In 2013, Lupiesoft launched a Kickstarter campaign for Dizzy Hearts: a ‘mature’ visual novel that would have been their first big project following the release of the concept demo for The Reject Demon: Toko. The campaign raised over $16,000 and promptly went into radio silence. Considering the controversies that sprung up in that time period over Winged Cloud and AJ Tilley’s operations respectively, it’s easy to forget that this caused some ripples back in the day as well since Lupiesoft continued production of other titles while putting Dizzy Hearts on the backburner.
At five years in production this year, Dizzy Hearts joins a rather unfortunate list of projects that got mired in developmental Hell. In that time, they’ve release three commercial projects: Mutiny, The Stargazers and In the City of Alabast. With those titles under their belt, the group has returned to Kickstarter to take another bite at the apple for Dizzy Hearts. Why? Well, let’s let the studio’s lead, Taosym, explain:
In 2013 we launched our Kickstarter for Dizzy Hearts, which was amazingly successful, however we ran into complications that delayed the project. We have since corrected the issues we had and invested $16k of our studio’s own money into the project, doubling it’s budget and reigniting development, while massively updating the art. We are now on track to finish the main story by the summer, and begin our editing/alpha/beta phases.
This crowdfunding campaign is to raise funds to add voice acting to our previously successfully funded Dizzy Hearts campaign. Through development over the years since that campaign, we have resisted the ever present temptation of feature creep but following numerous requests to add voice acting to the game, we have decided to hold a second crowdfunding campaign in order to add voice acting. The game will be made regardless of whether this campaign is successful or not. This campaign is to give those who want to add voice acting and/or those who missed out on the first crowdfunding campaign the chance to get exclusive rewards alongside allowing us to bring our vision fully to life.
I’m not going to question whether or not Taosym and Lupiesoft had so many numerous requests for voice acting they decided to do this campaign. The truth is I don’t know and I’m not very interested in the rationale. My interest in this Kickstarter campaign is that what they’re funding was already funded.
No, I’m not kidding.
The baseline goal for this campaign is $10,000. That will allow Lupiesoft to add a voice bank system to the game. Presumably this will operate like a lot of JRPGs: limited to certain reactions in game and potentially more for important scenes. This baseline is similar to a stretch goal in the original Kickstarter from five years ago:
So, let’s give Taosym the benefit of the doubt and say that something went wrong with the development of this project in particular that forced Lupiesoft to put it on the back burner. Any reason will do, we’ll just assume it was out of his hands. How, exactly, does this help the current situation? The current situation, as stated by Taosym himself, is that finishing the script and doing the beta testing is what is slated for the year. If everything is back on track now, why do they need funding for a tier of this project that was already a part of the previous Kickstarter campaign?
Let’s put this in another context. Taosym says that Lupiesoft has diverted $16,000 dollars outside of the original crowdfunding to the Dizzy Hearts project. Okay, why? What substantial changes were made to the core of the game that required that injection of funds? Yes, the art was updated but that’s because it’s been five years. That is to be expected after all of this time. However, everything else is still happening behind closed doors. This money appears, on the surface, to be going down a very deep hole and without any explanation on how it has worked so far for them in regards to this project, Lupiesoft’s plan is to apparently keep doing what they have been doing.
This would be more financially palatable if the ‘feature creep’ Taosym says they’ve resisted up until now wasn’t still a looming threat. The prospect of implementing Live2D in the game has been brought up, which they admit would be added to the stretch goals and fundamentally change the whole stated point of the campaign. This mirrors the campaign from five years ago when a stretch goal was added to fund the forerunner to what would be the City of Alabast. After five years, the idea that this pattern still seems to be an issue with Lupiesoft needs to be fully examined. After all, some of the most well-funded and talented VN developers in the world has seen their projects get delayed by implementing 2D animation. Is that really something then that can ensure the release of this project this year?
This development requires proper questioning and I’ll certainly pitch it to Taosym; or more realistically The Forsaken One who is working alongside him in this Kickstarter. Has the lesson been learned? Why, exactly, is this money needed for something that was a stretch goal in the campaign five years ago? What is being done behind-the-scenes to keep everything on track? And what, exactly, will be done if Dizzy Hearts does not come out in 2018? I cannot tell you not to donate to the cause. However, I will ask that if you consider it, that you ask these questions of Lupiesoft at the very least. After all, at this point ensuring proper donor oversight isn’t just a good suggestion: it’s required. JP3: OUT.