Massively Overthinking: The best and worst MMO developer quotes of 2020

    
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We have a fun end-of-the-year tradition on MOP to recap the best and worst MMO developer quotes of the year. In fact, I keep a little list of them as we go so I have them ready when this post comes along – both the quotes that give us hope for the genre and the quotes that provoke facepalm memes.

So once again for Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to deliver their picks for the best or worst developer and industry quotes of 2020!

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street, formerly of Blizzard, said,

“While WoW did a lot of things right, some of its greatest contributions were social.”

Here’s what WoW did that was social IMO: It was made by Blizzard. But that’s nothing. It’s a brand name. Blizzard took out housing, dumped in instancing, made levels and raids the king of content, provided few to no RP tools, essentially cut groupable playerbases in half while preventing them from communicating, and turned the mainstream MMO into a semi-persistent lobby for instanced content. Being made by Blizzard is like being made by Nintendo. It’s familiar. It’s accessible. It takes things indies have tried and (much more safely than Big N) makes them palatable for the masses. It’s not just, “Oh, it’s a Blizzard game,” but “Oh, it’s a game made by a company my friends like, and I at least know about, so I can try it.” At its core, WoW brought people to a game that asked them to coordinate in groups larger than four people.

I still wonder if MMOs would be more “virtual worlds” than loot lobbies if Blizzard never stood in, but as MMO features trickle into the general world of always-online gaming, I do feel like Blizzard hitting it big with WoW did show companies that people want to be social in their games. We want multiplayer, we want accessible content, and yeah, we’ll repeat content for weeks to unlock crafting recipes for vanity items. Heck, I feel like I just described Animal Crossing: New Horizon. WoW helped push the multiplayer front, and while I feel other MMOs did it better, Blizzard took the most banal parts of it and shot it directly into the arm of mainstream gamers who previously saw multiplayer as largely PvP matches.

Andy McAdams: Lego Ventures’ head of value creation and marketing:

“We see Fortnite taking a pretty good stab at making the first credible metaverse, where people can play and watch and share and socialize together. […] There will be others, and this idea of a hybrid social platform, gaming platform, creative platform, is something that we’re extremely interested in being involved with through investment, through partnership.”

This one is another one of those eye-rolly comments from people who are either uninformed about the history of the medium that they find themselves working in or are just going for the buzzword-soundbyte-synergies. Or both. It’s probably both. I quipped at the time about how metaverse-y Anarchy Online was back in the day, and of course there’s a heap of other examples for anyone willing to take a few minutes to research this genre.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): Elite Dangerous’ David Braben:

“We’ve seen an acceleration in the transition from physical to digital. That is a good thing. It’s probably two to three years before physical more or less goes away, and it’s probably accelerated that timescale a bit.”

I thought I’d mention two things about this quote. First, I think he’s correct that we’re swiftly moving away from physical to digital and that the pandemic has probably accelerated that movement. That’s not exactly a Nostradamus moment, though. All sources of entertainment have been moving away from physical media for the last decade or longer. I think the more interesting part of the quote is the “that is a good thing” he adds toward the end. Good for whom? Good for studios, certainly. Streaming and centralized DRM for games is a game dev’s dream come true. It cuts down on piracy and illegal copies/modifications and allows the studio complete control over who can play, when they can play, and for how long. For consumers, however, it could be argued that physical media and the ownership of it gave players more leverage and control. As long as I have my disc copy of COD4: Modern Warfare and a computer that will run it, I can play it. As we enter the era of license ownership (or worse) rental, we relinquish that control. Sure, it may be more convenient, but at what cost?

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Blizzard employees attempting to organize and discussing the state of the company’s pay and employment situation:

“Our mentors are leaving in droves.”

This line has been echoing in my head for four months. It’s chilling. I have been preaching about brain drain from the MMORPG genre for a long time, but here we have a very explicit reminder coming from inside the house of Blizzard that the brightest, most veteran and experienced minds in the company are fleeing the games industry and this studio in particular because of poor pay and abusive labor practices. This is extremely worrying for fans of the company and its games, as well as the online gaming space.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): From Blizzard’s Ion Hazzikostas:

“There’s an inverse relationship between friction and the strength of bonds that are formed as a result of that friction or to overcome that friction.”

What? Equating an inherent need to put up with people long enough to get through something isn’t a bond; it’s basic survival instinct, and it’s not how a community should form. Maybe it’s how some connections are made in guilds, but most of the ones I’ve been in had those links to one another already established beforehand, building a bedrock of welcoming and inclusion. And while PUGs aren’t much better, it is better than the alternative in my experience. I have experienced that alternative in Final Fantasy XI. It sucked. I do not want that again. This quote is trying to convince me what being surrounded by the ignorant humans at my other job are my friends simply because we’re all trying to get through the workday. Bite me.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Mine is from former Respawn developer Jon Shiring, as he shared on Twitter in early October:

“So, the Apex Legends launch was weirdly late in the day – lunchtime PST – evening in Europe. Not when you’d expect. We had planned it for that morning, and then my court appointment to finalize my adoption came through – the court had picked February 4th at 10am – the same time as the Apex launch. I panicked. Since I ran the ops and online services team for the game, this was bad. @DKo5 and everyone else at @Respawn actually pushed the secret game launch time back so I could get to my court hearing, then race back to the office and manage the launch with @thezilch and @mike_durn, and celebrate with the team. It was an amazing morning for me and my family! And that’s why Apex launched at a strange time, around lunch on February 4, 2019. Because @Respawn prioritized my family first.”

What stands out to me so prominently is “Because @Respawn prioritized my family first.” We need so much more of this! I put the integrity of a company on the top of my would-I-do-business-with-you list, and my estimation of this Respawn rose significantly with this sentiment. I am so glad to see this in practice; too often employees in this industry are treated as disposable chattel, and that simply must stop. Yes, profits are good, but not at the expense of people. And this highlights that there are many decisions where the impact on a company wouldn’t be massive, but the impact on the lives of its employees would be. What a better place gaming and the world would be if more would follow in the footsteps of Respawn here.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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Robert Mann

I still love that Respawn quote there. It is something so absolutely positive, in an industry full of people in power that act so negative.

I don’t have any interest in the title, but I can also respect, wish well, and see if perhaps they drop a title in the future that I would be interested in. For all that the worst treatment stays with a company and affects my choice to buy in or not, so too do things that are good!

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Bruno Brito

Here’s what WoW did that was social IMO: It was made by Blizzard. But that’s nothing. It’s a brand name. Blizzard took out housing, dumped in instancing, made levels and raids the king of content, provided few to no RP tools, essentially cut groupable playerbases in half while preventing them from communicating, and turned the mainstream MMO into a semi-persistent lobby for instanced content. Being made by Blizzard is like being made by Nintendo. It’s familiar. It’s accessible. It takes things indies have tried and (much more safely than Big N) makes them palatable for the masses. It’s not just, “Oh, it’s a Blizzard game,” but “Oh, it’s a game made by a company my friends like, and I at least know about, so I can try it.” At its core, WoW brought people to a game that asked them to coordinate in groups larger than four people.

I’ll keep this one to use as my reason for not respecting Blizzard anymore. It literally explains every problem i have with WoW in a simple way.

What? Equating an inherent need to put up with people long enough to get through something isn’t a bond; it’s basic survival instinct, and it’s not how a community should form.

Ion speaking things he doesn’t understand jackshit about because he lacks experience on anything not raid-related. I’m shocked.

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Sarah Cushaway

Yep. Fuck anyone who isn’t a Mythic+ fiend or a raider. Nothing for RPers–ironically the most stable playerbase Blizzard has in that game– nothing for the casuals except boring ass grinds and collecting mounts (ugh), nothing innovative, nothing interesting, nothing new. It’s ALWAYS the same shit: solo level and solo grind rep/currency/upgradeables until it’s time to Mythic+ or raid. Rinse repeat with every damned expac.

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Utakata

While I’d say there’s quite a few things to experience and do in this expansion for RP’ers and solo’ers a like. I agree we’re still playing a 2nd muted fiddle when it comes to the aspects of the rest of game. Leaving the tail to wag dog again in now expansion #8. /bleh

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Bruno Brito

It’s not there isn’t. You’re correct, there IS things for RPers to do, and openworlders to do.

But we can’t deny that the main resources of the game go towards instanced, controlled content. To the point where your class is designed around it.

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Narficus

You’re both quite correct in this. I think the main reason why everyone had such fond memories of Vanilla was because it was made first and foremost an immersive world with some dungeons to explore (and sometimes exploring for hours) and the raiding/PvP secondary as it was added on much later after release.

Now the xpac standard template construct:
10 Leveling Content
20 Pre-Raid/Mythic/Season Content
30 Raid/Mythic/Season Content
40 Catch Up Isle
GOTO 20

It all has a few sprinkles of flavor, but nowhere near the adventure that people yearn for. Unless they’ve changed, the dungeons were essentially becoming the MMORPG equivalent of a corridor shooter.

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Utakata

Not sure. Because so many of them this year that it’s all become a blur to me. But that said, I do like this quote posted right here for this article:

“This quote is trying to convince me what being surrounded by the ignorant humans at my other job are my friends simply because we’re all trying to get through the workday. Bite me.”

Thanks Mr. wolfyseyes, you just made my MMO year. /bows <3

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Raph Koster

Whew, I didn’t make the list this year!

MJ Guthrie
Staff
MJ Guthrie

Actually one of yours was my second choice, but it was a positive one too =D.

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Jeremy Barnes

I feel like Ion should have his own ‘worst quote’ article all to himself.

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Arktouros

“Our mentors are leaving in droves.”

This entire Bloomberg article was incredibly deceptive because it didn’t specify which employees at Blizzard were leaving. But when you look into it further the people who were complaining about base pay were in fact game testers/tech support staff and not actual Developers at the Blizzard game studio.

While “the brain drain” is arguably happening as MMOs become less and less appealing to design for given market saturation for PvE titles then the uncertainty and difficulty in designing PvP titles this quote just wasn’t about it.

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Bruno Brito

I feel like there it is about it because of the word Mentor. That being said, you do have a point. A lot of the brain drain is not just because of terrible workhours and bad pay, there are people really getting out of gaming as a whole because the entire industry seems like a shitshow. It’s not just a Blizzard’s problem.

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Arktouros

Well the mentors leaving are the ones at the tech support and game testing areas, not the developers. The original Bloomberg article (not the follow up one) even directly mentions the divide that while Senior Engineers are pulling in 100,000 salaries the support staff are not and making decisions like whether or not to eat or have kids etc. The support staff are treated as dispensable while the actual developers and coders, ya know “the brain”, are not.

However that doesn’t mean it’s not necessarily happening. We’ve seen a lot of examples out of companies like Arena Net or Blizzard where previous MMO developers are leaving those companies and then going off to work on different kinds of games (mobile, etc). As for the pay for developers…it’s actually quite good. Developers are extremely well compensated at these major companies, the issues they tend to face are more along what you said in regards to work-life balance or “crunch” and other factors.

My point was merely this quote just isn’t about that, more about how developers are well compensated but the support staff these game companies treat as entirely disposable labor.

Sixuality
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Sixuality

Every time I see Fortnite venturing out into the metaverse I think of Second Life, which aspired to the same things – and much much more – 15 years ago. For all its flaws and failings – clunky interface and controls, intimidatingly complex avatar customisation, and savage system requirements – SL is still a strange and unique experience. If there is a true metaverse in our futures I hope it’s more like Linden Labs’ weird experiment than it is like Fortnite.

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Ken from Chicago

Blizzard, SMH!

I misread “Our mentors are leaving in droves!” as “Our memories are leaving in droves!” and was reminded of the classic scene in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as Dave–with a substitute space helmet–has gotten into HAL 9000’s Logic Memory Center (what we’d call its server room) and slowly removing datacards, a digital lobotomy on the AI that killed the rest of his crew and nearly him, and Hal pleads, helpless as its literally losing its mind.

I think that’s an apt comparison to Blizzard and to the video game field due to so much toxicity and crunch over the years. Why would anyone want to put up with that? Especially as the technology has gotten better at empowering smaller, more independent groups to make the game of their passion, of their dreams? At least until they can get better contracts from the major publishers.

In other entertainment fields, actors and musicians talk about “One for them and one for me” where they do the more “commercial” project for the money that enables them to then do a more “creative” project for themselves personally.

P.S. Um … why is a photo of STAR CITIZEN masks on the tweet and article? There’s no quote from CIG. I had “braced for impact” and now I’m … curious. Was there one intended but edited out or a reference to last year (last year’s paystream generated some … regrettable … dev quotes) or maybe there was so many other quotes. Or maybe a simple mistake? Maybe I’m … overthinking … the picture selection. 🤔😱🤣

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Bryan Correll

Hmmm. I just realized that HAL, ‘born’ in 1992, is a Millennial.