Something, Something Game News – Pokemon Go: Nintendo’s guide to making money

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pokemonlegs

Welcome to the world of the real.

 

It’s no secret that Pokemon Go has become an earth-shattering success in an absurdly short amount of time. The game was released on July 6th — just one week ago, and it has an estimated 15 million downloads and counting. That’s over 2m a day, and it would be a fair estimate to suggest it will hit 20m by the weekend. It’s already seeing more use than mainstream social media apps like Twitter and Facebook, as well as other top game installs like CandyCrush and Slithr.io, with not only more total active users, but also longer time spent using the app. In just 7 days, it has become the biggest mobile game in history.

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To be fair, you really don't want to "catch" anything from Tinder.

 

From the rampant reports of server problems and security concerns, it’s safe to say that the relatively small-time developer (not for long), Niantic wasn’t ready for the kind of reception it has received. Even in countries where you can’t even officially download the app from the Play, or iOS store, people are still managing to get their hands on installers and running them anyway.

But can you really blame Niantic? I mean, their previous works weren’t exactly unsuccessful, but they were little more than a creative indie team with an interesting geocaching game not entirely unfamiliar next to their Pokemon themed successor (in fact, some clever fellow has figured out how to use it to find Pokemon). Maybe Nintendo weren’t entirely prepared, either. With lackluster sales of the Wii U, it seemed all but likely that Nintendo may be headed towards leaving the hardware business altogether. The dynasty has seen better days and maybe it was little more than an experiment to see if their interests in AR could really pay off.

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Chicks love badges.

Well, we were ready, weren’t we?

As if a flood washed over all of popular media, suddenly everything Pokemon. Perhaps helping as an escape from recent events… well, everywhere it seems… ages ranging from, hell, everyone. Kids to old folks. Hardcore fans of the series, and people who’d never heard of it before.

PTSD afflicted veterans who’d struggled to leave the house…

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Cops hanging out with teenagers…

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And a rainbow of others across so many spectrum. It’s hard to name a demographic that isn’t running around in the streets being more social than one could have imagined while having their faces buried in their phones. It’s fucking incredible. I dare anyone to suggest otherwise.

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pokemonhealth<3

It’s probably a fair assumption that Nintendo is pretty excited about it, too, considering it’s raised their company’s value by well over $10 billion in the past week, and is raking in hard cash at a rate of $1.6 million per day, just on iPhones alone. Worldwide Android data isn’t in yet, but a safe estimate wouldn’t be much shy of 10 million or more. With a dominant user base expected to rise, it’s likely that those numbers will continue their upward trend. For how long, it’s hard to say. At the very least, if Nintendo and Niantic are wise, they will ride this tidal wave and continue to to develop and improve the app with features and content. There’s no denying they have a gem here, and the best thing they can do is exploit it more than a diamond mine in Africa.

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Let the product placement begin...

Just over 30 years after the NES was born, Nintendo has once AGAIN flipped a whole industry upside down. It doesn’t take a psychic-type (ha) to predict there will be a tsunami of clones and imitators. Competitors certainly aren’t about to ignore the rampant success, and you can already see every other kind of business jumping on the bandwagon just to get a taste of that Pokemon money.
Will this instantaneous phenomenon conjure a brighter future for Nintendo? Perhaps. It might be a bit early to say, but it would be foolish to withhold from the grandfather of gaming the benefit of the doubt. Nintendo has never been shy at taking a leap with a new idea, and it’s one of their best qualities. Gaming as we know it just wouldn’t be the same, and it’s on the precipice of change yet again, thanks to the one company who has never been afraid to be the outlier, and will continue to fill the treasured childhood memories of generations to come.

/gameon

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Stay safe, trainers. ;)
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Something, Something Game News – Stop being impressed by 1st Gen VR

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You know what they say, porn has driven the progress of all media. (Really)

Since the launch of the Vive and the Rift, I can’t help but be completely, and utterly unimpressed by the first generation of VR titles. I keep hearing words like “revolutionary” and “immersive” but most of the apps I’ve seen so far are either gimmicky, overly simple non-games, or virtual desktops which merely allow you to look at a screen or screens while sitting in a blandly textured environment. If this is what’s going to pass for quality immersion, we might as well cancel any progress we’re making towards Total Recall or The Matrix-like detail: all we needed was a fucking virtual couch.

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Check it out, bro! I'm sitting on a couch while I'm sitting on a couch!

Seriously. Take off the $600 goggles and think clearly for a second about the quality of these titles: If they weren’t VR games, would they be any good? It’s a question I’ve posed since the inception of this new gear, and every time I ask it of myself, the resounding answer is always, “Dear fuck, no.”

let’s start with the number one most obvious problem with many of these new apps:

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Better hope this VR thing isn't just a fad, then...

If a PC game requires exclusive hardware to run, it is automatically breaking the cardinal rule of PC gaming: everyone plays.

You think League of Legends and Counter-Strike:GO are the most played games in the world because they caters only to the snobby #PCmasterrace crowd? (Of which I often declare myself a member, but that’s not the point) No. You can play these titles on a toaster. Smart developers make games which can run on a wide variety of hardware.

Next, let’s talk about how many of these VR exclusive titles aren’t even games.

It must be a good VR game! VR is in the title!

It’s mostly environmental emulators, and virtual desktops which all do the same thing. Is it possible to die from yawning? A game where you drift about waving at things and counting them is not a game worth buying, but they sell it to you as one because it’s all, OOH! LOOK IT’S IN 3D CUZ YOU’RE WEARING FACE SCREENS! They all just feel like lazy attempts to quickly enter a burgeoning market. This is not even remotely what we should be expecting. Pokemon Snap was more interesting than this, and it still didn’t need awkward face screens.

Even a game like Star Citizen, which is definitely designed as an exclusive PC game for those who are more inclined to use high end hardware… still has no exclusive hardware. It won’t run very well on slower computers, but having a slow computer doesn’t exempt you from installing it. You may need a better computer to play it, but you won’t need an entirely new and separate piece of technology to do so. See the difference?

A VR game that can’t be played not in VR, and doesn’t have anything which requires VR (like room mapping mechanics) is a game which should not only not exist, but should be shunned from the likes of the Steam store. (I know, that sentence was just as painful to write). Make an immersive game, then build VR into it. Don’t pigeonhole your potential audience just to be the first through the door with a new gimmick. What if not as many people are rushing out to buy headsets as you thought? You’ve now forfeited a major share of your own market potential. It isn’t just bad development, it’s bad business. There are far more games out there right now which could lend themselves to VR better than many of the new VR exclusives popping up left and right.

Seriously. Why does this require VR hardware? Why don't I ever have hands?

Take Elite Dangerous for example. It was one of the most played games in the earlier testing phases of the Rift (and likely still is) because it is a visceral, first person game with immersive qualities. It lends itself perfectly to a VR experience, yet doesn’t require face screens. It looks good, feels good, sounds good and does immersion well without pandering to gimmicks. VR fits naturally into a game like this because the game itself is immersive.

So that’s it. Make an immersive game. Implement VR. In that order. If you do it the other way around, you are just ruining market expectations for everyone else. At the price of entry, you’re target audience is people like me who are willing to spend a little extra on their hardware. It doesn’t matter how you price the game, because they had to buy that hardware first. I feel like no consideration is made for that. Your cheap, rushed “game” doesn’t sit right on exclusive, expensive hardware.

Plus, here’s another thing: I already have multiple screens in front of me. I don’t need a $600 device to emulate those screens. If I get a VR headset it’s because I want to feel like I’m IN THE GAME. It could be way more than just a pricey gimmick if developers would hold up on trying to be the first across the line.

/gameon

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Obligatory South Park reference.

Something, Something Game News – Back with a Venture

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See what I did there?

So I’ve been lax for a couple weeks on updating the blog, but I’ve been busy. Here’s why:

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There is water and boats and building and stuff.

I’m not going to gloat and tell you why this will be the most successful kickstarter ever… mostly because I don’t even know at this point. I also won’t be spamming every day for 30 days on this blog. If you’re interested, give it a click, check it out, toss it a buck or 20. Otherwise, I’ll be back to my usual ranting and reviewing as of tomorrow.

Cheers, and as always,

/gameon

Game Review – Starpoint Gemini 2

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Game review – Starpoint Gemini 2
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Little Green Men Games
Publisher – Iceberg Interactive

Release date – 26 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8/10

42islife

Because no space-related article is complete without a Douglas Adams quote.

Starpoint Gemini 2 is the first real *complete* space title to come along since the abysmal launch of X: Rebirth. Having left a considerable gap in the market for the hardcore space-sim crowd, we’ve seen the rise of titles like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous among a few botched attempts like Transverse. Since the closest to completion at this point (yet still quite aways off) is Elite: Dangerous, but has a rather steep point of entry to the beta, your best bet for spacey goodness in a released package at a relatively inexpensive price is Starpoint Gemini 2.

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Expecting a vast, open void of quiet trade routes and peaceful sailing? This is not that game.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Starpoint Gemini 2 is its unabashed density. Space is not wide open and quiet. You will encounter many anomalies, wrecks, asteroid belts, wormholes, ruins and countless hostiles trying to drill you a new asshole — and that’s just while flying from A to B. There’s no dull moment in this universe. Yet, amid the nearly staggering depth and complexity, there is an apparent simplicity to the control scheme. You won’t be doing a lot of dog fighting and navigating, rather you will be angling your ship for better weapon and shield coverage while giving commands for boarding procedures and defense protocols. You are made to feel more like a ship captain than a pilot. This perhaps takes a bit of the “sim” out of the game from the perspective of flying the ship, but adds a lot in terms of commanding one.

This is actually one of the things the game really has going for it. Rather than relying on pure skill and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants speed, the game plays out a little more like an action RPG. You have skills and powerups based on your class, giving you tactical advantages for say, commanding fleets and using boarding parties, rather than just blasting your way in and out of any given situation.

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It's a spacesimactionRPG.

True to the space-sim genre, the title has a fairly steep learning curve in the early game. There’s not a lot of reward for your time spent, and sometimes you just feel vastly under-powered. However, stick with it long enough, and the ratio flips. Suddenly, you are building a fleet around you, commanding a rather devastating ship of your own, and you begin to feel like a force of destruction within the universe. Due to the contentious nature of the many NPC factions, there’s no shortage of wars to be waged or space to conquer even outside of the main story-line.

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The rather detailed and expansive map requires manual exploration, too.

This brings me to the title’s biggest flaw: the campaign. It’s both boring and poorly written. It tries too hard to be compelling with the most cliche revenge-but-deeper-than-you-think-wink-wink played out archetypes imaginable, with long, uninspired speeches from every damn character, which are all horribly voiced. I don’t just mean the acting is bad, either. The audio quality and volume levels vary between EVERY character, and it sounds like there was no direction at all. No one even tried to put a little effect on the voices to sound spacey. As a guy who is actively trying to work in the audio side of the game industry, I am almost offended by how bad the voice work is in this title. If anyone from LGMG reads this: please drop me a line and I will gladly run your vocals through a compressor or something at the very least. It’s seriously bad enough to make me want to give up on the campaign altogether.

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TL;DR, never mind the yawn-worthy VO. The ability to skip has never been more welcome.

Despite the glaringly awful campaign, the game has more than enough to do to keep you interested. You can elect to forego the story altogether and just freeplay your way around its colourful universe. Its ARPG inspiration means menus and contextual system management, while still as complex as you would expect from a space sim, are easily managed and controlled via its well-designed user interface. While it can sometimes feel a little candy-coated, I mean it with the highest compliment that everything just “makes sense.” It’s refreshing to play a space sim with such a simple UI that manages to retain the depth of control I demand. While there is a bit of a learning curve compared to broader reaching titles, it’s not nearly as steep as some of its predecessors.

While it’s hard to compare Starpoint Gemini 2 to some if its competitors (namely Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous) as a space-sim, it manages to set itself apart with its RPG elements and clever UI. It will never match up to the hardcore realism of other titles, nor does it try to. It’s a great entry on its own, and should be a valuable little gem in any space-sim enthusiast’s collection. Here’s to hoping the main campaign and voice work get some attention, because it could be the difference between a great space game, and one of the best to come along in a while.

/gameon

spg2space2

P.S. Space is pretty.

Something, Something Game News – How not to Kickstarter: A Final Word on Human Resources

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My day of reckoning has arrived early, it seems. More than two weeks ahead of schedule, Uber Entertainment has canceled funding to their most recent RTS title, Human Resources. As most of you already know, I called this a few days after the Kickstarter was launched. With shoddy communication, and a lack of commitment to their previous titles, it was no surprise to me that this decision came early.

However, I’m not here to shout “I told you so!” to my critics, but merely to document my experience with Uber and covering the drama. Something to do with journalism and trying look like I know stuff rather than making a lucky guess. Over the last few days, I’ve been active on the Planetary Annihilation subreddit and even received a response from Uber staff. While the future of HR is likely over, Uber may yet redeem themselves.

HRcanceled

Ok, I'll say it just the once: I told you so.

Since I’ve already said as much I’m going to say about Uber’s failure to communicate and lack of realistic concern for their own reputation, I will focus primarily on the last few days of Uber’s push to get more support.

It all started when I got an email from Uber (as a customer of Planetary Annihilation) showing desperation for pledges. Uber’s making one last ditch push. It seemed to work. They actually managed to get their dwindling support to more than 7x what they were getting. But this was already too late in the game. Getting from $5k/day to $35k/day when you realistically need at least $50k/day just to reach the goal line isn’t enough to make a difference. Plus, sticking a limit on $1 donations to prevent dissenters doesn’t exactly make you look good.

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It's not there anymore, but it actually happened. Guess who called them out...

I happened to notice nearly the moment after someone made this decision. As the plucky pot-stirrer that I am, I headed straight to reddit and posted about it. Went right to number #1. Within an hour, they removed the limit.

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Holy crap... does that mean Uber actually listened to me??

It seemed that was finally enough to get Uber to come down from their thrones of ambiguity to actually talk to people and gauge the community. Of course, still too late to come out ahead, but I was actually able to get some dialogue with Planetary Annihilation’s Director of Production, Jeremy Ables. Here’s an excerpt so you don’t have to dig through a long thread:

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pfomega1

nate2

jables1

pfomega2

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See? I can not be a dick sometimes.

Does any of this mean that Uber is actually listening? Well, the “Weekly Discussion” changed within 24 hours of my saying that asking about “anticipated features” should have been a question for beta period. It is now, “What can be done to better balance Naval?” which is a topic the community has been complaining about since well before the game was launched.

So in the very short term, I can say with certainty that Uber is indeed listening. They can’t afford not to. It’s not going to bring Human Resources back to life any time soon, but it may pull Planetary Annihilation out of its abysmal launch woes.

As my last words, I’d like to say that I write this not with arrogant confidence that I was right, but with genuine concern for the gaming industry. While Uber may have learned from their mistakes, I fear others will not, and this trend of developers failing due to lack of touch with their community will continue. I write only in the hopes that my words may inspire some not to follow in their path…Or you know, because it’s fun. Fuck yeah.

/gameon

dangerzonearcher

*drops mic*

Something, Something Game News – Mount & Blade: Captain, it appears we have entered a time warp

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I’m currently working on my Starpoint Gemini 2 review, but I had to pull the emergency brake when I read this news of an old favourite of mine getting new content. I was actually planning on reviewing Mount and Blade: Warband as part of an upcoming “Classic Review” series I have in the works, but it seems I will be able to review this 4 year old title as a new release.

Yes.

Mount and Blade: Warband is getting new DLC.

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I'M ON A MUTHAFUCKIN BOAT!

It’s also everything I hoped it would be. There’s not much more information than these images of dudes in boats, but that’s really all that matters. Years ago, my friend and I talked about how great it would be if M&B had boats. Now, the boats are coming ashore. It’s time to break out the cliches with the bubbly and prepare to spend another 200+ hours in this marvelous sandbox.

According to PC Gamer, Viking Conquest will take place in Norway, Denmark and Britain, will feature a single-player campaign, various multiplayer modes, and BOATS! Did I mention the boats, yet? Are you sick of me saying boats?

Ok, I’m done.

Cheers for this, TaleWorlds and BRYTENWALDA!

/gameon

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Boats.

Something, Something Game News – Human Resources: The Shenanigans Continue

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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.

kwovcbl

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.

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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.

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 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.

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"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?

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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.

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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.

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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!'”

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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.

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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.

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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.

/gameon

brodown

Still relevant, and I'm clearly a South Park fan.