Mark Jacobs’ Return (Sound the trumpets!)

I should have commented on this way sooner — busy, remember?

Mark Jacobs, the guy very much responsible for a great deal of Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online has resurfaced in the gaming industry. Once again at the reigns of his own company (City State Entertainment), it looks like the ever-personable fellow has, in my opinion, a new outlook on gaming this time around. Just look at the picture of the City State Entertainment team and, once again my opinion, it looks like MJ (or someone he’s surrounded himself with) is hoping to lighten the mood of dark clouds surrounding a rather unfortunate reputation.

The City State Entertainment Team 2011

I actually really like Mark Jacobs. I won’t pretend he’s not arrogant at times and a little volatile with the communities, but he knows a lot and has done great things for the MMO industry.  I do not believe for a second that he is solely responsible for Warhammer Online’s failure, or even mostly responsible, as many would have you think.  Some of the people he worked with are real screwballs.  My only real beef with the guy is selling out to EA.  I would have preferred WAR never release and the entire debacle been avoided.

This time around it doesn’t look like we’ll see a return to grace — that is, Dark Age of Camelot.  We’re more likely to see mobile games.  I have my own opinion about mobile games.   In fact, Graev and I have a philosophy about them.   I have a feeling Mark is testing the waters, seeing how to be relevant in a changing market, but will return to what he knows and has done best.  Let my prediction be ‘set in mud’.

Whatever happens, I’m following City State Entertainment.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if something bigger comes from this rebirth.

Update: Mark Jacobs has commented on his departure from EA.  I’m glad my view of what happened is reaffirmed.  Mark won’t say it as bluntly as I will, but WAR is EA’s doing.  Mark’s responsibility for WAR ends and his fault begins/is found in the deal to sell Mythic.

  • Maybe he can team up with Bill Roper, John Romero and Richard Garriott and create the biggest fail game in history. I still believe that these guys have a couple of disasters in them.

  • Everyone is allowed at least one display of crazy. They’ve all had theirs. All seem to be dealing with it in a very similar way… well, Roper has had a dozen or so and is all over the place but you get the idea.

  • Roper had multiple fails. I don’t get why companies keep hiring that clown.

    Garriott had a massive fail in Tabula Rasa, and really didn’t do anything of note other than the fail game since the Ultima crap. Basically feel the same way about Romero.

    Jacobs had one bad game in WAR, which I largely base on the decision to join up with EA – plus WAR could have been great. That’s the difference for me. If WAR had more time in the oven it could have been a truly great MMO.

    Hopefully whatever he does works out because I wouldn’t mind playing a new MMO with proper development from Jacobs.

  • More and more of these old MMO guys seem to be jumping on the social and mobile gaming bandwagons. It’s a shame because it feels like they’ve given up on creating immersive virtual worlds in favour of mindless clickers and metrics driven cash shop shovelware.

    I guess that post-WoW there isn’t the appetite among investors for squillion dollar 5 year MMO development projects (unless it’s WoW with lightsabers).

  • Maybe MMO guys are giving up on creating virtual worlds that will everyone will rave about for exactly 30 days and then crap on or ignore. Or you can make some nice mobile games that make money.

  • I couldn’t care less about Jacobs. I actually think he ruined PvP by makes a PvE carebear game with PvP endgame EQ clone, DAoC, and make people think it’s the best PvP that could happen in a MMORPG.

    I wish Garriott would come back with his old spirit (before silly stuff like Tabula Rasa) and make us a real Ultima Online 2, keeping the skill based gameplay and the PvP but updating the engine and mechanics to modern technologies.

  • I liked TR, but felt it wasn’t adequately progressed towards completion at launch (far too common these days) and continued troubleshooting and development was limited (I played a Biotechnician, one of the most broken and neglected classes in the game).

    I wonder if it was more Garriot’s mismanagement or insuffient funding from the parent company at fault for the lack of adequate development prior to and following release of TR?

  • @toxic: The irony being there have been no virtual worlds released in the past 8-9 years. The last ones released were played for many years pre-2004, including ones that still run today.

    Original Post Update: Mark Jacobs has commented on his departure from EA. I’m glad my view of what happened is reaffirmed. Mark won’t say it as bluntly as I will, but WAR is EA’s doing. Mark’s responsibility for WAR ends and his fault begins/is found in the deal to sell Mythic. WAR’s failure is only Mark’s fault if you go back to the sale of his company. Beyond that, I blame EA for all design decisions.

  • I like to believe the conspiracy theories that pretty much state that Warhammer Online was run down the crapper by several powerhungry people and that MJ was kind of run off and pushed aside during the development. I was always a big fan of MJ and never thought he could have made Warhammer Online the way that it was made. Well, whatever happened…I do hope he goes back to MMOs…he needs to redeem his good name!

  • I liked both TR and W:AoR. -shrug- They were both different than WoW though ironically W:AoR’s failure came from the incredible cost of trying to duplicate WoW’s pve experience.

    Garriot and Jacobs are both pioneers of the mmog genre who fell victim to the changing business expectations that happened post-WoW…expectations driven by greed and ego and little else.

    I would play a W:AoR rvr game with TR’s combat system in a heartbeat.

  • I also tend to think WAR was almost great, but that its core gameplay just completely missed the mark. It’s a game that made me want to like it until it bored me to death.

  • In your opinion, who were the biggest arsehats in the WAR-team, at least the ones we were exposed to? I remember that British guy sounded like a load of crap all the time.

  • Paul (British guy) was paid to hype. I can’t knock him for doing what they actually paid him to do. That was his the very nature of his job. I had the pleasure of walking around E3 2008 with him for about 20 min, chatting about games. He’s not always ‘on’.

    It’s the people who played the part EA wanted them to play that bothered me the most, especially when they actually had a hand in design/development post-EA buyout. Look at who held the design positions and the producer positions, and you have the people who I think are most responsible for the flop (aside from EA execs).

  • I think Keen may be referring to Josh Drescher and Jeff Hickman amongst others. They were the guys who did most of their dev videos anyway. I don’t know what decisions they were directly responsible for, but I read that Mark was directly responsible for the horrible crafting system. I don’t think that the overall desing of the game was what did them in though. They did have some gems of ideas too, like public quests. The problem was they really couldn’t get the basics of that game right. If you’re going to have quest based PvE in a game, you have to do a good job of it or people will be bored to tears and quit. The graphics and animations were clunky, combat felt weird, etc. Basically, all the basics were just off.

  • I agree. The crafting sucked, and that (I think) was Mark. The basics were all off indeed. That’s where it comes back to the people with the job description of “responsible for the general strategy and direction the game takes. Maintaining the general vision and keep the development team going down the right path.”

  • MJ has some responsibility for WAR, come on. From day one it was two-faction based. That alone killed any chance WAR had of actually being a solid PvP game. Mythic (and hence, MJ) did not want WAR to be too similar to DAOC because they also had DAOC2 planned, but then for whatever reason, canned DAOC2 to focus on WAR.

    Day one MJ should have realized that the Warhammer IP is PERFECT for a multi-faction PvP game. They were trying to make a WoW clone rather than a solid PvP MMO. They succeeded.

    You take WAR today, split all the races up into different factions, and its a 100% better game tomorrow. No way does MJ dodge all the blame for WAR.

    As for mobile gaming, meh. Even the best (non-ports) of today are minor distractions to ‘real’ games on the PC. I don’t see that changing, and moving to that space is, IMO, taking the easy way out as a developer.

  • I didn’t say he was completely without fault. I simply believe he is not solely, or even mostly, responsible. I think it was a big group effort on behalf of a lot of factors including: (1) EA buyout, (2) his bad team (much more important than it appears people realize), (3) his own decisions to pretend like DAOC didn’t exist, and (4) EA pressure to just release the game.

    If I had to quantify the blame, I’d safely bet it’s 1/3 on MJ. His two biggest mistakes were not taking what worked from DAOC, recognizing why it worked, and selling out to EA.

  • I agree with those that say WAR had lots of potential. However, I also believe that its flaws were fundamental and would never have been fixed short of a complete overhaul/redesign. Maybe it came out of the oven a little too early, but even if it had enough time to to get “done”, I don’t think that would have changed the end result much. Not for me anyway.

  • Amazing how just a few of these gaming leaders can affect the industry!

    Lets hope for some great mmo titles in the future from MArk.

  • If Mark had involvement in the following decisions, then what’s the point of blaming EA:
    Boring/Clunky combat system where all classes used the same action point system.
    Boring minimal crafting (No weapon crafting, no armour crafting)
    Instanced World

    Poor animation, boring questing, stability problems are all resource/time related issues. If the core features aren’t right, then you’re just polishing sh#t.

  • Keen, the thing is, having a bad team is Mark’s fault. He hired them. The EA buyout? Mark was the top guy at Mythic (and must have gotten a boatload of cash from EA). key design decisions? I’m betting he had final say (if he ultimately wanted it).

    Not every decision was his, no. But ultimately, he IS responsible for what Mythic does/did.

  • Mythic was sold to EA because they were going to go bankrupt; it was after Warhammer had begun development. Therefore some core flaws of the game can be blamed on the Mythic that created DAoC… such as two factions.

    It was still HIS project. HE made the decisions that got Warhammer to where it is/was. I honestly enjoyed Warhammer as a game but I was also very disappointed. While I understand that MJ may not have been the person who f’d up the programming to cause the memory leaks, lags, and bugs, he was in fact in charge of these people. At any time he could have replaced them, so in the end like in all business, the manager is always responsible for everything that happens underneath them.

    I won’t boycott any game he makes, but I will also be very skeptical about it. I have zero trust in him as a developer AND businessmen and he is going to have to rebuild that trust.

  • You give him too much credit. Yes, fault traces back to him from a “buck stops here” point of view. Hickman (in a really, really big way), Drescher, Gershowitz, and anyone associated with content development and/or implementation of systems are very much to blame for how the overall game turned out.

    I have plenty of trust in him as a developer. Plenty as a designer. It’s the management where I become leery. Selling to EA killed Mythic. Putting those people on the team in positions of authority killed WAR.

  • TBH if he makes one good game the public will flip in his favor just like they did for Vick.

  • I think it nicely shows how the public’s opinion is easily swayed, regardless of past actions.

  • Not sure what you mean by that. Didn’t like that convicted dog torturer back then, and still don’t after the PR blitz; not much swaying going on over here…

  • I’m not defending what he did, and I think it’s pretty obvious what I mean by it. Just because YOU aren’t swayed doesn’t mean the majority of football fans feel the same.

  • @Everyone

    If you get in the beta for a weekend, you are unable to play on the servers with the main beta group. Weekend beta’s have their own servers. Also dont take the item’s seriously yet cause they are popping around like crazy and they are testing many way’s to handle them…not going into detail about it though…maybe when nda is up.

  • I know Mark likes this site. I wonder if he’s reading this thread…

    Mark, if you’re out there – merge with Pitch Black Games and help them make the perfect PvP MMO!