Live Team Blues

Check out a great post by Eric at Elder Game talking about the cycle a live game goes through as it matures and a new generation of developers comes aboard.

It’s very true that a lot of game developers enjoy shipping a title and then moving on to the next. In the console world this is how it’s done, of course; the MMO universe operates as a live service after launch, which is something even many seasoned developers are not used to or interested in. So having people move on is an expected part of the process.

The first year after EQ2 launched saw a number of its senior people leave, either for new opportunities within SOE or to other companies. But since the game remained SOE’s flagship product for some time, the team still had ample resources and plenty of good people on board. And as Lum mentions, my friend Scott proved an invaluable presence who led the team to make many popular changes to the game. (Oh, what might have been if only so many of the game’s formative years of development hadn’t been squandered… but what’s done is done.)

Speaking as someone who’s done a fair bit of it, fixing other people’s broken shit is not always fun. I’m not referring to the kind of stuff where a design decision was made one way and you’d rather take it another; I mean coming across something horribly broken and convoluted that unfortunately crept into the game because at some point quantity was more of a priority than quality. But you do learn an awful lot from the experience, some of which is applicable to starting a new project from the ground up and some of which is not.

New projects are inherently sexy and fun. It’s a chance to make all new kinds of mistakes instead (you hope!) of repeating old ones. But by the same token, I agree with Eric that there is a lot to be said for working on a live game–especially if it’s one you love and want to see get better. But as he notes, a new generation of developers can sometimes be overwhelmed by good intentions and leap to make changes before fully understanding the implications. Hopefully the transition between the “A” squad and the “B” team is gradual enough that an osmosis of wisdom can occur and leave the new caretakers with everything they need to do the job well.

Published by


Steve Danuser, also known as Moorgard, is a a writer, editor, and game designer.

7 thoughts on “Live Team Blues”

  1. That is a good read… I allways knew some people went to work on new projects but I never knew how extensive the change was from who made the game to who works on it once its out the door.

  2. It’s very fascinating to read about the internal ‘lives’ of MMOs and their developers. Although it may be less exciting (understandably), I think being on a live team is incredibly valuable. You only need to look at the work you guys and everyone did to EQ2 to see how amazing the game became. In many ways, one could argue that it deserves more credit than the intitial creation.

  3. Software maintance is huge but not something taught at schools or even set as an expectation within the industry. If anything it is a minority that create and build new systems from scratch.

  4. I had structured programming crammed into me from the very beginning. But I think C++ tries to circumvent it by hiding code rather than making it more readable. I love C, but not a fan of C++; especialy reading somebody elses code, that’s a nightmare.

  5. While Hartsman did a lot when taking the helm on EQII, some people (e.g. Jason Roberts) tend to get far too little of the credit for making EverQuest II such a better game. It took the leadership of Scott Hartsman, the incredible guidance of Jason Roberts, and the dedicated work of dozens of people to get the game into good shape after launch. I’m still proud of what little impact I had on the game, and it will always be a project and experience I look back on fondly.

  6. Jason was always a great guy. You’re absolutely right Ryan, I don’t think he gets enough credit. I tend to forget him because he wasn’t as obvious as Scott, you or Steve. I dealt with you guys regularly but not as much with Jason. I didn’t meet him until later on but he was quite sharp. I thought I saw him on the 38 page. Is that right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>