InterWave raised only $6,277 of the $50,000 they were asking for Dark Matter on Kickstarter, and therefore received nothing. That Kickstarter ended on July 18th, and Dark Matter was released last week, October 17th, on Steam for $15 (with a 10% launch discount).
In that period of three months before the game’s launch, InterWave had to make the decision of what to do with the game so that it could be sold at full price as a finished game. We know that there was a closed alpha demo during the Kickstarter, and that it was handed out to select people in order to spread awareness of the game and its Greenlight and Kickstarter efforts.
One of those people is Twitch.tv livestreamer WeAreTheRomantics , who played the entirety of Dark Matter’s closed alpha with some members of InterWave on-hand, talking to the viewers and giving out codes at times. During this livestream, InterWave mentioned that the closed alpha version that was being played on the stream was only half of the game as the Kickstarter money was needed to create the second half.
“The funding goal buys us additional time to finish the existing story arcs and environments in the the existing version. All the money will go straight into development and keeping the studio running so that we can work full-time on making Dark Matter the epic it was always intended to be.”
As InterWave didn’t get the funding they asked for on Kickstarter, we know that they only had half of the game they had originally planned to create. They had three months to do something with this version of Dark Matter before they sold it on Steam as a finished game. An option presumably available to InterWave would have been to release Dark Matter as an Early Access title on Steam, perhaps, but they decided on a full release instead. You can see this as all of the text chat was captured in the streamed video itself.
As spotted by Kotaku, this is why Dark Matter’s abrupt ending, which involves going through a door and being met with a screen of white-on-black text, has annoyed players and caused them to feel cheated out of their money, paying for an unfinished game when they believed they were purchasing a full game. That’s kind of what’s happened here, but it’s also not. It’s slightly more complicated than that.
The ending is very abrupt, and at first, the message said at the end that the story was “to be continued.” Many players interpreted this to mean that the game had more to come (which it did, and may do, one day).
As InterWave Studios’s representative, “Viper,” said on the Steam forums, the full story of Dark Matter was cut in half due to lack of funds and time. Instead of a 12-16 hour game, a 6-8 hour one has been provided “to bring something out to the world and show everyone the world of Dark Matter.” Viper also states that the “to be continued” screen will be changed to state that it is, in fact, the end of the game, despite how abrupt it is. That has now been done, with the line, “You have reached the end of the game, but there may be more left to explore,” adding clarity to the situation.
Some players aren’t happy with paying for what was called the alpha demo beforehand and is technically only half of the originally intended game, which is understandable, but I’d bet that this has happened before without their knowing. I, myself, contributed a small part to the development of Humans Must Answer, and we cut a lot of content from the game that we had originally planned upon due to lack of funds and time, for example. It’s not rare for this to happen, either.
The problem with Dark Matter is that it feels like a game chopped in half, or at least an unfinished one. The ending comes so suddenly with nothing to pack it out; it’s very apparent and obvious that it’s unfinished. I would imagine that if it were built to feel less abrupt and more like a typical ending, the complaints from players wouldn’t be so numerous. Ask developers if they’ve ever cut loads of content from a game, and you’ll probably be surprised at how common it is, even to see a game halved in size. The difference with Dark Matter is that the ending wasn’t made satisfying, as well as being very sudden.
You can see how the ending of Dark Matter plays out in the Let’s Play video, uploaded by YouTuber “Jay Xan,” embedded below.