What in the world happened to TUG?

TUG, better known as The Untitled Game, burst onto the scene in May of 2013 with a Kickstarter, which didn’t elicit the same groans and annoyance back then as it does now. It raised almost $300,000 to complement its existing investor funding by promising a creative sandbox built by academics. Alpha launched as promised in July of 2013; the planned 2015 launch didn’t seem an impossibility. In fact, when it hit Steam in 2014, it seemed like it might be a true success story for the genre.

But then the game ran into some weird issues. Yogventures!, the Yogscast-inspired Kickstarter game, was canceled, and its developers transferred code and assets to Nerd Kingdom, offering up copies of TUG (and later, Landmark) as consolation prizes. A key TUG investor then effectively backed out, leading to mass layoffs for the team and the search for new investors, which it ultimately found. Multiplayer finally arrived in early 2015, and a number of patches followed that year, but the game lingered in what was effectively a survival sandbox mode (now referred to as 1.0) far from what was originally promised.

Then, in early 2016, Nerd Kingdom startled everyone with the announcement that the game had secured an additional $8.5 million in investment funding, allowing the studio to expand the team, switch business models to free-to-play, change graphics libraries, and essentially close down open development for most of last year while the team rethought how the game should work.

After a year of quiet, the devs emerged again last month to say that progress on the game continues and that the studio is working toward a “minimally viable product,” which sounds strange for a game that had already been sold on Steam.

This past weekend, the studio told Kickstarter backers — I count myself among them — that “gameplay prototyping” has begun, that QA sessions and videos are on the way, and that a recent investor presentation was “fantastic.”

“Everyone is pleased, and excited about our progress. It’s always been a chore, to focus on the idea that we ARE making a game, but not understanding how important all of the technology and tools are, in being sure we can make it, and the community everything it has the potential to be. The investors, and many new opportunities, are seeing what is now being accomplished and it’s very exciting.”

The few backers responding haven’t seemed particularly pleased, however, wondering why there’s been so little concrete information presented on version 2.0 after over a year of do-over and an additional $8.5M investment.

“[T]his seems more like a intellectual pow wow [than] game development.”

“I can’t believe you are still making posts about how happy and excited you all are about where the project is when in reality four years work the net result is a design document and a few assets. This was meant to be an 18 month social sciences project wrapped up in a game.”

“So there is only a design document so far? What the have you people been doing?”

Steam reviewers have likewise expressed resentment that the game’s release date has now been extended by two years, with more to go. Meanwhile, the 1.0 version is no longer buyable on Steam, though existing owners can still access it.

In wrapping up the Kickstarter missive, Nerd Kingdom thanked players for their patience and vowed “some general milestones and feature lists for [the] first public release of TUGv2,” ending with a graphic of what it called its procedural maze prototype.

Source: Kickstarter
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14 Comments on "What in the world happened to TUG?"

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headclot
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headclot

I am super excited for TUG v2 :)

I am part of the discord where the devs post “Leaks” That said – Lots of cool stuff is coming.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

I paid $.99 for this game through Humble Bundle once…..I feel like I would have been more satisfied with a really bad cheap cup of coffee instead. (Mainly the game’s performance is that of mush and my PC couldn’t get it to run for more than 5min w/o crashing.)

Mewmew
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Mewmew

That’s always what you want to hear when buying into an Early Access product, that they’ve changed gears and are now working towards making it “minimally viable”. How could you not get super excited over that?

Reader
Esoteric Coyote

I have TUG, ex-husband bought it for me since it’s my kind of game. I was wary given the whole alpha status, but I did enjoy what I saw. I actually enjoyed bumbling through crafting. While trying to decorate my shack, I placed a pumpkin on a table and then learned I could cut it up that way. But I will admit my normal method of crafting involved throwing everything in a big pile.

Just the other day I saw it TUG in my steam library and thought exactly this “What the heck happened to that game?” Peered at the steam news list and shrugged.

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Lights and Music

Serious question, is this considered Vaporware ? Or does that fact that there was a 1.0 version (even though it’s no longer accessible) pull it out of that category?

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

For people who bought into it, it does have a playable version, just far from feature complete. So, not vaporware because something exists, just……. very disappointing …… in its current state.

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Jeremy Barnes

I don’t think laying this at the feet of crowdfunding is entirely accurate. If they have 8.5 million in more traditional backing then seems to be a more traditionally funded than crowdfunded game.

Crowdfunding, like any kind of funding, is used by all kinds of people from good developers to bad developers, inexperienced to experienced. The only difference is that the curtain is pulled back some…before a developer could secure funding and fail without the wider community ever knowing. Crowdfunding means you know that someone is trying to develop a game so you know when they fail at it.

I believe that there are a lot of people who go “Cool Idea” and fund something without looking at whether the team behind it can actually pull it off. I don’t think there’s a lot of good solutions for that.

There are some ideas that intrigue me though in regards to potential solutions although they come with their own issues. I think having some options related to “I’ll give you some money now and some later.” would be worth exploring.

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Kickstarter Donor
Vexia

This game initiated my crowdfunding regrets and made me much more skeptical about which games I think have a chance of following through with their promises. Even if TUG does eventually launch, it’s probably not going to be at all in line with the early design proposals that made me interested in backing at a decently high tier (I assure you that survival game features played no role in it). I wish they would set aside some of that $8.5M for refunds, but I know that’s not going to happen. >.>

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Gurnlei

I was really looking forward to this game…

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Sray

I think we’re going to see this same story another half dozen times (at least) over the next couple years: a crowdfunded darling goes dark because at a time that somehow miraculously coincides with someone else getting a finished virtually identical product to market first. So many of these games are offering just slight variations on what has already been started elsewhere, gambling on being able to overtake someone else’s headstart; or that their idiosyncratic variation on the same game will be enough.
Honestly, the shitshow that is indie development these days isn’t much different than the shitshow that is AAA development.

Reader
sizer99

That procedural maze prototype looks uncomfortably like the original disastrous FF XIV’s landscape – cookie cutter cut and paste canyons everywhere you go.

I was doing better random terrain than that on the Amiga in the 90s.

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Kickstarter Donor
mistressbrazen

The TUG story is a interesting one and maybe an example of too many cooks in the kitchen. The team is made up of game developers and other professionals like psychologists and educational folks. They had a great idea but it seemed to me the developmental focus became a little wandering at the end of that first year. The game basics were not quite in shape when they diverted focus to survival mode. I think they never really recovered from that diversion. (I had the same comment for Landmark, when they went off the rails to make PvP happen….)

But, at the time, the announcement that the graphics engine was going to be redesigned from scratch was quite surprising. The alpha at that time was functioning and it had some interesting game features. I didn’t really understand the need to remake it. I supported TUG in the Kickstarter and I still hope the game eventually gets finished and launches successfully. I do believe they are losing ground to Trove and Skysaga, and I’m not sure how many backers will still care if they finish the game. There were quite a few former Glitch players among the backers. I see some of them over in Skysaga now. The game never should have been placed on Steam and I really do hope developers will stop releasing these half baked projects to the public at large. Maybe the Steam policy will help with that.

I hope you all are working on our own sign in system. I dislike signing in through Steam, or any other social media entity.

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MesaSage

At least in retrospective it’s become clear why it they had no problems taking in Yogventures!

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Another early crowdfunding darling that’s turned up to be a pretty big shitshow.

Every month it seems another crowdfunded game ends up neck deep in drama of some form. Never paid too much attention to this one, at least not outside of when it was involved in that Yogscast disaster, but it seems like more and more teams are finding out that yes, game development is a real job and it’s very difficult.

Hopefully things turn out well in the end, but the timeline alone doesn’t make this look too great for the studio, even if they’re optimistic : /

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