Massively Overthinking: Best and worst MMO developer quotes of 2023

"necessary features tree" oh what a year


I have to thank all the MMO developers and industry veterans out there for talking long past the time when they should stop talking. Their fine contributions to the Discourse ensure that we always have fun things to talk about… and record for posterity in this end-of-the-year roundtable right here.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our writers to remind us of something an MMO or MMO-adjacent developer said in 2023, whether it’s praiseworthy or provocative, and tell us why it matters to the genre. Who shoulda just stopped talking in 2023?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Here’s Pokemon Go director Michael Steranka in an interview before he largely disappeared from interviews the rest of the year.

“[W]e really feel like actions will speak louder than words.”

This may be both the best and the worst quote of the year. We hear a lot of lofty ideas floated down from CEOs, PR, marketing, and Kickstarter grifters that rarely match what we get, so hearing this from someone high up is a good reminder to watch what companies do rather than what they say. Every game can be patched these days, but when your players expect your gameworld to constantly get updates and expand for years as they continue to pay for it, it means a lot.

But it was also worst in that it became a meme for Niantic’s constant failures the rest of the year and for the foreseeable future. None of the features released since that quote has made a positive impact, with the Showcase feature particularly leading to more hoarding and less available storage space, driving down some players’ daily play and ability to hold tradeable pokemon. While I don’t condone harassing devs, I do think this quote was a big part of the reason Steranka and his family sadly became targets for the more unsavory members of the POGO community, which may also be a reason Steranka hasn’t been paraded out to do damage control for, well, anything I can think of since the end of May when the quote was given.

It all serves as a reminder to both Niantic and other devs that you can’t just toss that quote out and keep lying to your playerbase as you shovel out half-baked content/features. This quote really kept coming to mind this year with a lot of interviews/damage control replies I’m sure my colleagues will remind you of: If actions speak louder than words, and lies are taken as actions, lies are actions that will awaken the worst in your community members and should be avoided at all costs. Silence is sadly better, though also shows your company can’t be trusted. No one deserves death threats, so in this situation, I think it’s for the best that Niantic pulled Steranka out of the damage control position and lately seems to rely on the faceless Niantic Help account to address community concerns, if it says anything at all. If your company refuses to be honest with its community members, for the love of glob, don’t put a name to the corporate liar’s face, or at least no one who can’t afford a personal security battalion. Most of these companies are far from ethical, but at least have enough heart to protect employees from toxic community members! So many good reminders and lessons from this quote, but the damage it’s done is also spectacularly bad.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): Here’s David Brevik on the loss of Marvel Heroes.

“I makes me incredibly sad that no one can ever play this game again. […] I spent a large portion of my life and career on this game. The team spent so many hours working on it and it is gone into the nothingness forever. I miss you Marvel Heroes. Happy Anniversary.”

While it’s a sad tip-of-the-hat to a game that nobody wanted to disappear, it’s kind of comforting to know that we’re not alone in mourning the loss of this title. MH had a long future of grinding, looting, and film/television collaborations ahead of it during the peak of the MCU’s popularity.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Oh I have a bunch. Y’all know I always have a bunch!

Brash, unseemly, and commercially illogical” – that’s how NetEase described Blizzard’s bizarre last-minute bid to save its botched partnership with the Chinese gaming giant.

That time when Blizzard’s Mike Ybarra tried to claim to workers making $45,000 a year in Irvine that he wasn’t making a lot of money compared to them. (The same meeting where he suggested QA were low-skilled transient workers so no big deal if they quit. He’s a real peach, fam.)

That time when former WildStar design director Timothy Cain threw Jeremy Gaffney and Matt Mocarski under a bus and then backed the bus up and did it again.

That time Sony’s Jim Ryan admitted to the precise reason Sony was meddling in the Microsoft buyout of Activision-Blizzard: “I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger.”

That time when Blizzard tried to convince everyone that WoW token RMT in WoW Classic was “for the good of the community” because of bots, coupled with that time Ion Hazzikostas tried to convince a very skeptical WoW playerbase that pay-for-early-access won’t give players long-term advantages.

That time when Bobby Kotick went on TV and not only said Sony wouldn’t return his phone calls but got disturbingly xenophobic while doing it.

That time when a weird emulator put up a fake testimonial review with our logo on it to try to bilk people with its Kickstarter, then claimed “NFT” meant “necessary features tree.” Necessary features tree!

That time Abyss tried to convince everyone in our comments that “[m]ost successful MMOs sell gold and are not P2W.”

That time when Roland Emmerich’s new blockchain MMO put out a whitepaper that had the most clumsy “hey look over there” I have ever seen. You really gotta see the whole thing:

“By differentiating certain individuals’ pursuits from monetary gain and differentiating groups that exclusively pursue FUN, the game has the potential for long-term sustainability. The issue of how to differentiate FUN is a viable topic within the realm of game design, and we believe we can achieve it through an immersive, operatic, and epic game: Space Nation Online and its subsidiary games. However, we will not delve into the details here as we need to focus the discussion on tokenomics.”

But the king of quotes this year was when Bobby Kotick sat for a softball interview with Variety during which he portrayed himself as a pro-union guy while blaming all his problems on unions and then claimed the well-documented systemic harassment for which the company is still being sued never happened, all while Variety shined his boots and smiled.

“[W]e did not have a systemic issue with harassment — ever. We didn’t have any of what were mischaracterizations reported in the media. […] But what we did have was a very aggressive labor movement working hard to try and destabilize the company.”

2023, everyone.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Heroic Games’ Casey McGeever telling us that screenshots we took of Ship of Heroes’ website (and available through the Wayback Machine), seemed to be

“sourced from a recent hack of [the game’s] website.”

I admit that this one might skew a bit personal since this is related to a news piece I wrote, but even if that hadn’t been the case, I would be extremely baffled by this claim – and I further note the studio’s failure to provide evidence to back it up. [Indeed, they didn’t respond at all to our inquiries after they made this claim to us. -Bree] If I recall correctly, this page was apparently online as far back as a couple of years ago, which means that for this to be true, Heroic Games would have been ignorant of the fact for entirely too long a time. And if that was the case, I would have a very hard time trusting it with any of my personal or payment details!

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): Gonna stay on brand here: the Diablo IV team admitting the screwed up. It was a real “no shit sherlock kind of moment, from bragging about the wordcount of patch notes to a completely tone deaf round of nerfs. I know I keep baggin’ them for this, but it really damaged my trust for the devs. I appreciate the gesture of admitting their misplays, but when I’d rather be playing Diablo II or III rather than IV, I’m not going to force myself to play through their game to find statues of Lilith or whatever. I’m done with words and apologies; give me a solid game hack and slash RPG! Here’s to hoping Diablo IV’s expansion will pull me in!

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): From Standing Stone Games:

“LOTRO is not going away!”

You really should go read the whole quote because it is so carefully crafted in order to allay the fears of Lord of the Rings Online fans in the wake of the announcement of the development of Amazon’s off-again-on-again Lord of the Rings MMO. It stands in such contrast to Christoph Hartmann’s boasting shortly thereafter about how much better Amazon’s game is going to be. Perhaps he should read the Lord of the Rings books a little closer and see how things end for prideful people in Middle-earth.

Of course, this all feels just a bit too much like Star Wars Galaxies’ devs telling its players that Star Wars The Old Republic isn’t a threat to their game. Sometimes the one giving assurances that the game is going to be OK doesn’t have the whole story themselves. I’m glad SSG believes in its product; I just hope there aren’t any backroom deals struck between Middle-Earth Enterprises and Amazon to end LOTRO before its time. There’s no good reason to — both games should be able to coexist just fine — but this is Amazon we’re talking about, and who knows what it might perceive as a threat. Only time will tell I suppose.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): SWTOR’s Damion Schubert’s quote on accessibility stands out; he was talking about a kid with MS who’d written him a letter.

“He wanted to know that the game that I was working on – a tiny MMO most of you have probably have never heard of – changed his life. You see, something unique happened to him in Meridian 59. He was treated just like everyone else. And compared to his time at school, this was a revelationary experience. He slayed dragons. He ran a guild. He met a girl. In this virtual world, there was no prejudgment of him based on what the disease had done to his body. Instead, in this tiny, pixelated reality, he was being judged purely on the content of his character. Oh, and whether or not he could wreck face in a guild war. That’s pretty important. […] Before joining Boss Fight, I made massively multiplayer games my whole career, and these two emails are core reasons why I miss it dearly. Virtual worlds are IMPORTANT – at least to these people. Maybe it didn’t save their lives in the long run, but it did help them truly play and bond with other people, which helped them enjoy the time they had left more fully. And you know what? That’s amazing.”

It stuck in my head, which is one of the effects of writing these posts. In any case, I applaud games that go the extra mile to accommodate players struggling with disabilities, whether that’s colorblind symbols or easier control schemes. It’s compassionate and helps set an example for the whole industry to follow.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’ve got to go with Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs when he was referring to some new hires that put them ahead of schedule.

“Another month and even more new people have joined CSE. I’ll talk about this next week, but we’ve grown way beyond what was last month’s high. And with the folks we have joining us in March, we are almost at where I wanted us to be by summer. One of the rare times we can say that we’re ahead of schedule. I really couldn’t be happier about that if I tried. Every different discipline is being added – and this Top Tenish, as well as last month’s, have started to reflect their additions. By the summer, well, it’s going to be a lot of fun for both us and our Backers.”

There was probably truth to it, but it still comes across as a bit tone deaf considering the game itself is now on its 11th year of development and at least five years delayed. In all honesty I used to get into some internet debates with others over whether or not Camelot Unchained or Crowfall was going to be the horse to back. I chose Crowfall, and while it did release, I can’t say I was right either.

Regardless, the game is so far behind any players’ expectations of potential release time that saying they’re ahead of any schedule just doesn’t sit right. You can’t help but groan at the thought of it.

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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