The last generation of game designers are irrelevant.
There. I said it.
As I drove past the Austin offices of NCSoft today, as I do every day on my way to work, I started thinking about Richard Garriott. That brought my thoughts to Brad McQuaid, then to Raph Koster. These were the last generation of online gaming’s luminaries.
One thing occurred to me as I thought about these “giants” of the MMO industry. Here’s a list of their successful games this year.
No, that isn’t really fair. This millennium;
The list reads like my career Major League Home Run totals. That is to say, zero. OK, what are the prospects? Garriott, who took almost a decade to bring Tabula Rasa to the light of day, is seemingly without a project right at the moment. McQuaid is in seclusion. We haven’t heard a peep from him since last May and the Sigil Parking Lot Debacle. Koster is busy working on a project that is essentially a sandbox for making, um, sandboxes.
In the meantime, the folks at Blizzard have brought us World of Warcraft. Mythic, McQuaid’s former whipping boy, is about to launch a game that many people think will soak up a decent sized base with Warhammer. And even Turbine has produced a very playable and moderately popular game in Lord of the Rings Online. As I asked Brad rhetorically in my post about the Vanguard debacle, “How does it feel to get you shit handed to you by effing Turbine?” (paraphrased)
I’m not saying that we don’t give these guys their due respect. Quite the contrary. Without these three, there wouldn’t have been an Everquest or an Ultima Online. By proxy, there would have been no World of Warcraft or Star Wars Galaxies, either. You could argue that maybe that would have been for the better, but let’s face it, millions of dollars are still being made every day based on those franchises.
So are we to conclude that the skills of the late 90’s don’t translate well into making successful games today? I think that is a safe assumption. Until one of these guys unleashes a blockbuster title again I would say that hiring one of these guys isn’t going to make your game a huge success. I think it’s more likely that they would make it into a fabulous small niche product.
Of course that is just my opinion and I might be wrong.