APB Closing Today

Welp, that’s all, folks.

Despite interest from 300 interested parties, none of a final shortlist of six were “comfortable with buying it as a live operation,” Les Able, spokesperson for Begbies Traynor, told our sister site this afternoon.

Able added that “staff had been told what the position is”, and the online multiplayer title is now expected to be shut down within the next 24 hours.

This may have already happened, as the and websites are already offline. The online store is still up as of this writing for you to buy the game and in-game points, though that may not be the wisest of investments.

APB is the shortest-lived MMO ever, having launched on June 29, 80 days ago.

Ex-RTW technical lead Luke Halliwell on his blog yesterday blamed the community team for APB’s failure. Nope, not joking.

Stern-sounding codes of conduct were emailed around that, whatever their intent, in practice scared many developers away from interacting directly with our users. Not to worry, though, because our Community team was on the case! Except if a forum post was about a bug, because that wasn’t their area … bugs were for Customer Support. Who, naturally, didn’t read the forums … because that was Community’s job!

I can see how these rules make sense for big, established online games. Codes of conduct in-game to prevent developers abusing their inside position for in-game success. Codes of conduct on forums to prevent accidental PR disasters. Clear divisions between groups and processes for reporting bugs to ensure smooth handling of large volumes of data.

But these are all problems that successful games have. We had a different problem – engaging with our community and getting people to give a shit about our product – and all these rules and divisions just got in the way.

Actually, “getting people to give a shit about your product” is a bit more core an issue than finger-pointing over who gets to play forum warrior.

As my *fair*, *balanced*, and *not at all a pack of wild mongeese* community of readers has already noted, Halliwell’s followups are far less, um, fingerpointery and delve more into structural issues that plague most projects you shovel money into hoping delicious development candy comes out

When we received the initial $30m to develop MyWorld, management literally reverse-engineered a “hiring curve” (a graph of team size against time) from 3 parameters: the budget available, the desired launch date (set by the investors), and our internal figure for the maximum rate we were able to hire people at (this was the only good part of the plan – Dundee put the brakes on for us!). There are obviously far better ways to plan a project, and I could spend a whole post discussing just that, but for now I just want to focus in on the unquestioned assumption that we should set out to spend all the money.

This attitude infected our company culture at many levels. Almost everything we did, we sought to throw people at, and our hiring created inefficiencies all over the place.

Along with political turf wars…

Opposed to Red was a group that for the sake of argument we’ll call Blue, with diametrically opposed views. Quietly and subtly, perhaps without many in the organisation noticing, these two groups fought for the company’s culture. Ultimately the Blues were destroyed. While probably numerically greater, they held less org-chart power and were forced to work hard for even small concessions. And while the Red relished the meetings and political fighting, the Blue were passionate about getting on with real work, about making our product better, and for the most part gave up the fight to focus on that. The Red weren’t averse to dirty tricks either, such as paying a key Blue to leave (that’s org-chart power for you).

…and having a CEO who can control people with the power of his mind.

The Reality Distortion Field was a double-edged sword for us. I’m pretty sure it was a big part of us raising $100m. It also obviously contributed to our complacency. If anything ever reached crisis point, Dave was always, always able to convince people that everything would be ok. I think at times this prevented us from actually taking problems as seriously as we should have.

I don’t blame Dave for that though; it’s a brilliant skill to have and I don’t think he ever wielded it maliciously. We were the fools for not staying hungry.