A jolting conclusion awaits anyone who bought Dark Matter, an indie game released two days ago on Steam. About four hours in, gamers were abruptly slapped with a wall of text signifying the end of the game. The game's maker says the hard stop is because the studio's Kickstarter failed and they ran out of money.
Upset gamers are accusing developer InterWave Studios of releasing an incomplete game, even at the $15 price (currently discounted 10 percent). For their part, an InterWave representative in the Steam Forums says even though the studio intended to make a game about twice as long, they consider this version to be complete. However, "Viper," the Interwave developer discussing the game in the Steam Forums, admitted that the "to be continued" text created the impression the whole thing was unfinished.
That said, "The full story is indeed not complete yet because originally we wanted a longer game (12-16 hours) but couldn't finish it completely due to time and money (and Kickstarter failing)," Viper said yesterday morning. He said the game is meant to last 6 to 8 hours, though some who say Dark Matter is incomplete said they explored everything in the 2.5D sidescroller and completed it in half the time.
Dark Matter only raised about 12 percent of a £50,000 Kickstarter goal this summer. When faced with a dried-up cash flow and no Kickstarter support, Viper said InterWave chose to go with what it had built "to bring something out to the world and show everyone the world of Dark Matter."
Kotaku reader General McFist pointed out the controversy yesterday afternoon on Talk Amongst Yourselves, providing the full text of the game's description—which promises "14 levels in a gritty tale of deep space survival."
Probably the biggest reason people think they're playing an incomplete game is how it gives no hint that the battle preceding it is at all climactic in nature. Some expository dialogue right before the player enters the last door, triggering the game-over text, does little to suggest this is the end of the road, either. You can see it in the video above, uploaded yesterday by YouTube user Jay Xan.
I've reached out to InterWave to ask for additional comment about the game and whether the studio has (or can fund) plans to finish it as originally planned. Any comments InterWave makes will be updated here.
[Update, 10/20] On the Steam Forums, InterWave has provided a full statement, defending the game as a complete work, yet also apologizing for the abrupt conclusion. InterWave said the original vision was for "a larger, more epic title, with significantly more levels and selling at full price ($30)," but the failure of the game's Kickstarter fund raiser meant those plans had to be abandoned. The studio then opted to continue Dark Matter as an episodic series, and that the work released on Thursday is episode one of that.
"We would like to stress that the game is exactly as described on Steam (including that it contains 14 levels)," InterWave said. "[I]t is simply not true that the game is unfinished, or unplayable. Some people have misquoted the developer as having admitted that the game is incomplete; we should reiterate that what was meant was that this is not the $30 full-priced game, but the episodic budget version (currently selling at $13,49 at 10% off)."
InterWave said the version available now contains between five and nine hours of gameplay. "We still feel , like many gamers have also posted, that the game offers value for money and is an enjoyable gaming experience throughout."
However, InterWave acknowledged and apologized for the game's problematic ending, saying it "may cause confusion and is not satisfactory.
"We sincerely apologise for this, as it is not of the standard we would expect. We are working to offer a more conclusive and satisfying ending to the game as we speak and expect a fix to appear as soon we are able to."