How This Long Delayed Indie Game Has Avoided Pissing Off Its Biggest Fans


#1

The original trailer for Museum of Simulation Technology has been viewed nearly two million times. It’s not hard to see why; it’s an trippy pitch built around the concept of forced perspective. What you see in front of you is, often, misleading. A “small” object is only “small” when viewed from a distance; up close, it’s enormous! Museum of Simulation Technology’s trailer suggested a game with clever puzzles built around this idea, with players asked to manipulate forced perspectives in order to make progress.

Here’s what that meant:

The trailer, released in early 2014, featured extremely basic art because it was a tech demo created by a group of students at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. When the trailer was published, they announced plans to make a full game—already coining the studio Pillow Castle Games—but with no date.

More than four years later, Museum of Simulation Technology still hasn’t been released.

As part of an ongoing series at Waypoint, I’m fielding requests from readers about games they were excited to play. Games that seemed, at one point, tangible and real, but for whatever reason, they fell off the map, unclear if they’re delayed or dead. So far, I’ve taken a look at the sci-fi horror game Routine, the sci-fi puzzler Reset, and Michel Ancel’s open world game, WiLD. Today, we’re turning our attention to Museum of Simulation Technology.

There’s good news, thankfully: Museum of Simulation Technology is still in development!

“Quietly under development,” reads a message on Pillow Castle’s website.

Unlike Routine and Reset, for example, Museum of Simulation Technology hasn’t been promising release dates and breaking them. Instead, the game’s been plodding along. A year and a half after the trailer, for example, Pillow Castle released a small update:

It was the kind of update you’d want from a game you’re looking for, showing—gasp—progress. The nondescript artwork from the demo was gone, replaced with something that looks like a video game you might eventually pay money for. There was no indication when Museum of Simulation Technology might be done, but smartly, the developers tried to diffuse anxiety and impatience by engaging with their fans.

If you scroll through the YouTube comments on that video, they’ve replied to tons:

They even acknowledged what’s taking so long to finish the game:

The big difference between Pillow Castle and some other developers I’ve profiled here is how Pillow Castle remained engaged with its audience to control expectations.

Beyond the humorous “quietly under development” moniker on their website, there’s also an official FAQ that playfully addresses the game’s lengthy development.

Q: When will the game be released?
A: At least a year from now! When is now? Whenever you're reading this, obviously! It's taking a while, but we want the game to be interesting and surprising - both are really hard things to achieve.

Q: Why hasn't there been a lot of news about the progress of the game?
A: There's a few reasons for this. One is that we don't have a lot of people working on the game so we try to save time where ever we can. Another is that there are a few details we might change as development goes on so we don't want to tell people and then retract it later. The third is...we don't want to spoil too many things!

It’s understandable for people to be frustrated, but Pillow Castle comes across as a group of people who understand the game is taking a long time. They embrace this fact.

And though Pillow Castle’s Facebookand Twitter pages haven’t been touched since mid-2017, Museum of Simulation Technology hasn't simply disappeared. The developers have continued to show up at events with builds of the game, and a search on YouTube surfaces playthroughs with outlets like Polygon, GameSpot, and as recently as a year ago, some of YouTube’s big creators, like jacksepcticeye and Markiplier:

I recently contacted Pillow Castle about an interview for this story, and while they turned me down, designer Albert Shih did say the game was coming—eventually.

“The game has indeed been taking a while!” he told me. “Definitely longer than I expected.”

Shih acknowledged the importance in players understanding why games take a long time, and we made plans to talk about Museum of Simulation Technology when they’re closer. As for when that might be, I can’t say, but Shih did say there’s “cool stuff in the works.” I’m not a gambling man, but I wouldn’t rule out a 2018 release quite yet.

At the very least, hopefully other developers take some notes from Pillow Castle's approach. Most players are pretty patient, so long as you acknowledge them.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/mbxwja/how-this-long-delayed-indie-game-has-avoided-pissing-off-its-biggest-fans

#2

I remember playing the tech demo which I believe is still available here if anyone is curious: http://www.indiedb.com/games/museum-of-simulation-technology/downloads/museum-of-simulation-technology-demo