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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:28 pm 
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We can look forward to sooo much I think and i so much enjoy the journey

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 Post subject: Interview Transcript
PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:30 pm 
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Here is the transcription of this interview. Thank you very much to CrisGer and Mara for their help ensuring its accuracy and readability. I hope the spoiler tags work...

[spoiler]
GWJ: So briefly, probably the first question is: so what happened?

Rand: (laughs) Oh my goodness. Umm... You know, Uru is a unique animal. I think that umm, just the way we tried to take the Myst franchise and do it online needed to be different, and I think the way we defined it early on was that was gonna be unique, and was going to take a large commitment of money to make content on a regular basis, and I don't know if publishers were ready for that. And so, and please believe me, we didn't do everything right; there were plenty of things we could have done differently as well, but I think at some point somebody will make some changes that will allow a more content based interactive online experience, um, work and work well.

GWJ: What do you mean by more content based one? Certainly, Blizzard would argue that they're content based.

Rand: Um...yeah I guess I look at Blizzard has content, but the goal of the game that you go in on a daily basis. To play the game is to level your character, and you see that in the content, but the purpose of the game is to level that character. I think that somebody is going to realize just that the other way that people are entertained, There is not any right or wrong way that people are entertained. It is very diverse, but one of the ways we are very used to in the United States is fresh content. I mean, we watch TV because we want to see fresh content. When the episodes of Lost go off for a while, so does the viewership. So if you can provide that same experience in an online world, where everyday I come back not just to level my character, to jump on the treadmill, but to see what might be new there today, I think there is a compliment there that is very intriguing.

GWJ: Yeah, I mean, one of the things that struck me about Uru, and also about the whole Myst series, is I know myself and other writers were drawn to the world, back however many years ago, because it was sort of one of the first examples we saw of storytelling without text, where we weren't being told a story in a sort of Lucas Arts adventure game mode. We were actually sort of trying to figure the story out by what was presented to us to explore and, you know, I think that one of the interesting things about Uru is that it almost seemed that Episodic was too structured. You almost wanted to have that stuff show up, like you said, every moment, you wanted there to be one new thing right in front of you.

Rand: Yeah I totally agree. I think that, umm, the constraints of budget were to kinda move you to an episodic route. Our goal at the very beginning of Uru, that was (you know we are talking many years ago), to truly have something intriguing every time you came back in, so as you are at school or work or something you are actually anticipating, wondering, "Hmm, I wonder if that waterfall will be open tonight or if there will be a new age there tonight I can, or if that one person who I met the other day will show up in that new spot of a character will perform something they said they were going to do." I mean all those things are content, and they're more story based content that I think a mass market audience would respond to. Unfortunately, that also takes tons and tons of money to create a never-ending supply of content, so the alternative to that is, since people are paying on a monthly basis, you just provide content that says once a month we'll give you something new. But I totally agree with you that the best way is to always keep people guessing, keep them wondering what's around the corner.

GWJ: So, I mean, do you think there is a failure of business model ingenuity in the industry here? Is there a new way to think about this? A lot of people are focused on either microtransactions or free but advertising based, or do you think there is another model other than simply pay for the content that might work here?


Rand: Yeah! I absolutely think there could be another model. Like I said, I don't think we had everything lined up the right way with Uru. I think we had a great idea, and I think the core of that concept of content is key, but how to get people to pay and how it works in the real business world is still something to be solved, and I don't know how


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:24 am 
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Thanks for posting the transcription.
I listened to Rand's interview and he is definitely grounded in reality about the failure of this project. He knows that he has a unique product that borders on the edge of being "too unique" in the MMO world. Warcraft and others have built in leveling which fills the user with both goals and accomplishments. Those are run on "competition based gameplay" and Rand wants an MMO that is a "content based gameplay". The inherent problem in that design is the need for a constant stream of content that cannot be maintained based on the subscription numbers. It was difficult for them to fill 4-5 days every 5 weeks with content that would make a subcription worth the money.

People are complaining that they should have given it a second season before making a decision. If you had your money in a stock that was losing your money and projected to lose you more money, most if not all of you would get out of that stock. You don't hold on to it for sentimental reasons. I've been involved in starting up of a niche record label and it's rough work. Your investors have to acept that it takes time to catch on and will most likely lose money in first few years. However, you have to be willing to pump money in to make it inticing to people. If something looks like it's failing, people aren't very likely to pay attention or join up. It's a real sink or swim approach and URU Live was wading into the water one toe at a time. The fatal mistake in this plan was not hitting the ground running. There should have been prepared ages in the pipeline for the first season so that there was a Minkata type age every month. They also needed cinamatics, voice acting and things to tie together ongoing events and storylines so that you didn't feel like you were walking into a party without an invitation. There was no way to know about past events except for user message boards of people who logged events.

Uru was cancelled because they didn't believe that it's earnings could ever match up with the overhead costs. The only way this could ever work again was if they came back with an explosion of new content and kept up the pace, and advertised to the right people. It's still a risk because the cooperation aspect works against them and eats up content and playing hours faster than a competitive MMO. Rand admits that there were mistakes made on both sides that may have doomed this project from the start. After 2 failures, it's going to be a while before another investor would want to take this to a wide market. On top of all this, the engine is falling out of date very quickly, so the graphics would need to be redone before it can be tried again. The only alternative is a small user-run community on a limited server with story and content approved by Cyan. Things are getting cheaper so it's possible if the right holders can agree with "art for art's sake". If that doesn't pan out, unfortunately, I think it's going to be a long wait for another shot at a Myst MMO. :(


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:28 am 
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I must respectfully say that i feel that the evolution of MOUL and URU has been right on the money and right in line with the philosophy of Cyan and many many of us in terms of quality and time taken to develop.

I would NOT after years spent studying over 700 CGI games and learning the basics and intricacies of game developement and design and having been a creative professional for 39 years say anything about Cyan or URU or MOUL was any kind of failure at all in anyway. It was and is rather a brilliant accomplishment and continues to evolve and deepen in quality, and amazing beauty at every level.

I look forward with great interest to a speedy return to the Cavern and a continuation of the wonders of our shared Journey.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 2:06 pm 
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There is nothing wrong with URU. The fact that Cyan cannot make the worlds fast enough to make regular content contributions does not mean that URU has failed. The business model may have failed, but URU still keeps me coming back wanting more.

I will keep my fingers crossed.

Thanks for the post!

Nivlaek


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:11 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 4:58 pm 
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THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR THE TRANSCRIPTION!!!

Christine

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:46 pm 
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Agree with the above -- thanks for the transcription! I listened to the interview, but it's good to be able to read over it as well.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:31 pm 
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raistlin75 wrote:
Thanks for posting the transcription.
I listened to Rand's interview and he is definitely grounded in reality about the failure of this project. He knows that he has a unique product that borders on the edge of being "too unique" in the MMO world. Warcraft and others have built in leveling which fills the user with both goals and accomplishments. Those are run on "competition based gameplay" and Rand wants an MMO that is a "content based gameplay". The inherent problem in that design is the need for a constant stream of content that cannot be maintained based on the subscription numbers. It was difficult for them to fill 4-5 days every 5 weeks with content that would make a subcription worth the money.

[snip]

The fatal mistake in this plan was not hitting the ground running. There should have been prepared ages in the pipeline for the first season so that there was a Minkata type age every month. They also needed cinamatics, voice acting and things to tie together ongoing events and storylines so that you didn't feel like you were walking into a party without an invitation. There was no way to know about past events except for user message boards of people who logged events.


I agree that Uru didn't really manage to live up to its business model. Unfortunately, Uru's been "behind schedule" so to speak since UbiSoft took the reigns away in 2003 and pushed Cyan into devoting 7 months to a completely different game plan. Since then the game's been hamstrung by throwing months of planned content and story into the initial ABM release, canceled, expanded through more condensation of content and story, had most of its remaining content and even more of its story condensed into End of Ages, been brought back by GameTap, and launched a year later without enough time to devote to resolving all of the outstanding issues: a near-empty production pipeline, outdated netcode, a huge leap forward in the story line, and numerous other client engine changes including a completely new physics engine.

It feels like Cyan has been trying to do more and more with less and less to work with since early 2003, and we finally hit the breaking point where lack of time, money, and development staff outweighed the progress made thus far.

I still, like many, think that the concept of Uru is a solid one, if a bit outside the mainstream at the moment. The problem is that with Uru, all of the pieces have to be in place before hitting the pavement, or the wheels just start flying off. Content has to roll out regularly and substantially (and ideally have some degree of replayability); players need other things to do to keep them entertained and playing the game; story has to be easily discoverable and accessible to everyone in-game; people-controlled NPCs have to be fixtures of the game, and not guest stars. Given that Uru Live was effectively unchanged for nearly 2 years from February 2004 and late 2005 when GameTap picked it up, I just don't think there was nearly enough time to get all of those ducks in a row in the year they had before the closed beta started in 2006.

Getting Uru going again as a commercial venture is going to take a massive amount of money from a third party that isn't put off by the fact that the game has been canceled twice now, is smart enough to leave the design decisions in Cyan's hands, and patient enough to wait several years before the game even launches, to say nothing of making a profit. Maybe Cyan should hit up Richard Bronson for some money... he seems like the kind of guy to throw millions of dollars at pie-in-the-sky ideas, what with launching Virgin Galactic and all ;).

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 9:08 pm 
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Thoughtful points Alah, thanks.

URU MOUL is a magnificent Eagle that is gaining strength to fly.....give it wings and it will and we along with it.

Analysis is interesting, i will devote what evergy i can to helping us all continue until Cyan feels the time is right for contining. I am sure that the story and the energy of URU are fine, the modern game market is deeply flawed by simplstic and violence oriented games that merely continue the struggle of the selfish jungle that daily life is increasingly becoming. If i wanted to continue that fruitless struggle i would go to the mall or to any city street instead of into MOUL.

thank you Rand and Cyan for being true to a vision that is true, valueable and worthy of your talents and thank you to all of us who stand by them.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:02 am 
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Great analysis Alahmnat, really interesting - enjoyed and appreciated it. I'm not a fan of live players filling character roles (prefer AI, computer generated characters to advance the story) - but the way you describe it, it makes a lot of sense. I also liked the part about ages needing to roll out, as well as repeatable content. To me, repeatable content is the biggie - I think that Uru needs to provide things to do in the game, apart from solving puzzles to open up new ages, and to (sometimes) advance the story.

It will be interesting to see what happens. I do think that, to have the "original Uru", with all that content , it's unrealistic at this time. I'm hoping for an Uru, with, at a minimum , fan ages and some content, then, maybe later - Uru big time.

I don't think the game industry is flawed, not at all. There are games out there I like, both some big selling games, and some smaller games, though I always want more games I want to play. I also want Uru.

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Last edited by mszv on Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 4:50 pm 
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Alahmnat -

Thanks for the excellent observations! You're right, Uru's been thwarted at every turn for years now, and personally I'm astonished that Cyan has held on to the reins as long as they have.

If they can stick with it, so can I.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:45 pm 
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I read Alahmnat's post again, carefully. It doesn't seem to me that we are going to get the online Uru that was originally planned, anytime soon - given the fact that the game was cancelled by publishers twice. If you do it the way it was going to be done, original plan, it will need massive amounts of money and time. I know this community is all about hope, but it doesn't seem like a grass roots thing to me. To use an analogy - you don't get a Lord of the Rings movie triology with an indie budget.

That doesn't mean that other versions of online Uru can't happen. I'm thinking (guessing actually) that, assuming the publisher rights get worked out - we'll get a different Uru, one with fan ages and maybe a little tiny bit of content from Cyan. It's not the Uru I signed up for, but hey, it's Uru. I would like to see fan ages. I could live with that!

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Last edited by mszv on Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:56 pm 
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Alahmnat wrote:
The problem is that with Uru, all of the pieces have to be in place before hitting the pavement, or the wheels just start flying off. Content has to roll out regularly and substantially (and ideally have some degree of replayability); players need other things to do to keep them entertained and playing the game; story has to be easily discoverable and accessible to everyone in-game; people-controlled NPCs have to be fixtures of the game, and not guest stars.


Thanks for the response, Alahmnat. The thing I forgot to mention in my post which you hit on was the replayability factor not being there. Once you solve a puzzle you can't solve it again, unless it has multiple solutions, which these puzzles did not have. The essence of Myst does not have a replayable quality to it. Of course, you'll want to play the games again, but usually not until a few years have passed. So in addition to the regular Myst-type puzzles, they need to write good sandbox ages (NOT LIKE JALAK) that can be played with multiple players. It's the only way to keep people coming back instead of solving the monthly age and then leaving for 5 weeks. I felt no sense of community in the game because there were more reasons to come to these forums than there were to randomly sign on to URU. It's a problem I believe they would have worked out if they had the time or money, but I think Cyan knew there was a good possibility of being cancelled far before the end of season. You can get a feeling from your investors that they're getting impatient and ready to pull the plug. I think the decision to end it was being made by GT about six months into the project. It just cost them too much money and didn't bring in the subscriber base they wanted.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:39 pm 
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Great interview! Thanks so much for it and the transcript.


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