13 February 2012

Why my opinion matters

No, this is not a long overdue explanation for this blog. It's about an irritating article by Marsh Davies on Eurogamer. He thinks we, consumers, have no right to opinions.

He was apparently annoyed (like many assholes on the internet I noticed) by the recent campaign to play HL2 and get Valve's attention, with the hope that they will maybe release Episode 3 in our fucking lifetime.

Look, there's an unspoken contract between players and developers. It's not just "lol they not buye your're gayem xD". The devs are investing money into something for years, and for all they know, it may turn out to be a complete waste because no one pays for the game. The players are investing money into a product, and it may turn out to be a complete waste because the thing is unplayable tripe. Either side is taking a leap of faith. Either side of the relationship calls for lots of trust.

Now, when you are lucky enough as a developer to build a strong fanbase which likes the thing you do, there is one very important thing which you must absolutely not fuck up: Keep making those games. Those guys love you, because they love the games you made. They'll buy whatever else you make, because they expect more like them. This doesn't mean you literally have to make clones of the same game- but do fucking learn lessons, and don't forget the things that made your games good. If you were prized for originality, don't start making uninspired shovelware! If you were prized for complexity and respect for the player's intelligence, don't start making idiotic, casualized games that betray deep contempt for the player.

What if you don't? Your fanbase might leave you. You reputation will be hurt- many will buy your games expecting, rightfully, something of similar qualities to what you've made before. They will, again rightfully, feel cheated. And then, when your audience likes one kind of game, and instead you make another, there's just nothing to keep them interested anymore!

Sure, you may get a new fanbase, which likes the games you make "now". You better damn well hope that you do, because the one that liked you for the games you made "then", sure as hell won't be pleased.

With regard to Valve: They should be happy the players whine about Episode 3. How often is it that a business has consumers tell them, "just make us this product, and we'll happily throw lots of money at you"? No lengthy design process, no uncertainty, no agonizing market research. It's a million dollar idea, delivered right to your inbox, just waiting to be capitalized on! Valve is free to say, "thanks, but we don't feel like making a product guaranteed to turn huge profits and enjoy great success", of course. Their loss. But I can't fathom how anyone would fault fans for saying, "if you made a game like this, we'd totally buy it, just saying". For fuck's sake, they're doing Valve a favor!

The Eve Online reference? Entirely out of place. MMOs are a continuing service. If I'm paying you money for a service on a continuous basis, you damn well have an obligation to render me that service. The player complaints were perfectly justified- the company decided to start being obnoxious assholes and charge outrageous prices for cosmetic items, the players said, "hey, you better stop trying to be obnoxious, or you'll lose us, your customers". They listened, the customers didn't leave. Happy ending!

DDoS attacks? Sure, they're a bit of a stupid way to voice your enthusiasm and support for a developer's work. But that said, it wasn't a case of them "not being seen as working hard enough", as Marsh so grossly understates. First off, Notch was literally taking more than every other day off on vacations, and he'd then go and gloat about it on his blog. It's not that people though he could work harder- he barely worked at all. Second, while you may question the wisdom of such payments, the purchases of early Minecraft were not as is. Perhaps legally they were, but Notch heavily implied if not outright stated and the customers all understood that they were paying for ongoing future development of the game. And then Notch decided he didn't care about that ongoing future development. Buyers were not reimbursed. You honestly think Notch was in the right? Sure, they were gullible, and they got scammed. But saying Notch had every right to be lazy is blaming the victim no matter what you say, and you'll only fool clueless chums who weren't there to see the thing unfold throughout 2010.

I guess linking to poorly-written forum threads passes for investigative journalism nowadays, but again, what's wrong? The game is for sale at a price. The price is too high. The customers are saying, "if you made it lower, we would buy it". What's the problem? Would you prefer to sit there shaking your head, staring at tea leaves, trying to divine why they're not buying your game? There, they've come out and said why. Go do what needs to be done. What the hell more do you want?

About the Kotaku trash, little needs to be said. But, dear Marsh, pretending people who are joking are serious, and then chiding them for it, is not clever or mature, it makes you look painfully, embarrassingly stupid and out of touch. And second, obviously exceptional events are not a good way of proving a trend, and attempting to do this has a similar effect.

But in general, he is just so, so wrong. Yes, developers do owe me something. They owe me to live up to their end of an unspoken contract. When I buy their game simply because I like their previous game, not listening to critical word of mouth and negative reviews, they don't complain about it, do they? They don't bemoan their reputation that brought them all these customers, who decided to buy a game which, if made by a developer with a bad reputation, they might not have bought (or even heard about). In fact, developers don't complain at all! It's always these sycophantic commentators who feel the need to white knight for the supposedly hurt developers. Fuck you, white knights! I bought the game because I expected something good, like what the developer made before. If they're not delivering on that, I have every right to complain. If I go and tell them, "hey guys, I really like the game you made, please make more like it so I can buy that, too!", you have no right to tell me I'm being "entitled". Exercising your right of free speech, to offer business opportunities, to a company in need of them, is not being entitled. You're a cunt if you say it is.

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