Answers from the legendary producer behind Dark Age of Camelot about his past, the move and his new gig
Matt Firor was the producer of Dark Age of Camelot and Executive Producer for all of Mythic until he stepped down a few weeks ago. Hot on the heels of the EA deal to buy Mythic, the timing was conspicuous to say the least. We get the truth from Matt about why he left.
|MMORPG.com:||According to the official release, you left Mythic due to the commute. Obviously, with the timing so close to the EA buyout, there are a lot of skeptics. Can you explain exactly why you chose to leave Mythic and the reason for the timing?|
Well, it did have something to do with the buyout, but my leaving was not a statement of any kind in regards to the acquisition. Instead, I left because, as a minor shareholder in Mythic, I got enough money to stop working for a while, and this coincided with my wife and I adopting two kids from Russia. And, I did have a heinous commute in terrible DC Beltway traffic (about 60 miles each way). Leaving Mythic just felt like the right thing to do. This way, I get to spend time at home – and teach my kids English! - and take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relax and figure out what my next project is going to be.
|MMORPG.com:||Since the days where you were the producer of Dark Age of Camelot, your role at Mythic evolved. Can you explain what you were doing at the time of your departure?|
I guess you could look at it as the more Mythic grew and evolved, the more my position did the same. Back when we started I did lots of things – everything from producing and designing games, to doing health-care benefits administration, email administration, webmaster, sound effects, customer support, etc. As Dark Age of Camelot went into production, I concentrated on producing the game – although I did design a fair amount of it too. After Camelot's launch, Mythic rapidly expanded, we took on additional projects, and I became the head of all Development at Mythic, along with COO Rob Denton. At the time I left, I was heading up an internal assessment of next-gen console technology, and how its usefulness as a platform for MMOs.
|MMORPG.com:||Of all the people at Mythic, is there anyone you’ll particularly miss working with?|
Rob [Denton], of course, is at the top of that list. He and I have been friends for 20 years, and started out in the game industry in 1990 by founding Interesting Systems together. He's not the only one, though – I'll miss everyone I worked with at Mythic. After all I was there for 10 years, and you get really close to co-workers in that time, especially the ones that were in the early pre-Camelot days with me.
|MMORPG.com:||Your old boss is often a polarizing figure. You probably know him better than most. What are your thoughts on Mark Jacobs?|
Mark likes to speak his mind on issues that he feels passionately about. Just like anyone else, he's not right all the time – but on MMO issues, he's right more of the time that most people in the industry. He also calls things like he sees them, which can annoy people who aren't used to such directness. But I think Mythic's track record speaks for itself.
|MMORPG.com:||Now that you’ve left, can you tell us what you think of the EA/Mythic deal?|
Everyone wants me to dish some dirt on this one! Really, I think it's a good thing. We all know EA has had some problems in the past with absorbing acquired companies, but the new management there is committed to making the EA / Mythic relationship work, and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity. They need Mythic just as much as Mythic needs them – EA knows that online games are the future of this industry, and they are setting Mythic up to lead their online MMO efforts. The last thing they want to do is jeopardize their investment in the studio.
|MMORPG.com:||Looking back on your years with the Fairfax developer, what are you most proud of?|
Obviously being the producer and co-designer of one of the most successful independent titles of all time – Dark Age of Camelot – heads that list, but I extend my feelings on that to being able to help bring Mythic from 9 people in 1996 to be capable of developing that title in 2000/2001. It really is an extraordinary accomplishment, and is a story that I hope people hear one day.
|MMORPG.com:||On the flip side, is there anything you’d do differently?|
No one at Mythic is happy about the cancellation of Imperator (although it could always come back some day), and I bear much of the blame for its demise. I was the head of Mythic's development at the time that Imperator was in production, and should have seen the problems coming before Mark and Rob had to take the drastic step of moving it out of production. I don't know exactly what I'd do differently, but it's the one blot on Mythic's development record.
|MMORPG.com:||Tell us about your new company, Ultra Mega Games. What do you do and why did you choose to go this route? What is your first task?|
UMG is my consulting company. I set it up soon after leaving Mythic – I'm offering my experience and expertise to anyone who wants to know more about the online gaming industry and all the issues that go with it – development, setting up studios, marketing, competition, etc. You can find more about it at www.UltraMegaGames.com, as well as my contact information.
|MMORPG.com:||What to you is the biggest mistake you see MMORPG companies/investors making?|
Honestly? Making bad, overcomplicated games. MMOs are about losing yourself into a new community; being able to meet friends, slay monsters, and feel like you're part of something bigger than your everyday life. It doesn't have to be over-designed, over-produced, have the most insane graphic requirements, etc. It just has to be fun and make people want to log in and experience it. Too many MMOs fall into the trap of being designed for a small group of loud hardcore enthusiasts.
I appreciate a good esoteric discussion, but honestly, I think that MMOs are mostly severely over-intellectualized and over designed. Almost every player of these games just wants to experience another world, explore, and enjoy the community. There's enough design problems tied up right there to make designing and producing an MMO extremely difficult. The grand majority of players of these games – and I'm talking like 99% - don't care about most of the problems that get ranted about daily on MMO-related message boards – both player AND developer oriented ones. Simplicity – especially in the first 20 hours of gameplay, is critical to the success of any new MMO.
|MMORPG.com:||Will we ever see Matt Firor back on an MMO title?|
I certainly hope so. As much fun as I'm having right now consulting and having free time, my heart does lie in game development. There's nothing quite like leading a team to develop an online world – the creativity is wonderful, and it's a great feeling making a world that hundreds of thousands of real people inhabit and make their own. So, yes, as soon as I find the right opportunity – nearer to my home in the Baltimore area – I'll think seriously about getting back into it.
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