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Rage Against The MMOachine

October 17, 2008

I was starting to wonder when the gloves would come off in the MMO genre between game designers, who up to this point have been more or less following the same script in interviews:

INTERVIEWER: So, you’re developing Game B and it looks pretty cool!  But what about Game A, which has been out, like, forever and is slavishly followed by hordes of players?

GAME B DEV: Well, Chuck, we at Game B Company have great respect for Game A, and feel that it has done a lot to further the cause of MMOs.  Of course, we feel we have something new and different to offer, but it can only expand the field, and there’s room enough for all of us to play and hold hands and make daisy chains after the daily bonfire.

Then you flip on to the other side:

INTERVIEWER: So you’ve been running Game A for five years now and you’re still going strong.  What do you think about this new game, Game B, which is coming along?  You guys scared of it?

GAME A DEV: [condescending laugh] Well, Chuck, we at Game A company are obviously very good at what we do, but we respect what Game B’s devs are trying to accomplish.  Why, this is a growing market and there’s room enough for all!  I even braided Game B’s lead dev’s hair last week while we talked about boys and makeup and My Little Pony.

Of course, the veracity of these interviews are nowhere near to what actually happens in these people’s heads, unless they’ve told themselves these statements so many times that they’ve begun to agree with them.  It smacks of phoniness on the level of competing politicians complimenting each other, or if Wal-Mart suddenly did a newspaper article about how much they admire and respect Target.  They’re competitors.  They each want to win, because winning nets them dollars, and they like those things quite a bit.  But for some reason, this seems to be par for the course in video games, and especially MMOs, where there’s a wary dance of compliments and respect and backhanded insults mixed together and spoon-fed to gamers who just, y’know, want to play a good game.

I’ve never understood why smaller MMO companies seem to always suck up to Blizzard in every interview where the interviewer makes the inevitable “So what do you think about World of Warcraft in relation to your game?” remark, because Blizzard, more often than not, doesn’t give a rip what the other companies think, and are quick to dismiss them.  It might be a more interesting world if these devs grew a pair and someone went, “Hey, our game is WAY better than WoW, and here’s why!” without tiptoeing around the interview out of fear that they might — God forbid — offend their competitor.

I guess that day has come, because this week we’ve seen the gloves come off, the talk grow smack, and the words be trippin’.  It’s a lengthy series of back-and-forth quotes and interviews between some of Blizzard’s devs and Mark Jacobs (which Broken Toys organizes for your reading pleasure), which I guess started when a Blizzard dev got a bit too smarmy about his competitor’s product, and Mark Jacobs, lovable mad uncle figure that he is, was not going to take that sitting down.  Seeing as how a dance-off wasn’t possible due to geographic locations, we have to settle for a bit of “Well, YOUR mama!” between the two companies.

In a way, this is good.  It’s good for these two companies (and the others should follow suit) to come out and say, “We think our product is good, better than our competition, and you should play us and forget those losers.”  It’s not because we want negativity to abound, but because companies need to stop living in Blizzard’s shadow and just be themselves, be proud of what they made and not be ashamed to promote it above WoW.  It’s good because it actually produces a more competitive environment that can only benefit players, whether they be sending their subscription dollars to Blizzard, Mythic, Turbine, NCSoft or elsewhere.  And it’s good because it’s entertaining to watch Mark Jacobs be ticked off at someone who isn’t you, and because he strikes me as one of those WWE wrestlers who get the mike before they go into the ring and start going, “I’MA GONNA DESTROYYYYY YOU!  I’MA GONNA EAT YOUR BONESSSSS!”

End result: Syp is entertained.

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13 comments

  1. This article brought something else to mind…

    “Because look, I love John McCain. He is one of my dearest friends. But at the same time…he’s also dangerously unbalanced. I mean, let’s be frank. John McCain – and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for – is bad at his job and mentally unstable.”

    If you haven’t seen this brilliant “deconstruction” of the VP debate, I recommend it. It’s pretty damn funny. Ah, SNL.

    http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/vp-debate-open-palin-biden/727421/


  2. /e hug Mark

    Have to love a Developer who’s that passionate about his work.


  3. We should have a wrestling match between Kaplan and Jacobs. Wouldn’t that be fun.

    Cage match please, no healers!


  4. I don’t think people are “sucking up” to Blizz. They’ve got a lot of respect. They’ve become huge while keeping quality consistently high.

    This was the case even before WoW. The fact that they’ve been known to postpone or totally drop games (Starcraft Ghost) that didn’t meet the standards is also pretty impressive.

    With all that said, it is pretty funny to see these guys finally speaking without a PR filter. 🙂


  5. I thought Kaplan’s comments were rather tasteless, and Mark was extremely well behaved and civilized in return.

    Too bad WAR is a beta product still, and in no way able to compete with WoW. I wish I was able to play the product with the developer I like more.


  6. I _do_ want to see MMORPG developers asked about WoW. If they don’t think WoW is great (and they can’t explain why besides saying “it grew the market”) then they have no business making massive games to begin with.

    It’s impossible to count all the MMORPG problems that WoW solved the day it was released, to say nothing of all the great things they have done since.

    If you look at what’s been done in the past, and concentrate on improving on that, you get WoW and WAR. If you “do your own thing”, you get Tabula Rasa and Conan.


  7. That was a fun read, I got a chuckle out of the part about:
    “Yes, of course the fact that, you know, Warhammer Online launched last month and garnered almost a million subs and people in the MMO industry might have opinons on that is besides the point: BLIZZARD IS GOING TO TAKE MYTHIC DOWN. Oh, if only a corporation with very large pockets stood behind plucky little Mythic.”

    Say what you want about EA, they generally urk me almost as much as SoE, but one thing they do have in stupidly deep pockets.


  8. I really hope that somebody with more points in diplomacy will step in and take over speaking to the public soon. The knee-jerk “well so’s your mamma” responses have been making me feel a little embarrassed for him.

    Also I nearly joked on my tea when I read the part where he says WAR’s stability is “unbelievable” and boasted about “negligible” downtime (tell that to the Oceanic servers) and “almost non-existent” crashes. I want to play the game he’s been playing! lol


  9. Yarr!!! Go Mark!!! Grab a bat, call me to take my 4 pound chain, and lets go trashing Blizzard’s offices!

    Now all I need to be completely happy is Mark breaking Kaplan’s nose. If I had my doubts about playing WAR for a long time (and very small doubts), now they’re gone. I could even pay 5$ more for sub if they keep it up this way.


  10. I don’t think that the companies are
    “… always suck up to Blizzard in every interview where the interviewer makes the inevitable “So what do you think about World of Warcraft in relation to your game?” ”

    As your comments section shows devs tip toe so they don’t piss off the fans by saying “WOW (the game that has the biggest player base. A base we want. with Players that have put hundreds to thousands of hours into a game. Players that show they are loyal and will play $15 a month no matter what the game is like and how broken it is at any given time.) is crap”


  11. As for bickering being good for competition, it really doesn’t matter as far as the quality of the games. What pushes the developers to make better games is the quality of other games, not puny arguments. I seriously don’t think blizzard went back to their office after that and said “all right guys, Mark Jacobs Schmacobs said we were stupid, let’s show him! Improve the game by two!!”

    Its a big industry, not preschool. Whatever we hear from them is usually a strategy for people to think:

    “If I had my doubts about playing WAR for a long time (and very small doubts), now they’re gone. I could even pay 5$ more for sub if they keep it up this way.”


  12. Am I the only one who reads the discussions about those interviews and gets really frightened about the sanity of the people involved? Not the interviewees, but the people complaining about them.

    I read one of the IGN threads on this interview and if I had no familiarity with Blizzard or WoW or anything I would swear that Blizzard as a collective cheated on the girlfriends of every poster and didn’t say sorry.

    It was really disconcerting and I don’t understand it or the rabid hatred that people are throwing at Blizzard and WoW and, by extension, the people who play it.

    At the end of the day these are just games and not presidential candidates and frankly some of the forum threads I’ve read complaining about WoW make the political discussions I’ve been involved in seem civil, respectful and non-argumentative! I personally play what entertains me, and when I stop getting entertained I move on, but I don’t really get the venom or embitterment I’m seeing from people who used to play WoW and do so no longer.


  13. I understand that devs taking swings at each other is more entertaining, but your assumption that all interview politeness is false and not genuine is just plain wrong.

    As a developer, I go to the same industry events as everyone else. People know each other, are civil, and genuinely wish for each other’s success. The industry is too small for there to be much hatred. If you are talking trash about other devs while making games at Mythic, what happens when you decide to move on to another company?

    There are always going to be exceptions, as this case has shown. For the most part though, I think you are looking for drama where there is usually none to find.

    Other than that, I’m really enjoying your blog 🙂



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