Mark Rein Says Sorry To Cliffski

By John Walker on July 20th, 2010 at 12:12 am.

See, look how friendly he is! Picture from www.thegamereviews.com

Mark Rein has said sorry to Cliff Harris over his comments at last week’s Develop Conference. The Develop website reports that Rein was mortified when he learned of Cliffski’s upset, and has written him an email to apologise. The text of the email is available in full over on Develop. Rein makes it very clear that he does support indies, and that his passion and big mouth got him into trouble. It’s an extremely contrite response, and one in which he makes his motivations for interrupting Harris’s panel very clear, along with explaining how Epic isn’t the enemy of the indie. How has Cliffski responded to this? I’d wager good money he’ll let us know in the comments below.

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56 Comments »

  1. elle pesh says:

    Yay for apologizing, boo for running a games company with absolutely zero self-control.

  2. sinister agent says:

    On the face of it, this certainly seems very proper and respectable. Good show that man.

  3. Metalfish says:

    I imagine Cliffski is going to let this be the end of it, whatever he really thinks. Assuming he isn’t as famous for holding grudges as he is for holding crazy knives.

    • cliffski says:

      You are correct!
      I was very happy with that email from Mark. I didn’t publish it on my blog because I had no idea whether Mark would be happy for me to do that, as it was a private email, but if he’s happy for it to be public, that’s cool and I definitely consider this the end of the matter.
      In retrospect, my angry-old-man persona did take off a bit for my blog post. It was a bit silly of me to drag the whole ‘shades of grey’ joke into an argument over PR techniques, but hey, thats what happens when you let angry game devs talk without the filter of more sensible PR people :D

      I’d rather both me and Mark acted like jerks now and then and got into silly arguments, than the whole world of games was taken up with perfectly worded PR speeches delivered by people who didn’t give a shit, which is how most ‘industry events’ go.
      Now back to coding…

    • Gothnak says:

      You always used to moan like this at Lionhead old bean, don’t stop now! ;)

  4. abhishek says:

    I wonder if Cliffski will consider apologizing to Mark for openly and deliberately insulting him.

    Whether you believe him or not, while apologizing for his bad behaviour, Mark does say that his intentions were misinterpreted and misunderstood. There is no such ambiguity in the blog post.

    • Jhoosier says:

      @abhishek

      I don’t think Cliffski has to apologize for anything. Rein quite clearly states that in retrospect he was a jerk for interrupting. When you interrupt, not matter how well-intentioned, you create a negative impression and Rein’s enthusiasm, or whatever you want to call it, only made it worse. As a PR person, this is basic stuff and he should have been aware of it.

      That said, it seems he was and things should be better. Cliffski doesn’t seem the type to hold a grudge, so now it’s all happy and flowers and we can move on. Looks like Kieron’s looming war between American & British developers will have to wait. Maybe he can put a squid in somebody’s backpack and blame it on the other.

  5. fabamatic says:

    I think you gain much more customers by answering a single email than by stopping to support an entire platform. (Sorry about my broken english).

    • Clovis says:

      I think most of us here are fans of “broken English”. In fact, we’d probably like your comment more if any of the English was actually broken ;-)

    • TeeJay says:

      It’s noticable that even the apology didn’t miss the opportunity for more publicity about Epic’s products.

      “we’ve … been huge supporters of indie studios. We created three Make Something Unreal contests (the latest ones with cash and prizes over a million dollars!) and loaned our technology, and provided support and encouragement, to many indie studios hoping to catch on and be successful. We also created the Unreal Development Kit which indie developers can download and use for free then buy an inexpensive license when they want to start making money with it. We’ve updated it regularly with new features and enhancements. We answer tons of email from small developers and I regularly talk 1-on-1 with them by phone and at events like Develop all over the world.” (also name checks Gears of War and Shadow Complex).

      Is it really necessary to wring every last piece of free advertising out of saying a simple “sorry”?

    • TeeJay says:

      (sorry – don’t know why this appeared here … it is just a general comment not actually a reply to these two posts)

    • fearian says:

      Tee Jay, there is no way he can say ‘We support indie games’ without mentioning UDK.
      As any developer will tell you, epic releasing UDK is one of the biggest things to happen to the games industry in recent years. It allows anyone access to top level professional tools that a massively large portion of the industry uses. The games industry is notoriously hard to gain experience in when your trying to break in, and UDK levels the playing field. Its not just an editor for unreal tournament, its a standalone engine that’s (monthly) on the cutting edge, for free.

      Indie gaming isn’t all lo-fi ludlum dare entries and art pieces – A large portion of it are aspiring programmers and designers looking for AAA experience. As one of them UDK is a godsend.

    • klumhru says:

      To further derail (blame@TeeJay)

      @fearian:
      I agree UDK opened some doors, but there are a couple better alternatives out there if you’re looking for a good engine for indie devs.
      I can still hardly blame him for using every opportunity to promote the product – he IS a PR guy after all.

    • frymaster says:

      the UDK engine isn’t that special, source has had an SDK since forever

      what’s much more important, however, is the licensing unreal released the UDK under, which was astonishingly open and straightforward. Where with source, you have “can release free mods that other people who own the game can use; for anything else, speak to valve”, with UDK you have “can release free games; up-front terms for releasing pay-for games that include only spending $99 until you have over $5000 revenue”

      while I’d argue the 25% cut they take for over $5000 is a bit steep, this enables games that would never have been made to exist

  6. jeremypeel says:

    Aww shucks… why did Mark Rein have to come over all likeable all of a sudden?

    I completely understand Cliff’s intial response and supported him in that, but I’m pleased by the news of misinterpretation coupled with the overwhelmingly positive stuff Rein’s about indie development. I have very little interest in Epic’s games, but when they’re continually responsible for licencing engines for an awful lot of games I love it’s important their hearts are in the right place.

    We can still snigger at his analogy of PR as war, though. Gotta grind the gears of mass media coverage somehow, eh?

  7. Jason Moyer says:

    Publically releasing a private apology decreases the sincerity factor by a considerable amount.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Boom! Headshot.

    • Mojo says:

      He responded to a very public statement about him, though, so I say it’s fair.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Yes, that’s true. I also don’t mean to imply he’s not being sincere, just that it comes off as a covering-ass kind of move.

    • Jad says:

      No, I think this was definitely the correct thing to do. If Rein had posted this publicly after some small private argument between him and Cliffski, that would be one thing. But the incident happened in a public place, and Cliffski responded in a very public way. If they had made up behind closed doors, that would have been frustrating for onlookers, unhelpful for all the other indie developers who where there at the conference, poisonous for Epic’s public image, and would have made it look like both Rein and Cliffski had something to hide.

      What makes me really pleased by his response is that he actually apologizes in it. Way too often we see shitty non-apologies from celebrities where they say “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by this”, or even worse, “I’m sorry that others misunderstood me”. Rein admits that he was out of line, and apologizes for it. Good for him.

      Now: Gears of War 2 & 3 for PC, please?

    • Ozzie says:

      I guess you might call it an open letter? Or open e-mail? Not exactly a new concept…

    • iainl says:

      Just like when a newspaper prints a public apology, it’s the right thing to do here. Rein insulted Harris in public, so a public apology not only says “I’m sorry” to him, but tells everyone who witnessed the original incident that he doesn’t want aspersions cast on Harris’s character. And, in this specific incident, he’s indirectly apologising to everyone who was quite happily listening to Cliffski’s talk at the time.

  8. DMcCool says:

    I like how you got out a nice, smiley Mark Rein for the apology. The whole affair seems much nicer now.

  9. Mojo says:

    I guess it all comes down to how you say something.

    Ironically, I get frustrated just as much about PR professionals wrapping bad news into nice words and spinning it positively as I get over someone giving well intentioned advice in a manner that makes it barely possible to hear the underlying message because of how negative it comes across. Sigh. We’re only human, I guess…

  10. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Ah well, put away the petrol and torches, turns out Rein is actually quite nice =/

  11. El Stevo says:

    According to Simon Byron on this week’s One Life Left pissing off Cliffski isn’t the only thing Mark Rein did at Develop. Ooooh, gossip.

  12. rocketman71 says:

    Nice, Mark, very nice.

    Now, how about apologizing to PC gamers?. It’s about fucking time!.

  13. Skusey says:

    I just want to give him a hug.

  14. Benny says:

    A hug would be nice. We all love hugs <3

  15. Generico says:

    I’m not so easily convinced. Talk is cheap, and douchebag is as douchebag does. Am I the only one who’s met lots of people who are apologetic after they do something rude, but then continue doing it in the future anyway?

    • jsdn says:

      It’s one thing to apologize on the spot, in person and in private. It’s another thing to apologize after deliberation and across the whole internet.

    • TeeJay says:

      He just wants even more attention. Notice how he uses the “apology” to continue promoting his products/company and heap praise on himself.

      “All publicity is good publicity” ???

  16. Generico says:

    IMO if his apology was just about settling with Cliff on a personal level there wouldn’t have been a need to make it public. Develop claims that Rein, not Cliff Harris sent them a copy of the email. The guy is just doing damage control. If he was “mortified” by anything it was probably the community support for Cliff and the damage it might do to Epic’s image.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I don’t think Mark Rein gives a shit about Epic’s image in this case. I’m pretty sure console gamers haven’t heard of cliffski or 90% of the indie games developers with published products out there, and Mark Rein is responsible for repeatedly saying how he hates PC gamers and never wants to release anything on PC ever again (and then recanting, and claiming UDK is proof he still loves PC gamers despite saying how much he hates them for three or four years now, but whatever – point is Epic’s image is “those guys who make Gears of War, bro” and that’s all they care about).

  17. Jacques2 says:

    I remember UTCon, oh wait, I don’t, because it never happened, and yes, I still hold that against Mark Rein, oh and the shift towards consoles and shitting on the PC fans. However, he at least apologized.

  18. bantha0 says:

    What I find interesting here is how everyone is just so gosh darn pleased about this aspect of the response or so satisfied about that aspect of the exchange. Jeez. They’re just two dudes who make video games! Some dink interrupted my boss while he was giving a presentation this afternoon and the internets aren’t abuzz over that.

  19. Dinger says:

    The event happened in public. By all accounts, Rein was out of line, and earned himself plenty of ill-will at the panel.

    Harris made this spat “public” by the blog post. Rein’s apology should then also be public.

    As for not being able to stop himself from making a point, well, that’s his weakness. Bringing up one’s own “indie cred”: well, Harris’ post pretty much baited him (“triple-A studio jerk”). He can say whatever he want, but anything he chooses to bring in becomes fair game for discussion.

    In any case, Rein’s wrong. Yes, there will always be a value for a scoop, or an “first peek at a new title”. For a AAA title, that’s the kind of thing that sells magazines, or generates page-hits. Journalists value that information. For what’s up next in Gratuitous Space Battles, on the other hand, the value is considerably less. Sure, RPS is going to want to know, and maybe a few other sites, but my understanding is that Rossignol is the only one with a nasty habit of breaking bones when exclusivity deals go sour. In short, if your indie title gets covered by any media, pretty much everything that outlet says will be new to its audience. You don’t need to save your bullets.

    Another aspect: if news is ammunition, it’s of the type that blows up in your face a lot. Anecdote time:
    Ten years ago, on the World War II Online bulletin boards (before open beta, one to two years before release), there was an invasion of Team Fortress 2 fans (then seven to eight years before release) who heard that there was going to be a combined-arms military shooter that threatened the predicted dominance of TF2. So in to the BBS full of people predicting the greatest massively multiplayer combat experience ever (and developers freely feeding that by describing their dream game and not the game they had in development) come streaming these fans spamming the same four screenshots of what will be the most realistic, awesome, online military game ever.

    WWIIOL was one of the most spectacularly catastrophic releases ever. And TF2 ended up looking nothing like what those ca.1999-2000 fanbois (now many of whom have earned their doctorates, no doubt) thought it would. And every major studio knows that you can’t talk about features before they’re operational in a game, and preferably locked down. The ravenous fans will take the crumbs that you scatter and assemble of a loaf of awesome, which may or may not resemble the product in question. So you can’t have the studio PR people talk about things that may or may not make the game, or things that would be cool to have. To do so invites the fans to build a mental game far more ass-kicking than the one you’re going to deliver. And you don’t want fans to be let down by what is delivered.

    With indie titles, it’s different. Consider the blowback when Vic Davis announced that his Solium Infernum minigame would not have a player playing the angelic host. He just said “Well, I tried prototyping it, and it just didn’t work out.” Nobody was let down, and that’s because news works differently. When you’ve got a very small team, you need to bring the members of the community into the development process. You’re no longer selling just a game, but yourself (or rather, a piece of your carefully crafted online persona) as well. And so, one-on-one communication is part of the package, even to the point of releasing news. Incidentally, that’s an interesting way to control discussion groups too: online forums are social spaces where hierarchies develop that are only partially in the control of the people running the forum (For example, TheDartt is an evil dictator whose posts generate fear and awe on the RPS boards); distributing access to the Riff Randalls of the social space is one way to shape the environment.

    In short, in an indie game, you need to make the players feel like part of the development process, and where mainstream news coverage won’t generate buzz for your game, developing the cult-like nature of your following by encouraging esotericism will increase the appeal. Heck, isn’t that what the major studios are trying to do with their social media experiments? Well, indies can do it better and with greater agility.

    For that matter, wasn’t that the point of the Old Spice war on the internet from last week?

    Of course, Rein could probably reply that an esoteric media strategy promotes the notion of “indie for indie’s sake” (as in “Taking inspiration from Hüsker Dü…”) as opposed to a purely exoteric “indie for the people”.

  20. TheHumanBlur says:

    Hmmmmm. Rein’s email seems full of patronizing asides and self important lecturing. – Although maybe its just lost in translation .

    • Dreamhacker says:

      Its all in english, no translation involved. All the thinly veiled threats, advertising and general FUD is there in its original forn.

    • Tei says:

      PR people don’t talk the same language than people like programmers. The fact both can talk english don’t make thing easier, but harder. (I don’t know if this is the case here).
      The communication thing is not a fact, is a illusion for the most part.

  21. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I Don’t think Mark Rein has anything to teach Clifski about PR tbh but fair play for apologising, everyone makes mistakes like this and the only important difference is when people are big enough to apologise.

    • TheApologist says:

      Yep – this.

      He made a public mistake and has made his apology public. Though it might be possible to speculate about the lateral benefits of making such an apology in this way, they are just that – speculations. The things we know are that Rein was a bloke at a conference who behaved badly and then said sorry for it. I’m inclined to take that at face value.

      Afterall, it appears Cliffski has.

  22. sink257 says:

    Anyone else left disappointed when they clicked the “aw” tag?

  23. YogSo says:

    Tim Schafer calls Bobby Kotick “a total prick”. An statement he regrets after realizing Kotick is the Vader in the room. Cliffski calls Mark Rein “a jerk”. Mark Rein apologizes.

    The circle is now complete.
    Apology accepted.

  24. Cat says:

    Grats Cliffski, you deserved an apology and you got it – I must say a very refreshing apology from Mark – I believe it truely was a sincere apology and I’m glad you’ve accepted it.

  25. Cat says:

    @Derek Smart

    I don’t think Cliffski overreacted – he posted on his personal dev blog about an incident that took place the day prior.

    It just so happened to invoke a response from the man in question – The correct response may I add.

    To be honest I can’t say you’re the best person to comment regarding Indie game developers public relations.

    All you need to do is Google your name to find hundreds of slipups and fights between you and various other people/companies.

  26. Tei says:

    There are two types of internet flames.

    Type 1) The “I love the smell of the napalm in the morning” type, that make blood pump, everyone has something to say.

    Type 2) And the “I have the urge to wash my hands… twice”, wen everyone is ashamed, and wish never happened, the whole thing never existed.

    We have here a Type 2. But you can say all Type1 flammes evolve with time (slowly) in a Type2.

    The internet is *not* a good location to discuss some things. I am sure Mark and Cliff could have discussed and end on a agreement in front some beers.

    Beers > The Internet

  27. Derek Smart says:

    @ Cat

    Jealous much? Yeah I know, anonymity is not as much fun is it?

  28. Cat says:

    @ Derek Smart

    I use a “handle” for a reason.

    And I’d rather be anonymous than have a terrible reputation across the internet.

  29. Derek Smart says:

    @ Cat

    yah, because you can throw around baseless, worthless and inconsequential rhetoric around the net with impunity.

    • Cat says:

      I’m known in any community I regular with a set Handle. I do have a reputation I actually value – I do not hide and change names to purposefully troll.

      You’re just a less intelligent troll – trolling the games industry with your Real name.

      Anyway, I’m not getting lead into a flamewar with you.

  30. Josh W says:

    I was wondering about the actual advice; is it better to get a word of mouth diffusion of info, and maybe have people on blogs “discover” it and pass it on to a wider audience, or is it better to wait and chuck your news out in chunks?

    From a pure PR perspective, I imagine it depends on how much your fans act as an amplifier compared to games publications: Might people spreading word of mouth sometimes be a more effective and powerful channel? I can imagine this happening for games strong on gameplay and weak on graphics, or those games that play off stories people create rather than the story that you want to reveal sneak peaks of. Why? Because if the fans of your game are encouraged to be the people with the news, perhaps they will also share their stories and show off the depth of your game. I know my enthusiasm with dwarf fortress is born out of a growing impression of a game with all kinds of strange hidden depths, and the odd bug report and here and there mixed in with stories about weird and wonderful events adds to that mystique. If you do some kind of non-nda beta, and your game has the depth for it, I’m sure the same effect can happen.

    On the other hand maybe Mark is right, and that kind of slow build is not as good as parcelling up news for newspapers or games websites, so it can be a significant enough chunk for an article. On the other hand, do games websites do that themselves now? With tagging like you do here, you can add a little snippet of information about some game mixed in with news about other games, and then we can just use the tag to find more news about that game. Are there ways to encourage this? Synergistic relationships between games where insights shared can be talked about on mass? Where each is distinctive enough that you can make a cool article about how they deal with death or something? That way info about a new game could keep on re-appearing, as people compare different ones.

    I suppose that happens anyway, but it could be encouraged by games designers talking about what other games do right and asking questions about them, because opening up new lines of discussion related to the design of your game will probably get it talked about more, providing the stuff your trying to discuss is actually interesting!

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