Wednesday, 8 January 2014

WoDMMO aka Wrath of Dorks MMO aka WHERE IS MY GAME!!!

So there has been a lot of moaning in the internet-net-net-net.. Why? Because some one trolled about CCP loosing the license to World of Darkness. Now of course, those of you in know would read that article and say "bullshit". Why? Well the writer talks about White Wolf Studios - Something that hasn't been an entity for 2+ years now. Yes we know that there have been layoffs in Atlanta, but that may be the end of a phase of development, and no ones wants to pay people to twiddle their thumbs.

So of cause, the self confessed troll article set off the WoDMMO fanatics, sending them into a shit storm the likes we have not seen since the 6th Maelstrom. Since then life for CCP and Onyx Path goes on as normal. Yeah we still have no new screen shots, video etc. But then so what? Well CCP announced the WoDMMO back in 2006. But they had too. They were merging with White Wolf. It was obvious why. It would have been dishonest not to say. But it meant they had to state what they were doing a lot earlier than most companies would normally announce making a game. So of course people on the internet-net-net-net.. are whining. "WoDMMO was announced 10 years ago!" - Um no. Saying you will make something is different from starting or doing the dev. "Show us some video/screen shots etc. or it's just vapourware". Um no. Show something clearly working yet unpolished, and gain the ire of "fans" and hack journalists because the game is already "clearly shit", even though there is still 2 years work to go.

So we here at Darker Days Radio have more faith, and trust, and well, understanding, than Joe Brujah Public. Hell I doing programming for my day job, and research is fucking hard and all about developing theory, methods, tools, and coding, and for a good few years having no results. So I sympathize with those code monkeys at CCP. Plus I have had the joy of having in my gaming group in the past, and on the podcast, my friend James, a gamer, QA, and now designer of computer games. He's worked on stuff like the Magic the Gathering Duel of the Planeswalker games, Lego games, Big Point and their MMOs.

So now let's hand over to James to tell you all why you should quit your whining!

Hi, my name is James and I’ve worked in the games industry for 6 years. I’ve done a lot of QA testing, some Games Design and a whole bunch of beta tests.
Kris has asked me to write a little post about the WoD MMO and MMO development in general so here goes.

It takes a LONG time to make an MMO.
Somewhere secret and hidden there will be teams currently planning MMO projects that aren’t even going to be announced for years. They’re having discussions about how to support their servers, what kind of systems to have form the core of the game play, maybe trying to get some idea of a visual style before committing thousands of man-hours to a projects.

A case in point is The Secret World. After rooting around on the internet it seems it was being worked on in as early as 2006 but that it was planned as a spin-off of a yet unfinished game meaning there had already been previous work establishing a theme, concept of the mechanics, planning, budgeting etc. The unfinished game, Cabal, allegedly went in to pre-production in 2002 but it took until 2009 before the studio was happy to be talking about the content of their game to the press and Beta testing only became available in August 30 2011, 11 months before its eventual release on July 3rd 2012.

As soon as it becomes public knowledge you have to maintain public interest for the whole of your super long development cycle.
The moment people hear that there’s a game coming out that they want to play people get excited. They want to know how it plays, they want to know what they’ll have to pay for it, they want to be able to reserve character names or make guild before anyone has been able to sign in.

Managing this is a mammoth task, to try and keep people interested you have to very carefully drip feed them information that’s just enticing enough to keep them excited without causing them to burn out by counting off the days until it’s released. This can go drastically wrong, especially if development hits any speed bumps as a piece of information given at the outset of the hype train might no longer be relevant when they realise they need to switch engine later in development.

Games change throughout development.
A game can start out with a clear direction only to find out systems don’t work as well as expected when put in to a playable game. Maybe resources needed are too scare and they are removed. Maybe the genre has become saturated with present day zombie survival horror games and you want to make sure yours stands out so you change to being a sci-fi zombie survival game.

When you release a game, you get one chance.
Since developing an MMO can take a long time, you want to make sure you give it the best you can do for it. You’ve carefully managed your hype engine to smoothly build up an increasing sense of anticipation for the last 6 years. You’ve settled on which features made it in to game and now it’s time to try out an Alpha of your game.
You carefully select a small group of people, probably forum members or applicants who have expressed an interest through on site registrations. You get them to sign Non Disclosure agreements stating they won’t reveal any information not available to the general public and you let them log it to your game, it’s likely not fully feature complete but you really need to test to see if your server structure can handle it.

At this point people are already judging you, if early screenshots are released then they are torn to shreds and dissected by potential consumers and opinions will be formed. You might have lost some of the player base you’ve been carefully cultivating for years.

World of Warcraft suffers from this due to data mining sites that extract data from the patches on the test realms, new models are extracted from the test data and players are absorbing this content months before it comes out.

So be patient. CCP has no publisher pushing they to deliver on a certain date. If they had that, then people would be forced into what is known as crunch time - doing extra hours, often unpaid. And that's shit. CCP have the flexibility to not have to burn out their staff, and they can take their time to make the game as good as possible on day one release.

So be patient - go play some other games, have a holiday, play some tabletop WoD if you want.

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