I may very well eat my words for writing this article, and I may do something humiliating as a result to please the masses. If I’m wrong, I’ll just be another loud-mouth on the internet with an opinion. If I’m right, I might just know what the fuck I’m talking about after all.
It's time to put my "journalistic integrity" to the test.
I recently wrote a review for Planetary Annihilation which expressed my concerns about its rushed release, and Uber Entertainment’s apparent disconnect with the gaming community. Since writing the review, they have announced that they will be finally bringing an “offline mode” for those of us who don’t understand why it needs to be online during single-player campaigns (and there are a lot of us). That’s a good sign, right? You’d think so, but with their new kickstarter campaign, Human Resources showing no signs of offline play even in single-player modes, it’s becoming clear that they didn’t get the message.
Before we get into Uber’s clear missteps, let’s start with what lead to the failure of Transverse. In my original article, I outlined just how amateurish their attempts to gain support appeared. As I continued to follow the rapid decline of interest in the title, it became clear to me that it was far worse than a botched attempt: It was a blatant abuse of the entire concept of crowd-funding. Uber’s issue is merely history repeating itself.
I still can't get over how they asked so much for basic features.
PGI’s first self-funded project was Mechwarrior Online. It was a resounding success. How could it not be? it’s an old and prestigious franchise with a huge fan base. For many, the idea of a Mechwarrior MMO was a dream come true. Supporters flocked just to get a taste. However, since the release of MWO, it’s been plagued with problems stemming mostly from a failure to deliver timely updates, and a failure to communicate with the community. The fact that two separate subreddits exist for the same game, both initially created by developers, have been left unmanned due to conflicts with both the community and reddit on the part of PGI, should be a massive red flag. Nevermind the fact that all of their YouTube videos have comments disabled. When you are constantly on the defensive and find yourself frequently deleting the dissent of paying customers, you have to know you’re doing something wrong… right?
If you believe it's your own players responsible, perhaps you should be asking yourself why your player base is out to get you.
Not according to PGI. The same company who straight up lied about owning the rights to Wing Commander. EA even called them out, and their response was simply “we don’t have to prove anything.” Why, as an independent developer and publisher do you think you have even the basic resources to stand up to EA, or even be anything like them? That’s not balls, that’s stupidity. EA could buy PGI tomorrow, and PGI would thank them for it with a wet, lengthy blowjob.
Translated from this page. *Ekman's response was actually on the Transverse forum, but not anymore. :(
Amid the dissent from MWO, they decided to put resources into a new property looking suspiciously like Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen (he was the original creator of Wing Commander, fyi), while not calling it Wing Commander, but claiming they have the rights to the property. It’s already doomed to fail at this point, but that’s not the worst part.
The worst part is how developers are now looking at crowd-sourcing as a means for a risk-free development fund. If PGI had put their heart and soul into making Mechwarrior Online the massive success that it should be, there would be no reason to ask the community to fund their next project. Not only does this show your own lack of faith in your products, but it doesn’t prove to the industry that you can commit to any title. Crowd-sourcing isn’t a means to expand, it’s a means to get off the ground. A property like Mechwarrior should be raining money from the sky. If it’s not enough to fund your next project, then why should the consumer have any faith at all? Especially when your former customers are actively committed to witnessing your failure.
This brings me back to Uber Entertainment. A company that charged $90 for alpha access to a game which, upon release is $30 (is also on sale frequently for 50% off), and still feels unfinished. A company which has already relocated resources from the previous title to the new one. Plus, Uber has already been accused of intentionally abandoning previous games. The game was called Super Monday Night Combat and has a huge back-story to go with it. I could go into it, but this guy managed to shred apart Uber on their own forums with his rather detailed documentation of its failure due to lack of communication. The best part is that his criticism was recent and yet another notch on the list as to why Uber’s new Kickstarter is a bad idea.
It’s not to say I don’t like the sound of Human Resources, either. The early videos are impressive, and I like the concept. But I also felt exactly the same way about Planetary Annihilation. I’m not impressed with how that game was released, and even less impressed that Uber is already dedicating resources to a new project without giving the last one the proper attention it deserves. If it were a year from now, and Planetary Annihilation was the resounding success they claim it is on the Human Resources Kickstarter page, then I would have gladly given it another look.
I'm not sure if you know what "lauded" actually means...
The reality is that Planetary Annihilation is a mixed bag. The top 10 “most helpful” reviews on Steam all have the same theme: unfinished. Metacritic gives it a 61. Even Super Monday Night Combat wasn’t as critically acclaimed as they suggest, and it was torn apart in the user section of Metacritic with similar claims of abandonment. Uber Ent. has obviously pissed off enough people to create some demons, and they are only stacking up. Still, here they come with a new title that seems to promise that Uber is trying to build a micro-transaction store around all of their games. Which, by the way, is the real reason why they want their games to be always online — In case you feel the sudden need to spend money while playing the game.
Who's taking bets on PlayFab getting a Kickstarter if HR fails?
Here we go… Another tiny, yet inconceivably arrogant indie dev trying to be the next EA. The same EA who is constantly put down for their lack of communication skills and greedy DLC schemes. They’re not raising $1.4m to fund a project using the same engine as the last one, they’re raising it to build yet another store full of garbage. Why would any indie dev aspire to that kind of model? Just because it makes money for now? Such thick-headed, narrow-sighted thinking is why EA and Activision have become the bloated carcasses of industrialized game development that they are.
Micro-transactions are officially worse than transaction fees.
At this point some of you might be saying, “but how are you so sure Human Resources will fail? It’s already gained a lot more momentum than Transverse ever did.” That’s true, and like I said at the beginning: I could be wrong and HR might actually take off, making me look like a dumb-ass. However, the trends I’m seeing just don’t point to success. I’ve been watching the page on Kicktraq, which gives a pretty good idea of their day-to-day return and there’s been a sharp drop-off already. Aside from that, I honestly don’t believe Uber can hide the demons of PA and SMNC. When the biggest complaint of their two biggest titles is “unfinished,” I can’t imagine being given too many more chances to deliver. If PA is the success they think it is, it should easily fund the next project. If it isn’t, they should spend the time making PA what the fan base was expecting, rather than moving on to a new title and suggesting that the next project will trickle down more resources to the old one.
Devs need to stop trying to make Kickstarter part of their business plan, and start making products that make money on their own merit. You can begin by actually listening to what the gamers want. If paying customers are telling you your last product is unfinished, don’t tell them your solution is to make a new one.
Far more relevant to this post, so there.
29 thoughts on “Something, Something Game News – Uber Fail: How Transverse flopped and why Human Resources will, too”
I don’t understand how that thing you linked is supposed to show that Uber lied about having separate teams for PA and HR. It seems to me they just misinterpreted the words wilfully. I mean, having one person leading the design of HR is completely different to pulling all the dev teams from PA to work on HR. They are still working on PA with the majority of the Uber employees.
A great read! We’ve been covering the Human Resources situation as well and the whole situation is a mess. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on it!
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Thanks for the support! I’ve been following the Cliqist a fair amount lately, and you guys also have some great articles. 🙂
Your wrong about Pa and uber, and IF Human resources fails it will because a lot of people have made there mind up about uber without really knowing the facts. That will be a BIG shame and a sad day for rts fans everywhere…
And what exactly are the “real” facts?
People have their minds made up about Uber because they have yet to officially release a complete game. That’s the most important reason.
Nice try, Uber
Uber needs a slapdown because they have fallen into arrogance and a feeling that they are somehow entitled to money and support without delivering on promises. Hopefully, the failure of this kickstarter will knock some sense into their heads, prove to them that they are not gods and make them put some effort into current commitments such as planetary annihilation.
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This article makes me sad. So many words with so little knowledge.
Medium size game studios can work on multiple games at once. In fact, they need to in order to keep their staff continuously working – and survive. If fan-funding of niche games is to succeed, the niche gaming community needs to learn this, and stop bitching about the studio ‘moving on’ by having designers pre-plan the next game while programmers finish the last game.
Secondly, I strongly disagree with your contention that developers should only go to Kickstarter for a game concept once. You’re factually wrong about what KS is for. KS explicitly say about themselves that the purpose is to kickstart a PROJECT, not a company. If a game project raises $X on a game, and spends $X on that game, then sells no more copies, that should be fine – a (moderate) KS success. Then the studio can come back to KS with their next project and pitch the idea not only to get money, but also to test for market interest in the game. If it doesn’t succeed, they can know that it wasn’t a marketable idea, and pitch a different game instead. There is absolutely nothing wrong with returning to KS with each game like this.
If some gamers are backing consecutive projects for collectors editions that they can’t afford and feel they are being taken advantage of – well, they should just stop doing that. If you like the idea for a game, back for the basic game (or maybe the next level – game plus soundtrack & wallpapers, whatever), then mention it to friends who might be interested. Now sit back and see what happens – if enough others like the idea too it will happen.
So many words it feels like you didn’t read.
This isn’t an article about “ifs” and “cans,” it’s about all of the things they did wrong.
Of course devs can work on multiple projects at once, but Uber has yet to prove they can finish one, first. They called PA “successful” when the critics call it “unfinished,” then asked for more money.
I’m also not suggesting devs shouldn’t resort to kickstarter to fund multiple projects, I’m suggesting they shouldn’t make it part of their business plan. Kickstarter relies heavily on reputation and Uber’s is currently in the toilet. They went to Kickstarter thinking the crowd that funded PA would come back, without realizing they’re the reason HR won’t get funding.
As I also said in the article… if it were a year from now, PA was polished, everyone had their physical goods delivered and the game worked as advertised, I’d probably have backed this project myself.
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I read your whole article. So you’re saying you agree with me on all points in theory … just Uber can’t follow them in practice?
Successful is not the opposite of unfinished. PA can finish a successful, unfinished game while beginning work on the next. There is no contradiction or conflict here.
PA is not polished yet, but it is definitely in late production. It doesn’t need game designers or concept artists anymore. Uber need to put them onto another project, or let them go. Fact. They CAN’T wait another year to start the next game, they’ve got wages to pay. It doesn’t matter if this is their first project, and they haven’t ‘proved themselves’ yet, the same realities of business apply.
‘resort to kickstarter’ says it all about your perception. There is no reason KS should be a ‘Plan B’, a last resort, a ‘lesser’ model of funding, or seen as asking for a hand-out. It’s a perfectly reasonable model for a studio to use KS for every single game, indefinitely, even if they have enough money to partially or fully fund it otherwise. Set the target appropriately (perhaps only ask for half the real budget as your target if you have enough cash reserves), and gauge fan interest.
‘I’m also not suggesting devs shouldn’t resort to kickstarter to fund multiple projects, I’m suggesting they shouldn’t make it part of their business plan. ‘ So how exactly would they go to KS for multiple projects without it being in their business plan? It sounds like you are contradicting yourself. They can … but they shouldn’t.
I backed PA, and so did numerous people I know personally. We’re all happy with it. I backed HR too.
Maybe you are right and the way Uber went about it isn’t going to work, because the last game isn’t done yet, and they’re back for another. But I’ve got news for you: If fans can’t adapt and learn enough about game dev to get past this, crowd-funding for games is doomed to fail soon. Studios cannot work around these basic rules of business. If potential backer fans are going to balk at nonsense like this, we’re already in the end days of KS for games.
Everything works in theory, but the issue is that devs are trying to incorporate a new fad into their business plan which doesn’t work if you can’t show any reliability. I’m afraid you and your friends are in the minority if you are satisfied with how PA ended up. I’m not the only one saying this. Consensus is low, and crowd-sourcing will kick you in the teeth if your last project isn’t being met with the praise you claim it is.
The reality is that PA isn’t successful, BECAUSE it’s unfinished. Not that they are antonyms. If they actually finished the game instead of just “releasing” it, there would be an entirely different attitude towards Uber. That HR is effectively promising to leave out the things many people were most expecting in PA (single-player, no required online access) shows they aren’t listening.
Crowd-sourcing is too new to be a reliable project starter when companies don’t understand how it works. Calling PA a success then asking for more than the first time around for a game built on the same engine sounds more like desperation than arrogance. Kickstarter use will wane, but not because it doesn’t work… but because companies who abuse it will continue to blame the fans. This has nothing do with with fans adapting. On Oct 11th, Star Citizen made $1.32m. In one day that game made nearly the entire fund of HR. RSI treats their fans well. Uber pretends they know best.
Stop blaming the crowd and blame the developers’ lack of touch with the real world.
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Thanks for echoing my frustration with Uber’s practices in a nice, well-reasoned article.
First time here but will be following your site more.
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I appreciate the support!
A deep and detailed look at the mess that Uber have created for themselves.
Did a bit of scope myself,but not as comprehensive as you did:
Refreshing to see another muckraker on the prowl for dubious indie crowd-funding projects. Bookmarked your site and faved 🙂
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Thanks for the support! Cliqist has become a daily read for me. Glad you guys are enjoying my stuff.
You may want to update your information due to the updates Uber made to the offline FAQ.
They claim that the internet have more processing power than the PC, want to create another steam like service, want to protect backers exclusive skin from non-eligible people showing off offline while PA backers do not have this service.
Then again, if their statement regarding the internet having more processing power than the PC, PA backers are doomed to have an unsatisfactory PA offline play.
Will there be an offline version of Human Resources?
The initial goal for funding Human Resources will not have an offline version.
– HR will be huge game. There are amazing features and numbers of units not found in other RTS games. (Other games support ~100 units at a time? PA supports 20,000+) This kind of thing takes a ton of PC horsepower. Releasing offline server can make for a very poor playing experience. There’s many computers out there right now chugging along in PA with 10 planets and 20,000 units and if you listen closely, you’ll hear the CPU saying “mercy!”
The internet being “more power than a PC” may be true, but it should have nothing to do with being able to make a great game. My tower is well over 2 years old and not even the heaviest AAA game has the slightest effect on my CPU performance, much less a tiny, indie RTS game. A game like Star Citizen has more polygons in a single ship model than Planetary Annihilation has on a whole map, and it’s certainly not offloading any processing to their own servers.
The only reason a game is ever “online only” is to make more money. The only reason why a game SHOULD be “online only” is if it’s an exclusively multiplayer game. Otherwise, it’s a good way to shoot yourself in the foot.
While I see how it is a excuse to monetize people with online only, I find it hard to believe that a internet connection that can support 1-10Mbits actually have more processing power than a CPU that can handle millions or billions of instruction per second.
Where the internet speed is still in Mbits in general, CPU has gone to the Giga instruction per second. I am at the impression the biggest load for such game will be the graphic card, trotting that much processing power to the internet connection and claiming that is better than offline seems unreal to me
You’re more or less correct about that. However, streaming technology has brought us to the point where a server can handle most of the processing, then stream to another source. Steam is actually capable of this (see: “in-home streaming”), and there are services like OnLive which allow you to play hefty AAA games from something as simple as a smartphone.
However, it’s not really what Uber is talking about. What they propose, is that each game you play is hosted on an external server. So all of the unit movements and calculations are performed on their own servers, while your computer only handles the graphical processing. This is much like how MMOs and other multi-player games are run. It “can” help to offload some of your computer’s processing needs, but that depends on both a fast internet connection, and a reliable connection to Uber’s servers which must also be robust to say the least. I’m certainly not seeing it as a way to save money on their part, unless they are actively charging for the server use. Which translates to sales of cosmetic items and DLC. If they enforce online-only control, then they can get away with charging for items already found in the source code.
But the main problem with enforcing “online-only” play with a game which should be an easily single-person played RTS, is that it puts a timer on its longevity. If Uber’s servers go down, there’s no longer any way to play the game unless someone puts up a new server in its place. If private or offline servers aren’t available for a game that isn’t an MMO, it’s guaranteed to expire, especially if the original operating studio does.
Sorry for having no knowledge about the in home streaming stuff.
I did a quick look around and see the fastest streaming server is
Intel Core i7
3930K or 4930K
(6 x 3,20 GHz)
There may be better server out there but that is what I can find on the moment
Assuming that the internet speed is not a problem, if 60 games are in that that area clamoring for the server support, then the server have to divide its distributing power to these 60 games and left with 0.32 GHz processing power???
How does that even compare with the processing power of of the local PC? Unless like you said Uber is actively charging for their server to host a lot of server. But that cost for server maintenance all over the world will be huge.
Funny how a small developer take that route when even EA and blizzard have problems with their sim city and diablo 3
Aww, out of threading! My concern is what the Kickstarter and the desire to do an EA style server side assisted game says about Uber. The infrastructure to support thousands of players isn’t cheap, and if they’re not charging a monthly fee then it’s not going to bring in new revenue every month. Their Kickstarter made it obvious that they weren’t running it as a way to gauge interest, but that they actually needed the money to fund it.
So on one hand they have their hat out asking for money, but then the other hand is patting me on the head while telling me to put trust in their servers being online forever.
Well, either way… it’s done as of a few hours ago. I’ve got a final HR post coming down the pipe. I was pretty active on the PA reddit the other day, even got JAbles to respond. We’ll see if they actually learned from their mistakes.
Miss out “is true”
Then again, if their statement regarding the internet having more processing power than the PC is true, PA backers are doomed to have an unsatisfactory PA offline play.
PA is by no means that heavy a game. It certainly doesn’t take the sum power of the internet to run it. It’s a matter of them wanting to suck money from you with their micro-transaction store. If you bring the game offline entirely, someone will find how to easily unlock all of the commanders available, rendering their cash shop pointless. Which is fine by me, because the cash shop is nothing more than a money grab in an incomplete game.
Speak the truth brother!
I’m surprised no one has accused PA of purposefully deceiving users, taking advantage of their technological ignorance.
I’ll fix that.
Uber is an immoral, deceptive company that lies through its teeth to try to get away with more greed.
There, it’s done now.
If you know anything about technology, the whole “PA has to be powered by the internet!” is just ludicrous. Not only is that not going to be true in any way, but it sounds like a horrible idea in the first place. Even worse, is the fact Uber won’t be around for long. There is no way they can keep scamming people with unfinished products. At some point, enough people will catch wise that the money will dry up. What they are trying to do is immoral among gamers. If only they knew what all this meant, we would be free of DLC crap and Micro-Transactions. Maybe then developers would finally do what is right and fair.
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