I’ve been thinking about writing a Massively Multiplayer Online RPG blog for, oh, years or so now. I’ve never quite felt comfortable starting one while I was working for Turbine or Vivox. Turbine, because I didn’t want to risk slipping into talking too much about what I was actually doing, and Vivox, because I wanted to be comfortable expressing opinions without making our customers potentially angry. In both cases I don’t think the waters would have been that hard to navigate, but better safe than sorry, right?
Also, I have a massive fear of being outed on the forums. We have community managers to take the heat when downtime runs long. It’s easier when customers think of us ops guys as a sort of faceless amoeba which cannot reasonably bear blame for anything.
So what changed? Well, first off, I’m unemployed. This means I have a certain amount of spare time and some of the previous worries have gone away. Obviously, I’ll still steer clear of anything covered by NDAs, for both practical and moral reasons, but it’s helpful knowing I’m not in any way likely to be seen as the voice of anyone but myself.
Second… you know, people do this. Scott Jennings blogs. Anthony Castoro blogs. Half of 38 Studios blogs. Eric Heimberg and Sandra Powers blog together — well, maybe that’s a bad example, I dunno if they’re ever going to be foolhardy enough to work in MMOs again. But you get the point; it’s OK to have personal opinions.
Third, there still aren’t many if any people blogging about MMO operations. Fertile ground! And hey, I have an ego on me: I think I can say useful and relevant things.
So there’s a topic for you. Massively Multiplayer Online Operations. I’m primarily interested in the gentle discipline of running the datacenters and all the myriad of details that surround that task, because that’s what I’ve done for the last fifteen years of my life. (Not always in gaming.) I take code and content from the developers, or the release managers, or QA, and I ensure that it winds up on the servers I chose, bought, and installed. After it goes live, I lie awake at night worrying about whether or not it’ll crash. If it does, my team and I bring the servers back up, gather data, and do what we can to help developers make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I also worry about a lot of other things, though. Any ops guy who thinks of the above as the sum total of his job isn’t any good. I do due diligence on other companies to help choose good vendors and good partners. I care about billing, business development, customer service (a lot). I hopefully help developers write server code that makes sense in our datacenter environment.
Maybe I just like having a peek into everything. But man, it makes my life easier when I do, so I’ll talk a bit about all that stuff.
I do not know much about game design, other than as a player. I have strong opinions there. They aren’t really informed, though, other than that I don’t tend to think that the devs are incompetent boobs who’re out to get players whenever possible. The evidence against that is too strong. Anyways, I won’t geek much about game design except where it overlaps with operations, which is here and there.
I was going to write a big fancy statement of intent, but come on. I’m a blogger. I’m going to write about the aspects of operating MMOs that interest me.
More about me: here. More about the job: future posts. Onward.