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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

Opps we launched?!?!

Posted by FlyingSquid Monday March 17 2008 at 3:17AM
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Welcome folks to another CIC blog entry, tonight I'll be talking about a touchy subject that seems to becoming more and more of a popular occurance.  It's the classic "Opps we launched to soon!" debacle.  One quick point I want to throw in here before I go on is that it isn't always the developers fault that an MMO or any game is launched too soon.  Most the time it is publisher pushing them to release it quicker or the investors that want their money made.  So my first question for this evening is...  Which part do you think has the most effect for an too early launch?  The publisher, developer, or investors?  Is there a mix of blame?  Do you blame them all as having a part of responsibility?

Having said this we are looking at an age were it is acceptable to release an (what feels like Alpha staged MMO) and improve on it.  The error of these ways do not go un-punished, MMOs are now crumbling to the ground when this happens, the MMO community as a whole is no longer saying "Well I'll keep paying maybe they will improve it."  And why you ask?  Well it's because we have a library of MMOs now, if we don't like one or feel we are getting ripped of or the state of the game is so bad we stand to play it, we leave for another.  Rightly so, back when the age of MMOs was born there wasn't much to choose from and you stayed where you were, but one can argue MMOs back then were in a much solid launching state then what we get today.

I feel in my research and knowledge in the field of the MMO industry, if the MMO is a f2p MMO we let things slide much more, cause hey we aren't paying for it, but in a p2p MMO  we demand perfection, cause well hey we are paying for it!  I'm not saying this is the wrong type of thinking, we should always expect quality for p2p games.  F2p is an animal all itself, it can have no future updates or very little and survive on a cash shop alone because there always someone who gets emotionally attached with it and feels they need to be the best or grind faster with player bought items/enhancements.

During a beta test developers should be keying in more and more on game breaking issues and I'm not meaning coding errors, though those should be cleaned up as well but they should be more open to the player base that is testing the product.  If a large majority of the testers let's say 80% say this certain system isn't going to fly, well then they better be on that to change it up to make it a feature the players enjoy.  Forcing crap that the testers and player base is booing over at launch is just adding another devil to your collection of demons.  It will back fire and you will feel it when your player base sinks.

Couple things I want you readers to answer for me, if you would.  Do you see this broken/flawed launching breaking the mold ever?  Do you think developers will launch more solid products down the road?  Does the future of MMOs look bright or dark and cold?  Will we just see more of the same excuses and mistakes we have seen for years now, from broken gameplay, to mix and mash elements, to complete changes in systems?

My personal opinion is we will see a change and very soon, we are getting a lot of indy developers doing their own thing once again, believe it or not it takes indy developers to change the tide over from the current trend.  There is more sandbox style MMOs coming into the broad horizon and I see hope in the industry yet.  I see blizzards next MMO no matter what it will be, another blockbuster, Blizzard is already known for a stable game, with very little bugs and hardcore dev team that cares for the community and this reputation is going to win customers over every time.  I see bioware's Star Wars MMO being a hit as well, it's not going to kill WoW, nothing will except WoW2 if that ever happens.  A see a bright future of console companies getting involved more in MMO technology, I see PS3 as the console king of future designed MMOs.  The changes are coming and we will welcome them.  We will slowly die off of the fantasy genre and move on to original IPs futuristic, urban and war-torn settings.

What do you see?

See you all next week, let the heads roll and the children cry.

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 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!

Hype killed my MMO!

Posted by FlyingSquid Saturday March 8 2008 at 2:41PM
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Time for the next exciting chronicle of CIC, this being the 4th installment.  Last week I talked about how people use the rating systems to kill hype on indy developers, well this week I look at the other side of the spectrum.  Hype can be very very bad, so what can be done about this?  Well first let us examine the problem at hand. 

The developers give out details of their upcoming MMO before hand, throughout development to get a fan base of that game.  This is done for two reasons, 1) they can estimate how many servers they made need at launch, 2) they can estimate the amount of profit that they will recieve and if it will be worth it to continue development.

Now these features annouced are viewed as promises the worst thing any developer can do is start cutting features it originally said it would have.  These features, gameplay, and the innovation of the MMO creates hype.  The problem really isn't the hype itself but the developers cutting features before launch because they ran out of time or money in the development cycle.  The developers create this hype though, through their revealing of information and too much information that is not quite confirmed is bad jojo.

So what's on your mind, do you think developers should keep their mouth shut?  Release less game info?  Can the hype be avoidable?

We seen many MMOs fall down this line; Vanguard, Gods and Heroes and arguably Tabula Rasa & Pirates of the Burning Sea.

Let me your hear your thoughts, let the heads roll and the children cry.

See ya next week.