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Juggling Games, Dropping Duds

What will Neojac work on next? (That's a joke; there are probably four titles in the works as we speak!)

Table of Contents

Have you ever stumbled upon Neojac Entertainment Inc? They’re juggling more game genres than a circus clown—survival games, MMOs, and who knows what else they’ve got brewing in their cauldron of creativity.

It's too bad their ability to close the deal is lacking.

It's showing my age a bit here, but it's still one of my favorite movies!

What are we talking about??

I've spent the past few weeks working on the Hashtag Discord Compendium. (Read this link here to learn about it, or join our Discord to see it in action.) So I'm trekking along, chucking things into the compendium when I get to Junk Survivor. I knew JS was an Early Access generic zombie and crafting game made by Neojac Entertainment Inc. and that they had launched another Early Access title less than half a year after JS was released. It's so weirdly popular right now to make Ark-esque dino games, so their dropping Athos, a generic stab at an Ark clone, wasn't surprising. But, 🍑. It was astonishing how many abandoned and half-assed titles I started finding as I dug around through their social media channels and ZE GOOGLE MACHINE.

I'm not (insert trustworthy investigative journalist or publication you know of here) - I'm just a gamer nerd that enjoys writing and poking around shit -so, if you want to get into the rabbit hole of how everything lines up and whatnot, here ya go.

I want to preface this entire debacle by saying I have no issue with the developer utilizing Easy Survival RPG. For the uninformed, ESRPG is a highly customizable modular product designed to give you a leg up on building out your game. "Amg, it's hacks and cheats. " No, idiot. It provides a jumping-off point for tons of mechanics and features, saving developers - especially solo/indie devs- time and money vs doing these things themselves. It's like buying a premade pie crust or pizza dough and not going through all the effort to craft your own.

Have unscrupulous people just taken the base demo game made with ESRPG and tried to sell it on Steam as an actual title with minimal effort/tweaks? Sure. Many of us have watched Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey, watching (in horror) as restaurants post crazy markups on supposedly handmade foods from cans or microwavable trays. All they did was slap it on a plate and pretty it up. Newsflash. Shitty people will do shitty things if they can get away with it: games, food, whatever. Anyway, no, my issue isn't with the tools employed.

My issue is that Neojac, like a few other developers I can name offhand, suffers from SGS—Shiny Game Syndrome.

SGS is characterized by the developer's inability to complete a title, leaving a trail of half-finished games in their wake, in pursuit of either the next popular fad OR something more interesting. (Or both, I guess, amirite?)

2013 Project, Neo's Land-- Neo's Land, a high-fantasy MMORPG, is expected to launch in 2014 and is being developed with NeoJac's proprietary server engine, Atavism Online, and integrated with the Unity 3D engine. The game will provide players with a server world and building tools, including a Voxel editor and crowd-sourced assets via the Unity Store, allowing players to create their own online world content and storyline. Player-created assets can be sold on the Unity Store, allowing players to gain both in-game and real-world currency for their work, similar to SOE's EverQuest Next and Player Studio. (Summary, Reddit)
My thought: Why didn't they do anything with this Atavism engine thing? I can't help but feel that that would have been far more successful than a string of incomplete games, except searching the engine now has some other studio in charge of it. From reading some articles, the engine was supposedly also sold on Steam and the Unity Asset store, except his Unity account only shows some old models. Bunch of interviews for the game, including at MMORPG and PCGamer, and a stab at a Kickstarter at the end of 2013, but it failed.

2013 Project, Islands of War—Apparently, sometime in 2013, they also intended to publish a game called Islands of War. Unlike the website for Neo's Land -which throws a 404 error- Islands of War still has a functioning website.

See! Right there.

2017 Project, Arcfall-- In 2017, their project of the moment was—you guessed it—another MMO named Arcfall. This title entered Early Access on Steam on May 16, 2017, and some people even seemed to like it! Parsing through the Steam update notes, I see updates labeled Pre-Alpha that dropped relatively often from the date it went live on Steam throughout 2019, slowing down in 2020 and 2021. In November of 2021, they posted that they would be moving from Unity to Unreal Engine, followed by a post in June of 2023 letting folks know that everything was going great. Oh, and some small posts were made in the Arcfall discussion boards over the years to let them know that Arcfall was going great and Dead Reach was going well, too! (What's Dead Reach? Just the game they decided to work on while Arcfall was also being worked on. Notice that DR will be a survival multiplayer title, which will be relevant as we continue.)

At this point, sliding in between Steam discussions, the tiny amount of YT videos, and other social platforms gets you a lot of this:

Remember that this is a rough timeline of events—they could have had a hundred games spawn and die between 2017 and 2022, the primary Arcfall/Dead Reach years, that I never came across. So that puts you at 2022/2023; Arcfall is supposedly being redone in UE5, and Dead Reach will "be in Alpha soon."

In April 2023, Neojac suddenly dropped Junk Survivor - which I pegged as a NOGO.

I think that three things occurred during this period: they saw that MMOs really are hard, they recognized that Survival Games were the HOT THING on tap, and then realized that JS was not going to be their ticket to anything. (After almost a year out, JS sits at 21 reviews. While it has a Positive rating, the reviews are essentially garbage.) So Junk Survivor was tossed onto the backburner in September 2023 to "port to UE 5.3, which will lead to many great things, including console ports, all coming in 2024."

Editor's Update! On 4/13/2024, they ported Junk Survivor to UE 5.3. I'll keep an eye on the title's overall content and progress beyond this engine swap since everything else in the article—including overloading their plate and foisting off things—currently remains true.

Then, in a shocking plot twist (it was not a shocking plot twist), they dropped Athos in October 2023. As all of my developer friends know, if you're working on porting your MMO to an entirely new engine (Arcfall) while working on a new game (Dead Reach) and porting your other new game to a new engine version (Junk Survivor), the best and most obvious thing to do is release another unfinished title in Early Access. It's simple math, really. (For fun, you can read the fine print on each game and check out stills and footage- they're all remarkably similar in looks/setup.)

How is Athos going?

Let's Wrap It Up

So, besides a good laugh, what's the point of all of this? Let's throw some things into a list because I love a good list.

  • Show you that there are, obviously, tons of people taking advantage of gamer's ability to forgive- especially relevant in Early Access- to fuck you out of your cash.
  • Show that you can do a tiny bit of digging before buying that next shiny game that crosses your Sale radar and save yourself the headache. And if you can't, follow my Curator, and I'll do the legwork for you.
  • My issue isn't making a bunch of games or making bad games or struggling to find your niche. It's not keeping your player base/community updated, it's putting things on the back burner and stringing folks along with "next years" and "we haven't abandoned you" because then it ends up translating to a bad viewpoint for Early Access and Survival Games.
  • "Don't hate the player, hate the game" doesn't quite apply here; I get it. But I'm not clever, and I can't suddenly drop some catchy phrase, so we'll use that for now. Stop blaming Early Access games for this dumb shit. Because 1) full-release games do it too, AAA is plumb full of drama. And 2) to me, this is very much the fucking fault of Steam for not adding guardrails to the Early Access program. (See, Curator Program, as another thing that could have been great, but they half-assed it.) So focus your ire on the bad actors in this situation and take your energy (and your dollars) to the developers putting in the work.