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  (Source: Cartoon Network)
Provocative delivery got isometric shooter pulled from Steam Greenlight before Valve recanted, now it's subject of a parody

It's been a bizarre and incendiary couple of days for Valve and its digitial game distribution service Steam.

I. They Modded Down, Down, Down, and the Flame Grew Higher

On Monday the Steam Greenlight preview and social media hub published a profile of an upcoming Steam distributed title, Hatred.  The work of Polish gamemaker Destructive Creations, Hatred is due out on Jan. 28, 2015 for PC and Mac.  It is build on the Unreal 4 engine.  Originally announced way back in October, it had gone largely unnoticed until this week's Steam Greenlight posting.



The isometric shooter features a noir black and white graphical style.  But what's really inciting controversy is the game's theme.

Hatred -- gameplay

Set in the state of New York, the game puts the player in the shoes of a suicidal serial killer who goes on a killing spree.  The character remarks in a monologue in the trailer:

My name is not important.  What is important is what I'm going to do.  I just f*cking hate this world and the human worms feasting on its carcass.  My whole life is just cold bitter hatred and I always wanted to die violently.  This is the time of vengeance and no life is worth saving.  I will put in the grave as many as I can.  It's time for me to kill and it's time for me to die.  My genocide crusade begins here.

If you guessed that theme would not sit well with some people, you'd be right.

Hatred -- gameplay

Within hours of posting the title became the seventh most requested upcoming title on Steam Greenlight with over 13,000 "yes, please" votes.  But among the roughly 1,000 who voted "no thanks" on the title, many became extremely outraged and vocal in their criticism of the game. Quickly the forum relating to the post had accumulate 1,300 posts and devolved into somewhat of a flame war.

Hatred killing cop

(On an entirely different note the protagonist of the game looks like the lead vocalist of Deathklok, Nathan Explosion, from the Cartoon Network's Metapocalypse.)

II. Next on the (Un)banned List?

That provoked Steam to take down the page and announce it would not be publishing the game.  Valve's Doug Lombardi told Eurogamer (who first reported on the takedown):

Based on what we've seen on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we'll be taking it down.

Hatred #7

Destructive Creations released a response shortly thereafter saying that it would release the game with or without Valve, but that it "fully respect[s] Valve's decision."  It wrote:

Dear Hatred Fans,

As you know today we've launched our Steam Greenlight campaign for Hatred.

Unfortunately after couple of hours Steam shut it down giving the below as reasons behind their decision:

We wanted you guys to know that based on what we see on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we'll be taking it down.'

Even though games like Manhunt or Postal are still available on Steam we of course fully respect Valve's decision, as they have the right to do so. In the same time we want to assure you that this won't in any way impact the game's development, game's vision or gameplay features we're aiming for. The game is still to be released in Q2 2015 as planned.

Moreover we don't treat this as a failure because yet again this showed us a huge community support we're totally overwhelmed with. After only a couple of hours Greenlight campaign being live, Hatred gathered 13,148 up votes and ended up on a #7 on Top 100 list.

This is the best proof for us that there are diehard Hatred fans out there, waiting for this game to be released. And that we need to keep going to deliver them a game that offers exciting and challenging gameplay.

The whole situation only pushes us forward to go against any adversity and not to give up. It also makes us want to provide our fans Hatred pre-orders sooner, as many of you have asked for them.

At the end of the day you, gamers will judge if we were able to do a game that's simply fun to play.

-Destructive Creations

While the takedown pleased some, many complained that Valve was engaged in "censorship" and threatened to boycott Steam.  As criticism grew fierier, Valve recanted.  Company leader Gabe Newell sent a personal apology to Destructive Creations saying it "wasn't a good decision" to pull the game due to its edgy nature.

Gabe Newell
Valve's Gabe Newell was disturbed that the game was taken down. [Image Source: Win8 Update]

He wrote:

Hi, Jaroslaw,

Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from Greenlight. Since I wasn't up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that. It turns out that it wasn't a good decision, and we'll be putting Hatred back up. My apologies to you and your team. Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers.

Good luck with your game.

Gabe.

So it appears for now that Valve is back onboard and willing to publish Hatred.

III. A History of Violence

While it's fair to critcize Hatred's "art", the decision to release it also seems fair, given that many best-selling games have featured similar elements. Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.'s (TTWO) Rockstar Games, in particular, has a history of pushing edgy/controversial titles.

The Grand Theft Auto franchise, for example, does not have Hatred's focus on mass murder, but does put the player in control of an armed criminal dealing with drugs, theft, and prostitution.  Recent franchise entries have earned billions in sales, but also has stirred criticism.

GTA V
GTA V may have more sex than Hatred, but it's also all about the violence.
[Image Source: NYDailyNews]

The player has the option to use their arsenal to go on a killing spree of law abiding and criminal men and women alike, although their are in-game consequences for such actions.  It's been heavily criticized by some opponents of video game violence, such as Jack Thompson who raged against the franchise so hard that he was disbarred in Florida, losing his license to practice law.

Jack Thompson
Jack Thompson was disbarred for raging too hard against GTA. [Image Source: Gamespy]

Another title from Rockstar, Manhunt, put the player in the shoes of a death row inmate to murdered other murderous criminals, first to try to save his family, then to try to avenge their deaths.

Manhunt crowbar
The game Manhun featured bloody kill scenes. [Image Sources: game4me.be]

The title and its sequel provoked controversy for their graphic death animations.  Like the GTA franchise, it found itself targeted by Jack Thompson.

Developer Jeff Williams admitting in a rant (since deleted) that the controversy was intentional and that due to the violent death animations "there was almost a mutiny at the company over that game."  He would go on to write that the violence was too realistic and made some Rockstar Games employees feel "icky".  He concluded:

There was no way to rationalize it. We were crossing a line.

The game spawned a sequel, 2007's Manhunt 2.  That game was banned in some regions.

As mentioned by Destructive Creations, the 1997 title Postal was another prominent hyperviolent offering.  Perhaps the closest previous game to Hatred, it too was an isometric (think the original Fallout games) shooter which put the gamer in open levels with the goal of murdering as many civilians as possible.

Postal
Postal (1997) by Ripcord Games [Image Source: old-games.com]

Developed by Ripcord Games, a subsidiary of the interactive media division of Japan's Panasonic Corp. (TYO:6752), the game flew mostly under the radar, but did rile some critics.  It spawned two sequels.

Most recently there was controversy over the Activision Blizzard, Inc.'s (ATVIwildly popular 2009 title "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2".  The game saw some countries ban it due to a brief gameplay scene which put the character in control of an armed terrorist who was committing mass murder of innocent men and women at a Russian airport.  

Call of Duty murder
COD:MW2 contains a controversial level in which the gamer is a terrorist. [Image Source: PS3-Sense]

The controversy was reignited in 2012 when Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik claimed he used the game to "train for" his murderous rampage that claimed 69 lives, mostly young Norwegian teenagers at a leadership camp.

IV. First Person Lover Fires Back With "Love Glove"

Destructive Creations CEO Jaroslaw Zielinski has taken the criticism in stride, saying that like many past violent fantasy titles, while killing innocent women in bloody fashion is within the game's rules, it draws the line at killing children -- and that unlike some titles (e.g. Fallout 3) it also doesn't allow the killing of animals.

Hatred on Steam

Whether it's a harmless cathartic fantasy or a dangerously realistic simulation of serial killings, one thing's for sure -- all the publicity incited by the controversy is sure to help the sales of Hatred.  As the controversial Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde once msued:

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

Need proof?  Since coming back on Steam Greenlight, Hatred has since rocketed to the #1 most requested game.

Hatred on Steam

Some critics are at least taking a more good natured approach.  One -- Swedish fashion label Björn Borg AB -- has partnered with Swedish indie game development house Isbit Games to make a rather humorous parody that makes light of the game's  grim and apparently homoerotic protagonist.

Isbit Games
Isbit Games is developing a parody version of Hatred. [Image Source: Facebook]

A trailer of the game has been released on YouTube.



First Person Lover is due out the same day as Hatred -- Jan. 28.  It's being blogged about here.  The team writes:

The core idea has been the same from the beginning; we don’t want to use ”physical violence” in this game, but we still want to use the First Person Shooter mechanics. That leads to quite a few questions. How do you create ”enemies” that can’t hurt you physically, while still posing a threat? And what kind of weapon or device would you use to defend yourself?

The opposite of love is of course hate, and just like love it can appear in many forms. We then played with the idea if love is an actual substance, a form of energy that you could obtain and use. If this was true in our game, the same rules would also apply to hate.
...
In this dev post, we would also like to present you with the Love Agency’s default arsenal, ”The Love Glove” and the ”Kiss Knuckle”, (both currently project names). The design is inspired by fashion accessories, and they all come from the same product line. We wanted these devices to have a classy and modern feel, with a touch of sci-fi.

Here's some images of that "fashion inspired" "Love Glove":

Love Glove

Love Glove
[Image Source: IsBit Games]

Björn Borg will be making real life "Love Glove" wearables to promote the game.  Who says games aren't art?

Sources: Eurogamer, via Neowin





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