The Magic Circle short story

Making The Magic Circle, developer Question’s game about game development, writer/designer Jordan Thomas has spent a lot of time building a world around a fictional development team.

It’s a central part of the game’s story. So much so that, in the game's marketing, Question often stays in character — posting an official site that treats those fictional developers like real people, and running Twitter accounts for some of them. Below is the latest in that approach — a letter written in the game’s universe from an anonymous team member to the media.

The text is also Question’s way of announcing that The Magic Circle is headed to Steam Early Access in May. Check out our previous coverage of the game here.

To Whom It May Concern:

You have been robbed. Worse yet — you don't even know it. I am an employee at TMC Games, the studio which has blown twenty-odd years working on The Magic Circle. That's right; we're that game that has been "officially" delayed an obscene total of 11 times and still hasn't been canceled. Maybe you backed any one of our four Kickbacker campaigns — or maybe you don't even remember the original text adventure and this is all news to you. Doesn't matter — just goes to show you why it’s wrong to waste LIVES on this purgatorial cycle of promising you guys the world ... and delivering the same stale old excuses.

I am a newer employee here, taking it upon myself to speak for the hundreds of team veterans. They have families and can't risk termination. We work for Ishmael Gilder, who still has the gall to call himself "Starfather" just like in the game. He wrote the original, probably under the influence of psychedelics he's now too old to find a dealer for — and got stupid, stupid rich off of it. Standards were ... simpler, back then. Now he insists on writing, directing and starring in the sequel himself — and we're the giant team he insists that he needs.

Now, if you've been following the game lately, Ish has been claiming our current direction was "The Vision" all along:

The Magic Circle

A sword and sorcery romp, right? A power fantasy from the days of yore, about as relevant as key parties and disco — but it still sells, so we keep marching toward ship. Black and white because Ish demanded final approval on the color scheme in every scene — but he's too busy NOT finishing the story — so now, it's just "our signature look." Keep that Stalin-esque revisionist history in mind — it gets worse.

How? Well, the truth is, the real game was done. DONE. Ten, 11 years back, when someone might have still wanted it. This is what it looked like:

The Magic CircleClick for more screens: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

It had a fully-voiced single player campaign, multiplayer designed by Maze Evelyn (whose gaming career was HUGE back then). And for its era, it was solid. Great, even. Hell, it could have been your favorite game of all time. But now you'll never know. Starfather, in his infinite wisdom, panicked about meeting fan expectations, right before release ... and buried the whole damned thing in an unmarked grave. Started over with the fantasy look, as if that had been the idea from the off.

It was a risk, showing you this much. I won't be able to do it twice. That's where you come in ... if you're game. Staggeringly, The Magic Circle is going into "Early Access," digitally, on Vapor™, sometime in May — which is a laugh unto itself. I guess "20 Years Too Late Access" wasn't a category.

And all that space station stuff is STILL THERE. I happen to know that the art files were left in this version, on principle. A monument to the unsung. And code-wise — the tech guys had to continually rewrite the engine, making sure the old was compatible with the new. Nobody can tell the scar tissue from the vital organs anymore.


I'm asking anyone who picks up the Early Access version of TMC to exploit any bugs you discover. Use any means necessary to find the REAL game and stream it, or post something about it — anything; show people our work, excavate the classic title that was stolen from you. Ish will see it and know that he can't change the past. That a stagey English accent does not make you a God.

I speak now for the familes whose wives and husbands bled 10 years of emotional, physical and financial energy into that project, only to see it flushed out an airlock. Those who have spent another decade on this warmed-over orcs & elves stuff. I have to look at the team's faces every day, and I want to see them smile, just once ... if only out of revenge.



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