Life is not exceptionally easy for a game developer and being an indie developer can provide its own challenges, but in reality there is no reason to be thoughtless… or even look for some sort of sympathy for being thoughtless. There are reports coming out of LazyGamer, Kotaku and Polygon that a developer’s game was dropped from Steam after death threats aimed at Gabe Newell.
Here is what happened accompanied by my analysis of how fast this whole situation skipped a few levels as it went from zero to sixty in a matter of moments.
Mike Maulbeck, developer of Paranautical Activity, recently had issues with Steam’s distribution of his game. You see, developers, be them indie or triple-A in stature, depend on proper distribution to maximize sales. If a game is supposed to be available on a certain day, the developer sits on that page refreshing it to ensure it is there. Then the waiting game begins. So, when Maulbeck expected to see his completed work available for purchase, he saw Steam had inaccurately labeled his game as an “early access” title. This sent Maulbeck into a fit.
Ok, Pause. I am sensing some anger here. Maybe rightfully so, but there is a dance developers play. Rather than instantly losing their shit, one might reach out to the publisher in question and rectify these mistakes. Sure, the argument could be made that the publisher should have their shit together, especially one such as large as Steam. In addition, this listing is costing him money by the minute. No doubt he is perturbed. Maulbeck continues:
Pause. A lot of cussing. He is so mad. At this point, though I do not agree with the approach or the language, I cannot deny his right to be angry or feel screwed. However, his judgement had become seriously impaired when this happened…
Oops! Maulbeck effed up. A double eff up. A twofer. First, the obvious. He threatens Gabe Newel directly, as if Gabe sits there, lotion and tissues at his ready, waxing it as he toys with developer emotions. Secondly, which I assume is a Halloween thing, changed his named to Murderbeck. GLORIOUS! I have no doubt these comments were born out of frustration, which is what makes this so bittersweet.
1) Developers and publishers need to stop tolerating this behavior but…
2) Maulbeck is almost a casualty of war, almost collateral damage.
But I digress…
After the tirade, the game was understandably pulled. Valve states:
“We have removed the game’s sales page and ceased relations with the developer after he threatened to kill one of our employees”
This is a consequence of letting his anger get the better of him. It is terrible. I bet he is a great guy. After focusing so much of your energy on a project, when it is complete you feel as though your baby is in good hands. When you feel like your work or you have been taken advantage of, something in you snaps. All the blood, sweat and tears you shed creating the game feel pointless. At this point you can persevere or lose your shit. Maulbeck lost his shit.
Though he realized his error and tried to apologize, Valve had none of it. He had to find non-Steam ways of distributing his game. It does not seem like it is going well.
But hey, in the spirit of “everybody deserves a second chance”, I don’t think Mike Maulbeck or his game should be dismissed to exile. In another attempt to remind people the game is still available, He tweets:
But as the saga continues, on Code Averice’s homepage, is an announcement that “Mike is leaving Code Averice” in it he makes it clear he is sorry for his actions born from frustration. In conclusion he says:
“I’ve sold my half of Code Avarice to Travis. Given up all my rights to CA as a company, and all it’s intellectual properties. I won’t receive any money from the sale of Paranautical Activity or any future games CA develops, I won’t be consulted on business decisions, and I won’t have any hand in development. I’m out.”
Within the announcement, Mike made it clear that his frustration on Twitter has been a problem in the past so stepping down feels like the right thing to do to ensure the company wont be held accountable for his anger.
Well, for what it is worth, I really think what Mike did was stupid but here’s hoping he does not quit because in him is a lot of passion. Passion I think the industry needs. I just hope he can manage his anger. Not everything will be a smooth ride.
I hope Mike keeps his chin up because in the aftermath he took responsibility and attempted to make amends. It would be much easier for him to continue to assault Steam out of continued misplaced anger and spite. He didn’t do that. In this era, his actions in the aftermath deserve respect and consideration. Mike Maulbeck could have set a bad example, in the end I think he set a good one.
The Jaded Gamer