“I didn’t want this studio to be the old boys’ club,” he said. “I was looking for, and continue to look for, a mix of people that represent a much more diverse segment of the gaming population — whether that’s women, young people, whoever — and, to be very blunt, not just ‘old white guys.’ I want people who can come in and bring in their different perspectives, and their ideas for new games and features.”
In fact, Jacobs said that three of the people on his staff have never played a game before they were hired at City State. “They’ve never played an MMO, and they don’t know hardcore games, but what they do know are the platforms we’re going for,” he said. “They know what they like. They can give us opinions that are much more diverse, and that’s what I want. We have a great bunch of guys and gals who are willing to speak their minds. This is the kind of environment that we had at the beginning at old Mythic, and the kind of place that I always wanted Mythic to be. We have a very collaborative environment; we talk about everything. I’ve got a great mix of people here.”
You might ask what sort of game City State of the Invincible Overlord Entertainment is making, and Mark (via his website) might tell you.
So now that I’m home and can look up from wikis and playtests, some reflection on part of today’s news.
It’s probably no secret that Mark Jacobs and I have had our differences in the past – in particular, after some of my more critical writings about Mythic and Warhammer, it’s safe to say I’m not on his holiday card list. After a day of following various commentary on Mark’s departure around the darker corners of the Intarwebs, though, I think some things need to be noted publicly.
To say that Mark was an outsized personality does an injustice to outsized personalities. When I started at Mythic, I got an inkling of what I was in for when Mark grilled me over the phone – for three hours – before I started over an intemperate forum posting on my old site in a post about gay rights, to make sure that the newest addition to the Mythic family wasn’t an intolerant gay-basher. (Mythic was heads and tails above the gaming industry in hiring diversity, something I never appreciated enough until I left.)
In case I hadn’t gotten the message, it was reinforced when a week later, after I spent a night in a DAOC IRC channel enjoying the ego boost of being ‘a developah’, he showed up at my desk with a detailed, annotated chat log of the multitude of mistakes made, with the unspoken message that the new guy who was third tools programmer from the left probably didn’t have a lot of business doing community relations, no matter how much of an Internet badass he thought he was.
One of the most irritating mistakes the media makes when covering games is treating games as the personal project of their most visible namesake – World of Warcraft coming from Rob Pardo or Jeff Kaplan, Assassin’s Creed coming from Jade Raymond, or, in this entirely too risible snippet Old Man Murray found on IGN once upon a time:
“There’s a tendency among the press to attribute the creation of a game to a single person,” says Warren Spector, creator of Thief and Deus Ex.
Except that in Mythic’s early days, it wouldn’t have been too far off. Mark wasn’t just a visible figurehead – in many ways Mythic was his. Mark wasn’t intimately involved in DAOC’s design or production (although I do remember him whiteboarding crafting systems a lot) but for him, Mythic was his family. He was immensely proud of how none of the original Mythic staffers had left for years. When Dark Age of Camelot shipped and was a commercial success, the ensuing bonuses (which I had just made it under the wire to qualify for) were generous – in my case a significant portion of my salary, and carried over long after DAOC was no longer as profitable. Because he saw them as his family.
It was a family he was very protective of, as I found out when I joined the merry band, and that aspect changed little over the years. Unfortunately, Mythic rapidly grew beyond the 25 or so that shipped DAOC, and as that family atmosphere changed, it was easy to see that Mark wasn’t happy about it. He would occasionally drop into my office and others as the years passed, either to trade insights on the industry or on entertainment in general (and for him, a Joss Whedon MMO would probably have been the perfect storm).
Then there was Imperator. Imperator was very much Mark’s project – he came up with the backstory, was deeply involved with the design, and was far more hands on in its production than I had seen him in years. Unfortunately, it didn’t work (something I later came to be very sympathetic with) and as the company smoothly shifted gears from Imperator to Warhammer, he took great pride in how almost everyone was able to keep their jobs in the process. Mythic was still his family, even if it was too large for him to actually know them all any more.
By that time, though, it was a family I didn’t want a part of any more. When I posted my initial farewell, I noted that my motivation for leaving was to move to Texas from northern Virginia. That was certainly true – I’m currently typing this from the living room of my house, and making that statement true in NoVA would have cost me about a half a million more than it did here. But it wasn’t the entire truth – Mythic had, by that time, grown to the point where it was no longer a family, but a company, and a company with the usual office politics, mismanagement, and frustrated career paths. In retrospect, if I worked for me, I would have fired me; as it was, Mythic was good enough to let me find my way out the door (even after, in one memorable Homer Simpsonesque moment, I arrived back to work from a job interview to find out someone at the company I interviewed at IMed a producer to ask what I was doing there. Whoops.)
And on my last day, after I was ordered to leave the building early – by Mark – I was asked to come back to talk – by Mark. He wanted to know why a family member was leaving. And so I told him, and mentioned in passing, given the then in-progress EA buyout to watch his back, that there were people there who did not have his best interests at heart.
Those people are still there. Mark isn’t. And while I wouldn’t work with them again – and most likely would have significant issues working with the lead designer of Warhammer and Imperator – the Mark of the DAOC launch team, I would have taken a bullet for. I’m pretty sure everyone involved feels the same.
But given the outsized personality that Mark is, I’m 100% sure that we have not heard the last of him, either in the near term (he does have a blog he seems to have forgotten about – and he certainly has more qualifications for drive-by pontification than nearly anyone else, including myself) or in the long term.
And I would hazard a guess that the Mark of Dragon’s Gate will be a far happier guy then the Mark of EA Mythic. And that’s what counts among family members.
Welcome again to Broken Toys, your Warhammer Online fansite. (I’m sure Mythic’s community team will GET RIGHT ON sending me the invites to fan junkets.) Oh by the way, there was also a somewhat major World of Warcraft patch this week, which broke all the servers. So, there’s your WoW news: servers fall down, go boom, and you probably lost half your mounts. ANYWAY. Enough about the game with 11 million subscribers, let’s dish about the game with .75 million! Why? Because Mark Jacobs is just so gosh darned spunky. You never see Rob Pardo give “State of the Nation” addresses, do you? Well, DAOCplayersbecamesomewhatusedtoreadingthem, and now it’s Warhammer’s turn!
I’m happy to announce that in December, the Black Guard and the Knight of the Blazing Sun will officially be part of WAR.We have very special plans around their appearance and in our next newsletter we will provide full details about that exciting and rather novel event.
In other words, Order (Empire) and Destruction (Dark Elves) both get a new tanking class. Prooobably not a coincidence – trying to do a scenario without a tank is usually an exercise in frustration. Almost as much as doing a scenario without a healer. But wait, there’s more!
The Combat and Careers team has spent the last month looking at the changes that they want to make with an eye towards making improvements and buffs, not removing or weakening abilities.I won’t go into details here but the vast majority of careers all have nothing but love coming their way.
Ooh, candy! We like candy. But that’s not all!
In 1.1 (and beyond) we will be doing a myriad of things for our RvR players, including improving gear drops, increasing drop rates, and implementing an RvR-influence system to compliment the current PvE-influence system.
New stuff, always good. But wait, if you order now, you ALSO get…
We are working hard on deploying a substantially improved mail system for this patch. We will continue to enhance WAR’s mail system until it is one of the best mail systems found in any MMORPG.
Ooookay. Well, I guess that’s important, I know that a functioning communications infrastructure is key to any high fantasy army, amirite? But is that all? No, that is not!
We will also be offering the first server transfers to our players to continue to help even out the server populations.These transfers will be free of charge but they will be limited to moves off high-population servers to select mid-population servers or off of low-population servers to a selection of mid-population servers.
“The corollary to that is if you’ve seen a game consolidate servers, you know it’s in deep, deep trouble — that’s not a healthy sign for an MMO,” he said, citing Sony’s January-released “Pirates of the Burning Sea” as a recent example. “It will be the same for ‘Warhammer.’ Look at us six months out. Look at us six weeks out. If we’re not adding servers, we’re not doing well.”
According to the War Herald archives, the last servers were added on September 19, a day after the game’s official release, when 5 high-population servers were cloned to new servers. Well, to be fair, they still have a week! And, to be less snarky, in a PvP-focused game, a high population is important to a proper target-rich breakfast of eight essential dwarven vitamins and elven fibers. But still, you have to wonder if the first month’s billing cycle coming up this week is making Mythic’s CEO, Lead Designer and spokesperson somewhat uneasy.
Well, thanks everyone for having the reaction I thought you all would:
1) Trolls – OMG, is this all there is? WTF, addition of two new classes, new content, new influence system, mail system fix, class balances and more, to the game? Is that all you guys can deliver in a month? Yawn
2) Objective folks – Sounds good but still need to deliver on it as well as the other issues with the game!
3) Fans – YIPEE!
So, to the trolls, well, you’ve shown why you should continue to be ignored here. Please show me another MMORPG which has added new classes to the game without charging the players through an expansion pack.
I can’t think of one right now but even if there is one that I am forgetting, the vast majority don’t.
Take THAT, gotcha liberal blogosphere!
We’re in this for the long haul and as I said in an interview yesterday, success in the MMO world should be seen as a marathon and not a sprint. We’re off to a great start but we’re not there yet. No successful MMORPG hit its peak within the first year, let alone the first month and that’s the approach we’re taking with WAR.
Seems like everyone’s talkin’ about Warhammer these days. Including, you know, those wacky guys who work on the most popular MMO ever made. Jeff Kaplan in particular had a few things to say:
Now that “Warhammer Online” has been out for almost a month, I wondered if Kaplan had gotten a chance to try it. Even though he’s been busy working on “Wrath of the Lich King,” he revealed he has spent a little time with it.
“My character is like level 13 right now, and I’m playing Destruction on a server that’s imbalanced,” he said, referring to the factions in the game. He also said leveling his character has been going a bit slowly. “I’m at the point where I’m thinking about quitting because it feels like the best way to level up is in the battlegrounds,” he explained.
Hmm, sounds kind of familiar. And you’d think it would make sense for the Lead Designer of World of Warcraft to keep himself aware of the state of the MMO marketplace, right? However, the interviewer decided to poke Kaplan a bit about Mythic’s somewhat draconian beta/NDA policies:
I asked Kaplan why he thought he and other Blizzard employees weren’t allowed into the “Warhammer” beta. “That’s a great question,” he said. “I’m always fascinated by betas in general and [non-disclosure agreements] and how tight-lipped they tend to be. It’s Blizzard philosophy that if you’re really confident in your game, then you have nothing to worry about. So I guess that would be my big take away from that.”
WELL then. That’s a pretty diplomatic way to say “O SNAP”, I thought. Surprisingly, Mark Jacobs disagreed.
Frankly, what got me steamed is a piece at MTV where the guy talks a bit of smack about WAR, our Beta policy and stuff like that. My reaction to that was, interesting.
You don’t say.
I’ve always said nice things about WoW as I thank Blizzard for expanding the market, bringing more attention to this space, most important MMO of this generation, etc. But for Kaplan to shoot off his mouth about our beta policy, lack of confidence or criticism about WAR is just BS and it’s wrong. And so, I deviated from my long-standing policy of not criticizing other developers, especially on subjective issues. It will be an interesting read.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I remember one interview with Pardo prior to WoW’s launch where he saud that WoW’s PvP system/realm point/honor point/etc. would be, unlike DAoC, useful. Hmm, how many times have they redone that system? Developers should stick to worrying about their own games and companies as none of us are perfect. People who live in glass castles and all that.
“I’m disappointed with the decision from a leader in the MMO industry to go down a path which in the past, has been an anathema to them and remains so to just about every other MMORPG company in the industry. I think that not only supporting the sale of in-game characters, items and currency, but also taking a ‘cut’ of those sales, is not only a mistake but one of the worst decisions in the history of the MMORPG industry,” says Jacobs.
They have made billions off WoW and they really don’t need Kaplan dissing, in any way, a competitive product. That’s just wrong, period. I didn’t diss EQ/AC/UO when we were developing DAoC and that’s always been a standing rule of mine. If another developer doesn’t want to play by the same rule, I reserve the right to respond, which I did. In Kaplan’s case, talking about “his issues” with WAR during it’s first 30 days is laughable especially since WoW had plenty of issues of their own at launch and considering that they spent 2x as long working on WoW as we did on WAR, some of their issues were just as bad or worse than ours. And his nonsense about our Beta is even more laughable considering Blizzard runs internal-only (NDAed by employment agreements) alphas at the same point where we would already be inviting thousands of regular people (under NDA) into our game.
I’m not normally a conspiracy kind of guy but within a few days of each other the COO and the Game Director of Blizzard both diss our game (though Paul did damn us with faint praise) does make me wonder.
Yes, of course the fact that, you know, Warhammer Online launched last month and garnered almost a million subs and people in the MMO industry might have opinons on that is besides the point: BLIZZARD IS GOING TO TAKE MYTHIC DOWN. Oh, if only a corporation with very large pockets stood behind plucky little Mythic.
Referring to Kaplan’s mention of the 30-45 minute wait times for battlegrounds (called “Scenarios” in “Warhammer Online”), Jacobs said that “World of Warcraft” also had long queues just to get into the servers to play the game when it first launched in 2004.
Well, yes, to a neophyte on online games (like, dare I say, the MTV reporter), sure, that’s a fair cop. Of course, Blizzard’s queue times (which were often far greater than 45 minutes) were the result of half the known world trying to access the game servers, and Mythic’s queue times are the result of, well, half the known world choosing Destruction. Note to Mythic: not buying enough servers is something your Ops team can fix. Making one side have heavy metal Vikings who can turn their arms into battering rams and the other side having poncy elves? Um, that’s not something Ops can fix.
Responding to the user interface similarities, Jacobs said that “World of Warcraft” wasn’t the first game to feature customizable interfaces. While he credited them for polishing it, he also said that it should be pointed out that “World of Warcraft” learned from Sony Online’s “EverQuest” and Mythic’s “Dark Age of Camelot.”
Again, Mark taking advantage of a credulous reporter’s lack of knowledge here. Actual MMO players would know that there is a WORLD of difference between the ability to skin an interface (seen in EQ and DAOC) and the ability to SCRIPT an interface (seen in WoW and Warhammer). Now, if Mark had simply said “Yes, Warcraft’s interface scripting set the standards for user interfaces, much as Everquest set the standards for easy UI skinning and the whole getting 40 friends to kill a dragon thing”, that would have been more accurate. As it is, I have to wonder if he’s been giving debate advice to John McCain.
“If you look at ‘Warhammer,’ there were so many points [where] we consciously made the decision not to be like ‘WoW’ and to try to push the envelope. I think you’ll find that if you’re actually going to compare the two products, I would say ‘WoW’ is certainly a more polished game now than ‘Warhammer is — of course they’ve had four years and billions of dollars — but if you look at the innovations in ‘Warhammer,’ you’d be hard-pressed to find as many in ‘WoW.’”
Billions? BILLIONS of dollars? Um, no. Bobby Kotick said it would TAKE a billion dollars to compete with WoW – which, ironically enough, Mark Jacobs quite correctly called him on. To date, the most expensive video game production has been Grand Theft Auto 4, whose budget is in the $100 million range. But that’s a side tangent – the point is that if World of Warcraft and Warhammer developers are going to get into a slapfight over which team was the most derivative, um… er… I think we’ll all laugh quite a bit. And then both developers can collapse, tired and beaten, into their HUGE VATS FULL OF MONEY.
For more cranky bastard commentary, see the relevant f13.net thread, where I ganked these thread links from (apologies for the inexact direct linking, but, hey, you know, Vault Network.)
Warhammer Online moved from Closed Beta to Open Beta this weekend, and Goa, Mythic’s longtime European partners, had servers that melted under the stress.
Apparently, European Warhammer players were unhappy about this. Warhammer is Quite A Big Deal in Europe, and the players who couldn’t, well, play, were quite miffed. The newest Warhammer blogger, especially, blamed the Internet.
Why do some people feel it is okay to threaten, curse, abuse and be downright hostile to other people over a game, especially in this case when it is only over access to a game that is still in testing (Open Beta Test = Not Yet Ready For Prime Time Players)?While I’ve become quite cynical over the decades, I still find myself amazed at times at certain people’s reactions to stuff like this.I don’t mind when people get upset but to treat other people in such a callous, mean and immature manner is really a bit much.Again, it’s not the complaints I mind and nor am I excusing GOA or Mythic when we mess up but to apparently take things like this so personally is just hard for me to understand even though I know that most of the very hateful things are being said just for effect.However, I’ve worked with online communities for a long time and I do know that some of what was being said around the ‘Net was really coming from people’s hearts.I won’t quote any of it here, since doing so would simply encourage more of it, but I would ask anyone who said those kinds of things and who reads this blog to look at yourself in the mirror and ask how you would like it if you were treated this way in the real world? Are you really the kind of person who thinks it’s socially acceptable to threaten people just because you are having problems with a game?Are you and your life so perfect that you don’t have your own issues or make your own mistakes?
First off, one quibble – when you start an “Open Beta Test” one week before a game’s release? If it’s not yet ready for prime time, even bad SNL references won’t save you. Let’s be honest here – this isn’t a beta test. The game’s locked down (at least it had better be), and you’ve moved to a marketing preview/encouragement of pre-order sales. Once you let effectively anyone who wants to kick the tires and light the fires of your game, it had better be ready for prime time, because that is what your early adopters are looking to test – and badly managed open betas strangled any number of gamesstillborn. You don’t get the “but it’s still in testing!” excuse when you open the floodgates, any more than you get the “but it just launched!” excuse a week later.
More to the point, Mark is apparently rediscovering the joys of Internet discourse, where “aww, is poor widdle baby butthurt?” is considered a witty riposte. I can only conclude that he wasn’t paying attention during, you know, every single other MMO launch. I especially remember in the year after DAOC’s launch, as the DC sniper was stalking the local gas stations, our helpful wonderful players were wonderfully helpfully suggesting that people forward the shooter pictures of Mythic employees. You know, so he would know where to aim. I’m not sure what provoked this strong desire for us to all DIE. I seem to dimly remember something about clerics. Or maybe it was archers. Whatever, it was certainly cause for us to be shot.
My point isn’t that this sort of psychopathy should be excused, or even really expected. I don’t even really think it’s limited to MMOs, or computer gaming. I would, in fact, argue that in the past couple of decades, public discourse in general has become “smashmouth“. You don’t just run the ball, you run it straight down their throats and make them CHOKE on it. You don’t debate your opponents – you BREAK them. Civilized discourse is for the WEAK.
As our national – no, make that global community deals with disagreements through the strategy of smashmouth, why should our micro-community be any different? After all, if someone disagrees with you, the response isn’t merely to respond, but to respond EN MASSE, SHOUT THEM DOWN, AND DESTROY THEIR WILL TO RESPOND. Every campaign has a War Room, every public relations firm a Rapid Response Team, every challenge has to be responded to the same day in a blizzard of paper, every natural disaster an occasion to dump bad news. So how do you make yourself heard in such a microtrend-plotted environment? You amp up the volume. You say something outrageous so it stands out in the storm of thousands of responses, all demanding some sort of response or recognition. And having the President of the company complain about your post in his blog certainly qualifies as recognition.
My point isn’t that this is acceptable behavior, or even expected behavior. My point is that in smashmouth community management, our communities are simply reflecting our wider community, and these are not issues that are going to be resolved by fixing an authentication server.