Brad McQuaid and Hutzpa, by Julie Whitefeather
May 30, 2007 20:42:44

There is a classic explanation of the word "hutzpa" as a man who murders both of his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. In the aftermath of the fallout at Sigil, Brad McQuaid seems to approach dangerously close to the "legal definition" of the word.

Imagine the following:

One afternoon at 4:30 pm the Director of Operations (Andy Platter in Sigil's case) sends around an email to you and everyone else in your company. You are to grab anything you will need for the evening (keys, wallet, purse, whatever) and meet out back in the company parking lot for a short company meeting. Once you get there you are met by four people (Andy Platter, Dave Gilbertson, Ryan Elam and Donna Parkinson). The Director of Operations steps forward and tells you point blank:

"The deal is done, and basically you're all fired so some of you can be re-hired by SOE."

Where is Brad McQuaid? Where is the man who started it all? Where is the man with the Vision? No where to be found. His reason? As he told f13.net on May 17th ...

"I would have broken down in tears." - Brad McQuaid

HE would have broken down in tears? Imagine how everyone who lost their job feels. But how did it start? What caused the fall of the house that McQuaid built? It is easy to find many reasons in retrospect. But to me, it can be summed up in a word...

Hutzpa

Perhaps Brad McQuaid bought the PR from the September 2006 (No. 152) issue of PC Gamer that read: "Vanguard The world's first true WoW Killer?" I can only imagine he must have. As late as April 29 of this year, he regailed us with another of his long posts at station.sony.com. In that you will find the following quotes all from the same post:

"When people start getting burned out of the Warcraft expansion (pardon the pun), we need to make sure that the game is more polished and will play on lower end machines." - Brad McQuaid

"At some point these people are going to want to start a new MMOG (especially after the WoW expansion newness has worn out, which for most of the non-hard-core would be when you really have to start raiding in the expansion)." - Brad McQuaid

"To pull it off however, requires a funded and supported Sigil and a well marketed Vanguard with these different target audiences identified and solid plan on how to reach them all, and then a solid execution of said plan, hitting them hard, pushing these 'WoW everywhere' point of purchase materials from the front to the very back" - Brad McQuaid

If you are interested in reading the myriad of excuses he has to offer, you can look up the interview with Brad McQuaid entitled "The Hub of All Blame: A Postmortem" at F13.net. But as the dust settles from the fallout, I think the most telling remarks came from an interview with an anonymous "Ex-Sigil" employee, also posted at F13.net, entitled "The Long and Morbid Tale of Sigil Games Online: Interview Edition."

"Ex-Sigil: Anyone who thinks you can make a WoW killer these days is foolish to try. You need to be your own game. WoW is a juggernaut and really needs to not be the watermark for success. WoW is a tough subject around Sigil too...

f13.net: Why?

Ex-sigil: There are a lot of people, Brad included who were certain it would be a short-lived game. Some, in fact, including Brad, never played it. WoW should have been the example of 'look at what a good game can do!' when instead it was often spoken of like a bad thing."

There is an old expression that says "keep your friends close - keep your enemies closer". If you are going to try and take down the Blizzard Giant, you should at least learn what it is capable of first. That didn't happen - and THAT my friends is hutzpa. Brad McQuaid never even seemed to find his target market to begin with. That seemed to waiver as the development of the product went along. A great game doesn't need to take down the Blizzard Corporation in order to be successful - it just needs to learn what made it such a great success and then build on it. The Anonymous "Ex-Sigil" employee said it best:

"You need to be your own game."

-Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on May 30, 2007 20:42:44 CST (comments: 4)


Comments:


'Pinch of salt' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-05-31 11:53:28 CST
Tbh whoever that ex-Sigil employee was, it was exactly the wrong time to interview them, i.e. while they were feeling incredibly cheesed off. Ok, it might have made a good interview tabloid-style, but clearly 95% has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Neither do I agree with "you need to be your own game". In fact it's absolute rubbish and is an incredibly naive statement. I doubt there are more than a handful successful products (games or other types of product) out there which can claim to not trade off other products' positive aspects.

Interestingly, Brad imho was exactly right that there is a market to OutWoW WoW, basically doing everything that WoW does better and that's really what Vanguard is. Its problem is not its concept, but its technical execution.

Brad's only fault was that his vision was bigger than his wallet and most of us have that problem...



'Brad the bad' by emyln
Submitted on 2007-05-31 17:33:51 CST
scytale2,

There is no doubt that the ex-Sigil employee was at least a little bitter. But the point of the matter is this, Brad was the boss. He gladly took responsibility for all the glory and hype when as the game was being developed. But when it came time to face the fire, he chickened out. He let Andy Platter (who from all reports was not even a well known executive) break the news to the employees. In fact its been mentioned that he never even showed up to the office for the entire year 2007. Vanguard was released in Jan 2007.

As for the quote "you need to be your own game", I think its perfectly valid. You have to understand that you can be a Diablo2 clone or a wow clone and still make it your own game by having something about your game that is yours. Take for example Titan's Quest. There is no doubt its a Diablo2 clone but they made the game unique and its doing very well. It even has a sequal and a strong following.

I think we sometimes forget that in the PC world, selling 500,000 copies of a game is considered a huge success. Very few games hit the 1 million mark unlike console game sales. There is a difference.





'On Brad's side' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-05-31 18:30:11 CST
I'm afraid that I know how Brad is feeling, when a perfectly good concept is trashed by the supposed IT wizards, who say they can do something that they can't and then complain afterwards that they would have done better if we'd paid more money....

Same thing happened to my business several years ago!

Also having recently acquired TitanQuest myself and found it is identical to Diablo, DungeonSiege and many more of these clones, I am feeling a tad disappointed. I don't really class it as being "its own game" if truth be known, so I guess this is just semantics. It may have one or two unique aspects, but these are just "differentiating" it from the competition. Vanguard has these aplenty too, so I have no idea what this ex-Sigil employee meant by the comment. I suspect that they resented their work being classed as "WoW-clone" by the boss and were just venting their annoyance.



'Making it your own' by emyln
Submitted on 2007-06-01 13:53:01 CST
Making the game your own is differentiating it from your competition.

WOW was not the first MMORPG. But they did what they did best, they took a successful formula and made it better. They analyzed simple things like Quests. Prior to WOW the thought was always that MMORPG's were mostly a niche market only, and that niche were had core gamers. Wow stepped in, put Question marks and Exclaimation marks on Questgivers, and that alone in the slew of small improvements they made WOW's different from the competition.

In a similar vein, there were a ton of RTS on the market. But Starcraft came along and made it so that all 3 races had very different abilities and playing strategies. The result is that it pulled in many many non-RTS players into the fold. (me for example).

Hindsight is always 20/20 and that's what the so called IT wizards are harping on. Money is not the be all and end all. Planning, game design and knowing your customer base is more important than things like spending millions on graphics engines which only 10% of the gaming community can play.

I don't doubt that many people find TitanQuest boring and identical to Diablo, but here the dev team at Iron Lore Entertainment did their homework. They knew they were targetting the Diablo clone market. So they took D2's formula, researched past clone which did and didn't make it, updated the graphics, added an exceptional storyline (which many agree is its best feature), and concentrated on the skills and monsters. The result is on a limited budget, they made a game that is successful. Not WOW successful but enough to allow them a feather in their cap, goodwill towards their company and probably more leeway in their next project.





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