We Haven't Covered 'Kingdom Come: Deliverance.' Let's Talk About Why


#1

Kingdom Come: Deliverance, an open world medieval RPG set during the Holy Roman Empire, launched earlier this week, and it's already an enormous hit. Waypoint hasn't written about the game yet, partially because we've struggled over how to cover a game whose creative director has both publicly and forcefully supported GamerGate and made highly questionable statements about the game's "historical" accuracy regarding representing people of color. Maybe we shouldn't cover it all? On the podcast, Austin, Patrick, and Danielle decided it was time to have a public conversation about all this.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/9kzqxd/kingdom-come-deliverance-waypoint-radio

#2

This is why I love Waypoint. Actual ethical standards.


#3

I’m glad they haven’t covered it. Even though there is no ethical consumption, it’s important for us as consumers (and Waypoint as a publication which tries to follow some level of morals) to not be complicit in hateful ideologies by supporting them. When the creator/co-creator is such an abhorrent individual whose entire identity seems to follow such a hateful idea, why should any of us be willing to even give their creation the time of day?

Also the idea that Kingdom Come is “realistic” reminds me far too much of the terrible TTRPG which purports to be realistic but instead is a terrible fantasy-world built around horrific and explicit content. The idea that just because there’s terrible acts in real life means that any game that is “realistic” must include this ideas is idiotic at best and purposefully harmful at worst. The Thermian Argument is a pretty good video deconstructing this argument I was linked to a while back.

Austin’s definitely got a point too around the idea that we have no idea what an actual realistic depiction of that time-period would be.


#4

Austin’s point at about 28 minutes in is my exact feeling on the situation.

Could we all give the game a shot and judge it on its merits and potentially signal boost the work of the dev team if not the creative lead? Yeah. But that is also time we could commit to project from marginalized creators that don’t have this spectre hanging over them, and the dev team for KC:D is not more deserving than those other groups. They are not entitled to coverage.

Also, like, sidebar? I read the Polygon review of the game and do not feel like anyone would be greatly disappointed by missing out on this game. And this image from the game is like a total encapsulation of why this game is a mess:

lol really??? nah man nah i’m good actually


#5

Holy shit. When I tried this game (and promptly uninstalled/refunded when an objective called [CW: Rape] “Save Theresa from the rapists” popped up onscreen) I had no idea of this background, but as i dug deeper into the marketing and then the opening act, I was like “Huh a bunch of things about this game’s design philosophy feels like it’s hinting at the ideology that formed GG”, right down to evoking The Witcher 2 & 3 in very particular ways. I kind of hate being able to feel this shit in my bones these days.

This is swift becoming a dire example of what games culture (especially on PC) utterly fetishizes. Immersive sims have stopped being cute experiments when you realize how easy it is for such a traditionally centrist-bent genre to slide very far-right with the veneer of the thinking man’s whatever.

The facial mocap is intricate and the camerawork deliberate (ass shots included!); the tutorials are unwelcoming walls of text for overwrought systems meant to impress you, like they were made by a gameFAQs kid that wants every game to be “more realistic”; the fact that you can accomplish things in several ways is meant to eclipse any consideration of what your objectives or given choices might mean. All this showy bullshit and the right connections to make the game happen have made it so that Waypoint’s still the only place I’ve seen bring up the inexorable link to GG, while it happily plays to any other outlet remotely covering PC games with a dash of the ol’ No DRM to show just how consumer-friendly they are.

Plus, even in the opening act, the game reads like a manifesto on the contradictory very ethical thoughts of creeps that are convinced games aren’t political while they try to make a political point with their video game.

and they are/were helping develop a game of thrones mod even before the release, because of fucking course they are.

edit: okay the Polygon article at least brings the GG connection up, but that’s still an exception to the vast rule of this game’s coverage. Boy this medium sure is still unprepared for cryptofascists getting creative power, huh.


#6

Oh god, is it? At this point, I go to Polygon and RPS for reviews and Waypoint for industry coverage, so I had no idea that the widespread coverage hasn’t been conscious of that. Says a lot about the SJW nerds I follow.

But yeah, that kind of leads into: Waypoint doesn’t need to cover KC:D honestly. Other people will, and we will be able to seek out reviews if we want them. There are enough people who to widespread reviews that not everyone needs to, and I will continue to come to Waypoint specfically for that extra thoughtfulness and care.


#7

I kind of want WP to pretty abrasively cover it, myself. I don’t blame them if they don’t (it would undoubtedly kick a hornet’s nest pretty badly) but I would like a more overt word getting out there about this game’s whole garbage deal. On the other hand, reviews are already mixed enough that it might not matter in the long-term anyways, making it a risk not worth taking any more than they already have.

As for the coverage for this game, it’s mainly been “You drink schnapps to save the game how quaint!”, “Hey check out this cool mod that shows that even budding fans (ugh) of this trashfire hate this save system”, “it’s an immersive sim, it sure looks a bit like Oblivion!”, and other vapid nothing-pieces. The most controversial news to come out of it otherwise has been “these patches sure are unreasonably huge huh”.


#8

One thing that struck me while looking at Vávra’s twitter, besides the GG stance and other horrid shit, was his blatant dismissive attitude towards any historical evidence presented to him of black people existing in medieval Bohemia, calling it all false. A question arises then why this person so badly wants to believe in a version of history where black people did not exist in that region.
That combined with all the other shit he’s said and I’m getting some gross nationalistic vibes from this dude.


#9

This general question always reminds me of John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats’ post on listening to black metal, and very apt considering Austin mentioned the dude’s Burzum shirt.

I don’t need to separate an author from his work if the author’s a truly terrible human being. nobody’s perfect - I don’t ask anybody to be perfect; I just ask them not to be, you know, nazis, or virulent homophobes. But if they are, then I don’t care how good their work is purported to be. I don’t have to listen to Burzum; there’s no shortage of amazing black metal that isn’t written by racist murderers. the amount of tremendous black metal that meets the “not the work of an appalling horrible person” yardstick is sufficient to excuse me from having to listen to the stuff made by assholes.

The entire post is worth reading.

Now, that’s mostly about a single person, or at least a band of like, 3-5 people, and not a team of 80-150 people; but I think an important point is that when this is the bullshit that the studio heads are spouting, it’s what’s going to define the culture of the game, and the studio as a whole. And yeah the people who worked on the game who aren’t asses deserve to be able to get by and pay rent, but I’m sure that in such a large team there’s just as many people who I’d rather not support. That’s going to be the case with pretty much anything made by a large team.


#10

When something like this happens I think Waypoint should cover it exactly like you did here. I understand not wanting to give attention to people you shouldn’t, but when a game this anticipated and successful has such a gross ideology behind it (whether that’s explicit in game doesn’t matter, it’s there) you have to say something. Every other site will talk about mechanics or performance and maybe briefly mention the dev’s history. While that might be enough for most games every now and then an extreme outlier comes along that more mainstream sites just aren’t equipped to handle. This is what I come to Waypoint for, this is your strength.

Of course that doesn’t mean there needs to be wall-to-wall coverage or that someone needs to invest 20 hours just to see where things go bad. Like Patrick said about Remothered: why spend that time when you could be doing something more constructive or showcasing projects from marginalized people? I’d like Waypoint to be loud enough to get the attention of people who might not have otherwise heard about this without taking away from more positive coverage. Where that line is exactly, I’m not sure.

As for what format these discussions should be in I think the podcast works best. Streams would be a little too on the spot for a deeper discussion while an article could take away some of the nuance even with sidebars or footnotes. Hearing Austin and Patrick’s uneasiness about how parts of Kingdom Come sound pretty cool wouldn’t translate as well if it were written out.


#11

Just out of curiosity and at risk of derailing this thread because it’s something I hadn’t really thought of before, what do you mean by immersive sims being a “traditionally centrist-bent genre”? All the ones popping into my head were pretty overt with their presentation of political themes that fall to a certain side of the political spectrum (for better or worse) like Bioshock, Dishonored, or Deus Ex.

But yeah I’m always surprised at how easy it is for some people to just look past this stuff. Knowing one of the lead developers was an absolute asshole would only lead to me constantly looking for gross shit while playing (and it sounds like I wouldn’t have to look far). Was disappointed to see that PC gamer gave a surprisingly glowing review with basically no mention of the circumstances of the game’s development, and Polygon only threw in a short paragraph at the end of their review to mention the GG controversy. When the content seems so informed by the dev’s troubling beliefs I think it’s worth discussing at length.


#12

On a lighter note, Austin jokes that this pod is like sitting in on an editorial meeting, and…

yes please!


#13

Bioshock is pretty centralist once you realize the intent wasn’t to dunk on objectivism. Plus, Infinite was basically a centralist nightmare. Remember when the black resistance leader was treated just as evil as the racist, fascist, genociders?


#14

… Wait, it wasn’t?!


#15

I guess I’d like to add that personally, I lost interest in the whole game as soon as they started making excuses(or heard that they had made excuses, I guess, wasn’t exactly following it). Even if there was some concrete evidence that black people didn’t exist in that area of Europe in that time period, the fact that the excuses came out at all is an indicator of a very boring viewpoint that I don’t gel with. You shouldn’t be representing marginalised folks in your work out of obligation, you should be doing it because you want to do it. Because it makes the work better. Maybe there’s some leeway with smaller stuff in specific circumstances, but in something like Deliverance I’d expect the people making it to be enthused about exploring the diversity of the era, not desperately looking for ways to make it less interesting in pursuit of an unattainable Realism.

I don’t know though, that’s just my immediate thaughts and I don’t put much stock into those these days.


#16

I’d been loosely following the game since I kickstarted, and as Historian was disappointed in the directors comments. Unfortunately my own experience with the game itself matches Austin’s, I can see moments where the game could have been grand, crafting a more hardcore-Elder-Scrolls style of game. The save system was a bad idea, flat out on account of how janky the rest of the game is.

I also think he made a good point about historical accuracy, my specialty is the Roman Republic and I couldn’t tell you anything for sure about how people lived, just educated guesses based on evidence. Ultimately Kingdom Come is historical fiction, fantasy really. Warhorse Studios made choices at every stage in development that are not what I would call “historically accurate.” Ultimately I find that term to be a shield used by creators who don’t want to indulge in historical fantasy trying to brush of criticism. It’s a sad state of affair all around.


#17

I was surprised too.


#18

Then, hilariously enough, outside being an Art Deco remake of System Shock 2, I… no longer know what the point of that game was. I am shook, you have shaken me with this knowledge bomb. Thanks??? I guess?? 8(


#19

This bit about him insisting that every person in medieval Bohemia would be lily-white is not only racist but also makes him look, how shall I put this… not very bright.

I don’t know much about anthropology, but I do know a bit about the scientific method, and his argument basically comes down to trying to prove the absence of something. The only way to do that in a situation like this is verify it’s absence in every observation in the universe of all possible observations. All it takes to disprove is to verify its existence in one observation.

So it doesn’t matter how many fancy, seemingly well-researched and logical theories he rolls out. All it takes is one example to discredit all those theories. And from what I’ve seen, there’s far more than one example.

So his refusal to accept this is not the devotion to realism he claims it is, but a rejection of basic scientific and logical principles. This seems (unsurprisingly, to be honest) a direct contradiction to what he claims to stand for.


#20

I really enjoyed this discussion. This is exactly what I come to Waypoint for. I was a bit disappointed there weren’t really any conclusions though, editorially or personally. However, I understand that it takes time to work through these thoughts; I’m not passing any judgement — I was just hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak lol.

Where to draw the line editorially is pretty murky as demonstrated by the David Cage example, but I think drawing the line personally should be more clear. All the things going on in the world right now don’t help, but I feel like if we take a wishy washy stance, leaving ourselves open to exceptions to get the things we want, we’re never going to make it out of the hole we’re in. It’s really hard for me to hear the many reasons why someone shouldn’t play Kingdom Come, and have that person still decide to buy and play the game. Not that it’s wrong to buy and enjoy the game — I’m not judging you if you do — but how is there even a path forward if we allow ourselves these openings all the time to abstract away the awfulness?