Image: Amazon Game Studios
A month after Amazon released its flagship third-person shooter/MOBA/battle royal/what the heck even is this game, Crucible, the company has unreleased it due to copious amounts of negative feedback. “Starting tomorrow, Crucible is moving to closed beta,” said the Crucible team in a blog this morning. All current players will automatically be included in the closed beta, and anyone looking to be included has until July 1, 2020, at 9 a.m. PT to get the game. But this isn’t even the biggest screw up Amazon has made.
The company just can’t seem to do right. There was the instance where Amazon fired a worker who organized a strike over warehouse conditions amid the covid-19 outbreak. Or its routine of pushing out then killing gadgets that people don’t need, like the Dash Wand and Echo Look. The company has been accused of monopolistic business practices and using private Amazon marketplace seller data to make and sell its own competing products. It’s confirmed it listens in on your private conversations via its Alexa smart speakers and doesn’t give consumers a way to delete the transcripts. Hell, its former VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, Tim Bray, recently resigned over Amazon’s “chickenshit” response to employee protests regarding workplace conditions in a covid-19 world. And now Crucible is going into a closed beta because it sucks so bad.
While most players’ experiences will remain the same, the developers will be participating in weekly matches with the Crucible community to gather live feedback. Players can still access the game 24/7 and launch the game via Steam. “You’ll keep all the progress and customization items you’ve already earned, and the battle pass, reward tracks, and in-game store will continue to be supported.” Closed beta players are still allowed to stream, share screenshots and clips, and talk about the game.
Crucible, developed by Relentless Studios, which is run under Amazon Game Studios, is Amazon’s first major original game title since the company started developing tablet games in 2012. There are three different modes in the game, which are largely inspired by the mechanics of other, similar games: Alpha Hunters is like battle royal games Fortnite and PUBG that let you either play solo or team up with a partner. Heart of the Hives pits two teams of four against each other to shoot it out and complete objectives, like team-based MOBA/shooter Overwatch. Harvest Command is similar to Heart of the Hives, except its two teams of eight against each other in an objective-based fight. And like other team-based multiplayer games, players assume the role of one ‘hunter’ based on their abilities and preferred playstyle.
On the surface, Crucible sounded cool, but unfortunately it didn’t receive positive reviews. IGN said most of the fighting you do is “extremely boring.” PC Gamer also called the combat boring, and that so much of Crucible “feels like misguided effort.” Gamespot said, “Crucible attempts to do too many different things with the same limited roster of characters.” A glance through all the aggregated reviews on Open Critic seem to all point to a common problem with the game: interesting ideas, poor execution.
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Kotaku pointed out that matchmaking was another of the game’s biggest flaws, which was either caused by server issues or lack of an active player base. Judging by the small Twitch viewer count when the game initially released last month (only 5,000 views at the time), it seems the latter is the issue. Crucible’s only saving grace is (was) that it’s free-to-play. The only thing anyone lost while playing the game was a few hours of their life…assuming they didn’t make any microtransactions.
The game was also missing several key features at launch common to multiplayer online games. In a blog published earlier this month, the Crucible team said it was still working on putting voice chat into the game. It also lacked a surrender option, a system to deal with AFK players ruining matches, an expanded ping system, and a mini map. A glance at the developers’ public Trello board show exactly what they are working on…and no wonder they decided to take the game into closed beta. The number of critical improvements that need to be made prove that the game should have never released in the state it did to begin with.
The fact that it did makes it seem like Amazon was more concerned with pushing out a product than making sure it got all the details right—details that avid gamers would notice. But it also shows that with Amazon raking in billions of dollars in profit, the developers have certain luxuries most other mainstream studios couldn’t afford, like moving a fully released game into closed beta to fix.
But, uh, maybe Amazon should try to stop doing everything everyone else is doing and, oh, I dunno, make sure their workers are protected from covid-19 for starters. Or maybe stop thinking paltry bonuses are adequate for Amazon employees who have kept working in dangerous conditions throughout the pandemic. It can get into the gaming industry another time.