In a bid to keep people interested, Red Dragon finally released preliminary screen shots, a tidbit of the great things to come from a company who finally overcame their growing pains. Unfortunately, the screen shots weren't even theirs. They were stock footage from developers of a middleware engine used to promote their software.
As the realization that even preliminary art hadn't yet been created, discussion began flying, and testers started yelling "scam." Some asked for refunds on their investment, which took weeks to arrive. Others remained hopeful, and stayed with the game until it fizzled away, never to be heard from again. By the time screen shots actually eked their way out of Red Dragon Studios, anyone with an outside view could easily say the game wasn't going to materialize.
The hiring episode was what piqued my attention. Call it a love of corporate espionage, or perhaps I'm just some sort of drama vampire, but I had to jump into the Rune Conquest fray, just to see what made these fanatics tick. When I got there, it was just a message board full of upbeat people who wanted desperately to enjoy something. But things became so haywire by the end, the only people who remained were the ones who were there at the beginning.
What kept people there? To hear them talk, it was the emotional investment. Try spending months or years believing in something, only to resolve yourself to the fact the dream isn't coming true. Some people can't handle the strain, and prefer to continue on, eventually turning into evangelists for their ideal. But it's not a flaw, it's just a byproduct of hope.
Despite the cloud of apparent cynicism, gamers do enjoy liking stuff. Questing after a comfortable niche can catapult anyone into psychoville, be it the manic high point that is the super fan, or the overly aggressive burnout who remembers the last time he reached out for something, but drew back a bloody stump - and won't let anyone forget about it.
It's easy to criticize with a bird's eye view. Everyone has been a fanatic at some point or another. They've also been the abused dog too afraid to come out from under the porch. Find someone who hasn't, and you'll find someone who can't embrace their own humanity. There's no sense resisting the urge to believe; it's eventually going to get you. I only hope you don't wind up chasing a phantom.
Joe Blancato is a Contributing Editor for The Escapist Magazine, in addition to being the Founder of waterthread.org.