I haven’t backed a single crowd-funded game, although I’ve been close a few times. There’s a pretty simple reason for this: I don’t gamble. My father put a bet on a horse for me during the Grand National when I was nine years old and I lost £1. I’ve bought a lottery ticket exactly one time and, again, I lost £1. I am £2 down and have nothing to show for it. Never again. I’m not including drunken poker games, because you never count stuff you do when you’re inebriated, right?
There’s an element of risk inherent in any crowd-funding project, and today backers of Super Action Squad (previously Super Retro Squad) know this very well. Amateur developer Jay Pavlina, whose only experience in game design was creating a flash fan game, is putting development on hold because “it’s too big to handle”.
“I clearly had no idea how much work all of that was going to be,” Pavlina said in a blog post. “It is obvious in the video that I was excited about the project and was dreaming big, but I was too ignorant to realize that what I was promising would cost way more money than I was asking for and would take a very long time without a more experienced team.”
Not only was Pavlina in way over his head, his team was very inexperienced and most of them have now left. They lacked necessary skills, the ability to manage their time and in some cases produced almost nothing that could be used in the game.
After this experience, I am not sure it is even possible to form a strong game development team without being able to pay everyone a liveable wage,” Pavlina said. “I personally feel that having an ineffective team is the most detrimental problem we had, and we spent quite a lot of time trying to make it better, but the ultimate solution ended up being to dismantle it.”
When you fund projects like Pillars of Eternity or Broken Age, you know there are risks, but you also know that the team has years of experience and has produced not only countless games, but high quality ones. But in cases like this, you’re putting your money in the hands of someone you know nothing about. No matter how good the game sounds, it’s not a wise investment if you can’t be sure of certain things, like the skill or the developer.
Pavlina currently doesn’t know what he’s going to do about his backers. “I do not know exactly what to do for backers of this project. Feel free to give us your suggestions. People that invested a lot of money should contact us to see what we can work out. We are very reasonable people, and we want to help everyone to feel as satisfied as possible, but we are also limited in our capabilities. Please do not expect miracles, but understand that we will make an honest effort to make people happy. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to try to work something out. Please understand that it is impossible for us to offer a significant amount of refunds right now, but we expect that to change in the future.”
Chances are, that money people donated is something they’ll never see again.