A game changer?

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Over the years,decades,eons (it feels that way sometimes) that I’ve been making games, I’ve always tried to come up with interesting bits that are unique to every game that I or my studio, have created. Usually these elements are evolutionary changes, sometimes, albeit more rarely, they are revolutionary (I hate the overuse of that word by so many people so I rarely use it myself). I’ve been fortunate over that time to have been able to both incorporate a lot of my ideas and those of my co-workers into games such as Dragon’s Gate, Aliens Online, DAoC and WAR. Once again, I believe our studio has come up with a feature that is both figuratively and literally a game changer. We call it Formation Craftingand its use in March On Ozis, in our opinion, quite a nifty feature to add to not only this type of game but other games we hope to create as well. And for me, one of the best parts is that someone other than me birthed the idea (in this case it was Scott, one of our artists) and that makes me smile. It is confirmation of one of the values that is core to this studio that, great game design ideas can and should come from any member of the team, whether it is a programmer, artist, human resources, PR, finance and yes, even a old warhorse of a game designer on occasion. Formation Crafting in MoO is just the first step, we have lots of ideas on how to take it to the next level and we look forward to bringing those to life as well a little further down the road.

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The March On Oz™ Begins!

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Folks,

Finally, after 3 long years of both forced and self-imposed silence, I can begin talking about my studio’s first game, March On Oz ™.  City State Entertainment was formed in March of 2011 and early last summer we began working on the first of what we hope will be a series of games based on the Worlds of Oz ™ the aforementioned March on Oz.  For a new and mostly young team (I really throw the curve off, sorry kids), this game represents a major undertaking. We weren’t content with doing “JAICG” (Just Another iOs Clone Game) but set out to accomplish two rather significant goals. The first was to begin a re-imagining of L. Frank Baum’s Oz and create enough unique IP that, as I and the team at Mythic did with Camelot and DAoC, create enough non-cannon IP that we can protect it while at the same time making it more relevant to today’s audience. The second goal is to create a game that we can be proud of upon its release and that is worthy of the talent and effort than is going into the game. While I know that we can accomplished the first goal, I won’t know if that is true until after the game is released and you, the players, tell us what you think. No matter what happens though, I am proud of the effort that the entire CSE team has made on this game and I expect even better results from us as we mature as a studio.

March is also the first in a planned series of what we are calling Road Defense ™ RTS-style games. These games are, at their core, RTS-style but they also include elements of RPG-style gaming as well as other types of games. March On Oz doesn’t represent the end of the road for CSE’s journey through the Worlds of Oz rather it is just the beginning and as we all know, every journey begins with a single step and today we took our first public step on what we all hope will be a long and fascinating road. I hope that we will have a long journey together walking down this and other roads together.

www.marchonoz.com

Mark

Thank you to my friends/foes/etc. at the IGN Vault

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Well, I’m pretty sure that the title of this post will surprise some people but hey, what the heck, I’ve wanted to say some things for quite a while and now I can (well pretty much anyway). Over the past decade, I have spent a considerable amount of time at the IGN Vault listening, talking and having tons of rotten fruit thrown my way there. To say it has been a love/hate relationship is a great understatement but there are a few things I would to make clear:

1) The guys there have at times, been truly important to both DAoC and WAR. One of the reasons I decided to go back to the Vault during the development of WAR was that I believed the Vault had a lot of players who would end up being better testers than any QA team we could hire (internal or external).  With so many of them truly caring so much about games, I believed they could really contribute to WAR on an ongoing basis. While its role in DAoC was also to help create buzz for the game (as well as feedback), by the time we went back to the Vault for WAR the buzz was building nicely and we had lots of other ways to promote the game.

2) During the WAR days, I wish I could tell you how many conversations I had with the team at Mythic that went like this:

Me: The guys on the Vault said XXXX
Team: That’s impossible.
Me: Check it out anyway (sometimes there was an intermediate step of denial/wait for another report)
Team: Okay but…
Hours/days later, the majority of time what was said there turned out to be true.

Whether it was crash bugs, design problems, leveling curves, balance issues, etc. so much good stuff came out of the Vault that I lost my temper a few times with my people (I wasn’t a joy to be around when certain things posted on the Vault turned out true contrary to our internal tests). This wasn’t because my team wasn’t good at their jobs (even good people make mistakes and tools made by people are fallible), it was because the Vault had people who were not only really, really good at playing games (and had so much experience with MMOs including DAoC) and who were also good at finding issues/bugs but they also put in lots and lots of time in WAR. For WAR, I even had a trusted group of Vault testers who I knew I could count on to tell me the truth and I always relayed what they told me to the team.

3) I loved the passion displayed by the players there. Now, this passion could turn real ugly but during its best days, the forum was filled with people who really wanted the games to succeed and that was great. Even during the ugliest of days, I knew that many of the people who were upset were not upset because they wanted us to fail, it was because they wanted us to succeed and they could see us doing things that would damage our chance to succeed (and if/when I forgot that, during the DAoC days, Sanya was there to remind me). In all fairness though, there were also players there who were pissed because our changes made it harder for them to succeed even when we made things better for the vast majority of people and there also were the guys who were just causing trouble for a variety of reasons.

4) It’s not all love though and I remain steadfast in my belief that people shouldn’t throw nasty words/phrases, threats, accusations, vulgarity, etc. around casually and expect there to be no consequences. The nonsense that Sanya had to put up with during the DAoC days upset me greatly and that’s why I decided to scale back Mythic’s presence from the Vault. She was strong and could take it but I didn’t think it was right/necessary for her to do so any longer (FYI, as I’ve said before, she argued against the move). In hindsight, maybe I should have handled it differently and insisted that the Vault ban lots of posters for the kinds of vulgarity and harassment she had to go through but I didn’t want to do that. I had never asked the guys there to ban anyone and I didn’t want to set that precedent. I too was bothered by the hate, threats, etc. directed to myself (or my family) by a minority of posters. Maybe my skin should have been thicker and I shouldn’t let anything said bother me but I’ve never claimed perfection and never will. And like some of the people there who I have spoken to over the years, I too said a few things in anger that I shouldn’t have. Like I said, nobody is perfect.

5) When I first posted this entry I forgot to mention the moderators at the Vault so I am now correcting that oversight.  While we didn’t always agree on things either, they tried very hard to do their jobs and walk a very fine line at the same time.  I appreciate their efforts as both players of DAoC/WAR and as members of the IGN Vault.  They also cared about the game and their IGN community, not an easy and very rarely appreciated job.

So, to all the inhabitants of the Vault who contributed so much to DAoC and WAR, thank you very much. I truly do appreciate it.

Mark

P.S. I don’t expect this post to change a single thing if I ever reappear there. This is something I have wanted to get off my chest for a while and that’s good enough for me. 🙂

Update: I wanted to make a couple of quick corrections and an additional clarification or two. Also, I wanted to say  (since I got an email on the subject) please don’t ask me what things I am referring to in terms of bugs/issues found from the Vault folks, I’m not saying anything other than sometimes they were big things and sometimes they were small things and many times they were things that were sent to me privately in email by either the trusted player-testers and/or simply players.

Update #2: Added the bit about the Vault moderators.