Ambitious furry fighter 'Beast's Fury' pulls plug
On January 7, Ryhan Stevens announced that after many years of development that Beast's Fury, a fighting game that would feature furry characters, would be ceased. This announcement has created a lot of controversy and demand by those who funded the project over its multiple crowdfunding campaigns, two of which were successful. It has brought to bear the risks of public funding of projects by those in both the furry and gaming communities, and has opened discussions about the actual costs of developing video games.
The Crowd Funding Campaigns
The project started to ask for public funding on Indiegogo and at first had two unsuccessful campaigns. However, in 2014 it had found success in two more campaigns it had launched: one on Indiegogo raising $21,670, the other on Kickstarter making around $47,000.
A final set of campaigns were made, including an Indiegogo campaign along with a Patreon, in mid-2015. This one, however, was unsuccessful due to wariness that had generated within the funding public over the overuse of these campaigns. With this loss of confidence and the end of a source of income, the financial wells dried up and Beast's Fury was laid to rest.
A Big Dream on a Small Budget
Because of the multiple crowdfunding campaigns many felt that maybe there was a scam afoot, but those that worked on the project came forward to make it clear that the product was being worked on. There were even those on staff that had gotten paid. The game did have a demo release. However, there was an agreement that the project was too ambitious for the budget. Ryhan himself said in an interview with Lei_Lani:
We reached our goal of $20,000, but we misjudged the expenses, so instead of being able to get the demo fully done, we had to settle for completing the animation for the first character, Vincent, a bear/panther mix, and the base programming mechanics for him, and maybe 20% of Don the shark character. But then the funding ran out. So, instead of asking for more money, we made the decision to keep going as best we could. Every week, I gave some of my paycheck, my personal money, to the team so that we could still, slowly but surely, continue to work on the game.
Staffers have come out with stories about working on the project which state that Ryhan began to try and cut corners with funding some of his staff. His ambitions for the property grew bigger, and he found himself distracted by the future, instead of concentrating on creating the project before him. One could argue that the success of the campaign, and all the hype and media that it led to, led the project lead to seeing the current unfinished product as a success despite an actual product not being yet out the door.
Another hard learned lesson for the indie community
As the reality of the mistakes made has settled in, there is certainly a feeling on those that backed the project that they were mislead. However, the other layer to this tragedy is that while this clearly was not an intentional plan to take the backer's money and run, it was a scam. One committed by a person against himself into believing they did not get in over their own head.
In the end the project lead sacrificed his own personal finances and integrity on the project. Fiscal and social debts will have to be repaid. Another dream, and game, has been lost to poor management and planning. Another Kickstarter will be pointed at as a lesson to deter people from backing future crowdfunding in the first place.
Some lessons for the indie developer are to not treat crowdfunding as a magic bullet and to limit your campaigns to one successful run per project. Do not make a funding project promising only a demo, yet have rewards that assume there will be a full game release. Solidify the scope of the public campaign to not promise what you know you realistically cannot deliver in a timely manner, resulting in a type of Social Obligation Syndrome. In other words, don't push your project to AAA scope on an indie budget, unless you're an auteur and have the skill to help carry your team in something other than giving them money, which was clearly not the case here.
Perhaps those in the video game and furry community also have a lesson to learn here. Particularly those platforms that will point to these kind of campaigns from time to time. And that lesson is we need to feel free to ask tough questions of project leaders that ask us of our money on these crowdfunding platforms before they dig themselves too deep into a social obligation they can never repay. In other words, maybe we should have the kind of interviews Lei-Lani had with Rhyan before the damage is done, rather than in the aftermath.