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.
[source twitter.com, via yal.cc]
It’s stuff like this which really annoy me. If you’re really a ‘solo dev’ then you did all the music, art, programming and more. If you outsourced one or more of those things or hired help, give those people the credit and professional contracts they deserve.
This doesn't help my belief in the ratio of decent human beings to trash left in the world is becoming quite too large of a difference...slanted towards the trash.
If only half of this is true, it's a good thing I didn't buy this game yet.
Axiom Verge is a solo project, right? We are sure about that, right?
So like, if you select and hire a team, give them an outlook, come up with goals, set milestones, and oversee their work and the final result is garbage ...
It's because you suck. If they sucked and you didn't, you would have seen that they sucked the first time they failed a deliverable, and you would have gotten rid of them.
And not only do you suck ... but the level of suck you would need to suck to not see you needed a new team, new direction, or outside help for TWO YEARS is just ... epic level suck
To be fair, the "truth" is probably somewhere between what HopFrog says and what the other team members say. Someone says he was fired and the boss says he quit. Which is true? We don't really know. Confirmed though that this is a mess and that it wasn't a solo project.
I'm fairly familiar with Foragers development, and for sure the guy didn't develop it solo.
He got it close to the end, and then said he couldn't get the game to work how he wanted, so began to outsource the development of the game to other programmers who were more capable. Most specifically he struggled with optimizing the game to run at acceptable speeds.
Vadim is very well known in the community as a very competent network programmer, and has added multiplayer to a few high-profile games, him asking for a contract doesn't surprise me given the high-profile nature of Forager too, if you're doing business on this level, you NEED a contract, if the developer doesn't give you one, something is wrong.
Given Vadim's track record, and the fact that the main developer seems to forget he couldn't have released the game without the help of the lead programmer he hired before the game released, I'm very put off by this guys attitude.
TL;DR, If you want multiplayer in your Game Maker game, Vadim is your go-to guy, he is listed in the Game Maker Community forums as the multiplayer guy, officially, and is the only one to hold that title. If he couldn't make Forager multiplayer, I doubt it was really his fault, as he's made countless games multiplayer in the past.
You can't really have your main programmers for any piece of software being temporary contractors. That's something the project leaders really need direct control over.
@Xeno_Aura Yep, you’re dead on. Vadim has a reputation and trying to pull a fast one over him is both supremely silly and pretty reprehensible.
Great article @KateGray. Bad business all around
Hmm... I wouldn't have bought it had I known... Why would he do this after a huge success of the game?
Oh no! I loved Forager! It felt like such a passion project. Now my view of it will be tainted forever... It's just so sad
To be frank though, I didnt even knew a MP update was in the work, nor do I care for it. Forager was always a solo experience IMHO.
Why, just why are some people like this?
@Xeno_Aura It really interested me while writing this piece that someone's contribution could be counted in hours, or amount of work put into the final product.
If he spent 90% of the hours making it on his own, but the last 10% that he hired people for actually made the game publishable, then some people might consider that he did "more work"... but others might argue that the programmers were brought in to actually make the game function. Also, a team of people will do more work in less time than a single developer!
Game crediting is severely messed up right now
Man, this is such a bummer. The game is great and feels like a passion project. The main dev comes off as extremely entitled on that Patreon post, especially since he's clearly the one who should have been managing the work in the first place. Throwing your team under the bus while trying to dodge any part of the blame is such a shady move.
(As an aside: I definitely don't think 'Animal Crossing meets Harvest Moon' describes the game well at all. I'd describe it as an extremely fast-paced, action-heavy and over-the-top take on the survival/farming genre.)
@KateGray In my games, I generally credit people where-ever possible, just to be safe. But I also usually don't do this type of business, where you're contracting someone for an extended period of time (several months). I always pay a flat-fee for a specific piece of work I want doing, to avoid any misunderstandings about contracts and fees.
For sure I know that Gabe/Lazyeye was the main guy who got the game to a release state. He said when the game had thousands of items, it slowed to a crawl, so he had to rewrite the looting and item system so that it would work on a large-scale.
But it is a valid question, Hopfrog is a company, with only 1 staff member, the lead dev of Forager. Technically his company made the game, using contracted workers. So does the credit lie with his company, or the workers? And how much work did his company do versus how much the workers did? Probably a question we can't answer.
At the very least, Forager's credits put the programmers under "Additional Programmers", so the game itself (at least once you're in it) never claimed to be the work of 1 man.
The little comic book you unlock really did make this sound like a solo passion project but it's pretty clear now that if he hadn't gotten help then Forager might have never come out. To then turn around and blame programmers because of your own incompetence is an insult to everyone who helped make your game a success.
Oh and the game still lags and gets massive slowdown once you hit endgame levels on switch. Fix that before the multiplayer bro.
@Xeno_Aura Oh goodness, don't get me started on the games industry's misuse of contractors! It boils my blood!
There's nothing wrong with having contractors, but I see too many examples of it being an excuse to treat them worse than full-time staff.
I understand why studios - especially indies - use contractors instead of hiring full-time employees that might not be needed for the next game, but a contractor is not someone that people are allowed to treat like trash just because they're temporary >
@KateGray really interesting point you have there regarding the numbers, as indeed (you alluded to) he could be coding the game as a "passion" project for X number of months or years. Following that period we have the game in some unknown status, in need of the proverbial "polish" that actually marks the difference of whether your game is premium or interpreted as rubbish.
In that case if 10% of the bogusly misleading "Total Workload" is contributed towards bug fixes and patching the code into a workable state... this is a major and worthy contribution. Looks to me as if this was someone who wanted a legacy and discredited the other playwrights. Ehh these kind of egoist developers get under my skin so I'll simply make that observation and move onwards lol.
Omg the horror!!!
@Joker13z except the ratio in this issue is already largely in favour of humans. Considering its multiple devs against hodapp.
What is it with cool-looking indie games getting screwed over by incompetence. Didn't anyone learn from Indivisible?
It reminds me of a bitter ex who is insistent that they dumped you after you tell them you don't want them anymore. They tell other people they dumped you and expect you to also say that even though it was the other way around. The rationale is "I am not the crazy one, you are, so how could I be the one who got dumped?" This "solo" dev is ****ing nuts.
Really sad to hear this story, I feel like as an indie game community, we should be working consciously to both avoid the issues present in the gaming industry and to make the working environment one of supporting and lifting each other up, rather than crushing each other. I really hope for the day the indie games scene can actively fight against the evils of capitalism, rather than reproduce them.
@KateGray I criticized you in the past but I like to give credit where credit is due. I applaud you. Great piece of journalism. Please keep up this good work and don't be afraid (I'm sure you won't be) to criticize big companies too when they deserve it.
It seems like these refunds are easier said than done. I'm trying to go through Humble for mine, but as of now there's no easy way to get them done if it's been more than sixty days since the purchase.
As a trans person, that part with the discord mod being banned for being trans is truly disgusting.
Tap here to load 26 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...