Friday, 10 October 2014

Transverse closed with a whimper and nobody cared......Good

This post is a little late but ultimately I felt it needed to be written.  Transverse was a victim of timing ultimately but also a victim of innate stupidity on behalf of PGI and it's bosses.  The idea of launching a crowd funded space sim that would try to take elements of many games while also trying to be unique was folly and I feel sorry for the programmers and artists who worked on the game until it's recent closure.

Now when I say closure I mean the title is no doubt being worked on still behind the scenes, it's just as a project that players can check a website and see some form of progress is no longer an option given the complete and total failure of the crowd funding campaign.  PGI aren't the most competent developer out there given their struggles currently with Mechwarrior Online so it was odd to see them unveiling a new game while their previous title was still on bricks waiting for new wheels.

Their ships looked a little too similar to certain other games ships
For those unaware.  Mechwarrior Online has been live for about three years now and runs along similar lines to games such as World of Tanks where players can jump into matches against randomly assigned opponents and earn money and experience to upgrade their vehicles.  Outside of that though World of Tanks has a massive community driven campaign mode where clans or guilds fight over territory to earn bonuses and eventually win the war to end the season before a new one begins.  Mechwarrior Online has the first part (the random matches) but it has been extremely slow to introduce the meat of the game in the form of community warfare.  Today we can access a map and create our guilds but that is it.  The promise of a more complete version of this mode is always being made but it never materialises and thus people have lost faith in the company to do anything beyond creating a fun if not repetitive team deathmatch game.

With that in mind you now have the announcement of Transverse a space sim MMO that would apparently be this entirely player controlled experience.  We were told that players would be everything essentially from bar owners to ship merchants to police to quest givers and more.  Except this concept would never work simply because you need NPC's to drive the early experience of any massively multiplayer game.  You need those quest givers to get people acquainted with the world they are playing in and to introduce core mechanics so they can go and make their way in your game world.  This minor gaff aside the game still didn't inspire players.  It didn't help that the first stretch goal of the project was "1 million dollars - ships flying".  You look at Star Citizen from it's Kickstarter days and it's pretty much a given that you will fly ships because you know, SPACE GAME!  so the idea of PGI stating that "at a million bucks folks you will be able to fly your ships, durr hurr hurr derp" was laughable.  Obviously this wasn't meant literally as they probably intended the first goal to be more along the lines of "1 million will get you flying around a few sectors and begin trading/exploring" but the wording didn't help and only got them derision from players and backers of games like Elite, Star Citizen and even EVE online.

Step 2 would have been shooting but since they never even got close to that number it's not fair to rib them on that point of stupidity.  The project reached a measly 2% of their funding goal which at this point had been slashed from $1million down to $500,000 and even then they struggled to reach $10,000.  Less than 200 people backed the project and it's safe to assume that some of if not all of the original backers at the projects launch were members of staff to make it look like people were backing right off the bat.  The situation only got worse when the forums opened and the mix of disgruntled Mechwarrior players, Star Citizen fans and genuine backers all got to speak their mind.

The fans of the project were dubbed "Trannies" a term which although unfortunate in it's use only highlighted the issue with the games name.  What does Transverse mean exactly?  We didn't know until PGI uploaded episode 1 of their program titled "The Fringe" which was definitely not just a carbon copy attempt to piggyback Star Citizen's "Around the verse" or "Wingman's Hangar".  It turns out the name was meant to evoke the concept of the games setting using transhumanity as a main theme.  With people being able to transfer their mind into alternate forms allowing them to look however they pleased and essentially ending death since you could just jump to a new body.  It's nothing new of course and EVE online had already been doing the same thing with jump clones for over a decade now, but PGI wanted to allow players to create some truly odd characters using terms such as furry and octopus.  Personally running around an MMO sci-fi universe with fucking furries piloting ships was an instant no-no for me anyway but yeah, Transverse was a kind of up in the air philosophical idea that never came to pass.

The name wasn't the only thing that got people talking as the entire staff of PGI were shadow banned from reddit on the day of the games announcement because of the community manager Niko_Snow breaking the rules of the site by advertising the game and then banning people for the tiniest hint of criticism regarding this game and MWO's lack of progress.  This outcome forced PGI into a PR damage control assault with MWO suddenly becoming the game they all appreciate the players for.  Previously founders who had been their initial bread and butter were ignored by PGI even though they were the one's who gave them collectively over $5 million as a show of their support for the product suddenly became the best mother fucking gamers in PGI's world.  If you bought any of their top tier packages then you were suddenly being treated to free 'mechs and other nifty bonuses and all of this has nothing to with the shitstorm currently hovering over Transverse, no sir.

Transverse was struggling to be noticed outside of angry Mechwarrior players and backers of Star Citizen and Elite who were pointing and laughing.  Not a single website seemed to know about this project, which I guess was a blessing in disguise given the ultimate fate of the campaign.  PGI are entirely to blame here because they didn't do the leg work to get the websites to post articles about them or interview them.  They seemed to live in this world where gaming websites had to come to them to ask permission to hype their new space game and it's crowd funding.  Hype works wonders on the mind of gamers because if you can paint this picture of a world in their minds they will throw buckets of money at you.  Star Citizen is a game that hasn't even shown a glimmer of a spark of a rainbow of anything to do with their persistent universe and people are giving them their children for limited ships, life time insurance and other bonuses.  We as gamers are prone to building up games in our heads long before any actual gameplay has arrived because games spark imagination and with that we preorder like crazy.  Ultimately the end result is never as good as we imagined but they have your money then so tough luck, but hey the game isn't bad it just isn't what you thought it was going to be.
Basic information like this didn't help promote confidence
Transverse never even got close to this.  Some people backed in some vain hope of being an early backer of another major space game but I still question why.  I understand with the other titles because both projects have people who have reputations for producing great space games.  PGI have great reputations of being massive arseholes who struggle to organise and effectively action a fucking Chinese takeaway order let alone a massive open world space sim that would have zero NPC's and deliver blowjobs on command.

The only sites that did cover the game only did so because of the reddit debacle, like finding a £5 note on the floor and then stumbling onto a gym bag stuffed with twenties.  It's accidental but lead to greater things for the writers who then expanded on the story when they looked into PGI's development history and laughed hard at their collective failure.  They are extremely lucky that this didn't get picked up by the major sites because it would have been a slaughter.

The final nail though came when the project after limping along for near three weeks was closed with a short message from Bryan Ekman stating that the game will go behind the curtain and he hopes to see us all out in the fringe in the future.  They refunded those who had backed the game and shutdown the forum.  Now the site sits in a limbo showing the small number of images and videos presumably until the domain becomes available again when their domain ownership ends.

I don't feel bad for PGI though.  I feel sorry for the developers who worked on it, those who may have been hired to work on the game and now may face redundancy because of this.  I feel PGI tried to jump on a band wagon but jumped so hard on it they went through the wagon and got caught in the moving wheels.  They state in their videos that they have the Wing Commander license yet chose not to use it because they didn't want to be tied to another licensed universe.  However announcing Wing Commander online would have generated more revenue, more hype, more publicity.  It's a hugely recognisable name that has a link to Chris Roberts which they could have exploited to further elevate their public profile, but no they had to try something original and ultimately they failed.  If nothing else this entire chain of events can be used to educate other companies on how not to launch a game, so you know silver linings and all that.


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