The thing is, choosing to prioritise the kickstarter stretch goals over the core game would still be rushing. It would lead to a repeat of the situation were’s currently looking at, where there’s a lot of content but none of it meshes together.
People are going to get upset that the game isn’t finished, but that can’t be allowed to sway the devs’ plans if they hope to make the game they actually intend to. Believe me, I’ve watched many great games go down the rabbit hole of “oh, people want this feature now, even though we don’t think it fits, let’s add it and keep them happy…” all of those games, ALL OF THEM which went down that rabbit hole have ended up much, much worse off because of it. By contrast, the games which I’ve seen do well in Early Access/similar programs have done well because they did what was best for the game rather than what was easiest at the time to keep the fans happy.
In fact, probably the most successful game I’ve played through Early Access was Don’t Starve and it’s various expansions; and I remember a few times where Klei outright said “no, we’re not making that change/adding that thing, stop asking.” The exception, of course, was born of a bunch of fans actually joining the company as interns, and making a proof-of-concept themselves in their spare time. I’m not sure if team Stonehearth are able to replicate that experiment, but there’s nothing stopping us from having a go at least.
If players are really upset about the way things are going, we have the opportunity to try something to offer a better solution. Prove the argument, and it will carry a lot more weight. However, when people start complaining about how long a game is taking, and getting up in arms that ‘the community is dying/losing faith’, it never helps the game. Believe me, I’ve been through that rodeo many times now.
As an example: if you want to see hearthlings get stuck in buildings less, you can make suggestions about how to prevent them getting stuck, or you suggest new techniques the developers might use (IDK, maybe there’s some new pathfinding tech somewhere? Perhaps there’s an old game which handles a similar case really well but isn’t well known?), or you can try to write your own pathfinding service to improve upon the one in the game. But simply calling out “it’s not working the way I want, you should make it better!” doesn’t give the dev team anything to go on. The only thing it can do is create a controversy over the pathfinder. And that’s something you really don’t want to do – because those controversies have a way of gathering momentum, attracting dissatisfied players to them, and creating a roadblock or a spiralling argument with no solutions. Again, I’ve watched this happen over and over – someone complains about a certain feature without a constructive criticism or any attempt at a solution, and it just creates an echo chamber for people to whinge into. Eventually, that whinging breaks out of the echo chamber, and starts scaring away supporters (either because they think the game is “bad” due to negative echos, or because they’ve seen this happen before and want to avoid the lost-cause argument.)
Complaing about negative reviews, and using that as “evidence” for why your personal dissatisfaction apparently needs to be adressed as a priority, is not only counter-productive… when enough people do the same, it kills off brilliant games which were otherwise doing just fine. Remember that our actions here provide an exemplar for other community members. It’s the reason I try never to post a complaint without at least suggesting a way to resolve it, and why I generally avoid contentious topics or threads which seem like pure complaint.
However, like you I’ve noticed some creeping dissatisfaction lately, and a small hop in negative reviews. And that’s prompted me to make my own, hopefully constructive, criticism – not of the devs, but of specific behaviours within the community. This is, hands down, one of the most welcoming and cooperative communities I’ve been part of, so I’m probably over-reacting… but like I said, I’ve seen things take an abrupt turn for the worse when complaints begin to echo off each other without providing any solutions or new lines of thinking.
The devs definitely know that players want to see those stretch goals implemented ASAP, and @sdee has already pointed out in the recent series of DT’s that the team would love to work on those stretch goals but the game requires something different right now. Complaining about that decision is, ultimately, complaining about a lack of faith in the dev teams’ vision or process. If you’ve reached that stage… well, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do except wait and see how the game turns out. If the dev team try to change their plans to keep everyone happy, nobody will end up happy with Stonehearth. So, my suggestion to you @Demon would be to wait and see what Stonehearth turns into, and maybe look into the modding community to make any changes you want to see which might not agree with where the dev team are going. You may be able to make some constructive criticisms once the “end game” is made a bit clearer, but for now there’s not much to be constructive about regarding the “shape” or direction of the game – that’s precisely what’s being worked on right now, but the results are yet to come in.