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Jumping On The Bandwagon! …where’s my piccolo?

July 6, 2008

One of the great things about blogging is that when another blog or site posts a thought-provoking article that calls for more than just a quick reply in the “comments” section, you have an entire blog at your disposal. Aim… and fire!

Today’s bandwagon comes from a slightly scathing piece that Browncoat over at WHA wrote concerning EA Mythic’s informational control and release, which garnered some support and some criticism of its own. Essentially, Browncoat’s saying that EA Mythic’s marketing department is responsible for using a lot of smoke and mirrors and misdirection to keep the hype focused where they want it to be, and brushing off many of the concerns of the community looking for more concrete answers and information.

It’s a good topic to examine, since a few things are to be learned from studying it. The first is that we are, right now, in a phase where it’s far more trendy to support, compliment and encourage the company/game/dev team than it is to criticize. That’s usually the case pre-launch for any MMO — the whole “they can do no wrong” angelic front that the fanboys conjure up — and depending on how good the game is when played, can last a good long period. If people have concerns or constructive criticisms or troll, they’re shouted down. Nobody wants to hear dissent when they’re anticipating something great. But then there’s always the backlash, where criticism becomes more trendy, and supporters have their turn getting labeled as “brownosers” and “foolish”.

It’s the bane of well-reasoned posters, really. Lots of idiots on the internet can’t fathom that supporters of a game might also offer constructive criticism as well, but that’s how life works. If you care about something passionately enough, you want it to be the very best it can be. In my opinion, Browncoat and War Noob and anyone else who spoke out on this subject should be offered the courtesy of listening to their opinion before throwing them to the manatees.

As for the subject itself, I pretty much concur with Brownie. Yes, Mythic’s been near-awesome with the constant communication, great newsletters, dev contact and so on. But if you spend any time studying the progress of the information, you’ll see that it’s being channeled exactly where Mythic wants it to be that week. Like mainstream news, we’ve entered into “news cycles” where a particular hot topic is latched upon and discussed over and over until it’s near-exhausted — and who decides what topic that’s going to be? Very often, it’s Mythic’s PR. You see it at conventions, were certain facets of the game are showcased almost exclusively to all others, to where everyone who writes on their experiences pretty much says the same thing.

It’s not so much a conspiracy as it is good marketing. Right now, with the NDA in place, Mythic controls the release of public information (for the most part): where and when and how it’s given. No marketing team for any company wants to highlight areas of a developing product that are still in flux; they want to boast about the big winning successes that steal the spotlight away from all else. What Browncoat was trying to urge us is to realize that this is how marketing works — it’s neither good nor evil, it’s just how the game is played — and we should be a little more critical and a little more pressing with our detective skills in pursuing the truth.

Personally, one of my greatest worries for WAR right now is how little we know about some very large swaths of the game (and if that sounds familiar, I’ve said it quite a few times by now). What we’ve been shown looks great, but what we haven’t is somewhat disturbing. Sure, maybe it’s not polished yet and has potential changes in its near future. I’m sure that’s true. But what about the systems that aren’t anywhere near ready for release? What about the questions that fans have been asking, over and over, and Mythic keeps shrugging aside? Is it wrong to be so demandy of a company that’s been pretty great with communicating with us so far?

I don’t think so. The more info we have, the more we can sell our friends and families on this game. We’re part of Mythic’s marketing strategy as well, if you want to get downright frank about it (and I’ll be Ernest). Parroting Mythic’s talking points for the week isn’t as great of word-of-mouth as is hands-on experience, or barring that, someone else’s hands-on experience. Plus, details. Tons and tons of details.

The moral of the story, kids, is that it’s okay to disagree. It’s okay to be critical. It’s okay to want the full scoop before you buy the product. As long as you’re doing all this in a respectful, mature fashion, it can foster some great conversations in the community.

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13 comments

  1. I don’t disagree that we should look critically at things when needed, but I didn’t like Brownie’s article and I can disagree without being ‘fanboyish’ about it.

    I used to work as a marketing consultant, and trust me, I’ll be more than happy to criticise where I think it’s warranted.


  2. The NDA had been getting to me a little bit. Junes newsletter release came as a sort of sweet and sour sort of feeling. I was happy it was out so I could see what more was going on. But the overwhelming feeling is that I’m simply sick of still being fed this trickle of information.

    Though that feeling moved away after a little bit because I feel like we’re going to see the NDA drop at the end of this month and the Open Beta sometime in August.

    At least that’s what I’m telling myself in an effort to refrain from going crazy.


  3. just so someone disagrees with you. i disagree with you. its ok right? 🙂 good article btw.


  4. I’m not the happiest I could be with Mythic at the moment due to their vice grip on the balls of any substantial information about the game. I heard FROM the DEVS of AoC that there would be epic guild seiges, incredible city battles, tons of stuff to do. All this was hogwash and didn’t pull through. Yes, WAR looks to be an incredible ground-breaking MMO that I will enjoy. But with the NDA of Hell from Mythic we can only take the DEVs word for it, and look were that got us with AoC.


  5. I always want to buy a new car, cheeseburger, or whatever is flashy and new on TV or radio. Mythic knows the secret to our compulsive hearts.


  6. There’s a difference between being an interested customer (or future customer) and a total fanboy/girl. I thought that was what browncoat was getting at … some people read the PR stuff and interviews and discuss it with polite enthusiasm and varying degrees of polite cynicism, others decide to have religious wars over it.

    It’s all going to be moot in a few weeks time when the NDA drops. We can still have crazy arguments but it won’t be based so much on what Mythic say.

    I gotta say, I quite enjoy all the hype and PR. It’s given us several months of harmless (and free) entertainment while we try to imagine what the game could be like if they hit all their design goals! Or to discuss what any issues might be.


  7. Heck if mythic wants me on there side they’d send a few boxes matza my way that’s the key to my heart right there.(matza the best gaming snack in the world, just make sure you shake your key board out after a few weeks) I recently had a run in with mythic about a DAoC 14 day trial that I didnt know was the same as a real acount. I got charged for 3. Months worth of subscription in which I never played. I was able to get all my funds back including my over draft charge. I was impressed with there speedy resalution of the issue. Mythic you’ve been good to me so far now just launch the open beta on August please


  8. @Jay – You might want to check on the various beta leaking blogs if you’re so worried.

    On topic: I understand what they are doing and to be fair, I side with them. No one wants to portray their game in a negative light. It’s human nature to want to promote something you’ve just put a lot of creative effort in to.

    So while I feel the PR team have an arm in it. I don’t feel it’ll be the iron fist that some of the more sensational blogs will make it out to be.


  9. I am not too worried. We still have an estimated 3 months until release. They have said they wanted to release the NDA early and if they didn’t, we should be worried. If the NDA is still active in late August, I will be worried.


  10. True enough… once the NDA drops this’ll all be moot. But that said, Mythic has an opportunity right now to be even more forward with information while handing it out still grants them some credit with the community.

    And the hype train has been fun, no doubt. Gives us something to fill the time with — and there’s no harm in looking forward to something!


  11. My problem with what Browncoat wrote was not that he was critical of what he has seen thus far. My problem was not that he wants more information about the game. I think he made some good points even if they may not be valid of a game that is in beta testing.

    My problem is that he/she blames the marketing department I think he wanted to go off on a rant but just couldn’t pinpoint where the blame should be placed so he targeted marketing. The way he makes his argument, it would seem as if marketing is the sole voice about the game and that the devs are completely submissive to, and have no control over, the marketing department. And why an administrator of a very large WAR forum would make such a post of a game that has not been released baffles me.


  12. “And why an administrator of a very large WAR forum would make such a post of a game that has not been released baffles me.” – Dave

    Thought I’d break in here to clarify.

    Just because I am an administrator on one of the largest WAR communities doesn’t mean Mythic gets a free pass if I have an opinion that is critical of their work instead of positive. During the last ChaosCast, Garthilk said it well enough – we have an obligation to present the opinion of the community, and if that opinion is negative towards EA Mythic, then so be it.

    That being said, we’re always going to guide any negative commentary towards something EA Mythic can actually use, which means being constructive and respectful. If you go on the site and you want to post about how the company is lazy, stupid, or if people like Mark Jacobs deserve to be run over a bus, and expect us to protect you because of our obligations, then you’ll find how wrong you really are. But if someone is actually able to challenge Mythic and provide them with feedback to improve themselves, then it’ll be allowed no matter how critical it is.

    As for the article, my finger is pointed primarily at marketing, but I do realize other elements obviously go into the process. I still think Marketing is primarily to blame for the bad concept art, overly hush-hush details about missing classes, and reluctance to release concrete detail on “hot topics” this close to release. But I know there’s more to the vetting process than that.


  13. […] on his blog, disagreeing with the original author (Browncoat @ WHA). And Syp over at Waaagh posted a response also, agreeing in part with Browncoat about information flow, commenting on the responses the post […]



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