October 22, 2008

If you have a couple of spare hours to wade through the damp mucus that is a wild and untamed internet forum, you might want to head over to F13, where Mark “The Groundhog” Jacobs has popped his head up and gone on a posting rampage.  Many, many words were killed in this event, but it is always amusing to see him wrastle (that’s like wrestle, just more southern) with sane, logical, even-tempered gamers.

Among his many dictionary-gutting posts was this quote that intrigued me:

First, I’m glad to know that you realize how complicated changing things is. Just so you know, I’ve already had this exact same conversation with the key guys twice in the last week. And when I talk about baby steps or doing things slowly it is precisely because I know WotLK is coming. If we jump the gun (or jump the shark) now, it will be hard to get people to come back even after the ice melts. OTOH, if we take a little longer, make the right changes and don’t FIU, then people will either stay and play both or leave and then come back. But, if we FUBAR, they won’t. Ask yourself this, if you were me, would you take a long-term approach to this game’s success or a short-term? If it’s the long-term, well, you would look at everything carefully. You would take safer steps while you plan out the bigger steps. You would spend more time polishing key things and have more surprises in the wings. You would do everything you could to keep the game going nicely but expect the worst and be ready for it. If you take a short-term approach, you would immediately rush to action like the world is coming to an end. You would too quickly nerf and add just to keep players happy because you believe that they are right and you didn’t gather enough evidence because you didn’t have the tools or the time. You’d make all sorts of promises that you believe in and hope you can deliver but then reality rears its ugly head. You’d spend a ton of time trolling the forums and spending way too much time listening to what is said there and make other changes accordingly. You’d be looking for the modern equivalent of bread and circuses.

Now, which sounds like a better plan? And which sounds more like 2001?

First of all, who doesn’t like bread?  Or circuses?  And isn’t the game industry already like a circus, with announcers bellowing “Look at this!  A modern wonder!  A joy to behold!” as some dev puts their head in a lion’s mouth for the publicity?

Anyway, I like this quote because it asks us to take a hard step back and really think about what it’s like for a dev team.  All gamers are backseat game developers by nature — myself included — and it’s a common theme for us to think of what we assume are brilliant, obvious ideas and then get incensed that they’re not implemented the second we utter them.  We’re notorious for being a group of the most impatient, ADD-afflicted hobbyists in the world, and our nerdy wrath descends upon whatever dev or game company that isn’t pleasing us that day.

But read this quote and really understand it — it’s got a lot of truth in there.  Do we really want a company that’s wildly swinging to and fro depending on the day and consumer temperament?  We like fast, immediate action, to be sure, but how often does that get paired up with “horrendous mistake”?

What Mark is asking for is for us to join with them in looking at Warhammer Online as a long-term effort.  Anyone who’s been through the process of a growing MMO knows just how easy it is to break one of these games and sour a vast majority of the players (NGE anyone?).  Good leaders don’t just sit in an isolated room and ignore those they lead; likewise, they don’t capitulate to every little demand that is shouted their way by their followers.  A good leader sees the long-term goal, listens to everyone else, and makes decisions that are wisest for everyone and for the endeavor, even if it frustrates people in the short-term.

Anyway, I thought it was a particularly good quote, and I wanted to bring it to the attention of us all.



  1. Amen to that. I was reading this thread today, and the foremost thought I had was, “damn, we’re jerks.” XD

  2. Very well put, and I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. People need to be patient, especially if the game is brand new out of the box, not to mention an MMO!

    I am glad Mythic is taking this approach, it means the big updates get put through QA for reasonable time before we ever get to see them, and again it is a good thing. When patches are rushed in an attempt to please the players, it all ends up worse than planned.

    What bothers me though most, is that Mark posts in the F13 forum and not in Warhammer Alliance forum, where the amount of people is much bigger than any other WAR forum or community site.

  3. Sane, logical, even-tempered gamers? Has F-13 changed in recent times? Their responses still read like the jaded opinionated folk they’ve always been since F-13 was Waterthread. The self-righteousness of it all is wearying.

    That said, the Mark Jacobs quote is still heartening, he’s got a good head on his shoulders.

  4. @ Panzer – Mark’s pretty notorious for bouncing around to different forums and making a nest for a period of time. It was WHA for a while, but I’ve heard that he’s no longer so fond of the site; then it was VN; now F13. Who knows where next he’ll go!

    @ Risset – I might’ve been layering a bit of sarcasm on with that statement.

  5. I guess after years of wow devs ignoring the customers (exaggerating but you get the point) I still find it odd to have the head honcho repeatedly posting in forums.

  6. I know what he means about trying to stay out of the massive buffs followed by heavy nerfs routine. After playing a rogue in WOW for a few years, at the start of BC rogues were really underpowered. Even other classes were admitting and calling for some buffs to the previously strong pvp and pve class.

    It took a good year or so before Blizzard responded with some amazing buffs, which as expected, turned an underpowered class into an overpowered one. Then the crying started, almost immediately they were nerfed, then again and again in response to the numerous “stunlocked to death” threads that got started up every day.

    Even if it is justified, nothing makes you more annoyed that seeing your class being nerfed every patch because the first buff patch you had in a year went too far. Little buffs and little nerfs is much better than massive buffs followed by massive nerfs.

    In WAR I have heard that electromagnet thing is something that should probably be looked at, but other whines (bright wizards do too much damage11!!) should probably be ignored as much as the newly dinged level 70 warlock who got 100-1’d by the season 4 gladiator rogue threads in wow. If one particular ability is upsetting balance it needs to be fixed, if a few players are complaining because they think another class is better that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt(y tears).

  7. “All gamers are backseat game developers by nature — myself included — and it’s a common theme for us to think of what we assume are brilliant, obvious ideas and then get incensed that they’re not implemented the second we utter them.”

    Maybe designers but not developers. Creating what to build, designers, and doing the building, developers, are to totally different things.

    Different mindsets, talents, knowledge, skills, abilities, etc. The rare individual can do both but on MMOs these roles a divided between teams let alone different individuals.

    I play games like reading a book or watching a movie. Take what is there, knowing I have no ability to change any of it. I only have the choice to consume there is there or not. I also have the choice to consume when and if it change, hopefully for the better.

  8. […] I’m also happy to hear Mark Jacobs’ philosophy with WAR is much different than it was with DAOC. He has a vision for long-term success. Mythic may be taking a bit longer to implement changes in WAR but they’re actually doing it based on evidence rather than reacting in the short-term to player whines. Heck, I’ve done my fair share of whining around here but I don’t have the kind of overall vision of the game that they do. It’s probably best to leave these decisions up to them. Syp has a good post on “leadership.” […]

  9. @SleepySam

    I don’t see why this behavior is better. They don’t have their own official forums, so players that want to be up on the game devs’ intentions have to now monitor 4 horribly unmoderated forum sites to scour for news, which the devs will arbitrarily choose to grace with their presence and then vanish.

  10. I do enjoy Mark’s posts. I do hate he spreads them around all forums so it is quite the effort to find them all. So posts like this DON’T get lost, shouldn’t the War Herald have a “Dev post” tracker? If they post on a site, they post a link on the herald. Would be simple?

    Sometimes Mark’s comments are a little too.. what’s the word.. ‘rah rah’. I know that is his job – I just think instead of poofing his chest out perhaps he should let the game do the talking.. sometimes. They already have a good record for changes but often when I read his links to his posts I am left shaking my head.

    That is probably just the jaded MMO-vet in me. =) I am in for the long haul, for the record, and will give them the time they need to continue to improve the experience.

  11. I have never understood why people even respond in forums when people throw insulting remarks your way – you know, ‘epic fail’, ‘funtard’, etc…

    Mark is majorly guilty for these – somebody insults him, and he just can’t seem to resist responding…

    When I make a comment and somebody tells me I should die, I just ignore it and they go away. Maybe we should all do that?

  12. I have been a “casual addict” of MMOs since a friend introduced me to SWG 4-5 years ago. Knee jerk reactions to anything other than a mugger’s groin do not work! It is nice to see the folks working on WAR are taking a mature approach to changing the game haphazardly.

    Personally, I would not mind them delaying the release of the two new class archetypes for a while. I would like to see them thing them through and introduce them as a breath of fresh air when the game starts to get stale. Hell the game is just over a month old!

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