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General: Roper On MMO Funding Models

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,658MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Bill Roper has been in the gaming business for a long while. First with Blizzard North, then on to Flagship Studios for Hellgate: London, and, finally, to Cryptic Studios for both Champions Online and Star Trek Online. In a new interview over at Gamasutra, Roper talks about the current MMO developer funding models and how those publisher/developer models are outmoded, causing more failure than success.

You've talked about having some issues with how publisher funding goes on games, particularly MMOs.

Bill Roper: I think it's a broken model, the way that funding works on a pub-dev deal. It just kind of is, right? Because the publisher wants to get the game out, so they want to figure out how to fund the game right until the game comes out. Then there's no more funding.

We always want as much time as we can. So, we start doing stuff, and invariably, when the game ships, whenever that is -- whether it's early or the right amount of time -- you have used the last amount of funding to get it out. There's never a cushion, right? And now, you have no money. So, if you don’t have another project lined up, you're screwed.

And let's say the game comes out and does well. You still could fail in the time before you get your first check, because you're typically earning out at your royalty rate, right? So, if I have a 20 percent royalty rate as a developer, and there's $5 million spent on the game, well, the game has got to make $25 million before I start seeing anything.

Read more here.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
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Comments

  • TalonsinTalonsin Posts: 1,478Member Uncommon

    Yes Bill, its the industry that is to blame for your poor track record since you left Blizzard. 

  • erictlewiserictlewis Cottondale, ALPosts: 3,026Member Uncommon

    Wow what a load of hogwash.  Lets blame the subscription model for you failed attempts at cryptic.  I had to laugh at that considering they cryptic has the sub model and the store so it should be a win win situation.

    He said its hard to get around a first bad opinion of a game, and that folks just don't come back after 6 months.  I think hes full of it.  I went back after 6 months to try sto and I found it was still crud. 

    Gosh knows if i was somebody making a new game and he sent a resume in I would toss it in the trash.  I think it is time for him to change his career path.

  • SteamRangerSteamRanger Great Northwest, WAPosts: 920Member Uncommon

    Thanks to GamaSutra for giving this guy even more print. Maybe Flagship would still be around if Roper hadn't spent so much time and money jetting all over the world borrowing money from foreign investors and buying huge chunks of advertising. Roper seemed to have the idea that Flagship could have everything that they had a Blizzard. I particularly remember reading a tour of Flagship's offices where he talked about the lavish cafeteria / lounge they had put in. All those little perks cost money, especially when you're siphoning off of your development budget.

    Hellgate: London is a really  fun game, until you realize how badly the single-player version was gutted to leave content for the online version.  That's what killed Flagship, unreasonable expectation and gross mismanagement. The way that the Schaefers have handled Runic so far (I'm still iffy on their deal with Perfect World), it points to Roper being the problem. That's why it steams me when he's lauded as some great developer. Roper's job at Blizzard was primarily PR. His business and development sense sucks and people need to stop asking him what he thinks.

    Hellgate: London could be a game worth playing right now, if only it had released in a finished state and hadn't been used as collateral to borrow money from foreign investors.

    "Soloists and those who prefer small groups should never have to feel like they''re the ones getting the proverbial table scraps, as it were." - Scott Hartsman, Senior Producer, Everquest II
    "People love groups. Its a fallacy that people want to play solo all the time." - Scott Hartsman, Executive Producer, Rift

  • afoaaafoaa AarhusPosts: 578Member Uncommon

    The problem at cryptic is that their leadership simply did not understand the fine balance between frustrating and boring which becomes entertaining.

    Their games were either boring or frustrating or switched from one side to the other.

    "You are the hero our legends have foretold will save our tribe, therefore please go kill 10 pigs."

  • bisurgebisurge Anchorage, AKPosts: 168Member

    Small companies can earn funding from the government. The government gives millions of dollars in grants, a large portion of which you won't even have to pay back (small businesses help the economy). So, there's your inital funding for that.

    Large companies should already have enough money saved up if they want to start another project.

    So, yes, some of the revenue goes to further developments. That's a given, if you want people to continue playing your game.

    So, basically, you're complaining about paychecks and first impressions. You sound like the average recession-stricken American.

  • LeetheLeethe Posts: 876Member Uncommon

    Is it me or does he really look like Johnny Vegas?

    There is NO miracle patch.

    95% of what you see in beta won't change by launch.

    Hope is not a stategy.
    ______________________________
    "This kind of topic is like one of those little cartoon boxes held up by a stick on a string, with a piece of meat under it. In other words, bait."

  • TardcoreTardcore MinskPosts: 2,325Member

    Originally posted by Leethe

    Is it me or does he really look like Johnny Vegas?

    Mushmouthed Johnny Vegas is a heck of a lot easier to understand.

     

    Great Caesar's Ghost.

    I read that five page article twice to make sure I was really seeing what I thought I saw. It is nothing more than a five page ego trip of a petty little dictator who is explaining how its everyone else's fault he is marooned on Saint Helena.

    I'm sorry Bill, you've had one game studio shot out from under you, then left (in my opinion) in disgrace from another after your narrow scope of vision tainted two more games. One of those being based around one of the top most beloved sci fi universes of the twentieth century. STO should have been a sure thing. Budget, talent, fickle customers had little to do with its failure to be a smash hit. It was the same warped drive and vision that scuttled Hellgate: London, that poisoned both of Cryptic's creations.

    The really sad part is I like this guy, I think he has had a positive impact on the realm of online gaming, but in the past few years he has been fixating on a terrible idea of how to revolutionize the MMO creation and income systems and refuses to take the blame when his ideas fail. Its not the structure of MMOs he needs to reinvent, its his own ideas. Watching him continue to deny any culpability in the failure of games in whos development he has taken part, makes me lose much of the respect I once had for him.

    Its this behavior that makes many of us see Bill Roper like this:

    "Oh hell, let's just do what we always do,

    gut the game of any real content,

    put that content in a microtransaction store,

    sell a bunch of lifetime subscriptions before release,

    then run away."

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    "Gypsies, tramps, and thieves, we were called by the Admin of the site . . . "

  • halobumphalobump BrightonPosts: 380Member

    Let's send him a food parcel.

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  • elockeelocke Manassas, VAPosts: 4,205Member Uncommon

    I love the excuses these guys come up with after they leave a company due to their games failing.  Blaming funding now lol.  Not realizing the game design itself is what makes or breaks a game.  Stop making "games" in the MMORPG field, Bill.  Learn to WORLD BUILD.

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  • OzmodanOzmodan Hilliard, OHPosts: 7,193Member Uncommon

    The worst thing you can do in life is blame others for your problems when he is just as much responsible for his problems as anyone else.  It is a sad state of affairs for someone once respected in the industry to go around point fingers when the mirror is the more appropriate place.

  • TardcoreTardcore MinskPosts: 2,325Member

    Originally posted by Ozmodan

    The worst thing you can do in life is blame others for your problems when he is just as much responsible for his problems as anyone else.  It is a sad state of affairs for someone once respected in the industry to go around point fingers when the mirror is the more appropriate place.

    Its a sadder state of affairs that the MMO journalistic community seems willing to continue to let him point the finger of blame without taking him to task about his own involvement.

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    "Gypsies, tramps, and thieves, we were called by the Admin of the site . . . "

  • DarVashielDarVashiel Tuscaloosa, ALPosts: 80Member Uncommon

    WTF every other sentence out of his mouths ends with right like right. I want my 15 mins back!!

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  • ZoeMcCloskeyZoeMcCloskey Phoenix, AZPosts: 1,151Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Tardcore



    Originally posted by Ozmodan

    The worst thing you can do in life is blame others for your problems when he is just as much responsible for his problems as anyone else.  It is a sad state of affairs for someone once respected in the industry to go around point fingers when the mirror is the more appropriate place.

    Its a sadder state of affairs that the MMO journalistic community seems willing to continue to let him point the finger of blame without taking him to task about his own involvement.


     

    <----

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  • WizardryWizardry Ontario, CanadaPosts: 8,466Member Uncommon

    I don't think he was blaming but more or less saying that the entire game developement design,does not allow any room for error or bad judgement.

    In otherwords,you might have what you think is a great idea but players don't approve,they are leaving and not coming back.There is no money to make a huge game change,and there is really no time to make fixes,once the player base is pissed they are gone.

    This holds true however even for the big developers that don't realy on publishers,their game is ruined,the players are gone for good.I think we can lump all the developers into one basket when saying,they all want to cut corners ,seeing every month their game is not released,they are losing millions.You might think they have more brains ,figuring ya but a few early millions might mean game closure the next month,but they don't.This might be rabid fanbois that are to blame,if enough people drill into the developers mind that their game is 100% golden,they are willing to release "RIGHT NOW".I mean we see it all the time,one meaningless scripted video and fanbois are shouting like it was sent from the heavens by god himself,so guess what the developer is thinking?

    So i think Mr.Roper is partially correct,they all need a little more leeway to make sure a better product comes out,one that does not have them worrying about money every inch of the way.Just look at his example with the % deal with the publisher,if a good game by my estimates cost around 100 mil,that would mean 500 million to break even.Then they still have to maintain their develpment staff and hire more people to handle all the things that go into non developement.

    SO far there has only been ONE game that really had it easy mode for making money and that was a total fluke that will never happen again.No funding or financial structure is ever going to  create a NEW massive amount of MMO gamers the way DSL did ,it was the reason this market took off.From now on EVERY single game released will be competing for a very small piece of the pie,with a lot more developers,nothing will ever be as easy as it was in the beginning with less competition and 10-20 million new players to attract.


    Samoan Diamond

  • YamotaYamota LondonPosts: 6,620Member

    This guy really got no clue. For example when talking about the players feeling Champions Online and Star Trek Online being similar:

    "Subtle samey-ness.

    BR: Yeah. There's a subtle samey-ness between them, and players didn't like that. You know, "I want this to be totally, wholly different and unique.""

    OFCOURSE YOU DONT WANT A GAME WHERE YOU ARE CONTROLLING A MILLION TON SPACESHIP TO FEEL THE SAME AS A SUPERHERO GAME.

    I mean for **** sake, you could not even move straight down in STO but rather had to corkscrew downwards. I mean to use that excuse for the POS Star Trek Online was? OMFG!

  • PhelimReaghPhelimReagh New York, NYPosts: 647Member Uncommon

    I think fans of Neverwinter Nights should be sobbing a little, now that he's confirmed that they're going to be using the same STO/CO engine for the NWN MMOish thing.

     

    Now it may have been officially confirmed elsewhere, but that was the first I'd heard it as anything other than terrified speculation.

  • TwwIXTwwIX Sacramento, CAPosts: 203Member

    This douchey fat ass needs to stay away from this industry. He clearly had nothing to do with the success of World of Warcraft. Flagship and Cryptic Studios are certain proof of that. Champions Online could have been a good game if it wasn't for his and Atari's involvement. The two are a recipe for disaster.

  • CannyoneCannyone Albuquerque, NMPosts: 263Member

    I'm not sorry to admit that I didn't read anything that Roper said... As I don't think he has a clue!  And I'll just leave it at that, makes no sense for me to pollute these forums with how I feel about him.

  • DwarvishDwarvish Stratford, CTPosts: 208Member

      hmmm.  Thing is, most business models have a long initial payback time. 

     

      Catalogs for example. They have to get lists through paying for names and ads in various magazines web sites etc to even get started. Now stock has to be gotten along with packing mats and area. The catalog goes out and sales ( hopefully) come in which wil never cover costs for the first year. If its well done profits will start to put the biz in the black the second year...maybe.

      ANother is product sales.  Buy products and stock the same, sales force, getting product to customers etc.  Oh and what is the payback time for products?  It varies with different customer sets.

     

      I was in distribution and decided that being an independant rep was way safer.  Let the producer absorb the 6 month wait for payment ( worked with commecial greenhouse growers who are dirt poor at the start of every season for reasons already mentioned.

       Bottom line is the big paybacks are going to be longer term investments for the most part.

     Anyone looking to open a gold mine?  ok, where?

  • zazmazazma Omaha, NEPosts: 2Member

    He has been in the Industry 16 years. I have been playing MMO's and other games for 18 years. Yes I am an OLDER person. Simply put :  Bill Roper why font you try to make a game right the first time  instead of making excuses. Case in point: BIOWARE has never made a bad game..EVER !! How do you explaint this?  Simple dont release it until you are sure it will work, it meets expectations and that the audience it is for will take the game serious. As first Impressions go your resume is sorley lacking in true latest achievements, sure you had so past OKAY things you did but what you have done since is FAIL upward. I would never hire a whine-er like you so stop asking for a pity party and leave the gaming industry before you damage it even more.

  • TorvacTorvac KarlsruhePosts: 124Member Uncommon

    don't scam investors with promises you cant hold just to get their money. and if you did, don't cry when they come back at you at some point (and take away your game ...).

  • TyrrhonTyrrhon PrahaPosts: 412Member

    The whole MMO industry is full of scams and just tries to invent new scams instead of simply doing fair business.

    Set aside for the moment that most MMOs are skinner boxes with dilluted content instead of fun passtimes. You pay sub fee that beats the box revenue but there is barely any continuing development. You pay microtransactions for a some little number instead for a real content. You need to create whole new world whole new society whole new business processes so to speak and you underpay the people trying to solve age old questions so you can have more kitsch.

  • Loke666Loke666 MalmöPosts: 18,045Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Torvac

    don't scam investors with promises you cant hold just to get their money. and if you did, don't cry when they come back at you at some point (and take away your game ...).

    It is not just that simple, for once does even Roper have a point here. Investors often influence the games a lot and many studios aren't allow to make the game they think would be fun to play.

    Ropers problem have always been the sames as Brads, he is good on making ideas but bad on seeing what actually works when you implement it. He was great when he got teamed up with a master programmer in Diablo (Jeff Strain) but without a realist to team with he just can't make a ggreat game.

    Many studios get more or less slave contract from people like EA or activision.  They can't decide anything and the publisher take most of the earnings. Computer games are really expensive to make today, in the 80s you just needed 2 guys, 2 computers and a cellar but now you need millions of dollars to make even a simple game.

    And most computer experts aren't so great in economics as well.

  • jpnzjpnz SydneyPosts: 3,529Member

    Originally posted by Loke666

    Originally posted by Torvac

    don't scam investors with promises you cant hold just to get their money. and if you did, don't cry when they come back at you at some point (and take away your game ...).

    It is not just that simple, for once does even Roper have a point here. Investors often influence the games a lot and many studios aren't allow to make the game they think would be fun to play.

    Ropers problem have always been the sames as Brads, he is good on making ideas but bad on seeing what actually works when you implement it. He was great when he got teamed up with a master programmer in Diablo (Jeff Strain) but without a realist to team with he just can't make a ggreat game.

    Many studios get more or less slave contract from people like EA or activision.  They can't decide anything and the publisher take most of the earnings. Computer games are really expensive to make today, in the 80s you just needed 2 guys, 2 computers and a cellar but now you need millions of dollars to make even a simple game.

    And most computer experts aren't so great in economics as well.

    I see a lot of innovation and fairly different mechanics coming from the Iphone/Android crowd actually.

    Say what you will about these 1-2 dollar games but some of them can really show some of the AAA titles a thing or too.

    Game Dev story is awesome! O_O

    Gdemami -
    Informing people about your thoughts and impressions is not a review, it's a blog.

  • IrishoakIrishoak Springfield, ORPosts: 633Member

    Originally posted by Tardcore

    Originally posted by Ozmodan

    The worst thing you can do in life is blame others for your problems when he is just as much responsible for his problems as anyone else.  It is a sad state of affairs for someone once respected in the industry to go around point fingers when the mirror is the more appropriate place.

    Its a sadder state of affairs that the MMO journalistic community seems willing to continue to let him point the finger of blame without taking him to task about his own involvement.

     



    The video game journalistic community is one step removed from E! and Hollywood Insider, and I'm not saying they are step up from them. They try to add weight to anything they can to lend themselves credibility, then they end up pimping press releases for lack of actual content. Roper talks, so they print all of his tripe because they know people will click on it. It's not like any site has the funding for heavy journalistic investigation, and the game dev scene is pretty tight lipped. So we're stuck with Roper interviews (his ego must be sated), feel good blurbs, reviews, and lots of press releases. 


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