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In My Understanding

An old school gamer discusses the challenges facing the MMORPG community and it's leaders.

Author: jesad

This ain't show business, or is it? (Doomsayer for December)

Posted by jesad Tuesday December 11 2007 at 3:51PM
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Years ago, as I have mentioned in previous entries, I worked as a QA tester for a legendary software company that was on it's way out.  Although these guys were good at what they did, and they were very good, the market for the kind of software they were creating had somewhat fallen out and they were struggling to find a new title to revitalize their sagging profits.  A good title, in any studio at that time, meant the difference between job security and pimping yourself out to the highest (or in some cases, any) bidder.  The idea, even then, and this was a good 7 or 8 years ago, being that if the studio could come up with a good enough product, that it would net the employee's of the company years of time in development with the added bonus of years more in patches, expansions, and sequels.  It was that old 80's mentality of milking something until it was bone dry and then still into annoyance, and loosely translated in the soon to be famous words of "Tony Stark" (see the Iron Man trailer) "...that's how dad did it, that's how America does it, and had worked out pretty well so far".

So one day, after weeks of the entire studio brainstorming on an idea for a new title, in the middle of killing some lunch hours playing this new game that had just come out, it hit me!  I called everyone, including the studio head, down to my cubicle and had them look at what I was seeing.  On my monitor screen was the, then very publicly accessible, server list for the game I had been playing called "Everquest".  "Do you see that?" I asked.  Every one of those accounts represents a software purchase and a residual $14.95 per month.  Of course, at the time, the game was new and there were TONS of people online.  "If you want to survive" I said, "This is the wave of the future."

Now I have done some dumb things in my life.  I am notorious for pulling from the pool of common thought that all creative people share and being so caught up in my ability to reach in there and pull something out that I do not pay attention to the ramifications of doing so, but fast forward 8 years later and it is painfully clear that I was not the only one guilty of doing so.

Who doesn't have a title running right now?

MMO's are coming and going so fast that it's becoming hard to tell if they are actually real titles or just something someone came up with and generated a stylish web banner for in order to fool people into putting their credit card numbers into someone else's database.  The ideas of creativity and professionalism have given way to C++, game engines, and patches and suddenly (or not so suddenly) there is truly no longer anything new under the sun.  As the business of making MMO's has grown the risk factors of doing anything differently or new have decreased to a point that the only thing that most of us can come up with now are ways to improve upon the old model.

I'm gonna go on a rant here for a minute so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to be subjected to it.

Is it because we are the generation that was taught evolution so thoroughly that we only know how to create sequels and upgrades of things that already exist, that we use tools that, while powerful and convenient, limit us to doing things in only the ways supported by the tool makers while those same tool makers, in tandem with their business major financers/lackeys, dictate to us how and what should be possible?  What ever happened to the garage band?  The underground rap?  The black and white comic or the hippie consciousness?  Is nothing sacred anymore?  Or are we all just looking for a way to make a dollar and get out? 

MMO's are becoming "flash in the pan" in their frequency.  On this site alone there are enough steady newcomers to keep any Prozac deficient gamer from being able to settle on any one title yet there is so little innovation from title to title that game company's barely have to do more than create a new GUI in order to say that they have done something new.  I am hard pressed to believe that there are enough gamers out there to support every title that is running right now, meanwhile, there are more "boy band" and "action movie" formulated new releases coming every day.

The other night I happened to catch the video game awards on Spike TV and was amazed as I sat there looking at the people in the audience wondering, since when did so many extremely beautiful women show up for a geek convention?!?!  That's when I realized...

Flash in the pan titles, formula created content, and (and this was the clincher) hot chicks! = Show business.  I get it now; you all just wanna be big rock stars!

But what about the other shoe?  The independent film, the concept album, the garage developer?  Never forget that the basis of our entire community spawned from the ultimate garage band of all time (Gates and Jobs) and that, even though one of them happened to be a businessman in geeks clothing, it was their risk, their rage against the machine, that made all of this possible.

I don't hate on anyone trying to make a buck.  Lord knows, with the way that things are set up right now, we all need to and then some.  But this is a call to all the guys who already have jobs paying the rent, who have already made their millions and are sitting in Florida sipping margarita's and fishing, and even those who are unemployed and struggling but who still have a love for the genre and who still have the talent, creativity, and skill, to band together and pull this thing out of the rut it is heading into with some fresh ideas and some new ways of doing things.  I call to you because it is you who are the least susceptible to corruption.  If you already have it, they can't entice you with any more, and if you never had it, you know that it will come (meaning money) and so you are our only hope against the tides of programmers, artists, producers, and etc... that are rowing these massive boats and responding to the whip cracks of CFO's to crank out yet another repetition.

I know I go a little deep on this and that I have made more than one doomsayer entry since I began this blog, and for that I apologize.  But in my guilt I realize how easy it is to be corrupted by even the simplest of things, attention, appreciation.  And in that realization I now end my 6-month run to impress you all with my writing ability and return the world I love.  The world of obscurity, subtle manipulation, and creativity that born me, and with high hopes that I might be able to join the fight in bringing about change to the genre of games that I "oh so love" to play.  It is time that I mix back into the masses and stop being the loud guy, for that is the only way that I think I am really going to be able to do more than preach, at least, that is how it is in my understanding.



grimfall writes:

If you were paying $14.95 per month for EQ eight years ago, you must be Canadien.

There's plenty of people who want changes in MMO games and plenty of developers willing to make them.  It's the publishers that don't support the 'risk' of a change. 

But railing here won't do any good, as you seem to have come to realize.  You're preaching to the choir.

Tue Dec 11 2007 6:03PM Report
grimfall writes:

If you were paying $14.95 per month for EQ eight years ago, you must be Canadien.

There's plenty of people who want changes in MMO games and plenty of developers willing to make them.  It's the publishers that don't support the 'risk' of a change. 

But railing here won't do any good, as you seem to have come to realize.  You're preaching to the choir.

Tue Dec 11 2007 6:03PM Report
El_Gostro writes:

Man,if I havent done so before,i must felicitate you for simply showing some clarity of thought and a shred of objective memory!
I may sound as a cheap doomsay myself but this qualities day after day I see falling in steady decline...

Tue Dec 11 2007 8:37PM Report writes:
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