Vague Patch Notes: A look behind the magic at Massively Overpowered

It's turtles all the way down

Friends now.

Here we are on another Thanksgiving holiday, and as with every year, one of the big things I’m thankful for is that I’ve now spent a solid decade working in this bizarre field. That’s kind of a big deal to me, especially when you consider that a good chunk of my back catalogue of things that I wrote – things that have helped me to get other jobs, sometimes the stuff that people most earnestly remember me for – isn’t actually mine.

I don’t mean that in the sense that I didn’t write it but in the sense I don’t actually own any of the rights to it. Which sounds weird, but it’s one of the realities of the field. And since everyone is probably up to more holiday-related things today, I thought it’d be a fun chance to be a little bit more meta and give everyone a peek behind the scenes to talk about some of the things that are entirely true about working here at MOP which players might not know.

We do not work here.

No, there’s not a building

The Massively Overpowered offices exist as a work chat, in email, and via our CMS. Or, if you’d rather visualize it differently, each of us has a desk and it’s in our own homes. Our workstations are our personal computers. You get the idea.

We talk about the offices a bunch, of course, because we are usually in pretty steady contact. During the average day, Bree, Justin, Chris, and I are all chatting away in our main work chat, with several other writers coming and going as the situation changes and as time permits. In every functional sense, it’s an office. But we do not have a water cooler or a break room, and in an average year we don’t actually see one another in person.

This isn’t always the case, of course. Bree has driven to my home on occasion and put me up during a work trip before the Final Fantasy XIV relaunch. Justin, Larry, and I all roomed together during one year of PAX East; ditto with Matt and me for several years. Chris and I have met up at a couple of PAX East events. But none of that is assured, and because of our budget and the reality of the job, more often than not we no longer do multi-person team outings to conventions or events.

And the yacht? There is definitely not a yacht. The yacht is a joke. It’s a long-standing joke based on people claiming that we had been bought out by whatever game the claimant didn’t want to hear positive things about, so we started laughing about the idea that if we were actually being bought out by whatever huge company we’d be sailing around on a golden yacht.

Do you see a golden yacht? No. It’s the sort of thing that would stand out in memory. But we still all find the joke funny.

And if that gives you the impression that to a certain extent this is a workplace that has survived due to certain broadly shared bits of humor and a friendly atmosphere despite personal differences… well, yeah. That’s why we’re all still here. We all genuinely believe in this work, we enjoy doing it (even if sometimes it’s exhausting, thank you so much October), and we get along.

Some of us do own this.

No, we don’t own our old stuff

Working in a creative field under contract means that sometimes the work you do just isn’t yours. Case in point, everything on Old Massively.

All of my old columns that are up in archived format, for example, aren’t mine. I can’t reproduce them here. I can’t use the same branding or in many cases the same titles. When we first started the new site we had some discussions about places where corner cases might cause some trademark issues with AOL, who still owned all of the work we had done on the old site. And they still own it!

This sounds a touch bitter, but it really isn’t; while it’s definitely the largest block of content I made without owning any rights to, it’s hardly the only one. I also worked for Curse, for example, and none of the rights to that work are mine either. It’s pretty standard when dealing with larger entities, honestly.

As for the stuff I write here? Well, we have different contracts in place and these things play out differently. It’s also a different relationship simply because the gap between owner and editor-in-chief is nonexistent, so Bree ultimately has a bigger say in these things. But if you ever wonder why we changed so many titles or some of us (incluing me) avoid referencing old work, it’s not just because that stuff all comes from an older time and feels more dated.

It's ugly.

No, work chat probably doesn’t look like you’re picturing it

Alternately, it looks exactly like you’re picturing it.

The thing is about our work chat is that all of us are given a fair amount of leeway in the stuff that we do. All of it passes through Bree for approval, but especially with those of us who have been here for a while, there’s a lot of trust implicit. So when I decide to write an entire post in all caps as a reference to Terry Crews appearing in commercials for Old Spice, that’s not an editorial edict. That’s just… a thing I came up with because it’s more entertaining.

Work chat, then, is also a fair amount of stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor. Sometimes it’s swapping memes. Sometimes it’s making jokes about obscure industry trivia only we remember. Sometimes it’s discussion of NDAs. Sometimes it’s just us coming up with jokes and riffing off the natural weirdness of the genre.

For example, at one point Chris and I came up with an album title and full track list for Apology Poncho, the hit new band tearing up the charts. During BlizzCon we tend to spend our time debating various aspects of the show and the design between liveblogs. We point to some of our favorite comments that have been posted in a thread. At one point I wrote up an entire list of Synonym Games in chat for no reason other than I was thinking about xkcd’s Synonym Movies.

It wasn’t for anything. It was just for giggles.

And ultimately, that informs a lot of what we’re doing behind the scenes. All of us are passionate about this genre, our community, and the weird nature of games that connect a whole lot of different people. Despite the aforementioned moments when the job can be utterly exhausting (like when the entire industry decides to cram every bad decision possible into a single October), we all still love doing it and share that passion with one another.

So if you picture a sober and businesslike work environment in which we soberly discuss the latest news, then you’re picturing it wrong. If you think that we’re all having arguments about the precise definition of “yeet” before marveling at one comment thread or another, you’ve got it pretty much right.

And we keep doing it every year because we love doing it. We love doing it so much that we started a Kickstarter to keep doing it, and you funded it, and years later we’re still doing it and you’re still funding it.

It’s work. But it’s pretty fun work.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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