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Sonic Mania dev Stealth launches Kickstarter for Vertebreaker, an action platformer [Update: Campaign Cancelled]

Dachhase

Coward
Oct 26, 2017
6,772
it's fucked up that he's broke but wasn't the director of mania christian whitehead? he founded his own studio this year, do we know that he isn't making mania 2 or if he even wanted to make it?
 

Paz

Member
Nov 1, 2017
1,321
Brisbane, Australia
It pains me to see some of the creators of the brilliant sonic mania finding things so difficult, and like many here I also hope that sega are engaging some of the creators at least to continue that project because it was so excellent.

But I think a lot of era truly doesn’t understand how rare the mania situation was or how big companies usually treat their brands, most licensing deals involve teams going to big companies and pitching amazing ideas and then having to pay huge upfront costs as part of either a minimum guarantee or straight up one off licensing AND you’ll be on the hook for all development costs AND it’ll have a bunch of stipulations about how you can use it etc etc. the one adavantage if that kind of setup is the revenue generated is usually split so you won’t be just a one off if you find success, though you’re definitely not seeing close to most of that money. I assume this is how many of the other external ip licenses projects are handled.

Yeah that setup is dumb and more companies should be engaging talented and passionate indies to do interesting stuff with things they really aren’t leveraging but that’s also just the unfortunate business standard.

Anyway back to the main topic, best of luck to this creator and I hope their reboot of the Kickstarter goes well.
 
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OrbitalBeard

Member
Oct 25, 2017
12,184
It pains me to see some of the creators of the brilliant sonic mania finding things so difficult, and like many here I also hope that sega are engaging some of the creators at least to continue they project because it was so excellent.

But I think a lot of era truly doesn’t understand how rare the mania situation was or how big companies usually treat their brands, most licensing deals involve teams going to big companies and pitching amazing ideas and then having to pay huge upfront costs as part of either a minimum guarantee or straight up one off licensing AND you’ll be on the hook for all development costs AND it’ll have a bunch of stipulations about how you can use it etc etc. the one adavantage if that kind of setup is the revenue generated is usually split so you won’t be just a one off if you find success, though you’re definitely not seeing close to most of that money. I assume this is how many of the other external ip licenses projects are handled.

Yeah that setups is dumb and more companies should be engaging talented and passionate indies to do interesting stuff with things they really aren’t leveraging but that’s also just the unfortunate business standard.

Anyway back to the main topic, best of luck to this creator and I hope their reboot of the Kickstarter goes well.
I think most of us (at least on Era) understand that a successful project like Mania doesn't equal a large payday for the developers.

I think what some of us are confused about is the apparent disinterest in Sega to capitalize on Mania's incredible success, both critically and commercially.

I guess it's possible Sega approached Stealth, Whitehead, and the rest of the team to develop a sequel....but I honestly doubt it. Sega should have created a brand new studio for these guys after Mania's success and let them go crazy on a brand new 2D entry.
 

HStallion

Member
Oct 25, 2017
30,629
But how does this even affect ST? It's not like they're making 2D Sonic games on consoles anymore. This just seems like an easy layup for Sega in general. By all accounts Mania sold well, and it's the most critically acclaimed Sonic platformer in several decades.
I imagine the team getting upstaged by a totally different group of people could have hurt some egos. Kind of like Bethesda reaction to New Vegas being such a hit and even overshadowing FO3 in some ways.
 

Paz

Member
Nov 1, 2017
1,321
Brisbane, Australia
I think most of us (at least on Era) understand that a successful project like Mania doesn't equal a large payday for the developers.

I think what some of us are confused about is the apparent disinterest in Sega to capitalize on Mania's incredible success, both critically and commercially.

I guess it's possible Sega approached Stealth, Whitehead, and the rest of the team to develop a sequel....but I honestly doubt it. Sega should have created a brand new studio for these guys after Mania's success and let them go crazy on a brand new 2D entry.
I totally agree that it’s a terrible move to ignore the success of the mania project, they should be going all in on this approach.

But many things done in the games industry make no sense to me and still continue because “that’s just how things are done”.
 

J-Skee

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,288
This is depressing as fuck & I will not support any Sonic the Hedgehog project going forward until they do right by the Mania team.
 

Rotobit

Member
Oct 27, 2017
4,701
it's fucked up that he's broke but wasn't the director of mania christian whitehead? he founded his own studio this year, do we know that he isn't making mania 2 or if he even wanted to make it?
They haven't confirmed it either way but I could see it happening. It would really suck if Stealth was left out, though. Maybe he'll be invited to join in light of this move?

Also from what I remember, Whitehead himself was helping out with Freedom Planet 2, which probably means he's had a somewhat more secure paycheck.
 

trashtabby

Member
Oct 25, 2017
918
I feel like some stuff should be clarified here though cause people here don't seem to actually know which Mania devs were involved with this or where they are at right now:

So Sonic Mania was made by a bunch of independent developers. This included Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games, as well as a bunch of people outside of those devs.

Christian Whitehead, PagodaWest, and some of the others who worked on Mania went on to start Evening Star. We don't really know what they're up to right now but it's fair to assume they're working on an (unannounced) video game. A couple of Mania's artists, Paul Veer and Midio, went on to work on Cadence of Hyrule.

Headcannon, which afaik only consists of Simon Thomley/Stealth, went on to work on projects with other people, which included a Darkwing Duck pitch that wasn't picked up, and is/was leading Vertebreaker. There can be a lot of reasons for why he's not working with Evening Star, him not working with them or on a Mania sequel doesn't necessarily mean he was screwed over, there's not really reason to believe that he was right now.

I hope he lands on his feet, I can imagine this Kickstarter failing being a motivation killer for him on top of being bad for him financially.
 
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Skiptastic

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
1,199
Really sad to see someone put so much into a great game and get cut out from the rewards of its success.

I hope he finds some work soon to get out of debt. He's clearly talented, so someone should give him a chance.

Microsoft need to buy them like right now.
Definitely would be a good way to use their money.
 
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Stiltzkin

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
2,638
First I've even heard of this game, was so excited seeing a Ristar-like game...and then the cancellation vid...

This is a depressing way to start the day. Best of luck to the team.
 

ChaosXVI

Member
Oct 25, 2017
493
Heartbreaking that someone as talented as Stealth wasn't able to convince enough people to back his game, and even more crushing that SEGA took advantage of dedicated, extremely talented developers by having Mania made under a very disproportionate revenue deal.

Hopefully he's able to land of his feet soon, I have to imagine somebody would want to pick him up. Much like what happened to Milton Guasti of AM2R, who then got scooped up by Moon Studios for Ori 2.
 

Kthulhu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
10,150
Was hoping this would be an announcement that they found a publisher or something.

I don't know the exact scope of Headcannon's involvement in Mania but I still think it's ridiculous that anyone involved with a project to the point where their logo gets a splash screen is forced in debt.

Feel awful for the devs and that video that was posted is downright depressing. Hopefully they can find some kind of success.
 

Madison

Avenger
Oct 27, 2017
6,286
Lima, Peru
Sonic Mania is one of the best games ive ever played, and one of its developers is broke two years after said game released. This is the games industry.
 

BaconHat

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,695
This is so messed up, why wouldn’t Sega greenlight Mania 2, are they really that clueless about this IP.
Guessing after the Forces fiasco they just decided to put Sonic games on the backburner for a while.
Which is a damn shame, since Mania 2 would have helped cemented that it was not a fluke and keep the train rolling.
 

mute

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,666
That is so fucked up and depressing. Mania was not a favorite of mine but it just was filled to the brim with love and care.

Everyone involved with it should have been taken care of for sure.
 

shaowebb

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,471
Hurt so bad to watch this. My heart goes out to him and all indie folk. Its incredibly difficult to make it these days as a game developer. I circled the toilet myself after i got outta animation school from student debt as nothing I did paid anything. I was forced into college again to defer debt and into another field entirely and that's practically successful these days because I didnt capsize my life goin into the industry? It's like every story is a nightmare for everyone.

Such a horribly pricey industry that not only do creators not get paid but they have to go insanely into debt just to ship even if they get all the way to the end of development. Hurts to find out all he got was milestone money from mania. Changes my concept of what 3rd party developers actually make from things.
 
OP
OP
Lant_War

Lant_War

The Fallen
Jul 14, 2018
10,690
Yeah, things weren't looking great for the campaign, and it's really sad to hear that merely two years after the release of Mania one of the developers is broke. Hope he can find other opportunities, because he's very talented.

Guessing after the Forces fiasco they just decided to put Sonic games on the backburner for a while.
Which is a damn shame, since Mania 2 would have helped cemented that it was not a fluke and keep the train rolling.
SEGA confirmed earlier this year that they're working on the next Sonic game.
 

jett

Community Resettler
Member
Oct 25, 2017
19,703
Pretty sad situation all around. If Sega had any brains they would've acquired them and put them to work on Sonic Mania as a sub-franchise.
 

werezompire

Zeboyd Games
Verified
Oct 26, 2017
2,851
It's very hard these days to get a videogame Kickstarter funded for over 100k unless you have a well-known IP attached to it so asking for a quarter of a million is a complete non-starter.

I don't know their exact deal, but generally the entity that takes on the risk, takes on the reward. If you're funding the game, you get royalties. If you're being paid a flat fee to make a game, you don't, but you get the flat fee even if the game bombs. Like when I worked on the Penny Arcade RPGs, we self-funded the game so when it came out, we got the lion's share of the royalties with PA getting a smaller amount for the IP & what they did. Conversely, I would be fine with a deal with Sega where they paid us a good flat fee to make a Phantasy Star Mania & we didn't get a cent from royalties.

It is sad though that someone that was involved with a very successful game a couple years ago is having trouble getting funding to make a new game.
 
Dec 21, 2017
10,302
Harsh. It's so risky to start a video game indie business on your own. My friends and I all have other jobs so when we made our game we were working full time at those jobs and making the game on the side. I absolutely feel like that's how you need to go about it because while a game can make big bucks, there's no guarantee how successful it will be. While Vertebreaker did look promising, I admittedly did not kick start it. I feel really bad for the guy and his team. They're talented people and hopefully they get another big break someday.
 

Oneself

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,343
Sadly, external development is always treated like this by publishing companies. You agree on their terms and then fuck off if it sells a trillion copies.
To all devs, try to include a clause in your contract that includes a tiny, tiny share of sales (including streaming platforms and subscription-related downloads) so you can get a bit of a bonus if it's successful.
 

HellBlazer

Member
Oct 26, 2017
491
That's some crazy shit that the Mania devs aren't getting any form of royalties. Sad to hear about Stealth's situation, I hope he finds a way to make things work in the future.
 

stan423321

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,858
This just had to pop up and break during my internet news "vacation", hadn't it.

On one hand, I'm sorry for Stealth; he was definitely into this project, setting it up for a while. On the other hand I am not surprised at all that it didn't take off. Crowdfunding got harder these days, and their budget was realistic, etc..

The royalty situation is pretty standard in game dev from what I've seen on the news though. Not sure what the "shocked" people expected, especially since the whole thing got into the spotlight during SAG-AFTRA strikes.
 

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
19,198
it's fucked up that he's broke but wasn't the director of mania christian whitehead? he founded his own studio this year, do we know that he isn't making mania 2 or if he even wanted to make it?
Stealth is the patriarch of the entire sonic hacking community, he is literally the one who started the entire scene. There would be no Christian Whitehead, without Stealth.
 

dan2026

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,105
I really feel like Sega have done these guys propper dirty.
They single handedly revitilized the Sonic video games brand and made it respectable again.
Before Sonic games were an utter joke in how terrible they were.
 

trashtabby

Member
Oct 25, 2017
918
Neither does pointing out that Christian Whitehead was the director in the first place.
Pretty sure that was in response to people in this thread assuming Stealth's the entire Mania dev team. There's plenty of posts in here assuming that cause he's not working on a Mania 2, that Sega screwed him over. While the reality is a bunch of the Mania team, including the director Christian Whitehead, started their own studio (Evening Star) last year that Stealth's not a part of. And we have no idea if they're making a Sonic game, or if they even want to make one. There's also no reason to believe Sega (nor Evening Star) screwed Stealth over also.
 
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Imitatio

Member
Feb 19, 2018
2,116
I feel like some stuff should be clarified here though cause people here don't seem to actually know which Mania devs were involved with this or where they are at right now:

So Sonic Mania was made by a bunch of independent developers. This included Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games, as well as a bunch of people outside of those devs.

Christian Whitehead, PagodaWest, and some of the others who worked on Mania went on to start Evening Star. We don't really know what they're up to right now but it's fair to assume they're working on an (unannounced) video game. A couple of Mania's artists, Paul Veer and Midio, went on to work on Cadence of Hyrule.

Headcannon, which afaik only consists of Simon Thomley/Stealth, went on to work on projects with other people, which included a Darkwing Duck pitch that wasn't picked up, and is/was leading Vertebreaker. There can be a lot of reasons for why he's not working with Evening Star, him not working with them or on a Mania sequel doesn't necessarily mean he was screwed over, there's not really reason to believe that he was right now.

I hope he lands on his feet, I can imagine this Kickstarter failing being a motivation killer for him on top of being bad for him financially.
Thanks for your input. People in this thread don't really seem to differentiate between the Mania team, Evening Star and Headcannon. Mighty confusing for someone not all too familiar with their respective involvement with Sonic Mania and their respective current status.
 

stan423321

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,858
I was under the impression that this was the case, like how everyone assumes Alpha Dream's bankrupcy was because the 3DS sales were going south so the royalties weren't enough to add to their pay.
Alpha Dream was a bit bigger, so maybe they could negotiate out some royalties, but if they got a flat payment instead the problem would be getting another flat payment for another project while previous ones did not work out. You know, just like with the "why didn't Sega order Mania 2" subthread here, except for the question part.
 

Zombine

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,146
That demo video made me so excited. The problem here is that I didn’t find out about it until it was too late. Do we know if there was any sort of announcement prior to the drop? Usually Era picks up on this sort of thing.