On 19. Nov 2010 i heard a very interesting lecture:
please note: i write all from memory, incorrect statements and false quotes are to be expected. If videos or papers of the event become availably, you will find them in the links section at the end of this article.
The lecture was part of a series of computer-game related lectures organized by Jogi J. Neufeld of the Subotron retro-game shop in Vienna, Austria. Uncommon for such events, the lecture was sponsored by Zit and there was free wine and food.
The discussion, moderated by artist Roland Gratzer from monochrom, was held by Dipl. Ing. Peter Reiterer (coder, physic), Markus Hajek (coder, tools), and Aaron Kaplan (coder, network). Except of Roland Grazer all three participants were for some time hired by the (no-longer-existing) startup Wootsoft and talked about their experience there.
According to the participants of the dicussion, around 2002 the 2 founders of Wootsoft had a self-made, state-of-the-art graphic engine and decided to build a Science-Fiction Massive Multiplayer Online Game. The business plan was to sell subscriptions (around 10 $ per month) and allow the player to do “everything possible” inside the online world. The graphic engine was designed to work on a PC. After finding investors the team rented a office in Vienna and started hiring people. Lacking a clear vision, necessary financing and a product to sell the company ultimately collapsed.
During the discussion, the 3 veterans searched “the reason” why the project failed or at least “the moment” were doom was unavoidable:
In retrospect, there was no lack of innovative technology or concepts. The online world was designed to be “seamless” with no pausing for loading new areas. The graphic engine had very cool effects for it's time. There was no major Science Fiction online game at the time. Papers were produced about some of the more innovative aspects of the development (distributed, shared, scalable memory) and high-skilled people were hired.
A document was presented and discussed, listing some signs for startup company doomed to fail. Some of the points:
Markus: “The project was doomed to fail. But it should have been possible to fail in a far less painful way.”
From the 3 participants, 2 remain still in the (very small) game industry of Vienna, but in changed roles. All concluded that they learned a lot during the work for wootsoft and feel that future projects profit from the experience gained there. Even if some of the follow-up projects also failed, they failed at a higher level, impossible to reach without failing at a lower level before.