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City of Heroes Interviews: Jack Emmert Community Q&A #2

By Guest Writer on January 09, 2007

Jack Emmert Community Q&A #2

Jack Emmert, the head of Cryptic Studios, returns today for another Community Q&A where it's our MMORPG.com members who ask the questions.

MMORPG.com (Techleo):

What are your impressions of Issue 8? Would you like to see more variety in Mission goal-types than saving hostages, blasting a baddy, or searching for stuff?

Jack Emmert:

Like to? Sure! New mission types take time to design, code, then implement. We’re always working on new twists and turns. I7 brought villain players the joy of Mayhem missions while I8 provided heroes with the challenge of Safeguard missions. Each brought some new stuff into play. So rest assured, we’ll keep delivering fresh, innovative content.

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MMORPG.com (Personamorph):

Do you currently have any plans to make your website more interactive, a stronger part of the game and community?

Jack Emmert:

I know that as developers, we’re trying to resurrect the old “Ask a Dev” series. I’m pretty confident that NCSoft will continue to trailblaze with its community management.

 

MMORPG.com (Vevi):

Top Cow has stated that the City of Heroes Comic will end its run with Issue 20. What is the future of the comic?

Jack Emmert:

The comic ends with Issue 20, but we’re planning on lots of new community stuff to take its place. Stay tuned!

 

MMORPG.com (Spookytooth):

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned about creating an MMORPG over the past few years?

Jack Emmert:

Hmmm. I learned that many of the MMP truisms are in fact true! In the beginning, I scoffed at such notions, but I’ve found that the so-called rules (made famous on Raph Koster’s site) hold a lot of truth in them.

From CoH specifically, I learned that people like to do “something other than combat” at launch. Also, avoid changing anything after launch! I think any sort of changes to character’s abilities need to be extremely well thought out and communicated to the player base.

As a whole, I learned that communication is vital. Perhaps not everyone reads the official forums, but at least it’s a place for developers to tell the players the intent of things…

 

 


MMORPG.com (Trike):

I would like to hear Jack address changes coming to bases:

Are there any plans to include personal apartments, either separate from SG bases or as private spaces within them? Will they be adding windows to bases? Will players be able to make bases that have more than one level? While the base editor itself is robust, will players have more design choices in upcoming Issues?

 

Jack Emmert:

Yes, we’ve thought about adding personal apartments (separate from SG bases). It’s not currently scheduled, but we have thought out it pretty thoroughly. The other features are on the list (more levels, windows), but we’ll probably try to do personal apartments first. I do know that we’ve changed the way that rent is calculated (based on player feedback). The should be going live around the time of Issue 9 or soon before.

 

MMORPG.com (UnSub):

Where do you see the future of microtransactions and RMTs heading for MMOGs? Is it the way of the future, an alternate payment system to subscriptions, a flash in the pan or something else all together?

Jack Emmert:

It would be foolish of me to say that microtransactions won’t amount to anything, but I do think the subscription model will remain dominant for a while. We’re pretty comfortable with monthly bills in North America (cell phones, cable, telephones, etc.) so I think it’s natural. On the other hand, I think we’ll start seeing some games experiment with microtransactions. It’s a rough bet, though. Subscriptions provide a pretty reliable revenue stream, while microtransactions are much less predictable. MMORPG’s are very, very expensive. Publishers and developers want to make sure that they can make their money back!

 


MMORPG.com (Damian7):

Will "City of" get back on a quarterly schedule with new issues, vs this 6-7 month schedule since COV came out?

Jack Emmert:

I think we’re aiming at 3 updates a year moving forward. Certainly, we won’t have the delay that we’ve seen recently.

 

MMORPG.com (Trike):

Are there any comics that you have read which pass muster in terms of your history interests?

Jack Emmert:

There’s only one: Age of Bronze. A “realistic” portrayal of the Trojan War, right down to the weapons, architecture and clothing. Well done.

 

MMORPG.com (medweasel):

What is the best way for one to go about getting an education to work in the computer gaming/mmo industry?

Jack Emmert:

The tried and true degrees in the game industry are in engineering, computer science, 3D art or animation. While there are many, many programs currently offering “game design” programs, I’m not aware of any publisher or developer who actively hires people with such majors. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get hired when you’ve got quantitative skills like programming. That’s a suggestion for the entire industry, not so much Cryptic. I know at Cryptic, we tend to focus on the tests that we give candidates rather than their degrees. We’ve found some truly outstanding employees in the oddest places. If you’ve got talent, that’s all it takes for Cryptic.

 


MMORPG.com (UnSub):

As a father myself, I know how hard it is to balance both work and home life. How do you balance out the needs of a young family with the needs of a MMOG development studio? And are they really that different?

Jack Emmert:

My son is only 11 months old, so I’m still learning at this thing. I wake up early and take care of my son (5am) to let my wife sleep in. I get a good few hours with him every morning. I tend to get home usually as he’s going to bed or just afterwards, so I don’t see much of him in the evenings.

At Cryptic Studios, we have the motto “work to live” not “live to work”, so we don’t like making our employees work late at night or on weekends. So normally, I can spend weekend doing things with my wife and son. My wife occasionally works a shift (she’s a nurse), so baby and I do the normal things: go to a comic store, a game store, book store, etc. Got to get him into the right hobbies!

Running a game development studio can be extremely stressful. It isn’t just designing things. It’s also reading contracts, business meetings, board meetings, moving to new offices, etc. As a founder of Cryptic Studios, I can’t afford to say that I don’t want to do something. I’ve got to be responsible. I try as much as I can to compartmentalize these responsibilities emotionally, so that my family time focus is on my wife and son.

 

Thanks very much to Jack Emmert and to our community members for making this happen. Don't forget to keep those questions coming in the discussion thread for this article.

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