I came across this late last year when reading about the shutdown of Wildstar.
To find the actual post I've quoted below, you need to look for the first post by McMurderpaws, and expand the entire thread. Scroll down till you see the response from "exChua" (no idea what that means).
I have no idea how true it is, but it sounds credible, and if true, means the real villains in CoX's demise were not NCSoft, but Paragon Studios. I'd be interested to hear if anyone knows different, knows more etc... and can provide any extra info either way.
exChua > McMurderpaws
Okay. I made this burner account because I need to correct the record here.
The stories passed around since the end of COH have been summed up as “Paragon Studios was so great and perfect until evil NCSoft closed them down.” And obviously telling this story would not be fun for my NDAs of the past...
And no, I’m not doing this out of love for NCSoft or any shit like that. We parted ways many many moons ago and we’re both happier for it. I just hate untruths being passed around because they let certain people keep skating around the industry causing the same shit over and over and being able to pin it on a nebulous entity to remove blame for their own actions.
Paragon Studios was shut down because they tried to pull a fast one on NCSoft. NCSoft was actually pretty happy with how COH was doing - they were never a huge hit, but they’d long since paid their dev costs and were a nice little money farm. They were happy enough with the brand that they even decided to move forward on an unannounced COH 2 project, and allocated funds to Paragon Studios for the development of a new COH property.
Yea, THAT is how committed NCSoft was to the brand.
So what happened?
Paragon Studios basically took the money, pretended to work on COH 2, but in actuality started building a completely unrelated new IP.
That’s right. NCSoft handed them a giant pile of money to make COH 2 and Paragon Studios, a studio literally created JUST to keep the COH IP going, said “Wait, no, let’s not do that. Let’s make some other shit nobody wants and not tell the publisher and presumably they will be completely understanding of it because we’ll show them a completely different prototype than what they asked for!”
NCSoft was not understanding.
See, this is what I learned when I worked for them - South Korean publishers are actually pretty hands off for the most part, as long as you give them reason to trust you. You hit your deadlines, you give them the product you promised, they’re actually pretty willing to put up with a lot.
Until you waste their money.
THEN the boot comes down.
The gap between the COH 2 debacle and the shutdown was less than a year from what I gathered talking to people in the know.
And now WildStar. NCSoft was pretty cool with us for a long time. They gave the company piles and piles of money and many years of extensions to get the game out. The totality of WildStar’s existence, from conception to release, was about a *decade*. A decade that NCSoft never saw a single return of investment on. So obviously... they had a lot of patience.
Carbine... was never a well managed studio. Ever. WildStar as you saw it was a completely different beast from what started development. It wasn’t even the same IP - Tim Cain, literally one of the creators of the original Fallout, used to be the creative lead and eventually he got pushed out of the studio. Which was a dumb idea because Carbine didn’t actually lock down their only IP when they did it and Tim owned all of it. So there was a huge freeze on production while they essentially had to do the game over from scratch because they didn’t own their own game!
And NCSoft actually let them when any sane publisher would have spotted the flaming shitshow brewing and cancelled the project entirely.
But okay. WildStar had its IP rebooted... then missed release date after release date after release date. The scope of the game was never realistic - we were supposed to ship with tons of extra zones, all of which got cut when they were well into production, because nobody actually knew what a pipeline was (oh but the higher ups would literally start screaming at the line designers for so much as laughing during work because obviously if we had time to laugh, we were wasting time that could have been used meeting these impossible deadlines.)
After yet another missed launch, NCSoft finally put the boot down and demanded more control over the project to actually make some money on this turd of an investment. Which meant there was finally an unmissable deadline that HAD to be hit. And then all hell broke loose.
Teams and personnel were constantly shuffled around at random without any real concern for if this was creating useable content. The economy team, which is, you know, the core of an MMO and literally the most important component to player retention and monetization, was a skeleton crew where staff were just flung at it when a producer didn’t like them but wouldn’t actually fire them. By the time someone went ‘Hey wait, isn’t the economy important?’ and reorganized the team, it was far too late to catch up on those systems... which included our end game content.
Hey, remember that memetic chart that went around showing all the obnoxious and pointlessly time consuming quests needed to actually unlock endgame raids? Guess what? That content was literally injected in at the very last minute because A) our raids weren’t actually completely done at launch and B) the creative director literally said we should add raid keys to artificially lengthen the game enough to force people to have to pay for a subscription past the free trial period in order to actually raid.
Oh there was shit from NCSoft, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not exactly the villains destroying the lives of saintly devs. Though they did try to push really hard on the art team to dress up all the female characters in the equivalent of lingerie. Given that they were already insanely over sexualized, this ended up being a tipping point and the artists tried to rebel. Believe it or not, the only reason the actual artists of the game got their way was because of Tumblr users kicking up a shitstorm over the obsessive pointless T&A. Those tumblr threads gave the artists enough momentum to at least keep the sexy ladies dressed in normal (but still revealing) clothing.
So with all this in mind... how did WildStar do?
They were already culling people before the end of the second month of release. Behind the scenes, they knew it was going to lose so much money that they were actually greatful so many people quit right after launch because it saved them money on personnel. But then people stopped quitting, so they started looking into how many people they could fire before someone at the state labor board got suspicious of them trying to duck out on the WARN Act. Given that they’d already gotten into legal trouble for illegally exempting employees from overtime pay, it’s kind of amazing they rolled the dice again anyway. But they did manage to hide the true state of the game until October 2014 when they finally had their first major layoff.
Coincidentally, most of that first wave were people that had at any point raised criticism of the company’s management.
I can’t speak to much to WildStar’s existence past their first huge layoff, because I was in that. I remember being shocked and surprised it stayed online as long as it did because it never, ever turned a profit - though almost all of the original leadership either quit or were fired, which is probably how it stabilized. But it still had a terrible launch that was actively on fire. We literally promised our players *monthly* content updates... then we couldn’t even hit the goal of *quartely* updates. Because, once again, nobody actually had a reasonable scope of what it took to actually make shippable content and how long that would actually take to be more meaningful than an occasional holiday event.
So really, you shouldn’t be angry at NCSoft for finally pulling the plug. My experience with them was that they were a tough but surprisingly forgiving master that overlooked an exceedingly troubled development and still put a lot of faith and money into a title they never saw an ROI on. WildStar had it’s four-year anniversary this June. Given that I assumed it wouldn’t even make it to a first year anniversary, that’s pretty darn impressive.
Also I learned that a few idiots running a game studio can basically screw over hundreds of talented game devs by performing utterly boneheaded decisions, but really, anyone who’s shipped more than one title can tell you that.
So now, you know... the whole story. From the mouth of an exChua on a burner account.