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The Dark Matter debacle: Interwave responds Exclusive
The  Dark Matter  debacle: Interwave responds
October 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose

October 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    18 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



With the story blowing up around Interwave Studios, and the company's game Dark Matter being pulled from Steam this week, Interwave's managing director has spoken to Gamasutra to give some background on what has been happening at the Dutch company.

The game was released on Steam last week, and players quickly discovered that the game ended abruptly. The studio responded, saying that the failure of the game's Kickstarter forced the team to cut down on the game's content. Soon afterwards, the game was pulled from Steam.

After receiving information from sources close to the team, Gamasutra has now talked to Interwave's Michiel Beenen, who explained that the studio was caught in a tough spot earlier this year, and forced to act.

The company's first game Nuclear Dawn didn't sell as well as Interwave was hoping, and as such, the company decided to work on a smaller, cheaper title for its second release.

Dark Matter was meant to take a year to develop, and was created by a team of six staffers at the company. However, a year into production, it became clear that there was still much work to do, and that the company was not going to have the funds to complete it.

Either the studio could attempt to complete the game in two months, or run with a Kickstarter. It chose the latter, which unfortunately bore no fruit -- and this ended up putting Interwave in an even worse situation.

Kickstarter or bust

"We had to make a decision," he tells me. "Either we polished up what we had, or just throw it in the bin, and that's it. We chose to keep everyone on for another two months, and use the money we had to make the game as complete as possible."

At this point, Interwave got back in touch with Nuclear Dawn publisher Iceberg Interactive, in a last-ditch effort to secure a release for the game -- and although the studio was forced to let go of its staff, they managed to go ahead with a launch.

The idea was that if sales picked up, Interwave would be able to hire its team back, and carry on as normal. Unfortunately, Beenen was not prepared for the case of the missing game ending.

dark matter1.jpgHe admits that neither Iceberg nor management knew that the ending to the game was missing -- they were under the impression that everything was in order when the game was released. He calls it "total bullshit" that it was released in this state, and adds, "I want this to be solved... We need to fix it."

There's now a small UK development studio working on a real cinematic ending that ties up the story, and this new ending is planned for release on Friday.

Beenen is keen to stress that this was not the way that anybody wanted the game's development to go. Heaps of passion was put into the game, he says, and a lack of funds meant that they were forced into a corner. He hopes that players will give the game a chance once it is re-released.


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Comments


Alejandro Rodriguez
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So the takeaway here is, "We didn't know." ?

Amir Barak
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I think the takeaway here don't try to bullshit your audience on the Internet while being involved in a land war in Asia... I may be confusing my famous sayings there.

I think this entire situation could have been and should have been solved by using some common sense and honesty about 6 months ago. Which is a shame because the game looked pretty cool.

Jennis Kartens
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It's a shame. Interesting hint though that they really thought Nuclear Dawn would do better, since it was crystal clear that it would fail tremendously after being in development far too long and basically was way (WAY) beyond the era where such Source based mod would have been a success.

Daneel Filimonov
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I think the major problem with ND was that it was released during the time when there was a saturation of multiplayer class-based shooters. Source has nothing to do with it (as can be seen with The Stanley Parable HD which did remarkably well). If ND was single-player with a story, I assure you it would have done much better and possibly have taken less time to develop too.

Andrew Shaftling
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Nuclear Dawn was actually one of the best MP shooters I played in a couple of last years. Well balanced and a lot of fun. I think they just did a bad job at promotion so there weren't many people playing it. I didn't even see reviews in most of the major publications which says a lot. And it's a shame.

Jennis Kartens
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Yeah I wouldn't disagree to the points you made, not untrue really (except that I think being SP may not have been easier since the competition is equally strong for that kind of "ordinary" shooter... Stanley did so well because it is extraordinary, as Dear Esther too)

But whatever the reason (a lot of things came together I think, promotion, competition, placing it into the proper niche) it was imo relatively clear long before the actual release, that it would not be of commercial success.

On the contrary though, I found Dark Matter kind of interesting when it came out. It's kind of sad that these guys are facing such problems and failed in better communication. I always hope the best for people coming from classic modding...

Chris Melby
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This review video captures the moment the game just ends:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTPS_GGhMqk

Sean Sang
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From that video there was an ending, just not a satisfying one. It may have been abrupt but they did attempt to put something in it's place. From this article it sounded like there was nothing at all. This reminds me of an arcade game I played when I was younger and it's ending was the old FBI logo and "winners don't use drugs".... this is a step up from that.

Maurício Gomes
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If you call a black text with text after entering a random door a ending...

Even my reaction seeing the video was... the hell?

Sean Sang
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@ Mauricio Gomes: Yes, I agree it's not much of an ending but it's still an ending regardless. I had the same reaction as you when I saw that video. I'm not excusing the developers for it or saying this is perfectly acceptable. What I'm saying is that there was an ending which is far less confusing than a game that just restarts to the main menu which I would imagine leaving the player wondering if the game ended or if it was a game bug. As the article has stated this wasn't the intended ending as the team ran out of money. So the question is what constitutes a proper game ending? Is a wall of text enough? Does it have to be a cinematic or in game exchange of dialogue? What if the player doesn't like the ending given?

@ Chris Melby: I somewhat disagree with you on the point of arcade games. Some games have you progressing further to the point of an ending and things such as high scores aren't really a factor. I can't recall the name of the game but it's style was similar to the TMNT arcade game but with you playing as and against humans. I just remember playing with a friend and pumping the game with quarters after quarters to see how far we could get in the game. When the game ended like it did it left us confused and disappointed. At least a wall of text would of left us with a little satisfaction that we beat the game and saw the ending. Suffice to say we never did play that game again.

Chris Melby
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@Sean,

Dark Matter is a survival horror game. If it were an arcade game, that would be a different story. Arcade games were all about the high score and entering one's initials; and their ending usually came after one last boss fight.

This ending was a cop-out IMO. They might as well have said' " To be continued."

And not important, but I'm trying to recall which game ended with that FBI screen? I worked in an arcade back in the eighties and recall that it was on most of the newer machines at the time. But it generally showed up at the beginning of the promo-loop, so it would appear again after a game had been won and restarted.

Andy Lundell
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Sean, Oh sure. _technically_, so long as a game stops at some point, it can be said to have "an ending". In that strict sense, even Pac-Man had "an ending".

That's not really what's under discussion here, though.

Ian Fisch
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I think Steam needs to vet what games it sells a little more.

Amir Barak
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I think Steam is a digital platform and can't actually do anything.
You mean you think the employees of Valve should vet games a bit more. And how do you purpose they do that exactly?

Michael Joseph
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They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Michael Ball
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"Poochie died on the way back to his home planet"

Ian Young
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Sounds like they really didn't plan things very well, or do much market research. Games that end up being successful are well researched and planned (and funded). This is a common mistake amongst software engineering students, who tend over estimate their maximum and average work output capabilities. better to play it safer with your projects and not promise the moon, when you can't realistically deliver.

Sean Sang
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I do agree you have to budget and plan with a realistic goal. Usually most games have their feature set broken down into what's fundamental and what are wish list items. It sounded like management made their plan based on banking on revenue from Nuclear Dawn to fund the rest of the development - that's just not realistic.


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