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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

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.


enzyme writes:

I think it's a twofold issue. I like Developers giving out info and communicating with their fanbase and future potential fans. For example, Icarus, the developers of Fallen Earth. They have been extremely tight lipped. Nonetheless their fanbase is frothing at the mouth for more info. This creates a nice mystique which gets people really fired up. Wherehas Sigil was telling us everything and anything including Brad and his vision.  All this info also whipped their fanbase into a frenzy as well.

While developers like to share a vision, or dev cycle info with the fans, the fans have to realize that the devs have milestones to hit to get paid. So everything that was discussed or mentioned might not make it into a game at launch but will eventually be there. This is something most mmo players need to understand first and foremost. Every game will be a "beta" or a very polished "alpha" at launch. Subscription numbers and connection traffic will dictate final server numbers, not closed/open beta. Beta numbers will help stress test so the devs can have just enough servers for Launch. Wow is an example of not having enough servers after a few months post launch, then added accordingly. Box sale numbers help a bit, but they never give the overall picture because many people will stop playing within the 30 days free time if the game isn't up to their standard.

The other issue is the fanbases/potential fans themselves. I think we tend to jump ship very quickly and plant our flags on the new game that's up and coming. The KOTOR mmo rumor for example, people went nutty, already proclaimed it to be the best mmo ever, and I saw multiple sigs with the KOTOR mmo mentioned in it. In terms of hard facts, it's nice to dream, but if it's not officially anounced it doesn't exist.

Nice post squid, I look forward to reading more of em. :)

Sat Mar 08 2008 8:39PM Report
zergwatch writes:

If developers give false information early on and/or overhype their game by reaching for the sky, then they deserve the failure they set themselves up for.     Whether its wishful thinking or intentional misrepresentation, the bottom line is poor business management. 

To say "Our game is going to be the first to have air to air and air to ground combat on flying mounts" (hypothetical example) only to find out that to overcome the pitfalls, exploits and bugs associated with flying mount combat leads to the eventual removal of the system only means the developer tried to sell the community on something they knew they probably could not deliver in the first place, but used the flying mount combat to hype up their game.  

So I guess you can say the problem with how MMO's are hyped by the developers is a result of the developer's lack of business sense.   

Before Vanguard was released, I predicted that Vanguard would be the game to change the way half assed MMORPG's are launched.  Since Vanguard, it has become more acceptable to take your losses and delay your game then release a 1/2 finished plate of crap and expect people to eat it.

This topic is definitely going to be one of the next MMORPG industry adjustments as games like AoC, Warhammer, Darkfall (lol) etc don't live up to their hype.

Sat Mar 08 2008 9:08PM Report
Koddo writes:

I agree zerg, if the developers go telling their fans that certain features WILL be in a game, and then cut them from it (either before or after launch), I say they deserve whatever trouble the fans give them. They promised something they can not deliver.

However, many fans misinterpret something a developer (or a csr on a forum) says. i.e. they might have said "We are trying and hope to have air to air to ground combat for our game", which doesn't mean it will happen. And some fans misinterpret it as "We will have...".

On the same note, many fans take what a csr or qa says on a message board as truth just because they may have "game staff" under their forum name.

And through word of mouth from the fans, their could be quite a bit of misinterpretation of what the developers say. One person who follows the game and reads the forums, reads something a developer says might make it into the game. He/She gets excited about it and tells two friends. Those two friends mistakenly take what he/she says as a will instead of a might. And without checking the information for errors or parts being lost in translation, they excitedly tell two friends. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. And the result is a lot of people expecting a feature, and getting angry it was cut. All because of misinterpretation amongst the fans.

My point is that it's not only the developers that make bad decisions in the building of hype, the fans are responsible for their share.

Sun Mar 09 2008 10:19AM Report
WRyan writes:

I think the best strategy to take here is never give your vision of the game, until right before launch.  This way, people don't do the whole "It's almost launch, and they still haven't put X-Factor in the game - at least we haven't heard any more about it or seen seenshots.

Look, it's simple.  Tell the fans at the get-go that you are working on some game.  Tell them basically what it is about, and what sort of gameplay it focuses on.  If the main theme of the game is a Fantasy themed game, with it's roots in high adventure - gamers should expect some serious questing.  If it's a Sci-Fi themed game with roots in exploration, then the gamer should expect a hefty crafting system and a huge huge world(s).

Never tell them anything except what you are currently working on.  Go into as many details as you want ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON!  If you're tweaking AI - by all means... tell them anything they want to know, unless you want to keep a surprise.  If you're working on combat dynamics - have at it.  If you want to build a little hype, you might even tell them what the next step is, and what you envision for that.

"As you know, we have just received the last bit of concept art from the art department, and now we're ready to move into the meat and potatoes.  Right now, we're focusing on level design, and it is completely gorgeous.  We've got a cutting edge toolset at our disposal, which really allows us to sink our teeth into what we were looking for, and found a few surprises on what we didn't realise we could do in the process.  Our next big hurdle is character design, and we would like to get as close as possible to our concept art.  We have a few things we would really like to make shine, but we will talk more about that later."

Simple.  Easy.  It works.  You tell the player what they need to know, and keep them guessing for whats to come.  Sure, they may ask about PvP and if it will be skill based or level based and all sorts of questions that have nothing to do with your current objectives.  How do you handle this?

"Right now, we're focussing on these current issues.  Our design team has come up with a great system that employs many new facets of MMO gameplay, along with a few familiar ones to help smooth things along.  As far as PvP is concerned, let's get real here - you know there is going to be PvP.  Will it be at launch?  At this time, I can't say.  Skill based or level based?  It's been decided, but I'm not allowed to talk about it."

These are just examples....

Sun Mar 09 2008 1:49PM Report
FlyingSquid writes:

Very interesting points and all from all of you, I enjoyed reading them, thx for the feedback.

Tue Mar 11 2008 12:53AM Report
sdozer writes:

What makes me laugh is when people ask specific questions. hahahaha. Don't feed the wolves!

Mon Jun 16 2008 3:27PM Report writes:
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