Well, here we go again, only it’s Day One: Garry’s Incident times ten.
Many people on N4G would at least have an understanding of who TotalBiscuit, AKA The Cynical Brit (real name John Bain), is. His YouTube channel, The Cynical Brit, is probably THE PC gaming channel on YouTube, with well over one million subscribers and a very large fan base. He commentates a lot of Starcraft 2 and MLG events, and his WTF Series (a first impressions video series of new PC games that come out on Steam) is probably the most viewed PC gaming review series on YouTube. To put it another way, he’s kind of a big deal. He does this by being brutally honest about his opinions, not holding back on what he thinks about a game or about issues surrounding the game industry. You may not agree with all his views, and you might be taken aback about his style of debating, but he’s never disagreeable.
So why in the blue hell would a small video game developer go to war with someone with as big and loyal of a fan base as TB’s? Well, that’s exactly what FUN Creator has done. On February 14th (Valentine’s Day, of all days), TB reported on his Reddit board and on his Twitter that the creators of the universally panned game Guise Of The Wolf had issued a DMCA takedown of his WTF video of the game. This had happened before, when Wildgame Studios, the guys behind Day One: Garry’s Incident, tried to take down his WTF video of that game via copyright strike (you get three of those on your channel, and your channel is closed and all your videos are deleted, no questions asked). This happened after he heavily criticized the game, as he did with Guise of the Wolf. The problem is that before he goes and does the review, he sends requests for review copies and gets permission from developers to be able to review the games (he honors embargos and is treated just as well as people like IGN and Gamespot). When Wildgame tried to say that they never gave him permission, he counterattacked by showing the letter of approval that Wildgame gave to him to do the video.
The result: utter backlash of Wildgame because they, like what people know FUN is doing now, saw the act as a sheer act of censorship. The studios didn’t like what TB said about the game, and because he’s a well-known and well respected figure, and because his videos easily get a million views each, such negative marks by him will be followed up by people not buying the game, especially when the bugs and problems with the game are seen through the video. Wildgame did come to their senses and dropped their takedown notice.
But FUN doesn’t seem willing to know when they have been had. When TotalBiscuit posted a picture of the letter he got back by “Jasmine” basically admitting guilt (though the letter needs to be seen to believed), FUN fired back on their Twitter account, saying that he Photoshopped the image, which might’ve worked if it was just a small font size issue (the font size changes halfway through Jasmine’s letter, something that could’ve been caused by whatever e-mail program she was using). But the letter had grammar imperfections throughout, making the Photoshop claim a hard sell.
Think of it logically, though: someone with a lot to lose by not being honest and truthful would make a separate account, claim to be FUN, order his own video be taken down, go back to his own account, say that FUN ordered his video be taken down, and Photoshop a letter he got? Why would he go through that much trouble and take that much of a risk, assuming he would even fathom to do something even like that at all. His reputation is from his brutal honesty, so what made FUN think that they could get away with that.
And they didn’t. His PR guy, named ZOOC on YouTube (Cristian Baltoc) posted a video of him opening the e-mail and looking right at the headers of the e-mail that Jasmine sent, basically calling FUN’s bluff. If that wasn’t enough, David Sievers, a VP of Maker Studio’s, tweeted that he could confirm that the takedown notice came directly from FUN Creator.
But that’s not when things got weird. It’s after this that things get bizarre. FUN Creator suddenly decided to begin acting like children. They first RETWEET THE HEADER EMAIL, saying that “this came from a ‘creditable critic’”, as if to mock TB and try to say that the video wasn’t worth the time it took to make it, basically destroying their entire argument. Then came the several tweets that they made that they deleted some time later, which thankfully people like NeoGAF, Kotaku, and those on The Cynical Brit’s Reddit thread about this issue took pictures of (I wonder if FUN thinks those were PSed, too) so you can see them in all their glory (and don’t worry: all the source links will be provided at the end of this blog so you can see them for yourselves). The one out of all of them that caught my ire: “Ok guys, we are working on email now: It will be from TB to EA asking for a job. Just wait, then you will understand :D” (which was, not surprisingly, deleted). They also claimed that TB was somehow blackmailing them. To do…what exactly? They finally tweeted: “We wonder why TB is doing this, it's really strange. However, we will stop talking about this incident. It's like trolling us to nowhere.”
Yeah, how about you quit digging your hole, FUN. Here’s the truth behind what happened. You gave TB full right to review the game you made. He, like so many others, saw the glaring flaws in the game that a two year old could make better. It was full of clipping issues (the video showed him getting stuck in walls and rocks), bad texture quality, a piss poor story with poorly written dialogue and equally bad voice acting (the voice acting is just the start of horrible sound quality), a weird black stroke effect that doesn’t do anything but show that they didn’t take any time on said graphics, a confusing map system, tedious backtracking and an equally tedious and pointless lock picking system that adds nothing to whatever challenge exists…need I go on? Everyone that picked up this game that was somehow Greenlit on Steam agreed that this was THE worst games of 2014 so far (one of the few time Metacritic gets it right).
So, like Wildgame did, once you saw that the one YouTube commentator that gets millions of hits on his channel a day, agreed with everyone (he even posted a video of his Twitch research stream that he does for all his WTF videos prior to making the WTF video itself), you hit the defense button, even after you earlier claimed that you wouldn’t take such actions and mentioned TB by name in that Steam post. You take advantage of YouTube’s inability to fix their copyright system and do what other people know people can do with that system: abuse it. You use it as a tool to censor someone whose opinion you didn’t like, but then when you got called out on it, you suddenly got all weird, claiming blackmail and “why would we do this now”? Perhaps because you underestimated how valued TB’s opinion is to so many people and you just now saw how it could affect your sales when such a well-respected individual in your line of work makes a scathing review as he did.
STILL don’t believe me that FUN is trying to censor bad press of this game? Look on the NeoGAF thread on this issue. There have been reports of people being banned from the Steam forum on this game (this is the major drawback of letting developers and publishers having moderator rights to their game forum, Valve) because they panned the game there. You can say that it is within their right to stop those posts that would hurt their sales figures, but one way to improve their sales figures is to make a game that actually PLAYABLE, for starters.
In short, this is a small developer that didn’t know what they were doing trying to pick on someone whose boots they are not worthy to lick. They made a terrible game, they know it, and they are trying to hide that they did so, just so they can hook a few more fools into this charade. Only no one is buying into their tricks. Censoring people’s opinions about a game using an easily abused system only draws ire to you moreso, and it could’ve been easily avoided if you just did what Wildgame eventually did. Instead, we’ll probably see you send letters to EA asking for a job, not TB.
In closing, it’s good to have a map!
TB'S Reddit Thread on the issue: http://bit.ly/1kINYHc
TAY's Story: http://bit.ly/MlSL2V
ZOOC's video showing that the e-mail was real: http://bit.ly/1g5y5F8
METACRITIC page for Guise of the Wolf: http://bit.ly/1dTGqZM
My video on the subject (just as a shameless plug): http://bit.ly/1cIYiH5
NeoGAF's post about this (note that they aren't even that fond of TB, but still disagree with what happened to him here): http://bit.ly/M2xYk2
A tip for the devs (the Steam Community post which FUN contradicted by issuing the takedown): http://bit.ly/MUdniO
A picture of the email that "Jasmine" sent to Cristian Baltoc, TB's PR guy.