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Broken Age's Kickstarter success outlines the difficulty of scope, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail says

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Double Fine Productions' recent decision to sell the first half of the game through Steam Early Access next January highlights the difficulty of "overscoping," Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail wrote on his blog today.

On the Broken Age Kickstarter blog yesterday, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer revealed that the developer will "sell this early access version of the game to the public at large, and use that money to fund the remaining game development." Broken Age's Kickstarter campaign (where it's still known as Double Fine Adventure) ended in March 2012 with more than $3.3 million pledged on an initial goal of $400,000.

Ismail begins his with post with a story about a theoretical developer who needs $4 "to make a sports game" and negotiates a $30 deal with EA Games, an allegory for Double Fine's Kickstarter success.

"With all this extra money, you could make this a way better game for the consumers," Ismail wrote. "You look at your scope — what we call our goals — and decide to re-scope the project for $30. You can't make a game that costs $4 with this budget — what will the publisher think? What will people think? It needs to show these production values."

Months later, the developer realizes that there's not enough left over to finish the $30 game properly. The publisher rebuffs a request for additional funds, and the game "is released in a state that's not nearly as good as it could've been."

Under the developer-publisher model, EA would be criticized for its refusal to fund the project. But even though the Kickstarter model excises publishers, developers still work under constraints and navigate the process of "re-scoping" and, later, "overscoping" that Ismail believes Double Fine faces.

"There's no doubt that overscoping is a problem and there's no doubt the responsibility is on Tim and his team," he wrote. "Here's the deal, though: this is game development and some games are made with under half the budget, some are made that need double the budget. Double Fine set out to make a game with eight times the budget we had on some of our titles and suddenly had to re-scope when Kickstarter expectations were they were going to release a game that's worth $3 million. Instead of holding back, they are trying to give every single one of their backers the maximum amount of game for their money."

You can read the full post at Ismail's blog.