The Monday Morning Developer Archive

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Monday Morning Developer- The Drugged Edition
Posted Sunday, June 13, 2004 by Bob Roland

Great moments in Monday Morning Quarterbacking. The year is 2004. The place? Buffalo, New York. The wife of the Monday Morning Developer is telling him that their son is sick. “He’s been cranky and he has a rash” she says. The Monday Morning Developer scoffs at this. After all, what is at the heart of Monday Morning Developing? It’s knowing better than the so called “experts.” “Nonsense” we said. “He’s just tired and worn out”. We then proceeded to share our iced tea with the boy. Now the son has a fever and chills and the MMD is pumped up so full of cold medication that he may not finish this article. All hail the Monday Morning Quarterbacks. We know better than anyone else, even when we’re dead wrong.

EA University

Electronic Arts and the University of Central Florida have joined together to offer a game development training course. The MMD is very much in favor of education, and we don’t have too many complaints with course work in computer games being offered. Still, we’re talking Florida here. Here’s a true story. When the MMD was hitchhiking in his younger days he spent some time at a jail in Orlando visiting an acquaintance. Talking to one girl, visiting her 17 year old husband, she related to us the story of how he got caught. One day he decided to rob the convince store right next door to his trailer. The same store he had visited every single day of his life and had even done odd jobs for. The stunning thing was the comment of the girlfriend who said “I don’t know how he got caught. I think his other girlfriend ratted him out.” The MMD was even more impressed by how everyone else who heard the story agreed with the conspiracy theory rather than the obvious fact that he got caught because his victim knew who he was and where he lived.

Our point? Florida is, by far, the dumbest state in the union. Arkansas makes fun of it. Is a sunny gene pool of in-breeding the best place for EA to develop its talent? Well, I guess so if they plan on employing the graduates in their online division.

Dance Jawa, Dance

Star Wars Galaxies posted a Friday Feature on their official boards breaking down what percentage of the player base plays what race. Fairly mundane except for two entries; Gungans and Jawas clocking in at 0% each. The playerbase jumped on this. Are these going to be two new player races in the Jump to Lightspeed expansion? The boards were abuzz. Demand for Jawas has been high for a while, and the urge to kill jive talking gungans seems like darn fine motivation to engage in Player Vs. Player conflict.

Within hours the two races were removed, and a statement issues by community manager Kevin "Q-3PO" O'Hara. “ok, ok, it was a joke. I will not confirm or deny any rumors about the two new species. I'll only say that we have not officially released that info yet. Just seeing if you all are paying attention.” As would be expected, the statement would only fuel more speculation.. The phrase “I will neither confirm nor deny” is taken by most people to mean “yes”. For example, let’s say after a night of debauchery you are confronted by your wife. She asks you if you were sleeping with that crack whore at the bar. What do you expect her reaction to be if you say “I can neither confirm nor deny that allegation”?

Exactly. Frying pan upside the head and your clothing on the front yard.

This, of course, is why developers eventually become reclusive, timid creatures. Jokes are taken too seriously, and cries of “but you promised!” are too often heard from the player base. In the grand scheme of things will this impact a single subscription or harm a single persons enjoyment of the game? I doubt it, but how much do you want to bet the phrase “but you promised us playable jawas” will be uttered within the year? SOE would have been much better off either telling players that the races won't actually be playable or simply ignore the question all together.

Always being the trendsetter, the MMD will jump ahead of the curve and say “we want pre-casting jawa necromancers, bitch!”

From the Mouths of Babes

Having been informed that perhaps Rainbow 6 is not the ideal game for a three year old, the MMD and his son spent the weekend going through old games to play together. “What’s that one Daddy?”. The MMD informed him that it was Jedi Knight 2: Dark Forces, a game we had on the hard drive less than a week. The boy loved the pictures of stormtroopers on the front. “Funny dancing men!”

No, I informed him, very rarely do we see stormtroopers dance.

The MMD soon recalled why he didn’t play this game much the first time around, as he fell to his death trying to solve a jumping puzzle for the fifth time. “I don’t like jumping” said the boy. “Jumping is dumb. I want to boom boom the bad guys”.

Truer words have never been spoken. Developers, take it from a three year old. Jumping puzzles and moving boxes is not why people play a first person shooter. We just want to boom boom bad guys. Is that too much to ask?

Half Life Source Code revealed

As mentioned on our forums, the FBI moved in those who stole the source code for Half Life 2. The gaming community was credited for helping to capture the thieves, earning the gratitude and appreciation of the developer. Well, not too much appreciation. There are limits, you know.

Still, the MMD was curious. With the game this long delayed, how much of a build could there have been in the version swiped nearly a year ago. Well, we obtained a copy and decided to risk violating legal repercussions by reprinting some of it here.

All work and no play make gabe go crazy.
All work and no play make gabe go crazy.
All work and no play make gabe go crazy
All work and no play make gabe go crazy

It’s pretty much just half a million lines of this repeated over and over again along with the phrase “redrum” tossed in periodically.

20 Bucks? Sold.

Pity those who compete against EA Sports. Year after year you watch the title you worked a year on gather dust, while EA executives roll around in big piles of money. You both have games based on the same sport. You both have up to date stats, pretty graphics and involving game play. You even formed a partnership with ESPN. Eat that John Madden! Yet year after year millions of people purchase the new EA game, barely giving yours a look. This year Sega decided to get serious. They tweaked their somewhat disappointing ESPN Football 2005 and are to announce that the 2005 edition will be sold for a mere twenty dollars.

Some have said that this is a surrender, but I think it’s more likely that this is a brilliant strategy. If you can change the buying habit of your consumers then you level the playing field. The MMD knows it will work in our case. This year we’ll be foregoing the yearly Madden fix and we’ll give Sega a shot.

Why Madden Sells So Well

The MMD has been know to be hard on EA from time to time…well, all the time really. Still, there’s one thing that EA does better than anyone else on the planet and that’s sports game. EAs commitment to sports dates back from before there even was an Electronic Arts. EAs founder, Trip Hawkins, was first introduced to computers by doing a simulation of college football games. The first big hit from EA was a one on one game featuring Larry Bird and Dr. J. This was not only the first athlete endorsed game, but one of the first games to stress the details of a sport in it’s game mechanics. Suddenly, small white kids could dunk with the best of them and it was something special. EA took that to heart and they haven’t looked back since.

In the late eighties the computer game industry went into another slump. The factors for this collapse are many, and I’m sure we’ll cover it another day, but many companies didn’t make it. EA did, and their line of sports games were a big reason for it.

Let’s take a look at one of many of EAs sports games and look at why it succeeds when so many other games don’t. The Madden series dates back to 1989. Back then, EA envision a computer game that would have 7 on 7 match ups. They wanted a celebrity endorsement and settled on former player, coach and bumbling idiot John Madden. When they went to Madden, who was at the time slightly less insane than he is today, he told them he wouldn’t put his name on it unless the football was real football and not some video game version of it.

Pay Attention To Details

Madden 2004 captures the small details of football better than the other games. How do players act when the play stops? What’s their body language like? How to officials move on the field? Are the announcers in sync with the action on the field? Does the commentary even make sense? How does the crowd feel and what does the stadium look like? In a thousand little details Madden is able to bring the feeling of a football game to the player than anyone else. EA takes pride in polishing and refining each of those details, making the game better every year.

Keep People Buying

Why would somebody buy Madden 2005 if they had 2004? How do you get your market to pay you sixty dollars at the start of every football season? Obviously, having up to date stats plays a role, but that just makes people buy a football game, and not any particular one. How do you build brand loyalty then? For one thing people buying another year of Madden knows for a fact that the game will be better than it was last year. How many games can you go and buy knowing that this will be the case? Not many and that counts for a lot. Next, Madden makes it easy and desirable to make the upgrade. All your work from last season can carry over. That Quarterback you made 3 years ago can continue his career. The hard fought seasons have meaning because they they’re reflected in your new season. Why would I buy a different football game that doesn’t do that and I can’t be sure of it’s quality?

Be Able To Sell Shit to Bears in the Woods

When it comes to marketing, EA knows its game. Oh, they couldn’t sell an online game if their bottom line depended on it, but good golly do they hype the sports. Turn on your local sports station enough and there the announcers are going through draft picks on Madden. Watch TV and you’ll se people looking at a game simulation with the same level of attention they might pay to training camp. You can’t avoid the marketing and it’s tough to beat that level of brand identification.

There’s More To The Game Than the Game

Here’s something else EA figured out. Football is great, but after winning the superbowl for the fourth time players might become bored with it. By adding in additional features you provide new goals for the players to be striving for. They’ll be playing the game until the next year rolls around. Perhaps it’s for the stadium management mode. Tweaking your prices and managing your expenses gives Madden something it’s competition lacks. The use of “Madden Cards” which players “earn” for achieving milestones is another great staple. Give players as much value out of the game as you can, and find something else to toss in there the next year.

Evolution Not Revolution

Other companies in the sports market have tried to compete. They release their game, watch it slump in the marketplace and then bring on a whole new development team. EA takes a more leisurely approach. This year was fine, next year can be better. Not enough defense in the game? No problem. Next year we’ll focus on it while maintaining the game play from the year before. Keep what works and find new things that are good.

Every developer who makes a sequel should take note of the way EA has grown and evolved its franchise. While in every other genre bad sequels are the norm, EA manages to make its sequels better and better and they do this every god damn year.


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