You might not know this about me, but I literally spend all year jotting down in my little notepad file all the quirky stuff MMO devs say specifically for this article. Every year I’m worried developers will finally stop spouting off and this article will wind up empty. Fortunately for us (but unfortunately for many of them), that hasn’t ever happened!
For this week’s end-of-the-year Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our writers to remind us of something an MMO (or MMO-adjacent) developer said in 2022, whether it’s praiseworthy or provocative, and tell us why it matters to the genre.
“[W]e didn’t give people advanced notice like we promised, and we’re hyper-conscious of that now. […] Any kind of changes moving forward, we are going to make sure we do that kind of advanced notice to prepare player.”
Now, this is kind of a funny quote because it sounds good out of context, but bad in the grand scheme of things. Kelsey, at the time the new Global Community Manager, said this particular quote specifically about sudden incense nerfs that came without warning, which I’d argue the community still isn’t over. That was at the start of May. But this issue isn’t just about item changes but nearly everything Niantic does. We recently saw Elite Raid Days advertise post-raid spawns, then delete those advertisements, yet players still saw them appear but in a very broken state. The second raid day (almost a month later) also included them, perhaps in a better state, but without Niantic noting anything about them: not just if they were fixed but failing to even mention them still occurring. So in the long run, Niantic really hadn’t learned anything, but I don’t blame Kelsey at all, especially seeing how well they work for another company, which is actually something that frequently happens when hardworking people suddenly work for Niantic. No, this was a Niantic issue, as usual, and Niantic failed to hide its disregard for both players and staff.
This is where the Best Quote comes in. On May 19th, only weeks after Kelsey went out and told us that the company had learned its lesson, Niantic announced Remote Raid Passes would receive nerfs on May 23rd, giving players mere days before the change and thereby nullifying the above quote. The 1 coin for 1 pass a week deal would be gone, and the passes themselves would go from 250 coins for 3 passes would go up to 300 coins. The same day this was announced, Kelsey said, “I am on PTO all next week, and I will have zero Pokémon thoughts.”
Niantic made their new Community Manager look like a liar, so that very day, they announced a vacation, leaving Niantic and PR to fend for itself against the onslaught of its own bad press. I don’t know whether or not it was just a coincidence, but this is the perfect response for when your boss tries to sacrifice you to the masses, and I particularly love that it came from a Niantic CM, as the company has struggled to make this position visible for most of the game’s life. Behind the scenes, I know several well-known POGO community leaders and reporters had a good laugh with Kelsey’s timing. I think this is the closest we’ll see to a CM telling their bosses, “If you don’t think you need a CM, try it for a few days.” Niantic has consistently failed to meaningfully interact with the community outside of Kelsey, who actually has shared their friend code and plays with regular players remotely even during non-events. I don’t think this led to many behind the scene changes, but it personally won me over.
Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): Granted, I’m not in the LOTRO loop as much as I used to be, but a quote from then-producer Oleg “Raninia” Brodskiy still has me scratching my head. In relation to the expansion released this year, Brodskiy took to the YouTubes to assure players that many years of content lay ahead for the beloved MMO:
“In the long run, we not only want to maintain the value of this IP but grow it because we think it can be improved.”
Wait, did Raninia insinuate that the writing team at SSG can improve on Tolkien’s source material? Now, I don’t know if our dear readers have ever had a run-in with the typical LOTRO lore fan, but they are generally very protective about anything penned by the professor. In one little sentence, a statement meant to comfort players surely instead raised both eyebrows and concerns over the direction of the game.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I definitely have a pick for worst quote of the year: It was when the Chronicles of Elyria backers effectively lost their lawsuit against the company, ensuring there’d never be any accountability for all the money Soulbound Studios pissed away on a big bowl of nothing, and Soulbound’s Jeromy Walsh came out with a posting crowing about how his win in court was a “victory” for crowdfunding and for the backers (as if it weren’t those very backers who’d been suing him). The icing on the cake was his characterization of the company’s financial and legal travails as stages in the “hero’s journey.” Somehow I never caught “narrowly escaping accountability for poor business management that led to the loss of millions of dollars in donor money” in Campbell. Huh.
I really shouldn’t be shocked by this stuff, not after all the “we are the storm” nonsense, but somehow, the brazenness still floors me. There’s no victory for gamers or the genre here, just thousands of MMO players who’ll see neither money nor MMO.
“The company was running and there were ways things were done. And then there was a new young generation, coming [into the company] with different needs. And we had to adapt. I think we didn’t adapt fast enough to what people expected and needed.”
This is so astonishingly, staggeringly, sickeningly, incredibly out of touch that it made me recoil and re-read it a few times to be sure I was reading the quote right. And this is coming from someone who was claiming that the company he runs was improving on the problem! It’s gallingly stupid on levels that my brain isn’t malleable enough to wrap around.
“I think gamers don’t get what a digital secondary market can bring to them. For now, because of the current situation and context of NFTs, gamers really believe it’s first destroying the planet, and second just a tool for speculation. But what we [at Ubisoft] are seeing first is the end game. The end game is about giving players the opportunity to resell their items once they’re finished with them or they’re finished playing the game itself. […] So, it’s really, for them. It’s really beneficial. But they don’t get it for now.”
That was Nicolas Pouard, the VP at Ubisoft’s Strategic Innovations Lab. Yes. Gamers don’t get that they can sell their stuff. Even for real money. Like they haven’t been doing that (legally or otherwise) all along. Gamers don’t get the digital secondary market. Right. Sure, players “really believe it’s first destroying the planet, and second just a tool for speculation,” but what really matters is the “end game” of being able to sell your digital junk. Honestly, I don’t get why they don’t get that we do get it. It’s just dumb.
Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I really think it was refreshing seeing a Donkey Crew developer admit that Last Oasis sucks. Specifically, he noted that while the devs were working on fixing the game, they began to realize that playing it wasn’t actually fun. That’s something that I wish more devs could admit and then work to improve. A lot of times I feel like the devs might not even play their game – especially when it comes to PvP and balance. Players who spend a significant amount of time trying out different combos and working against the skills that other players throw out eventually come to a point of seeing where the fun begins to fall apart.
I’ll never let go of the fact that ArenaNet couldn’t get out of its own way and realize that the PvP modes it settled on just aren’t fun. I mean, they were the first couple years, but even the best cookie in the world begins to taste stale if that’s all you have to eat year after year after year. The developer on Last Oasis was being reflective and honest and that’s something I love to see.
Our team had a few more picks:
Square-Enix president Yosuke Matusda insisting that players should get used to “play[ing] to contribute” rather than “play[ing] to have fun” (by way of trying to convince everyone that NFT tech is great.
Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty insisting that “crunch culture [was] just part of the industry” 10 years ago as if EA spouse 18 years ago didn’t happen and the game in question was only four years old.
“There will never be a ‘muzzle’ big enough to stop us from standing up for what’s right.” That was Bungie senior community manager Dylan Gafner voicing defiance against soon-to-be owner Sony, which had just forbidden fellow company Insomniac Games from making a statement on reproductive rights for its workers. Bungie CEO Pete Parson confirmed Bungie’s stance.
Blizzard begged WoW Classic players to transfer off overpopulated realms ahead of the launch of Wrath of the Lich King: “There’s no technology solution to this. There is no hardware solution to this. This situation will not improve when Wrath of the Lich King Classic launches on September 26th, it will only get worse.”
“I saw an ad for a Warhammer game called Darktide and realized I am still sort of low-key angry I couldn’t save/continue Asheron’s Call.” That’s Standing Stone Games’ Rob Ciccolini on the fate of Turbine’s original MMO. (Darktide was the name for AC1’s notorious PvP server.)