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How do you ensure that you survive that long? Because when you look at it that way, MMOs launch... I mean, you guys have ambition, and I think, from what I've seen, you have a really promising game. I'm not criticizing the game, but promising games have come and gone.
EJ: Promising games come and go, and I've actually been involved with the release of three initial MMOs, as well as expansions. I've worked on Ultima Online; I've worked on EverQuest II; I've worked on Star Wars Galaxies; I've worked on several MMOs that didn't make it to the light of day. So, you know, we certainly have a broad experience, and we understand that.
To us, it's all about initial execution. It's why we're not throwing a bunch of extra features into the game. We want it to come out, really fulfill its purpose -- really feel like value for its money -- and for people to be really satisfied with it.
We know if we do that, we'll have all of the opportunity in the world to expand it past that. So it's really kind of this trade-off, and it's really difficult for us, because we're so excited about all the aspects, but we have to focus in on just an initial set of aspects.
I think a lot of games are -- I don't want to say "guilty of it", but they're not so good at picking what their limitations are. I think people get inspired and just go crazy...
EJ: I've certainly been guilty of doing that exact thing, in a variety of situations. It's something that, I think, as a developer, you learn more from your mistakes than you do successes.
So, as the lead designer, and as someone who's at the top of helping to shape the product, it's very important to me that we definitely explore those things, and look for the ones that are important enough to include. But at the end of the day, we need to bring that down to a very focused, very specific set of executed features.
The customization system is something we have to execute on well; the action game has to be done well. I mean, everyone thinks that you can release these types of online games, and, "Oh, it can be okay, because it's online, it's multiplayer, so it doesn't have to be as good as a single player experience." And we realize that there are trade-offs, but we want it to be the best it can be, and so it's all about execution at this point, for us.
It's why we just now started to talk about the game. We don't want to put it out there and let people see it until we feel like it's ready to be there.
There's also been a belief where people seem to think that they can release an online game and it can be shaky at first, then improve -- and that idea is over, I think.
EJ: Yes. It's absolutely over. My observation from releasing games is: what you release on day one sets your curve. Sets your curve, so that no matter what you do, no matter how much money you throw at it, you never really break out of that curve. So it's very, very important for us to get that right. We don't have the belief that we can ship something incomplete and get it out there.
Now, the reality of the situation is, you know: there's always the variables that occur as you get the game to ship -- there may be areas that we could do better at. But the fact of the matter is, we're very, very focused on the fact that the game has to be executed well. It has to be stable, it has to be enjoyable, and it has to be worth the money, day one. Period. End of story.
You're talking about "curve", and I find that an interesting concept. Because if you look at some games, they start at maybe 800,000, and then they shrink down to 300,000, right? But then you look at EVE Online, and it started really small, and grown to 300,000. And that's a big victory.
How do you look at those sorts of issues?
EJ: So, EVE Online is a great game, because what they did is they came out, they didn't have a lot of press, and they had a really dedicated fan base. So they used that dedicated fan base to get away with what you can't necessarily get away with in a game that's heavily publicized. They stayed quiet; they stayed under the radar; they built the core features, they built the core player base, and then they just started attracting more and more players. It's a growth curve.
That's not the average curve. Most games -- that are fairly mainstream, that have a lot of money behind them -- tend to have to make a big splash. And then they release, and the curve starts high, but it immediately starts to decline. I've seen that multiple times -- have actually been a key factor into why it occurred, so I have sins to pay for it in the past.