Uh oh: Mighty No. 9 is delayed again.
Initially set for a February 9 release, Keiji Inafune's spiritual successor to Mega Man is now en route for a "Spring 2016" release.
Inafune himself penned an apology for the delay, which, as backers of the project's Kickstarter know, is the latest of many:
"The reason for the delay is rooted in bugs inside the network modes, and specifically problems with matchmaking. There are two large reasons for this problem, one of them being the large number of platforms supported (the solution for each platform is slightly different) and the other stems from the fact that the engine we are using is no longer being updated which means adjustments for matchmaking and online code are being made manually (actually reprogramming parts of the engine by the dev team themselves)."
Trying to engineer functional multiplayer for Mighty No. 9 has definitely been a rock in Comcept's shoe. Frustrated fans may wonder why Comcept doesn't simply release the single-player game and then dish out the multiplayer aspect later. It's a good question -- and one that Inafune and his translator answered when they talked to Jeremy Parish last year:
"When you release a game with single-player content only, you can only label that game as a single-player game when you do the certification to the first-party, the platform holders," Inafune's translator said. "So you cannot write "single-player/multiplayer" on the box or any other way to promote it, so it's only a single-player game. When that happens, the price will drop-we cannot price the game as a the single-player and multiplayer game, we can only price it as a single-player game."
So, the reasons are "pricing" and "marketing" -- two factors Comcept may be forced to pay closer attention to now that it's beholden to a publisher, Deep Silver.
At this point in Mighty No. 9's tumultuous development cycle, there's little anger from backers over the delay. Instead, there are a lot of jokes, more than a few of which are scornful. Mighty No. 9 feels like the butt of a joke, and not a light-hearted one, either.
When a project gets as tangled-up as Mighty No. 9, it's worth examining whether or not the pessimism and mean remarks are justified. After all, Mighty No. 9 is hardly the only Kickstarter project to face serious delays. Show me five Kickstarter-funded games that released on their initial target date, and I'll show you a unicorn that plays the trombone.
As Inafune pointed out, Mighty No. 9's usage of Unreal Engine 3 is part of the problem. Unreal Engine 4 became standard not long after Mighty No. 9 was announced, and a lack of support on Epic's part slowed things down, leading to delays.
It took some time for Inafune to confirm as much, and that's arguably the biggest reason for the never-ending barrage of criticism lobbed at Mighty No. 9: A profound lack of transparency. Communication between Comcept and the fans slowly dried up once the Kickstarter was funded, and there have been a lot of hard feelings as a result.
Video games are a business and Comcept has to conduct itself accordingly, even if that means staying hush-hush about certain decisions (something it may have to do even more often at Deep Silver's behest). However, fans made Mighty No. 9 possible, so they understandably want to be kept in the loop. It's a classic case of passion and corporate culture bashing into each other head-on.
Another example of miscommunication occurred when Keiji Inafune launched a (failed) Kickstarter for a Mega Man Legends successor called Red Ash. By that point, Mighty No. 9 had already suffered several delays, and backers rightfully wanted to know why Inafune was tooling around by making another follow-up series when he hadn't even proven himself with Beck and Call's adventure yet.
It turns out Inafune's reason for kindling the Red Ash Kickstarter is a noble one: Mighty No. 9 was technically done, and he didn't want to lay off his staff. So he cooked up another project for them to work on.
But Inafune also admitted to Engadget that his intentions were not made clear. "Once you explain to people, they typically understand, but the initial message wasn't clear enough," he said. "The timing was bad. It's just -- everything went in a bad, bad direction."
Indeed, people are usually an understanding lot. Nobody backs a Kickstarter in hopes of getting the project tomorrow, and we all know games are hard to make. But if you don't tell people what's going on, they're going to get antsy.
Inafune's woes go beyond bad communication, however. Mighty No. 9 is probably Kickstarter's best example of a project hamstrung by "feature creep" -- big promises made to backers in exchange for their aid in meeting lofty stretch goals. Multiplayer options and cross-platform releases were proposed as stretch goals, and they're the main reason Mighty No. 9 is seeing delay after delay.
It's not entirely Comcept's fault everything got out of control. Mighty No. 9 was one of the most successful Kickstarters of its time, and once the money started pouring in, it seemed as if the sky was the limit. The reality check has been brutal. Game developers looking to fund themselves through Kickstarter should study the myriad lessons Mighty No. 9's campaign has to offer.
There's also some undeniable egotism at work here, too. In his interview with Jeremy, Inafune says "We decided to make [the Mighty No. 9 property] something bigger than we originally thought," which is one of the main reasons Comcept signed up with Deep Silver. In fact, there are plans (or at least publicized hopes) to turn Mighty No. 9 into a movie, an animated series, and a manga series.
While that level of ambition is admirable -- every creator should love their characters! -- the frank truth is, nobody asked for a Mighty No. 9 anime, movie, or manga. We want a game that'll show us a good time, even if it doesn't quite fill the Mega Man-shaped hole lingering in our hearts. But Inafune is talking about big plans for Mighty No. 9's extended universe even though we haven't had the opportunity to decide if we're interested in Beck, Call, and the world they live in.
It's a presumptuous attitude, and it's no wonder people are feeling salty about Mighty No. 9. By contrast, Mega Man's world built itself up organically through years of excellent games that gradually inspired supplemental lore, both official and unofficial.
All that said, Mighty No. 9 is wounded, but not beyond redemption. Hopefully when the game comes out -- and it will! -- we can all settle in for the good ol' fashioned platforming action we signed up for. If Mighty No. 9 is simply fun to play, that alone should take a lot of the sting out of its botched campaign.