Ooblets went from a grassroots indie gem to top-of-mind news item seemingly overnight, mostly thanks to the developer's move to the Epic Games Store. After a flood of harassment and misinformation, developer Ben Wasser took to Medium to make a public statement about all that's gone down.
While Ooblets isn't the most high-profile exclusive to go to Epic, it became a lightning rod for anti-Epic sentiment, amplified by the initial announcement from Glumberland. It was written in a clearly tongue-in-cheek manner, but as Wasser says, it became flint and tinder for reactionaries.
"I did expect a small percentage of that outside group to read our announcement, and I very naively thought what we were saying might get them to see the whole EGS debate as lightheartedly as we did," Wasser writes in the Medium blog. "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. You can see how well that went."
Wasser and his Glumberland co-founder Rebecca Cordingly were soon inundated with messages, suspiciously much greater than the previous number of Patreon follows the developer had accrued, flinging vile messages at the two. He says his attempts to engage with angry people were a mistake that "unintentionally threw a lot of fuel on the fire," as his responses would get taken out of context and, in at least one case, completely fabricated. In the Medium blog, he includes a number of messages including homophobic, racist, and antisemitic slurs, as well as violent threats.
As Wasser goes on to outline, much of the outrage is coming from those who aren't familiar with Ooblets or Glumberland at all. Some detractors questioned why Glumberland needed the cash from the Epic deal to stay afloat when it had a Patreon, and also whether it would offer Steam keys to backers, showing they didn't know or check that the Ooblets Patreon doesn't offer a key at any tier. This is a good segment that sums up a lot of the current state of things happening:
"There's a strange relationship a segment of the gaming community has with game developers. I think their extreme passion for games has made them perceive the people who provide those games as some sort of mystical 'other,' an outgroup that's held to a whole set of weird expectations. These folks believe they hold the magic power of the wallet over developers who should cower before them and capitulate to any of their demands. You can see this evidenced by the massive number of angry people threatening to pirate our game in retaliation to any perceived slight."
Still, Wasser doesn't necessarily apologize; he says he stands behind what's been said so far, and does not stand behind the mischaracterization of his messages or the fabricated ones that have been circulated. To his community, he does say that none of his comments were meant to alienate or antagonize them, but rather meant to address the rabid mob. He also thanks Epic, who came out in support of Glumberland amid the flurry of anger.
Discussion around the Epic Games Store is valid, but the manner in which it's being conducted, certainly when it comes to complete fabrication of statements in an effort to further incite outrage, isn't productive for anyone. It doesn't lead to any real progress, just an indie dev subjected to another round of hate for making the best choice they could, to make the best game they can.