Broken Age running out of money, releasing in two halves on Steam Early Access

Raising $3.4 million may have been far beyond Broken Age's crowdfunding goal of $400,000, but Tim Schafer has said that "didn't stop me from getting excited and designing a game so big that it would need even more money."

Running over-budget on the adventure game, Double Fine plans to polish up the first half and sell it on Steam Early Access while finishing the rest.

"I think I just have an idea in my head about how big an adventure game should be, so it's hard for me to design one that's much smaller than Grim Fandango or Full Throttle," Schafer said yesterday in an update for backers. "There's just a certain amount of scope needed to create a complex puzzle space and to develop a real story. At least with my brain, there is."

Ultimately, the game Double Fine's been making simply needs more money than it had counted on. Time, too: the developer estimated the first half would be finished in July 2014, and the full game in 2015. At the same time, it's reluctant to gut Broken Age or seek extra funding from a publisher or another Kickstarter.

The plan, then, is to finish up the first half of Broken Age by January 2014 with only a few "modest cuts" and put it on Steam Early Access to raise extra cash. It'll then finish up the rest, releasing it as a free update in April or May. Backers will still get earlier beta access.

Steam Early Access is a relatively new service on Valve's platform, selling unfinished yet playable games while development continues. It's the Minecraft model basically, but with the profile and convenience of being on Steam.

It is a little cheeky that Double Fine saved this announcement until after the Kickstarter for its second crowdfunded game, Massive Chalice, finished. It may not have raised that $1.2 million if fans had less confidence in Double Fine.

But, this is an important lesson for would-be backers to learn about the realities of video game development, and surely not the last. Crowdfunding is funding, not pre-ordering. Games will overshoot their budgets, turn out different to the plan, or take longer than expected--especially considering how many developers casually throw grand stretch goals around. The early days of the Kickstarter boom were all dreams and excitement but as the first wave of high-profile, hyper-funded games encounter their first big development hurdles, reality may finally set in.

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