The perils of crowdfunding for Linux games: Eco edition
When crowdfunding games, there’s always a risk that something will go wrong. Sometimes games get cancelled, sometimes the Linux version gets cancelled and in the case of Eco from Strange Loop Games they’re not exactly filling me with confidence.
On the original Kickstarter campaign for Eco back in 2015, the FAQ stated this:
We will be developing the release client targeting PC, Mac, and Linux platforms. During early stages of the project, such as during alpha, the server may only be usable on windows platforms, but by beta will be available for all 3 platforms.
The Steam Greenlight page for Eco was also listing Linux as platform, heck even their announcement on it about a release directly mentioned Linux was available. That same announcement is also on their official site, which mentions “For alpha the client will be released on PC, Mac, and Linux.”. Given all that, I did purchase a copy personally to support it direct from their website. Since February 2018, it’s been available on Steam but they only continue to advertise Windows support (despite a Linux version being there). We’re talking almost four years since the Kickstarter and well over one year since being on Steam.
Before getting into anything else, I want to note that the developer has told me over email they currently class the game as being in “Beta”. So we’re at the stage, where Eco should have reasonably good Linux support by now but does it? No it does not. A Linux version exists but they won’t advertise it, single-player only works on Linux with a workaround and now we’re onto the below…
Why am I bringing all this up? Well, an interesting email entered my inbox recently, announcing that Eco would be adding in Vivox. Remember Vivox? The voice chat company whose staff actually suggested a developer drop Linux support? Yeah Vivox backtracked on it, but they still seem to have no plan in place to support Linux. Given that, you would think since Eco is supposed to be supporting Linux that Strange Loop Games wouldn’t go and pick a middleware that locks out a platform but they did.
I reached out to Strange Loop Games and the resulting emails left me very unimpressed with them. They repeatedly claimed things like “It only was mentioned as a long-term goal on kickstarter” (clearly it wasn’t) and “The linux client we offer actually is a internal alpha client we ship additionally without being required to do so.” which seems pretty false, given the quote from Kickstarter and the release information they themselves posted onto Steam Greenlight and their official site.
There is a silver lining here (it’s not all doom and gloom), as they told me “the plan is to deliver full linux support when the game is actually released” but given how long it has been so far and how they’ve reacted, it doesn’t exactly fill me with hope.
They’re far from the worst though, Stainless Games treated Linux gamers far worse with Carmageddon which was pretty ridiculous. Phoenix Point is another that still stings and it certainly all makes you think twice about supporting future crowdfunding efforts. However, thankfully the times where things like this do happen are still a minority, for the most part crowdfunding still results in something good but it pays to be careful.