This is not exactly a postmortem, but rather a memorial.
In early 2000, SophSoft began development of MVP Backgammon Professional for MVP Software. The beta testing began later that year and continued into 2001. Today is the fifth anniversary of our last beta build of the product, which is yet to be released, unfortunately.
It is certainly not unusual to have game projects cancelled and/or never released, but this was one of the best we developed to not see the light of day. To my knowledge, the game was never actually cancelled, just stalled for some reason. Several months later, communications with MVP Software failed and we parted ways. The breakdown did not appear to be limited to our product, however, as their web site has not changed since then, with one exception. Earlier this year, the technical support forum, which was the only real sign of life, was removed in favor of only providing email support.
Recently, I fired up MVP Backgammon Pro for the first time in quite a while, and the experience was strange. On one hand, playing the game again was inspiring. Everything about the game holds up really well, given the virtual dust that has had the chance to accumulate. All of the graphics and sounds are good, and the custom trained neural network plays a world class game of Backgammon, as well as Acey Deucey, a variant. There is also support for multiplayer games via network, modem, or serial cable. I had even forgotten how nice the checker animations looked.
On the other hand, it was slightly depressing to realize that this essentially complete game was never made available for purchase. Knowing approximate sales figures for its predecessor (through 2001, of course), I am confident that the game could have had total sales in the mid six figures (US dollars) by now. Five years ago, I was really only waiting to bump the version number to 1.0 and have it released; even the limited demo version was done. Over all these years, I have only found one minor bug, so it was basically ready to go.
The obvious question is why the game was not released, to which I was not given (and do not have) a clear answer. I know that there was the intention to connect MVP Backgammon Pro to their (still unfinished) game service, Classic Entertainment Online. I disagreed with that decision, arguing that the first version should be released without that feature, anticipating an upgrade (free) when CEO went online. In retrospect, I have to say that I was correct, since we could have had almost 5 years of sales at this point.
One can see our Current Projects preview page featuring MVP Backgammon, which contains screenshots and program artwork, as it existed in 2001. It is also still the top product on the MVP Software Coming Attractions page, listed as “Coming soon.“
Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien. — Voltaire