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The perils of crowdfunding for Linux games: Eco edition

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When crowdfunding games, there's always a risk that something will go wrong. Sometimes games get cancelled, sometimes the Linux version gets cancelled and in the case of Eco from Strange Loop Games they're not exactly filling me with confidence.

On the original Kickstarter campaign for Eco back in 2015, the FAQ stated this:

The Steam Greenlight page for Eco was also listing Linux as platform, heck even their announcement on it about a release directly mentioned Linux was available. That same announcement is also on their official site, which mentions "For alpha the client will be released on PC, Mac, and Linux.". Given all that, I did purchase a copy personally to support it direct from their website. Since February 2018, it's been available on Steam but they only continue to advertise Windows support (despite a Linux version being there). We're talking almost four years since the Kickstarter and well over one year since being on Steam.

Before getting into anything else, I want to note that the developer has told me over email they currently class the game as being in "Beta". So we're at the stage, where Eco should have reasonably good Linux support by now but does it? No it does not. A Linux version exists but they won't advertise it, single-player only works on Linux with a workaround and now we're onto the below…

Why am I bringing all this up? Well, an interesting email entered my inbox recently, announcing that Eco would be adding in Vivox. Remember Vivox? The voice chat company whose staff actually suggested a developer drop Linux support? Yeah Vivox backtracked on it, but they still seem to have no plan in place to support Linux. Given that, you would think since Eco is supposed to be supporting Linux that Strange Loop Games wouldn't go and pick a middleware that locks out a platform but they did.

I reached out to Strange Loop Games and the resulting emails left me very unimpressed with them. They repeatedly claimed things like "It only was mentioned as a long-term goal on kickstarter" (clearly it wasn't) and "The linux client we offer actually is a internal alpha client we ship additionally without being required to do so." which seems pretty false, given the quote from Kickstarter and the release information they themselves posted onto Steam Greenlight and their official site.

There is a silver lining here (it's not all doom and gloom), as they told me "the plan is to deliver full linux support when the game is actually released" but given how long it has been so far and how they've reacted, it doesn't exactly fill me with hope.

They're far from the worst though, Stainless Games treated Linux gamers far worse with Carmageddon which was pretty ridiculous. Phoenix Point is another that still stings and it certainly all makes you think twice about supporting future crowdfunding efforts. However, thankfully the times where things like this do happen are still a minority, for the most part crowdfunding still results in something good but it pays to be careful.

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liberodark 16 Jun, 2019
I agree but eco work on linux.
Termy 16 Jun, 2019
yeah, things like this were always an ugly risk for linux-backers...
But the straw that broke the camel's back for me to not crowdfund any games anymore was the outer wilds debacle (combined with phoenix point and shenmue3, although i wasn't involved in those).
Moral of the story for me, more than ever: i only buy games that have working Linux-builds and are (at least kind of...) finished...

Sad for all the games that might not make the cut in future crowdfunding campains, and i doubt the people that betrayed the trust of their backers are really aware of just how much they damaged the whole indie-scene...
Liam Dawe 16 Jun, 2019
Quoting: liberodarkI agree but eco work on linux.
Anyone with a Mouse can hit Export in Unity. That's entirely away from the actual point of the article.
GustyGhost 16 Jun, 2019
QuotePC, Mac, and Linux

This should be the first red flag. If they can't even use the correct terminology, why are you trusting them with your money?
ixnari 16 Jun, 2019
After such debacles as Outer Wilds and Shenmue 3, I get the impression that helping crowdfund something will get you screwed over. Developers backtracking on their promises is one thing, but more importantly, Kickstarter has no mechanisms in place that would punish this kind of behaviour. If this is the level of trust we can expect, I would stay far away from Kickstarter and possibly crowdfunding in general until such issues are resolved.

Last edited by ixnari on 16 June 2019 at 1:56 pm UTC
eldaking 16 Jun, 2019
I think this is the kind of crowdfunding promise that is very serious to break, as it completely stops some people from being able to play the game. It is not an extra. And no, a refund doesn't fix anything. And if the Linux version was different in some way (including delayed), it absolutely needed to have been disclosed beforehand.

And I also think that crowdfunded games have even less excuse to cut Linux. They can't argue that the cost isn't worth it; they should have already budgeted for it when setting the goal, which was met. Now it is their problem. It is better to leave Linux out of the promises than to scam Linux users.

I think a positive example of crowdfunding Linux-wise is AI War 2. The game isn't finished yet (and, of course, it is late). But we have had Linux versions of the beta (and alpha, I think) for years already. The developer is also very open about the development (almost too much, but I like it).

I still think crowdfunding is an interesting model. It worked great for the "local" RPG scene; it helps a lot the vibrant indie community and enables the translation of mid-size RPGs that didn't really work traditionally. But I have grown skeptical of it for the really big projects, with $100k+ goals, huge teams, bombastic campaigns with lots of stretch goals or exclusives, ridiculously polished version right at start and so on. If you can't get to know the people involved, it probably shouldn't be using crowdfunding. I have also created a better opinion about Patreon-style crowdfunding, though mostly through friends that use it to get funded as I'm not currently in a position to contribute much. :/
Lakorta 16 Jun, 2019
Hosting a server works on Linux too if you use Mono. It's unofficial and unsupported but I didn't have any problem with the server so far.
tonyrh 16 Jun, 2019
First time I hear of this game... what about the hugely successful (2+ million copies sold) Kingdom Come: Deliverance instead? The kickstarter page is still up, with the false statement "Planned platforms: PC, Xbox One*, PS4*, Mac, Linux; Release date: Q4, 2015 on PC, Mac and Linux" still there. They are swimming in money after the huge success of their game and yet they refuse to fulfill their promise of a Linux version. They are the worst!
riusma 16 Jun, 2019
Quoting: tonyrhThey are the worst!

At least they had offered refund for bakers backers when Linux was cancelled. ;)

Last edited by riusma on 16 June 2019 at 4:54 pm UTC
tonyrh 16 Jun, 2019
Quoting: riusma
Quoting: tonyrhThey are the worst!

At least they had offered refund for bakers when Linux was cancelled. ;)

True that, they had the common courtesy of giving us a reacharound...
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