Sometimes things aren’t what they seem…

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And sometimes I should let other people’s words do the talking: ( http://www.igda.org/newsroom/newsletter_0908.txt)
If there is any linkage issues, I’ve added the full text at the bottom of this post.  We had hoped to talk about this weeks ago but frankly, other things (like the launch of WAR) took precedence.  As Jen’s letter made clear, Mythic had made this decision to amend this policy before Jen and I had a chance to talk, I’m sorry that that we couldn’t talk about it publicly before now.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this situation. Sometimes people are rather quick to rush to judgment on things. Along the same lines, I wish that some people had given me the benefit of the doubt before things got ugly or at least talked to me about things before getting out the tar and feathers. Jen, being the person she is, stood up and apologized not because she was totally off-base in what she said but rather, because she didn’t pick up and phone and call me before she sent out the call to action. If she had, I would have told her about N’Gai’s suggestion and that since that day, Mythic was determining whether and then how to move forward with it. The situation post-newsletter could have been avoided and I would not have had to go through some of the stuff I had to go through.  We see this sort of situation play itself out again and again in our industry and others. In some cases, people’s lives are derailed and sometimes ruined by this type of stuff. Words can be very powerful weapons, especially in the wrong hands and I know that this situation has again reemphasized the importance of my long-standing policies not to call out other developers or to engage in some of the character attacks (assassination is way to strong of a word) that I went through. I am far from a perfect human being but I know I am a good human being who is always trying to become better at this game of life.

For the strength of character to apologize for the mistake and for the even greater display of honor she showed by doing so publicly, Jen has my thanks and my respect.

For the great suggestion at a time when I needed it, my thanks go out to N’Gai.

FYI, I’m not denying that our policy was as it was, I explained the reasons behind it in various interviews and we are still reserving in-game credits for the launch team as an extra way of saying thank you to them.  However, we’ve also expanded the policy because it is a nice thing to do.  I’ll leave other people to argue over whether it is right, necessary, just, etc. since nice works well enough in this case.

———

Originally Posted by IGDA Newsletter
Dear Members and friends,

In the August newsletter ( http://www.igda.org/newsroom/newsletter_0808.txt ), I criticized Mythic’s credits policy specifically, and the industry in general, for not adopting inclusive credit standards. I’d like to set the record straight on a number of things that have happened over the past month.

When the credits story first appeared, Mark Jacobs, the GM of Mythic, was in the middle of a series of interviews in New York. After an interview with N’Gai Croal of Newsweek and Level Up blog, Mark asked N’Gai for his thoughts on the subject. N’Gai suggested simply putting the full credits online. Mark is in the process of implementing N’Gai’s suggestion, and in doing so, Mythic will move towards a greater level of credits inclusiveness.

I’ve known Mark for more than 10 years now, and he’s always been a strong proponent of the online games industry and an ethical businessman. Mark was honest about a difficult subject and immediately after the interviews ended, he began a process of formulating new credit policies. Unfortunately, when the previous newsletter was sent out, Mark, unbeknownst to the me, was quietly continuing to work on a new credit policy for the studio. Mark, I regret that my comments caused you personal and professional distress.

The Mythic team is also taking the following steps to address credit policies:
– In-game and manual credits will be reserved for the launch team.
– Mythic will create an online database listing the name and title of everyone who contributed to a project, regardless of current employment status. Additionally, the studio will make best efforts to provide this information for its previous online games.
– Mythic has committed to working with the IGDA, leading game industry history and credit sites and other interested parties to establish a credits feed, listing all contributors, to promote fair and accurate credit reporting across the industry.
– Mark Jacobs will consult with the IGDA Credits Standard Committee to offer guidance on the issues and challenges posed specifically by MMOs.

Fair and accurate credits and transparent standards for crediting remain a pervasive problem in the industry, and I applaud Mythic for taking steps to address this issue. I’m personally looking forward to Mark’s involvement with the Credit Standards Committee, not only because of his depth of experience in online games, but because, more importantly, his personal commitment to fair and accurate credits sets an outstanding example for industry leadership.

My newsletter intros usually end with a call to action, and this one is no exception. We must continue the dialogue on credits, and on other topics like quality of life, that have a direct impact on the lives of game developers. Get involved, discuss these issues with your peers, and please join me in recognizing Mythic’s new crediting efforts.

Once again, the IGDA’s credit standards info is at:
http://www.igda.org/credit/

– Jen MacLean
Chairperson, IGDA
VP Business Development, 38 Studios

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He shoots (not the cute little pony though) and he scores!

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Quick shoutout to Syp over at his blog Waagh! for his idea of adding a developer commentary to the ToK ( http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/if-wishes-were-horses).  I’m not sure if that idea was already kicked around by Paul (I think it has but I’m not sure) but it’s a damn fine idea regardless.  I’ll put that down on our ToK wishlist as a possibility.  No matter what, cheers Syp, thanks for the great suggestion and as always, your blog, I love reading it.

So, what do you think?  Should we add a ToK unlock (user option as Syp suggests) for Developer Commentary just like DVDs?

A banning we will go, a banning we will go. Heave ho off the servers yo, a banning we will go!

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I hate gold sellers/spammers. No, that’s not strong enough, let me try again. I HATE GOLD SELLERS WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING. Ah, that’s better. Now, why do I hate them you may ask? I hate them for a number of reasons, most of which have been detailed in various interviews I’ve done over the years. And now that they have taken their obnoxiousness to new levels with gold service spamming, I HATE GOLD SPAMMERS EVEN MORE NOW THAN EVER BEFORE. For years, lowlifes like IGE have told us, in defense of their behavior, that they a) are just providing a service; b) don’t interfere with players enjoyment of the game. Well, I can’t argue with (a), they are providing a service, just like maggots I suppose but I’ve always argued that (b) is totally and complete BS. Now, those old arguments aside, I can’t see how this new generation of pond scum (new and improved, with 25% more scummy action!) can argue that their constant spamming of chat channels doesn’t interfere with players enjoyment of the game (I’m waiting for the whole “Oh, you can always just turn off chat” argument). I hated seeing their messages when I played WoW or any other MMO and I’ve been waiting for the day that WAR launched so I could have the absolute pleasure of instituting policies to make their lives more difficult so we could drive them out of WAR.

Since WAR launched we have been banning these jerks like crazy. As of Saturday Night, we had banned about 400 of them. My CSRs have a zero tolerance policy. We don’t wait and let them stay in the game and ban them en-masse, my guys ban their useless, time-consuming butts right away. We have a strike team whose sole job it is to get these guys off our servers as quickly as possible. This weekend, we unveiled a new wrinkle in the fight against them, the public ban message. Players on our Phoenix Throne server have been treated to special messages when a gold seller/spammer is banned. I’ve given them a wide leash to come up with creative messages to tell the entire community who has been banned and we keep it within the Warhammer universe. Messages like “Tchar’zanek has ordered the slaughter of [Spammer] and all others of his kind who weaken the Raven Host by providing wealth and power to the unworthy” have been seen all weekend. We will continue this policy and expand it to the other servers. We are in for a real fight against these bottom feeders and it will be a long and costly battle but it’s one we are going to take to them and this is only the first step. After all, this is WAR…

BTW, for those who might be tempted to think that we are doing this so we could offer our own service or because we do make money off their boxes (traditionally, gold sellers will quickly shift to buddy disks and free trials though to lower their costs) let me tell you this. I’ve been offered “a piece of the action” both personally and corporately in the past if I will either turn a blind eye or help them in their actions. This would have netted me and/or Mythic a very, very tidy sum, far more than we would see from box sales. My answer was and always will remain the same:

Go to hell.

Just a simple reminder

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So, I’ve been getting a continual stream of stuff like “When are you going to fix my class in DAoC?” or “I think that roots are overpowered in WAR. What will you do?” and while I don’t mean to be rude, I won’t be answering those kind of comments here. As my About box makes clear, I’m not using this blog for community support of WAR or DAoC. So, please, don’t posts those comments here or simply expect that they will be deleted. I, and our CM team, do that kind of stuff elsewhere, not here.

Thanks!

Ground Control to Major Tom: Commencing Countdown Engines On

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It’s less than 48 hours from the launch of the Head Start for Warhammer Online. By Sunday night, baring a ground hold, WAR will be in commercial operation. It’s been a three year project and one with more ups and downs than Kings Island in Cincinnati. The team has worked amazingly hard on this game and it shows. We are all a bit strung out either through sheer hours worked and/or because of dealing with all the complications of a three territory simultaneous launch. Next time, I think I’ll dial it down and bit and go for something maybe a little bit simpler, like trying to solve the invariant subspace problem or figure out even who’s been taking one sock from everybody’s dryer for the last few decades.

MMO launches are always an interesting time. Lots of things go as expected, some go better than expected and then there are those things that not only come in from left field they come in from every left field in every ballpark in the USA. Whether it’s programming, content, marketing, pr, hr, etc. the first rule of an MMO launch is not only expect the unexpected but to expect the unexpected and its whole damned family to show up hungry and with their bratty kids. In the last 36 hours that has manifested in things such as Gamestop putting up a whole bunch of Collector’s Editions, that had been floating around their system apparently, for sale and not having keys for them. When asked for comment, Mr. Alfred Bedoya was heard to say “Keys, we ain’t got no keys. We don’t need no keys. I don’t have to give you any stinkin’ keys.” Fortunately, no real treasure was involved, Sierra Madre or not, so we quickly sent them (again) enough extra keys so that everyone was taken care of by them. We also sent the latest build of the game to GOA and for some reason the build, which was working great here, decided it was unhappy so far from home and was going to pout, stomp its virtual feet and refuse to do its job. They shoot servers. Don’t they? I could go on and on and on but after my last few walls of text, I think I’ll cut it short tonight. All that matters in the end is that everything was taken care of and we are still on schedule. Now where did I put those protein pills?

Look Mom, I’m Blogging…

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Fair warning, the entry that follows is not funny, snarky, inflammatory, etc. and probably isn’t what you are expecting from me. It’s a piece that I knew I was going to write once I made the decision to start blogging. So, unless you want to read a serious, sad and possibly maudlin piece, please stop here, do not continue.

In one of those delightful ironies that life seems to love to throw at us, the month of September has become one of the most challenging for me. First, we have the ongoing anniversary of September 11th. Like many people, especially those New Yorkers like me, this is a day I’ll never forget for a host of reasons that I won’t go into here. If that wasn’t enough, it is also the month in which my mother told me, two years ago, that she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. It is also the month I was born as well as the month that my mother died. And of course, it is also the month that WAR is coming out. So, why I am telling you all this? Well, maybe there’s a lesson or two or three here.

It is now the first anniversary of the day I went up to NYC to spend the final weeks in Sloan-Kettering to be with my mom. Until she died, my sister and I took care of her, keeping her happy and calm, lying to her about her condition and doing everything we could to make her remaining time with us as peaceful as possible. I instituted the “Lois Rules” (my mom was a devout Yankee fan) which was that no doctor, nurse or family member would do anything in front of her to upset her. Every day I read some of the final book of Harry Potter to her (thank you JKR my mom adored your work) and when she lapsed into a coma I still continued to read to her but yet she still reacted to both the funny, scary and sad parts. The doctors and nurses were amazed that she stayed with us as long as she did for the cancer had spread rapidly at the end but we’re a family of fighters so I wasn’t too surprised. And on my birthday, still sticking to the Lois Rules, I continued reading to her hoping I could finish the book before she was taken from us. And I swear to you, when I was done, she seemed to relax and stopped fighting the inevitable. A few hours later, she died peacefully with my sister and me holding her hands and talking to her, telling her how much we loved her.

If you are still reading this, you may be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. It’s in the hope that maybe something good can come out of it. Now, I won’t preach to you about how important it is to be with the people you love or tell them you love them or anything like that because quite frankly, we all should know that by now and if we don’t, well there’s a million other people telling us the same thing. Over the decades we tried to get my mother to quit smoking (no, this isn’t just an anti-smoking ad), she wouldn’t no matter what anyone in the family said to her. Her answer was always, “Well, it’s my life and if I lose a few years toward the end of it, that’s no big deal”. Well, that’s exactly what happened and I know from spending the last year with her and how the chemo and radiation made her feel that she might have changed her mind. I also know that she realized that she was going to miss out on a lot of things that she now wanted to see. As the saying goes, life comes at us very fast.

So, as to what I hope may come out of this are as follows:

1) If you are doing something in life or doing something with your life that could shorten it, think about how you may feel if you suddenly find that the piper has come for his due a bit earlier than you expect.

2) Take the above one step further and then ask yourself how your family or those that you love and love you will feel if they have to spend what remains of your life watching you slowly die by inches and no matter what, how they will feel when you are gone.

3) And possibly the best lesson that can be learned from what my mom went through is when she was told she had to quit smoking, she found the strength to do what she swore she wouldn’t or couldn’t do before and she went cold turkey and quit. She found the inner strength and willpower I knew she always had; I just wish she had done this decades earlier. So if you have been thinking about or would like to make changes in your life but wonder if you have the strength to do it, you do, you just have to want it badly enough. If my mom could quit after 50+ years of chain smoking, you can change your life too. Just make sure you do it before it’s too late and somebody you love is thinking the same thoughts that I am tonight, that I wish she was still here with us so she could call me up to complain about the Yankees or to ask me when is the next time I’ll come up to see her in NYC. I would give anything for that.

I turned off comments so please don’t comment on this piece anywhere on my blog. I didn’t write this for me alone, it is also, I hope, for at least one of you reading it. If this piece has moved you in any way and you want to do or say something nice in return, what would make me happy is that if you know someone in the similar situation to my mom that you tell them you don’t want to lose them and that you want to help keep them with you for a long time. And if that person happens to be you well, you know what to do.

In closing I’ll simply say I love you mom.

Grab the tar and feathers boys and girls, it’s party time, Internet-style

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INT. The Blogosphere – Midnight

A mob of ANGRY people are gathering around a man named Tobold who is tied up and hanging over a vat of cold tar. Standing next to him are a whole lot of chickens and a man with a grey goatee and mustache wearing a white suit.

Angry Mob (staring at Tobold)

Thou stand accused of violating ethical standards by accepting a free account for WAR.

Tobold

Hey… They gave it to me and besides it’s not like it’s going to affect what I say about the game.

Angry Mob (muttering)

Heresy! Thou shalt be dipped in tar and feathers for thy crime.

Enter Mark Jacobs, a tall, dark, charming, charismatic, athletically-built and handsome man in his 20s (hey, it’s my script and I’ll lie if I want to!).

Mark Jacobs

Now wait a minute folks, didn’t Tobold tell you about this account on his own?

Angry Mob

Yes. He admitted his sins against all that is good and true! Heat up the fire boys!

Mark Jacobs

And didn’t he tell you that before his review came out?

Angry Mob (jumping up and down)

Yes! He surely is not an honest man and his review must also not be honest. Pluck thy chickens.

Tobold

Mark… Not helping here.

Mark Jacobs

Hate to spoil your fun boys but he isn’t the first person to ever get a free account in a game.

Angry Mob

Huh? Nevermind… continue plucking.

Mark Jacobs

You ever hear the term “media account” or “comped account”?

Angry Mob

Thou speak blasphemy tall… dark… and handsome man.

Mark Jacobs

We give out tons of accounts to press and media people just like every other game developer who actually wants their game to be reviewed. We also give out tee-shirts… comics… keychains… doughnuts…

Angry Mob

Mmmm… Doughnuts…

Mark Jacobs

…and lots and lots of other trinkets to everyday people as well. We always have… whether it was Dark Age or WAR and/or our other games.

Angry Mob

You are the corrupter of souls then! Continue heating the tar.

Mark Jacobs

Free access and accounts have been part of online games since they first started. And when games cost $30 per hour… that was a pretty big deal. If you didn’t give them accounts they might not review your game. Even journalists have budgets.

Angry Mob

Then all online game developers are corrupt. Boys we are going to need a whole lot more tar and feathers! Tobold thee will need make room for the corrupter in thy vat.

Tobold

Room for one more…

Mark Jacobs

Tobold… This isn’t the Twilight Zone even if it feels that way at times. The same is true for all games. How do you think you are able to read reviews of all popular games on the day that they come out?

Angry Mob

All other reviewers are honest… truthful and hard working. Only Tobold is evil.

Mark Jacobs

No seriously. What did you think? That every reviewer plays the game after it comes out… jumps into their DeLorean… goes back in time and writes the review? Or that they have a special store where they can buy the game weeks before it comes out?

Angry Mob (muttering)

Hmm…

Mark Jacobs

I see you got your tar from Acme Tar & Feather company.

Angry Mob

Verily. It’s the best there is! Brand new model!

Mark Jacobs

How did you know that?

Angry Mob

We saw a review of it in the latest issue of “Better Mobs and Pitchforks!”

Mark Jacobs

Do you think they got a free barrel or two?

Angry Mob

Hmm. The review did mention that they tested it extensively in-house.

Mark Jacobs

See! Free accounts… review copies… comped trips are all part of the process. Even movie reviewers get to see the movie for free and usually at private screenings. If they let that affect their opinions “Gigli” would have been rated one of the top films of all time.

Angry Mob (calmly)

Thy words have soothed our wraith.

Mark Jacobs

Now please untie Tobold so he can get back to blogging and I can get back to WAR.

Angry Mob (sheepishly)

Okay… But you’re no fun!

Mark Jacobs

Sorry. Hey… If you’re looking to channel that aggression… I’ve been working on this little project called WAR…

Angry Mob

I like the sound of it already…

Mark Jacobs (laughing evilly)

MUAHAHA.

The Angry Mob, Mark Jacobs and Tobold leave the blogosphere and go off to find some nice, old fashioned and wholesome fun beating the every living snotling out of each other in WAR.

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