Okay, now, I know that, in the past, we at Wolfpack have had a tendency to leap at shadows and think that every idea that comes down the pipe was “ours first.” And yes, we might have been a bit snaphappy to assume that (1) we’re always first to come up with a good idea, and (2) other people had to TAKE the idea from us, they couldn’t possibly have come up with it on their own. Paranoid? Yeah, we are. Guilty as charge. And, looking back, I’m more than happy to admit that the use of the EQ word “disciplines” had nothing to do with SB. Nor was DAoC’s “rock troll” lifted from our “stone dwarves” — these are smart teams with innovative ideas drawing from the same knowledge base (ie mythology) and it’s a compliment to all of us that we see as many design intersections as we do.

That said, not everything in this industry is can necessarily be chalked up to innocent coicidence. Sometimes even our staunchest critics may occasionally blink their eyes, grin, and say, “well, yeah, okay, maybe we’ll give this one to you.”


Coincidence? Maybe. It would be kind of hard for Codemasters to claim they *didn’t* know about SB, especially since I met with them back in Sept of 99 in London when we first went looking for a publisher.

My favorite line from the press release:
“Dragon Empires breaks the mould with the importance of player to player combat to the game – it’s open season on all the other players all the time – and introduces the concept of player clans ruling sprawling cities within the game’s world.”

Oh come on, now — If you want to claim to do it, that’s one thing… but to claim to _introduce the concept_? Two years later?

Like I said, maybe it is innocent. Hell, it might not have anything to do with us at all; they might have gotten the concept from these guys.

Anyway, though, I digress. The real question I wanted to ask was, regardless of where the ideas come from.. why all the sudden interest in PvP? As many of your readers are so quick to point out, PvP isn’t exactly the “most popular” feature of EQ, UO or AC. I love engaging PvP combat myself. I think it provides a really good sense of realism and hightened competition… but I also recognize that I’m part of a niche market segment. When we set out to create Shadowbane, we decided to specifically target a niche group of players who weren’t being given an offering suited to their tastes; to provide interesting strategic and tactical combat to a market segment that wasn’t being satisfied by the existing “big three” titles. Our secondary goal was, in choosing a niche, to remain under the other games’ radars by targeting a small enough player base that they wouldn’t bother to try and compete with us on a feature-by-feature basis. This might have worked, btw — except that SB picked up a lot more marketing momentum then we ever expected (especially with the cancellation of UO2 and AD&D online, something we certainly never saw coming.)

So.. why is it now that everyone is flocking to our niche? Doesn’t that kind of fly in the face of the entire “niche marketing” concept? I mean, a PvP-centered MMOG is good idea, but it’s hardly the ONLY idea out there. Hell, if I started a new game today I might well concentrate 100% on tradeskills and economy. Why? Because no one else is doing it! How did we go from “no one cares about the PvPers, in fact let’s ban em all!” to _everyone_ competing for the same (completely unknown!) cache of PvP dollars — in spite of the fact that no one is positive that the PvP market can support one good title, much less half a dozen. Now it seems like no one is concentrating on the trade skills and cooperative play; what the hell is up with that? It’s the proven market! Hell, Shadowbane looks to have a much stronger economic model than most of these new offerings, and that was supposed to be our weak spot.

I swear I don’t understand this industry some times. I don’t buy the idea that the right way to make money is to repeat the same ideas over and over and over until everyone is blue in the face. I always thought, as an entertainment medium, we were supposed to walk that fine line between art & business — too much art and you produce something unplayable (quick *nod* to jess on that one), but too much business and you end up with a bookcase full of undistiguishable Quake clones.

1. Look at the Market. (What offerings are out there?)

2. Find an interesting area that no one else is doing. (What customers aren’t being satisfied?)

3. Innovate (What unique features/services/support can I offer these specific customers?)

4. Deliver (Follow through with a quality product, quality service, and quality support)

Step four is supposed to be the hard one, folks. Comparitively speaking, one through three are a walk in the park.

Warden, Wolfpack