Last year, I covered two different games with an awesome (and also terrifying) central conceit: if you die, you can never play again. Upsilon Circuit and One Life both touted forms of perma-permadeath. People loved the idea. My two posts were viewed nearly 1.5 million times. Unfortunately, those games have hit some nasty bumps on the road to completion.
It’s been relatively quiet on the perma-permadeath front for the last year, and not because everybody died. The small team behind Upsilon Circuit, at least, tried to make waves with an Indiegogo crowdfunding drive earlier this year, but it didn’t pan out.
“We ended up cancelling the Indiegogo campaign a few weeks into it, which feels very wishy-washy to us, but after thinking about it for a long time it was the right decision for us as people, and hopefully the game as well!” Robot Loves Kitty’s Alix Stolzer explained to me in an email. “In the end we decided that we really didn’t want to charge people to get access to what would be a free game.”
They’ve since switched to a Patreon, which is currently pulling in $245 a month.
When it was announced, Upsilon Circuit’s ambition was undeniable. The game was billed as a mash-up of multiplayer fantasy RPGs, game shows, and Twitch Plays Pokemon. Two teams of players would compete while doing fantasy RPG stuff (dungeon diving, fighting monsters, avoiding traps) while a live audience earned experience points to level up contestants’ skill trees. “Simply put, the Audience is part dungeon master, part strategist, and part judge & jury,” said Robot Loves Kitty at the time.
And of course, the looming specter of perma-permadeath would be hanging over contestants’ heads. If they died, that’d be it. They’d be dead in real life. ...You know, to the game.
That’s a lot for a small team to pack into a single game. Robot Loves Kitty recognize that, and now they’ve decided to revamp it.
“We hit a sudden shifting point as well, where we saw that the scope of the game had gotten a bit out of hand, and our team was too big to keep going without getting a big investor in, which isn’t something we currently want,” said Stolzer. “Calvin and I are in the process of moving to a place that is much cheaper (not quite our treehouse in the woods level though) and making a few smaller games while we revise Upsilon Circuit into a game that we can actually finish.”
So Upsilon Circuit isn’t on the backburner, but it’s undergoing serious renovations. Perma-permadeath, however, will still be part of the package. “Upsilon Circuit will likely change a good deal, but the core concepts like perma-perma death will definitely be there,” said Stolzer. “We love the concepts in UC, and it’s never really been about money, so we are still definitely planning on finishing it even if it takes a while.”
As for One Life, a survival shooter where your Steam account would be locked out of the game after one death, things are looking grimmer. The developers haven’t updated the game’s Steam, Facebook or Twitter accounts since it got greenlit for Steam almost one year ago, on October 30, 2015. This despite fans asking what’s going on for months. The game’s website, meanwhile, no longer exists.
Over the past three days, I’ve attempted to reach out to One Life’s developers multiple times. They have yet to respond. Last year during the game’s Greenlight campaign, they were extremely quick to answer my questions, so they’re either super heads-down in development, or something’s up.
Update 10/29/16: After this story was published, the developer of One Life sent me an email saying that the game has been “delayed indefinitely.” However, it’s not canceled. “In all that time we have received a huge number of questions and requests from players,” the game’s developer wrote. “We haven’t even expected this kind of attention. In the context of such overhype, we just need to make everything perfectly, so the development of the game is delayed indefinitely. We will certainly keep you informed of our news and let you know if there will be something interesting for the players.”
Here’s hoping both games eventually see the light of day. Game development is unpredictable, though. Someone might tell you they’ve figured out how to put lightning in a bottle, but it’s quite something else to actually do it.