Sunday, February 1, 2009

Is Mark Jacobs the Devil?

Much of the MMO blogosphere has been put off by the recent announcement that WAR is getting two new "free" classes in the next major update. The issue seems to be not so much with the message, but how it was delivered. Mark Jacobs, in typical MJ style, has been tooting his horn pretty hard. He's even bragging that WAR is the first sub based MMO in history to add new classes for free post launch. Regardless of whether MJ is fudging the truth, I find the reaction of some commentators to be a bit silly for several reasons.

1. What happens in closed beta stays in closed beta.
Some that have been following the game for a long time feel that the new classes, Slayer and Choppa, don't count as "new" because they were pulled during the closed beta. That is just silly. Stuff changes during development all the time. If something that had to be abandoned during development gets polished up and added post launch, it's still new post launch content. For example, the Shores of Evindim zone was actually in development pre-LoTRO launch, but no-one got their panties in a wad when Turbine called it free new content. In fact, the lack of the zone left a big hole in the solo options for that level range in launch LoTRO. Yet somehow Turbine is a hero and Mythic is the devil for adding items their game desperately needs post launch.

2. No-one cares if WAR is "really" the first sub based MMO to add new classes post launch for free.
Ok, yeah. CoH has added tons of power sets, and even a few archetypes over the years. EQOA added lycanthrope, were-hunter, and recently vampire subclasses to the game all 100% for free. I'm sure I could think of others. But that's not really the point. John Q. Public neither knows nor cares whether other MMOs have added classes for free. And MJ is reaching out to JQP with these announcements, not grizzled MMO vets. We are such a small portion of the market that we may as well not exist. Sad but true.

3. The real deal.
The lead developer of an MMO is in some ways a politician for their game. The purpose of any major announcement is to build some positive hype for a game in the gaming press. The more overblown the announcement, the more likely that it will get noticed. In the case of MJ's statements, they did just what they were supposed to do.

Is Mark Jacobs being a bit weasily? Sure. But is he a giant screaming hypocrite that puts every other MMO developer to shame? Not by a mile. When it comes to interactions with the community, lead devs are politicians first and foremost. Particularly in sucessful MMOs.

Don't get pissed at a duck every time it quacks.

Edit: for clarity let me reiterate....

PR is not the same thing as journalism (much less scholarship). When MJ opens his mouth and speaks to the public, it is mostly as a PR guy. It seems that some commentators were expecting something different, which I find boggling. Anyone that takes the word of someone speaking for a multi-million dollar MMO at face value is pretty naive.

Should we accept that? Who can say. However, that is a different debate, focused on deeper issues than whether MJ is The Devil. An inane semantic debate over whether the new classes in WAR are "really new" or not and whether WAR is "really the first" PtP MMO to offer free new classes does nothing to advance that discussion.

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