An Open Letter from Mane6 (Updated)

If you read the original post, this is an updated version with a second letter posted 8/3/12. Basically after the butthurt they realized they were acting butthurt, and apologies for their reaction. The original letter can be found at the end of this article, behind the page break which also contains the rest of the “day 2” letter.

 Hey all. I’m here to address some of the concerns about how we “handled” the leak. If you don’t care about internet drama and our feelings then you can.. just kidding, I know that everyone cares about internet drama!

This is coming from me, Jay Wright, and I will sometimes refer to the the team as “we”, sometimes I will refer to myself as “I”, but a lot of this is force of habit, and while the rest of the team will read this before I post I can’t say for certain that I have the same opinions or dashing good looks as them.

Yes, I think we overreacted with our initial post on this site, but we’ll keep it up so we can all laugh at it.

First, some main points to get out of the way:

  • We don’t hate you for wanting to download the alpha! Seriously. Don’t feel guilty or anything. It’s not something we wanted, and the only thing it’s really spoiling is your anticipation of playing a well-crafted experience. We understand that people are loving/hating the leaked alpha and that’s fine. We hope that even at this stage you enjoy it, but we can’t really support it.
  • Canterlot Gardens is still go. Any tournaments you see in any ‘cons’ before Canterlot Gardens are not official and we haven’t given permission for anyone to publicly display anything from our leaked alpha. While it’s flattering that other people might want to use our stolen work to sell tickets and make money, quite frankly it’s a little sad.
  • The testing group is still being demolished to be rebuilt out of 99% leak-proof tester mash. While it is more likely that it was an awesome friend of one of the testers who stole the alpha on a flash drive or something, it doesn’t change the fact that we can’t use that group of testers anymore, because we don’t want constant leaks. Stink.
  • BSUs are still going, but they MIGHT not be as regular. It was NOT our intent to punish the fans, at all. We were just butthurt. And butthurt devs on a volunteer project are not motivated devs. You don’t deserve less of us just because someone was trying to win troll points from anonymous strangers by trying to make us cry. I still have to paint the RD splash before we upload the current RD theme (the one in game is not the final version), so you might get that soon.
An FAQ & more after the page break.

FAQ
Well. A lot of common questions have come up regarding this thing, and I thought I would address them in something I invented called an oFten Asked Questions area. Or FAQ © Jay Wright 2012 for short.

Why did you guys care about the leak you stupid babies?

First of all, maybe you’re the stupid baby!! Second of all, we care because this game is our baby. I personally have been working on it for the last fourteen months (that’s as many as two sevens), on top of my job and going out on hundreds* of dates (with ladies). I don’t bring the ladies home with me of course because they might have a flash drive and steal the pony game. That’s definitely the reason.

We don’t get paid for it, and there is no way we’ll ever get paid for it. For any of you who haven’t worked on volunteer projects before, the thing that keeps us going is positive energy. For the first couple of months, this came from inside our team. Then we posted our pre-alpha video on youtube to see what people though of our hard work.

WOW.

We got hundreds of thousands of views on the first day and Lauren Faust and Jayson Thiessen mentioning it and zomg!! So now, let me tell you, we were psyched. We were totally overwhelmed and humbled and proud and happy and all that stuff. Now this was fuel for us to really make this thing properly. We knew already that the video was showing about 10% of the potential we knew this game would have, and people were already loving THAT! The thought of what we had planned for our game and how much people would enjoy it when it was finished was indescribable*.

We could have easily just blasted out the characters, shoved some obvious moves on them without much thought, made them able to hit each other and then released the game in a few months, and people still would have loved it, but it wouldn’t have had any lasting respect or impact on anyone. We know it’s an easy sell, because it’s ponies. We have a pre-made fanbase that laps up this stuff. But the feeling among the team was that we didn’t want to just “sell-out” like that. There was so much passion to make this game a legitimately genuine fighting game (not just a fan-game) that we knew that it would carry us through, unlike so many other doomed fan projects. I bet many of you could name fan projects that start off ambitious and then just fizzle out and die. It’s not easy to keep a purely volunteer project running when there is almost guaranteed to be no financial reward at the end.

Then we got contacted by one of the founders of EVO, who wanted to play a demo of the game. When Nappy demoed the game to him over skype he was said to be “giggling like a schoolgirl” (I hope that isn’t classified info Mr. Wiz, too late) as Nappy showed him the cool combos the characters could do. When he asked us for a playable build to take to the EVO indie corner, we all ‘died the little death’ from hype (excuse my french).

We worked hard to get something non-broken out to evo, with some cool extra surprises (like pinkie’s lvl 3) and mostly succeeded. It was still missing two characters but at least you could play the thing and figure out its system if you were familiar with fighting games, which the attendees ate EVO generally were. Klisk and the FGB group set up a surprise livestream of people playing the game which was awesome and very valuable to us because of the nice controlled environment and what we knew about what the players knew (Klisk had brought along his own laptop and some movelists that were a bit outdated so we knew what the players had access to). We loved sitting around watching it for 10 hours with everybody else in the stream just chilling and talking with them. We also had GREAT feedback on our favourite ‘Shoryuken’ thread by some of the EVO players who gave it a shot. Even then, the true hype we got as a team was anticipating how much people would go nuts for the game once it was finished.

“It’s a bit drafty in here. Also, why is there no toilet?”

So.. what was the question again? Oh yeah, why was the leak a problem and why did it ensadden us? Let’s do one of my famous analogies! I was going to use a much darker one but I think this one works just as well and I want to keep this site PG13 at most.

We are planning to give everyone a nice house to live in. For free. We have plans for bedrooms, landscaped garden, double glazing, A ROOF, the whole works. Someone stole our house halfway through and invited everyone to come and live in it.

We can never fix that particular house, because people are living in it. It’s always going to be out there in that half-finished state. For the people living in it, it’s not the worst house ever, since they were homeless before. “It’s better than nothing” they say. And we begrudgingly have to sort of agree, but we are actually disappointed that they didn’t get to see our house as it was meant to be.

We see them huddling by an open hole in the wall shivering, because they know nothing of the windows we had planned. We smell a funny smell coming from the corner of one of the rooms that they are using as a toilet because we hadn’t got around to adding plumbing yet. I mean, they are all having fun, and that IS important, but from our point of view they don’t even know what they are missing out on. We have a whole other storey to add to our house (story mode, storey, hehe). We have the gaming room (RD) and the hot tub (Fluttershy) to add. Not to mention the paint and heating and all that stuff.

Ok I think the analogy has gone on long enough, I hope that helps a little to understand where we are coming from. I dunno how many of you create things, and maybe I am not explaining WHY this is even a problem, I don’t know. It seems obvious to us why we do not like this feeling. We spent literally months and months creating this thing together, and in 5 minutes someone who prefers destroying things has spoiled it. Not killed it, just spoiled it. Having someone drive by and blurt out the twist at people waiting in line to buy a book is just a jerk move. That feeling of surprise and excitement is important to some people, and it was taken away. Snape still kills Dumbledore whether you know it in advance or not, but that’s not the point. Also, I really hope I didn’t spoil that for anyone.

So it’s not the end of the world, it just bummed us out. We still have that awesome house planned by the way, and we hope you’ll all enjoy living in it with us when it’s ready. In different beds though.

Why not open up development?
Short answer: because the game would become terrible.

Long answer: Here is what goes into our game: Art, music, sound, animation, character design, a ridiculously complicated paletting process <3. You may have noticed the lack of ‘programming’ there. That was on purpose. The only really viable avenue for open development is programming.

People mention PonyKart as being open-source, which is fine, but they are also not asking people to crowd source splash art, concept art, stages, kart models, and music for them. Their programming is ripe for open dev, because the underlying engine can be compartmentalised and improved in obvious ways by any programmer who has a more creative or faster solution. It’s obvious when a game runs more efficiently, or renders faster, or loads quicker etc. And the game will certainly be better off for it. The files can be shared easily and merged together easily in a version control type program. None of our files are like that. Any of you who have cracked open the leaked alpha will know exactly what we mean. As has been mentioned before, we don’t have any programmers on our team, because there is no programming in our game. I;m sure you can understand why we feel crowd-sourcing character design and animation and sound is not a good thing (in fact, has that ever been done to good effect?). It would be a total mess.

We are the designers of the game, and we are trying to provide a directed, well-honed, accessible experience. I hope those of you who’ve played the leaked alpha agree with us. We have tried to keep in-jokes and memes out of it. Already on the boards we are seeing people trying to crack it open to add OC’s or ‘fluffy ponies’ or other things. I mean, good luck to them. Honestly. Hopefully others can realise the amount of work we’ve put into creating this thing, and maybe it will spur some creativity in others. Now, I’m not a fan of memes and stuff like that, because it creates exclusivity in what should be a game for everyone. I’m a regular of reddit, so when I say that 4chan people are trying to add too many memes to our game on day one of a leak, I want you to know just how powerful that statement is.

The game will never be designed “open-source” for this reason. We know that open-source sounds like this romantic wonderland of productivity and freedom, but it doesn’t work that way for all projects. Heck, we have a hard enough time coalescing two or three differing opinions about the art and mechanics direction of the game internally, let alone thousands of opinions. See mugen games for a concrete example of this. Sure, they might be a fun for a few minutes, but they don’t exactly get talked about outside of the very specific mugen community.

A fighting game is especially fragile when it comes to minute changes in character design. The game is one big pile of balance issues. Designing the moves on paper is easy. Implementing them in game so that they aren’t broken is not easy. We can’t predict every little broken interaction between each and every move, but that’s what testers are for. Which brings me to the next commonly asked question:

Why can’t you use this alpha as a giant testing phase from fans? 
Well.. we sorta can, and we’ll try, but fans are not testers and an alpha of a fighting game is not in any state ready for that kind of test.

Testing is only useful in a controlled environment. Eventually our game will be released to the public, and lots of things will come up that are broken or unbalanced, and it will be beyond our control, but that would be a useful stage of the build for that stuff to happen.

I know that many many many people out there would test methodically and responsibly and give great feedback on the leaked alpha. We simply can’t meaningfully sort through mountains of feedback to try and pluck out the good stuff. We find them all entertaining and interesting to read and we do try to form general opinions from them. Oh, and we may be a victim of our own unexpected popularity here (waah we are too popular!) but it’s not just a handful of feedback, it’s hundreds of comments/emails per week in our inbox, on our youtube videos, on our site, private messages etc. We do try and read them all, and fail. And’s that’s before the alpha was leaked. We know that fan feedback/complaints/suggestions are just because people are excited for our game and want to help make it better.

That’s why we had a small group of testers, so, we could communicate with them directly and ask specific questions. Remember that it is still an alpha build.

I’m not sure how to answer this question any more satisfactorily, other than to say that a legitimate open public alpha testing phase for our game is just not viable, and I would go further to say I don’t think a public alpha test is EVER viable for a fighting game this far from completion.We’ll try our best to passively take in the feedback as we always do and hopefully find nuggets of usefulness, but we can’t really promise much else.

Are you going to leak it for Mac?
Hilarious!

So is there anything we can help with?
Well, no one’s actually asked this. but, yes! The one part of the final game that is open to programming is the netcode! It is a separate program (either MTSP or Lunaport). And we have made multiple open requests for people to see if they can figure that out. They have been casual requests, because we don’t need someone to seriously test that stuff until it comes time for release. There have been a few people looking into it, but the request remains open, if you think you can improve on the netcode: please try. It works the same for any of the freely available FM2K games (including our leaked build).

Do you hate us for downloading it?
NO! We obviously didn’t want our half-finished alpha spread around all over the place, that’s why we had NDAs, but we can’t stop it. So if you want to play it in it’s broken state, go for it. Heck, Leedin and Nappy were even on some of the MTSP servers that popped up for the leak and were playing with everyone. I hear Nappy got a couple of perfects, I think he feeds on tears as much as the leaker.

However, we aren’t going to support any of the huge problems we know it has, because those problems won’t exist when we actually release it.

So….

If you’ve downloaded the leaked alpha, we do think you’ll enjoy it even in it’s less than 50% done state. Some people have raised eyebrows at the less than 50% figure, but it only relates to content, not time: it only has 67% of the characters planned for initial release and those characters aren’t even finished, they don’t have all their supers, effects, voice files, music, it is missing at least two stages, it has no one-player mode to speak of since the AI is completely outdated and trying to do skills that don’t even exist.. I’d say 50% is conservative.

We’re still making the game and posting updates when we can. We hope that at least we’ve made some people hype about the game that weren’t before, even if it’s not in the way we intended.
Thanks for sticking with us everybody :)

*there is no further explanation for the asterisks.

Posted by 
———-

[ Original Letter ]

Open Letter to the Brony Fandom and the Fighting is Magic follower base.

As you might be aware today, one of our QAs broke our trust and a NDA agreement, and leaked a working build of Fighting is Magic to the Internet. As a result, our Internal QA testing program has been terminated.

The unfinished version of Fighting is Magic is, needless to say, unsupported. We won’t answer any questions relative to it, we won’t give technical support to it, we won’t discuss mechanics or graphic details from it, given its status as a leaked, unfinished, internal testing build, which happened to be leaked just right before a major update was pushed to our now closed QA test program.

We’re very, very disappointed in those we gave our trust to. We’re also very disappointed in those downloading and distributing the leaked version.

Teaches us a lesson, though.

For now, Fighting is Magic will be going on a closed development cycle. No further QA, Alpha, Beta or testing program will be started or maintained until we have the remaining two characters done for the initial build. In addition BSUs will be cancelled, and no major content-related updates to the website will be forthcoming until further notice, while we at Mane6 deal with this situation and discuss changes for the future of the project.

That’s all for now.

– Mane6

P.s. Don’t worry, the game is still in the works. We’re just dealing with the current situation.

—–

Hey folks. A few additional notes in regards to the open letter:1) The game’s not cancelled, we’re still working on it2) We’ll still be attending Canterlot Gardens.

3) We’re not stopping anyone from playing the leak. Just bear in mind that’s it’s an unfinished version of the game, which happened to be leaked right before we got to a major content update. You can have fun playing the game if you want to. We won’t be linking the download, nor giving technical support or taking gameplay feedback relative to the build, due to the fact that as of tonight, it is an already OUTDATED patch.

4) BSUs won’t be gone forever. We’ll just have to make adjustments on our scheduling for updates, as whatever we -could- show you or highlight in the next couple of weeks is already present in the leak. The leak basically knocked out our couple-of-weeks buffer on content that we wanted to present, and our current work for the past couple of weeks is of the not-so-interesting kind, which won’t make for BSUs.

5) A clarification, with a slight misphrasing above (sorry guys): We’re not going to be starting or mantaining an OPEN alpha, beta or QA testing program. We’ll be starting a closed, internal QA again (where, obviously, none of the testers of our past QA will be present if we can’t find the leaker). Just as the previous interal QA, we’ll be handpicking our subjects, this time, however, a bit more carefully than in the past. No applications will be taken for this QA program, as we can’t ascertain the credibility and trust of people mailing applications to us.

now to find out why it won’t run on my computer :v

  • Anonymous

    Geez, the leak is actually real.

  • Jegerkaj

    Try running it as administrator.

  • I feel compelled to say something here.
    In hopes that you’ll read this, I feel the necessity to remind you that bad people do exist, and many of them have no shame in their actions. I encourage you to take this in stride and not allow it to affect the development process of your games.
    By all means, tighten the beta access. Narrow it to people you’ve met in-person or something like that, or postpone it. But to cancel an essential step in the process of game design because of one bad egg is an overreaction at best. Be the better human being, and turn the other cheek. Don’t stick your head in the mud.
    Shame on whoever released it, but I am encouraging you to be better than this.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s an anon’s take on he would have handle the situation.

    “Developers attempting to give off as much WOW in their product as possible, which now they can’t do because of the leak. Now they’re probably over-reacting on how people are going to mess with the engine to make their own spin-off game while their game is still in production?

    I dunno. I would have spinned this unfortunate leaking into a good thing; call it the alpha version, tell everyone the game is still being worked on, give a way to download the product from a trusted source, and allowed a window of time to recieve feedback from the masses before I close my fucking doors again and worked harder, with extra emphasis on fixing the problems the fans for my game took the time to find!

    But that’s probably why I’m an Anon with the leak and not the developer of Fighting is Magic, who knows.”

    I find this a better approach in handling the leak.

  • Anonymous

    You know what is a TOTALLY awesome idea? Saying everyone who downloaded it should be ashamed, ESPECIALLY if they were unaware it was a leak and have since had their interest piqued in trying it out.

    I get you’re mad about the leak mane6, but I feel like you’re looking at this in way too much of a negative light. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go through with plans of outing the leaker, but this response probably could’ve been handled better.

  • NZBrony

    It’s their baby, and someone’s gone and completely stolen their thunder. That same someone broke a NDA, which in industry you would be prosecuted for as soon as you were found.
    Considering the amount of hype around the game that’s now gonna be dashed to complete shit, I’m surprised they didn’t shut the game down out of spite. I mean really. It was shown at fucking EVO. Multiple media outlets have reported on it. It’s been built so high by so much work and now it’s gone.

    Aside from anything else, it’s entirely possible that they’ll either lose out on potentially good QA, or feel obliged to deliver more to try and build more hype, or deliver less because they’ll stop caring. In any case, there’s absolutely nothing good that’s come from this.

    and anon, anyone that FINDS the damn thing will KNOW it’s a leak. Hell,(AFAIK at least) it’s got watermarks with ‘test build’ all over the fucking thing.