Producer, Dan "Walrus" Myer
Developer, Ben "Rarebit" Chamberlain
Joel "Raijinn" Sasaki - Community Relations Manager
Attendance at this panel was modest, a total of 12, rising to 15 as a few drifted in after the panel started. The team of developers, however, was not deterred, as this was to be an informal exchange with the players. Raijinn started off with introductions all around the room and the banter started as Walrus started counting "land mines" that Raijinn dropped along the way. They referred to each other with their handles rather than first name, prompting me to ask where the Carpenter was.
"Why do you guys still play?" Walrus asked. "You must be crazy or you must really like it, and we hope you really like it." Laughter filled the room as replies of "Crazy!" and "Love it!" echoed through it. Players of The Matrix Online are pretty much a dedicated lot and they shared their favorite "Matrix" moments with the team.
One said, "It's the downtown area. When you jump off a building and you watch as the buildings flash by... 'Ahhhh... the Matrix!'"
"I love the cinematics and the voice-overs. It's like being in the movie," was another response.
"It's the live events," said another. "That's what The Matrix Online is all about." Many others concurred. "Can't beat the live events!"
Ahh, the live events. Unfortunately, the live events became a bit of a problem with the developers feeling as if they had to make each succeeding event bigger and better than the last, so much so that they were staging events requiring an enormous amount of manpower. As a result, the live events had to be scaled back to a more manageable level.
As the exchange between the players and the development team continued, I picked up the sense that the flow of ideas seemed to be well developed due to the live events and exchange on the player forums.
"We like to get comments and ideas from the fans, and this is a great opportunity for us to learn more from you guys," said Walrus amid teasing banter back and forth about subjects and jokes well known to participants on the player boards such as the "little guy" on the building which became something of a mascot. "Justin the intern attained a cult following during beta," said Walrus. "We still refer to him as Justin the intern although he's a full time employee now.
The FanFaire in-game gift is a green tee-shirt which will be sent to players in the August 24th game update. "It's not uber, so you guys can't taunt others who don't have it," said Raijinn. "It's got the usual mediocre security buffs."
"It's also non-tradeable," Walrus joined in to some laughter. "If you trade it, we ban you." He continued by telling the players about a new in-game event that would happen soon. "Do you remember Piece of Blue Sky? We've got some major footage from Warner Brothers that we'll be showing next week. All American Rejects will be playing in the same places that the previous concert was held." The event will last a half hour and we were told that the synchronization was such that all players entering the area will be seeing the same footage. A player wanted to know if they would be designing t-shirts for that event as well. "We'll get back to you on it," was the reply.
Walrus then solicited feedback on CR2 (Combat Revision 2). The general consensus was that it was, "Better, but still needs work," a conclusion that the Devs themselves agreed to. "I'm still trying to get wall-kicks to trigger with some consistency again," said Rarebit. Consistency? The players were of the opinion they didn't work at all. "I think there may be three spots in the entire game you can consistently get a wall-kick to trigger, if that," said Walrus, but admitting that he could be wrong as players demanded to know where they were so they could test them out.
Ongoing problems were shared with candor: the Aikido moves which got out of synch and still need to be worked on, balancing disciplines; Walrus asked at point how many players were still Master Knife Throwers. "We're trying to fix it so it's balanced, not nerfed." He also shared with the players that some disciplines were never added because gaps in the system were filled with tweaks to other disciplines in CR2. "Also remember, this game was never balanced for PVP in the first place."
The Dev Team is also working on filling gaps in the clothing system, the main problem there being that they were rapidly reaching the maximum number of clothing objects in the world. Plans to redo the clothing system are on the table, but still under evaluation for technical feasibility. Org abilities are not done and are not functional, they admitted. Until they are able to flesh out the system and properly support it, they will not be.
What about development and improvements then? Players were not adverse to sharing those either. Downtown lag problems were fixed, the music and voice-overs have improved, the graphics are still fantastic. One player that had been with the game since beta said, "I had the worst computer ever, and it was still amazing."
Walrus was pleased with that. "We're proud to be able to say that we've always had great graphics despite the low system requirements."
The new player walk through has been revamped and continues to Mars Industrial now. There are new NPCs and collect items to pick up. New players will be better prepared for the "real world" of the Matrix. Walrus encouraged players to bring friends in with new buddy keys that were recently sent out. Why no ongoing trial then? It was a technical issue. All new game trials were being developed to integrate with the new Station Launchpad2, so we shall see one very soon.
As the session closed, Walrus asked, "Which Matrix movie do you guys like the most?" As fans debated the merits of each movie, Raijinn closed with "Well, come back at two. We'll be showing the first movie and we'll have refreshments. See you all later."
This is The Matrix Online - rather a bit of the "red-headed step-child" in Sony's stable of MMOGs, but still plugging along with a dedicated fan base and live events still being regular feature. For those that enjoy the The Matrix movies, it's the live events and the "Matrix Moments" that bring them back again and again to the world of The Matrix Online.