Multiple Updates in one pop!

Well it's been a crazy time.

(1) I had a RAID array on my server pop, yep that's 1,000 GB lost in a microsecond. Luckily it was all backed up and as it was the raid and not the drives that failed, the drives are fine. So I'm back working again. Damn it takes Windows a long time to copy 1,000GB. Probably the size of an average game on Playstation 6. :)

(2) Hackers got into our main web server and planted a bot to hack other severs. Thanks, but no thanks, my server team thankfully monitors for this kind of activity, they did the re-format, re-installed the OS and pulled everything back from backups. If you are reading this blog, it's working now.

(3) I installed a new network at home, my server was getting flaky, so I had Dell build a great rig. Got 64-bit Windows Server on there, I was going to get Exchange set up as well, but ran out of time. I re-wired my home network and switched everything over and it's running beautifully. Thanks Dell.

(4) Did an interview with MMORPG.COM

MMORPG.com: For those people who might not know, can you give us an overview of how exactly the Top Secret project actually works? David Perry: Well the goal was to offer the chance for ANYONE to join a real professional fully-funded video game development team, that already has a publishing contract with Acclaim Games. I love working with students and do my best to help them get their foot in the door. In this situation, they can join me on a project, then the most impressive one will be given the directorship of an Acclaim MMO. No "working your way up the ladder over X years", they will go from bedroom to Game Director / Design Director in one swift move. For the others, they get a resume credit and they're also are being watched by headhunters eager to find them jobs. I've personally hired two people so far (without resume) based entirely on how talented they were.

This whole experience has already changed my opinion that it's not about the resume, it's about the individual that shows up.

MMORPG.com: To what extent will the participants be involved in the decision making process?

David Perry: Well I had assumed that I might need to lead the ideas, to keep everything moving forward and on track. But it hasn't even remotely turned out that way! In reality there are way too many ideas, so instead of adding, the actual challenge we are faced with is cutting them down, how to choose the best ideas out of a large group. Sounds easy? Well it's not, as people care passionately about their ideas. So we've been learning as we go and are starting to really close in on good systems to keep everyone focused on the goal. We're also experimenting with a reputation system so that if someone on the team impresses you, you can give them a thumbs-up. Getting plenty of kudos is a really hard thing to do, and so we find it interesting to see how that system evolves.

We now have added a wiki, and a Joomla news site made by the users, one user recently made a blogging site for all other users, some have started making adverts, banners and trailers, another has been experimenting with online voting systems, one guy even delivered an entire marketing plan for the project. I'm telling you, these people are passionate and amazing!

The next major system is a playing card system they want in the game and that can also work in the real world. Normally these ideas would be dismissed (a lot of extra work!) but when you have hundreds of people available, what not let them investigate?

MMORPG.com: You chose to develop a racing genre MMORPG. What led to this decision?

David Perry: I chose the racing game genre. Simply because it's hard to really innovate there. I had also promised that we wouldn't ship a game that didn't break new ground. Everyone assumed it would be Mario Kart MMO or some kind of Need for Speed Online game. Well the team decided they wanted to ride beasts, now I don't mean monsters, I mean like the mounts in games like World of Warcraft. Something you are proud of, that is bad-ass, that can fight, that you can breed, feed, grow, cross-breed, train and race. I can't tell you what the weapons, armor or controls are yet as the team still has to design them, I also don't know the classes of the riders yet, but you can be sure they will be cool. If you want to help, it's a perfect time: www.videogameteam.com.

We have plenty of people willing to help you get started. (Just ask a moderator.)

MMORPG.com: There are many who would say that the racing genre doesn't lend itself to MMORPG play. How would you respond to this?

David Perry: Normally I would agree, but this is not a copy of something else, it's completely originally, so the rules are already broken. I think the team will find a way to make it work. In fact some of the ideas are so cool, that I can't really imagine how it won't be fun.

MMORPG.com: Approximately how many people are currently contributing to the project?

David Perry: We have over 34,000 registered team members, most of those are waiting to play the prototypes and so we see a few thousand in the forums. I had guessed at the start that we would end up with 1% really delivering. That seems about right as around 300 or so are really putting serious effort in. Meaning we have the biggest prize in video game history (you get to direct a team and make royalties on the game), and all you have to do is beat 1% of the people that sign up!

The twist is that most big teams today average around 30-60 people. We plan to cap this at 100,000 people on the team. That means (if we apply the 1% rule) that we have 1,000 developers working their butts off on this game. That's some SERIOUS creativity and brain power. So I have to admit I'm really interested to see how this puppy ends out and I can't wait to meet the winner! (We don't know if it will be a he or she, or what country even!) The last person I hired from the forums was a guy in Germany called Michael. (Luckily he speaks great English! - But he's really talented.)

MMORPG.com: What are some of the challenges of working with so many people on a project?

David Perry: The problem is clarity. We define a task, and we find out about 2 seconds later that we just didn't add enough detail. Meaning we get swamped with questions! So now we don't kick off a task until the questions have been answered, then it's LIVE. We also would get pretty random results, so now we use forms, this makes it easier. At the start I chose the winner personally, which isn't really that fair as this is a community effort, so now we let the community vote. In reality this is more interesting as it stops me steering too hard. I still have the power of Veto, but have not used it for anything yet.

MMORPG.com: Where is Top Secret right now in terms of the game's development process?

David Perry: We know what the game is now, so it's time for the detail, this phase will cover every single aspect, from interface, to menus, to controls, to animation lists, to concept artwork for beasts, tracks, weapons, riders etc. Now we know what the game is, we will start getting bids from developers to make this game. Then we will award the game to that developer. I had planned to use a team in China, but in reality they just don't have a beast fighting/racing engine (does anyone?), so I need to choose someone else. Teams are free to contact us, just contact me through Historian (our community manager.)

MMORPG.com: Do you have a timeline for release?

David Perry: Well I would say 12-18 months, but in reality, we are not in a big hurry. It's really all about the game and team, so assuming the team keeps growing I expect it will end up getting done faster than normal, but decisions do take longer as we need to go through a submission/judging process. But there's nothing to stop us having several things running in parallel.

We really could use a few professional video game producers to dive in and help increase our bandwidth for "simultaneous parallel tasks". If you are one, we can give you Veteran Moderator Status (just contact Historian and tell him about this interview and tell him your experience.)

We also could use a few professional animators and 3D modelers so they can answer questions and help the students. Again we will give you Veteran Moderator status if you can demonstrate your ability.

MMORPG.com: Is there anything else about this project that you would like to add?

David Perry: There's never been anything like this. The biggest team in history, the biggest prize in history and a lot of fun to be had along the way. It costs nothing to join, and will reveal to you if you can really (honestly) make a difference on a professional video game.

We are looking for people that stand out, and also for people that are not just talented but that also are team players. The winner will likely be talented, but also will have won the hearts and minds of the group. We hope they will want to work with the winner on his future games.

So whatever your skillz are, come join us: www.videogameteam.com.

Author: Jon Wood
Created: June 01, 2007

(5) Did a Podcast with Gary Whitta and Colin Campbell - "GAMETHEORY" - Click HERE for a link. Sadly my Headset Microphone was toast and yes the replacement will be here tomorrow. (Sorry about the sound quality.)

(6) Had a meeting with the 2Moons development team in Los Angeles. (They flew out from Korea. They still have some coding to do on the billing system and Acclaim needs to install new firewall hardware and train staff, so we posted an estimated Open Beta date of July 30th.) I'm getting pretty excited as we are FINALLY on the home straight. If you want to play, go ahead and sign up at http://2moons.acclaim.com, I will have an email sent to you when we go live.

(7) Just got the COMMERCIAL LAUNCH version of Dance Online to test today. Lots of new features are unlocked and a TON more music has been added. My team still has a few things they want to tweak and so we will get an estimate on Thursday of how long those tweaks will take to implement. We had wanted to be out by the 15th, right now, that's still looking good.

(8) I have a secret project in development and got a video today to see the progress. It's coming well. It's my first Sports game and I have a very talented designer called "Andre" working on it with my team.

(9) I have another secret project in development and the guy that I hired out of the Top Secret forums "Michael" in Germany is our point-person. I promised to throw him in at the deep end and he's in there doing just fine.

(10) The Top Secret project is really surfacing some very passionate people. I'm learning their names (well nicknames) really fast as they are constantly involved. We did a group chat thanks to our friends over at Stratics.com We liked the experience so much I've now got our team a full time TeamSpeak server. We had our first group chat on the weekend it was cool. Beats the heck out of just posting in forums! Also our flash chat is back online. www.dpchat.com

(11) Just want to put a shout out to my team, they are doing an awesome job. Rusel, Jill, Paul, David, Michael, Andre, Susan + all our Moderators + Web Development Teams etc. They have so much going on it's insane!

(12) Next for me, I'm speaking at GDC in China, and again at Austin and again in Montreal later in the year. This month I'm speaking at a local college and also helping judge a game development competition in Westwood College. (I get to be Simon Cowell!)

(13) Did a video interview with Game Face: http://www.game-face.de/article.php3?id_article=321 We did the interview, then found out the microphone wasn't working so had to do it all again, that's why we are acting a little funky.

(14) Did an interview with the Guardian Unlimited in the UK.

By Aleks Krotoski / Business/ Game culture/ Interviews 09:05am

Shiny Entertainment's Dave Perry is something of an enfant terrible in the games industry. The Northern Ireland-born, lanky developer set up his ground-breaking studio Shiny Entertainment not far from my grandmother's house in Southern California in 1993 and has since consistently pushed the boundaries in terms of innovation, content and quality. I will never forget the first time I played Earthworm Jim, the adventures of a space-suit wearing annelid whose fearsome tail was used interchangeably as a grappling hook and whip. Still very little beats MDK as one of the top platformers of all time.

So when the gamesblog heard that he was doing something even more adventurous with a user-generated massively multiplayer online game competition project Top Secret, I had to get in touch to find out why he was leaping onto the "Game 3.0" train ride, and what he was hoping his 100,000-strong development community would produce.

Is it the dawn of the WikiGame or just a cheeky opportunity to harvest the world's interactive talent for enormous amounts of free content? Grab a cuppa and keep reading to find out...

There are so many different opportunities for self-publishing and self-distribution. It seems a shame people are still relying upon the models of shooting things, moving boxes and solving the same old puzzles.
One of the challenges is convincing the person who's funding your game that taking a risk is a good thing. That's why you see a lot of sequels. It's a difficult conversation to have. I've been very fortunate. The publisher I'm working with is Acclaim. It's a reincarnated company, by the guy who bet Activision on the future of the CD-ROM in an era when everything was cartridge-based. He's doing the same thing now with online, saying the future is online. Forget about CDs, DVDs, he says. They're all going away. He's led a pretty risky life, and he's funding some really crazy projects.

Like Top Secret.
Nobody's else is willing to do it! It's not the stuff you'd normally see 'cause publishers would prefer you do something they know is going to work. I'm in a very fortunate position. I'm able to really experiment with stuff. I'm taking advantage of that.

Tell me about Top Secret.
Top Secret was basically created from the idea that there are a lot of students and a lot of modders who want to take games and make something new out of them. There's never been a time when I've gone to a college and looked at students' art reels when I've not seen something amazing. I know they're out there, but no one's giving them the opportunity to really flex their creativity, or to work together to create something new.

I created a wiki on my website which allows students to find one another so they can work together. It's pretty successful, but they keep asking me if I'll join their team. So I finally decided that we should make one big project where anyone around the world can join in if they want to. I think we're going to end up with about 100,000. It' an amazing thing to think that there are so many people out there who want to contribute, who want to help make a game.

How will you pick a winner?
There's always someone who shines. It's usually pretty easy to pick that guy. We're going to give him a project. A fully-funded team to direct himself. He's going to go from his bedroom to being a director right away.

The typical cost of an MMO in the US is about $30 million. This one's getting made in China, so it's going to cost us about $10 million. But it's still the biggest prize in gaming history. Right after I announced this project, Microsoft announced a programming competition and their prize is $10,000. They're not even close.

What about everyone else involved in the project?
There's going to be a lot of hiring going on. I expect a lot of recruitment to happen as people start to expose these talents. There are going to be a lot of head-hunters in there for people who show up and demonstrate what they can do. It's a really good community effort. It doesn't cost anyone anything to do, it's free. There's no charge to enter.

Tell me about the process of entering.
All you have to do is sign up at Top Secret's website. Then you're given access to the forum, where you present your talent. We have a main channel where I make a request. For example, I might want a character design. And people will start drawing. They'll submit their drawings and will be judged by myself and several of the veteran designers who are going to help choose the winners throughout the process.

If you win one of those tasks, your design will go into the game. You'll get a credit for that, and that can go into your resume. So say you end up making several backgrounds and levels for this game. You get experience, credit, possibly a job and maybe you'll win.

Do you anticipate there will be non-gamers taking part?
There's no rule at all. I've be incredibly disappointed in the past when people have turned up with really great resumes they're not looking at it as a career, but looking at it as a job. There's no fire, there's no passion. They're just looking for a 9 to 5 and a pay check. They're not the people who are going to make much of a difference in the industry. And then you meet someone else willing to work until 6 in the morning because they just love love love what they do. Those people energize me. They make me want to work until 6 in the morning too.

Then again, I don't care how passionate you are if you show up and write a load of stuff that's no good or you tell everyone you're great but nothing good comes out of you. It's who shows up and submits good stuff. It doesn't matter if you're male or female, what country you're in, what age you are, whether you're disabled or not. None of it actually matters. What matters is if you have talent and you're able to demonstrate it.

There are a lot of professionals too. I bet if I did a trawl of the database you'll find a lot of ea.com and ubisoft.com email addresses of people who either just want to show they're really good or feel that they're not getting much respect in the company they're in and just want to show that they've got the skills.

Will people from different parts of the world have different ideas about what makes a good online game?
Oh goodness yes. One of the hardest things is going to be handling people arguing. It's going to be interesting to see how the cultural differences come up, We've got people from every part of the world involved in this.

Gaming is the most interactive medium, yet it's one of the last entertainment industries to have any kind of truly collaborative project. Top Secret feels like it fits the bill.
This is either going to be a crazy experiment and too difficult to manage, or the next project we do will be the biggest one in gaming history. I'll have a million people signing up next time.

It's like American Idol when Kelly Clarkson won. She was the first winner in America and no one knew whether she'd be a hit or not, and then boom, she was a hit and now everyone wants to be on American Idol. If that does happen with this, I'm going to kick off a really big project.

The amount of content I can have generated versus the amount of content a traditional development team can generate is profoundly different. It would be orders of magnitude different. If I have 100,000 people producing content and only 1% of that content is good, I will still have 1,000 people who make good stuff. The average size of a development team in American is about 35 people. And if I get a million people, that's 100,000 people. 100,000 developers.

And the bonus is that you don't have to pay for them.
Yeah. It's a huge bonus. And that's part of the whole thing. It would be impossible to do if you paid that many people. But it's not like they're being forced; it's not like we've got whips on them or anything. They're doing it for the love of it.

On the other hand, if you feel like you're learning and your career is advancing because of it, it's probably worth it. I think there will be spin-off games as well. You can't really predict how people are going to interact, but you do know that there's going to be a lot of intelligence combined and that's going to be fascinating to see.

People say to me that what I want to do is make free content, and that's why you're asking all these people to join you, but they don't understand that I've already got a fully funded team who is going to end up cleaning up the data. All the programming is going to be done by my team. We also have a team who's running the whole thing as well, and we're paying them too. It's not just, hey, free content. It's managing the whole thing, getting everything correct, getting it into an engine and distributing it. It'll cost us money when participants are playing around too 'cause they're using our bandwidth as well.

This is an interesting development model, like the studio models people have suggested will come over from Hollywood and other media industries. Do you think this kind of freelance model will become the dominant one in the games industry?
I don't think so initially. Many companies are invested in having internal teams with 30-70 guys who are working on big $15-20 million projects. That's just how they function. Turning that on their head would be very difficult for them. Adoption will be extremely slow for the industry. But when you see World of Warcraft coming out and being enormously successful, you do see loads of publishers and companies taking massively multiplayer online games a little more seriously. If we prove that this works, so that everyone goes, 'Wow, there is a lot of talent out there,' we'll see other companies swinging for it.

It reflects the idea of LBP, of "Game 3.0", community-generated content.
We've decided to use the community whenever possible. For example, we don't have any testing staff anymore. When I launch a game, we have 140,000 people sign up just to help test it. They want to play it right now and give us feedback. The difference between 20 and 140K means that someone in that 140K is going to be an absolute expert in at least one aspect in part of the game, and really passionate about it too. I get these really long letters from gamers saying how, for example, the daggers aren't balanced properly and why. You really don't get that kind of feedback normally. Normally, you get hey, if I'm playing the game this door doesn't work. I won't go back to 20 people. This is the future as far as I can see.

We can stand down and say no, involving the community is a crazy idea. Or you put their contributions in knowing that this game is for the consumers, and they're going to have a lot of fun knowing they're part of it. Then they'll tell all their friends. I side with the gamers. That's who we're making the games for.


(15) Well this was just a quick update. Been really crazy busy.

(16) Oh and I got a new toy today. It's the OQO model 2. It's like an iPod on steroids.


Comments

keeping pretty busy

Posted by: mjuricek at June 19, 2007 6:17 AM

Nice Update DP.

Thanks for the shout out.
We are all doing our best.

Posted by: Carbonite at June 7, 2007 7:53 PM

Hi DP,

I look forward to your judging on my teams' game at Westwood.

Sam "leunas" Wu

Posted by: leunas at June 6, 2007 10:57 PM

Hi DP,

I look forward to your judging on my teams' game at Westwood.

Sam "leunas" Wu

Posted by: leunas at June 6, 2007 10:57 PM

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