February 2011


You unlock Tardis at level 20 and Rather Spiffy Tardis at level 40.

Three Rings gets tapped to develop a Doctor Who MMO for the BBC.

Daniel James, CEO Three Rings says, “Three Rings is delighted and honored to have the opportunity to create an online game based onDoctor Who. Our goal with ‘Words in Time’ is to capture the imaginative spirit and depth of the series, whilst being fun and easy to play for all ages.”

Clearly, the BBC decided on Three Rings because of James’ ability to say “whilst” in a sentence.

NetDevil Lays Off Everyone, May Technically Still Exist

Welp. (This image is the Facebook avatar for a distressing number of former NetDevil employees this morning.)

The axe fell at long-troubled NetDevil yesterday – and according to some developers, word actually circulated among the devs themselves via Facebook before the company got around to letting people know that yeeeeeeah, you’re not going to need to come in on Saturday.

Unfortunately a lot of talented folks lost their jobs as we have found out on Facebook! I personally think it’s pretty terrible to find news out that way and not to be correctly notified. We all were receiving phone calls tonight and I just got mine about 2 hrs ago.

From what we’ve been told a handful of artists will be kept on board and continue working on Lego Universe. But at the moment that will be a very, VERY small team.

There’s been no statement from NetDevil or owners Gazillion Entertainment as to the fate of NetDevil, Lego Universe, new browser-based Fortune Online, or perpetually-in-development target-of-lawsuits Jumpgate Evolution. Scott Brown, NetDevil’s former CEO, had this to say:

For everyone that get let go from what used to be NetDevil, please please use me as a reference, and if I can help in any way please let me know. Thanks for going on the ride with me while it lasted.

Off the record, however, I’ve heard that NetDevil still technically exists, but 30 to 40 people have been let go, and it’s hard to see how the studio can recover from a wound of that magnitude.

(Edit 1:00PM CST) Lego Group announces they’ve bought Lego Universe off of Gazillion, “minor staff reduction”.

Lord British Permits You To Continue Playing Faceville On Your Citybook Machine

"And this is the move I used to choke our VP of Marketing when he suggested I take a Tabula Rasa memory stick into space."

Richard Garriott wants you to know he is very aware of social gaming. Specifically, that it kind of sucks.

What’s interesting is that there are a few companies that are making real money in a big way so they deserve their high valuation by all means. And they’ve not only led the charge but they are evolving quickly and they’re doing a brilliant job of it. I have respect and admiration for my already titanic competitors that are ahead of me.That being said, there’s tonnes of small start-ups who we are seeing take lots of investment and lots of activity and large acquisition costs – who are creating, literally, junk. Stuff that people aren’t playing that much and if you play it, it’s not much fun. But it does show you there are investors desperate to find a foothold in this market.

Translation: “Mark Pincus? I totally wasn’t talking about you. Call me. *wink*”

Of course, the gameoblogospherezoidthing is all aflutter over Garriott mentioning the words Ultima and Online in the same sentence.

If you dissect it further, Ultima Online included farming, running shops, fighting monsters, pets – and what kind of games are popular on social networks right now? They’re all dissections of what I’ve already done throughout the Ultima series. One of the things I’m really excited about is that these games are already popular with an audience ten times bigger than the MMO audience, that now covers all ages, all genders and all walks of life. I already know how to do those games.

“No, really, Mark. I’m serious. CALL ME.”

As soon as we have a game where you can have an avatar with a house and a room to display the cool things you’ve collected we can ship it. And then tomorrow you can fight monsters, and a month after than you can have some weapons and armour, and a month after that you can build swords… That will still allow us to come out with a full in-depth Lord British experience, but begin the journey as light as makes a confident, interactive game.

“Screw it, let’s just ship something once we get a paperdoll up and running. THEN Mark will call me.”

Bill Roper Needs Work

For some reason, this image comes up in Google Image Search for "Bill Roper".

Bill Roper, of Blizzard/Flagship/Cryptic/his living room fame, gives a wide ranging interview to Gamasutra about what it was like to go from Diablo to a game considerably less successful.

But the backlash, honestly, was staggering. And I think it was, to me, the level and the depth of the backlash. It wasn’t just like, “Hey, I played this game, and I didn’t like it. It sucked. I hate this game. This game is the worst thing ever.” Okay, you didn’t like the game and all that. But it got to the point where there were personal attacks on developers.It seems like the layers, one is like, “Did you like the game or not?” You could say, “I think this game is horrible.” Perfectly fine. “Hey, I think your company is crap because it makes bad games.” Okay, you know, whatever.

But then I started to get… It got to this level where at one point, on our forums, at the same time… Kind of the backend of this all happening is I was actually going through a divorce at the same time, and somebody found that out and posted on the forums, you know, “Well, I’m sure that his wife is leaving him because he lied about the size of his penis like he lied to us.” I’m like, “Oh my… Really? Really? This is where we’ve come.”

The Internet, folks, we’ll be here all week.

EA CFO Scales Back Old Republic Expectations, Thinks Gamer Blogs Are Funny

EA CFO Eric Brown, in a conference call to investors, said EA CFO Eric Brown didn’t know what he was talking about when he said Old Republic was EA’s largest project ever.

“At half a million subscribers, the game is substantially profitable, but it’s not the kind of thing we would write home about,” EA CFO Eric Brown said in a Gamasutra-attended conference call accompanying EA’s third quarter fiscal earnings report today. “Anything north of a million subscribers, it’s a very profitable business.”

Brown stressed to investors that the costs being incurred now would “essentially turn on a dime” to profits the day the title ships, a date still targeted for sometime after March but before the end of calendar 2012

This, of course, contradicts reports from respected analysts and somewhat less respected bloggers that Old Republic would require 1m subscribers for a profit and 2m to be truly successful. Brown’s response: don’t believe a word those crazy Interweb people say!

“There’s been a fair amount of talk on various blogs describing [Old Republic development] spends that are vastly higher than anything we’ve ever put in place,” he said.

“Don’t read gamer blogs as having any substance. They bring a chuckle, but they also bring a frustration for those that are being responsible with the management of EA’s R&D dollars.”

We at Broken Toys take a simple joy in the fact that we can bring substance-free humor to the desktops of EA executives everywhere.

A Community of Dickwolves

Oh, hi, I have a blog. Sorry, been busy.

So, let’s talk about dickwolves. (Most of the links below came from this recap, which apparently is being updated in progress in case you just can’t get enough dickwolf.)

Penny Arcade a while back wrote a comic about the fundamental absurdity of MMO quests. Pretty familiar to those of you reading, I’m sure.

Pity the poor NPC, indeed. However, people who were raped (though presumably not by wolves, dickish or otherwise) were offended. Mind you, they would have previously had to have skipped the entire character arc of an animated fruit blender whos motivation involves, well, you know.

So, this is not a pair of cartoonists who are known for their political correctness. Or sympathy towards women. After all, this is the comic where one of the protagonists killed his wife and then replaced her with a bucket.

So – profane, surreal, funny. Got it. Someone didn’t.

The problem is, I just don’t find rape funny. Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke, forced to live in a culture that actually has a lot of rape jokes, including those about rape victims being actively denied justice for no other reason than because people don’t take rape seriously. I don’t find rape funny because rape victims are often doubted, mocked, and insulted openly.

This is why I avoid comedy. I don’t go to comedy movies, I rarely watch comedians, I avoid sitcoms like the plague. I’ve started to develop a Pavlovian response, cringing preemptively, to things I do find funny, because if somebody makes a dark joke, I’ve learned it won’t be long until the rape jokes show up.

This is why I’m a humorless feminist. Because rape jokes killed my sense of humor.

This is an overreaction. The writer admits it. She says she has no perspective on the matter. And that’s OK. We all have our areas where you know, you just don’t go.

So of course, the authors of Penny Arcade went there anyway.

Note well – this was not profane (tasteless maybe), not surreal (unless you consider total absence of an ability to hear emotional tone surreal), and – not funny. It’s defensive and churlish. As emphasized in the accompanying comment, helpfully noted as “Tragedy is when I cut my finger”:

For the most part I think that people are perfectly happy to laugh at offensive jokes until the joke offends them. Then it’s not funny anymore. There is no way we can know what each and every person who reads the comic has decided to find offensive.

In the end I just disagree with these people about what’s funny and that’s perfectly okay.

Which, you know, is fine. We’re all adults, Penny Arcade isn’t the moral arbiter of the cosmos, and people make tasteless jokes on the Internet daily. The world moves on.

Except Penny Arcade didn’t move on. They made a shirt commemorating the “Penny Arcade Dickwolves” sports team.

They drew a dickwolf at PAX. You get the feeling that someone really likes priapic wolves.

Or failing that, really likes insulting women.

Finally, someone had had enough.

Leaving aside the fact that I think it’s a little wrong-headed for people in the industry to get too tied into a fan convention in general, what I want to say is that as someone working in the game industry, I think the recent merchandising decisions of Penny Arcade have made PAX and PAX East into spaces that I don’t want my industry to align itself with, and I’m not going to give Penny Arcade content as long as they keep selling that merchandise.

Penny Arcade took down the shirt from their store two days later in response.

It’s true that we have decided to remove the Dickwolves shirt from the store. Some people are happy about this but a lot more of you are upset. You think we’ve caved into to pressure from a vocal minority and you’re not entirely wrong. let me at least break down why we did it though.

First of all I would never remove the strip or even apologize for the joke. It’s funny and the fact that some people don’t get it, or are offended by it doesn’t change that. People complained about the strip and that’s fine with me, my response as always is “if you don’t like it don’t read it.” It is very easy not to log on to Penny Arcade and read our bullshit. We’ve always made offensive comics and that’s not going to change anytime soon. If jokes about violence,rape,aids,pedophilia,bestiality,drugs,cancer,homosexuality, and religion bother you then I recommend reading a different webcomic.

PAX is a different matter though. We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. Now whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter. These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable. It’s how they feel and according to them at least, removing the shirt would make them feel better about attending the show. For me that’s an easy fix to the problem. I really don’t want to have this fight and if not having it is as simple as not selling a shirt then I’ll do it. Contrary to what they might think I’m not a complete asshole.

Now for some people removing the shirt isn’t enough. They don’t want to come to PAX or support PA because of the strip or because they think Tycho and I are perpetuating some kind of rape culture and that’s a different matter. First off it assumes a lot about us that simply isn’t true but more importantly it’s not something I can fix. I’ve gotten a couple messages from people saying they are “conflicted” about coming to PAX. My response to them is: don’t come. Just don’t do it. In fact give me your name and I’ll refund your money if you already bought a ticket. I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.

So there you go. It’s not a simple decision. No matter what we do we’ll have people mad at us. If you want to talk more about it we can chat at PAX.

I’ve quoted this in full for a couple reasons. First off, because this really isn’t an apology. It’s akin to the original comic that was done in response: surly, defensive, “we didn’t do anything wrong”, “if you don’t like it don’t read it”, “no matter what we do people will be mad at us”. This may be honestly how they feel (in fact, I’m pretty sure it is) but it’s also not helpful. It would have been better had the shirt quietly disappeared, with a note left for the hardcore forumgoers what happened.

But the problem is PAX. PAX, or Penny Arcade Expo, has fairly quickly become the primary go-to convention for gamer culture – what everyone who tried to sneak into E3 thought E3 was supposed to be. Lots of lan parties, game demos, 2nd tier science fiction actors, and Jonathan Coulton concerts. Geek nirvana, essentially. And game companies have embraced PAX because of that critical mass of success. So, in a very short time, one of the primary social and marketing events of the computer gaming industry is in the benign stewardship of two surly cartoonists who think it’s funny to crack jokes, and sell merchandise, at the expense of furious rape victims (and watching as fans attack said victims).

There may be one or two problems here.

I think Penny Arcade is a hilarious comic. I read it on a regular basis. I just don’t think it’s appropriate for the game industry to embrace them through PAX. There’s quite a difference between freedom of speech and subsidy of speech. (Edit to clarify/make perfectly clear: I am not ‘calling for an end to PAX’, as one commenter put it. I suspect strongly PAX would survive very well without advertising and marketing, for one thing. But as I said, joining in a marketing/advertising/demo partnership with them is endorsing content that many find objectionable. I would feel the same way if, say, EA advertised on Glenn Beck. Part of a responsible corporate citizenship is being aware of what you endorse.)

Or maybe the game industry is still so immature that we only market to 22 year old boys who make “teamrape” twitter accounts. I mean, really, get some perspective, people, it’s only words! It’s not like online gaming isn’t already a cesspit of a toxic environment which is actively hostile to pretty much anyone not currently in a fraternity. Maybe, after all, the dickwolf should be the mascot of online gaming.

After all, we’re all pretty much dicks.