[Lucius 2] How not to publish your game
image source: www.lucius2.com
There are a lot of reasons why so many of us like to watch horror movies or play a scary game. It is the dopamin that gets set free in your brain after you got boggled, the short frenzy you fell in, and it is because after you made it through an eerie story you get the feeling that you « made it ». You managed all those terrific experiences and you still stand. It was great. You are great! And the real world seems a lot less scary in comparison.
Whatever the reasons are to love fear, there are four things all wise men fear: The sea in storm, a night with no moon, the anger of a gentle man and to publish a game months before it is really finished. I am pretty sure that’s how the quote goes. And if it doesn’t, it should. Because if you are a publisher and you decide to distribute a product that is far from being ready to be released then you should be ashamed of yourself.
But let’s start from the beginning. In 2012 Shiver Games and Lace Mamba Global published a game that puts the player in a really interesting situation: He got to be the bad guy. And not a little bit bad but REALLY bad. Like antichrist bad. Because, you see, Lucius is the name of a young boy, who’s got a visit on his sixth birthday from his « real » dad: Satan himself. What follows is a good mix of « The omen » and « The Exorcist » in a horror-based stealth game. Lucius needs to be the bad boy, because you know – he is the devil’s son and so on. So he starts killing people in very creative ways because that gives him more power so he can kill more people and… I think you got the point. If you’ve ever played a game of the Hitman series you will know how this stealth assasination stuff works and that you can include the surrounding in your task. However, your range of choices was really small in Lucius and you only had one way to accomplish each mission. The positive aspect of this is that each of these ways was pretty well staged. Sure, it was not perfect, but it was very good. Lucius 1 in general had a few flaws: Small graphic bugs, the voice acting and the audio in general was not that good and there even were a few clipping errors that occured often. But again, for a debut game, you could live with that.
Lucius 2 however is not a debut game. And playing that game feels like somebody actively WANTED it to fail.
First of all there are the graphic and clipping bugs. Nothing small like in the first game bug but real big ones. Doors that do not open (but you can still walk through them), fire that appears for no reason (and does no damage), body parts that disappear in walls, impossible physical reactions and so on. At first view this game looks like a really bad tech demo. This is not about « bad looking » graphics (which it also has, but good graphics do not make a good game – however, bug-free graphics DO REALLY HELP to make a game good).
Then there is the audio quality and the corresponding bugs. You know, my microphone at home is really not that good, but I am pretty sure that it delivers better quality for the sound files than the ones from Shiver Games. 22khz is the standard here. For all of you who do not know much about audio quality: The standard is 44khz. I know this is pretty simplified, but lets just say « the sound quality of voices is half as good as the official standard ». There is also a nice little bug that puts every background music that is played on a layer over each other. For example, if you change your location and get a new background music, the old one will still continue to play and the new one will also play. After 4 or 5 different locations this will be more terrifying than the little spawn of satan himself. And then there are the voice actors again. Some of them are ok, I guess. But if you’ve ever watched a nurse being trapped between a door and the wall (where she has walked herself, this is not part of the game mechanic or a puzzle or something) and hear her « Ah » « Oh » « oh » « ah » « ah » « ah » you will instantly be reminded of your last frick frack session – or the adult movie you watched last week, whatever suits you more. The first time this happens it is quite funny, but it does not stop there. This does not happen one time. It happens ALL the time.
So there are a lot of graphic and physics bugs and also the audio is really terrible – but what about the most important part: the gameplay?
Well, that sucks too. The two main reasons:
– Lucius 2 is still a stealth game. In theory this means the following: If you murder someone or walk in places you are not supposed to walk into and someone sees you, you get in trouble. What happens in the game is this: If you murder someone and stay to watch, even if it is in a room full of people, nobody will notice anything. People can fall like leaves and every person that is not directly affected will simply ignore their surroundings. Yes, there is a « danger » indicator – when you enter places you should not enter and somebody detects you, he gets a small bar above his head that fills up. If it is full and you are still within his reach, he will catch you and the game is over. However, whether this bar is triggered at all or not is completely random. The whole stealth aspect of the game is not working at all. Lucius also has an ability that allows him to let bodies disappear – so nobody will detect them. This ability is of course never used, because in most (but not all) cases dead bodies simply get ignored.
– Lucius 1 had the problem that you had no choices. Your path was straightforward and there was only a single way to accomplish your goal every time. This is different in Lucius 2, where you have a different possibilities. However, all of these are really underwhelming and the same in most cases. You could poison someone. Or shoot something at him. Or use acid. Or poison. Or shoot something. As you can see, this gets repetitive very fast. Also you do not have to kill five or ten people but dozens of them. Not one of the missions has at least a bit of the quality relating to the staging Lucius 1 had. And when the quality does get close, there are bugs. Lots of them.
All of these points above show what you should NOT do when you publish a game. It looks like the beta phase was skipped entirely and nobody really cared about the product itself. Every bit of money you spend on this game is wasted and eventually a punch in the face of every paying customer because by buying the game you show the developers that they can get away with selling this crappy not-even-beta-stage game as a finished product.