The future of Barkley 2


Hey there!

You might be wondering what is going on with everyone's favourite project, Barkley 2.

Well, sit down, because it's a long story.

I am Paperjack, a programmer who got onboard the project because I was also worried about the project's status, so I just contacted the Tales' of Games FaceBook page (yes, I'm old) and I just so happened to appear at the right place and right time.

I will tell you how it all went down from my own viewpoint - keep in mind I was never part of the Original Tales Of Games team, just someone who hopped in trying to help at the very end of the story. What I will comment here is from a purely technical viewpoint and doesn't have anything to do with the team's interpersonal relationships.

The project has a very long history (almost 10 years in the making!) and this is reflected in the project itself. I was the last of a long line of programmers who came into the project, each with their own vision of how things should work, and everyone was doing their best to deliver this huge, ambitious game.

What I want to say is that I don't want to diminish the efforts of anyone - it is clear that there was passion AND effort, and a lot of both. They didn't "steal" the money by lazying around, the developers spent a huge amount of time on all of this, creating code and content.

But why is it that there isn't much to show then, you might ask?

When you work on a complex task, eventually mid-way through it becomes clear that there are better ways to do things.

Developers are then faced with a really hard choice, which is whether to start from the beginning, using the better methods, or to try to compromise and try to combine the new with the old.

Doing it from the beginning is the best option long-term, however it is slow, expensive and boring to do: you're redoing things you've already done, afterall.

Merging the methods tends to be much faster, however it introduces chaos into the system. It is hard to explain, but imagine building a house and halfway through, you decide to switch the plans with ones from a different architect. The new architect takes in mind what's already been built, however their own style and way of making things is very different. As a result, you will have a liveable house, but it will be disjointed.

Usually, people choose the latter because of a very simple reason: budget and time constraints. You don't have the time to start from scratch, because your development time is literally bound to a finite budget (in our case, the KS money + other funds the team members had).

As the game quickly grew in size and scope, this problem happened quite a few times, and the latter choice happened often.

Eventually, the codebase became chaotic, clunky and hard to work with. Things were all over the place, it wasn't clear what did what, legacy code was forgotten and standards were not constant. It became very frustrating to work on anything, but you could not simply restart from scratch and do things correctly because you do not have the money for it.

I do not blame the previous developers for this, it is an extremely common problem in larger software projects, as any experienced software engineer can attest.

When the project was announced and funded via KS, it was the very beginning of the video game Kickstarters. A lot of people just did not know how much it cost to make a video game, nor about the nuances of what it all implied. In short, they overpromised for the money they requested.

But, the main problem - and difference from a lot of other failed projects - was that they *cared*. That’s right, they all really cared about actually delivering the best game they could, but life is never so simple.

The developers were really enthusiastic at the beginning, but the sheer scope of the project and bad pacing (a lot of crunch happened), combined with the worsening technical state of the project, eventually ground them down and they burned out.

Going down the project's files you can literally feel the state of mind they had and how it was getting more and more negative. The last parts that were done are quite fucked up (in a literary sense, rather than qualitative) and you can feel them trying to let out their frustrations.

Eventually, the funds ran out. You might think 120k USD is a lot of money, but just calculate expenses for a couple of people and it's really not that much. It's two years at 12k USD for 5 people (only 1000 USD/mo!).

However, the TOG developers still kept going and developing FOR YEARS, basically for free. This really made me respect their discipline, but it clearly had a very heavy mental toll. 

They didn’t just ditch the project, or request more money. Silently, they kept toiling away, chipping at the massive project in the dark.

Combining the burnout and forcing themselves to work for years, what inevitably happened was an explosion. I don't want to give names - neither do I know them, nor have worked with them - but it is a natural result of the environment that was created. I do not blame or accuse them of anything other than giving their best, I just honestly think that it was unavoidable. 

Everyone was tired, burned out and penniless: the best kind of situation to ruin friendships and turn disagreements into hostilities. Small slights keep piling up and there’s no good experiences to wipe them away. Marriages get ruined for far less.

I come in the picture just after the explosion (or implosion?) happened, fresh like a flower and ignorant of the drama, and just concentrated on releasing the demo. I fixed some bugs and packaged it up. I did it for free because I was a fan of the original and I did not want my dream to end.

After we released the demo, I looked back at the whole project: the original GM2 project is massive and there's so much remaining that, for me, is unfeasible to complete it without a budget or completely rescoping the project. I selfishly gave the latter a few shots, unsuccessfully.

As more time passed without me or anyone touching the project, I realized that B2 had no future as it is right now.

We finally arrive at today, where after a long discussion, I finally decided to release all the files as open source.

Here they are:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nN8Efh-qarfvORTSMW4PGJkAk0N8BL86/view?usp=shari...


I hope this post gave you all some more insight on the project and why what happened has happened. I don’t hold bad feelings toward anyone, I just would like for B2 to see the light of the day, someday.

Feel free to contact me for anything, really.

Have a good day!

- PaperJack


16 JUN 2021 update:
A lot of people have requested license information:

the contents of the zip are under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license, since they are mixed media.

For more information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

20 JAN 2022 update:

Updated link.

Get Barkley 2 - Janky Demo

Comments

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(+2)

I'm pretty sad to see the game go belly up. Yet, I'm very happy that the source is available for all now. I hope Tales of Games knows what this game meant to their fanbase. The original was such a huge source of inspiration for me, along with Funky Chicken by Steelwav (which I can't find anywhere anymore, not even internet archive!)

I'll elaborate a little, since I've said lots about this game elsewhere, but here is where I imagine I'll most likely have my thoughts on the game noticed by the original creators, if I'm lucky.

Barkley taught me all kinds of things, growing up as a young game dev. It held a Joie De Vivre for Game Design that's sorely lacking in the current vidcon universe. With a distinctive style of humour and script that was difficult if not impossible to replicate. The in-jokes were thick and layered with polish and perfection. It had built it's own canon of lingo and terminology. It also made me laugh. Very hard and very often. And for a cold, heartless bastard like myself, that's such a rarity to find. It's a shining gem in the trash heap of shovelware that comes out on a (literal) daily basis.


It taught me that games are meant to be enjoyed. With Barkley RPG, I never wanted to skip dialogue. I wanted to relish every bite of text. It taught me to think outside the box. Status ailments named after real life diseases, currency named Neo Shekels! Lol! Gods. Did I love this game. I loved Barkley like a cherished friend. It brought me light in the darkness. It brought me cheer in depression. If I could just play 9 more games like this for the rest of the year, I wouldn't be so depressed.

Furthermore, Cyberpunk was such a fresh, trending subject back then. Similiar to Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Tales of Games took Cyberpunk and made a loving parody of it that also stood on it's own as a serious piece of work. I'll never forget the dating simulator in the first game between Cyberdwarf and Juanita the big black woman who looked like her portrait was taken straight out of google search. It's combination of taking itself jokingly, while simultaneously taking itself deadpan seriously, might never be seen again in vidcons in my lifetime. I pray for the return of the team. I pray this is not the last we've heard of them as I feel they had so much to offer the world with their videogames.

I've taken a copy of the source code and I'll protect it with my life. I feel that, given the blessings of the original team, with a copy of the games script, others can pick up the mantle and finish the game one day, as a labour of love. But I'm not sure how the original developers feel about such a thing. And I wish to respect their wishes as well.

For years now Barkley RPG has been among the top shelf of videogames I'll recommend to everyone and anyone. I seriously can't recommend it highly enough. 

I'll be honest when I say I don't even know how to proceed from here on in my life without it. It was one of the big things I wanted to hold on through infinite pain and misery in my life for. The source code is, as others have put it, worth a lot of money. It is an invaluable chest full of treasure and jewels. To have it for free relieves much uncertainty and despair. Still, though, I'll never give up hope on one day seeing the finished product, to see what could have been and to read more of the extremely unique storyline of the Barkley RPG series. 

Long live Tales of games. Long live Barkley RPG.
Words fail me now. I only hope I've communicated clearly enough what this game meant to me. And to many others. Thank you so much for all the time, energy and effort that was put into this dream project. It will never be a failure in my eyes. I will always be impressed by this. I will always love this dearly in my heart. Thank you again. Now, all that's left is to figure out where we go from here in life?

I'm developing my own cyberpunk game as well, I should mention. If it should ever see the light of day... I want the creators of Barkley RPG to know what a huge influence their game had on me. It inspired the entire direction of my life. But I ramble. Godspeed, fellas.

-Clark/Senretsu

(+2)

Don't pray for the devs. Support them. Support Eric (cboyardee), support Frankie, support Jesse (GZStorm), support Brian (rittbomm), support Lazrool, support Bisse, support all the togsters. They are all moving on to good things.

(+2)

Hi PaperJack and

thank you for the detailed explanation.

Unfortunately the link is no longer available. Can you possibly create a new one?

Or make Barkley2 available via Github?

(+3)

Hi dark-cms, my bad, I accidentally removed it while cleaning up my google drive. I updated the link.

Still woulda been great to get the source to tactics B-ball ngl

So paper jack what are you going to do now?

(+2)

Work on my own projects and hopefully someday pay off my mortgage

(+1)

at the risk of making little of this terrific account, might I ask incidentally whether the "Vidcon Pack" sent to backers can still be found anywhere? enjoyed Non-Human and would like to revisit the RPG Maker Barkley I build. thank you for your efforts

(+1)

Hi, the vidcon pack is a compilation of separate projects which I do not have, sorry.

(+2)

I'm almost a year too late so I dunno if you'll ever see this, but here's the ToG Vidcon Pack PLUS a huge CBoyardee music pack, Barkley 2 music pack, and RPG Maker Barkley. The music packs are probably my favorite of the bundle and I still listen to them every now and then almost a decade later.


https://www.dropbox.com/s/yl0iinrzwmmwob1/ToG%20Vidcons%20and%20Music.rar?dl=0

(+1)

you the real mvp

(+3)

I'm actually very glad to hear this, I'm happy that the project finally has closure. I'd been a fan of the group since the original Barkley and was fully on-board with the sequel project, but within a few years after the initial excitement settled it became clear that the project was extremely bogged down. 

Despite that we'd get occasional updates showing...not much progress, so I started outright encouraging them to either go ahead and drop the project or severely slash the scope of it. It clearly wasn't going to work out in the way that they'd envisioned and they were just punishing themselves by that point.

It was sad watching them continue to occasionally release updates over the many years since then, seemingly locked into the mindset that they HAD to finish it or at least grind themselves into the ground as penance.

An endless project like this is the best way to kill interest in gamemaking, so I hope they can one day get back to enjoying it or some other type of art.

Thanks for the code release!

(+2)

It's a sad day, but not an unexpected one. Releasing the source is the best thing you could have done.

Though I do have some questions:

Were all team members really on board to have the source code released? That's kind of amazing!

Secondly... "release as open source", yes, but under what license? GPL? BSD? MIT? A Creative Commons license? Or something more restrictive? If anyone decides to pick this up and finish it, what should and shouldn't they be allowed to do?

Finally, it seems there is a .gitignore file, so there has to have been a .git folder with revision history. Is there any reason that was omitted? Perhaps going back to earlier commits before refactoring might make it easier for people to cobble certain features back together into a working (or more coherent) state.

(+3)

The git history has been omitted intentionally because of a member's request. Regarding the license, personally I'm not a believer in oss licenses but I'm asking what the others would like and will update soon with what they decide.

(3 edits) (+1)

Did the developer's also request to omit the tactics game source? If not, is there any particular reason it isn't in the files? I understand this source drop is mostly a proof of work so I don't want to ask for too much. Considering the state of the demo being fairly complete I could see it being because it would be easier to polish up and "steal" it and make some sort of profit off of it. Correct me if wrong but I also recall something about it being a parallel project that was worked on mostly by a separate dev. Despite this, is there any chance it could be added?

(+2)

You are correct in that it's a completely separate project. I will ask but no promises.

(+2)

Added license information

(+1)

Cool, thanks for the clarifications and the license addition. May things go well in the future for everyone involved. :)

(+3)

I can't help but notice that the Tactics game doesn't appear to have the actual project gmx file. Was hoping to tinker with it. Oh well.

(1 edit) (+4)

Thanks for the drop, Jack. I hope you guys have moved onto greener pastures, and that the story of Barkley 2 can serve as a warning to more newbloods like me about the dangers of overscoping. 

If B2 gets resurrected somehow, I'll be the first in line to get it.

- Matt

(+4)

Thank you. Half a gig of raw assets and code from a game developer worth $120,000 + the unwritten value of their raw talents is priceless. I respect the individual dev/s who said they did not agree with how this was done but I am also a learning game developer/programmer who intends to support their future projects and I intend to use this as a learning resource. There are so few large scale commercial GameMaker Studio products that have been open sourced and out there to learn from that I hope if the devs read this they know I am genuine in my intent to use their work. I can dream up an ending to the game but no matter what I land on, it will always be a fan work and I would rather use the project to learn and adopt useful parts of knowledge to my own works. As much as I would like to devote a year or two to finishing Barkley or even just Tactixxx B-Ball, I know it is wiser to move on and learn from others.

(+7)

I played the OG Barkley RPG as a kid and I’m now a fulltime Game Dev. I have no skin in funding the Kickstarter nor have I toiled away on a single project for nearly the amount of time as Barkley 2, but I empathise with the hardships that come with overscoped projects.

Big respect for letting us know all of this and thanks for your contribution to pushing the demo out. It really helps provide some much needed closure.

Are the assets under a particular license, or just generally open-source? Non-commercial, commercial?

Added license information

(+1)(-1)

What a shame.

If someone wanted to make a TTRPG adaptation, who would I need to talk to?

(+1)(-1)

To someone with the game development skills necessary. It is possible.

(+1)

Then I just found our game for next year’s Zine Quest.

(+3)

Over-scoping does seem to be the most common cause of death of indie games. Kudos to you guys for releasing the source and assets. I know liminal, in-progress works can be very hard to share.

(+10)

semper games