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 Post subject: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoilers
PostPosted: February 8th, 2011, 11:02 am 
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The neologism "meta-spoilers" is intended to get after that peculiar issue common to both game developers themselves and hardcore game fans: nostalgia for the path not taken. For game developers it is a constant companion, sometimes threatening to grind game production into endless series of retrenchment, feature creep, muddled design, etc.
But because I am pursuing a policy of open development, modeling after the pioneering work of Mount & Blade's development and current peers like Wolfire, this also applies to fans. I think open development is absolutely the best policy for small developers, and might actually do some big developers quite a lot of good as well, if they could only wrest their freedom to speak to fans back from their marketing departments. But there are some downsides as compared to the traditional model.

Meta-spoilers don't even require knowledge of the game development while in progress. I know a lot of people who appreciate Half-Life 2 very much, but have effectively meta-spoiled themselves by perusing that Raising the Bar book once too often... a game that triumphantly exists is overshadowed by the knowledge of what might have been. And quite honestly I have exploited this very dynamic explicitly with my Design Reboots.

Open development means sharing the heartbreak. In the coming months my posts will not be lying to you--if I discuss ideas here, or post concepts, or respond to a suggestion with "hey that's a really good idea" I am not blowing smoke if it doesn't end up in the game. Rather, it's just a part of how games happen, or get caught in an endless loop like Duke Nukem Forever's original development cycles. There's no way out from that trap. At some point the game must collapse down from the more attractive, purely hypothetical realm of possibilities into a finite game that actually is.

I am really looking forward to people getting to know what's been inside my head for a year or more, but I thought this should be said first.

Also, with some mulling it over, I will be posting devblog updates to Design Reboot, rather than spinning off into yet another page to maintain (and sooner than later stop updating as a result). All posts will be tagged, so a simple filtering will allow you to view exclusively the development updates.

blog update version of this post


Last edited by gauss on February 12th, 2011, 12:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 8th, 2011, 5:08 pm 
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Don't worry gauss, as long as this game ends up being the World War II FPS with gunswords and glowing armor we're expecting I think we'll all be happy. If you can't find time to add the in-depth gameplay that the tactical string deserves then I guess one of us will just have to mod it in on release.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 9th, 2011, 5:40 am 
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It's gonna be on the source engine amirite?


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 9th, 2011, 5:49 am 
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giant nude marcus fenix model


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 9th, 2011, 8:21 am 
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It's the anti-FPS right? Where we play as a disabled black lesbian dwarf in a wheelchair fighting American imperialism, the patriarchy, the cisgender and white privilege through pacifism. At the climax Gandhi appears walking hand in hand with Dr King and Nelson Mandela. They high-five and Indian music begins as we break into one of Shah Rukh Khan's numbers from Om Shanti Om. The training mission consists of virtual volleyball with the balls having the faces of the Pope, Dubya, Queen Victoria, and for some inexplicable reason, Christopher Hitchens, on them.

If you complete it on the hardest difficulty setting an easter egg appears. It consists of a fighting game with only two characters. Noam Chomsky vs. Thomas Carlyle.

[]

(looking forward to this, whatever it is)


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 9th, 2011, 10:25 am 
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special voicework done by DIMITRI ZYNTYNSKY, hotshot broadway producer and movie star who lives down at the bistro at the beach


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 9th, 2011, 10:35 pm 
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I just downloaded Raising the Bar after reading your post.

I doubt people will be as dissatisfied with what comes of your project as compared to HL2, but much of the disappointment with Raising the Bar came with the fact that alot of what was in that book really was much better than what was in HL2 in the end- or, much of that cut content would have deepened the experience, putting aside how a number of basic gameplay issues were what made HL2 considerably less than HL1. (IE the mediocre AI, the weapons selection, the physics puzzles etc.)

Try to avoid cutting things that honest to god would make the game much better in the long run is what I'm saying. There's obviously a difference between that and cutting useless elements. Look at the sheer number of enemies in HL2 that were cut when the shallow enemy selection was another problem in the long run.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 10th, 2011, 12:20 am 
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you know what really wobbles my bobbles is how outside of like, this forum and ycs i guess, hl2 is just utterly sacrosanct. it's not that amazing a game. but i mention this at uni and everyone looks at me like i'm a space alien, from space


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 10th, 2011, 2:03 am 
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it is literally "point gun and shoot" without anything beyond that, not even sights. the enemies are all very basic and dull except for headcrabs which are more of an annoyance though, for your crowbar to finish off. the story however, i feel is pretty good for a videogame


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 10th, 2011, 2:32 am 
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alcoholist wrote:
you know what really wobbles my bobbles is how outside of like, this forum and ycs i guess, hl2 is just utterly sacrosanct. it's not that amazing a game. but i mention this at uni and everyone looks at me like i'm a space alien, from space

yeah its strange because i got much much more value out of the SDK and other projects that used the engine. when i bought hl2 silver package back in 04 i actually downloaded both hl2 and hl source, played like an hour of hl2 then played hl:s all the way through. i still think it was a good idea to do so. (of course later on I played through hl2)


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 10th, 2011, 3:17 am 
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i actually got half-life2 as a boxed copy. in a big box and everything, like they used to do

it was amazing at the time, but it's pretty much subpar by modern standards


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 10th, 2011, 7:37 am 
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orikae wrote:
i actually got half-life2 as a boxed copy. in a big box and everything, like they used to do

it was amazing at the time, but it's pretty much subpar by modern standards

My dad didn't want to buy it through steam and bought a boxed copy, it cost him about 20 dollars more (Australian retail price of games is really high compared to the US) and didn't include everything I got (the silver pack was every valve game up to that point and a preorder for day of defeat: source). He popped the install disc in and was told he needed steam. Then it installed, then decrypted, then asked for the disc to be in the tray while he played. Talk about owned.

At least valve later managed to get the cd check removed so it just functioned like the steam bought copies. The experience soured him to the whole idea of steam. To this day he won't use it.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 10th, 2011, 10:51 am 
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alcoholist wrote:
you know what really wobbles my bobbles is how outside of like, this forum and ycs i guess, hl2 is just utterly sacrosanct. it's not that amazing a game. but i mention this at uni and everyone looks at me like i'm a space alien, from space


I don't know about that. I've run into plenty of people who say HL2 was highly overrated. Even if you really do love the game, I find it hard to see how you can't admit it is sorely lacking in certain areas that made HL1 what it was, like the diversity of enemies and weapons.

HL1 on the other hand, I've run into virtually nobody who's called it overrated. Well, I guess just one friend of mine who couldn't get into it for some reason, but that's about it. And it's not like that game wasn't without flaws either. Most people will readily admit the later Xen sequences got pretty lame, like the factory.

HL2 has one of the best atmospheres in a game that I've ever seen, hands down, and I'm glad they went a route much different than in the beta (the generic "dark" unreal-esque atmosphere)- though atleast, it would have been nice to incorporate some of that into the final product as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 10th, 2011, 10:54 pm 
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Meta-spoilers are an unfortunate product of game development. For developers I think the important thing is to realise that the game must go on and can't sucumb to scope creep. For fans, the important thing is to realise that any idea that were dropped were left out for a reason. If you're doing all this in open development hopefully having those channels open can help people realise this. When a feature is dropped you can explain to the fans why it was dropped, and hopefully through your explanation they'll accept it and move on. Similarly if you start looming on feature creep and pushing back the deadline you'll have a group of armchair developers here to scold you.

Looking forward to seeing something about this game, I'm interested in seeing your research-backed, 'know thy shit' game development philosophy in action.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: February 15th, 2011, 4:05 pm 
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I don't know what amazing FPS games you guys have been playing, but I find it hard to put HL2 in the "subpar" box. It's not perfect, but it's not a bad game, and the amount of polish that went into it and the episodes is pretty much unmatched.

Quote:
the mediocre AI, the weapons selection, the physics puzzles


I just don't see this. The AI wasn't appreciable worse than than in Half-Life, they didn't have the two experimental weapons that HL1, but give you a Gravity Gun instead, and Physics puzzles were a huge step up from the jumping and "press butan" puzzles of Half-Life. The setting of HL1 is hard to beat, but Eastern Europe was at least novel for the time. Maybe because the basic gunplay hadn't really changed from HL1? There certainly weren't leaps and bounds in that department, most was in characters than didn't look like malfunctioning robots and acted almost sort of like normal people.

Raising the Bar didn't spoil the game at all for me. Maybe if the end product had been really disappointing, or they had proposed sweeping gameplay changes, but most in the book was some change in the order of how things played out, and ideas that were tested but didn't work for them. I think seeing what was cut and what stayed is certainly helpful, it certainly wouldn't make me bash a game. I think some transparency there is good.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: March 10th, 2011, 3:24 pm 
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SamC wrote:
Raising the Bar didn't spoil the game at all for me. Maybe if the end product had been really disappointing, or they had proposed sweeping gameplay changes, but most in the book was some change in the order of how things played out, and ideas that were tested but didn't work for them. I think seeing what was cut and what stayed is certainly helpful, it certainly wouldn't make me bash a game. I think some transparency there is good.

Yeah hearing about how Dead Space was originally gonna be even more like SS2 with being able to go back to different decks and Necromorphs had a dynamic spawning system was really cool, but it doesn't make me think less of the game or anything


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 7:28 am 
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One thing I noticed in the blog post was the call for devs to "wrest their freedom to speak to fans back from their marketing departments."

There are a couple of things about that though. One, familiarity breeds contempt. I know about Gabe Newell's knife collection, and despite having never met him call him by the diminutive (lol fat joke) Gaben. And at this point I've got absolutely no awe of him despite his making Half Life. Same goes for Lord Shittish and his house full of secret passages and his trip to space. Even though Ultima owns, stuff like this would completely ruin my ability to respect him if he were a lesser man: Image
There are a few exceptions. Actually Lord British is one, since he's cool as a cucumber. Also because he blew all his money on going to space, then sued the guys who made Tabula Rasa for saying that he had resigned and got all his money back. And the game was shit so their company basically paid him to make a bad game and go to space. Owned. Also, he's a modest, reasonable guy with piercing insight into games and and understanding of what research is. Warren Spector is another, since I loved Deus Ex and Thief and I like how he's also a modest, down to earth guy with piercing insight etc. But mostly, it's about contempt when it comes to devs actually opening their mouths about anything.

Even if a dev can keep their personal life out of their posts on messageboards (fat chance), you've still got the fact that a lot of people who make videogames are retards. Take a look at David Gaider, who started poisoning the well even before it was obvious that Dragon Age 2 was one of the worst games of all time. He had no business talking directly to fans. It was incredibly stupid, and while his NOT talking to fans wouldn't have made Dragon Age 2 any less of a trainwreck, at least I wouldn't blame him personally for it.

Now obviously a lot of marketing departments suck. Bioware's certainly does, as did Activision's when they decided to pay to get a kid named Turok, or any of a number of PR clusterfucks. But a good marketing department can make it so only the message gets out, and make it so the message is actually a strong one. That is a huge deal. And unfortunately it can mean muzzling retarded devs.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 8:36 am 
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I find myself disagreeing with you about almost everything here.

Liesmith wrote:
One thing I noticed in the blog post was the call for devs to "wrest their freedom to speak to fans back from their marketing departments."

There are a couple of things about that though. One, familiarity breeds contempt.


This is simply not true. You don't hold your friends, for example, in contempt.

Liesmith wrote:
I know about Gabe Newell's knife collection, and despite having never met him call him by the diminutive (lol fat joke) Gaben. And at this point I've got absolutely no awe of him despite his making Half Life. Same goes for Lord Shittish and his house full of secret passages and his trip to space. Even though Ultima owns, stuff like this would completely ruin my ability to respect him if he were a lesser man: (picture)


("Lord Shittish", really? Are you trolling here and did I just take the bait?)

You don't need to be in awe of a developer in order to appreciate his stuff, you can have a reasoned and civil discussion with someone and appreciate his games. As a pen-and-paper RPG gamemaster, I do not expect my players to be in awe of me in order to play my games. I do not need a marketing department to speak for me. I do not need it even when running a LARP with 100 players.

Liesmith wrote:
Even if a dev can keep their personal life out of their posts on messageboards (fat chance), you've still got the fact that a lot of people who make videogames are retards. Take a look at David Gaider, who started poisoning the well even before it was obvious that Dragon Age 2 was one of the worst games of all time. He had no business talking directly to fans. It was incredibly stupid, and while his NOT talking to fans wouldn't have made Dragon Age 2 any less of a trainwreck, at least I wouldn't blame him personally for it.


Was this the same David Gaider who wrote a really articulate defense on sexuality in DA 2? I haven't played the game (have no interest in fantasy really) but I did applaud his post on the matter. I have no idea what else he has written though.

Even if I agreed that "a lot of people who make videogames are retards" I'd still say that probably most are not, and they will only benefit from engaging directly with people who play their games. Of course, one could also say that a lot of people who play videogames are retards, but one learns to ignore retards on the internet pretty quickly, or at least respond to them in a civil manner.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 9:06 pm 
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Sorry I had missed your post on this Liesmith, lot of interesting food for thought. I generally consider myself a private person, and I have a lot of respect for intensely private artists/authors/creative types that keep the work squarely in the public light and themselves out of it. Cormac McCarthy's near pathological aversion to interviews would be a good example, but I really wonder how well that scans in this industry.

I suppose the call for devs to wrest information control from marketing departments is intended as a good conduit for dialogue/feedback about the game and less so for personal fluff pieces, and yeah ideally we're talking about someone who knows how to keep, uh, "on message" in the loathsome parlance of our times. I mean I hope this whole forum of mine isn't one endless mistake? Anyone from YCS knows me as "that game dev that spoke bitterly and frankly about the shitty game he worked on." I didn't do it as a way to assuage blame, at least not primarily, but moreso because as someone who has maintained a free dialogue about just about everything with friends of mine on the internet, including other professionals through sites like polycount (best there is for 3d artists), I can barely conceive of another way to operate.

Dare: "familiarity breeds contempt" is a pretty well acknowledged universal idiom but varying degrees of applicability and while it may or may not be fore your friends, I think his point is well made in terms of developers and their public personas. CliffyB is someone I have met and seemed a fairly stand-up guy, but he endlessly gets raked over the coals for the various decisions he's made in being the public face of Epic. Granted that's a really huge company these days so that's an extremely high visibility we're talking about, so the attendant potential for it souring I think is commensurate (what a nasty sentence that is but there it lays).
Those tomatoes have to get thrown somewhere, I guess? I think it's a helpful concept in terms of realizing how much these things can cut both ways. We love learning things about the soft spoken and by all accounts gentle Markus Persson, aka Notch, but those same bits of info can just as easily get curdled into fuel for ridicule.

Anyway I really welcome thoughts on the matter, it's something I personally wrestle with. Just because it's the only way I know how to relate to the people playing my games doesn't mean it's actually the best course. Thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 21st, 2011, 6:07 am 
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dare wrote:

("Lord Shittish", really? Are you trolling here and did I just take the bait?)

You don't need to be in awe of a developer in order to appreciate his stuff, you can have a reasoned and civil discussion with someone and appreciate his games. As a pen-and-paper RPG gamemaster, I do not expect my players to be in awe of me in order to play my games. I do not need a marketing department to speak for me. I do not need it even when running a LARP with 100 players.

Was this the same David Gaider who wrote a really articulate defense on sexuality in DA 2? I haven't played the game (have no interest in fantasy really) but I did applaud his post on the matter. I have no idea what else he has written though.

Even if I agreed that "a lot of people who make videogames are retards" I'd still say that probably most are not, and they will only benefit from engaging directly with people who play their games. Of course, one could also say that a lot of people who play videogames are retards, but one learns to ignore retards on the internet pretty quickly, or at least respond to them in a civil manner.


I gave myself a day before responding to this because the temptation to troll you was really high and I don't want to shit up poor Gauss' forums. He's already doomed to the contempt of 100000 nerds as soon as he makes a successful game, no need for me to ruin this place for him as well.

Lord Shittish is a pun based on the fact that Richard Garriot calls himself Lord British. I didn't make it up. The fact that he gets called that despite being one of the most admired game designers ever supports the root of my argument: Public figures, especially ones who have to interact with nerd culture, are going to get shat on no matter what they do. Their tiniest flaws will be magnified, and they will be the butt of people's jokes just because they are there. So no, I'm not trolling when I speak of Richard "Lord Shittish" Garriot. I could have mentioned other things, like the ubiquitous Gaben is fat jokes, or the Jade Redmond fiasco around the time Assassin's Creed came out. Public figures are the target of ridicule.

You talk about how, as a DM, you don't need to be the figure of awe. The thing is though, Gaben or CliffyB or Lord British are not DMs. A DM is playing a game with his friends, people who generally like him and want to hang out with him. A lead developer is not a GM. Now, some indy devs can grab on to that DM feeling, so playing Braid I can feel like John Blow or the cave story dude or whoever is sharing an experience with me. But even those people are also marketers, and as marketers I tend to mistrust them. They may seem pompous, or insincere, or too nerdy, but I am quick to notice that and jump on it. This is made far worse when you get a big budget game, where a couple of people stand point for a hundred man team.

David Gaider is an object of contempt. I think he deserves it, but that's irrelevant. You seem to think he doesn't, but that's irrelevant too. I'm not going to argue with you about it, because I've done that in the Dragon Age 2 thread and because it doesn't matter. What matters is that people laugh at him for the things he says, because he isn't careful. He says things without considering them and is dismissive of critics, and people on the internet respond with videos like this (among many others)



or Jennifer Helpler, one of the other developers talks about romance in the game, about how "... we were able to take them in some pretty wildly different directions, from virginal girl next door to crazy up against the wall 'lets have it on right here". and because she's unattractive and talking about sex, and because people smell blood in the water from all the David Gaider hate, you get this video


These are really embarrassing for everyone. I actually love both videos, because I'm meanspirited and they are hilarious. But A good marketing department would have protected both of these devs from this kind of public shaming. Especially Ms. Helpler, who seems like more of an innocent bystander than Gaider does.

Unfortunately, Bioware's marketing is a disaster of bad message and obvious pandering, so you get this:


Now Gauss, I'm not saying you need a marketing department. You take time to explain things more deeply than "button awesome, connected now," you seem to respond OK to criticism, and your blog is cool. Inevitably though you're going to get people who dislike you in a really personal way despite never having met you. Now imagine someone who is startlingly unattractive, or startlingly attractive, or a girl, or someone with really poor social skills, or who is just unrelentingly nerdy. These people get smacked around in places like Games and YCS as a matter of course, and marketing departments are there in part to shield them from that.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 21st, 2011, 7:14 am 
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Liesmith wrote:
Inevitably though you're going to get people who dislike you in a really personal way despite never having met you.


Pardon my glibness, but: Fuck 'em. Any artist worth his salt would, you'd think, be in a position (intentionally or not) where he or she can be very publicly ridiculed. Whether that's while they were working on their piece or when it was after it had been unveiled ought to make little difference. And having committed yourself (Gauss) to making an open project, you're already on thin ice. What if cornerstone-feature X ends up not making it? What if you decide that the project has matured to a point where you can't be as open as you'd hoped you could've been? What if during the open phase you promised X and during the closed phase X was scrapped?

There's no way out of this. Having made this intentional is, at any rate, a sign of bravery which at least I and many others will interpret as confidence. 'Course, we'll expect some follow-through, and that might not come as completely as anyone had hoped. Or it'll go great. Somewhere in between. You'll get praise and flames one way or another. At least the current way (imho), you'll get more praise for the openness (which for a team of one might be very beneficial). It might even balance out in some weird karmic way the criticism you'll get for any dropped features.

/rant


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 29th, 2011, 9:23 pm 
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Liesmith wrote:
familiarity breeds contempt.


Except in the case of Derek Smart, where contempt then turns to awe. Like poor retarded Rocky, punched in the head so many times he doesn't even know he should stay down, Mr. Smart has kept on swinging and it has earned him some degree of respect.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 29th, 2011, 10:02 pm 
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people respect him? i always thought people picture him as the shittiest game developer with anger problems who beats up soda machines. i literally have not heard a single thing close to respect for him


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: April 29th, 2011, 11:11 pm 
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Xavexgoem wrote:

Pardon my glibness, but: Fuck 'em. Any artist worth his salt would, you'd think, be in a position (intentionally or not) where he or she can be very publicly ridiculed. Whether that's while they were working on their piece or when it was after it had been unveiled ought to make little difference. And having committed yourself (Gauss) to making an open project, you're already on thin ice. What if cornerstone-feature X ends up not making it? What if you decide that the project has matured to a point where you can't be as open as you'd hoped you could've been? What if during the open phase you promised X and during the closed phase X was scrapped?

There's no way out of this. Having made this intentional is, at any rate, a sign of bravery which at least I and many others will interpret as confidence. 'Course, we'll expect some follow-through, and that might not come as completely as anyone had hoped. Or it'll go great. Somewhere in between. You'll get praise and flames one way or another. At least the current way (imho), you'll get more praise for the openness (which for a team of one might be very beneficial). It might even balance out in some weird karmic way the criticism you'll get for any dropped features.

/rant


I think on a personal level you're absolutely right. If people don't like you for no good reason, fuck them. But if you are trying to sell people stuff, you want to maximize the people who feel positive about you, and you want to minimize the number of people saying mean things about you. That's where a good PR and marketing department come in.


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 Post subject: Re: Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoil
PostPosted: May 1st, 2011, 12:38 pm 
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Liesmith wrote:

I think on a personal level you're absolutely right. If people don't like you for no good reason, fuck them. But if you are trying to sell people stuff, you want to maximize the people who feel positive about you, and you want to minimize the number of people saying mean things about you. That's where a good PR and marketing department come in.



Thanks again to the both of you. I like how sincerely pointed out Xav's points are, and here above Liesmith gets at the sometimes unpleasant vagaries and nuance of having both a personal presentation to people on the internet simply as a person, which is simple enough, but working on a game as an indie he's right, now it all has a PR dimension as well. If there's a pervasive attitude or thought about a developer, if they can be trivialized into one narrow epithet and dismissed, it can be problematic.
Not that people don't end up in that category sometimes without best efforts, but in the Derek Smart example, his reputation for magically appearing on comment threads and message boards where his games are being blasted and vociferously defending his work is borne of actual behavior that far too many people--potential fans--experience firsthand. I think he showed up on RPS some time back and it was a strange and irritating incursion. Other things are harder to control but what I think he believes is good PR is of course anything but.


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