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!
“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.
“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.
“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?
“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.
“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.
“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.