The Long Dark Creator Discusses Reddit And Toxic Gaming Communities

The Long Dark
(Photo: Hinterland Studio)

With The Long Dark fully released, the founder of developer and publisher Hinterland Studio shared his thoughts on the problems that exist within the online gaming community.

Speaking to gamesindustry.biz, Hinterland founder and creative director Raph van Lierop discussed some of the most trying experiences that he had during the development of the frigid survival game. Van Lierop began by talking about the benefits and downsides of working on a game that's in Early Access, saying that it can be both frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

"It can also go terribly wrong at times in ways that make you want to curl up in a ball under your desk," van Lierop said. "It's definitely a double-edged sword. I think it's worked really well for us and I really am proud in what we've done as a team in managing our Early Access community."

Those who have followed The Long Dark for a while during its development will recall that the game originally had a survival mode with a chapter-based story mode later announced. A 22-day countdown began with the end result being a teaser trailer that revealed the story mode and a solid release date. Many fans were appreciative and supportive of the story mode, but others expected much more from the countdown and lashed out.

"We had some people in our community saying, 'They better be launching the game at the end of this countdown or we're going to be pissed off,'" he said. "And we had to make a choice at one point about whether we'd jump in and try to defuse that expectation or let it go."

What followed was a wave of negative reviews that blasted the game as well as plenty of emails that talked about how awful van Lierop and his studio supposedly were. The game had received barely any negative reviews before the trailer and racked up over 100 the day after.

Van Lierop also added that he's worked on other big projects like historical war games and Warhammer 40K games, so he's no stranger to dealing with gaming communities' highs and lows. He added that the majority of The Long Dark's fan base was extremely supportive, but there's still a level of abuse that shouldn't be accepted.

Reddit is one area that van Lierop says is off-limits for him now after seeing the responses from some members of the community.

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"I was really surprised at the strength of the reaction from some people and how they chose to express that toward me personally," he said. "And I won't go to Reddit anymore. I don't think it's a good place. Obviously there are a lot of good players in there, and I hope they migrate to some of our other communities. But I won't give my time to a group of people who think it's OK to do that to me and my team."

Apologies were exchanged between van Lierop and the community both for the sudden negativity and the way the countdown trailer was handled, but he said that there's still something that's "a little broken" with online gaming culture.