This is a different kind of update, and it’s likely gonna be long, so bear with me.
I will touch on the progress of the game later in this post, but the focus of this post is really on the elephant in the room. What’s the deal? Is this thing still alive? What happened? We have touched on these issues here and there, but not in much detail, and I want to take the time to be as clear with you all as I can be.
Over the years since we successfully kickstarted Ortus and more and more time has passed, we have (both in private and public forums) been asked questions about the game’s progress, and sometimes, unfortunately, been accused of scamming people for money and running away with it to never look back. We reply in any scenario we feel will be constructive, but I feel we owe it to you to lay it all out in front of you like this, so you can understand what has happened to pull the project so far off track.
When Ortus was successfully kickstarted back in 2011, we had a full-time team of 4 dedicated people on the project. This was the case for almost a year prior to kickstarter funding being rallied, during which time we were running on sponsorship payments from Armor Games to develop the game. It wasn’t glamorous money I assure you, barely enough to scrape by, but enough for a bunch of super passionate people to work hard to make something we all believed in.
When we kickstarted the project, the funding was what we believed would carry us across the finish line. Unfortunately the creation and implementation of the substantial additional content in the form of kickstarter rewards took up a LOT of our time and developmental resources to make happen, so that by the time we were wrapping up the additional content for rewards and moving back to the game content itself, funding was already drying up and we were right back where we started – an ambitious game to finish with nothing to sustain us through the end. The $21,740 raised did not go to one person, nor did it go to 4 people. The actual amount after Kickstarter/Amazon’s cut, the exchange rate, and before taxes were taken out was closer to $17,000, then divide that by subcontractors (Music, Sound Effects, Voice Actors, Additional Artists) and, after that, 4 people’s costs to work on the game- you can see we were not actually being paid to work on it. The money was solely and very soon used up for the game, but suddenly no one on the team could survive without getting other jobs or forms of income. I hope, having broken it down, you will quickly see that the $17,000 is a very small amount for any team to try and develop a large-scale RPG, how naive we were (and we are truly sorry) and how thinly the money was spread.
On the rare occasion, we see an unfounded accusation that someone ‘ran away with $20,000’ and went on holiday or bought some toys. It’s like a kick in the gut for all the years (and I mean literately YEARS) of unpaid work that Matt (Coder) and I have put into this game. It is so far from the truth, but I understand why people would feel angry. The reason I have not said much before now is that I didn’t know how far to go into it- the big falling out- but here it goes…
It was at this stage that, due to financial pressures and creative tension, there was a schism that resulted in one of the four team members leaving the project. In addition to the work aspect, it was a falling out between friends, and it was a hugely sad moment for us. After failed attempts at reconciliation and mediation ending in a solicitor's letter being sent to us, we were ultimately left with a team of three and a need to write a new script.
The three remaining team members were still dedicated to delivering on our promises to both our sponsor, Armor Games, and you, the Kickstarter supporters who put your faith and trust in us, and voted with your wallets in your shared hope with us, to make the project a reality. However for a while this horrible breakdown stifled development as we sought legal counsel and tried to recover from the traumatic blow that these events delivered. It was hell.
You didn’t sign up for this - we remaining developers on the project know this. The reason I’m writing this post is to try and shed light on why progress has been disappointing, but also to explain our current circumstances, goals that we who are left are still in development – just not nearly at the same pace, and with – to be blunt - reduced scale.
One of the remaining three devs has wrapped up their work on the project, leaving two left – the two who started the project, Matthew, the Coder and myself, Josiah. Due to the issue mentioned above, we have had to completely redo the game script, new story line and arcs, as well as finish our original tasks. The remaining load we’re carrying alone is very heavy, and our lives have changed substantially since the project started. I now have a wife and child and mortgage, some pretty substantial commitments to say the least. We both have to pay the bills with full time jobs. All of that being said, we’re still working on it, after work, on weekends. We do it quietly because we are so unhappy about how it’s all played out, we mostly don’t know what to say. We don’t want to build people’s expectations, we sometimes feel demoralized and paralyzed by our losses and the heavy load that two of us are left carrying.
The project now moves in ebbs and flows. For example, there was a huge update from Matt (the Coder) only a week ago having made some substantial progress, however now Matt’s full time job is demanding a lot which will force his progress to halt for a few months. This is how we are forced to develop the game now. No longer full time, but one hour here and there, a half day every 3-4 weeks, and wherever possible, a game-jam where we get together and smash out a solid 2 days full time development (stepping away from paid work to do so). We’re already planning our next game jam together to work on Ortus when his work settles a bit.
The reason I’m sharing this with you is, well, frankly because that’s the least you deserve having shown your trust in us so long ago, and for your patience over these years. Another reason I’m writing this, is because I want to finally say loud and clear, that the idea that anyone from the Ortus team has somehow scammed money and walked away with a sly smile on their face, is simply not true – not even close. We remaining developers are unpaid for our continued work on the game, and we sacrifice time with family, and time from our jobs, to keep the ball rolling. It is still rolling, all be it much slower after funding dried up years and years ago, and our team was broken up in a traumatic way – but we who remain, have never given up, and will not. We pain over the feelings of having let you down, and not yet having delivered. Years have passed, and although many of the people who contributed to this kickstarter so long ago will probably have entirely forgotten about us, and the flash game market itself is frankly a shadow of what it once was, we are people of integrity and honesty, and are still working to deliver to you what we promised.
We’re still kicking, and despite our heart wrenching setbacks, we’re still dedicated to delivering your rewards.
Thank you again for your continued patience.