A lot goes into the making of MMOs. It is not just about game design, there is a huge infrastructure that goes along with it. Forums, web design, cash shops, interface, and customer experience all make up the parts of an MMO that you may not think about while playing a game. Well, the good news is Raechele Greenwald and her team at EpicData has started thinking of it for you. More importantly their company works on building platforms that MMOs or any type of online games can use to incorporate these tools into their system. Bottom line, it allows developers to focus on their game rather than all of the bits and pieces that go with it.
EpicData came into being through a lot of experiences that Raechele and Gordon had working on Star Wars: The Old Republic. The game was a monster undertaking and had so many support aspects to go along with it. In 2013 Raechele began looking at a way to create a platform for online games that worked to service the customer better. It had to be something that not only studios could use, but as players the team wanted to have a tool that was very easy for the community to use as well. When Gordon started working on Crowfall he reached out to EpicData to incorporate their tool set which would solve a lot of problems from day one. If you go to the Crowfall web page a lot of it is run through EpicData’s efforts. Gordon explained that both Artcraft and EpicData had a similar vision on what platform problems existed for MMOs and also shared the best ideas for those solutions. All of the infrastructure work and platform services can be leveraged which allows the development team much more time to work on the game itself.
First and foremost the platform on which MMOs run are not necessarily the flashy sides of the game industry. Most times you don’t even think about these teams until the network goes down or something goes wrong with your account. That is where having a third party partner handle those elements for you really comes in handy. Raechele is a player first, raids and PvP being her favorite parts of MMOs. So when she set out to build this product they really approached it from the user’s point of view. Something simple like User ID management really is important on the platform. When a user logs into a game it should be simple, no issues or identity theft. Another aspect of the platform which is becoming more and more common in MMOs is the E-commerce side or cash shop. With so many games going buy to play it is important to make sure the ability to buy items is quick and painless. If these pieces to the grand MMO puzzle are not working, most players immediately call customer service.
From a studio standpoint, the platform helps developers and managers see all of the data pouring in from the forums, Q&As, and financials. It is a toolset that developers can use to look over and manage these systems. They also get the data they need to make game decisions based on player feedback. One part that was important was to give devs and executives their own dashboard.
Gordon weighed in saying that anyone can buy boards and registration, however tieing it all together is when you need help. Just because you work in games does not mean you are an expert in these areas and that is where a lot of games being to make mistakes. It is all about the user experience. So many players can be lost if that is not working well. Back when he was working on Old Republic Gordon wanted to have a next generation tool set to manage the platform. It would have everything in it from the web page all the way to guild systems. He explained that EpicData is building that service and not just for one game. They are making it available to a host of games. Whether it is an independent company or a major publisher this tool set can help everyone.
There is an out of the box tool set that comes with the platform with the goal to lower any barrier to entry. Crowfall was able to adapt some of the tools to set up a deferred payment plan for customers which allowed them to pay for the game later on as it is being built. This is just one example of how you can adapt the platform to your particular game.
The team at EpicData is doing something right in the game industry. They are taking on the grunt work of building platforms which have to host so many aspects of MMOs. Even top console games now have forums and cash shops coming into play. It may not be the slick and cool gameplay side of the industry, but we sure know what it is like when your account goes down. And when that happens, you want a team of people capable of getting everything back to normal. That's where EpicData comes in.