Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bad Taste of Layoffs

Why is it when ever a gaming studio layoffs off a whole slew of people, everyone gets a bitter taste in their mouth and right off any upcoming games by them to fields of failure?

It seems Funcom has gotten this treatment as of late, after having laid off about 20% of it's staff.

Now my first, knee-jerk reaction is to remember all of Funcom's other failures, and lump them all together to blame it on greed and/or incompetence on companies part, and start calling them names like Failcom, and thinking that The Secret World is heading for the toilet.

However, this reaction is of coarse, stupid.

While this isn't exactly pleasant news, and I'd rather it not happen if at all possible, this is balanced with the fact that they ARE a business, first and foremost. And layoffs happen.

The question is, why were they fired? And how does this affect upcoming games?
Now 20% is not a small number. With little over 300 staff, that's a good 60 people at least.
And no way will that not hurt them in some meaningful way.

At the very least it will delay The Secret World by several months.
However, will it reduce the overall quality of the game?

I don't think so.

It entirely depends on what the people were working on when they got laid off.
If they were working primarily on AOC, and were fired because they sucked evidently, well then that really won't affect TSW much, other then slow it down due to less manpower.

And that's really all this likely is, manpower. More than likely, all the brains of the outfit are still well and truly employed, and they have, by a country mile more impact on the quality of the end product.

It's more likely than non-essential staff were let go, and not the people that are in the middle of working on their upcoming game, which is probably the only thing that can pull them out of the fire at this point.

So can they still put out a great game? Yes, I see no reason to show that it a hopeless cause.

But does it make me doubt them a bit? Naturally, they don't exactly have the best track record, but we'll see in time.

However, even after all this, I can't help but feel a bit bitter, as we have seen this play out before, for craptastic results. (ie, Warhammer Online)
And even if the people fired did suck balls, I'd still rather find a way NOT to fire them. (ie, paycuts)

Because I feel if your going to cut jobs, start with your own.

But who knows, maybe trimming a bit of fat might be good for them in the long run.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

And now we wait

"Eric Flannum: Unfortunately we aren't speaking about specific game mechanics until sometime early next year.|"

God fucking damn it!

Another interview for Guild War 2 yielded this quote, which effectively means we are not going to hear anything substantial until next year.

The problem with releasing information like this is, by releasing info AFTER you've already put in the hard yards to set the mechanics in stone, if you wind up getting poor feedback, because you may have cocked something up big time along the way, it's already too late by that point to do anything.
(namely with core mechanics)

They're setting themselves up for a fall (in which almost every MMO studio does aswell), and so they better get it right the first time, because in the industry today, there is no forgiveness.

I hope they get it right, for both our sakes.


Pleasant wake up call

Shortly after getting up this morning, and going thru the usual blogs and such, I found something rather nice..... more Guild Wars 2 information.

Good start to the day.

And going by the link, it seems Areanet have a new YouTube account, so I spent a fair bit of time today going over the PAX videos.
Nothing too out of the ordinary, nothing specific, but nice all the same.
It's good to hear a perspective from the inside out for a change.

And after listening to all that, it reaffirmed that I'm on the right track with my art, and willingness to get into the industry.
It can happen.
Just gotta keep at it.

Now if only they would put out something besides lore.... that would be, nice.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another blip on my radar

Well, it seems another game has gotten my attention, which in itself should be praised.
This time, The Secret World, just came out of the blue and slapped me.

While I have heard of this title before, this is the first time I've actually heard anything substantial on it enough to go digging for information, and I was impressed by what I found.

Again, this is another title that seems to have learned it's lesson from the past wave of fail, and is going with a 'look however you want to look, play however you want to play model', which means no levels or classes, naturally.
Always a good step in my books.

While I do hold some reservations, as it is entirely dependent on how they implement such mechanics, I am however happy to see this positive step in the right direction.
And so, I've signed up to keep an eye on this title, and I may even go out of my way to play beta, who knows.
But I'm diffidently going to give it a go, which is half the battle.

Maybe the next generation of MMO's is closer than I thought?


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More MMO's and some scandals

Nothing too exciting, but after reading a post of Massively about a MMO I've never heard of before, Mortal Online, then going on to read and interview, I must say I'm rather impressed.

The developers of this game not only seem to be blatantly honest, knowing full well they are a niche game, but the seem to have taken all the right lessons from EVE Online.
No levels and no classes, a good start.
They seem to be going down a FPS sort of system, and I got the impression it was going to be Oblivion Online. Which is not a bad thing, Oblivion is a good game, it's just not for everyone.

It's a PvP centric game, so right off the bat it's not really my cup of tea. But all in all, they seem to be moving in an interesting and solid direction. Nothing that hasn't been done before, but good all the same.

So I think I'll be checking this one out.

Other then that, it seems EVE has had yet another scandal.
Some CSM member basically broke the NDA he signed, by attempting use knowledge of future changes in order to make a lot of isk.
But he was caught of course, rather quickly too, and was banned temporally and kicked off the CSM.

Nothing too out of the ordinary for EVE, but interesting all the same. I felt CCP dealt with this quickly and professionally, and the offending CSM member seems to have learned their lesson.
So I think it was rather well handled.

Yet another reason I want to work for CCP - Integrity


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Developer in the Making - Episode 2

It's been awhile since I did one of these.
I had intended on doing one a couple of weeks back, but I just couldn't be arsed.

This time I will go over my thought and work process during the month of March, which was my first real stride to becoming a developer.

Or at least I thought it was.

The Research

The very first thing I did was research.
My target, CCP and Iceland. I had to know more about them before I completely made up my mind.

So what did I find out?
Let's start with Iceland:

1) Their almost completely broke. During 2007, due to several years of having unregulated banks, the CEO's had overblown the currency and took a whole lot of money that wasn't theirs, and ran with it. Causing the entire economy to collapse overnight as a result.
They are, or at least were, effectively bankrupt.

2) They have a strong infrastructure, and have a healthy wealth of natural resources (fish), and a growing IT industry.

3) They only have a 300,000 populace. (yes, EVE Online has more players then Iceland has people)

4) They are a strong, independent people, which take care of one another.
They also have names which are hard to pronounce.

5) They are built on a volcano, and have lots of hot-springs.

So all in all, I found that I really like Icelandic people and their country. And while they are having financial difficulties, they have the attitude and the means to pick themselves up, dust their fat ass off, and try again.
As such, I have tremendous respect for them now.

As for CCP, I found them to be reflective of the country in which they are built.
Every video that I saw, I found them to be carefree, cheerful, hardworking and independent.
So their a lot like myself then.

Business wise, they are growing, and seemingly don't give a shit if you have qualifications or much experience, in order to have the job.
What they seem to care about above all else is personality and attitude. Which I am abundant in both.

And last, but certainly not least, they are always hiring.
Could it get any better?

So all things considered, this reaffirmed my desire to work for these people, and has since made me all the inspired to do the hard yards in order to get there.

My First Baby Steps

So, what have I done?
Or rather, what DID I do, back in March when I was so enthused?

Not as much as I'd like in retrospect.

As an artist, I knew if I had any shot at getting in, it would be via my art.
So to play to my strength, and to meet the requirement for the job I was gunning for, I had to make a portfolio.
What is one? Such a series of pictures of my creation, illustrating my skill.

And in this case, as I knew in advance who I wanted to work for, I could cater my portfolio to CCP.

So what I did was that I figured out that I needed to draw several spaceships, as well as characters, that I would otherwise be expected to draw should I be working for them.

As I had played EVE Online, what I decided to do was to draw two classes of ships, one for each race, for a total of 8 ships. In this case, it was Destroyers and Battlecruiser class ships, as I felt they were under represented in the game.

But drawing them wasn't enough. I had to also render them in color, with as much detail as I could with my skill level.
No holds bars.

So I started conceptualizing the ships, first the Destroyers then the Battlecruisers.
Sometimes I was able to sketch out a ship with little reference or failed previous designs. But a most of the time, I had to constantly reference EVE Online's ships and go through several designs before I was satisfied.

It took me about two weeks to sketch everything if I remember. Might have been one, IDK.

After that, I went about the rendering process of sketching them into my computer via my Wacom Intous 3 pen tablet, and Adobe Photoshop.
It went well at first. Got through three of them without too much difficulty.

But the more I did, the more I realized that I sucked ass. I could sketch and conceptualize really very well, but I just wasn't satisfied with the end results.
They weren't bad, but they just weren't good enough..... for me.

I knew I was getting better, and I knew where I wanted to get to. But the style that I was using at the time, just wasn't up to the task.

In Closing

And so, I put down my pencil at the end of March, and began to reevaluate just how the heck I was going to do this.

And over the months past, I came to rethink near about everything that I thought about MMO's, what I wanted, where I wanted to see the industry go, where I wanted to go, and how I was going to get there.

Truly, by the end of March, I realized my battle had only yet begun.

In the next episode, I'll cover some of the rollercoster that were my thought processes, as I changed they way I thought about damn near everything. (about mmo's ^^)

PS, Hopefully it won't be another month before I post on this topic again.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

EVE Alliance Tournament is go

AT 7 is just under way, as I've just come back from watching the first series of matches on YouTube.
You can watch it from CCP's account, so check it out if your at all interested in e-sports or internet space ships.

Even thou I no longer play EVE, and will unlikely go back to it anytime in the foreseeable future, I can't help but watch the tourny as it is always quite fun to watch.

I guess it's because while in general EVE is very, very boring and slow; when you get into great big slugfests, and given the very adaptive nature of the fittings and ships, it's really fun watching as several minds try to outwit and generally beat the crap out of each other.
PvP in EVE is really very good and meaningful, and the alliance tournament highlights this in the best possible way.

And as such, it's one of the reasons I continue to watch EVE like a hawk, always seeing if it's time to return to again. Where as with almost any other MMO I've stopped playing, I just don't care anymore, as they just don't have anything left to offer me, nor will they ever fundamentally change enough to warrant interest on my part.

To date, EVE Online is the only MMO that has kept me interested in it, after I've stopped playing. (not to say I haven't gone back to other mmo's sporadically, just to see if anything has improved)

And so, I'm going to continue to watch it, and the best way for that is the alliance tournament.

So if your not already watching it...... what are you waiting for?


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Champions Online stock in Freefall

Is it me, or has there been a hell of a lot of bad press on Champions lately?

It seems that every conceivable cock up possible, Cryptic are stumbling halfassed into them.
Really, I didn't think they were that bad of a development studio (thou, a bit vanilla), but could they play it any worse?

Their recent escapade involved completely borking in game defense and healing skills, while simultaneousness cranking up mob difficulty. Result, breaking soloiblity and royally pissing off a whole lotta fokes.
Yeah.... stay classy Cryptic.

While I admit mistakes happen, and if they role this back, no harm no foul I say. But this has been one of several mistakes in recent history, and all just before release.
It just doesn't make you look too good, ya'know.

Too me, someone who was on the fence as to play it or not, this does not exactly inspire confidence. It seems the more I hear on Champions, the less I want to hear on Champions.
Their stock with me is dropping fast, and at this point I find it very unlikely I'll even give it the time of day.

But in saying that, WoW apparently had a real shit time at launch..... so by comparison, I suppose Cryptic could to worse.
(but then I don't play WoW, and we are less tolerant nowadays)

Just..... try not to break anything else between now and launch.
Can you do that Cryptic?