Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Limit Theory

Josh Parnell, the developer of Limit Theory, sent out an email to Kickstarter backers last weekend.

In it, he announced that the game will not be completed. Not in a spoiled, indifferent way, but in a letter that was both anguished and poignant.

Here are a few excerpts:
After six years, I am finally at the end of my means. Financially, I am beyond the initial investment and have exhausted most of my personal savings. But significantly more troubling is that I am entirely out of energy -- emotionally, mentally, even physically. Every year that passes sees me becoming more desperate to make good on the dream with which you all entrusted me, but each such year I grow less and less capable of doing so as my mindset falls further away from that bright, beautiful hope that powered me from the beginning. I am not what I once was.

No matter how hard I try, it's not enough to bring LT to fruition, and this pattern of failure has evicted all self-confidence and hope from my mind, leaving only doubt, anxiety, and despair. 

It has been the most painful, difficult decision of my life, and I'm sure that there will be no shortage of blowback. But I simply cannot continue to destroy myself in search of a feat of which I am not capable. When I began this project, I felt that anything was possible. Here now, at the end, I must swallow the painful reality that: I, too, am human. I am limited by time, I am limited by finances, and I am limited by mental & emotional stamina.

Limit Theory was going to be a procedurally generated space sim, and it was chock full of interesting ideas. Parnell is clearly very, very brilliant, but most unfortunately, that is often not enough, whether it's games or books or films.

I want to ask DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand (Hey, Ben! Want to do this?) to write a post about scope and how to design projects (in his case, film projects) that are finishable. He knows more about this than anyone I know, because he's been involved in the best and the worst and everything in-between.

Designing something that can be finished is a skill, and it's a skill I never had, at least for a long time. Even now, I tend to start things and they mushroom into something grand (I think I'll add a manned mission to Mars!), which very quickly leads to paralysis and then death. I have to force myself to focus on manageable ideas with a clear time frame (and even then, I often don't follow my own rules).

What struck me the most about Josh's letter is how genuine it feels. I remember how all-consuming Gridiron Solitaire was, and how overwhelming, and how every minute that I wasn't spending working on it felt like a wasted minute. That was a very difficult emotion for me to manage, and it lasted for five years.

This was back when no one but DQ Legal Advisor Lee Rawles even knew I was trying to make a game. I can't begin to imagine the pressure I would have felt if I had a successful Kickstarter and backers to please.

For low-budget indie developers, the early Kickstarter, to me, is a curse. I would never use Kickstarter until I had a prototype at the point where I knew it would be finished. Then, use the funding to greatly improve the art and sound and whatever needs to be better, but not to fund coding.

I'm sorry about the game, but not sorry that I backed it, and I hope Josh Parnell can somehow find peace and continue thinking about games. Maybe he'll still make one someday.

Site Meter