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Role Playing (Games) Programming IT Technology

How Not To Make An MMOG 65

Posted by Zonk
from the kshhhhhh-boooom dept.
garylian writes "Some of the folks here might remember a Massive game called 'Mourning' that went into development and never really went anywhere. Apparently, it went Gold, but it wasn't even close to complete. Some former fans have a riviting Q/A with one of the former programmers. Highlights from the article include the fact that one of the game backers was a internet porn-lord!" From the article:"The game was going nowhere, no one really believed in its success. We all knew it was going to fail, but we were kind of reluctant in admiting it. Those who realized this and had better opportunities, left. Those who were blinded by different reasons or had no other choices, remained till the end (or maybe had different reasons.) It's not that we didn't try to change this direction the game was heading to... We did, but no one was listening to us. " The interview is well conducted, but you should obviously take this with a grain of salt.
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How Not To Make An MMOG

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  • Internet porn lords (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VGPowerlord (621254) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:48PM (#14380686)
    Highlights from the article include the fact that one of the game backers was a internet porn-lord!

    How is that any different than Wikipedia?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Most of us find it easier to get off with internet porn.

      But, hey, if you can get off from the Wikipedia, then you are truly an uber-geek!
    • .... did I miss it or was their ENTIRE evidence for this "porn lord" thing that "Uh, he suggested we use CCBill so he must have been in porn!"

      ... not that I can exactly disprove that, as porn is the reason I know about ccbill as well.

    • by renoX (11677)
      More accurately why does they talk about this?

      Why does-it matter where the money come from as long as it is from a legal source?
  • i hope this wasn't one of the games one of my IRC friends was working on... paco? you behind this disastor? X)
  • News at 11! (Score:5, Funny)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:52PM (#14380703)
    Apparently, it went Gold, but it wasn't even close to complete.

    Which makes it different from other MMORPGs... how?
  • Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drspliff (652992) <harry.roberts@NOSPAM.midnight-labs.org> on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:55PM (#14380720)

    Is it just me, or does the whole Q/A session seem like a personal attack by either a very informed player, or by somebody who used to work at the company.

    Although character assination can (some times) be a just about acceptable thing, the whole interview seems to be going a little bit too far.

    I'm sure they'll work out how this guy is, and we'll have another (possibly fake) interview up on slashdot in the next couple of days saying the exact opposite.. So remember kids, if you try and screw people, their going to screw you twice as hard :D

    Just my £0.02p :)

    • by Hast (24833)

      Is it just me, or does the whole Q/A session seem like a personal attack by either a very informed player, or by somebody who used to work at the company.

      You mean it seemed like he was a programmer as the link (in the Slashdot write up) is labelled a riviting Q/A with one of the former programmers. Or that in the actual Q and A the first answer (when he is asked what his relation was with the product answers: I was one of the RoT's programmers.

      I wonder what intriguing insights you will have on the follow up

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by nacturation (646836) <nacturation @ g m ail.com> on Tuesday January 03, 2006 @12:02AM (#14382124) Journal
      I got the same impression. Also, consider this question:

      Q: OK, well let's talk about the man behind the money. Who is David Jasinski and what was his role in the development of RoT?

      You'll notice this is the first mention of the names David or Jasinski in the entire interview. Either it's an extremely well-prepared interviewer, a case of two former employees interviewing each other, or one former employee interviewing himself. After this, the interviewer starts calling him "Dave" which indicates a level of familiarity.

      I looked for a bit of background and it's in plain sight on the homepage:

      Friday, December 9th, 2005: Spoonbender recieved an email from one of the former developers of Mourning a few months ago asking what had happened to the game. At that point the game had been taken offline and the forums were down. Spoon sent off an email detailing his experience with the developers and with the game itself, and the former developer replied with a few stories of his own. Spoon forwarded the email to Shintuk, Shintuk to Jdodger, and JD showed it to me. JD then conducted an interview with the former developer. His insights and personal stories about the behind-the-scenes events during his time working on the project constitute the best and most accurate picture we have of who was to blame for the mismanagement that Mourning suffers from. He will talk at length about Ado's 'unconventional' game designing style, Ego's tragic inability to grasp the true problems until it was too late, and even individual incidents with the development team that illustrate both the potential Mourning had and how that potential was, with almost criminal negligence, squandered.

      I feel that it is nessecary that those that followed Mourning and devoted time and money to its success see where their time and money went. In short, they should know the truth.

      You can read the interview and draw your own conclusions.


      So that provides some background. Rebuttal from "Adonys" can be found here. [krelslibrary.org]

      The whole things reminds me of Battlecruiser.
       
    • Fenrir. Seems to toot his horn a lot.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:55PM (#14380724) Homepage Journal
    Summary, we didn't have a design document and as such we could not deliver.

    Any medium to large development is going to fail unless their is an underlying document which sets forth the goals. Any such project will be further compromised if those in charge are not competent to know this. Of course if they are paranoid someone will steal their ideas if they are ever written down that should be a red flag as well.

    For what its worth, quite a few games get to market only to meander and fail because there is no post-launch plan or worse there are conflicting goals among the people running the show. A good game design document should lay out what happens before, during, and after. Just as with any other project if you don't know what should happen when it probably never will.
    • by rewinn (647614) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:13PM (#14380802) Homepage

      > we didn't have a design document and as such we could not deliver.

      That's the biggest of many difficulties pointed out in the interview. I think it's just as important that the HR process sucked; they eliminated a qualified applicant in favor of an unqualified friend, didn't take action when the friend verbally abused the staff, etc.

      It was also a bad sign that the programmers (game designers) were not allowed to talk to the customers (fanbase). While of course there has to be a limit on everything, a certain amount of customer/programmer interaction is important to developing a project that pleases the customer, rather than the designer.

      It doesn't bother me that this interview got a bit personal at time. Better that than happytalk-B.S.!

      • It was also a bad sign that the programmers (game designers) were not allowed to talk to the customers (fanbase).

        Semi-OT, but "programmer" and "game designer" are not generally synonymous these days.
        • > "programmer" and "game designer" are not generally synonymous

          I was being perhaps a little too concise.

          In the olde dayes, it was all programmers doing everything to produce software. Nowadays, the work splits among a gazillion specialties, which is reasonable enough, but does not change the essential points: (a) makers who communicate with customers make things more like what customers want, and (b) people who get between customers and makers (e.g. system analysts, designers, whatever) may do so wit

          • ...as the article points out and many projects I've worked on demonstrate, keeping the customers/gamers/end-users away from the coders/programmers/designers/makers is a common management error.

            Ah, gotcha. Agreed, then! :)
      • It was also a bad sign that the programmers (game designers) were not allowed to talk to the customers (fanbase). While of course there has to be a limit on everything, a certain amount of customer/programmer interaction is important to developing a project that pleases the customer, rather than the designer.

        As another poster has pointed out programmers are not game designers. In other words programmers implement the game designer's ideas. The game designer should do research, or have research done for
        • by rewinn (647614) on Tuesday January 03, 2006 @02:54AM (#14382677) Homepage

          Sorry, but I agree with what you say about everyone you mention except the programmers. As a programmer (retired) myself, my experience with respect to the programmer's role has been the opposite of yours.

          Certainly, the marketing and design people and all that have their job. No disagreement there; they're supposed to be the experts. And lots of coders are no good at public interactions or at least need to have their interactions with customers managed ... that's one of the things managers are supposed to do.

          But building great stuff in general is more than just being a code bureaucrat in a cubicle following instructions in the Plan ... no matter how good the Plan may be. Some people work best that way, and there's plenty of need for that sort of person, but for those who go beyond that function, the ability of people in all project specialties to communicate with other people in the other specialties ... when needed, and using appropriate mechanisms ... to be extremely important. Read the aricle on "Scaling the Cabal" in November '05 issue of Game Developer [gdmag.com]. Going one step further, into customer fora would seem to be the natural step!

          Naturally people who run off at the mouth need to be managed, and also naturally, a hierarchy of decision may have to be enforced ... but again, that's what management is supposed to do, and blinding the programmers to the customers is necessary only when management can't do their job. If a programmer is just not interested in the customers, well fine, then what you've got is a programmer working for just for the dough, which is different motivator than that for those others do better work when they can reach out & touch the customer base.

          I had nothing to do with WoW's development, so I can't answer your questions about it. But in about 20 years of developing software, the most frequently common element in the disasters was the excessive playing of the "telephone game" [wikipedia.org].

          • But building great stuff in general is more than just being a code bureaucrat in a cubicle following instructions in the Plan ... no matter how good the Plan may be.

            I did not express myself clearly. When I wrote that programmers implement the designer's ideas I did not mean to imply that they (we) should have no feedback, suggestions, or other involvement. What I was really trying to say is that they (we) should have no direct interaction with customers. I agree programmers are an important part of the
          • In a game, the programmers may have very little need to talk to customers, if they're designing engine internals and the like. The game designer is the one who will be the most intense "user" of this engine. When designing UI elements, though, perhaps it's better to look at customer suggestions first, since they're the ones who will ultimately have to live with your system.
        • As for your theory that programmer interaction is part of the formula for success I have a counter example: World of Warcraft.
          Blizzard got to play it different because it was blizzard, they already had a huge fan base that was going to purchase the game no matter its condition because it had thier name on it. In addition they did a smart thing in not having and NDA so they had all the fans advertising for it instead of having local customer relationship person doing it.
          Also blizzard had a mindset that
      • >we didn't have a design document and as such we could not deliver. That's the biggest of many difficulties pointed out in the interview.

        No, the biggest of the difficulties, the root of all the other ones, was a bunch of incompetent jerks in positions of power. To succeed one needs at least competent jerks or incompetent non-jerks (quick def: folks not immune to reason, having a minimum of social skills), although without at least one competent non-jerk, the future is troublesome.

        This is almost a

    • by creimer (824291) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:24PM (#14380861) Homepage
      Summary, we didn't have a design document and as such we could not deliver.

      That's not unusual in the game industry. The design document is usually a formality for the developer to present to the publisher to get the first check. When you get the alpha build from the developer, that's when it becomes obvious that the design document was no better than toliet paper. If you try to hold the developer (and sometimes the publisher's producer) accountable to the design document before issuing the next milestone payment, the rationalization, jutstifications and excuses add up pretty quickly.

      When I was a lead QA tester at Atari, I was often forced to based my test documents on the game instead of the design document. The only exception was Dragonball Z: Buu's Fury for the GameBoy Advance, which had a 200-page design document that detailed everything. That was my favorite title to work on and it had a great developement team.
      • by Hast (24833)
        Yes but you need something in order to set the direction for the team. That you later on find out better ways and alternative ways of doing things is quite natural.

        From the interview is seems like not only did the "designer" fail to write things down, he also changed his opinion every other day and got into fights with the people who were now working on "wrong" things without being told that the design changed. From the article it seems like he's a sociopath (may seem like a strong term, but the basic "tell
        • by creimer (824291) on Monday January 02, 2006 @09:00PM (#14381511) Homepage
          ... seems like he's a sociopath ...

          I had to work with a few of them. They do all the right things to make management happy while making everyone else unhappy. The only way they get fired is when they accidentally pissed off the wrong person. This is one of the reasons why I left Atari after six years since I didn't want to become one of them.
          • There why an article about sociopaths in a Swedish magazine for engineers. Basically they pointed out that people with those disorders are more common among managers than in most other situations. The reason being that their disorder typically aid them in getting promoted. The article was basically about what to do if you had such a boss. Their tip was to not pick fight with them and either let them take credit for your work (which they often do) or find anew place to work.

            It should be pointed out that it i
      • I certainly feel your pain. Going into a QA phase with little or no guidance as to what sort of game you're testing is a pain.

        The problem, of course, is that a full, formal design document can often lead to a project's downfall. It works well if there are few unknowns (e.g. the technology, genre, and gameplay is well established), but for many other project types it can be a killer. For example, if the design document calls for one thing to happen, which turns out to be programmatically difficult or i
    • by NitsujTPU (19263) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:49PM (#14380993)
      Well, sacrificing a few moderations, I'd also have to point out that having managment with no respect for their employees also dooms a project to failure. An incompetent, insulting boss absolutely dooms your team.

      If your boss can't treat you with respect, it's an indicator of other issues that they have that are likley to destroy any chances you have of successful completion of any project. If you ever have the opportunity to see a company with a design team run like this side by side with one where the boss respects their employees, you can see that the difference is night and day.
      • Well, sacrificing a few moderations, I'd also have to point out that having managment with no respect for their employees also dooms a project to failure.

        If I had mod points, I'd mod you up.

        If the people in charge of steering the project are not serious enough, then the project is doomed to fail.

        Don't blame the disruptive guy, blame the manager who hired him and refused to let him go when all evidence of incompetence came to light.

        The source of the money is irrelevant to the success/failure of the project.
        • Actually, to me, it sounded like a collaboration between several employees.

          The answers of the "single" employee being intereviewed are interesting in that their English is significantly better in the first few answers.

          Then, look at how they address a few of the questions. The questioner obviously had better contact with some of management than the interviewee. I don't care how many online forums you post in... it sounded to me like the questioner knew way too much about the situation to not have been an i
          • it sounded to me like the questioner knew way too much about the situation to not have been an insider... IE, and employee at the company. I'd say that at least 3 people inside the company were involved in that interview.

            From what I read, the people involved in the interview where not employees but close: they were volunteers. Two of them apparently where the Lore Team for the game (they came up with lore and background) and therefore had direct contact with management/developers I guess. (and as a side n

    • Come on, haven't you read anything about XP? YOu don't need documents, you just need a whole bunch of tests! The developers should have written them and figures out the design from reverse engineering them.
    • Makes me think of a project I worked on.

      It was a small job (3-4 team members, a few months work). It was also crucial that it be done correctly. Work was started on the project (and completed) before the design doc was created. Our team still did interviews with all the stakeholders, and a 40 page design doc, because the PHB knew it was important. We just didn't actually have it to work from because PHB insisted we start coding immediately. You see, PHB committed to deliverables and timeline before e
  • A: Anyway, the worst part about his bandwith needs was he was acting like whole of it was his. He was acting like the owner of our Internet connection, like he was acting as the owner of the game in the other aspects of our work. So his most frequent line was "everyone, stop your downloads". If that didn't work he was going personally to that person's desk and was repeating his demands... he wasn't accepting any "excuses". And that is not all. He went as far as disconnecting other people's LAN cables from

    • It's highly unlikely that the pipe at their development office was the same pipe that would have served the game at the point of offsite testing. After all, you don't need an expensive bithose to develop the game, and you probably don't want your game servers sitting in the office at deployment time--you probably want colocated boxes.
  • I'm taking the interview with a pinch of salt, as advised.

    However, there is a general principle worth noting here which the article illustrates very well regardless of the veracity of the interview. A game designer who doesn't speak the language of the developers cannot possibly control the product being developed without creating a static definition of some kind.

    This definition doesn't necessarily have to be a document (for example, for defining quests it could be through a simple interactive state machin
    • "That the designer allegedly wanted to write nothing down and also suffered memory loss of what he requested is so totally ridiculous that it sounds like a fabrication to me"

      Not only that, but even if true, this is not just a failure of the designer. This is a failure of everyone on the design team, and everyone on the dev team as well. I get verbal requests from forgetful people all the time (and often get some contradictory requests later in time). I make it my responsibility to confirm the requests
  • by Ka D'Argo (857749) on Tuesday January 03, 2006 @03:27AM (#14382775) Homepage
    Go read some of the stuff on mmorpg.com (mainly the forums). There was like a hundred page thread where players who had been with the game since beta, explained some of the stuff this game went through...

    From never recieving pre ordered copies of the game, to the game shipping on just run of the mill blank cd-r's, the game was plaqued with horrendus management.

    Go try to read the official Mourning forums. Notice how they only go back to a certain date? They've deleted their forum database more than once. Not just a typical pruning but completely cleaned it cause so many of the fans, players, and even development team staff & moderators spoke out aganist it.

    Imagine if one day a huge portion of say, SOE's player base (for any game, just as an example) spoke out aganist a huge list of problems, failures and broken promises. In this huge group of people is several key people in your production team, a good portion of your long time forum and community moderators, and even some of your own sponsors. Now imagine SOE just basically giving all those people a big middle finger, deleting the forums, and then rule over the "new" forums with an iron nazi fist (quite literally, meaning NO negative opinions). If you can piture all that, that is exactly what it was like for the Mourning players.

  • by Paolomania (160098) on Tuesday January 03, 2006 @04:48AM (#14382994) Homepage
    A bunch of guys with no industry experience got together to make a modern MMO faster, cheaper, and better than anyone else. They hired their friends who also had no industry experience to manage and lead the development. The guys mismanaged the project and the lack of experience amongst the team caused development to miss goals. They ran out of money. The End. I am not surprised that I never heard of this company nor this project.

  • I've just spent the last "while" looking all over the net for stuff about this game. It seems like the interview is true. They're currently randomly charging people's pre-order accounts without giving them the game and stuff like that. Some of the pre-order people are getting a white box with an unmarked CD containing an early beta of the game. They refuse to give refunds and the servers are not up. Most people paid 30 bucks, never got the game, and if they did they wouldn't be able to play it. This i
  • http://www.somethingawful.com/articles.php?a=2625 [somethingawful.com]
    http://www.somethingawful.com/articles.php?a=2706 [somethingawful.com]

    They also put a banner or something on every page that said "Mourning sucks" or something of that nature. Basically, the people behind the game obviously had no skill at dealing with trolls, turning a snarky capsule preview into a big legal battle to decide the fate of the universe. Since I'm sure MMORPG developers have to deal with trolls on a regular basis, this couldn't have made them look good to anyone.

    R

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