UPDATE: After writing this article, I spoke to Faceless’s lead developer, Adam Sklar, who explained and gave clarification as to what happened with the game’s original development team, and why the game has gone commercial. You can read the questions and answers about that here.
Faceless has already been the center of controversy on Greenlight after it was pulled by Valve from the system, despite being the most up-voted game on it. This was due to copyright concerns emerging because it’s based on the Slenderman mythlore.
“I had personally said to everybody that Faceless would always remain free…”
The developers of Faceless managed to get around this issue by stating that the mythlore was a “free-to-use entity” and also claimed to have permission from the Something Awful forum user who had created the Slenderman in the first place. Just to be sure, the developers eliminated any references to the Slenderman by name in Faceless and called their long-limbed creature “The Being.” It still looks exactly like the Slenderman, though.
After these changes were made, Valve allowed Faceless a spot on Steam due its number one spot on Greenlight before it was pulled. It should be noted that while the reason/s for Faceless’s popularity cannot be located exactly, it was pitched to those that up-voted it as a free-to-play game, as can be seen in this image of the Greenlight page, as provided by Reddit user Wazanator_, who also links to this archived version of the page as further proof.
That, or nothing?
It was Adam Sklar, Faceless’s Project Lead and Creative Director, who wrote up the announcement of the many changes and additions to Faceless. In the section titled “What’s Next?” Sklar reveals that the full single-play and multiplayer experience of Faceless will be sold on Steam for $9.99/£6.99/€8.99. However, a free single-player standalone version with the Hyde Street Station and Forest map, as well as the prologue, will be available.
“This was a tough decision for us to make, and for me especially as I had personally said to everybody that Faceless would always remain free,” Sklar writes. He then explains the reason for the change from free to commercial as being due to wanting to pay the team for their work.
An interesting aside is the fact that some of the original team has quit the project, and new team members have been brought in to work on Faceless. So perhaps this new team are the ones expecting payment for their work, hence Sklar’s need to charge money for the game. Otherwise, it presumably wouldn’t be continued to be developed, if that is the case.
Obviously, this isn’t ideal for anyone after promises of its being a free game forever were made, and if the original team had stuck together, then perhaps no changes to the payment model may have come about. But it seems that recently the original team behind Faceless fell out. According to Sklar, one of the ex-developers decided to write a very negative article about working on Faceless, insulting the team members personally, and they also uploaded a video that contained a leaked version of the game. The leaked files have since been contained, but the ex-developer is apparently still trying to leak the game wherever he can.
Sklar also revealed that another donation campaign for Faceless is in place, with the money raised from it going towards beta servers, Oculus Rift kits, a professional programmer and license costs. However, it’s also noted that there’s still no promise of the game ever being completed, and therefore, your money could be going to waste, so you’re encouraged to bear that in mind before dontating.
“Are these changes enough to warrant the game being re-Greenlit?”
Despite all of this openness and explanation, some fans have expressed in forums, on Reddit and in comment sections that they really aren’t happy with the change from free to paid for the multiplayer as at least part of the reason they voted the game up on Greenlight for was due to the promise of having a free multiplayer game on Steam at the end of it.
I think that’s an understandable reaction, and of course, these people don’t have to pay for the game if they don’t want to. But it does seem like the case is that it’s either go commercial or have no game at all, although one commenter on the announcement post did suggest trying out advertising on a free version of the multiplayer, to which Sklar replied he would look into it. So perhaps there is hope for a free multiplayer version of Faceless yet.
The interesting issue that’s being debated here is that the development team behind Faceless is now almost an entirely new one, and the payment model (free-to-play) that was promised on Greenlight has been completely altered. Are these changes enough to warrant the game being re-Greenlit? For some, it seems that the answer is “yes.”
Considering Faceless is essentially the same game as before, despite the change in payment model, I personally don’t think that’s necessary. After all, Greenlight is only really a measurement of a game’s popularity for Valve to use when accepting games for distribution on Steam, so it’s hardly a binding contract when you vote for the games on there. It’s true that games change a lot during development, and this is far from the first time a game has moved from free to commercial during development, but the difference here is that it gained massive popularity and was given access to a huge distribution store based on that.
You could go back and forth on this all day, but it probably won’t change anything, and the only thing that’s been broken here is trust and promises, rather than any legal binding.