[MUD-Dev] Biting the hand that feeds you

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Fri Jun 19 16:06:37 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


She's utterly priceless and delightful.  There are several pieces
below.  Visit the site for more gems.

URL:http://www.gamergals.com/jess/4_3.htm

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The 1998 Modem Awards

The time was, lo! these many years ago, that I would issue my annual
awards to the online games industry each spring. It all started at
GEnie in 1990 as the Modem Mutant Awards, specifically for GEnie
sysops and developers.  Later, the awards branched out to the industry
as a whole, when I went independent in 1992. The awards themselves
were meant to be amusing and instructive, and generally served that
purpose.

(For pure entertainment, however, The Modem Mutant Awards never
challenged the hysterically funny Academy of Game Science Awards,
given annually to the board, computer and 'paper and pencil' game
industry at the Origin game convention. The AGS awards include the
highly coveted Wesson Handshake Award for oiliest person in the
industry and the Refrigerator Magnet Award for the computer game most
deserving of having its floppy disks pinned to a Norge with a
magnet. Interestingly, they are nominated and awarded by people who
look similar to, but are not, game industry professionals, led by
someone who looks an awful lot like best-selling author and Game Hall
of Fame inductee Mike Stackpole.)

I laid off the gig a few years back due to a conflict of interest: I
was an executive at an online games aggregator, so it would have been
unseemly to judge my competitors too publicly. To mark the first
anniversary of this column, I decided to once again go the ego-boo
route and recreate my own awards for multiplayer games, good
and... less than good. While the awards will probably have all the
impact of a feather on a rhinoceros (much like all those meaningless
Best Of... Web site awards that keep popping up), at least I have the
advantage of an understanding of the industry and the developers, and
can explain the reasoning behind each award.

The intent of the new Modem Maven awards is to recognize excellence by
developers, not the publishers, per se.  While developers do receive
some key technical and monetary assistance from publishers and
aggregators, the thought and execution behind the games begins and
ends with the people doing the design and coding. The intent of the
Modem Mutant awards is not to slam anyone, but to be instructive to
the industry as whole.

So without further ado:

 

The Modem Maven Awards

Best Massively Multiplayer Game: Role-Playing

Darkness Falls by Mythic Entertainment

In an industry that is beginning to feature more graphics than actual
game play, Darkness Falls is basically a text game with a simple
graphic interface layered on top. In this case, simpler is better.

No, Darkness Falls doesn't have a CD full of graphics, like Ultima
Online, or bunches of 3D death effects, like Quake II. What makes this
game a winner is a dark, absorbing persistent world that isn't totally
overshadowed by the graphics or mechanics of playing. The players can
concentrate on the game play and interaction between each other,
instead of messing with the interface or watching pretty pictures. It
has all the features one would expect of a good RPG.

In other words, this is a game with a design, not a piece of software
hoping that a game will somehow mysteriously attach itself.

 

Honorable Mention

Gemstone III by Simutronics Corp.

Gemstone III was a very close second in this category. The venerable
game has been around in one form or another since 1987 and has
developed a unique following of loyal players in that time. While a
graphic interface is available for the game, the true power of this
product comes from the flexible text interface and the seemingly
unlimited imagination of its players.

 

Best Massively Multiplayer Game: 1st Person Simulation

Warbirds by I-Magic Online

Warbirds began life a few years back when several Air Warrior players
from the old GEnie online service decided they wanted to do a flight
combat simulation their way. They formed Interactive Creations,
Inc. (ICI) and partnered with Domark to develop the ill-fated
Confirmed Kill. Breaking away from Domark, they completed the game as
Warbirds.  They were bought out by Interactive Magic a couple years
back and became part of I-Magic Online.

While similar in concept and game play to other online flight
simulators, Warbirds has its own unique flavor and style, and a flight
model that is every bit as good as any on the market. Recent
improvements in the game, in beta testing now, will result in a new
version being released soon (it may already be out). One of the
strengths of Warbirds is that the developers really seem to listen to
the players and incorporate their suggestions into the game, where
feasible.  Thus, the game tends to evolve and improve over time, one
of the tests of a true MMG.

 

Honorable Mention

Rolemaster: Magestorm by Mythic Entertainment

This one gets an honorable mention, in part, for exactly the opposite
reason this same company won in the role-playing category: The
graphics are absolutely incredible. Magestorm is a fantasy shooter
that features no hand-to-hand combat; all fighting is done by magic
spells. Players select to build a character in one of three
disciplines, each with it's own advantages and disadvantages, then
side up in three teams for a free-for-all, with 40 to 60 players to an
arena. The purpose of the fight is to destroy the Shrines of the other
two sides; along the way, wading pools that increase the magical power
of a side can be turned by standing in them long enough. The more
pools turned to your side, the quicker your side's ability to cast
spells regenerates. Naturally, a lot of combat takes place around
these pools.

The interface is beautiful and intuitive, the offensive and defensive
spell effects incredible without detracting from or slowing game play
and the pace fast and furious without being overwhelming. The game is
also flexible enough to allow for some interesting strategy and
tactics, as teammates form 'hit squads' by abilities and rush to turn
pools, blast Shrines or hunt down the opposition and prevent them from
doing the same.

This is a far more satisfying experience than Quake or Duke Nuke'm 3D,
although the game does begin to wear a bit thin after a while. If
Mythic would add more persistent world aspects to the game, this one
would be in the running for both Best Massively Multiplayer Game: 1st
Person Simulation and Best Massively Multiplayer Game: Role-Playing.

Best Retail CD-ROM Hybrid

This is a very tough category, simply because so many computer games
now have the ability simulate 2 to 8 player LAN play online in some
fashion, and because they are generally stuck in two categories,
Real-Time Strategy and 3D Action 'Shooters.' There are only so many
ways to present each of those styles, so companies spend a lot of time
imitating each other. This makes it difficult to choose from among the
pack, and also means that most Hybrids don't last very long, as the
next slough of them is always in the publishing queue.

Rather than pick one overall winner, I'm going to mention three
currently available Hybrids, simply because each is just darn fun to
play, which is the real test of a Hybrid. I don't think you can go
wrong purchasing and playing online the following:

 

Age Of Empires by Ensemble Studios

Command and Conquer by Westwood Studios

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II by LucasArts

 

Best Classic Game

Chess by Yahoo! Games

This is a Java version of classic chess (meaning anyone can play with
no plug-in required), incorporating the US Chess Federation ranking
system into a very intuitive, easy-to-use interface. You can watch
others play, set up ranked or unranked games or join in on a table
someone else has started. It's also easy to invite someone to play,
using the paging feature that Yahoo! has provided.

Overall, a darn good job technically, and it's a lot of fun to sit
around and kibitz with others while playing or watching.  If you like
Chess, either ranked or just to play and learn, this is the place to
be; there always seem to be between 350 and 600 players in the game.

 

Best Game In Beta Test

ULTRACORPS by VR-1

Strategy games have always been a favorite of mine, especially those
set in a science fiction universe.  The crew at VR-1 have come up with
a doozy.  ULTRACORPS has all the elements of a good turn-based game,
including being fairly easy to learn to use and fairly difficult to
master.  As stated in a VR-1 press release, "UltraCorps is a
browser-based online game that pits thousands of players against each
other in a battle for domination of the universe. Users do not need to
download or install any software to play. During each turn (or cycle),
players choose from a number of actions to perform, such as developing
new technologies and weapons, dispatching fleets to conquer and
colonize other planets, and turning their resources into the materials
needed to expand and defend their growing empires. At the end of each
24-hour cycle, the UltraCorps server calculates the outcome of each
player's actions and displays the results on the player's computer."
That's pretty dry text, but it gives you an idea of the game.

One of the more impressive features of this game is the development
team; they listen to the testers and have no fear of incorporating
ideas and comments from them.  That's pretty unusual in this industry,
where ego and the Not Invented Here! syndrome rules.  The game is
currently in final testing on Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone.  If
Zone executives don't get stupid and price it out of the reach of the
average consumer - it will be a Zone premium product and even I would
have a hard time justifying paying the Zone's daily or monthly flat
rates for the game-, ULTRACORPS might end up being the sleeper
multiplayer game of the year.

Best Online Games Information Web Site

The Multiplayer Online Games Directory

Dave Frankson, Producer

If you want to find out what multiplayer games are available for play
on the Net, in development or in various stages of Alpha and Beta
testing, this is the site to see. MPOG lists everything from the
various 2-8 player CD ROM Hybrids from the publishers to all the
independent "garage inventor" efforts that will probably never see the
light of day, all carefully listed in various categories such as
Action, Simulation and even Virtual Worlds. The site also recently
added IRC style Chat and message boards, and an "Editorial" section in
which issues such as Player Killing in MMGs is discussed by
player/writers.

Not as slick as professional news sites such as GameSpot or Next
Generation (typos are everywhere and the grammar in the editorials is
worse than mine), it has a charm all its own and is as close to a
comprehensive list of 2 player+ games as you'll find on the Web. And
you won't find this a site loaded down with rewritten press releases
disguised as "news." The information here is, first and foremost,
written by online game players for online game players.

 

Lifetime Achievement

Bill Louden

Without Bill Louden, it is unlikely that the multiplayer online games
market would have taken off when it did. Through his auspices as an
executive at CompuServe in the early 1980s and later as Co-Founder and
General Manager of GEnie for some seven years, most of the pioneers
got their start, including Kesmai, Simutronics and Mythic
Entertainment. I worked for Bill as Games Product Manager at GEnie,
and the leeway he gave me to find and fund online games made all the
difference. Games that he gave me the OK to put on GEnie in 1989, 1990
and 1991 still exist, including Harpoon, Dragon's Gate, Gemstone III
(a major upgrade from GS II, including using the rules set from ICE's
RoleMaster series), NTN's Trivia and QB1 football game, and
Multiplayer BattleTech. He approved Air Warrior, the groundbreaking
graphic MMG, to go on GEnie in 1986.

By giving the pioneers a break and letting them experiment, Bill
helped push the development of MMGs and all online games far faster
than would otherwise have been the case. All in all, there are few
people who have had as much of an impact on the industry as Bill
Louden. Salute'.

 

The Modem Mutant Awards

The Hole In The Wire Award

Meridian 59 by The 3DO Company

This one could be so good, it has such potential... if it were just
managed correctly. Meridian 59 has a great little interface, an
interesting world and they do try to refresh the game regularly. They
really do try.

But the volunteer and in-house employee Sysops - called Guides and
Guardians, respectively - and the phone customer service
representatives are so ill-trained and managed, so lacking in common
sense, its no wonder the game is stuck at somewhere between about
10,000 and 15,000 subscribers (by my personal estimate). There is
absolutely no reason Meridian 59 shouldn't have 50,000 or more
subscribers, except for the lack of good customer care. The rest are
churning out through the holes in the wire and going
elsewhere... where, to 3DO's credit, things are as bad or worse, for
the most part.

There has been recent improvement, and more players are satisfied with
the Guides and Guardians, but this one still has a long way to go.

 

The FUBAR Award

Ultima Online by Origin Systems

This one should have been it, the MMG. It had all the advantages:
Incredible brand presence, the power, money, prestige and resources of
a large game publisher and inventive, creative people on the
development team.

How, then, did Ultima Online become the FUBAR of the decade? Simple:
Hubris and arrogance. Origin refused to listen to the many voices of
experience and depend on their enviable track record in computer games
to carry them through. Unfortunately, the problems and bugs you'll
find in an MMG are far different than what you'll find in a solo play
computer game. I'm sure they thought they knew that, but until you've
developed at least one MMG, you can't truly appreciate it. I'll bet
they do now.

They also failed to truly realize that UO is not just a product, it is
also a service. The operative phrase here is "to serve;" blaming
problems on ISPs and those darn cheaters doesn't accomplish that
end. Again, I'm sure they know that now, but it could take months or
years for the game to recover.

 

The Honor System... Not Award

Diablo by Blizzard Entertainment

When considering the ideals behind the phrase "Honor System," the last
game that comes to mind is Diablo. One expects some cheating and
hacking in the online world; this is why online game developers have
for years been keeping critical game information on internal servers
and not in the front-end graphics package, so one hacker can't disrupt
the game by creating super characters and weapons at will. Blizzard
initially neglected to provide server checking, however, or provide
even minimal checking in the front end of this game. After all, this
was a shelf product, right? The LAN and Internet modules are just a
little added value, right?

This made the game vulnerable to hackers, and hack they did. The
cheating began almost as soon as Diablo was available on battle.net,
and the hackers were more than happy to provide the cheats to anyone
who wanted one. A large fraction of Diablo players did, apparently.

Diablo showed, once again, that there are a lot of people who will do
anything to win against other humans, especially when your opponents
can't reach through the telephone lines and punch you in the nose. For
a while, it was seemingly impossible to get into a cheater-free Diablo
game on the Net; it seemed as if even a 2-player game had an even
chance of one player using a hacked version. The situation stank so
badly that even the gaming press commented on it, at length.

We can only hope the rest of the industry learned the lesson. We can
be certain Blizzard did; the most painful lessons make the most
impact.

The "Numbers Is A Game, Too!" Award

The Internet Gaming Zone by Microsoft

There is nothing more useless - or deceptive - than a free gaming
system announcing the number of registered users in its database. The
Zone is a good example; they claim over 1 million registered
users. While great for a sound byte, that number is also
meaningless. What they don't announce, and what is far more important
to know, is how many of those accounts are duplicates, the average
session time per account and the total number of active accounts. For
example, I have three registered Zone accounts myself, use only one of
them, log in every other day or so, yet still spend less than a five
hours a week total at the site.

A more cogent statistic for potential advertisers and developers is
the number of simultaneous accounts logged in.  Personally, I've never
seen more than about 7.200 on the Zone at peak, and it seems to
average about 2,000 in off-peak hours. By my experience, on a free or
low cost, all-you-can-eat game site, anywhere from 5% (off peak hours)
to 40% of your total subscriber base (peak hours, although I can point
only to Ultima Online for the high end of this, as they once claimed
peak usage of 20,000 from a 50-60,000 subscriber base) will be logged
in at any one time.  Under those guidelines, the Zone has anywhere
from 16,000 to 100,000 active subscribers.

But who would announce 100,000 subscribers when you can trot out the
magic 1 million number? This is just another example of useless hype
that hurts the industry in the long run by falsely raising
expectations among the public, investors and advertisers. The Zone
isn't alone in this regard; most everyone else is doing it, too. The
Zone just has the distinction of claiming the highest numbers.

 

NOTE On The Awards: Because I am currently serving as an expert
witness in the Kesmai vs. AOL action in Federal court, I felt
compelled not to consider products directly developed by either Kesmai
Studios or WorldPlay, AOL's wholly owned game aggregator, for these
awards. In all fairness, if I had considered them, at least one of the
awards above would have gone to a different game.

I urge the reader to try the games developed by both and form your own
opinion. WorldPlay games can be found on AOL at keyword "worldplay"
and on the Web at www.worldplay.com. Kesmai Studios games can be found
on AOL at keywords "gamestorm" and "kesmai" and on the Web at
www.gamestorm.com.

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URL:http://www.gamergals.com/jess/4_1.htm

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Volume 1, Number 4

April, 1998

Reinventing The Online Wheel

It saddens me to see reporters writing about how "new," what a "grand
experiment" Ultima Online is, how no one has ever done a game like
this before. The hyperbole tossed at this one product has been
incredible.

I shouldn't be surprised; most of the so-called journalists covering
online games have exactly zero experience in the industry and still
confuse CD-ROM Hybrids like Quake and Command and Conquer with online
games. Even the ones who write with confidence, as if they knew what
they were talking about, are pretty much pumping smoke like
crazy. Developers of other massively multiplayer games (MMGs) must
cringe to read the stories generated by these people. Its rather how
an actor must feel, reading a flaming review of his/her performance by
a reviewer who never acted, yet feels qualified to render an 'expert'
opinion.

Of course, EA/Origin has a vested interest in promoting that view and
works diligently to do it. In a letter dated April 15, by Electronics
Arts senior vice president and general counsel Ruth A. Kennedy to
George Schultz, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit against
UO, is the line, "Ultima Online is a revolutionary product. The sheer
size and complexity of the game alone is unmatched in the industry."

This is, of course, pure hogwash. The only thing "revolutionary" about
UO as a massively multiplayer game is the amount of money and people
thrown at the art and the graphic interface. Most everything else
about the game - the size of the world, the features, the persistent
world, most of the character classes, et al - can either be found in
role-playing MMGs that have been around for years, or was tried and
discarded years ago. Heck, the first true commercial MMGs went online
some fourteen years ago and just about everything you can think of to
try in such a game has been tried. In fact, ask any experienced MMG
developer what matters more: size of the world or quality of the
world? Sheer size has been tried, and it didn't work as well as making
certain that the quality of the gaming experience for each player was
good. You do need a certain amount of physical game space for players
to move around in, but that isn't as important as making sure there is
something fun and interesting to do.

The EA letter goes on to state, "This [suit] can only reduce the
amount of efforts that will be spent on producing the games that the
putative class members see in the future. Indeed, your proposed 'class
action' will serve only to divert tens of thousands of dollars and a
huge amount of company time to legal fees and litigation matters -
time which could be better spent providing further maintenance and
enhancements to the game."

Any merits of the suit aside, computer game publishers have gotten
away with murder for years. This is an industry where it is the
practice to ship product with known bugs and patch them later on. You
can't even change publishers for better quality, because everyone does
it.  It is more important, apparently, to get the product on the shelf
to keep the cash flow stable; we'll just fix those pesky bug things
later. For all of EA/Origins' protestations, it can be said with
relative certainty that they made the game available and shipped the
retail package to the shelf with the knowledge that bugs existed. They
always exist; its generally accepted practice among publishers to ship
with bugs. The only questions are how serious were they and were/are
they fixable?

For them to now protest that they shouldn't be held accountable is,
well... interesting. Look, I have no doubt Origin tried like heck to
fix everything they could before the ship date. Unfortunately, errors
and design flaws in MMGs have a far more immediate and lasting impact
on the player, and tend to be more widely publicized. My question is,
was there a company mandate to ship the product, regardless of the
state of bug fixes, to catch as much of the Christmas '97 sales season
as possible? (And don't you just love the veiled threat that legal
action just might/maybe/perhaps cause them to cut back on support and
maintenance of the game?)

Origin's greatest success with UO has been to convince the general
gaming press that something new and innovative has been done, instead
of just another reinvention of the wheel. Of course, PR is one thing
and execution is another. UO's technical and customer service problems
are well-known; no need to beat that dead horse here, except to say:
If you're going to reinvent the wheel, the least you can do is make
sure the darn thing will roll before you start selling it.

This applies to every game publisher trying to leverage company
expertise in computer games into the online games arena. If Origin,
3DO, Microsoft, et al, wish to succeed in this industry, all they have
to do is gain a sense - some scope, if you will - of the history of
MMGs, understand that its a completely different market than standard
computer games and that you have to do some things differently. Nearly
every problem UO and 3DO's Meridian 59 have experienced were also
experienced by the pioneer games of the industry. Gold bugs, server
crashes erasing characters, latency causing character deaths, players
finding ways to duplicate items... these have all been seen in years
past in similar games, such as Islands of Kesmai, Dragon's Gate,
Gemstone III and Kingdom of Drakkar.  They are common problems with
common fixes. If the people in charge at Origin and 3DO had done some
basic research, such as talking to or even hiring (and listening to!) 
people with real-world experience in designing, developing and
managing MMGs, many of the well-publicized problems could have been
avoided.

The first moral of this story is: Expertise in one industry does not
automatically translate into success in another industry.

The second moral is: An online game isn't just a product, it is also a
service.

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URL:http://www.gamergals.com/jess/bth2-3.htm

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The Computer Game Developer's Conference: And Speaking Of Arrogance...

My first attendance at the Computer Game Developer's Conference (CGDC)
was in 1989, at Con #3. It was the first not held in Chris Crawford's
living room and a whopping 100 some-odd designers, producers and
wannabes attended; I was one of three from the online industry. It was
a heady atmosphere, with a completely free exchange of information and
advice among professionals. The speakers and roundtable leaders all
had good track records in the industry and the talk was frank,
sometimes brutal, and intended to improve the quality of computer
games at all companies.

It just kept getting better. Every attempt was made to follow
Crawford's original dictum and keep the price under $250. I spoke or
served on panels at CGDC for the next five years and more and more
people showed up to listen. Everyone was jazzed about doing online
content. Along about 1994, the Con exploded, rising from about 600
attendees to over 2,000 in one year. We were all in Nirvana.

Unfortunately, in 1994 the CGDC also became politicized. Chris
Crawford founded the CGDC as an organization dedicated to serving the
`little guys' in the industry. As more and more people attended and
more money accumulated each year in the CGDC bank account, some board
members got greedy and forgot they agreed to serve without
compensation. They started paying themselves. Pretty well, too: I was
told by an insider they voted themselves $12,000 each after the 1994
CGDC, over Crawford's vehement objections. Not bad for a couple months
work.

Then came the scandalous episode in which the Board waited for
Crawford to leave town on business, called a special and highly
unusual Board meeting and kicked him out of the organization he
created. They also stripped him of his stock. While a settlement was
eventually reached and Chris, always the gentleman, departed with
grace and honor, the incident left a bad taste in the mouths of many
in the industry. The arrogance of the Board members was nettling, to
say the least, and we all started to wonder what kind of monster had
been created.

Then came the sellout to Miller-Freeman.

I'm not going to delve into that whole sorry mess here. Simply, the
Board `allowed' themselves to be paid good money to sell off the CGDC
to become a money-making enterprise. It didn't help that the Board
members and Miller-Freeman agreed to a non-disclosure clause in the
contract that allowed/required the Board to not discuss what they were
paid for the shares. The whole thing was one of the most shameful
episodes in our young industry.

Before we could even pull the knives out of our backs, the price of
attending the Con had risen almost 300%, to over $600. It has now
risen from about $250 for everything to $1,195 for everything (unless
you pay at the door, then it's $1,495).

One of the reasons given for the dramatic price rise in attendance
fees was to allow Miller-Freeman (and I don't even know if I'm
spelling it right; I couldn't find their name anywhere on the CGDC Web
site) to expand the `quality and quantity' of the seminars,
roundtables and panels.

This last weekend, I hit the CGDC Web site to peruse the schedule of
`classes' and roundtables to be offered this year (and whose brilliant
idea was it to rename the seminars to `classes' and the presenters to
`instructors?'). After less than ten minutes, I ran screaming from my
computer, brains slowly oozing from one ear. I could go on for pages,
but will limit myself to this:

The titles of the classes and roundtables look good. They are
certainly intended to cover subjects of import and interest to the
community. But they are being `taught,' by and large, by people with
no business giving advice to anyone on these subjects.  People with no
experience in designing, developing, producing or managing computer
and/or online games are `teaching classes' in... you guessed it,
designing, developing, producing or managing computer and/or online
games. My immediate thought, directly after reading the descriptions
and bios of the `instructors' of the first five `classes' that might
be of interest to me, was "Who did these `instructors' pay off?"

Believe me, someone needs to be checking this out. Somehow, the
wannabes have managed to create an alternate universe where they are
to instruct the people who actually made this industry. In the case of
online games, I've been designing, developing, producing or managing
them for twelve years. People I know have never been involved in an
online game, in any capacity, are `instructors' in online
game-specific classes. For the privilege of standing in line, probably
not being able to get a seat - last year, attendees quickly learned
that to get in to a seminar, you had to start lining up 45 minutes
ahead of time; quality, it would seem, doesn't include scheduling a
large enough space - for this, I get to listen to `instructors' with
no real-world experience in the subject they are "teaching?" For this,
I'm expected to shell out over $1,000?

There is a Board of Advisors to the CGDC. The members of the BoA are,
on the whole, people with enough experience in the industry to weed
out the fakers from the makers. I know several of the Board and one of
them told me that these were the best of the speaking proposals they
received. They received the usual spate of self-serving, "please give
us free advertising" type proposals, which is only to be expected, and
actually accepted one or two of them. One of the proposals was for a
class in Spiritual Programming. No, really; I'm not making this up. I
suppose we'd all gather around a Ouiji board and contact dead
programmers. Or, if this is the best that the CGDC can attract in the
way of speakers, wait a couple years and the industry will be able to
speak with the dead programmers directly.

That Board person was a tad despondent about the whole thing.

Last November, as the deadline for proposals to speak at CGDC was
nearing, I seriously considered proposing a seminar. I've spoken at
the CGDC several times over the years and I usually enjoy it. However,
I was up to my ears in contracts, last years' DevCon was a farce of
over-crowding and April already looked to be booked up and I wasn't
sure I'd even be able to attend, so I passed it up. Now, I'm glad I
passed. This is going to sound harsh, cruel and arrogant, but I would
be embarrassed to be associated with most of the CGDC's online
speakers this year. Not people like Dani Berry and Eric Goldberg; they
generally know what they are talking about and, more importantly, are
honest enough to tell you when they don't know something.

But I promised to shoot straight in this column so, at the risk of
offending lots of well-meaning and probably very nice people: The CGDC
speaker line-up for the 1997 Con sucks on ice. If this is the best we
can do, at the premier computer game developer's convention, we're
sunk as an industry.

Quality in Miller-Freeman's universe, it would seem, streams from quantity, a sort of "Have lots of tracks; it doesn't matter who
is speaking because everyone's there to schmooze, anyway" theory of conventions. Of course, this ignores the old Garbage In,
Garbage Out adage. I pity the poor fools who actually attend some of these `classes.' Their Garbage In quotients will be full to
overflowing. If we can't count on quality speakers, why are we all spending the exorbitant sums Miller-Freeman demands for this
conference? Maybe it's time for a little competition to the CGDC; at the very least, that would make them sit up and take
notice.

When it comes to the CGDC, the only thing you can count on is the last
two lines of promotion text on their main Web page at
www.cdgc.com. They were talking about attendance, but the text is oh,
so appropriate. Those two lines are:

"Registration fees go up with each passing minute."

and...

"And the CGDC will sell out!"

 

UPDATE: December, 1997

At the MPG 97 conference in San Francisco last September, where I
hosted a seminar and sat on a panel concerning the future of online
games, a very nice person associated with the CGDC approached me
during a break and asked if I wanted to speak at the 1998 conference
in Long Beach, CA. To be perfectly fair, I asked her if she'd read
this column. She hadn't, so I directed her to the URL and told her
that, after reading this, if she still wanted me to speak, I'd be
happy to oblige.

For some strange reason, I haven't heard from her. Go figure.

--<cut>--

--
J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...




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