Skulls of the Shogun ran into several problems during the game's initial publication — many of which the studio blames on launching alongside a handful of new Microsoft devices and services — but does not believe the company is "anti-indie," lead designer Borut Pfeifer told Rock Paper Shotgun.
Developers 17-Bit, Plush Apocalypse Productions and Buffalo Vision felt publishing through on Xbox Live Arcade and alongside the company's new Surface tablets, Windows 8 and Async multiplayer service would help their game become successful. Pfeifer said the team didn't get the hardware until "very late," and the certification process took longer than expected. Issues with the game on one platform would be fixed only to contradict processes running on another. Pfeifer also said that during development, the team had to take out a loan in order to keep working on the title, as Microsoft was late in paying them.
"To be fair, we knew we were kind of making a deal with the devil," said. "Probably one of our biggest mistakes was thinking in 2008 terms, where it's like ‘if you want to be on console you've got to be a console first', and that's just not true any more.
"We felt like we knew what we were getting into even though it would take a long time to negotiate," he added. "We had something that they wanted, so we thought we'd take advantage of that. It was a case where we were like, 'we know some things are going to be a problem but we think that on some level we'll get something out of them as well,' but I think it was an awful lot worse for us than others. We ran into problems that nobody else had got or talked about it."
Pfeifer said he doesn't think Microsoft is intentionally unfriendly towards indie developers, but calls them an "indifferent machine to it all."
"When people call Microsoft ‘evil', while I don't want to defend them, it's kind of an undeserved compliment," he said. "To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution... None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios."
Microsoft Studios, Microsoft's video game publishing division, "came across as though they were institutionally incompetent" to the developers, he said.
"I think they're not really set up to be a decent publisher," Pfeifer said. "I do feel slightly bad saying that, because there were people there who worked hard on our behalf, but at the same time there are systemic problems with the way that division is setup and run."
Polygon has reached out to Microsoft for comment on Pfeifer's statements and will share more details as we have it.