Mourning Zomboid

A little of this knee-jerk, know-it-all vigilantism even found its way into our comments threads, for which I am thoroughly ashamed and worried – not purely in terms of Project Zomboid, but because it suggests the distinction between independent and corporate development seems to have been lost in the wake of growing quantities of indie success stories. - here

One of my most embarassing memories is the two years I spent anticipating a terrible MMO called Mourning. I was on the lore team (official fanfiction writer) and in that position I was given access to the beta of the game early, so early that I got to see that there was basically nothing to the game at all. Here's how bad it was: I lobbied for months for them to add archery to the game, and eventually gave up because no one was responding to posts on the forum, which was eventually shut off because the devs sold the game and the domain and someone forgot to pay the hosting bill. Later a friend of mine interviewed a former developer (how he tracked him down idk) and I put the interview on the fansite I'd made for the game- it got posted on Slashdot and I almost got sued. Thankfully my domain registry info was out of date so the papers were served to whichever asshole had bought my parents tract home on the outskirts of Boise. My actual address was in another state.

The Zomboid fiasco brought all of this to the fore again. The Mourning devs were amateurs and ran out of resources about three years too soon, and there were some real idiots in command. They dropped instantly into obscurity- nobody ever licensed the engine they developed from scratch, nobody's heard of the game they spent probably three years working on, and all of the IP they developed got sold for peanuts and sat on indefinitely, and the ten or so people who did pay $20 for a preorder threatened lawsuits unless they got all their money back. A complete disaster, and an embarassment to my friends and I who got too tied up in something that wasn't actually a game and was never going to be. All is well. Working as intended.

But the Zomboid developer's story is different for some reason. Losing your code is almost impossible to do these days. It's such an unbelievable fuckup on their part that it's difficult to even imagine how they managed to do it. Everything I work on (more on that later!) literally cannot be stolen or destroyed, and nobody cares about what I'm working on, and I certainly haven't gotten any money from it!

But the Zomboid developers have gotten the exact opposite response that the Mourning people did, while deserving that response less. At least in Mourning's case there was an actual game moving to completion, instead of a pre-alpha with zero recognizeable gameplay and unbearable cutscenes (how is that, by the way? they promise an open-world beast of a game and the very first thing they bother to add is some bullshit about your dying wife?).

It seems that indies have managed to restore profitablilty to games not by vanquishing piracy (which, thank god, is not slowing down) but by marketing. If you've been convinced, as many people have, that indies are a priori worthwhile and corporate development is so terrible that even the competence that corporate developers occassionally display becomes something undesirable, then the act of opening your wallet to people who are basically thieves (like the Zomboid people) is automatic. The Mourning syndrome my friends and I displayed- waiting on a game for years, promoting it, helping to make it better, ignoring its critics, fetishizing it, for nothing- is now the default mode for people who care about indie games. It has to be- it's not like there's ever anything in them to actually draw your attention objectively.

It's getting so depraved that not even an outlet like RPS can avoid brushing on the truth at least tangentially. I hope this is a wake-up call for at least a few people in the same way that Mourning was for me.

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