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Karnisov

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Universal MMO truths: The importance of seriously maintaining your flagship game Reply to this Post
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For those who don't know, CCP is a reasonably well respected and successful MMO developer, and the lessons they learn while operating their company can be applied to other MMO companies, like OOO.

CCP recently had a "come to Jesus" moment in which they had to lay off 20% of their employees and refocus on their flagship game.

Some quotes from the Gamasutra article:
Hilmar Petursson, CCP CEO wrote: 
"We lost focus on taking care of EVE..."

"At some point we were just spreading ourselves too thin, and we were not focused enough on EVE Online, for sure."

"It's a trap which we basically fell into -- where we thought we could achieve three impossible things at the same time,"

"Now we really have to focus as a company on just really showing our commitment to EVE Online, and giving the game the love from CCP which people claim we have lost,"


CCP neglected their flagship game and were instead focusing on side projects. This came back to bite them in the form of player backlash and lost revenues. Although the introduction of microtransactions was the catalyst for the backlash, it was not the root cause. The root cause was player dissatisfaction from neglect of the game by CCP.

I'm bringing this up because OOO has been badly neglecting Puzzle Pirates over the past 2 years. The "new" content we have seen is just reskinned existing content. Imperial Outposts are a one vs one sea battle followed by a swordfight. Viking Raids are a gunning puzzle followed by a rumble. Haunted Seas is a reskinned and toned down Atlantean Citadel run, with an extra block in the sf puzzle that has minimal effect on the outcome. The "fun stuff in October " alluded to by Hermes appears to just be a reskinned zombie fray (werewolves). Honestly it would have been better for Hermes to have not mentioned it at all. There is more emphasis on grinding existing content for trophies and patterns. It makes me wonder if one of those Chinese MMO companies that was going around buying western game development studios happened to acquire OOO while no one was watching.

I would like to see OOO continue to be an independent company, and not become what it seems to be heading toward, a contractor studio forever chained to developing and supporting games for other publishers. Once you no longer own the game you are working on, you lose control of the deadlines, and along with that you lose the ability to control your own fate. Enjoy that policy of no crunch time for OOO developers? That would be the first thing to go out the door if you fully transition to being a contractor studio.

There is supposed to be a "something larger" update before the end of the year. OOO needs to not stop there. OOO needs to put consistent and sustained development effort back into Puzzle Pirates.

Side projects should not be pursued at the expense of your flagship game. Your flagship game is what enables you to continue to be independent. Neglect it at your own peril.
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Karnisov
flinging poo on the forums because its more fun than playing your broken game
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[Edit 1 times, last edit by Karnisov at Oct 22, 2011 12:30:29 PM]
[Oct 22, 2011 12:27:35 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
abacadafa

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Re: Universal MMO truths: The importance of seriously maintaining your flagship game Reply to this Post
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For those who don't know, CCP is a reasonably well respected and successful MMO developer, and the lessons they learn while operating their company can be applied to other MMO companies, like OOO.


CCP is much larger than OOO. Eve-Online has ~40k players online right now. OOO doesn't have even 10k. (2572 on Puzzle Pirates, 2491 in the four main Spiral Knight gates/PVP + an assortment of players in other Spiral Knights areas.)

Both are tiny compared to WoW (but so are most other things!)


 

CCP recently had a "come to Jesus" moment in which they had to lay off 20% of their employees and refocus on their flagship game.

Side projects should not be pursued at the expense of your flagship game. Your flagship game is what enables you to continue to be independent. Neglect it at your own peril.


OOO's current flagship is arguably Spiral Knights. Spiral Knights is getting major new releases. Puzzle Pirates is getting much smaller releases. Spiral Knights was first to Steam and the only OOO game with Steam Trading. Spiral Knights is now on Kongregate; Puzzle Pirates is not.

Then again, Puzzle Pirates is arguably OOO's flagship game, being their breakout game that still has thousands of players...

Then again, Doctor Who is arguably about to be OOO's flagship game, with the big license and all...

The point I'm trying to make is that OOO is currently in a position where they almost certainly can't afford to drop any of their three main projects. They're might also be at a point where they can't afford to keep all three main projects going strong. After all, they've just annoyed a good hunk of their Spiral Knights players with their latest release...

Edit; broken (quote)
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[Edit 1 times, last edit by abacadafa at Oct 22, 2011 1:33:51 PM]
[Oct 22, 2011 1:26:09 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
sweetnessc

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It is a universal truth of life that nothing lasts forever. Puzzle Pirates has had a good, no, a great, run. But at some point the blacksmith has to say to himself I've made myself a great life making horseshoes, but it looks like these here iron carriages might be here to stay, maybe I should become a mechanic instead.
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[Oct 22, 2011 2:08:06 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Stephensam

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It is a universal truth of life that nothing lasts forever. Puzzle Pirates has had a good, no, a great, run. But at some point the blacksmith has to say to himself I've made myself a great life making horseshoes, but it looks like these here iron carriages might be here to stay, maybe I should become a mechanic instead.


*tear*
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Ebon_Sol

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First, let me say thank you for posting this here. It really gets to the heart of the matter here, and hopefully draws attention from not only the OMs, but some of the developers as well.

Now, quite frankly, OOO would be foolish to let this game die, because they have something truly special here. No other MMO, that I know of, contains such a wonderful, and mature community of players (and I've played quite a few of them over the years). Not only that, but it's also a very unique game. What other game is there that is both community driven, and puzzle based?

What's interesting about this issue is that there's another game I've been with for about as long as PP (RuneScape), and its company (Jagex) seems to have fallen into the same trap as OOO: Lack of communication, lack of meaningful updates, and too many projects resulting in stagnation of some of the company's other properties.

For instance, Jagex's minigame site "FunOrb" hasn't had an update in over a year, and as a result, membership has dropped off quite drastically. A long-time project of theirs, MechScape, was scrapped after years in development, restarted, renamed (Stellar Dawn), and has since been supposedly been in development for a couple of years now, yet there's been almost no communication from the staff about it, and in that time, Jagex has started numerous other projects.

Because of all this (and some other things I haven't mentioned), overall customer faith in the company has dropped so much that many of them refused to vote for them for them in the recent Golden Joystick awards. An award that Jagex won the last two years.

Anyway, I would consider this game to be too important to simply let fade away as it is.
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[Oct 22, 2011 3:11:15 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Auntyjemima

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It is a universal truth of life that nothing lasts forever. Puzzle Pirates has had a good, no, a great, run. But at some point the blacksmith has to say to himself I've made myself a great life making horseshoes, but it looks like these here iron carriages might be here to stay, maybe I should become a mechanic instead.

This makes me sad, but we all know it's the truth. ):
I must point something out though. The daily rants about how PP is dying does NOT help OOO fix the game. It makes them think oh frig, we need to make an idea to keep these whiney brats happy. So, they just change old ideas slightly and put them as updates. It's like putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. Metaphorically the game needs surgery to fix the wound. But if OOO has to put out crappy updates every month to keep us happy they don't have time to put bigger and better things into the game.
(Waits to get flamed)
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[Oct 22, 2011 4:16:43 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
JennyBrie

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It is a universal truth of life that nothing lasts forever. Puzzle Pirates has had a good, no, a great, run. But at some point the blacksmith has to say to himself I've made myself a great life making horseshoes, but it looks like these here iron carriages might be here to stay, maybe I should become a mechanic instead.

You ever see what a farrier charges to shoe a horse? I'd stay in that business.
[Oct 23, 2011 8:22:33 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Fixated

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What I think is a large portion of the problem: Puzzle Pirates is just such a weird game. For those of us who have played other MMOs, have you ever seen such a close-knit group of people? Y!PP is just like any other kind of game in that there are people who log on and play for a few days then decide to not play anymore, but usually once you play for a year or more, you're INVOLVED, heavily, in the game from then on. Sure, circumstances might lead you to not logging onto the game for a few months, but even thereafter you log on once in a while, check the forums, see what everyone's up to.

Take the majority of the people in shore leave: a lot of these people don't play anymore. They rarely ever log on the actual game, but they post in threads on an average of at least once a day. They come back for the unique community that this game provides, that the game at one time encouraged.

I don't blame OOO for what the game has turned into. The interesting part is how they've dealt with this so far, and how they will continue to deal with it in the future. At what point do they stop releasing pink ponies/mystery boxes and start trying to figure out what will actually encourage growth, encourage people to start logging in again?
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[Oct 25, 2011 11:54:36 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Karnisov

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abacadafa wrote: 

The point I'm trying to make is that OOO is currently in a position where they almost certainly can't afford to drop any of their three main projects. They're might also be at a point where they can't afford to keep all three main projects going strong. After all, they've just annoyed a good hunk of their Spiral Knights players with their latest release...


It was more intended to be a wakeup call of "this is where I see OOO heading in the long term, beware". If OOO gets stuck in the vicious cycle of neglecting games they own due to working on stuff for external publishers, the games they own will pull in less money due to being neglected and they will become more and more dependent on external publishers.
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Karnisov
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[Oct 25, 2011 1:53:26 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
false_dmitri

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Fixated wrote: 
At what point do they stop releasing pink ponies/mystery boxes and start trying to figure out what will actually encourage growth, encourage people to start logging in again?

They need the game to stay visible to people who would enjoy it. Population wouldn't have stayed healthy [EDIT: would have, would have] if there was a steady flow of new players. Without new players, major new features only serve to prolong the decline, so there are diminishing returns for investing in them. Although fun new features are still very important for retaining players and giving people reasons to try the game out again.

I'm sure they're aware of this, but no idea what their strategy is behind the scenes or what resources are available. Putting the game on Steam is a big step forward: that's a large population where the downloadable client isn't a major obstacle. It needs similar measures going forward. It needs a larger audience than this or it will dwindle away.
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On hiatus. :(
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[Edit 1 times, last edit by false_dmitri at Oct 25, 2011 5:59:33 PM]
[Oct 25, 2011 3:42:28 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
aidthepoe

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I feel like they totally went the wrong way with putting all that money into Steam. I got most of my friends from Steam to try the game and they absolutely hated it. Aren't most of the games supported on Steam big FPS games anyways?

What happened to YPP on Miniclip, how many of us got here that way?
[Oct 25, 2011 4:26:14 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Ebon_Sol

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What happened to YPP on Miniclip, how many of us got here that way?


*raises hand*
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Ebonsol of the Midnight / Cerulean ocean
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[Oct 25, 2011 5:02:37 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
abacadafa

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I feel like they totally went the wrong way with putting all that money into Steam. I got most of my friends from Steam to try the game and they absolutely hated it. Aren't most of the games supported on Steam big FPS games anyways?

What happened to YPP on Miniclip, how many of us got here that way?


Most of the Steam players bounced out of Spiral Knights pretty quickly, but thousands stayed, dramatically boosting Spiral Knights.

It might not be a huge win, but putting Spiral Knights on Steam was a definite success.
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[Oct 25, 2011 5:22:20 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Fixated

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Something that should also be mentioned: Is there anything actually worth winning in the game anymore?

Blockades are still happening, but it seems on the majority of the oceans they aren't as often as they should be. Flags who do have the PoE don't see anything worth attacking, or they're no longer politically motivated to do so. Shoppe prices are skewed, on most oceans there is one major island where everyone does business and then the rest where only a few habitat. Not to jump on the "familiars should be special!" bandwagon, but the familiar tournaments have flooded the market with them, and they're no longer that valuable anymore. One of their goals with the new voyages (CIs, HS, etc) was probably to introduce items into the game that people will want to buy (and therefore get the economy moving again) but it hasn't really seemed to work as planned.

It seems that with the game right now, a fair bit have most of the wealth (island sitters, retired players, etc). I know at least with Sage's economy right now, it's extremely hard to make large profit. Usually this isn't a big deal, but anymore you have to have a large amount of capital to do things like blockade, buy ships, etc.

I am the 99 percent. *smirks*
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Jenx
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[Edit 2 times, last edit by Fixated at Oct 26, 2011 6:17:52 AM]
[Oct 26, 2011 6:13:48 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Dylan

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Is there anything actually worth winning in the game anymore?


When you ask that question, you are close to winning the game.

The fundamental thing you can win in an MMO is not the fun you have in playing, but the friends you make and keep.

The problem for ANY MMO is that the gameplay is inevitably repetitive. All games are repetitive, of course, with computer games far more complex than anything possible before (possible exception of LARPs).

Games and puzzles; different people like different things. Chess and Bridge both have simple enough rules that to play them at a social level can be done by absolute beginners. Poker is even more trivial. Crosswords can range from very simple to twisted; once solved a specific puzzle is done forever, as is the case with sudoku puzzles and variants.

I generally do a quick crossword almost daily (<5 minutes until I start cheating) and occasionally attempt a cryptic (I've completed two - one of them a Saturday prize with no "give answer" butan - on my lonesome). I will continue to do so for a very long time to come, no doubt with the occasional break.

Physical games (i.e. sports) can be physically demanding enough, as well as needing organisation and fields/courts/courses, that they typically only take place once a week.

To return to YPP specifically, in comparison to MMOs, each puzzle is roughly equivalent to a "raid" in terms of content. At a certain point, the basic duty puzzle is no longer interesting as a puzzle, but rather in competition with others on the duty report. Sword-fighting in sea battle is slightly different, anybody can shine in a close fight, especially in PvP.

The universal truth of MMOs is that content will be finite, but players can play for 40 hours per week if they want to, or more. Inevitably, that is going to lead to players having had enough of a given game, and moving on.
[Oct 26, 2011 7:43:05 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Fixated

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Dylan wrote: 
The fundamental thing you can win in an MMO is not the fun you have in playing, but the friends you make and keep.


Granted, but that's also why various chat programs exist. You can still keep up with Y!PP friends out of Y!PP, I know several people who have moved in groups to play other MMOs after this one wasn't fun to them anymore.

See, friends make it fun, but it's not why a lot of people log on night after night. You need events, things that will keep the playerbase focused on some sort of goal. The "goals" that exist in Y!PP right now obviously aren't as alluring as they used to be. Blockading is increasingly harder for a newer player to get involved in, which, in my opinion is the main selling point of Y!PP, the "end game" if you will.

Dylan wrote: 
To return to YPP specifically, in comparison to MMOs, each puzzle is roughly equivalent to a "raid" in terms of content. At a certain point, the basic duty puzzle is no longer interesting as a puzzle, but rather in competition with others on the duty report. Sword-fighting in sea battle is slightly different, anybody can shine in a close fight, especially in PvP.


That's a really good comparison, though I would technically consider big ship voyages (haunted seas, flotillas, Atlantis) as more of the raid. In another MMO, such as for example WoW, you don't usually do the same raid every single night, there's a lot of varying things that you can choose to do to occupy your time. However, with Y!PP it's getting more to the point where you log on at the same time at night, hop on the same ship, do the exact same puzzle you did the night before, and get the exact same lame portion of loot you did the night before. At least in WoW the good items drop varies a bit more (and their method of giving it out is a bit more fair).

Dylan wrote: 
The universal truth of MMOs is that content will be finite, but players can play for 40 hours per week if they want to, or more. Inevitably, that is going to lead to players having had enough of a given game, and moving on.


Fair enough, but we have a more unique situation at hand. People do still want to play this game, they are still logging on, still trying to be interested...there's just not really much for them to do. There's quite a few posts in global parley about it, and I know there are others in individual parleys as well, people are begging for new content. They want so badly to still play the game that they've invested so much time, effort, and (in some cases) money in, and it seems while OOO might care, they aren't really paying much attention. The "summer" island openings was a huge slap in the face when summer came and went, no news at all. When it was asked again when the island openings would be, we were told, "Something huge and fun in October!" It's now October 26th.

Part of me still thinks that the gang at OOO have yet to realize what a unique beast that Y!PP is, and what exactly is the best way to profit off of that in a way that won't have players knocking down their door in fits of rage. Another small, bitter part of me thinks that they're just waiting for the game to die off so they can move to other projects. Either way, I know a lot of people would appreciate it a lot more if they were upfront and honest with their goals instead of keeping everything behind lock and key.
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Dylan

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Part of me still thinks that the gang at OOO have yet to realize what a unique beast that Y!PP is, and what exactly is the best way to profit off of that in a way that won't have players knocking down their door in fits of rage.


Posting in GD with yet another regurgitation.
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Talisker

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See, friends make it fun, but it's not why a lot of people log on night after night.

Disagree. People don't log in if it's not fun. I feel I can say that because I don't log in because all my friends left.
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[Oct 26, 2011 2:59:24 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Karnisov

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Karnisov's Original Post wrote: 

Side projects should not be pursued at the expense of your flagship game. Your flagship game is what enables you to continue to be independent. Neglect it at your own peril.


Apparently I was more on target than I realized.

OOO sale to Sega Announcement wrote: 

Good morning! This is a big day for Three Rings!

SEGA has acquired Three Rings! This is a good thing for everyone.

Please read the announcement on the threerings.net homepage.

Join the discussion on shore leave .

Onward!

- Cleaver aka Daniel James, CEO of Three Rings


Why is this bad? Big companies, especially Japanese ones, like sure bets. I'm willing to wager Puzzle Pirates has had declining revenues for some time. The causes of this decline (neglect) are not obvious just by looking at a balance sheet. Sega will probably assume that Puzzle Pirates has lived past its useful life, and will probably not allow for any significant allocation of developer time to Puzzle Pirates in the future, instead focusing on flavor-of-the-moment type games.

Sega is going to be looking for ways to reduce OOO operating expenses post-acquisition to recover its purchase costs. The most visible of these measures will probably be the closing of low population oceans, like Jade, Opal, and Malachite, and possibly Cobalt. I was right a month ago. I think I will be right again.

edit: the yen is currently artificially high at 76 per US dollar. when the yen weakens, probably within the next 12 months, personnel layoffs will probably occur because US operations will become significantly more expensive.
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Karnisov
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[Edit 2 times, last edit by Karnisov at Nov 17, 2011 12:15:45 PM]
[Nov 17, 2011 11:52:11 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Dylan

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Sega will probably assume that Puzzle Pirates has lived past its useful life, and will probably not allow for any significant allocation of developer time to Puzzle Pirates in the future, ...


Frankly, too much developer time has probably been spent already, in that players have too many different choices already.

There are two main kinds of software products: those which are intended to be finished (released), and those which are intended to be maintained continuously.

Obviously there is a spectrum and overlap between these two extremes, but historically the former model has been used for shrink-wrap products to consumers, and the latter for big business bespoke applications, where the client has significant input as to the priority of maintenance programming vis-à-vis new features.

MMOs break that mold. Most of them are more content-based than YPP, and they tend to enforce strict limits on the number of players who can work together which is smaller than a single frigate, let alone a blockade board.

Players naturally demand more and more features, but the game-play was better in many ways when we didn't have various kinds of special events which are more rewarding than the standard pillage.

It will always take some developer time to add more cosmetic features (such as limited edition ships) to the game.

That said, YPP, if not quite suffering from featurites, definitely has had a bit too much gold-plating.

As to unmaintained flagships, one is available here
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AraHurricane

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If anyone bothered to stop and read Cleaver's actual letter on the Three Rings Home page you would come to realize that Three Rings is acting as a self-contained development studio. As Sega will have their name on everything now it will be obvious that Sega will want to keep up to date on things but as for Puzzle Pirates I'm not sure how much of a say or no say SEGA is really going to play in Puzzle Pirates as technically it is still the only Three Rings game in the green on revenue every year. They certainly aren't going to personally try and steer new development into Puzzle Pirates but im not sure they will stop it either. They've got billions in revenue every year, with Cleaver still leading the major development teams on Three Rings projects much of their funds allocations will be up to him, I can only hope that now that he has more funds and less high end CEO business decisions to make that he will take the time to log in more, communicate more and overall route Puzzle Pirates into new development paths with the new funds.

However, in the end all we can do is wait and see.
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Aethera21

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If anyone bothered to stop and read Cleaver's actual letter on the Three Rings Home page you would come to realize that Three Rings is acting as a self-contained development studio. As Sega will have their name on everything now it will be obvious that Sega will want to keep up to date on things but as for Puzzle Pirates I'm not sure how much of a say or no say SEGA is really going to play in Puzzle Pirates as technically it is still the only Three Rings game in the green on revenue every year. They certainly aren't going to personally try and steer new development into Puzzle Pirates but im not sure they will stop it either. They've got billions in revenue every year, with Cleaver still leading the major development teams on Three Rings projects much of their funds allocations will be up to him, I can only hope that now that he has more funds and less high end CEO business decisions to make that he will take the time to log in more, communicate more and overall route Puzzle Pirates into new development paths with the new funds.

However, in the end all we can do is wait and see.



Unfortunately mate, this is not how it works. When a company buys another, they control much about it, even if they are preserving the brand name and independent structure. Cleaver himself has already said he has a VP to answer to, a board to answer to, etc. Trust me on this - Sega has say in what happens at OOO. That is completely standard and normal.
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[Nov 17, 2011 12:59:57 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
sweetnessc

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We're all just speculating here, but while it's true that Sega will undoubtedly have a say in what happens, when you buy a company and plan to keep it as a separate stand-alone division and keep the founder too, that usually means you want them to keep on doing the same things that made you want to buy them in the first place.
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[Nov 17, 2011 1:59:45 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
laladibla

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We're all just speculating here, but while it's true that Sega will undoubtedly have a say in what happens, when you buy a company and plan to keep it as a separate stand-alone division and keep the founder too, that usually means you want them to keep on doing the same things that made you want to buy them in the first place.


Exactly. This will probably mean that Cleaver and the team have got some more time on their hands, in which they can probably spend developing new shiny things that will (hopefully) improve the game, and make it more popular. However this might take a while. I view the whole Sega owning OOO thing as more of a partnership, but with one partner having more control than the other, OOO remains just as independent as they were before, except for the new brand mark on the website, and perhaps a little bit of pushing and nudging by Sega occasionally.
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[Nov 19, 2011 3:06:45 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Karnisov

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so here's a nice vid from the wsj discussing why Japan's yen will drop hard eventually. its not a matter of if, its a matter of when.

http://online.wsj.com/video/japan-adds-to-drag-on-global-growth/8FF3D298-2E74-40B1-872F-F0EF247D263A.html

i think we'll see restructuring at OOO when it drops.
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[Nov 25, 2011 12:32:03 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
false_dmitri

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Also an earthquake might hit Japan and California at the same time, hurting both offices.

And someday the sun will go out. And eventually we'll all die.
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[Nov 26, 2011 4:48:51 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Dylan

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Also an earthquake might hit Japan and California at the same time, hurting both offices.

And someday the sun will go out. And eventually we'll all die.


That would be quite a big earthquake. If it happens before the sun goes out, I won't play YPP afterwards, I can tell you that much.
[Nov 26, 2011 4:57:50 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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Been playing LoL.
Too much fun.
Korea Terror me.
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[Nov 29, 2011 12:15:30 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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