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Why Warhammer Online Failed — an Insider Story 235

sinij writes "An EA insider has aired dirty laundry over what went wrong with Warhammer and what could this mean for the upcoming Bioware Star Wars MMORPG. Quoting: 'We shouldn't have released when we did, everyone knows it. The game wasn't done, but EA gave us a deadline and threatened the leaders of Mythic with pink slips. We slipped so many times, it had to go out. We sold more than a million boxes, and only had 300k subs a month later. Going down ever since. It's 'stable' now, but guess what? Even Dark Age and Ultima have more subs than we have. How great is that? Games almost a decade [old] make more money than our biggest project." The (unverified) insider, who calls himself EA Louse (named after the EA Spouse who brought to light the company's excessive crunchtime practices) says similar trouble is ahead for the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA has not commented yet. God of War creator David Jaffe has criticized the insider for having unrealistic expectations of working in the games industry.
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Why Warhammer Online Failed — an Insider Story

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  • Since when was hoping your boss an unreasonable expectation? Jesus. Makes me question his competency.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The guy in TFA sounds full of shit too. Honestly, it just comes off to me as a guy who's bitter that he's getting let go, and taking the opportunity to blast people who he didn't like.

      Maybe there's truth to it. I don't know. But I sure as hell stopped reading about halfway through because with so many personal digs, it destroys his credibility in my eyes.

      • Ya pretty much (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @02:11AM (#33890724)

        I'm sure there is some truth in there. Most people don't just make shit completely up. I mean he's right in that Warhammer wasn't all that good of a game. However there's a ton of bitterness there. That is going to cloud judgment and the truth. I'm going to guess the people aren't quite as incompetent as he pretends. I've rarely found it to be true when someone just goes off on their boss as being worthless. Not saying there aren't bad managers, but they aren't the abysmal problems many people pretend.

        Also it does really smack of what Jaffe said: The guy thinks his opinion is more valuable and everyone should be listening to him. No not necessarily. For damn sure the problem with Warhammer wasn't one of not having dancing. It was mostly a balance issue, and also one of the leveling system being too grindy and not interesting enough. Warhammer was not a horrible MMO, it just wasn't all that great and had some issues. However that is hard to pull off when you've got WoW as competition, and even Mythic's own DAoC. These days with an MMO, you are mostly stealing players from another MMO, usually WoW. Means that your game has to compete favourably to that, and WoW is pretty good. So you might be ok, but ok doesn't cut it.

        At any rate, way too much hate in there for that to be at all objective. He lost his job and he's furious, so he's lashing out. I just can't take what is said in a situation like that seriously.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          How do you know that what he is saying is not 100% objective and true? Being furious and lashing out does not mean he's not truthful and objective.

          • Re:Ya pretty much (Score:5, Interesting)

            by pipedwho ( 1174327 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @06:33AM (#33891588)

            This kind of reminds me when an employee resigned and in their letter of resignation gave their reason (basically pointing out how corrupt, dishonest and incompetent our manager was). Of course, the next layer up just ignored it as "that person no longer works here, and therefore their observations will not be considered". After hearing about what was written, we all thought that it would be certainty that the manager was going to be replaced. Long story short, they just blamed the guy that left.

            Needless to say, two months later the entire engineering team (all five of us) resigned in the same way. All five letters were put on this guys desk within the space of 30 seconds. The look on his face was priceless. This was years ago, and that guy is still working there.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by tibman ( 623933 )

              I believe you. Not sure why terrible people are kept around like that. In that kind of situation, it's the good employees that leave.. the shitty ones will stay because they are atleast getting paid.

              • Re:Ya pretty much (Score:4, Interesting)

                by tophermeyer ( 1573841 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @11:11AM (#33894564)

                Plus from the organizations perspective, if the team has just lost one or more of its most talented core members then it cannot afford to also lose the group leader. No matter how incompetent the person might be.

                In my experience employees that jump ship like that are seen as immature, and any issues that they raise during their resignation are chalked up to that employee having poor conflict resolution skills. I've done something similar to what the GP described, and in hindsight I regret it. After speaking with contacts at my former organization, the company's management looked at the situation as my supervisor being cursed with a number of disloyal employees, and gave her an opportunity to restructure her team.

                Remember that throwing your immediate manager under the bus to their boss is not always a good strategy. That persons boss is likely the person that hired or promoted them in the first place.

        • Re:Ya pretty much (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:42AM (#33891846)

          The anecdote from another developer about item generation does ring true though from a player perspective, it was pretty clear that item generation was a giant cluster fuck (and excuses about how hard it was, so have patience, were frequent in the early game).

        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:44AM (#33891860) Journal

          I dunno, at least the complaint in the summary sounds more like Mythic were the incompetents, not EA.

          I mean essentially the complaint in the summary boils down to "we blew deadlines once too many, but EA is to blame for eventually wanting to see something for its money right now." Which seems to be a surprisingly easy sell for fanboys everywhere. The publisher is always some big evil entity that doesn't nothing but come out of the blue and force people at gun point to ship too early.

          In reality, EA shopped around for a dev after the first attempt failed, and Mythic won the contract by asking for X months and Y million dollars to deliver product Z. Which was presumably a better offer than anyone else had. (And probably in typical game dev fashion, it was a deadline and budget they knew they can't meet, but were basically hoping that the publisher would then keep throwing money at it just to not lose the existing investment.)

          But eventually the publisher has enough of throwing good money after bad (and if they don't, look at what happened with Duke Nukem development), especially since most games won't even break even anyway. As ROI goes, when you have a finite R to expect, you can't throw infinite I at it.

          Then the fanboys complain that the publisher are the evil guys and to blame for everything wrong. Now a dev does the same too. WTF?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cgenman ( 325138 )

            The sad thing is how often that happens. Developers have to make unrealistic promises in order to get that initial contract all of the time, especially with MMO's. Not only do you have to make an unrealistic promise, but you have to make an even more unrealistic promise than the dev house up the street just did. The "publisher" might care, but the accounts managers making the deal don't seem to realize or care.

            Of course, my opinion is that if you have to make a bad deal to get a contract, it's time to wa

        • These days with an MMO, you are mostly stealing players from another MMO, usually WoW. Means that your game has to compete favourably to that, and WoW is pretty good. So you might be ok, but ok doesn't cut it.

          They actually said the same thing before WoW, and could even offer numbers to support it. Each time someone got 100,000 players, you could see a bunch of other games losing a total of 100,000. Market saturated, all you can do is steal players from Everquest, etc. Heard it before. Quite eloquently too.


        • by Fozzyuw ( 950608 )

          Warhammer sucked because it was, obviously, released WAY too soon. There was only one zone with any reasonable polish (the one with the burning Windmill), classes weren't complete, **STARTING** zones were so buggy you couldn't complete quests. The bugs go on...

          As TFS states, this is why I know so many people tried and left the game within days/weeks and not renewing past their 'free' 30 day included play time.

          There was some good parts of the game that you could see the potential... but it wasn't cutting i

        • Re:Ya pretty much (Score:4, Insightful)

          by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:34AM (#33892658)

          I'm going to guess the people aren't quite as incompetent as he pretends.

          You're either completely foreign to software development or have been ignorantly blessed in the people you've been privileged to work with. The comic strip of Dilbert exists not because its some strange world but because its something most anyone in industry can relate. In fact, most of the jokes in the strip are literally, parodies of true events.

          The reality is, in the software industry, the following are truisms:
          1) Your boss is likely a PHB promoted well beyond his capabilities.
          2) Those managing the project will create a schedule with absolutely no footing in reality while demanding you adhere to it. Worse, its frequently made by marketing for features absolutely no one wants.
          3) Releasing a half finished, unusable product, is the norm.
          4) Testing and documentation is almost always neglected.
          5) Testers are typically treated like the enemy. And should their findings conflict with the schedule, they will likely be ignored.

          Basically, the software industry is completely fucked up. Doubly so in the gaming industry. In most other industries, they would all be fired for complete incompetence. One of the responses is the party complaining didn't have realistic expectations. That's certainly one way of looking at it. Realistically though, those saying he has unrealistic expectations are the ones with unrealistic expectations and are only compounding the problems.

          Basically, his expectations are unrealistic exactly because the software industry is completely fucked up. Then again, the expectations of the industry are unrealistic, resulting in extremely poor quality, incompetent behavior exactly because the industry is completely fucked up and that's the accepted norm. So its become a catch-22. If you act responsibly, you are bucking the system of incompetence and will likely be censured.

          There definitely are some exceptions, but it doesn't change the fact, that this is the software industry at large. In some ways, Microsoft actually help lower the bar for the rest of the industry. So its not exactly surprising Microsoft is reflecting glass; which typifies low quality and way overdue projects as the norm.

  • by KevMar ( 471257 )

    I guess they did not learn anything from Age of Conan.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @01:29AM (#33890576) Homepage

    We shouldn't have released when we did, everyone knows it. The game wasn't done, but EA gave us a deadline and threatened the leaders of Mythic with pink slips. We slipped so many times

    Just reading the summary, you'd think it says "we shipped too early". Only the few words I emphasized mentions the main point of the article, which is that the project was horribly mismanaged, had slipped many deadline and that more time would not have helped at all. It wasn't done but it was never going to get done, EA simply cut their losses and decided to stop throwing good money after bad. The rest is just seeing what could be salvaged...

    • EA simply cut their losses and decided to stop throwing good money after bad. The rest is just seeing what could be salvaged...

      If it was launched and sold to the public under these (now documented) circumstances, with known bugs, that sounds like a pretty damning class action case right there.

      • Great plan! Then the sharedholders can sue the board, and they can sue the producer, and he can sue the code and crayon monkeys! Lawyers can fix anything!
        • Fair point. Honestly though, as long as customers get their money back, or some part of their money back, to discourage this from happening again, I don't really care who's sued within the organisation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      And where's the personal integrity? These people shipped a known bad product. And all because of the threat of being fired. Let me in on a little secret. That's unethical, and it gets the company out of business almost as fast as you'd have gotten your pink slip. So why act unethically then loose your job? I'd rather act ethically and look for a job than unethically and look for a job.

      "They would have punished for our incompetence if we didn't act negligently, so we decided to act negligently, rather
  • by Rix ( 54095 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @01:33AM (#33890586)

    Myself included, even if we had no intention of investing the time required to play an MMO anymore.

    Warhammer's real problem was that it learnt all the wrong lessons from WoW, and tossed out the superior RvR design from DAoC. The silly instanced RvR bled off too many people from the in world zones because it was easy to just jump into. Rather than the back and forth of DAoC's RvR where you'd sometimes be outnumbered and have to mount a last stand at an important keep, there was bland, perfectly balanced by numbers twitch RvR.

    Of course, even numbers doesn't mean balanced. If your pick up group got matched with an opposing guild group, you had no real chance.

    Still, I might play from time to time if they made it f2p.

  • by MetalFlow ( 1430151 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @02:04AM (#33890708)
    but then I read articles like this one that made me realize that I had just idealized this job as somehow different from the rest of the cubicle farms...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Independent game design can be a good portion of that idealized vision you have of game design, so long as you accept the uncertainty of a paycheck or health insurance, have the patience to grow slowly on small projects, and have supreme amounts of confidence in yourself and your team. If you're a part of the "industry" though, it's just your standard corporate bullshit and politics with a "game company" skin laid over it. They will use and abuse the talent exactly the way the music industry does, and promo

    • by fadir ( 522518 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:16AM (#33891306)

      Not all studios are run by EA or the way EA runs their studios. There are some sane people out there that are actually interested in long term goals and not only in short term revenue, especially independent studios with own funding (like the one I work for). Instead of playing poker and betting everything (or even more) on the next title those studios plan carefully and have realistic expectations and goals. They might not (ever) make the headlines like WoW & Co - but they make a decent living in their niche market(s) with a pretty solid business plan, without the fear to lose your job next month. They payments are not stellar but fair - a pretty good deal I'd say.

      • Dear Moderators,

        I'd like to request substantive support for the parent post.

        Games development can have great advantages over non-games development (irrespective of cubicles) but it's posts like the grandparent that can scare people away from an otherwise fulfilling career.

        Sure, you probably end up trading in potential salary, but if you find the right studio and right team for you, it's worth the pay cut.

        Regards, from someone who took a $15k/year pay cut to join the games industry almost half a decade ago,

  • by fadir ( 522518 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @02:09AM (#33890718)

    I'm working in the games industry for quite a few years now, meanwhile as a project manager (just for a small, independent studio) and those are some of the lessons that I have learnt so far:

    - Have a plan and and be ambitious - but have realistic expectations.
    - Ship it when it's done.
    - Stop it when you see you will never reach your goal.
    - Don't release crappy software, it will hurt you in the long term.
    - Be honest to yourself and the people around you (in that order!)

    So stuff like Warhammer, Age of Conan, Hellgate London, etc. should have never been released the way they got released.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 )
      Where does "Spout obvious generalities in bullet points" fit into your list of bullet points? Powerpoint can fix anything!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MORB ( 793798 )

      [i]"Ship it when it's done."[/i]

      There were more than 110 people working full time on AoC at the time I left funcom, most of them working in Oslo with salaries adjusted for the high cost of life there. That's expensive as hell.

      Unless you're blizzard and swimming in money, you have to rely on external sources of funding for that kind of project, and if you need to push the release back, you have to convince them to pour in more money instead of cutting their losses and pulling out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fadir ( 522518 )

        "stop it when it's shit" would be the better option then. It doesn't make sense to ship something that's not done. Yes, you might cut your losses because you still get some customers to pay for the crap that you call a game but what is in fact an early beta at best. But in the long term this customer will think twice if he'll buy your next game.

        If you aren't Blizzard, don't attempt a project as big as Blizzard's titles. "Schuster, bleib bei deinen Leisten" is an old German proverb, meaning "stick to what yo

        • by MORB ( 793798 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:18AM (#33891312)

          "If you aren't Blizzard, don't attempt a project as big as Blizzard's titles. "Schuster, bleib bei deinen Leisten" is an old German proverb, meaning "stick to what you are able to handle". Being too ambitious doesn't help anyone and will just end up in a disaster - happened many times, especially in the gaming industry."
          Well, AoC's failure was not caused merely by a funding problem. After all we did have 5 years, and a lot of good people. I think it was mostly a combination of being shy on some things, like not being willing to rewrite the engine and tools from scratch instead of reusing the crap from anarchy online.

          And there was also kind of a poor philosophy of trying to add too many feature in the game right at release instead of doing fewer things but doing them well (like blizzard originally did with WoW).

          For instance, the guild city raid thing should have been cut from release (it just wasn't ready) and released in a polished form in an expansion pack imo.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by fadir ( 522518 )

            Still kind of proves my point. If you don't have a producer/manager/whateverheistitled that has the balls and the authority to call the shots and cut features when it's getting out of hands then you aren't capable of handling such a project.

            Developing a game is much more than having a bunch of good programmers. Someone needs to keep the strings in his hands and have a plan and a schedule to follow - and the ability to make people (all of them) follow his lead.

  • by CougMerrik ( 1221450 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @02:16AM (#33890746)
    The game was actually really fun up to a point. They did a great job with the low level experience. Once the game got to the high end, and especially once keep runs or city seiges were the norm, the game became as much fun as actually pursuing an extended siege on a castle. Not so much RvR as RvDoor. I think most of their gameplay systems were great -- expanding tactics slots, passive vs. active talent points, etc. The problem was with the content, largely devoid of alternatives to RvR at the high end, repetitive PQs and their strange and arcane reward systems which turned into a grind for gear that ended up being just really bad compared to stuff you could get just as easily from other places. In the end, once they started flailing wildly in patch after patch to try and make their content fun, I knew it was probably over.
    • by DaAdder ( 124139 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:56AM (#33891030) Homepage
      The game actually is quite a lot of fun and it's finally been going in the right direction for the last 8 months or so. They've focused entirely on the PvP/RvR experience though, so those looking for updates to the PVE aspect of the game should probably look elsewhere. As for the dull keep-taking in T4, that's being overhauled in the patch that's currently on the test server. They did a similar overhaul of the end game that's city invasion which turn out to be quite good. They're definitely on the right track these days, but it be too little too late. I know me and my friends will stick around for a while longer though, there's simply no pvp experience that gets close elsewhere.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by NBolander ( 1833804 )
        A shame I don't have the points to mod you up. Since Carrie Gouskos took over it has been moving in the right direction. It's not a well run software project by any standard but the game is great fun and certainly nowhere near dead yet.
      • The big problem I have always had in RvR is that there is nothing to strive for ... it's all a gear treadmill.

        If my guild could plant a flag on a keep and get something really good out of it (not advantages in the gear treadmill) there would be far more involvement. Faction pride is a fucking fantasy ... also there should be an economic aspect to War, it should consume resources.

        Resource gathering for GOOD siege need to be in, not just ballistas ... but things like the fuck huge summons from the original ci

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DaAdder ( 124139 )
          Then check out the current changes on the PTS, which is evolving every day with user feedback. They're gearing up for a very decent revamp of the RvR. Some of your points will be adressed there, some look like the will be in the not so distant future.

          It won't be perfect, but it'll be another of a lot of steps in the right direction.

          The game was where it should've been at launch about 6 months ago, but it took a year and a half to get there. If you ignore that time and pretend that the game is only about

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I remember when entering the game first time, getting the "go forth and kill 10 sprites" thing, I thought it was a joke, a cheeky parody on earlier lesser games.
      Then after some more quests I got that sinking feeling...

      To be fair tho, the rvr was pretty fun and I did spend quite alot of time in game.

      It is obvious tho that the producer failed at many points;
      - massive pvp advertised and key part of design, but noone bothered to check if the system could actually handle that: it couldnt, not even close
      - decent

      • They should have ported the game code from Warhammer to AoC (combat system and scenarios, but allow player made factions). Then they'd have had a half decent game with a half decent engine.

  • In Game Voiceovers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maccodemonkey ( 1438585 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @02:39AM (#33890834)

    "And you know what they’re most proud of? This is the kicker. They are most proud of the sound. No seriously. Something like a 20Gig installation, and most of it is voiceover work."

    Maybe I'm shallow, but this is one of the biggest reasons I'm interested in The Old Republic. Full voiceovers on an MMORPG implies someone was actually interested in the plot and user experience, and is trying to deliver something on par with a single player game.

    And 20 gigs of space? C'mon now. That's not much these days. Hell, I remember when I have a 100 meg hard drive, and my full install of Warcraft 2 was 80 of that. I've dealt with worse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kindgott ( 165758 )

      Voiceovers for quest text is just something I'll be skipping because I've already skimmed through the obligatory, "Sand people attacked my land cruiser while I was en route with a shipment of unobtanium for the port in Mos Eisley, and the crates with my valuable cargo are littering the deserts. Without the money, I can't afford the medicine for my sick daughter, and I'm incapable of traveling and/or fighting; would you please find 50 crates and return them to me?" I'll be already heading in the vague direct

      • by basscomm ( 122302 ) <basscomm@nosPaM.crummysocks.com> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:58AM (#33893072) Homepage

        Voiceovers for quest text is just something I'll be skipping because I've already skimmed through the obligatory, "Sand people attacked my land cruiser while I was en route with a shipment of unobtanium for the port in Mos Eisley, and the crates with my valuable cargo are littering the deserts. Without the money, I can't afford the medicine for my sick daughter, and I'm incapable of traveling and/or fighting; would you please find 50 crates and return them to me?" I'll be already heading in the vague direction the quest NPC has sent me on, trying to get my next level/item/skill and some in-game currency.

        Heck, I have friends who refuse to play Borderlands with me because I won't read the quest text before charging off in the direction of my next waypoint.

        To each their own, I suppose.

        Believe it or not, some people (like me) like to play games and pay attention to the little details like the "backstory" and the "raison d'être" for the things you're asked to do instead of treating the game's goals and objectives like a series of meaningless checkpoints.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by _xeno_ ( 155264 )

          There are degrees to backstory, though. When playing World of Warcraft, at some point, I stopped reading the majority of quest stories because it basically all came down to one thing:

          "Hi, I'm a random NPC whose story is completely self contained and unchanging. I need you to kill these monsters and collect the things they drop for an arbitrary and meaningless reason. Once you've succeeded, the only change you'll see is that I will no longer have an exclamation point over my head."

          Me: Whatever. Kill things!

    • by Splab ( 574204 )

      Voice overs can be nice, but not in a MMORPG. It's so fucking frustrating to stand around and wait for the big boss to end his dialogue before you embark on your next spectacular wipe.

      In WoW some dialogues can take several minutes, which will make you lose focus and get you agitated since it's wasting precious raid time. LK for instance will give you a solid 2-3 minutes worth of speeches, add run time buff time etc. you are wasting more time getting to the fight than the actual fight (most groups won't make

      • by troc ( 3606 )

        Personally, I use the LK speech/cut scene to /grab another beer/take a quick bio break/briefly stand up and juggle a bit for exercise/ before the main event starts and I have to concentrate. I rather like it. The Sauerfang one on the other hand annoys me something rotten as the fight is rather easy and doesn't require much concentration by anyone (it was only ever a gear check anyway). Even when we were training LK, I still didn't mind as it gave everyone a minute or two to make sure they had their game fac

  • This is EA (Score:2, Interesting)

    I already did not expect anything else. Look at Dragon Age. Good game, but bugfest galore when it comes to DLC. And who'd you think is primarily concerned with that specific part: Bioware or EA? And do you think EA even cares, or even puts up half able people at their service desk?
    More recent then: Dragon Age: Awakenings, expansion of the aforementioned game. I have never played a game which was more blatantly unfinished. Characters were rushed in, options were butchered-out. How do you know? Well, because
    • by Kagura ( 843695 )
      Ever played a Paradox Interactive game? Notoriously awful at release, and only truly living up to its potential sometimes years after.
  • I bought warhammer as a digital download and though I felt it had a lot of promise, I was really disappointed that I had bought something that just "needed more time in the oven". Compared to WoW, it used twice as much ram, and I couldn't alt-tab in and out quickly at all like I could with WoW when consulting online references. There were never enough players around for the group quests, which were a cool idea but a COMPLETE waste of time because finishing one was obviously not going to happen for me. Some

    • by Fross ( 83754 )

      They've actually fixed a few of those issues (make sure you play on a high population server), particularly with the learning curve. Give the free trial a go. Still has some serious problems, but it's good for a couple of weeks of casual play.

  • by primerib ( 1827024 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:15AM (#33891070)

    When people talk about the "death" of PC Gaming, they're talking about the major game publishers pulling out of the platform. Honestly, I can't wait.

    The lack of big name heavy-hitters with huge advertising budgets is creating a vacuum that's being filled by innovative Indie developers who would've never had a chance at mainstream commercial success in a "strong" PC gaming market.

    It's not the death of a platform, it's a changing of the guard that has the potential to help normalize the gaming industry as a whole. I wait anxiously for more and more Minecrafts, Dwarf Fortresses, Amnesias and World of Goos as the EAs of the industry find the PC platform more and more unsuitable for their $150 million summer blockbusters.

    This isn't me saying that big companies always make bad games or telling major publishers to gtfo, this is me saying that we have an opportunity to deflate and normalize the video game industry before a repeat of the Crash of 83.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:51AM (#33892212)

      I just wonder if that might be something the big names are wanting -- a big crash like '83, then they will be able to blame "piracy" [1] for all their ills and get ACTA ratified with more Draconian "anti-piracy" measures like self destruct chips, hardware DRM stacks, and the like. Remember the INDUCE act of '06?

      The big names will whine and bitch about how the poor pirates are eating their lunch. In reality, all that does is give them the mandate to make ever more exotic DRM stacks with a game attached to it, lobby Congress, and have excuses for crappier and crappier content with more and more essential stuff as DLC [2]. We used to be pissed about late beta quality games. Now we are ending up with early beta, or alpha stuff being shipped with *one* patch if lucky, then the game is forgotten about.

      I completely agree -- the computer game industry needs an enema. However, people would rather have their Sims sequel or play known IPs as opposed to actually trying something that is new. At least in its heyday, Origin Systems always had new IP even with sequels. 10 years from now, I know we will have a Sims 4 or 5, a Madden 2021, something Halo based, and sequels for all the mainstream FPS games, so we can hear some 13 year old kid spluttering obscenities 24/7 just as well in the future as now. Only difference will likely be DRM systems nastier than we ever dreamed of. Perhaps LensLok + activation + mandatory online connection + a hardware dongle that would fry the motherboard if any protection got compromised [3].

      [1]: Even on a platform that had a 0% piracy rate, sales were pretty low on the PS3 compared to other platforms, so that is a good judge of how really the game industry is doing without them able to drop a smokescreen on numbers.

      [2]: I'm just waiting for games to ship essentially with nothing but a DRM stack and everything past the title screen be DLC. Even though someone spent $80 on a game, they have to pay $20 more if they want to actually purchase the character they will be playing and name it. $20 more actually gets one past the first chapter. The cost will be justified as "Movies cost $20 per chapter to watch. It should be the same with games."

      [3]: I remember companies hawking dongles in the '90s that had capacitor arrays to discharge into the user's motherboard if the dongle thought it was being bypassed. I'm sure this technology will be back.

  • On the other hand, big studios do sometimes put out good games, as well. Mass Effect springs to mind as a well-done game, with a better-done sequel, and DLC I'd actually pay for. Plus, you can't hire that many voice actors of that caliber on an indie developer's budget.

    I guess I'm saying that while the "CHURN OUT SEQUELS FOR MONEY BAIL ON RISKY GAMES" isn't helping the industry, there are certainly excellent titles that have come out of that same system.

  • This rant would have been entertaining if it actually contained any substance or analysis.
  • by Draconi ( 38078 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:15AM (#33891754)

    Full disclosure: I was one of the UO design leads during Warhammer's later development years, and everything I'm about to say is tinted by a) not working directly on the product, b) my professional opinion having played it, c) and that I have a contract similar to Sanya Weathers' (who is quoted in the EA Louse comments several times) and will not engage in disparagement.

    EA Louse completely ignores actual game design reasons that the product failed, instead focusing on company culture and his/her managers' failings. I won't comment on that, but I will point out the following things that went rather horribly wrong with Warhammer:
    * Incomplete content: past level 20 most zones were barely there, let alone fully populated with content.
    * Broken systems: the economy, craftinig, Tier 4, and the actual zoning and load balancing code couldn't keep up
    * Unbalanced classes: they tried to make equivalents for each faction, and over-powered the Bright Wizards, Warriors Priests, and Witch Hunters. Excellent write up about that here, especially about Crowd Control: http://www.brighthub.com/video-games/mmo/articles/44427.aspx?p=3
    * Not moving fast enough on PvP imbalance complaints: The common response would be "We ran the numbers! On average, 50% are Order, 50% are Chaos! It's perfectly even!" and in the real world of course it was usually a massive mis-match between sides in individual fights
    * The mandate to produce new content instead of fix old broken content. I'll never understand that one, and I tread on dangerous ground going too much into it, but it was a horribly bad idea.
    * Public quests: I have always, truly believed that public quests were a good idea gone horribly wrong. This is probably just me being naive from my days on UO, where if we had a fun system idea we could implement it directly ourselves and things like "automatically adjusting difficulty, loot, time constraints and quest goals" were well within reach for the designer. Public quests in WAR stopped being fun the moment population surges in a zone dropped -- soon becoming impossible to complete. How awesome would it have been to at least have them dynamically adjust to lower/higher levels of difficulty based on how many people were in the zone and their relative strengths? How much better if the same *kind* of PQs weren't spread like filler throughout all the zones and they were a little more creative?

    Hopefully other games will learn from this: you have to finish and polish the game until it shines! Only in the emerging F2P market can you get away without doing so, and even that will change over the coming years.

    • by tibman ( 623933 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @10:58AM (#33894264) Homepage

      I loved the Public Quests.. what a fantastic idea. I played for a month or two and it was pretty low pop. The public quests were a great way to meet people. I would usually chat someone up and go "Hey, want to do that public quest together over there?" They'd go "Hmm, that would be nice because i've tried it solo and it's impossible." That's how friends are made!

      I know this sounds overly simple and stupid.. but if you've ever played lots of MMOs, you'd know that most of the time it is a Massively Multi-player yet Single-player game. The public quests forced people into groups in a way that wasn't uncomfortable and can last as long as each person wished. Having to join a guild just to have "friends" doesn't feel natural to me. Feels more like high-school where you're crammed into a group together.

  • I don't think David Jaffe really understood the dancing thing. Just because you're in a state of war doesn't mean people don't dance anymore. Do you really think just because you're in the middle of a war that no one smiles, everyone is huddled in fear 100% of their lives until they die or war ends?

    The reasoning that "War is going on, there will be no happiness whatsoever" is ridiculous to say the least.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      The reasoning that "War is going on, there will be no happiness whatsoever" is ridiculous to say the least.

      It's *supposed* to be ridiculous. It's *Warhammer*. Warhammer is supposed to be ludicrously grimdark, with extra grim and some more dark piled on top.

  • Enjoyable Game (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:18AM (#33892030)

    After they fixed up the game they announced their "free trial" program, so I decided to give it a shot.

    I played EQ1 in high school for two years, and used a buddies EQ2 sub for a year while he was deployed overseas, but other than that hadn't touched an MMO in years.

    I actually *really* enjoyed it. I thought the experience was really polished. The graphics were decent. They seemed to fix some of the gameplay mechanics that had always annoyed me in MMO type games. The problem was I simply don't have the time to sink into an MMO, so rather than upgrade my trial account I just quit once I reached the trial level cap.

    I've actually tried free trials of other MMOs since then, and have been pretty disappointed. WoW just seemed primitive and missing features after having played Warhammer. I also tried the free version of the EQ game, and was similarly disappointed. If I were looking to actually get into an MMO, I'd go with Warhammer Online in a heartbeat.

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:54AM (#33892240) Homepage

    David Jaffe has criticized the insider for having unrealistic expectations of working in the games industry.

    He's right. Someone should have told us right up front, whenever we first had the vague notion that working in the games industry might just be more rewarding than being an overworked combination of galley slave and cabin boy, just what "realistic expectations" about industry jobs should be.

    Here's a tip. At some time you're going to get treated like crap by some self-centred jackfruit with delusions of godhood. In the games industry we call those times "weekdays". Weekends are when you can get away from all that, since there aren't quite so many people in the office then. But don't worry, we'll only have to work weekends and evenings until we get past this next milestone. After that everything will be JUST FINE. Honest.

    When you've had enough, you can always quit. I'm sure that nobody will give you any trouble with that at all.

    It's entirely possible, in a monkeys-flying-out-of-your-butt way, that your work experience may be better than that, it's just insane to go into the business expecting anything different.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost