Community building

 Posted by (Visited 24063 times)  Game talk
Jul 192006
 

Business Week Online just published an article on new media and community that’s an excerpt from Henry Jenkins‘ new book. Edit: Looks like it came originally from Next Generation. It heavily references the work that we did early on in SWG in building community.

These days, it sure seems like there’s a mixed reaction to how the community is handled, but I do think we did a pretty good job back then, and at the time it was widely referenced as a model.

The premises under which we operated were:

  • Be open to the players: both in terms of telling them what you are doing, and in terms of listening to what they want
  • Communicate daily
  • Communicate honestly
  • If things change, tell them why — they’re smart people, they will understand
  • Have weekly events of info release so that there’s a reason to come back regularly
  • Ask questions, and listen to the answers
  • Celebrate and highlight the best contributors

Some have since decided that it was listening to the players too much that caused some of the design problems with SWG. I am not sure I agree. If anything, I think that many subsequent problems came from not listening enough, or not asking questions in advance of changes. Walking a mile in the players’ shoes is a difficult trick to pull off even if you have the best of intentions.

The tensest and most difficult moments in SWG’s development — and they came often — were when we had to remove something that players really liked. Usually, it was against our own wishes, because of time constraints or (rarely) orders from on high. But we couldn’t tell the players the real reasons sometimes. That sucked, frankly, because the open relationship really did matter. As often as we could, we laid everything bare.

These days, it’s accepted wisdom that you don’t reveal a feature until it’s done, so as to guarantee that you never let the players down. Of course, even finished features sometimes fall out for one reason or another…

In any case, I think I don’t agree with that philosophy. I’d rather have prospective players on a journey with the team, than have them be a passive group marketed to. Yes, they will suffer the ups and downs, and see the making of the sausage… but these days, that’s getting to be an accepted thing in creative fields. There’s not much to gain, to my mind, in having the creators sitting off on a pedestal somewhere — people fall from pedestals, and pedestals certainly will not survive contact with Live operation of a virtual world.

Instead, I’d rather the customers know the creators as people who make mistakes, so that when one happens, they are more likely to be forgiven or understood.

How did the experiment work out? Well, bottom line in SWG’s case is that we certainly overpromised and underdelivered. But the curve for active community users was an exponential one aiming at the moon, and until the day when I had to go out there and tell them that the game was being released, they were working with us — contentiously, but all pulling in one direction. And the result was that registrants to the game on the first weekend was exactly equal to the number of active community users, and the sales curve simply continued that trend over time.

  144 Responses to “Community building”

  1. Acquiring certain skills will open up what your character is capable of. It could be advanced combat, reconnaissance, crafting, etc. Since skills are such an important part of the game, great care should be put into it. Raph Koster described the skill system in the first version of Star Wars Galaxies as a skill onion. The original plan for the skill trees was not the skill onion. Picture the onions you had, but chop off the bottom novice skills.

  2. From the Business Week article:

    The game that the designers promised and the community expected was largely player-driven. … Cities’ mayors and council leaders would devise missions and quests for other players. The Galactic Civil War (the struggle between rebels and imperials) would frame the game play, but players would create their own missions as they enacted the Star Wars saga.

    Wow. Wish it had only turned out that way! Player created missions would have been an amazing feature.

  3. Sorry to double post, but I would also like to say that I admire the premise under which you tried to run communication.

  4. Raph wrote:

    In any case, I think I don’t agree with that philosophy. I’d rather have prospective players on a journey with the team, than have them be a passive group marketed to. Yes, they will suffer the ups and downs, and see the making of the sausage… but these days, that’s getting to be an accepted thing in creative fields. There’s not much to gain, to my mind, in having the creators sitting off on a pedestal somewhere — people fall from pedestals, and pedestals certainly will not survive contact with Live operation of a virtual world.

    Couldn’t agree more, Raph.

    –matt

  5. I was a fairly active member of the SWG development boards, so I’d just like to throw a short story in here.

    I had never really participated in a serious beta before, nor had I really ever heard what it was like behind the scenes of a game in development. In that sense, the development of SWG was really new and amazing to me. Having Holocron show up on the boards and talk to the players about what was going on, what was planned, etc, was always really cool. I did feel like I knew what the meetings at SOE were about and what the game would be like. More importantly I felt like I could have an impact on that design.

    I really enjoyed reading every piece of possible information that was known about the game (since I was a huge Star Wars fan and a casual Everquest/Star Wars MUD player), and trying to understand how certain systems (being outcast from a city for PKing for instance) would work.

    Then dark times came.

    Everyone knew that development was taking too long. The game was extremely hyped and had very little to show for it. As release came nearer and nearer, some key features quietly slipped off the chart (unique jedi “quests”, what?). It was pretty obvious that the game I had envisioned in my head was not the same game as the one that would be released. In the end, I played for about 2 months. I picked it up in July (I think it launched in April?), and played until the end of the summer.

    I never figured out if it was my fault for thinking about the game too much, or the devs fault for cutting the features. I thought the game looked really nice, it just wasn’t enough for some reason. Even today I would rather play a SWR (SMAUG/Diku based Star Wars Reality) code base MUD than SWG.

    As a side note, was the entire profession of people who did hair styles/face changes/etc really only included because of the inital bold statement of “You can do anything from wookie hair grooming to …”?

    I mean… you didn’t actually think that was a fun idea for a class did you?

  6. Raph, you’re the most enlightened of game gods, so we honour Thee (touches finger to forehead, lips, heart).

    However…why couldn’t you tell them the reason why you had to take something out?

    Plus, this is all a sop, this stuff like “we communicate once a week” or “we let them know how we’re making our sausage”. A more interactive and more enlightened sop then merely the usual push media of “oh, shiny” but…a sop none the lest.

    We want one vote, one 16m2 square of rented server space. Our World, Our Representation.

  7. Raph, I was always a big fan of how you guys handled the community. The fact that we had over 2000 accounts registered on Vagabond’s Rest and somewhere over 3000 on the SWG-RP group was a testament to how exciting the pre-game community felt.

    Personally, I suppose I’ve always been able to look at things from a dev perspective and was able to be a bit understanding that some features (even ones you really, really want) have to get cut to get the thing out the door. Sure, there were things that were very disappointing to see cut out of final, but I don’t think that anyone active in the community could say that you guys overpromised. At least people who would entertain RATIONAL thought…

    Our Vagabond’s Rest community tracked “possible features” on a daily basis on our site, carefully keeping our in-game plans in line with what (and when) we expected certain things to go out. With all that attention, the only people I remember being really and thoroughly disappointed were those people who couldn’t reconcile their early perceptions of developer comments with adjustments that were made based on the realities of development.

    I haven’t read back on those threads in a long time, but I seem to remember a LOT of “grain of salt” disclaimers with the early FAQ and development chatter. For me, the effect that had was to give me an idea of what you guys wanted the game to be, which I could then compare with what they became. As a player, active in the community, I remember really enjoying the updates…even the speculative ones. I lived for Friday updates, during the two years I followed development.

    So, here’s a vote (and a hope) for continued developer openness, and some other project that is as exciting to me as SWG was in the community. My fondest memories of -ANY- MMO to date (and I’ve played most of them) all lie around those months on either side of the SWG “live” date.

    Do it again, Raph, and I’ll be there!

  8. Speaking as an SWG player, I really appreciated the developer communication before and during beta and into the Live game, and had it continued I believe that the game would be in a much better state now than it currently is. I hope that in any future projects you work on, that happens again.

    The problem isn’t necessarily the frequency of communication, but rather the tone and nature of communication. Players in game communites want the developers to engage them in discussion about changes and features. We want them to have conversations for us about their vision for the game and our vision for the game and how it all fits together. We don’t want canned announcements, PR-speak, and structured feedback threads. When a developer makes a post about something they’re thinking about doing, we want them to reference community feedback on that particular thing.

    This is what’s not happening with the SWG community today and it’s one reason why the community continues to be very nervous about the current development team and to ultimately not trust anything that they try to do. The overall attitude among the community is that the current development team destroyed the game that the first team created – even though most of us will admit that their were flaws in that original game, we almost all preferred that original game where we felt that we had somewhat of a voice, to the one that we have now where changes are forced upon us without any apparent consideration as to the impact they’ll have on the game or the community.

    Much of this could have been avoided if that original level of communication was still there.

  9. “As a side note, was the entire profession of people who did hair styles/face changes/etc really only included because of the initial bold statement of “You can do anything from wookie hair grooming to …”?

    I mean… you didn’t actually think that was a fun idea for a class did you? ”

    Judging from how many people were of that profession, and how many screamed that its was all but removed.

    Yes.

    If you did play SWG you would have seen the social engineering that was happening from the social classes, like musician, dancer, chef, and yes, image designers.

    It was one of the professions and abilities that made the game, with out it…well.. Go have a look at the boards now and see the aftermath of marginalizing the social trades.

    Community is dead in game and out… nothing but !!! and ??? and hate now..

    There was once a deep and rich “life” to that game.

  10. As a side note, was the entire profession of people who did hair styles/face changes/etc really only included because of the inital bold statement of “You can do anything from wookie hair grooming to …”?

    I mean… you didn’t actually think that was a fun idea for a class did you?

    Heh, thereby hangs a tale.

    The original plan for the skill trees was not the skill onion. Picture the onions you had, but chop off the bottom novice skills. Imagine that when you came into the game, it worked like UO: you could either pick a “package” that gave you three or four skills that fit that chosen profession, or you could go “advanced” and pick ANY three or four.

    Now, imagine that trees were simple — hairdressing, a total of four skills in the whole game. Crafting, dozens and dozens of skill lines.

    Master boxes were not atop onions. Instead, they sat atop a set of skill lines. Two different master boxes might require the same skill lines — for example, you might need to have four skills worth of Engineering for any of the engineering based professions — kind of like the required classes in school. Or you might need to have tumbling, basic self-defense, and so on for any of the weapons skills.

    Some lines would be deep, and branch — like basic self-defense would turn into something you could keep going in, and eventually learn Teras Kasi. Some Master boxes would be easy to get, others harder because they required a lot of study of different areas.

    And there’d be TONS of Master boxes, because we’d try to find every interesting combination of skill lines and give it a name. Tumbling + some of the performance effect stuff? Cool, we call you a gymnast. Tumbling + stealth + maybe knives, and you have a start at a commando (who’d need to also pick up skill lines in various more weapons) or a start at a ninja sort, perhaps.

    As you can see if you try to diagram what this would look like, you need a 3d diagram; on the other hand, if you just list out “required courses” for each cool title you can get, you give a nice easy recipe for players to follow to make what they want. And if players combine some skill lines you never thought of, you can sneak in a new master skill box in there, and maybe add one special ability, and boom, you added a profession.

    The first designer who tried a whack at this failed to produce diagrams and specs, over the course of weeks. Then he left. The second one tried and also didn’t succeed. Finally, the producer stepped in and said “look, this is simpler,” and pushed onions on us because we were simply out of time. I asked for a third chance and to let me just do it, because it just wasn’t that complicated. 😛 But we really were out of time.

    The upshot was that things that should have been just one skill line, four skill boxes, had to be turned into huge onions and padded out. To standardize data formats, we couldn’t have different size and shape onions. Bleah.

    Lastly, hairdressing was just plain easy to do, which means that in a failure of prioritization and to show some progress, it got done. Heck, basic hairdressing was actually in the pre-alpha demo to prove the scripting system worked, it was so trivial to do.

    why couldn’t you tell them the reason why you had to take something out?

    We did, unless we were not allowed to by corporate masters (such as “we can’t do this system this way because in the next movie which isn’t out yet, it’s revealed that things are actually this other way” — happened with cloning, players playing Stormtroopers, and a few other things). And the reason “because we don’t have time and we are rushing the product” was never deemed acceptable. 🙂

    We want one vote, one 16m2 square of rented server space. Our World, Our Representation.

    In a purely user-driven world, I’d agree with you. But in the case of a game system design, you wouldn’t want everyone voting on the rules anymore than you’d want an author to take votes on what happens in the next chapter. Part of why you are there is to be taken on the entertainment ride.

  11. The community work in SWG was very good. Actualy I had very much more fun in the years before the SWG release than after it. From a players perspective, the project went south the day the release date was announced to the beta players. What was a promising begining of a top IP MMORPG turned into a not even half finished, lifeless nightmare this single day. If there realy was a moment where you failed to listen to the players, it was on this day.

    When I compare SWG to WoW, the mess was not in community work. If someone would have asked me 4 years ago where to invest my money, in a Star Wars MMORPG or a Warcraft MMORPG, I would have put all money into the Star Wars IP without question.

    What you did right in community work was exactly what you completely missed with the game. There was no story, no content, no Star Wars. Prerelease these points were all met with your community work. Hunting stories, locations, pictures and screesnhots with a story about them, even directed movies etc. You obviously knew yourself that these points are important in community work and made a lot fun. Why did you cancel the exact same things in the game? You should have changed the game to be on par with the community work, the other way around would have been an even bigger mistake.

    You have to talk about things that aren’t in the game yet. Else you can’t talk about anything at all. (Some poeple say you can’t talk about anything at all in SWG community work even today — because there still is nothing in it to talk about)

    I highly doubt that you could have done anything better in the community work. Being honest to the players and telling them there won’t be a story, there won’t be quests, there won’t be content, there won’t be events, neither Lord Vader nor Han Solo will ever move or being involved in any action and it’s just a Star Wars stage where there will never be a play, would not have helped to make SWG any better. Not everything is about “managing expectations”. Much more is about delivering anything at all.

    Back in these days I’ve always asked myself and had looooong discussions in the German SWG community, if any of the devs had ever played their own MMORPG. The missing of any Star Wars action, Story and immersion was so obvious, there was realy no need to ever listen to any of the players for knowing that.

    Well, maybe it would have been more honest if you had left out everything that was fun in prerelease community work — but I doubt that would have helped in any way 😉

    So if you ask me, no, there was nothing wrong at all with listening to players or community work as a whole. The only thing that was wrong was the game. I know that wasn’t your fault (not alone at least). What I realy blame on the whole SWG team is that all at SOE/LA greatly underestimated the consequences of what you had to leave out.

    I know that SOE did not want to make SWG anything close to EQ to steal their own customers. I remember your “community work” repeating “SWG is not EQ in space” over and over again. The players loved these words back then. But somebody at SOE might have taken this too wordly 😉 Not everything in EQ was bad. “Dynamic” was another term you used very often. But you left everything “dynamic” out of SWG that was fun and dynamic already in EQ (dynamic NPCs, dynamic encounters on the roads, dynamic world events) and turned everything dynamic that was fun when it was static (SWG is the reason why nowadays every developer underlines “handmade” content and zone design). “SWG is not EQ in space” and “dynamic world” lead you in the wrong directions with your decisions what to leave out and what not, to get your database issues under control.

    Just look at WoW and imagine what tremendous chance you had with SWG. Not that I’m a big WoW fan, but I don’t think WoW would do any better if you take out all of its content. I don’t think you need players to tell you that. And I don’t think you could make that any better with community work. If you would have taken the time to rework SWG, it might have been SWG with the 6 mio. players up in the charts.

    So what completely failed in SWG was the management. Not community work, not the design, not the development, not listening to players or changing anything according to them. Whoever decided that you don’t have the time to make SWG into a realy great game is to blame. You had much more time that you might have thought, you would have had even the time to completely trash it and go back to the design. 6+ mio. players would have payed for a lot of expenses.

    Even if you wanted to listen more to the players. You couldn’t. You couldn’t even after the release. The Space Expansion was already set in stone. There was no way to cancel that and go back to finish all that what went wrong with the game itself. No way to fix all the issues that kept you from puting real content in. You did not even have any tools for making content — and you could not even make them, they would not have worked with all the issues of database etc. Again, this was a wrong decision in the management. It costs a lot of money to try selling an expansion and not to make a great game instead that everybody would love to play and pay for in the first place. Management is about making money — these decisions did burn it, not make it.

    There were so many mistakes in SWG I could write a book about counting them alone 😉 However, I wouldn’t blame any single person for that and your community work is realy the last to blame. We know a lot more about MMORPGs now than we did when all the SWG decisions were made. That’s not so much about design and nothing at all about community work — but a lot more about the production and the money you fail to make with wrong decisions in AAA projects with such stong IPs. While I don’t blame them for not knowing better — at least to some degree — it still was a huge management mistake.

    I doubt we will see such a great opportunity SWG had again any time soon.

  12. SWG was the best video game I ever played.

    Hands down. I loved every aspect of it from the silly skills like image design and dancing to the combat roles and skills we could mix and match to our own design.

    I started during late beta and became a total addict. I played as long as I could every day I could. The community was the best I had ever been a part of in any online media.

    It still amazes me that SOE managed to kill it. Go read the boards there, or better log into the game and take a look for yourself… The once vibrant and creative communities are gone and replaced with only a few bickering and angry zealots who refuse to believe that SOE isn’t going to somehow put it all back to how it was or release some magical patch that will fix everything they dislike about the game.

    The world builders and dreamers are now cynics and diehards.

  13. Its interesting that at the end of the day it is not the individual creators who support an open communication line with {thier player} base who are damaged by mistreating {thier} paying consumers, but companies.

    I’ve harped on maintaining “economic goodwill” (read transparency/communication) here before, mainly as an advocate for efficiancy but also for cunsumers for this reason.

    The long term effects of failure to ignore this is a failure to capture market share, people dont buy games (or anything for that matter) from people/companies they dont trust.

    The fact is there is a certain consumer segment (population) of the MMO market that SOE will never recapture, no amount of damage control will ever be enough, no amount of marketing will work and thats a rough pill to swallow. But thats the consequence of abusive practices, the market decides your fate rather than you.

    But heres the rub going forward: As a company in any market gets a reputation for bad product it gets more difficult to attract and retain the people you need to make better products. Which cause other exponential consequences….

    Anyhow I think most people who played SWG (especially early ones) are willing to say “no harm, no foul, I’ll play your next game” to the producers/devs of SWG, I cant say all of them will be saying the same thing about new SOE titles.

    I wish it were otherwise, SOE innovated much of the MMO space players enjoy today, and they have the resources to do great things, but such is the price of hubris

  14. We captured lightning in a bottle on the prebeta boards. Nothing will ever compare to our community. It was magic. I can say that my experience in the actual testing wasn’t as exciting as the discussions we had on the forums. That would be a textbook example of a great community where the signal to noise ratio was fantastic. Raph, I even have some of those early design docs printed out in a binder and it’s trippy to go back and read em. Outcasting, anyone? 🙂 Leia4Loot. Blade. Ah, good times, good times.

    Sometimes, peeking behind the curtain is a real letdown. So be careful what you ask for because getting it can hurt.

  15. All games are better in beta, because in beta there is always more possibility, more hope that special feature really will work, and it is always easier to fix the code before release. People make cynical remarks about ‘paid betas’, but really, I think the value in beta might actually be better than in live.

  16. I have to say, like many other people, I too loved following SWG through it’s development. I felt it was really my first glimpse at the inside of game development and was a major factor in leading me to a career in the video game industry. The direct access to the devs and the amazing community created an environment which I have not seen in a long time, I remember many a night I would spend reading thesis level dissertation on various mechanics published by the community it’s self. However as interesting as it was for me to watch the game take shape when it was finally released, I did feel that it took away from the game some. I couldn’t help thinking of what could have been as I played the game. Most notably the Jedi system; I remember Kevin O’Hare waxing and waning about how they would implement this organic system to select the force sensitive among us. I played the game for about a year. When the holocrons came out and the systems bare bones were revealed, that was the last straw and I quit. Like many people have said I really think holocrons help drive the final nail into the proverbial coffin. The openness of the SWG devs and the amazing insight of the community really made it a special place but at the same time, I think it did damage the game for me, some.

    I will say that I have followed the development of many games since SWG, but none of them have had anything close to SWG community except Pirates of the Burning Sea. The community and devs at Flying Lab remind me a lot of the SWG boards before launch. The same openness and expertise not only of the devs but also the rank and file fans; I can’t remember the last time I’ve so few trolls (and trolls bating!) on any internet forum. I would actually say it’s a better environment than SWG was. I feel a lot of that is due the small size of Flying Labs and the fact that they are developing the IP from the ground up and don’t have the corporate over head SWG operated under. (Also I got to meet a lot of the devs at E3, which I’m sure helped foster that feeling of community a lot.)

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  18. Sometimes I get the feeling there is a fundamental difference between the scale of text-based online games and the scale of mass-market (AAA) online games.

    In the case of the MUD or MOO, it’s a smaller community, it’s easier to have a more human scale of contact with, and give feedback to, a much larger percentage of it. In a AAA game nowadays, where the community size is expected to be in six (if not seven) digits, it becomes much more faceless. There isn’t time to do justice to everyone — to anyone, really. Smalltown vs. New York, and all that.

    Not only that, but with the introduction of the massmarket, you get players who expect things to be a bit more faceless, who figure this all pops out of machines instead of by the hard work of fallible people. They expect things to be much higher quality, like what they see in other more polished disciplines (videorealism, anyone?) and they’re less forgiving of mistakes — as opposed to just devs, you get people calling them “game gods” and expecting the world of them.

    Sometimes I think the world of the small-feeling MMO being the New Big Thing is gone.

  19. A few quick thoughts:

    1.) Raph is very good at what he does. He’s the guy you go to when you want to explore all the different posibilities available.

    Only Raph sees exploring all possibilities as the end goal in and of itself – not simply a means to an end, which is what it should be in most cases. A finished product needs to be presented to the customer. Raph will show you all the different types of products you can present to the customer, but he’ll never settle on one himself, and he’ll argue that whatever he’s presented you with should be changed again, and again, and again.

    He has a point that MMO’s change over time – but not to the degree he’s suggesting. Or if they DO it winds up being the confused wreck that SWG was.

    2.) Raph’s idea of including the gaming community in on the design process would be great – if you were willing to PAY the community to do it.

    In a world of infinite time and money sure, Raph’s approach would be the way to do things. But almost everyone games for entertainment’s sake. Game companies provide a product and a service. When you want to involve the gaming community in the design process to the degree Raph wants to you’re really just having them do the work for you. Sure you can call it “The ups and downs” if you want to put a romantic spin on it, but you’re really just putting perfume on a turd. Not bashing here, just being colorful.

    If I was independently wealthy and didn’t have to have a real job and real life responsibilities – sure I’d love to be part of the “Ups and Downs” – but I’m not and I don’t. I need a finished product at the end of the day. Most gamers need a finished product at the end of the day.

    3.) Generally speaking Raph makes the classic mistake of confusing what he wants and needs with what the customer wants and needs. When he talks about being “on a journey with the team, (rather) than have them be a passive group marketed to.” he’s really only talking about what he wishes someone would do for him. Which is quite conveintient in that he has managed to get paid to do just that.

    Must be nice! 😉

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  21. Now, I’m going to be good and not get all ranty… (Oh I’m so going to try).

    The difference between what Raph envisioned way back, what was implemented at Launch and what we have now (just referring to dev:player communication) would, if plotted on a graph, not be a slow descent so much as a precipitous drop that starts as a steep decline at the time of the CU and, now, is in freefall.

    The UI designer was asked if it would be possible to make some changes to the postCU UI to allow players to have a little control over customisation. Simple things like letting us rescale the radar as we had done preCU. His response? I can quote it in full from memory. “NO”.

    No explanation, no discussion, just a fiat and some random waving of his hand in the direction of his PhD.

    A few lines of explanation as to ‘why’ it couldn’t have been done would have got a number of players onside. They in turn would have dealt with later calls on the forums to have the UI customisable by relaying that explanation. But “No” simply bred resentment and frustration.

    In most management roles I’ve filled it has always been better to explain change to people in such a way that thay can see that, even when it’s unpopular, there’s a solid reason for it and not just some random whim. Heck, even when it IS a random whim, explaining that in the right way can get people going “Okay, sounds daft but it might ‘just’ work…” and looking for ways to move the project forward rather than seeking reasons for it to fail.

    /sal Holocron

  22. I’ve tried to re-enter SWG up to 3 times after NGE but I failed to stay for more than 15 days. Why? well, mini society where I lived in planet Lok was killed. My daily things, like relations, buying goods, going to cantina, etc were killed because the actors were changed. I just doesen’t feel like making new friends and relations. And this game as “solo” doesen’t deliver any expectation.

    NGE can cough evolve cough but it will be dificult to re-do those societies without veterans around.

    It’s like one day you wake up and 90% of you neightbours are other people.

  23. We should distinguish between in-game communities (player/player interaction) and out-of-game communities (player/player/dev interaction). The former does not often cross into the latter – indeed the out-of-game community is a completely separate animal.

    One conclusion I have come to after years of playing MMORPGs is that the out-of-game community starts with the attitude of the producers and lead developers. If you regard your out-of-game community as a group to be marketed to, then you are destined to, at best, have a a bunch of fansites that your PR and marketing departments can send press releases to. However, if you treat your out-of-game community as a barometer of player satisfaction with the game, and as a sounding board for concepts and ideas, then you will have better luck. As Almagill mentioned, the most important thing any developer can do when presenting a change to the community is explain the why. Even if players don’t necessarily like the change, most of us will be more willing to accept it and give it a shot if we are presented with the reasoning behind it. Not only that, but allowing the community to poke holes in your logic can sometimes save on having to revisit the issue later when it turns out that your change didn’t quite work out the way you thought it would.

    One very important key to remember is that the out-of-game community is where the vast majority of your word-of-mouth advertising comes from. And let’s be honest here, word-of-mouth is a huge factor in marketing your game, regardless of the strength of your IP, as SWG has proven. Would it have really hurt SOE and LucasArts to hold the release of SWG another six months to allow some of the things that were being pointed out during beta to be addressed? All communication problems aside, I think one of the things that hamstrung SWG was the idea that it had to make money right away. Any MMO publisher should be looking at making a game that continues to thrive for years, and not short-term profits. Not that WoW has helped any with that. I have a feeling that over the next 5 years a lot of MMOs are going to fold within their first 2 years when they can’t duplicate WoW’s success.

    Regardless, communication is a hugely important aspect of maintaining an out-of-game community.

    In-game community is an entirely different animal, and while it’s influenced by out-of-game community, it mainly grows because of player interaction inside the game. To grow in-game community, your game needs to encourage player interdependence and interaction through content and mechanics that encourage players to group up and work together. One of the reasons that SWG’s in-game community hasn’t rebounded at all from the NGE, even though players are still playing, is that nearly everything in the game is soloable, and no one really needs anyone else to accomplish much of anything anymore. Because players aren’t being forced by the game’s content and mechanics to rely on each other, they’re not really forming new friendships and communities. There’s a lot more contributing to it, including the “ghost town” feel of the old player cities, but even were all of that out of the way, in-game communities still would not form and grow quickly or well.

  24. All games are better in beta, because in beta there is always more possibility, more hope that special feature really will work, and it is always easier to fix the code before release. People make cynical remarks about ‘paid betas’, but really, I think the value in beta might actually be better than in live.

    Maybe there’s something to learn, after all, from Web 2.0’s “Perpetual Beta”.

  25. Ralph, milord, I forgive thee.

    Can’t say the same about SWG, since CH was removed, but at least if I read you are developing a new game, under other rules set, I will trust your work. Great job on the early game, it will be very hard to forget it, and a big thank you for the good moments provided to us. Wish you could bring it back to it’s glory, but when most don’t want, one can’t do alone.

  26. The fact is there is a certain consumer segment (population) of the MMO market that SOE will never recapture, no amount of damage control will ever be enough, no amount of marketing will work and thats a rough pill to swallow. But thats the consequence of abusive practices, the market decides your fate rather than you.

    This describes me to a T. SOE (and Sony as well) has lost my business permanently due to their decision to alienate their playerbase, of which I was once a very active member. SWG was my first MMORPG, and while it did have all of the problems mentioned above, not the least of which was total lack of Star Wars content, it was nevertheless very immersive.

    In a world of infinite time and money sure, Raph’s approach would be the way to do things. But almost everyone games for entertainment’s sake…. I need a finished product at the end of the day. Most gamers need a finished product at the end of the day.

    In 99% of cases, this is absolutely true. The difference with SWG is, it’s Star Wars. To many people, especially many of the people excited about the game since before launch, Star Wars Galaxies wasn’t just supposed to be a game, it was their opportunity to live their dream. Raph talks frequently about lofty goals and high expectations during initial development that were never met, but quite honestly, I doubt any company could have met them in the time frame allotted. I know they went back and forth on a lot of design issues which cost them time, but Star Wars means so many different things to so many different people, it would have been a monumental effort to meet those expectations. The joy of being a gamer in this situation, at least to me, was the ongoing development. The fact that it may have never become a finished product WAS the draw.

    The framework was in place for people to have their own Star Wars fantasy, and to customize their experience based on their own interpretations. The skeleton was there. They needed to focus on adding the Star Wars elements, beyond dropping Stormtroopers in cities and sticking the “iconic” (God I hate that word now) characters in static, buried locations. Player-driven content is great, but Star Wars-driven content is vital. Which brings me to my last point…

    Some have since decided that it was listening to the players too much that caused some of the design problems with SWG.

    The only point I’ve ever heard players make in relation to this comment is that the developers seemed to spend far, far too much time balancing the game for 1 on 1 PvP battles. And everyone who yelled about this was right. Part of it was a flaw in design… putting so much focus on the BH vs Jedi aspect, just by creating that content, caused exactly the types of problems you’d expect. If the devs had only focused their time on fixing bugs and adding content, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel over and over and only pleasing a microcosm of their playerbase, those of us who had cancelled would still be there, and SWG might have at least approached Lineage’s numbers at this point.

  27. Sir You Must be the president of SOE.

  28. Interesting thread on SOE’s SWG board dealing with this very issue…

    Click here for your reading pleasure!

  29. I started playing SWG when one of my friends had started playing and loved it (first half of 2004) I had a lot of fun at first just doing things on my own. After a while I helped start a guild and had a lot of fun playing with friends, some I even met in person. I played through to last month when my friends list finally stood empty, and the game just felt like a game and not a community. That was what was taken away with the diminishing of the entertainer professions. I met a lot of people just sitting in a Cantina getting rid of Battle Fatigue. I admit it was a pain in the butt, but in reetrospect, it was a pretty cool time out and seemed to make sense….after a week in the field, hit a bar for some downtime.
    The higher ups never seemed to understand that communication with the populace was not more important than meeting some deadline to correspond to a movie premier. I honestly believe that if SWG had been out AFTER the prequels were over, it would have been better because then we wouldn’t have some imaginary constraint like making sure Trials of Obiwan were out before SW3 made it to DVD. And when players say they didn’t like changes coming out, the higher ups acted like parents saying they know whats best for us. THAT is why SWG failed. Deadlines mattered more than providing a fun experience. I gave the NGE 6 months to convince me it was fine…. I had finally had enough because the feeling that players could help shape the direction of the game was gone when they decided Test Center was just for previews of upcoming publishes and not real testing….seeing as their internal testers did such an awesome job testing ToOW and NGE, I felt down was the only direction left to go in.

  30. Interesting thread on SOE’s SWG board dealing with this very issue…

    Boy, Wepps really hates my guts. I take some comfort in the fact that he seems to continually get confused about what I actually said and did.

    I know they went back and forth on a lot of design issues which cost them time

    Actually, I don’t know that we did more so than most projects. Most things were removals.

    Would it have really hurt SOE and LucasArts to hold the release of SWG another six months to allow some of the things that were being pointed out during beta to be addressed?

    The answer to this is a definite “yes,” to the tune of millions of dollars on paper. You have to include not only the cost of ongoing development, but also the cost of slippage for things like booked marketing and the like, and most importantly, from an acconting point of view, it is was budgeted to come out in a given quarter, you have to account for all the revenue that was expected to appear in that quarter but didn’t. The missed projection would be a massive hole in any company’s financials.

    Granted, this is only a “paper” loss, but companies, and companies’ parents, take it very seriously.

  31. Budget and time realities sound very 🙁

    Your new project is beyond concepts like those right?

    NEW FROM RAPH KOSTER IN 2007 2009 2013:
    THE METAVERSE KOSTERVERSE REAL WORLD.

  32. I have a feeling that over the next 5 years a lot of MMOs are going to fold within their first 2 years when they can’t duplicate WoW’s success.

    Are there expectations about releasing a game and duplicating WOW’s success(?) (by investors, by studios, by companies?) Im thinking there must be as much as Ive seen this sentiment in various places. Does this have any basis in reality? I dont think so, WOW while excellent in design benifitted as much from externalities having to do with rational choice and market timing as anything else (this is known to some as “luck” on when they released and how consumers make a choice to buy it). Duplicating WOW is unrealistic, you might as well launch your own search engine with the goal of “duplicating Google”……

    So you may be right, maybe a lot of games will fold, and a lot of good money will be thrown after bad money before market correction occurs.

  33. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t (pre-WoW) Blizzard famous for missing release dates due to extended betas and extra-rigorous launch? I don’t hear about that much anymore, but I have also heard that that’s why the Blizzard RTSes were so awesome. I still play WC3 every now and then.

    In any case, turning a game into a business is still frowned upon, in my book. Too bad no one reads said non-existent book.

  34. […] Cited from his blog Raphs BlogHe talks about Community BuildingBusiness Week Online just published an article on new media and community thats an excerpt from Henry Jenkins new book. Edit: Looks like it came originally from Next Generation. It heavily references the work that we did early on in SWG in building community.These days, it sure seems like theres a mixed reaction to how the community is handled, but I do think we did a pretty good job back then, and at the time it was widely referenced as a model.The premises under which we operated were: * Be open to the players: both in terms of telling them what you are doing, and in terms of listening to what they want * Communicate daily * Communicate honestly * If things change, tell them why theyre smart people, they will understand * Have weekly events of info release so that theres a reason to come back regularly * Ask questions, and listen to the answers * Celebrate and highlight the best contributors Some have since decided that it was listening to the players too much that caused some of the design problems with SWG. I am not sure I agree. If anything, I think that many subsequent problems came from not listening enough, or not asking questions in advance of changes. Walking a mile in the players shoes is a difficult trick to pull off even if you have the best of intentions.The tensest and most difficult moments in SWGs development and they came often were when we had to remove something that players really liked. Usually, it was against our own wishes, because of time constraints or (rarely) orders from on high. But we couldnt tell the players the real reasons sometimes. That sucked, frankly, because the open relationship really did matter. As often as we could, we laid everything bare.These days, its accepted wisdom that you dont reveal a feature until its done, so as to guarantee that you never let the players down. Of course, even finished features sometimes fall out for one reason or anotherIn any case, I think I dont agree with that philosophy. Id rather have prospective players on a journey with the team, than have them be a passive group marketed to. Yes, they will suffer the ups and downs, and see the making of the sausage but these days, thats getting to be an accepted thing in creative fields. Theres not much to gain, to my mind, in having the creators sitting off on a pedestal somewhere people fall from pedestals, and pedestals certainly will not survive contact with Live operation of a virtual world.Instead, Id rather the customers know the creators as people who make mistakes, so that when one happens, they are more likely to be forgiven or understood.How did the experiment work out? Well, bottom line in SWGs case is that we certainly overpromised and underdelivered. But the curve for active community users was an exponential one aiming at the moon, and until the day when I had to go out there and tell them that the game was being released, they were working with us contentiously, but all pulling in one direction. And the result was that registrants to the game on the first weekend was exactly equal to the number of active community users, and the sales curve simply continued that trend over time. ——————– […]

  35. […] Earlier this week, Next Generation published a short excerpt from my much longer discussion of Star Wars Gallaxies and user-generated content in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. The publication seems to have prompted game designer and theorist Raph Koster to blog about what he learned by adopting a more collaborationist approach to his fans. Here’s some of what he had to say: Some have since decided that it was listening to the players too much that caused some of the design problems with SWG. I am not sure I agree. If anything, I think that many subsequent problems came from not listening enough, or not asking questions in advance of changes. Walking a mile in the players’ shoes is a difficult trick to pull off even if you have the best of intentions. […]

  36. >In a purely user-driven world, I’d agree with you. But in the case of a game system design, you wouldn’t want everyone voting on the rules anymore than you’d want an author to take votes on what happens in the next chapter. Part of why you are there is to be taken on the entertainment ride.

    Dude, that is like, so “old media”. We’re the ones writing the next chapter, not them. All they do is put out tablets to write on.

    I’m not on some “entertainment ride” (!), I’m the Tilt O’ Whirl guy myself. I thought you knew that.

  37. New media isn’t going to replace old media. And an awful lot of new media is accretions around a piece of old media, if you know what I mean.

    In other words, even if you yourself aren’t on the entertainment ride, a heck of a lot of people are. Most games cater to them.

  38. Duplicating WOW is unrealistic …

    Even more ironic is that most people trying to duplicate Blizard’s success seem to be doing it with a WoW-clone. As if you could reinvent the wheel and then sell it as if the old wheel wasn’t there anymore. 🙂

  39. […] Community Building I thought the Dark and Light crew might glean some knowledge from one of the masters of making and managing MMORPG’s Raplh Koster. Below is a link to an article on his website ill also include some of the most vital points you guys need to brush up on if or when u decide to seriously make a MMORPG that will compete with the big boys. https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/07/1…unity-building/ Quote: […]

  40. I’m of the opinion that to be successful, a game has to have a clear-cut vision and a well-developed setting. That has to come from the design team, the players can’t really create it for you. They can influence it, sure, but only by reacting to your initial vision.

    Where the players come in is when you start talking about mechanics and features. As a designer, your role is to provide a framework in addition to a setting. When the players see your framework, they’ll comment on it, make suggestions, point out possible problems. You can then revise the framework and repeat the process until it’s ready to go. The players aren’t designing for you (although some freaks like me might throw together huge posts suggesting systems on the forums), but they are a sounding board for your concepts, and they help you find things you might otherwise have missed.

    As far as setting goes, it’s important to remember that a lot of people come to a game expecting to play a game, not to have to make up a game to play. So providing lots of content to do is mandatory. But you should also provide players the tools to create their own content as well. Because eventually, your players will eat up all the content you’ve set in front of them. Players always move faster than designers can write, it’s like a universal law. However, as they do so, more and more of them will use the tools that you have provided to help create their own content. For example, if players are able to open up their own trading companies in your game and transport goods from one city to another, they’ll be more inclined to stick around after they’ve defeated the bandit king. Even more so if those cities are made up of players themselves and trade helps the various cities thrive and grow.

    Ideally every MMORPG should start off as a game early in the design process, and then become a virtual world by the end of it, through the addition of tools to allow players to create their own content after they’ve exhausted the game-generated content.

  41. For me, a game that works best is one that has a very open world. An almost blank slate. In that world there should be some set rules on what a player can and can’t do and a few game generated obsticles. Players should then be given some tools to create their own competition. The basic physics of the world combined with the few existing obsticles will give the players some ideas about what the competitions can be and then you set us loose.

    That is what we had with SWG when it launched. That is what was taken away over time as more and more changes were thrown at the game to drive it in a direction that changed the open world into a maze where you get cheese at the end.

    Now, I know a lot of people did not like that kind of game where content came from players creating their own competitions. Those folks were the first to leave in the first months of the game, but the ones I saw leave after were the ones who had their unique competitions completely dumbed down and or removed. Entire ways of playing started when the game was in beta ceased to be viable by changes that were unannounced and unwanted by thousands of happy players.

    With an open ended game like that when players are clamoring for more content we don’t mean “give us a maze we can finish one time!” We are asking for more tools to help us with the competitions we have found for ourselves.

    If you look at SWG now and compare it to the one we had at launch you’ll clearly see it has no where near the content it had at launch even though all they have been doing for the past year is adding in “quests”.

    Here is what I and many of my friends wanted from the developers….

    We wanted a more accurate timeline. We wanted our PvP tools to work properly and to be balanced so that our battles could have fair results. We wanted our crafting to be retooled so that our items wouldn’t create unfair game play. We wanted our entertainer tools to work correctly. We wanted new tools to be added that gave us more ways to compete against each other fairly.

    Instead, we had our tools removed. We had developers tell us that our content sucked and had to be removed. We had SOE and LA executives call us idiots who don’t like to read and can’t figure out how to play with a game as open as we had. We had our characters and their tools completely changed against our wants. We had our community flushed down the toilet patch by patch.

  42. Personally, I enjoyed SWG very much up until the NGE and always appreciated the community aspect being pushed by the developers. For many of us SWG vets (especially those that hadn’t played another MMO before SWG) community is what is lacking on almost every other MMO title out there now (WoW especially).

    With that said, I always disagreed with two things …

    1 – Listening to the community is fine. And a great gesture. But some where along the road there needed to be some kind of mission, goal or strategy outlined to keep things in perspective. This was rarely done and when we did get grand road maps from the developers, things would inevitably change drastically.

    There are two great examples of this lacking. The first was Jedi. Over several months jedi went from “powerful characters nobody knew how to get” to “here’s a holocron so jedi aren’t secret any more” to “we’re getting rid of holocrons and making a new system – more people will get jedi now so they can’t be as powerful” to “we’re changing all of combat and now jedi are going to be very easy to get, and even less powerful” to “sign up – get a jedi – but you’re just like everybody else.”

    The second was the combat system. Many liked the original system flaws and all and were just waiting for things to be balanced out. Again the goals, ideas and principles of this balancing was every shifting. First, it was just fixing stuff. Then they got a little more involved with some professions being completely revamped. Then we ended up getting information about what became the Combat Upgrade – a very different system that took just about everything from the old system and threw it out the door. Then they were going to rebalance the CU elements (squad leader, CH, Ranger, etc.) until finally we had the NGE thrown at us. I haven’t played since the NGE came out (I cancelled the night it was announced), but it sounds ilke more of the same. Now there’s hotkey specials again. Tab targeting. Going to an expertise system (basically just a nerf – taking a professions skills and then letting you pick which 80 percent you want back). And i’m sure there’ll be more and more.

    You can make similar claims about a ton of other elements in the game from crafting to even the planets themselves (going from wide open terrains to Kashyyk which is basically a series of instances).

    In all of these cases not having even a fundamental, unchangable theory and mission to hang your hat on was a disservice to the game and the community. While MMOs are about change, you need at least SOMETHING that defines what you’re doing that players can hold constant.

    2 – While wanting to interact with the community is certainly admirable, those who regularly post on the official forums aren’t “the community.” The community is instead those people actually playing in the game.

    People who spend a lot of time in the forums are usually at the extreme ends of the bell curve. The vocal minority if you will. And the aren’t always an accurate cross-section of your player base because of this.

    As a result, forum posters reputations didn’t always mesh with their reputation in game. This was especially true on profession and other boards where you could have guys playing Eddie Haskell – playing nicey nice in front of the devs but total tools in game.

    There’s one great example of this going very horribly wrong. Before the CU a long time Jedi Correspondent stepped down and another was picked from a pool of applicants. Now if you looked at what he had posted in the forums over the course of several months he looked like a good enough selection – level headed, maybe even smart, a jedi advocate, etc.

    The only problem was he was a well known ringleader of “fight clubs” on his server and those who played with him general considered him the ipitomy of everything wrong with jedi in the game (for those of you who aren’t SWG heads, fight clubs were basically getting jedi together to kill each other for experience, cirumventing a ranking system and letting them achieve high levels in a jedi ranking system).

    To have a community between developers and gamers, and to have it work, you need to figure out a way to have those in the actual game world being the ones accounted for, not the fringe players in the forums.

    IMO having developers in the game is a great thing anyway. While playing SWG it became clear again and again that many of the developers just had no idea how we were actually playing the game they were designing.

  43. although some freaks like me might throw together huge posts suggesting systems on the forums

    Come now. The proper term is “rarity”. You haven’t sunk to my level yet, though: I created a Livejournal for the express purpose of designing a major system for the game I play. It’s only half-done, but it’s there. =P

  44. Come now. The proper term is “rarity”. You haven’t sunk to my level yet, though: I created a Livejournal for the express purpose of designing a major system for the game I play. It’s only half-done, but it’s there. =P

    I’m no quite that organized but I have come close sometimes 🙂 I keep an old guild website active that I occasionally come back and dump various ideas and systems on. Most of my posting gets done on the forums of games I currently play however.

    Here’s my latest major thread if anyone is bored (and yes, it’s SWG, though that is only one of several now).

  45. Actually, Mnemon, it wasn’t the Jedi correspondent that was the fight clubber. SonGouki stuck with his post for a long time, and didn’t throw in the towel until the NGE went live. The correspondent in question was in charge of a different section, and… well, let’s just say I know who you have in mind. But SonG. was one of the finest correspondents the SWG Forum had in it’s pre-NGE heyday, spending endless hours posting highly-informative how-to guides explaining the Hidden Village’s Force Sensitive professions and the Jedi system.

  46. Raph, you and the dev team deserve the kudos you received for making the SWG Forum such a strong tool:

    How did the experiment work out? Well, bottom line in SWG’s case is that we certainly overpromised and underdelivered. But the curve for active community users was an exponential one aiming at the moon, and until the day when I had to go out there and tell them that the game was being released, they were working with us — contentiously, but all pulling in one direction. And the result was that registrants to the game on the first weekend was exactly equal to the number of active community users, and the sales curve simply continued that trend over time.

    I sometimes wonder if some of the ideas I tossed into the mix wound up being seen by the devs and implemented, or were simply examples of parallel thinking, such as the implementation of cybernetic limbs (suggested in Feb. 2005 as part of a post I created suggesting enhancemepts to the Bounty Hunter profession prior to the Combat Upgrade) or the destruction of Restuss (one of the last things I suggested prior to my account expiring, as a way to get attention of/when the devs ever got the game to a state worth playing again). Probably parallel thinking, but the nature of the Forum does lend itself to the notion that a good idea from an average schmoe could come to a dev’s attention.

  47. Probably parallel thinking

    There’s also the nature of idea spread. A friend of mine never expects his ideas to be accepted by the people he presents them to. Instead, he expects them to eventually come up with it on their own, after having him talk about them. While there’s no psychology I’m aware of that backs this up, I feel he’s hit on something and have worked to adopt that mindset. I often catch myself coming up with “original” thoughts that were first brought up in a conversation. (And I have a good memory, so I usually realize it soon after. But not always.)

    So I’d recommend that you don’t dwell on idea ownership. Just remember that your idea was a good one, and obviously so, since a reasonably similar one was implemented. Which is reason enough to continue.

  48. Heh… now if we can only make the technique 100 percent reliable, Michael Chui.

    (Iakimo closes his eyes and channels the thought, “BringBackCreatureHandlers… BringBackCreatureHandlers…Br…”)

    Actually, I’m grateful for this thread, Raph. I’ve been waiting for you to offer a peek behind the curtain and let us see some of the thought processes behind the push to Launch. The post about the profession lines and the decision to go with the “onion” structure as a last-minute fix was particularly illuminating. I’d always had nagging questions about certain professions, such as the entertainer clusters and the Scout/Ranger lines (such as, why didn’t the Rangers have any weapon certs? Makes more sense if it and the Entertainer line were originally slated to be much smaller at first). Makes me want to give Ultima Online a whirl, just to see how it’s asymmetrical profession structure works. Or is it now a ghost of it’s former self?

    I now have two questions for you: First: when will we see Parts 2 and 3 – Part 2 being a retrospective of the community dynamics leading up to and following the Combat Upgrade, and Part 3 being your comments on the why’s and wherefore’s of SOE’s iron curtain of secrecy surrounding the development of the NGE? That latter event seems to be a complete, disastrous repudiation of the seven premises you laid out at the head of this discussion.

    Second, I’d also like to hear what you think about things like Nancy McIntyre’s now-infamous quote about there being “too much reading” in pre-NGE SWG.

    Bonus points if you reveal to us just how you, as a holder of a Master’s degree in Fine Arts, managed to keep yourself from cramming a thesaurus down Julio Torres’ throat after hearing him chirp the words, “Cool” and “StarWarsy” and “Iconic” several gazillion times in relation to said NGE.

  49. Kylrathin!!

    This man knows what he talks about when refering to SWG, trust me. Together we helped found one first guilds and first cities on Corellia, Intrepid (Citadel) server (of which I am currently Mayor, until my account expires in August). I’ve never known a better roleplayer (online) nor a more dedicated, thoughtful, SWG player.

    I’m not going to sit here and complain about what SWG has become, I’m all criticized out in that regard. However, I will say that all the long contemplation of how I would make a character advancement system, what you described above, Raph, is wierdly a carbon copy of what I laid out as my best aproach… It just makes sense, doesn’t it? 🙂

  50. Listening to the community is fine. And a great gesture. But some where along the road there needed to be some kind of mission, goal or strategy outlined to keep things in perspective.

    I don’t think anywhere in here it was suggested that “accepting feedback from the customer” was the same as “and then do it.” I do remeber reading a suggestion from Bartle that if the players said something was “dull and should be taken out” it most likely was dull and should be fixed or taken out. Mostly what Raph Koster is talking about here is “open and honest conumication.” That means saying “Sorry about the Nerf but (reason for nerf)” or whatever is going on. It goes beyond being a great gesture because you want the audience and the creators on the same page. Saying “It’s a sandbox game with player created content and lots of PVP” will help customer out, even if they wanted a PvE Star Wars game, they will like it better for what it is than for what it isn’t.

  51. Heh… now if we can only make the technique 100 percent reliable, Michael Chui.

    They have to agree with you, too. =P It’s no good if someone comes up with your solution when they think poorly of it.

    Part of the parallel thinking bit is that, when they (supposedly) read what you wrote, they agreed with you to some point. And when they came up with it on their own, there were a lot less barriers to agreeing with the whole idea. So offering your own suggestions isn’t merely inspiration: it’s also making it easier to create something they think is feasible, because you may be providing solutions to things they had trouble justifying.

  52. Quick question-

    What’s the best reaction when you have a new game-mechanic idea you’d like to explore, but some posters to your community boards are utterly convinced it won’t work based on a theoretically possible (yet uncertain) worst-case scenario?

  53. I’m a Doctor, Jim, not a novelist!

    I’d say the best reaction would be impliment the game mechanic on a test server and ask that person (or those people) to try and create (and document) their worst case scenario. If this mechanic is something that you really want to do, you will need their help to debug it, so asking those most skeptical to personally provide information will either shut them up, because they don’t really care enough to actually do something useful or it will further irritate them to the point where you have a valid reason to ban them.

    In the end, it’s all a matter of circumstance though.

  54. At some point, you have to also be true to what you want to do from an artistic point of view. Audiences often don’t like new things until they can try them. Sometimes your ideas will be bad, but sometimes they will be good and you have to have the courage of your convictions. If you have earned the audience’s trust by your honesty, they will be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt — specially if you backtrack once they have been proven right. 🙂

  55. Raph wrote:
    At some point, you have to also be true to what you want to do from an artistic point of view. Audiences often don’t like new things until they can try them. Sometimes your ideas will be bad, but sometimes they will be good and you have to have the courage of your convictions. If you have earned the audience’s trust by your honesty, they will be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt — specially if you backtrack once they have been proven right.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re saying here, Raph. I appreciate what you’re saying about being true to your artistic convictions and all that – but in the context of the events of 2005 with SWG, I’m not sure where these words fit into those events. I mean, even I got fed up with the endless bickering on the SWG Forum (with people arguing in favor of every possible permutation of the game, seemingly) and suggested at one point that the devs needed to simply decide what they needed to do and “just do it”… but the out-of-the-blue announcement of the NGE was such a shocking departure from all the community maintenance and relationship-building that had taken place, it just leaves me at a loss every time I try to make sense of it.

    For my part, I really did make a sincere effort to give the NGE a fair opportunity to prove itself. For example, after several months of gameplay, I decided that the combination of quasi-first-person shooter mechanics and special attack hotkeys from the original turn-based game were just not a good fit for one another. John Carmack was right when he decided to retain a minimalist system for Doom III. He felt that it didn’t make sense to give players hotkeys for special attacks like a “spray shot” and the like, because that type of action was reproducible in the game itself. Furthermore, he correctly reasoned that diverting the player’s attention away from the action on the screen and onto a bunch of hotkeys was undesirable.

    I found that observation to be in line with what I was experiencing in SWG/NGE.

    By contrast, the appeal of turn-based RPGs was very different. Games like Baldur’s Gate and pre-NGE SWG were more like character-management games, in which players programmed out a series of moves, and then watched what happened. I maintained that BOTH systems were viable. Heck, Baldur’s Gate and several of it’s spinoffs and variations on the theme, such as Knights of the Old Republic, won numerous “Game of the Year” awards and were huge commercial hits.

    My point is, I’m not just a knee-jerk reactionary: I really do try to be fair-minded and consider issues from every angle I can – but even I am at a loss to get a “handle” on the events of 2005. The conclusion I would come to at this point is that the way the NGE was launched was such a disastrous reversal of these community-building principles that you’d developed and championed for such a big part of your career, that if I had been Raph Koster, I would have felt myself pretty much forced to resign in defense of my own credibility.

    So, to summarize the issue, I, one of your once-loyal customers for over 1-1/2 years, am waiting for you to reconcile the seeming disparity between these core community-building principles and the launch of the NGE.

  56. I have always wondered if maybe the NGE wasn’t a design change made by someone who had no experience with MMO gaming or by someone who was used to making a different kind of multiplayer/single player game. Perhaps someone that had made a name for himself in the company by adding successfully to another unrelated gaming product. Then when people in this department told him that his ideas wouldn’t work dismissed the criticism as being given by people that had already “failed” in comparison to his success with that multi/single player game.

    I wonder if all of these “new” people working on SWG that came from UO are the damage control.

    The NGE change had to have been thought of as a briliant redesign that would turn SWG into a game bigger than WoW.

  57. I think Raph has a point that sometimes the designers just have to make a decision and go with it. At the same time though, the SWG NGE stands as a monument to what development in a vacuum can do to a live game.

    The problem with the NGE wasn’t that the goals were bad – the goals themeselves were good ones, ones that the players would have supported and probably provided to the developers. The problem was that there was absolutely no discussion with the playerbase about the the concepts that the SWG team spent months working on. Whether it was because they were afraid to tell the players, or because of some elitest mentality that they knew best, or even if the people working on it just thought it would be easier to reinvent the wheel than it would be to change out the suspension, we may never know. But in retrospect it’s a great lesson for any other live team to learn.

    A few simple lessons can be taken from this. If the SWG team had realized these, they could have prevented the NGE from being the disaster that it was.

    1. Players really, really don’t like to be surprised. Any time there’s a major change to a game, the developers need to be up front and discuss it with the community ahead of time. Explain the why behind the change, and honestly listen to the reactions of the players with an open mind. Even if the developers ultimately decide to go through with it, the players will feel better because they had the opportunity to discuss it and state their points of view. And if it goes badly, they’ll all say “we told you so”.

    2. Don’t fix things that aren’t broken, or that are ancillary to the big issue you’re trying to address. The goals of the NGE could have been accomplished with only a few small changes to the game, most of which the players would have supported. Instead, someone got it into their head that they needed to completely redesign almost every aspect of the game. Not only did that create a lot of unnecessary work for the developers, it ultimately quashed any good that might have been done by the required changes.

    3. Never assume that you know what your players want if you don’t play their game. SWG’s live team has stated several times that they spend a part of their workday in the game. What they meant when they said that though was that they spend that time on internal test servers, or at best the public test server – and not out on the live servers with the community. There are things that happen in a virtual world that require thousands of players to be online in order to become visible. Economic interaction in particular is something that cannot be simulated on a test server. Any MMORPG design team needs to take heed of this, and needs to make sure they’re spending time playing the same game their customers are.

    4. Good management is important. When I look at the EQ2 team (which is for the most part doing very well) or the WoW team, I see that they have designated developers for various pieces of the game. So and so is the spells guy, another person is the crafting guy, and so on. Looking at the SWG team, I see a pool of developers that move from project to project seemingly at random and sometimes without finishing what they were doing previously. I am sure that many of these people would do a better job if only they were allowed to become intimately familiar with one portion of the game rather than constantly having to switch gears. But instead what the players get now is half-completed concepts that at best need a lot of polish, and at worst simply server to hurt the community and the game even more. This is a management problem, and I hope other teams out there are learning from this mistake.

  58. I, one of your once-loyal customers for over 1-1/2 years, am waiting for you to reconcile the seeming disparity between these core community-building principles and the launch of the NGE.

    He can’t. Unless I utterly miss my guess, Raph was out of the chain of command on the NGE-related decisions.

  59. The problem with the NGE wasn’t that the goals were bad – the goals themeselves were good ones, ones that the players would have supported and probably provided to the developers.

    I am not sure I agree with you on that one…

    The NGE did nothing positive for the game. It was an across the board reduction in content and features aimed at bringing the game to a new audience. The whole point was to get rid of the current audience who did too much reading and thinking and replace them with the mass of the unwashed Star Wars fan that was too stupid to enjoy the current version of the game.

    UI changed – Even the old keymap was removed. Why? The old players don’t need to be supported.
    Creature handling removed.
    Bio Engineering removed.
    Scouting removed.
    Entertainer professions consolodated to one class and the ability to cross content removed.
    Trader professions consolodated to four sub classes and the ability to cross content removed.
    All content related to the aquisition of a seperate jedi character removed.
    Medic professions consolodated into one class.
    Combat attack animations removed.
    RPG style combat replaced with point and click style.
    Modal chat removed. (This was brought back later after player revolt.)
    Character speed turned up.
    Camera angle moved to over the shoulder.
    The ability to change all controls via the keymap was removed. (this was later brought back to some degree I have been told.)
    Jedi added to the new character creation for everyone.
    New tutorial added.
    New quests for player characters level 1-30 added or consolodated and renamed.

    Marketing for these changes used words like, Iconic, Star Warsy and Cool.

  60. […] Earlier this week, Next Generation published a short excerpt from my much longer discussion of Star Wars Galaxies and user-generated content in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. The publication seems to have prompted game designer and theorist Raph Koster to blog about what he learned by adopting a more collaborationist approach to his fans. Here’s some of what he had to say: […]

  61. you have earned the audience’s trust by your honesty, they will be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt

    Whoot!! player Buy-In 4tw 🙂

    That is the intersection between why a player will pick up a copy of a game, and stay with a game through multiple changes…..

    The question is:
    Is Buy-In a two way street? Mush designers/companies also trust and respect thier gamers/consumers? I think so, to ensure customer retention anyhow….

  62. Heh, I guess I cannot give an answer to a simple question without it being somehow related to the NGE.

    I usually resort to analogies when trying to explain this.

    Let’s say you work in theater. When you start out with a new play or musical, it’s still rough. You go on the road to smaller venues to workshop it. You tweak and adjust based on the feedback of users. There’s going to be some decisions there you make based on artistic choices, and you hope the users follow. Often these will be decried as bizarre or stupid. Sometimes they are.

    But you persevere, and the show gets a following. It gets a long repeat engagement based on your kooky idea of a musical using only didgeridoos and human beatboxes. Some see it for the novelty. Others actually like what you’re doing.

    Now you’ve settled in for a long stint on Broadway. You don’t really get to swap it out to a punk music piece now. The sort of changes you can make are vastly different. You are known as the didgeridoo-and-beatbox show. If Stomp were to show up with all electric guitars and no percussion one day, only true diehard Stomp fans would follow — and only because they trust the artist.

    When a new cast, a new director, a new costumer, comes in — they have to adapt to the show. There’s some mututal accomodation, but it’s not about wholesale recreation.

    Sometimes, of course, a new show runner comes in and reinvents the whole thing dramatically, and is hailed as a genius. But I can’t actually think of very many examples.

  63. When a new cast, a new director, a new costumer, comes in — they have to adapt to the show. There’s some mututal accomodation, but it’s not about wholesale recreation.

    Sometimes, of course, a new show runner comes in and reinvents the whole thing dramatically, and is hailed as a genius. But I can’t actually think of very many examples.

    It’s too bad that the theater doesn’t work like the food and beverage industry… When New Coke failed to deliver a fresh new audience in addition to the old customer base, Coca-cola classic a product as similar to the original as possible was quickly released. See, they saw that not everyone liked it and quickly acted to save their paying customers.

    It would be nice if the theater was willing to throw out another didgeridoo-and-beatbox show for those many fans that have money and are willing to pay to see it again.

  64. It would also be nice if the fans began to let go of past shows, and refocus thier energy on trying to identify new shows theyd like to see, instead of wanting to see the another iteration of Cats when it comes through town. And take the knowledge and experiances theyve learned as consumers from seeing thier previous show when selecting a new show. 🙂

  65. It would also be nice if the fans began to let go of past shows, and refocus thier energy on trying to identify new shows theyd like to see, instead of wanting to see the another iteration of Cats when it comes through town.

    New things are good… However if you are a fan of Cats and pay to see Cats at the theater when it is billed as Cats you’d be a little peeved if the new director, actors and costume designer turned it into Jesus Christ Superstar with cat faces.

    Go ahead and make that new play, just don’t try to pass it off as Cats to the fans of Cats.

  66. Well, to continue the Broadway-musical analogy…

    Think of me as being like a customer who’d bought a handful of tickets to bring his family to see Cats, and gotten everyone settled into their seats (itself a major undertaking), and watched the curtain roll open to reveal… not Cats, but DOGS!

    Any person in such a situation would naturally want to know what happened, and who was responsible, and what the hell the manager and producer were thinking, as in, how in the world they could allow such a catastrophic action to take place??

    I’ve read what Smedley and Julio have written on the subject. It’s all happy-talk about how “cool” and “iconic” and “StarWarsy” the new system is. It’s relentless! And as far as I am concerned, it’s all balderdash.

    I was hoping you would be willing to share your perspective on the subject, insofar as the sequence of events undermined the community-building ideals YOU championed. It’s all well and good to reflect on the nascent idea of community-building in a commercial environment, but when (as I see it) the company that had allowed YOU to establish this particular mode of business on their behalf destroys it all in a single red-letter dev post on a cold day in the middle of November, I can’t help but wonder where YOU were in the flow of events… what YOU were thinking. You were still a SOE employee – a creative consultant for all of SOE, if I remember correctly. I just have a hard time believing YOU had NO opinions on such a jarring change of direction for SWG, even if there were multiple administrative layers of insulation between you and your former creation. That’s like believing the residents of Pasadena had no idea the Loma Prieta Quake had just hit.

    You want to start a thread about community-building? Fine. It’s your blog. But I keep hoping you will choose to talk about the particulars of a time when the community-building effort takes a wrong turn. After all, as I see it, it affected YOUR credibility, too – not just SOE’s.

    And no, it’s not “every time you try to answer a simple question” that I would ask you to address the NGE; I think the topic of THIS thread leads directly TO it. At least, the community-relations fallout. Which is probably the element that took the most damage. So, please.. address that time span, too.

    If it will help, I’ll even say, “Pretty please….”

  67. In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor — even a decisive factor — in my decision to move on.

    The simple fact is that I was barely involved with SWG from around October of 2003. There were some periods where I was pulled back in a little more, but by and large, I was apart from it. Almost none of my “creative consultancy” involved Live games — it was all about new games, many of which did not survive pitch stage.

  68. I like what you did with SWG, overall. The deal-breaker for me was SCS, which I suspect was one of the “few” design reqs “from on-high”.

    On the other hand, the critics have a point; the line “You’re playing Uncle Owen, not Luke or Han” appeared very early on the Beta boards, iirc.

    Unless you’d like to remain aloof from this sort of commentary (can’t blame you if your professionalism demands it), what should SOE have done to make an MMO more true to the feel of the movies? After the point when SWG released, I mean.

    (My personal favorite… LEGO Star Wars, the MMO. Imagine what you could do if you gave the players the freedom of LEGOs with the action and charm of that little game.) 😀

  69. Well, that simple sentence answers one of my biggest questions: whether you thought it was a good idea or a bad one. See, Sony Online is trying very hard to create the impression that everyone thinks the new system is just the greatest, most wonderful concept ever invented. And that reflects badly on every SOE creative person who chooses not to say otherwise. I consider it a Big Lie tactic. And I find that sort of thing irritating – often beyond the importance or merit of the issue being spun. It helps to hear one person pipe up and share an opinion that bucks the Big Lie.

    And for that, I congratulate you, because that simple post helps rebuild your community. /salute….

  70. […] Read his blog here.Most interesting thing I saw in the comments;Raph said, "In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor — even a decisive factor — in my decision to move on.The simple fact is that I was barely involved with SWG from around October of 2003. There were some periods where I was pulled back in a little more, but by and large, I was apart from it. Almost none of my “creative consultancy” involved Live games — it was all about new games, many of which did not survive pitch stage. " […]

  71. As someone who started playing Star Wars Galaxies after the NGE, I was never horrified by or disappointed with the update.

    I appreciated that the gameplay was similar to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

  72. Just can’t bear people thinking the Marketing wonks were so badly, horribly, tragically wrong about NGE, eh Morgan? 😉

  73. Now, Jim… let’s not go flaming people who haven’t experienced the gameplay elements that were lost and who therefore simply don’t know the fun they will never have.

    BTW, what does “SCS” stand for?

    Morgan, are you still playing SWG? If so, what’s your take on the overall quality of the current SWG community? And if not, why did you quit?

  74. You know, it’s one of the many paradoxes of SWG that some of the most glaring flaws were some of the things that contributed to a more-tightly-knit community.

    For example, the many gameplay elements that were not included in the manual that came bundled with the game discs gave several people an opportunity to shine brilliantly in the SWG Forums by writing their own how-to guides: how to run a Bounty Hunter mission using biosignatures and seeker droids; how to set up a resource harvester; how-to’s on the then-new Jedi skills… on and on.

    And the joy of discovering vets who were willing to patiently explain all the in-game tools and abilities…

    And the many, MANY fan-created websites….

    It often seemed that the greater the difficulties, the greater the cameraderie that developed around solving the darn game.

    To a point, of course. Everyone hated the bugs.

  75. Jim wrote:

    Just can’t bear people thinking the Marketing wonks were so badly, horribly, tragically wrong about NGE, eh Morgan?

    I wish Raph would comment on this, but I’m not sure he can.

    Iakimo wrote:

    Morgan, are you still playing SWG? If so, what’s your take on the overall quality of the current SWG community? And if not, why did you quit?

    I discontinued playing Star Wars Galaxies because that was effectively required by (i.e., strongly suggested for) my position at SOE.

    … by writing their own how-to guides: how to run a Bounty Hunter mission using biosignatures and seeker droids; how to set up a resource harvester; how-to’s on the then-new Jedi skills… on and on.

    And the joy of discovering vets who were willing to patiently explain all the in-game tools and abilities…

    I think of player-created documentation as workarounds for deficiencies in design. Players shouldn’t need manuals and marginal documentation to smoothly play the game. As for guides and FAQs, those were the first items I looked for prior to subscribing to Star Wars Galaxies. To my surprise, swg.stratics.com was horribly outdated at the time of my subscription. When I realized that the update revamped the game, I adapted. Sure, what was would have been fun, but what I wanted to do with what was, I had already done with Ultima Online and Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs). Being that I had prior experience with virtual worlds, I was ready for a change instead of another time-sink.

    Everyone hated the bugs.

    Ironically, I loved the bugs. I love finding and reporting bugs because that’s what I was trained to do at SCEA. One of the primary reasons why I applied to work at SOE was to work on SWG, but to my dismay the Austin studio was in charge of SWG and there was no way that I would relocate to Texas. Anyway, I guess I’m a different breed of player.

    Raph previously spoke at a local bookstore for the San Diego Futurists group. He asked the audience, "How many gamers are in the audience? Raise your hand." I didn’t raise my hand. Bewildered, Raph asked, "Morgan, why didn’t you raise your hand?" I responded, "I’m a tester." 🙂

  76. […] QUOTE"In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor even a decisive factor in my decision to move on." – Raph Koster talking about NGE on his blog at raphkoster.com From his Blog(Suprised not Suprosed) […]

  77. Raph, thanks for your honesty, and your ideas. The original SWG, I loved so much I still subscribe to it even though it’s a shadow of a parody of what it once was.

    I look forward to your next MMO, as all the elements that I liked in SWG as it was, I am sure will be in your game.

  78. Morgan wrote:
    I think of player-created documentation as workarounds for deficiencies in design. Players shouldn’t need manuals and marginal documentation to smoothly play the game.

    I think I see your point, Morgan, and it’s a nice ideal to strive for – but it’s a wildly unrealistic one. “Intuitiveness” was a popular buzzword back when Windows 95 was trying to usurp the Mac (kinda how “Iconic” became the hawt buzzword in 2006), but any time we are dealing with an interface for translating our intentions into a computer environment, we (okay, at least I) will need to have someone show me how to do stuff – and often, even open my mind to what can be done. That will ALWAYS be the case, even if you’re trying to play something as simple as online Tic-Tac-Toe. That or a sudden evolutionary leap for the whole human race into psychic endowment.

    Which actually invites a subsequent discussion: Which is the more likely to happen first – SOE writing a decent Game Manual 2.0 for SWG, or the human race acquiring psychic powers? Place your bet now….

  79. Mike-

    Cats you’d be a little peeved if the new director, actors and costume designer turned it into Jesus Christ Superstar with cat faces.

    Mike believe me, in this yes I truely loved “cats” (SWG) as a very early pre pub 9 Jedi on Ahazi. Was heavily involved in the community, and economy, and part of one of the earliest and largest guilds (which Ive been a member of for 10+ years), so yes, I loved SWG what it was, when it was, many of us left, even 6 month pre CU, these were people who couldnt adapt to the sandbox, and further could not adapt to the bugs which plagued the game even then.

    But those who loved it for what it was stayed. Adapted to the CU, dealth with the loss and the slippshod development and ineffective CS and failure of the SWG team to maintain community relations. Communication failed, because by that time the player bases complaining became a static noise. How could it be otherwise when even the players felt this way? Thus you have statements like:
    paraphrased:
    Early on:
    “The jedi system is organic” “everyone will have thier own path”

    Later:
    “most players are playing the game not complaining on the boards”
    “(insert favorite profession here) is going to be revamped”
    “its just a game, you need to back away from the computer”

    and later:
    “Its not star warsy” and “iconic” enough

    and Further:
    “Its to hard,” people dont want to play uncle, they want to play Luke and Leia etc”

    I could go on…and on and on…..but whats the point eh? How long has it been now….its time to move on…

    These are failures to communicate, or later revealed to be flat out lies.
    I dont know about you but if I lied to my customers I woulnt be in business very long. Really perhaps having people communicating with your customers taking a simple CRM course would have prevented this. However, I dont believe after having been a customer of SOE since EQ released, that transparency is part of thier corporate culture. Because transparency is not a part of thier parent companies culture historically. To Sony America, and thus SOE customers are income streams, units, lemmings….people who will buy our crap no matter what

    So thats why you have the NGE, no ones communicating, and hey we changed it dramatically once, and people still subscribed, and our market consultants (who so obviously had never logged into this game, if they played games at all) told us via a (totally inaccurate survey, with horribly lopsided questions, and completely inaccurate data points) that this is a good idea! Because people want a FPS SW MMO? Eh?

    Yeah Im taking SONY management to task here, in my MBA coursework I never had a class titled “How to Permanately Piss Off and Lose Customers to Increase Your Value Proposition”–I mean come on seriously….what a (insert expletive) joke….

    The world doesnt work that way anymore, I dont think games do either, there are to many options for consumers now…

    I dont want to make this a bag on Sony thread though, but those are the facts from a customers perspective, they have crap CS (even for thier electronics), frankly they need an attitude adjustment…..

    These are the reasons you cant blame Developers/Producers, being creative in a corporate enviornment especially in an artistic way is difficult, expecially when you get new “directors” and “actors” willing to toe the corporate line….yes men dont create, they subvert and steal.

    I think that it was a big deal for Raph to come out on his opinions for this (NGE). Professionally speaking it must have been a hard choice, it shows a significant amount of personal and creative integrity. Grats dude…

    As to people who came to SWG later, like Morgan, you cannot blame someone for not finding fualt when presented with a new game and not having previous experiance with “what was lost”, part of what killed the game is as much to do with a vocal group of “vets” as bad management decesions. The sooner you grock that the sooner youll take lessons away from this gaming experiance and “let go”…

  80. By the way, I’ve also found another outlet for my ire towards Sony Corp.

    My local Sunday paper ran an article outlining a new VHS-vs-Betamax war, in the form of two new DVD formats for high-def: Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD. And you got it, the two are not compatible with one another. HD-DVD was developed by Toshiba and came out last spring. Blu-Ray is Sony’s just-released format, and it’s backed by over a hundred movie titles, substantially more than those released in HD-DVD format so far – presumably due to Sony Entertainment Company’s holdings.

    Still, guess which format I won’t be buying.

  81. Incidentally, they weren’t wholly wrong. Timothy Burke’s critique on Star Wars: Galaxies happened a good year and a half before the Combat Upgrade, let alone the NGE. Of course, I’m not a player, so I don’t know any of the timeline or more detailed events, but… yeah.

  82. I’ve always had some beefs with Tim’s critique, but much of it was perfectly valid.

  83. The sooner you grock that the sooner youll take lessons away from this gaming experiance and “let go”…

    I guess when you get down to the meat and bones of the problem it all goess back to the all important question;

    Are MMORPGs just games?

    At the point real people start building an online life inside of these worlds I think that they become more than just games. SWG or any other game making this kind of change is effectively ruining people’s virtual lives.

  84. Iakimo wrote:

    I think I see your point, Morgan, and it’s a nice ideal to strive for – but it’s a wildly unrealistic one. “Intuitiveness” was a popular buzzword …

    Not only is intuitiveness not a buzzword, I strongly disagree with your assertion that manual-less games are "wildly unrealistic". I think Cliff Bleszinski also talked positively about such games in a previous interview, but I can’t find the link. There have been many games that do not require documentation for players to learn the game. The mere fact that all games provide interactive feedback is a potent and valid reason to suggest that my "nice ideal" is a realistic objective of interactive design.

    Allen Sligar wrote:

    Yeah Im taking SONY management to task here, in my MBA coursework I never had a class titled “How to Permanately Piss Off and Lose Customers to Increase Your Value Proposition”–I mean come on seriously….what a (insert expletive) joke….

    A successful restaurant called Dick’s Last Resort in downtown San Diego operates on the art of bad customer service. 🙂

    As to people who came to SWG later, like Morgan, you cannot blame someone for not finding fualt when presented with a new game and not having previous experiance with “what was lost” …

    My point was that new player perspectives should also be considered. These perspectives tend to be overshadowed by the vocal "oldbies".

  85. Michael-
    Sorry I can agree partially with some of that guys generalizations, but come on? He gave the game 5 months? Sorry if his review/epic critique were dated Oct 2004 Id say yeah ok you got room to complain on valid points, but 5 months after release? I think games deserve the benifit of the doubt. Give the designers a full 6-8 months post release to address issues. There isnt once piece of software in the world that gets released bug free without frequent patches in the first year. And gamers will find ways to exploit or break stuff faster than any other type of end user. (credit dupe anyone?).

    This isnt to say that if someone releases a wholly unplayable and mostly unfinished (DnL) MMO thats really just a (Dragon Flight Simulator) VW terrain simulator that you should keep paying for it.

    I’m sure someone has a timeline for the SWG patches around here, they were pretty frequent early on. So in my mind they were trying.

    I’m sure that guys very happy in WOW right now though….

  86. Yeah, But I dont pay for my Hamburgers monthly on a recurring basis…
    Anyhow, Dicks is good….SD has some good eats 🙂 Hey go here if your in SF Tadich Grill it works on a similar principle but not as much (and its worth attitude for the Chipino alone)….

    Its getting close to lunch whos buying? 🙂

  87. I started playing SWG in Jan 04. It was my first MMORPG, prior I was strictly a console gamer. As a Star Wars fanatic SWG was the perfect game.

    There are two things about SWG I have been pondering lately. First, beacuse of the IP, SWG pulled in alot of non MMORPG gamers. Many of these players were not “built” to be MMO players. Pre WoW, MMOs were mostly hardcore games, that involved alot of character development and time investment. Console games are just the opposite. I think people were either scared away or found MMORPGS just don’t fit their gamestyle, or lifestyle. There is a real commitment you must make in these game. For many of us that is the draw.

    Secondly, I have always felt that SWG to good of a game. What I mean by that is what a bit overzelous for the price tag. I think success of the overall concept of the game could not be realized at $15 a month. In a way it had the potential to be the Ruth Christ of games. Expensive, but worth every penny. However, you could not draw the number of subscriptions necessary for the long term success of the game. SWG was built to me a marathon game, giving returns on the investment for several years. Not the sprint to the cash game like WoW.

    That may be a bit of an exageration. But when I hear the talking heads at SOE and LA talk about not being able to manage the game as it was, I hear, “we didn’t have the resources or the talent to make the game everyone wanted SWG to be, so we had to make drastic changes. That is just my interpatation.

  88. Allen Sligar wrote:

    I don’t pay for my hamburgers monthly on a recurring basis…

    Daily basis then? How about fuel? That industry sends customers into combat! 😉

  89. I was pointing out that valid criticism started long before the Combat Upgrade ruined the great thing that was SWG. He wasn’t complaining about bugs, primarily, you might notice. He was criticizing the design itself.

  90. Jeff Freeman is a moron; he even referred to developing the NGE as “de-Kosterizing” SWG. He has no vision and by the looks of the upheaval he created with his “lack of vision” he was wrong in thinking people would accept it. Maybe he should go make games for unintelligent people with IQs below 100 some place else. Hey Jeff, Star Wars fans are not 10 year old mouth breathing retards. We are mostly comprised of grown ups with families, mortgages and careers who grew up loving Star Wars; so stupid shinnies and trinkets (as Helios put it) are not what will keep us happy with this abomination called the NGE. They better keep those fire extinguishers handy because the SW:G forums will burn with flames and trolls till the last network cable is unplugged on the SOE server farm.

  91. Jeff Freeman is very very far from being a moron, he’s one of the most talented designers I’ve ever had the chance to work with and I would work with him again in a heartbeat. If you liked pets in SWG, you can mostly thank him, for example.

    Often (usually?) the public impression of a person doesn’t match what they are really like.

  92. One of my friends had “fire Jeff Freeman” as her forum sig just after the NGE hit. They edited it out oddly enough so she had to switch to the Nancy MacIntyre “there was too much reading” quote.

  93. PRE_CU I WANT …. I never played game in my pc before.I am 32 years old, my prof was master doctor-chef during pre-cu and i liked crafting with my customers! never did pvp! cu murdered my doctor! so i become creature handler in cu. Nge murdered CH. I respected to trader but with no decay no one bought my weapons so i tried combat OMG I can t play it I tried Honestly ! I like to chat-communicate with people but i can t chat without pressing the damn enter KEY! When I press no one talks because they are busy killing each other leveling to 90! I am level 20 and i dont like quests i like to go out explore the world wih friends but no friend left in the game! So try to find new friends but they only want duels go loot quests! Restuss came everyone is there counter striking! I cant because i am neutral. WHY OH WHY DID THEY DO THE NGE ….. Am I idiot? I can t play-love it. I hate it

  94. I don’t think many actually believe Jeff or any other programmer/designer is really a moron. What I do think is that many have to question the logic behind taking SWG and trying to turn it into a battlefront clone.

    Even today, the guys calling the shots on the game continue to implement things that just boggle the mind when you consider what the NGE did for the games population. To me, anyone who thought it was a good idea or defended it in a meeting or on the forums should be moved to another game at least. At some point, someone is going to have to stand up and say this was a bad decision, and continuing with it is even worse. Unfortunately, I don’t think the guy who can say that has the balls to do so.

  95. hehe, no comment on Helios? Seems like the gaming industry is pretty close knit and I respect your move to not burn those bridges. Point is Jeff egotistically took responsibility for large parts of the NGE and that leads me to believe in his lack of vision since I don’t see the NGE ending in a good way (really). They should have stuck it out with the game they had in the beginning (perma death and all). I would play again if they offered the classic game but since I know that will never happen I guess all I have is my old school manual, screen shots and videos for that taste of SWG nostalgia. :p 😉

  96. Helios is Kai Steinmann, right? I have never worked with him directly, so I can’t comment in the same way. But I do know him, and he’s always struck me as a good guy.

  97. Raph, yeah he might be a good guy, but he’s completely oblivious as to what the customers would like. One instance would be when people were asking for Scout/Ranger/Creature Handler to come back (Some of my favorite professions, by the way.) he said, “So you just sat there in camps, and it was fun? This is a serious question.” or something to that effect. He also said something about reducing the number of resources needed to craft something to make it “easier”. Example being that a X-wing fighter would take 300,000 pieces of iron to assemble. He wanted to make it so it was 30 pieces of iron to make it easier to handle. We’re adults. We can read big numbers.

    On a side note, thanks for contributing to Star Wars: Galaxies. I throughly enjoyed the things that made it a virtual world.

  98. […] This link was just emailed to me. This is the first very negative anti-NGE sentiment I’ve seen from someone associated with SWG. For anyone who doesn’t know I’ve been told Raph is an MMO genius and was the “main man” behind PreCU. Maybe someone else can elaborate as I’m not too familiar with him. If you scroll down to post number 61 Raphs says:In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor — even a decisive factor — in my decision to move on.The simple fact is that I was barely involved with SWG from around October of 2003. There were some periods where I was pulled back in a little more, but by and large, I was apart from it. Almost none of my “creative consultancy” involved Live games — it was all about new games, many of which did not survive pitch stage. ClickyIt’s nice to see some of the SOE staff standing up for what they believe in. Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work. […]

  99. Raph wrote:
    Jeff Freeman is very very far from being a moron, he’s one of the most talented designers I’ve ever had the chance to work with and I would work with him again in a heartbeat. If you liked pets in SWG, you can mostly thank him, for example.

    Hmm… is he the guy that did most of the development work on Creature Handler and the original pet system? Or did he create the pet-special system that went live in the fall of 2005, just before the NGE went live?

    At any rate, I’m one of the many people who consider the restoration of a VIABLE Creature Handler system to be a sine qua non for our return to SWG. I’d always thought one of the amusing Big Themes of the original Star Wars is a “Nature vs. The Machine” vibe, running all the way from Darth Vader intoning, “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve spawned…” to Luke switching off his targeting computer and using the Force (the personification of Nature) to drop a perfect torpedo shot on the Death Star’s vulnerable exhaust port. And I saw creature handling to be an alternate route for exploring that theme.

    Besides, it was a darn fun profession.

  100. Raph said on July 25th, 2006 at 3:28 pm:
    Helios is Kai Steinmann, right? I have never worked with him directly, so I can’t comment in the same way. But I do know him, and he’s always struck me as a good guy.

    I’ll backup Nali-dun – Helios either a) doesn’t understand what people liked about certain parts of the game, or b) understands but isn’t able to deliver because of the “new direction.”

    From what I’ve seen of him in the forums, he has little compassion for the SWG community and on many occasions comes across as arrogant. He has little time for anything that doesn’t fit the kill-loot-repeat style of play. It doesn’t really matter if he acutally is a nice guy IRL or not. The simple fact of the matter is many of his posts are downright disrespectful of the players who long for “SWG, Raph style.”

    Anyway, I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing the guy. I’m only saying what I feel – and, like I said, it’s entirely possible that he just can’t communicate in the manner we want because he was told not to. Who knows… In his defense, we all know that text communicaitons don’t convey emotion very well and are probably not a good yardstick by which to measure a person’s character.

    The question I have is do you think we’ll ever see an MMORPG that plays much more like you envisioned SWG? Are there studios out there willing to accept an MMORPG with only 300k subs? Or, are we doomed because of the WoW syndrome?

    Thanks for your comments today Raph. We’ll certainly be qouting you on our podcast.

    Yivvits

  101. So whom in your opinion is to blame for the NGE? The players? Other game companies? The creative team? SOE? LAE? Do you think it’s a disaster? Do you think it will get better? Was SW:G doomed from the beginning? Was it released to early? Opinion?

  102. Hey Raph, the best thread of the night over at SWG just got deleted. What is it that Wepps has against you? You steal his woman or something?

    Anyway I am still trying to figure out what went wrong, while I wonder why I still play. I personally think the loss of faith by spurning players with huge negative changes did the most damage in both the CU and the NGE, and as others say here, it appears Kai/Helios just doesn’t GET IT.

  103. Raph,

    There is a growing community that could really use a hand at resurrecting a vision of the game we once shared. They are using publish 12.1 as the baseline to start from. Any anonymous code contributions that could push their efforts along would be very, very much appreciated.

    http://www.swgemu.com

  104. Fish, We got that comment by Wepps here. http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/post/870942#870942

  105. Good for you in coming out and giving us your opinion, albeit indirectly, of the NGE changes. I think they represent the worst mistake made by a company in game design to date. They really misread their playerbase and the type of game they wanted to play, and they totally mismanaged their customer relations, and continue to do so to this day. I really would love to hear that they had decided to fix the NGE by getting you to redesign things Raph. I loved the original sandbox design, and enjoyed playing Uncle Owen for many years making my own story – I have little or no desire to play Luke or Han and never have. Its a shame they took away your game in a bait-and-switch and gave us the NGE instead.

  106. Heh… I see what Raph meant about Wepps. I started feeling insulted myself as I was reading his comments, cuz he slams people who were “thankful he (Raph) gave them a lollipop” here. Oh, well.

  107. […] In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor — even a decisive factor — in my decision to move on. The simple fact is that I was barely involved with SWG from around October of 2003. There were some periods where I was pulled back in a little more, but by and large, I was apart from it. Almost none of my “creative consultancy” involved Live games — it was all about new games, many of which did not survive pitch stage. More to find here: https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/07/19…#comment-11273 __________________ Pfeiffer Dirk – Rebel, Jedi Knight Krid – Rebel, Master Bountyhunter Kooltec – Rebel, Master Doctor, Master Merchant _______________________________________ Reality is something for noobs who can’t handle Computergames! […]

  108. I think my major problem is the lack of communication and presentation mostly. I mean if for financial or practical reasons SWG was not working for SOE and/or LA then I can see why change was necessary.

    The way it should have been handled was to include the communuity in discussions about the challenge they were facing with the game, and what changes could have been made to both satisfy the current playerbase, and attract new customers. And if SWG was in such bad shape they should have shut it down, and went into redevelopment mode, took a year or so, and rereleased it with the full compliment of changes.

    Instead they are stringing players along to keep the money flowing in, while they peice this thing back together with ducktape, I assume living paycheck to paycheck, using a skeleton crew. At least that is my feel on the current situation

  109. The thing that shocked me was how the team worked so carefully to get the community on board with the Combat Revamp/Rebalance/Upgrade, and then slammed us from out of nowhere with the NGE.

  110. By the way Raph it has been said before but I would like to reinterate, it is nice to hear your takes on SWG. I miss the Pre Release days on the forums. As a MMORPG NOOB and Star Wars die hard I always appreciated hearing what you had to say about the game as it developed, and about MMORPGs in general. Since the NGE I have scoured the Inet for a new game, and dropped by many boards. It is funny to see how people align themselves when it comes to game design and your vision.

    Reading people comments about your work and vision on places like the FOH boards and Wepps comments on the SOE site makes me laugh. People are so passionate about their gameplay(myself included).

    I am one of those people that really enjoy the player interaction and compexity of games. I like to use my mind, more them my fingers and wrist to play a game. The ultimate game for me would be an RTS vision of a game set in an MMORPG format. Like CIV as an MMORPG. Just a though I guess.

    Anyways thanks again, I know you are walking a tight rope with the NDA.

  111. The ultimate game for me would be an RTS vision of a game set in an MMORPG format.

    Considering the increasing number of “heroes” in RTSes, I’d say someone’s going to try that soon enough, if not already. I’m unconvinced that anyone could do it well, but I’ve given a little thought to its design. The key would be, by the way, having a world ratio the size of Asheron’s Call, yet finding a way to relate the enormity of scale to the actions of the character.

    Or, you could write a scalable version of chess. 😀

  112. Just thinking about what you could with this concept. Create a small player made city, with little advancement and over time expore beyond your boundries, advance your civilization with new technology. Change governments and religons, build city enhancments that give bonuses, and reach out to other player civilizations to form alliances or go to war, all in an MMMORPG enviroment. You could still have a space race, and then in an epansion have the ability to colonize another planet.

    The thought of that gives me goosebumps. The potential is amazing. The ultimate in cerebral gameplay.

  113. […] Raph opens up… It seems that Raph Koster has been opening up a bit more in regards to what has happened with SWG. Here are a few long but very intersting excerpts. Check out this link if you want to read more: https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/07/19/community-building/ (read the comments section as well) (p.s. Almagill you forgot to say how cool YaMB are in your comment! ) Raph said on July 24th, 2006 at 1:59 pm: In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor — even a decisive factor — in my decision to move on. The simple fact is that I was barely involved with SWG from around October of 2003. There were some periods where I was pulled back in a little more, but by and large, I was apart from it. Almost none of my “creative consultancy” involved Live games — it was all about new games, many of which did not survive pitch stage. Raph said on July 19th, 2006 at 1:14 pm: As a side note, was the entire profession of people who did hair styles/face changes/etc really only included because of the inital bold statement of “You can do anything from wookie hair grooming to …”? I mean… you didn’t actually think that was a fun idea for a class did you? Heh, thereby hangs a tale. The original plan for the skill trees was not the skill onion. Picture the onions you had, but chop off the bottom novice skills. Imagine that when you came into the game, it worked like UO: you could either pick a “package” that gave you three or four skills that fit that chosen profession, or you could go “advanced” and pick ANY three or four. Now, imagine that trees were simple — hairdressing, a total of four skills in the whole game. Crafting, dozens and dozens of skill lines. Master boxes were not atop onions. Instead, they sat atop a set of skill lines. Two different master boxes might require the same skill lines — for example, you might need to have four skills worth of Engineering for any of the engineering based professions — kind of like the required classes in school. Or you might need to have tumbling, basic self-defense, and so on for any of the weapons skills. Some lines would be deep, and branch — like basic self-defense would turn into something you could keep going in, and eventually learn Teras Kasi. Some Master boxes would be easy to get, others harder because they required a lot of study of different areas. And there’d be TONS of Master boxes, because we’d try to find every interesting combination of skill lines and give it a name. Tumbling + some of the performance effect stuff? Cool, we call you a gymnast. Tumbling + stealth + maybe knives, and you have a start at a commando (who’d need to also pick up skill lines in various more weapons) or a start at a ninja sort, perhaps. As you can see if you try to diagram what this would look like, you need a 3d diagram; on the other hand, if you just list out “required courses” for each cool title you can get, you give a nice easy recipe for players to follow to make what they want. And if players combine some skill lines you never thought of, you can sneak in a new master skill box in there, and maybe add one special ability, and boom, you added a profession. The first designer who tried a whack at this failed to produce diagrams and specs, over the course of weeks. Then he left. The second one tried and also didn’t succeed. Finally, the producer stepped in and said “look, this is simpler,” and pushed onions on us because we were simply out of time. I asked for a third chance and to let me just do it, because it just wasn’t that complicated. But we really were out of time. The upshot was that things that should have been just one skill line, four skill boxes, had to be turned into huge onions and padded out. To standardize data formats, we couldn’t have different size and shape onions. Bleah. Lastly, hairdressing was just plain easy to do, which means that in a failure of prioritization and to show some progress, it got done. Heck, basic hairdressing was actually in the pre-alpha demo to prove the scripting system worked, it was so trivial to do. why couldn’t you tell them the reason why you had to take something out? We did, unless we were not allowed to by corporate masters (such as “we can’t do this system this way because in the next movie which isn’t out yet, it’s revealed that things are actually this other way” — happened with cloning, players playing Stormtroopers, and a few other things). And the reason “because we don’t have time and we are rushing the product” was never deemed acceptable. We want one vote, one 16m2 square of rented server space. Our World, Our Representation. In a purely user-driven world, I’d agree with you. But in the case of a game system design, you wouldn’t want everyone voting on the rules anymore than you’d want an author to take votes on what happens in the next chapter. Part of why you are there is to be taken on the entertainment ride.       […]

  114. I like games where players can play quirky almost NPCish type roles.

    In Ultima Online I played a well known beggar. Not an aggressive homeless guy, but a moocher/lovable story teller type. I did well enough that I actually managed to gather a little fame for my efforts. I occaisionally grab game time cards and revisit the character when the mood strikes me.

    I also played murderers and various other colorful back ground type characters, but they never held my attention more than a couple of weeks at a time.

    In SWG I played entertainers and GCW soldiers. My entertainers were my favorite type of character to play, but soldiering was a blast too. Most of my characters had a melding of combat skill with entertainer skill.

    I guess you could say that SWG was my ultimate game. Good character building tools, a beautiful game world and a chance to be a part of Star Wars, one of my favorite movies.

    Here’s an idea worth exploring: Could you combine reality TV with a MMORPG?

    American Idol Online? Some kind of game where a group of players is chosen from a waiting pool to be featured on the TV show and they have to go through a set of mini games in the game itself while the nonfeatured players who are in the waiting pool interact with them?

  115. […] Former Star Wars Galaxies Designer blasts Sony’s New Game Enhancements […]

  116. […] In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor even a decisive factor in my decision to move on. The simple fact is that I was barely involved with SWG from around October of 2003. There were some periods where I was pulled back in a little more, but by and large, I was apart from it. Almost none of my creative consultancy involved Live games it was all about new games, many of which did not survive pitch stage. https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/07/19/community-building/ […]

  117. SOE actually already tried an MMORTS once – Sovereign was cancelled after two years in development. I can’t remember the reason for the cancellation right now but a lot of work was done to try and come up with a viable design for it.

    American Idol Online? Some kind of game where a group of players is chosen from a waiting pool to be featured on the TV show and they have to go through a set of mini games in the game itself while the nonfeatured players who are in the waiting pool interact with them?

    EVE Online sort of does this now. They hold PVP tournaments and broadcast them via “EVE TV”, which is a daily webcast done from their website. It’s kind of funny, half the people in the game stop mining, pirate hunting, etc. to watch the tournament and chat about it with each other. It’s a big hit with the community. The trick there though is that they leveraged the existing game to create this, and didn’t create the game for it. I don’t know if a game created as the basis for a show/webcast would end up working out too well.

  118. […] Former Star Wars Galaxies Designer blasts Sony’s New Game Enhancements […]

  119. […] LOGON CREATE ACCOUNT Welcome! Sign-up or logon to post comments. news Raph on SWG (Wed, Jul 26, 2006 8:26AM)  by Dirk ‘Magikahn’ Wheeler It seems that many fans of Star Wars Galaxies threw up all over the new version of the MMORPG. Raph Koster, the original designer of the game, recently was found over on his website blasting SOE for the changes (source) he basically didn’t approve. In the following blog, you’ll see that the change was one of the reasons why he left the project:In short, I thought NGE was a very bad idea, but it was done anyway. I am not sure what else I can say, really. It certainly was a major contributing factor – even a decisive factor – in my decision to move on. The simple fact is that I was barely involved with SWG from around October of 2003. There were some periods where I was pulled back in a little more, but by and large, I was apart from it. Almost none of my "creative consultancy" involved Live games – it was all about new games, many of which did not survive pitch stage.I don’t blame him for hitting the road. If some company went in and utterly changed everything I had, turning it into crap, I’d hit the road too. Screenwriters must really hate Hollywood sometimes. Thanks Christian! [ Headlines ] [ Home ] No comments Want to be heard? Logon or sign-up for a user account! […]

  120. What would it ever take for SOE to revamp NGE back to pre-CU style? Is it too late to go back? Is it even possible?

  121. David-
    Thats actually a really neat idea, so in essence you have a VW, creating a webcast for real world entertainment about a VW “show” with real time chat?

    Where exactly are the boundaries of the game?

  122. Basically yeah, the activity in the VW becomes the “show” that people watch. Although if you’re not familiar with the game all that you’d really get out of it is watching a cool-looking space battle. In-game however, you have people rooting for their favorite teams, discussing ship loadouts and strategies, and so on. The outcome of the tournaments have actually influenced gameplay, in that if a certain ship type does well in the tournament, or a certain ship loadout, suddenly that ship/loadout will become much more popular in the game as a whole.

    From my understanding the whole thing is done in-game with volunteer player teams representing their in-game corporations (guilds) and alliances. I don’t know much more than that about how it’s set up, so you might want to hit their website to learn more about it. http://www.eve-online.com

  123. ok raph i gotta ask

    youve gone this far and the one thing weve been going insane trying to figure out is this, and im sure you already know what im going to ask here.

    you say you didnt think the nge was a good idea but they did it anyway. well…. WHO did it anyway? whos idea was it, and whos idea was it to stick developers on it? the community has been back and forth, blasting soe/verant, blasting lucasarts, youve seen all of this.

    please raph, please tell us who is responsible for pushing the nge even though yourself, and the community thought it was a horrible idea.

    pretty please?

  124. Raph,

    There is a growing community that could really use a hand at resurrecting a vision of the game we once shared. They are using publish 12.1 as the baseline to start from. Any anonymous code contributions that could push their efforts along would be very, very much appreciated.

    http://www.swgemu.com

    Not that Raph would touch that with a 100 foot pole, but you guys really do need someone to work on community realations.

    http://forums.swgemu.com/viewtopic.php?t=13

    First question in the first FAQ I see:

    Q) When’s the next update/release?
    A) Shouldn’t it be when we feel like it? We dont owe you anything.

    Yeeesh. Way to set the tone!

  125. you say you didnt think the nge was a good idea but they did it anyway. well…. WHO did it anyway?

    Why is there this pressing need to know who was behind this or that? What good is it going to do?

  126. Michael Chui wrote:

    Why is there this pressing need to know who was behind this or that?

    Culture. In Western nations, people commonly focus on placing blame whereas in such countries as Japan, people focus on resolutions instead of blame. In the Star Wars Galaxies community, there is a desire to place blame because that energy has not effectively been channelled to more constructive outlets. Stronger community relations would be of great benefit in that regard.

  127. Ding! Score one for Morgan

    And this is where my “transparency” as an organization comment comes from.

    As to sgeemu, you know I’ve had a look at thier site before. Surefoots right, comming off as petulant, insulting, and arrogant is really not a way to build community. Or ask for help

    Knowing how to code is nice, and it will result in output, but knowing how to communicate will get one farther, and will result in benifits/positive outcomes

  128. I just found this new game “Rise” has anyone played thos or know much about it?

    http://rise.unistellar.com/

  129. Culture. In Western nations, people commonly focus on placing blame whereas in such countries as Japan, people focus on resolutions instead of blame. In the Star Wars Galaxies community, there is a desire to place blame because that energy has not effectively been channelled to more constructive outlets. Stronger community relations would be of great benefit in that regard.

    in Japan people are willing to take responsibility for their failures. The leaders who fail fall on their own swords(or nowadays take a 30 story plunge)and those who are left then channel their energy to more constructive outlets.

  130. Michael Chui wrote:
    Why is there this pressing need to know who was behind this or that?

    Morgan Ramsey wrote:
    Culture. In Western nations, people commonly focus on placing blame whereas in such countries as Japan, people focus on resolutions instead of blame. In the Star Wars Galaxies community, there is a desire to place blame because that energy has not effectively been channelled to more constructive outlets….

    Well, since I seem to be one of the people who was asking the loudest for Raph to clarify a particular time frame in a particular game’s lifespan (and he did a pretty good job of it in his interview in The Escapist), and since Morgan’s generalization seems to miss the mark pretty badly (ahem…), I will offer a quick summary of why an accounting was so important to me.

    First, it is NOT about “blame,” but about understanding. Yeah, a part of that equation is understanding WHO made WHICH decisions – but that’s only one part of it. The more salient question is understanding what went wrong, and why, so that we can all (hopefully) avoid repeating our respective mistakes. (In Raph’s case, the mistake was trying to shoehorn too much innovation into too small a time footprint. My mistake was trusting Sony Online Entertainment not to yank the rug out from under my character just as he was ending a long Jedi grind. Or, to put it another way, trusting them not to waste my time.)

    For me, the question boils down to determining whom I can trust with my entertainment dollars in the future. For Raph, the issue becomes (I presume) something along the lines of “How can I develop a polished release of an innovative MMORPG in the future?” At least, I sincerely HOPE that’s the question he’s asking himself, rather than wondering whether he’d be better off developing a shallow WoW-wannabe.

    I’ve seen plenty of feedback from other people who are content with just declaring “a pox on all their houses,” including Raph’s, and shunning everyone associated with the project. I’m not that sort of person. To me, that’s a tragic waste. I like to know what went right, what went wrong, what generated mixed results. And I like to know who the people are that made those decisions, good and bad, so I can relate to each of them accordingly. If they made bad decisions, but learned valuable lessons from the experience, then that’s still something productive. Conversely, if they made bad decisions, but indulged in counterproductive behavior (such as massive denial), then it’s important to identify that pattern as well.

    Anyway, I hope my contributions to these discussions (and yes, even my rants) help put a human face in front of all these corporate shenanigans. I mean, I know Raph’s not the sort to look upon his customer base as a collection of statistics or income fountains… right, Raph?… but it never hurts to read the words of real people at the other end of your internet connection.

  131. The question that honestly keeps me up at night is “how do I not disappoint those who invest their passion into this.” I may personally get disappointed when my ideas do not pan out — but the thing that gets me is really hearing from the audience who felt let down. You want people to like your work, and to enjoy themselves.

    Questions like “how do I make a polished and ambitious game” then become corollary questions.

  132. Count me among the people who want to hear about Raph’s work with Sony anytime he thinks it’s either an interesting story or illustrates an important point. Certainly if Sony was launching a new Virtual world I’d take their history of MMORPGs into account before trying one, but I don’t think their track record is horrible, and I’m hardly interested in a boycott or witchhunt.

  133. I was actually responding to cerebrix, on #108. But I’ll field your comment anyways, as a generalization.

    it is NOT about “blame,” but about understanding.

    When people view an action in a positive light, they “give credit” to the actor; when people view it in a negative light, they “place blame” on the actor. In both cases, it’s a matter of placing responsibility on the actor for the action. Indeed, this is even a good thing. Then what? You “understand” that the actor is either a great person or a horrible person? You’re going to vote your dollars to the great person and not the horrible one? You’re going to villify this horrible person on your personal blog so that no one else will suffer a game with them again?

    The “who” is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter. In the case of Raph, all you actually need to know is that it wasn’t him; his personal brand remains intact. But at the end, even that doesn’t matter. You don’t play a game based on whether or not Raph made it. You play a game based on whether or not you like it. Naturally, people make the first impression decision based on a host of factors, including who made it, but is that really your concern? Are you hiring people from SOE? Will that factor into some marketing scheme? I doubt that. People who are ought to ask Raph for his opinion personally and privately, not in a public forum. So, again, the “who” is irrelevant.

    Finally, the “who”, in cases like this, is only actually good for one thing: punishment. You need to know who made the mistake so that they can be punished appropriately. Yet you don’t have the right to punish them. Any of them. You can pretend to, and enjoy it, but are you really? Punishment should never be meted out arbitrarily. Not only should it be directly connected to its mistake–which in this case means the person in error should be demoted, transferred, or fired–but it should also be constructive. The punishment should always increase overall quality. If you have a bad team member, you fire him because without him, the team will function better.

    Discovering who was behind the NGE does none of these. It’s useless. It gives you a scapegoat. It’s pointless. Receiving an answer does nothing useful. (Disclaimer: I am far from an expert on Japanese culture, which is why I didn’t cite it in my original comment. But since it’s been brought up…) As Morgan and “before today” alluded, the Japanese culture differs from the American very pointedly in this way. People fire themselves. While suicide is frowned upon, rightly, in our society, it is done because there is nothing left for them. They cannot fix their mistakes, their presence does not help things, and they have nowhere to go.

    If something is broken, don’t ask who broke it. Fix it. If you can’t fix it, inform those who can and make sure you’re out of their way. If they won’t fix it, find someone else, repeat. If you can’t find anyone else, don’t use it. If you must use it, learn how to fix it yourself.

  134. I think both disappointment and betryal are good words to use when descibing SWG right now.

    Developers have to understand the responsibility they have to their current community when making changes to attract new players. I think when you design a MMORPG, you design for a certian type of player. Then it either succeeds or fails, and can do so and many diffrent levels. Instead of making sweeping changes to an existing gamen when it fails to meet expectations, it seems more ethical to just go back to drawing baord.

    I would have more respect for both SOE and LA had they just shut SWG down and redesigned it rather than mishandling the game, the IP, and more importantly the community, as they have in the last 14 month.

  135. Michael- As a professionnal and because of the particular space I operate in (Data Mining, Analytics, Consulting, DSS)I agree with you, and in a personal way I agree with you. As a consumer, I want to know who is responsible for a fault product, because I like my money to go to people who make good decesions in producing quality, I dont want to be treated as a lemming, a disposible income stream, a stupid consumer. Thats the point, dont let me down, (multiple times) because I wont be back for more.

    Yeah organizationally learn from your mistakes, let me know whos making them for what reason, this way we can find out who needs re-education and who dosnt….which goes to my next point. The only way to identify trends is via data, good actionable data….

    Raph-“how do I not disappoint those who invest their passion into this”??

    Actionable Data? 🙂

    And I’ll try to make sure you get it free, if it means another game I get to spend countless hours enjoying.

    Ewww did I just engage in shameless self promotion? yeah probably, but only because I care that gamers preferances get into the hands of people who can do something about the games we spend so much time playing. People who care enough to want to know….

    The unfortunate reality is there are people who dont want to know, they think the status quo is fine, they dont think much of video gamers except for how much they can squeeze out of them. I contend that any market participant who ignores thier customers preferances has a grim future.

  136. I guess that came off as kind of a harsh criticism, but much of how opinions are formed is perception. People form perceptions of how companies treat customers, thats a hard thing I think most people have trouble getting past. At least most gamers, and it would seem for good reason

  137. […] 30th July, 2006. 1:47 am. Blame? No. Resolution. ( Read more… )If something is broken, don’t ask who broke it. Fix it. If you can’t fix it, inform those who can and make sure you’re out of their way. If they won’t fix it, find someone else, repeat. If you can’t find anyone else, don’t use it. If you must use it, learn how to fix it yourself.https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/07/19/community-building/#comment-11807 […]

  138. Hey Raph, been a long time since I have seen you. Since beta days really. Just wanted to throw in my two cents on the NGE.

    When this game was first announced by Sony as a press release, I started following its development from then on. From concept to alpha, to closed beta when I first got to play. I stayed with SWG through everything through the combat upgrade which I didnt like but endured. Through the second combat upgrade again I didn’t like it. By the time we got up to the NGE Right as I had finished my Jedi finally after all the work I had put into the game after striving and trying through various systems. Then we got broadsided by a complete overhaul in the game. At that point for the first time since I started playing SWG I cancelled my account because as somebody here put it I felt betrayed, and decived into buying an expansion days earlier that was no longer of use. My so called ‘Elder Jedi’ is nothing more than a glowstick swinging fool. Sony has ruined SWG completley destroying the game you helped to create Raph. Not just destroying the game but the community as well.

    Thats why im looking forward to the SWG Emu, it will be pre-cu. back to the good days.

  139. I just wanted to thank you for the work you did with SWG. I have never found and probably never will find another game like it. Yes my account is still active but only for sentimental reasons, mostly a monumental tomb or better yet a time capsule of the great times I had there with the hundreds of people I’ve grown to know since 2003.

    Without it my life would have been very different. I never would have met my in game and real life husband. I would not have two beautiful children (twins, a boy and a girl eerily enough). My server just wasn’t a place to join a game, it was for me and many others a home. So many mmo’s miss out on community building and fail to realize just how important it really is to someone like me. It’s why I didn’t last 6 months in WoW.

    I’m looking forward to the emulator, not so much for the game but for the community its bringing together again.

    Thank you.

  140. […] Raph doesn’t bear all of the responsibility for that – in fact, he condemns what happened on his own blog.  His condemnation includes these pearls of wisdom: Some have since decided that it was listening to the players too much that caused some of the design problems with SWG. I am not sure I agree. If anything, I think that many subsequent problems came from not listening enough, or not asking questions in advance of changes. Walking a mile in the players’ shoes is a difficult trick to pull off even if you have the best of intentions. […]

  141. […] New Media Collide. The publication seems to have prompted game designer and theorist Raph Koster to blog about what he learned by adopting a more collaborationist approach to his fans. Here's some of […]

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