Towns development halted as lead dev can no longer afford to pay rent

Towns development was first abandoned in February of this year.

Towns is a management game built on the strong foundations of Dungeon Keeper and Dwarf Fortress. It was part of the first wave of Greenlight games to be approved for sale on Steam, and its three developers worked steadily for more than a year afterwards to build on its beta bedrock.

Trouble began when the team announced their February update would be their last, however, citing a lack of “strength to continue”. A fresher-faced indie was brought on board to take over development duties - but now he, too, has been forced to concede defeat.

Towns is the second in-development Steam game in as many days to report problems, after Valve pulled Earth: Year 2066 from Steam and offered full refunds to its customers.

Moebius, real name Florian, signed up to work on Towns just a week after its creators relinquished control of it. With three years of work on his own voxel project and plenty of passion as his qualifications, he became Towns’ hope for the future.

In consultation with Towns’ original team, he agreed to a fee of 15% of the game's ongoing revenue, minus Steam’s cut and taxes.

“Xavi and I agreed that this would be a fair amount,” he wrote. “And I still think it is.”

Unfortunately, the agreement failed to take into account the drop in Towns’ sales. By the time Moebius had got to grips with the source code and published the first new version of the game, Towns was shifting fewer than a third of the number of copies he was expecting.

“To be completely honest, I can’t work for that little amount,” he said yesterday. “I have to pay for the rent and food and this doesn't really suffice for any of it.

“I also settled for the 15% of the minimum of x copies which is already well below my normal salary.”

Moebius hoped aloud that the game might be made open source, and that he might continue to contribute to it in his spare time - though that decision still lies with its original creators.

The current plan, such as it is, sees the skeleton team turning their attention to a possible Towns 2 - with all the attendant public attention and financial recoupment a brand new game might mean. 

“I hope you are not too disappointed,” finished Moebius. “And if you are: I’m really sorry. I’m quite new to indie game dev and I couldn't really see that the game sales were declining that rapidly. I guess if I had more experience I would have seen it coming.”

Community reaction on the game’s forums ranged from understanding to promised boycotts of Moebius’ future work - though others said that Towns’ real demise had happened months earlier.

“Walk away and never look back,” advised one player.

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Fraser Brown avatarHarmon avatarunwanted avatarMountain_Man avatar
Mountain_Man Avatar
729
3 Years ago

So what they're saying is that not enough people fell for the early access scam, and now they're out of money. Too bad.

The problem with this new crop of independent developers is that they don't have enough personal skin in the game. In the good ol' days, you would invest your own money, mortgage the house, take out a loan... basically put your own financial future on the line. Then after the game was completed -- and by this point you had a very strong incentive to complete the game -- you put it on sale and recouped your expenses.

These days, seems like indies want a relatively risk-free stream of cash from suckers -- sorry, I meant "customers" -- paying into Kickstarter or buying an alpha that has been cleverly branded "Early Access". Since they already have the money upfront, they have less incentive to knuckle down and actually finish what they started. Once the flow of money dries up, so does their interest in the project.

Unfortunately, there are enough suckers who fall for this ruse that "developers" like this will continue to get away with it. And now these scam artists are shamelessly talking about a sequel to game they never properly completed.

2
Fraser Brown Avatar
960
3 Years ago

The trouble really began the moment it went up on Steam. It was before the days of Early Access, and what was clearly an early alpha was advertised as a finished product. It's a shame, because it had a lot of potential.

1
Harmon Avatar
13
3 Years ago

Generally I like the idea of "Early Access" It's fun to play a game that gets regular updates and new features. There is a downside though and here it is. It's not just Steam though, it's the current digital delivery business model. Without having to package a finished product for store shelves, eager fans can get in early.. real early. This way they can support development or be taken advantage of. Cube World was my favorite game of 2013 and hasn't been updated almost a year after it's release.

1
unwanted Avatar
778
3 Years ago

I was thinking about Cubeworld last month. I'm guessing they're still working on it. I got to one of the devs Twitter and it seemed like they were still doing something. He was tweeting a about art and gameplay changes.

1
Harmon Avatar
13
3 Years ago

Ya he is adding a quest system, 1 or 2 new biomes, underground areas and marking mobs with difficulty indicators. I'm looking forward to it but it doesn't change the fact that he has almost lost his entire fan base by not staying in contact with the community. Still, the Cube World alpha he left us with is more polished than some finished games I've played.

1