So, so very disappoint. :c
Okay, so let me talk about what I just found out this afternoon when I came home from work. I get online, go to dick around on my favorite Slenderman forums. For me this is the lovely Slender Nation and the intensely fun Slenderman's Shadow forums. I go to the former because I love the Mythos, and I go to the latter because I'm a gamer and I love indie freeware horror games. Being both a broke college kid and an LPer, it's only natural that freeware indie horror appeals to me, and I was one of the many folks out there looking forward to the re-release of the Slenderman's Shadow (SS for short) maps under the Unity engine, because not only was a new map to be included but the old maps were to be made more functional as well. I waited patiently and breathlessly for months for word of the game's release, assured I'd get to see the Unity engine used for the glorious purpose of further propagation of the indie horror genre. Now, say what you will about those maps, and even what you will about the SlenderGame fad - but I loved Slender: The Eight Pages (hereafter called S:TEP) and it is still very near and dear to my heart when it comes to what ultimately lead to me becoming a full-fledged Slenderfan. It holds a special place deep down in my parietal pleura, just next to my right ventricle, so you can imagine my excitement when I heard I'd be able to play these maps with better compatability, more detail, and the same type of nice Unity engine I've come to know and love from S:TEP. I had even been planning an LP of those maps at some point, fully willing to get Marc Steene, the creator, free publicity if it meant an awesome new map for me to play.
But see, that dream was kind of sort of dashed to bits recently. Because this afternoon, Marc posted on his facebook that he would no longer be offering the game for free, but that it would cost $6.99 instead. And that the game would be released in four days, meaning that the change is not only last-minute, but probably quite permanent.
This is a problem.
Now let me set this straight right now - this is not a problem because Marc wants to make money on his hard work that took him months. The Unity engine and development tools have a pricetag of around $1,500. No, there's not an extra zero in there, that's how much this engine really costs (And the guy behind S:TEP made his game available for free on this engine?!). That's fine and I have no problem with that. This is not a problem simply because Marc feels he should have more credit. This isn't a problem because Marc wants reimbursement for the game that cost him thousands of hours and (apparently, according to rumors) around $1,300 in donation money to rebuild from the ground up.
This is a problem for a few other reasons, which I will list below. And every single reason listed is why I am very disappointed in Marc Steene right now, and will not be buying this game, instead keeping the lovely Legacy maps near and dear to my heart. So how have I been disappointed as a Slenderfan and a gamer? Let me count the ways:
- Marc originally said he was offering this game for free up until literally today. Back in November 2012, when the project was first announced as a replacement for a different project that fell through, Marc pointed out several times that the maps would be offered as a freeware bundle for all platforms. Now today, he's gone back on that statement, suddenly saying that the game will be offered for about $7. Now, that's no huge sum of money, but that's not really the issue here. My issue is that Marc lied to his fans for three months. After being patient through numerous setbacks and the like in what we thought was a freeware game, only to be told suddenly that we'll have to pay for it, is like a slap in the face. I'm hurt that Marc would think he'd have to lie about something like this, or go back on his previous word without any warning. To me, someone who claims genuine behavior, then pulls a bait-and-switch is not someone I have any sort of respect for, and it's not someone I want to buy something from. Marc, if you were intending to have us pay for it from the start, then why didn't you say that at the start? I would have understood, and so would your other fans. But to lead us to believe the game would be a freeware title, only to slap a price tag on four days before release, just looks incredibly fishy. I know he did it for a reason and probably didn't want to, but it still smells like bad business practice and foot-in-the-door marketing tactics - get people excited with the premise, and then hit them with the price tag later once they agree. That makes you look skeevy, Marc. And it really hurts that you think you'd need to lie to us like that. I really wish that you'd have said something when you realized the cost this would take to undergo instead of waiting until the last minute. I'm disappointed in you for that.
- Marc is asking us to pay extra for something that was previously free, just to get a new map - and said game does not have all that much replay value anyway. Um, most of us Windows users aren't going to do that if we have the Legacy maps working just fine. Why would we want to pay extra for what we already have that works just fine? Yes, there's the increased graphics, and some people want that... but many don't care, or can't just drop $7 at random on a new game. You're in college, Marc, you should understand this. I could see if you were offering the whole bundle with a bunch of cool extra stuff, that's worth paying for in my eyes. I could see if it were a "director's cut" or special edition of sorts. But for a game that is the same concept but rehashed in new maps, a game that basically consists of a more Slenderman-oriented version of Capture the Flag, and that to be honest, most people will only play for a few hours at most (maybe not even that)... this price tag's just not worth it. The thing about S:TEP is that it was offered free for a reason - it's a small game with a basic premise that honestly isn't all that fancy, and it was never meant to be much more than that. SS goes with the same concept, but in different maps, and again, they're small games. This isn't something like Parsec Productions' upcoming Slender: The Arrival (The guys from MH are doing the story! TROY AND CO ARE DOING THE STORY! *dies of fangirl glee*), which is S:TEP but MUCH bigger with HOURS of gameplay, a storyline pertaining to the Mythos, and other things besides the page collecting to it. Now that is a game I'd gladly buy for my home console! This is a game based on a game where the premise is that you pick up things and there's something after you. I'm sorry, but a game that short, even for a group of maps, just doesn't warrant a $7 fee for this indie gamer, and that's why I'm sticking to the Legacy maps.
- This re-release was supposed to provide increased platform functionality for Mac and Linux users, for free, like what the Windows users got. But now those people who have been waiting for Mac and Linux versions of the map, now they have to pay money where us Windows users didn't - and still don't if we're playing the Legacy maps instead! Marc, how is this in any way fair to Slenderfans that don't have Windows machines? This is like offering the favorite child a lollipop for free and then asking the other two kids in the family to pay for their own. It's unfair to those users because now they're out $7; meanwhile the Windows users who don't wanna buy the map pack are enjoying their Legacy maps (if they can even get them to work). How is any of that fair to the Linux and Mac users who have been patiently waiting for a LOT longer than me to play these maps? Why should they have to pay when we Windows users originally didn't have to spend a dime? Way to alienate Mac and Linux users, Marc. Yes I know, life's not fair, but when you promise freeware that will function on all platforms, and then take that away leaving two of three big computer OS platforms out in the cold without anything unless they cough up $7, that's cruel.
The original Legacy maps are being removed when Marc posts the new download. Yup. In four days you won't be able to even find the Legacy maps anymore unless you look hard enough for them; he's taking them down completely. Now that's real cold, Marc. Take down the original Legacy maps so that those who can't or don't want to pay are FORCED to buy your product if they want to see any of the maps besides Sanatorium. That's just... I don't even understand... Why would you do this, Marc? This is the most jerkass thing I think I've ever seen from a game programmer. Why NOT leave the legacy versions for those interested? What's the harm? Just stop offering patches or functionality for them or whatever! What if there's a person out there who cannot run anything under Unity? What if there's someone who can't afford the game and thus can't play it? Don't they deserve to at least see what inspired the other maps? I know you didn't have to do this for us Marc, but damn, what are you really losing by having the old maps stay up? Unless you think people won't buy your new game because they have the Legacy maps, which, congrats, I overheard many people on Youtube and the SS Forums planning to do just that, so it's not going to work. This is no longer true. On his Facebook page just today (1/9/13), Marc has responded to the intense scrutiny on his original plan to remove the links to the Legacy maps and sever all ties with his FPS Creator days that we all know and love. Due to the overwhelmingly negative response, he's decided to keep those links up. Thanks for listening to your fans, Marc! And that's a true, genuine statement right there - you've gained a lot of my lost respect back for listening to our reasons for not wanting those maps down. That proves you DO care about your fanbase and you truly DO understand why so many of us were upset about this. Sadly, I don't think this is going to prevent people from being upset, and I don't think it's going to make torrents of the full Unity game any less of a possibility. And speaking of torrenting...
- Piracy of the game is now a concern. Marc, there are plenty of people out there who can't or aren't willing to drop $7 on this project, and sadly some of them are selfish enough to pirate the game. And they will pirate your game. It's not like you're likely to have any DRM or protection on it. If someone gets a copy, all they have to do really is get it all packed up and torrent that shit. Sites like ThePirateBay are going to have copies of your old maps as backup links, and of your new package of Unity games. And about half your fanbase will be getting their copies from there, and you'll never see a cent because of that. It's not right, it's not fair, and it's stealing - but it's going to happen. And all this is gonna hurt you in the long run as an indie game maker, simply because you've suddenly put an arbetrary price tag on the game four days before release. You can sue, sure... but that's hardly going to do much, I'm afraid.
- Speaking of suing, what about Parsec Productions? You even said your game was based on S:TEP. That was back when it was free, and that's cool - S:TEP was free, SS was free, no worries, right? But now what if Parsec Productions sees you gaining money from an idea for a game that they popularized and worked hard at first? An idea for a game that they never saw a cent of money on because they didn't plan for it to get big? Yes, they have Slender: The Arrival coming... but Marc, if they decide you ripped off their idea for this game concept when they technically came first and your game is admittedly based on theirs, you'll be in a world of hurt. Legal battles aren't fun. And if they have proof they were planning all this stuff first, you're gonna look like a cheap ripoff trying to cash in on something someone else started. That is a bad thing by the way. Now for the record, I realize Slendy doesn't belong to any one person, and neither does his Mythos, and I realize that Agent Parsec did not create Slenderman (GOD no, that was Victor Surge; do your research!), but Parsec Productions and Agent Parsec DID come up with the concept behind S:TEP, and the gameplay and all that. They came up with that idea before you did. You just made a fangame based off of it that plenty of people see as a ripoff of S:TEP. Granted you worked hard on it, and it's still fun, but it's not your idea. You can't cash in on what someone else already did. That's not cool.
Marc, you gotta rethink this. It's not about me. It's about several errors in your judgement with doing this, and the disappointment your fans now face. I understand you gotta make money and gotta eat. I understand you're in university and need the cash. But this was a bone-headed move in my book, and it will always remain a bone-headed move to me. You've greatly disappointed me, Marc, and I've sadly lost a lot of respect for you. Sorry, but after what's happened here, I don't know if I'll be taking in any more of Dark Pathogen Studios' work or your materal ever again. And that is perhaps the biggest disappointment of all.