I Don’t Think Divergence Is A Serious Game


Divergence Online is the next up and coming hardcore indie sandbox, and you can go ahead and stop reading there if you are as tired of that sentence as I am. Maybe it is the four years of writing MMO Fallout that has made me jaded, but when I hear about an indie hardcore sandbox MMO, I no longer have the reaction of a child on Christmas morning. I have the reaction of his friend down the street who knows exactly what his day is going to involve: hand-me-down socks wrapped in a hand-me-down shirt, and Uncle Rob will get drunk and pass out on my bed so I’ll be sleeping on the floor again. I’ve learned a lot from throwing money at projects like Mortal Online, and the lesson is never invest in the guy who advertises his project as being great because it’s kind of like that Ultima Online game back before EA watered it down for the stupid masses.

So Divergence Online came to my attention in the way that games in this genre usually do: The fans start being obnoxious, I get emails accusing me of being a corporate sellout and asking why I opt to cover “crappy themepark games” designed for “children” by “scam artists,” and how the game they sunk three figures into at an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign is going to rock because the developer is an old school guy who played Ultima Online and that the hardcore sandbox is really what the majority of players crave, but are just too stupid/apathetic to see the truth. The same players who months after the game’s launch will be emailing me asking why I bothered to support said game, noting that the more hardcore sandbox genre is viable but that the developer was not the person to bring it into the new era. And they would be correct. The hardcore sandbox is viable, you could look at early Ultima Online and current Eve Online to see that, and yes the problem is that the torch continues to be carried by those not strong enough to lift it over their heads and those strong enough are not willing to throw into the fight.

That said, I don’t believe Divergence Online is a serious game. Not in the sense that I’m implying that the whole thing is on the level of a Stargate Worlds ponzi scheme, or that the guys working on it have any goal other than to make a great game and obviously some money in the process, but that the project is likely to follow in the same line as its predecessor: A series of unfulfilled promises held back by a lack of funding built by people who are better suited for smaller projects. In previous editorials, I’ve pointed out that an MMO is probably the worst genre to pick for your startup game, they take the kind of time, planning, personnel, and most importantly funding that indie studios just don’t have access to. I also don’t have much faith in MMOs that change direction and engine multiple times before launch. Once again it shows a lack of planning and concrete direction, one that often kills even big budget titles like Tabula Rasa.

So my lack of faith in Divergence Online has nothing to do with the alleged antics of the creator, the “jerkness” level of a programmer doesn’t matter to me, otherwise you wouldn’t see the multiple interviews with Derek Smart here. I’ll even go further and say that it has nothing to do with some of the more questionable decisions presented in the Kickstarter campaign, like the inclusion of a $20 emote package that offers a “@#$% Yo’ Couch” emote, a scene from The Chapelle Show whose level of being overly quoted is only beaten by “I’m Rick James, bitch,” and it also gives the “slow jerk” emote, with the reminder to avoid eye contact. The other emote pack for $20 promises to recreate the exotic dance from Star Wars Galaxies, a reminder that you can prove your worth as a sandbox mmo by paying reference to previous popular sandbox games. Divergence Online goes further with its borderline crazy promises by offering a never-ending world that continues to procedurally generate as you walk towards its borders, a promise that will no doubt either be nowhere near as exciting as it sounds or will be scrapped or delayed indefinitely.

In the end, Divergence Online is a story we’ve heard of a thousand times before. Some guy wants to create a hardcore sandbox with full loot, free for all pvp, permanent death, and skill-based progression, and in order to sell his project he will jump on the bandwagon of hatred against anything that could be considered mainstream, because achievements, loot, particle effects, and more aren’t real features and they wouldn’t dare add anything in to insult you as a consumer. It’s a level of anti-mainstream thinking that has, perhaps ironically, become mainstream in the indie sphere, and will be defended endlessly until talk turns to walk, and the same people heralding the game as the next coming of Ultima Christ drop their support with that simple message “this just wasn’t the game to do it.”

On the other hand, I can always hope that Divergence Online breaks any expectations and becomes the next big sandbox title, in which case Ethan Casner may come over to my house and hit me with a folding chair WWE-style. The big sandbox games from Ultima Online and Eve Online all started out as small projects with low prospects and tiny budgets, and while the former became the largest subscription MMO of its time, the latter now holds its place as one of the most popular subscription MMOs ever. So it obviously can work.

But as far as Kickstarter/Indiegogo goes, I’m spent.

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