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Your Opinion Is Wrong: Denis Dyack

Denis Dyack is a hated figure within the video gaming industry. Besides Jack Thompson there, perhaps, hasn’t been a figure so reviled in the business. Just over a year ago, Kotaku ran a revealing article that imposed Silicon Knights and Dyack as scam artists, looking to take advantage of whoever and whatever they could. With the recent failure of Dyack’s Shadow of the Eternals Kickstarter campaign, it’s clear his past has caught up with him. However, these troubles appear to be more complicated than the casual onlooker may realize. Dyack has been the victim of a slanderous, unethical and absolutely venomous campaign.

Your Opinion Is Wrong is a new feature on Leviathyn that focuses on a very specific item with a widely accepted belief, such as the first Mass Effect being the best of the series. One of our writers dissects the information surrounding the subject and explains why the popular opinion, to the individual, is wrong. Expect controversial, flame-worthy topics many will not agree on. Just remember: the purpose of this feature is to expand the limited horizon and present a different view on a clash-worthy topic. Oh, and expect spoilers within as well!

Following successive reports that indicate foul play across the board, it’s easy to hate on something, or in this case someone, especially when it takes 10 years or more to churn out a couple mediocre games. Who would sanction siphoning funds from a publisher, calling out artists as ‘a dime a dozen’ or removing employees from the credits of a finished title as acceptable behavior? Short answer: no one. These are just some of the many allegations that have been brought against Dyack after Andrew McMillen’s article found its way on Kotaku last year. Oddly enough, it’s something that should’ve never been allowed to make its way through editing.

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The golden rule of journalism on all levels is to never cite nor solely focus on anonymous sources as the centerpiece of a story; which is exactly the opposite of what McMillen did. Anonymous sources aren’t credible and often provide information that’s far from the actual truth. The Team Bondi incident, which McMillen also reported on, did contain anonymous sources but was followed up by factual evidence. How so? Soon after the world was made aware of the horrifying conditions at Team Bondi, the IGDA became involved which eventually led to the studio being put into administration, closing the studio permanently.

No one’s defending the quality of game Too Human or X-Men Destiny was, but it’s important to understand that the livelihood of more than one person hangs in the balance when a story like McMillen’s is published. Chris Kohler, gaming editor of Wired, refused to publish McMillen’s article and stated the following:

“There are a lot of serious allegations in the story, not least the idea that Silicon Knights is trying to scam publishers out of money and not deliver games. But there are no real facts, documentation, etc. to back any of this up besides the word of anonymous ex-employees.”

By publishing this article, Kotaku threw out their journalistic integrity at the cost of gaining more clicks, which is embarrassing in itself. Still, Dyack remained silent for seven months, as advised by Activision as well as others that it was the best option to deal with something as farfetched as this. Earlier this year, he broke his silence (as quoted in MCV):

“We thought it would not be taken seriously due to lack of sources,” Dyack said of the piece, admitting that he should have come out and responded sooner. “Old newspapers would actually do some further research to check whether the research in that article is credited. Now people will just link and link and link and every time it’s linked it gets some incremental shred of credibility.”

“I’ve gotta do something as it’s now affecting me and my colleagues at Precursor. I was always aware the allegations were not true. The extent to which people thought it was real did not become apparent until we started to try and do fundraising. It became overwhelmingly obvious to everyone at Precursor and all our fans that we continue to run into this wall.”

“What’s really disappointing to me is that such serious allegations are being made credible and has been given a life on its own and there isn’t any hard evidence of its own from credible sources that this ever occurred.”

A while back, I wrote a piece on Arcen Game’s A Valley Without Wind. In it, I explained why huge, respected websites like GameSpot and IGN need to take more care in accurately reviewing indie games. If falsely represented, like the game was in this case, that’s perhaps the only shot the studio had at getting new people excited to try their title. Because of misrepresentation, AVWW has an unjustified tarnish on its record that can’t easily be removed; much akin to the Dyack debacle we’re speaking of here.

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It’s unfair to any party to be put into the hotseat for unconfirmed reasons. Regardless of what quotes McMillen dropped into his article, it’s absolutely nothing anyone can take seriously. Turnover rates, seemingly hostile statements, reportedly uncaring nature, all of these things are easily taken out of context, manipulating their meaning. Barring that, if your focus shifts to the development hell of Too Human or Dyack’s comments toward NeoGAF, I’d say you’re trying to hate this guy.

Building up to the release of Too Human, Dyack challenged users at NeoGAF with this statement:

“When the game is released and everyone plays game all the speculation will be over. If I am wrong and gamers in general think the game is ‘crap’ then I am comfortable with getting tagged ‘Owned by the GAF’.” Every single other person who thinks or hopes the game will be an epic failure gets their own tag — “Owned by Too Human.”

This is merely a creator believing in his product, but it does come with a hint of disdain for the forum. On the 1UP Yours podcast, Dyack explains why he did what he did and how forums, like NeoGAF, can become wildly out of control. If you’ve been perusing the internet for less than a decade, you probably already understand how internet anonymity and forums work. Dyack could’ve been more in touch with how obnoxious these things can be, but it’s hardly a reason to put the guy on your most hated list. Personally, I thought that award was won by Bobby Kotick eons ago.

Regarding the development hell and promises from Too Human, there’s plenty of reasons to be disappointed. Taking almost a decade to produce, you’d think it would’ve come out better than it did, but it didn’t and that’s that. Activision-Blizzard is probably the most notorious company for taking a myriad of time to create a product and look at how Diablo III turned out. While it’s markedly better than Too Human, that’s not buying it much in the quality department.

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What’s most criminal here is now that Shadow of the Eternals has failed its second Kickstarter and morale is at an all-time low, Dyack and company might not ever get another chance to create in video games. It’s all due to speculative information reported on the internet. If we, the gaming public, let something like this slide away without doing something about it, it truly will be a cataclysmic loss for the industry. Kotaku and anybody who took part in running this story should be ashamed.

Dyack is one of the industry’s finest creative minds who made a few bad decisions. We’ve seen enough of that this generation (Ninja Gaiden 3, Metroid: Other M) yet we have significantly less vitriol for those developers. Why? Because someone cited a bunch of anonymous sources, indicating Dyack is a terrible person and we believed it. For the man who created one of the best stories of all time in the Legacy of Kain series, treating him as guilty until proven innocent is the last thing this man and his colleagues deserve.