Citizens of Earth: A Labor of Love

So by now you may have listened to the AggroChat podcast on our Game Club game for February, Citizens of Earth. If not, you I’ve embedded it below.

We were pretty harsh on this game, and I for good reason, but since recording the episode I’ve felt a vague sense of unease about it. Anthony Burch wrote a great piece for Kotaku that puts to words some of my feelings. Someone put an incredible amount of effort towards building this game, and tearing it down like that is disheartening.

But I think one of the things that bugs me the most is that it’s the type of game that I would probably make if I was given the resources to make a game without the experience of a career in game development. You’ll notice we compare it to Earthbound and Pokemon quite a bit, and it definitely has that feel of someone taking these two well beloved games from their youth and trying to pay them homage. The jokes are definitely more centered towards a cynical jaded adult, satirizing politics and modernity, but the aesthetics and gameplay feel geared more towards a game I played as a kid.

So many of the problems with this game feel like the result of love, not laziness. The people building this game were clearly deeply in love with the game they were building, and that made them attached to parts that needed to be cut. When reality crept in they attempted to salvage what they needed to kill.

Tam and I use to chat about casual game design ideas, and one his personal disciplines he practiced was attacking his own ideas as hard as he could, and determining if there was anything worth salvaging from them before he presented it to anyone else. The concept that there is no sacred cow in game design was very important. Citizens of Earth feels like it is full of sacred concepts that the devs were too attached to do what was ultimately necessary to make a good game.

I think Citizens of Earth failed not due to laziness, or ignorance, but because of love, and personally that makes the whole affair that much more tragic. I hope the team takes the lessons from this project with them into their next one. I look forward to playing it.

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