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Controversial Imagination Conversation or CIC (prenounced sick) for short

Dig deep into the basis of MMOs, controversial or not it needs to be discussed. Let the heads roll and the children cry its time to get CIC.

Author: FlyingSquid

Developer Ignorance: MMO Plague

Posted by FlyingSquid Tuesday March 11 2008 at 12:41AM
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Hiya folks, squid here again to bring you the next installment of CIC, thus being number 5 in the series.  Today I'm going to touch on a very serious issue that plagues the MMO industry.  Developer Ignorance.  The shear lack of disrespect for testers and potential player base is becoming all to common in the corporate world of MMO development. 

There is a saying, "If you can't beat them, join them."  Many companies have tried to spawn WoW out of their current game to try to get more attention to the average casual gamer.  All these companies have failed, one exception being LotRO they have a steady player base and are doing pretty good.  The first sign of ignorance was that clearly because WoW had record breaking subscriptions that this was the only model to go with instead of using their original vision.  Now don't get me wrong I'm sure the Lead Designer had his ideas to keep it unique but that Lead Designer doesn't pay the bills, investers do and they call the shots if you want their money.  Which in turn will change the games direction all together.

Now going off the topic of WoW modeled MMOs here, I want to talk about the ignorance of the development management.  A beta test is hosted for a reason to test out the game make sure it is in a working or near working state, nothing game breaking so that they can launch commercially.  Well the problem here is the developers for the most part on major issues don't listen to their testers.  Then when it comes to launch and it fails, who comes to blame...you shoulda listened fellas.

This ignorance of their way of only being correct is as I've described in the title a plague.  It is becoming more and more common to shove shit down the customers throat and tell them to eat it.  I fear for the future of MMOs that are coming out soon.  Though AoC is moving along nicely and push backs are giving devs more time finish things up, I fear they are not listening to their testers and this may end up being another backfire, I see WAR the same way.

If this mindset does not change, we may forever be in a cycle of dos and dont's and failed to just barely making it.  Tabula Rasa and PotBS are good examples of just barely breaking the seam and once again it's because they did not listen to their testers, PotBS should have been still in development they pushed it too soon, if avatar combat would have been polished we would be seeing a much higher anticipation to play the game.  Tabula Rasa screwed up when they increased all monsters to be killed a bit slower, it no longer had that "rush" of an fps feel for it and truely lost it's touch and vision to a slow paced semi-fps kinda like a terrible lag issue in todays fast past console games, at least that's how it felt.

Last but not least the best decision I've seen in an MMO development company is Gods & Heroes axed.  Instead of selling crap to their customers they gave it the plug, it was a choice many take for granted and applaud them.  See the problem was the combat did not work as envisioned when they developed it when it came to holding a bunch of people on the server it was clunky and the animation was not fitting.  Worst came to worst when funding was cut and nothing else shined upon Gods & Heroes and thus the plug was pulled.  From my sources (I'm no longer in the MMO industry  so my sources are not as great as they used to be, but valid non-the-less) the coding structure of Gods & Heroes was ill written and would not function fast enough when it came to stress testing a bunch of players at one time, therefore there was always lag.  Anyway the point is more companies need to act as they have done, if it isn't fitting for the players don't shove it down their throat.

 

So as always, I open it up to my readers.  What do you think about this issue?  Do you foresee a bright future for the next generation MMOs or a plummet forever doomed in a mix of what's right and what's not?   Any personal issues or experience you came across with a developer that just wouldn't listen?  Let me hear it all. 

Let the heads roll and the children cry, see you guys next week!

zymurgeist writes:

MMO development did not start and will not end with WoW and frankly the game didn't bring anything new to the genre. Listening to the testers is problematic because frankly they all have different visions for the games they test. Design by committee is a bad thing. The biggest problem is MMOs are giant complicated machines and you never know what kind of spanners the players are going to toss in the works. Emergent behaviors are a huge unknown to any developer. Obviously releasing with bugs is bad but developers aren't morons and testers aren't geniuses.

Tue Mar 11 2008 2:32AM Report
FlyingSquid writes:

Your right it didn't start and wont end with a WoW model as technology grows more and more and server stress is lessened with more intense hardware MMOs will make a dramatic change in model because not more limits are unleashed and what they wanted to do before they can now do since the technology is unblocked.

Now as for the developers not being morons that is given, but the management makes the decisions and often they have no knowledge of programming or developing anything out code.  They say do this and do that and if it's not possible then you need to do a round about way or prove to management it isn't possible.  Investers call the shots, bottom line. 

The key here is that the developers ignore the "major" issues that break the game and proof of it is that it doesn't do well at launch, for example flagship ignored the request to hold back and polish avatar combat and that ship speeds felt the same, what do we have a weak beginning for the game and things are not looking up for it yet, more leaving then what is coming in.  They have too many servers and i predict a server merge soon.

Good input.

Tue Mar 11 2008 3:56AM Report
Madmozz writes:

Many things in life are only half of what they could have been and it's mostly that way coz of money. Investers what a quick return on their money and so push for a faster release/production date. Also they see a sucsesful product e.g. WOW and see the money that is comming in and say " I want one of them" so there''s the reason for ur carbon copies. This happens in every walk of life, t's sad but money makes the world go round.

Devs listening to Testers. It would be nice to have an input into the making of a game and realy cool to be able to say "that bit there that was my idea" But if u have 500-2000 testers all with an idea and every idea was developed what a mess that would be lol. And if they only listened to the top 10 most popular ideas and put those onto the game then we're back to clones of the most played games.

We need another original idea so gaming doesnt stagnate. Maybe if a bunch of devs satdown and played the top 10 mmo's for a few months on each game then came up with a list of the best bits in each game then maybe we could get close to the perfect game. e.g. i play Eve mostly and i like the way that when u are killed u lose ur ship and all the equipment and have to buy it all again and not just respawn with everything intact. This makes dieing a real issue. I also like the chat windows and the way u can communicate with friends at the otherside of the game/map. These imo are both good things wether u like the actual game or not. So if a bunch of devs all throught up a few ideas like this we could have a realy good game.

meh i ramble. Delete

Tue Mar 11 2008 4:25AM Report
Teiman writes:

To make anything with a artistic side, you have to be subjective, have a opinion, and support it, wrong or bad.

One thing is listening, other using user feedback as direct design guidelines, that can be a bad idea for most stuff, but a e-sport.

Tue Mar 11 2008 10:14AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Just because devs don't listen to YOU or to YOU doens't mean that they don't listen to their community and are "ignorant."

Perhaps you are the one who is ignorant enough to believe that your opinion is shared by the majority?

I think it defies basic sanity to argue against the success of WoW, obviously they are doing something right.

Are we also perhaps so ignorant that we believe we are more capable and intelligent then the people who spend their lives actually making these games? Working on them every day?

Is there a difference between percieved balance issues and the real statistics behind balance?

I'm not calling ya'll out directly or trying to flame, I'm just playing devil's advocate.

Point is that this is all opinion and subjective. When in actuality, I doubt any of could sit at a table with developers from our favorite MMOs and tell them somethign they A) dont' already know and B) haven't already discussed time and time again.

Tue Mar 11 2008 3:02PM Report
yardik writes:

Hmm.. Often what the playerbase says they want, and what they really want, and what works, are three different animals.

Most devs know this. If you work face to face with your customer long enough, all developers learn this. The customer often turns around when you deliver exactly what they ask for and say 'Well I didn't think it would work like THAT!'

It's a matter of breeding the three animals into a fun product and it just isn't easy. The devs listen, the devs hear, the devs analyze, then they do what they feel is best.. because if they ever implemented the majority of the features the player base screams for, they'd end up with a worthless unplayable product. It's a matter of vision.

Just my 2c,

-Yard

Wed Mar 19 2008 10:49PM Report
FlyingSquid writes:

There is a difference between MMOs and stand alone also it really matters which developer.  New developers tend to try to apply to everyones need since they havn't experienced it first hand and older vet developers will just stick to their vision as much as possible.

To say they always listen is a huge judgment call, there is a type of pride that goes with developing and when the vision goes askew it's not always rose buds and prancing.  If they did listen to a playing base there wouldn't be the amount of problems released with MMOs.  I also know they can't listen to everything but the important most populated solutions should be the things they focus upon.

Fri Mar 21 2008 1:47PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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