September 27, 2011
To computer afficionados at large, probably the greatest vaporware of the past decade (if not of all time1) was Duke Nukem Forever. There’s an amusing list of things that happened between DNF’s original announcement and what appeared to be its final nail in the coffin twelve years later, with items like:
- Steve Jobs was still running NeXT when Duke Nukem Forever was announced.
- Every movie, animation, and video game from The Matrix series was filmed, released in theatres, and has made it to DVD.
- Britney Spears’ entire musical career as a pop star has taken place during Duke Nukem Forever’s development.
- World War II and the entire Manhattan Project have taken less time than Duke Nukem Forever’s Development. Yes, even the complete development of the atomic bomb took less time.
Now, as we all know, DNF did end up getting released, two further years later, and was critically panned. I haven’t played it myself, but the consensus appears to be that it would have been a so-so game had it been released in a remotely sane cycle; all the build-up and hype, however, weren’t remotely justified.
But it’s not for lack of trying. If anything, Wired’s article gives the impression that DNF’s original producer Broussard was apparently trying to hard. That article, too, prematurely pronounced DNF dead. Perhaps everyone would have been better off?
To Mac users, or at least Mac developers, a less crass example of vaporware is TextMate 2. It is, as Marco Arment said, a textbook example of the second-system effect. It tries to fix too many perceived flaws — and perhaps perceived mainly by its developer, not by its users — of the original TextMate, and in doing so fails to see the light the day. Or at least has. Thus far.
Hard to believe as it may be, there’s been a mailing list post that we’re not supposed to link to (which may be moot now?), and, a few days later, a blog post without such a disclaimer.
There will be a public alpha release [of TextMate 2.0] this year, before Christmas, for registered users.
If it were me, I’d publish such a vague, yet limited deadline to force myself to actually have something to show at that point. An alpha doesn’t have to be a whole lot; it doesn’t need to be feature-complete, it certainly doesn’t need to be stable, and even more so, it will probably come with no liability in terms of data loss whatsoever. And yet, it’s something. Maybe just enough to get people excited again. Consider that, at some point, it was controversial that 2.0 will require Leopard. These days, almost half a decade later, I wonder how many even use TextMate on anything older than 10.6 Snow Leopard, let alone 10.5 Leopard.
It’s not so much that TextMate 1 doesn’t work. It does have its flaws, though. No split view, undo being per-character, and synchronous I/O easily locking up everything and making remote-editing of files not worth trying come to mind.
So, as far as I’m concerned, I’ll go with the “cautious optimism” from another troubled software project. (I’ll leave it up to others to argue how that turned out.)