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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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Luke_Nukem 16 June 2019 at 10:38 pm UTC
I'm still pretty bitter over Carmageddon. Can't even play it through Proton.
Asu 17 June 2019 at 1:19 am UTC
just make sure it works on proton, please. Lord Gaben is doing everyone's homework...
Salvatos 17 June 2019 at 6:54 am UTC
Luke_NukemI'm still pretty bitter over Carmageddon. Can't even play it through Proton.
I got it to work recently, no tweak needed. Still runs like ass, though, and drives even worse, so eh.
Nevertheless 17 June 2019 at 8:13 am UTC
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tonyrhThey are the worst!

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

I didn't know pastries were affected, but at least bakeries had a choice. xD

But seriously, I think offering a refund is not even close to addressing the issue. It is maybe better than getting a game you will never run.

A company gets people to give them money under false pretenses; the money and number of backers are usually displayed in the campaign or in advertisements, misleading other backers; they hold on to the money usually for a long time; and usually the burden of asking for a refund is on the backer. So they take a "fraudulent" zero interest loan, benefit from user engagement for marketing, and they keep the money unless the backer puts in the effort to get it back. They use in bad faith the lax nature of crowdfunding to get away with stuff like this.

Even worse for our cause! They use our will to support our platform, only to turn around and prominently do the opposite.
Luke_Nukem 17 June 2019 at 8:16 am UTC
Luke_NukemI'm still pretty bitter over Carmageddon. Can't even play it through Proton.
I got it to work recently, no tweak needed. Still runs like ass, though, and drives even worse, so eh.

That's what I mean by it can't be played.
dpanter 17 June 2019 at 9:39 am UTC
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Again with the Carmageddon! *Mah heart*

The optimism back in 2012 is a bittersweet reminder about the perils of crowdfunding. 7 years later and not much has changed, really...
Mountain Man 17 June 2019 at 2:55 pm UTC
You should never pay for an unfinished product. This is just common sense.
Eike 17 June 2019 at 3:25 pm UTC
Mountain ManYou should never pay for an unfinished product. This is just common sense.

Crowd funding made many games possible I bought and loved.
Kimyrielle 17 June 2019 at 3:31 pm UTC
I backed a lot of Kickstarter games when Linux gaming was a new thing. I actually think/thought that crowdfunding is a wonderful idea to help smaller studios fund projects they could never get traditional funding for. After all we know that big publishers only fund unoriginal games they know will sell well, because they have been selling the exact same type of game for a decade or two. Same goes for banks.

Unfortunately, my willingness to back a project has been all but eradicated by things like the stuff mentioned in this article. And that was -despite- me backing games only when I thought the studio was respectable and had a proven track record on Linux. But how often do studios announce Linux support only to deliver it literally a year after the Windows release, or never at all? I get that sometimes unforeseen things can happen, but when a developer uses Windows-only middleware for a game they promised a Linux release for, this person should look for a profession other than software development rather urgently. There is also no excuse for promising Linux support and then not only launch Windows first, but keep working on other stuff for a very long time, before finally completing the Linux version when there REALLY was nothing else left to do.

In short - either take us serious as customers or don't promise Linux support in the first place, if you don't care about it. Honesty goes a long way with me.
Nevertheless 17 June 2019 at 5:23 pm UTC
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Mountain ManYou should never pay for an unfinished product. This is just common sense.

Crowd funding made many games possible I bought and loved.

It's all a matter of trust! I know who better not to trust a second time now...
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