The PGI shuffle

This is a compilation of information with intention to entertain, amuse, and act as a resource for Piranha Games. I know I have fun wading through long threads, but most people won't. So here's the abbreviation.

Piranha Games Inc is most well known for their work on Mechwarrior Online, the official reboot of the Mechwarrior franchise, introduced along with Mechwarrior: Tactics by Blue Lizard Games, both games published by Infinite Games Publishing. Recently they've opened a crowdfunding campaign for Transverse, which hasn't gotten past 1% of the requested $500,000 despite it being 10/30 days in. It looks like a fairly decent idea, and for an established game studio many might think it should be more successful by now? Well, look a little deeper and you find the reasons why this has turned out to be the funniest mess since Quinnspirracy.

A REPUTATION IS RUINED

The first lesson in community goodwill is to generally take criticism well. While this may not be common on the websites of obscenely large AAA developers such who both don't want and don't need community goodwill (they instead rely on marketing and casual gamers who just don't care), PGI does not fit this bill. Not only did they rely on on the community to fund them through founders packs, but they also were already moving into an existing core community with a long history and a relatively mature attitude compared to most. This hasn't stopped them from turning their forums into an echo chamber, deleting criticism and banning players on whims. You don't even have to post to get banned, they invade people's privacy by looking up their personal information and matching their names to their facebook accounts and others to ban them for criticism elsewhere (clarification, credit card info specifically may or may not being accessed for this purpose). This, coupled with poor game design decisions, delays, and continual extortion of money through a pay to win free to play model, ultimately destroyed all the good will and optimism the community once held for the game.

A good place to look at to get a slice of the problems with PGI's public facing side are the subreddits r/mwo and r/Outreachhpg. Luckily for us, Nikolai Lubkiewicz, the infamous community manager at PGI, has provided us with a summary of the situation:

I do not think that particular subreddit (r/mwo) can be defined as a base for our fans or customers any longer...

Rather, since the change of management, and the resulting diaspora of our active Reddit fans towards r/OutreachHPG and other Subreddits. r/mwo has essentially become an echo-chamber for those who have been banned from our services for repeated abusive behavior.
— http://mwomercs.com/forums/topic/159498-on-rmwo/

Sounds reasonable, until you realize how active each subreddit actually is. r/mwo has twice the number of subscribers, and similar online users at any given time. Last i checked, "intentionally fracture the community" wasn't in the job description for any community manager positions I've seen. The issues between r/mwo and r/outreachHPG started in January 2014, when people noticed certain moderators deleting criticism. This caused a split and subsequent "rivalry" between the subreddits. More on that here, but in short r/mwo became the only place you could levy criticisms without being banned thanks to it's lax moderation, and people liked that.

TRANSVERSE

As if this slow motion trainwreck couldn't get any worse, PGI thought it was a good idea to try to crowdfund a new game. This, of course gave MWO players the impression that the reason for constant delays and half assing on promised MWO content was this new project. Where had their founding money gone, after all. In attempt to prevent r/transverse from becoming a second r/mwo, with bad things like open discussion, they snatched it up quickly and began enforcing their own draconian forum policies. Unfortunately for them, thats not how reddit works, and after they had moderated their subreddit until there was only positive posts left, a goon reported the situation to the reddit admins. All the moderators of that subreddit, whom were all PGI employees, were swiftly shadowbanned for violating the rules of reddit, losing control of r/transverse and r/outreachhpg. r/transverse has since been taken over by a member of the community, though r/transversethegame is a much more entertaining read at this point.

Shortly after noticing his shadowban, Nikolai made a thread on the MWO forums addressing the situation, asking people to go to complain to reddit to try to get them unbanned.

You may have heard the amusing news that we have been shadow-banned from Reddit. We’re looking to get the situation fixed as soon as possible.

The issue in question stems from the fact that we had created a sub-reddit for r/Transverse in order to pre-empt any possible recreation of the events which occurred leading to the creation of r/OutreachHPG following the take-over of r/mwo. We also have some indications as to which group of players may be responsible. The shadow-ban did not stop at r/Transverse related staff. All PGI Staff have been banned and will be unable to address any concerns raised by players on OutreachHPG as a result.
...
Here is where you can express your concerns to the Reddit Staff regarding their decision to shadow-ban our staff, whether you agree or disagree with that decision, and your concerns regarding the individuals they are offering the Reddit to. Feel free to include your concern regarding Reddit’s decision to remove PGI staff who have had nothing to do with the r/Transverse project or it’s sub-reddit, individuals like PGI_Fox, PGI_Karl, and so forth.
— http://mwomercs.com/forums/topic/170725-regarding-reddit/

I could cut the irony in the air with a knife, and it hasn't been lost on the MWO community, right in the wake of Nikolai's post on the importance of following rules. The ensuing thread is nothing short of amazing, with gems such as these which were taken only from the first page:

You broke rules; you got removed.
It’s what you do to people here; why should you be different on 3rd party sites?
Will this make you think about how you operate here and have treated people recently?


You dont deserve to have your accounts back at reddit. You have violated the CoC here as well as other admins by previously not allowing discussion of Transverse.
Deal with the embarrasment

You break the rules.
Someone reports you for breaking the rules.
You are banned for breaking the rules.
You ask for an exception and blame the person who reported you for breaking the rules.
You don’t really understand how this forums thing works do you? I mean, really?

It's surprising it wasn't all deleted, and might be in the future but for the time being there's 60 pages of people with founders badges, people who have invested heavily into the game, doing nothing but discussing their extreme displeasure with the entire PGI situation. This took place over the course of a day before the thread was locked, if it had been left open it would likely have ballooned even further. There are some really great posts in there, if you want a laugh give it a read through. This outpouring of negativity is proof that Nikolai's assessment of r/mwo was nothing short of a heinous miscalculation, and has successfully pissed everyone off. Honestly they'd be better off without a community manager at this point.

 

Transverse's crowdfunding campaign is likely done for, but it has it's own web of nonsense to address. Most of the following will be taken from the relevant article by The Mittani, who even got involved themselves.

First of all, the obvious. Their transverse campaign is a direct attempt to ride on the backs of the success of Star Citizen, Elite dangerous, and the dozen other successfully crowdfunded space simulators now in the pipe. Not only are the ships shown all clones of star citizen ships, but the entire campaign is cheap except where it aims to copy other games, and even other sci-fi in general. Furthermore, what does a developer like PGI even think they can contribute to the space genre when there are now dozens of games with tons of unique ideas in development. It gets funnier when you read their stretch goals and realize that even if they made it to their $500k goal, they'd be missing out on all sorts of basic features like "shooting" and "modifying your ship". Revolutionary.

The Mittani also pointed out the next big games journalism scandal in the making, but we can let that lie and instead refer you to this hilarious image of Mittani sending his regards to Nikolai shortly before they were all shadowbanned from reddit. Grr goons.

Some might tell you that "more competition for star citizen is better" and it is. But this isn't competition, it's a steaming pile. It would be one thing if PGI was capable, maybe they just screwed up the first few times, but that simply isn't the case, they harbor an immense amount of animosity towards their community, too much to have learned anything from the experience... and there's their history to contend with.

WHO SAW THIS COMING

Lets take a look back at part of the storied history of PGI. Duke Nukem forever's multiplayer and ports, and a truckload of bargain bin trash games they made under the name Jarhead Games. In other words, they have never had their hands on a good game. Who thought it was a good idea to let these people develop the next Mechwarrior?

Lets dig deeper into that previous link. These are people who have started 4 companies, Piranha, Jarhead, Giomobi, and Rabbit Hole Interactive (the irony of this is killing me). The latter two started while he was supposed to be working on MWO? To top it off, Rabbit Hole Interactive has taken credit for games they didn't make, and are subsequently being sued by the original owners! Not to mention all listed employees for Rabbit Hole games are also in PGI. And the lead mapper at PGI has had enough spare time to start her own restaurant. Nice.

As someone with the choice to have paid for a MWO founders pack, if you'd known about this history, would you have still backed it? It's too late now of course, they already have countless founder's money and very few of them are still happy about it. When MWO was released i was cautiously optimistic, having not done background research but at the same time having no interest in giving them any money till they at least passed the standards of MW:LL, which still hasn't happened. What almost got me to throw some money down was simply community pressure. Many friends were throwing tons of their hard earned money at MWO, and of course NGNG kept everyone hopefully optimistic to a fault... how can you blame paid contractors though... Keep your optimism in check, huh.

But don't worry, by now I'm sure rights holders are done with PGI. Never again will a beloved IP fall victim to their nefarious ways.... Wait, they claim to have the wing commander license? Oh my fucking god.

(Whether or not they actually have the license is in dispute, despite their insistence, it's scary they'd even lie and claim to have it, though)

A SCAM FROM THE START

Well, it certainly smells like one now. You might have noticed that Mechwarrior Tactics hasn't been brought up yet. Well, here goes. To give a brief history on MWT, IGP began selling founders packs, similar to MWO founders packs, in 2013, promising open beta within a year. These sales and promises continued into 2014, where in August Blue Lizard Games, the developer contracted by IGP to develop MWT, stated that their contract had expired in December 2013, and had nothing to do with the game since. The MWT website was shut down soon after, and it for all purposes vanished into the nether. This is a textbook scam by IGP, who have since taken the money and bailed on everyone. Good job guys, and good job 7G Entertainment for such a textbook con job going without fanfare so far.

Then, there's the relationship between IGP/PGI. Consistently, PGI has shifted blame onto IGP for poor community interaction, delays, funding issues, everything. Despite this, when PGI and IGP supposedly "split", PGI buying the exclusive rights from IGP, PGI recruited none other than Niko Snow from IGP, previously a paid moderator and community manager for IGP, who ran the MWO website. Yeah, this doesnt look fishy at all, are you sure you're not at fault here PGI? And of course, PGI is doing as terrible as ever without "IGP to hold them down". It's entirely plausable that this was planned from the start, with PGI making a "poor decision" by "buying the rights from igp" for whatever money they had left, with IGP making out like a bandit from both MWT and MWO. We'll never get proof of something like this, if it's happening, without a miracle. PGI is IGP reversed.

9/20/2014: As brought to light in a reddit thread linking here, most of IGP's team listed shows they have moved on already in their linked in profiles, suggesting that IGP is shutting down despite the injection of money they should have received from PGI securing MWO.

THE REST

There's even more to this situation than all that, excluded from the main body of the article due to it's quickly climbing length, this stuff had to be elaborated on somewhere.

First is how IGP pressured MW:LL to end development despite being most of the inspiration for MWO. The leverage they used was the employment of Criminal and Kamikaze, founders of the mod who had since obtained jobs at Crytek. It's also rumored (and just rumored, take that how you will) that Megamek and Mektek were targeted, Mektek having now closed shop and moved onto HeavyGear. Despite it's halted development, MW:LL is still a very fun, balanced, game, more-so than MWO at the very least! you won't find a game to play off primetime anymore, but if you head to the MW:LL website you can find details on how to get in a game.

Also of note is Chronojam's timeline compilation website. In it, we see a plethora of mind numbingly stupid shit, many of which has been deleted from the official MWO forums, and therefore is the only place you can find it. One thing I found funny was a moderator blaming "ex-MWO" players for putting up a fake ad which was using copyrighted content. But it just turned out to be IGP fucking up. Gee, i wonder why your community rightfully hates your guts guys. And "Activating jumpjets(?) bestows "Commander" status randomly". Enjoy the rest!

Putting this down here because it's somewhat questionable. We don't know if the transverse website staff are incompetent enough to have scripted this wrong or if they are actually maliciously manipulating the campaign, but it's funny nonetheless: http://www.reddit.com/r/mwo/comments/2fzxh8/transverse_pledge_counter_manipulation/

Finally, we have the pathetic attempts of PGI to drown out the events described in this article with trivial bullshit. Why, just 3 days after the 62 page hate thread, they open up their customer appreciation program! Really nice PR there, russ. By the way, I've mainly focused on Niko so far, but there's a few other people involved in the shady side of PGI including Russ Bullock and Bryon Eckman, just not on such a public scale as Niko. Just looking over their MWO forum posts and twitter feeds should be enough to get your fill of bullshit.

Heh.

DONT BE THIS GUY

Perhaps, the lesson is that even if you're a fan of a beloved IP such as Mechwarrior, not to suspend judgement simply because you're glad it's being rebooted. Piranha games knows exactly what they've done, and have intentionally exploited a die hard fanbase they never deserved to have in the first place. It's still important to keep in mind that PGI is a studio filled with many talented individuals who have no say in the decisions that have brought us here, and we should wish the best to them. Despite this, it's in everyone's best interest for PGI as a studio to crash and burn, the people in charge do not deserve a 5th chance. Just stop buying into their bull and don't give them your money, if you want transverse throw that wallet over to Star Citizen, at least they're having a laugh about it.

 

If all that wasn't long enough for you, dig through some of those links. If I missed anything, don't hesitate to comment or send a reply with more information, or a correction if we got anything wrong. The deeper they dig their hole the longer this gets.