“Great News! The Repopulation is coming back!” — or so said a hastily deleted tweet from Idea Fabrik last night, which you might have missed since the blog post titled Idea Fabrik Acquires The Repopulation was also pulled down.
Now, that announcement has been confirmed: Idea Fabrik has acquired all rights to The Repopulation from Above & Beyond and will be relaunching the game — in the Hero Engine — with a new content patch sometime in Q1 2017. A&B will continue work on Fragmented as it rolls toward a console release.
Let me give you a little backstory on the whole Repopulation saga.
The Repopulation was originally Kickstarted in 2012 and then again in 2014 for a total of a around $230,000 as it progressed through alpha. It was pitched as a sci-fi, open-world, economy-driven sandbox MMORPG that would appeal to fans of games like Star Wars Galaxies, and it landed on Steam early access in December of 2014.
But by November of 2015, developer Above & Beyond became entangled in a contract dispute and renegotiation with Idea Fabrik, the owner of the Hero Engine framework on which game was a built, as a result of Idea Fabrik’s financial problems — a royalties drama that goes even deeper down the rabbit hole. That dispute ultimately caused patch delays, development suspension, and then a server blackout for The Repopulation, which relied on Hero Engine’s hosting. By December, A&B had shut down the alpha servers, maintaining that it was a temporary outage.
That brings us to one year ago, when A&B finally announced it was halting development on Hero Engine, porting the MMORPG to Unreal Engine, and publishing a spin-off survival sandbox — Fragmented — to help fund the port. Fragmented hit Steam early access last April, while The Repopulation has remained offline this whole time, causing a lot of players to give up hope for the MMO.
Instead, it will indeed return, just under the flag of a new company. As of the announcement late tonight, Idea Fabrik’s PR says,
“In response to the amazing support from fans, Idea Fabrik PLC is excited to announce the acquisition of The Repopulation game from Above and Beyond Technologies, Inc. and the relaunch of the title in the first quarter of 2017. Following the successful resolution of outstanding issues, all players of The Repopulation will be able to log in with the same account information as soon as the testing of the game is concluded. […] Our first goal is to re-open game servers to the payers, and to begin the optimization and bug fixing as we continue to welcome feedback from players. Working alongside Above and Beyond Technologies the last few months we have gathered a lot of valuable information, however we will be looking to the community to help us spot areas they are looking for improvements in.”
It’s not clear what the “outstanding issues” are.
We reached out to Above & Beyond earlier today with a round of questions on both The Repopulation and Fragmented; here’s what Above & Beyond has been able to answer for us so far.
J.C. Smith, Lead Developer: We will still be in charge of Fragmented and are still working towards an Xbox release and moving the game out of early access early this year. We don’t anticipate it going down any time soon, it is safe.
Is Idea Fabrik acquiring A&B and the team as well or just the game? What happens to the original team, and who will actually be operating The Repopulation on a day to day basis?
Idea Fabrik is acquiring the game and not the team. Above and Beyond will be assisting in the transition and providing input where needed. Idea Fabrik will be bringing on their own team to finish the project and will be handling development and communication for the project moving forward. Above and Beyond will be focusing on assisting in this process, as well as moving Fragmented out of early access and into a console release early this year.
Is the engine switch for The Repop now completely off the table? How far along were you, and what happens to that branch of the project now?
Idea Fabrik will own the rights to Repop and only the Hero Engine release will make it to market. The Unreal Engine version was in a mixed state. Development-wise we had done a lot of work. Engagements (public quests), buffs and abilities, crafting, harvesting, the NPC, quest, and inquiry systems were all in various degrees of functionality. And of course all of the basic gameplay systems that we saw in Fragmented. But while we had made a lot of progress on the core systems, there was very little work done on content because we hadn’t been able to bring the content team back on board due to budget constraints. It is possible that we see some of that work surface in a future project, but for now our focus will be on doing what we can to help put Repop into a position to succeed and getting Fragmented out of Early Access and into a console release.
Will the game return to Steam? Will the Q1 relaunch/update be followed by additional future content, or does that depend on how well it sells going forward?
The game will return to Steam. The initial re-release of The Repopulation will be the same game it was when servers were closed. However, over the course of the next few months we will have updates that will be released that include many game and graphical updates; which will be announced in the upcoming weeks. Further updates will be implemented by Idea Fabrik with the initial focus on getting the game ready for launch.
In the PR, A&B CEO Joshua Halls refers to helping Idea Fabrik with a “smooth transition.”
We also asked about A&B and player trust for Idea Fabrik following the PR drama last year, but A&B has thus far been unable to answer. Our heart goes out to the A&B team; it cannot have been an easy decision to give up ownership of the game its devs have worked on for so long.