…because of wow, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail.
-Rob Pardo, MMOs Past, Present, and Future Panel at GDC 2007
Back in early March of 2007 I wandered up to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. I grabbed an expo pass to go up and meet up with Brent from VirginWorlds and a couple of other people, as well as scouting around to see what I could see on the expo floor.
It wasn’t a great expedition on my part. I was coming down with a cold or something. I spoke to a few people, but did not hang around very long. It wasn’t a GDC where I hung around to have dinner with anybody.
But on the way out I happened by the booth where they were selling what was essentially a pre-purchase of the audio from various panels. There were a couple of different career tracks that you could order, and one looked particularly interesting, so I put down my credit card and ordered it.
Some time later I received it, ripped it to iTunes, and listed to the whole thing. And then I forgot about it. My iTunes library has more than 7,000 various items in it, so things can get lost.
Last weekend I was running through a list of tracks, looking for something interesting when I came across the audio I ordered for 17 panels on the whatever track it was and started listening to bits of it. There was a panel on Korean MMOs and how they succeed and rant session that really laid open some astounding day one problems with Windows Vista.
And then there was the panel titled MMOs Past, Present, and Future.
Just looking at the list of names on the panel… Raph Koster, Gordon Walton, Mark Jacobs, Rob Pardo, Mark Kern, and Daniel James… and you have to marvel at the breadth of experience and influence thay have had on the MMO world. All that was missing is somebody from SOE to represent EverQuest. And they were there to talk about lessons learned and the future of MMOs at what was something of a transition point in the genre.
Right then, in March 2007, Blizzard had recently launched their first expansion for World of Warcraft and sales were booming. Star Wars Galaxies had launched a few years back and had done well, but had not eclipsed EverQuest, a crime for which it was then was put through the NGE. Vanguard was faltering, but still wasn’t part of SOE yet. The Wii was still a big deal. Lord of the Rings Online had yet to launch and was just in open beta. It was that age of expectation I wrote about the other day in reference to Vanguard, where we were getting a new top dog every few years.
And this group of heavy hitters who all influenced the genre in their own ways, chose to wade in on the subject, leading to some great quotes. The Rob Pardo quote at the top seemed the most prescient, though Daniel James seemed to have a good sense of things as well. There was also a lot of focus on polish, echoing what Rob Pardo said six months before at the Austin Game Conference. (I remembered off the cuff that Brent had transcribed that 8 years back.) And lest you think Rob Pardo was the only one hitting that note, there is this:
I don’t think big media companies will be able to execute their way out of a paper bag. A lot of people will lose their shirt in this space.
Here come the mass media, and they’re shouting, omg we wanna be just like World of Warcraft. Here’s a lot of money, make a great game, but there’s only a handful of people who know how to make it really well. I’m predicting disaster.
Though that one might be a bit mitigated by his statements that there will be another WoW, that an MMO will come along and beat WoW. And that could still happen, but I get the sense that Mark had a shorter time frame in mind. At least he said that he didn’t think Warhamer Online would be the game that beat WoW. And there was Gordon Walton on the panel, listening to all of this, who then went off to Star Wars: The Old Republic which at one point EA said was going to hit 11 million subscriptions. a clear “beat WoW” number financed by a dump truck of money. SWTOR has been a success in the long term, just not by any metric EA chose in advance.
All and all it was a good panel to listen to, both back then and seven years down the road. But how to share it with people?
If you are a GDC member, which costs a hefty $500 a year, you can find it in the GDC Vault. There are some free sessions available, but this one is a members only selection.
So I dug around for transcripts, and found a pretty good one over at Wonderland Blog, which covers most of the key quotes. It is missing some of the intro and clips Raph’s quote about how people keep just remaking Diku MUD and Lambda MOO, but most of the meat is there.