Manifold Mischief

Mission reviews, essays, and documents of record regarding The Matrix Online. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sugar Shack 65: MxO: The End, Part One

Recently, I spent several weeks on Syntax grinding merv rep, and then grinding through the 12.X missions three times, and then grinding endlessly for 60 Function Data (60!) for three of the fabulous webbed Blood Noble Blouses. I got all three in one night. I wore one to see how it looked, chilled for a bit, and then logged, feeling fulfilled and wondering what I would set for myself for my next goals. I was thinking of maybe doing the same thing with Zion, perhaps, to get a few of the Zion caps. Or getting a fourth Area K coat. I felt relaxed and fulfilled that night.

Then the next day I read Walrus’s incendiary post. The two-month clock had been engaged on the simulation’s self-destruct. But unlike the architect’s destruction of Zion, there would be no provision for survivors.

How did we get here? We started with such hope, and we will succumb with such loud silence. For me it’s not hard to see where the disease all began. Hold on while I take off my gloves and set aside my rose-colored spectacles.

Bad decisions from the top on down, with ineffective management, starting with the previous owners of MxO, back to Monolith and beyond. The game changed hands several times, and there seems to have been a lack of consistent vision, to say the least. Plus the re-orgs cost time, energy, and brain power. The technology of the game worked well, but there seem to have been serious disjunctions within the game team. As a result, while there are matchless graphics and glorious vistas everywhere, the actual game-play is more of an after-thought. The absolutely inevitable cause-and-effect result of this is that dumpy little games my son used to play, like Runescape, grow and thrive, while our beloved simulation is about to take the big sleep. This goes straight-as-an-arrow back to management. Who was the program manager? The design manager? Pull their jacks, and right now!

And that’s not all. Content design also should have received more attention. The gangs should have had some background. We should have had weapons better than bug-spray for the Corrupted. What qualifications did Chadwick have which merited his being put in charge of our world and our story? And the biggest, baddest decision of _this_ year: Rarebit letting some twerp abuse the administrative console, costing him his job, costing MxO its single developer, and costing us our world. And a big shout out to the addled moron behind “nerfocelot”. May someone do to you what you have done to us all. And then some!

Bad Communications. I’ll start with Walrus. Cheap, short notes, in the size of a text message. combined with screenshots from a one-minute visit to Mara, would have done a lot to make people feel like he gave a damn. Too bad he couldn’t even be bothered making the effort. Back when MxO first went live, the XP system was completely different from beta. Too bad they didn’t feel like telling us. The callous tone of Raijinn’s and Walrus’s recent notes. Thanks for nothing, we can all see how fast you’re trying to wash your hands and be rid of us all!

And anyone who’s tried to read 9mmfu’s Delphic posts will agree that communications has never been one of the qualities associated with the MxO team. In fact, after five years I am still not sure what some of the buffs on my clothes mean. And the awful, vague explanations of what the attributes mean make me wonder if the technical “writing” staff for MxO were not refugees from writing the tax code. Rarebit was usually exceptional in his communications, but paradoxically only started this when nearly no one else was left. A huge team of developers, but only when they were gone was there much communication at all. Yet another example of great leadership.

Weak QA. I don’t mean little things like graphics glitches. I mean stuff like the immediate post-beta problem of people leveling too fast. The management’s response was to dis-reward people for excessive speed. What? Not rewarding efficiency? That makes sense? But the key thing was that they still did not understand how people would play, and completely underestimated the time involved in reaching 50. Another example of this inexplicable ignorance is the time when some of the devs (including Walrus, iirc) came in to PvP the players, and were roundly trashed. It’s a bad space where the players know more about the game than the devs. SOE's miserly disinclination to provide a test server is a priceless (so to speak) example of penny-wise and pound-foolish.

And related to this is bad practices. How is it possible that the game’s management could merge nine servers into three, but cannot merge three into one? Is their documentation that bad? Were they so careless? And the “CSR”s who run amok like Brewko, did little to encourage us. His captious, fractious, and flat-out wrong bannings were so irrational, so misguided, and so whimsical that I was frequently aghast. How could anyone make sense out of such irrational behavior? Was he uninformed that the CS in CSR means Customer Service, and not Congenitally Spiteful? Is there any other business where behavior like this would be tolerated? Anyone who reads the transcripts of his interactions with players (the forceful renaming of the Tetragrammaton is the first that comes to mind, followed closely by the sheer stupidity of the data-mining fiasco) can see that this is a guy who needs training in customer service and power management. Could someone please re-start his meds? This is all the more galling when you compare this “service” with the world-class customer support I’ve seen given to my son by Blizzard on different occasions. So the best practices are out there for good customer service. It’s just that nobody can be bothered applying them for us.

And let’s not forget mean-spiritedness. Sony owns the Matrix IP stuff for gaming, and can’t be bothered making it work, yet perversely refuses to let the customers do anything with it. And Brewko- oh, wait, I already mentioned him.

The community” was one of the reasons people endlessly trotted about when challenged as to why they stayed in the game. Now, looking back, I wonder what they were smoking. Where’s the community? The MxO forums often became such hissing, flaming cesspools of bile that I could hardly stand it. So I mostly posted in my clan’s forums. Where did all the jerks come from? The frothing hysteria from MCDOE? OMG, who took away their pills? The prolonged personal attacks and baiting from Endless? Were they having such problems with insecurity in high school that they had to get it out of their systems by baiting everyone else? And the other hormonal, young teens out there….where will they go be angry now? Think of the children! To be honest, one relief from the end of this game I so love is that I will be spared the incessant whining about how MxO is doomed, and how things used to be so good. When I posted highlights from 2008, it quickly turned into a whine-fest. And when I oh-so-politely and positively asked when we might expect some management communication, the “community” started such a froth-fest that the entire thread was banned. Way to go guys! Guess it’s back to NeoPets for you now. Similarly, the leaks of the LESIG list- what was the point of that, exactly? Punishing those who contribute time and effort for us all, however imperfectly, is supposed to strengthen the community how, exactly? It’s the sort of thoughtless, self-centered destructive behavior you expect from children, not from adults. If this is the community, then maybe it’s time we all gave it a rest.

Naming Names. I have a list of people I have come to despise over the years. But why give them the gratification of being named? And Sattakan has always counseled discretion. Instead, I’ll be naming those I’ll remember fondly, next time.