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A Kickstarter to finish the Dysfunctional Systems series of visual novels!
1,457 backers pledged CA$ 67,450 to help bring this project to life.

Dysfunctional Systems: What Went Wrong

Posted by Dischan Media (Creator)
17 likes

In the post announcing the halting of full-time development on the Dysfunctional Systems series I mentioned that I would write another post detailing what exactly went wrong. This is that post. In no particular order, I'm going to list and analyze the mistakes that were made during development.

Lack of Process

Before the Kickstater, Dischan operated as a group of volunteers and there was very little process. We each had our jobs and we did them at our own pace. I thought we could continue working this way, but it proved not to be the case. Work was completed very slowly and while that would have previously been fine, now it was causing us to lose money.

A few months ago I realized something had to be done, and so I began breaking down the work and creating schedules which I got the team to commit to. Things starting moving a lot more quickly after that, but it caused another problem, which I'll discuss next.

Lack of Quality Control

The problem was that the team started rushing. Mistakes were ignored for the sake of meeting deadlines. The result is that episode 0 neared completion, but still did not qualify as "good". We needed to strike a balance between speed and quality, but we didn't have the time to do it.

We also didn't have any kind of process to guarantee quality. People completed their assigned work and then a box was ticked. We should have implemented a peer review system to ensure that work met our standards before considering it "done". When you're working on your own, it's easy to miss mistakes, after all.

Feature Creep

Our original budget and planning was based on episode 1, but this turned out to be a bad idea, since what we were trying to create ended up being significantly more complex than episode 1. We had a more complicated codex, a travel system, an interactables system, and an overall larger scope. Altogether things ended up requiring more time than we thought. We should have tightened the scope and made the sequels less ambitious.

Overpayment

I really value the work people do and I wanted to properly compensate them for it, especially after having had people work as volunteers for so long. However, I should have been more shrewd and practical. I paid people too much, or at least incorrectly. Dischan employees were paid a salary when they should have been paid hourly. An hourly wage would have ensured that money was only spent when work was completed.

Sixty thousand dollars seems like a lot of money, but it disappears quickly if you try to pay four/five people decently over nine months.

Overhiring

I hired a designer and I should not have. That's not to say he wasn't extremely talented and a good worker, it's just that we didn't have enough work for him and in the end his work wasn't as crucial to the end product as writing, art, and implementation. I should have hired him on a contract basis.

Overpromising

We promised 2 full games and a third smaller game in the Kickstarter. That's a lot, and it's an obligation that puts a lot of pressure on you. The stress of that weight made it difficult to focus. We should have only promised a single episode, which we would have been able to handle much better.

Loss of Motivation

It pains me to admit this, but to some degree I lost my passion for Dysfunctional Systems. I wasn't the only one either. This was a massive problem, not just because it made it difficult to work, but also because it caused a drop in quality of work.

I think the root of the problem was the overpromising in the Kickstarter. When something you love doing becomes an obligation, it begins causing stress instead of joy. I failed to realize this would happen.

In Conclusion

The Dysfunctional Systems Kickstarter taught us some amazingly valuable lessons that we might not have otherwise learned, but it came at a high price. If we had learned these lessons before launching the Kickstarter campaign, I'm sure it would have turned out better. It's very unfortunate that we lacked the experience and foresight required to avoid these problems.

Seto Konowa, Shardwing, and 15 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Missing avatar

      Crax on

      You have great ideas. Unfortunately, your explanation made it quite obvious that your management skills have yet to reach par.

      Just be reminded that many of us do not wish to see DS gone forever.

    2. Glenn Magus Harvey on

      Well, if it ain't getting finished, then I'd like, say, some stuff from the Dischan store. How about Combat's Sweet Music, Planck, and a gift copy of Dysfunctional Systems e1?

    3. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    4. Missing avatar

      Garrett Thomas on

      Guys, Jeremy told me in an email that the series is not getting finished. Everyone got screwed out of their cash, honest mistake or no. Quit asking about when they're going to finish it, because the answer is already "never".

    5. Glenn Magus Harvey on

      I'm sorta a little curious, would it have been better for you to continue working on this part-time, at your own pace? Rather than trying to promise things on a tight release schedule because of Kickstarter fulfillment pressure?

    6. Missing avatar

      Ben Wicks on

      I would also encourage you to release what is available of episode 0. While I appreciate your candour in admitting that the project has failed, being able to see for ourselves what has been done would help reduce any further bad feelings.

      Having said that, I will not request a refund for various reasons, chief among them being my enjoyment of what you have produced.

    7. Matthew Lee on

      I'm disappointed, but respect your decision, and appreciate your openness on where things went wrong. Best of luck in your future endeavours.

    8. Missing avatar

      Aminuddin Hakim on

      I will not ask for a refund. The 75$ that I pledged will not matter. Hopefully you guys will remember the lessons from this event and use it for your future projects. I also hope that the series does not die entirely and that you guys could continue it even at the slowest speed.

      I first got to know Dischan when my brother showed me Juniper's Knot. Being the first visual novel, I was swept into its story, wondering about the demon girl and the young boy. Wanting to know the story behind them both. Later I found out about the website and Dysfunctional System Ep 1. I was hyped. Seeing that it was an interesting setting, accompanied by quite the fitting art.

      While waiting the release of Dys Sys, my brother also showed the demo for Cradle Song. Another project that looks promising. At the time I didn't know it was discontinued.

      When I heard that you guys are starting a kickstarter to finish the series, I was quite happy. Seeing that the story would continue. A bit disheartened when I heard that Doomfest wasn't doing the art but it could not be helped. Not that I'm saying that rtil's art is bad but Doomfest's style had something that really made you like it, being a blend of reality and cartoon.

      A setback like this is not what I will know to feel but I will still support your future projects.

    9. Alan Daniel Rueda
      Superbacker
      on

      Out of curiosity. How much would it cost to buy the rights to The Dysfunctional Systems series? It would be a shame to see the series languish after its developers have lost the passion they once had. If possible I would like to see if I have the capital to buy it outright and possibly one day have it continued.

      Hell I would start a kickstarter to buy it if I needed to.

      This isn't meant as a negative thing but I am a very big fan and want to honor your work by making sure it isn't lost to history.

    10. Missing avatar

      Jarbas Lima Alves da Silva on

      I don't get how you could go from extremely positive and "episode 0 is pretty much ready to be released" to this. Why weren't we informed of the growing pains of the project as it went along? Also, how could you mismanage the funds so terribly to the point of exhausting it without even chapter 2 being ready? Also, despite episode 0 being ready you still plan on not releasing it?

      This is really mind boggling to me. You guys are not complete amateurs at this, having made other VNs. How you could mismanage almost 70K and produce nothing is frankly baffling. But what really irks me is this:

      "It pains me to admit this, but to some degree I lost my passion for Dysfunctional Systems. I wasn't the only one either. This was a massive problem, not just because it made it difficult to work, but also because it caused a drop in quality of work.

      I think the root of the problem was the overpromising in the Kickstarter. When something you love doing becomes an obligation, it begins causing stress instead of joy. I failed to realize this would happen."

      Lost passion? Really? I'm pretty sure a lot of your backers (like myself) work in soul crushing jobs that might make us feel completely dead inside and might even have a negative impact on our overall life. However, we have an obligation towards our employer and society (as well as our paychecks) in general, so we soldier on and do our jobs properly. This is professionalism.

      I will be getting in contact to request a refund.

    11. Thorrior9 on

      I must say; really disappointed with how this turned out. When I saw the title of the previous update I really was hoping for me to have misread it or something. Well, I still hope to see more of Dysfunctional Systems in the future, but I'll have to ask for a refund, pledged way too much to get nothing in return... :/ Even tho I love you guys and your work, it would feel too much like robbery if I can't get anything back - makes me feel bad but I just can't let go that money if we don't get anything.

      I wish you the best of luck for the future, and as I said still hope that we'll see more of DS one day as I enjoyed episode 1 A LOT (which made me pledge that much...). Hopefully episode 0 will see the light of day in the end at the very least!

    12. Romdeau on

      This is ridiculous. Were you really so ignorant about your project's assets and employees progress to the point that you had no idea how bad it was? Or were you hiding the truth from your backers this whole time? There is no indication of how badly this project was being managed until the previous update. If you needed help managing the project, you should have hired a producer and informed us that the project was stalling out. You have managed to squander an opportunity that not too many people get in their lives. I question whether your heart and mind were truly in this project to begin with, or whether you decided to see how far you could randomly ride this "Dischan" thing without a concrete vision / plan. This series had the potential to launch your company and career into a sustainable state in the VN industry and you threw it out the window. All $67,450 of it. I don't know for the others, but you have lost my trust completely and you are going to experience a tremendous amount of difficulty building up capital again.

    13. Missing avatar

      chrisg on

      Please, release at least episode 0 in its current state! I like your setting a lot, and it would be sad if we couldn't get more. I'm sure that many backers (myself included) wouldn't ask for a refund if you do this.

    14. Missing avatar

      k8207dz on

      For what it's worth you are not the first development team to go through difficulties like those you describe; even established companies sometimes fall prey to them. I seem to recall that Volition (who make Saints Row and Red Faction) had to make a transition from an informal development process to a more rigid corporate workstyle where work time and budget had to be formally accounted for. But they managed to overcome these difficulties and are now at the absolute top of their game.

      You sound somewhat dispirited at present, but I would encourage you to keep viewing this campaign as a learning experience (albeit a very painful one), This is a bad situation for both you and the backers, but there is still the potential for something good to come from it.

      And, y'know, maybe hire a producer next time :)

    15. Lithiumbattery on

      I'd personally just like to say that I'm disappointed with how things turned out. I'm not going to demand a refund in the hopes that the project continues and is actually completed in some way, shape or form (that, and I don't think I'd be able to get a refund anyways), but this is still very upsetting to someone who was really looking forward to the completion of the game. I enjoyed episode one immensely. If the following episodes had followed the same format as episode one, I would have been pleased with that. I just wanted to experience the rest of the story. Needless to say, this is a very bad reflection of Dischan, and assuming the rest of the games ever get completed, I'm sorry to say I will not be supporting the company with any additional purchases in the future. I'm very sorry that things ended up the way they did, but in the end, it is the backers who have gotten the shortest end of the stick.

    16. Specie8470 on

      @Henry Charles Young the game was hardly on track considering we gave Dischan over 60k and they couldn't even put out a single episode. Now either Jeremy was misleading us with all the updates saying the game was on time or he basically had no clue about the real status of the game, For a company as small as Dischan Jeremy should have had hands on every aspect of the game making. Probably what happened is Jeremy made schedules for people and checked in to see if it was done but never checked the actually game out though to see how it plays etc. I still don't understand how this could happen or how with over 60k they can't even produce a 1 hour demo episode or something. Other visual novels are getting done with less.

    17. Henry Charles Young (Spazturtle) on

      Will you be continuing work on DS or is it dead forever?

      @Specie8470: Sound like it was on track just not of high quality.

    18. Vaendryl on

      as somewhat of an amateur game dev myself, this is very educational and sounds more than a little familiar. It seems clear you're also withholding some things to not lay blame on specific (other) people, which I can understand.

      As long as I get (most of) the promised refund I'm not going to complain. Mostly disappointed rather than angry. Projects fail or just don't live up to expectations, I've seen it many times before. it's part of the risk everyone takes with KS.

    19. Specie8470 on

      Jeremy you still not being upfront with us about what happened. How do you go from in two weeks we are releasing episode 0 "soon" to we are closing down development? Something had to have happened. All the other posts made no comments about you being behind in development or any of the other issues you were having. For one it seems like you spent way to much time working on episode 0 and not focusing on the main goal of the kickstarter which was the two sequel episodes and you didn't even mention that. I have given a good sum of money to support this kickstarter and was hoping to enjoy the game soon. Let me ask you a question Jeremy. Do you feel you mislead people with all these updates saying everything was on time when things clearly weren't?

    20. Alan Daniel Rueda
      Superbacker
      on

      I for one am disappointed by the events I've read about here. I do want to get my refund if possible but I understand what happened. I am glad to have gotten to back your game and will pledge for your projects again but please do your best to control the flow of money.

      From a business stance there seems to have been a lack of communication between whoever was signing the checks and whoever was budgeting your expenses. Had they both communicated they would have seen that there wasn't a sustainable payment plan in place for long term development.

      I would like to receive whatever version of episode 0 you have just so I can satiate my need for DS lore. I hope that you will continue production of the series into the future at a pace that you all find manageable. Just remember that KS is no joke, this set back may very well keep non-hardcore fans of your studio from pledging again.

      All in all you have it a good shot. �

    21. Phelan on

      So... to make story short... you spent that money on yourself. You paid a normal salary to people who didn't even do their job... and when they did... thay started cutting the corner... it's house of madmans.

      And no they shouldn't have been paid hourly! You really didn't learn anything... For god sake in this case the STANDARD should have been employment contract for specific task. You get X money for doing X work. You don't do your job than you don't get money. For Christ's sake it's surreal. Even big studios don't always hire employees... bur rather than make them a contract worker.

      God... you really felt likt professionals after releasing 2 short games? Have you gone mad? Both games were great... but those were more like a demo versions. Did you really became so big headed after releasing DS on Steam that you though that you could a make a living out of this?

      Wow... I am impressed... how exactly did you think it would work... all that time... we didn't hear anything about this game... they were getting money.

    22. Jacob Kennedy on

      You also forgot communication. The biggest possible mistake was that you didn't communicate to the users. It's not even about pleasing the backers, but allowing for that additional checksum. All of the updates we had received were fairly positive; that layer of obfuscation is what allowed a lot of those problems to flourish.

      And more importantly, please realize you had an opportunity that a lot of kickstarters will never have. There were many more games out there lucky to have a quarter of the funds you guys got. I'm not just saying this to be a jerk because I can tell you're stressed as hell about this.

    23. FlamingFirewire on

      While I understand the reasons mentioned here, and appreciate that you've learned from them, was the experience spent developing Cradle Song not examined and ruminated upon before launching the KS? Many of these problems seemed to have come up during the development for that game too, so I was really hopeful based on that that this one would have been handled better. :(

      Hopefully you can finish the game on your free time as the first episode really showed promise. I think making progressively larger games by making smaller games first would really help you all receive the experience required to make the lengthy games that you all want to make. Just like anything else, be ambitious with your writing ideas, but stay focused on telling a personal contained story that you can see clear milestones in. By keeping small dev cycles with smaller games, you can tell the stories you want and get them to their audiences faster. It's easier said then done, but I think you guys can do it. :)

      We know that you can write great stories - as per Dysfuntional Systems Episode 1 - but you need to impose restrictions on what you are going to do going into a project.

    24. Nemo Ma on

      The main problem here, is what our profs often remind us as "outscope", which results in things suddenly breaking apart since you're suddenly doing more than you originally thought. It's an important lesson every game developer would learn indeed.
      One thing I need to point out is as long as the scope can be properly managed, being doing stuff on the personnel's own paces is not a wrong thing. I'll also certainly keep this as one of my lessons learnt since I'm also making a game that is an text-based ADV.
      Well, before I said too much (will probably write an emailXD and no hate wordsXD), I want to restate that I still have high faith in your future projects.

    25. Kevin Serna on

      It's very unfortunate that things played out the way they did but I'll continue to support!