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.