A long time ago on a website far, far away — this would be old Massively — the hot topic that got us up in the morning was something called “feature creep.” You probably don’t need me to explain what this is, but just in case, feature creep is when a studio kept adding more and more features into its upcoming product to the point where it got overloaded and couldn’t actually deliver any of it. At least, not fully and to expectations.
I think a lot of us tracked feature creep on MMORPG projects because back during the boom era of these games, developers were promising the moon. Then the boom went bust, games and approaches went back to the drawing board, and we started to see some more sensible approaches to games.
Some. Not all. Even though we stopped talking about feature creep as much, it was still rampaging across studios seeking to impress players with their potential output. No Man’s Sky had a massive list of features that it promised to deliver — and then delivered very few of them, earning a whole lot of ire. Chronicles of Elyira staged a successful Kickstarter vowing to make this highly ambitious fantasy title with all of these hard-to-implement concepts — and then went bust when it couldn’t even get an alpha out the door.
And then there’s Star Citizen, whose major ambition in life is to be a poster child for feature creep. This game got successfully crowdfunded — and then some — a ways back. But the huge infusion of donations led to Chris Roberts and his team piling on more and more and more and more features like some bizarro Jenga tower of wishes and dreams. This was going to be the be-all, end-all space simulator that would fulfill our every desire. There’d be a single player game. A massively multiplayer universe. This, that, and all the rest.
Instead of wisely keeping the focus to the core product, delivering that to launch, and then iterating on it with more features, Star Citizen has attempted to do it all at once… and thus become bogged down in a never-ending cycle of development, failed milestones, and a launch date that keeps slipping into the future. Sure, there is a part of a game that is playable, and some people have actual fun in it. Good for them. But the whole deal, even with multiple studios and hundreds of millions of dollars, looks doubtful of ever arriving as promised.
Meanwhile you have games like Stardew Valley that push out a manageable project to completion and then spend years afterward adding on those features to a stable base — and getting all of the sales and awards that they deserve. I really don’t understand why this can’t be done with bigger games too. I guess there’s nobody at these massive studios whose job it is to tell the creative people “No… at least for now.”