On Bear Simulator & Quitting the Industry

This past February, Farjay Studios released their first game - Bear Simulator. Following the popular and ridiculous hit Goat Simulator, Bear Simulator joined many copycats cluttering the Simulation genre page on Steam, causing great difficulty for players searching for tycoon games and actual simulation video games.

Like so many others that bear the “Simulator” name, Bear Simulator is no longer in full development. Farjay declared two weeks ago that he was quitting game development following what he stated was negative reception and a pre-release stigma against the game. That stigma, I assume, arose from resembling shovelware games closely in name and appearance, dragging it down into the pit that Goat Simulator created when it trotted onto Steam. Bear Simulator, however, isn’t so easily cast aside as more care went into making it than any other copycat I’ve seen.

Bear Simulator wasn’t rushed onto Steam Greenlight with a hope to snag a few unlucky souls and make money off the wild, fleeting landscape alongside genuine deals and shameful asset flips. Farjay’s game started its life as a Kickstarter project seeking twenty nine thousand and five hundred dollars to create “...a mini Skyrim but you’re a bear…” Bear Simulator snagged $100,571 from users wanting to see this made.

That isn’t a typo.

People who play games said that they liked what they saw and poured their cash into Bear Simulator with excitement. The Kickstarter page, in my opinion, is well designed, comes with early alpha footage, and states the exact intent of the game. It does brandish around the ridiculous Internet humor I’ve found worth less than a chuckle, though, but that’s more an issue stemming from my personal taste. To wit, Farjay notes immediately that “a disturbing trend” has afflicted the video game industry: human playable characters.

As I said, not worth more than a chuckle in my book, but online communities thoroughly enjoy this sense of absurdism.

After two years of development, Bear Simulator released on the Steam storefront. It presently sits at an 80% Very Positive rating. And combing through the reviews - positive and negative - shows a genuine attempt at honest suggestions (ignoring the few, but usual ‘joke’ or ‘hate’ reviews) to improve the mechanics or extend the feature list to increase replayability. That’s an astoundingly warm welcome, especially for a Simulator game.

This is clearly not the cold reception he reported experiencing. So then why did Farjay quit?

Answers are unclear. Farjay’s own ambiguous reason stated that “drama” overtook his life and he could not shake it. One of the leading theories lays the blame on PewDiePie, YouTube’s hit content creator, who played the game and didn’t find it to his liking. I’ve watched PewDiePie’s video and can agree the game isn’t something I’d like to pickup. The quality of the project does not match up to the amount of money put into it. The game was in development for two years, but it suffers from missteps in design. AI issues exist for the critters that populate the world. I don’t find the latter surprising, though, as developing an open-world 3D environment as a first game is a huge undertaking. There is also no sense of direction in the game; it simply exists as a playbox.

But if Farjay would commit to completing it, these issues could be fixed.

The Steam reviews for the game aren’t filled with the usual mess to be found in an anonymous public forum. Positive reviews range from unhelpful and brief to detailed. Negative reviews convey an earnestness in their review approach despite an unsuccessful attempt to enjoy the product.

Here’s a quote from a very lengthy critique on Steam:

“I'm really sad I had to write the review this way. There was a lot about this game I adored at first. I liked the seeming simplicity, and the silliness. Still, it simply ends up being a tedious, taskless[sic] runaround to find the rest of the small items and kill the last inhabitants of the world.”
- Thespian

Here’s a “Recommended” review:

“Backed this on Kickstarter and got exactly the type of game I was expecting. So far I have been having a lot of fun with it and with some tweeks [sic] it could really shine.”
- MetalheadSD

It’s apparent to me that users - even those that cannot honestly suggest Bear Simulator - are offering solid feedback of features missing. By all accounts - and there are over a hundred - the game could use more activities and some serious polish to art, animations, and UI. But the potential existed in the framework crafted from Kickstarter. It’s entirely possible and within reasonable doubt that Farjay mistook this constructive criticism for the (unfortunately) common attacks on developers from online users.

PewDiePie detailed in his updated video description the importance that criticism plays in an incomplete work of art. He originally removed his video following a large backlash and leading theory that his Let’s Play is responsible for Farjay’s departure. However, PewDiePie now feels that his kneejerk reaction to remove his video drew more attention to that growing idea.

In his own words: “...taking it down made it seem like that was the case to some people.

“The video speaks for itself, but I do think it’s a shame he stopped making games. I’ve been faced with very harsh criticism in my days online and I know it can be rough as hell. But you can also learn from it, and grow from it.

That last point is the most important. With so much support for Bear Simulator, I cannot imagine where and in what form Farjay felt he was pushed out of the industry. He suggested that some unknown situations broke his or her resolve. It is well within reason that Farjay received private messages across YouTube, Steam, or a social media platform that exhibited the typical vitriol from those seedy pockets of the Internet.

If I could say something to Faryjay, it would be: “Don’t quit.” Don’t give up on a concept that people provided such friendly feedback for. If some voices were too harsh or too violently-lined, try to push them away and focus on the important voices asking you to continue development. Bear Simulator brought in three times as much money on Kickstarter as the project goal. An unusual amount of reviews on Steam were productive and helpful, more than I’ve seen for universally acclaimed games. Cutting support for Bear Simulator now is denying it the chance to shine.

To anyone entering any art field, remember that you will always have your detractors. But a single constructive review is worth more than spiteful comments. Art is never perfect. Art is subjective. Art is a reflection of who we are and what we do. Even a game called Bear Simulator applies.

- Johnny Toxin


Full disclaimer: I have not played Bear Simulator. I know much about it through secondary sources: videos, articles, the Steam store page, and the Kickstarter page created by Farjay.