APB Insider Explains How They Effed Up
Luke Halliwell, formerly a developer at Real Time Worlds, the company behind the now all but crashed MMO All Points Bulletin, has written a blogpost that gives us all a stunningly frank look into the kitchen of a failed MMO company.
I finally feel that I've got enough perspective on things to put together some thoughts on what went wrong at Realtime Worlds. It's been a tough piece to put together, because the scope of the question is just so big. In the end, I've settled for a set of observations that are cultural in nature. With my knowledge of what happened, these are the closest I feel I can get to root causes.
Luke focuses on two main topics in this post. Community and rotten Corporate Politics.
Luke describes how the company was scared shitless about showing their game to the outside world:
Let's start with our attitude to the outside world. Here we were, supposedly trying to build these great online games, but we were stunningly inept at outside interaction. There were some high-profile release window gaffes - like attempting to BAN THE INTERNET FROM REVIEWING APB for a whole week - and then telling the world that they just didn't understand our game - but it's what we didn't say that was most harmful of all. We had this incredible secrecy around everything we did. I liked this approach for early development - no point boasting about stuff that's not ready - but at some point, with an online product, you have to engage your users.
Broken Corporate Politics
Another interesting point Luke raises is the way different departments absolutely weren't allowed to encroach on each others' work fields.
Stern-sounding codes of conduct were emailed around that, whatever their intent, in practice scared many developers away from interacting directly with our users. Not to worry, though, because our Community team was on the case! Except if a forum post was about a bug, because that wasn't their area - bugs were for Customer Support. Who, naturally, didn't read the forums - because that was Community's job!
And that explains why so many people complained about the bugs they reported never being fixed.
Let's hope this is a lesson to other fledging companies out there! Basing your company structure on how already established companies do their business isn't a guarantee for success!
Source: Luke Halliwell's Blog