All Things Must Come to an End

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After 15 years of leading Mythic Entertainment, my time with the studio (and EA of course) I co-founded with Rob Denton has come to an end.  Early in May, Electronic Arts let me know that they wanted to make some changes within the Games Label and as a result of those changes I have been out of the office (and out of touch with the team, game, etc.) since that day.  So, please accept my apologies if you have tried to reach me over the last couple of months but please know I wasn’t ignoring you. Well, unless you were a gold seller making me an offer I couldn’t refuse in which case my email automatically deletes your message (would be nice if it could do that wouldn’t it?).

To describe these past two months as difficult would be a great understatement as change is almost never easy.  I have helped shepherd Mythic through good times and bad, through near bankruptcy and through our many successes.  During my tenure there my duties have run the gamut from being CEO/GM to doing some of our legal work to acting as lead designer and even using my personal credit cards/credit to pay for the phones we used when we launched DAoC back in 2001.  While I will miss doing those things (well, some of them anyway) for the studio, what I will really miss are the people at Mythic.  While some of the team has changed over the years, we have always had a great team at Mythic and seeing, talking, protecting and sharing with that team is what I will both treasure and miss the most.  Mythic is, as always, more than simply the senior leadership there, it is the programmers, artists, designers, marketing, IT, operations, facilities, finance, community management, HR, customer service, quality assurance, etc. who make Mythic what is was and is today.  It is those people, most of whom whose efforts aren’t usually publicly recognized, that deserve so much credit for the success of DAoC and Warhammer.  I wish that team nothing but the best of fortune going forward as my respect and love for them runs deep and I hope, is well known by them.  I will never forget the effort made by those teammates during both the development of DAoC and Warhammer.  Whether it was the extra late night and/or weekend efforts or simply the passion so many of you showed for our games, your level of commitment is something I will never forget.  I will have a lot more to say about this over the next few weeks and I will try, and I’m sure fail, to adequately express my thanks and deepest gratitude to many of the team members. While I always tried to show my gratitude either through the tools available to me as CEO of Mythic or GM of EA Mythic as well as with some personal touches, I will never be able to thank you enough.

Over the next few weeks I will be using this blog to thank certain people and companies for their efforts over the years.  There will be a lot of praise, a couple of mea culpas (I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t deliver some of those) and maybe a couple of surprise shout outs.  So, I expect this space to be pretty busy for a while.  However, if you are looking or expecting me to damn EA or anyone there, you will be sorely disappointed.  Over my 23 years of making games professionally I have refrained from attacking the competition, former and/or current partners, other game developers, etc. except on a few very rare instances.  I have no intention of breaking with tradition at the present time and I hope my track record in this regard remains unchanged for the rest of my career.  During my time at EA I was privileged to get to know a number of very fine professionals and I have some fond memories of working with them.  As always EA has my thanks for their interest in acquiring Mythic and in supporting the development of Warhammer.

For those looking to contact me, the best way to reach me currently is through Facebook.  So, friend me there but if I don’t know your name, please enclose some details in your friend request as a courtesy.

Mark

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem…

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And sometimes I should let other people’s words do the talking: ( http://www.igda.org/newsroom/newsletter_0908.txt)
If there is any linkage issues, I’ve added the full text at the bottom of this post.  We had hoped to talk about this weeks ago but frankly, other things (like the launch of WAR) took precedence.  As Jen’s letter made clear, Mythic had made this decision to amend this policy before Jen and I had a chance to talk, I’m sorry that that we couldn’t talk about it publicly before now.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this situation. Sometimes people are rather quick to rush to judgment on things. Along the same lines, I wish that some people had given me the benefit of the doubt before things got ugly or at least talked to me about things before getting out the tar and feathers. Jen, being the person she is, stood up and apologized not because she was totally off-base in what she said but rather, because she didn’t pick up and phone and call me before she sent out the call to action. If she had, I would have told her about N’Gai’s suggestion and that since that day, Mythic was determining whether and then how to move forward with it. The situation post-newsletter could have been avoided and I would not have had to go through some of the stuff I had to go through.  We see this sort of situation play itself out again and again in our industry and others. In some cases, people’s lives are derailed and sometimes ruined by this type of stuff. Words can be very powerful weapons, especially in the wrong hands and I know that this situation has again reemphasized the importance of my long-standing policies not to call out other developers or to engage in some of the character attacks (assassination is way to strong of a word) that I went through. I am far from a perfect human being but I know I am a good human being who is always trying to become better at this game of life.

For the strength of character to apologize for the mistake and for the even greater display of honor she showed by doing so publicly, Jen has my thanks and my respect.

For the great suggestion at a time when I needed it, my thanks go out to N’Gai.

FYI, I’m not denying that our policy was as it was, I explained the reasons behind it in various interviews and we are still reserving in-game credits for the launch team as an extra way of saying thank you to them.  However, we’ve also expanded the policy because it is a nice thing to do.  I’ll leave other people to argue over whether it is right, necessary, just, etc. since nice works well enough in this case.

———

Originally Posted by IGDA Newsletter
Dear Members and friends,

In the August newsletter ( http://www.igda.org/newsroom/newsletter_0808.txt ), I criticized Mythic’s credits policy specifically, and the industry in general, for not adopting inclusive credit standards. I’d like to set the record straight on a number of things that have happened over the past month.

When the credits story first appeared, Mark Jacobs, the GM of Mythic, was in the middle of a series of interviews in New York. After an interview with N’Gai Croal of Newsweek and Level Up blog, Mark asked N’Gai for his thoughts on the subject. N’Gai suggested simply putting the full credits online. Mark is in the process of implementing N’Gai’s suggestion, and in doing so, Mythic will move towards a greater level of credits inclusiveness.

I’ve known Mark for more than 10 years now, and he’s always been a strong proponent of the online games industry and an ethical businessman. Mark was honest about a difficult subject and immediately after the interviews ended, he began a process of formulating new credit policies. Unfortunately, when the previous newsletter was sent out, Mark, unbeknownst to the me, was quietly continuing to work on a new credit policy for the studio. Mark, I regret that my comments caused you personal and professional distress.

The Mythic team is also taking the following steps to address credit policies:
– In-game and manual credits will be reserved for the launch team.
– Mythic will create an online database listing the name and title of everyone who contributed to a project, regardless of current employment status. Additionally, the studio will make best efforts to provide this information for its previous online games.
– Mythic has committed to working with the IGDA, leading game industry history and credit sites and other interested parties to establish a credits feed, listing all contributors, to promote fair and accurate credit reporting across the industry.
– Mark Jacobs will consult with the IGDA Credits Standard Committee to offer guidance on the issues and challenges posed specifically by MMOs.

Fair and accurate credits and transparent standards for crediting remain a pervasive problem in the industry, and I applaud Mythic for taking steps to address this issue. I’m personally looking forward to Mark’s involvement with the Credit Standards Committee, not only because of his depth of experience in online games, but because, more importantly, his personal commitment to fair and accurate credits sets an outstanding example for industry leadership.

My newsletter intros usually end with a call to action, and this one is no exception. We must continue the dialogue on credits, and on other topics like quality of life, that have a direct impact on the lives of game developers. Get involved, discuss these issues with your peers, and please join me in recognizing Mythic’s new crediting efforts.

Once again, the IGDA’s credit standards info is at:
http://www.igda.org/credit/

– Jen MacLean
Chairperson, IGDA
VP Business Development, 38 Studios

He shoots (not the cute little pony though) and he scores!

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Quick shoutout to Syp over at his blog Waagh! for his idea of adding a developer commentary to the ToK ( http://waaagh.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/if-wishes-were-horses).  I’m not sure if that idea was already kicked around by Paul (I think it has but I’m not sure) but it’s a damn fine idea regardless.  I’ll put that down on our ToK wishlist as a possibility.  No matter what, cheers Syp, thanks for the great suggestion and as always, your blog, I love reading it.

So, what do you think?  Should we add a ToK unlock (user option as Syp suggests) for Developer Commentary just like DVDs?

A banning we will go, a banning we will go. Heave ho off the servers yo, a banning we will go!

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I hate gold sellers/spammers. No, that’s not strong enough, let me try again. I HATE GOLD SELLERS WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING. Ah, that’s better. Now, why do I hate them you may ask? I hate them for a number of reasons, most of which have been detailed in various interviews I’ve done over the years. And now that they have taken their obnoxiousness to new levels with gold service spamming, I HATE GOLD SPAMMERS EVEN MORE NOW THAN EVER BEFORE. For years, lowlifes like IGE have told us, in defense of their behavior, that they a) are just providing a service; b) don’t interfere with players enjoyment of the game. Well, I can’t argue with (a), they are providing a service, just like maggots I suppose but I’ve always argued that (b) is totally and complete BS. Now, those old arguments aside, I can’t see how this new generation of pond scum (new and improved, with 25% more scummy action!) can argue that their constant spamming of chat channels doesn’t interfere with players enjoyment of the game (I’m waiting for the whole “Oh, you can always just turn off chat” argument). I hated seeing their messages when I played WoW or any other MMO and I’ve been waiting for the day that WAR launched so I could have the absolute pleasure of instituting policies to make their lives more difficult so we could drive them out of WAR.

Since WAR launched we have been banning these jerks like crazy. As of Saturday Night, we had banned about 400 of them. My CSRs have a zero tolerance policy. We don’t wait and let them stay in the game and ban them en-masse, my guys ban their useless, time-consuming butts right away. We have a strike team whose sole job it is to get these guys off our servers as quickly as possible. This weekend, we unveiled a new wrinkle in the fight against them, the public ban message. Players on our Phoenix Throne server have been treated to special messages when a gold seller/spammer is banned. I’ve given them a wide leash to come up with creative messages to tell the entire community who has been banned and we keep it within the Warhammer universe. Messages like “Tchar’zanek has ordered the slaughter of [Spammer] and all others of his kind who weaken the Raven Host by providing wealth and power to the unworthy” have been seen all weekend. We will continue this policy and expand it to the other servers. We are in for a real fight against these bottom feeders and it will be a long and costly battle but it’s one we are going to take to them and this is only the first step. After all, this is WAR…

BTW, for those who might be tempted to think that we are doing this so we could offer our own service or because we do make money off their boxes (traditionally, gold sellers will quickly shift to buddy disks and free trials though to lower their costs) let me tell you this. I’ve been offered “a piece of the action” both personally and corporately in the past if I will either turn a blind eye or help them in their actions. This would have netted me and/or Mythic a very, very tidy sum, far more than we would see from box sales. My answer was and always will remain the same:

Go to hell.

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