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.

limitercropped

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.

potstir1cropped

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:

nate1

pfomega1

nate2

jables1

pfomega2

pfomeganjables

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*
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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.

lawsuitlol

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.

pameta

 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?

whendoigetthem

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.

gamesareaservice

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.

noresponse

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!'”

bunchomoney

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.

soitbegins

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.

nintendodlc

 

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.

Game Review – Planetary Annihilation

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Game review – Planetary Annihilation
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Uber Entertainment

Released: Sept 5, 2014

Rating – 6.5/10

PAsouthpark

Get ready to spam.

Planetary Annihilation is among the first and second generation of highly successful Kickstarter games to achieve official release status. Unfortunately, unlike it’s generational peer Divinity: Original Sin, I find myself wishing they didn’t release yet. This game does a lot of things incredibly right, but requires more foundation and less superficial to be truly deserving of its early adopters’ expectations. (and money)

PAwinskick

248% extra win.

Let’s start with the price of entry as an early adopter. Those who supported the kickstarter were able to get beta access for $40, but when the game first appeared for pre-release on Steam, it was $90. That’s a steep point of entry for any game. Eventually it was whittled down to $50, but we’re still in the realm of “AAA” prices. If I’m paying that kind of money on a new game for PC, it better be loaded with content. Luckily, I was able to get in several months ago when a bundle site (I believe it was BundleStars) was offering it at $25.

For a beta, I was actually quite impressed. Single player was a bit empty, and there were certainly some features in need of polish, but the core game was there, and multiplayer worked surprisingly well. For $25, I couldn’t complain, especially not for a beta. However, we’ve now passed release day, and I don’t feel like much has changed — except for my opinion of Uber Entertainment.

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Yes. That's $10 for a single item in a game that may have cost you $90.

Where the hell do these people get off having a cash shop in a game for which some paid $90?  A game by the way that has barely changed since I first started playing the early release. It really sickens me when games reduce themselves to this if they aren’t running a free2play model. I paid for the game. Give me all of the features of the game. Maybe bundle them all as one DLC, for $15-20… but cash shops in paid titles feel sincerely cheap to me. You already got my money. Stop asking me for more while I’m playing.

Did I also mention that there’s no way to play this game offline? Yeah, it’s one of those “always online” lobbies, even though you can play through a whole single-player campaign without ever talking to anyone. Anyone else understand why new games are doing this? Me neither.

planetcrasher

But seriously, planets are weapons in this game.

Don’t get me wrong, this game is amazing. There’s no other RTS quite like it once you experience the immense scale of planet smashing.

Many will compare it to old titles like Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, and it does share similarities in it’s style of “spam warfare.” Honestly, its similarity to them is what I consider a bit of a detriment, because it tends to become less about tactics and more about speed and efficiency. I wish base building were a little slower and perhaps required a few more steps in between building super structures.

planetary-annihilation

Everything burns. Everything.

However, all that is left behind when you have multiple planets in a system buzzing with activity. You get a pretty wide array of units at your command able to traverse the varying terrains of each planet. You’ll be building factories, wiping out enemy units, moving around satellites and resources, all while feeling rather omnipotent. Especially when you unlock the deathstar-esque super weapons. If nothing else, this game effectively provides the sense of grandeur you might expect from using celestial bodies as target practice.

bigboom

It was blocking my view.

My biggest problem with this game is how vacant the single player campaign feels after having higher expectations during the beta. At the heart of any good strategy should be a deep, involving single player campaign. Multiplayer works fine in this game, but it gets repetitive and it felt finished a long time ago. When the biggest addition to the official release was a cash shop and a map editor, I was unimpressed.

As a whole, this title gets big points for style. I wouldn’t even say that the game suffers particularly in any area of execution. But it needs tweaking, and it plainly lacks content for how much hype it was getting. Get rid of the cash shop, give me more single player, and let me play offline for fuck sakes. With some significant improvements, (but mostly simple changes) this game could easily be an 8 or a 9.

I like it, but I think it could be much better.

/gameon

buildfactories

P.S. You always should have built more factories.