Author Topic: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft  (Read 76820 times)

AreEss

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #100 on: September 10, 2012, 09:38:24 AM »
AreEss, where are you getting the $1M EXTRA for development?  Paragon wasn't hiring extra employees, development was the JOB of the employees there.  They weren't adding extra computers, the computers THERE were for development.  I fail to see where this extra $1M in cost is coming from.

Because you're falling for the grand myth that "the development costs are baked in." They absolutely are not. Those are strictly the base operating costs. Those are the costs as though it were the exact same CoX as on release day with no further updates at all for the next 24 months. The costs would be the exact same.
Those are the costs, and I cannot emphasize this enough, just to keep the lights on. That is: to maintain and support the existing code and customer base and perhaps offer a few costume textures a year.

Here's what happened when NCsoft decided to consider City of Heroes 2 as an example of early stage development:
First, they took up the time of developers, accountants, managers, and artists to determine if it was viable. This is time not being spent on maintaining the existing asset.
Then consult this: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee092611.htm
And then the City of Heroes search.
They had to pay lawyers to do those searches first. Then they had to pay artists to come up with concepts. Then they had to pay lawyers to review those concepts. Then they had to pay the trademark application fees. All of these things take time and money.
Just maintaining the City of Heroes 2 trademark application is charged as an extension fee of $2,700 per month since late 2010.

Now let's say you want to do something relatively simple, and add a new canon character for a new story line. Get some artists to draw it up, animate with existing stuff and go, right? Wrong. Because or prior litigation (you know what) that goes to legal. Legal then has to research it extensively. Then research has to research it some more. Then legal looks at the results and gives a thumbs up or thumbs down. It could be "your concept is too much like Batman," it could be "your costume is actually from the KKK" (you like my Metalocalypse reference there?) but you get the general idea.
When you do get the sign off on your new canon character - which as you can see is very different from a player character, since it represents the company and the giant lawsuit target on their back - you now have to cycle through a different development process. New artwork. New textures. New costumes. New meshes. Tweaking till it fits just right, because once it's done, you can't change it so easily. Creating the lore and backstory for that, instead of correcting typos or grammatical errors in existing writing.

Now, there's two ways to overcome it. One, you let the base languish while you do your development work. Two, you hire more people to develop beyond the base. Paragon folks know how that is - they kept City afloat with all eleven of them, but were hemmed in tight, and didn't have the resources to really expand till they got more people.

With purchased in-game content, it's an even uglier process. Because you have to spend more time in research to find out what it is that will sell. You need to direct your development resources to the appropriate tasks - namely, those that will bring in money. Let's say that means power sets. So back to legal, who gives the sign off, which sends it to art and programming and _Castle_. Who now can't maintain the game because they have to create new things and refactor balance endlessly. Which means that others are trying to pick up the slack, which could be slowing down bug fixes or some other really cool feature. (Again, ask the Paragon folks about the dark days. I heard straight from them "we wanna do this cool thing, but we just can't because we don't have the resources right now.")
And if that item cost you $10,000 in outside costs and $75,000 in existing, but you only sell $25,000? That's a $35,000 net loss. You spent more money making it than you made from it.

So no, development costs are not baked in. Only base maintenance, which no matter how hard you try, can never fully encompass the true costs of development. Every hour spent making something new is salary in the hole until the day that item is released, and stays there till it turns a profit. It's a cruel equation, but it is unfortunately, what it is. It's things like this that have kept me from a lot of projects I'd like to do or be involved with, because the development investment required would take too long to return or would just have too much risk of being a total wash.

A new City is a big endeavor, and no matter what, would involve and require abandoning the current City with a tiny skeleton crew at best. People who only have the time to just keep the hamsters in the wheels turning and maybe catching a bug or two. Exploits, cheats, and expansions would necessarily fall to the back burner as the key staff got moved to focus their efforts on a new engine, a new story, a new world. Which means new hardware, new software, and the time to build it all - an undertaking of months if not years.

I'm honestly forced to agree with NCsoft's decision because with the data they have - CO bombed, STO bombed, Aion bombed, SW:TOR bombed, even TSW bombed - the market looks rough and ugly. Subscribers and revenues have been declining. City is just not financially healthy, the primary driver for a while now has been the continued development and Free-2-Pray conversion, and the results aren't good enough to justify continuing down that path.

TonyV

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #101 on: September 10, 2012, 10:12:36 AM »
City is just not financially healthy, the primary driver for a while now has been the continued development and Free-2-Pray conversion, and the results aren't good enough to justify continuing down that path.

The problem with your argument, though, is that I've talked to people who, unlike you, me, or anyone else posting here, would actually know whether or not City of Heroes was making money.  Every one of them without exception has said the exact same thing: City of Heroes was in the black.  Not just barely scraping by, but enough to fund an entirely separate project to develop a next generation MMO, certainly very well enough to keep going as-is for the indefinite future.

That aside, in spite of everything you've said, I still remain unconvinced of what you have presented here because that simply doesn't make sense to me.  If City of Heroes was doing so poorly, why would NCsoft allow Paragon Studios to use expensive resources on their development and art staff to work on yet another game, a game that ultimately would be developed by the same people that made the one that is supposedly doing so poorly now?  If this were a financial decision, why would NCsoft have gone to such an extreme measure of firing everyone, instead of trying to slash the budget and salvage what subscriber money is left to collect?

I'm sorry man, but I just don't buy it.  I don't doubt that you're convinced that you're right, and I don't doubt that you're probably frustrated at us ignorant folk who just don't seem to understand the points you're making.  But really, what it boils down to, "Do I trust the people I've been talking to, or do I trust a random stranger on the Internet?"

You don't have to believe me.  Shoot, no one has to, really, because I can't offer you one shred of proof of what I'm saying.  I hope a year or two from now I can come back to this post and say with no small measure of vindication, "See?  I told you so."  But for now, if you do believe me, then I'm telling you that I am 100% convinced of this fact: City of Heroes was making significant profits for Paragon Studios and NCsoft, and using the business model it was operating under, it is well capable of sustaining all of the operational costs (and then some) of an independent development company.  Hopefully I've earned at least some measure of trust that folks here don't think I'm just making stuff up out of my ass.  You don't have to put your faith in me, but if you choose to for just a little while longer, I promise I'll do my best to come through for you.  (*he says as he types this post at 6:10am after staying up all night to send out press releases, knowing he has to get up at 9:00am for his day job...)

It really boils down to, does a company want to have a footprint in the MMO market that City of Heroes caters to?  NCsoft doesn't.  Other people do.

Anyway, this thread has been derailed enough.  I don't want to start moderating posts, but I really need folks to stop arguing about this, it is completely unproductive.  If you have other ideas about better ways to help save City of Heroes, we'll be happy to entertain them, but right now our focus is squarely on getting the property from NCsoft into the hands of someone who can keep the game as it is running.

Knightly

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #102 on: September 10, 2012, 11:20:59 AM »
First time posting here. I hope I will not break any rules and such.

I didn't read all posts just take a quick look to them. I noticed some are thinking this is a futile effort. However I like to remind them what happened with Mass Effect 3. Bioware back stepped and changed their game's ending. So never underestimate power of gaming community.

Secondly it is very natural for CoH Freedom attempt didn't go well. I mean devs worked so hard to bring their best into the game. However those greedy NCSoft menagement did something I will never understand and will never forgive. I promised that very day I will never sub CoH again and never spend a dime on a NCSoft game. Unlike all other MMOs I've played and still playing, NCSoft was the first to try dig more gold from their already paying customers via selling them what they should have free, powers. Powers (power sets or what ever you call it) are backbone of every Superhero MMO. This is why Champions Online and DCUO found other ways to appeal free costumers and make them pay for their game. I am currently subbed to Champions Online just for freeform heroes (picking powers for your heroes at your heart's content). Champions was stubborn to not allow Freeform characters to free players, now after PWE they are selling Freeform slots in their market. Costly but still enough to make some people to pay for it.

NCSoft only cares for their next big "hit" in my opinion. So while I can't find any polite words to tell NCSoft menagers, I full heartedly support your efforts. I can write those kind words but my heart won't be standing with them. Maybe that is for better as I am not a good liar. For me devs, players and City of Heroes/Villians game will be better without them. Just no need to spread this around... yet.

Highest Regards,

@Knightly

Mister Bison

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #103 on: September 10, 2012, 07:36:14 PM »
Because you're falling for the grand myth that "the development costs are baked in." They absolutely are not. Those are strictly the base operating costs. Those are the costs as though it were the exact same CoX as on release day with no further updates at all for the next 24 months. The costs would be the exact same.
Those are the costs, and I cannot emphasize this enough, just to keep the lights on. That is: to maintain and support the existing code and customer base and perhaps offer a few costume textures a year.
Wait, the "base operating costs" is the salary of the Paragon Studios employees, that did *what* exactly ???
They did develop the game.
They did maintain the game.
They did get paid for that.

A developper company is a company, it has employees it has to pay, so, a fixed salary.
A developper company sells goods or services, which is where they get the money to pay the employees from.

This is basic knowledge about a business. Expanses, Gains. Simple.

Now, you're telling everyone here they paid 1 millions to develop a game they were paid to develop, maintain, and manage the community of. I'm just asking Where did this money go then ? We've never heard anything about Paragon Studios stating anything else than they were developping the game. THEY, themselves, PS, the devs, Positron & co.

Basically, you were adding real, honest to goodness and accurate expanses (and that was a good job) with their paycheck from NCSoft (That you pulled out of your backyard)

And no, a development company is no different. When they hit a contract with a publisher to do something they can't, they hire. That's upfront (equipment) an monthly expanses, but nowhere a million ! But where did you pull this million ?
Yeeessss....

Recluse1990

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #104 on: September 10, 2012, 08:48:19 PM »
Can you please move this into a different thread? This can be viewed by everyone, including prospective buyers of the game.

Victoria Victrix

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #105 on: September 10, 2012, 09:00:14 PM »
I will go down with this ship.  I won't put my hands up in surrender.  There will be no white flag above my door.  I'm in love, and always will be.  Dido

emu265

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #106 on: September 10, 2012, 09:26:56 PM »
All right guys, let's all calm down and get back to business.  I know we all have opinions, but it does not matter which side we agree with let's just internalize it for now and revisit if necessary. 

Paindancer

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #107 on: September 10, 2012, 10:18:28 PM »


Ooops.. didnt realize the topic had been shushed.
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Codewalker

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #108 on: September 10, 2012, 10:25:04 PM »
I call shenanigans on AreEss.

(very well reasoned and logical explanation)

Or, if you'll indulge me...


kgiesing

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #109 on: September 11, 2012, 03:34:13 AM »
I call shenanigans on AreEss.

Actually, the first part of AreEss' argument comes from NCSoft's Q2 earnings report, which I have also downloaded and read.  That part is beyond reasonable dispute at this point, as far as I can tell.  So let's start with $950k/mo as a base starting point.

The question then becomes, what does it cost to support the game?  I disagree with AreEss' segmentation of operating costs and development costs; the studio was absolutely doing all the development (this part too should be beyond dispute).  So either Paragon Studios was doing both development and operations, or operations was borne by other parts of the organization.  Either way AreEss' math doesn't follow.

However, I think AreEss lowballed the cost of running Paragon Studios.  I live in the area (actually, about half a mile from the now-former studio) and I would estimate the cost of each employee at around $100k/year.  That's both salary and benefits.  For 80 people, that's $8M/year in salary and benefits, against a profit of about $11.4M/year ($950k*12).  Rent, utilities, and server maintenance are separate, in addition to whatever legal and support costs came out of the corporate headcount.  I don't have quite a good enough back-of-napkin calculation to work that part out, but if CoH made more than $1M in profit a year, I would be very, very surprised.

Tony, I've talked to some of the people from Paragon, and while they did seem to believe they were doing well, I also got the distinct impression that even they were not given the full financial details of their divisions' performance.  I believe this reflects poorly on NCSoft's management skills, because if I were running a studio where profit/loss was important I would make damn sure that every employee knew how the studio was doing; but the people I talked to only seemed to have a vague idea of what was going on, financials-wise.

Look, I don't want to rain on your parade here.  I loved the game while I was playing it, and I'm working on getting the Mac port of the character export tool working, so I'm on your side.  But I want you to go into this with eyes open: if you make a group purchase of IP, you should be prepared to run the game at break-even or a slight loss.   Especially considering that this could be the group's first attempt at running an MMO, with all the pitfalls and mistakes that would entail.

- Kris

Codewalker

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #110 on: September 11, 2012, 03:47:06 AM »
Don't forget that Paragon went on a hiring spree a year or two ago. They were working on a completely new game, with the cost of development most likely funded by the profit that City of Heroes would otherwise be raking in. Several key CoH developers were shifted over to that project. Even sources inside Cryptic confirmed that they licensed the engine for a second game (no doubt because of the familiarity of their developers with it). All we really know about it is that they repeatedly stated that it was a new IP not related to the City of Heroes franchise.

So assume that anywhere from 20-40 people within the studio were working solely on the new project, and it seems likely that City of Heroes by itself was doing at least decent.

Whether or not the 'secret project' played a part in NCSoft's decision to close the studio and the game, I don't think anyone can say beyond pure speculation at this point.

kgiesing

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #111 on: September 11, 2012, 04:18:14 AM »
Don't forget that Paragon went on a hiring spree a year or two ago. They were working on a completely new game, with the cost of development most likely funded by the profit that City of Heroes would otherwise be raking in. Several key CoH developers were shifted over to that project. Even sources inside Cryptic confirmed that they licensed the engine for a second game (no doubt because of the familiarity of their developers with it). All we really know about it is that they repeatedly stated that it was a new IP not related to the City of Heroes franchise.

So assume that anywhere from 20-40 people within the studio were working solely on the new project, and it seems likely that City of Heroes by itself was doing at least decent.

Whether or not the 'secret project' played a part in NCSoft's decision to close the studio and the game, I don't think anyone can say beyond pure speculation at this point.

That is true.  I was actually quite shocked to hear the studio employed 80 people; I would expect you could run basic support of the game with a staff of maybe 30 people, with forward development and new features taking another 10 heads.  That matches your estimate of heads working on new projects.

On the other hand, as I said, I don't know how to back-of-napkin the non-salary parts of the op-ex.  I could easily see non-salary expenses adding up substantially.  So again, I think the group should set realistic expectations for this being a profitable enterprise.  If you do get to the point of negotiating a purchase, you should require examination of the profit and loss reports for the franchise as a precondition on the deal.

- Kris

TonyV

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #112 on: September 11, 2012, 04:30:49 AM »

castorcorvus

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #113 on: September 11, 2012, 04:39:40 AM »
Darn it all Tony! Stop bringing up the secret project! It was interesting at first, but now its like dangling fresh meat 8ft off the ground in front of a starving dachshund! lol ;D

TonyV

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #114 on: September 11, 2012, 04:45:48 AM »
Darn it all Tony! Stop bringing up the secret project! It was interesting at first, but now its like dangling fresh meat 8ft off the ground in front of a starving dachshund! lol ;D

I wish I had better "insider" connections than I do because I honestly have zero clue what it is.  Like a lot of other people, I thought it was going to be a sequel to City of Heroes, but at some point, they explicitly ruled that out.  So I'm just as clueless as everyone else here.  I could speculate, though.  I have a hard time that it's not at least vaguely related to City of Heroes.  I'm thinking maybe some game set in the City of Heroes universe, but on a different planet or something.  I wish I knew.  I'm hopeful that someday we all will when it actually gets announced and then released.  (!)

Victoria Victrix

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #115 on: September 11, 2012, 04:52:53 AM »
Well all *I* can tell you is it isn't related to anything that I write, so I am just as in the dark as you.
I will go down with this ship.  I won't put my hands up in surrender.  There will be no white flag above my door.  I'm in love, and always will be.  Dido

castorcorvus

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #116 on: September 11, 2012, 04:55:34 AM »
I wish I had better "insider" connections than I do because I honestly have zero clue what it is.  Like a lot of other people, I thought it was going to be a sequel to City of Heroes, but at some point, they explicitly ruled that out.  So I'm just as clueless as everyone else here.  I could speculate, though.  I have a hard time that it's not at least vaguely related to City of Heroes.  I'm thinking maybe some game set in the City of Heroes universe, but on a different planet or something.  I wish I knew.  I'm hopeful that someday we all will when it actually gets announced and then released.  (!)
We all know that Tony. We know that if you knew anything, then we would know. Why the hey do you think everyone on this communty trusts you and your peers in this protest?  Titan Network has a track record of getting things done. Personly, I am glad you guys are at least trying to keep us in the know. Its not much, and the wait is made even more unbearable for those who can contribute so little, but it keeps us hanging in there. So, we thank you for that.

kgiesing

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #117 on: September 11, 2012, 07:24:00 AM »
I'm telling you, I'm convinced that this is doable.

I'm not trying to tell you it's not doable.  I'm just trying to set realistic expectations, as I mentioned before.

Look at it this way.  Depending on how you plan to raise the money, it seems very likely that you will need to present a business case, and a very solid one (to banks, to venture capital firms, to private investors).  Such a business case will need to fill in numbers for estimated capital expenses, estimated operating expenses, and projected revenues.  I believe you'll need both access to NCSoft's historical data, and original research backed with vendor quotes.  The former should be part of due diligence while negotiating a purchase.

Don't just disagree with my numbers - challenge them with better ones.  I doubt anyone is rooting more than me for me to be wrong.

- Kris

PS.  I feel like this whole discussion probably belongs in a different thread, but this is where VV happened to post the numbers, so...

Victoria Victrix

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #118 on: September 11, 2012, 07:32:42 AM »
New topic to add to your letters to NCSoft.

They are now feeling the attention of a focused social network on their business practices.

Remind them of that fact.
I will go down with this ship.  I won't put my hands up in surrender.  There will be no white flag above my door.  I'm in love, and always will be.  Dido

dwturducken

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Re: Call to Action: Write to NCsoft
« Reply #119 on: September 11, 2012, 11:02:24 AM »
Are they?

I'm asking because the media focus in on us mostly because there is so little new information being officially released from anywhere else. I respect a confidential source, especially now that media are starting to look here, but someone has to ask.  I'd much rather ask as a friendly than let a nay-sayer or even a troll be the one to do it.
I wouldn't use the word "replace," but there's no word for "take over for you and make everything better almost immediately," so we just say "replace."