Upsilon Circuit was to be a game where, if you died once, you died forever and could never play again. Now it’s dead.
The game, announced in 2015, was to be part-multiplayer fantasy RPG, part-game show, and part-Twitch Plays Pokemon. While two teams competed to explore, fight monsters, and collect treasure, an audience would watch and level up players’ skill trees. If any players died, they kicked the bucket for good.
Sounds ambitious, right? Unfortunately, it proved too ambitious for small development team Robot Loves Kitty and it has been cancelled.
The cancellation has been in the making since the game’s crowdfunding campaign fell apart in the middle of 2016. “We hit some big bumps, and last year we lost funding,” Robot Loves Kitty’s Alix Stolzer told Kotaku in an email. “We had to let our team go in the middle of a bad crowdfunding campaign and a nervous breakdown or two.” “Nearly a year” ago, the team’s remaining members halted production, though they didn’t officially cancel the game until now.
In a blog post, Stolzer further explained that Robot Loves Kitty, a studio managed by two self-taught indies, wasn’t prepared for the complications of scaling up: managing a larger team, setting milestones, heading up a crowdfunding campaign that ultimately failed, collaborating with a partner for funding, and all the related stress.
“We really wanted to find a way to finish Upsilon Circuit anyhow, but the truth is, even if it wasn’t saddled with stress and emotional burden, we’ve already put too much of our money into it,” she wrote. “We can’t even support ourselves for long enough to complete a game this big right now.”
This didn’t come out of nowhere. Last year, Robot Loves Kitty told Kotaku that it was restructuring the game after its scope got out of hand and also “moving to a place that is much cheaper” to offset the cost of it all. Ultimately, though, Upsilon Circuit still shorted out.
“When we finally shut everything down, we both thought we might never enjoy making games again,” Stolzer said. “We felt like garbage. We drowned in that for a long time.”
Stolzer says that Robot Loves Kitty will be integrating ideas from Upsilon Circuit into future games. The studio’s new project, a physics platformer called Super Tony Land, has philosophical ties to Upsilon Circuit, though it’s a different kind of game. “In Upsilon Circuit, the story was something we wanted the players to unfold and influence,” Stolzer said. “To give creation to the audience, experience it ourselves, and encourage streamer/audience connectivity.” Super Tony Land has an “extensive” level editor with story tools. Stolzer hopes that communities will use it to build and share their own levels and universes.
Stlozer recognizes that it’s a pretty big change of pace, but after all the ups and downs and perma-deaths of developing Upsilon Circuit, it’s what Robot Loves Kitty needs.
“This new game won’t be a lot of things that Upsilon Circuit was,” she said, “but it will be the game that the two of us made that helped us remember how important making games is to us.”