As game director I have to make tough trade-offs. One thing I believe is that we have to focus on the core game first before taking on additional responsibilities. I wrote in the Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto in 2010 that our vision was to create a living, dynamic world, where there’s always something to do. Let’s ensure we succeed on that front.
Mike O' Brien - President - ANet
With a primary, near-term focus on growing the newest Daybreak franchise, H1Z1, I look forward to pushing the boundaries of emergent gameplay and expanding on the competitive experience.
Larry LaPierre - Senior Vice President of Games - Daybreak Games
Chinese companies will scoop up 1-2 western publishers a month from here on. The lesson to be drawn from Chinese mining company Shandong Hongda in talks to buy RuneScape developer Jagex for $300 million is that it will happen again.
Superdata (via MassivelyOP)
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
My outlook on the ever-changing MMORPG landscape tends to be relatively optimistic, some might say Pollyannaish. For all the never-ending wailing and teeth-gnashing that goes on and for all the predictions of the genre's impending crash and burn, nothing much seems to change from one year to the next. Since I've long been happy with what I'm being offered, that's a situation that suits me just fine.
MMOs tend to persist. As Wilhelm observed recently, EverQuest just turned seventeen. RuneScape, currently on the table for $300m, is fifteen. WoW will be twelve this year. For a long while it's been arguable that the biggest problem the MMORPG genre isn't change but stasis.
Behind the scenes, though, something is moving that can. as yet, be only dimly seen. The one thing that is emerging from the mists is this; the days when MMORPGs could simply drift along on a whim and a prayer may be coming to an end.
It's not, necessarily, all about resources. DBG, having been streamlined (some would say gutted) by its new owners, still seems, somehow, to be able to come up with solid, new content at a very reasonable pace. A dip into the current, rather frenzied scrabble toward launch for Landmark does test that proposition somewhat, but even there a decisiveness and determination to get the blasted thing finished and out the door at last seems preferable to an eternity in early access development hell.
If DBG seems able to do more than expected with less than it needs, then by contrast, ArenaNet somehow manages the opposite. There's a very big team working on GW2. Mike O'Brien laid out the numbers in a recent Reddit AMA : "We have about 120 devs working on the live game, 70 devs on Expac2, and 30 devs on core teams that support both." And yet, even with those resources, few would argue the game has been well-served over the past twelve months.
The Heart of Thorns expansion, much though I was pleasantly surprised by its quality and accessibility, enjoyed, at best, a lukewarm reception. It seems sales were under-cooked, much like the expansion itself in the opinion of many, while retention of those who did buy in has been more disappointing yet.
The bulk of development in the last six months has been directed at Raids, which, while they have apparently been better-attended than similar content in other MMOs, surely remain a minority interest for the playerbase as a whole. At least the Raid team has completed its work in a timely and efficient manner, though, unlike the team working on adding the rest of the now "indefinitely postponed" Legendary weapons. Those, of course, much like raids, are also of direct interest only to a minority of players. A hardcore, you might even say.
The Spring Quarterly Update, due some time in April, far from bringing the new content many feel is desperately needed, is mostly focused either on fixing things that the expansion broke (World vs World) or fixing the expansion itself. Heart of Thorns, which has now officially been deemed too difficult, too exclusive and insufficiently casual-friendly, is going to get nerfed.
Whether the players who have wandered off elsewhere in search of the kind of meaningful realm vs realm warfare or entertaining, inclusive, casual gameplay upon which GW2 originally sought to build its brand will return to see if things have been tuned better to their tastes this time remains to be seen. Certainly the decision to abandon development of the Legendary weapons has not been received with universal approval, as the ever-growing threadnaught on the forums demonstrates, but for my money it signifies a long-overdue recognition of reality.
Just as the cancellation of EQNext suggests someone finally popping the hatch on the bunker and blinking at the harsh light of external reality, so Mike O'Brien's open acknowledgement that things have gone badly wrong recognizes a painful but unavoidable truth: things just can't go on like this. Someone needed to say it. Someone needed to do it.
Despite Colin Johanson's upbeat exit it now seems quite clear that the rumors of his taking the opportunity to resign before it was taken out of his hands could have substance. Under his direction the game has felt increasingly rudderless, surging from each new idea to the next with barely any time to reflect on the failures or consolidate the successes.
He failed to hold the line on free, bi-weekly content updates or on not producing paid expansions. Worse, when forced to change direction on these and other key, structural positions, he failed to make a success of the imposed alternatives. It seems the relative failure of Heart of Thorns was the final straw.
It's a bit rich of Mike O'Brien to arrive as some kind of white knight, driving away the darkness, waving the banner of that infamous, thrice-denied "Manifesto". He was, after all, Colin Johanson's boss for the last three and a half years. Still, let's not complain too much about the presentation. Let's just hold him to this:
I will work to make you happy, and I’ll do it by making you happy with what we ship, not with what we promise to ship.It looks as if quite a few MMO developers may need to make some hard decisions in the coming months. We live in interesting times, as I'm sure they're saying in the boardrooms of the great steel-producing corporations of China, every time someone stands up to make a presentation on why they should buy a bunch of digital orc assets.
I'd kind of prefer those decisions were made by people who at least know the names of the games in question as something more than lines on a spreadsheet.