Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year all!

BTW, have a teaser on us. Tasty linkage here.

Mark

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We are now for sale from the US to the EU to Russia in the App Store!

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What a year+ it has been for our studio.  When we first started work on March on Oza year ago, we were a collection of individuals, most of who had never worked together before. Additionally, many of those folks had no experience making games professionally. Now we are a team and one that can proudly point at MoO and say “I worked on that!” MoO is not an earth shattering, OMG revolutionary, “One game to rule them all” game but what it is a fun, gorgeous, lovingly crafted and humorous iPad game that will continue to evolve over time. As of late yesterday night, gamers from across North America, the EU, and many other fine places that I still have not had a chance to visit, could buy the game from Apple’s App Store.

Launching a game, whether MoO or even an MMO, is only the beginning of the process. Over the next few months, MoO will see more units, more mini-games, and most importantly more difficulty levels. These new units and settings move the gameplay more toward the “action-reaction” kind of games and less like the “build it and watch the fun/frolic” kind of game. Moreover, once you have seen “Ski-jumper N.O.M.E.” in action, you will smile, a lot. That’s one of our goals with MoO, to create a game that can be played by casual players as well as gamers who want a lot more A/R in their games, especially for our PC version (coming down the road a bit, we hope, on Steam!). In the meantime, if you have an iPad2 or newer version, please check out our game and if you enjoyed the game, please do not hesitate to review/rank us on the App Store!

My thanks to everyone at City State Entertainment and especially to my co-founder Andrew Meggs, for bringing MoO to life. It has been a great journey so far and I know it is going to get even better.

Mark

Thoughts for a hot saturday in a very warm office

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Crunch time fun & frolic continues as we approach the finish line for our first game and it’s time to take a quick break from being level/legal guy  today (as always, I hate reading pages and pages of contracts) and write-up a quick post.

1) Our first game has turned out a bit more ambitious than originally intended. It wasn’t as much feature creep but quality creep. Andrew put it very succinctly the other day in commenting that we are taking a “AAA” approach to our first iPad game.  Pretty much sums it up. When I originally conceived the game I thought it would be about a 9 month project but we are coming in at a year. Not horrible, especially for a new team and the game’s quality reflects that extra time so that’s not so bad.

2) We’ve been in crunch for a while now and I am inordinately proud of our team. The guys and gals here have worked their tails off whether it is extended evenings and/or weekends without complaint. While the usual consequences of too much crunchy goodness are here, everyone is doing what it takes to get the game out the door. Reminds me of another young team from a decade ago and I hope to be able to share the same kind of financial success with them as I did with the Mythic team, as a thank you for their efforts. If I can do that in a few years, well, it will be a nice time to call it a career. In the meantime, I still have a bunch of games I would like to do, including another MMO.

3) The news out of Rhode Island about 38 Studios was and is very depressing. While Curt and I won’t be attending NYY/Sox games as best buds, the guy definitely had/has a passion for making games. We have too many people in the industry who don’t have that kind of passion (and his willingness to put his money/time where is mouth is) and I hope that things work out for him and the team at 38 as well as the taxpayers of Rhode Island. The MMO industry is really back on its heels now and if 38S ends badly, it won’t help things one bit and for the team itself, it would be a disaster. Hopefully things will work out for all concerned.

4) GW2 is looking like the most interesting MMORPGs to come down the pike in many years. I refuse to get excited about any game until after launch but from what I’ve read about the game, it seems like they are doing a lot of things right. It is definitely the game that most of us are talking about in the office (other than our game and possible future games of course). 🙂

5) The NHL playoffs have been amazing. As a big hockey buff, it’s almost everything I could ask for. Now, if the Rangers can win the Cup, well, that would remove the almost.

Okay, time to get back to work. Sorry if the post is even less proofread/grammatically correct than usual, I have figure out why one of our creations is acting up.

Mark

 

Gosh, it feels like 1995 all over again!

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Folks,

There’s an old saying that you can’t go home again.  While I still believe that to be mostly true, the last few months have had an eerily familiar feeling to them.  As to why, well, here’s a look at some of the stuff that has happened in CSE during the Fall/Winter:

a) While CSE was desperately looking for a first-rate modeler to join our team, he appeared.  Eerily like when Mythic needed another artist ASAP and the talented Lance Robertson simply walked our door and asked for a job. Since joining our team, Mike has frankly, kicked serious ass;

b) I  drafted and executed a Term Sheet with another company and then wrote a first draft, hog-choker of a contract with said company.  We have a fine attorney, as we did then, but saving some significant money by me doing the grunt work is always a good idea;

c) Worked on a “Vision Document” and presentation  for two new games to show to our partner.  We were always “presenting” things to partners or potential partners back in the day.  The difference is this time, we don’t need to, as I used to say, “put on the Presidential kneepads” and beg for funding, now its to talk about JVs or distribution;

d) Got to work and hang out with an outstanding bunch of guys and gals, a team composed of a mix of industry veterans and less experienced folks who, working together, are focused on building a new studio and who are all excited about all the interesting opportunities in a growing gaming space;

e) Me, smiling broadly as the entire team contributes to our game both from within their work discipline and outside of it.  Our last two major design ideas came from our artists. That’s one of the many things that make CSE different from many (not all) other studios.  Everybody is part of the design, incubation and development process whether they are a programmer, artist, finance, HR, etc.  Lucas, one of our industry vets, confirmed that this was the first place he has worked at where everyone truly has a voice in the process;

f) The studio hired what should be our last major team member for a while, we now have everyone we need to be successful, now we just have to deliver.  It was the same back at old Mythic, we had a small team and we simply had to go out and make games that were fun to play;

g) Nerf guns firing within the office as people bring their kids and pets (including one very cool Bearded Dragon) to our space and bad jokes, puns and other assorted witticisms flow like water from the Nile (during its flood stage of course);

<<<drum roll please>>>

h) Back hurts again, not as bad as when I was walking around various E3s with a walker/cane/crutch but painful enough.

So, while this is not exactly the same as 1995, it is pretty damn good and I’m one happy camper.  As a matter of fact, I’m happier than I’ve been since the middle of last decade (way before the EA acquisition). And that alone makes it all worthwhile.  All in all, I consider myself truly blessed.

Mark

P.S. I’ll have a follow-up post that will focus on the guys and gals of CSE and why I think we have a real shot at success.  No guarantees as usual in this business but we are off to a great start.

P.S.S. More teaser goodness tomorrow.

Here come de judge, here come de judge, order in the courtroom, here come de judge

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Today’s not-so-mysterious guest columnist is James Dunstan, attorney-at-law and total geek like us.  He and I went to law school together and unfortunately, the pull of the dark side was too much for him.  Luckily though, he has maintained a sense of humor, love for gaming and has been involved in both my previous companies (AUSI & Mythic) from day one.  He has spent more than 25 years providing legal services to high technology, communications, and computer game law clients. He has been involved in almost every aspect of the digital revolution, from representing the true “fathers” of the Internet, to cable, telecommunication and media giants, to assisting computer game startups mature to profitable enterprises.  Jim has been an active “coder” since the early 1980s when he wrote computer games while in law school. Among the titles he’s provided most of the coding for include Lunar Eclipse Software’s “Return to the Moon” and “Mission: Planet Earth,” as well as writing the motion code for the first PC-based motionbased video arcade game, New Luna’s “Lunar Defense.”  He is the founder of Mobius Legal Group and he can be contacted at jdunstan@mobiuslegal.com.

So, without further ado, I present:

Warning: Do Not Use This MMO To Trim Your Hedge, And Other Happenings In CyberLaw – By James Dunstan

While the dog days of summer come to an end and we look forward to Fall’s changing colors, courts haven’t taken a lot of vacations. Two important decisions came down during August that remind us again that the real world can be a silly place to live.

We begin with the case of Craig Smallwood versus NCSoft. It seems that Mr. Smallwood launched a lawsuit in late 2009 in Hawaii, after his Lineage II accounts were banned. He accused NCSoft of all manner of heinous acts, including taking his money, not conducting a “fair and square” game, not uniformly enforcing its no botting and no gold farming rules, and the one that has hit the blogosphere, not warning him that Lineage II can be addictive. In short, a disgruntled subscriber run amok. The judge threw out the case once, but because he was proceeding pro se (without benefit of an attorney), the judge allowed him to amend his complaint. He refiled, this time doing a much better job, too good a job in fact, as NCSoft argued that the amended complaint had been ghostwritten by a lawyer, who actually showed up at the hearing. The judge agreed, smacked the lawyer, and then moved on to discuss the merits of the case.

Posts are running rampant about how the judge agreed with Smallwood on the addiction claim and is allowing the case to proceed. That’s true enough, but misses the far more important aspects of this decision. First, the judge found that the End User License Agreement (EULA) was valid. The impact of this? The provision that limits NCSoft’s liability to $65 for contract violations and negligence are fully enforceable. That means even if Smallwood can prove NCSoft breached its promise to run a “fair and square” game, or took three months of Smallwood’s money, all he gets back is $65. Second, the only way Smallwood can cash in big on this case is to prove that NCSoft was grossly negligent in not warning him that Lineage II is addictive. THAT will be an incredibly tall order, since Smallwood will have to prove both that Lineage II is addictive (whatever that is), and that NCSoft knew it was addictive and chose not to warn subscribers of this defect in the game.

For those of you who have heard me speak at various industry conferences know how hard I stress the importance of crafting an enforceable EULA. My 2007 LOGIN presentation “It’s All in the EULA” stemmed from the 2003 case Black Snow Enterprises v. Mythic Entertainment, the first virtual property case that I litigated. There, all plaintiff’s claims against Mythic’s Dark Age of Camelot were short-circuited when the judge agreed that the EULA was enforceable, and we were able to dismiss the case and turn it over to arbitration. Faced with very clear language in the EULA that banned all forms of gold farming and item selling, the case evaporated in a heartbeat. While my “stock” EULA does not use the term “addictive,” it has clear language urging players to take frequent breaks from the game, and that prolonged playing may trigger all manner of ills, including triggering dormant photosensitivity and halitosis (ok, maybe not halitosis). Depending on how good NCSoft’s EULA is (I haven’t gone back to read it, so it may or may not be fully enforceable), chances are Mr. Smallwood now faces a similar fate. While others in the blogosphere may scream about the silliness of placing these types of warnings on games (hence the apocryphal reference to warning labels on lawn mowers to not use them as hedge trimmers), I urge all game designers to spend the time and legal budget to craft a EULA that protects themselves against frivolous claims.

Our second summer reading exercise comes to us from Mississippi, where local television anchor Toni Miles sued Raycom Media, her former employer and owner of WLOX in Biloxi. Her claim was that Raycom was guilty of “cyber libel” for allowing viewers of its website to post comments in response to an article reporting that Ms. Miles was arrested for cocaine possession. The judge found that the article itself was true (she was arrested but the charges were later dropped), and that Raycom was protected by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as a web publisher from libel allegations related to the posts by readers. This is another huge win in a line of cases where courts have applied this immunity to websites that host third party forums. Those who lose sleep at night wondering if all the flame wars conducted in their user forums can come back to bite them can sleep a little easier.

Now, before folks start flaming Mr. Smallwood about his suit against NCSoft after reading the paragraph above, do remember that the CDA does not protect individual posters against libel. You may have to answer to Mr. Smallwood and Casper the Friendly Ghostlawyer.

James Dunstan

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So, thanks to Jim for this guest column.  Opinions expressed by my guest columnist are theirs alone and if you have any questions feel free to comment on this post or look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

Mark

Thank you – Bite sized, chunky peanut butter version

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Assorted thank yous, bite-size and gathered together for tasty goodness.

Mike Crossmire – Mike was a friend of mine before he worked a day for me at Mythic.  Mike was one of the earliest members of Old Mythic (pre-DAoC) and I’ve known him forever.  Mike is a very talented artist, a hard and loyal worker and somebody who doesn’t come into work with an agenda other than helping to make great art.  Well, other than trying desperately to survive in the lan-based shooters we played at OM, when Brian “The Assassin” Axelson would frag poor Mike repeatedly and the howls would shake the building.  So, unless a team needs a talented artist who is also a killer at the latest and greatest FPS, Mike would be a great fit. And even if being that good at an FPS is a requirement, Mike is worth an exception. 🙂

Scott Jennings – We hired Scott at the perfect time.  He really needed a job and we really needed a DB programmer who could code fast, code well, code cheap and who wanted to take a chance with a small barely funded team in Fairfax Virginia.  He came in, saved our bacon (on more than one occasion) and I was proud that I hired him.  Over the years we have certainly have at times wanted to express our opinions of what the other was doing rather, ahem, forcefully but he really came through for us when we needed him so many years ago.  Much kudos to him for that.

Mark Gagne – After we did the deal with TA Associates, Mark came on-board as our CFO (the first true CFO we ever had).  Even though he came in through TA (which of course made us sort of suspicious), Mark (and TA) proved that he was there for one reason only, to help us become a better company.  I’m proud to say that I also considered Mark a friend and he did a heck of a job for us over the years.  After the EA acquisition his job was done and he started his own company.  He’s a very smart and talented guy and I still miss going out to lunch with him and talking sports and life (he was a die-hard Red Sox fan but nobody’s perfect).

TA Associates – After the success of DAoC, a number of VCs wanted a piece of Mythic as they loved the subscriber model and our ability to do a MMORPG for only 2.5M.  TA was the best fit of any of those companies so we did a $32M deal with them.  They got seats on our board and I got to know two of their people very well, John Meeks and Bruce Johnston.  While investor/developer relations are never perfect, they were as good as their word when it came to their promise not to interfere in Mythic’s operations.  They are a bright bunch and I learned many things from them.

Missy Castro – Missy was one of the first artists we hired and was part of the Old Mythic crew.  She was (and I assume still is) talented, a fast worker and one of those people who is a joy to have in an office.  She also had a really great dog who she would bring into the office.  When she had to move (though for a happy reason) it was a sad day for me and everyone else at Mythic.

Richard Aihoshi – ‘Jonric’ – I’ve known a lot of writers/journalists over the years and I always considered Richard one of the best in the industry.  Not only was he a great writer but Richard always treated us professionally and fairly.  By this I mean that he didn’t look to score points by being a jackass while at the same time, he was also willing to speak critically about our games.  One of the other things about Richard was that he never, ever broke an embargo (when journalists are shown things before they are ready for release at shows like E3, promo events, etc.) and when we spoke  off the record about things, he never used any of those discussions in any way for his (or our) advantage.  On a personal level, he is also a great guy and one of those people I looked forward to getting together with at E3, Mythic, etc.  I definitely miss getting together with him.

Mark

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday – August 29th

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As usual for this Sunday feature, a whole bunch of quick thoughts:

1) The J-E-T-S are not looking good right now.  A really disappointing showing against the ‘Skins, Calvin Pace hurt (and it looks like a minimum of 4 weeks according to published reports) and his replacement, Jason Taylor, taking more contact in Dancing With The Stars than he has had in the preseason.   Not what RR wanted to see from his team, I’m sure (this week’s episode of Hard Knocks should be full of more colorful language I’m sure).  OTOH, still no reason to push the panic button but not a great way to essentially end the preseason.  I’m hoping that when the season starts the offense (once it starts using its real game plan) will step up and the defense’s prodigal son will return.

2) The Jets cut Laveranues Coles today.  When they drafted him it was considered by many to be a controversial pick as he had some issues in college.  Once he got to the pros, he was a hell of a football player, a great teammate (by all accounts) and a standup guy.  Smart pick, smart guy and if his career is really over (and I hope it’s not and that the Jets pick him up after the season starts), a most excellent career.  Best of luck to him.

3) I’m intrigued to see how Guild Wars 2 Dynamic Event System works.  I’ve seen some stuff on the ‘Net where people have said it is just Public Quests renamed or just improved upon and the GW2 guys have been criticized by some people.  In interviews I did regarding PQs during WAR’s development, I said I expected it to be one of the most important features in WAR and I also expected it to be used/improved on by developers more than any other feature of the game.  All of our games are derivative from what went before us at some level anyway, so if other devs use and improve upon PQs, fabulous.  If the DES is derived in any way from PQs, I’m thrilled and I hope more devs use PQ/DES/etc. going forward.  If it isn’t derived from PQs, that’s great too and I hope it brings a new element to the MMO periodic table.  Gaming (MMO or otherwise) needs all the innovation it can get so wherever it comes from, I hope it works out great for them.

4) Here’s to GW2 and Final Fantasy XIV both being smash hits.  The MMO industry (and especially PC gaming) could use some good news other than Cataclysm (which will sell a ton of copies obviously).  Hopefully there will be some real spacing between the release of these titles otherwise, well, it will be interesting to see what happens.

5) What an awful summer movie season it has been.  I go to the movies a lot but this summer there seemed to be far fewer interesting/enjoyable movies to see.  Hopefully the Fall/Winter season will have some surprise hits and the big films that are scheduled to be released then won’t disappoint.

6) More pain resulting from the NYC WTC mosque controversy with a recent stabbing and destruction of property inside a mosque.  What didn’t get enough attention, at least on the national level, is how long it has taken all the parties involved to agree what to do with the WTC site itself.  The NY papers have taken the usual suspects to task over it as the years have gone by but the fact that it took almost ten years to get something moving there is ridiculous (story here).  Now even though it seems everyone is in agreement, the real question is how long will it take to get done.  At the pace they are going we may have flown to Mars and back by the time the new WTC site is finished.  I’m reminded of the wonderful, though historically inaccurate, portrayal of the NY legislature in the play/film 1776.  The delegate from NY were always abstaining because, according to the film, that in the New York legislature “They speak very fast and very loud, and nobody listens to anybody else, with the result that nothing ever gets done.”  Ten years, unbelievable.

Mark

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