Back before it was the all-encompassing beast that it is today, Minecraft, as fun as it was, lacked a lot of features. Players longing for quests, loot, RPG elements and deep combat were left wanting. Little did they know that a lone German developer was working on the answer to all of their prayers; a game that borrowed the best aspects from Minecraft – the procedural generation and adventuring – but imbued them with a bright, cheery aesthetic, a loot system and difficult Diablo-style battles. Cube World had silently been in production since 2011, but it instantly captured the hearts and minds of many gamers. It appeared to have a deeper focus on combat and adventuring, with building merely an aside to the game proper, further igniting the interests of the “creatively challenged”. Within hours of posting the game’s debut screenshots, Wollay was inundated with queries from eager new fans, itching to get their hands on it. Against his better judgement the developer eventually caved-in to demands for a release, and on July 2nd 2013 he launched Cube World Alpha.
Wollay’s vision of an action-centric, procedurally-generated adventure was clearly very ambitious, and many of the systems in the initial release were surprisingly solid. Combat, unlike Minecraft, was slick, fast-paced and included RPG staples like buffs, de-buffs and cooldown periods. The world was inhabited with various monsters and massive bosses, many of which could pulverise entire forests into thousands of tiny cubes. Cube World’s initial reception was extremely positive, with most of its detractors able to see past its skin-deep similarities to Minecraft. Fans had every reason to believe that it would become the “next big thing” in PC gaming, but, as we now know, things haven’t quite panned out that way.
Shortly after launch, players began to exhaust the meagre amount of unique content the game had, and were eager for more. Most of them simply assumed that Wollay would operate on a regular update schedule, incrementally adding new features to Cube World, as well as patches and bug fixes, but that wasn’t the case. True, there were some initial bugfixes, but nothing thereafter.
A year and a half has now passed since Cube World launched, with nothing in the way of new content rearing its head. Anxious fans have questioned whether the game is still being worked on at all, and besides some very infrequent tweets from Wollay there has been nothing to quell their anger or fears. Indeed, checking the developer’s Twitter account shows that he last tweeted about development progress over six months ago.
Developer secrecy is nothing new, and can even be a good thing when used appropriately – it is commonly used to build hype for upcoming games – but the extremes Wollay has taken it to has left some customers feeling more than a little peeved. The game’s official subreddit has become a dumping ground of players asking about updates, venting their frustrations, and seemingly, to ask whether Wollay is even still alive.
Some players have been quick to jump to Wollay’s defence, stating that it takes time to create a game and that as a, primarily, one man team, the pressures he is facing are immense. This argument, to many of his customers, is unacceptable, with numerous other regularly updated games, from similarly small developers, being mentioned. At the heart of it all though is their desire for Wollay to be more open about the development of Cube World. Simply updating his Twitter more often is something that, they claim, would relieve their anxieties.
As we pass the 18 month anniversary of Cube World, nothing looks set to change. Wollay is, apparently, a developer that is set in his ways, and has taken the “it’s done when it’s done” approach to development. If and when Cube World is finally updated, fans will still likely eat it up whilst simultaneously singing its praises, and it’ll be sure to attract a whole host of new players too. It cannot be denied though, that Wollay’s credibility as a developer has taken some meaningful damage over the last 18 months, and it is entirely self-inflicted. If nothing else, this entire scenario serves as a cautionary tale of the pitfalls one may fall into when prematurely releasing their game into the wild.
Take heed Early Access developers, take heed.