Théodore wrote:You seem to be the right guy to demystify something I never quite understood. Is there any time in this rather shaky history of URU where Cyan had a clear understanding where they were heading?
I'd be happy to help! Ask away, although truth be told my memory isn't what it used to be, so all of this should be prefaced with "to the best of my recollection". We still have a few other old-timers around here who will hopefully, helpfully correct anything I get wrong. Sadly, much of the early history is gone, as the fora where it took place (both official and unofficial) have long since been wiped from the internet and not all of it was archived. That wiki page you found covers the development of the game, but omits the fan efforts that ran concurrently (because that's a different topic). If you would like to know more, just ask.
I can't answer much in the way of what Cyan was thinking, as I've never been in their heads or in their meetings. As the impression from the outside, I think that's a complicated question that even with insider information would be hard to answer. The project has morphed and evolved over the decades, both because of changes in artistic vision, economics, and external business forces. I think Cyan knew what they wanted Uru to be, even if the specifics of that plan changed as it grew.
The real trouble happened whenever they had to curtail things for those external forces. That's where we see most of the could-have-beens peeking through the seams in Uru. There are places where technical limitations shaped things, but from what I have access to I'd wager those were always only a matter of time. The slashing of development by Ubisoft & Gametap were by far the biggest limitations placed on the final product.
Deledrius wrote:The worst part of it is that so many of those problems have been fueled again and again by Cyan.
They love the community, there's no question here. But Cyan's relationship with both its community and user generated content has often been complicated. One could write a whole book on that topic. But the bottom line is, even when you have the best intentions in the world, and the best ressources in the world, well.. it's just really hard handling a community.
I'm not saying it isn't hard. But there were mistakes made, and then there were mistakes made
. Promoting toxic members of the community into positions of authority, ignoring complaints, and mishandling other situations multiple times in the same way
are things that should have been avoidable. I love the games they make, and I like most of the individuals at the company (I've interacted with a few, and with one exception it's always been positive on that level), but there are some choices they've made which make me shake my head in deep disappointment. It's hard to say those things without sounding ungrateful, because they've done a lot to work with the community and provide us things that are rarely seen in other game companies, but I don't think that glossing over the bad does anyone any good; too often the lack of listening and learning was a large part of the problem. It doesn't mean I'm not constantly grateful for them allowing us (presently) to play with Uru to the extent that they do. They've loosened up the restrictions on modifications, licensed the assets, and of course, open-sourced the engine. That's pretty incredible. I just wish they'd done all those great things without having done the questionable/negative things over the years, many of which had the direct effect of driving good people away, hampering progress, and losing a lot of good will.
But as the GoW has shrunk over the years and I've taken on a sort of de-facto role as a community manager here, I can freely admit it's not an easy job and we all mess it up. There's a lot we could be doing to make things better here, if we had more time and resources. I just try to avoid making active decisions that make things worse.