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 game. CU 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.