Angry Customers

You know I said at the last Media Molecule stream the comments were on the turn, and the patience of the prospective Dreams customer base was wearing thin? I think it may be see-through now. The latest stream features Kareem Ettouney making a werewolf character model. Although the artistry showed is impressive, and it is always nice to see Kareem’s work, I think the novelty of watching Media Molecule staff use Dreams has definitively worn off. The comments are nearly exclusively now about the release date, and how watching other people play Dreams when we can’t is not fun. I agree with them. We need a firm date for the beta now. I am very dubious that we will get the 2018 launch we were promised, and we may not even get a beta. The interviews with staff have gone from talk of a 2018 launch to a 2018 beta, and we have no date for that. Look on their website it says RELEASE DATE: THE FUTURE. If they had any confidence it would say 2018 (I am not sure but it may have said 2018 last year). Supporters say we should be patient and that we should not force Media Molecule to send out a rushed job. Let’s not forget they announced this game 3 years ago, had a 2016 release date and it is now the second half of 2018. I don’t think anyone has been rushed here.

I think we need to be worried about the silence on dates coming from Media Molecule. Something has clearly gone wrong with their build. Either a major bug has been discovered that is proving difficult to fix, Sony are preventing them from launching for unknown reasons based around Sony’s business model, or they have got carried away with additional features because they have been working on it so long, and the more they add the more time they need to finesse. It may be all of these – or something else. The point is we have no idea what is happening with Dreams. Nearly every stream has someone pointing out a bug or an incomplete feature. That is worrying.

Bugs in a Beta are not necessarily a problem. Project Spark was severely bug ridden and with every release something else broke, and there were brand new faults in the new stuff they gave us – even after launch. However, the game was still fun to play, and hey, everyone likes to moan don’t they? Even a “completed” game nearly always needs patching. I think the community would forgive little glitches – so I am guessing we are not talking about little glitches here. I don’t think the thermometer is working correctly at the moment – and that is a major component that could stop things from being made or possibly give creators so much free reign that the servers will clog up if they don’t get that fixed. We haven’t seen very much in the way of the game-making tools either – so I suspect a lot of them are causing them headaches at the moment.

The point is if they do not release Dreams this year like they promised what will it mean for their community, and will they turn on MM? I bought a console for this game. That is an investment into a game which I thought I would be playing right now. I am not. I am annoyed about it. I am sure I am not the only one. Some people have even suggested that maybe they should wait until the PS5 comes out and build it for that. If that is even a possibility you will get a very angry customer base, because that isn’t going to be for another 3 years.

I think Media Molecule have been too ambitious. The tool is too complex and now they are finding out the downside of their ambition – complexity breeds glitches bugs and failures. I am guessing it nearly works, enough to have fun with it, enough for Media Molecule to make constant streams of people making landscapes and models – but the administration parts of it – the search facilities, the menus, the cataloguing, the featured content side of it – we are not seeing that in any detail. I don’t think it is working correctly yet, and without that they can’t launch the game – despite the fundamental creation parts of it working really well. And I don’t think they expected it. In Dec 2017 I think they genuinely believed they would be launching pretty soon. They hired a lot of staff, including a Community Manager (who we have not seen or heard from since). Some of that staff influx were developers and artists. They were gearing up for a launch but by the time E3 came round they were not ready and Sony did not promote them. Sony did not champion a game that was ready for imminent launch? Clearly it is not ready for imminent launch. PAX West is in Sep and Media Molecule are going to do another Gamejam with input from the audience. So again, they are not letting the public play with it*, and we are going to get another weird build along the lines of the Mega Penguin monstrosity that they made at E3. Only Media Molecule get to touch it. No one else. Why? Because we will break it? Because it is already broken?

I thought Project Spark would be a nice little diversion while I waited for Dreams. That is broken. No community servers, no multiplayer, and glitches that will never be fixed. But I can have fun with that, because I can create with it and share what I make with Youtube. Dreams is not fun at the moment because we do not have it, or a demo or a preview or a beta. And it is getting less fun watching Media Molecule hog it for themselves month after month. And their audience agrees. After a few more months I expect the comments to get more openly angry and hostile, and then they will lose a lot of their community. If it does not launch it will probably be the end of Media Molecule. Now that would be terrible.

*Additional. Since writing this blog Media Molecule did in fact allow members of the public to play their game. It was very low-key and was not announced beforehand. We do not know what the public did with it or if they were given access to the campaign or the create tools. All the publicity was around the developers making things.

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