Few were more excited about the breakout mod The Stanley Parable than myself. That is what makes this editorial very difficult to write, as a matter of fact. I was taken by its narrative/gameplay inventiveness, and how its voice emulated the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in more ways than one. The mod was a pleasant surprise which seemed to show that the Source modding community still had some lifeblood flowing.
The unique tone and ideas in TSP made it very popular, and there was scarcely a site that didn’t mention the game’s success. Indeed, I took part in Podcast17’s interview with creator Davey Wreden and garlanded him with my own adoration.
After that, there seemed to be an eagerness to capitalize Stanley’s successes on Wreden’s part, more eagerness than was perhaps warranted. Not only was there going to be an HD remake of TSP made right away, that he would be working on a second project at the same time, as well as a mobile version to be developed by an entirely new team.
When these Stanley-related projects were announced, I was dubious. It seemed that a lot of responsibility and work was taken on too quickly. The success of one project multiplied into three simultaneous projects, each with their own set of contingencies. That would be difficult for a team of any size to pull off, but I was cautiously optimistic and waited to see what would happen.
Since the announcements of these extra projects, they have fallen by the wayside Ten Little Indians-style. The new property didn’t make it past the pen-and-paper stage, and the mobile version of TSP was recently cancelled due to a breakdown of the separate team’s solvency.
It was the cancellation of the mobile version that really confirmed a lot of what I had thought. The eagerness and the lack of priorities caused the projects to compound themselves, which I’m sure made development something like a performer spinning plates. Eventually, spinning plates isn’t so much about the spinning as it becomes the falling.
Why did this happen? I don’t know for sure, but it seemed that Wreden was chasing the success of other indie darlings, Dear Esther in particular. He seemed to think that the HD release and the other projects were the natural steps in the progression without really considering his options. Whether it was pride or excitement, it doesn’t really matter. Stanley became much larger than it needed to be far too quickly, and it couldn’t hold up its own weight.
Having said all I have been thinking, I realize that it could come across as very confrontational. If it does, I truly apologize. The old saw of it being easier to tear down than build up is very true, and Wreden has built up a game which impacted a whole mess of people. He also publically apologized to his fans about the cancellation, and has repeated his gratitude for their understanding through all of this.
But I honestly think he also bit off more than he could chew, and that he’s starting to realize it. Creative people are eager, and can take goals for granted. They get caught up in the excitement of the moment and want to share that excitement with everyone and, at the heart of it, make everyone happy. Setting up those lofty goals can lead to the opposite, which is a disappointing feeling for everyone involved.
These sorts of events are good reminders, test cases for why it is important to take things one step at a time. Often, we’ll want to achieve the next two steps down the line right away, but it’s important to take things slow, look to what is available, and remember that we can’t do everything.