February 28, 2021

Ori Director Criticises “Snake Oil Salesmen” Behind No Man’s Sky, Cyberpunk, And Fable


Ori and the Blind ForestOri and the Blind Forest

Thomas Mahler, the Game Director of Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps, took to gaming forum ResetEra earlier today to get something off his chest. He’s tired of “snake oil salesmen” (as he calls them) getting hyped up by the games press and consumers, and then failing to deliver on their promises.

“It all started with Molyneux,” he says, describing Peter Molyneux, the infamous British designer behind Black & White, Fable, and Curiosity – What’s Inside The Cube? (spoilers: he was inside the cube). You may remember Molyneux from any one of his PR disasters, including that RPS interview where the first question is “do you think you’re a pathological liar?” Woof.

Mahler goes on to namecheck Sean Murray, founder of Hello Games and creator of No Man’s Sky, which was widely criticised for Murray’s bombastic descriptions of the game that failed to be entirely true. “But what happened then?” says Mahler, “they released a bunch of updates, so let’s forget about the initial lies and deception and hey, let’s actually shower him with awards again.”

Mahler’s third target is Cyberpunk 2077, the catastrophic game launch at the end of 2020 that was filled to the brim with bugs, saying that “the entire CDPR department took all the cues from what worked for Molyneux and Murray.”

“From the perspective of a developer, all of this just sucks. Back in 2014, I remember some journalist from some big publication telling us that Ori almost got the cover article of some magazine I read frequently, but ultimately they had to pick No Man’s Sky cause it was the ‘bigger game’.

…I really felt bamboozled once No Man’s Sky came out and it became clear that all this hype was really just built on lies and the honest guy who just showed his actual product really got kicked in the balls because the lying guy was able to make up some tall tales that held absolutely no substance.” – Thomas Mahler

Mahler then turns to blame gamers and journalists, saying that they “don’t seem to mind all that much” that they’re being lied to, with games journalists in particular “happily play[ing] along” with the deception. Never mind that negative coverage of Cyberpunk 2077 actually led to GameSpot journalist Kallie Plagge being harassed for weeks, or that reviews of No Man’s Sky specifically mentioned its disappointing, overhyped design and technical troubles (at the time).

“I know this whole thread might come off as me sounding bitter,” Mahler acknowledges. “I’m not. I’m sh***ing on liars and people that are okay with openly deceiving others.”

Some of the comments below Mahler’s post are critical of his take, with one poster, Hella, saying that it is “deeply irresponsible to encourage gamer rage…especially as a developer”, and CaviarMeths pointing out that journalists write positive pieces because they are often otherwise “attack[ed] and cannibalize[d]” by gamers who don’t agree with their negative opinions.

Some point out that it’s strange to hear such a take coming from a renowned developer, with McBradders saying “you of all people should understand how these situations arise” and several criticising his “unfair” description of the No Man’s Sky debacle in particular. Some, like Bosh, turn the criticism back at Mahler, saying that Will of the Wisps was unplayable on Xbox One, and nothing like the promotional art.

“This is probably naive but I don’t think these people are trying to sell “snake oil.” I think most of these people are generally really passionate about their art they are making and it gets out of hand when speaking about it.

…I don’t know. I just don’t have it in me to be that angry about the larger situation. If you don’t like these situations then don’t buy games until reviews? Sometimes I think the wider gaming community goes too far into the “cynical skeptic joy killer gamer” area. Just hype responsibly.” – BradenAndEggs

As of around an hour ago, the post is locked.

What’s your opinion on all this? Do you agree with Mahler, or do you think he’s lashing out at a game that denied him press coverage? Let us know in the comments.


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