Monday, 15 July 2019

Dead Frontier 2 May Not Be Finished :(

EDIT #2: Since writing my feelings towards the game have improved massively. Honestly I am now not so sure that I want to abandon this project. I'm not making any promises, but I'd say there is now a good chance that DF2 will be taken further. Thanks again for all your support, it really has made all the difference.

EDIT:  I expected a pretty severe backlash from this post but actually the vast majority of you have been very kind, understanding and supportive. Thank you so much, this really has made me feel *a lot* better about the whole situation  =)

I'm fully aware that I'm writing this post late; very late in fact. Really I should have been honest with myself and written it back in November 2018. To cut a long story short, as much as it pains me to admit, the truth is that Dead Frontier 2 is a failure, will never be finished and it's quite unlikely there will be any further updates. I'm aware this is hardly surprising, especially considering that you haven't heard from me for circa 8 months now.

I worked super hard on Dead Frontier 2, in many ways too hard. In fact I was already showing signs of burn-out in early 2018. Subconsciously part of my reasoning for going for an Early Access release was that I knew I simply couldn't finish the game as I had planned within a decent time-frame. I figured that if players had *something* to play, that they'd be happy with a slower pace of development, that might allow me some extra breathing space. 

But as we all know, that was a mistake. The EA game simply wasn't big or complex enough to hold people's interest more than a week or two. Even during the first few weeks after EA launch, when I was still working flat out on updates, many were complaining that progress was too slow, and that the game didn't have enough to do. Compared to much of DF2's competition, that was a fair assessment. On my own I simply wasn't able to churn out new things at the same pace as other popular titles. In addition, I found myself completely overwhelmed just trying to keep the game free of cheating/hacking.

If complaints were the only issue, then it might not have been as much of a big deal. But the other problem was that the game simply wasn't generating much money, due to it's non P2W design. Going back on my promise of "no P2W" was out of the question, so I was kind of stuck. It might have worked if we could have kept 5,000+ concurrent players AND I could have churned out 100s more cosmetic items. But unfortunately I didn't feel that I was able to achieve either of those things.

I am incredibly hard working person, but there is a caveat. I can only truly work hard on creative endeavours when I have sufficient motivation. The best form of motivation for me is the excitement of working on something new and interesting, or something I know is likely to attract a lot of players. This made working hard on DF2 to start with easy because I had both of those motivations. 

If I don't have those motivations, then the unfortunately truth is that I'm still capable of working hard but only if I think it will generate income, and therefore improve the quality of life for my family. I don't need to be earning huge sums, but I need to at least know I'm not wasting my time. Otherwise my thought process goes along the lines of "Why am I sitting in the office doing this when I could be outside playing with my kids?". I'm sure most people over a certain age can identify with that. Once I get into that kind of throught process, it is unfortunately almost impossible to break out of.

Unfortunately by October 2018 I had reached a point where I was no longer excited by the project as I had already been working on it non-stop for 2 years. I also knew that it wasn't ever going to be especially popular (as evidenced by the bad feedback and rapidly falling player numbers) and at the same time, the lack of income made me wonder whether I should just be spending time with my kids instead. All of this along with generally being burnt-out, depressed from reading negative comments, and just the general bad feelings around the game left me in a place where I found it impossible to continue working on the game at all.

Just to illustrate how bad it was, I developed full blown anxiety symptoms (IE butterflies, sinking feeling, increase heart rate, sweating etc) every time I opened the game project, visited the Discord or even the Steam page. Although I have experienced some bad feelings around negative criticism in the past, this was the first time I have ever felt actual physical symptoms as a response to it.

DF1 has always had haters, but I'm still very proud of that game because it has been a huge success in my eyes. This time however the game has totally flopped, and I find the feeling of embarrassment around that pretty unbearable. Part of the reason why it has taken so long to write this post, is that I'm incredibly ashamed of how all of this has played out and I just didn't want to draw any further attention to myself.

Eventually I decided that I just needed a bit of a break. I planned to scale things back, just do some easy DF1 updates and generally give myself a bit of breather. I thought that given enough time, I'd suddenly get my mojo back and DF2 would get another flurry of updates. This was roughly when I posted the last blog message.

But unfortunately that didn't happen. The feelings of dread/anxiety around DF2 still haven't gone away, and I honestly don't think they ever will. The truth is that I no longer believe the core game is fun enough  to ever be remotely popular. That combined with the inability to monetise the game fully means that I just can't see a future for it.

So to conclude this wall of verbal diarrhoea, I'd like to say that I'm very sorry for failing to complete this project. And I'm even more sorry for failing to admit that it had failed back in November 2018 when I should have.

As with my other online games, I have no intention of turning off the DF2 servers for the foreseeable future. Even though I am technically losing money on keeping the game running, I'd still rather absorb the cost and keep it going. The fact is that I'm still quite proud of the game on a technical level, and I'd like to keep it living even if it just serves as a virtual portfolio. 

To all those that played DF2, thank you very much for giving it a shot, and I'm very sorry things turned out this way.

Thanks for reading :)
- Neil