If you've been keeping up with recent news in the gaming industry, then you have probably heard that Fez 2 has been cancelled. This is the result of a bunch of exchanges over twitter and stuff. Totalbiscuit (TB) summed up the situation pretty well on his Content Patch for July 29th and gave his option from a gaming media perspective. I'm going to come from a different side.
The high level overview of the situation. "AnnoyedGamer" Marcus Beer calls out a couple of indie gaming developers for not providing an opinion on some of recent updates on the XBox One Indie publishing announcements. Beer insults them pretty thoroughly. One of them is Phil Fish, designer of the game Fez. The two exchange a bunch of tweets and Fish "rage quits" game development and cancels Fez 2.
I knew nothing of the situation going into watching the Content Patch video. TB mentions that Fez was featured in Indie Game The Movie. I own a copy of it on Steam and it's available on Netflix. It is a pretty good movie. The movie primarily features three games. Braid, an early and very successful game, Super Meat Boy, a game that was in the process of being published, and Fez, a game in heavy development. You get to see all the aspects of success, failure and all the struggles with indie game development.
Phil Fish really caught my attention when he was on screen. He is very animated, opinionated and pretty vulgar. His game, Fez, was first demoed in 2007, and wasn't released until the middle of 2012 on XBox and 2013 on Steam. In the interviews he mentions getting a lot of hate for continually delaying the game. He also demoed the game at a convention. The build of the game for the convention was a new build from the previous day and had a game breaking bug that resulted in the game needing to be restarted anytime someone played it.
I know game development and design is difficult. It's something I've always wanted to do, but my programming journey took me into another direction. I do understand the development life cycle and management of projects.
Delaying the release of a product over and over will only spark frustration to your potential client base. I remember seeing the 2007 game footage of Fez and was pretty excited about the game. The lack of a solid release date really killed my attention span. It's not appropriate for every game to have a "beta" version that that can be purchased and played. I purchased Minecraft while it was in beta and the full release date was heavily ignored by me. The continuous updates to the game kept my attention. Fez may not have been a good fit for that model. Fez's delay may have been due to continual scope creep (addition of features), lack of discipline, or having too high of standards for your work. A product that is in development typically doesn't have income outside of investors. Investors will only invest for so long before pulling funding. A product can never be successful unless it's published.
Bugs will happen. One of the greatest things about the software industry now is patching. Video Games consoles didn't have patches or updates until the more recent generations. That means your SNES and NES games had bugs the whole time you owned the game. Developers had to make sure that their code was 100% before the game was physically made. Now, developers are very use to being able to push out bug fixes quickly. Starcraft 2 has had a ton of patches for bugs and game mechanics. With all that being said, you can't let that ease of fixing destroy how you code. If you have a demo or any sort of public showing of your product, make sure it's buttoned up. I typically use source control branches to keep a stable version of what I'm working on. I can publish a working product at any given time using this strategy. I'm not an expert at presenting stuff, but I would feel a lot more confident in a demo if my product lacked a few features and didn't crash.
Something that is unique to indie game developers are their target market. Gamers can be and frequently are some of the most immature, critical and evil people on the planet. Don't believe me? Go play some ladder games of SC2 2v2 or League of Legends and see if you get out without being raged on. Trying to please the masses in this industry is darn near impossible and you have to do your best to accept that. You may see your game as art, but they are going to play it and see it completely differently than what you expected. They will berate you for simple things like not being able to change the controller scheme or character dialog. You can't wear your heart on your sleeve when dealing with gamers on Reddit, forums or anywhere else on the internet.
Finally, arguing on Twitter is the dumbest thing ever. Three years ago, I was told by one of the co-founders of Joomla that I didn't know HTML. I had complained on twitter that the editor wrapped my content in 4 font tags and was going to switch to Wordpress (this was for the Boy Scout Troop's website I was working on). I tried to reply saying I'd rather use a text area field than a wysiwyg editor and he retorted back saying "garbage in garbage out". I then realized that arguing on Twitter is REALLY dumb, especially between adults. How can you make a valid argument about something in 140 characters and it be civilized?
Anyway, It's 2am right now and I'm really tired. Lily has been rolling around in her crib all night. Side Note: Get a camera in your nursery if you have a little on in a crib. Its kinda cool watching them sleep ^_^.
Yay, for indie game developers! It's definitely not for everyone.