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Last year, Natural Selection 2 [official site] creators Unknown Worlds handed development duties on their aliens vs. space marines FPS-RTS over to a team of community volunteers, then themselves dived down into alien oceans to build Subnautica. Ah, but landlubbers will always pine for the shore (or for space?). A year-and-a-half later, Unknown Worlds are getting back into NS2, hiring some of those community folks on as an in-house team to resume development for a few months.
Released in 2012, Natural Selection 2 pits a squad of heavily-armed human marines against a horde of alien invaders. It's first and foremost a shooter, but it incorporates RTS elements that, as we said in our very positive review, are what "ties it all together." A couple of years after it came out, developer Unknown Worlds turned control of the game's future development over to a small team made up of members of the NS2 community, so it could focus exclusively on Subnautica. Earlier today, however, the studio took the reins back, saying that it's time to "try something new."
"Unknown Worlds is getting back in to Natural Selection development. We have hired a small group of community members to reform an in-house development team," Hugh Jeremy of Unknown Worlds (who, by the way, has a very nice rig) wrote on the Natural Selection 2 site. "We are going to try some crazy stuff. We want NS2 to be huge."
An announcement that had been prepared yesterday turned out to be "pretty shit," as Jeremy put it, but then ended up slipping out anyway, leading to excitement, confusion, and anger. To address those concerns and answer as many questions as possible, he provided links to four separate posts including a Q&A about the studio's return to the game and a more detailed explanation of how the new team will work.
Eight members of the Community Development Team that took over NS2 in 2014 have been hired on as the new, official development team, although all but one are working part time. The CDT itself "will no longer operate in the same structure that it formerly did," but members of the community will still be encouraged to create and share new content for the game. "This time around, with renewed funding from Unknown Worlds, we hope to be able to fiscally compensate people proportionally to the work contributed," Amanda "Rantology" Diaz explained. "This means that anyone will be able to contribute something to the game and, if accepted, be rewarded for it."
Naturally, not everyone is entirely happy with the situation. One well-known CDT member, Mendasp, posted a long message on the Unknown Worlds forums explaining that he will no longer be working on Natural Selection 2 or the NS2+ mod, not because he was left off the team but for what he sees as poor treatment of himself and others in the community.
"I, and the other people that weren t contacted, deserved to know these kind of plans so we could make our choices based on it, especially considering other people that aren t part of this team knew," he wrote. "If this was done fully knowing the impact I don t know, but I can tell you, from my side, that this feels like I was taken advantage of, and it s quite awful to be in such a situation."
But Jeremy said the studio has "no secrets," and suggested that the problem right now is not a lack of clarity, but a lack of certainty. "There's nothing Unknown Worlds knows that we don't want the NS2 community to know," he wrote. "The decision to return to NS2 is a big, complex, nuanced one. It is hard to describe it all in a single email, blog post, or phone call. It s even harder to convey the idea that Unknown Worlds doesn t have all the answers, and that not having an answer is ok."