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AGC: MMO Rant Session

Laura Genender Posted:
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From AGC – Walton, Green, Hickman and Mulligan Rant,

On the last day of AGC a panel of experts gathered together to take on a serious and gruesome task: ranting. The panel consisted of Gordon Walton, long time MMO developer; Brian Green, Near Death Studios’ mastermind; Jeff Hickman, Exectuive Producer of Dark Ages of Camelot for Mythic Studios; and Jessica Mulligan, Executive Online Games Consultant.

Brian’s ‘rant’ was a letter he composed as a spoof on MMO forum posters. The letter is addressed to Stephen King:

Dear Mr. Stephen King,

You do not know me, but I am writing about your book Dreamcatcher. It is a good book, but I think it could be made much better. I am not a professional writer, but I have taken a lot (that’s two words, right?) of writing in college. It was mostly in Spanish and C++ but I still know how to write. I am sure I know your book better than you do because you have written many books since 2001, but I just read your book so you should listen to me and do what I suggest. I am writing this letter to help you make better books. I have read lots of scary books so I am a master at knowing all about scary books and you could obviously learn a lot from me, so read carefully what I tell you in this letter.

First, what is with the retard kid? Nobody likes retards so you should take him out of the story. Instead you should have a ninja, or maybe a pirate. Everyone likes ninjas and pirates, they are very popular. All my friends agree that ninjas and pirates are cool but nobody likes retards. You should also change the name because pirates and ninjas don’t have names like “Duddits”. I think a story about pirates and ninjas and aliens and maybe cowboys would be so cool and everyone would buy it. You would probably sell about a billion more books if you took just this one idea.

Brian Green is the man behind Meridian 59

And what is with the other guys? They are not cool at all. They are like the loser friends I had from college. They have no cool super powers and they kind of suck. I think they should be changed, too. Maybe they could be cowboys, because cowboys are also cool like ninjas and pirates and aliens, but Duddits should be special and the rest of them shouldn’t be like him. I know it is important to the story that Duddits be special.

And what is with the dreamcatcher? In the movie it was hanging from the ceiling and it did nothing when the people were being attacked by the orange stuff. Dreamcatchers are magical items that help protect you from bad things at night and that dreamcatcher didn’t do anything. I think the dreamcatcher should be magical. Maybe a ninja “Duddits” (with a new name like “Duddits-san” because ninjas aren’t named like that) could use it as a magical throwing star that would go out and come back to his hand after it was thrown. He could attack the enemies like that and be much cooler. Maybe it creates bullets for the cowboy friends’ six-shooters, which are cowboy guns.

I also think the army guys are not very cool, either. They seem very ineffective I think the military is cool. They should have been more like Rambo, with guns blazing and taking out bad guys! Make more of the aliens so that the army guys have something to attack. Also, it is so obvious that you ripped off that colonel guy from another story. God, why can’t you writers be original for a change? It isn’t hard to write about something that has never been written about before. I am sure it is not. Also, would a colonel be in charge of an army group like that? I do not think so, and since I pay you money I expect you to catch every mistake like that. If you do not, you are obviously a lazy writer that can’t write and you should let me have more control over your stories so that you don’t make so many stupid mistakes or nobody should buy your book and you should be poor.

I also think you suck as a writer. I read one of your other books and it was about baseball. All you talked about was about the Red Sox and how they played the game in only one year. It had a stupid name like “Faithful” which I thought was going to be like the book Misery which also has one word for a title and is a feeling but it wasn’t like Misery at all! It was very boring because I don’t like baseball, and it wasn’t scary at all. You obviously do not know how to write scary books at all and you should let me write them instead. I have a lot of great ideas that I can share, and I know a lot about scary books because I read a lot of them and obviously that makes me an expert at writing them as well. I do not require much to share these ideas, you just have to tell everyone that I am your best friend and so smart, and put my name on the front cover of the book.

You are also too greedy. I think your older books should be like free because they are old and we all know old things are not as good as new things. I would pay full price for a new Harlequin romance novel even though I do not like romance novels because it is new and new things are worth more. I think you should ship me a hard cover edition of Carrie and Christine and a lot of your older books. Why do you charge so much for your older books when they do not cost you anything to write them anymore! You have finished writing them and therefore they should be free. And don’t give me a cheap paperback, either, I want a nice hardcover and I want you to sign, but don’t personalize it because that lowers the eBay value. Please send me like a dozen of the older books for free for my personal collection. I have spent a lot of time reading these books so I think I should own them.

In closing, let me say that you should listen to me because I am your paying customer. I have purchased a number of scary books that you have written, and I have given you a lot of money. I have also spent a lot of time reading your books, and I think that I have invested so much time reading Dreamcatcher that I probably own the story. I photocopied the book and sold the original version because of this strong feeling of ownership. I think this is fair because I feel that I own the book and as we know the old saying goes, “feeling is 9/10ths of the law”. In case you are not as cool as I thought you were I can say that I just sold the book and that I could have memorized the story, so the photocopy is not illegal. I just sold the book, not my memory of the book, which is totally legal under copyright law as I read about it on Slashdot.

Remember, listen to me because I am a paying customer. I have invested so much into reading your books and I have invested so much time that I think I am part owner for your books and I should have a say in how you write and sell books. I am so much smarter than you are and I write so much better so you should listen to me or you suck and I will go post about it on every internet forum I know of.

Your friend, Brian.

Brian’s rant was a hard act to follow, but if anyone could do the job, it was Jessica Mulligan. Mulligan started her rant out by asking “how many people here work on MMOs for a living?” Hands slowly (and in some cases, hesitantly) raised and Jessica continued: “Let me just say you suck.”

“I’m sick of the same old game mistakes.” Jessica ranted, then sited some examples.

  • Ex 1- Coding before designing. Jessica talked about working with developers who had two years of code — and three pages of design. “This is why you pay me ten thou a month.”
  • Ex 2- Changing after launch. Here’s a thought… why not change before the launch, before you lose customers? That way, people know what they’re buying!
  • Ex 3- Ignoring the community. The people on the forum are the vocal minority, but they still represent a game’s community. Mulligan also mentioned the player-dev interaction at the recent BlizCon, or lack thereof. World of Warcraft Community Relations outright told their customers that they wouldn’t interact with them.
  • Ex 3- Launching before ready. Mulligan’s favorite case is when games come out with no customer service tools. “We’ll do it after launch when things calm down.”

Jessica Mulligan is the Executive Producer of the Saga of Ryzom

After Mulligan’s rant came Gordon Walt. “We are herd animals,” started Gordon, using PowerPoint as a visual aid. “When something works everyone jumps onto it.” Gordon then picked up where Jessica left off, once again addressing game developers.

“Stop contributing to game inbreeding!” Gordon pointed out (using a handy chart!) that there are plenty of white spaces in the market, but everyone just wants to be a World of Warcraft clone. “We need to do unconventional games to get unconventional results.”

“What are the whitest of the white spaces?” Asked a listener. Before Gordon could give a serious answer, Brian jumped in with a flood of sarcasm: “Ninjas! Pirates!” The sarcasm spread to Jessica, who added, “Wait, pirates and puzzles!” to which Brian replied “That’d never work!” (note: Jessica and Brian were referring to the surprising hit Puzzle Pirates by Three Rings).

Gordon made some serious suggestions, such as a deer hunter online game. The problem is that no developers want to be known as the guy who made a deer hunting MMO, but the single player genre is such a success that the idea warrants attention. No one wants to take any risks, and as Jessica later pointed out, “if you don’t take risks, what you get is EA.”

Editor's Note: Unfortunately, Laura was not able to catch Jeff Hickman's rant.

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Laura Genender