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Planetary Annihilation: The journey of a Kickstarter

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Planetary Annihilation has a rather interesting history, and John Comes the Design Director at Uber Entertainment did a write up on it all.

You can see the write up here on gamasutra.

My own thoughts
I have a very love-hate relationship with the game, mainly just due to how unpolished it feels even after this long. You still get black screen issues now and then when the UI just doesn't appear, which can really annoy you. It seems to happen more often for AMD GPU users, as I hear repeating reports of it.

For a game that's supposed to be such a massive strategy title, with different planets, and lots and lots of units it's really not well optimised for when you have lots of units. I've been in plenty of games where the enemy sent a huge army towards me, or me towards them, and the game slows down to an absolute crawl.

Another issue, is that playing it totally offline had higher system requirements (and wasn't in the full release, it was added later), as the game so heavily relied on Uber Entertainment servers. This did annoy people, and pushed away people on the lower end who didn't want to play online. Although if you're looking to play a game like this, the requirements for the single-player seemed okay to me.

Their second Kickstarter
QuoteUnhappy Planetary Annihilation fans descended on comments and forums blasting us for how we handled our last project. Two weeks later we shut down the project and were forced to reduce staff.

Uber Entertainment launched a second Kickstarter very quickly after the official PA release for another strategy title named "Human Resources". This had unhappy Planetary Annihilation players pouring in giving them grief about it. Rightly so in my opinion, as PA wasn't even close to being stable at this point and they really hadn't proven themselves in my eyes.

We really don't have any other strategy titles like it on Linux, and since I've been a fan of such games since Total Annihilation I think this is why I am willing to put up with the issues it has. I have 57 hrs on record for Planetary Annihilation, and 2.9 hrs on record for TITANS (which was released after), so you can see my love of it faltered after a while due to the issues. Splitting the already quite small playerbase with TITANS was also a very iffy decision. I still think it's great that they did it and I was happy as a Kickstarter backer to get it for free, but it gave people a reason to dislike them.

I think they focused on features too much, without spending enough time really polishing the experience, and this soured it for me. Too many niggling issues still left in the game, especially on the Linux side. I can't count the amount of times the UI has crashed in some way to make the game unplayable.

An important and incredibly obvious point:
QuoteMake sure the costs of stretch goals are covered in the funding level.

I imagine a lot of developers don't really think about the actual cost involved when they announce stretch-goals. Most I've seen simply use big fancy features to get to reasonably small advances in the total, and they really don't work out the time and money involved in reality.

He makes another important point:
QuoteThe general public doesn’t understand what it takes to make a game. Do not expect them to learn it.

It's a very true point, but it's also down to developers to give reasonable promises. Letting in feature creep is also an issue while developing. It also links into the above point.

A big issue was communication, they didn't really have a proper community manager for some time, and even when they did the communication wasn't all that good. I visited the forums nearly daily, and in that time multiple times a day to see how frustrated people got at the silence.

With that said, I do still love the game, and the idea behind it. It has lots of little things that make it such a unique experience. It may not have perfect execution (what game does?), and I would still rather have it than not have it. The ChronoCam is such an excellent idea, and can really help you learn from others tactics. Being able to pick a specific part of a game and watch it, rewind, and so on. That feature alone makes it pretty interesting. Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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About the author -
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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33 comments
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burnall 4 Jan, 2016
Bought on Humble Bundle and I have say this game is shit on AMD, I still get messed up textures with opensource and black screen with proprietary drivers.
coolbober 4 Jan, 2016
I'm quite a big fan of all RTS games. I started with Dune 2, later Red Alert, Dune 2000, EARTH 2140, Starcraft. I played also Supreme Commander 1 & 2.

Planetary Annihilation is a title that I enjoy really a lot. I don't have this Black Screen crashes.... Maybe I don't play this game as much as you. TRUE Planetary Annihilation is not well optimized but TITANS edition for unknown reasons works much better.

At the end... I respect Planetary Annihiltion cause they promised Linux version and this version was almost from very beginning, not like some other games like eg. Skullgirls.

Liam great post as always.
wolfyrion 4 Jan, 2016
I have to say that Uber Entertainment messed up with its community and money handling.

They handle their community like $$$ and more $$$$$$$ and that is called GREED!

Kickstarter campaign 44,162 backers pledged $2,229,344 to help bring this project to life.

Many funs were complaining about that they didnt get their rewards or their bonus keys didnt get updated to Titan versions etc... also many people that didnt back them up on kickstartter but they have spend like 60$ for an early access on Steam,they didnt get the TITANS version as well.

Uber put a small fee like 12$ for an upgrade to Titans but a lot of people refuse to pay that fee for an update.
Titans should be free for ALL the people who have already purchased Planetary annihilation -> End of Story.

Anyway, So at the end what they have manage to do? --> split their community and make people angry and totally against Uber

check stats

First Game Planetary Annihilation (yeah I understand that this game has been in bundles etc cheap as 1$)

http://steamcharts.com/app/233250

5,480
all-time peak

Second Game
Planetary Annihilation: TITANS
http://steamcharts.com/app/386070

1,783
all-time peak

Splitting the community into 2 that means less people to play online and with the new games coming out less and less people are going to play the game so at the end it will become dead.

Uber is making attempts to promote the game of the price of 1$ or in many bundles so other players can purchase the upgrade for 14$ which that makes the community more upset and angry towards uber because some people spend a lot of money for that game and they didn't get a free update.
Storminator16 4 Jan, 2016
"The general public doesn’t understand what it takes to make a game. Do not expect them to learn it."

That kind of sounds like they are blaming Joe Gamer for failure, which in turns leads me to believe Uber Entertainment didn't learn a lesson or two.

Joe Gamer really doesn't need to know what it takes to make a game. Joe Developer just needs to deliver.
Liam Dawe 4 Jan, 2016
Quoting: Storminator16"The general public doesn’t understand what it takes to make a game. Do not expect them to learn it."

That kind of sounds like they are blaming Joe Gamer for failure, which in turns leads me to believe Uber Entertainment didn't learn a lesson or two.

Joe Gamer really doesn't need to know what it takes to make a game. Joe Developer just needs to deliver.

Yeah, they did come across a bit like that. I hope they didn't mean it like that, but it did make me feel a bit like "well hold on, I paid $90 for this, I kinda expect it to work you know".
ElectricPrism 4 Jan, 2016
I was annoyed when they did a mandatory update at cost to the players.

They sure did a poor job managing funds & delivering as a well oiled machine.

Their split was a move to drop off all the negative reviews on their steam page.

40$ for a poorly built RTS? I say poorly because my kind of RTS is StarCraft 1 & 2.

My girl & me couldn't get into PA. And we're not willing to pay more money just to see if its still terrible.

There's my opinion.


Last edited by ElectricPrism on 4 January 2016 at 11:51 pm UTC
psycho_driver 4 Jan, 2016
I purchased this title a while back in a bundle, one of at least 3 it's been in. I probably paid a buck or two for it. I could see why early access purchasers at $90 would be a little frustrated with the company. 2.4 million should fund a pretty impressive game. The average gamer may not know what goes into the making of a game, but perhaps the average indie developer isn't the greatest financial expert either.
Julius 5 Jan, 2016
Argg... that guy is delusional *mad rant*. The entire article proves one thing: that they have an internal fairy tale story about them being the victim of evil customers who do not understand "what it takes to make a game".

I think there is one point though where their customers & backers are to blame (including me who kickstartered this game based on the teams background mainly): don't back a game that has only a nice render-video and no actual game-code in place yet. That they boast now that their video was worth millions just puts salt in the wound :(
Because what this shows is that there was no commitment to making the game at all and it was purely a money grab, i.e. give us money to start working and as soon as the money runs out we will stop working on it. While that mind set is fine for an employee of a large company, it does not work for starting & running a company. Of course bills need to be paid, but this kind of "no financial risk" mindset is bound to fail.

This together with some glaring technical mistakes makes me strongly believe that the people running Uber Entertainment don’t "understand what it takes to make a game" and I have lost hope that they will learn it :(
Julius 5 Jan, 2016
Quoting: coolboberPlanetary Annihilation is a title that I enjoy really a lot. I don't have this Black Screen crashes.

At the end... I respect Planetary Annihiltion cause they promised Linux version and this version was almost from very beginning, not like some other games like eg. Skullgirls.

Except that you are one of the lucky few that could actually play the game without issues.
Here on a totally plain Nvidia/Intel Ubuntu box it ran like shit and had all sorts of UI issues. In fact TITANS didn't work at all when it came out (and I didn't bother with it again).

So no... their Linux version was a bad joke :(
rustybroomhandle 5 Jan, 2016
Quoting: psychodriver2.4 million should fund a pretty impressive game.

I think you over-estimate how far one can push 2.4m - it's not that big of a budget - very much still falls on the "indie" side of the fence.

Monument Valley, a tiny game compared to Planetary Annihilation, cost $1.4m. An RTS with multiplayer would have far bigger development costs.

http://www.destructoid.com/games-aren-t-cheap-it-cost-1-4-million-to-make-monument-valley-and-its-dlc-286263.phtml

And at the opposite end of the spectrum you have GTA V with a $265m development cost.
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