Many are still in shock at the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077, but CD Projekt Red is not the only game to have come out in a sorry state and to have embarrassed the specialized press. What about Sierra On-line’s Outpost for example?
Ken Williams tells in the book “Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings: The rise and fall of Sierra On-Line” of how the launch of that game was a real shock to the company. Williams, who together with his wife Roberta founded and managed Sierra until 1996, had a precise philosophy regarding the development of video games: the designer was God and always had the last word. Of course, he also had to take responsibility for any failures.
Bruce Balfour, the developer of Outpost, presented the game with great enthusiasm and mastery of the subject. Williams agreed to produce it hoping it would become his Civilization(Sid Meier’s game was breaking down on PC at the time). Unfortunately, after many months of development, Outpost not only wasn’t finished, but it had become a kind of meme within the company: those who had tried it considered it not very fun to play and, above all, far from complete. We are at the beginning of the 90s and then the news did not run like today, plus Sierra enjoyed excellent fame thanks to series such as King’s Quest and Quest for Glory (just to name a couple). Williams gave the Balfour team months and extra money to try to rectify the situation but eventually forced him to quit the game and launch it as it was in order not to suffer irreparable losses.
In the meantime, incomplete copies of the game were sent to the press, with the promise that the missing features, described in the manual, would be added before launch. The first Outpost reviews were enthusiastic and reported as merits some of the features not included, which the reviewers evidently appreciated on trust. Imagine when the first buyers of the game found it in their hands and found out what had happened. They weren’t happy, to put it mildly.
It must be said that at the time the scandal was limited due to the different dimensions of the video game market and the absence of the internet to act as a sounding board. However, the similarities with the Cyberpunk 2077 case are really many …