SpriteBox Studios Executive Producer David Webber: We’re not Trying to Reinvent the Wheel, We’re Trying to Take Away the Extra Spokes — The MMO Gamer

SpriteBox Studios Executive Producer David Webber: We’re not Trying to Reinvent the Wheel, We’re Trying to Take Away the Extra Spokes

For the third year running, Steve sits down with David Webber, Executive Producer at SpriteBox Studios, to discuss the company’s bold new ideas for the coming year in online gaming.

Read on for the transcript.



The MMO Gamer: Welcome back, David. You’re getting to be a regular fixture around here, I can’t remember the last time I interviewed the same person three years in a row.


David Webber: It’s good to be back.


The MMO Gamer: But, for those among our readers who may not have read our prior conversations, could you please reintroduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about what it is you do at SpriteBox Studios.


David Webber: Sure. My name is David Webber, and I’m the Executive Producer here at SpriteBox.

What that means is I’m basically in charge of overseeing the day to day operation of the development team, making sure we meet production milestones, all that kind of fun stuff.


The MMO Gamer: Last year we were talking about your “AdverQuest” concept, shrinking MMOs down to fit inside the space allotted by website banner ads. I have to be honest here, I haven’t really seen any of them lately… and by lately, I mean ever.

Are you still moving forward with the idea?


David Webber: Unfortunately the AdverQuest business model wasn’t really as robust as we’d initially hoped.

The ad agencies were only offering us 40 cents per every thousand times one of our AdverQuests was displayed, but it cost us one cent in bandwidth and cloud processing just to get each of them loaded.

Needless to say, our investors didn’t like the math on that arrangement and decided to pull the plug.

But, I think it was just an idea ahead of its time.


The MMO Gamer: What are you working on now, then?


David Webber: Well, after canceling Sword of the Ultimate Destiny: Battle of the Three Kingdoms 9, having to call it quits on AdverQuests, too, was a real wakeup call for the studio.

So we had a sit-down with our management team and our stakeholders, and we pitched ideas across the table until we came up with a sure-fire, can’t-lose moneymaking proposition.

[takes deep breath] Are you ready for this?


The MMO Gamer: As ready as I’ll ever be.


David Webber: I’m pleased to announce, exclusively today on The MMO Gamer, that SpriteBox Studios is currently in production of an original, in-house AAA fantasy MMO: Planet Warbattle Online.


The MMO Gamer: Planet… war… battle?


David Webber: Online, yes. And let me say right up front that we’re taking a bold, new, reductionist approach to online game design that I think is going to set the new standard in the industry.


The MMO Gamer: Even more reductionist than AdverQuests?


David Webber: Alright, maybe not quite that reductionist, but still.

See, I’ve got this theory that EverQuest was a success because it took something inaccessible to most people, the MUD genre, and condensed it down into a form that a normal, ordinary geek could understand.

And then, WoW was an even bigger success because it took EverQuest, and condensed it down even further, to something that even regular, normal people with a girlfriend and a job could play.

It opened up this whole new marketplace of millions of online gamers who might never have found the genre otherwise.

So what’s the next logical step, there?


The MMO Gamer: Uh… condensing WoW?


David Webber: Exactly! We’re calling it the “Three-Three-Three” plan.

Three classes: Fighter, Caster, and Rogue.

Three weapons: sword, staff, and bow. We might be adding in an axe in the first expansion pack, but I don’t want to get ahead of the team here, so don’t quote me on that.

Three playable races: Human, elf, and dwarf.

Three enemy types: Orc, goblin, and troll.

And of course, three different maps: The forest, the jungle, and the desert. We may be adding in tundra and underground volcano, as well, depending on player demand in the future.


The MMO Gamer: That was more than three threes.


David Webber: I know, but we thought it sounded catchy, and didn’t feel like changing it when the good ideas just kept rolling in.

The list goes on, even. Simplicity and accessibility are the key, here. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re just trying to take the extra spokes off a wheel that already exists.

In short, we’re reducing an MMO in complexity to the point that even the Angry Birds crowd can wrap their heads around it.


The MMO Gamer: The online gaming industry is extremely competitive, and in the past few years it’s probably the most competitive it’s ever been.

How can you hope to survive by not only shunning innovation, but offering players even less than your competition already does?


David Webber: I think I have to disagree with your basic premise, there.


The MMO Gamer: What? That the gaming industry is very competitive?


David Webber: No, that players want innovation in the first place.

Our internal numbers show that while many people claim they want new features, at the end of the day they really don’t.

And it’s the same reason why the drive-through at McDonald’s is always full, while the Indo-Euro-Thai-African Fusion restaurant next door is going out of business: There’s that innate fear of the unknown, the prospect of having to step outside of your comfort zone and try something different… what if you don’t like it? What if it turns out you just aren’t very good?

Our players can rest assured they’ll never have to worry about that. We offer no surprises, here.


The MMO Gamer: I would say there have been more than enough games with no surprises, lately. None of them have ever risen anywhere close to the level of WoW’s subscriber numbers, either.


David Webber: You media types are all the same. If you were covering the auto industry, you’d probably be whining about a lack of innovation because every year they keep coming out with cars that have four wheels and an engine.

[imitating reporter’s voice] “Why not some nice caterpillar tracks, pegasus wings, or jet propulsion, instead?”

I’ll tell you why not: Cars have four wheels and an engine because that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

And it’s no different in the online gaming industry. People like the hot bar. People like the minimap. The only ones who don’t like them are rabble-rousers like you, trying to create problems where they don’t exist.


The MMO Gamer: If I were covering the auto industry, I’d probably point out that a lack of innovation was why GM, Ford, and Chrysler almost went out of business.


David Webber: Give me one example of a quote-unquote “innovative” MMO that’s ever actually made any money.


The MMO Gamer: EVE Online.


David Webber: [laughing] EVE Online isn’t a real example. Everyone who plays that game is crazy.


The MMO Gamer: I played EVE Online.


David Webber: Exactly. And that’s why you’re wrong. You are the player. I am the producer. I tell you what you’re going to play, and you pay me to do it. That’s the way the system works.

I got my start in this business writing machine code for the Atari Falcon port of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers in 1992. Don’t even try to tell me how to do my job.


The MMO Gamer: I suppose I should thank you for your candor, but I’m not sure how long this interview will last once your PR guy has a chance to read it.


David Webber: Oh, don’t worry about him, he’ll just look at the date this was published and figure no one will ever take it seriously.


The MMO Gamer: Well, thank you again for joining us anyway, David. It’s been depressing as always.


David Webber: My pleasure, Steve. See you in Warbattle!


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