Saturday, February 16, 2008

Was Uru a Sacrifice?

Cyan Worlds was dead. And not just metaphorically so, they had closed their doors, sent the workers home. Just Tony and Rand were left, to tie up some loose ends, and wait on the answer to a long shot.

It was a long shot that came through. GameTap would publish Uru Live.

Very few companies are brought back from the brink in this way, and Cyan would have been NUTS to put all their eggs in the Uru basket.

So what to do? You have a game that may bring in lots of people, may grow large, but from day one you know you won't have the resources to devote to it to make it as optimally performing as it can be. But, the act of putting it out there is going to bring in money...money that will keep you open, money that will mean you can keep working.

You put the game out there, you give it just enough to keep it afloat for the contract year, and you work your ass off on other options. You make absolutely sure you have other irons in the fire.

If the Uru works, cool. If not, then your company is still alive, something that it most decidedly wasn't a couple years ago.

Cyan had to have known that they would be struggling to keep Uru dynamic with what they had, and they seemed to ignore many efforts to uplift their efforts. Maybe that was because their main focus wasn't, and never had been, Uru. Uru was the crash cart, the ambulance. The other things they started working on were the things that were meant to sustain life.

It makes a whole lot of sense. Look how, after EoA, they were done with the D'niverse, and then suddenly Uru was back. Look at how the story started to lean in the direction of user-created Ages being the salvation. How the Guilds that were presented were the ones that supported community continuity and Age Building. How they're talking about hosting their own servers now.

Maybe their whole focus has been 'keep Uru running long enough to get our heads above water, and then give it back to the fans'.

7 comments:

Whilyam said...

This is an interesting idea and keep in mind that Cyan has a business of QA now that's not affected by Uru's shut-down. Which means they may actually be making some money. I think Cyan certainly played it smart. They knew Uru might do what they wanted, but were sure to have a backup in case it didn't. Something Ubi didn't give them a chance to do last time around.

Erik said...

Personally I would feel deceived if Uru wasn't Cyan's main focus. I'm glad they did things on the side, like Hex Isle and doing QA work for third parties, because of that Cyan is still alive now. But Uru should have been the main focus. If not, I would feel cheated.

Whilyam said...

I don't think it's that Uru wasn't their main focus, but that they made sure there were other things in place.

Zander said...

Interesting idea indeed. (I had a much lengthier comment, but Google ate it and I can't reconstruct it at this late stage.)

T S said...

I've had the opportunity to have gotten far enough 'up the line' at work that I was in management for awhile. I realized rather quickly that I wanted nothing to do with it, and stepped away from that at the first chance (in part due to a breakdown).

It did, however, give me some interesting insight into how companies really work.

Yes, looking at it with that in mind, that is probably what happened. I personally don't mind that; I had the chance of seeing a larger glimpse of the story than Prologue ever gave me, and that was enough.

Games like this will work one day; It's only a matter of time - I'm already seeing hints of the backlash against violent games making its way further into governments, and at some point the people will want something different. Just not that time yet.

--TSK

Anonymous said...

from mszv -
The answer is - we don't know that happened. If you read the last article in their local paper, interview with Rand Miller - it doesn't seem to say that they devoted their development resources to other games, except for the very small game they just put out.

I've always assumed that they devoted the resources to the game that Gametap paid them for. If they had some extra resources, (people, tools) resources that weren't needed for their Gametap deliverables, then I assumed they might work on other games, such as the small game they put out. Are you saying that they took resources that Gametap paid them for and used them to develop other games? That doesn't seem right to me - not good for any future publisher/developer relationship. I can't imagine them doing that.

Also - isn't their QA business a separate business? When Rand said there were 30 developers, that's what I thought he meant - 30 developers who were not part of their QA business.

Rand was pretty clear in that last interview - no Uru Live and they would need to lay off the development arm of their company. They need publishers to pay them to make other games.

Zander said...

True, we don't know...but it fits the facts. Cyan delivered the letter of what Gametap were paying for: Uru Live, with regular new content. This enabled them to survive and seek other work. In business terms, they fulfilled their contract, and now they are free to move on if they choose to other concepts and newer games that publishers might be more interested in. From Cyan's point of view, this could be the best possible outcome.