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The True Story Behind Last Life, A Kickstarter Game That Disappeared

Kickstarter is a platform with huge potential for developers with an intriguing idea that might be a hard pitch for publishers. Games such as FTL and The Banner Saga have shown just how successful indie projects can be when pursuing a clear vision with financial support from the gaming community.

However, a strong Kickstarter campaign does not always equal a great game — or even a finished project. One of the higher-profile Kickstarter campaigns that ultimately fizzled out was Last Life. This neo-noir adventure benefited from exceeding its funding goal and finding a publisher in Double Fine Productions. With a great concept, a solid reserve of funds, and a publisher on the line, Last Life seemed poised for success.

Of course, that success never came, and both Last Life and creator Sam Farmer both seemed to fall off the map. What happened in between is an example of the disconnect that can occur between a strong Kickstarter and the realities of modern videogame development. This is the true story behind Last Life, the Kickstarter game that faded into the afterlife it was meant to explore.

Last Life was a Kickstarter darling

When Sam Farmer first introduced Last Life on Kickstarter, it already had a compelling gameplay teaser ready and the support of adventure game pioneer Tim Schafer, designer of Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and Grim Fandango. Not only was Schafer excited about the project, but he was also willing to publish the game through his recently established company, Double Fine Productions, Inc.

The crowdfunding effort for Last Life launched on April 10, 2014. Shortly after that, Kickstarter featured it as its Project of the Day, and by April 28, the project had reached its $75,000 funding goal. Farmer encouraged fans to help hit the project's stretch goals, the first of which it would meet on its way to its final funding tally of $103,058, while he pledged to get to work on the game itself.

All seemed to be going according to plan throughout the remainder of 2014. Farmer posted regular updates about the game's progress, although a blog post later in the year revealed running the Kickstarter campaign had taken more time and resources than he anticipated. Updates became less frequent in 2015, but the game seemed to be moving forward, and backers didn't yet have much reason to worry.

Things were falling apart behind the scenes

As Last Life entered its third year in development in 2016, it became apparent that things were no longer going according to plan. Only one update arrived that year, which was enthusiastically titled "Bring in the Animators!" However, that post was locked for backers only, as was 2017's only update. However, the video game Kickstarter blog Later Levels reveals that the 2017 update acknowledged that Double Fine Productions had left the project and that Farmer needed additional funding to complete the game.

The downfall of the project seems to have been the decision to expand the game's scope. Initially, the Kickstarter project would support the production of the first of three episodes. However, Farmer and his team were unhappy with the impact of having a stand-alone episode and decided to "expand the single episode into a feature film length experience." This ambition, it seems, exhausted Farmer's funds and Double Fine Production's patience.

In Last Life's most recent update on its Kickstarter page, Farmer states that while he has tried to pitch the game to publishers, those efforts have failed. He finally offers another project, Slamdoku, to gamers as a "step towards Last Life's eventual completion."

Last Life might still be completed one day, but it seems like it may take quite a while.