Why I Have a Love-Hate Relationship with Interceptor Entertainment
And a hate relationship with digital distribution...
Interceptor Entertainment became a household name (well, at least on the internet) in 2010 when they began work on Duke Nukem 3D: Next-Gen – which was the working title for what later became known as Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded. It was no doubt destined to be a remake of Duke Nukem 3D, running on Unreal Engine 3 – and from the screenshots released of the game, it looked utterly glorious. And it was to be a completely free game which anyone could download. But they had one obstacle, and that was Gearbox Software, the new owners of the Duke Nukem IP as of the previous year, after having acquired it from 3D Realms. They had to obtain their permission to actually make and finish the product. Gearbox sweetly agreed to let them do so.
But Gearbox had a clause in the agreement: Interceptor Entertainment could work on the game, but they could never actually release it. Interceptor did not agree to these terms, and they jumped ship. The reasons why this happened weren't clear for some time, but it is thought that the reason why the game was put on hold was because it was plainly a lot better than Duke Nukem Forever was, and Gearbox didn't want it to be released because it would jeopardise any sales opportunities DNF might have had. Ask yourself: would you rather have a mediocre at best commercial title, or a kick-ass free game? Exactly. Others say that Gearbox didn't want the game released as freeware, instead wanting it to be a commercial product. Either way, the two companies didn't see eye to eye.
It wasn’t too long before it was revealed that they were were working on a new title, which was a revamped Rise of the Triad, yet another title originally developed by Apogee/3D Realms, and it was fully supported by said company who filled the role of publisher. Its mission was to recapture the feel of an old school shooter while making it look graphically updated and yet not losing the charm that the original game brought gamers back in the mid 90’s. Some say they succeeded, but the game ended up being horribly buggy, and it was claimed that it was almost too difficult and too dated – my feeling is that like Duke Nukem Forever, most people have since moved on and ROTT has long since lost its relevance. It should only really appeal to die hard fans of the original cult classic, like me.
Why I liked the new ROTT, and by association, Interceptor Entertainment, is because the game doesn’t utilise any DRM (particularly the GOG.com version), and Interceptor promised free DLC for the game post-release, much like Apogee did with the original ROTT, when they released free maps for it, followed by all official extra content ever created in the 2005 ROTT goodies pack, celebrating the game’s 10th anniversary.
And the game is fully moddable, too.
Leading up to the release of the game, there was also a very good pre-order deal where gamers got the original ROTT packaged with the game as well as the rest of the Apogee Throwback Pack (Extreme Rise of the Triad, Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, and Blake Stone: Planet Strike), which only cost $14.99 total – much less than half the price you’d normally pay for a game with a big name publisher behind it.
But I was left feeling rather, well… left out, because the game was only available via digital distribution. The question was asked at least several times on the official Interceptor forums: “Will there be a retail edition?”
After the confusion had been cleared up as to what a retail edition actually was (it’s actually an old concept dating back to the last century where games could be bought in a brick and mortar store), it was said by Frederik Schreiber (for all intents and purposes, the game’s creative director): "Going retail doesn't make much sense these days. But a physical copy, as a limited edition is something we have been thinking about if sales are good."
This makes me a sad panda, because on one hand, Interceptor wanted to go the “old school is cool” route, and yet I feel they held back. They could have been the one – the one that would be the shining beacon which would cast light on all other developers and publishers (mainly publishers) and show them the error of their ways. What I really wanted was a box with a printed manual, along with a copy of the game, and maybe even the original ROTT (with manual) thrown in for good measure. I would have paid any amount of money for that, especially if you throw in the no DRM and free DLC deal, even if, by all accounts, the game is mediocre.
This marks the point of the article where I’m going to go on a rant of sorts, even though it maintains some relevance, but I have to say it. If anything, I’m sick of the way the gaming industry is heading – this digital only direction, with half-baked games that need several patches before they function as they should, plagued with DRM and other restrictions that take rights away from the consumer. If anything, it has all made me long for the old days, and the old ways.
Most people don’t really seem to get the idea that digital distribution might seem convenient for many, and it saves costs on the part of the publisher, and especially indie developers, but it also restricts your market, because not everybody across the globe has access to affordable uncapped ADSL, or even access to the internet for that matter. Those surely amount to lost sales, and those are the people who will likely resort to piracy (the good old fashioned way – getting it from a friend) just to get their hands on the game without having to spend excessive amounts of money on data just to download the game, or having to be online all the time to install mandatory updates. And not to mention there’s the issue of credit cards, which are needed especially when buying from digital distribution services like Steam, because you can’t fax money through to people and have it count as legal tender. Not everybody has one of those (credit cards) either.
In the end much like DRM, digital distribution might be the way forward for the industry, but it is not doing anything to curb piracy or address customer dissatisfaction, both of which have really just grown and will continue to grow as long as we keep going down this road. Digital distribution might equal dollars (especially dollars saved), but it doesn’t make sense… at least not to me.
Interceptor, I sincerely hope you go through with that limited retail edition (or physical copy, whichever works for you) of Rise of the Triad in the near future, otherwise you may just lose a customer. And not just one at that.
Would you buy a retail edition of the new ROTT game?
Do you like Interceptor Entrainment?
© 2013 ANDR01D