Upcoming episodic adventure game Dreamfall: Chapters recently announced a music competition in which the fans were invited to create and submit original music for a chance to be included as background music in the game. However, due to a massive backlash from professional musicians, the competition was cancelled in less than 24 hours.
For those who don’t know, Dreamfall: Chapters is the long-awaited sequel to award-winning PC adventure games The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. When The Longest Journey was first released in 1999, it received critical acclaim and remains one of the most defining games within the adventure game genre. These games focus on character interaction, puzzle solving, and exploration of the two parallel universes Stark (a futuristic, cyberpunk Earth) and Arcadia (a magical, fantastical world). Dreamfall: Chapters is being released as a follow-up to Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, continuing protagonist Zoe Castillo’s journey as she fights against a conspiracy that aims to enslave the two parallel worlds by stealing people’s dreams.
Dreamfall: Chapters is being developed by Red Thread Games, an independent studio founded by Ragnar Tørnquist, who wrote and directed the previous games under license from Norwegian game developer Funcom. This follow-up to The Longest Journey saga has heavily relied on the community’s support from the very beginning, as it was crowd-funded on Kickstarter in a campaign that raised over $1.5 million. Throughout the process, Red Thread Games was developing the game with the goal of retaining control over the story and gameplay as well as maintaining an “open dialogue with the community throughout production.” The fan-music competition was an attempt to continue this inclusion of the community within the process of developing the game, giving fans the chance to take part in something creative and maybe even hear their music in the background of the game.
Attempt to ‘Commission Free Music’
It was a short-lived project. Within less than a day, Red Thread Games had experienced such a massive backlash from professional musicians that they abruptly cancelled the competition. These professional musicians were apparently worried that the competition was being used to get free music for the game rather than paying professional artists to write the soundtrack, thereby exploiting musicians by failing to offer compensation. In their post about the cancellation, Red Thread Games stated that they “feel our intentions were perhaps misrepresented and misunderstood. This was not an attempt on our part to commission free music for the game—we already have a fantastic score, a professional composer and some diegetic music—but rather a response to the community asking for a chance to get their music into the game.”
While issues involving unpaid creative work are particularly controversial right now, particularly in regards to the music industry, it seems extremely unlikely that the developers behind Dreamfall: Chapters were attempting anything other than involving the community in the making of the game, especially considering their past record of interacting and relying on their fans. Those who submitted music to the competition were fully aware that their work might be used in the final commercial product when it was released, and fans are understandably disappointed by the cancellation of the competition and the company’s declaration that they “will not be running any similar contests in the future.” Red Thread Games has always been very supportive of fan’s original creations, such as the fan art competition that was held for Dreamfall: Chapters around a year ago. The music competition would have benefited both the game and its fans, and would have continued to support the community’s involvement in the game development, so it is a shame that it ended the way that it did. Red Thread Games announced that they’re “grateful for the engagement and to those who already sent us music” and promised that they will respond to those people “personally and individually.”
The first episode of Dreamfall: Chapters will be released November 2014 for PC and PS4.