One of my pet peeves about MMO development is the burning need everyone has to reinvent the damn wheel. “Hrm, in THIS game, individually animated blades of grass and body morphing created ungodly lag? Well, in OUR game, our magic technology will save the day!” Or, and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this one in regards to too many titles, “By the time we launch, people will own processors that can handle it.” That should be translated as “I can’t even predict what I’m going to have for lunch, but trying to predict the pace of technological advancement and consumer adoption will make me look like a Visionary the next time I speak at a conference.”
To this, I say “sdjlkghsdfljgksdrh!!!” That can be translated as “smashing my head on the keyboard.” Is it that hard to, say, six months before launch, get your hands on a top of the line machine, run your beta, and make it run better than a grandmotherly double amputee through a lake of molasses THEN? Make your adjustments THEN, not in the last two weeks of beta? How many betas do we have to live through where the dev team says “I know the (insert endgame concept here) is a slideshow, but we have MAGIC CODE to deploy on launch day tomorrow”?
I also can’t get over how everyone pretends that the development of an MMO is a mysterious process akin to alchemy, with a side order of virgin sacrifice. Don’t we have enough people who have made these games by now that schedules can be evaluated before crisis mode is initiated? Are there not enough competent managers who can say “You have ten quest writers, three QA guys, and six months, therefore you can have X quests that are good, or X*2 quests that are okay”? Are there not enough leaders with the experience and balls to say “Actually, that kind of system will take two months of preproduction, three of implementation, and will still end up a grindy mess, and you should know that because you ripped it off of X.”
And I don’t want to hear about how sometimes shit happens, or that the creative process cannot be regulated. My ASS. I used to do theater. If you’ve got good designers and actors, and adequate preproduction time that isn’t spent at a pool hall or in endless “conceptualization” mental masturbation sessions, you can sit down with a calendar and say “if we start on this date, we can deliver an enjoyable product on this date.” And that’s taking into account a workforce consisting of A) people who periodically have mental breakdowns to demonstrate their artistic purity, and B) people who are more emotionally stable but also more prone to “I double dog dare you to chug the rest of that Jagermeister.” God. I still can’t drink that stuff and it’s been more than ten years. At any rate, most game people somewhat better adjusted/less addled by hallucinogens than theater people, so I expect better performance, not worse.
They teach scheduling, pre-production, time management, and planning in every cow college with a stage in America. I’m given to understand that the same sorts of skills are taught in your better technical schools. Maybe the MMO industry could import a few producers from the world of repertory summer stock, and throw in a couple civil engineers. And then take all the people obstructing progress and lock them in a conference room until they pass out from whiteboard marker fumes and the stench of their own self-importance.