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When you know your game isn't done -- and you ship it anyway

When you know your game isn't done -- and you ship it anyway

July 19, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

"We asked most of the core team, how long can you go without being paid? April was where we ended up."

- Brightrock Games' Josh Bishop, recalling why the studio's first game shipped in April.

Back in 2013, Subterranean Games raised over £200k on Kickstarter to make War for the Overworld, a dungeon-management game pitched as a spiritual successor to Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper games.

In April of 2015, the game launched on Steam's Early Access platform, and in a new interview project lead Josh Bishop tells Eurogamer that the game was shipped in an unfinished state, even though the team knew it wasn't ready and would have preferred to delay it even further.

"There were a lot of wheels in motion that meant we couldn't have delayed the release, even though we really wanted to, because it just wasn't in a state we were fully happy with," Bishop said, noting that the team had simply run out of money and April was the latest the War for the Overworld team could go without being paid. 

This is not a novel tale, especially when you know that War for the Overworld was the first commercial game many of the Subterranean team, including Bishop himself, had ever tried to make.

"It truly dawned upon us about a couple of weeks beforehand," said Bishop.. "We were like, okay, this isn't going to work. But we were so far gone, and we had our heads so deep in it, that we just kept going. And then release day came around and it was just like, oh, okay."

Even so, the story of their struggle to ship the game and patch it up, post-release, to a decent state is worth studying because it's a good example of how an ounce of planning, early on in your game's production schedule, is worth a pound of cure.

"Not start the game for a month after the Kickstarter and plan everything properly," Bishop said in response to a question about his lessons learned from the project. "Even if we had taken that month out of development, the amount of time and money and effort we would have saved by planning things properly and not having to redo a lot of work would have helped."

Now, over a year later, the team (which has been rebranded as Brightrock Games, retaining Subterranean Games as a publishing entity) is still working to support the game and add in features that were outlined in the initial Kickstarter.

For more details on the long road they took to get there, including the story of how they moved into a mansion and spent the last few weeks leading up to launch working around the clock to clean it up, check out the full interview with Bishop over on Eurogamer.

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