Quote of the Day – This Cynicism is Inconceivable!

My biggest disappointment with modern internet discourse is that there’s a significant amount of cynicism, especially in forum or reddit debates, and a portion of people assume the worst.

-Chris Roberts, forum post in response to player complaints

This is one of those “irony is dead” moments.

I mean, I’ll give him his “you’re looking at this from the outside” so you don’t know what is really going on, which is true enough.  But that also speaks to transparency.  We’re on the outside looking in, so we depend on what Chris Robert’s and his team tells us.

We are now eight and a half years down the road from the Kickstarter campaign, almost six years past the promised launch date, with a game that is still in alpha, with many promised features not yet available, and which has consistently and repeatedly missed promises.  All the while, Chris Roberts has milked his following for $300 million for a game that hasn’t shipped yet.

In that atmosphere, it seems comically oblivious to bemoan the state of cynicism on the internet when his actions have created a situation where cynicism is the natural, normal response.  Chris Roberts is in a world of his own making.  To whine about people not believing him after he has, to be polite, misinformed people since day one strains credulity.

Yes, I get the optimism inherent in software development, and can wax for pages about why it is more art that science and how almost any big project is built on a foundation of quicksand.  But at some point your optimism starts to work against you.  The people you’re trying to keep with you will get to one blown promise, one missed date, one broken feature too many and will feel the fatigue of the effort of believing.  You will lose their trust, they will turn on you, and they won’t believe any more of your empty statements.  You don’t have to be Derek Smart to figure out that the plan is a lie and that the milestones of progress are mirages that remain firmly fixed on the horizon.

And he cannot stop.  At the end of his post he says:

I can promise you the gameplay I described is not a pipe dream, nor will it take 10 to 20 years to deliver

We’re already more than eight years down the road, so ten years seems like optimism at this point.  How can you even write that and not feel your fingers burn from the self-delusion?

So my gut response to the quote at the top of the page is, “Tough shit!  You made this bed, you sleep in it!”

Seriously, the cynicism is there because he and his team have repeatedly promised people things that have failed to come to pass.  Most people are not stupid enough to keep believing every new promise after so many have been broken.  Some will, because they have invested so much in the projected, financially and/or emotionally, but a rational person will stop accepting things at face value from somebody with a track record like Chris Roberts.

And it isn’t like Chris Roberts is alone in this arena.  I lost my faith in Camelot Unchained earlier this year when Mark Jacobs announced that they were working on another gameCU was already in the years delayed category as well, having also failed to meet many milestones, so credulity was at the breaking point.

Then there was Lord British, who pushed out Shroud of the Avatar and ran, leaving backers with something that didn’t much match what was promised up front, save in the most general ways.

Nearly every crowd funded MMO projected has disappointed and sowed the seeds of discontent along the way.  I am surprised when anybody these days even floats the idea of crowd funding an MMO because it has been proved to be a path to disappointment.

And this is cast against a culture of undeserved hype from the video game industry overall, of over promising and under delivering, of demos that don’t reflect reality, and of reviews where the acceptable score range to keep your site in game company advertising is 8-10 out of 10, that has laid a groundwork of cynicism.  A game developer must sail in a sea of skeptics who will doubt their every promise because so many before them have polluted the waters.

Chris Roberts ought to know this.  He has been in game development since the late 80s.  He should know better.

But apparently he does not.  And so he whines about the unfairness of it all, this cynicism that he helped create.

9 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – This Cynicism is Inconceivable!

  1. bhagpuss

    The thing about that topline quote is it’s actually a nothing statement. In what discourse ever since the dawn of time has there *not* been “a significant amount of cynicism”? How could there conceivably be any situation in which “a portion” of people *didn’t* assume the worst? He’s basically describing all human conversation since the dawn of time. If he means “more than is reasonable” then he should say so. As it stands he’s simply telling us water is water is wet – or perhaps space is cold.

    The irony from my point of view is that although I was never in the slightest bit interested in Star Citizen, when I tried it on one of the free weeks I found it was much, much more enjoyable than I ever imagined it would be. It was at least as good and had at least as much content already as plenty of Early Access projects I’ve played and it was a darn sight more fun than many. I have several times considered buying in to go on playing it and I might yet do so.

    Of course, had SC been launched as a typical Early Access project several years ago it might have avoided a lot of the crriticism it’s received but it would also almost certainly have faded from public consciousness and run out of money. It’s the very controversy of its marketing methods that have kept the media focused and provided the necessary continuing attention to keep the money rolling in.

    I sometimes get the feeling that the only person left who both believes *and* cares that Star Citizen reaches a point where it’s feature complete is Chris Roberts himself. Everyone else would probably either be perfectly happy with what there is already plus the usual ongoing development all MMOs entail or has already written the project off as impossible.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – It is a double whammy for me, both a “water is wet” statement while trying to stake out a position that the internet is so unfair to him personally and that he and his product do not deserve this sort of response. Basically, it is nothing that he has done, it is just the way the internet is and so you can discount it as so much noise.


  3. zaphod6502

    @bhagpuss: I am sure this is a lifetime project for Chris Roberts and will be his final epic before he quantum travels into retirement. So he will probably be in this for the long haul or at least until the project runs out of funds. Given that the SC project continues to generate $3 – $5 million per month and funding has not even slowed down during COVID that could be a very long time if ever.

    As for the cynicism he has criticized the internet for that is the world we live in now and has been like that for a very long time. It’s best he ignores it and continues on with his project. He still has willing supporters with no shortage of funds to throw at the project.


  4. carson63000

    I honestly don’t think I can imagine anything that could be said about Star Citizen which I would describe as “cynical”. Like, I just don’t think the words exist in the English language. Every negative comment you could possibly make sounds more reasonable than cynical.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Asher

    Sometimes great artists need to be told to stop. Chris Roberts has needed a publisher to tell him to publish everytime because his vision always exceeds his budget. The funny thing is that you could give him a billion dollars and he would find a way to exceed that budget. Hell, he may end up raising a billion dollars by the time SC ships at the end of the decade.

    Duke Nukem Forever was a really good game about three times over its release cycle if someone just forced them to go gold but the same thing happened there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Angry Onions

    You’ve gotta love how in the same answer CR explains how they’re changing the inventory system after 8 years making the game. I might be confused, but isn’t inventory system a CORE system of any game, which must be set in stone BEFORE even start coding the game? Who changes the inventory after 8 years -or still doesn’t knows what the inbentory system must do, after 8 years?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kiantremayne

    I put Star Citizen in a very different category from Camelot Unchained. CU is suffering from a serious case of “this shit is hard” – they’re way behind schedule on delivering what they set out to do, and while I’ve every sympathy with backers who’ve lost their patience and asked for refunds, at least they’re still inching their way towards the goal they originally set out, and they’re not constantly selling new flavours of pie in the sky to their backers to rake in more and more money while they do so.

    SC… I can’t even begin to describe it. SC continues to rake in ever more money whilst piling on ever more planned features and pushing the dates ever and ever further out. If you did a “MoSCoW” (Must have, Should have, Could have, Would like to have) analysis on the planned features for Star Citizen you’d be putting some of the stuff they’re working on so far beyond the “W” that they’d be in Vladivostok. I love telling professional project managers who aren’t familiar with games about SC just to see their expressions, because you honestly could not make this shit up. SC isn’t a project – the closest thing I can liken it to is a tumour growing out of control. Never mind ten or twenty years, I can honestly see SC wandering in the wilderness for forty years and Chris Roberts dying out there in the wilderness before someone less visionary but with a basic grasp of project management leads them to the promised land.

    How’s THAT for cynicism?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Asher – The fundraising is a perverse incentive against finishing anything. If you can make money, lots of money, by promising things and never being done, why would you stop? Second, CR must have seen, as many people have, that with a crowdfunded game, there is rarely a big payoff at the end when you ship. It turns out if you take the money up front, that is often the big payoff, the only payoff you get. There are exceptions. Minecraft and RimWorld come to mind. Both got money up front and went on to success after leaving early access. But if you look at Shroud of the Avatar, that went from a lot of fans excited about a vague “ultimate RPG” vision from Lord British to a bit of a turd in the punchbowl. Fans threw money at the former and most walked away from the later, and it remains in dire economic straights with even Lord British having walked away. Exiting early access or alpha or whatever and fans and devs alike walking away seems like a much more common scenario.

    @Angry Onions – There is a truism that the longer you take to implement something, the more likely you are to come up with a better idea or find some tech or solution that closer to what you imagined. At my last company there was a group that was a year away from shipping for five years. There was always some updated bit of tech, a new library, a feature a potential competitor announced, that they needed to add before they would be done. The project was eventually cancelled. But a dozen developers were kept employed full time for five years, so op success for them.

    @kiantremayne – I used to work with a product manager who would ask at the start of any meeting with a vague (or no) agenda what got us all out of the meeting. How do we know when we’re done? Asking that became one of my go-to habits when it comes to products. If you cannot answer that, you’ll never be done. There is no answer for SC.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. kiantremayne

    Interesting point about the crowdfunding being an incentive not to finish. Compare SC to Elite Dangerous, the ‘other’ space game. ED announced about the same time as SC, also raised initial funds through crowdfunding, but delivered a live product in 2014 and has been motoring along with a mix of box sales, paid additional content and a cash shop for cosmetic items ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

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