Indie Developer: 'Evil' Is Undeserved Compliment For Microsoft

Indie Developer: 'Evil' Is Undeserved Compliment For Microsoft

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The folks behind Skulls of the Shogun have a lot of regrets about their publishing deal with Microsoft.

The developer behind Skulls of the Shogun, a comic turn-based strategy game where you fight to become the Shogun of the Dead, knew it was making what Borut Pfeifer of Plush Apocalypse Productions describes as "a deal with the devil" when it signed a publishing agreement with Microsoft. At the time it seemed like a good idea; the Surface tablet was about to take the world by storm, and Xbox Live was a very tempting marketplace. Agreeing to be exclusive to Windows 8 seemed a small price to pay. Except the Surface didn't take anything, whether by storm or drizzle, Xbox Live wasn't as good a home for the game as the developer had hoped, and the backlash against Windows 8 was much more aggressive than anticipated. "It was a case where we were like 'we know some things are going to be a problem but we think that on some level we'll get something out of them as well'," says Pfeifer. "I think it was an awful lot worse for us than others. We ran into problems that nobody else had got or talked about." But Pfeifer thinks calling Microsoft, or its publishing arm Microsoft Studios, evil is an undeserved compliment. "To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution," he says. "None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios."

Releasing the game on three different platforms caused endless headaches, not least because the three platforms weren't really compatible with each other; a fix for one caused issues with another. Adding to the pain, Microsoft didn't pay on time, forcing the developer to take out a loan to cover expenses. This Pfeifer attributes in no small part to the "systemic problems" he encountered at "institutionally incompetent" Microsoft Studios. Pfeifer feels that Microsoft's indifference, rather than any positive action on its part, is what will kill off the indie scene on Xbox.

"I personally would like to go back in time and kick myself in the balls," says Pfeifer. "I'd just like to have that year and a half of my life back." But there is some hope. Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-a-Fide Edition is headed for Steam, with new content and Tanuki Monk. With any luck, things will turn around for Skulls of the Shogun, now that its definitive edition is in beta release. It's going on full sale in July, but preorders can be had over here, at $11.99 a pop.

Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun

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"Adding to the pain, Microsoft didn't pay on time, forcing the developer to take out a loan to cover expenses."

How that hell does that happen? were they forced to sign a agreement that just allows M$ to say "eh we don't really feel like paying you yet wait for a week or two"

The more news that leaks out makes it seem like Microsoft does this stuff just to seem as evil as possible.

But are they as toxic as online behavior?

Bix96:

The more news that leaks out makes it seem like Microsoft does this stuff just to seem as evil as possible.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

As the article explained, Microsoft is not evil.

Grossly incompetent?
Indifferent?
Arrogant?
Stupid?

Yes. All of the above. And more....

Evil? No. They're too stupid to be evil.

Karloff:
Adding to the pain, Microsoft didn't pay on time, forcing the developer to take out a loan to cover expenses. This Pfeifer attributes in no small part to the "systemic problems" he encountered at "institutionally incompetent" Microsoft Studios. Pfeifer feels that Microsoft's indifference, rather than any positive action on its part, is what will kill off the indie scene on Xbox.

If Microsoft wasn't paying them on time, couldn't they just delay or stop production altogether until they get paid? That's pretty much what happens everywhere else.

I actually recently watched the Indie Game documentary and saw how Microsoft did very little to help promote Super Meat Boy on XBox Live during GameFeast after they busted their asses to get the game to them on time, so I'm not at all surprised to hear that this developer got shoddy treatment as well. Here's hoping they find their success elsewhere.

roushutsu:
If Microsoft wasn't paying them on time, couldn't they just delay or stop production altogether until they get paid? That's pretty much what happens everywhere else.

Well sure, they could, but then what? They can pause development, but they still have to pay for food and other bits of life. Better to take out a loan and continue working so that they can have a product to sell as soon as possible. Until that game is done they have no way to make money. It's likely they didn't exactly have other jobs to go work for a month or two until MS pays up.

Well, I hope Microsoft was at least required to pay interest on their late payment.

The thing is, most large companies are typically very incompetent. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

Wait, is this a game that's already released? Because that screenshot looks pretty awesome, even if it's just promotional and not from the actual gameplay; I like the aesthetic.

Oh, wait, it's currently exclusive to Xbox 360 or Windows 8? Eugh... yeah, we've had eight years of indie developers complaining about how Microsoft approaches that, what would make them think that's a good idea? Hopefully they'll actually be able to get it onto Steam or something...

As far as how 'evil' Microsoft is, I still am waiting to pass my final judgement. If they remove compatibility with SmartGlass for non-Microsoft products, I'm going to call them 'evil'.

shrekfan246:

Oh, wait, it's currently exclusive to Xbox 360 or Windows 8? Eugh... yeah, we've had eight years of indie developers complaining about how Microsoft approaches that, what would make them think that's a good idea? Hopefully they'll actually be able to get it onto Steam or something...

It currently has a Steam Store page with a "July 2013" release date and minimum system requirements of XP SP3 or above

shrekfan246:

Oh, wait, it's currently exclusive to Xbox 360 or Windows 8? Eugh... yeah, we've had eight years of indie developers complaining about how Microsoft approaches that, what would make them think that's a good idea? Hopefully they'll actually be able to get it onto Steam or something...

No - it the game was exclusive to Xbox live and windows 8 but is now available on Steam though it's not fully released until July -> http://store.steampowered.com/app/228960/

pre-purchasing gets you access to the beta.

Dryk:

It currently has a Steam Store page with a "July 2013" release date and minimum system requirements of XP SP3 or above

Kiya:

No - it the game was exclusive to Xbox live and windows 8 but is now available on Steam though it's not fully released until July -> http://store.steampowered.com/app/228960/

pre-purchasing gets you access to the beta.

Ah, good to know.

I'll have to keep my eyes on that -- There are a lot of games I've got to consider spending money on between now and the next month and a half.

They -do- seem to be a ridiculous company. Windows 8 and the Xbone are kind of most prominent examples of this. Seriously, what on Earth did they expect to happen?

Falterfire:

roushutsu:
If Microsoft wasn't paying them on time, couldn't they just delay or stop production altogether until they get paid? That's pretty much what happens everywhere else.

Well sure, they could, but then what? They can pause development, but they still have to pay for food and other bits of life. Better to take out a loan and continue working so that they can have a product to sell as soon as possible. Until that game is done they have no way to make money. It's likely they didn't exactly have other jobs to go work for a month or two until MS pays up.

Right. Contracts are binding, but only on those who sign one with someone who can afford to enforce it. If you can't afford to enforce on your behalf, or if the costs of doing so just don't balance out, then contracts mean little to nothing.

Like was said in the article, it was probably a case of incompetence. MS bungled up payment through corporate confusion.

You know, this summed it up correct.

Microsoft didn't develop the Anti-Used Game Policy because they were evil.
Microsoft didn't develop the worst Windows since ME because they were evil.
Microsoft didn't develop the Kinect requirement because they were evil.

They did it because they are monkeys...dumb monkeys, that use "catchphrases," forgetting that those went out of style in the new Millenium...14 years ago. They have no idea what they are doing anymore.

How do I know?
A truly evil corporation would have made the XboxOne with No Always Online requirement, no Kinect requirement, and no Used Game limitations. Then, when there is 8 million copies in the home, THEN they start "patching in" requirements for Always Online, Used Games, and Kinect requirements. Now, you're forced to shell out another $400 for a PS4 to get off of the requirements that the Xbone introduced in a patch.

Oh god... now that I think about it...what if Sony is using this plan for the PS4-- URK...

Dear Escapians, there is no evil plan for the PlayStation4. You shall all purchase PS4. Sincerely, Son-- I mean---Rob, what is on that Driver's license? Zachare?-- Sincerely, Zachare.

Bix96:
"Adding to the pain, Microsoft didn't pay on time, forcing the developer to take out a loan to cover expenses."

How that hell does that happen? were they forced to sign a agreement that just allows M$ to say "eh we don't really feel like paying you yet wait for a week or two"

The more news that leaks out makes it seem like Microsoft does this stuff just to seem as evil as possible.

I don't know HOW it happens, but they ain't the first ones to say this, either.

This caught my eye on XBL, but I never played the demo. Maybe if I like it, I'll just buy it on Steam, instead.

DVS BSTrD:
But are they as toxic as online behavior?

I for one, find their opinion quite destructive.

Karloff:
describes as "a deal with the devil" when it signed a publishing agreement with Microsoft. At the time it seemed like a good idea; the Surface tablet was about to take the world by storm, and Xbox Live was a very tempting marketplace. Agreeing to be exclusive to Windows 8 seemed a small price to pay. Except the Surface didn't take anything, whether by storm or drizzle, Xbox Live wasn't as good a home for the game as the developer had hoped, and the backlash against Windows 8 was much more aggressive than anticipated.

Then maybe they shouldnt have done a publishing agreement with Microsoft, and they arent Indie if they have a publisher. All in all it was their fault, not saying that the game was bad or anything but they apparently dont understand business.

I get that Microsoft is what it is but when they make "a deal with the devil" they got that and its their fault to have chosen that path.

josemlopes:

Karloff:
describes as "a deal with the devil" when it signed a publishing agreement with Microsoft. At the time it seemed like a good idea; the Surface tablet was about to take the world by storm, and Xbox Live was a very tempting marketplace. Agreeing to be exclusive to Windows 8 seemed a small price to pay. Except the Surface didn't take anything, whether by storm or drizzle, Xbox Live wasn't as good a home for the game as the developer had hoped, and the backlash against Windows 8 was much more aggressive than anticipated.

Then maybe they shouldnt have done a publishing agreement with Microsoft, and they arent Indie if they have a publisher. All in all it was their fault, not saying that the game was bad or anything but they apparently dont understand business.

I get that Microsoft is what it is but when they make "a deal with the devil" they got that and its their fault to have chosen that path.

If you want your game releaed on the Xbox you need to either publish through Microsoft or a 3rd party publisher you can't self publish.

Kumagawa Misogi:

josemlopes:

Karloff:
describes as "a deal with the devil" when it signed a publishing agreement with Microsoft. At the time it seemed like a good idea; the Surface tablet was about to take the world by storm, and Xbox Live was a very tempting marketplace. Agreeing to be exclusive to Windows 8 seemed a small price to pay. Except the Surface didn't take anything, whether by storm or drizzle, Xbox Live wasn't as good a home for the game as the developer had hoped, and the backlash against Windows 8 was much more aggressive than anticipated.

Then maybe they shouldnt have done a publishing agreement with Microsoft, and they arent Indie if they have a publisher. All in all it was their fault, not saying that the game was bad or anything but they apparently dont understand business.

I get that Microsoft is what it is but when they make "a deal with the devil" they got that and its their fault to have chosen that path.

If you want your game releaed on the Xbox you need to either publish through Microsoft or a 3rd party publisher you can't self publish.

So dont release it on Xbox, you could just release it on the PC like most indy studios do, even use things like the Humble Bundle to promote the game. I didnt see the guys from Journey complain that they were forced to release their game on the Xbox, meaning that they had to find a publisher of just settle with Microsoft.

And maybe the game just wouldnt sell that much either way, State of Decay is only on the Xbox and according to them its going great. They made a bet and that bet was that the Surface would sell well and that would help their game, it didnt so logicly it didnt help the game. Had it the Surface sold well and they would be throwing a party and celebrating their choice.

Microsoft does suck at this sort of thing but they chose to go with them.

Bix96:
"Adding to the pain, Microsoft didn't pay on time, forcing the developer to take out a loan to cover expenses."

How that hell does that happen? were they forced to sign a agreement that just allows M$ to say "eh we don't really feel like paying you yet wait for a week or two"

The more news that leaks out makes it seem like Microsoft does this stuff just to seem as evil as possible.

Do you think they would cancel the project and send lawyers to Microsoft because a payment was late? This sort of thing isn't unknown for small businesses. Larger companies take advantage of them.

Well thank god you woke up and actually told the story, because on the cusp of Xbox1 even more people will be locked into their exclusivity deals knowing nothing what is down that rabbit hole.

I do still wonder how anyone in their right mind believed Surface and W8 would be a big thing...

Imper1um:
You know, this summed it up correct.
A truly evil corporation would have made the XboxOne with No Always Online requirement, no Kinect requirement, and no Used Game limitations. Then, when there is 8 million copies in the home, THEN they start "patching in" requirements for Always Online, Used Games, and Kinect requirements. Now, you're forced to shell out another $400 for a PS4 to get off of the requirements that the Xbone introduced in a patch.

Dude Microsoft is only patching around the DRM not removing it. They could add it back in using a single patch. Who's to say they aren't stupid and evil? Not to mention the serious possibility that the day one patch could make the console unstable and prone to bricking.

roushutsu:
If Microsoft wasn't paying them on time, couldn't they just delay or stop production altogether until they get paid? That's pretty much what happens everywhere else.

Compounding to what others have already said is the dreaded 'word of mouth' scenario. If you're indie, even if you have Microsoft's backing, what you're selling is your livelihood. It's your name, it's your future sales of other titles. Even though Microsoft created the burden for Pfeifer by spreading the ip thin, few people really care. They just want the game they bought to work.

And as we've seen with Microsoft, Mass Effect 3, Denis Dyack and others.. bad vocal press will change people's opinions (and purchasing desires) drastically. Pfeifer needed the games to work to continue his development life. He needed to focus time that he could be do other things to earn money to eat and keep things working. Without the pay from Microsoft, to keep his dream of being a game developer alive, that loan was essential.

"Woe is us, we were mistreated".

"Oh and FYI, our game is coming out"

<_<

>_>

With all these horror stories coming out are there any indie devs working exclusively for the Xbone?

The thing that most shocked me about this is learning that there is such a thing as a Windows 8 exclusive game. I figured they'd be saving that for a new Gears, Halo, or Fable in a desperate attempt to get people to upgrade -- like they did with Halo 2.

 

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