Since my last article, I’ve had quite the assortment of attention from Reddit, to Kicktraq. I didn’t quite expect the pull I had with my prediction, and I’ve had a lot of response both positive and negative. Since the positive is in all the right places, and the negative is mostly from those who still seem to think Uber is capable of succeeding where they failed with Planetary Annihilation, I can’t say I’m not pleased about it.
Let my undoubted correctness flow through you.
I’ve been busy both with my own Kickstarter and trying to get games reviewed, along with regular IRL work, so it may be a short week. I did, however get in some time to explore Starpoint Gemini 2, and I jumped into Star Citizen’s Arena Commander for the first time in a while to see how it has progressed. While they are both spacey, it’s a bit hard to compare them (especially considering their widely spaced level of completion), so I won’t. Starpoint Gemini 2 is a fun romp akin to an action RPG, while Star Citizen really feels like it’s coming along as a true space sim. More on those later.
I couldn’t let this week pass without jumping back into the drama of Human Resources. After I wrote my last piece, I’ve both received praise from existing publications, and have been accused of defaming Uber by angry Redditors. It’s kind of exciting. I welcome both praise and criticism, so I’m good either way.
1-3 is definitely TL;DR.
The reason why I felt I had to re-address the situation is because I may have given the impression that I think crowd-sourcing is a bad strategy for developers with multiple project ideas, or that small developers shouldn’t attempt multiple projects simultaneously. I’m not suggesting either are the case, but both take careful consideration if you wish to please the consumers. It seems to me that Uber is incapable of understanding how much importance reputation is as an independent developer, and that’s why it’s a bad idea for them.
Let’s start with how Uber looks as the developer of Planetary Annihilation. (I will leave SMNC out of this one, because it likely had less impact than merits continued discussion)
We can begin where most people begin: (I dream that they do, anyway) Metacritic. Personally, I like Metacritic not because of the average scores (they do help, though), but because you can get a pretty good sample of what people did and didn’t like about any particular title. You can dig around between both users and “established” critics, and make your own opinions of what’s just spite and bile versus legitimate concerns.
If you didn't start here before donating to HR, you probably should have.
A 62 from the critics is low. Almost harsh, even. Plus, the even averages are telling that the critics and users are likely in agreement. It’s not just critics being underwhelmed, or users being spiteful. Although, it might just be both. If you start digging around, you get a sense of that familiar tone: unfinished, incomplete, not what we were expecting, not what they told us we were getting, etc. Even many of the positive reviews suggest it lacks content and needs a campaign that feels like it’s the reason to play the game. RTS games should be built on a strong AI foundation. The RTS audience is quite divided between multiplayer and single-player campaigning. If you show more interest in one or the other, you are guaranteed to split the crowd. The lack of engaging single-player content shows, and failing to launch with an offline/DRM-free client indicates no intention of making it a priority. While they did in-fact release an “offline mode,” there was no reason to leave it until post-launch as a feature to somehow “prove they’re listening to the community.” Are they telling me this wasn’t a major concern during the 2 years of development and eventual alpha/beta testing? They didn’t even follow through until after the HR Kickstarter page was up and running.
"Most helpful" review. See? I'm not the only voice of reason.
Plus, none of the physical goods from the PA Kickstarter have shipped, yet. This means anyone who paid over $100 is still waiting for their reward for helping to fund this “released” yet incomplete game, while seeing Uber already grubbing for more money to make a game using the same engine. This stinks of two things: arrogance and/or desperation. Neither of which looks good from the eyes of a potential backer. PA hasn’t been given the time necessary to even be called a success. It didn’t sell a record breaking number of copies by any means, and it hasn’t even fully delivered on its Kickstarter rewards; so what puts Uber in the place or time to start a new project expecting even more from the community?
This one kinda speaks for itself.
As if to further illustrate my point, Uber posted this message to fans giving the distinct notion that they don’t really intend on “finishing” any games. While the sentiment is easily debatable in the way that all art is “never finished…” There is still a point at which any artist must concede his own ambitions if he intends to sell his art as a product. While I can see this attitude working for an MMO where stretching out a player’s time and interest is a priority, it doesn’t work for a game meant to stand on its own. Imagine if companies thought this way in the past. Imagine if Final Fantasy VII were sold sequentially as individual discs, but Squaresoft decided to release the first disc of FFVIII before the second and third discs of FFVII were released. Would you have had faith that they were still going to deliver? Just because we have the technology to add on to a piece of software over an extended period of time, doesn’t mean it’s always the best way to build a successful product. At some point, you have to call it finished. However, what Uber is calling finished is drastically different than what the consumer was expecting.
Sorry Uber, but this ain't WoW you're making here. Your "vision" sounds drug induced.
This shows a massive disconnect with the community itself, which most certainly hasn’t been invisible in all of this. I am definitely not the only one dissenting, and the numbers are merely indicative of my initial assessment. It doesn’t matter how many original devlopers from Command & Conquer or Total Annihilation you have if you can’t prove you can complete a product as advertised.
At the end of the day, I’m starting to lean away from the idea that Uber is working out of arrogance a la PGI. It really begins to sound more like desperation.
Cliqist is my new hero for asking the question. The silence is deafening considering most other devs answer it.
It is my estimation that Uber likely over-expanded in the wake of the Kickstarter success, along with those willing to pay the high price to get into the alpha. It’s too easy to think you’ve secured your future with a quick income. I mean, look at Star Citizen. RSI has built themselves a massive studio and even put on a convention for a game that’s still very much in progress. But the main difference is the progress itself. I can’t help but be impressed with how active they are in communication and releasing images and video of new models. They’re even consistently giving us alpha backers content to explore in our hangars, so we actually have an opportunity to interact with models in progress. While it’s been a long haul, the updates are consistent and never lacking. Many of the things you pay for right now, you are able to use right away, or will be shipped to your house right away. This is why on Oct 11, Star Citizen made $1.32m. Nearly the entire fund for HR in a day. Even with all of the extra goodies promised, Uber’s biggest thing they’ve been able to say so far is “Look! We finally gave you ‘offline-mode!'”
Who doesn't want a piece of that Star Citizen money?
Plus, it’s not like there aren’t those in the crowd who yell at the top of their lungs in blind desperation with the hope that this game becomes a reality. But when you read what these guys say, I can’t help but feel it’s rooted in fantasy. It’s as if it’s somehow everyone’s moral responsibility to fund this company for the good of the game, even though the last one was a disappointment. Some people simply don’t like being burned twice.
I think this guy needs a hug.
Do you still think it’s the crowd’s fault that HR won’t get made? Is it still loud-mouths like me who “defame” Uber to make them look like bad guys? No, they did it to themselves by looking desperate and greedy. They probably have a lot of extra designers who need to get paid, and the biggest thing preventing that right now is the already waning interest in what should be a hot new release. Even the DLC is disappointing. Three Commanders and a soundtrack for $25? I guess that’s a deal when you consider that some commanders are as costly as $15 individually in the store. That’s a high price for something you should barely have to pay attention to if you’re playing the game well. Have your designers work on some real DLC with new factions and planet types. There’s your work for them. You’d think $25 on top of a $30 game would be a significant expansion. Instead, it comes off as a money grab. Just like asking for $1.4m to build a new game on your existing engine.
And yet... people BEG for DLC from Nintendo. How about that?
That’s the crux of it all. It just comes across as a money grab. Either out of arrogance or desperation, it doesn’t matter at this point, because Human Resources won’t be funded at any rate. It’s sad, because I am a fan of the RTS genre. I would actually like to see this game made, but Uber has a lot of learning to do before that can happen.
Uber: finish PA. Deliver the goods. Give it a year. Try it again. You don’t suck but you’re missing the point and you are bleeding fans daily. Crowd-sourcing lots of money pays the bills, but it won’t keep the players happy. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who’ll pay the bills if you give them what they want. HR is a good idea, but not until PA gets a few coats of polish.
In the mean time, you guys have definitely helped me learn what not to do for my own Kickstarter, so I wouldn’t call it a total loss. Thank you, Uber Ent.
Still relevant, and I'm clearly a South Park fan.