Hottest Mess Waiting Room 2019

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#1 Posted by dudeglove (13790 posts) -

So we're halfway through the year now and I was wondering who or what the community thinks should sit atop the hottest mess podium come GOTY 2019. A few stick out for me so far (mid-writing edit: wow there's way more than I initially thought), and apologies for the first few being not particularly exciting:

* Layoffs (again): Between the start of the year and April, roughly 1500 people have lost their jobs in the game industry. Almost half of these are attributed to Activision "Record Profits" Blizzard who announced a layoff of about 8% of their staff (a process that is still ongoing in countries with better labor legislation like Blizzard's Versailles office in France who currently have to argue their case against unions and local government to lay off the ~134 staff there) during a conference call.

* Loot boxes (or "They're called Suprise Mechanics and they're quite ethical, actually"): Where to start? EA's recent contemptuous appearance before the House of Commons in the UK? The FTC's ongoing investigation into loot boxes and proposed bills stateside?

* Crunch: Too many companies to list but notable ones are Epic, Rockstar, EA/Bioware, ActiBlizz, Riot Games, Netherrealm among many others.

* Epic Games Store & Exclusives: Not a particular fan of mentioning this one, but it's bound to come up in discussion, especially in regards to crowdfunded games that were expected to get a Steam release but have recently signed a deal with the Epic Store or in some cases were bought outright by Epic to become part of the store (e.g. Rocket League).

* Riot Games COO Scott Gelb: Among many accusations of sexism and harrassment, Scott Gelb's other fratbro activities included grabbing other people's genitalia and farting on coworkers. Last I checked he has not been removed from the COO position and got a paid slap on the wrist.

* THQ Nordic and that AMA: AKA "Shout out to Mark".

* Anthem: Myriad issues on launch, dwindling playerbase, awful stories indicating a rushed development

* Bethesda: 2019 started without a bang because Fallout 76's nukes stopped working on New Years Day, and started banning people who either played the game for too long or for having too much in their inventory space. Also, they plagiarized a TTRPG campaign damn near word for word.

* Randy Pitchford (or "Why would you fuck me on this"): Rather than promote his company's upcoming game Borderlands 3, Randy Pitchford spent most of Meltdown May arguing with games journalists on twitter for directly quoting him, culminating in him tweeting out a video of animal abuse. This month-long mess led to criticism from former employees, contractors, and childhood friends going public with extremely concerning stories about Pitchford's personal behavior and business activities among which are allegations of physical assault, the supposed misappropriation of 12 million USD and alleged molestation of minors.

* Sega halting sales of Judgment due to actor testing positive for drugs: Don't see this winning but it made headlines all the same and set the release back a few months.

* Sekiro's lack of an "easy mode": Again, it was in the news for about a week but I don't see it winning.

* E3 being kinda... eh: Hey did you see T-Pain and Lil Yachty play Rainbow 6 Siege? Me neither.

Please feel free to add your own as I'm sure I have missed some. IMO the GOTY discussion will, short of something drastic happening later this year, circulate around the themes of labor issues and monetization (again), albeit with honorable mention to Pitchford for single-handedly demolishing the reputation of the Borderlands franchise.

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#2 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1435 posts) -

I think Randy Pitchford and Anthem (or EA) are definitely on the list.

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#3 Edited by Nodima (2654 posts) -

Anthem and Pitchford are easy picks with the recent Mordhau news bringing up the rear pending how they ultimately handle those situations. Shortly after the original article about their reticence to make any choice for the players, to the point they were considering offering the option to effectively "censor" non-white, non-male avatars for players who preferred to only see white men, they released a couple of statements seeming to imply they were misquoted or misinterpreted. The transcript of the interviews was released and that clearly wasn't the case, but if they can come to see how weird that option would be and re-focus their energy on moderating their community I think we'll all forget about it by year's end.

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#4 Posted by TheRealTurk (595 posts) -

I feel like Anthem kind of has the inside track here purely from a game perspective. The more I hear about that development process, the more surprised I am that anything got out the door at all.

Randy Pitchford is sort of the high variance dark horse here. Depending on how that litigation goes, the situation is either going to quietly go away or get a lot more explosive. If it's the latter, I feel like we've got at least one or two more rambling, possibly-coke fueled Pitchford Twitter rants on the way.

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#5 Edited by Shiftygism (1128 posts) -

Certain "professional enthusiasts" within the gaming media misusing their platform, being called out on it left and right by sensible folks on YouTube, leading some within that ever dwindling circle to go into panic mode with hit-piece articles, demonetization campaigns, and trying to link them to bullshit from years back in sad attempts at slowing down the inevitable shift in where people get their gaming news, reviews, etc.

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#6 Posted by Gazoinks (113 posts) -

@nodima: WOAH. Apparently I missed some shit; I hadn't heard that. But yeah, I feel like Pitchford, Anthem, and "Surprise Mechanics" are the big three so far.

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#7 Edited by sparky_buzzsaw (8956 posts) -

The award almost deserves to be split up into multiple categories - Shiftiest Company Move, Shiftiest Individual Move, and the What the Fuck Randy Moment of the Year.

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#8 Edited by BoOzak (2681 posts) -

I dont think Judgement actually got delayed in the west, it would make sense but the people localizing said it was always planned for the end of June. Regardless it was a weird culture shock thing but not that big of a deal in terms of gaming news. (as the OP admitted)

I'll go with Randy, I feel like there are worse things on this list but he just keeps doing dumb shit and I fully believe he'll do more before the end of the year.

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#9 Edited by Gundato (364 posts) -

Anthem and Randy are probably the frontrunners and I REALLY hope they don't get dethroned. Community pick will probably be Epic Games Store, but it is pretty telling that most media outlets don't give a shit.

Crunch is just too pervasive and has been for too long.

It is still a developing story, but I would add the Mordhau devs to that list. Forum is full of stickied threads with racial slurs that the devs don't think is a problem and they told PC Gamer in an interview that they would make sure that diversity options (women and skin color) were toggleable. They've since tried to walk back the latter with a "why would you fuck me on this" but shut up around the time PC Gamer made it clear they had receipts. Doubt it has any chance to win when compared against Randy (real dumpster fire of a human as face of PR) and Anthem (gamers don't get a game they want), but as Kotaku so eloquently put it: Mordhau's Developers Are On Some Bullshit

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#10 Posted by gunflame88 (398 posts) -

Anthem is the perfect poster boy for the biggest bullshit practices currently prevalent in the industry, so that's the most solid pick in my opinion. As much as I despise Pitchford, his continued idiocy is not notable in the grand scheme of things.

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#11 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (3676 posts) -

Personally, I would have "The Game Industry" win every year until it unionizes and sorts its shit out. But I 100% assume Athem is going to win.

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#12 Posted by dudeglove (13790 posts) -

Kinda surprised that some folk are going Anthem as to me that game always seemed like a wet fart in an slowly descending cramped elevator rather than a hot mess.

and the What the Fuck Randy Moment of the Year.

I morbidly like this one. Kind of an inverse of the "Best Wolfenstein Moment" category from a couple of years ago. Was it the USB stick of company files and pornography left at Medieval Times? Was it him sneaking into an audio booth and sticking his wet finger in a coworkers ear while they're trying to record voice lines? Was it the abysmal PAX East appearance? There are so many to choose from.

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#13 Edited by SuperJoe (1271 posts) -

It's a toss up. The Randy Pitchford situation is a hot mess on many fronts....a clusterfuck of ongoing hot messes that makes for a sensational tabloid-news story. Unfortunately layoffs, rushed games, and crunch are nothing new however they affect many more people/families.

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#14 Edited by gamer_152 (14790 posts) -

The difficult thing about Hottest Mess is a lot of the best candidates are often ongoing issues in the industry. The big problems tend to be the most pernicious, so they don't appear within the course of a year, and disappear before the next; they're more long-term than that. Along those lines, the widespread, never-ending crunch that has happened over the course of 2019 is probably the worst thing so far, and even if that doesn't fit the spirit of Hottest Mess perfectly, maybe it deserves to be the pick because it would draw more attention to an already desperate problem in the industry. If we're picking a disaster more specific to this year, however, it's gotta be Pitchford. I've never seen anyone that high up in the industry spiral out of control in the way he has. I still can't quite believe it's happened.

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#15 Posted by Yitz (1 posts) -

as a game dev being affected by it, the whole situation with the latest Steam sale has been incredibly frustrating. I know it's not the worst thing to happen in the industry this year, but it has been a massive headache for me...

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#16 Posted by jeremyf (416 posts) -

Oh shit, Anthem was this year, huh

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#17 Posted by zombie2011 (5602 posts) -

I'm not seeing why a layoff of a workforce is a hot mess?

If Act-Bliz found redundancy with in their organization they shouldn't have to keep them on staff just because they managed to put together a good quarter.

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#18 Posted by dudeglove (13790 posts) -

I'm not seeing why a layoff of a workforce is a hot mess?

If Act-Bliz found redundancy with in their organization they shouldn't have to keep them on staff just because they managed to put together a good quarter.

In the same earnings call one of the most overpaid CEOs in the world literally boasted of R E C O R D earnings before announcing the layoff of around 800 members of ActiBlizz staff. There's a reason why people scrawl devil horns over Kotick, but don't take my word for it: take Kotick's own words from 2010, wherein he explained openly why he wants a company culture infused with skepticism, pessimism, and fear.

@yitz said:

as a game dev being affected by it, the whole situation with the latest Steam sale has been incredibly frustrating. I know it's not the worst thing to happen in the industry this year, but it has been a massive headache for me...

I agree, the recent wishlist stuff is ridiculous, and not much focus was given to whatever happened exactly in October 2018 when Steam changed its algorithms and pretty much everyone's sales dipped by a third for no discernible reason. I don't think Steam's doing it deliberately against indies, but rather independent/smaller developers (who cannot make at least 10 million USD to meet that revenue split barrier) are instead just the unfortunate victims in Steam's bungled attempts to retain bigger cash cows with Epic throwing its money around.

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#19 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1435 posts) -

@nodima: I just read about this Mordhau stuff. Wow.

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#20 Posted by Ben_H (4208 posts) -

I think lootboxes, crunch, and Anthem could all be combined into a single "What the fuck is going on at EA?" option. There could also be an argument for layoffs, Blizzard being slowly destroyed, and squandering a bunch of popular franchises for a single "What is Activision doing?" option as well.

I'm not seeing why a layoff of a workforce is a hot mess?

If Act-Bliz found redundancy with in their organization they shouldn't have to keep them on staff just because they managed to put together a good quarter.

It's not just "redundancies" though, they've got rid of a bunch of key people, and a bunch of other staff have left as a result. For example, Kim Phan, their head esports person who is a big reason why SC2 and Overwatch were so successful, just left, as are a bunch of other longtime employees that have been there for decades (Kim was there for 15 years). Losing a bunch of top people like this will likely not end well for them. This type of thing is exactly why Bioware started to fall apart, and that's why people are so concerned about Blizzard now.

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#21 Posted by MerxWorx01 (892 posts) -

@shiftygism: Is this in reference to anything mentioned here or is this something new?

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#22 Edited by dgtlty (1248 posts) -

Quite a list and Q3 has only just begun! Can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings from this fine industry.

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#23 Edited by TheFlamingo352 (387 posts) -

I feel like crunch and massive layoffs are some of the worst things up there, but also that's been the hottest mess forever, so it's an unexciting choice.

Gosh the game industry rocks doesn't it...

Personally I expect Randy to land pretty highly when GOTY comes; miles of bad press and creepiness all focused on one guy, enough to make me uncomfortable buying a sequel to one of my favourite games. I think he can go the distance.

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#24 Posted by Shiftygism (1128 posts) -

@merxworx01: Nothing that's been discussed by the crew unfortunately (and understandably) or here on the boards directly as most of the content in question originates from friends of Giant Bomb or sister sites under CBS, so there's no chance of anything that's been going down making the crew's official list.

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#25 Posted by Relkin (1222 posts) -

Did I miss something, or does the Sekiro thing not come even remotely close to qualifying as a mess, hot or no?

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#26 Edited by MagnetPhonics (88 posts) -

@dudeglove said:

* Epic Games Store & Exclusives: Not a particular fan of mentioning this one, but it's bound to come up in discussion, especially in regards to crowdfunded games that were expected to get a Steam release but have recently signed a deal with the Epic Store or in some cases were bought outright by Epic to become part of the store (e.g. Rocket League).

If you're talking about the stuff regularly discussed on the Giantbomb, (mostly about "exclusives",) then you are correct. It barely even qualifies as a mess let alone a hot one.

But there's a lot more to it that should put the affair into contention. Even if other messes had a higher temperature.

  • Switching crowdfunded/announced/pre-ordered to Epic Store with no notice is slightly dodgy, and in some cases explicitly illegal in some jurisdictions (assuming they are serviced by Epic at all.)
  • The involvement of Steamspy in all this.(possibly out of scope for 2019)
  • The biggest thing for me is that Epic are trading on the idea that they offer devs a better deal. But the reality is that many of the developers most affected by Valve's mismanagement of Steam do not have access to the Epic Store and Epic have no desire to provide it to them.
  • There's also a significant number of devs leaving Steam "in the other direction" and releasing games primarily/exclusively on itch.io or similar. Due to having all potential profit wiped out due to a typo in an algorithm/completion wording.

IMHO these issues the are a subset of the true hot mess of "The complete unsustainability of game development on many scales."

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#27 Posted by SethMode (2100 posts) -

@shiftygism: Between both of your posts, you're very vague. Can you explain what you're referring to more clearly? To steal a reddit term, perhaps explain it to me like I'm 5.

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#28 Edited by dudeglove (13790 posts) -

Certain "professional enthusiasts" within the gaming media misusing their platform, being called out on it left and right by sensible folks on YouTube, leading some within that ever dwindling circle to go into panic mode with hit-piece articles, demonetization campaigns, and trying to link them to bullshit from years back in sad attempts at slowing down the inevitable shift in where people get their gaming news, reviews, etc.

There's literally too many people this dubious description could qualify for, but you've reminded me of "Dr. Disrespect" and Twitch's pathetic response to his behavior at E3.

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#29 Posted by ripelivejam (13242 posts) -

Not gonna lie, even if some of it is deserved the overwhelming cynicism of this bit especially amongst the community bums me out.

I know it's early but I hope they do the same as last year and just spend the first day on the joie de vivre of good ass videogames.

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#30 Posted by ThePanzini (752 posts) -

@magnetphonics: IMHO these issues the are a subset of the true hot mess of "The complete unsustainability of game development on many scales."

Whenever a studio closes or a publisher does something boneheaded this phrase pops up we are nowhere near this being remotely true.

Gaming is absolutely massive its outpaced movies and music combined and still continues to grow. The industry is also so diverse across console, pc and mobile without even considering AAA, indie and F2P even if something implodes for the rest it'll be business as usual, a prime example is the US video game crash in the 80's which barely touched Europe at all.

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#31 Posted by Captain_Insano (3540 posts) -

@relkin said:

Did I miss something, or does the Sekiro thing not come even remotely close to qualifying as a mess, hot or no?

Some people made it into a mess regarding accessibility, which is a valid concern but I definitely don't think it is a 'mess' or 'hot mess' at all

There have been some crackers so far this year, but surely the magician Randy Pitchford has this award locked down.

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#32 Edited by Rahf (544 posts) -

In a way Anthem takes the cake for me, but not because of the game itself being a dramatic mess. It signals the continuing deterioration of the Bioware brand.

Somebody said wet fart, and that feels fitting. The game looked mostly uninspired and boring from the first trailer, with some cool visuals. Every journalist with a lick of analytical capability were tight-lipped and showied no signs of the game having stand-out aspects or design choices. A studied, calculated development choice that didn't quite stick the landing and was quickly passed on to insignificance.

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#33 Edited by Shiftygism (1128 posts) -

@sethmode: Yeah, I'm being intentionally vague as I mentioned several of the folks involved...in what may or may not be one overall narrative...are friends of, or work in the same offices of the Beast crew and from how much traction their reviews, opinions, and orchestrated attacks have received, I thought that vagueness wouldn't lead to any confusion as it, or the hit-piece at least, was a pretty big deal leading into E3 within the YouTube gaming community. My apologies.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r-EQoCAnCiU

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#34 Edited by Gundato (364 posts) -

@shiftygism: Saw the original article a while back and the various follow ups

I guess that probably falls more into an overall discussion of the increasingly subscriber/patreon oriented models. While I REALLY dislike the term "outrage culture" due to its connotations, there are definitely a lot of youtubers and streamers whose entire model is built upon saying why they hate things. When I was tuning in to the Devolver E3 thing the folk on before them seemed to go out of their way to round table to the person who hated the previous press conference (Bethesda?) the most for any individual segment.

It is a vicious cycle. Folk get a fanbase and subscriptions. They try to change a bit. They see their income drop. They have to course correct back to give people what they want. Back when Game Attack (the remnants of Screw Attack) first started up they were pretty open about that.. even as they stopped doing any retro gaming and increasingly focused on pubg. But you can see similar aspects in terms of the streamers who lose significant income if they take a day or two off and so forth. I would at least partially argue that idiots like Pewdiepie and bathroom-man and the dumbfuck who filmed a corpse are as much a product of their communities egging them on than anything else.

And, unfortunately, for some demographics that includes promoting the "the game journalists are lying to you. we are your real friends" narrative. I would have hoped that said game journalists would continue to take the high road, but THEY are also being hurt (this was a topic on the E3 couch last year and even partially this year).

Highlighting one specific article is like distilling the crunch problem to just Anthem or Rockstar. In this case it is a community wide problem.

But it is also one that GB are probably a bit too close to to give a proper discussion. On a MUCH smaller scale, but just look at all the hell they went through to get the GTA Heists working. You don't do that because you think it is a cool idea. You do that because you know your subscribers want it and it will play well.

---

Mostly poking fun: But I laughed out loud when the like/subscribe/whatever text popped up while the guy was claiming it was a hit piece

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#35 Edited by Rejizzle (1147 posts) -

Randy is a shoo in for this. How could the man who lost his work/barely legal magic pornography USB at a medieval times not win this thing? Combine that with all of the other crazy shit going around this muggle, and Randy could basically sweep the category. Nothing else even comes close to the walking disaster that is this man.

Anthem was also pretty bad. Not being accused of throwing underaged molestation parties with you millions of dollars of misappropriated funds bad, but it had a rough launch nonetheless.

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#36 Edited by Acura_Max (773 posts) -

My vote every year has and always been EA. I don't like their work environment and their shady business practices. Hundreds and maybe thousands have been layed off because of them after being acquired. And yet, they like to play the victim.

Poor babies.
Poor babies.

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#37 Posted by BisonHero (11637 posts) -

Is it right to call Anthem the hottest mess? Based on that Kotaku article about the development of Anthem, I feel like the hot mess is broadly the leadership at BioWare and their EA overlords. Again, based on the article, it sounds like there was such a lack of proper project management or scope or milestones on Anthem, to the point where they literally had no specific vision for the game and were willing to redefine the game’s core mechanics and ideas at a moment’s notice. This is fine if you’re Valve and don’t give a fuck and 90% of your projects go nowhere and never make it out to consumers, but if you’re a BioWare, your publishers eventually says “yo dawg, this is the release date, no more extensions” and then you actually need to have given yourself proper milestones.

Anthem, in and of itself isn’t a terrible game idea, but the final product is so bad because the studio’s whole process was sabotaging any chance they had of making it good.

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#38 Edited by Shiftygism (1128 posts) -

@gundato: That's one way of looking at it, but if it was a community wide problem you'd think they would've targeted more appropriate content creators.

Also as far as "game jounalists" taking the high road...for some of them, I'm not holding my breath. It's not so much about them "lying" to their audience as it's the inability to not have their personal views drive the criticisms of stories that are not theirs to tell and games that don't line up with what they would've produced...then proceed to share.

I don't care which direction a person's beliefs sway but letting them fuel absurd and out of left field rants when reviewing games about zombies or scores so low they come off as click bait, just keeps the cycle of horseshit spinning riling up the idjits and yes, making things difficult for the folks in the games media that still care.

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#39 Posted by Dizzyhippos (4753 posts) -

EA is definitely up there though this is multiple years in a row of EA being shitty so my money is on Randy Pitchford.

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#40 Posted by DarkeyeHails (607 posts) -

I really don't understand how a game being bad is the hottest mess this year or any year, really? Pitchford is a mile ahead of anything.

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#41 Edited by ThePanzini (752 posts) -

EA needs to actually manage their studios they're too hands off, EA should have stepped in well before Andromeda & Anthem went off the rails or even failed to get going at all.

Dice is easily hot mess 2018/19 every patch for BF5 is a comedy of errors breaking as much as they try to fix, the PC version has erratic performance for alot of players since launch Dice acknowledged yet seem unable to fix.

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#42 Posted by MightyDuck (2049 posts) -

Wow, I forgot about some of these.

2019 was a hot mess!

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#43 Edited by MagnetPhonics (88 posts) -

@thepanzini: the industry will continue to exist one way or another. But that's not the same as game development being sustainable for an individual developer.

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#44 Edited by soulcake (2827 posts) -

I could write a whole essay on Imperator Rome and it's addiction to mana pool game design and the lack luster features it's got. Also Paradox DLC policy has become a meme in it's community "yow if you spend a other 100 bucks this game get's good"

Also don't wanna be that guy, but didn't Dan (Ryckert) brag about farting on a dude in the Game Informer offices once?

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#45 Posted by soulcake (2827 posts) -

@shiftygism: Also a good point you don't hear much about i am guessing this is about that CNET hit piece?

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#46 Posted by SethMode (2100 posts) -

@soulcake: As far as Ryckert being a shitbag at GI, I don't get its relevance to 2019 and Riot? Dan Ryckert being an ass at a previous job doesn't change that the COO of a HUGE company, in a position of tremendous power, isnt a HUGE, sexist asshole and overall sounds like a terrible person.

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#47 Posted by soulcake (2827 posts) -

@sethmode: Maybe don't just fart on people no matter what your position is in a company that seems not too much to ask.

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#48 Posted by SethMode (2100 posts) -

@soulcake: I don't know where you got that I was an advocate for farting on people? You're the one that brought it up.

I'm just saying what Dan did at a previous company is irrelevant to what happened in 2019 at Riot.

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#49 Edited by soulcake (2827 posts) -

@sethmode: I don't know, shouldn't we judge people on there actions? (just thinking out loud here). Which make both folks look like a bunch of "asses".

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#50 Edited by SethMode (2100 posts) -

@soulcake: I mean, sure. Do you think Dan should be a candidate for hottest mess in 2019 because of what he did maybe a decade ago at GI?

I'm just trying to understand the connection you're making here. If you're just trying to say Dan is an ass, there are plenty of relevant places to say it and a lot of people, myself included, would agree with you for even more reasons that him farting on a person, but certainly including that. Just, what value does that have in a conversation about hottest mess in 2019, and regarding Riot?