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Devs should not be "forced to run on a treadmill until their mental or physical health breaks", says publisher

"Success should not create an ever-raising bar of new growth expectations."

Image credit: Manor Lords

Manor Lords' publisher has hit back at claims the game is an "interesting case study in the pitfalls of early access", stating that assuming games can continue "endless growth" "causes so much trouble in the games industry".

Responding to a post on LinkedIn from Hinterland CEO Raphael van Lierop, Tim Bender – who heads up publisher Hooded Horse – responded with a lengthy post of their own, suggesting that "if this industry is to find a more sustainable path forward, we need to move away from takes like [this]".

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"This is exactly the kind of distorted endless growth/burden of expectations/line must go up perspective that causes so much trouble in the games industry," Bender wrote.

"Manor Lords just sold 250,000 copies in the last month – after selling over 2 million copies in its first three weeks – and has a Very Positive review rating of 88 percent with a median playtime of 8 hours 48 minutes per player (very long for any game, especially a recently released one).

"Players are happy, the developer is happy, and we as publisher are thrilled beyond belief."

"And yet here we are – Manor Lords is apparently a 'case-study in the pitfalls of Early Access' because the 'game has been out for 2.5 months and there have been three fairly small patches' (one of the patch notes being called 'small' here runs over 3,000 words and over 10 single-spaced pages) leading to 'CCUs have plummeted since launch' (yes, we didn't maintain the 173,000 concurrent player peak) and the apparently dark reality that some people, after enjoying their purchase of a premium, single-player title, might decide to go on and play another game (The horror! The horror!)."

Bender goes on to say that before Manor Lords was released, they "had a chat" with its solo developer, Greg Styczeń.

"I told him that after release, he was going to hear from all sorts of commenters talking about missed opportunities because he failed to grow as fast as they wanted, and judging the game a failure by some kind of expectation they formed. I told him to ignore all that – to focus on his core vision for the game, and to keep in mind that the Early Access road is long and that he should not feel any sense of pressure from the expectations of others – for both his own health and stress levels over the coming years and for preserving the state of calm and peaceful mind that supports his creative vision.

"If this industry is to find a more sustainable path forward, we need to move away from takes like [this]," Bender concluded. "Success should not create an ever-raising bar of new growth expectations.

"Not every game should be aimed at becoming some live-service boom or bust. And a release should not begin an ever-accelerating treadmill on which devs are forced to run until their mental or physical health breaks down."

A number of "experimental" changes were recently made to Manor Lords to tweak the balance, including reduced ale consumption.

The update fixes a number of commonly reported issues, including "None" people spawning and not working; the game being stuck at the summary screen after a victory; weak archer damage; and overly high ale consumption.

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