Thank you Kesmai, I still miss AW damnit!

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Over the years I have thanked the guys at Kesmai for many things.  I thanked them for creating my favorite MOG of all time, Air Warrior (whose three country setup directly led to the decision to create DAoC’s three realm RvR), I thanked them for allowing Mythic and I to be part of Gamestorm, I thanked them for development deals and of course I thanked some of them for the friendships that grew out of a rather inauspicious first meeting.  What I will thank them for now, is on behalf of the entire online games industry (players and companies alike)  because if it wasn’t for them, I doubt that the online game space would be what it is today.

I won’t go into detail about their studio’s development history because that isn’t necessary here.  What is necessary is to remind people that if the guys at Kesmai hadn’t been working so hard on creating the earliest and most successful of online games (they were one of the few companies that even predated me in making pay-for-play online games), I doubt anybody else would have until much later down the road.  At a point in time where almost nobody believed (maybe a handful of people worldwide) in online games, the guys at Kesmai were creating games that were going to influence, teach, train, infect, addict, etc. a generation of gamers (albeit a small group) who would later go on to either create their own games or support the creation of such games.  Now, there were other developers who were around at the same time but Kesmai’s creations had more impact than any other developer based solely on their games’ numbers, presence on multiple networks (Compuserve, GEnie, AOL, etc.) and envelope-pushing features.  And when they came out with their masterpiece, the Air Warrior series , they proved that you could play a 3D flight simulator over very slow dial-up modems and slow networks and it still be a lot of fun.  That technical achievement ranks as one of the most important events in the history of online games.  Yes, it was simplistic by today’s standards but at the time, it was an eye-opening revelation to those who doubted there would be a future for online games.  While the debut and the success of AW didn’t immediately lead to giant sacks of cash pouring into the industry, what it did lead to was that many people began to believe that an interesting future was at hand.

So, thanks to all the many talented and hard-working people at Kesmai, from two of the founders who I got to know well, John Taylor and Kelton Flinn, to guys like Gordon Walton, Jonathan Baron (still miss flying with ya buddy),  Rich Lawrence (who coined the phrase, don’t trust the client software), Jeff Hanna, etc., you also have my thanks.  Kesmai, and its contributions to the industry should never be forgotten and certainly deserve better than this pathetic wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kesmai).  As I have done so in the past and will do so until I stop talking, I will remind people of what you and the earliest online developers meant to this industry.

Mark

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A very special thanks

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As I posted yesterday, the last 12+ months have been a very mixed bag for me.  For those people who know/knew me well, they know how much the departure from Mythic meant to me.  During this time, quite a number of people have not only reached out to me, sometimes to thank me for the opportunity to work at Mythic and sometimes just because they knew me from EA and/or the industry and they wanted to express their support over the situation that I was in at the end of my 15 year run at Mythic.  For those people who were kind enough to do so, I thank you for that.

I have been described, quite accurately, by many as a driven, emotional and passionate (and a whole lot of less kind words) human being but above all else I am also blessed with a very fine and therefore inconvenient (at times) memory.  An old saying was that an elephant never forgets, well, neither does a guy raised in the Bronx.  As such, I will never forget your outreach/support to me and I hope to, as I have in some cases already, be able to repay it in kind.

Mark

Regarding Electronic Arts

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Before I began casting the resurrection spell on this blog I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not this was a good idea.  After all, I’ve had a nice vacation, plenty of downtime and the chance to politely beg off from tons of offered interviews, questions/queries from analysts and assorted other interested people.  By jumping back into the pool I know/knew that I would get asked a lot of questions about my 3 years at EA, whether about EA itself, WAR, the situation regarding my departure, etc.  So after much thought and reflection I decided to not only bring back the blog but also to, as I said in an earlier post, continue my career walking down the same road I have almost always walked on, the high road.  I do this not from contractual issues (buh bye now), fear (I mean after all, I was happy to tangle with Microsoft years back) but simply because I think it is good manners.  However, I do want to say some things about my tenure at EA and for now this post will have to suffice.

First, I have always maintained and will always maintain a tremendous respect for EA the institution.  EA’s historical legacy is one of the proudest in our industry.  They have been responsible for more great games and game-changers then any other company since their founding so long ago.  Corporations are not inherently evil or good as they are made up of people (lots of people in EA’s case) who help direct and shape the company fortunes.  It will be a sad day for the industry if EA passes through the great corporate veil as so many other game companies have done over the decades and I hope that day never comes.

Second, as much as I respect the corporation itself, I have a much deeper respect for the hardest working men and women at EA, the group known in the parlance as the rank and file.  These are the people who literally burn the midnight oil (and the Saturday and Sunday oil as well) to make games.  Many of them live, breathe, eat, sleep and **** games and their dedication to their craft is amazing.  One of the many things I’m proud of during my tenure at EA (more on this below) is the fact that in our executive circle/meetings I always spoke up for them whether it was to push for a profit-sharing plan like we had at Mythic, repricing of stock options (when EA’s stock, like all the gaming stocks, took a nosedive during the recession/downturn/ecopocalypse) and other things.  As I said to my bosses on more than one occasion, the executives, including yours truly, can take care of themselves, we need to take care of the workers.  These are the guys and gals who really make or break the games that drive our industry.

Third, I’m very proud of what I accomplished during my brief tenure at EA.  Over the years there my opinion was asked about all sorts of games and developers that EA might want to work with and I can say without any fear of contradiction, that my advice (and sometimes warnings) were always spot on.  In terms of WAR, well, given the historical failure rate of MMORPGs (more on this another day), the fact that WAR was developed in only 3 years (compare and contrast to other already launched titles), is still operating, had to launch directly against a WoW expansion, sold a hefty amount of copies, was one of the highest rated MMOs to date, etc. is something to be proud of regardless.  I am also proud that during my time at EA I never once sought promotion, raises, super-special perks, more power, etc. all I cared about was trying to deliver a top title for EA.  I felt that doing anything else would be a disservice to the company and to the team that bought Mythic in 2006.  My mission was to help get WAR out the door and anything that could distract me from that I wanted no part of.

Fourth, I still thank EA for acquiring Mythic.  The EA leadership team at the time invested a significant amount of money in Mythic (though it pales before the Playfish, Bioware/Pandemic and Jamdat acquisitions).  They believed enough in us to buy us and again, regardless of what eventually happens to Mythic or what happened during my tenure at EA, that deserves a thank you.

Finally, one thing that I’m not proud of was that the three years at EA were the toughest of my PERSONAL life.  As a old entry here states, soon after the EA acquisition my mom was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.  The year that followed was rather emotional and her final two weeks were, to put it mildly, difficult culminating with her death only a few hours after my birthday).  I come from an incredibly small family (thanks to that wacky guy, Adolf Hitler) and my mom’s death left me a bit emotionally adrift.  What I should have done is take off a significant amount of time but once again, that wasn’t in my DNA.  Rightly or wrongly I tried to push through it and with very little emotional support it wasn’t the best decision I ever made.

So, time to wrap up this post and for now, that’s all I intend to say about my time at EA.  For those who comment here, ask me questions or seek interviews,  this post should be self-explanatory.

Mark

Rex Ryan, you’re the man, if you can’t do it, OMFG we’re ****ed.

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So, anyone who knows me knows that my favorite sports team is the NY Jets. Ever since I was introduced to Joe Namath a long time ago, on a practice field far, far away I have literally lived and died watching that team.  Well, actually pieces of furniture and all manner of breakables have died and I have sacrificed vast quantities of Cherry Twizzlers as fuel as well.  So, when Rex Ryan was announced as coach of the team, I was filled with hope.  I’ve been a long proponent of the “Joe Namath sold his soul” so the Jets could win their one Super Bowl title, a theory that was immortalized in Adam Sandler’s ridiculously funny Little Nicky.  I mean come on, Vinny Testaverde resurrects his career with the Jets and in the season that they are expected to get to the SB, he tears out his Achilles Tendon, along with the Jets SB hopes, early in the season.  Then, a few years later, the Jets announce that Bill Belichick is going to be their next head coach and before he can even coach a game he leaves and goes to rival New England and wins multiple Super Bowls while the NYJ don’t even get to the big game?  How’s that for cursed?  Yet, over the last year R2 has done nothing but show that he is the right man to help lead the Jets out of the perdition with his flaming sword of braggadocio, his shield of “Inyourface” and his +5 steel-toed boots of stomping. During his brief tenure he has helped turn around a franchise that seemed destined to rival the Chicago Cubs for title futility in the modern era (the old, old Cubs won a lot more championships than the NYJ have for you CC fans out there).  Now in his second year, R2 is taking heat for not only being  boastful and arrogant  but his critics are also attacking him for being  foul-mouthed on a cable channel (Heaven forbid!).

Well, all I have to say about that is ‘Give ’em Hell Rex!”  and don’t change a thing.  Whether the Jets win a Super Bowl or not he has made the Jets relevant again.  He, along with the rest of the extremely talented coaching staff, GM Mike Tannenbaum and the rest of the Jets organization are helping reshape a franchise that was no different than most other losing organizations to one where winning is expected, supported and anything less than being great is not tolerated.  The man can flat out coach a defense and one day, after he has learned how to be a great head coach, I believe his record will speak for itself (R2 will play down his contribution and credit his players as he has done already).  Anybody can talk a good game but I think when all is said and done that R2 will be able to back it up.  While I have certainly done my share of talking for AUSI/Mythic, I have never been willing to commit publicly to the kind of statements that R2 has made (maybe it’s the lawyer in me) and I respect him for it.  Not because he can hype (the late, great Billy Mays could hype anything) but because he’s willing to put himself out there and be the lightning rod for the criticism while he’s doing it.  That I can relate to and IMHO, that is worthy of respect.  Love him or loathe him, hate the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets or adore them but R2 is a hell of a leader by continually demonstrating his willingness to do what it takes to create a winning attitude and a winning team while still being the kind of guy that his players apparently love to play for.  IMHO, we could all learn something from him.

Mark

P.S. I don’t actually believe that Joe sold his soul so the Jets could win the Super Bowl but it makes for a good water cooler story.