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Sir, You Are A Disappointment

I have mixed feelings about this whole Early Access business they've got on Steam. If you're not familiar with it, you're pretty much buying access to an alpha build a la early Minecraft. But one of the most recent games to go on Early Access has done more to set me against this business plan than any other, and it was a game I was eagerly anticipating to boot. That game, of course, was Sir, You Are Being Hunted.

Earlier today I played another game that pissed me off for similar reasons to SYABH. It was a $0.99 mobile game called Cubistry. Now Cubistry is a fun little game, basically Mahjongg Solitaire in three dimensions, but it did something I've not seen before. It's a paid game, and it's got ads in it. I was under the impression that this was a binary choice, either one or the other. Hell, free games with paid versions often remove ads to thank those that pay for them. I felt like I was being bled coming and going.

I can't help but draw a parallel between Cubistry and Big Robot's latest endeavor. See, these guys have already had a successful Kickstarter. They've already got their development funds, so why are they doing Early Access as well? And the Early Access isn't even a good deal; there's no discount for buying early. So you're paying full price for access to an admitted alpha build for ... well, for what exactly? To play the game early without the benefit of reviews or objective feedback?

Admittedly there has been feedback, but it's been neither objective, nor trustworthy. In addition to Big Robot, I'm now also disappointed in Rock, Paper, Shotgun for failing to address the warts in a warts-and-all build of the game. See, Jim Rossignol, Big Robot's founder, also writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Now to RPS's credit, they've disclosed that relationship numerous times in posts related to Sir, You Are Being Hunted, but I never expected it to affect their judgement of a game's faults. And believe me, Sir has plenty of faults that anyone considering the game should be aware of.

Let's start with the basic stuff, Z-fighting. It's a sort of flickering you get when two surfaces are in exactly the same place, so the computer isn't sure which to draw first and draws both at once. It's a newbie problem and it shouldn't be in anything commercially available, Early Access or no, given that it takes about a minute to fix. It especially shouldn't be on town signs in big, flickery letters where it couldn't have been missed during testing. I've been programming professionally in the same game engine as these guys for nigh on three years, and I knew how to fix it before then. It's laziness, pure and simple, to just leave Z-fighting in a Unity game.

This is your axe. It is the worst

Melee combat is another sticky spot. Enemies are immune to melee (and only melee) when backpedalling, even if you catch up to them, and they will backpedal immediately after being meleed. So meleeing an enemy to death takes about fifteen seconds to get your two hits in, meanwhile the other enemies will likely be alerted and shooting at you. And speaking of alerts, if I've put a sizeable tree between myself and a spotlight, that spotlight should [u]not[/u] see me.

I can't even trust the Options menu in this game. For whatever reason, Rossignol et al seem to be storing options settings in the save game file, rather than a separate settings file. This means that if you save your game, alter your settings, then die and have to load your game, your settings have been reverted. It's a little thing, but also something I've never seen before in any game. I think the last time I was that surprised by an oversight in design was when I saw the HUD in Triggerman clip into the scenery. It's never a good sign for a game when it reminds me, even tangentially, of Triggerman.

The Early Access disclaimer says some art assets are temporary. I really hope this one is

I could keep going into detail. I could talk about how "searching houses" just means that the front door works like a container. I could regale you with how ugly many of the 3d models are, especially against the backdrop of what appear to be standard Unity terrain assets. I could mention how the Maguffins you need to collect are so big that you can only ever really use 2/3 of your inventory space. But if I kept complaining about everything that disappointed me about this game, I'd be writing all night.

So, I'll just end with this. In my humble opinion as a professional-ish Unity programmer, Sir, You Are Being Hunted does not look like a year and a half of work, but four months at most. I don't know where their budget went, why they've pursued two different sources of crowdfunding, or why Rock, Paper, Shotgun writer Tim Stone (not a Big Robot employee) failed to point out this game's problems in his latest writeup. What I can tell you is that in my opinion, the game is not worth $20 now, nor will it be when released. I would like nothing more than to be proven wrong about this game but I can't, in good conscience, do anything but condemn it at this juncture. By all means, follow along with the game's coverage and its ultimate reviews, but be especially wary of coverage from Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
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About BomberJacketone of us since 12:01 AM on 11.17.2010

Used to be known as YellowKing for a short while, but I think this moniker's a little more applicable. Still moving over old stuff. Couldn't rename my old profile cause I made a blog post. I pop into the JustinTV stream once in a while, but otherwise remain pretty quiet here on the site.
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