Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Deledrius » Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:46 pm

Théodore wrote:Then came the "hackers era" with the Fun House around 2011-12 and endless evenings of mixology mayhem and weird stuff.

Apologies, but that's the script-kiddie era. The hacker era that got everything rolling was 2004-2006. If not for that, we may not have gotten MOUL, and definitely wouldn't have MOULa, DI, or any of the current updates, patches, and Fan Ages that the tour is showcasing.

Sirius wrote:It's a bit sad so much of Uru's history is behind it. Also, lots of good people left. Some because of old age, some because of lack of new content, others because of arguments with other people (looking back, Uru's community can be very whiney and short-tempered at times :? )

The worst part of it is that so many of those problems have been fueled again and again by Cyan.
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Théodore » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:47 pm

Deledrius wrote:The hacker era that got everything rolling was 2004-2006. If not for that, we may not have gotten MOUL, and definitely wouldn't have MOULa, DI, or any of the current updates, patches, and Fan Ages that the tour is showcasing.


You seem to be the right guy to demystify something I never quite understood. Is there any time in this rather shaky history of URU where Cyan had a clear understanding where they were heading?

EDIT: I found my answers already. I've been wandering the web and found the Guild of Archivists. I have the whole story from DIRT up to today.

Thx, anyway!
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Korovev » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:04 am

It gets even more complicated :lol:
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Aloys » Thu Feb 27, 2020 4:51 pm

Deledrius wrote:The worst part of it is that so many of those problems have been fueled again and again by Cyan.

They love the community, there's no question here. But Cyan's relationship with both its community and user generated content has often been complicated. One could write a whole book on that topic. But the bottom line is, even when you have the best intentions in the world, and the best ressources in the world, well.. it's just really hard handling a community. Were mistakes made? Definitely. But I've been in the middle of this for close to 20 years now, both as a fan and professionnaly, and i'm in a good position to know that it's just far more difficult than it looks. The topic of User generated content is especially complicated. Especially for a game like Uru with such a precise lore. Cyan just cares a lot about Myst/Uru. It's their creation, and they don't want to lose control of it. They can't just open the flood gates on a universe like that. If they had at some point, maybe the community would be far more active today. That's for sure. I would have loved that. But I can also understand why they didn't do it.
For better or worse, Cyan just wouldn't be Cyan if it had happened differently.
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Théodore » Thu Feb 27, 2020 5:11 pm

Korovev wrote:It gets even more complicated :lol:


Yeah sorry I wasn't sure I could put external links on the board. It is that story I read :)
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Deledrius » Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:44 pm

Théodore wrote:You seem to be the right guy to demystify something I never quite understood. Is there any time in this rather shaky history of URU where Cyan had a clear understanding where they were heading?

I'd be happy to help! Ask away, although truth be told my memory isn't what it used to be, so all of this should be prefaced with "to the best of my recollection". We still have a few other old-timers around here who will hopefully, helpfully correct anything I get wrong. Sadly, much of the early history is gone, as the fora where it took place (both official and unofficial) have long since been wiped from the internet and not all of it was archived. That wiki page you found covers the development of the game, but omits the fan efforts that ran concurrently (because that's a different topic). If you would like to know more, just ask. :)

I can't answer much in the way of what Cyan was thinking, as I've never been in their heads or in their meetings. As the impression from the outside, I think that's a complicated question that even with insider information would be hard to answer. The project has morphed and evolved over the decades, both because of changes in artistic vision, economics, and external business forces. I think Cyan knew what they wanted Uru to be, even if the specifics of that plan changed as it grew.

The real trouble happened whenever they had to curtail things for those external forces. That's where we see most of the could-have-beens peeking through the seams in Uru. There are places where technical limitations shaped things, but from what I have access to I'd wager those were always only a matter of time. The slashing of development by Ubisoft & Gametap were by far the biggest limitations placed on the final product.

Aloys wrote:
Deledrius wrote:The worst part of it is that so many of those problems have been fueled again and again by Cyan.

They love the community, there's no question here. But Cyan's relationship with both its community and user generated content has often been complicated. One could write a whole book on that topic. But the bottom line is, even when you have the best intentions in the world, and the best ressources in the world, well.. it's just really hard handling a community.

I'm not saying it isn't hard. But there were mistakes made, and then there were mistakes made. Promoting toxic members of the community into positions of authority, ignoring complaints, and mishandling other situations multiple times in the same way are things that should have been avoidable. I love the games they make, and I like most of the individuals at the company (I've interacted with a few, and with one exception it's always been positive on that level), but there are some choices they've made which make me shake my head in deep disappointment. It's hard to say those things without sounding ungrateful, because they've done a lot to work with the community and provide us things that are rarely seen in other game companies, but I don't think that glossing over the bad does anyone any good; too often the lack of listening and learning was a large part of the problem. It doesn't mean I'm not constantly grateful for them allowing us (presently) to play with Uru to the extent that they do. They've loosened up the restrictions on modifications, licensed the assets, and of course, open-sourced the engine. That's pretty incredible. I just wish they'd done all those great things without having done the questionable/negative things over the years, many of which had the direct effect of driving good people away, hampering progress, and losing a lot of good will.

But as the GoW has shrunk over the years and I've taken on a sort of de-facto role as a community manager here, I can freely admit it's not an easy job and we all mess it up. There's a lot we could be doing to make things better here, if we had more time and resources. I just try to avoid making active decisions that make things worse. ;)
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Sirius » Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:34 am

Aloys wrote:They love the community, there's no question here. [...] But the bottom line is, even when you have the best intentions in the world, and the best ressources in the world, well.. it's just really hard handling a community.

Agreed - there is a reason community manager is a full-time job in some companies. Having a few news via email from Jeff every now and then is already a big step in my opinion. Closing the various forums in favor of Discord, (while a clumsy move), might also allow them to interact more with the community. Well, at least that's the plan - we will see how well that goes.
Like I said earlier, the Myst/Uru community is also not the easiest to handle - we argue a lot, and people are easily hurt whenever someone says something. Sometime I wonder if the fact that Uru is a non-violent and slowly evolving game doesn't cause MORE arguing on the forums...
But I'm still optimistic. A LOT of cool things happen too, and I feel arguments are less common now :)


Deledrius wrote:I'm not saying it isn't hard. But there were mistakes made, and then there were mistakes made. Promoting toxic members of the community into positions of authority, ignoring complaints, and mishandling other situations multiple times in the same way are things that should have been avoidable.

My guess is that they were more concerned about "ho sh*t how are we going to pay the staff and release on time next month" and just shrugged the community issues as "bah, let's just put this guy in charge and things will solve themselves eventually". This seems to happens a lot with smaller companies. That doesn't mean it's good nor that it couldn't be easily avoided though.


Deledrius wrote:The real trouble happened whenever they had to curtail things for those external forces.

Funny thing, I read an article about MMOG development recently (not my main interest, but I happen upon those sometimes). Basically, the guy said you had to have rock-solid engine and base concept; then be able to hold on for a few months/years before the game actually made any money. Don't expect your revenues to be positive until you can quickly create new content without constantly overhauling the base engine/gameplay.
I think this means Ubi/GT both made huge mistakes when withdrawing at the time they did. No matter which MMOG you pour money into, it's always going to fail if you withdraw before it has a chance to settle correctly. At that point, you should actually not put any money in it from the beginning - you know you're going to fail either way.
It doesn't help that Uru's concept was a bit shaky from the beginning, and Plasma (as well as tech in general) was not really adapted to the task at the time. I don't know if Ubi/GT put pressure on Cyan to change their concepts, but if they did, that probably slowed things even more. Apparently, it's the same problem that delayed the Myst movie for so long.
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Aloys » Sat Feb 29, 2020 10:56 am

Sirius wrote: Ubi/GT both made huge mistakes when withdrawing at the time they did. No matter which MMOG you pour money into, it's always going to fail if you withdraw before it has a chance to settle correctly

Maybe they did. But there are circumstances to this. Let me be the devil's advocate here for a minute.

The most painful part is that Uru was just not doing well at the time. From the players point of view there was a lot of activity, plenty of people online, regular updates etc.. But Uru was *not* doing well. Subscriptions numbers just didn't add up. Like, well bellow objectives. Especially as it was still a beta (although it wasn't labelled as such). If you don't get enough people to susbscribe to your game when it's free, what is it gonna be like when you ask money for it?..

Beside that, we had external factors at Ubisoft that didn't help. One thing most people may not know/remember today was that at the time (late 2003/ early 2004) Ubisoft had several MMOs going on; one was The Matrix Online; another was Shadowbane. But then for a variety of reasons (one of them being that World of Warcraft's beta just arrived and was totally crushing the competition) Ubi just called it quit on MMOs. They changed their whole editorial strategy and killed all those MMOs projects over a couple months. Uru was part of that, but really it was just one among several casualties.

The last thing was that Ubi may not have been entirely confident with Cyan being able to deliver on the huge amount of regular new content they were promising at the time. Uru has a really ambitious proposal, one whole new Age or area every month. So that didn't help either. I had the planning in my hands at some point, and it was bonkers really, whole new Ages every so often, new areas for Teledahn and the Cavern every months, new gameplay features... it was all over the place. For naive 25 years old me that was exciting I really don't know how they expected to pull this off. These kind of games are complicated and just take *time* to make; even when you have lots of ressources.

I can't speak for the Gametap part of the story, but my guess is it was quite similar: too complicated, too expensive, not enough people. What I don't understand is how they expected to make it work the second time around when it couldn't work the first time...

Coming back to the "killing it before it had a chance to prove itself"' part: one thing that was surprising when Uru's cancellation was announced is that we suddenly had many new people show up on the forums and telling how they wanted to play the game but they were waiting for the final game to be released and did not want to play an "unfinished" beta game.. Now it's hard to say how many people that was and wether that would have been enough to sustain the game; but my gut feeling would be "not enough". Still that's interesting; and says a lot about the kind of players who play this kind of games and what they expect when it comes to quality. :)
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Jhon J. Jaguar » Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:58 pm

I redid the visits to the ages indicated on my own, since I was unable to come. But thanks for the Ages list. Is nice restart the history of age's builders: a splendid mode for have an idea about the evolution of the Writers' job. Thanks Korovev :D
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Re: Fan Age expedition: the early Ages

Postby Sirius » Sun Mar 01, 2020 4:55 am

Aloys wrote:
Sirius wrote: Ubi/GT both made huge mistakes when withdrawing at the time they did. No matter which MMOG you pour money into, it's always going to fail if you withdraw before it has a chance to settle correctly

Maybe they did. But there are circumstances to this. Let me be the devil's advocate here for a minute. [...]

I agree with all you say. This shows how complex managing both money and people can be.
Yeah, Cyan's project was really ambitious, especially when you read the original design documents they released for the 25th anniversary.
If you take a more realistic approach to things, creating new "cheap" content each month (collectibles, small areas) and new Ages every 3 or 4 months seems manageable, but would require more resources and better tech than Cyan had at the time...
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