(Edit: it appears that bells are unringing, or at least the subject of this note took to heart some of the no doubt polite and reasoned criticism that arrived in his email and throughout the Intertubes. In particular, the everything-was-screwed-up-but-what-I-did parts were replaced with an honest mea culpa. So, as you read this, realize that I’m beating up on someone who’s trying to make good on his mistakes. And after that, I might go and punch some babies or something.)
Dear Mr. Rubenfield (I don’t really know you well enough to call you “Dan” and definitely not well enough to call you “Lord_Pall” like some internet weirdo):
OK, you can blame friends who should know better for baiting me into responding seriously. Despite the fact that SWG in general, and the NGE in specific, is basically the Derek Smart of MMO discussion. You bring it up and all the oxygen of coherent discussion just is sucked out of the room. Flames do that.
And why is that? Because in the space of two weeks from the player’s perspective, the entire structure of SWG was tossed aside and replaced with what you freely admit was the result of a few weeks’ mad crunching.
We told them. “If you do this, you will lose all 200k subscribers. It is that significant.”
It was explained that we would gain more due to the marketing push and relaunch.
So, we pushed forward.
Dude. Srsly. You CAN’T DO THAT.
At some point someone – your producer, probably, that being his job and all – should have sat everyone down and said “you. can’t. do. that.”
Those 200,000 customers – customers – you blithely dismiss as “dregs” and “weirdos” – are paying your salary. You can’t just blow them off for the mythical millions of people looking for a better game. Want to make a better game for them? Sure. As you said:
“Can you change an MMO drastically after it launches?”
If we were to do it again, and wanted to make those types of changes, you have to make a new game.
Relaunch with a new title.
Or shut down Galaxies and relaunch for real.
You cannot change it at runtime.
And if you had kept your blog entry at that – just that – it would have all been cool. Hey, the designer of the NGE learned a valuable lesson. You can’t yoink a game and replace it with candy. Even if the candy is yummy. SCRUMPTIOUSLY. The customers – customers – not freaks or weirdos, customers – paid for a game. Not candy. They are paying a monthly fee for a game.
Maybe none of the team LIKED that game particularly. Maybe the higher ups were demanding millions of subscribers to pay for Lucasarts licensing fees. I dunno. I wasn’t there. You were.
But… dude. Srsly. YOU CAN’T DO THAT.
Especially this. Dude. Srsly.
We launched, the marketing push failed, and we lost subscribers.
It was a misread at an organizational level. Marketing, Production, community. You name it.
Epoch grade fuckup.
The fuckup was NOT the changes.
Oh, no, you didn’t.
Oh, no, you didn’t.
You didn’t just point the finger for NGE’s commercial failure at everyone but yourself.
OH NO, YOU DIDN’T.
“It was a marketing failure.” (yeah, marketing makes or breaks games, plus everybody dislikes marketing, it’s easy to blame them!)
“Community dropped the ball.” (yeah, you know, the community person who was FIRED a week after trying to deflect the rage of a community, who for SOME STRANGE REASON en masse felt betrayed. I WONDER WHY.)
You completely changed the game. You ripped out the guts and replaced it with random bits from other systems. With two weeks notice to a community that you just sold an expansion pack to.
No, really, I’m sure there’s enough blame to go around. I’m sure marketing dropped the ball. I’m sure community could have been handled better (pro-tip: letting them know a bit further in advance may have been a good idea).
But your design – your work – was so smash up wonderful that everyone BUT you was to fault? Everyone BUT you was to blame?
So. Your final anecdote:
A cancellation email from UO came in. A diatribe, really.
It want on and on about how shitty the game was, how it was the worst piece of crap he’d ever played.
So, someone called him to find out some information.
They asked how long he played for.
So, what lesson did you get from that, anyway? Because, judging from the rest of your post?
I suspect you didn’t get it. Srsly.