How Electronic Arts Made Dungeon Keeper A Huge Fiasco

How Electronic Arts Made Dungeon Keeper A Huge Fiasco

The execution of Dungeon Keep Mobile was a disaster from start to finish.

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Channeling a bit of Jim Sterling with this article. As a matter of fact, I couldn't help hearing his voice while reading the last paragraph.

I don't understand why these big companies fail to understand the free-to-play or freemium markets while other, smaller companies seem to have no problem whatsoever. They're so good at copying each other, but terrible at copying companies doing things correctly.

= Might and Magic: Duel of Champions apparently got an update that has everyone up in arms. Apparently, Ubisoft removed the ability to get free card packs and whatnot, turning the game into a pay to win nightmare.

= Soul Calibur: Lost Swords was a terrible idea from the beginning that could have been salvaged into something decent but instead only highlights every reason why a Free-to-Play fighting game just shouldn't exist.

Meanwhile, I'm more than willing to pay for a bit of extras in a F2P game I'm enjoying if the game allows me to also earn their premium currency in-game without spending a dime, just as a way of saying thank you to the developers.

Thanks for the recap, Shamus. Even though I knew all of it already, it was still nice to read it in one convenient article.

EA, EA, EA. You never fail to find new ways to horrify me to the core. You have tremendous IPs that start back in the 16-bit days and you only dust them off to do something horrible with them. Instead of reminding us of the beloved grampa on a family get-together, you dig him out and fuck the corpse in front of all the family and then upload the videos of it on YouTube.

I dread the day EA remembers it owns Road Rash and Desert Strike.

At this point, EA's "technique" is so common as to not even seem discussion-worthy.

1) See someone else who innovated a successful game.
2) Copy it
3) Attach an unrelated IP.

They wanted to copy the MMO model so they attached Star Wars and got The Old Republic.
They wanted to copy the Farmville model so they attached The Simpsons and got Tapped Out.
They wanted to copy the Clash of Clans model so they attached Dungeon Keeper and got .. this.

And that's really all there is to say. If you enjoy Clash of Clans and don't mind the play-for-2-minutes-then-come-back-in-an-hour model, DK isn't really terrible. I've been playing. I enjoy my guildmates. I haven't spent any money and don't feel deprived as a result. They've made mistakes in running it (like flaws and subsequent changes in AI and matchmaking) but that's not the fatal problem. It's just not a play experience like original Dungeon Keeper.

(And in fact, they way they've designed it, the game should have been called "Dungeon Raider". Attacking is vastly more important and defense is so meaningless that it's sometimes better to lose on purpose.)

The thing is, that quote almost makes it seem like Frank Gibeau gets it. Almost. To quote again:

Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just werent ready for.

If you take out "innovated too much", which is resume spin, he said they changed the old model more than they should have. That's basically true. People "weren't ready" for it because it's a bad idea. But still, they didn't make a game that consumers would want, and I appreciate that he's at least coming close to owning up to it.

It's almost startling how quickly EA are turning themselves into obsolete, irrelevant, disconnected dinosaurs. At this rate, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they shut down all their branches aside from EA sports within the next decade.

Using that Motley crew analyst guru you linked to the following also failed

Activison - failed
Microsoft - failed (they scored worse than EA)
Apple - failed(they scored worse than Activison)
Facebook - passed

So yeah analyst's just bullshit merchants.

youji itami:
Using that Motley crew analyst guru you linked to the following also failed

Activison - failed
Microsoft - failed (they scored worse than EA)
Apple - failed(they scored worse than Activison)
Facebook - passed

So yeah analyst's just bullshit merchants.

it's a decent first look for amateur traders and middle class people looking to invest in the stock market. That site is not what anyone on the board of directors is going to look at when making investments or determining CEO performance.

The results are a bit hard to interpret, since the site marks categories that are irrelevant to the company in question or that they don't have the information for, as automatic fails. For EA, the only one of those that a board member is going to be really dissappointed by are the profit margins. EA isn't a company that thrives on rampant continued growth, but low profit margins for multiple quarters in a row will cause investors to start looking for explanations, and potential markets or risks to improve margins.

youji itami:
Using that Motley crew analyst guru you linked to the following also failed

Activison - failed
Microsoft - failed (they scored worse than EA)
Apple - failed(they scored worse than Activison)
Facebook - passed

So yeah analyst's just bullshit merchants.

Microsoft hasn't been a good buy since the early 1990s and Apple hasn't been a good buy for five years.

A few months later one of the developers dismissed the resulting fan outrage, saying that people were "playing it wrong".

To be fair, he was kinda right. A lot of gamers were approaching this game with the same fervor that they approach other games; that is, getting ready to sit down for a nice long gaming session. Games like Dungeon Keeper Mobile (DKM) are games that are designed to be played in brief snippets, maybe 30 minutes tops.

(And ignoring the fact that plenty of other mobile games managed to make a profit without creating so much backlash.)

Because these other mobile games weren't using a beloved franchise, and they weren't developed by EA. If Dungeon Keeper was any-other franchise, and if Mythic was owned by any-other developer, their game would barely be a blip on the general gaming community's radar.

Disclosure: I haven't played the game personally. I'm going by the videos, screenshots, and detailed descriptions of the game provided by my colleagues. The critical appraisal of this game is pretty universal and I think it's reasonable to accept their description of the ordeal without needing to go through it myself, but I just want to make it clear that my analysis is based on the reports of people I trust and not first-hand experience. Okay? Great.

No. Not great. While I haven't read EVERY review on the game, the ones that I did read all did the exact same thing: Specifically played the game wrong just so they could rant about how terrible the game is. The equivalent of someone specifically jumping down the pits in Super Mario Bros so that they can rant about the game constantly pulls cheap deaths; and then no one else in the industry (or community) actually plays the game so that's what everyone ends-up believing, that Super Mario Bros is a terribly-made game that forces the player to die for no reason.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that DKM was necessarily "good", but as someone who's played a number of Facebook and mobile games, it certainly wasn't terrible. The game had potential, and honestly I couldn't tell you if not meeting that potential was because of EA holding Mythic back, or because of Mythic lacking the ability to deliver (outside of an MMO that's barely a blip outside of the community that played it, what good games have they made in the past?). Granted you could argue that it's EA's fault either way, but only one of those options is directly their fault, where the other is just them having to assume the blame by way of "you're the one who assigned it to Mythic".

If you haven't guessed it already from context, yes, I've played DKM. I mostly checked it out because everyone was making a huge huff about it, and my curiosity got the better of me. I went into it expecting to be completely blown away by its terrible design, but what I got instead was a ho-hum game the likes of which I've played a number of times already. It's only failing, that I could tell, was that it didn't seem that remarkable in comparison to most other games of its ilk (games that are hard to give a term because I refuse to use the blatantly-cynical genre name that mainstream gaming has assigned them, and am too uncreative to think of my own to use). It was unique-enough though, so I kept with it. If nothing else, being able to raid other people's dungeons seemed like it might be an interesting mechanic.

The game had its faults, granted, but a lot of them didn't come along until closer to endgame. Redesigning the dungeon was a major chore since every since piece had to be moved one by one, and there was no option to throw items and rooms into a sort of "storage" so you could work from a clean slate; despite constant complaints about this, Mythic never fixed this issue. So either you got a winning dungeon as you built it, or you'd have to deal with the hassle of redesigning your dungeon time and time again until you found something that worked. There's a website that helps you redesign, but I'm not cutting a game slack for something that isn't built into the game. Aside from redesigning the dungeon becoming a pain as you got more and more traps and rooms, the other main failing was just a lack of anything to do for endgame content. There was raiding, and there was raiding, and if you sucked at raiding in the high-end dungeons you'd be raiding during endgame, then your only-other option was raiding.

Their attempts to fix the lack of incentive for raiding was a tournament system, but that just made things worse. Firstly, it was only a boon for people who were already raiding. I might have raided a little bit more, but not really enough. Another problem is that it was too frequent. One tournament would end, and then seemingly the next day BAM trials for placement on the next one. It was obvious that they were desperate to get people playing, but it worked about as effectively as coming-off as desperate for a date; your target demo could see it, and it was a major turn-off. This is about the point when the community on the forums started to really dissolve, and it wasn't long-after that Mythic was officially shut down, and my own tenuous interest in the game was snuffed-out as well.

Normally I'm right there in the mob wielding either a torch or a pitchfork (I like to mix things up) when it comes to complaining about EA, but my experience with DKM is that it's only real crime was using an established trademark that had a lot of player sentiment behind it. The rest of the stuff that actually made the game collapse? No one even talks about it.

Edit: And don't get me wrong, I agree that EA has a lot of shaping-up to do. I just think that DKM is unfairly singled-out by virtue of being the only game of its genre that the general gaming community has paid any form of attention to.

And they wonder why they keep getting golden turd awards. They are certainly not the worst company ever, but you need only look to them for a perfect example of every possible way to fuck up. They make enough to survive thanks to reliable sales by morons but they always find a way to take what could have been a massive success and turn it into an impressive fuck up. EA is like a reverse King Midas, their touch turns gold into shit.

Amarsir:
At this point, EA's "technique" is so common as to not even seem discussion-worthy.

1) See someone else who innovated a successful game.
2) Copy it
3) Attach an unrelated IP.

Except they can't even copy properly without fucking it up somehow; be it through oppressive DRM, dicing up content into overpriced DLC, or just plain bad design/coding.

It certainly felt like they dusted off DK simply because it was one of the few remaining IP's they own that hadn't been raped by them yet. Can only imagine how shit the new C&C game they had been working on was if it forced them to scrap the whole thing. It certainly wasn't because "it wasn't what gamers wanted" because that shit never stopped them before.

i don't think i gonna buy an EA game for a long time mostly because what EA is putting out at the moment doesn't say me anything but also because of the BS they are doing

WhiteTigerShiro:

A few months later one of the developers dismissed the resulting fan outrage, saying that people were "playing it wrong".

To be fair, he was kinda right. A lot of gamers were approaching this game with the same fervor that they approach other games; that is, getting ready to sit down for a nice long gaming session. Games like Dungeon Keeper Mobile (DKM) are games that are designed to be played in brief snippets, maybe 30 minutes tops.

I think you need a judge a game by it's merits as a game. I've heard people give the "Well what were you expecting from a mobile game?" defense a million times. It simply does not hold true. The fact that mobile gamers have Stockholm syndrome from games like Clash of Clans does not make this bullshit anywhere near a legitimate way to go about making a good game.

I log onto a mobile game and then i remember i have a steam backlog and i could be playing LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE right now. If I'm on the go I might even use my DS. If you put a free to wait game next to good game then it falls down. "You're playing it wrong" does not work when you compare it to the pantheon of gaming history. It is a bad game in an insipid model of monitiozation that, by design, will make a game worse to play. It makes money from frustrating you and wearing you down.

It can't help but be worse than nay other game that does not make you wait a day. Many many games give you the option to play in small snippets without trying to shake you down. Even if i did want to play in quick snippets any of those games would automatically be superior because they can let you do both. If these games are so playable then how do they make money? Yes it's true only a minority do pay but the rest are left frustrated and arguably have a lesser experience at the expense of netting some "Whale" gamers.

Amarsir:

They wanted to copy the Farmville model so they attached The Simpsons and got Tapped Out.

Funny, I am actually playing Tapped Out. The game is absolutely terrible. I can't really call it a game so much as a pause button. It does fill a role of filling twenty minutes of my life out every day while I am bored watching something I am not really interested in on TV. Can't say I will ever spend a cent on it though.

Sigh...everyone just shits on about this stuff day after day, but none of it ever seems to change. More so, it just only seems to be getting worse. Why? Because gamer still keep buying it. If the gaming community is stupid enough to keep throwing money at companies that treat them this way again and again for years on in, then it's hard to have any sympathy for the poor ol' gamer. Just stop buying it, people. Close your wallets, FFS! Quit throwing money at these companies every time they bring out a new shiny graphics engine.

From what I can tell, EA, despite its "eeeevvvviiillll...woOOO!", is still a huge, highly successful game publisher, and has been for years. They show no signs of slowing or shrinking, as far as I can tell. In fact, it seems they're actually getting bigger. Why? Cause the gaming community is stupid enough to just keep throwing money at them. It's like the gaming community has become composed of a majority of electronic crack-cocaine junkies who have lost all reason, volition, or self-control. Just show them a new shiny graphics engine that they can shoot-up, and they'll just coming running with a fist full of dollars to sling in your general direction. Doesn't matter how shitty the game, how buggy, how loaded with DRM bullshit, day-one DLC bullshit, access-code bullshit, pay-2-win bullshit, or any other bullshit they can concoct; gamers just get eyes full of stars the second they see the shiny new graphics. These companies don't even have to provide any real information about the game anymore. They just jangle a few cuts of the graphics engine in action and watch gamers froth at the mouth, sweaty hands gripping dollar bills with eager anticipation.

And the game companies know this. They're not stupid. If they were really doing anything abhorrently stupid or deleterious to their business, they would been out of business long ago. But, they're still here, ticking along, seemingly getting fatter than ever. Meanwhile, we bitch and complain about how horribly these companies treat us; yet, we just keep throwing money at them. As soon as the new shiny graphics engine goes on display, we come running with money in hand, ready to sling it at high velocities that very same companies that abuse us, again and again. It's like a psychotic illness.

If we want to see change in the game industry, really see change, then we need to get some self-control and just stop buying it. Find other activities to do with in life rather than wasting time, effort, and money on their shitty, shitty games. Companies like EA are unredeemable, in my opinion, and, as such, are completely undeserving of any further money. Even if they put out the most awesome game ever made, don't buy it, simply because it comes from that company (for example, I absolutely wanted to play Anno 2070...until I saw it was an Ubisoft game, and I closed my wallet, without hesitation). The message needs to be made loud, clear, and strong that these companies have simply crossed the line from which there's just no going back. The example needs to be made so that future game companies will not repeat these atrocities.

Only we can free ourselves from this tyranny! Only we can take down these companies in the fires of revolution! Only we have the power to change the industry for ever! But only if we would ever learn to...JUST...STOP...BUYING IT***sob, sob, sob***!

WhiteTigerShiro:

A few months later one of the developers dismissed the resulting fan outrage, saying that people were "playing it wrong".

To be fair, he was kinda right. A lot of gamers were approaching this game with the same fervor that they approach other games; that is, getting ready to sit down for a nice long gaming session. Games like Dungeon Keeper Mobile (DKM) are games that are designed to be played in brief snippets, maybe 30 minutes tops.

(And ignoring the fact that plenty of other mobile games managed to make a profit without creating so much backlash.)

Because these other mobile games weren't using a beloved franchise, and they weren't developed by EA. If Dungeon Keeper was any-other franchise, and if Mythic was owned by any-other developer, their game would barely be a blip on the general gaming community's radar.

Disclosure: I haven't played the game personally. I'm going by the videos, screenshots, and detailed descriptions of the game provided by my colleagues. The critical appraisal of this game is pretty universal and I think it's reasonable to accept their description of the ordeal without needing to go through it myself, but I just want to make it clear that my analysis is based on the reports of people I trust and not first-hand experience. Okay? Great.

No. Not great. While I haven't read EVERY review on the game, the ones that I did read all did the exact same thing: Specifically played the game wrong just so they could rant about how terrible the game is. The equivalent of someone specifically jumping down the pits in Super Mario Bros so that they can rant about the game constantly pulls cheap deaths; and then no one else in the industry (or community) actually plays the game so that's what everyone ends-up believing, that Super Mario Bros is a terribly-made game that forces the player to die for no reason.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that DKM was necessarily "good", but as someone who's played a number of Facebook and mobile games, it certainly wasn't terrible. The game had potential, and honestly I couldn't tell you if not meeting that potential was because of EA holding Mythic back, or because of Mythic lacking the ability to deliver (outside of an MMO that's barely a blip outside of the community that played it, what good games have they made in the past?). Granted you could argue that it's EA's fault either way, but only one of those options is directly their fault, where the other is just them having to assume the blame by way of "you're the one who assigned it to Mythic".

If you haven't guessed it already from context, yes, I've played DKM. I mostly checked it out because everyone was making a huge huff about it, and my curiosity got the better of me. I went into it expecting to be completely blown away by its terrible design, but what I got instead was a ho-hum game the likes of which I've played a number of times already. It's only failing, that I could tell, was that it didn't seem that remarkable in comparison to most other games of its ilk (games that are hard to give a term because I refuse to use the blatantly-cynical genre name that mainstream gaming has assigned them, and am too uncreative to think of my own to use). It was unique-enough though, so I kept with it. If nothing else, being able to raid other people's dungeons seemed like it might be an interesting mechanic.

The game had its faults, granted, but a lot of them didn't come along until closer to endgame. Redesigning the dungeon was a major chore since every since piece had to be moved one by one, and there was no option to throw items and rooms into a sort of "storage" so you could work from a clean slate; despite constant complaints about this, Mythic never fixed this issue. So either you got a winning dungeon as you built it, or you'd have to deal with the hassle of redesigning your dungeon time and time again until you found something that worked. There's a website that helps you redesign, but I'm not cutting a game slack for something that isn't built into the game. Aside from redesigning the dungeon becoming a pain as you got more and more traps and rooms, the other main failing was just a lack of anything to do for endgame content. There was raiding, and there was raiding, and if you sucked at raiding in the high-end dungeons you'd be raiding during endgame, then your only-other option was raiding.

Their attempts to fix the lack of incentive for raiding was a tournament system, but that just made things worse. Firstly, it was only a boon for people who were already raiding. I might have raided a little bit more, but not really enough. Another problem is that it was too frequent. One tournament would end, and then seemingly the next day BAM trials for placement on the next one. It was obvious that they were desperate to get people playing, but it worked about as effectively as coming-off as desperate for a date; your target demo could see it, and it was a major turn-off. This is about the point when the community on the forums started to really dissolve, and it wasn't long-after that Mythic was officially shut down, and my own tenuous interest in the game was snuffed-out as well.

Normally I'm right there in the mob wielding either a torch or a pitchfork (I like to mix things up) when it comes to complaining about EA, but my experience with DKM is that it's only real crime was using an established trademark that had a lot of player sentiment behind it. The rest of the stuff that actually made the game collapse? No one even talks about it.

Edit: And don't get me wrong, I agree that EA has a lot of shaping-up to do. I just think that DKM is unfairly singled-out by virtue of being the only game of its genre that the general gaming community has paid any form of attention to.

I certainly appreciate the more in depth view into the game itself and I don't disagree that DKM got a bit of a raw deal based on second hand impressions, but for the F2P model those first few minutes or first impressions are so crucial and make or break the game even for good titles. And what Shamus has pointed out here is much less to do with the actual game play and more so the brazen monetization. Even the in game contents pushes and prods you to spend money, in a manner that can leave you quite jilted. I played it and this was my experience, I loved the graphics and the art direction in all honesty but free to play tutorial and then ridiculous wait times for some blocks is counter intuitive, it forces the player to conform to DKM's time and not for DKM to be available on the players.

It was a simple error in thinking and I actually would assume that EA didn't have bad intentions but you can explain to people in the office how to play the game, but the same does not work outside. If you tell me that I'm suppose to open it real quick and then come back to it again for a little bit in a couple of hours, those little digs for cash they make wouldn't stand out too much but mobile games don't have the luxury of predicting how the player is going to interact with the device let alone the game. So for EA to tell us we're not playing it right, actually would have been fine too, but for them to not take responsibility at all for the fact that this is how most people saw the game, and most people didn't like it, is essentially saying that we're too stupid to understand what they were going for and so its our failure, is frankly something I would rather not be blamed for.

Lvl 64 Klutz:
Channeling a bit of Jim Sterling with this article. As a matter of fact, I couldn't help hearing his voice while reading the last paragraph.

Quite true, me too!

Lvl 64 Klutz:

I don't understand why these big companies fail to understand the free-to-play or freemium markets while other, smaller companies seem to have no problem whatsoever. They're so good at copying each other, but terrible at copying companies doing things correctly.

I think I have an idea about this - poor management, poor internal communications, and group-think.

* I worked in a company before which had poor management at the middle-level; the lower management where people who, whilst not outstanding managers, where decent and understood where the problems were, and did their best to report to the next level what the problems were. The top level seemed to be alright as well, understanding that there was a problem, and offering solutions that, if they where used correctly, would have actually helped. But the middle layer where bad at their jobs, and actively made things worse, (i.e. picking solutions that had the worse of all worlds because they didn't want to be blamed by, say, the software team for picking the option that made things harder just for them, and instead made things worse for everyone). Poor management at any level can result in nonsensical business decisions, poor performance, and a general sense of bad feelings within and without a company.

* Poor internal communications means that, say, the marketing department have no real understanding of what or how the software is written - worse, marketing and customer support don't talk to each other much, meaning problems with, say, the choice of Dungeon Keeper as a freeium game ain't actually fed back into the marketing decision making, meaning that over time, more and more silly decisions get made, and suddenly, the decisions have crossed some line from 'workable' to 'not-workable', and no-one involved with the actual decisions knows why. Its not something that has a clear effect immediately, but my guess is internal communications broke down in EA a long while ago.

* Group-think: "I've work in this company for my whole career, and we've always done it like this!" - people who've been in one company for a long time often do get stuck into a single lens of perception, and their inertia can hold the whole company back - the bright young things who are fresh from the field with new ideas are grinded away at until they either leave or are so bitterly disappointed they stay quiet - or worse, become indoctrinated into the belief system of 10-20 years ago. This makes company unable to see the problems within their own walls, and worse, makes any change that fails the work immediately be thrown out of the window straight away, even when its the right thing.

Obviously, I don't work at EA, but I would be surprised if they didn't have problems with all three of theses. Everything else is likely a result of these problems acting out over time; poor management and group-think leading to worse and worse decisions, initially masked by success continuing for awhile (either because there was good will cashed in, which is hard for a company to spot if it's internal communications doesn't work), or because lower management/workers managed compensate and keep things working for awhile. Who knows?

Ok, I admit I wasn't planning on typing as much as this when I started.

WhiteTigerShiro:

A few months later one of the developers dismissed the resulting fan outrage, saying that people were "playing it wrong".

To be fair, he was kinda right. A lot of gamers were approaching this game with the same fervor that they approach other games; that is, getting ready to sit down for a nice long gaming session. Games like Dungeon Keeper Mobile (DKM) are games that are designed to be played in brief snippets, maybe 30 minutes tops.

I find that defence alittle weak - if they didn't want people to come into the game thinking of it like the old dungeon keepers, they probably -shouldn't have used dungeon keeper-. Its like when 2K tried to reboot XCOM as a shooter for no damn reason; I've played The Bureau: XCom declassified recently (it was apart of a humble bundle), and I liked the setting, and the world, but thought it was badly hamper by being linked to XCom, a game series that was never-ever a shooter. If you don't want people to come in with pre-conceptions about a game, you shouldn't use a different game series name to sell it.

Don't get me wrong, spin offs -can- work, but this was meant to be a 'reboot'.

(And ignoring the fact that plenty of other mobile games managed to make a profit without creating so much backlash.)

Because these other mobile games weren't using a beloved franchise, and they weren't developed by EA. If Dungeon Keeper was any-other franchise, and if Mythic was owned by any-other developer, their game would barely be a blip on the general gaming community's radar.

I agree that if this mobile game wasn't called dungeon keeper, it wouldn't have been noticed (at least, as much), but EA choose to call it dungeon keeper to get attention - the fact that it was a particularly bad version of freemium meant the attention -they choose to go for- went very negative is the result of their actions.

Lvl 64 Klutz:
I don't understand why these big companies fail to understand the free-to-play or freemium markets while other, smaller companies seem to have no problem whatsoever.

It's quite simple, really. Smaller companies are run by actual gamers and people who understand the market because they are closer to it. Larger companies are run by useless businessmen who are a lot closer to other businessmen and investors. They don't know anything about the gaming industry. It is painfully obvious. Would anyone who knows anything about gaming industry ever make a game like this? Not in a million fuckin' years. All they care about is money and the sad thing is they are too clueless to know how to make it. A desk lamp could be the CEO of EA and do a better job at it.

Their PR is really just a big pile of BS. But I'd really like to focus on the design mistakes instead. How can creative leads blunder the game's design like this? They would have to be extremely distant from gaming (both mobile and classic) to show such a extreme lack of understanding. And how they hell did they get their current position with that?

Lvl 64 Klutz:
I don't understand why these big companies fail to understand the free-to-play or freemium markets while other, smaller companies seem to have no problem whatsoever. They're so good at copying each other, but terrible at copying companies doing things correctly.

I think it is quite simply this: the CEOs and marketing divisions don't actually play games. They aren't gamers.

In real terms you are a gamer. You probably don't have the in depth knowledge of a developer, but you know what works for you and why it works.

The guys running gaming right now, including the guys in the marketing divisions, don't have that knowledge. They're not gamers.

Just think how irritating it is when you go to a shop and they don't know their product, that is the AAA gaming industry - only worse because the fact that they don't play videogames, the fact that they are serious individuals who wear suits(TM), is precisely the sort of quality that got them into their jobs in the first place.

In the smaller companies that are actually succeeding where the big ones fail - it is because they are created and run by gamers. They know what they're going for because ultimately they actually play games - so they have some hint as to what is and isn't fun.

WhiteTigerShiro:
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that DKM was necessarily "good", but as someone who's played a number of Facebook and mobile games, it certainly wasn't terrible.

It's interesting to read a not-completely negative review. I was wondering what your opinions of the actual F2P mechanics were though. Did you just not mind waiting long real-world time for stuff to be completed, or do you just not mind spending money to hurry it up? Did you end up spending money?

Regardless of the game quality, I just can't stand dealing with either issue. Steam has me use to spending very little money for full games, so the idea of paying money for boosts/items/speed-ups is a non-starter.

Clovus:

WhiteTigerShiro:
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that DKM was necessarily "good", but as someone who's played a number of Facebook and mobile games, it certainly wasn't terrible.

It's interesting to read a not-completely negative review. I was wondering what your opinions of the actual F2P mechanics were though. Did you just not mind waiting long real-world time for stuff to be completed, or do you just not mind spending money to hurry it up? Did you end up spending money?

Regardless of the game quality, I just can't stand dealing with either issue. Steam has me use to spending very little money for full games, so the idea of paying money for boosts/items/speed-ups is a non-starter.

The monetization was easy to ignore, really (though at the same time, it's kinda everywhere, since you can spend gems on pretty much anything). At no point did I feel the need to rush any of the projects with premium currency. Though it is worth noting that I've played games like Tiny Tower, so I'm not stranger to the mechanic of "Tell the game to do stuff, then come back later when it's done." The usual play session was basically harvesting the gold and stone that your mines accumulated since you last gathered them, checking on what your Imps are up to and reassigning them to a new task if they're done with their last one (and slapping them while you're at it), going on a raid (after gathering mana if needed), then getting your next army training (since soldiers go away after being deployed), and then maybe slapping your Imps one last time before double-checking projects and what-not before shutting it down for that session.

As for the question of whether or not I spent money: Yes, I did. I didn't feel obligated or forced, I legitimately wanted to. I didn't spend a lot, just enough to unlock a couple of extra Imps. The main reason I spent money on them is because they're permanent as compared to resources that are gone once spent, or rushing a project that just speeds-up the rate that resources are needed. Each Imp is able to do one project at a time, and every Imp doubles the timer you get when you slap them for the 2x speed bonus on their projects (for a total of 8 hours if you have all 6 Imps, I think). If it wasn't possible to buy Imps with premium currency (or some other long-term/permanent acquisition), I probably wouldn't have spent a single cent on the game. Once in a while I'd spend some of my spare gems to refill my mana, but otherwise I basically just sat on them in case some new long-term purchase was implemented in a patch. Sadly that never happened (at least while I was still playing), so my account is sitting there with (I think) about 2400 Gems right now (which were mostly accumulated from in-game means, not left-over from purchases).

Doug:

WhiteTigerShiro:

A few months later one of the developers dismissed the resulting fan outrage, saying that people were "playing it wrong".

To be fair, he was kinda right. A lot of gamers were approaching this game with the same fervor that they approach other games; that is, getting ready to sit down for a nice long gaming session. Games like Dungeon Keeper Mobile (DKM) are games that are designed to be played in brief snippets, maybe 30 minutes tops.

I find that defence alittle weak - if they didn't want people to come into the game thinking of it like the old dungeon keepers, they probably -shouldn't have used dungeon keeper-.

Granted. I'm not saying that people are wrong for wanting more from the Dungeon Keeper franchise, I'm just saying that the game itself (regardless of its attached franchise) plays just fine for the way it was meant to be played.

Kameburger:

I certainly appreciate the more in depth view into the game itself and I don't disagree that DKM got a bit of a raw deal based on second hand impressions, but for the F2P model those first few minutes or first impressions are so crucial and make or break the game even for good titles. And what Shamus has pointed out here is much less to do with the actual game play and more so the brazen monetization. Even the in game contents pushes and prods you to spend money, in a manner that can leave you quite jilted. I played it and this was my experience, I loved the graphics and the art direction in all honesty but free to play tutorial and then ridiculous wait times for some blocks is counter intuitive, it forces the player to conform to DKM's time and not for DKM to be available on the players.

I would disagree with the game "pushing and prodding" to spend money. The game mentions it during the tutorial, and then that's it. From that point forth the option simple exists. I don't really count simply existing as "pushing and prodding". As for the wait times, they really aren't that ridiculous until you get closer to endgame upgrades (by which time you'd be used to the idea of firing them up and having them get done later), and even then you can cut the wait time by up to half depending on how good you are about keeping your Imps' slap timer up (which is easier to maintain with each Imp you get since they increase the timer).

It was a simple error in thinking and I actually would assume that EA didn't have bad intentions but you can explain to people in the office how to play the game, but the same does not work outside. If you tell me that I'm suppose to open it real quick and then come back to it again for a little bit in a couple of hours, those little digs for cash they make wouldn't stand out too much but mobile games don't have the luxury of predicting how the player is going to interact with the device let alone the game. So for EA to tell us we're not playing it right, actually would have been fine too, but for them to not take responsibility at all for the fact that this is how most people saw the game, and most people didn't like it, is essentially saying that we're too stupid to understand what they were going for and so its our failure, is frankly something I would rather not be blamed for.

That's a fair point. Maybe games like this, since they are relatively new (especially for mainstream gamers), need make a point of explaining how they are designed and paced. I think the EA rep should have done that when people started slandering DKM. Rather than just brazenly saying "You're doing it wrong", he should have taken the time to explain that "Hey, games like this aren't created nor intended to be marathoned-through like you can with most games". Maybe it's something that other games like this need to start to incorporate into their tutorials, to better communicate to the player how the game was designed. That way people would hopefully see the timers as less "bilking us for cash", and more just as the pacing mechanic that they are.

Another thing is that people need to realize that this type of game just isn't for everyone. No game is. Some people just don't like Strategy games, some people don't like racing games. That doesn't make them bad genres, it just means that they appeal to whom they appeal.

I don't think simply using the dungeon keeper name made the game seems so horrible to people, it was already a pretty horrible game in it's own right, no the thing is that utilizing an classic name just created this juxtaposition of game design that threw their mechanics into sharp relief. "Oh God THIS is what mobile gaming has become?! How have we regressed so horribly since 1997?! What the hell has mobile gaming been doing? THIS is considered acceptable by some?"

They managed to perfectly highlight the problem that gamers and journalists had written off or ignored as simply a quirk of mobile gaming. Not many people were really looking too closely at this since Zynga started to burn. I think part of the left over idea that criticizing mobile gaming is being petty and insular gamers still persisted too, from back when every gaming 'analyst' and his dog was still hyping touch/ social gaming as "The undisputed future of all gaming" and when people were still saying serious PC gaming was dying and being replaced with Facebook gaming with a straight face. (what fools they look like now)

I don't think they could have shot themselves in the foot further without actually falling foul of laws and regulati- oh wait they actually did that in the UK.

But getting back onto the topic of EA a business. They are so bafflingly bad it's hard to express sometimes. I mean in a marketing and basic product design sense they are just awful. Many people assume game makers exist purely for profit. Putting aside the fact that Gaming is a creative industry for which pure profiteering is incompatible (this is a whole other discussion) even if EA was the box factory they so crave being they would still be just awful at it.

First and foremost Dungeon Keeper Mobile probably didn't make money. This seems astounding but it looks to be true. If it did EA would be rubbing the numbers in our faces. The shell of EA Mythic that remained was shuttered after this project. I have no idea of the budget but EA had a pretty sizable team on it along with leads and layers of middle management. It had enough of a marketing and advertising budget to feel the ire of the UK ASA. This wasn't some ultra-lean flash game, it looks like actual money was sunk into this. The game also takes money to keep going. It is one of those 'service' games. Yes they might still be scraping in more money than the server costs but once they stop being able to then the game dies. No legacy profits. No more chances to re-coop the dev cost. They took the risks with the IP so well explained in this article to chase imaginary money and they failed. They won't admit that they failed but they did. This unwillingness to admit and learn from failure is a symptom of bad corporate culture and a level of mismanagement. This would be bad practice is basic goods manufacturing. It's business 101.

Secondly They could have easily made money . Let me take your X-Com example further, What did 2K do so Right and how did it work for them?
Well first we need to look at Xcom it's self and it's striking similarity to dungeon keeper in many ways: X-com is a classic PC game with large and often complex strategic elements. The games the series is remembered for were produced in only a few years in the 1990s but have gone on to be classics of the platform and the genre and are extremely fondly remembered as well as being influential and important for game design overall. The game spawned expansion and sequels but in few short years failed to live up to the first release and they petered out as the original studio lost much of it's talent due to corporate takeovers. Sound familiar?

What 2K did that not only made them money but created a great community reaction and also what is widely regarded by gamers and press as a fantastic game was pick out these essential points and stay true to them. They Kept the focus on the original platform where the genre works best, the PC, and did not compromise that whilst also making iOS and console ports that were stripped back but still decent. They made the best X-Com game they could and worked from there. They didn't spend too much money in it either, by all accounts the game didn't have a massive budget. They also used this product as a base to launch a sequel and many different ports from. EA could have easily given the Dungeon Keeper IP to a developer, given them a relatively modest budget and told them to do their best. There was already a lot of fondness for the IP, all they needed to do was bring it back in a reasonable shape and they could turn a profit. X-Com was a success and has strengthened that IP. Dungeon keeper, at least from EA, is now effectively dead again.

EA does not merely want a profit. They want ALL the money. They want to make games that are billion dollar cash-cow and all else is disregarded. In this purist they have lost themselves money hand over fist.

2K actually made similar IP mistake as EA and tried to turn X-Com into a pretty unsuccessful FPS but they still kept the core of their IP and produced a game that was consistent with the original. Would people have been so angry if EA was still producing decent Dungeon Keeper games for other platforms? It's the strange fact this this is the ONLY dungeon keeper game, you can broaden your IP when you still have it's core but if you stop making those core products and instead slap the name onto something else people are always going to get mad. It would be like if Coca-Cola stopped making Cola drinks all together and just slapped the name "Coca-Cola" on a cheap-shitty energy drink. Now the coca-cola corporation makes a wide verity of drinks but they come up with new IP and branding for them. EA are continuously making the "New Coke" mistake. People like new things. They just like having their old things as well as. How is this hard to get? Anyone with a single brain cell knows this! You don't shit on your existing branding and IP.

WhiteTigerShiro:
As for the question of whether or not I spent money: Yes, I did. I didn't feel obligated or forced, I legitimately wanted to. I didn't spend a lot, just enough to unlock a couple of extra Imps. The main reason I spent money on them is because they're permanent as compared to resources that are gone once spent, or rushing a project that just speeds-up the rate that resources are needed.

Yeah, spending money on a permanent thing makes sense to me. I've been playing Hearthstone, and find most of the monetization in it pretty fair. I haven't spent any money (my nerves can only handle a few hands a day) on it yet, but buying permanent packs of cards seems pretty fair.

This objection assumes that EA has any real interest in goals beyond making 'a quick, dirty buck'. The developer might care because it's their butt in the sling. A publisher wouldn't give a flying fart so long as the project yields a positive return. Maybe even shoving titles out the gate early like Fallout: New Vegas. If the title doesn't hit 85+ on Metacritic then Publishers don't have to pay out bonuses.

Remember that EA are the same people that, when faced with stiff competition from NFL2K vs their Madden, rather than improve Madden or price drop to compete, they'd rather throw piles of $ at the NFL for an exclusive license. Look how splendidly that worked out for them too. Laughing all the way to the bank...

geizr:
Sigh...everyone just shits on about this stuff day after day, but none of it ever seems to change. More so, it just only seems to be getting worse. Why? Because gamer still keep buying it. If the gaming community is stupid enough to keep throwing money at companies that treat them this way again and again for years on in, then it's hard to have any sympathy for the poor ol' gamer. Just stop buying it, people. Close your wallets, FFS! Quit throwing money at these companies every time they bring out a new shiny graphics engine.

...

Only we can free ourselves from this tyranny! Only we can take down these companies in the fires of revolution! Only we have the power to change the industry for ever! But only if we would ever learn to...JUST...STOP...BUYING IT***sob, sob, sob***!

Don't look at me, I haven't bought anything from EA in about a decade. Everything they touch just turns terrible. I used to be a huge BioWare fan, but once they were acquired by EA, they were immediately off my list because I knew that nothing they put out under the EA banner would be worth my time. Looking back on what has happened to the company since then, and the games they have put out, I'm glad I stuck to my instincts on that.

I think the reason that companies like EA continue to survive because they are constantly bringing in a younger generation of gamers. We older gamers have been burned and learned our lessons, but every year you have new young kids and teenagers who have yet to go through the same experiences. They haven't learned to be discerning or principled about their purchases (for many of them, it's just mom and dad's money anyway, so why should they care?). I'd be willing to bet that most gamers under the age of 15 probably don't even know who publishes the games that are on their shelf. There's just an overall apathy and lack of awareness during those years.

Of course, these gamers will grow up. They will reach a point where they are paying for their own games, and so become more carful with how they spend their limited funds. They will have experiences that shape their views on which companies are worth supporting. Some of them will even have enough self control to let those views guide their purchases. But in the end, there will always be a younger crowd, and as long as EA can crank stuff out for them fast enough (and the kids can convince their parents/grandparents/favorite aunt/uncle/etc. to buy games for them), they will still sell a lot of crap.

Shamus Young:
"...I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren't ready for."

He's pretty damn right. People still aren't stupid enough.

geizr:

Only we can free ourselves from this tyranny! Only we can take down these companies in the fires of revolution! Only we have the power to change the industry for ever! But only if we would ever learn to...JUST...STOP...BUYING IT***sob, sob, sob***!

Like i said earlier, I'm not really sure Dungeon Keeper mobile is actually making or has made that much money. For a Free-to-wait game like Dungeon Keeper mobile there needs to be a critical mass of players. Judging by the rankings on the app store and android store the game is grossing a lot less than EA would have predicted only a few months after release.

So i think EA regards DKM as a financial failure. The only problem is they don't blame themselves: they blame the gamers for being "Objectively wrong" about things as usual. So no, i don't even think financial failure snaps EA out of it's delusions.

WhiteTigerShiro:

A few months later one of the developers dismissed the resulting fan outrage, saying that people were "playing it wrong".

To be fair, he was kinda right. A lot of gamers were approaching this game with the same fervor that they approach other games; that is, getting ready to sit down for a
nice long gaming session.

Playing without expending any gems in the DKM isn't the way the game suggest. Usually when you play the game in a way that it doesn't recommends, you are playing it wrong.

WhiteTigerShiro:

(And ignoring the fact that plenty of other mobile games managed to make a profit without creating so much backlash.)

Because these other mobile games weren't using a beloved franchise, and they weren't developed by EA. If Dungeon Keeper was any-other franchise, and if Mythic was owned by any-other developer, their game would barely be a blip on the general gaming community's radar.

There are other beloved franchises that were ported to the mobile market and didn't have backslash: Dragon's Lair, Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy III. Problems arise when the gameplay is changed without any warning (specially when it involves changing genres and monetizing). This has happened in other videogame platforms too (like Banjo & Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts)

WhiteTigerShiro:
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that DKM was necessarily "good", but as someone who's played a number of Facebook and mobile games, it certainly wasn't terrible. The game had potential, and honestly I couldn't tell you if not meeting that potential was because of EA holding Mythic back, or because of Mythic lacking the ability to deliver (outside of an MMO that's barely a blip outside of the community that played it, what good games have they made in the past?).

I think you have played so many facebook and mobile games that you are starting to desensitize yourself about anti-consumer tactics. If it failed, it's kinda obvious they pushed it too far this time; and even if you payed, you didn't get a fair value for your money (specially when average consumers aren't that stingy in good F2P games).

WhiteTigerShiro:
While I haven't read EVERY review on the game, the ones that I did read all did the exact same thing: Specifically played the game wrong just so they could rant about how terrible the game is. The equivalent of someone specifically jumping down the pits in Super Mario Bros so that they can rant about the game constantly pulls cheap deaths; and then no one else in the industry (or community) actually plays the game so that's what everyone ends-up believing, that Super Mario Bros is a terribly-made game that forces the player to die for no reason.

Obviously there were complains about how unplayable the pits in the first SMB were (specially when flying enemies, fireballs, projectiles, moving platforms, narrow corridors and small sized landing spaces were involved). The difference: it didn't ask you for money to pass the pits! Skills and patience were the only options (and the videogame market already had difficult console games). Heck! Even in the newest versions if you die too much in a level, you are given a free power up (emphasis in the word FREE) that allows you to pass the level in an absurdly easy way.

Another thing, good games that are bashed by the game community (but most of those who play it love it) become "cult classics" and regain popularity in the future (Earthbound and, in much less measure, Wind Waker comes to mind). DKM probably won't be the case (specially because it will become inaccessible once the servers go down).

WhiteTigerShiro:
Edit: And don't get me wrong, I agree that EA has a lot of shaping-up to do. I just think that DKM is unfairly singled-out by virtue of being the only game of its genre that the general gaming community has paid any form of attention to.

More like the game of its genre that the gaming community have most recently (or most loudly) complained about.

PS: Personally I also hate having to be always online to be able to play these F2P games (or any single-player mobile game). Except for the multiplayer features and the micro-transactions, most parts of the game DKM could had been made offline; but that's another can of worms.

 

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