I am a huge admirer of Peter Molyneux. He's ferociously intelligent, inspiringly ambitious and, perhaps most importantly, a really lovely guy who is great to spend time with.
There are two reasons for opening this piece with that statement. One, for the sake of transparency. And two, because if it weren't true I wouldn't be writing this at all.
The question I'm asking here is quite simple. Let's put the debate aside and accept that the launch of Curiosity: What's Inside The Cube has been a disaster. Have the media been giving Peter Molyneux an easier ride simply because he is Peter Molyneux?
I ask this after reading two tweets I received from fellow UK dev veteran Ste Pickford last week.
@benparfitt tech failures should at least be considered before launch. Anyone but PM would be slaughtered by press for not solving first.— Ste Pickford (@stepickford) November 9, 2012
And that got me thinking. Have I held back from writing negative stories about Curiosity because it's Peter's game?
For those of you that haven't been following it, there are plenty of reasons to complain about the game.
It has been beset by server woes since launch, leaving many players unable to access it. And even those who do are often finding that the cube is not updating.
But the real kicker, arguably, is the studio's decision to ask fans for financial support.
#curiosity We may need help to make the experience truly wonderful, our server costs are going to ramp up with our new fix— peter molyneux (@pmolyneux) November 9, 2012
We are a small independent developer and due to popular demand we now offer the option for kind people to donate, so that we can make Curiosity the best possible experience it can be. However big or small the donation; it will really help us make Curiosity better,” the site reads.
Now, Molyneux is famed for making big promises and then under-delivering (another reason why I love the guy, if I'm being honest). This is nothing new. But the difference now is that there isn't a third party – such as Microsoft – to back him up.
When Molyneux's grand ideas fell short for Fable II and Fable III, Microsoft was there to absorb the brunt of it. And, in reality, it didn't really matter too much – yes, the tree didn't evolve over time but details like that don't matter so much when they're one of thousands of clever inclusions dragged into reality by Microsoft's almost bottomless pockets.
That is no longer the case. The link between Peter, 22Cans and the public is about as direct now as it ever has been. There's no buffer, no security blanket. So where has Peter turned to instead? To the public. The public who, let's be honest, have been significantly let down by 22Cans' failure to readily prepare for Curiosity's launch.
When Curiosity arrived last week it's no exaggeration to say that the MCV office was entranced. When the first layer came to the end on the second day, three quarters of the MCV editorial team was determined to be there to witness it. And we were. And it was really, really exciting.
But maintaining that sort of loyalty has been made nearly impossible by the game's failure to get its house in order. To then turn around and ask us for cash sadly feels like the last straw.
Let's be clear – this never used to happen (at least nowhere near as often). The Kickstarter culture has more rapidly than anyone envisaged turned into something else. Something insidious, something disingenuous. David Braben's Elite reboot may have left a dodgy taste in the mouth, but 22Cans' plea made us gag.
I take no pleasure in writing these words. I'm still a Molyneux fan and, if I'm being honest, a Molyneux apologist. I probably always will be. But I'm also the fella that writes all dem words on MCV and when I finally admitted to myself that I was treating this story differently, the publication of this piece was always inevitable.
Luckily there's still plenty of time for Peter to prove me completely wrong. You won't be surprised to hear me say that I hope he does.