Breakout ghost hunting game Phasmophobia has been so successful that its developer has had to ‘reconsider’ their original plans for the game’s future in Early Access, taking more time for bug fixes and new content before hitting a ‘full‘ release.
Kinetic Games is made up of a single developer – going by the name Dknighter – who created the game as a debut solo project, with no formal development training. As such, the initial plans for the game’s Early Access were fairly limited: “I was originally planning the Early Access to be short”, Dknighter tells me in an email interview, “where I just add a few more maps, ghost types and equipment. However, due to the game’s popularity, everyone’s expectations are increased so I am going to have to reconsider my plans for the game’s future.”
Dknighter doesn’t go into detail about the details of the new plans, but it seems the game will remain in Early Access for longer than planned, and may well be more ambitious in the additions it makes. For now, however, the developer’s focusing on existing features, rather than new ones.
“At the moment my only focus is getting the major bugs fixed before I begin working on new content. These bug fixes would usually be sent out when they are ready but, due to me having to update a lot of the game’s code, a lot of new systems need testing, so the next update will be a big stability and bug fix update. After these bugs are fixed the new content will likely get bundled together in big updates. All new updates can be played on the beta version of the game, which everyone can access through Steam.”
We saw the fruits of that work in last week’s patch for the game, which made dozens of fixes and changes (and, to be fair, did add some Halloween flavoured new content in there too). As for what’s next, a glance at the game’s public development Trello board shows you how many features Dknighter is thinking of for the future, but one element might be something of a pipedream. At one point, that board featured mention of a mooted PvP mode in which a player could take control of a ghost – that’s no longer featured on the board, and with good reason:
“The second PvP mode was added to the Trello to see what everyone’s reactions would be. Right now I have no plans to add another game mode, as it would turn the game into something completely different, and push the game away from what I want it to be. I want the game to remain 4 players vs. 1 AI, and balance the game, then add new features around that style of gameplay.”
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The idea seems very much to keep Phasmophobia as-is but continue to push at its boundaries, fill it with more potential scares, and ways to catalogue them; essentially, to make more of the game that millions have taken to in recent months. I ask Dknighter if there had been any expectation of the kind of success Phasmophobia’s seen in its early days. “Not at all. I was planning for the server capacity hitting a maximum of 500 players on launch day and it to drop off from there, as well as only aiming to make enough money to keep making more games. Now the game has over 2 million sales, with a player peak of around 90k.” If you want some sense of how quick things are moving for Phasmophobia right now, that player record has since risen to more than 110k since we talked.
I ask what Dknighter – who surely can’t have dreamed of a run like this for his first ever game – thinks about that sudden success. Is it COVID lockdown, or perhaps an increased openness to indie games from players these days? His answer’s perhaps more simple “I think everyone is always on the lookout for multiplayer games based around having fun with your friends rather than competing against other players, whether it comes from a known development team or not.” The results, and the changes they’re forcing Kinetic Games to make, are bearing that theory out.