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 it’s 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.