Once upon a time, there was a game. This game, well, it was what some people (myself included) would consider a masterpiece. From music to art to concept to story. Every part of this game was a sight to behold. What was that game you may ask? It was none other than Final Fantasy Tactics.
When Playdek began creation of Unsung Story, they had an ambition: To create a Tactical Role-Playing Game (TRPG) that held up to (and perhaps surpassed) those set forth by Final Fantasy Tactics. They tried as hard as they could to push for as much as they could for their backers, but this is where things began to fall apart.
This story, like many other Kickstarter disasters, comes in the development phase. Once Unsung Story had the funding they needed, they set to work. They had huge names in the TRPG scene on their staff such as Yasumi Matsuno, Akihiko Yoshida, and Hitoshi Sakimoto. They were very good about providing updates to their backers and they constantly updated said backers with information about their game from February 2014 all the way to May 22nd, and then they vanished.
And the backers waited.
And waited some more, until - finally - Playdek made an announcement on the 31st of June, two months after their last announcement (which was simply an AMA). This update had nothing but good news, and stated that the team would be back next month with more good news
Except no update came.
That is, no update came until September 5th. This update talked about Professions, which was a step in the right direction and received fairly positive feedback. Of course, backers were asking for actual proof it was being worked on. In-game screenshots? A video maybe? The occasional piece of concept art here and there was fine, but it had been almost a year. Just something to show that their money was not going to waste. But Playdek did not provide.
At this point I lost my own personal interest in the project, writing it off as somewhat of a failure with only a vain hope that it would ever come to fruition. The team was fairly silent for most of 2015, only giving sparse updates here and there as opposed to what they usually did, but on October 20th, 2015, they gave their backers their very first video.
Before you say anything - no, Unsung Story was not developed to be a mobile game, but this is what they had to show their backers past the due date that they had set for themselves to release the game in 2015. It was clear to everyone that things were not going well at all, and they were rightfully upset. After this update, Playdek did not make contact with their Kickstarter backers until February 6th, where they stated:
After we posted our latest development progress, we unfortunately lost a few key staff members (Three months ago) that were part of Unsung Story development, and that has had an impact on any progress since then, as well as our product focus. We now have one internal team capable of working on a single project, and for the financial strength of the company we need to focus on a few products in the near term that have the ability to get to a retail release before Unsung Story is able to. While this is a difficult choice to make, it is one we need to do for the ongoing financial health of the company. For Unsung Story, we will explore options for outside development help, and will look to see if we are able to bring on an outside team that can assist us in furthering development. While we aren’t assured this will come to fruition, we do want to make sure that we are exploring any options at hand that can make progress on the game.
Needless to say, everyone was quite upset. With no information on who was let go, many faithful backers finally asked for refunds on what they pledged to Playdek. Playdek was given $600,126 to create this game. They lost many of their staff members for reasons they would not disclose, and essentially told backers of the game - the people who funded this project - that there were more important things to work on than Unsung Story. One would assume that with "Veteran console video game developers" and partnerships with companies such as Looney Labs and Wizards of The Coast, as well as multiple mobile games under their belt, the least they could do is stay up to date with updates to their backers. Instead, their story has been one of love, neglect, and loss that Playdek will likely have a very hard come overcoming both financially and reputably. The game is slated to come out "Sometime in 2016", but no one will be surprised if that doesn't happen.
On February 27th, 2016, Playdek made one more announcement which caught everyone - including me - off-guard. According to them, they have spent well over one million dollars on the development of the game and now they have a game ready to ship to pull in more money to continue development on Unsung Story as well as a "secured creditor" whom is "highly supportive" of the company. According to the Playdek team, they have many systems ready for the game, including:
Programming – Game Play Systems
Grid system for turn based architecture; Activation system for character turn order; Character attribute and stats system; Unit movement and action system; Combat actions and reactions; A.I. system and actions; Game play cameras; In-game U.I.; Character jobs and job switching system
GDD; Back story and plot; Historical timeline; Five game episodes – story, plot and scenario; Character schools, lineage and job types; Battle system; Controls (PC and tablet); Interface design
Programming – Online Architecture and Game Engine
Unity graphics engine fully integrated into the Playdek game engine; Particle system; Animation system; Billboard system; Asynchronous turn based system; In-game chat; Player profiles; Friends list; Tournament system; Notification system; Matchmaking
Empire concept art; World map; 3D levels with textures, lighting and effects; Character models, animations and art Prototypes Functional prototypes on PC and iOS have been built.
The primary thing to note here is that they have "functional prototypes on PC and iOS"
The biggest concern here for me is that the Playdek team will develop a game primarily for iOS and then ship it, along with all of its iOS-tier assets, on to the computer and other devices. Players not playing on the tablet shouldn't have to sacrifice graphical quality because the developers were lazy.
I will always have a small glimmer of hope that one day it does get released, and that it looks better than a mobile game (as it's being developed for computers, tablets, and potentially the Nintendo 3DS). Let this be a lesson that even if you are backing a reputable company on Kickstarter, it can still come back and bite you hard. Playdek may still be working as best they can on the project they've set out to create, but their backers are not making it easy. They are attacking the company for every decision they've made thus-far instead of letting them work and being understanding of all of the developmental issues they've had thus far.
I truly do hope that Unsung Story will come out and be everything I had ever hoped it would be. What are your thoughts on the trials and tribulations of Playdek? Talk to us in the comments below!