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Hero's Journey: GDC Progress Report

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member

MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood had the opportunity to talk to Eric Slick, the Technology Director for Simutronics, about the progress of their upcoming MMORPG, Hero's Journey.



Hero's Journey is the name of a game that you probably haven't heard too much about recently. If that is the case, let me give you a refresher course. Hero's Journey is the MMORPG currently under development by Simutronics. That name probably sounds familiar to MMORPG fans, and with good cause. In the last year, they have been frequently in the news, not for the game itself, but for the technology that drives it.

At the Game Developers Conference in 2006, Simutronics first displayed their game's engine as a separate, marketable product. Throughout the year, we have heard announcements that the Hero Engine would be used by companies like: Stray Bullet Games, Virgin Games, and Bioware Austin. With news about the engine's success continuing to flow out of Simutronics, many had started to wonder about the future of the Hero's Journey and whether it would be pushed into oblivion in favor of their popular technology. As it turns out, it hasn't.

Read the whole article here.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

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Comments

  • RyowulfRyowulf Greensburg, PAPosts: 668Member
    Vaperware. They haven't even starting adding quests in yet? So its not coming out this year.

    The sold the engine to people who will be making mmos going against theirs.
  • BountyGregBountyGreg AlsdorfPosts: 37Member
    not every MMO is the same, nor targets the same market, so they aren't especially selling at the concurrence.

    We know for sure that Bioware is working on a sci-fi MMO for example.

    a game like WoW for example, targets more people who actually enver played MMOs, it's simple, you can level to max solo and it's actually very close to a single player game. On the other side, Everquest 2 targets people who already played Everquest and more hardcore gamers who have more time to spend on their characters, in a long-term aspect.

    Hero's Journey sounds to target players who wants to have an influence on the world, and hope their actions actually matter. We'll see what it becomes like.

    I'm definitely looking forward to HJ, i hope they can fulfill my expectations
  • korvasskorvass den haagPosts: 623Member
    Originally posted by Settingsun

    Vaperware. They haven't even starting adding quests in yet? So its not coming out this year.

    The sold the engine to people who will be making mmos going against theirs.
    1. Learn how to spell 'vapor'.

    2. Try to get your ignorant head out of your arse.



    Selling the Hero engine will give them a commercial boost to help their own MMO project along. Their ideas are solid, and their game has some great concepts being built. They seem to be about pushing the bar, even if they're letting people use their own technology to build from.
  • CelestianCelestian DFW, TXPosts: 1,151Member Uncommon


    Originally posted by BountyGreg

    We know for sure that Bioware is working on a sci-fi MMO for example.

    Really? Where is that press release.

  • BountyGregBountyGreg AlsdorfPosts: 37Member
    Loads of rumors say so...



    Facts:



    1. LucasArts will release a Star Wars MMO, you can read this on the GDC 07 release announcement

    2. Shortly after Bioware announced they would work on a MMO, there was some strange rumor (added to a strange Press release, might be fake tho) about BioWare actually working on a Star Wars MMO.



    So maybe it's just a pure coincidence, or maybe it's reality. To me it makes no doubt and would actually make sense since BioWare worked on KOTOR and they said it would have something to do with their past games.

    Of course I could be wrong, but I might as well be right. What do I get if I'm right? I always wanted a poney
  • CelestianCelestian DFW, TXPosts: 1,151Member Uncommon


    Originally posted by BountyGreg
    Loads of rumors say so...

    So, it went from "We know for sure that Bioware is working on a sci-fi MMO for example." to "Loads of rumors say so..."

    In conclusion, we know nothing about what Bioware is doing and assuming it's a Star Wars MMO is just a fantasy for SWG haters.

  • GeiddianGeiddian Austin, TXPosts: 11Member

     

     It's vaporware until they prove otherwise.  The above article says nothing new.  It is just Eric's word that things are progressing in spite of the resources and time spent marketing the HeroEngine.  Other than that, there was nothing new in the article.  It was just a rehash of features we were told about a year or more ago.  Not one new point. 

      Hero's Journey didn't progress when it was being produced by Tom Zelinski for years. It progressed a little while Melissa Myers (who has left Simutronics) was producer.  It hasn't progressed at all with Eric Slick as producer. 

     10 years!  If that isn't a record for vaporware, it's pretty darn close.  What have they done of any substance since being chosen best of show at E3 in 2005 by MMORPG.com?  That's over a year and a half ago.  That certainly deserves a vaporware suggestion.

      In fact, Eric's other project, www.christiangaming.com , has updates just about as frequently as Hero's Journey, which is supposedly his real job.

      If they want to lose the moniker of vaporware, the people at Hero's Journey need to produce, not just claim to be producing.  Results not words.   

     

  • BountyGregBountyGreg AlsdorfPosts: 37Member

    Actually it's been more then a rumor and almost say for sure I've read it just after GDC that they worked on a Sci-Fi title. Since I didn't find the source anymore, I didn't bother to mention it. Anyway, it has nothing to do with SWG haters, I still  love SWG as much as when it released, eventho it changed a lot. Added to this, from rumors on developer forums, BioWare actually works on a X360 MMO, so go figure. Loads of rumors find their way out, and rumors often start from something.

    So if you're up to search the Web, go find the 100% right answer. I don't remember ever being wrong when it came up to things like this tho.

    The only one who could tell for sure, are the producers, and they probably won't tell you.

  • ValentinaValentina Los Angeles, CAPosts: 1,675Member Uncommon
    I'm glad they are resuming production.
  • PietoroPietoro Seattle, WAPosts: 162Member
    Interesting how he doesn't mention that the Suwari race (featured in many screenshots) have been scrapped for release.  So aside from vague details, no real news for months except for what's been taken OUT, my interest in this game has pretty much gone out the window.
  • RyowulfRyowulf Greensburg, PAPosts: 668Member
    Originally posted by korvass

    Originally posted by Settingsun

    Vaperware. They haven't even starting adding quests in yet? So its not coming out this year.

    The sold the engine to people who will be making mmos going against theirs.
    1. Learn how to spell 'vapor'.

    2. Try to get your ignorant head out of your arse.



    Selling the Hero engine will give them a commercial boost to help their own MMO project along. Their ideas are solid, and their game has some great concepts being built. They seem to be about pushing the bar, even if they're letting people use their own technology to build from.

    Misspelled words don't make what I stated any less true.  They are no where close to even closed beta, which means a 2008 release at the earliest, yes or no? Have you seen how their web page looks? Or how little it is updated? Its vaporware. Maybe you are in a state of denial right now, but lets see how you feel come 2008 and the game is no closer to release.
  • RattrapRattrap ZagrebPosts: 1,599Member

    Bioware - hinted over and over again that they are working on FANTASY MMO.

    Sure it may be a clever way to trick people off the SWG2 rumour.

     

    Anyway. What is sure it will in no way be SANDOBOX game. So even if it will be SWG it will in no way resemble preCU swg.

    From their description - their game will be very similar to LOTRO (in gameplay mechanics). So story driven,quest driven more on classical side of things.

     

    As for HJ... not impressed at all so far. From GFX side it sounds like another Vanguard waiting to happen. And the game has still

    very very long way to go...a second gen mmo, released in time of 4th gen's ?!

    "Before this battle is over all the world will know that few...stood against many." - King Leonidas

  • DraqDraq Podunk, IAPosts: 297Member
    Suwari weren't 'scrapped' . They simply won't make it in time for launch due to the extra art resources they require. They'll be around later.
  • HexxeityHexxeity Kansas City, MOPosts: 848Member
    It really doesn't matter at all right now whether you or I believe it is vaporware, or even if we are interested in the game.



    It will start to matter if and when they get to beta, not before.  At the moment, both sides of the argument are completely irrational, unfounded, and a waste of time.



    I think some of the gameplay ideas they have mentioned sound wonderful, but I know it's far too early to get my hopes up.  Even if the game gets made, so much can and will change before release that it could be completely unrecognizable by then.



    P.S.  I am SICK TO DEATH of previews that sing the praises of environmental graphics.  To me, this is the least important part of the overall graphics equation.  I'm glad this article mentioned at least one spell effect.  That's a step in the right direction, but what about character models and animations?



    I can honestly say that I will never purchase a game based in whole or in part on what the damn sky looks like or whether the shadows move.  These are nice touches, but completely trivial in the overall picture.
  • PietoroPietoro Seattle, WAPosts: 162Member
    Originally posted by Draq

    Suwari weren't 'scrapped' . They simply won't make it in time for launch due to the extra art resources they require. They'll be around later.


    I said 'scrapped for release' . Thanks for 'correcting' me by saying exactly what I'd just said.



    I won't be buying a game that only has the boring old (resized/pointy-eared human) race choices, so if they want to push Suwari back to their first expansion more power to them, I won't even look at the game 'til then, in that case. Hopefully I won't be playing another game with friends that I won't want to leave, when that happens.


  • _Shadowmage_Shadowmage MelbournePosts: 1,459Member


    Originally posted by Geiddian 
     It's vaporware until they prove otherwise.     

    Every game is vaporware until its released.

    Until a game is released it might be cancelled (imperator), or instead of being cancelled it might be rushed out the door buggy because the money ran out (Vanguard) so people can pay to beta test it.

    And I really dont think they need to prove anything to you - probably dont even know you exist. So as far as they are concerned - you and I are vaporware.

  • GeiddianGeiddian Austin, TXPosts: 11Member
    Originally posted by _Shadowmage


     

    Originally posted by Geiddian 

     It's vaporware until they prove otherwise.     

     

    Every game is vaporware until its released.

    Until a game is released it might be cancelled (imperator), or instead of being cancelled it might be rushed out the door buggy because the money ran out (Vanguard) so people can pay to beta test it.

    And I really dont think they need to prove anything to you - probably dont even know you exist. So as far as they are concerned - you and I are vaporware.



      Ah, yes.  The "it depends on what the definition of the word is, is" defence.  Didn't work for Clinton either.  If we define vaporware as any unreleased game, then everything is just rosy for HJ.  How convenient. Luckily, for those with a modicum of common sense, the definition of vaporware isn't quite so broad. Nice fanboy try at it though!  An E for effort.

      And I didn't say they had to prove anything to me, in particular.  They have acquired a perception that the game is vaporware and will never be released.  Now the onus is on Simutronics to prove otherwise instead of just saying that it isn't.  The ball is in their court.

      "It's not vaporware, no really!  We're working on it! No really!"

     Just words. Words that are not going to help eliminate the public perception that the game is, in fact, vaporware.  At this point their only way to mitigate that perception is to actually produce something. No more promises. No more words. Not after 10+ years of the same old promises.

      In my own somewhat knowledgeable opinion, having played Simutronics' games for over 17 years, since they were only available via dialup modem on the GEnie network at $6/hour in the evenings and weekends and $12/hour during the day, I can say that HJ really only suffers from three problems.  Those problems are David Whatley, Neil Harris and Eric Slick. 

     

  • ShadowZEROShadowZERO Santa Cruz, CAPosts: 102Member
    Originally posted by Geiddian

    Originally posted by _Shadowmage


     

    Originally posted by Geiddian 

     It's vaporware until they prove otherwise.     

     

    Every game is vaporware until its released.

    Until a game is released it might be cancelled (imperator), or instead of being cancelled it might be rushed out the door buggy because the money ran out (Vanguard) so people can pay to beta test it.

    And I really dont think they need to prove anything to you - probably dont even know you exist. So as far as they are concerned - you and I are vaporware.



      Ah, yes.  The "it depends on what the definition of the word is, is" defence.  Didn't work for Clinton either.  If we define vaporware as any unreleased game, then everything is just rosy for HJ.  How convenient. Luckily, for those with a modicum of common sense, the definition of vaporware isn't quite so broad. Nice fanboy try at it though!  An E for effort.

      And I didn't say they had to prove anything to me, in particular.  They have acquired a perception that the game is vaporware and will never be released.  Now the onus is on Simutronics to prove otherwise instead of just saying that it isn't.  The ball is in their court.

      "It's not vaporware, no really!  We're working on it! No really!"

     Just words. Words that are not going to help eliminate the public perception that the game is, in fact, vaporware.  At this point their only way to mitigate that perception is to actually produce something. No more promises. No more words. Not after 10+ years of the same old promises.

      In my own somewhat knowledgeable opinion, having played Simutronics' games for over 17 years, since they were only available via dialup modem on the GEnie network at $6/hour in the evenings and weekends and $12/hour during the day, I can say that HJ really only suffers from three problems.  Those problems are David Whatley, Neil Harris and Eric Slick. 

     

    Interesting.  So you are blaming the CEO, the Technology Director, and the Vice President of the company as being the "problems" with HJ.  May i be so bold as to ask why?  I've been a player of Simutronics games since Gemstone 3 around the year '95.  I also have to note that the lead designer of HJ(Stephanie Shaver) was not mentioned as a problem.



    Also, as far as the definition of vaporware, i think the true definition is a game that was in development, but was completely cancelled.  So while the possibility of HJ being vaporware is there, I fail to see how you can say that the game is in fact vaporware.  Maybe you missed the brand new footage of the city that they have been working on at TenTonHammer.com. www.tentonhammer.com/index.php.



    Either way, I think the point that a lot of people miss is that the overall health of the company is more important(at least at first) than the overall health of the game, especially if you decide that that health of the game is measured in "public perception".  Simutronics has absolute nothing to prove to people like you, and could really care less how many people cry "vaporware!!!" just because they had to put their designing of the game on a "back burner" for a little while, which was simply  to ensure that they will have the necessary funding to complete the game.  The proof will be in the pudding, which will be available when(and not if) the game launches.



    Expect to be retracting your vaporware argument later this year as they improve their ability to keep both the Hero Engine project and the Hero's Journey project moving forward independantly, which was admittedly a problem during the past year.  Keep in mind the more money they make from the engine licensees the more money they have to pump into the game.  What i'm interested to see is if they will actually be able to publish their own game.  Its highly unlikely IMO that they will, but if they have a very close to finished and polished product to negotiate with, finding a publisher to put boxes on store shelves wouldn't be as much of a problem.  But who knows, if they do really well with the Hero Engine, they might even be able to publish themselves.  Simutronics is going through a revolutionary time for them, and there's really no reason to think that they would just scrap the project that they have been planning for about 10 years(not developing mind you, the current HJ project will likely be in the development cycle for a bit longer than most MMOs, but a lot of people don't understand that the HJ that was worked on back in 99 is a totally different project, that was never really expected to launch.)  The current version of the game didn't start development until they finished the basics of the Hero Engine, and is in much better shape to become a mass market product.



    And before i run the risk of sounding like a Simu fanboi, i'd like to point out that there are 2 major things that i hate about the company, but i won't go into them just yet.  In fact, thats the main reason that i'm wondering why you think that the leaders of the company are "problems" for HJ.
  • GeiddianGeiddian Austin, TXPosts: 11Member

    [quote]Originally posted by ShadowZERO


    Interesting.  So you are blaming the CEO, the Technology Director, and the Vice President of the company as being the "problems" with HJ.  May i be so bold as to ask why?  I've been a player of Simutronics games since Gemstone 3 around the year '95.  I also have to note that the lead designer of HJ(Stephanie Shaver) was not mentioned as a problem.

    I'll try to answer your questions one at a time. I'll save my thoughts on those three for the end, if I may.

    Stephanie Shaver is a capable artist. As I recall that was why she was hired in the first place. Artists don't generally make the production decisions, however. I don't see many people complaining about the artistic design of HJ. Do you? That isn't really the problem. Much of the appeal of HJ comes from that design. But producing the game is something much different.


    Also, as far as the definition of vaporware, i think the true definition is a game that was in development, but was completely cancelled.  So while the possibility of HJ being vaporware is there, I fail to see how you can say that the game is in fact vaporware.  Maybe you missed the brand new footage of the city that they have been working on at TenTonHammer.com.

    The term vaporware originated that way, yes. The term is now applied to games which don't seem to be on a good track for actually being released. This is the perception of HJ for many people. We all remember other games which finally proved themselves to be vaporware, for various reasons. Mythica, Master of Magic II, Harpoon IV, Multiplayer Battletech at EA, and so on. HJ is beginning to look like those games. The ostensible reason is the concentration on the HeroEngine. However, also remember that this supposed slowdown came after HJ was so hyped at the 2005 E3. Bad timing. You don't push your game out there, encourage a fan base, gather awards at E3 and then wander off to do other things. It looks bad. It begins to smell of vaporware.

    As for the new art. Again. That is one reason I didn't list Stephanie Shaver. She and the art team are competent people. But in the end, pretty pictures are just pretty pictures, not a complete game.


    Either way, I think the point that a lot of people miss is that the overall health of the company is more important(at least at first) than the overall health of the game, especially if you decide that that health of the game is measured in "public perception".  Simutronics has absolute nothing to prove to people like you, and could really care less how many people cry "vaporware!!!" just because they had to put their designing of the game on a "back burner" for a little while, which was simply  to ensure that they will have the necessary funding to complete the game.  The proof will be in the pudding, which will be available when(and not if) the game launches.

    Most of this ties in with points below about two of those three individuals. Again, you don't put a game on the back burner after pushing it so publicly into view at E3 2005. That is what creates the perception of vaporware. And you're making a completely umsupported statement saying when not if. The proof will indeed be in the pudding IF the game is ever released.


    Expect to be retracting your vaporware argument later this year as they improve their ability to keep both the Hero Engine project and the Hero's Journey project moving forward independantly, which was admittedly a problem during the past year.  Keep in mind the more money they make from the engine licensees the more money they have to pump into the game.

    I'll gladly retract the vaporware statement if the game is ever actually released. Not before then. However, your arguments that it isn't vaporware can get old and cobweb-covered with no end in sight, can't they? At what point will you be willing to admit that you were wrong? If the game is cancelled completely, if the game is still not out when we're all using walkers to get around the old folks' home? What's your limit?

    As for the money they make, that again will be addressed below.


    What i'm interested to see is if they will actually be able to publish their own game.  Its highly unlikely IMO that they will, but if they have a very close to finished and polished product to negotiate with, finding a publisher to put boxes on store shelves wouldn't be as much of a problem.  But who knows, if they do really well with the Hero Engine, they might even be able to publish themselves.

    They already went the route of looking for outside publishers for that game. No takers. So it was decided to publish entirely in house. I agree that they probably need an outside publisher if this game is ever going to see the light of day. But then, we aren't in charge are we? See below.


    Simutronics is going through a revolutionary time for them, and there's really no reason to think that they would just scrap the project that they have been planning for about 10 years(not developing mind you, the current HJ project will likely be in the development cycle for a bit longer than most MMOs, but a lot of people don't understand that the HJ that was worked on back in 99 is a totally different project, that was never really expected to launch.)  The current version of the game didn't start development until they finished the basics of the Hero Engine, and is in much better shape to become a mass market product.

    This is incorrect. I've known Tom Zelinksi for a long time. When he was producer, which he still was in 2002 by the way - at least that's how he was introduced to the crowd at that Simucon, the game was indeed expected to be released. In that period, Derek Sanderson was the lead designer. I wonder whatever happended to him?


    And before i run the risk of sounding like a Simu fanboi, i'd like to point out that there are 2 major things that i hate about the company, but i won't go into them just yet.  In fact, thats the main reason that i'm wondering why you think that the leaders of the company are "problems" for HJ.

    I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

    Let's take them one at a time.

    David Whatley. He is still living in the fantasy world created when Simutronics launched on the web after AOL and Simutronics ended up listed as one of the Forbes' fasting growing companies. That too was a passing fancy. But it still hasn't sunk in with David. He still acts like he's the up-and-coming, golden-haired wunderkind of the gaming industry, even though his player base has been steadily shrinking ever since.

    And then there's his alleged penchant for romancing young ladies who play his games (some under 18), and making them part of his company and promoting them into positions of responsibility. Do you recall that Melissa Meyer, who has since left Simutronics with her latest husband Matt, also a former Simutronics GM, was before that Melissa Callaway and for a while in the late 1990's she was also Melissa Whatley, straight out of high school? From player of the game to wife of the CEO then to various positions within the company then eventually producer of Gemstone and HJ? A few years back, he had on his personal web site pic of various of his young girlfriends/players in lingerie poses. They've since been removed. Fast sports cars, young girls and a persistent fanstasy of being a "leading" game company CEO. Those are some of my problems with Mr. Whatley.

    Neil Harris came to Simutronics after leaving GEnie in July, 1993. On the same day that GEnie's pricing structure changed. He left GEnie because they changed that pricing structure, reducing the price from $6/hr to $3/hr. At least that's what he once told me was the reason he left. Maybe it isn't true. He was instrumental in the shift a few years later from AOL to the web. For that I applaud him. After that, however, he displayed a certain lack of consideration for the players of Simutronics' games. If you played Gemstone since 1995 then you were there for the fiasco with the "double" billing in late 2004 (I may have my year wrong there) because of a supposed accounting error. It wasn't really a double billing but a change from post-billing to pre-billing monthly. But the timing was stupid, the explanations were feeble and it made a lot of people very angry. At the heart of that was Neil Harris, unapologetic and apparently entirely immune to the concerns of the community. There is a disconnect between the financial concerns of the company and an understanding that the community of customers is the basis for having the company in the first place. He has a certain corporate mind-set which thinks that the customers can be treated any old way, without regard to how it might look, and the customers just have to deal with it. I don't think he's ever really grasped that in a gaming community, the fan base is very important. It's a lesson SOE seems also to never have learned or learned too late.

    Finally, Eric Slick. Melissa Meyer would be in this spot if she were still the producer of HJ. She's now with some other game company. I believe in some capacity at NCSoft working on their future game called Aion. But Eric is the producer now. His previous experience being as a player of the text-based Gemstone and as a producer of the text-based Dragonrealms, just as Melissa's prior experience was as a player of and producer of the text-based Gemstone and not entirely coincidentally girlfriend and then one of the wives of the CEO. Not much in the way of experience with graphic games for either. But Bubba is the producer of HJ now. The buck stops with him. He too suffers from the delusion that the game is separate from the community. He'd make a wonderful, or perhaps I should say typical, customer service rep for SOE. Sadly, he's the producer of HJ.

    If Suz Dodd were still alive and still the producer of these games, there would be more hope. It's possible that some of the outstanding people at Simutronics, like Elonka, can overcome the negatives of the three individuals above and the game will actually see the light of day. I'm not optimistic, obviously. I think it would be wonderful if the game did see launch. Until then, my opinion stands. It's vaporware that won't ever see launch.

    Was that detailed enough an explanation, Shadowmage? :)

  • ShadowZEROShadowZERO Santa Cruz, CAPosts: 102Member
    Originally posted by Geiddian


    [quote]Originally posted by ShadowZERO
     

    Interesting.  So you are blaming the CEO, the Technology Director, and the Vice President of the company as being the "problems" with HJ.  May i be so bold as to ask why?  I've been a player of Simutronics games since Gemstone 3 around the year '95.  I also have to note that the lead designer of HJ(Stephanie Shaver) was not mentioned as a problem.

    I'll try to answer your questions one at a time. I'll save my thoughts on those three for the end, if I may.

    Stephanie Shaver is a capable artist. As I recall that was why she was hired in the first place. Artists don't generally make the production decisions, however. I don't see many people complaining about the artistic design of HJ. Do you? That isn't really the problem. Much of the appeal of HJ comes from that design. But producing the game is something much different.

     



    Also, as far as the definition of vaporware, i think the true definition is a game that was in development, but was completely cancelled.  So while the possibility of HJ being vaporware is there, I fail to see how you can say that the game is in fact vaporware.  Maybe you missed the brand new footage of the city that they have been working on at TenTonHammer.com.

    The term vaporware originated that way, yes. The term is now applied to games which don't seem to be on a good track for actually being released. This is the perception of HJ for many people. We all remember other games which finally proved themselves to be vaporware, for various reasons. Mythica, Master of Magic II, Harpoon IV, Multiplayer Battletech at EA, and so on. HJ is beginning to look like those games. The ostensible reason is the concentration on the HeroEngine. However, also remember that this supposed slowdown came after HJ was so hyped at the 2005 E3. Bad timing. You don't push your game out there, encourage a fan base, gather awards at E3 and then wander off to do other things. It looks bad. It begins to smell of vaporware.

    As for the new art. Again. That is one reason I didn't list Stephanie Shaver. She and the art team are competent people. But in the end, pretty pictures are just pretty pictures, not a complete game.

     



    Either way, I think the point that a lot of people miss is that the overall health of the company is more important(at least at first) than the overall health of the game, especially if you decide that that health of the game is measured in "public perception".  Simutronics has absolute nothing to prove to people like you, and could really care less how many people cry "vaporware!!!" just because they had to put their designing of the game on a "back burner" for a little while, which was simply  to ensure that they will have the necessary funding to complete the game.  The proof will be in the pudding, which will be available when(and not if) the game launches.


    Most of this ties in with points below about two of those three individuals. Again, you don't put a game on the back burner after pushing it so publicly into view at E3 2005. That is what creates the perception of vaporware. And you're making a completely umsupported statement saying when not if. The proof will indeed be in the pudding IF the game is ever released.

     



    Expect to be retracting your vaporware argument later this year as they improve their ability to keep both the Hero Engine project and the Hero's Journey project moving forward independantly, which was admittedly a problem during the past year.  Keep in mind the more money they make from the engine licensees the more money they have to pump into the game.


    I'll gladly retract the vaporware statement if the game is ever actually released. Not before then. However, your arguments that it isn't vaporware can get old and cobweb-covered with no end in sight, can't they? At what point will you be willing to admit that you were wrong? If the game is cancelled completely, if the game is still not out when we're all using walkers to get around the old folks' home? What's your limit?

    As for the money they make, that again will be addressed below.

     



    What i'm interested to see is if they will actually be able to publish their own game.  Its highly unlikely IMO that they will, but if they have a very close to finished and polished product to negotiate with, finding a publisher to put boxes on store shelves wouldn't be as much of a problem.  But who knows, if they do really well with the Hero Engine, they might even be able to publish themselves.


    They already went the route of looking for outside publishers for that game. No takers. So it was decided to publish entirely in house. I agree that they probably need an outside publisher if this game is ever going to see the light of day. But then, we aren't in charge are we? See below.

     



    Simutronics is going through a revolutionary time for them, and there's really no reason to think that they would just scrap the project that they have been planning for about 10 years(not developing mind you, the current HJ project will likely be in the development cycle for a bit longer than most MMOs, but a lot of people don't understand that the HJ that was worked on back in 99 is a totally different project, that was never really expected to launch.)  The current version of the game didn't start development until they finished the basics of the Hero Engine, and is in much better shape to become a mass market product.


    This is incorrect. I've known Tom Zelinksi for a long time. When he was producer, which he still was in 2002 by the way - at least that's how he was introduced to the crowd at that Simucon, the game was indeed expected to be released. In that period, Derek Sanderson was the lead designer. I wonder whatever happended to him?

     



    And before i run the risk of sounding like a Simu fanboi, i'd like to point out that there are 2 major things that i hate about the company, but i won't go into them just yet.  In fact, thats the main reason that i'm wondering why you think that the leaders of the company are "problems" for HJ.


    I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

    Let's take them one at a time.

    David Whatley. He is still living in the fantasy world created when Simutronics launched on the web after AOL and Simutronics ended up listed as one of the Forbes' fasting growing companies. That too was a passing fancy. But it still hasn't sunk in with David. He still acts like he's the up-and-coming, golden-haired wunderkind of the gaming industry, even though his player base has been steadily shrinking ever since.

    And then there's his alleged penchant for romancing young ladies who play his games (some under 18), and making them part of his company and promoting them into positions of responsibility. Do you recall that Melissa Meyer, who has since left Simutronics with her latest husband Matt, also a former Simutronics GM, was before that Melissa Callaway and for a while in the late 1990's she was also Melissa Whatley, straight out of high school? From player of the game to wife of the CEO then to various positions within the company then eventually producer of Gemstone and HJ? A few years back, he had on his personal web site pic of various of his young girlfriends/players in lingerie poses. They've since been removed. Fast sports cars, young girls and a persistent fanstasy of being a "leading" game company CEO. Those are some of my problems with Mr. Whatley.

    Neil Harris came to Simutronics after leaving GEnie in July, 1993. On the same day that GEnie's pricing structure changed. He left GEnie because they changed that pricing structure, reducing the price from $6/hr to $3/hr. At least that's what he once told me was the reason he left. Maybe it isn't true. He was instrumental in the shift a few years later from AOL to the web. For that I applaud him. After that, however, he displayed a certain lack of consideration for the players of Simutronics' games. If you played Gemstone since 1995 then you were there for the fiasco with the "double" billing in late 2004 (I may have my year wrong there) because of a supposed accounting error. It wasn't really a double billing but a change from post-billing to pre-billing monthly. But the timing was stupid, the explanations were feeble and it made a lot of people very angry. At the heart of that was Neil Harris, unapologetic and apparently entirely immune to the concerns of the community. There is a disconnect between the financial concerns of the company and an understanding that the community of customers is the basis for having the company in the first place. He has a certain corporate mind-set which thinks that the customers can be treated any old way, without regard to how it might look, and the customers just have to deal with it. I don't think he's ever really grasped that in a gaming community, the fan base is very important. It's a lesson SOE seems also to never have learned or learned too late.

    Finally, Eric Slick. Melissa Meyer would be in this spot if she were still the producer of HJ. She's now with some other game company. I believe in some capacity at NCSoft working on their future game called Aion. But Eric is the producer now. His previous experience being as a player of the text-based Gemstone and as a producer of the text-based Dragonrealms, just as Melissa's prior experience was as a player of and producer of the text-based Gemstone and not entirely coincidentally girlfriend and then one of the wives of the CEO. Not much in the way of experience with graphic games for either. But Bubba is the producer of HJ now. The buck stops with him. He too suffers from the delusion that the game is separate from the community. He'd make a wonderful, or perhaps I should say typical, customer service rep for SOE. Sadly, he's the producer of HJ.

    If Suz Dodd were still alive and still the producer of these games, there would be more hope. It's possible that some of the outstanding people at Simutronics, like Elonka, can overcome the negatives of the three individuals above and the game will actually see the light of day. I'm not optimistic, obviously. I think it would be wonderful if the game did see launch. Until then, my opinion stands. It's vaporware that won't ever see launch.

    Was that detailed enough an explanation, Shadowmage? :)

    Ok, fair enough.  You have reasons for feeling the way you do, and i respect the time it took you to write about them without bashing me for still being interested in HJ.  The simple fact on my end is that HJ is the only game in development right now, that(even if they only release with half the promised feautres) that truly fits my "vision" of what a fun game will/could be.  I still play DR, and i've tried a few MUDs and none of them even come close to comparing to the depth and level of detail DR has.  Ever since EQ came out in 99, i have been looking for a 3d game that could match the depth i experienced in Simutronics MUDs, and obviously i have not found a single one yet.  In one of the first interviews with Stephanie Shaver on this site(i'm too lazy to post the link atm) Steph went over the things that "made a great mmorpg" for her.  Those things she said fit perfectly with my vision of what the ultimate MMORPG could be.



    You obviously seem to have more knowledge about the history of Simutronics and their employees than the average person.  However, unless i'm off base, Steph is not simply the art director as you said, but the lead content creator(aka "Lead Designer") of HJ.  I admit my ignorance of how a gaming business works in terms of the relation of the producer to the lead designer, but the way the interviews on this site have gone, is seems like Steph is ultimately the one in charge of putting the game together.



    On to some other points you made:  I definitely agree that it was bad timing(at least from a fan's perspective) to push a "media blitz" for a game to encourage hype, and then decide to have a media blackout "to wander off and do other things".  But i really don't blame them for that, they are a small studio, and like i said before, prior to the sale of the Engine they were simply not capable of handling both projects.  Now in the more recent interviews(on TenTonHammer.com), they have said that they are expanding their offices so that both projects can move forward independantly.



    Quote: "I'll show you mine if you show me yours"



    Ok, well i guess i will.  Your problem with simutronics is the people in charge of some of the more important functions of the company.  Regardless, I've played a few MUDs and a few MMORPGs, and Dragonrealms is by far, the most interesting game on the market IMO.  The big factor in DR for me is the ability to customize your character to be an incredibly unique even when comparing yourself to other "classes" of the same level.  This is mainly because DR is more a skill based game than a level based game, and you aren't restricted by your "class" choice as to what skills you can learn.  I happen to think that the way the "character building/development" works in that game is far superior to any other MUD or MMORPG.  Also, DR is regularly being updated by the GMs, in fact its hard for a day to go by(even on the weekends) that there isn't some update, addition, or bug fix.  And thats not even including the live events such as merchants, invasions, and some times full scale PvE wars,  things that (to my knowledge) we have not seen in MMORPGs yet.  The point i'm getting at is that the positive side of how the GMs for simutronics handle things in their current games is hard to argue with.  I know, making a 3d game with such good support will be much more difficult, if not impossible.  What i'm trying to say here is that my faith in simutronics somewhat originates from how they handle, update, and balance, their current games.



    Ok, so thats the positive side of things.  I felt the need to express the positive side of their games before going into what i absolutely cannot stand about the company.  2 things mainly:  Tiered pricing and Ticketed events.  To me these features are nothing more than an attempt to milk the current customer base for every dollar they can, because they know they have a small but dedicated following that will give into the pressure of paying more monthly, or paying to go on a GM controlled quest.  Now, on the flip side of things, this wouldn't be so bad if it didn't give players who pay more money that play on the same server as the other players who pay the base fee an advantage.  IMO they have done a fairly good job not giving too much to the "premium" paying customer while still providing the incentive to pay the extra montly fee.  But, to me, this is inexcusable.  I don't mind the Platinum server, or The Fallen(PvP) server, because those are segregated from the players who pay the base rate.  But putting premium players in the same world as basic customers gives them direct(if only a small) advantage, just because they are willing to shell out more RL $$$ is what i'm unhappy with.  Same thing goes for ticketed events.  Pay a one time fee, and get a chance at some loot that is not available otherwise.  Inexcusable.  As far as HJ goes, i really hope that Simutronics realizes that they can get away with stuff like that in their MUDs because MUDs are by default a niche product.  IMO, if tiered pricing and ticketed events show up in HJ in a way that gives certain players on the same server more content because they are willing to spend more money, Simu will be facing a harsh reality that that type of thing is going to be received very poorly by the standard MMORPG player.



    So to sum it up, I have faith in Simutronics's ability to produce some of the most unique, in-depth, and detailed games.  If they can bring to life a 3d MMORPG that is as far beyond other MMORPGs as DR is beyond other MUDs, than they could have a game on their hands that (dare i say it) could compete with the current subscriber base of WoW.  I know, i know, making a 3d MMO vs a MUD is a totally different thing.  But it does seem, considering that HJ has been planned for a long time now, that they have done their homework.  However, if they let their current pricing scheme for their current games into HJ, i fear the worst.



    One last thing(geez this is getting long), I see the argument as to whether or not HJ is/will be vaporware as a moot point.  There are certainly indicators that the production of the game has not been perfect, and you have your own personal reasons for not trusting the company.  But at absolute worst, my take on the situation is that there may be a 50/50 chance whether they game will be released or not.  I personally feel that a launch(even if it takes them much longer than they had originally believed) is almost guaranteed.  The way you say that its in fact vaporware, just because the development of the game hasn't gone entirely as planned is just being overly negative.  One thing i can't argue against is your supposed knowledge of the "higher-ups" in the company, as i have no way to confirm or deny your statements.  But it is your prerogative to define vaporware in any way you choose, and you can call the game vaporware up until it launches if you wish.  You did define vaporware as a game that isn't on a "good track" to being released.  I feel the need to point out that unless you work for the company, whether or not a game is on a "good track" to being released is almost complete speculation. Also, I just don't see the reason to try and bash a game that people are hyped about.  I guess thats what these forums are for, for people to take their negative emotions towards companies/products and express them here, in an environment aside from official or dedicated game forums, where such notions will be received poorly.



    Feel free to discuss further if you wish, but at this point i'm thinking we can just agree to disagree.  I rarely post on these forums but you seem to be an educated person with good reasons for your opinion even if it is in complete contradiction to my own.  Its just that HJ is the only game in development that seems to fit my vision for a decent MMORPG, and when someone feels that they can guarantee that the only game i'm looking forward to isn't going to launch kind of hits a soft spot.
  • GeiddianGeiddian Austin, TXPosts: 11Member

     

      Very well said.  Don't get me wrong.  I think HJ is a wonderful concept and if they ever release it, a graphical MMO with dedicated in-game events and GM interaction like we have experienced in GS and DR would be a unique and amazing thing.  I just don't have faith in their ability to get it to a release, not because of any lack on the part of the people designing the game.  The lack will be in the upper eschelons.

      You made some good points about other negative things with Simutronics.  I concentrated only on stating my reasons for naming those three individuals. The tiered pricing system has always seemed unfair to me, even though I could afford to take advantage of it and did so to find greener fields in the platinum versions of the games.   I rarely participated in ticketed events, because I saw them as more of the same greed.  They took away from already paying customers in terms of time and energy of GM's to provide what often turned out to be less-than-promised events that required pay upfront.

      Another problem for me has been the way Simutronics has treated some of their contract GM's.  As you may know, not all GM's are unpaid volunteers. Some do work for contract fees.  I personally know several GM's who were stiffed out of their pay after completing work for Simutronics.  This, again, is likely something to be laid at the feet of management, if only the SGM's.

      Another problem for me is that Simutronics openly embraces third party real money sales of in-game items.  For years they had a very cosy relationship with a third party seller of items and game currency.  In fact, he regularly hosted parties at Simucons.  This attitude doesn't bode well for Simutronics' ethics in HJ.  They have already proven that they are not above profiting from the sale of in-game items and gold.  Rather than try to reduce it, as most game companies do, they seem to me to be likely to actively promote it in partnership with those third party merchants.  It would be a logical step up from tiered pricing and ticketed events for them to do so together with such companies.

       I wish we could have a Simutronics with all of the positives and less of the negatives.  I too played DR, although it was long ago, during the initial beta on GEnie iun 1994 initially (I think), long before Simutronics was available on AOL, and then again later as bards were introduced (some of the really old old-timers might remember my dwarf bard beatnic poet Canu), and I tried it again a third time when traders were introduced.  My interests lay with Gemstone, though.  As you said, the concept of in-game GM events and constant upgrading is a good one, in both games.  And the work of most of the paid GM's and all of the volunteer GM's is wonderful.  If only they didn't have the ball and chain of upper management and unfettered greed hanging around their necks.

      I do hope I'm wrong about HJ being vaporware and that you are right.  The game itself, in concept is wonderful.  On that, at least, I think we can agree?

     

     

     

     

  • ShadowZEROShadowZERO Santa Cruz, CAPosts: 102Member
    Originally posted by Geiddian


     
      Another problem for me is that Simutronics openly embraces third party real money sales of in-game items.  For years they had a very cosy relationship with a third party seller of items and game currency.  In fact, he regularly hosted parties at Simucons.  This attitude doesn't bode well for Simutronics' ethics in HJ.  They have already proven that they are not above profiting from the sale of in-game items and gold.  Rather than try to reduce it, as most game companies do, they seem to me to be likely to actively promote it in partnership with those third party merchants.  It would be a logical step up from tiered pricing and ticketed events for them to do so together with such companies.

    OMG, in that last massive post I totally forgot to mention this.  If they don't plain condone it, then they certainly turn a blind eye to it.  "RMTs"(AKA "Real Money Transactions") as Square Enix has dubbed them.  DR has way to many "Uber Noobs" who have paid up to or over $1000 in RL cash for a character up to or over level 80-100.  Just google DRSales if your curious.  Whats strange to me about this is that even though DRs economy has inflated over the years, it seems that it was actually designed to handle RMTs, where as most other game companies consider that something that destroys an economy.  But if HJ makes it out the door, will it become known as plat farmer paradise?  Totally agree with you here.


      I do hope I'm wrong about HJ being vaporware and that you are right.  The game itself, in concept is wonderful.  On that, at least, I think we can agree?
     Well said, good sir.  Its nice to come to an agreement with someone i was totally at odds with at first.  Good discussion


     
     
     
  • FlummoxedFlummoxed San Jose, CAPosts: 591Member
    Originally posted by Geiddian


    Was that detailed enough an explanation, Shadowmage? :)

    wow, outstanding.

    That's the kind of reporting and analysis i'd like to see from the gaming "press" itself, instead of marketing dept approved junk that passes for game news these days.

  • simu-jhyrrylsimu-jhyrryl Simutronics Dev Saint Charles, MOPosts: 4Member
    I'd like to point out that most of the historical and personnel "facts" presented in this thread are unfortunately incorrect.  For example, Steph Shaver is not an artist.  She is in fact the Lead Designer of Hero's Journey.  Likewise, Melissa Meyer was never married to David Whatley, although we did have a Melissa Whatley working for us in our Maryland office who was no relation to David.  Tom has never been the producer for Hero's Journey - he sits on the board of directors for Simutronics.  Derek Sanderson actually has not worked for us since 2000, during the time of the Hero's Journey technology prototype.  And there are other mistakes.



    It should be noted that the current design and development of Hero Journey "the game" began three years ago.  During the interim 4 years the back-end technology that forms the basis of Hero Engine was in development alongside additional projects to support our existing games.  It's a mistake to think that Hero's Journey spent that time under full development, wasting time, money, and other resources - it was not.  We've been a highly productive company the entire time, even if we weren't focused on the HJ game specifically.  And I'd like to think that that time was extremely well spent, considering the positive impact that the creation of Hero Engine will have on the industry as a whole.

    Mike Paddock
    Lead Game Systems Designer
    Product Developmenet Manager
    Simutronics Corp.

  • simu-solomonsimu-solomon Simutronics Dev St Peters, MOPosts: 9Member
    I'd also like to point out that you have Eric Slick and I confused.  While you may think we're both delusional, we're two separate delusional entities, not one.



    Eric "Bubba" Latham

    Producer, DragonRealms

    Lead Design Team, Hero's Journey

    Simutronics Corporation
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