DragonPlay: Vaporware Lifetime Achievement Award
vaporware (vay – poor – where) n. A term used to describe massively hyped or advertised software that is excessively delayed and ultimately never released.
Yes this is an article about a dragon-related computer game, and yes I am actually satirizing it. Just because my name is “Dracophile” doesn’t mean that anything with dragons in it instantly gets five gold stars and a Dracophile Seal of Approval. Quite the contrary, actually; I have taste in what I like. Simply dropping a bunch of random dragons in front of me actually won’t keep me occupied unless you’ve managed to find what I like. DragonPlay, a game that can best be described as “a complete Club Penguin rip-off with dragons” and worst described as “Yahtzee with letters on all the dice”, does not fall into the category of things that I find pleasing.
Of course, I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t originally on the game’s development team at one point in time. When the project was announced in 2006 by the dev team they asked me if I’d like to hop aboard and do graphic design work for the game which I agreed to do and also offered to design the website and host on my own servers. Normally I’d charge for a service like that (because graphic and web design is my job) but I waived all of those fees because “hey, dragons!” They kicked me out about two weeks later because it was readily apparent I was the only developer with a head on my shoulders and a generous helping of common sense and Internet business practices.
I feel that I might be getting a little ahead of myself, though, so I’ll reverse gears and give you a little introduction about the game. DragonPlay was announced in 2006 by the dev team and was set to be released in 2007. 2007 showed up and you know what didn’t? DragonPlay. 2008 rolled on by as well and they said “it’ll be done in 2009”. 2009 is here and almost over and the dev team recently announced this past summer that the title was canceled. Naw, really? You don’t say? After having been in “development” for four years the plug was mercifully pulled and DragonPlay can now rest in Internet peace as a boon-doggle of everyone’s time and resources.
DragonPlay was entirely a byproduct of the “me too” generation of kid-oriented MMOG’s that Club Penguin jump started in 2005. You would be hard-pressed to find one single aspect of DragonPlay that wasn’t Carlos Mencia’d from Club Penguin and rebranded with a different name and/or color scheme which was a hobby that many other “me too” game developers were all about. At its heart you got to walk around in a medieval themed world as a little dragon and you could customize your avatar and decorate your living quarters. Actually, you know what, stop. Full stop. I want you to open another browser window and log into the Club Penguin game. I don’t even care if you don’t have an account just do it for the sake of this article.
You there? Good. Now cut out the glasses pictured above and put them on. They will let you “see” Duke NukemPlay while you are really only playing Club Penguin. Now that you’re in the game’s virtual world just take a moment to take it all in. Look at those luscious environments that were totally not drawn in Microsoft PowerPoint (I am seriously not making that up, FYI). Hey why don’t you try clicking those buttons by the chat bar that let your guy sit down or dance, and after you’re done go walk towards the edge of the screen – look! – a new part of the map! Hey, click on your character while you’re here and look at your player card; there are places for clothing but you don’t have any because you need to buy them with Scales, the currency earned from playing mini-games. And once you’ve decked out your dragon it’s time to pimp out your pad by buying furnishings for your iglo-I mean castle. While you’re at your castle, make sure to feed and take care of your Bugz otherwise they’ll run away!
Do you see where I am going with this? The DragonNukem Forever dev team defended their completely unoriginal “original” game by saying their ideas were wholly of their own conception when in actuality the difference between DukePlay and Club Penguin is the same as the difference between every song Ace of Base has ever recorded. Certain members even had the audacity to attack and criticize New Horizon Interactive (the Club Penguin development company) for “stealing their idea of a stage” in the game.
Are you fucking serious? Please, allow me to identify just how incomprehensibly retarded that line of reasoning is. DragonNukem basically pulled an Eric Bauman with Club Penguin and gave it a new coat of paint with the serious intentions to pass it off as a new game. Despite their claims of grandeur their title was virtually unknown because generally when you never release anything people eventually start ignoring you in hopes that you’ll just go away. So please, correct me if I am wrong, what would a well-known Canadian company with an entire department of artists and thinkers be doing on a crappy free phpBB forum full of “programmers” who probably get confused by the opening credits of Look Around You? Do you seriously believe that the idea of a stage perhaps wasn’t so uncommon of an idea that two people can’t come up with it on their own? And on top of that since New Horizon Interactive isn’t some fly-by-night company who can’t tell their asses from a hole in the ground it would be safe to consider that Club Penguin‘s stage was planned out well ahead of DragonPlay Forever‘s likely “hey u kno wut wood be cool a STAEG :D” announcement.
Maybe it’s safe to say I am coming off as a little offensive towards the dearly departed since there are so many other “me too” clones out there that actually saw the light of day, but there is a specific reason that I chose Duke Play Forever and that simply dates back to the very short time I spent on the development team. The head of the dev team was a “visionary” in the sense that he had a vision of something that already existed and access to a Xerox machine. They took themselves way too seriously for a project that was already being done a thousand times better both by New Horizon Interactive as well as the “me too’s” that were staffed by competent people. There was also no sense of how anything worked, it was all just one big cluster of misunderstandings about how a MMOG actually functions, and I spent a good portion of my time typing up long diatribes to try and point them in the right direction because at one point in time I wanted to see this game completed and did everything in my power to aid the ill-fated development.
Perhaps I am being a little arrogant here but even back in 2006 I had game developer credits to my name alongside a small but still formidable list of erroneous game credentials and on top of that I was employed by Miniclip which is the largest online game website in the world. If there was anybody on that team who wasn’t speaking 100% bullshit it was me and instead of heeding my advice all of those years ago they basically canned me and kicked me out of their flaccid community. I’m not saying I could have saved that game but look at what happened to them without a sense of development direction; they all went their own ways until they pulled the project apart at its seams.
And frankly, they deserved it. Congratulations, Duke Nukem Forever, on your Vaporware Lifetime Achievement Award.
(PS: Take the glasses off and look again. The power to see through DragonPlay‘s facade was inside of you all along.)