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2004: Söldner - a Post Mortem


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A post mortem about one of the highly anticipated but "launch failed" pojects I did. This is THE talk I was sued about by the publisher as I was too honest.

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2004: Söldner - a Post Mortem

  1. 1. Söl dner - Secr et War s A Post Mortem Teut Weidemann Managing Director, Wings Direcor of Design, Jowood
  2. 2. Overview• History• Examining Issues – Design – Experience – Code – QA – Marketing• What we learned• Q&A – Wings Resource count – Söldner Sales
  3. 3. History: 2000-2004Gamestar Test Quote: “When you die you loose all your hard earned money” Wrong: You always get a minimum of 3500when you die, if you had more you even keep it.
  4. 4. History: Year 2000• Acquisition of Wings in Mai• Plans: Base Tech - Söldner - MMO• Pre Production, Planning, Staffing• Meanwhile: – Counseling: acquisition of Massive – Counseling: acquisition of Products (Spellforce) – Online Presence, Websites – Web/Ftp Server setup & management – Teamgrowth: +4 Artists (team 7 total)
  5. 5. History: 2001• Team Growth: – Programmers: +4 – Artists: +1 – Admin: +3, team total: 15• Preproduction Base, Design• Interim: – Panzer Elite Spec. Edition – Community Management: Jowood forums – Managing Online Games (WW3, Cultures2 etc.) – Being Development Director of Jowood
  6. 6. History: 2002• Jowood Crises: – Cash flow limits to Salaries only, if at all – 25% of employees have to go, incl. Co-founder• Team Change: – Programmers: -3 – Admin: -2• Living with the crisis: month to month worries – Too many tasks on some resources – Planning failsafe: looking for alternatives – Effectivity drops by 30%
  7. 7. History: 2003• JoWooD: surviving! Replanning, Cash still tight• Second growth: ordering process, planned 12/2003 release• Oops #1: QA? -> Build your own• Oops #2: no Marketing (Spellforce took it all) – We had to do Online Marketing – We had to do Offline Marketing – Cover and Packaging• Oops #3: We had to do Worldwide Serverdeals – Not task of Partners (BigBen or Encore)• Oops #4: Release of public beta bombed• 16. December 2004: delivery of beta candidate
  8. 8. History: 2004• QA starts slow• Soon being discovered: we need more time – > rescheduled March 2004• Delivering Master Candidate each month• BigBen insists on 2 more polishing months – > Rescheduled May 2004• Release end of May/04 (EU)• Release end of June/04 (US)• Since then monthly updates as planned
  9. 9. Launch• We were caught unaware how big the hype was• Bad reviews• Bugs• Problems we never seen before in testing• Angry customers• Sales ok in GAS, bad in EU/US• But WHY?
  10. 10. Examining DesignGamestar quote: It takes forever until you haveenough money to afford a vehicle for the huge mapsWrong: with $3500 startmoney you can always afford a Lada ($800) and equipment
  11. 11. Design• Dropping weapons: it’s so much easier not to• ADS, changing environments – Lightning the scene is hard, no precalculated lightmaps – No static mesh in 3d cards (speed issues)• One world design – no level load/reset means errors add up on time (and servers run days/weeks) – all real time, no pause (even in menu’s) – Remember: this tech was designed to be MMO• No experience in Avatar games means cyclic approach to design
  12. 12. Design: good• Overall design worked: people believed in the product, expectations high• Generating content: settlement, landscape and foilage generation works• Combined Arms works• ADS, UCS, unique player names, no preselected classes: work together well
  13. 13. Design: Bad• Designer overloaded since 2002: Producer, Designer, Managing Director, Marketing Support, Mastering• Design not complete at stages due to this• Cyclic design and re-evaluation took too long: too many cycles• This led to unnecessary code rewrites• Wanting too much: (see next slide)
  14. 14. Single Player Components Multiplayer Soldiers UCS PortalClient: Wheeled SWS: 70 Unique Name3d RendererPhysicsAI Tanks AFV: 60 ServerlistsNetcodeParticle/FXScriptsystem Helicopters TCM ChatOverlay/GUITerrainLandscape GeneratorsScenatio Generator Jets AGS: 200 PatcherDebug tools, etc. Server CCP CD Keys Linux Server CMM Messenger
  15. 15. Experience & Complexity GameStar: “... In game xyz you had intuitive controls like “wasd” etc. but in Söldner ...”Comment: Söldner has the identical interface, it has been adapted to “the” standard
  16. 16. Experience: Avatars • Animation & Avatars: we rewrote soldier code 5 times. Still not right. Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ benötigt. benötigt. benötigt. benötigt. benötigt. Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Zur Anzeige wird der QuickTime™ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ Dekompressor „TIFF (Unkomprimiert)“ benötigt. benötigt. benötigt. benötigt.
  17. 17. Experience: Multiplayer• Multiplayer: no experience meant suboptimal netcode and side effects – Designing async game flows is a pain – Synced databases are the future, but why did we do our own?• MP and changing environments: some things no longer work like “Bomb-Run”• Server as master meant sacrificing speed and efficiency: server runs 32 clients (theoretically)• Always developing 2 games: SP and MP – Coders always need 2 comps (server - client) – Many things need to be load tested (16 players min)
  18. 18. Experience: Physics• Physics: meant adjusting whole project to it• Taiming physic engines is an artform by itself• Collision code was finally working when we enslaved it by the physic system• We used ODE (open source physics engine) which helped a lot
  19. 19. Experience: Portal• Portal: no GameSpy, meant an additional whole project: – Login/Logout – Unique Name handling – Server Lists – Load Balancing – Messenger – Auto Patch System – Cd Key Handling• You ask why? GameSpy makes business with YOUR game and YOUR customer ... And charges YOU for it! – No secure cd keys – Endusers don’t like it – Many features we needed not available in 2001/2002
  20. 20. CodeGameStar: “The game has serious problems with water: any vehicle touching water explodes”Comment: Your beloved Bf1942 does the same and you weren’t bitching at all about it
  21. 21. Code: Good• Open Source Physics were painless more or less• Landscape Renderer: streets, dynamic texture generation, 25km View distance• Auto Generation of content: Terrain, Roads, Foilage, Settlements saved thousands of level editing manhours• ADS: simply worked• Data driven design: Integration without coders• Re-iterating 3d Tech (although FarCry hurt)• Late Optimization: 12fps to 50+ fps in 3 month• Localisation Technology: mastering with no code
  22. 22. Code: Bad• Missing code reviews in 2001/2002 nearly killed the project (-> lead was fired)• AI: late design, monster of state machine• Tools: not enough (balancing 130 game units)• Lack of performance sensivity/control• Lack of consistent preplanning and structuring• Applied standards weren’t strict enough: bad resources spoil code quality and stability• Submit discipline -> stable builds (much better in 2003)
  23. 23. QAGamestar: “.. If they now get theirbugfixes done and balance a little then ...” Petra: “IF! If ever ...”Statement: Professional Journalism?
  24. 24. QA: Good• Internal QA increased productivity, short feedback loop, build discipline• Automating builds: from 42 down to 12 minutes• Closed beta: feedback, organisation
  25. 25. QA: Bad• External QA not up to the task: – Load tests: 16 testers minimum needed – Testplans: too many things to test – They were functionality control, not quality control• Beta – Hosting at foreign providers: not good – No dedicated beta manager: not good – Automation feedback of logs was missing – Only 10% give proper feedback, only 1% are perfect
  26. 26. Marketing Florian Stangl (ex-Gamestar): “The vehicles don’t work” Comment: So how else could youcomplain about the Vehicle Physics?
  27. 27. Marketing: Good• Our own Online Hype exceeded expectations• Marketing Online Games Online• Community Management before Release• Getting Game and Fan-Sites into Beta• Cover• Packaging• PR (germany only)
  28. 28. Marketing: Bad• Up to 12/2003 we were doing it ourselves – So Marketing started late: requests during crunch added load on team• Germany: perfect PR – France: horrible – UK: arrogant, incompetent – US: lets not speak about it• 1st MP Game of Jowood: lack of customer knowledge – No real online campaign despite Wings concepts & plans – No understanding of internet marketing as a tool
  29. 29. What we learned Gamestar, Commenting on bugs theycopy/paste into their review from our tech support forum:“I don’t want to repeat what’s being said in the forums, we are building our own opinion after all ...” Comment: none ...
  30. 30. What we learned• Code pre planning for all modules• Code reviews for all modules• Optimize early: implement automatic performance tracking• Without Perforce we wouldn’t be here• Automate build process early: saves hours of time• Incorporate debug output early and automate feedback: makes reproducing much easier• Automating localization works: export, installer, done
  31. 31. What we learned• Generating content works ... To a limit• Be sensible to resources leaving – Restructure – Transfer orderly• Be honest: no experience in one field: hire contractor for counsel• US Server providers suck
  32. 32. What we learned• Multiplayer Games have their own rules – Linux Server is a must – Server must not use DirectX • And many other specs we won’t reveal here – Clan Support is #1 priority • When Clans don’t play your game noone will – Server Provider Support is a necessity • Their demands differ from your view • Understand their business and you win
  33. 33. Top Reasons Söldner is like it is• Code planning/structuring: should have acted sooner• JoWooD Crisis and it’s consequences• Lack of proper QA for MP games• Lack of resources in critical time• Wanting too much
  34. 34. Q&AGamestar: “money has nothing to do with reviews” Comment: LOL! (GameStar canceled a Söldner preview after they learned from PC Games deal)
  35. 35. 10 15 20 25 0 5 may jun jul aug sep oct novYear 2000 dec jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sepYear 2001 oct nov dec jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sepYear 2002 oct nov dec jan feb mar apr Wings Resources may jun jul aug sepYear 2003 oct nov dec jan feb mar apr may jun julYear 2004 aug Misc Prog Sum Artist Admin
  36. 36. Söldner Sales: Deutschland1400012000 1197410000 8372 8000 Sales 6000 5453 4000 3782 2596 2404 2000 1069 880 731 727 0 6 kw21 kw22 kw23 kw24 kw25 kw26 kw27 kw28 kw29 kw30 kw31
  37. 37. Söldner Facts• Measured in week 22-31, Coverage 82%: 44.844 sold units in Germany• For weeks 22-31 Söldner is second best selling title in Germany (#1: Panzers)• Söldner spend 2 months in the top 10• Info: Joint Operations sold 13227 (D)• Info: Joint Operations sold 27800 (US)
  38. 38. Stückzal Vollpreis 38 20 10.000 15.000 20.000 25.000 5.000 0 02 40 20 02 42 20 02 44 20 02 46 20 02 48 20 02 50 20 02 52 20 02 2 20 03 4 20 03 6 20 03 8 20 0 10 3 20 0 12 3 20 0 14 3 20 0 16 3 20 0 18 3 20 0 20 3Kalenderwoche 20 0 22 3 20 0 24 3 20 0 26 3 20 0 Battlefield 1942 - Verkaufsentwicklung seit Release 28 3 20 0 30 3 20 0 32 3 20 0 34 3 20 0 36 3 20 0 38 3 20 0 40 3 20 0 42 3 20 0 44 3 20 03
  39. 39. Misc Facts• 3200 Bugzilla entries • 1544 xml files • 717 textures (08/2002-05/2004) • 651 Animation files• 18054 Perforce submits • 722 x-files (Objects)• 656 test builds • 1991 wav files• Full master build: 20 • 18 mio square km terrain minutes generated • 225 villages generated• Master from submit to • 775.000 lines of code CD: 1 hour • Languages: 10,• Patch from submit to De,Fr,Sp,It,Uk,Us,Jp,Cz,Hu,Ru exe: 30 minutes
  40. 40. 100 200 300 400 500-100 0 Ja n Fe b M ar Ap r M ay Ju n Ju l Au g Se p O ct N ov D ec Ja n Fe b M ar Ap r M ay Ju n Ju l Au g Söldner Task/Bug Hunt* Delta Fixed Created
  41. 41. Tools used• Visual .Net • 3D Studio Max 4/5• Perforce • Character Studio• Incredibuild• Visual Assist • Photoshop• Granny • Kaldera• ODE• Miles• zLib• Python• DoxyGen• BugZilla
  42. 42. Thanx very much cu online