Sunday, 27 March 2016

[GW2] Why Mo's Announcement Takes Gumption, But ArenaNet needs to Pull its Bloody Socks Up

Having to announce the cutting of future content is never going to be easy. Particularly when you are announcing the cutting of said feature in the middle of a somewhat lengthy content drought, and particularly when that content was one of the features upon which you sold your recent expansion pack.

So needless to say that Friday's announcement by Mike O'Brien (ArenaNet President) that work on new legendary weapons would be suspended "indefinitely" was met with nuclear-level meltdown on the subreddit and associated forums and social media. 

The grievances with this announcement are many, some more legitimate than others - but I think they are covered very well with the countless posts on the reddit and forums. As a result I don't really want to cover them here, instead I want to talk about a very important element of this announcement which seems to have garnered little coverage since Friday night. 

What kind of environment are ArenaNet producing content in where a team of six developers can go a whole half a year and only produce one workable legendary weapon?

Now, I've found that the gut response to this question has often been: 

"Well legendary weapons take a lot of work, Will, you've got the collections and NPCs and quests and items and then you've got to produce the artwork, model, textures, animations and sounds for the weapons themselves. Its a lot of hard work!"

My response to this argument is as follows: no fucking shit.

So your work is hard? Welcome to the wonderful world of employment, buddy. Game developers are not alone in having to complete complex pieces of work to demanding deadlines. But what the above arguement really implies is that the job is too hard to complete in the time given. 

If your job is too hard to complete before the proposed deadline then you have to do something about it - not get six months down the line and when results are expected simply responding "it was toooo haaaarrrddd :( :( :("  Because that kind of shit will get you fired (or else moved onto another team) work being hard is not an excuse for not getting it done.

If you are not able to deliver because the work is too hard to complete in the allotted time frame then there has either been a serious misalignment of resources by management in the first place, significant time management issues within the team or else some unforeseen complication which has delayed development. And if any one of these are the case - then you need to highlight that to the people in the hierarchy who can make the changes so you can get the job done. 

Lots of people have hard jobs; they produce work in restricted time frames and to demanding deadlines. That's the world of work. Saying "its hard" is not an excuse for not delivering.

I respect Mike O'Briens gumption when it comes to this change. It's a real shit show, and it feels like he's made the tough decision and he knows we'll hate him and the team for it.
Strictly speaking I don't have an issue with them axing the legendary weapons. I think it sucks, but like - wtf are they supposed to do if they aren't finished? They can't release them now. And if the team working on them was allowed to continue on their current path then we might not get the full set for another two years or so.
No, I have an issue with them allowing it to get to this point at all; I don't know how a properly managed team can work for 9 months and produce so little end product - that's more worrying than anything else. I think that's what Mo means when he says "spread too thin", teams must have been working where they were either poorly monitored, poorly motivated or else severely under resourced and so we get to a point where they can only produce 10% of the content we were promised.
Are these same thinly spread resources the reason why a steaming turd of a WvW map was allow to eek out into the game? Or why the fractals update was so off the mark (and why we still have so few new fractals)? Is it why they had to discontinue any support for dungeons? If so then how long have they been working like this - and which of the coming updates can we expect to be below par or unfinished because for the past several years the team has been spread too thin?
Anyway, because of this royal fuck-up, he's had to come out and put his hands up and say "I'm sorry guys this is going to fucking suck, but here's whats going to happen". And I respect that, even if I don't like it.
He's absolutely 100% spot on when he says we will judge when the April update rolls around. They better fucking knock it out the park.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

[FIFA] How FIFA reconnected me with my Dad

This morning I noticed a thread on the r/Soccer subreddit from a football fan living in Atlanta, he wanted to know how he might introduce the sport to friends and family when they haven't grown up with it.
I expected responses such as "go to local games", "get to know the players", "watch other leagues like the Premier League". But the top comment, by a long way, is "Play FIFA", and its not an aberration: "Play FIFA" is a comment which comes up at least 7 times in the top comments, sometimes accompanied by "play Football Manager".

I was astounded, because that is exactly how I got into football. But I didn't realise it was such a comment route.

In Britain, whilst you don't HAVE to like football, you are locked out of a lot of "blokey" conversations if you don't know anything about it. It's parodied in those IT Crowd sketch(es):

(Incidently, Arsenal DO always try to walk it in)

My dad has always had a season ticket to Leicester City, even when they were down in the lower divisions. My cousins have always been into football, my fiance's family and my coworkers all fluent in football banter. I was always a little behind. I'd watch England matches in European or World Cups, and I'd occasionally put a Champions League match on in the background if there wasn't anything else on - but I wasn't really interested.

Then one day I went to my cousins birthday party - I think he might have been 21 or something - and he and his friends were playing FIFA. I gave it a go and though I was terrible I enjoyed it.

First off, this is the weird thing about football in Britain. People who don't like football simply won't play FIFA - but there is no reason why you couldn't enjoy the experience of the game, what people tend to not like is the ethos around the game, the arrogance of the players, the way they are such arseholes but get paid so much money, the general inanity of the football-talk which surrounds the whole idea of football. But that doesn't mean you couldn't enjoy the experience of moving a player around a pitch and the challenge of putting the ball into the net - that's no different from shooting a player in CoD, or farming loot in Diablo 3. Its all just gameplay. Just look at the popularity of Rocket League amongst non-football types and you'll see what I mean.

Anyway, I decided to take a pop and when the next FIFA game came out I bought it. I still wasn't interested in football, but I enjoyed the game. Then I tried Ultimate Team - where you buy cards which represent players, and then build your team around those cards. Sometimes a player will perform well in real life, and that week EA will make an "In Form" card for that player - it will be a card with boosted stats. Suddenly I had some link to the real world of football - I was interested who might be getting an in-form card this week, so I started watching football and from then I was hooked.

I remember about a year ago I was talking with my family and my cousin said "This is weird, Will is saying things about football". I'd made it - I was a bloke. At one point I was noticeable football-illiterate, but now I had the patter, I could talk the talk - I knew that Arsenal do indeed always try to walk it in, I knew that Theo Walcott may (at the time of the sketch) have been better as a "super-sub" due to his pace, so Wenger putting him on early might be a mistake, and I would know which displays each week were, or indeed were not, ludicrous.

So thanks to FIFA I had this whole new connection to my dad. Its not like we were ever unconnected, but now I could go to games with him and we could sit together to watch matches and I'd actually know what was going on. I could talk to him about something he is passionate about, and that is priceless. I think that perhaps now I can even be a little bit insufferable about football, because I read the r/Soccer subreddit and try to keep up with all the gossip and transfers. It was inevitable that I'd get a bit nerdy about it really!

Either way, I've bought every FIFA game since '10 and, despite all of the games' flaws, I can't see myself stopping any time soon. I'm happy to play because it has given me a new thing to be passionate about, to talk to people about and to bond with my family about, and despite it being owned by the almost comic-book villainous entity that is EA, I still find myself loving regardless.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

[GW2] A Bigger Box - a Guild Wars 2 Analogy

I've spent this morning arguing with people about why I think Guild Wars 2 needs more skills for its primary professions. On the Reddit, at least, I think most people misunderstood my arguement. So I've got a little analogy to explain it.

Imagine I have a toybox. This toybox can hold 20 multicoloured building blocks, no more. Every day I take my building blocks out of the box and build a house, or a car, or a space ship.

It doesn't take too long till I've used every block in every workable combination. The blocks are interesting enough, but they are played out and I could do with some more.

Then a guy comes along and tries to solve my problem. He takes my box and takes out all the blocks, he repaints them, and buffs them up so that they are shiny. He hands me back my box of blocks.

This doesn't solve my problem. Even though they look different, I am still choosing from the same number of blocks and the number of things I can build has not changed. I want more choice, so I can make different structures - not just houses, cars and spaceships, but giraffes, skyscrapers and mobile anti-aircraft units. 

So the guy goes away, determined to solve my problem. After a while he comes back with another box entirely. This box has a whole new set of 20 multicoloured building blocks in. He takes my box away and places his new box, exactly the same size, containing the same number of blocks, in front of me. He says that I can use either box I want, but not both. If I want to switch between the boxes then I have to put all my blocks away in his box and ask for the other one.

Again, its not long before I've used every block in every combination in the new box. I don't want to go back to the old box, because that is played out as well.

What the guy doesn't realise is that I don't have a problem with the blocks. I have a problem with the box.

What I need is a bigger box with more blocks in it. Then I could build more houses, skyscrapers, hotels, mansions, maisonettes, bungalows, wig-wams or yurts than I could shake a stick at. Each time I got more blocks the number of interesting and exciting things I could build would increase exponentially - I could combine new blocks with old ones and put an anti-aircraft cannon on the top of my house, or giraffe, if I were that way inclined.

ps. My arguement has not been helped by the fact that I totally overlooked the addition of those new healing skills from 2013 in my original arguement. Yes, they do count as new skills, but seeing as most builds are built around the utilities, rather than the heal, they are not very impactful - hence why I forgot them.


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