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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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35 comments
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Purple Library Guy 17 June 2019 at 6:03 pm UTC
gradyvuckovicPersonally I'm pretty strongly of the opinion that crowdfunding is almost always a terrible idea and almost always used incorrectly.

The normal way to do business, would be to start small, make a few small games, then gradually work up to larger projects off the back of the smaller ones.

If a game developer is crowdfunding, it means that first of all, they're likely taking on something of a much larger scope than they're probably ready for, that's warning flag number 1.

The second thing it means, is that they likely weren't able to find financial backing from any publisher or bank or anyone, which means no one wanted to invest the idea, that's warning flag number 2.

Crowdfunding comes with no strings attached or certainty at all that the game will even be made, so you can potentially throw your money at something that goes no where, which is very wrong, YOU should not be asked to take on that kind of risk, that risk should be taken on by the game developer. Because if the game is a success, it's the developer who will receive all the spoils of victory, and have a product to sell over and over again. You just get the opportunity to basically pre order a game. When it's the developer who gets the 'reward' then it's the developer should take on the 'risk' for that reward. And they likely would, if they themselves had any confidence in their project, which means they likely don't if they're using crowdfunding, that's warning flag number 3.

If none of those above statements apply to a crowdfunding project, because it's being made by a very capable team of people who have made very large games before and have an established game development studio and plenty of funds, and who wouldn't struggle to find a publisher for their project, and it's being made by people who are confident they can produce the final product, and that it will sell well.. then it means the company views crowdfunding as essentially just an interest free loan from people who are too generous with their money. They don't need the crowdfunding, they just want the cash, that's warning flag number 4.

There's a time and place for crowdfunding, and in my view, it's for projects that benefit a community. Funding the creation of a product that a company will own and sell, is not one of those in my opinion. A better use of crowdfunding would be crowdfunding the creation of FOSS licensed games for example, because then at least the people taking on the risks (the backers) are the ones who would receive the reward (a foss licensed game).
I dunno. On one hand, I think your arguments have some force and I like the niche you define of "projects that benefit a community".
On the other, I think your warning flags assume basically that "the system works well" (and therefore if someone needs to do something else, that must be a problem with them), and I have no confidence that it does. People might not be able to raise money from bankers or whoever because bankers are blinkered idiots ignorant of the game industry, or because more knowledgeable investors insist on only backing games that are very "safe" the way Hollywood ends up doing nothing but sequels and remakes, or because modern banks are increasingly oriented towards financial speculation and servicing really big firms, and away from loans to small businesses, or because the interest rates they charge for small "high-risk" borrowers are insanely high (rational for the lender in a sense, but so high as to readily change a potential profit to a loss, thus self-fulfilling the high risk prophecy), or because the developer lives somewhere with a crap economy, or (insert your favourite market failure here).
Nanobang 18 June 2019 at 1:09 pm UTC
I've never crowdfunded anything, but I think the concept is great. It's a means for people who have great ideas to look for support and backing from the world writ large---unconventional financing for unconventional ideas.

It's not like the risk is hidden ... in a way, it strikes me less as a form of investing than a form of gambling: don't bet what you can't afford to lose. It's why I never gamble.

I see crowdfunding more like giving money to friends. I never loan money to friends---I decided long ago to just give them money. I tell them that if they ever want to pay me back, it'll be a loan---but let's just call it a gift. I would approach supporting a crowdfunding campaign no differently.


Last edited by Nanobang at 18 June 2019 at 1:14 pm UTC
BrazilianGamer 18 June 2019 at 1:49 pm UTC
What a bunch of scammers
Ehvis 18 June 2019 at 1:54 pm UTC
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NanobangIt's not like the risk is hidden ... in a way, it strikes me less as a form of investing than a form of gambling: don't bet what you can't afford to lose. It's why I never gamble.

Exactly. Crowdfunding is a donation towards the developer to show your support. Anything you get from it is a win.
sigz 21 June 2019 at 8:20 am UTC
QuoteSo we're at the stage, where Eco should have reasonably good Linux support by now but does it? No it does not.

The game has reasonable linux support, native client perfectly works, the windows server can be started seemslessly on linux without issues with mono (and the configuration gui also works).
"reasonable" mean you can use the product despite some details (which are maybe vivox and the direct single player mode).. But you don't need single player mode in this game, I you don't need vivox if you play solo..

The linux version is no advertised on steam, but it's clearly displayed on their website, and you can have the drm free build from them if you already own it on steam.


Last edited by sigz at 21 June 2019 at 8:26 am UTC
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