August 4, 2009

Heartless_ View: Casualty of Warhammer

It all started, as so many things do these days, with an Internet news posting.
In 2008, after almost four years reviewing games and covering industry news and events, I lost my job. In my search for new work, I came across a posting for QA/customer service jobs at Mythic Entertainment for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I didn't have much of a technical background aside from being a lifelong gamer, but I had a few years of customer service experience, so I shot them a resume. I heard back a month later and started at Mythic a week after that.

I initially thought it might be some type of call center job, but my supervisors explained that I would be working within the game itself. The journalist in me thought it would be a fascinating look behind the curtain at a young MMOG. The gamer in me thought it would be awesome to finally have the powers of a GM. I would be like an agent in The Matrix.
So, for those that read the above article, we get a sad story about the state of a customer service position at a company who's product failed to meet expectations. The article is both revealing of what happened with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) and a bit annoying at whats implied.

First, the article lays heavy blame at Wrath of the Lich King's feet for WARs collapse. Little is said about WAR's own shortcomings. Granted, this was a viewpoint looking out from the inside, so its understandable why they were looking for reasons or excuses that didn't point any fingers back at themselves. I'm not going to say that Wrath had nothing to do with WAR's faltering performance, but it was a minor footprint to where I lay blame: the fundamental design of WAR was a fragmented mess with no continuity.

Secondly, there is too much effort in trying to make everyone feel bad for the people losing their jobs. Wake up, customer service is a cruel mistress in any career field. I have no sympathy for the guy in the article. He set lofty goals in a volatile position. Strip all the names away (EA, Mythic, WAR) and this story can be sung a million times over for failed projects.

Lastly, I can count on my hand the number of game designers/developers that have come from the customer service realm. Big dreams are nice, but they lead to big disappointments. Goals need to be precise, small, written down, and most importantly, must be measurable. Thus, I have no illusions of breaking into the games industry.