Wasteland 2 makes a social blunder

Brian Fargo and the RPG community just teamed up to kickstart 1.5 Million dollars for  Wasteland 2, an old-school postapocalyptic RPG. It was the perfect date, until Brian started getting a little too friendly:

“At 2 million we will increase the staff to make the game more social so that it can become a more shared experience. We like the concepts of dropping notes into the world for your friends who are playing the game, or perhaps we may allow you to send an item their way from Ranger center to help them out. We are fleshing out the ideas but  intend to increase the social aspects of the game without diverting it from being an old school RPG and without hurting the balance.”

This update sparked rage, complaints, and comments like “…I pledged more than I pay for my monthly rent, but seeing the game pushed into the direction of a fallout clone with SOCIAL COMPONENTS is making me consider ditching my pledge in favour of a $15 hold out hope of the game not turning into a steaming pile of rotted feces. Please tell me you’re joking. WastelandVille? Say it ain’t so. ”

It’s important to clarify what kind of social components Brian’s talking about. In an interview with No Mutants allowed,  he compared his ideas to the message system in Demon’s Souls. That game lets you make messages by combining pre-made phrases (“Be wary of” | “Traps”, for example) and leave them as graffiti for other players to find. It’s impossible to say anything out of character or give away plot twists, the whole thing is justified as part of the game’s world, and it’s not there as a way to monetize the game. “WastelandVille!” isn’t a rejection of the way Demon’s Souls does things; it’s a blanket negative response to the word “Social”.

So to sum up: The game was announced over twitter, built interest through likes, shares and plus 1′s, sought funding via kickstarter, and finally reached it’s goal because 30,000 RPG fans from across the globe united into a single online community with the power to make this happen.  And now a subset of that same online community is making an online protest, because the word “Social” has no place in RPG’s. That’s the genre that is, lest we forget, based on a multiplayer game.

With that much irony I don’t think I’ll ever need to eat red meat again.

I don’t expect Brian to stick to his guns on this one. The fans funded the game, and he’s made it clear he’s going to take their wishes into account. I worry more about the smaller guys. If you’ve got a name as big as Brian Fargo’s, you can afford to ask people to hand over 50 bucks for a premium product. As a struggling indie, though, the general wisdom runs; give your game out for free or very little, let players pay more if they like the game, and let them play with friends so that every fan creates two more.

I believe these things can be done without becoming a Farmville money-grab, and I’m interested to see them in an RPG. I enjoy connecting with games in a social context, and I have to imagine that every one one of those forum posters does too. It’s just a shame that the entire concept of socialization in a game brings out so much hate from hardcore gamers, and a shame that I won’t get to connect with other people in Wasteland 2.

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About Jack McNamee

In the third year of a game design course in Queensland, Australia. Thinking a whole lot about games. Scrabbling desperately against the oncoming future.
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