That Which Haunts Us
I think it was about a year ago when I first read about That Which Sleeps on reddit. When we first started on World's Bane, it wasn't an Evil Overlord Simulator yet. Instead, it was a sandbox god game where the player may interfere as they like on world affairs. Eventually, it became as it is now after several rounds of iteration. Months after settling down on this concept, I was struggling to pin down certain gameplay details so I googled to check if there are similar games out there that I can reference. And that's how I first found That Which Sleeps.
After reading about it on reddit, I found out that it was launched on Kickstarter. As I read through the Kickstarter page, two things crossed my mind. First, this campaign was a huge success so this is one validation that the concept resonates with an audience. Second, oh crap someone is already doing our game and doing it well! At this point I was not yet aware of the drama surrounding this project.
Apparently, That Which Sleeps was vaporware. That Kickstarter campaign was done way back in 2014 and after years in development limbo, it never got released. I wasn't sure what to think of this. At first I thought this would be a good thing for us because that's one less competition for us. It wasn't until we revealed our game that we found out the repercussions of That Which Sleep's failure for us.
You see, the human mind is a pattern recognition machine. If a dog bit us, it will likely cause us to develop fear of other dogs. That Which Sleep developer's alleged fraudulent behavior is unfortunately rubbing off on us, and the same gamers that were looking forward to That Which Sleeps is judging World's Bane with suspicion rather than interest. To me, this is perfectly understandable. It makes it a bit tougher for us to gain early fans but it is also a good challenge forcing us to deliver on our promises.
One thing that has changed for us because of this is that we will probably no longer do a Kickstarter campaign. I think there is too much bad blood due to That Which Sleeps that is tough for us to break through. Even with a demo, what assurances can a small team like us give to backers that we can deliver a complete game?
That leaves us with a few other options. One, we can continue developing using my own funding. We've been operating this way for over two years already and it has given us a lot of freedom to experiment and refine the concept. Of course my budget is not unlimited and the main downside is we are capped on the budget we can spend on visuals and sound.
We could partner with an investor or a publisher. This seems to be the safest route as long as the partner can allow us a comfortable level of freedom. It will also give a nice pressure to perform better and efficiently. While I haven't really looked for one seriously yet, there are a few interested parties that have gotten in touch with us so this seems to be a promising option that can look into at once we can show a prototype to prove our capabilities.
We can also release on Early Access earlier than expected and involve the community during development. This is a much better alternative to Kickstarter because at least the players can ask for a refund if they are unhappy with the product. So it would be a much safer option for the players that got burned by That Which Sleeps.
Whatever we decide, this issue has made us much more driven to deliver a good game. Maybe with World's Bane we can finally put the nightmare that is That Which Sleeps to rest.