After a weekend of backlash to its timed exclusivity deal with Epic, the two-person studio behind Ooblets has publicly addressed the harassment it received in an official statement. While Glumberland acknowledged some of the backlash was prompted by misunderstanding the tone of the original blog post, the studio also highlighted problems with toxicity within game communities, and reaffirmed its decision to partner with Epic.
Be advised the Glumberland statement contains examples of the graphic language sent to the developers.
Written by Ben Wasser (also known as "Perplamps"), the statement explains the severity of the backlash was partly caused by a sudden change in audience which was unused to the team's communication style. "For the past three years, I've been interacting with an audience that has always been understanding, friendly, and appreciative of our very open and transparent style," Wasser wrote. "That's why we were totally unprepared for the attention we got from the broader gaming/internet community, which was fueled by a deep misunderstanding of the tongue-in-cheek tone as condescending and patronising."
That being said, Wasser accepts he somewhat misjudged the situation, explaining he "naively thought what we were saying might get them to see the whole EGS debate as lightheartedly as we did".
"By engaging directly with that crowd, I mistakenly thought I could have some impact on their opinions and emotions and defuse the situation with some lighthearted criticism of the main things that drove them to attack people," Wasser wrote. "You can see how well that went. It was a stupid miscalculation on my part."
In the immediate aftermath of the original announcement post, Wasser replied to several community questions over Discord, which he believed "unintentionally threw fuel on the fire" when these messages were screenshotted. Wasser said this led to "mischaracterisations of my messages taken out of context to insinuate I don't care about our patrons/fans", along with a "completely fabricated anti-Semitic message".
Along with the fake messages, the Ooblets team was also sent "tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of messages on every conceivable platform", examples of which can be seen in the statement. These included a variety of racist and homophobic slurs, along with a variety of threats and messages about violence, rape, suicide and self-harm.
Another contributing factor to the backlash, Wasser explained, is many detractors seemed to confuse Patreon with Kickstarter, "despite none of our Patreon tiers offering the game at all". This has previously been an issue with other Kickstarter-backed Epic exclusives, although Epic is now offering refunds for any future crowdfunded games that go exclusive.
"Whenever I've mentioned that we, as random people happening to be making a game, don't owe these other random people anything, they become absolutely enraged," Wasser explained. "We absolutely appreciate the support of fans and especially all our Patreon supporters, who we've been in communication with throughout all of this. We definitely owe them in relation to all they've done for us and what we've promised them, and we try really hard to honour all of that."
But one of the main reasons for the harassment, Wasser wrote, is due to problems with toxicity within game communities - and the studio stands behind its past statements.
"A game being available on one platform or the other, someone's tone, or them calling you entitled is not enough to justify a harassment campaign targeting two indie game developers, or anyone for that matter," Wasser wrote. "What happened to us is the result of people forgetting their humanity for the sake of participating in video game drama.
"I recognise that none of this post equates to an apology in any way that a lot of the mob is trying to obtain, and that's by design. While some of what I've said was definitely bad for PR, I stand behind it. A portion of the gaming community is indeed horrendously toxic, entitled, immature, irrationally-angry, and prone to joining hate mobs over any inconsequential issue they can cook up. That was proven again through this entire experience. It was never my intention to alienate or antagonise anyone in our community who does not fit that description, and I hope that you can see my tone and pointed comments were not directed at you."
Yesterday, Epic issued its own statement to condemn the "disturbing trend" of sending abuse to developers who accept an exclusivity deal for its store, and called for critical discussion without harassment or the deliberate spread of false information. For its part, the Ooblets team said Epic has been supportive throughout the situation, and thanked the company for its help.
Given this is just the latest outrage in an increasingly toxic argument about Epic exclusivity deals, we'll no doubt see more harassment of developers as games sign up to the storefront. No matter your position on exclusivity deals, or the manner in which a developer expresses their decision, sending violent threats is never acceptable.