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  1. #1
    Obscure Node Juno's Avatar
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    StarForge: Developer Misconduct (Story)

    Hi everyone,

    Yesterday I started a reddit post detailing a lot of things that had went on with the development of StarForge. I was surprised to see it take off as quickly as it did, and I wanted to share it here with RPS. It is pushing front pages on reddit sites with over 600 upvotes. I used to work for the company and was a long time fan before that since its reveal in May 2012.

    I know RPS has done a few articles in the past regarding StarForge, but the last one seemed neutral-negative towards it. So I wanted to offer the story here on the forums to just get the word around about what has been going on behind the scenes over there. It is pretty upsetting stuff, and it is backed with factual information that was found by a fan of the game. It is a very long read, about 2000 words when I typed it.

    Well, here is the link to it. I will be watching here and trying to answer questions and comments. If someone from RPS is interested in this, then feel free to contact me. I sent an email a few days ago and I think some other people did as well.

    Anyways, thanks for your time and I hope we can get your support.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comme...ook_back_from/

    I apologize in advance if this isn't the right section for this, I came here because it said it was for advertising.

  2. #2
    Moderator QuantaCat's Avatar
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    This isnt the right section; it belongs in pc gaming.

    But you cant post there, Ill get a mod to do it.

    Too bad about starforge, I thought itd really get better over time but those are the risks of funding stuff; the devs may turn out to be horrible or worse: arseholes.
    - Tom De Roeck.

    verse publications & The Shopkeeper, an interactive short.

    "Quantacat's name is still recognised even if he watches on with detached eyes like Peter Molyneux over a cube in 3D space, staring at it with tears in his eyes, softly whispering... Someday they'll get it."

  3. #3
    Obscure Node Juno's Avatar
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    Alright thanks, QuantaCat.
    I am sorry for the trouble.

  4. #4
    Network Hub EPICTHEFAIL's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this. Really, the worst part is that the developers handled this in the clumsiest and most hilariously PR-suicidal way I could imagine. Running out of money because you got overambitious? Rookie error, but the least they could do is try to be open and honest about their failure, instead of going full-on Orwellian in their attempts to cover up this crap.

  5. #5
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    Yeah, fairly convincingly laid out, IMO. I don't know you in any capacity, given I've never played Starforge, much less been on its forums but this all seems like pretty damning evidence (I doubt I ever will play Starforge now, unless something drastic happens to reverse this). I note on the Reddit thread you mention you've already been talking to websites, so... I hope they listen? RPS, Kotaku and Eurogamer have all run "Uh, shouldn't this game have been finished by now?" articles a few times, so I look forward to seeing it on at least one of them.

  6. #6
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    I always feel bad for Community Managers or people with a similar job description, when the Devs are in information lockdown mode. In these cases they don't want you for community relations, they see you as a punching bag, a buffer of sorts for all the frustration that is guaranteed to come up.
    Thanks for bringing this up and you've got my sympathy for the mess this has turned into.

  7. #7
    Network Hub EPICTHEFAIL's Avatar
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    I agree. It seems that in the minds of some developers "Community Manager" translates as "PR ablative armour".

  8. #8
    Obscure Node Juno's Avatar
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    It was a very difficult time there, I pushed real hard for them to open up, but to no avail.
    You can look across the forums and see the communication from the developers themselves are very poor, and they relied on moderators to be PR officials (which is not a moderator's job...).

    I am glad people are being so supportive of the whole situation, I have already got plenty of hate stuff in different places. Steam namely, where I have being called everything from a "disgruntled ex-employee" to "whiny b***h on a warpath".
    So that just means this is making an impact.

    Regarding news, Kotaku got a hold of the man that discovered the evidence originally, and we are talking to him.

    Thank you everyone for being so supportive.

  9. #9
    Moderator QuantaCat's Avatar
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    Please, you can curse however you fucking please, as long as you refrain from doing it against other forum members. I think in this case cursing lets the deemans out.
    - Tom De Roeck.

    verse publications & The Shopkeeper, an interactive short.

    "Quantacat's name is still recognised even if he watches on with detached eyes like Peter Molyneux over a cube in 3D space, staring at it with tears in his eyes, softly whispering... Someday they'll get it."

  10. #10
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    Good luck to you Juno, and as the first reply puts it, you simply cannot support the staff they had on that money. Interesting story nonetheless, the game had slipped so far from my mind that I had to look up some images to see what it was about. I do indeed remember the alpha release way back, it was very interesting and promising!
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  11. #11
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    Misconduct is probably the wrong term (it implies fraudulence or criminality)

    There's a saying

    "Never attribute to malice that which can more easily be explained by stupidity".

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    So to summarise (for people who don't want to read, and for my own understanding)
    - StarForge forum had trolls, community policing and dev-mod intervention resolved it
    - IndieGoGo campaign appeared to stalled then suddenly took off, partying in streets
    - Silence from Dec 2012 until March 2013 when a Steam release occurred (Early Access), community goes "WTF?" and Devs appoint Community Manager Juno
    - Juno attempts to act as bridge between devs and community, except the devs didn't disclose much and tied Juno's hands with a NDA. Juno reminds the devs that they're community funded and held accountable by the community - devs apparently ignore this.
    - Juno was supposed to be re-hired Dec 2013. Devs didn't rehire her and didn't bother to tell her until 2333, 31/12/13. Devs didn't disclose this to the community.
    - Community goes "WTF?" and devs ignore it for a while, before eventually hiring somebody to fill Juno's place
    - Poor bastard has his hands tied by the devs and gets attacked by the community. Devs still hopelessly inept at communicating with their user base.
    - StarForge suddenly sees large jumps in build numbers and updates, 1.0 slated for 12/08/14
    - A forum member called Danjvelker, longtime supporter, gets suspicious. Community Manager is quiet and was on a leave of absence until August, but didn't return. Danjvelker investigates.
    - His findings: Lots of experienced people were fired Valve-style (i.e. don't tell anyone). Community astounded and start to question the devs.
    - Devs respond with damnatio memoriae - deletes the accounts of vocal supporters of an inquiry and deletes the thread.
    - Leaks suggest that people were cut because of a dwindling budget. Even more suspicious given that 1.0 appears to be missing features.

    If I got anything wrong, please correct me. If what you're saying is true - this goes beyond stupidity and into incompetence, and that's far, far worse. It's one thing to be inept at talking to your fan base but it's another entirely to try to hide information that clearly points to something being wrong with the game. The new wave of crowdfunded devs have escaped publisher control, which we all seem to think is great, but at least publishers attempt to keep them on track and controlled to deliver a product on time. The crowdfunded devs have no such shackles or oversight - they can go into radio silence for ages at a time, ignoring their backer's requests for funding, and even have people shout down the curious backers in defence of the devs. Yeah, making games is hard - but don't promise the world if you're not sure you can deliver it.

    The crowdfunding wave of optimism is probably on the cusp of death, and it's games (or rather, devs) like these that will inject a healthy dose of caution. Still sucks for people like Juno who end up holding the bag. On the plus side, at least you're away from what appears to be a toxic and poorly managed working environment.
    Nalano's Law - As an online gaming discussion regarding restrictions grows longer, the probability of a post likening the topic to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea approaches one.
    Soldant's Law - A person will happily suspend their moral values if they can express moral outrage by doing so.

  13. #13
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    Starforge was always going to be the game which reminded people to buy "the game that's there now" and not "the game in your head".

    The early (free) alpha contained only a tiny amount of the stuff the developer was promising - the Early Access contained little more - it's now 'Beta' (which means "feature complete" in programming terms) and a lot of the stuff from the original trailer still isn't there.

    It's also repeatedly on-sale - it's hard not to conclude someone is trying to milk money out of it before admitting it's "as done as it will ever be"

    I say again "buy the game for what it does NOW - not what you hope it will do"

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kelron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    The crowdfunding wave of optimism is probably on the cusp of death, and it's games (or rather, devs) like these that will inject a healthy dose of caution. Still sucks for people like Juno who end up holding the bag. On the plus side, at least you're away from what appears to be a toxic and poorly managed working environment.
    That's the thing with crowdfunding - publishers weren't funding these projects because they're risky. Crowdfunding doesn't make the risk go away, it distributes it over a few thousand people.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    My contract was due to expire December 31st, 2013. I was informed several times I was being rehired, I would have a new contract. It never came, and I was cut via an email at 11:33pm on December 31st, 2013.

    The villainy is hilarious.

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trjp View Post
    I say again "buy the game for what it does NOW - not what you hope it will do"
    Which is what Minecraft did, and it paid off - everybody was well aware of what it was and what it might be, but there were no promises. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are entirely different kettles of fish - they have a projected 'finish' state, and the ridiculous inclusion of 'stretch goals' (as a carrot for moar monies!) are there to further extend that promise. Yes, promises can get broken, but telling people to 'buy the game as it is now' when the developers are saying 'it will be X because we have Y money' is missing the point of their campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirKicksalot View Post
    The villainy is hilarious.
    It would be if it wasn't true. I can imagine someone sitting there with that delegated task going "I'll send it later! I'll send it later! Oh shit it's later, guess I better send it now..."

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelron View Post
    That's the thing with crowdfunding - publishers weren't funding these projects because they're risky. Crowdfunding doesn't make the risk go away, it distributes it over a few thousand people.
    Also the devs just risk their studio's name and reputation on the internet, but in a case like this you'll get an equal share of people saying "Yeah but they tried so it doesn't matter if they don't deliver!" and the penalty for failure vanishes.
    Nalano's Law - As an online gaming discussion regarding restrictions grows longer, the probability of a post likening the topic to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea approaches one.
    Soldant's Law - A person will happily suspend their moral values if they can express moral outrage by doing so.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus
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    Community funded project need to care about funding.

    So a 90% dev 10% pr project can fail, by having the pr not working. Not working pr... equals no money. They have to fire.

    Another way to fail is 90% pr and 10% for dev. This is where you don't have money to hire devs, like the yogcast game. Again fail.


    So to make a game you want a medium size group of dev ... but also a strong team of PR people that can make the community grown and give more money to support everyone. Is a delicate thing.

  18. #18
    Lesser Hivemind Node
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    And then there's the odd cases where the Developers are very active in communication but for some odd reason refuse to let it trickle through to other platforms, like Starbound. They post daily updates and keep a detailed log of what they're doing there, but one wouldn't know from looking at any place outside of their own website.
    Everywhere else it's a constant stream of inquiries "Why no updates? What's happening with this game? Is this still being worked on?", because they chose to not update their own bloody storepage. Up until a few weeks ago, they still had the information from early 2013 in there, which made it seem like Development was very dead. It's also another case of leaving Community Managers out to rot. Only even more silly in this case, because the information is actually readily accessible from the Dev Website but for some reason must not find it's way to other venues. What?

  19. #19
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    The key problem here us that making a game - that is actually completing one which your players are happy with - is hard - really hard.

    Coming from a 'worked in a studio' background or even a 'hobbyist' background you are almost certainly not prepared for the amount of work required to get to the point you have 'finished' your game - that comes from "the school of hard knocks".

    This misconception applies to developers AND to players too - the former think that it's enough just to "work hard at it until it's done" whilst the latter are busy wanting a completely different thing - yesterday - with knobs and frosting!

    There's a saying -

    to be successful at making things for a living you must work at the junction of art and commerce

    That means you can't just make what you want - taking as long as you want. You have to make what the market needs in a timescale it's happy to wait for - and at a cost it will pay!

    I'd add another saying to that

    aim for the point where you ideas and your players wishes meet

    Of course to do that, you must be aware of what your players wishes actually are! This requires you engage with your players, keep them informed and listen to them!

    TL:DR Most people think game making is 90% coding/design/art and 10% engaging with their players - those figures are right but they're the wrong way around.
    Last edited by trjp; 16-08-2014 at 06:23 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tei View Post
    Community funded project need to care about funding.

    So a 90% dev 10% pr project can fail, by having the pr not working. Not working pr... equals no money. They have to fire.

    Another way to fail is 90% pr and 10% for dev. This is where you don't have money to hire devs, like the yogcast game. Again fail.


    So to make a game you want a medium size group of dev ... but also a strong team of PR people that can make the community grown and give more money to support everyone. Is a delicate thing.
    I never thought I'd see this. The most intelligent post, from Tei. I might shed a tear.

    Also, lots of developers "aim lower", though not too low, as they know they can hit the target and then add to it. Minecraft was effectively feature complete with Alpha (something something), and from then every new feature just pushed new/more sales and more PR ("Wow, you now get wolfs!!!").

    The opposite happened with Ox10c, and it never even got started because the warnign signs were looming and they made the right decision and cut it.

    Likewise, Cobalt falls somewhere in the middle. A bit of feature creep, a bit of bloat, long development times for little gain, and a change in mind ("Let's go MODOTA!!") at the last minute might kill off any momentum it had with sales or popularity.

    So all developers can have successes and failures, but it's being open and aiming for the right goals and results from the get go.
    It is a technical difference, but's there none the less.

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