Eurogamer have just published a morality tale which takes the form of a close look at the rise-and-fall of Starbreeze, much in the news for various things (never mind System Shock). There’ s a nice prescient quote from one of the put-upon devs who is labouring under poor management, unwillingness to address underlying concerns, engine viriginity, and all the usual myopia that goes with failed projects:
‘You can’t solve an issue if you don’t admit you have one’.
(Insert your own example or ‘I told you so’ if so inclined, right about now…you know, get it out of the way early on so you feel better later?)
Of particular note are the time-honoured ‘kitchen sink’ whims of management and producers (‘put that feature in, I played this cool game over the weekend’)…engine woes…etc etc. Substitute games for ‘house franchises’ like Thief and subsequent games, and you can see where I’m very obviously going with this.
So let’s say,‘so far, so predictable’.
Of course, the detail may be way off (and it’s very easy to say so) but the axioms tend to ring true. No, it isn’t gloating…it’s concern that not only was a lot not heeded first time round, but it even seems largely to be unheard and unlearned today?
Whilst there seems to have been a good and genuine effort to correct various game issues, I have yet to see a single substantive post from any senior figures regarding the game’s over-riding design failures - which is what they are, let’s not be too earnest - and the over-riding failure to derive useful benefit and lessons from the original games. Never mind the enjoyment of their basic features.
This would provide every bit as much, if not more, goodwill than the effort to correct skewed local game mechanics. I realise there are legal necessities, and faces to be saved, but even so. Aside from early ashen faces at the state of release, and one or two side-swipe ‘because this’ reponses on other forums, there has been crickets on the important matters (not-withstanding Update 2).
True story: years ago when i was in charge of the Technical Author division for a company as it was being bought out by a large multinational, I saw my boss stand up in a conference call and take the flak for an interrim pre-release build that was crocked, courtesy
of a branch of the dev team. The team were reponsible, but he took the flak (and so did I, but that’s another story).
Another morality tale…
We don’t need a deep Japanese bow for forgiveness (or worse) but a bit of good old-fashioned standing up (or posting) from someone senior would not go amiss. Put another way: is anyone actually going to admit to these issues…a pre-requisite it before you can discuss their relative failings, never mind take reponsibility …or are we still in the land of ‘small team, limited budget, not-steering-expectations-as-much-as-we-should-have’?
That’s a pointed point, I know, and for good reason. It doesn’t pass the smell test, to use a phrase.
…or is that not how it works these days? I’m curious, because it’s been a while now, and it’s hardly going to prejudice people against the game. We don’t need the full Mueller-esque Gamasutra, just someone who is prepared to stand up, at some point, and face underlying facts. The failed release is a fraction of the game’s failure as a whole.
(It’s easy to do a ‘well, it was like this’ years later when the coals are cold).
As before, grovelling apology is not being asked for (at least by me and other old hands here) but a bit of truth-telling beyond the usual platitudes. Is anyone going to address the overall design failures without resorting to the life-boats we’ve already seen lowered? And to avoid the personal aspects, it might be the senior collective tier as a whole, if someone can round-up a few thoughts.
Personally, I’d be happy with ‘yeah we got the design all wrong’ or ‘lost sight of’…but down-sizing it to ‘it was a bad release’ is always going to leave a bad taste with the vast majority of people who have issues with this game.
After reading all the forums connected with this game (and those frequented sometimes by some of the devs) it’s very clear that the game’s design, lack of vision and connection and to the originals, is still the main thing.
Odd, but what this Underworld needs is daylight.