The Dark Steam Hunt Volume Five: Rapture Rejects
For this entry in terrible games on the most democratic store front, I want to look at abandonware. In particular I want to examine one sad case, the little failed Battle Royale based on popular web series Cyanide and Happiness. Rapture Rejects is a ghost town of a game, occupied by the thin waspish remains of a community. It is still for sale, you can buy Rapture Rejects for 130 Rand (or $7,00 at time of writing). It has been in early access for two years with no indication of ever getting released. I want to talk about abandonware and gold rushes in the video game industry, using the corpse of Rapture Rejects.
The raptured fanbase: A study in abandonware
I want to stress something before I begin. Rapture Rejects is not a bad game per say. In fact if it had more of a player base it might have even been a decent title. The biggest crime it commits is that it’s a rather unremarkable top down shooter (art style and humour not withstanding). The wackiness is only really skin deep, the weapons are nowhere near interesting enough to help it stand out. Rapture Rejects is not bad, but simply mediocre and uninspired.
Now onto the topic at hand
Abandonware is defined (source: Merriam webster) as “Software that is no longer sold or supported by its creator". As mentioned in the intro, Rapture Rejects is still sold on Steam but is not being supported by the creator. The final update was on the 26th of January 2019. So why do developers/ publishers abandon their software. This, more often than one might suspect, is because the developers need to move/forced onto different projects.
An example of this would be Silent Hill: The Room. Team Silent were (shortly after The Room) were disbanded by Komani. The company wanted to use western dev teams for future games. As a result, Team Silent was never given the chance to fix problems that plagued The Room before or after the release. And because of the mixed reception to the game, Komani has never tried to resell it or even acknowledge its presence. You would be hard pressed to find a copy today. Silent Hill: The Room is an example of developers abandoning the game due to publisher control, with the latter simply ignoring the game because it was not profitable.
Rapture Rejects on the other hand is rather different in that regard. It is an always online game with microtransactions. Something that costs a continual stream of money, the costs would naturally rise up, as players are not spending money (or even playing the game). These sorts of titles live and die on the health of the player base as well. If no one is playing (engaging with the product) and spending money on the (really lame) microtransactions, then all you have is a money sink.
You are selling a defunct product that will upset off the unsuspecting buyer. You are wasting money on servers that don’t need to be operated. So unlike The Room, where the financial loss can be (and was) written off by Konami in the long run. Tinybuild is still losing money, maybe not a lot of money. I cannot be entirely sure how much precisely. There are a number of factors involved. Please check out this Reddit post from r/gaming for further information.
However some wasted money can still add up, money that could have been used to invest in more important ventures (the business normally). I can only speculate as to why, maybe Tinybuild and Galvanic have some sort of contract to continue support for a failed title. They might also be holding out for some sort of grand revival, but if that is the case; there is no evidence of that currently. But the devs have moved on, they have recently created the highly rated survival title Some Distant Memory. A wonderful looking game that I would like to try some day, I am glad that they are well and still finding work.
The silent Discord server
The Rapture Rejects Discord server is like wondering through a barely alive city. The few townsfolk that have faith cry out from time to time about the state of Rapture Rejects( in this tortured metaphor). You would also note that the devs and Tinybuild members are completely uninvolved with the community that want to enjoy their game. I reached out to Tinybuild and they have remained (much like the Discord Server) completely silent. These are only assumptions, please do not take anything I say as absolute facts.
I cannot help but suspect that both Tinybuild and Galavanic all have given up, but for some reason or another (be it mandate or cowardice) have not stopped the Discord server. Some have questioned whether or not the admins (Devs and producers) have simply muted the server, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. When you have failed to support and deliver a compelling experience, people will sometimes become harassing jerks. But there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to it. Why continue not bothering to moderate, when you could be spending your energy on more important things?
Now the fan base
I am however not leaving the fan base out of this. Whenever someone speaks up it is almost always lamenting the state of the player base, hating the devs for abandoning the game. But no one is actually playing. Only once did I find someone succeeding in arranging a match, and even then I cannot say how many there were (me being asleep at the time). I have to confess that I am part of the problem in this regard. I am writing an extremely long complaint about this game that I should be playing! However we are falling into an insidious trap when it comes to abandoned games: games as chores.
You might love a game in concept. But if you have to work at making the game fun, you might as well do something else. Games should be providing entertainment, not you to the game. You should want to play the game, not forcing yourself to salvage a dead player base. This would explain why so many have remained silent or occasionally leave bitter comments about the state of the game they are not playing. Why should you play something that is so difficult to not only play but enjoy?
Parable of greed and hubris
As with the MMO, MOBA and FPS gold rushes of ages past, only a few succeed while the rest die and waste financial investment and time. The Battle Royale craze is no different in this regard. People see the massive profits reaped by the likes of Dota2, COD and WOW and they all hope to cash in on the same small pool of consumers. An unsustainable model, when most games within the genres I have mentioned demand brand loyalty and time.
Do you really think a WOW player would give up the game they invested the most time in for Age of Conan? Do you really think a COD player would go to Medal of Honour: Doorfighter? I doubt it. Games like Rapture Rejects were created for the sole purpose of getting some whales hooked. They were created just because Tinybuild saw the money PUBG and Fortnite were making and wanted a piece of the pie.
Rapture Rejects serves as the personification of greed and hubris. The greed serving as motivation for entering such a high risk market, dreaming for the endless profits given to the winners. Rapture Rejects serves as hubris for Tinybuild, foolishly thinking they will be able to standout, somehow will be able to succeed when so many better (and worse) fail. Out of all the genres a Cyanide and Happiness game could have occupied, it had to be a Battle Royale. A Saints Row like sandbox with CnH’s style of humour could have sold better. As well as offering more consumer satisfaction then Rapture Rejects. But because the opportunity for quick money was on the table, Rapture Rejects was released instead. A terrible disappointment and missed opportunity for the C&H IP and a waste of money for Tinybuild.
What can we do now?
There is not too much to be done with an abandoned game, at least with single player games you can still enjoy the product. But with a multiplayer game with no bots, there is not much you can do asides from a refund. If you cannot get that, then all you can do is uninstall and cut your losses. But always warn your friends away from it. Tinybuild and Galvanic games should do one of the following three different paths. Either they should make the game free to play, so no one has to invest an entry fee.
Or they add bots, so the tiny player base can enjoy what remains of the game. Or they shut it down, Tinybuild cuts their losses and stops wasting money on mostly empty servers. There will be some sad consumers who might have had faith in project. But they are so few they would hardly matter. Personally I believe it should be either 2 or 3. The former might keep the current player base happy and the latter will prevent unknowing consumers from buying a dead game. Please share what you think in the comments.
The lesson that should be learnt with dead multiplayer focused games is that indie devs shouldn’t gamble. Boss Key Productions, Xaviant and the devs behind Rapture Rejects, all jumped onto the PUBG band wagon. They all saw failure and death (for Boss Key Productions the latter). Rapture Rejects is the product of greed and blind hubris. A decent game that is now a financial trap for unaware customers. Personally, I think this game should be ruptured, and refunds should be delivered unto the sad begotten consumers. This game is in the Hall of Infamy.