Denis Dyack Is GamerGate’s Tim Schafer
Like a bad turd who refuses to flush, Denis Dyack has resurfaced this past week, glomming onto the narrative surrounding the GamerGate movement. This week Dyack caught up with Niche Gamer to discuss GamerGate, and the fact that Denis has decided to hitch his wagon to the GamerGate train at this late juncture. The second part of the interview is actually genuinely insightful, and well worth a read for anyone with a passing interest in the topic of ethics in game journalism, but the first part of the interview was interesting for another reason entirely. Essentially Denis Dyack is upset that when he took his game, Shadow of the Eternals, to Kickstarter, video game blogs reporting on the project cautioned their readers to be wary of trusting their money to Precursor Games, as the people involved essentially had a black mark next to their names insofar as financial management was concerned.
Dyack blames much of the media’s wariness about Shadow of the Eternals on the publication of a Kotaku article some weeks before, wherein anonymous former Silicon Knights employees claim that while Activision was paying for them to work on Xmen Destiny, members were pulled off of working on the game in order to have them work on the Shadows of the Eternals vertical slice that was demoed during the game’s failed Kickstarter. Essentially the charge is that Activision money was being fraudulently used to begin development on Shadow of the Eternals. Dyack disputes this, stating that around this time the budget for Xmen Destiny had suffered a drastic cut as a result of the Disney purchase of Marvel, and that resources were redeployed accordingly. It is something of a mystery as to why Dyack did not mention this pertinent information at the time when his reputation was being dragged through the mud, though it is wholly possible that he was contractually prevented from doing so.
Dyack has a huge problem with the Kotaku article on the basis that it used anonymous sources, and tries to claim that this had some sort of bearing on the veracity of the article. In instances such as this anonymous sources are the norm, as former Silicon Knights employees putting their name to the article may have had implications for their future employment within the industry.
“I remember thinking, ”They can’t do this – why are they doing this? – how can they do this?” But they did it. They accused me of defrauding Activision while also the saying the sources were anonymous to protect themselves knowing there was no evidence for this what-so-ever, except the word of disgruntled ex-employees. The lack of facts did not matter once the article was published and most of the press just picked up the article and ran with it.”
Dyack also disputes the claim that Activision financed the Shadow of the Eternals demo, claiming that Precursor Games developed it out of their own pocket in the year following their departure from Silicon Knights.
“Looking back, the work that you saw there we did with about really 10 people, after a few months, it dropped to 7. Everyone worked on their own pocket at the time. It took about a year to create that demo and was done in the Crytek Engine, which is a great engine. Then we launched the KickStarter.”
Of course Dyack then goes on to contradict both of these claims by stating:
“I remember we were having company meetings and some people in the company were bringing up questions like “Why are we spending any of our time and money on this other project when Activision’s paying us?” Ironically and unaware to them actually the opposite was true. We weren’t getting any money from Activision at the time and Silicon Knights was paying for both projects on it’s own. But you can’t say that to people. You don’t want to say that ‘Hey this revenue stream is in jeopardy’. You, know, it’s just not something you share with the development staff for a variety of reasons. You have to keep the morale high which isn’t possible if people are working in the fear that all their hard work could get cancelled. In reality, maybe 3 or 4 people within Silicon Knights actually knew the facts about what was happening. And I can understand employees getting all upset and making things up in their head because they didn’t have the facts.”
It is here claimed that Silicon Knights employees were deliberately kept in the dark about Xmen Destiny‘s financial status, so it is unclear precisely why Dyack believes that the contribution of anonymous sources has harmed the veracity of the story, when it was the leadership of Silicon Knights which directly caused this miscommunication that was later reported to Kotaku. Naming sources would not alter the accuracy of the article. Further, the above claim appears to tacitly suggest that Silicon Knights employees were being pulled off of Xmen Destiny in order to help develop Shadow of the Eternals. If Dyack’s account of Xmen Destiny‘s funding situation is accurate then Silicon Knights had every right to retask their personnel, yet it gives lie to Dyack’s previous assertion that the demo was developed after leaving Silicon Knights out of their own pockets. These claims cannot both be true at the same time, raising the question of which accounting of events is to be taken at face value. Kotaku’s sources are pretty adamant about the existence of a Shadow of the Eternals vertical slice during their time at Silicon Knights, so this version of events is probably the truth, begging the question of why Dyack just lied about it? It is as though he is making up things as he goes along.
Whatever the case, Xmen Destiny‘s budget being cut at least sounds plausible, and the timeline would appear to match up, so let us for the moment assume that the Kotaku article was incorrect about some of the particulars of this situation. Even if the Kotaku article is completely disregarded, we are still talking about a group of people who sold themselves [presumably at bargain bin prices] Silicon Knights workstations and assets [probably including the Shadow of the Eternals demo], before rebadging themselves as Precursor Games in an effort to continue development while avoiding paying off the money they owed to Epic Games. Dyack thinks it unethical that gaming blogs cast doubt on Precursor’s ability to deliver on their Kickstarter, yet given their track record how could they not? Moreover, even if their Kickstarter had been successful, the project still would have been rocked to its foundations just a couple of months later when one of the game’s lead architects, Ken McCulloch, was arrested for pedophilia.
This last point is another area of his treatment that Dyack believes to be an example of unethical journalism. He believes that it was ethically wrong for gaming blogs to report on the fact that a senior game designer at Precursor Games was arrested for pedophilia:
“ Well, that had nothing to do with anything whatsoever and obviously I and the rest of the team were just as shocked if not more than anyone else that found out. This shouldn’t be something that speaks to the quality of the game, the company or the rest of the team. These kinds of things are criminal offenses and they have nothing to do with the games that we’re working on. You know, it’s not the first time this has happened in the industry, but I did notice that a lot of these sites continue to link us to that stuff often with inaccurate information, where they didn’t with previous companies. And it’s just poison. It’s awful to even talk about that stuff. Who is that good for?
A lot of these sites made really off-the-cuff remarks about that particular issue. And that can happen to any group in any industry. It’s just not fair and to condemn a group for that is what is really unreasonable. It had nothing to do with anything that anyone at the company was working on.
So yeah, that was not good at all.”
Maybe if Dyack had done more at the time to categorically deny his involvement in these pedophilia charges, then the charges themselves would not have stuck so fast to the studio. Instead an evasive Dyack decided to remain tight lipped, and the resulting silence was almost deafening. The media picked up on this, and it guided their subsequent coverage of Shadow of the Eternals.
Konami Apology Fails to Instill Confidence
After weeks of stony silence, during which time Konami has categorically dismantled their home console development capacity, Konami has finally issued an apology to fans for their shabby treatment. This is one of those situations where a much belated apology really is not going to cut it, as Konami really should have had an explanation prepared when they started fucking with Kojima Productions and the development of Silent Hills, and they have certainly had ample time with which to clarify the situation since it blew up weeks ago.
“We are aware that the conjecture surrounding our recent changes has prompted a great deal of anxiety, for which we apologise.”
Konami has also sought to head off conversation pertaining to the company’s place within the industry, making it known that they intend to develop further console games going forward.
“Our aim is to continue to build up a comprehensive portfolio of console, arcade, and card game titles for each IP while also making the best possible use of the mobile devices that accompany our customers in their daily life, thus expanding the limits of entertainment and appealing to more and more customers.”
Konami then moved to alleviate concerns about the status of their more popular series. The claim that they are creating progressively better products simply must be seen in order to be believed, as it is quite emphatically one of the more flagrant lies that Konami has told over the years. Konami has overseen the destruction of the Silent Hill series through the use of cheap gun-for-hire developers, and is poised to do the very same thing to the Metal Gear series.
“power to create groundbreaking IPs, and our power to refine them into progressively better products.
the Metal Gear and Silent Hill series, both beloved by countless fans around the globe, are also extremely important to Konami. We have nurtured them with care over many years since their inception, and will continue to produce products for both franchises, but we are not currently at a stage where we can announce the path these future titles will take.”
Finally, perhaps the most brazenly absurd thing to be claimed is that the focus on Japanese mobile gaming is something that has allowed Konami to achieve a high degree of game design quality, as nothing indicates game design prowess quite like the absence of physical controls!
“Japan is our primary market for mobile content. The Japanese market is populated with consumers who are extremely particular and discerning, and it is this environment that has helped us polish game design quality to such a high level.”
This really was all just an exercise in marketing, as it seems that after weeks of treating their console audience with abject contempt, Konami has only just now realised that burning these bridges may come back and bite them. Really though, a company that is still actively intent on producing home console video games would not sack Hideo Kojima. Simple as that.
Want to Play Hatred? Good Old Games Thinks You Had Better Not!
Being a 90s gamer-kid was great. Sure, there were any number of adults lining up to try and push for censorship of the video game medium, but there was always the genuine sense that gamers would close ranks and stand against such censorship. Fast forward twenty years and we have hand-wringing faggots like the staff of Destructoid condemning the very existence of violent video games, and worse still we have stores like Good Old Games refusing to stock them, because goodness knows they are best placed to dictate to their customers what is in their best interests.
The June first release date of Destructive Creations’ controversial twinstick shooter Hatred is fast approaching, and while it is happily available on reputable storefronts like Steam and Desura, it is sadly missing from highhandedly puritanical retailers like Good Old Games. What makes this all the more disappointing is the fact that Good Old Games is owned by CD Projekt Red, the developer behind the critically acclaimed Witcher series. These games have a storied history of coming under the attack of would-be censors, incurring the wrath of feminists due to their sex positive depictions of women, and infuriating the Mudslimes for depicting carpets which ‘looked Islamic’. CD Projekt Red knows what it feels like to have a game singled out due to content that joyless harpies wish to suppress and censor, and so it is deeply disappointing that they have found themselves unable to empathise with the situation faced by Destructive Creations in this instance. CD Projekt Red have made themselves part of the problem, and evidently feel entitled to dictate to their users which games they may have access to. Heaven forbid an adult demographic should have access to adult software!