Don't be fooled: some of the cutest games out there have a dark side, and it seems like Forager - a 2019 "solo dev" project by HopFrog, real name Mariano Cavellero, that fuses Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon - is no different. The game was hugely popular, selling 600,000 copies in its first year on Steam, and became another success story for a single developer working on a passion project.
Except Forager was not a solo project. Perhaps, for the majority of the development period, it was mostly his work - but HopFrog hired multiple programmers to help out, and had an artist named Gaziter creating art from the beginning of the game's development. Still, you'll find that many of Forager's reviews call it a solo project, developed from Cavallero's own Game Jam idea.
Recently, HopFrog posted on his Patreon, saying that the planned Multiplayer Update - for which he had hired more people - had been cancelled, due to a host of different issues. In the post (which you can read here), HopFrog blames:
- The low quality of the Multiplayer Beta
- The poor balance, grinding, and annoying enemies
- Mods breaking the game and introducing new bugs
- The Mac and Linux versions being "completely ruined"
- "Terrible" UI
- Bad animation quality
Importantly, though, HopFrog throws the rest of the development team under the bus in his Patreon update:
"I personally haven't been working on Forager since the Appreciation Update and to be honest, it really shows [...]
For multiplayer in particular, this entire process got me really sad and disappointed. I am not a good programmer so I stepped back and let other individuals work on Forager for almost 2 years after it released, but it quickly became clear that fixing this mess needed my urgent attention.
After the first week of the beta, I looked into finding a new team of programmers to fix this buggy mess but nobody professional wanted to take on the project due to how poorly coded and bloated it became since the game released in 2019."
As a result, HopFrog is offering refunds to anyone who had paid for it already, and giving out all the remaining Multiplayer Beta keys for free.
The developers that HopFrog mentioned in the post were not happy to see that they were being blamed for the failure of the Multiplayer Update, of course - and a couple of them took to Twitter to tell their side of the story.
In a post of their own, programmer Vadim detailed some issues that weren't mentioned in HopFrog's post, including the fact that the artist, Gaziter, was working for just above minimum wage after the update, despite the game selling thousands of copies and making money on HopFrog's Patreon, and the fact that HopFrog said that the entire team quit, despite the fact that at least one person (Vadim) was booted off the team after asking repeatedly for a contract.
Gaziter notes that HopFrog's reasoning for the low wage was that "you're not a founder" and therefore "the success of the game will probably never matter for your salary," despite having made "most of the game's art" for two years.
Vadim places blame on HopFrog for not creating a more stable codebase from the start, and planning ahead for future additions, as well as relying on contractors (who can leave at any time) for large portions of the game's code. "Big tragedies often come from series of small issues that were neglected for long enough," Vadim says in the conclusion, "and it is really unfortunate to see the game end up like this. As to whether anyone had learned anything from this, time will show."
In an update, Vadim reveals more issues, including the fact that anyone criticising the handling of the Multiplayer Update is likely to get banned on Steam or the game's Discord, and that one of the Discord's moderators reported being kicked from the server for "mental issues" after coming out as trans.
It's a messy situation, for sure - and, for people who just want to play and enjoy Forager, it's a potential disappointment, especially as the announcement that the Multiplayer Update had been cancelled was only posted to Patreon, and not Steam or Twitter.
For now, many of the developers involved have begun to distance themselves from Forager - the artist, Gaziter, has removed the game from his bio, and Nommiin, one of the programmers, was recently hired by Among Us studio, Innersloth.
Were you looking forward to the Multiplayer Update? Are you disappointed to hear this latest news about HopFrog? Let us know in the comments.