of it to go into its development? For me, I'd prefer to see a bunch of other games besides the completed Rust from that money.

Looking forward to your announcement! Please include a link here if possible when you make it!

Kavesor Biwali
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Hi Ian,
I was thinking of applying to join Facepunch and just wanted to ask you some questions, if that's OK and doesn't bother you.
Are many people self-taught at Facepunch? How is the atmosphere-relaxed or tense? Do you enjoy working there and would you recommend it? How is the pay compared to other companies? Do they have room for more employees?
Also, is there anything else about Facepunch you would like to add?
Many Thanks.

Alan Boody
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At first, I actually agreed with Garry and Facepunch's position, but the more I think about it the more I realize that the argument that other studios work on more than one game or future investment holds no weight. From that angle, it's absolutely wrong and lends credibility to the backlash.

People, like myself who backed this project with Early Access, paid $20 expecting that this $20 would go into the development of 'Rust'. I didn't buy Early Access Rust to fund the development of Riftlight or another project. I bought it because I wanted to support the development of 'Rust'.

If your studio needed the players for investment in order to complete the game then I think, as they are your primary stakeholder, you deliver a full game before those funds they invested get diverted to your other interests. Being a person that, for the most part, invested $20 into a game I assumed the risks that I may not receive a full working game. Now, it appears that the studio is taking some of those funds meant for developing a full game and diverting them to other projects: shifting focus to multiple projects now, so to say.

To me, that is worrisome since I assumed the entire focus of the funds would be towards completing Rust. Plus, I looked at the $20 as supporting an indie developer with a great concept, but since the funding was so successful that indie developer now wants to use those funds to -instead of rewarding the players by looking to expand or improve on Rust even more- expand their own interests.

I'm sorry, but Facepunch is wrong here and it is a betrayal of those who supported them via giving them the funds in Early Access. Their argument falls apart on all levels here.

Ian James
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You make an interesting argument but I'd like to point out two things here:

The first point is regarding Early Access. There seems to me to be number of people who are confusing Early Access with a Kickstarter like funding model. This is just my opinion but my take on Early Access is that it is exactly as described, you are getting early access to a title that you might have otherwise had to wait to play. Even the description for Rust suggests that you shouldn't buy in if you are expecting a 100% finished game. Facepunch is heavily investing in Rust, there are new staff members frequently to help on it and I assure you if it were to stop selling tomorrow then development would continue at the same rate.

My second point is, as Garry has mentioned numerous times, a very small fraction of revenue is spent on other projects. Don't quote me on this but I think it's something like 0.04%. If we said the funding came exclusively from Garry's Mod instead of Rust would it make you sleep better at night?

Again, just my personal opinion :)

Alan Boody
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I know the difference between Early Access and Kickstarter. Plus, I can understand a little bit of the funds going into side projects. Having said that, if the culture of your development team is that "Oh, we can use the funds for whatever, whatever side project" then what is to stop you from abandoning Rust for Riftlight if you find that that has bigger potential than Rust?

Basically, that's where your argument could lead. I, as an Early Access customer of yours, have no guarantee that my $20 will see a finished game. The success of Rust was due to a combination on your end (awesome idea) and on the player end (viral marketing through word-of-mouth).

When you guys (an indie) talk about having other games in the pipeline then point to big companies that have substantially more resources than you, that dedicate whole 'separate' teams to those ideas, then you send out bad signals. For me, since I understand the game development process, that signal is you guys shifting focus or potentially shifting that focus.

Alex Covic
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Here's another consumer view: people stopped buying finished products; instead they are now buying 'expectations' of future products. "Phantoms" of things to come. Psychology, more than anything else is at play here? There is obviously a fear going around in consumer heads.

'Early Access' - whatever developers write their game is going to be - is a fragile egg. This 'experiment' allows for soft launches, perpetual updates, I would argue for 'better' products. But the catch is and always will be: "when is it finished?" The old-think is still alive.

You cannot expect your audience to educate themselves on how sound business decisions work in game development. You - as this examples proves again - have to assure your audience, that the game will be 'finished'. Even if YOU know, there is no such thing.

I also see this phenomenon of money starting to flow in unexpected amounts and developers changing their roadmap to make the game 'bigger and better', leaving audiences waiting longer. Developers, starting to see their own "phantoms", while asking gamers to wait longer for theirs.

Some people buying 'Early Access' titles feel burned, having to wait for long periods of time without updates, by other companies, or games being abandoned. The few rotten apples become the focus of media and players. This is all new territory and I am certain, with more games losing the 'Early Access' status, these outcries will be less.

There are valuable lessons to be learned here?