Last week, Daedalic Entertainment, the developers of the stealth adventure J.R.R. Tolkien video game The Lord of The Rings: Gollum, posted an apology for the game failing to “meet the expectations” of players and devs alike. Although Gollum being one of the worst-rated games of 2023 on Metacritic is a tough L to hold, it led to a pretty wholesome Twitter thread where a bunch of game devs shared testimonials about the lessons they learned while having fun working on their respective “worst” games.
The ongoing convo among game devs was sparked by a tweet from God of War: Ragnarök senior environment artist Danni Carlone. In a quote-retweet of a Video Games Chronicle article about Gollum, Carlone shared a screenshot of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric’s Metacritic review score of 32 in solidarity with the developers at Daedalic Entertainment.
“Games are hard to make. Regardless of the score, every project has positives/lessons learned. I display my ‘lowest score’ game because I’m proud of the time I had working with some of my favorite people in this industry,” Carlone wrote in the tweet. “Some things are out of your hands. Be kind to each other.”
BonusXP environmental artist Ashley Rochelle soon retweeted Carlone alongside a screenshot of Aliens: Colonial Marines’ middling 43 Metacritic score—a poorly reviewed project which she had worked on—and encouraged other game devs to share what they loved about working on their own “lowest reviewed game.”
The resulting thread, which features confessionals from devs who’ve worked on games ranging from Gotham Knights to obscurities like a Friends trivia game for the PlayStation 2, is filled with wholesome lessons devs from many different companies and disciplines learned while working on games with which critics and players didn’t quite gel.
Speaking with Kotaku, Rochelle told Kotaku it was really cool to hear from so many people who appreciated the good aspects of Colonial Marines—especially its multiplayer mode—“despite it being panned pretty universally.” She said Carlone’s message for developers to “be kind to each other” resonated with her because “being part of a panned game as a dev is pretty soul-crushing.”
“We, especially as fellow devs, should show kindness. I felt a bit of solidarity in sharing my experience being on a ‘hated’ game. There are loads of us who have been there,” Rochelle said. “I wanted to show that it’s okay to work on something that doesn’t turn out well. There are positives in there; whether it’s a new skill you learned or even the people you worked with. There will be other projects. We learn from mistakes and failures and move on to making better and better games.”
Read More: Aliens: Colonial Marines: The Kotaku Review
Nic McConnell—who was a member of Final Fantasy XIV’s English localization team back before Square Enix completely revamped it into a good game—said that despite “being acutely aware of the issues,” widely cited at the troubled MMORPG’s launch, he and his fellow QA team members did the best they could to make the game better by “punching up the English dialogue” and “[imbuing] it with some additional personality.”
“For me it helped to compartmentalize—I wasn’t the game’s director, so I couldn’t claim ownership over the game’s state,” he said. “I was proud of the work we did in loc QA. Some funny dialogue, clean text, etc. Also the camaraderie of being together through the highs and lows of a poorly received launch—we had so many inside jokes and lots of us keep in touch today still. We wanted to contribute to something cool that people would love, and it’s nice to know that launch day wasn’t the end of the whole thing.”
According to McConnell, he and the rest of his QA team were removed from FFXIV’s credits when Square Enix “righted the ship” with the release of its revamp, A Realm Reborn. Unfortunately, this happens quite often for folks who work in QA. Despite leaving the localization team by the release of A Realm Reborn, McConnell says the work he and his team put into the game’s initial 2010 release helped “set the stage” for its 2013 relaunch.
You can find a lot more stories from the development trenches in the ongoing Twitter conversation. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite, current responses.
Despite Twitter being an echo chamber for people to slag on games they don’t like, it’s nice to see the folks behind those games come together to share cool stories and turn what could otherwise be yet another unproductive gamer dogpiling into a productive and healthy online discussion.