Fan Mail From Some Flounder

18 Comments

Folks, tonight’s FM will be rather short due to a rather busy day and the fact that I already posted an entry tonight.

Nekomieu says “I was wondering, is there any plans of release those jobs that didn’t make it in final release eventually?” Jobs, we don’t need no stinkin’ jobs! This game is supposed to be about fun, not work. Oh, you meant careers? I do hope so!

RomanStoic says “Mark, you sound like a fun, sensible and straight-talking guy — precisely the rare type of boss one would be glad to work for.” Oh, I have my share of not-fun, angry and loud-talking guy moments but I try to keep those down to a minimum.

Brian says “Any chance in the future of you guys doing another fps-esque game like those?” I’d love to. Magestorm – Rebirth sounds good to me.

Yunk says “I will ask what’s on everyone’s mind: What kind of noodles do you enjoy?” I don’t think I’ve had a noodle dish that I haven’t liked.

Hepahestus says “How do you feel about the way GOA is handling European players? They are trying hard, they really are but I know that’s not good enough. Trying != Doing I know but I think that they will do better as time goes by.

Owenlars says “what are your thoughts on more social features in order to enable the players to feel like they have a place in the game. Im talking player housing, player created content, being able to actually BUILD things like keeps (dig, gather, build, finish).” Love it. We had housing in DAoC and I would love to have some system like that in WAR at some point.

Evalissa says “Be seeing ya” Oh god, what’s my number I’ve forgotten it. Should I be looking around for some men dressed in black?

Don says “Thought I would give you a heads up. There is a massive, growing need for MMO gamers. It’s called a Sandbox game. If you read messages boards such as the one on mmorpg.com you will see that a growing number of players don’t want character levels, they want skills. Players want a lot of things but in the end what most of them want is simply great games whether they are skills or levels. Sadly we don’t have enough of them.

Since Ultima Online, there still have not been a proper true sandbox games other than a few. I know for a fact, if done right, it can be successful. And who other than Mark Jacobs to do it in the future?” Oh, just about any other great, talented, smart, funny, amazing and humble guy! Seriously though I would love to see a great sandbox game hopefully someone will build one soon.

Andreiv says “I also agree with a previous comment. Perhaps you could take the idea that Blizzard has with Blizzcon and do something similar for Mythic / WAR / DAoC out here on the east coast! The DC or Baltimore region would be an excellent spot!” Oh, you mean like the Round Tables we’ve been running for DAoC like forever? Hey, and guess what, we’ve had them in Virginia!

John says “I would really LOVE it if you could just talk about UO for a few minutes. What do you think of the game? What are your expectations? Where would you like to see it go?I feel like since Mythic took over UO there hasn’t been any kind of top-down communication coming from you. The Mythic site doesn’t mention UO. The new accounting system doesn’t include UO.” That’s a fair point. In terms of the accounting system we wanted to get it incorporated but it turned out that doing so was nightmarish. In terms of UO’s future, well, once we get past WAR’s launch we’ll be able to spend more time looking at both UO and DAoC.

Cedia says “Will you be adding some nice fluffy stuff that is meaningless to the HARDCORES for us?” Nope, no pillows and fluffy bunnies in WAR but we’ll see what we can do to make more interesting things for the non-hardcore RvR players post-launch.

Amantia says “ToA was really beautiful in a lot of ways. Swimming underwater, being carried off by a harpy during ML2, being changed into a mummy in ML5, the lava in Volcanus, the Phoenix, the armor and weapon designs, etc. were amazing. It was just too buggy, too difficult to meet all the requirements for getting MLs and leveling artifacts, and the abilities gained were too powerful. It’s really kind of tragic that it was so flawed.” Yeap, I agree. The problem with ToA was in its execution not in its concept and design. And I’m not saying this because ToA was my concept, it wasn’t.

Biggrich76 says “Long time DAoC player and fan. I know this has been covered before but I would like to know if there is any chance of DAoC 2 seeing the light of day if WAR is a success?” Ever, like in the rest of human history? A lot does depend on both WAR’s success and our long-term relationship with GW. I love the Warhammer IP and I’d love for us to keep WAR running longer than DAoC but that is not totally up to me as in any case in which there is a license. I love DAoC, it was my baby and the game that put Mythic on the map but making a DAoC 2 to compete with WAR doesn’t make a lot of sense in the short-term especially when there are lots of other interesting ideas out there.

So, sorry for the shortened section, time for me to watch the Yankees probably lose to the Angels (ain’t DVRs great?).

Mark

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The Wayback Machine

12 Comments

What’s the point of this entry you may be asking yourself? For those unfortunates who heard my keynote at AGDC a few years ago I spent a fair amount of time talking about some of the true pioneers in the online industry. Now that I have this little soapbox (which today may feel more like a soapdish), I thought I’d continue that train of thought. So, the Wayback Machine will be a way for me (and others I hope at some point) to share stories, anecdotes, etc. about things that happened in the early, primitive days of online games, ya’ know like a year or two before WoW came out?!? While some of the information that will be in these features may be already known and/or recorded elsewhere I’m hoping that these stories will help bring the information to a wider audience as well as fill in some other, personal details. The fact that the subject of this piece only generates a couple of hundred hits in Google is ridiculous.

So, tonight’s short story will be about GEnie and its founder/creator Bill Louden. Its history is encapsulated very nicely on the Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEnie) but that history leaves out a lot of details and really doesn’t quite do justice to GEnie and the people who helped bring it about. So, for tonight’s tale I’ll write a little bit about Bill and the debt that every developer of online games owes to him and GEnie. I expect I’ll continue to expand this piece over time but I’ve got to try to cut down on my tendency to build AMAZING WALLS OF TEXT.

GEnie wasn’t the first online service but the fact that Bill could convince the suits at GE that they should turn over their precious computers and network so a bunch of people could interact with each other and play games online was a minor miracle in itself. At the time CompuServe (which Bill worked for previously) was the dominant player but online games were still seen as a very, very niche thing due mainly to the limited audience who could afford high hourly pricing and also put up with mostly text games. After GEnie was founded, a number of developers who would play key roles in the early days (and beyond) of online games came on board. Developers like Kesmai, Simutronics, NTN and A.U.S.I. (my company) would go on to create the games that helped pave the way for today’s online games. Bill, working with little support from GE other than the computers and the network, found a way to fund or help fund games that would help bring online games to the attention of a much wider audience (which admittedly was still pretty small). Kesmai’s Air Warrior was the first truly successful online flight simulator and Simutronic’s Gemstone went on to be one of the most successful commercial MUDs of all time. Simutronics is still running Gemstone IV and working on a MMORG and I wish Kesmai was still working on another version of Air Warrior (I loved that game). Together those two games proved you could do many things in an online game which hadn’t been done before (or done as well at least), including having great graphics, interesting long-term compelling gameplay and an ability to attract the interest of a fair number of people (especially at the cost of playing these games) in an era where online games were still very new, novel and considered the “geekiest thing in geekdom”. These games and others helped keep the idea of online games going at a time where almost nobody in the game’s industry cared one bit about online games and very few people, in the scheme of things, even knew that these games existed. Even getting coverage in computer game magazines was difficult and aside from a few supportive souls (Johnny Wilson leaps to mind), very few people cared about what was going on in the online world in the early days of GEnie. I believe that if Bill hadn’t created GEnie and gotten enough backing to get some great games online, that the online market wouldn’t be where it is today. It still would have happened but I really do believe it would have taken a lot longer than it did.

I won’t address GEnie’s forums (the Wiki does that quite well) but GEnie was a great service with people who really cared about it on both sides of the service. There wasn’t a lot of money made by GEnie or by the game developers even in the best of times but they were a great bunch of people led by a man who I believe played a pivotal role in the history of online games. Unfortunately, he is pretty much forgotten about except by those who were there or those people who really care about the history of this industry. So Bill, once again I say THANK YOU VERY MUCH! We all owe you one and in my case, if it hadn’t for those deals for Galaxy and then Dragon’s Gate, I doubt I’d be making online games today.

And thank you as well to the other people who made GEnie what it was, I really loved being part of it and getting to know the people behind it. While I don’t miss the days/nights I spent programming/debugging on that horrid OS, I do miss the fun we had and the excitement of breaking new ground on what was then the new electronic frontier.

‘Nuff said.

Mark