The Culling 2 and the Dead Games of Future Past

What’s up, it’s AboveUp and I want to talk about dying games. It’s a weird subject that I usually shy away from, especially with all the clickbait surrounding phrases like “X didn’t die! It got murdered!” This isn’t one of those videos. This is not a case study of how an individual game fell from grace or plummeted to death shortly after release. But rather I want to talk about this trend of online-only service games dropping onto a live minefield the moment they get released.

What set this off is the whole situation surrounding The Culling 2. Now, if you don’t know what any of this means, we’re going to get to it. But the basis is that The Culling was an early Battle Royale title with a fairly unique premise that didn’t have a long life. And not long after the developers pulled the plug on it, they announced a sequel that naturally didn’t sit well with people. What you’re seeing now is old Stream VoD footage of me playing The Culling early in its life cycle. I was one of the few people who played the game back when it was sort of popular.

And I didn’t bother playing the sequel because I don’t want to give those developers my money a second time. Once was enough. A lot of games have been dying at an incredibly fast rate lately, and it’s been bugging me. A lot. There have been games that died a really fast death due to one form of incompetence or another shortly into their life cycle. Like that MMO that literally disappeared entirely because the servers needed to be rolled back to erm. Only Casinoslots Ireland the best place to play.

There was nothing to roll back to. Code was missing and the game was gone forever. That’s an extreme case, and things like that don’t happen to frequently. One of the first moments where I really scratched my head was the Marvel Heroes shut down.

Now this is a game that ran from 2013 to 2017, so it doesn’t feel like it’s that extreme or sudden, but the game launched its console versions within the same year that it got shut down, and the date it closed was way sooner than originally stated because funding got completely cut off. This was bad enough by itself, but the people working on these games got kicked to the curb without severance or time-off payouts right around the holiday season. People aren’t exactly hiring in game dev around that time!

A lot of this really shows the mentality and thought that not only goes into these projects, but also the way they are executed. Allowing a project to be completely cut off during the holiday season shortly after a new version of it came out, with no warning to fans or developers alike. Sony and Microsoft at least handed out refunds to players of this game in a smart move to not burn people on the concept of spending money on their platform because a publisher threw it in a dumpster fire as soon as it left their wallet.

But still, the damage has been done. Which brings us to possibly the most visible sequence of fuck-ups back-to-back by good old Cliffy B. A man stuck in time. I played Lawbreakers when it was in an early beta.

In fact, this is my footage of a stream VoD during the first one. I actually quite liked it, and so did almost everyone else who I’ve heard says they played it back then. Now, this case is somewhat unique because Cliffy may have caused this largely on his own because the man is a marketing nightmare. We all know about the ridiculous statements such as “None of that 60 dollars multiplayer-only bullshit!”

that he said talking up his multiplayer-only shooter that ended up selling for 30 dollars. Or how Overwatch was for the anime audience, and how his game was the Mortal Kombat to Overwatch’s Street Fighter. The man loves making big statements, but if you keep track of them long enough it doesn’t take long until you start noticing half the time he’s contradicting the last time he spoke publicly. Maybe he actually believes his own words while he’s in the moment, but it makes him hard to be held accountable, and when you open up shit-talking what’s currently the biggest game on the market, which at the time was Overwatch, that’s not going to sit well with most people. Be aggressive enough and people are going to want to see you fail.

Now I get where he’s coming from, Cliffy’s high days were the 90s, back when this sort of marketing was exactly the norm. And the tweets he later posted of his game concepts sounded exactly like the kind of games you would see in the 90s. This isn’t a jab by the way, these all sound like they could’ve been something. But they also sound like something from a game industry 15 years ago.

And the reason he tweeted these out was that his other game flopped. His five-month passion project, Radical Heights flopped almost instantly after taking Devolver Digital’s Earliest Access joke too seriously with its Extreme Early Access. “Devolver Digital Earliest Access!”

“And we think it will be a revolutionary way to hastily rush unfinished game content out to consumers.” Honestly, the most jarring part about the whole mess was just the question “Who is this for?” The 80s style gimmick felt like something that would mostly work in the 90s, like a lot of Cliffy’s ideas, and I don’t see the game having done well even if it was well put together. To make matters worse, from the looks of it, Cliff never told his own staff the game or company were shutting down. Issuing the statement live on Twitter right after one of his own staff members tweeted a promise that female character models would be soon (I told you it was earliest access) before following it up within the hour because the studio was closing. There’s other less major situations that have come up the past two years, like Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite being cut short, being removed from Capcom’s official tournament schedule, and never making it to EVO.

As well as Battleborn ending development on future patches fairly shortly after launch for an online-focused game, even after going free to play, though at least it had more legs to it than MVCI ever did. Which brings us to The Culling. The Culling was interesting because it was a game fairly early into the battle royale genre with an interesting atmosphere and gameplay style that hasn’t really been done to that extent since.

Not succesfully anyway, though how succesful The Culling was is up for debate. It was very popular for a short time. And in that time, it was incredibly fun.

You know that feeling when a game is early into development but you can see how the systems could lend themselves to refinement and improvement early on? The Culling had that and it’s a shame nobody ever really delivered on that. Focusing mostly on melee combat and traps and slower projectiles, while slowly moving players to an actual deathmatch arena at the end. Every patch after the original game attempted to rebalance the melee combat, making it more cumbersome and harder to kill players using it, eventually just destroying most of the fun out of the game. In a few months, they effectively chased away their own players by not learning from their mistakes and making things nobody wanted. About a year later, the game was left for dead.

Abandoned by its own developers and playerbase not too long after launching. It’s a shame because at launch it was a game that came at just the right time, as the battle royale genre was waiting to take off, but hadn’t quiet done it just yet. Doing enough right to give it an identity of its own that made people latch onto those early days before the patches completely took it away from them. And then they suddenly announced a sequel a year later, launching soon.

And the general response to this was… Why? Then they issues another statement saying that soon meant tomorrow. And the general response to this was…. What? Within a single day the game’s playercount dropped to just 1 player.

Perhaps it’s the Battle Royale game that’s gotten closest to the true essence of the genre in the fastest time. Speedrunning the scene to its logical conclusion, beating the record previously set by Radical Heights. But it’s not too hard to see what happened here.

The developers tried to jump back into a genre after it got incredibly popular and all the news reports were talking about one of the games in it being completely unstoppable. Not once questioning if maybe that moment someone is entirely unstoppable, it’s too late to rejoin. Maybe they thought they could pull an Epic the way Fortnite did, but Fortnite started as a side mode in a game already in development, it wasn’t something those developers had invested their entire future in until it took off the way it did. The developers burned away all goodwill with the first game, and then not only dare to release a sequel to it after abandoning the first. But then also charge actual money for it when the largest competitor against it is free to play. This would’ve been bad enough if the genre didn’t have a high profile death right before it in Radical Heights.

Or a sequence of nearly impossible to compete with competitors coming up in the form of both Battlefield and Call of Duty. The quality of these upcoming Battle Royale modes and their popularity is something we can’t really comment on yet, but you best believe two of the big IPs entering the fray with this mode as something besides their regular multiplayer is going to make it harder for any upcoming standalone Battle Royale title to compete with unless they’ve already established themselves. Which just begs the question, what were they thinking? Why did they think they could get away with releasing another The Culling game like this? I can’t see their motivation being much more than one of greed, stepping back into a genre while it’s hot and popular, but I don’t think they were really considering anything outside of what they wanted, rather than thinking of what the audience would want. And that honestly feels like the case with almost all of the games mentioned in this video.

Outside of maybe Marvel Legends, all of them came from a perspective of what the developers wanted people to buy because they either thought it was popular or should be popular, rather than thinking of why people would want these games. Or how to convince players of wanting to play it. And that’s kind of the thing with these trend-chasing games, they lack a life of their own before they even lacked a lively audience. And in the past, a game might have flopped, but unless something incredibly drastic happened like a massive recall of it, at least you could still play these titles fairly easily.

Now when these games are gone, that’s it. They’re actually dead. Which is probably why it’s so interesting for people to discuss the death of these titles and watch videos about it because they’re like an ethereal brand of kusoge.

You can’t plat and dissect them apart in your own time once the bubble has burst anymore. I want to point out that pretty much all the games I mentioned here went into their death throes during the past two years. Most of them the past year.

Which is absurd in terms of how fast these deaths have been coming lately. I’ve left out a lot of situations here, like Mass Effect: Andromeda, Paragon, or half the games you’d see on certain channels because those games didn’t really die. I wouldn’t say they got murdered either. (Correction: Paragon did for sure.)

The rumors of their deaths have been greatly exaggerated. You can still play those games. Most of the games I talked about here are completely gone. While videogames as a media has generally always been looked at as this expendable form of entertainment that needs to archival, restoration, or accessibility beyond the hottest new titles, I don’t quite like this trend of high profile, big name projects aimed at nobody, doing remarkably bad, and then becoming unavailable shortly after.

While it is the nature of a lot of online-focused games to not have players in matchmaking after a period of time, it does suck that the experience generally cannot be revisited. There’s a lot of old PC games I could boot up now and host, and we’d at least be able to have a lobby. And there’s multiplayer focused games I could load up, give someone a second controller, and now we’re playing to this day. I just find it strange we’re in this spot where it seems to be all but okay to just cast games aside like this one repeat, with years of people’s works just going down the drain with no way to appreciate it anymore.

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