Flatfingers…I agree with you about trying to second guess what happened, must be maddening if you were there and now you see various stabs at piecing it together. But why are people doing that?
But that’s still not really the point. You’re right when you point to the lack of ‘frank explanation’. That’s being kind. There was more than a casual aversion to letting on what was really happening - perhaps because, understandably, there are legal constraints and you have to put on a brave ‘team-face’ and tough it out. And then, after all, you have ‘names’…even if you don’t have a game, or are losing interest in the originals (too old now? Or too difficult to meet that standard?) . And pride. Then you’re dug-in and realise you have to stick to this fairytale version even though it hurts your moral sense. Maybe. Then it goes too far, and before you know it you’re living an embedded set of shared delusions (or lies, if that’s what you think). Where to draw the line?
All that would perhaps be understandable were it not for the fact that a few of us cottoned-on in realtime, after a lot of digging and questioning (remember the run-upto the Vertical Slice?) and there was the opportunity right there to fess up. I know, because I forced it into the open after getting some explanations (on the forum) from some devs about the various MIAs. As did others.
As I’ve said before, it pretty much all died a death after the first playable version in terms of actual game design. That was the high point, because at that time it was undoubtedly still a UU game.
Then we had a 2 year death-spiral of ‘containment’, nonsense, and a giant house of cards predicated on some never-never land of it all coming together. Difficult, even with a high level of competence. If anyone were in any doubt about the state of the fiasco, then talk of Aellita, Feats, and Social Influencers and water-cooler replay moments let you know pretty quickly that they’d given up, exiting the UU world for silly kitsch and ‘bring your own game’.
Of course, it was more complicated than this, but that’s the gist. They settled for pastiche, flavoured with pale echoes of other game properties, thinking that somehow this usage of generalised mechanics would endear it to a more modern (and less * fuddy duddy purist*?) audience. Which, you know, is what modern games have to do. Well, don’t they…?
I could live with some of this if it had been handled competently, and also they could have found a way to out an iota of the truth. But when give a chance to come clean, it was consistently fudged. Some of this, of course, was legal constraint no doubt…but surely not all (non-contestable…it’s all there on the forum if you were there). None of this is to do, even, with the KS fudging, or subsequent shifting goalposts or general shrugging…or the absolutely squalid treatment of smaller platforms (SMPITA deserves a medal for patience alone).
In other words, there was more known about things than was let on, we can be fairly sure (though I had a single snippet of insiight into this late on, when it was far too late, in fact…and basic decency means not posting a private comment publically). I’m not saying they knew it was crap…I’m saying they knew without a shadow that there were very, very serious concerns about whether anything would come together…and that was even allowing for the fact that they knew what we didn’t know; namely, that whole mainstays of a game like this were not even present, even though they’d said dialog trees and NPCs and similar were out. It was late and partial disclosure of the worst kind (‘we’re telling you now, better late than never’…but even that was only a microcosm).
As for the endless QA debates raging on before and after…it was RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF THEIR BLOODY NOSES within minutes of new info or versions landing that real QA was given…on game-play,look,world, everything. But no, ‘we have great QA set-up, the best,on so many fronts’. All we needed was the red hat. And ontop of that, ‘trust us, we’ve made the originals’. Right, hindsight.
That’s why other forums matter less than this one…because this is where the most useful feedback (ahem, disclaimer) was given, even if it was sometimes tough to take as a dev,and we were demanding in many ways (like asking for a dev presence once they’d said there would be a dev presence etc). But anyone with half a clue about dev could see ultimately (book boom) that the critcism had unity, consistency, and actually cared about the UU games. Those same games that this was a purported sequel to, or ‘re-imagining’ or whethever spritz you want to give it.
So, imagine out surprise when we hear ‘yes, you guys, we’re listening…great ideas…now, how does a more cuddly version of Jar Jar Binks sound, and Feats you can compare with your friends for those special moments?’ Yeah, right, ignore the scream and the mounds of pulled hair and the heads banging into walls, and give 'em some Lara Croft-esque proto artwork. Yes, really. Not once, but 10 times, because, you know, those great external testers we’ve got are just loving it (disclaimer again, I couldn’t test the game).
Flatfingers, to go back to your last point…it’s not a one-off game, it’s also a mentality,and a reflection of management capabilities,and competence at the tecnhical level, as well as ideas. And if there’s anything of that mentality remaining, a similar thing couldwell happen, different team and all. The ‘we’re listening’ stuff can also be queried. Yes, Sam is listening, but who else? Warren at altitude…? Chris? Who, exactly?
No-one likes to be second guessed, but when you ruin a property like UU ground you can expectto be second-guessed, sadly.
When and how all this happened doesn’t really matter much except to a Gamasutra post-mortem, but the morals of the whole thing remain a problem. It’s easy to hunker down in the face of the Steam stuff…it’s so vitriolic that that in itself can become the subject, letting the game off in the process.
It’s this place where the explanations are really due. Sam can only do so much, because she is working from what she’s been told, and arrived after much of the damage was done. It was different if you were here, following on a day-to-day basis. Nothing really adequately explains this mess, yet.