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Developers against criticism

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Indie games usually shouldn't be expected to be as "high quality" as big AAA titles because the development team and the budget tend to be a lot smaller. Despite that, some indie games such as Cuphead, Undertale, FTL: Faster Than Light and Hollow Knight managed to reach that standard. But regardless of quality, no indie developer, be it a professional or an "amateur", is supposed to be immune to negative criticism, especially if that game is being sold for real money and sold on major platforms like Steam.

In the recent years, not only have some indie developers shown their hostilities against criticism, but some larger studios with high budgets also attempted to silence negative reception as well.

The Situation

While it is understandable that people don't like receiving negative criticism, it usually is not meant as an attack against the product or the developer. Negative criticism is meant to inform consumers about a poor quality product and to help the developers understand the issues with their product. Some indie developers see negative criticism as a threat to either their business or to their fragile, over-inflated egos and will do anything to try to stop said criticism.

Likewise, not everyone on the internet knows that constructive criticism needs to actually be constructive and instead mock the game, the developer(s), and sometimes, even people who like the game they are "criticizing". It's very easy to be a target of this type of critic, especially on Steam, which lacks quality control for reviews. Being a target of bad critics or trolling, however, does not excuse toxic behavior (see examples below).

Silencing Criticism

When these developers receive negative criticism towards their games, they usually either respond by censorship, attacking the critic under the excuse that they are hurting their business, sending threats or by whining and calling it "harassment".

It should be important to point out that not all indie developers are like this. There have been some notable examples of indie developers reacting to criticism in a positive way, such as Scott Cawthon, who created the popular Five Nights at Freddy's horror game franchise in response to being criticized for making the characters in his game, Chipper & Sons Lumber Co., look like creepy dead-eyed robots.

YouTube

When it comes to YouTube videos, they will often resort to filing frivolous DMCA takedowns on them, under the unsubstantiated excuse of "copyright infringement". This is particularly dangerous as the YouTuber in question is at risk of getting removed from the platform after three DMCA takedowns.

Not only are video game reviews protected under Fair Use, but it should also be noted that filing a false DMCA is a crime. Thankfully they usually fail and the target only ends gets called out on it by big-time YouTubers and other people whose messages reach as many people as possible.

Steam

The Direct system currently makes it too easy to release games and Valve themselves does very little to monitor the community, something that was not fixed from the former Greenlight system. As of late, Valve has taken more action against toxic developers who act abusive or break Steam's rules. In April 2017, Valve had a meeting with YouTubers Jim Sterling and TotalBiscuit regarding the future of Steam. In the meeting, Valve confirmed that they indeed keep an archive of every single deleted comment and evidence of hostile behaviour by developers and that they wish to put an end to it. Sterling and TotalBiscuit suggested Valve should update their terms of use to include direct warnings against this kind of behaviour including DMCA takedowns on YouTube, and full intent to inflict harsh penalties whenever this happens.

The methods discussed in that meeting, however, proved to be completely inefficient as toxic developers have drastically increased in number since Steam Direct's introduction. Valve often just won't ban toxic developers that attack their customers or blatantly break Steam's terms of use unless they get Valve into legal trouble, major controversies, or both. Even then, sockpuppetry makes Valve's actions count for naught.

Notable Examples

  • Killing Day Studio: One of the first instances of indie developers trying to hide complaints. They deleted various comments from buyers of their scam game Earth: Year 2066 and even renamed their community forums.[1]
  • Wild Games Studio: One of the first incidents of filing fraudulent DMCA takedowns, was when TotalBiscuit gave their game, Day One: Garry's Incident, a negative review. Not only that, but they were also accused of using astroturfing to post bogus reviews on Metacritic.
  • Digital Homicide Studios: Their attempts to silence critics escalated to them literally filing frivolous lawsuits against people who said anything even remotely negative about them. They had even threatened to sue Valve, which resulted in Valve banning them from Steam and the company subsequently going out of business.
  • Killjoy Games: When their terrible game, Air Control, was panned, they tried to blame the players, shamelessly claiming that all the complaints are the result of trying to run the game on outdated hardware. They even said that Air Control was supposed to only be played at 1920x1080p despite it clearly being a very basic Unity game almost all 2000s computers can run. Trying to get away from the game's backlash, they used a sockpuppet account to release their second game, Zen Fish Sim.
  • STICLI Games: When they released their game, Airport Master, they put clauses on their End User License Agreement that said people couldn't make videos about the game without their permission and that gamers were not allowed to get refunds. Neither claim can actually be enforced and the latter is a direct violation of Steam's Terms of Use.[2] They also filed a Trademark violation claim against Jim Sterling's own video, which is worse than a DMCA.[3]
  • Tale of Tales: When their game, Sunset, became a commercial failure, the husband and wife team of Tale of Tales left the game industry, insulting both it and gamers in the process. They even started a Patreon account dedicated to bringing "an end to video games as we know it."
  • Team6 Game Studios: When their game, FlatOut 3: Chaos & Destruction got a score of 1 out of 10 by Eurogamer, one of the team members of Team6 went on the game's Steam forums (which has long since been deleted, but archived via NeoGAF forums and Tom Branwell's Twitter posts) to claim that Eurogamer was playing with "a non-official and old version" of the game and that they weren't playing with update 4. Tom Branwell of Eurogamer stated that the update wouldn't have changed the game's score, and a Team6 team member proceeded to call the reviewer "a liar".
  • Silicon Echo Studios: They used all the possible loopholes of Steam Direct to post over 170 asset flips at once. They have been also accused of trying to silence critics before Valve finally pulled them and their games out of Steam. It should be noted that Valve only pulled Silicon Echo out after a Steam group discovered and openly revealed the absurd amount of shovelware they were posting and insisted that they be removed, Valve did not take any action up until then.
  • Krafton: PUBG's developer Krafton (then known as Bluehole) have gotten carried away by the success of their game and repeatedly threatened other developers who make battle royale games and made several statements that heavily implied that they want a full monopoly on the genre, even though they weren't the ones who created it.[4] Krafton even filed a frivolous lawsuit against Epic Games, simply because PUBG lately has been losing a ton of players to Fortnite.[5][6]
  • Glumberland: Within a few days, the developer of Ooblets had the galls to call Kickstarter backers "entitled gamer babies", stole lots of money from their Patreon supporters and attacked anyone who criticized their Epic Store exclusivity.[7]
  • Google: Although they're not indie developers, they reacted in the same manner as the aforementioned examples when their debut console, the Stadia, received very negative reviews due to its unreliability, bad optimization, horrible input lag, price, and game lineups. The company reacted to it by creating burner accounts (basically sockpuppet accounts for companies) to defend the Stadia and playing the SJW card by saying the controller is "gender-neutral" in a pathetic attempt to save the console's non-existent reputation.[9]
  • Sony Interactive Entertainment:
    • Naughty Dog: After the plot leak of The Last of Us Part II, they and Sony Computer Entertainment began filing fraudulent DMCA claims to silence those who talk and post about the leaked information publicly. It turns out that Sony and Naughty Dog were allowed to file those DMCA claims by YouTube and the other sharing sites. After the wave of hate, Neil Druckmann told the entire Naughty Dog team in an interview with actor Troy Baker that he originally wanted to thank each developer individually, although the size of the team made him decide to send a message to the entire group, complete with very explicit language, but the main goal of the creator was to make all members of the studio understandable. Neil was desperate enough to say "Fuck the haters" to hide the criticism away.[10]
    • Polyphony Digital: After Gran Turismo 7 increases the prices of microtransactions, they defended the practice as "be linked with the real world prices" which defeats the purpose for those allowing players to buy and drive cars that they find hard to or can't get in real-life as a fictional racing franchise.[11]
  • Grove Street Games: An indie game company notorious for their work on the Xbox 360/PS3 version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the recent Definitive Edition of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy. Because of that, gamers always criticise the company for that. GSG always responds by blocking anyone who criticises them in any sort of way on Twitter, whether it's related to GTA or the company themselves.[12]
  • Superprism: A developer making mobile games, offered extra rewards (gems, currency) on their game Kingsense if the Google Play Store ratings were boosted all the way up to 5 stars, which at the time, were 3 stars with many more than normal 1 star ratings.[13] This, resulted in massive scrutiny in the gacha gaming community, but eventually they thankfully cancelled it. It sounded like they were unable to take their negative Play Store ratings and wanted to push them back up by encouraging it.
  • Electronic Arts:
    • EA Sports: They refuse to listen to players who want better gameplay or an improved Franchise Mode on their sports games, which are full of microtransactions such as Ultimate Team, and almost any other studio that follows EA Sports' business practices.
      • EA Tiburon: When the #NFLDropEA hashtag was trending on Twitter (as Madden NFL 21 was the worst-received game in the franchise), players demanded the NFL to cancel its license with EA. But both companies ignored the complaints. Clint Oldenburg, a former NFL backup who is the head gameplay developer of Madden NFL, cannot handle criticism and has blocked users on Twitter.[14][15]
    • DICE: When one Reddit user found out that Darth Vader was locked behind a loot box in Star Wars: Battlefront II, DICE's community team defended the game's loot boxes, saying that unlocking characters gives players "a sense of pride and accomplishment". The response became the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. Of all time.
      • When their ludicrously inaccurate Battlefield V game got panned for being historically inaccurate to WW2, one of the game's developers went on Reddit and posted how it was the result of him wanting to represent his daughter, and after that was obviously laughed at, he stright up told the gamers to simply not buy it....which they ended up doing.[16]
      • It gets worse with the uber broken Battlefield 2042 game, where they essentially called out their legitimate complaints of the broken state of the game claiming that their expectations are "brutal" as well as not once apologizing for the game in any of their updates so far.[17]
  • Activision Blizzard: During the exposure of their sexual allegations, it was reported that they once tried (and thankfully failed) to buy gaming journalist media to avoid bad reviews.[18]
  • Take-Two Interactive: They banned people for criticizing them, and also hacked their systems to remove issues. When the company was criticized for sending goons over to intimidate SupMatto,they forced the cast of Borderlands 3 to mock people for disagreeing with their actions.[23] When loot boxes were banned in Belgium, they bribed players to appeal the ban.[24]
  • Wargaming: They filed a DMCA complaint against a YouTuber who criticized their game World of Tanks.[25]
  • Volition: When the first trailer for the 2022 Saints Row reboot was released to massive backlash and controversy, they started mocking Saints Row fans and other people criticizing them as "haters". Despite later apologizing for the rash response and saying it "has been taken the wrong way", Volition continued to silence criticism by deleting negative comments on their videos about the reboot, even after the game was released.[26]
  • Some mobile game developers usually release their games through early access in order to avoid negative reception. Although they don't try to silence critics, they actually try to overshadow them with fake reviews by either bots or sockpuppet accounts. Some, on the other side, have the audacity to kindly ask the critics why they gave their games a low rating, and even go as far as to say that they could've improved the game if they received high ratings.[27][28]

See also

References

  1. Steam removes Early Access game Earth: Year 2066 over dishonest marketing
  2. STICLI GAMES: TOXIC DEVELOPER WITH INVALID EULA
  3. Airport Master Developer Makes Huge Mistake With Trademark Claim
  4. PubG creator says games need 'better protection' from copycat titles
  5. PUBG sues Fortnite – A copyright battle royale
  6. PUBG drops Fortnite game lawsuit without explanation
  7. Ooblets dev stands by comments about toxic, entitled gamers
  8. Epic's CEO shouldn't be riling the mob going after Ooblets over its Epic exclusivity
  9. Google claims the controller for its new Stadia console is ‘gender neutral’ in bizarre marketing campaign
  10. The Last Of Us 2's Neil Druckmann Had Message For His Team About "Haters"
  11. "Important to be linked with real-life prices": Gran Turismo 7 producer defends the game giving less credits now
  12. Furious Fans Turn GTA Trilogy Developer’s Big Job Search Awry With Savage Takes: Section "Some players even showed in their replies that they were blocked by the studio for expressing honest thoughts"
  13. Kingsense global´s "amazing" first event - Rate the game 4*+ and get bribed
  14. Users getting blocked for broken gameplay.
  15. Tiburon only cares about Ultimate Team.
  16. 'This is not okay': EA minces no words on backlash against women in Battlefield: Section: rejected complains
  17. Battlefield 2042 dev says players have "brutal expectations"
  18. Bobby Kotick Reportedly Tried To Buy Games Media To “Change Public Narrative”
  19. Activision Blizzard Reportedly Threatened Workers Illegally
  20. Activision Blizzard again accused of threatening employees for speaking out
  21. Activision blames World War II setting for poor Vanguard sales
  22. Activision Blames Unsatisfactory Call Of Duty Sales On World War II
  23. Borderlands 3 YouTube Channel Investigated by 2K For Leaks Disappears
  24. 2K asks fans to tell Belgium they want loot boxes
  25. Wargaming apologise for accusing YouTuber of hate speech over critical World of Tanks video
  26. Saints Row Backlash Explained: Why This Reboot Is Already Getting So Much Fan Hate
  27. Developer reveals how fake reviews and ratings play a major role in App Store scam apps
  28. How mobile devs and publishers fake their review scores

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