PAYDAY 2's annual celebrations have finally concluded, although classifying the event as a celebration is a bit difficult when the game has been paddled from pillar to post so badly.
Being a developer at Overkill Software can't be a lot of fun right now. They've rolled out what was supposed to be 10 days of celebrations for their co-operative heist simulator, PAYDAY 2, but the execution has been well and truly bungled. The community has been imploding with fury, and with good reason.
Going back on your word is a tricky proposition at the best of times, particularly if you happen to live life in the public sphere. Almir Listo's remark that people should be ashamed for thinking Overkill would introduce microtransactions, which they've now done, has become a huge thorn in the studio's side.
The game's user rating on Steam was the first to take a noticeable hit, with over 10,000 negative reviews in the first three days of the community celebrations. That's since blown out to 24,784 over the entirety of the Crimefest. PAYDAY 2's been flogged, really.
It doesn't look like things will be repaired for a while either, although Listo and the team have undoubtedly been doing their best. They've started an AmA on the official PAYDAY 2 sub-Reddit and it's been flooded with replies, with over 2300 comments at the time of writing.
But it doesn't look like Overkill are backing down. In one of many responses to the reasoning behind introducing microtransactions, Almir has said that the Black Market update is "working as we intended".
"From an economical standpoint however, completely based on statistics, we can already see that the Black Market update is working as we intended," he wrote. "Going forward, we hope we can convince the parts of the community that resist this change that this was the right decision to do to ensure the stability of Overkill as an independent developer and the future growth of PAYDAY 2."
Other commenters immediately pointed out that Overkill isn't exactly an independent developer though: they're a subsidiary of Starbreeze, a NASDAQ-listed company. This is the same company that announced the buyout of InfinitEye VR SAS for approximately 14,600,000 Swedish krona, or just under $2.4 million, earlier this year.
Another major reason underpinning Almir's stance on microtransactions has also been the change Overkill has undergone. "The Overkill crew working on the project has more than tripled in size," the producer explained. "From 25 developers to today with 75 developers ... like we've said in the past, we do free updates when we can, and paid DLC when we have to."
Unfortunately, despite the backing of Starbreeze, it seems like this entire process was a financial necessity. "We at Overkill want to create more than what we and 505 Games agreed on. We want to do everything we can to make PAYDAY 2 as awesome as possible. In order to do that, we made the decision to triple the size of the crew," Almir wrote, adding that "to ensure that we can keep the size of the team, we decided that the best approach was to introduce the Black Market update to the game".
Overkill has to create PAYDAY 2 content for 505 Games until 2017, according to the terms of their agreement (which Almir revealed in the Reddit AmA). But no matter what happens, the Black Market update, microtransactions and the stat-affecting skins won't be going anywhere.
"The Black Market update will stay, and stats will remain as-is. It's too early to say how it'll affect future DLC," Almir wrote. He did note that there was a possibility that the game could go free-to-play in the future, although that would depend "on where we are next year, and if there's a point in doing it".
For now, the game still has a reasonably healthy community on PC. Whether that remains come Christmas, however, remains to be seen given how irate many PAYDAY fans are. Most of Almir's posts on the sub-Reddit have been downvoted into the hundreds, although one remains that has been curiously welcomed.
"It would seem you're too used to the culture of large corporate game developers. Community manager after community manager, large teams handle the community and keep them in check. That's not how we do stuff at Overkill. I despise the term 'community manager' and don't use it myself. No one in our crew is a 'community manager'. No one at OVERKILL manages the community. The game is for adults, you manage yourself well enough," he explained.
"'Community manager' in my eyes is a person who is a middleman between the developer and the community. The community manager picks and choose what the developers will find out. The developer sits in the backseat and can ignore the community - why should I care? That's the community managers job."
It's an interesting view to take on community management — it's certainly a very literal view of the word "management". "By doing this, you know that whenever I or anyone else in our crew replies, you know that you are talking directly to a developer who can change things, not some PR person who's job it is to make you feel appreciated and loved."
As opposed to a producer who deliberately went back on his word, monetised the game in a fashion that has unsettled a large quadrant of the player base and reasoned that it was better to explain all of these changes after the fact.