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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dave Perry: Be Merry

Informed readers will be aware of Top Secret, a collaborative games development project - the collaboration taking place between a few veteran games designers and thousands of gaming enthusiasts. The aim of Top Secret is to release a new MMO racing game. So far, I know that the game will involve beast riding (cyborg dinosaurs, not ponies) and embarrassingly that's all I know for definite.

I've mangled a few IRC transcripts together and formed some kind of monster that ought to represent highlights from last night's encounter with 'dperry':

*Knight1b* You guys have been in the industry for awhile what do you think of the progress TS has made so far?

dperry: It's been a much more complicated start than expected. Normally we just make decisions and forge ahead. If we need to make changes it takes minutes. In this project, there's a week added each time we change our minds on something. Not used to this at all. So we need to plan 5,000 times more than normal.

demaria: On the other hand, we are getting a great, and unexpected variety of ideas, making this game unique.

dperry: We are pretty clear on that now, so we are planning new ways to present problems. One major issue has been the catch-22 problem. It's hard to plan out the entire project when you don't know what the project will be. We had no idea there would be fantasy beasts running around. So the plan unfolds as we go. It's actually very fun, but nothing like as fast as we are used to.

demaria: We're really working to address several issues: 1 competition and the perception that this is more contest than collaboration
2. How to make it clearer what we are asking
3. How to help you grasp the scope of the game design by creating a dependencies chart
4. Ways to get you involved in more rewarding activities
5. How to provide some additional rewards... ;)
And we're hoping to find ways to help you become leaders of the project more and more.

*jwboggess* Other than boosters, what other income streams do you see as viable?

dperry: We want to keep the game free to play. So that anyone can give it to their friends and they can play as long as they like for free. This is the general rule with the Acclaim games.
(1) Online
(2) Free.
dperry> :)
dperry: On the other hand, it's a business and we need Acclaim to do well and keep funding these kinds of risky projects.
dperry: So we need to help Acclaim find ways to allow people (that love the game) to spend some money. Thats done with in-game items, upgrades, and sponsorships. We will also have in-game advertising. Acclaim tries to put the advertising in places were there are natural pauses. They don't want the gamer to suffer death by advertising. So if it's loading, or if you are wating for someone, it's a great time to squeeze in some revenue. The items however can't affect the game balance, so our team will have a chance to get creative with these items. What would you be happy to buy? I met a team in China recently. A designer came up with an idea for one item. This one item makes a million dollars a month. Could you come up with one of those really innovative items. Acclaim would love you! But so would ever other game company. The US market has not realized that there is potential to just allow gamers to spend money when they are happy, and when they choose to. It's a working model, but you bet 110% on your design team, and their knowledge of gamers. So I will be really interested to see if we can find a million dollars a month guy/girl from this group. It's a new kind of (forward looking) business design challenge. Right now however the game comes first, but we will discuss this stuff later.

*adonai|mxo* Can you give us a sneak peak at whats coming up over the next month regarding TS?

dperry: Well for me it's really going to be drilling into the gameplay. I really want to dive into the action, the controls, what you can do, when, why, how can we make it more fun. What will make you really point to the screen and say "Did you see that?" That will be mixed with abilities. What can the beasts do? What can the players do? How can they be modified? How can we keep the controls simple? How can we attack others and really enjoy it? How can they attack us and not piss us off!

*Juindalo_irc_irc* Any insight about the kinds of tracks that will be featured pertaining to the chosen theme?

dperry: I had some Pancakes in San Francisco yesterday. Westin Hotel at the San Francisco Airport. Anyone live near there? I'm chewing on my pancakes and I look at the wall.
There's a GIANT mural of a race. It's really cool, immediately made me think of top secret. It was in a town square, with a few thousand spectators, so many, they actually MADE the track. Meaning you ran around them. I kinda like that idea... So you could fall over and role into the audience. Anyway, that's just an example. There are ideas everywhere. We just need to gather them up.

*adonai|mxo* From my perspective the community seems under utilized, going forward can we expect the same at arms length relationship, or can the community expect to be intimately empowered to define its own success in the near future?

demaria: I'll take a stab at this
demaria: Yes, we want to get you guys busier. There are several ways to do that. First, you guys are doing an amazing job. I keep saying that, and it's true . So... right now the four current tasks are going to open up many more new tasks and refinements. We're just getting to the heart and the real meat of this project. It's like the overture before the symphony, so you will be getting more to do. I am exploring the concept of community leadership. This means that we want to find a way for YOU to nominate people to help lead tasks. We will be introducing new systems to empower that. Really, there is a lot more to come. we're out of time, but keep an eye on the forums and feel free to PM me. I'm already in conversation with the moderators to get this project even more productive. Feedback is helpful.

For a unique and untested concept, I'd judge Top Secret is manoeuvring towards the correct racing line. I'll keep Splines updated with any further developments.