Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year all!

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

Mark

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

Screenshots, screenshots, screenshots!

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Well, we are almost there. The bug queue is down to minor issues, the final artwork is being placed and the final touches are being placed on the levels. So, it’s time to start showing off a bit more of our game. So, here’s some in-game screenshots including the first screenshot that shows an ongoing battle between some Ozians and Nomes. Enjoy!

Here’s a look at our main menu including an adventurer created by one of our programmers.

For a look at a meeting between Cayke, Locasta, Goldy (the Golden Thread trap) and an avatar check this out!

It’s not all yellow bricks, cake and waterfalls in our game, it’s a battle between the Ozians and the Nomes like this one.

And here’s another shot showing Goldy in action along with a nice explosion from a Pumpkin Bomb.

P.S. I also played an Android phone-based build of the game this weekend. We’ll have to make some changes to MoO to tailor it for the phones but hey, it’s a start. Hopefully we’ll be able to release this game on iOS/Android phones around the same time we do the PC/Mac builds.

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

 

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

TWM – The Mother of All Bad Ideas!

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It’s late 1999, money is running out fast and we’re scrambling to find a development deal or sell the studio.  We entertained a few offers one of which was from old Acclaim.  During our many discussions with their leadership, we talked about the kind of games we could do for them.  I pushed hard on doing online games (including variants on our current games such as Silent Death Online) and even MMOs.  Unfortunately, their CEO didn’t think much of SDO and even went as far as to say “Why would we want to do that, we were making those type of games 10 years ago?”  I pointed out that as far I knew Acclaim wasn’t making online games that long ago (I don’t think he enjoyed that retort) and also explained how low our budget was for it and all but one of our other games (our highest budget prior to DAoC was 450K for Aliens Online (with an essentially an expansion) with the rest being well below 100K). They listened politely to what I said and replied “But We have a better idea!” Expecting a merely bad idea to come out of their mouths, I told myself no matter what they say, don’t be an ass**** when I respond.  “Let’s do an online game” they said “based on Mary Kate and Ashley. Now, that would be great!” They told us how hot they were commercially and that we could make a ton of money if we could do an online game/MMO based on them.  At that moment all sorts of thoughts went through my head.  Is this a sign of the coming apocalypse in 2000 perhaps? How bad would it really be to go back and work in fast food?  What constitutes justifiable homicide?  Which countries don’t have extradition treaties for capital crimes with the US?  However, we needed a deal desperately so I politely pointed out what that would be a bad idea and why MMOs like EQ would be a much better idea.  They didn’t agree but we continued to talk about other, smaller budget games going forward.  Like the vast majority of publishers, they didn’t believe that there was much future in those MMO things.  After many months of negotiations I desperately wanted to walk away from the deal.  Truth is I didn’t trust them at all and the deal terms weren’t all that exciting.  IMHO, I’d rather go belly up than take a bad deal especially since we would have to stay and work for them.  So, we walked away and a couple of months later we did the deal with Abandon for DAoC, things could not have worked out better for us and the world was saved from perhaps one of the worst ideas for an MMO EVER.

Mark

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

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Just some quick thoughts for a lazy Sunday afternoon:

1) The Jets looked awful on Saturday night against a depleted Carolina Panthers team.  No reason to push the panic button but I can’t imagine R2 was happy about what he saw out there.  Offense is taking a lot of heat and it’s easy to blame the players but Schotty seemed to have an off day himself.  Defense looked okay (except for a handful of plays) but Carolina wasn’t 100% healthy but the 2s didn’t stink up the joint as they did against the Giants so overall, it’s a plus.

2) The news about the makers of APB this past week was not surprising, sad but not surprising.  As always, making MMOs is exceptionally hard and it’s that much harder when you try to go out of the MMO comfort zone, don’t have an experienced MMO team and don’t have proven (bought or made) tech.  Having all of them are not guarantees of success but having none of them definitely makes it a lot harder.  As always, I feel sorry for the people who put in so much blood, sweat and tears on the game and I wish those laid off the best and hope they find another gig soon.

3) The “WTC Mosque” debate and controversy continues to build in NYC (and it’s going to get worse) and most of our political leadership is either standing on the sidelines, wafflling or resorting to cliches.  Way to earn your  power, pay, perks and prestige guys and gals! And people wonder why so many of us have lost/losing faith in the political process and elected officials in our country.  It’s a tough call but if you want to be in politics and be a leader you have to be willing to make tough calls occasionally don’t you?

4) What’s next for the MMO market?  Are subscription games dead (I don’t think so) but it’s certainly getting more challenging out there as social networking games eat up more bandwidth and more MMOs from Asia come ashore here and both of these trends will continue unabated for the next few years at least.  Hopefully the economic climate will improve worldwide but it ain’t 2004 anymore and anyone who doesn’t realize that is in for a rude awakening.

5) Thinking about what the social gaming space will look like a year after Google makes its big splash.  Could be a real game changer (major understatement).  No matter what, it’s going to be a very, very interesting year for FB/Zynga/PD/PF/etc. as well as for the whole online (MMOs included) segment.

6) Looking forward to seeing the new tablets from Dell, LG, etc.  Let’s see how the non-Apple tablets sell before we pronounce them the new must-have device, but they are very intriguing.

7) The most interesting new reality show of the Fall should be “Survivor – Minnesota Vikings Edition”.  Grab some popcorn, settle back in the La-Z-Boy, things could get very interesting very quickly out there.

Going to see Piranha-3D tonight, I hear it is a true Summer Popcorn Movie.  Big nasty creature invades, upsets natural balance, eats some people.  When you think about it, it might not be much different than (7) above. 🙂

Mark

Thank you Abandon Entertainment

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Things were looking rather bleak for Mythic back in the late 1990s.  We had lost the vast majority of our revenue stream when EA bought the AOL Games Channel and shut down almost all existing online games and our rainy day fund was quickly drying up.  While we were still making the rounds in our bi-annual beg-a-thons (presidential knee-pads on full, begging mode engaged Captain) we weren’t getting anywhere.  Rob and I were preparing to go into “turtle mode” which would have cut our salaries down to zero (not a very great fall from where we were anyway, we never even came within sniffing range of six-figures then) and impose drastic salary cuts to try to keep the company afloat.  We had also received some much-needed help from employees like Bob Sellers (as always man, thank you) but time was running out. We had turned down several offers for the company (more on this another day) and I continued to believe in our company’s future.  Fortunately, just before the bell tolled, I convinced a company in New York that we were worth investing in and that I had an idea and Mythic had a team and leadership (Rob Denton, Matt Firor and myself of course) that could deliver on it.  That idea of course was Dark Age of Camelot and the company was Abandon Entertainment.  Abandon was, and is, primarily a film and television production company founded by two people who I care about deeply (with financial support from other people I also care about) Karen (my sister) and Marcus Ticotin.  I had bugged them for years about doing a game together and either out of a desire to finally shut me up, filial responsibility or just good judgment they decided to make a deal with us.  We sold them about 1/3 of the company and in return received $2.5M to develop DAoC.  During the development process we also borrowed $660K to market the game.  Well, 18 months later we released DAoC and it went on to be the surprise PC hit of the year (I don’t think anyone could have been more pleasantly surprised than Vivendi Universal though) and one of the most successful MMOs of all time in terms of its Return On Investment (prior to the EA acquisition, DAoC had already earned over nine-figures for Mythic and its total revenue was a lot higher than that), longevity (almost 9 years) and its Metacritic (still one of the top all-time scores for all MMOs).  Needless to say, Abandon was very happy with the way things turned out.  We repaid the loan and maintained a great relationship with them for years afterward.  Besides repaying the loan, Abandon also fully participated in the TA investment and the EA acquisition and it is safe to say that they profited greatly from their investment in us whether directly as above or when they hit a rough patch or two and needed some help and we were there for them.  That’s the kind of relationship Mythic Entertainment (FYI, I mean no disrespect to Bioware Mythic, I just can’t speak for BM since I’m not there any longer, ‘natch) had with its partners whether they were Abandon, Centropolis and Dean Devlin, Numerical Design Ltd. (NetImmerse/Gamebryo guys now Emergent) and others.  I’ve never forgotten when a business partner was good to Mythic (or to myself) and I’ve always tried to repay them in kind and that is never going to change.

If it wasn’t for Abandon Entertainment, DAoC would have most likely never been born and Mythic would have gone out of business sometime in the early days of the new millennium.  So, thank you Karen, Marcus, Gary, William, etc. whose investment and support made all of this possible.

Mark

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

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

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