Why Total Rendition could not be completed: A postmortem

The sequel to this. I want to use this opportunity to own my mistakes. However, I also want to celebrate successes, however small.

Questions

Should I remain involved in game development? It is a big maybe. When I make games, I seek to emulate the scope and scale of the titles I played and loved when I was a teenager.

It is very hard to obtain the logistical support needed to support such titles, I have found out, the hard way that is. One onlooker however, advised me to make “a small game”, yet in that sense, Total Rendition was already completed, although players hated it. Indeed, this was hardly the end-result I was aiming for, yet resource constraints have forced this particular outcome regardless.

The envisioned end-result now appears to be logistically unfeasible. While I am inclined to agree that the publishing landscape is working against narrative-driven games, some things remain in my control. Would Total Rendition have made a great game if it were allowed to be completed? Quite possibly. But there may be more worthy things to invest time and money in. And this may very well have doomed Total Rendition from its beginning.

Since development of Total Rendition was mostly prosecuted from Great Britain, and Great Britain being hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis, we were bound to be affected by it. Without liquidity, the project became easy prey for landlords. Loans were hard to get by as well. Note that production of classics such as Fallout, Deus Ex and Grand Theft Auto all started before the Dotcom crash of 2000.

Yet, there numerous other issues as well, which were in my control and that game developers do well to avoid in general, which I am to discuss in detail.

An Early Access which came too early

Total Rendition’s Early Access simply came too early, when it was still in a prototype phase (which it would never pass beyond).

The in-game art direction wasn’t there yet. This was admittedly largely because I prioritised getting investment over the Early Access player experience, reasoning that once investment would come in, it could be used to complete a game that would give the awesome experience that was planned. However, if players ended up only complaining about the Early Access, no investor will ever show up. And indeed, this scenario came to pass.

While I couldn’t take the negative “reviews” seriously at face value (as most critiques focused on bugs that would eventually be fixed and on the lack of original assets and content in turn due to lack of funding necessary to hire 3D artists), I realise these criticisms nonetheless demonstrate players lack patience with mere prototypes. The lesson I have had learned was that showing your plans too early and to an unwitting audience kills anticipation.

I pandered to investors who never came at the expense of players who did: I am very sorry. I realise I came across as an opportunistic wannabe techbro when in reality I wanted to address a burning desire which exists among gamers.

A narrative which didn’t resonate

A narrative-driven game must have a narrative which resonates with players, not with activists of whom the vast majority don’t actually bother to play games at all.

In fact, the very activists I had pandered to also hated Total Rendition because of its association with me: I am deemed too “problematic” for the very bien-pensants I once thought I belonged to myself.

No wonder then, that Total Rendition ended up between a rock and a hard place. Besides, recent events have utterly discredited Fourth Reich conspiracy tropes popular amongst bien-pensant circles anyway.

An unfamiliar franchise

Total Rendition was intended to be a spanking new franchise not based on any previous work. That makes it difficult already. Admittedly, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible in itself. However, SchiZotypy Games is not sitting on millions of quid of investment and cash earned from previous releases. Try promoting something completely unknown with no investment, because there is no obvious interest!

A cause for optimism

Yet, for all mistakes, I would still make the case Total Rendition got closer to its original aims than Fifth Column ever had. More importantly, SchiZotypy Games survived Total Rendition’s cancellation, whereas Xylographix failed with Fifth Column. While Fifth Column had its own artstyle integrated in-game, it was arguably unacceptable for its intended gold status version anyway.

However, there was more anticipation for Fifth Column because it could show visual meat Total Rendition lacked. Yet, when Fifth Column’s prototype was finally released in the winter of 2015, nobody appeared to care.

A concept isn’t pitched through prototypes nor wordy manifestos that require considerable academic training to comprehend, but through showing the high concept in a way that is accessible to players.

I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

See also

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