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An excellent article! My favourite comment is,
"This also means that once the game launches, your players are your customers. Calling them customers is critically important. It implies that you are there to serve them, and not the other way around. You are not the god of your game world, you are a customer service professional, and if you want to keep those customers contributing to your paycheck, you had damned well better act like it."
Man, that is priceless. Why do so many MMO execs seem to completely and utterly forget this basic reality?
Originally posted by ArcAngel3 An excellent article! My favourite comment is,"This also means that once the game launches, your players are your customers. Calling them customers is critically important. It implies that you are there to serve them, and not the other way around. You are not the god of your game world, you are a customer service professional, and if you want to keep those customers contributing to your paycheck, you had damned well better act like it."Man, that is priceless. Why do so many MMO execs seem to completely and utterly forget this basic reality?
"THAT IS BY DESIGN!"
+1 internets if you can guess what MMO that catch phrase came from
"There is only one thing of which I am certain, and that's nothing is certain."
Originally posted by grimfall
1. Ultima Online. Reason for failure - release of better games.Cause A. Scope creep? NoCause B. Technology? No, unless you count no 3D as technologyCause C. Service? No, though it wasn't goodCause D. Design? Personally, yes, but since there are thousands of people clamoring for the same design, that's a no.
A. Actually I'd argue that scope creep has been a huge issue for UO - it has repeatedly suffered from wild ideas that have proven impractical to complete. Take for example the virtue mechanic - a core concept in the lore of Ultima games and half-implemented, but after 12 years, it has still not been completed in UO. The game is riddled with the debris of half-finished systems and abandoned projects/events.
B. The upgrade to the new client has been met with fanatical resistance because of every tiny imperfection (and a few very major performance hurdles). I suspect there are devs who could write a good book on the behind-the-sceens story of the Kingdom Reborn client
C. There have been long and confused threads in the community forums about how to even open an account. Integration with the EA store backfired during the launch of the most recent expansion. Exploits/scripting historically allowed to continue for months before action is taken. However at the same time there are some areas where people have had very unrealistic expectations.
D. The design is quirky (see A) and has some dark tunnels where paragon bugs lurk, but that's become part of its charm. Ironically, for all its failings, UO has not failed - it's definitely is fighting the good fight against the march of technology, but it has such a wealth of history that exploring its history and quirks is a whole emergent sub-game in itself.
Already many developers have payed for this attitude/behavior thinking there god and customers just slaves who blindly pay, they eather went bankrupt or sacked by publisher.
But also still millions play crap mmo's and are slaves to these godlike creatures hehe.
Only few come to forums so im affraid most will always be slaves to those companys and we will still see this alot in near future companys bringing crap games and many slaves folllow it and paying for garbage:P
Games played:AC1-Darktide'99-2000-AC2-Darktide/dawnsong2003-2005,Lineage2-2005-2006 and now Darkfall-2009.....In between WoW few months AoC few months and some f2p also all very short few weeks.
Staff on a MMO before launch are like politicians before an election. They promise you anything and trade on your hope for a better game, or life as the case may be.
Its true that some designers can think they are god, but being a customer service rep is just as bad. Players want everything now, it takes a strong team to tell them no, you can’t have that because its unbalancing or no not this year. Players ego’s can be as big as any developers.
You received 25 Agrees. You're posting some good content. Great!
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Now Doesn't That Make You Feel All Warm And Fuzzy? :P
MMOs fail for the same reasons that movies fail at the cinema, it's not something thats clouded in mystery.
All those memories will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.
Originally posted by garrett The problem we face now is that big huge AAA - MMO catastrophes have led us to Cheap F2P models with grinding leveling and completely repeated content....where is the fun in that? So the industry went one way....failed...and now has done a complete 180 to make money off cheap badly designed games. Is there no middle ground??
If you wanted to support the 'middle ground' you'd lobby MMORPG.com to stop accepting ad revenue from those type of games as well as campaigning for the end of puff pieces on MMOs you knew weren't going to live up to their promise.
While you are at it, I'd like that unicorn Lum promised.
But I actually think you've missed the point: expensive MMOs that promise the earth have failed due to the reasons Lum listed in the article. Cheap MMOs that service a small niche have succeeded because they've been more focused (i.e. better decisions about their scope). The "cheap F2P models" have survived better than the $50m+ sub-fee games, not because the industry has made an intentional push towards them (at least until 2009, when Western developers started releasing expensive F2P or converting to F2P because it was seen how well that payment model worked).
Also, cheap is a relative term - a F2P MMO can still cost several million dollars to develop.
Good read. I've been with a small indie company for some time trying to develop a MMO and we had it all calculated through, costs for everything, really conservative, aiming for a niche thing that could grow if it works well. We extensively tested the middle ware available, made predictions for how long it would take to get them modified by our programmers to the point we would need it, negotiated reasonable licensing prices. And had a multiplayer prototype at least for the combat system playable and it was fun.
And than ... investment. What did happen? Well, the VC's said stuff like "oh, you want one million dollar? C'mon, if you would ask for five or more we could negotiate, but one?!? That is too tiny in scale." or "We asked an "expert" about your game design document and he says your product is not enough like WoW to make financial success likely, you would need the features xyz [like voice over, costing insane amounts of money but adding little to the gameplay] so sorry but we're not interested anymore.". Literally the lawyers (!) costs for contract negotiation with all the potential investors and the early development costs ate up the private funding we had. And when NCSoft asked us for a life pitch we had plain not enough money left to produce something we considered big enough and likely enough to convince them to justify the cost for getting everything set up, fly over and have lawyers check the contracts again etc etc.
So add to the Legendary Failures of Legend maybe "underestimation of funding negotiations and VC's aim of MMO dimensions" too, hm?
Played: Pretty much any fantasy MMO, some did not even make it to release ...Favorites: UO, EQ2, Vanguard, Wurm Online, SalemPlaying: ... (sigh) ...Anticipating: EQ Next, Albion Online, maybe Crowfall
Originally posted by Mellow44 MMOs fail for the same reasons that movies fail at the cinema, it's not something thats clouded in mystery.
OK, time for a virtual reality check.
Just about everything said in the article is correct and is worth payinig attention to. But. Generalities are only rough guidelines, not the details that actually make or break a creative enterprise. I can also say, it's good for the Fed to balance the budget, because if it doesn't we all suffer eventually. Doh. How does saying that help? I will try desperately to just make two points and avoid forum scope creep.
1. I can see why Mellow44 might say that. But it is about 99% wrong. Watch a detailed "making of" segment for a hit movie. I might mention Star Wars or LOTR trilogy. I think it can be argued they were decent movies. They made lotta money. But the people who made the movies, incuding the actors, struggle mightily and constantly with time, money, and scope, and just before release were quite unsure what the result would be. Yes, you need to work hard and not be totally stupid yada yada yada but the creative enterprise, especially the making of something memorable, IS SOMETHING CLOUDED IN MYSTERY.
Why is SW 4-5-6 so much better than 1-2-3, even though the tech was much better, the people were much more experienced. Was Lucas just trying to be stupid and intentionally avoiding making great movies because he had gotten bored with it? It always seems so obvious...in retrospect.
2. If we just follow the rules we will be successful, if we don't we will fail miserably. Of course we can all agree on that, right? Sounds so warm and fuzzy. I am NOT saying it is smart to ignore the points made in the article, but for example.... one of the cosmic failures listed was the epic quests in Everquest. So many things wrong with that game. Read about the making of EQ, it was a mess. But it was IMO the key game that launched the industry. Probably Blizzard doesn't bother with the well made but thoroughly derivative WOW unless EQ is a totally unanticipated hit. Let's look at the monumentally stupid epic quests in particular. Yep, sure looks dumber than hell. Err....but with this as a big feature in the game, EQ still hit 400k subs, people played it for years, and it is still viable 10 years later (though admittedly a different game now.) Maybe people liked the idea of "epic" items actually requiring epic efforts in time, grouping, etc. So does anything done in WOW actually provide anything like an "epic" feel? Let me give the MASTER RULE: its is easier to predict the weather a month in advance than to predict a successful creative endeavor.
I remember one evening I popped into Halas for the bank, and somehow a number of guildmates found themselves there also. And someone bought booze and a local bar and we plopped down outside the bank, and started telling jokes, worked on our Alcohol Tolerance, and....told stories about adventures we had had in EQ. We laughed, drank and babbled into the night.
Ok, people, when is the last time you were in an MMO and people more or less spontaneously got to together and "told the tales"?
Summary: IT IS magical. And forgetting that is the worst mistake one can make.
---------------------------Rose-lipped maidens, Light-foot lads...
Please tell me you never worked in the budget dept?
you have to ship with 500 complete zones, each with a unique experience and story for the players. This is an insane scope. Here's why: Assuming - just for purposes of discussion - each zone takes just one worldbuilder and just one artist a month of time to bring from concept to completion (which is wildly optimistic/unrealistic), and assuming you have 25 worldbuilders and 25 artists, you've just committed yourself to over 3 years of nothing but cranking out zones.
25 worldbuilders & 25 artists @ 1 zone/month = 25 zones/month
25 zones/month * 20 months = 500 zones
20 months = 1 & 2/3 years NOT 3 years.
Sorry but math mistakes(especially simple ones) just bug the crap out of me, otherwise very nice article.
Nice article Scott.
I suggest you bone up on Agile Development methods, it works well in any programming environment. It will bring all those grandiose ideas to earth. The problem with many development staffs in MMO's as you pointed out is they try to do too much with the resources available to them.
The key to any software development is to maintain your focus and plan, plan, plan....
Originally posted by bamdorf Originally posted by Mellow44 MMOs fail for the same reasons that movies fail at the cinema, it's not something thats clouded in mystery.
You don't have a clue do you?
Why was EQ successful?
Why are the first three Star Wars movies considered better than the second three?
Why does boring, content-less and buggy MMOs fail?
Why, why, why?
The information is out there... on the internet.
Originally posted by grimfall Let's actually compare the two articles and see if they match up. 1. Ultima Online. Reason for failure - release of better games.Cause A. Scope creep? NoCause B. Technology? No, unless you count no 3D as technologyCause C. Service? No, though it wasn't goodCause D. Design? Personally, yes, but since there are thousands of people clamoring for the same design, that's a no.So 0 for 1.2. Everquest. Reason for failure - too much questingCause A. Scope creep? NoCause B. Technology? NoCause C. Service? No, in fact, changing the quest is customer serviceCause D. Design? Well, the game gained 500K subscribers after the quest was implemented, no.0 for 2I am not going to go on. The articles don't match up. Saying that these games failed is like saying Baldurs Gate failed, because no one is playing it anymore.
Actually in both the games you mentioned, the issue was a combination of design and service - refusal to adapt design based on customer feedback until well after much damage had already been done. In both UO and EQ, there was huge "churn" - players buying the game, playing it for a while, then quitting. Both games were financially successful in spite of that churn (largely because the concept of MMOs itself was new and different) but could easily have been more so.
Originally posted by martaug Please tell me you never worked in the budget dept?you have to ship with 500 complete zones, each with a unique experience and story for the players. This is an insane scope. Here's why: Assuming - just for purposes of discussion - each zone takes just one worldbuilder and just one artist a month of time to bring from concept to completion (which is wildly optimistic/unrealistic), and assuming you have 25 worldbuilders and 25 artists, you've just committed yourself to over 3 years of nothing but cranking out zones.25 worldbuilders & 25 artists @ 1 zone/month = 25 zones/month25 zones/month * 20 months = 500 zones20 months = 1 & 2/3 years NOT 3 years.Sorry but math mistakes(especially simple ones) just bug the crap out of me, otherwise very nice article.
Whoops! You got me. It was supposed to be 1000 zones (3 1/3 years) and got dropped in an edit. Woo hoo, we can ship with 500 zones!
Originally posted by Ozmodan Nice article Scott.I suggest you bone up on Agile Development methods, it works well in any programming environment. It will bring all those grandiose ideas to earth. The problem with many development staffs in MMO's as you pointed out is they try to do too much with the resources available to them. The key to any software development is to maintain your focus and plan, plan, plan....
Pretty much every MMO team these days uses agile/SCRUM development, which helps in the down-in-the-trenches milestone planning but doesn't help too much if the end goals are wildly unrealistic.
Originally posted by Comnitus Originally posted by Coldren Originally posted by CastorHoS Hmmmm this thing could have been written to slap Mythic and Warhammer upside the head. Oh wait a minute, that is where Jennings sold out to. The article is spot on but coming from a sell out, well, it makes it just a little funny.
Yeah.. Sell-out... I mean, he could have been working for EA, which is EVERY MMO developer's dream, considering their long and illustrious track record with MMO's.You say Sell-out, I say one of the few people at Mythic with a brain.
Matt Frior was another one - He left to work for Zennimax (Possibly Elder Scrolls MMO), then there's Walter "Copper" Yarbrough (Turbine). Can you imagine if Sanya Weathers had to be the community rep for WAR, towing the EA party line?Get real. EA is where MMO's (and their developers) go to die. More like Mark Jacobs sold out Mythic for Warhammer.. Might have made sense at the time, but look how it ended.. Even Mark got fired.One of the smartest things Scott ever did was leave. How you can see it as otherwise is baffling.
Absolutely. TOR is destined to fail because BioWare is part of EA.
Perfectly logical to me!
It is not destined to fail simply because BioWare is part of EA. I personally don't like the design of the TOR to begin with, but the Star Wars IP alone might be more than enough to keep make it a success... But that's a separate discussion.However, I suggest you look at the history of MMO's after acquisition or developed by EA.UO - EA acquires Origin Systems. I do believe everyone who ever worked for Origin was Fired.WAR - EA acquires Mythic. Most of everyone who worked for Mythic gone, even Mark Jacobs is Fired.DAoC - See WAR. Playerbase is now consolidated to 1 server cluster, Yawain (Or something like that).SIMS Online - EA Developed. Gone.Motorcity Online - EA Developed. Didn't launch.UO2/UOX - EA Devleoped. Didn't even launch.They also had some kind of detective MMO.. Can't remember the name, but pretty sure that's gone.BioWare might be the first one to break the mold, but I'd ask that you name one MMO (Bioware excluded, this is their first MMO with EA) that has improved in any way, shape, or form since EA took the reigns from their creators, or spawned themselves. Or for that matter, before BioWare, name one company where even a substantial number of the employees still work for EA after being aquired by it.Opinion of why these games went down hill or failed outright, or why the majority of the original staff of whatever company they acquire gets axed is speculative, but the fact of the matter is, if you're an MMO company, or you make an MMO for EA, your job isn't the safest bet in the industry, no matter what your previous successes are. Either that, or the culture shock that EA inevitably introduces is bound to make you want to leave anyway.
When it comes to your career or lively-hood, most people bet conservatively. EA, for MMO's, is not a safe bet by any means.
EDIT:Just to make certain this point is absolutely crystal clear, I'm referring to MMO'S AND MMO's ONLY. The single player games companies that are acquired by EA make is an ENTIRELY different issue (DAO, Mass Effect, etc.). Although, the Ultima single player games and Wing Commander are a sore spot......
i ,like one of the first replies, wanted more detail after the setup of the first part of this article. most of your points are known by people who have been playing games for a while.
however, taken in context as a general overview of fail, it was an enjoyable read.
i would hope that the people who make games read this with as much interest as those of us who play. and i would hope that we, the gamer community, start making wise financial decisions and stop supporting pre order and cash shops and reward those who listen to their customers and bring new , good, content on a regular basis.
Originally posted by gulthaw Originally posted by AKASlaphappy I am sorry that we all cannot be as sophisticated as you and the other god like beings that hate EA. I am also sorry that by me liking Dragon Age Origins and Mass Effect 2 is dooming the gaming industry that you love so much. After all I am just a weak minded mortal, from now I will ask you and the other God like beings that hate EA what I should like and play before I spend money. sarcasm offDude get over yourself, I like Dragon Age as much as I liked Ice winddale and Baldur’s Gate 2, as you said Bioware from 10 years ago. Just because you hate something does not mean everyone is going to see it the same as you. So saying that your opinion of Bioware and EA is a fact and we all are hurting the gaming industry is pretty low. To me it is the people that is blinded by their opinions and will not even consider anything else, that are hurting and destroying this industry; both the haters and the fanboys are to blame for this. But that is still just my opinion not fact!
I'm just a player who's been gaming online since Legend of Mir 2 (Wait.. that was 9-10 years ago! :S ) and I kind of agree completely with your points.
As a RPG fan I love Bioware games (and I put my trust in them, believing SW:TOR will be the next Great Game) and as a MMO gamer I loved the article.
I don't know why that much hate towards EA, seriously, is not like SOE (game it touches game it kills, take PoxNora as a good example or SWG and Vanguard... still hurting here); but I wanted to add something else to the discussion.
The Endgame: Games are supposed to be fun, not a job (things like "damn! I didn't do the daily quests" or "oops! i'm gonna be late to the event that occurs every 12h and gives coins-tokens to get the omfgiwanna items").
I still have to play a game where the endgame is as fun as leveling and that imho is as important as every other aspect of the game.
Why play when I know that, in the end, i'm gonna need a bunch of people swollen with good items in order to get better items? I still hope to see a game where player skill is much important than equip but i'm going offtopic here ^_^
Imho, developers not only should have fun and take everything wrote in the article in consideration but should sit on a table and ask themselves "after months or years of playing, when they reach the cap level/end-game, what would they want to do? how are we going to motivate them to keep on playing without being forced to create a new char in order to enjoy the game again?"
Here is where every single MMO i've played fails (again, that's my oppinion as a casual-hardcore player) but that's ok if they wanna do like Blizzard - play, be bored, we don't care cause you will leave but lots gonna come in, and we don't care about anything at all as long as there is people coming and paying - or like SOE - play and pay, we're going to screw you and change the whole game after 2 years and everything you did will be meaningless.
Argh, i ended whining >< sorry, but hope you get my point
as you say yourself....end up whinning, and to bash SOE is just as bad as say you dont get why ppl bash EA. to ME SOE never did any wrong, even if I may not agree the way they take EQ2 at the moment. but I may very well be in minority of this opinion.
on topic liked the article alot, always fun to see abit "behind the scenes" comments
Originally posted by luvboox I don't care what anyone says about his background, this is an excellent post, and should be required reading for anyone who wants to get into making games.
Should be required reading for getting a MMORPG.com account.
"Never met a pack of humans that were any different. Look at the idiots that get elected every couple of years. You really consider those guys more mature than us? The only difference between us and them is, when they gank some noobs and take their stuff, the noobs actually die." - Madimorga
Originally posted by LumTheMad Actually in both the games you mentioned, the issue was a combination of design and service - refusal to adapt design based on customer feedback until well after much damage had already been done. In both UO and EQ, there was huge "churn" - players buying the game, playing it for a while, then quitting. Both games were financially successful in spite of that churn (largely because the concept of MMOs itself was new and different) but could easily have been more so.
I think this is easy to say in retrospect. But honestly, adapting design based on customer feedback only works if the feedback is the right thing to do. The fundamental issue with "listening to player feedback" as a general principle is that the feedback is more often than not quite conflicting. Even if players are in general agreement that a particular feature is disliked, the proposed remedies will pretty much run the gamut of opposites. Part of a designer's job is to make sure the right thing happens design-wise (and there are hundreds of factors here). Being in touch with the player is key - no arguments. But then we are back to designers picking the correct course of action out of list of infinite hypotheticals, and this us puts on square 1 in terms of adapting design based on customer feedback.
Designers make games to be played, after all. But producers make games to be purchased, which is slightly different . As you say "both games were financially successful" ... and I ask, who is higher on the food-chain in a studio: designers, or producers?
Originally posted by astoria Originally posted by luvboox I don't care what anyone says about his background, this is an excellent post, and should be required reading for anyone who wants to get into making games.
As someone that is has studied game design, I found this article to be quite good even though it feels like it came from a book I read. Scott Jennings has now become my favorite columnist.
Originally posted by SnarlingWolf Basically I just don't see what all these people need CS for, I could of been fine if none of those issues were resolved by CS. What is it people are doing that they are all up in arms about needing more CS? A bugged quest? Ok do something else until they fix it. A lost item? Get a new one. Someone bothering you in chat? Squelch them. There are really only a couple issues CS really needs to be there for, like having a character stuck in the world and no auto tool to get you out of it. As time goes on programmers have worked in more and more little tools for players to help themselves.
These are the same people that ring up the emergency services because they don't know how to turn the oven on or they locked themselved out of their house. Unfortunately the world is full of some very stupid people who are unable to think for themselves.
Excellent article, though. I sometimes think people forget just what is involved with producing an MMO on even a small scale. People need to be realistic but so do the companies; If they propogate hype and are unable to deliver, they only have themselves to blame.
A bit off topic...maybe. The other side of being unable to follow the vision is just what RoM is doing...making patches and even new servers, and admitting during the process they're not quite sure what they're doing. Then again, go to the main German site and lo and behold they're advertising Aion--pay-to-play. Divergence from the initial vision (and from the envisioned ability to carry it through) has many faces).
Lack of judgment (particularly when to call it quits) maybe at the basis of them all.
Excellent article! Nothing revolutionary here just good, solid, meat-and-potatoes common sense that should be mass emailed to every MMO game dev currently working on an unreleased project.
Warhammer fanatic since '85.
Wholeheartedly agree. Please pass on to your friends out there making our next group of games.