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Reader Comments (68)

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 8:37AM (Unverified) said

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I'd like to weigh in with something a little contrary. I think you can't condemn the man without knowing the whole story. I've a feeling Roper now gets to be the fall man. Twice he's had to. With flagship it made sense, he ran that. But Bill is just one man apart if a large team that had to deliver on a schedule and with a budget. Blizzard has to worry little apart either if those.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 8:36AM (Unverified) said

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And Acosta, I'm not sure if Obsidian can redeem itself with 1 good expansion pack after 2 bad games IN A ROW. Not to me anyway.

I'm not gonna bring up how I can't seem to find anyone who played MoB at all. Maybe they all live in your neighborhood? XD

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 8:40AM (Unverified) said

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LOL at Obsidian being one of the best RPG studios. They might be, but fact is they screwed up KOTOWR2.

Also I find it interesting that a discount for a 3 month sub comes to our email boxes the same day it's announced the Roper is no longer Exec Producer.

The sub numbers from the quarter after that ridiculous situation that Cryptic had to quickly backpedal on (pay for Vibora Bay) must have been the clincher. Keep in mind from his statements it doesn't seem he got why subscribers (especially lifetime) were pissed about having to pay for content, when CO felt like a totally incomplete game.

I say good luck to him, and pray they don't put him out as the spokesperson for anymore high profile games. He sucks ass at PR. Period.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 9:57AM (Unverified) said

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Agreed on the email that came today:
"For a limited time, you can elect to subscribe to a three-month recurring subscription to Champions Online for just $29.99 USD. That's a $15 savings over the standard monthly rate!"

I'm sure I don't have to remind anybody here of the workings of 'Business 101', but when an organisation reduces it's access/service fees by 33%, you know something's up.
That's a fair whack of margin, in anybody's terms, and something like this normally signals a desperate effort to garner revenue in any way or shape possible; even if it's only barely covering net costs.

If a company is having to resort to the slashing of profits to actually produce revenue (cash flow in this case, I'd say), then things are looking fairly grim.

I'm guessing that the new EP is looking for a 'double whammy' incremental jump in revenue with:
- the announcement of Roper moving away from the game (which let's face it, even internally they'd recognise that Roper isn't the most loved person in the industry - whether they like him or not on the inside, a fact's a fact)
- plus a hook to at least lock in the equivalent of 2 months worth of normal subs for some new or returning players.

Either way, it'll definitely make for something to keep all eyes upon in the upcoming weeks.
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 11:30AM Psychotic Storm said

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Sorry Amana, to be honest I don't follow your logic.

You blame a company for using marketing and trying to attract costumers with deals?

I don't see smoke, why do you see a raging forest fire?
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 2:07PM (Unverified) said

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That's ok, Psychotic Storm. Even I barely understand half the dribble that I spew at the best of times, so you're doing well ;)

Yes, I'm commenting about them trying to garner more customers, and the manner in which they're doing it. Let me explain a little more fully:

In the business of MMO's, a customer is actually a *cost* before they are a source of revenue. Every account that gets set up is automatically a cost-generating entity (in a multitude of ways, be that via support, bandwidth, admin, database size, server cpu's, etc etc).

In order to turn that customer into a recurring revenue stream, you need to ensure your profit margin is effective.

In other words, if that customer is costing you more money than you are receiving from them, you are operating at a net loss on paper.

When it comes to attracting more customers (ergo more revenue) you generally begin by offering 'above the line' benefits. Things that don't directly erode your profit margin. In the battle to gain a larger customer base, the *very* last casualty should be your direct margin. You only ever employ this tactic when all other avenues have failed.

However, you can't *have* a margin without cashflow. If cashflow stalls, you're on thin ice as a business. It's the most fundamental component as it comes first, and everything else falls into place beyond it.

Therefore, my comment above is about this; the only time you would ever choose to deliberately reduce your operating income and sacrifice your profit margin, would be to stimulate cashflow (which, as I've suggested, is the only thing standing between bankruptcy and an operating entity).

So, yes; I'm absolutely querying why they're attracting customers via gross revenue reduction. Unless this is coinciding with internal cost-cutting measures to keep their operating profit margin in tow, then it's a desperate call on their behalf - which is a telling sign in my opinion.

By reducing their monthly sub by 33% for a 'lock-in' 3 month deal they're effectively trying to obtain 2 months worth of 'normal' revenues, to bolster their cashflow and see where it ends up.
I'm betting that they'll be taking stock of the results of this and the outcome will determine whether or not some big changes need to be effected internally.

As they've done with STO, they're attempting to front-load cash which, in my experience, is not the way a healthy operation goes about things.

(And before you say "but Lotro does this too!" - yes they do. They infrequently offer come-back deals which often entail a very cheap 3 month dangling carrot, however that's a strategic decision I'd expect from a mature business such as Turbine's. Remember, the current Cryptic has only been in business since December 2008 when it was purchased by Atari..)

So, yes, I'm basically throwing my hat in the ring to say "watch this Cryptic space with interest.."
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 2:46PM Psychotic Storm said

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I think you rate players running costs too high.
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 8:54AM (Unverified) said

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Very good news indeed. With him out there's now a chance I'll check this game out.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 9:27AM Wispur said

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Two thoughts...

1. Woohoo! With Bill Roper gone, CO may become a game worth looking into again

2. Please please please say they're not moving him to the STO team... as it stands now, that game has a lot of potential and I don't want to see it flushed. >.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 10:34AM Deadalon said

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It looks to me nothing can save Champions online. Firing one person will not change anything. StarTrek is following the exact same pattern and you can not blame Roper for that. The problem is the buisness model that Cryptic has put up for both Champion and StarTrek. PPL dont like it and since the games are mediocer at best - ppl simply dont pay or play them.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 11:05AM Cirocco said

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It's just silly, blaming Roper entirely for perceived ills or otherwise of Champions Online. He came late into the picture, and the overall state of Champions Online has been established before his arrival and the game is what it is. But every game needs a fall guy, and with Champions Online if it's not Jack Emmert then it's Bill Roper.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 11:34AM wjowski said

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Uh...no. Roper himself has outright stated that CO was a very different game before he came along.
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 12:12PM (Unverified) said

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I have to defend Bill Roper.

I'm not astroturfing. When Hellgate didn't come out like it should have, a part of me died because that game was practically made for me. I can't look forward to new games with wholehearted optimism ever again.

But Roper himself does not deserve all this vitriol. You guys are acting just as bad as people on 4chan who blame everything on colored folk because it's somehow become socially acceptable and funny as shouting about beer on those boards.

Did you ever read the interview with Bill Roper post Flagship? The man is like you and me. He's a trufan that had demonstrable skills and opportunity to make the games most of us can only bitch about wanting on forums or with our friends. In our own minds WE CAN ALL DO IT BETTER than the people who actually DO IT. This doesn't make it true. We're all egoists when it comes to these things. Bringing those ideas from the mental simulation space, translated through language and then re-interpreted by dozens of coworkers in a development team is where imperfections arise and they are unavoidable.

The only metric by which Roper should be judged is if he helped Cryptic avoid making the same mistakes from a fiscal/managerial side as Flagship. That's hard-bought knowledge and he is forever valuable to any company because he has it.

Give the man a break instead of making him Pariah just because power X doesn't work exactly as it would if you were in charge.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 12:44PM Lateris said

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@cuteunit - I totally agree. My comments do not pertain to development at all. Believe me I respect what you are writing since I started using the UT III UDK tools in the last few months I have found that I need to put my money where my mouth is!. I don't rip on developers anymore. This isn't an easy tasks to accomplish making games. What I do rip on is the communication and feedback. I may rip on the art style because of personal preference. Bill is fine. But the development...that is off limits for me.
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 2:56PM wjowski said

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Let me guess, you think David Allen's a misunderstood genius too?
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 3:06PM Psychotic Storm said

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I agree with Cuteunit too.

I found all the hate against Roper excessive.
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 5:10PM ZenJitsu said

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I agree that Roper shouldn't be crucified as if he was responsible for war crimes. I mean really, he's a *game* developer and y'know, human. Seems like a nice guy, the post-mortem Hellgate interview with Jeff Green was a good one. I mean, dipping into your retirement and savings to help out people because you felt responsible? I'm sure most of us don't have that kind of compassion (obviously).

Now, that being said, I also believe that he shouldn't be placed in positions of such authority for a while, much less as the PR and interview guy. There's too much history there. Any company that relies on his name to establish faith is making an error in judgment. I'd never heard of him until I bought into Hellgate (that was my error in judgment), but as some kind of legendary developer based on his pedigree? Still not seeing it.

I notice that no one ever mentions the Director of Marketing, Tricia Gray, who was in charge at Flagship and then came in a few months after Roper at Cryptic. She was quietly let go/quit and removed off of Cryptic's Executive Team list in January. Considering how many promises Cryptic makes (sales and marketing) vs what they actually deliver, I'd say she was more culpable in the disconnect between the checks they write and what can be cashed.

Either way, keep him as a designer, fine, just don't let him make business decisions. Cryptic's at least trying to right their ship *cough*, though. It's just unfortunate that they want to be a cheap MMO factory using a generic Engine; they keep snapping up IPs and making games I want to play.
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 7:50PM (Unverified) said

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Bill Ropper is getting what he deserved.

It is not our jobs to make games.. or say/act like we can do it better. It is only our job (and I use the word loosely here) to be consumers. You know the people who buy games/products. If you promote a product as being something it isnt and we buy said product.. we as the consumer complain and spend our money else where.

You ever notice all the dozens of crappy free to play mmos out there? Notice how no one is hating on their producers/directors etc? You know why? Because its free. We as the consumer do no have to pay money to play them. When they have their stores up we have an option to pay at that point. But being as how we can play the game for free we know what we are getting into if we spend cash.

To sum it all up. If you get us to spend 50-60 bucks on your game then ask for 15 bucks extra every month... then have an in game store with items costing 5-20 bucks... and your game sucks dont be suprised by public backlash. So long Ropper.... I hope he gets a job working on something I dont like... maybe the director of a prune juice making factory.
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Posted: Mar 17th 2010 4:37PM (Unverified) said

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I've said this before but I'll say it again, all this talk of NWN and Atari/Cryptic hurts my heart. If I hear any kind of official confirmation regarding this I'm going to eat a puppy.

Posted: Mar 17th 2010 6:00PM (Unverified) said

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Cryptic's corporate culture looks odd from the outside. They immediately fired a well liked CM because he revealed their planned pricing model, while one of the people actually responsible for the bad idea went on to give snide interviews.

It's entirely possible that Roper failed upwards. I've seen that type of bad business decisions in poorly ran and barely-profitable companies before.

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