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TumbleSeed may never recoup its costs, team says

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A postmortem reflects on difficulty critiques, tries to make amends

tumbleseed screenshot aeiowu

Roly-poly roguelike TumbleSeed has its fans, but the game didn’t turn out to be the success that developer aeiowu had hoped it’d be. In a postmortem for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC game, the team opens up about the “post-release depression, poor reviews and bad sales” that followed TumbleSeed’s launch.

It looks unlikely that TumbleSeed will make back its budget, wrote Greg Wohlwend, lead designer at aeiowu. He pinpointed a handful of factors contributing to this, with critical reception and the game’s tough difficulty level leading the charge.

“We released TumbleSeed on May 2nd to the critical consensus that it was ‘too hard,’” Wohlwend wrote. “Large outlets gave us tepid scores and though others scored us higher, it was a too big hit to the collective opinion of our potential audience. Many considered TS unfair and unforgiving. That’s the wrong kind of hard and this stigma permeated the discussion of our game.”

Polygon was among those that criticized TumbleSeed’s difficulty, but it wasn’t just professional reviewers who had trouble with the unique platformer. Only .2 percent of players actually completed the game, based on aeiowu’s data; few others progressed past its early Jungle area.

TumbleSeed’s an unconventional kind of game, Wohlwend explained, and the ask on players to learn its control scheme, game system, randomly generated mountains, myriad enemies and varied powers was perhaps too great.

“It’s a pressure cooker filled with gunpowder that only a monk could endure,” he said of the game’s “overwhelming” amount of moving parts.

A combination of low scores and the intimidating gameplay meant that the development team needed to sell two times as many copies in order to recoup costs. To make amends, aeiowu is retooling the game to make it a more accessible experience.

An update for the PC version of the game is out now, adding four new areas to play on as well as abilities that should make things a bit easier, like lowering the damage taken and giving players the chance to sneak past enemies.

“While I don’t think this update will change the course of our success, it does feel really good to know we gave it our all especially when it was hardest to,” wrote Wohlwend. “Working on this update acted as a sort of therapy for all of us.”

The “4 Peaks Update” will come to consoles as soon as possible, but PC players can try an easier version of TumbleSeed now.