Back in January 2014, mobile developer Playdek offered up an ambitious project to Tactics RPG fans. It would work with Final Fantasy Tactics director Yasumi Matsuno to create a brand-new spiritual successor to the game, entitled Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians. The Kickstarter drive made big promises, including the fact that Matsuno would "re-imagine a classic game genre", all with a funding goal of $600,000. The funding drive ended just above that total at $660,126.
Now, in an update to backers, Playdek is saying that work on Unsung Story is being postponed indefinitely.
"After we posted our latest development progress, we unfortunately lost a few key staff members that were part of Unsung Story development, and that has had an impact on any progress since then, as well as our product focus," wrote Playdek in the update. "We now have one internal team capable of working on a single project, and for the financial strength of the company we need to focus on a few products in the near term that have the ability to get to a retail release before Unsung Story is able to. While this is a difficult choice to make, it is one we need to do for the ongoing financial health of the company."
Playdek offered up the potential of seeking outside development help to finish Unsung Story, but did not seem committed to the idea.
"While the development goals that were spelled out in the previous update remain intact for now, the release window of those goals is affected, and at this time we do not have an update as to what the new release window for development rollout will be," added Playdek. "This will be affected by the ability and timing of any outside support, as well as when the single internal team is able to get back onto Unsung development, and when we do know, we will update you all. As we pursue this direction, we will refine the release timeline as soon as we are able to."
The Unsung Story Kickstarter ended on February 14, 2014, with a planned release date on June 2015. Early on in the Kickstarter, things started to seem off, when Matsuno had to clarify that he was not directing Unsung Story. Fans started to think things weren't going well when Playdek went radio silent after the May 2015 update, not offering any further information on Unsung Story until September 21, 2015.
"Unsung is and has been in development, although development has been going more slowly than we anticipated," a developer wrote in an update from the studio. "There is no way to avoid stating the fact that the game will be delayed until next year, and we wish it were otherwise. Earlier in the year, Playdek went through a financial crunch that caused us to reduce some key staff. This has had an impact on Unsung development, as while we have been able to continue progress on the game, as stated it has gone much slower than expected, and unfortunately we are behind our original development plan and timeline."
The new development plan stated had a PVP beta release coming in June 2016, online skirmish mode in October, and further work on single-player scenarios coming after October. Now, none of that is happening.
Fans are understandably angry, with many demanding a refund that probably won't come. For Tactics fans in particular, this isn't the only project that has disappointed. The squad-based RTS and JRPG Project Phoenix has also stalled out after being funded in September 2013 to the tune of $1 million. The last update for that title was at the beginning of this month, with the developer vowing to find a programmer for the project. Yeah, that's how bad things are going.
This is the large problem with funding game development and it's why many major publishers make choices that seem overbearing or risk adverse. When you're throwing millions of dollars at a developer who is promising the world, oversight is important, because otherwise you could be throwing money down a hole. For Kickstarter backers, you're talking $15-70, sometimes higher, but for a major publishers, you're talking millions of dollars. Not all publishers are great, but sometimes it's good to have someone looking at a project and keeping it on track.
On the bright side, there's still some hope, Tactics fans. Square Enix's Collective program has a Kickstarter that's live right now, for a Tactics game called Children of the Zodiarcs. Best part? It's already funded, so if you're reticent to back the project, all you have to do now is wait for the developer to deliver. Those are the best kinds of projects.