The yearly bitching at Mark Jacobs

Since I already stepped outside my purposes by commenting on Vanguard I decided to add on top of it by commenting one recent post by Mark Jacobs I spotted. The reason is that for once I don’t have much that is edgy or bitchy to say. So I decided to do it for a change. And while I demonstrate to not respect my own rules, don’t expect any more comments about MMOs for a long while. Take this as an EXTRA.

The comment I spotted is on the WarhammerAlliance tracker, I’m going to nitpick it:

Truth #1 – In terms of sub numbers DAoC was higher than AC and around the same as UO. These numbers are a matter of record and have been cited by numerous people over the years. EQ and of course WoW were more successful but on the other hand, DAoC cost only 2.5M to make in 18 months and its earnings to cost ratio make it one of the most successful games, not just MMOs, of all time. Its profit margin is even higher and based on what I know of almost all the other studios out there, was the best of any of the aforementioned games because of the game’s lower costs for bandwidth, servers, etc. DAoC is 6 years old and still running.

Sure, DAoC was a success. Mythic deserved that success, put together a very good team, licensed some terrible middleware that still cripples the game today and will cripple Warhammer too, BUT that helped a lot pushing out the game so quickly and efficiently. It’s probably for that crappy middleware that DAoC was *possible*.

So, DAoC’s success should be measured on its own scale. As should EVERY game. Eve-Online has been MORE successful than DAoC, I’d argue. Measured on its own scale. And, measured on its own scale, WoW would have been a massive failure if it had just 400k subs all over the world. But it has nearly 10 millions. So it is not. Keep this in mind because I’ll return on this point.

Sure the (DAoC) numbers are going down as they have been since WoW but *every* MMORPG that was launched before WoW took a hit from that game.

It’s just too easy to argue this, but not too easy if the arguing isn’t as superficial as that claim. Eve Online is again the exception to a rule. It grew and didn’t sink.

I’d phrase that claim differently. MMOs whose numbers went down were all MMOs that presented the same gameplay WoW had (so most of all). WoW made a better work, so players moved there. It’s simple. DAoC, between all similar MMOs, was the game who lost MORE players overall. Why? Not so much because game design went down the drain after TOA (that’s another matter, not incisive here), but because WoW targeted those players and offered something better. While WoW’s PvP is still limited, it’s still the biggest effort since DAoC. And while DAoC still has a charm that wasn’t recaptured, WoW, as a whole package, is just better than DAoC as a whole package.

Truth #3 – DAoC was the most successful MMORPG in Europe prior to the “WoW era”. Nobody, not even EQ, had the same success in Europe that we did. This includes AC1, AC2, UO, EQ and all the other smaller MMORPGs that game out prior to WoW.

True. And it’s why licensing Warhammer was a good move on this front. Trying to strengthen your position in a field where you are already strong. Supposedly because Warhammer has a more European appeal.

Slight problem: we aren’t anymore “prior to the WoW era”. Rules are different now.

I wish I had saved all the snark from Sanya and others when they kept repeating that WoW was as every other MMOs launched and that it wouldn’t kill DAoC. Fact is that WoW killed DAoC and shapeshifted the whole market, entirely changed the rules. Only that MMOs don’t die in a day. They become just corpses that continue to struggle indefinitely. It still doesn’t mean they are alive.

2) Assertion – DAoC failed because of Trials of Atlantis and because we made RvRs do PvE.

Truth #1 – DAoC’s numbers were going down as expected even before ToA.

I call this false, even if I don’t have any factual number, while he has them.

I remember the numbers on the live servers well. During summer Mythic always lost some activity, but then it was stable. DAoC’s numbers weren’t going down prior to TOA. They just oscillated as it typical of every MMO without major updated. When TOA launched numbers went up significantly. Three months after TOA I think DAoC peaked on concurrent logins. So it actually was doing really well after TOA. I believe because TOA was an ambitious expansion, with lot of work and resources gone into it. Three months later and with the actual conscience of the flaws, players started to say “fuck it”. So the impact of TOA’s failure actually arrived after some time, and it then lasted for a veeeery loooong time. What TOA did was destroy Mythic’s reputation more than the game itself. TOA’s effects on the game were long term.

Truth #2 – If the PvE required for ToA had been better, the PvEing wouldn’t have been as big of a deal but as I just said above, and countless times before hand, it wasn’t so it made it worse. Burning Crusades required WoW’s people to PvE and yet less of a stink was made about it because they did a better job with it than we did and we paid the price for it.

I agree, even if “making PvE better” isn’t the real solution to a less superficial problem (relationship between PvP and PvE in a mixed game type).

But here Mark Jacobs misses Truth #3, the most important. It’s slightly before TOA (so where Mark Jacobs puts the start of DAoC’s decline) that Mythic started to move resources away from DAoC and over to new projects. Namely Imperator. DAoC suffered firstly from this shift of focus, that never ended as it moved smoothly through Imperator development, to its sudden cancellation, and right into the purchase of the Warhammer license. It’s not game design that killed DAoC. It’s management. And management is about choices.

Truth #2 – We listen more to our community than any other developer of a major MMO as our betas have proven.

I’m sure you can work for any other company and claim the same. I’d add “subjective” before “truth”. But then I was never in DAoC or Warhammer betas, so no first hand experience.

Assertion – We are keeping out the players because WAR isn’t ready

Truth – We have delayed beta and the game before, and will do so if necessary again, to make sure WAR is a great game. I will not apologize nor be sorry for doing so in the past and if it happens again, I won’t be sorry then either. So, guilty as charged. That’s what all the great developers do and we want to be considered in the same breath as people like BioWare and Blizzard and you don’t get there by cutting corners or releasing a game before its ready. We will take the time we need to make the game great, period, end of discussion.

And here comes the real truth, that Mark Jacobs tried to disguise.

He starts his post saying that DAoC was a success because, requoting:

DAoC cost only 2.5M to make in 18 months


and its earnings to cost ratio make it one of the most successful games

Understood? So, as underlined above, an exceptional success on its own scale.

But how can be this justification valid when projected on Warhammer? Because Warhammer as a project BETRAYS BOTH those critical points:

1- Warhammer cost Mythic independence, had to sell out to EA to make it possible.
2- Warhammer is being delayed because not ready.

One wonders that Mark Jacobs sold out Mythic to reduce the risk. That’s his claim, Mythic was on edge after all the work wasted on Imperator and with DAoC going down, if Warhammer failed then they would have been in a very bad situation. Supposedly selling to EA bought them time and resources, so more living space. More hopes?

If only was that easy. Once again DAoC was a huge success because of its costs. If there’s a rule that was valid for DAoC and won’t be valid for Warhammer is that one. EA dumped on this new game a lot of money and resources. That comes at a price and the price is that expectations rise.

Consequently, if Warhammer is as successful as DAoC, it is a failure. Because its costs are not even comparable, and EA won’t leave Mythic its space if all they can do is make another 300k subs game. So this is where all Mark Jacobs post comes apart. You can’t justify Warhammer through the example of DAoC because DAoC was made under different rules.

As Lum repeats continuously, yes, you can be successful and profitable while still small. Problem is that the rule is not valid in the specific case of Warhammer. And it is not valid because the management decided to go big, sell out to EA, and overturn the principle on which Mythic worked (stay out of the radar, then come in and surprise everyone).

What will be of Warhammer?

I think Lum’s predictions are overly optimistic. The first batch of players will be of the unfaithful/jumpy kind. Those who go out and try every now MMO, last two months max, then lose interest. From my point of view the biggest competitor at this first stage will be LOTRO. The one game without strong bonds and already filled with that kind of jumpy players.

At this stage I know very little of Warhammer. I kind of expect an execution slightly better than LOTRO. The license may be strong, but stronger than LOTR itself? So my opinion is that the number of active subs will be on that scale. I stick to my old prediction. 400k or less in six months. As long it launches in US+EU at the same time. From there it’s hard to predict without having seen the game. If much more or much less will depend solely on the quality of the game. I doubt it will reach 1M.

Making better PvP is kind of easy. WoW itself would just need some more persistence and more guild involvement. Banners or something to display, some territorial control. Elements borrowed from strategy games and RTS, Blizzard should know them. Just empowering the players enough so that they don’t just fight anonymous faces or over continuously resetting objectives/achievements. Something that puts players together working on a shared objective, more than just a personal piece of power-up. Something more motivating and moving. And as always there are plenty of ways to achieve all this, you just need the WILL to go down that path. Start trying things and experiment progressively. PvP isn’t a system you get right all at once.

Warhammer is trying some of that. I’m skeptical mostly because the game design doesn’t seem to have found a clear direction yet. Just heaping together different game modes without a clear concept of how they should work together, or what drives the players progress.

One last remark for Krones. I don’t actually remember Mark Jacobs calling my ideas ‘rubbish and not worth piddly-shit’. I guess I would if it happened because it would be amusing. And I don’t think he did because I seriously doubt he ever read anything I posted on this site.

I’m not worthy to be what Lum was for Richard Garriott back in the day ;)

Posted in: Uncategorized |

Leave a Reply