As we draw ever nearer to the eventual closure of NCsoft’s style="font-style: italic;"> href=""
target="_blank">Tabula Rasa, the MMO
community continues to gesticulate over the details of the closure,
what prompted the sudden about-face, and what the developers at
Destination Games will be doing after the inevitable shut down of the
game’s servers. Last week, I posted the first portion of my
extensive interview with NetDevil’s Scott Brown, an
individual who has been there, done that, and lived to tell about it in
terms of MMO closures. His own game, href=""
, received a similar sort of reception to
Tabula Rasa,
and so we thought he would be the most appropriate person to shed some
light on the trials and tribulations that those developers are
currently facing.

In the final section of our two part interview, Scott and I discuss the
true meaning of beta (not to be confused with the true meaning of
Christmas), the chances of reviving a game after it has launched, and
the notion of creating an amazing MMOG. If you haven’t
checked out target="_blank">part one, go and do it now then
hop over to our forums and
weigh in on Scott’s thoughts!

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
any way a game can be saved once the game underperforms at launch? Is
there a way to resurrect the game?

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According to
Scott, a game really can't be saved if it underperforms at launch.
Tabula Rasa was one of those games.

Scott Brown:
I don’t think so.

In my opinion, if you launch dead, you’re dead. You can
always keep those few fans that you have, and there will always be a
small percentage that is into what you built, but changing public
perception is almost impossible.

A great example of this is Windows Vista. People have decided that
Vista is terrible, and it doesn’t matter what Microsoft does:
Vista will always be terrible to the people.

Have you seen those href=""
target="_blank">Mojave commercials?

Ten Ton Hammer:

Basically a team from Microsoft goes in and demos there new operating
system, which they called “Windows Mojave”. They
show off everything that it does, and people are really excited about
all the features. At the end of the commercial they tell people that
they’ve just been looking at Windows Vista. People just
automatically assume that Windows Vista is bad.

That’s where I get my opinion that you can only launch once.
However, you can do stuff like how Runescape
is really Runescape 2,
and Jumpgate Evolution
is really Jumpgate 2.
There’s lots of stuff you can do like that.

That’s how you pull something like that off; but I
don’t think you can do it inside of an existing game. You
don’t have that much time during the day for entertainment,
so if you’ve tried something once and didn’t enjoy
it, what can a developer do to bring you back? It’s REALLY
hard, especially if the game is big.

Ten Ton Hammer:
That’s a really interesting take on public perception. How do
you really control that? Is it just marketing?

It’s marketing and it’s beta. I no longer believe
that beta’s purpose is to find bugs. I think beta’s
purpose is to market your game.

I mean it is the only way you can find things like huge balance issues
and what happens when a bunch of players do something you never
expected. It’s certainly there to find those things, but if
you’re running beta for a game and you have crashes and bad
frame rates, it’s not good.

To me, the kiss of death is when you go to a forum for a developer and
it says something like, “Next we’re going to go fix
the latency issues that we have in the game.”
They’re already dead. If you don’t do those things
first and you’re going to wait until the end when your game
is ridiculously complex with a bunch of systems and try to solve it
then, it’s a bad thing.

It’s the same thing with “beta” graphics.
When has that EVER been true? Once you’ve gone in and seen a
game, most developers launch something that looks pretty much the same.

Ten Ton Hammer:
It’s like differences between the beta for style="font-style: italic;"
href="" target="_blank">Lord
of the Rings Online and the beta for style="font-style: italic;"
href="" target="_blank">Age
of Conan. I mean, the LOTRO developers dropped their NDA in
the middle of closed beta. That’s almost unheard of.

Scott: It
just shows you that those guys are expert developers and they made a
really, really great game. I think href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online
is another example of this.

The point is would you buy the beta or not? I remember thinking that
same sort of thing in target="_blank">World
of Warcraft
too. href=""
of Heroes
is another one. All four of those
games were such that if you were in the beta, you were ready to play.

Ten Ton Hammer: I
don’t want my character to be wiped!

Scott: That
beta idea might not be true for the early, early builds of the game
– the friends and family sort of time period – but
if you get later into the beta and people love it, you’re
good to go. If people don’t, you’re probably in big

Ten Ton Hammer:
It’s not like the NDA has ever stopped any fans from going
onto YouTube and posting something.

Exactly. Especially now since YouTube has gotten so prominent.

We have a bunch of meters that we use to monitor buzz and interest in
the game, and when we went out with our first style="font-style: italic;">Auto Assault beta
and realized that we had a ton more work to do, we shut the beta down
for awhile. We did a great big polish patch, and everything played way
better, but when we reopened the game again we never had the same
number of people visiting the web page or downloading the client ever

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After they
opened with a poor initial beta, Auto Assault never regained its

Ten Ton Hammer: Really?

Scott: Nope.
Never again. Never even came close. So many things about the game
played so much better after that polish patch, but the numbers were
never even close. That fact killed that game.

But it wasn’t closing the beta that caused the problem, it
was starting the beta too soon. We fooled ourselves into thinking it
was ready to go.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you
think that was something that happened to style="font-style: italic;">Tabula Rasa
Was it a beta fallacy on their part?

Scott: I
don’t know, because I didn’t follow style="font-style: italic;">Tabula Rasa as much
as I should have. But I think that it style="font-style: italic;">probably was that
fact that caused it.

The other thing that developers always blame is marketing.
“If it weren’t for bad marketing, we would have
succeeded,” people always say. That’s obviously
never true. Marketing can help and build you buzz and do a lot of great
things to make a game sell more copies, but marketing can’t
fix bad beta.

The point is is that as soon as people play and start posting their
opinions, whatever that initial reaction is, it is incredibly difficult
to change. I’m trying to think of games that were awesome
right away then dwindled later into the game, and I can’t
really think of any.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you
think science fiction games can really succeed in this market?
Obviously you think that your game can make it, but is it really so
much harder to make a successful science fiction MMOG?

Scott: I
don’t really know. There are a lot of good excuses out there:
fantasy comes with a built in knowledgebase and players think
it’s more accessible. However, I think it’s
probably one of those trends that people are creating out of thin air.
I remember when they announced that someone was making a Lord of the
Rings movie, and people said that it couldn’t be done and
fantasy movies don’t succeed.

Well, it turns out that great ones do.

Ten Ton Hammer: And
amazing ones do amazingly well!

Scott: If
Blizzard had done "World of Starcraft" instead of style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft,
would the articles be: Are fantasy MMOGs dead? I think that game would
have been just as successful as World
of Warcraft

I think the reality is that good games just succeed. Unless you can
think of one that I can’t….

Every game that I’ve played and thought the game was
fantastic, almost all of them did very well. That’s kind of
our take on it. We don’t live with the illusion that style="font-style: italic;">Jumpgate is the
next World of Warcraft
but it doesn’t have to be to succeed.

It’s a game that we desperately want to make, and we feel
like there’s at least a decently sized community out there.
Does EVE Online
represent the size of that community potential? It might, but
it’s such a different game from us that it’s almost
not even related.

But then again, would the people that play EVE even be interested at
all in what we’re doing? We’ve tried to run
scenarios to figure out what the market is for style="font-style: italic;"> Jumpgate Evolution
and how big it might be, and we don’t have any idea.

Ten Ton Hammer:
You’ve gotten people’s attention, anyway.

Scott: It
seems like it! And we’ve done so much work to make the game
experience enjoyable enough so that people stick around and get to the
more interesting parts of the game like PvP, capturing sectors and
fighting capital ships. I believe we’ve really created the
game in such a way to make people stick around and see those

On top of that, the system specs for playing Jumpgate Evolution should
be low enough that the game should play on whatever type of computer
people would like to play on. That’s what we’re
hoping anyway.

I do believe there’s enough people out in the world to make
our game successful, but I really don’t know what kind of
number that amount of people represents.

Ten Ton Hammer: I think
if you guys found an optimum launch window for the game, I think JGE
could do really well.

Scott: I
agree. I definitely wouldn’t want to launch opposite a WoW
expansion or something like that.

Ten Ton Hammer:
Absolutely not. I think this November was crazy with four expansions
coming out at the same time.

Scott: We
couldn’t survive something like that. But, that said, all of
my hopes lie in beta, which is why it’s taking us longer to
get to beta. We’re demanding that it be a polished game
before it gets into the hands of the users. Now it doesn’t
necessarily need to have all the content or all the features in place,
but everything that’s there needs to be awesome.

We’re doing more and more testing, and ramping up with more
and more users, but we’re not going to go until
it’s great. We’re such a small unknown IP and,
frankly, I think there’s more NetDevil haters than there are
fans out there. People are going to jump to conclusions really quick
with us, and we need to make sure our game is awesome before it hits
beta. That’s something we definitely have to overcome.

Ten Ton Hammer: That
always bothers me when people act like NetDevil is synonymous with the
result of Auto Assault.

Scott: To be
fair, I think Auto
was what it was. I don’t know what its
Metacritic score was [Editor’s
Note: It’s a 72%
] but it definitely is what it
is. It certainly wasn’t as good as style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online or
Warcraft or
any of those other games. I'm actually going to look that up right now.

The problem with entertainment is that I worry that people
don’t play 70% games.

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The Jumpgate
Evolution team is looking for the optimum launch window to release JGE.

Ten Ton Hammer: No, they

Scott: You
only have so much time on your hands to play games these days. So on
Metacritic, Auto Assault
is a 72%. I think it probably is a 72 sort of game.

While that’s not crap, it’s also not awesome. I
don’t know about you, but when you’re not working
you’re probably not going to play a 72% game. You only play
games that are awesome.

Ten Ton Hammer:
You’re absolutely right. Unfortunately, we’re
running out of time, Scott. Is there anything else you’d like
to mention?

I’d like to ask people to hang in there. Don’t
judge us until you’ve seen our next few products. I feel like
we’ve learned so much and employed so many processes.
I’m so proud of the way we build games now – our
groups and our focus testing – and I think we finally get it.

Trust me, I’m probably more excited than anyone else to get
our next round of stuff out there for people to play and beta and see
if people agree or if we’ve just been talking a bunch of B.S.
for awhile.

Ten Ton Hammer:
It’s been a real pleasure. Talk to you soon!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Auto Assault Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016