DAW: Geko and Heretic

In my Developer Appreciation Week posts, I’ve gone from thanking developers in general to a specific team, and today I wanted to thank two specific developers from Cryptic who work on Star Trek Online.

First, I want to give a heartfelt thanks to Al Rivera, aka Captain Geko. Last year was a pretty rough year for STO and I was pretty down on the game in January. Then Podcast UGC had an epic two and a half hour interview with Geko which gave me some much needed hope for the future of the game. It also marked a renewal of the transparency and community engagement that have been trademarks of Cryptic over the last two years which had both faded during the last third of 2011 while the F2P conversion was taking place.

Which brings me to my second thank you. Geoff Tuffli, aka Heretic, is in my opinion the gold standard for dev-player communication. He’s been the driving force behind the excellent Duty Officer system, and he’s done an absolutely incredible job in engaging with the player-base both through the forums and via in-game channels.

While I have a lot of respect for the entire team, given what they’ve gone through in the last year with the Atari to Perfect World transfer and then the F2P launch, I think Geko and Heretic deserve special recognition. Thanks so much for all your hard work guys.

This is the third year for Developer Appreciation Week, started by Scary from ScaryWorlds.com head on over an check out his posts.

DAW: Trion

Continuing with Developer Appreciation Week, today I wanted to thank the Rift team at Trion.

It feels strange highlight a game that I’m not currently playing, even more so since my subscription lapsed about a week ago. But that has everything to do with lack of time and nothing to do with the game itself. Rift occupies an odd niche in my gaming ecosystem. I played it rabidly at launch and hit the level cap with the initial wave of players. Then my guild collapsed and so did my interest in playing.

I’ve tried since to recapture my initial interest but have yet to succeed. Even after only a couple months’ absence, the game feels completely different because of the speed and volume of Trion’s updates. The Rift team is constantly tuning and adjusting the game, and they are also adding new content faster than any MMO developer I’ve ever seen. At some point in the future, when I next return to Telara, I expect it to feel like a new game.

Thanks Trion, you’ve set the standard for MMO live teams.

This is the third year for Developer Appreciation Week, started by Scary from ScaryWorlds.com head on over an check out his posts.

Developer Appreciation Week

I don’t envy game developers, and especially not those making MMOs. It’s an impossible task, trying to make everyone happy at the same time.

I was playing STO the recently and in the general chat people were discussing the new mining daily that was implemented. I’ve played it myself and had fun bouncing around the asteroid, playing the beam alignment mini-game. I never once thought about how much dilithium I was earning or how much time it was taking. Rarely do I ever think of the word efficient while playing a game. Not the players I was reading though. They were complaining about how little they got from it and they’d be better off doing other dailies to get dilithium. Fun for them was getting the most dilithium or skill points, etc., per hour spent in the game.

There’s very little overlap between players like me and min-max players, so I want to put out a general thanks to all game developers that have to grapple with pleasing everyone all the time. Thanks for everything you do.

This is the third year for Developer Appreciation Week, started by Scary from ScaryWorlds.com head on over an check out his posts.

DAW: Notch and Mojang

I wanted to wrap up my Developer Appreciation Week posts by sending a heart felt thanks to Markus “Notch” Persson and the rest of the team at Mojang: Daniel Frisk, Daniel Kaplan, Jakob Porser, Jens Bergensten, Junkboy, Carl Manneh, and Tobias Mollstam.

Notch started out developing Minecraft as a one-man shop. Like most developers he was not too concerned about the business aspects of things and very open about his sales and what he was working on. When Minecraft’s popularity exploded, he didn’t change that. He started a company and hired a small staff to help. This is the point where Notch could easily have pulled back from the community but hasn’t.

The entire Mojang team is on Twitter, check out Daniel Kaplan’s Mojang list to see the public company discussions. Notch still keeps up on his blog, although he did have to turn off comments (no loss there given some of the commenters that I read), and the stats page is still ticking off registered users and sales. He’s shown up on Reddit a few times, and is active with the Minecraft player community on Twitter. Just last week, I highlighted some posts from Jens about wolves, and several recent features like beds and cake have come about from interactions with the player community.

As much as I enjoy playing Minecraft, seeing how Markus has handled his success has been nearly as interesting. Go watch the twenty minute short documentary if you want to see what I mean.

Thanks Notch!

DAW: The Star Trek Online Team

Today’s appreciation goes out to the entire Star Trek Online team at Cryptic Studios.

Of all of the MMOs I’ve played, past and present, I can’t think of any that hold a candle to Daniel Stahl’s team when it comes to communication and engagement with the community and transparency into the development process. The amount of engagement by the designers and developers has truly been impressive, and has been a major part of the growing success of the game.

Every month there’s an Ask Cryptic post answering community questions. There’s the Executive Producer’s Engineering Report where we get a detailed look at what issues are in testing, what’s being investigated, what’s in development, and what’s in the design stages. There’s a deployment calendar showing launch windows for new content and features.

Beyond the regular structured feedback, there are a dozen posts nearly every weekday from the team. Some of that is from the Community Management team, but there’s a lot more activity from the designers and developers than I’ve seen for any other game I’ve played. There are usually daily posts from Stahl, Gozer, Heretic, Zeronius Rex, Mapolis, and Captain Logan, not to mention the community wranglers Wishstone and Stormshade.

Even outside of the company’s own communication channels, the STO team has been very generous with their time doing interviews with many of the podcasts dedicated to the game.

So, I huge thank you’s to the entire team for all of the work they’ve into the game and for all of the time and energy they’ve invested with the player community. I for one am very very grateful.

DAW: Trion

Thanks Trion!

I want to kick of Developer Appreciation Week by thanking all of the programmers, artists, and designers at Trion that worked their butts off for the last few years to bring us Rift. Thanks to all of you for showing gamers what happens when a developer get’s enough time and money to do things right. I hope you’re all enjoying some time off, kicking back with a beer or three, and recharging those mental batteries.


Author’s Note: So…. communication… um yeah.  I should, may, probably will get back to my theme tomorrow, but it ain’t happening tonight. See I thought I had an idea that I wanted to use regarding Trion and Rift, but as I sat down tonight and started working I realized that what I actually wanted to say wasn’t what I thought I was going to say yesterday. I got a little frustrated and thought about skipping it altogether, but that’s stupid and goes a bit against the spirit of what this week’s about. Instead, I decided to just go with it.

DAW Theme is Communication

Before I start with my Developer Appreciation Week posts tomorrow, I wanted to mention this year’s theme: communication.

In my opinion, it’s one of the things that makes a good game great, and it’s not something that a lot of developers excel at. So I think it’s important to highlight some developers (I have three in mind) that have impressed me with their ability to communicate and respond to players.

For more on DAW check out Scary’s site.

Links from Developer Appreciation Week

Just wanted to collect some links to posts I’ve seen for Developer Appreciation Week (which  I’m hoping is the first annual one).

Hope I didn’t miss anyone, feel free to email or twitter me a link or just leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.

New links:

DAW: Cryptic Studios

“MMO forums: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

Okay, so that’s not quite how Obi Wan cautioned Luke, but it’s no less accurate. Of course that makes this thread all the more impressive. It is a 46 post, 5 page, (as of this writing) thread started by a community member asking the devs to post a surprising fact about themselves. Quite a few of the Cryptic staff have posted and nearly all the player posts are on topic and respectful. There’s one person asking about a problem but the they were very apologetic about derailing the thread, most surprisingly no one followed up to troll them for it.

So my thanks and today’s DAD go to the Cryptic Studios staff (community and dev), for their follow through on their promises of better communication with the community. It’s made the last two months of Champions Online much more enjoyable.

If you haven’t already, go checkout Scarybooster’s Developer Appreciation Week posts, and if you’re doing any yourself please send me and Scary a link.