The thing about picking a fight with a critic who has a huge audience is that your fight will also have a huge audience.
The indie game developer behind The Slaughtering Grounds decided to hit back against a YouTube video that included negative commentary on the game. The YouTube video in question was uploaded by Jim Sterling, a veteran professional game critic who has written for high profile enthusiast outlets Destructoid and The Escapist.
The Slaughtering Grounds was released on Steam on Friday, after a successful Steam Greenlight campaign. Steam Greenlight is a community tool by which users may fast-track upcoming games for release on Steam. Users were promised a free copy of The Slaughtering Grounds if they upvoted the game. Sterling released his Let’s Play video of The Slaughtering Grounds on Saturday. It is part of a series of videos Sterling calls “Squirty Play.”
“Squirty Play is a series of gameplay videos that give ‘first impressions’ of new and upcoming video games. Rather than a review, which I provide as text articles for The Escapist, these videos are quick looks, almost always done ‘blind’ (this is the first time I’ve ever played them),” Sterling told the Dot via email. “Sometimes, if it’s something I’m already reviewing, I’ll record something deeper into the game and will be more familiar as a result, but the vast majority are new Steam games that caught my eye, presented ‘Russian roulette’ style – I hope they’re good, but they could be terrible, and I don’t know until I hit record.”
“Slaughtering Grounds is indicative of Steam’s recent issues with quality control. It seems anybody these days – especially thanks to Greenlight – can cobble together a game, charge what they like, and get on the storefront,” Sterling wrote. “ Slaughtering Grounds’ issues are shared by a number of games released this year. They’re not so much ‘developed’ as they are pieced together, Frankenstein’s Monster style, from bits of pre-built assets. There’s no artistic or mechanical consistency to the game because it’s a hodgepodge of character models, environments, and systems taken from other peoples’ work, a bunch of templates that real developers are supposed to build off of, rather than sell on to the customer.”
On Sunday, the developer of The Slaughtering Grounds uploaded a video to YouTube titled “ReviewTheReviewerRoundOne,” in which the developer responded to Sterling’s comments via profanity-laced text. The video also consistently refers to Sterling’s Squirty Play video as “a review,” though Sterling emphasized that it’s not.
Sterling has responded by taking a page from Inception, and recorded his own video, within the developer response video, within the original gameplay video. That prompted another YouTube response from the developer.
“Unfortunately, your videos do impact indie game sales,” the developer wrote. “So you do realize how your over the top statement of a complete failure or 2014 worst game of the year contender, with 10 minutes of play time is bad?”
The Slaughtering Grounds is certainly getting publicity out of the kerfluffle. Redditors are having a field day discussing the seeming developer meltdown. And while the negative reviews of the game on Steam arguably might have as much to do with Sterling’s fans coming to his defense as they do with the quality of the game itself, they don’t look very good for the developer, regardless. You can watch a video of the gameplay, sans any commentary here if you want to decide for yourself whether you want to try The Slaughtering Grounds or not.
“My reaction to The Slaughtering Grounds video was pretty honest,” Sterling told the Dot. “I know some people have felt my laughter was put on, but I’ve never seen a developer go that wacky with their backlash, and after six years of reviewing games and getting insulted near daily as a result, a video consistently calling me a ‘fucking idiot’ and saying, ‘I’m Jim Fucking Sterling son,’ is far from offensive. It’s adorable, if anything.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Digital Homicide Studios, the publisher of The Slaughtering Grounds for comment, but did not get a response by the time of publication.