We're going to talk about Transverse, and it's going to get ugly.
I Am Not Making This Up (tm)
But sweet christ, I wish I was. Especially now that the original Wing Commander IP is involved. We'll get to that in a bit, there are layers and layers of madness through which we must descend.
On Tuesday, Piranha Games announced that they have a new title with a new IP: Transverse. You'll note the large alluring button on that page when you load it, like a red, angry warning sign, demanding you to PLEDGE without much else visible. In case you were unaware or had forgotten, this large red PLEDGE button is brought to you by the same company which asked - without a shred of irony - for $500 gold-skinned Clan Battlemechs. No, I'm not making that up either.
A Trailer of Tears
Politely, the reveal trailer for this new IP was utter shit. That ~nasty statement~ of mine is widely shared by the intended audience of PGI's efforts; at the time I write this, the trailer has more than 540 negative votes on Youtube for barely 100 positives. The company chose to immediately turn off comments, and several hours later released an 'extended reveal' trailer with designer Bryan Ekman adding some additional commentary about the game. That second trailer did even worse, with almost a ten-to-one ratio of downvotes to upvotes; it appears to have now been removed and replaced with a copy of the same video, eight hours ago, resetting the like/dislike counter to, uh... 70 down to 7 up.
How dare I say this trailer is shit! What a mean word for a member of the ~games press~ to throw around! Suffer as I have suffered and watch it. Your initial ships in the trailer bear an alarming design resemblance to Star Citizen's Origin 300i. The shady bar where our generic hero, Julian, sulks about the Fringe? I think I saw that in Starcraft 2. Our generic crescent-winged enemy drones - isn't that a Cylon Raider from Battlestar Galactica? Wait a second, the Fringe. Didn't this game come out in 2000? I'm not the only one staring at these ship designs with a suspicious eye. Check this comparison out; again we have an alarming resemblance to a Star Citizen hull.
Here's a look at some ship on the Transverse website - It totally isn't cribbed from a Drake Cutlass from Star Citizen! Oh, also you have clones or something so you can't actually die, your pilot wakes up in a clone, because hey why not let's copy Eve Online's core gimmick while we're yoinking tropes from every other successful space game out there and producing hulls which mysteriously resemble the IP of other, more successful companies!
Consider for a moment that this project launched days after PGI announced that they had parted ways with their publisher, IGP. We are now forced to re-evaluate the nature of that split, given how utterly dumbfounding the Transverse project appears. Take a look at the 'stretch goals' for Transverse. For one million dollars, you can fly a ship in space, but you can't adjust any fittings or modules on it, or shoot anything. For 1.5 million dollars, you can't shoot stuff, but you can fiddle with modules on your flying-in-space ship! For two million dollars Transverse aims high and reaches the level which oft-mocked Star Citizen has been at for months: multiplayer dogfighting! At the maximum listed stretch goal, you may have the opportunity to mine spacerocks, since that's something really exciting to cap everything in Transverse off with.
At the time of writing, only 63 people have backed this project, raising some $5680 towards the goal of flying a gunless ship in an instanced space-field. More people might have lined up, regardless of PGI's reputation after MWO's many travails, if the website itself wasn't a creaking disaster.
At least PGI can't backhandedly try to blame IGP for these ~courageous~ design decisions any longer.
PGI Blames Goon-Ruled Reddit and Gets Banned
Shortly after the Transverse site went live, it was discovered that PGI's community manager - Nikolai "Niko Snow" Lubkiewicz - had rushed to create r/Transverse and control it by PGI staff to ensure that the reddit community would be moderated by PGI officials. This was unsurprising; the existence of r/mwo - a subreddit extremely critical of PGI and lightly moderated - has long been a thorn in PGI's side, resulting in some embarrassing misbehavior by Niko as recently as May of this year. Just after the IGP/PGI split, it was discovered that Niko had begun to aggressively ban users from the MWO forums for commenting negatively about Mechwarrior on unrelated sites - including Facebook posts and even the Star Citizen forums. I thought this was tinfoil paranoia from r/mwo - surely, no company would be so ham-handed as to forum ban users posting on other sites - but dear old Niko proceeded to nail himself up on a cross, stake out the moral high ground, and bleat out a manifesto which somehow compared banning off-site critiques of PGI to the #gamergate harassment.
Again, I am not making this up.
With the release of Transverse and PGI's worst-in-class attempts to stifle dissent over their bungling of the beloved Mechwarrior IP in the prior months, the attempt to seize control over r/Transverse backfired horribly, resulting in Niko and every other PGI company reddit account being shadowbanned. Niko then took to the MWO forums to announce this great injustice, and without a shred of irony blamed the members of Somethingawful.com for the reddit ban. You may be thinking to yourself at this point that Somethingawful.com is notoriously hostile to Reddit, and went to brutal forum-on-forum war with that site to the point of calling Anderson Cooper in to expose the nauseating 'free speech' which protected such lovely subreddits as r/creepshots and r/jailbait, but no - PGI stated, in a formal post, that goons were to blame.
I'm not making this... fuck it, here's a picture.
Brilliance in action, Niko linked to a post on SA which was promptly edited to give him a much-deserved finger.
Some other highlights of Niko's tantrum as events swiftly spiraled out of control:
He even opted to smug at me on twitter, mere hours before the ban and before the whole house of cards came crashing down:
For some reason, PGI's community management has not inspired potential backers to open their wallets on Transverse's behalf.
Mechwarrior and Wing Commander: Squandering Your Childhood
Just when we thought the Transverse drama couldn't get dumber, PGI's Creative Director makes a post to try to calm the enraged community down. Key takeaways:
- Transverse was supposed to be Wing Commander Online; PGI owns that IP
- Star Citizen beat them to the punch and they opted to try to launch a clone anyway
- Mechwarrior Online isn't that bad, why is everyone still upset?
- We'll give all the money back in 30 days if we don't somehow reach $500,000.
I am not making this up.
I'm in my mid-thirties, which means that these two IPs - Mechwarrior and Wing Commander - essentially defined my formative gaming days. Somehow PGI ended up with both of them and made a complete hash out of something that a half-competent company would be laughing all the way to the bank with. I'm going to quote this bit from Ekman in full just so you can enjoy the burning, salt-in-the-eye feeling it inspires properly; let's settle in for some deep hurting.
There is a sentiment out there that perhaps customers should not support Transverse because of unfulfilled feature promises to supporters of MechWarrior Online. I wanted to clarify this with some official information for you the potential customers to consider. At this point in MechWarrior Online we have one major missing feature from the original 4 design pillars expressed to players: Community Warfare, the planetary conquest between the factions. However, this feature is in development now and will be completed and delivered to our customers before the end of the year. Now consider this, we first took money from customers into MechWarrior Online in the summer of 2012 which means the delivery of all of those original features will have been delivered within 2.5 years of first receiving money from those customers.
This is longer than we’d planned or hoped for. However, we examined the breadth of MechWarrior Online’s feature set and functionality, both now and at the 2.5 year mark. Then compared that with other similar products that have received crowd funding for nearly 2 years and the content from those games that players can partake in. This comparison offers an important change in perspective. We hope you consider this objectively when judging whether Piranha can deliver content and products at an acceptable rate.
This displays a blindness to reality which makes Incarna-era CCP seem levelheaded and in touch with their customers. For years PGI has apparently blamed 'goons' for criticizing MWO, and now the chickens have come home to roost on their face: if it was only 'goons' who disliked MWO, then that crowdfunding meter for Transverse would have more than 60 people on board with PGI's vision for... whatever this thing is.
Bereft of a cherished IP with an existing fanatically loyal playerbase, this attempt to cash in on Star Citizen crowdfunding shows that PGI has precisely zero goodwill attached to the company itself and no faith from its customers - they've dumped capital into MWO for their love of Battletech, not because of PGI. A popular company with good relations can make insane amounts of crowdfunding cash - viz Chris Roberts. PGI gets nothing, and then has the audacity to be hurt and surprised by the reaction from their scorned, overmoderated and ignored community.
Something Wicked At PC Gamer This Way Comes
As everyone with a pulse besides the 60 backers of Transverse has stared, jaws agape, at this trainwreck, I noticed something unusual emanating from PC Gamer's website. Now, PC Gamer once named Mechwarrior Online the 20th Best Shooter Of All Time (Not Making This Up!) and at one point featured MWO on the cover of their print edition; in MWO there is a 'PC Gamer' mech skin from that issue.
"...while the reveal trailer strikes me as a cross between Battlestar Galactica and Firefly, with a dash of Babylon 5 on the narrative side. But that's not a criticism: Original ideas are nice, but a mashup like that—if it's done properly—is something I'd throw money at all day long."
Not having original ideas is ~not a criticism~, says PC Gamer, linked by what we can only presume is PGI's PR agent.
Wait for it.
Waaaaaaait for it...
~I am not making this up~
There's even a follow-on gushing piece about how great the IGP/PGI split is for customers, because ~reasons~. If the 4chan boys weren't so busy chasing after women to be mad at under the guise of being upset about games journalism, they'd actually have something fishy to look into here.
Star Citizen: Reasonable and Achievable?
There's been a periodic scuffle between the true believers of Star Citizen and Eve Online players since Chris Roberts began development on the real successor to the Wing Commander games, and while we here at TMC enjoy poking fun at the Klingon-esque language plans and the Space Bonsai backer rewards, the hard fact is that Arena Commander exists and has an increasingly functional multiplayer dogfighter mode. It exists; it is not vaporware. As some of CCP's most beloved staff flee Reykjavik for Riot, it's nice that both Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous and Eve Online players have something they can join together and relentlessly mock:
I now find myself much more supportive towards Star Citizen after researching this Transverse disaster - simply because the idea of EA selling the Wing Commander to PGI, and this transparent, intellectually bankrupt copy and paste cash-grab being the result of that sale, makes me absurdly happy that I splurged on a Retaliator and a Hornet during the LTI Grey Market era.