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Majestic to End

EA's ambitious Majestic game, which embroiled players in a mystery that involved real-world interactions with instant messages, email, faxes, and more, will be shut down sometime in the middle of next year, but not before costing the company between five and seven million dollars. This revelation is found in Can PC gamers handle innovation on CNN Money, a column that examines the idea that while PC gamer's demand innovation they don't necessarily reward it. The article quotes an unrepentant Jeff Brown, vice president of corporate communications for EA, as saying: "Maybe the consumer didn't get it, but in five years, everyone's going to be making games based on this engine. I'm not apologizing for anything!"

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41. Re: A response from gamers Dec 26, 2001, 23:40 anon@66.69
 
http://money.cnn.com/2001/12/25/technology/gaming_column/

Chris Morris "replied" to the criticism levied against him by gamers who sent him e-mails. Mr. Morris failed to address any of the pertinent issues brought up by gamers and he continues to treat his audience in a condescending and derogatory manner. In fact, I can see no reason why he would even go to the trouble of publishing this new article to the CNN site. It comes off as an immature, reactionary piece that Mr. Morris threw up in self-defense. In doing so, he has only reaffirmed his image as a hack and a corporate shill.
Furthermore, his piecemeal cutting and pasting of gamers' e-mails is unprofessional and borderline unethical. He chose to only show snippets that furthered his agenda of painting gamers in a bad light.
 
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40. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 26, 2001, 21:27 Haesslich
 
I played Majestic as soon as it came out... I'll be honest: the first chapter was fun, but then the novelty started to wear off.

Phone calls in the middle of the night? I can live with that. Faxes of odd things at odd hours? I can live with that too. Badly acted streaming videophone clips? Sure.

But in the end, it was the waiting that got to me. I found out this clue in about five minutes reading this page, or that web page... and then, I wait. I get an IM from someone, give them the key word, I wait in Standby for two RL days.

Look, some verisimilitude is good... but this was ridiculous. Especially since the puzzles became few and far between, replaced by rather inferior 'wait for the IM or phone call, then go to this page' clues. Or some of those futile Flash games; I found out that I had NO way of changing the story at all, or of really interacting with the game in a meaningful fashion. Those of you who knew of the break-in will know of what I mean. That game was rigged, and I felt cheated out of it after.

I mean, the game's supposed to play us? They could've found a better schtick to use on the players than 'let's make this scenario impossible, after making them think they're really contributing, because we can'.

Then again, I'm not sure I expected better of the people who shoved 'UO: Renaissance' out the door without the Faction/Reputation system that was ballyhooed as the best thing to happen to UO since pre-casting (which, as a matter of note, was all over the box - the Faction/Reputation system). Or who cancelled UWO, because they were afraid of the idea of having a MMORPG which was new. Or who took Battletech 3025 and turned it from an online game that might have been Kesmai's pride and joy and turned it into a half-baked turkey that was canned a few weeks after the beta was opened up to the public.

Excuse me while I go taunt the black helicopters outside my window.


 
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39. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 26, 2001, 19:04 anon@12.237
 
I agree with your points regarding Majestic and EA but you are incorrect regarding the sales of Alice. I liked it very much and Rogue certainly did a great job on it. However, it did not sell well at all. This is easily confirmed by looking at sales numbers from PC Data.  
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38. Innovation? How about boredom... Dec 25, 2001, 21:30 Tigger
 
And what's so innovative about sitting around reading a bunch of websites and then waiting for faxes and e-mails from the game? I have to do all that shit in my normal life, I dont need a game calling me up screaming!

The game was also hyped way too much for way too long. No matter how good the game was, how can it live up to: "Majestic, you don't play it - it plays you..."?
Let's be realistic. It didn't play me. It' didn't even fondle me! It BORED ME TO TEARS.

The truth is, this game isn't going to appeal to hardcore gamers. We want instant gradification. I spent more time reading websites in the 2 months I played Majestic than I logged in CS in the last 4 months!

It's not whether gamers, as a community, can handle innovation. The question is, can companies be innovative enough for us?

This comment was edited on Dec 25, 21:38.
 
Avatar 7252
 
--
Tigger
Vic Fontaine for President
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37. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 25, 2001, 05:20 Karnisov
 
Mr. Morris is obviously a victim of corporate hubris, like the VP of EA. "I work for CNN therefore my presentation is accurate no matter how biased or clueless I am" sad

 
"Think for yourself. Question authority."
-- Timothy Leary
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36. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 24, 2001, 18:23 Glock
 
My email to him:

Chris,

Majestic didn't fail because it was "innovative". It failed because it sucked, period.

Majestic was panned by many online and magazine reviews of the product.

It just seems like you are too accepting of Electronic Arts' explaination of why it failed. The VP who you interviewed is blaming the market (or PC gamers in general) because he's trying to cover up the fact that the game that he funded (Majestic) was an extremely poor game. This is typical of Electronic Arts executives: They always blame the market or the gamers because of the fact they are extremely poor managers who shove out extremely poor games.

Most of Electronic Art's PC games are shovelware titles, such as Harry Potter. Yeah, it sold well, but only because of parents buying the games for their kids, who are not exactly finicky about the quality of their games. Controlling Harry Potter and using magic spells against monsters equal a good game to them. Try to do that with an adult gamer, and they'll call it shovelware movie tie-in, because it is. The Sims are the same way. It's a crap game, but people buy it because they are the type of people who will buy crap in a box because the packaging is pretty.

Also, Electronic Arts has a history of screwing over developers that they contract with. Rogue Entertainment made a game called "American McGee's Alice". The game got good reviews, and the art design was top rate, and it even sold extremely well. The developer was working on the PS2 port when the port got canned (because of the PS2 shortage). They lied to Rogue about being partners in the furthering of the Alice franchise, and they didn't even give them the job to port the game over to the XBOX or the Gamecube. Now, Rogue is defunct, all because EA gave them lip service and made promises that they knew was lies.

If anyone deserves the accolades for being innovative, it's Rogue Entertainment for making Alice, not EA's Majestic.

Just because Electronic Arts says the game is "innovative", doesn't mean it really is. You should know better, as a writer, than to blindly trust EA's PR smoke.

His response:

Actually, there were several very positive reviews of Majestic. Like most games, some folks liked it, some didn't.

EA has always had an antagonistic relationship with the hard-core gamer, but that's often the result of being at the top of the industry. I know all about the Rogue Entertainment debacle - and I don't know that I agree with their actions, but the fact of the matter is that Alice (while I enjoyed the game thoroughly) did not sell very well, despite your beliefs. I know American and think he did a great job and can't wait to see his next project (which appears to be based on The Wizard of Oz, judging by early sketches).

Believe me, there was no PR "smoke" involved in this column. I played Majestic to the end (what 'end' there was). I've talked with Neil Young several times. The fact remains they had a strong game (albeit a far from perfect one), that gamers rejected.

Best,
Chris

------------

FYI: Alice did sell well. The folks at Rogue Entertainment confirmed this in their farewell message when they shut down after EA fucked them by shutting down the PS2 Alice project without an alternate project.

This comment was edited on Dec 24, 18:30.
 
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35. Re: A response from gamers Dec 24, 2001, 00:15 Xombie
 
FM2K, you might want to add in the success of Deus Ex.
Despite that it was freeware on any new soundblaster card, it still was able to drag Ion Storm's name from the hole that it was in, and be acclaimed as one of the best games ever made.
Gamers expect more because our computers are capable of much more. The minimum requirements on this season's games are the equivelent to this year's new consoles. PC games are breaking the boundary between artwork and entertainment, while consoles are meant to ONLY be a quick fix to keep the kids quiet. As the man said, we are a much older market. We expect a whole hell of alot more. And we see what games ARE capable of, and no marketing can change our opinion when we see that a game absolutely sucks.

PC gamers look at things like the Final Fantasy movie, and say "I want better graphics", because quite simply, they CAN be better. We WANT them to be better. We know they WILL be better. But if we don't call for them to be better, there is no reason for publishers to fund better projects. This is why EA is failing. They are staying through with funding poor products like Majestic and Harry Potter, and then cancel out GOOD projects, and fire their TALENTED workers. This is why EA is going broke. And it seems quite convenient that Chris Morris forgot to add that.

 
Xombie x0mbie x0mb|e Xombie
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34. Re: A response from gamers Dec 24, 2001, 00:03 Xombie
 
what the hell MMORPG are you talking about that costs $30 a month?

 
Xombie x0mbie x0mb|e Xombie
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33. Most gamers will... Dec 22, 2001, 17:27 anon@63.14
 
Complain, whine, and generally throw fits when something that comes out isn't as revolutionary when compared to some other game, or doesn't have the same flash, or doesn't have all the newest crap, or whatever. Yet, get this, when a company (like 3d Realms) actually has the resources to tackle this problem and make their games fun, people will complain, whine, and generally throw fits because it take another year for it to get out. To those of you who can't comprehend that good games take time: ;p  
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32. Re: A response from gamers Dec 21, 2001, 19:08 anon@24.205
 
Thanks for a wonderful critique of a clueless gamesuit. I cheer whenever such an idiot makes these sort of excuses for their own hubris. Since they will now ixnay any additional efforts along these lines within the big companies, that will leave the market wide open for an ambitious startup. I look forward to the next timesuck as immersive as _The Beast_ was...  
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31. Re: A response from gamers Dec 21, 2001, 11:04 EnsignRedshirt
 
Well, to tell the truth, on most accounts, he's right- PC gamers are pretty fickle. How many games were cool and innovative, but ended up flopping for one reason or another? Homeworld was not really an overwhelming success- great gameplay, but confusing controls. Black and White- very innovative AI, shamefully non-innovative gameplay. Sacrifice? Excellent game- but no one's playing it... I still can't quite figure out the reason why on that one.

The PC community is well prepared to accept innovation- we spend more money on graphics cards than we spend on the CPU, we overclock and tweak, add memory, all to get the most out of our systems for the next big innovation. However, we know a rip-off when we see it. What good are those expensive graphics cards when the game you play doesn't have graphics? Few gamers I know will pay $10 a month anymore for a primarily text-based game. Heck, I refuse to sign up for any MMRPG's coz I plain old refuse to pay $30 a month for any game.
The line that really offends me is the final quote from McNealy, which essentially compares us to 10 year olds. Right. Like "mommy dearest" he knows what's best for us, so we better pay up and eat our vegetables.

 
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30. Re: A response from gamers Dec 20, 2001, 22:38 Karnisov
 
w3rd FM2K. nice letter.

 
"Think for yourself. Question authority."
-- Timothy Leary
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29. A response from gamers Dec 20, 2001, 18:54 FM2K
 
My partner in crime and I know a thing or two about immersive games like Majestic. What follows is the reply we sent to Chris Morris, the CNN Money editorial page, and to several other media sites. Special thanks to J. Brown over on the Cloudmaker Group who brought this to our attention.

Chris Morris,



We read your article entitled "PC Gamers Demand Something Different,

Then Promptly Reject It," posted at

http://money.cnn.com/2001/12/19/technology/column_gaming/ on

12.19.2001. We find it hard to comprehend why you would champion such a poorly executed concept such as "Majestic" or overlook the fact that the launch of "Majestic" came on the heels of a much more well-executed, immersive experience in the form of "The Beast."



"The Beast", of course, was a well executed effort in immersive engineering which was built to virally promote the film "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence." It succeeded in all of the ways that "Majestic" failed. It contained a well written and in depth plot line, used multiple communications mediums to progress the narrative, and utilized elaborate puzzles that required collaboration with others. I'm eager to hear the kind of justification you have for claiming that this kind of innovation was dismissed, when you failed to even examine the very undertaking that has now set the standard for the online immersive experience.



"The Beast" made Time magazine's Best/Worst list.

http://www.time.com/time/bestworst2001/tv.html



It made the New York Times list of innovations in the "Year in Ideas."

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/09/magazine/09GAME.html



"The Beast" also made this month's Entertainment Weekly "Best of 2001" issue as "Site of the Year."



Care to elaborate how this type of innovation was "dismissed" as you put it? "Majestic" simply, in the end, had a poor and inferior product built off of a good idea. The fact that EA expected people to pay for this poor entertainment only sealed their fate; especially when an exponentially better experience was being had for free with "The Beast."



Jeff Brown, vice president of corporate communications for EA should not be apologizing for the concept. He should be begging forgiveness for EA's poor development and execution.



Even before "Majestic" launched, there were many people posting warnings on EA's own message boards that "Majestic" was flawed. These people warned that the slow progression and the "be dragged or pushed" linear narrative would not sustain an audience. Cloudmakers, the group of players who were involved with "The Beast", offered up plenty of warning that EA was not on the path to success. We even advised on how to fix it.



Jeff Brown claims, "the consumer didn't get it." He also boasts that in five years everyone will be using EA's model for Majestic. This is hubris and self-delusion of the highest order. The subscription model and game philosophy deployed by EA will not work. They will fail because EA has underestimated the intelligence of gamers who yearn for this type of experience. They will fail because, in pushing gamers forward with spoon-fed clues, they have eliminated the need for collaboration. Without cooperation, without the social bonding that occurs as players work through puzzles together, these games will not succeed. You may never be able to package this type of entertainment to a mass audience, but if the general sentiment at EA is as audacious as Brown's, EA certainly will NOT be at the forefront.



You say in your article, "Console gamers vastly outnumber PC gamers. A bigger part, though, is the flexibility consoles offer. PC gaming tends to be a solitary experience. Consoles tend to be a more social experience." This just needs an explanation.



To the best of my knowledge, no console to date has any kind of capacity for mass social involvement. Online role-playing and other styles of games for the PC have been allowing people to gather and communicate for years. Online communities form around these games and it is not uncommon for relationships to form offline, outside the gaming dimension.



In an article you wrote May sixteenth of this year, you state: "PC gamers have long had the ability to play against each other over the Internet." You also say that the number of PC online gamers is much higher than the number of gamers using the online option for the Dreamcast, the only console to offer online gaming at that time. Have things changed so much in the past six months? Our X-box consoles are as advanced as what is available out there and, unless you are privy to some news we are not, as of right now one still can't chat, send an email, or hook any other kind of input device to it besides the IR port for the DVD remote and the game controller. The most social experience from a console game I've seen is the ability to make fun of "Player 2" when you knock his/her player to the ice and they start to bleed.





Simply put, we consider your article to be unbalanced and poorly conceived. The failure of one horribly executed game like "Majestic" is in no way an accurate view of gamers' appetites. What gamers ARE quick to dismiss are games that provide a poor experience and expect continued revenue for a sub-standard product.



We recommend you revisit this subject. Just as there are alternatives to games like "Majestic", there are alternatives to Game industry news.



Regards,



Josh Babetski, Randall Cremean

TaxiCafe Media

This comment was edited on Dec 20, 19:02.
 
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28. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 20, 2001, 08:39 anon@192.25
 
>>>Logan: I read a lot of stuff that people wrote about this game. I read about the mind numbingly slow loading. I read about the huge amounts of spam advertisements. I read about the bad acting. I read about the fact that you could only do a certain amount per day then you were done - whether or not you wanted to keep playing was not an issue. You notice that none of these things have come up? Now it is all about customers not wanting to pay for innovation. Unfortunately, that is the kind of crap that the 'money men' (aka venture capitalists) read and it sticks. I hate it when the gaming industry doesn't learn from its mistakes....  
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27. Re: Innovation... Dec 20, 2001, 08:26 killrig
 
but really they just want a bigger, brighter, better version of Halflife every 6 months.

Actually, I'd like a bigger, better, FASTER version of System Shock/Deus Ex every 6 months. Oh wait...

 
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26. Innovation... Dec 20, 2001, 07:11 Eon
 
Innovation is not something that gamers of any stripe are reqarding at the moment IMHO.

People want a game like the one they played last time, only better. They're happy to take a little innovation in terms of interface and gameplay, but really they just want a bigger, brighter, better version of Halflife every 6 months.

Eon

 
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25. EA.com is screwed Dec 20, 2001, 06:44 anon@24.219
 
I think the problem here wasnt Majestic it was EA.com's failure. For those of you that dont know, Majestic was originally a subscription based game. For $9.95 you got the "Premium" service on EA.com. This included Majestic and
all of the other premium games like Air Warrior and Silent Death Online. However, EA.com like the rest of the dotbombs was losing money fast, so the fools in charge decided to get rid of the whole "Premium" service and just charge $9.95 for Majestic. They also got rid of the free download and put it in a pretty box that people had to pay $40 for if you wanted to play. Now $10 for access to 3 or 4 pretty decent games was a good deal. However, when you tell all your users that from now on they can only play Majestic and they have to pay the same price or cancel, well you get the idea. They managed to simultaneously alienate their current users and their new subcribers at the same time. So the blame shouldnt really be put on Majestic's shoulders, rather it should be on the decision makers at EA.com. Their inability to understand the basic fundamentals and make rational decisions destroyed this game.
 
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24. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 20, 2001, 06:43 anon@194.205
 
oh, i give up. gamers suck.  
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23. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 20, 2001, 06:25 anon@192.156
 
consoles blow. there are a few games on them worth playing but most of em are piles of shit.  
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22. Re: writing mr. morris Dec 20, 2001, 05:29 anon@194.205
 
"...before slamming the PC gamer population on being "fickle". Sure you could probably sell the console population something like Majestic, for no other reason than they are stupid enough to buy idiotic Japanese style arcade games..."

but perhaps if you're going to complain about being pigeonholed as 'fickle' because you're a PC gamer, you shouldn't claim all console gamers are 'stupid'?

majestic wasn't that great, but it wasn't a first person shooter set in a post-industrial future where you played a marine fighting alien forces, which seems to be what the PC market thrives on - 'higher standards' or not. that's the generalisation onlookers will draw from this, and that's what you should be addressing.

perhaps you should play some good and bad console games before deciding that your opinion is worth more than anyone else's.
 
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