This Is Why You Should Never Ask Questions In My Earshot

Picture is unrelated.

From this:

Let’s imagine that you got to sit down with an MMO developer of your choice and ask him or her one direct question. The catch? That dev would have to give you a direct, straight answer without any hedging, PR-speak, or “no comments.

I doubt I’m the “MMO developer of your choice” but you know what? Right now, I’m the only one you got. So here’s my answers to those questions! And… I’m going to answer them ALL. Because I’m a mensch that way.

What is the release date/ time of SWTOR?

As soon as they can possibly do so. They kind of want to start collecting monies.

Are you really just making MMOs because they are cash cows?

No, we have other reasons. MMOs are the only type of game where you can see proto-societies form, where people cooperate on a global scale to achieve their goals – they’re the type of game where people really care. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in something people care about? Plus, I like killing things and looting them for +3 pants.

Are you using PR to incite an aggressive fan culture and flame wars in favor of your game?

Uh, no? Personally, I think “aggressive fan culture” is pretty supremely creepy?

Are you trying to use psychology to get us addicted or are you just trying to make good games hoping we get addicted anyway?

No, there is no secret conspiracy to use variable-ratio reinforcement to literally addict people to MMOs. Not only is that really ethically sketchy, it involves a level of advance planning which doesn’t really exist in the production environment of an in-development MMO, where planning usually revolves around DEAR GOD THE SERVERS HAVE LITERALLY CAUGHT ON FIRE.

I know this is really hard to believe for a lot of people, but MMOs are designed the way they are because someone wanted to play that game. Really. Everquest was designed by MUD players who wanted to make a MUD in 3D. Dark Age of Camelot was designed by Everquest players who wanted less punishing PvE and good PvP. World of Warcraft was designed by Everquest and DAOC players who wanted to play a better Everquest/DAOC. Rift was designed by World of Warcraft players who wanted to play a better World of Warcraft. And so on down the road.

Do you not understand how PVP works, or are you just sabotaging PVP to push your players to raiding?

We hate you. Literally. You. Back there. Yes, you.

Do you genuinely believe you can beat WoW at their own game, or are you simply pursuing the aims of investors?

A lot of game production involves keeping investors/publishers happy because people generally need to be paid to continue to pay for shelter, food, clothing, and the occasional Portal 2. Some people undoubtably believe they can beat WoW at their own game (they also are usually the ones who say things like “WoW developers are sabotaging PvP to push their players to raiding”). However most MMO developers just want to make a fun game that people will enjoy and pay for so that they can continue to pay for shelter, food, and clothing without having to resort to listening to a manager named Rob tell them their code is not elegant.

Do you actually play MMOs, or just develop them?

Very, very few MMO developers do not play MMOs. I mean, dear God, have you missed the part about servers literally being on fire? This is not something you take on as a casual vocation! It’s a field you enter, in large part, because you’re driven to do so.

If you had the choice, would you make a generic, boring but ultra-polished game, or a soulful, original, slightly flawed experience?

If *I* had the choice, I would make a wildly soulful, incredibly original, and deeply flawed experience. You know, like this! This may be why I am not given the choice, because people responsible for tens of millions of dollars in production costs do not generally like it when you tell them you’re going for arty/soulful/wistful/broken.

For the Allods team: Did you genuinely believe the cash shop mechanics were fair, or were you simply out to make a quick buck and ruin a brilliant game in the process?

Do you really expect someone to answer ‘yes, my goal was to ruin a brilliant game?’ I’m tempted to answer “YES, THIS WAS MY GOAL BECAUSE I HATE FUN” (I really do hate fun, and you. Yes you. In the back. Don’t think I don’t see you.)

For SOE: Why do you refuse to do something about Vanguard, when it’s one of the most amazing MMOs developed post-WoW? Do you just want to to die so you can beef up your own EQ franchise, or are you just too lazy/obsessed with money to actively develop it?

Questions like this are why you are not being taken seriously in life in general. I mean, really? “lazy/obsessed with money”? I know this may be a stretch for you to grok, but Vanguard has what, 37 subscribers? SOE is a business. They budget development teams based on what profit they bring in, not out of a sense of supporting artwork in the fashion of a Renaissance merchant prince dabbling in art patronage. Given that Vanguard has 37 subscribers (give or take a few tens of thousands), yes, the Vanguard live team is probably one guy, behind the mail server, with a bit of a maniacal twitch in his eye as his Excel spreadsheet keeps crashing because his work machine hasn’t been upgraded since 2003. Because that’s how budgets work.

I’d ask the RIFT devs how much of their game is based on WoW and if they’re happy about this.

I suspect a few designers there are a bit bitter and assuage their sorrows as they roll around in giant tubs of Krugerrands.

I’d ask the WoW devs how much they think the game is suffering because of the talent transfer that’s taking place between WoW and Titan, the unnanounced mmo.

“Yeah, man, why did Blizzard put US in charge of the cash cow for the entire computer gaming industry anyway? I mean, we clearly suck, right? But really, how MUCH is the game suffering because of us? Can we quantify it? Get me a Powerpoint by Thursday.”

I’d ask all mmo devs out there why are they so afraid of sandbox (or hybrid) games like EVE, Earthrise, maybe DarkFall a bit. These are always avoided by the rich companies and picked up only by small, 10 man (max) start-ups.

Because rich companies got that way because they are risk-averse and prone to investments that are reasonably assured. Sandbox games like Eve are most definitely not assured investments.

To the producer of W40K: Do you understand why a two faction system doesn’t work in MMOs with faction based PvP? You’re not really going down the two faction route are you?

It’s almost like you have a rant about WoW PvP in the form of a question! I’d say that very few people know about WH40K PvP at this point, including the people working on it.

Mark Jacobs and Paul Barnett: What really happened with the development of WAR and it being released in such a terrible state with major content and features dropped prior to launch? Was it publisher pressure to get it out early? Did you run out of money? Did you actually think the game was release ready?

“Publisher pressure” is almost always the correct response to literally every question. “Why is my wife cheating on me?” “Publisher pressure, dude.” However the publisher is not always the bad guy. Sometimes the publisher kicks things out the door after a team misses one milestone after the other and finally just says “look, we need to start making money on this thing, get it launched by next Thursday or you’re all fired.” Not that I have any inside scoop on if that happened or didn’t with WAR, but as you noted, features dropped prior to launch is an excellent sign that some producer is taking a scimitar to the production schedule to get the damn thing out already. Why? Publisher pressure, dude. Sorry about your marriage.

Scott Hartsman: After a a period of the game being live and understanding how it’s really working with a population of real players, if you could take just one element of Rift’s game mechanics, systems or features right back to the drawing board and redo it from scratch what would it be?

“SCOTT JENNINGS! You’re next on IF I WAS SCOTT HARTSMAN! Your answer?”

I’ll take “managing world events” for a dollar, Bob!

If you could change the way you decided to incorporate PvP into LotRO would you do it differently?

The tyranny of the license enters into play here. LotRO doesn’t really work if you have hot Rohirrim-on-Gondor faction action. And there’s not really the option to play as Skurgrim the Uruk-hai in LotRO save how they implemented it. PvP in LotRO is necessarily an afterthought because you can only play one faction in LotRO. Given that I think they did fairly well.

T20: What on earth were you thinking?


I would ask SOE, what was the real reason behind NGE/CU.

This is a good question!

Or Why they do they hate their customers?

Or Why don’t they listen to their customers?

These are not good questions!

Square-Enix: WTF where you thinking when you released FFXIV? Are you lazy? Or was it dishonor that was driving you to charge me nearly $90 for a game not fit for beta?

Dishonor? Really? DISHONOR?


There is only one honorable response to a bungled MMO launch.


WoW: why won’t you get over yourselves and give your players the appearance tab they’ve so desperately wanted for 6 years?

I… I don’t even know what you’re on about here. Are you talking about character customization? Displaying different look and feel in a game at the high end driven by gear acquisition? And “why won’t you get over yourselves” is probably not the best way to ask these things in a way to figure out what you mean!

Rift: given that you’re trying to position yourself as primary competition to WoW, and are directly informed by experience from EQ2, why on Earth would neglect a feature like the appearance tab, seeing as its so much-requested in the former and such an integral part of the play experience of the latter? As a supposed next-gen MMORPG, how do you excuse lacking a basic feature common throughout the overall genre?

I’m sensing a theme here.

To whoever is managing UO these days: With the success of the EQ progression server, why aren’t you trying something similar? Can I please play ANY version of your game before someone came up with the brilliant idea to put ninjas into a fantasy MMO?

Oh come on, ninjas are awesome. Really, if you disagree, you are without honor and see the above pic. OK, the serious answer to this question: because making a “old rules” ruleset server is not a trivial task – you have to first have a copy of the server at the point you’re discussing (which in a game of UO’s age could be a challenge), and then you have to fork the code base off and have it exist in its own little “old rules” world and still support every client permutation out there (and if not mistaken, UO has several, many of which did not exist during “old rules” time”) in such a way that technical support isn’t overwhelmed with MY CLIENT CANNOT CONNECT TO YOUR NINJAFREE GAME AND WHERE IS YOUR GODDAMN APPEARANCE TAB. That being said, it’d be a good idea, and I had thought Mythic had said it was under serious consideration, which generally translates to “is the publisher going to pay us to do this? please?”

Besides ArenaNet and CCP, why not once have you all devs (from the other companies) think outside of the box and try to make something fresh and fun instead of using the same old recipe over and over and fail?

“Damn it, I KNEW we were doing something wrong…. we keep using the same old recipe and we fail! Why didn’t we think about making something FUN? I knew we forgot something I KNEW IT.” “It was the appearance tab, wasn’t it.” “Stay away from my wife.” “I dunno man, publisher pressure….” “I MEAN IT.”

I would ask Carrie Gouskos and Jeff Hickman why did they cut the throat of the WAR PVE game and left it to bleed out in a alley…

Well, yes, you would. Did I mention that I hated you? Yes. You. Don’t try to hide behind that other guy who I also hate. Oh, wait, you’re still talking.

…I would also ask them how they sleep at night, and if they think that any other development house would touch them after their complete and utter betrayal of the gaming community.

You know you’re everything, literally, I hate about the MMO community and its total and complete lack of any perspective whatsoever, right? You are aware of this? OK? You’re good with it? Cool.

You must be dreaming. Devs will never give a straight answer. They have all be imprinted with a marketing priorites and thus will never tell the truth.

It’s true. Human Resources runs the imprinting program. *beep*