A character from Payday 2, wearing a USA flag mask and clutching a gun and a burning playing card.

When Do Developers Deserve Forgiveness?

BY ANDREW ROTOLO: I love Payday 2; it’s one of my favorite games.  After 1200 hours and many wonderful memories, I think the developers need to face their mistakes.

So what did they do?

Back in October 2015 during the annual Crimefest event, Overkill (the developers of Payday 2) introduced a feature known as the Black Market. It’s very similar to the crate system used in games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, and Killing Floor 2.

In this system, the player obtains a safe via gameplay and can then either sell it for pennies or buy a drill for $2.49 to open it and obtain a random skin. When Overkill added this feature, many fans were furious.

But what’s the problem?

That’s a great question, hypothetical reader. On the surface, this isn’t a particularly egregious system, and it certainly isn’t unprecedented. However, there’s more to the issue than meets the eye. Allow me to explain some of the issues that players had with the Black Market:

1. Stat boosts

There’s one thing that everyone knows doesn’t belong in a microtransaction system, and that’s in-game boosts. Despite this, Overkill still implemented them anyway and at the time, these boosts were only usable if you had a certain skin.

2. Broken promises

Back when Payday 2 was still in development, Overkill announced that they were going to include an extensive system in which you could customize your weapons with modifications which would alter their stats and appearance. Naturally, some gamers were worried that this would result in them selling these mods for real-world money.

Overkill were quick to ensure their fans that this feature was in-game only, with Payday 2 producer Almir Listo saying “We’ve made it clear that PAYDAY 2 will have no micro-transactions whatsoever (shame on you if you thought otherwise!)” Furthermore, when the then-lead director of Payday 2 was asked if they would implement microtransactions, he bluntly said “No. No. God, I hope not. Never. No.”

While multiple Overkill employees have clarified that these statements were made in the wake of concerns about weapon mods, many players felt that adding in microtransactions was a betrayal of trust.

3. Arrogance

The Crimefest event has been the highlight of the year for Payday 2 since its release. During this time, they will temporarily allow people to play for free, the game itself and all its downloadable content go on a 75% discount, and they release daily free content for over a week.

Overkill decided to try to generate a little bit more hype for Crimefest 2015 by organizing a massive community event beforehand entitled the Road to Crimefest. During this time, there was a myriad of community challenges including “Earn $3,000,000,000,000” and “Complete 50,000 heists with a vault.” The reward for each of these challenges was in-game content to be released during Crimefest. Overkill said that any rewards not earned would be scrapped, though many suspect that this was untrue.

The issue here is that the Black Market was the day 1 reward at Crimefest. Many players found it incredibly condescending for Overkill to release microtransactions as a “free reward” for completing a challenge.

Furthermore, it took Overkill a very long time to respond to the criticisms levied against them. In fact, they continued on with Crimefest as if nothing was wrong.

The Backlash

Say what you want about gamers, but nobody can argue that we’re passionate. A lot of players found this action by Overkill to be unacceptable and made their voices heard. While some admittedly took it too far by harassing the Steam forum mods and developers and generally spreading hateful things, most sought to achieve results.

The Steam forums and the Payday subreddit both blew up with criticism and prompted the creation of one thread discussing Overkill’s actions which has amassed nearly 14,000 replies. Another response was to leave negative reviews on the Steam store page and Metacritic, not unlike what happened when Bethesda announced paid mods for Skyrim.

But don’t judge just yet

Did you think I was just going to spend this time chastising Overkill? Well, you’re wrong. Despite what they did, in the interest of fairness, there are things about them that must be praised:

1. They apologized

Yes, you read that right. They realized that they screwed up and they issued a public apology in which they fully admit that they screwed up.

2. They have reached out to the community

One thing that Overkill have been criticized for is not listening to their players. I think this fiasco was a wake-up call for them and after the insanity had died down, they made some changes. They made and kept a promise to be much more transparent with their intentions, they hired several community managers, and they offered paid jobs to the Steam forum moderators (who had publicly opposed the Black Market).

3. They got rid of the microtransactions

In a move that absolutely nobody was expecting, they got rid of the biggest problem people had with the Black Market. The Black Market itself is still there, but all safes that drop are now free to open and they regularly release safes containing player-made skins. Any safes released before this change will still require a drill which is still purchased from Overkill, but the future of the system will be microtransaction-free.

So what’s the verdict?

What Overkill did, and especially how they did it, was wrong. There’s no avoiding that fact. But should that mistake be the defining moment in the history of Payday 2? Though the Black Market has fittingly left a black mark on Overkill’s record, they have otherwise been good to their ever-loyal fanbase. They consistently have put out free content, they’ve interacted with the community, and they’ve often used their platform to contribute to multiple charitable causes, with producer Almir Listo even shaving his legendary beard as a celebration for raising over $24,000 for Arts Bridging the Gap.

Overkill screwed up and they shouldn’t be allowed to forget that, but I feel that they’ve made it right. In my opinion, they have earned my forgiveness. Payday 2 is an incredible game that has brought me many wonderful memories. Just as I can’t forget what Overkill have done with the Black Market, I also can’t forget the good they have done.

Developers need to know that they can’t just step on their players. They need to be held accountable when they mess up. However, it’s important to realize that behind the emblem of a video game company, there are people and sometimes people make mistakes. I believe that when it comes to the games we love and the developers who make them, a little forgiveness can go a long way.