A former developer at Ubisoft and current developer at Capybara Games, Charles Randall, decided to blame “toxic gamers” for developers not being more open and talkative about game development. He went on a Twitter rant about how gamers are the reason we can’t talk about game development.
In his rant Randall states…
“… gamer culture is so toxic that being candid in public is dangerous. […]
“Any dev who talks candidly about the difficulty of something like that just triggers a wave of people questioning their entire resumé.
“Questioning” here being an absurd euphemism for “becoming a target of an entire faction of gamers for harassment or worse.” … while I’d talk candidly about certain big topics right now — I know doing so would lead to another wave of assholes throwing shit at me. (And of course I face almost nothing compared to women/PoC/lgtbq+ folk)
“But here’s the rub: all the stuff you ever wanted to know about game development would be out there if not for the toxic gaming community. We *love* to talk about development, the challenges we face, the problems we solve, the shortcuts we take. But it’s almost never worth it.”
So “toxic gamers” were the reason Ubisoft couldn’t candidly talk to the community beforehand about Assassin’s Creed: Unity launching unfinished, bug-ridden, and broken? How does that even work?
Randall is definitely wrong about why gamers get angry, and there are plenty of examples that highlight why the outrage occurs; most times it has to deal with a lack of honesty rather than a developer wanting to talk candidly.
For instance, a perfect example of how wrong Randall is comes from none other than No Man’s Sky. Everyone was psyched for the game and hung onto every word Sean Murray had to say. However, the backlash, the anger, the rage, and the review bombs all came spilling out when they realized that a lot of what was talked about ahead of release wasn’t necessarily what made it into the release version of the game. In on case Murray insinuated that multiplayer would be present in the game…
Thank you Crowcat.
Multiplayer was not present in the full version of No Man’s Sky at launch. A “lite” version of multiplayer made it into the game… a year later.
It’s not that gamers were just ready to rage and tear Murray apart, it was that they felt lied to and that Murray wasn’t upfront and honest about No Man’s Sky from the get-go.
Hey, look, talk all you want about your game but just don’t lie to people about it because they will get pissed.
Another example is the upcoming Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. Gamers have become incensed at the idea of a $60 game having cash shop microtransactions to boost XP, unlock rare items via loot crates, and stack your army by purchasing AI companions.
Eurogamer asked Shadow of War’s design director Bob Roberts why put loot boxes into a $60 game at all. Here is what Roberts had to say…
“Yeah, in the game you earn resources at a regular pace and the systems are tuned to that so you don’t need another option. At the same time, it’s there as a player choice. It’s there, from my perspective, for people who are protective of their spare time and scared when a massive game comes along that they’re not getting to see the full experience.”
That is a lie.
You see, people hate being lied to. It’s not about a player’s choice and it has nothing whatsoever to do with people who are “protective of their spare time”. If Monolith Productions (and by proxy, Warner Bros. Entertainment) were so concerned about people not having time to grind through their game, why not just allow them to use cheat codes to get what they want when they want it, just like games used to do before microtransactions became standard?
Eurogamer wasn’t going to ask that question and Roberts was never going to answer, but he sure was going to talk around and about, deflecting from the fact that bad practices like microtransactions in $60 AAA titles is just one of the many reasons gamers get peeved. Things are always made worse when developers want to soapbox about design philosophies on public platforms while skirting issues, deflecting from questions, or talking down to their potential customers as if they can’t see the shoes standing by the lever behind the curtain working the “magic”.
Randall, however, is convinced that gamers are simply toxic and being fed lots of misinformation about the way the industry works, especially by those pesky YouTubers. He mentions at the bottom of his rant…
“I did a public talk a couple weeks ago to a room full of all ages kids, and afterwards, a kid came up to me and was talking about stuff. And I shit you not, this kid (somewhere between 13-16 I’d guess) starts talking about how bad devs are because of a youtuber he watches. He nailed all the points, “bad engines”, “being greedy”, you name it. I was appalled.
“[I] did my best to tell him that all those things people freak out about are normal and have justifications. I hope I got through a bit. But I expect he went back to consuming toxic culture via youtube personalities, and one day he’ll probably harass a dev over nonsense.”
So first all, “being greedy” is an issue… see the example above about Shadow of War.
- I would love for someone to justify why that feature isn’t greedy after the team spent time and energy implementing an elaborate cash shop when all of that could have just been implemented via a cheat system?
- I would also love for someone to explain why paying for maxing out your character levels in various games via DLC isn’t considered greedy?
- Is there a justification why people can no longer use codes to max out their character level and instead have to pay not to play the game they paid for? Is that not a monetary practice that fits the very definition of being greedy?
How about Street Fighter X Tekken with the disc-locked content? Was that not a bad practice locking 12 characters behind a paywall after they were already completed and stored on the disc before it went gold? Was Capcom’s response of attempting to get gamers to rat out the hackers who were playing with the characters on Xbox Live ahead of their unlock date just “talking candidly”? Were we supposed to bend over and say “Ouch” and “Thank you”?
There’s even a Wikia list that tracks the occurrence of disc-locked content for those of you who were interested in games that had (or currently have) substantial amounts of DLC locked away on the retail disc that requires payment to access.
Randall attempts to hoist gamer culture as the reason developers can no longer talk lovingly about their craft, even though in reality all of this rage and anger and uproar from the community usually spawns first from the bad practices exhibited by publishing studios.
- Whose fault is it when gamers ask honest questions on social media and get the runaround because PR have to protect the shareholders’ interest?
- Whose fault is it that when gamers pepper developers with questions on forums that they have to deflect and deter because publishers have a monetary model in place that they know won’t go down well with the public if they discuss it honestly?
- Whose fault is it that when gamers are inquiring about missing features in new games that used to be standard in past games — like dedicated servers and server administration tools — they’re told that the newer and less reliable features are “optimized” for the player experience even when it’s not?
- Why shouldn’t gamers get angry when they’re being sold shoddy features and then told that it’s done for their own good?
- How did the faults of corporate culture become the fault of gamers?
This does nothing but make Randall’s argument both dishonest and a deflective case of sophistry.
Would anyone really call Bethesda’s VP of marketing, Pete Hines, taking to Twitter to talk about the Creation Club an “honest discussion”? Was that really something you would label as a developer willing to talk openly about something that many gamers were leery about from the start? And did it really assuage the concerns? Not really, no. Did it resolve the bloatware issue? Nope. Did it address the fact that it’s made managing mods more cumbersome than before? Nope. And most importantly, did it make people stop review bombing Fallout 4? Heck no.
The issue, of course, isn’t that the Creation Club exists, it’s that Bethesda wasn’t honest about why it exists. It’s a cash grab and it’s as simple as that. People are (rightfully) angry that Bethesda has used PR-speak to talk around and about as to why the Creation Club exists. I can’t even believe anyone would need this explained to them.
There are countless other examples of studios supposedly being “open” about development, when in reality the platform is oftentimes being used to deceive gamers with demulcent soothe-saying and redirection.
With all that said, gamers love hearing about game development. What gamers don’t like is being lied to and they don’t like being deceived. As Gabe Newell once said…
“One of the things we learned pretty early on is ‘Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the internet – because they will catch you”
TL;DR: Randall is wrong, and he’s venting because in reality gamers love to know more about game development and the openness of it, but they absolutely hate being lied to or given the run-around with hackneyed PR-speak, backpedaling, false promises, and goal-shifting blame-games.
(Main image courtesy of CEC Military)