Friday, May 13, 2011

Zipper Interviews: Jeremy Dunham

Because you asked for it! Zipper's Senior Community Manager chats it up regarding all things MAG! He chimes in on MAG's best clan, the possibility of a MAG 2 and his honest opinion on training and other elements MAG could have done better. Don't miss it!

1. MAG was a game that got consistent critical acclaim but didn't have the mainstream success of say, a Modern Warfare 2, why in your opinion?
There are a number of factors here. Modern Warfare 2 is on multiple platforms, allowing it many more potential customers, not to mention that it was part of an already-established mega franchise in Call of Duty that has a lot of existing fans and an enormous marketing budget. MAG is also a much different kind of shooting experience than Call of Duty is –it’s a much more team-oriented game with a complex level-up system that asks for a different kind of investment from its players, not to mention that it’s an online-only product – and some folks just won’t buy games that don’t have a single-player campaign.

2. We listed the Top 15 MAG Moments a few months ago, what were your personal top 3?
Two of them aren’t on your list, but my Top 3 MAG moments were:
3) Launch day -- Despite the fact that I was part of the video game industry for 10 years it was only as a member of the media – so shipping my first game was a great feeling.
2) The release of MAG 2.0 – Telling our fans that we had ambitious plans for MAG and proving it with the release of 2.0 was unforgettable. I still remember the excited and surprised reactions from our community members when we first announced it and the positive feedback we were getting from our beta testing prior to when it came out that validated a lot of our choices. Good times.
1) The first “Play MAG with Zipper” event in December of 2009 – What can I say? It was a ton of fun and we had some truly crazy moments that I’ll never forget; of particular note was a game of Sabotage that we won with only 9 seconds left on the clock. The shouting and cheering going on at the office when we took that victory was amazing.

3. Who was MAG's top clan in your opinion?
That’s a debate I’m not going to settle because it depends on the map, the game mode and the day of the week. Players have been debating this forever, and that’s the way it should be. Besides, I’m sure that members of the Dark Flock, 3C, PinkFluffyBunny, ValorsLastStand, We K!ll Everyone, and several others can all make their case as to who’s the best and why.

4. What was one thing that took place in the MAG Community that totally surprised you?
The fan fiction created to continue to the storyline for the game.
In-game, there is pretty much zero plot outside of what your PMC’s philosophy is, while the official websites and Olivia Darby videos expanded the universe; but we didn’t add much to this after the first few months of release. What I thought was really cool, though, were the players who were taking the current PMC contract status for the basis of continuing the storyline behind the Shadow War. Some of it was pretty good too!  

5. Who's the best MAG player at Zipper?
While they were here, Jason Olander (designer) and Andrew Ford (programmer), were pretty damned good MAG players. They have since moved on to other jobs, but we still have some excellent talent in the software engineer pool – Chris Oje (aka zpr_WhiteTiger) and Jennifer Cearley (aka MizzSmartyPants)

6. In your opinion who was the community's best pure MAG player?
This is a better question to post to the community itself. I’m not going to endorse any one player and “the best.” Especially since there are so many different ways to measure a player’s value in MAG – are they a great medic, sniper, etc? In general, though, I think the best MAG players are the guys who communicate often with their headset and work together with the team goal in mind instead of trying to advance their own KDR.

7. You're a former IGN employee, do you think IGN Reviews carry too much influence?
Reviews from any publication only carry as much influence as the readers allow. Some people only follow one publication or individual (or a handful of them) and use that to help influence their decision. Other folks use an aggregate site like Metacritic to find an average score and use that as a jumping-off point for what they buy. We don’t have any control over how people interpret reviews – good or bad – so I don’t think you can accurately say that one site has too much or too little influence with any kind of accuracy. This is especially true when you look at games that have been critically panned and still sell millions, or games that review through the roof and barely sell anything. Who knows?

8. If there was one thing you could have changed about MAG, what would it have been?
There are a few for me, but that’s just how I am; I don’t like to settle for anything. To start, we should have had better usability and training so that players understood all the different facets of the game in addition to learning how to be a leader – we didn’t really teach people that. I also think that games should have scaled to the player base rather than require a minimum amount of players to spin-off; it would have better prepared the game for supporting fewer players over time as people moved on to newer experiences.

9. What should players understand from an anti-cheating standpoint? Why is it hard to counter exploits like lag-switching and rage quitting?
There are a lot of technical hurdles out there that keep you from understanding whether or not someone is cheating is the straight-ahead answer. Best we can do from our vantage point is to prepare for as many scenarios as possible and put as many deterrents in place as possible. Some people will always cheat no matter what you do, and as a result, they get pretty creative in finding ways around your counter-measures. We take cheating very seriously, though, and try to do the best we can at preventing it.

10. MAG's Training Mode was hotly debated for its effectiveness, what would you have changed about it?
In short, we should have added more things to the mode and made training more of the actual playing experience that was dynamic to your situation so that you didn’t even realize you were being trained. Leadership training should have been in there too.

11. Does the fact that hardcore reviewers consistently considered MAG a revolutionary concept, give you some measure of satisfaction?
Absolutely. But the people here at the company are more satisfied in knowing that the players have fun with the game. We had over 100,000 players invest more than 100 hours into MAG. That says a lot, I think.

12. MMO Elements made MAG different from other first-person shooters. What other MMO features do you think would have improved gameplay?
It would have been great to have an interconnected world and some territory control-type stuff. I personally would have liked to see that.

13. Games that sell 1M copies are widely considered successes, would you be surprised if we didn't see a MAG 2?
We don’t have any plans for a MAG 2 right now, so I guess I’d be more surprised to see the sequel than not see it. Personally, though, I’d like to see a follow-up and apply everything we learned from the first game into an even bigger, better experience. Maybe one day…

14. We know this was a SONY decision and not a Zipper one, but aren't bundled headsets almost a necessity in games like MAG?
For a game like MAG, a headset is a necessity for sure. If you ask game developers like the people here at Zipper, we’re always going to say that we want players to have as much motivation as possible to buy our game; but sometimes that’s not always an actual option for business reasons.

15. You were a vocal fan of MAG from behind-the-joystick as well, tell us about your most memorable in-game experience?
I still smile when I remember the Sabotage victory with only 9 seconds to go as I mentioned above. That whole “Play with Zipper” experience was one of the best days I’ve had with a shooter ever. That’s how I knew we had something really cool on our hands.

16. What's MAG's legacy?
It’s too early to tell. The game has only been out for 16 months and its lasting impression is yet to be fully understood. What’s indisputable, though, is that we were absolutely the first console shooter to support 256 players at once – we have a Guinness World Record to prove it. That’s an awesome thing to have pioneered.

17. Did the amount of criticism guys like Scott Rudi and Ben Jones got surprise you? What should the community understand better from a developer standpoint?
It didn’t surprise me at all. Regardless of your product or business customers or fans need focal points. Whether it’s good feedback or bad feedback, they want people to identify as “responsible” for these things so they can give credit or lay blame – it’s just human nature, and to a large extent, it’s warranted if the people they’re talking to are the people who made their subject happen.
The one thing that the community needs to understand about game development as it relates to this, though, is you only have so much time, manpower, and money to create your game. So the features that are fantastic or not so fantastic have to take shape within those constraints – there’s rarely any wiggle room within that and adding or changing things isn’t very easy as a result.

18. In your opinion, what could have been done to make MAG more accessible to a bigger audience?
The training and usability points I mentioned earlier for sure. A single-player campaign probably would have helped too, but that’s not the sort of game that MAG is.

19. Some recent news has COD going toward "an online universe" does it ever concern you that other titles will copy MAG elements and get the credit for it?
No, no concern. Our game is already out and we did our thing – we set the bar for console shooting/MMOs and it’s only natural for more games to take that and go somewhere else with it.

20. With the recent PSN Issues, and cries of network unreliability, do you think there's an incentive for online-only games to go with a lower price point? Similar to the 39.99 retail price of SOCOM Confrontation?
It depends on the game and what it offers. I think the market also answers the question for you. In other words, what are people willing to pay for our game? I don’t think we would have sold too many more copies of MAG if we had started with a $39.99 price point. We are a Greatest Hits title now, however, so anyone can pick us up for $29.99.

21. Why was it so hard to implement a system where one command healed yourself and one healed/rezzed teammates?
I wouldn’t say it was hard, it just wasn’t a priority. In patch 1.06 we added the ability to use L1 to heal yourself, while R1 healed/ rezzed your teammates. The problem, though, is that it was just quick and dirty – it wasn’t available for all control options and they weren’t dedicated. The feature was about time and manpower to really turn into something full-fledged and we could have implemented it better.
The one thing to keep in mind, though, is that this feature was viewed as a “bonus.” We were also working on MAG 2.0 at the time, which had a lot higher priorities within it – new skill tree, CP system – so it wasn’t as high a priority as one of those bigger things.

22. Subscription Fees have been intensely debated. Do you think they allow a better quality of games? Do you support them?
It depends on the game and what you want to get out of them. Running online games isn’t cheap – you have to pay for the servers, maintenance, and other things in terms of the tech all the time, plus you need a staff of dedicated folks (that don’t work for free) to be able to address potential patches if something goes wrong. This is especially true if you reach a point where the game has sold almost all of the copies it’s probably ever going to sell, but the expectation is to keep the game running as long as possible. That income has to come from somewhere.
In other words, I’m all for it if the subscription makes sense and the fans are willing to pay for it.

23. You mentioned MAG could have been larger. Care to share with us any other Zipper-Eyes-Only little known MAG trivia?
At one point the MAG concept was true MMO stuff. Thousands of players, hundreds of maps, you name it. We had to bring that vision in, of course, because of time, money and manpower. We brought it into 256 players and a much lower scope, but in the beginning, MAG’s concept was enormous!

24. We know nothing official has been mentioned regarding a MAG 2. But what are three key features you would like to see if it came to fruition?
Again, no plans for a MAG 2, and I hate to sound like a broken record by repeating myself, but I think a MAG 2 would benefit most from scaling, better usability and training. I have a number of other things I’d like to see in shooters in general that hasn’t really been done, but I’ll keep those a secret for now – maybe you’ll see it in one of our games some day J

25. One of the best suggestions we've ever seen mentioned a PlayStation Home style PMC HQ where avatars could integrate and we could implement elements like in-game economy, upgradeable clan areas, shooting ranges, supply depots, screenshot areas and even an in-game PMC Message board. Do you think social elements like these are the wave of the future?
Absolutely. I think that’s not too far off where video games will eventually go as social networking and stronger community involvement make their way into game development.

Well MAGGOTS, that concludes Zipper Interview #1. Be sure to leave your comments. Have some questions you'd like answered? Leave them in the comments so that we can include them in our next round of Zipper interviews.


  1. it'll be a crime against gaming not to have MAG 2!

  2. For what its worth, Zipper has never abandoned a series on console."No Plans" usually means we can't reveal anything. Look how long the S4 announcement took.

  3. Are we going to have to wait 8 years before they bring it out? They need to stop bullshitting....put out a sub-fee game for MAG....assign a total department for it and let's just rock out. We'll pay for it. Some won't but many will. At $5/mo for 20K players is $100,000 a month...1.2M for the year. It could even be more. You guys have a cult MAG following! You better do it first before I jump on the bandwagon of the company that does it first. I won't pay for 2 like games every month...I promise you that.

  4. u got a point. because if dust 514 is everything we wanted in mag thats all im playin.

  5. that scaling is a good idea. dunham smash is a smart guy. games should have launched with smaller numbers if you were in the q more than 30 secs.

  6. thats good math. a model that makes money but its only 5 bucks.

  7. Nice job guys. Would love to see a Mag2. Mag was my first FPS/TPS and fell in love with it. Played every day for over a year. Have moved on to DCUO now, but play to get back to Mag when time allows. After this game online is all I care about anymore. If a game doesn't even offer it I don't consider buying it. Even with the server down I haven't had a desire to put in a game and play solo. Mag has ruined that aspect of gaming for me and I don't blame them one bit.

  8. First off: to make MAG better. female playable characters and more customizable characters. another thing make the guns more powerful then the knife it's funny when your are shooting someone get the hit marker 5 times and that player knifes you once and your dead. Fix the massive amount of LAG and the rubberband glitch that happened post 2.0 patch and you will be good to go. The fact is MAG still has a following. I am an officer of a clan of 200+ members (not all still active about 75 is active) plus the amount of facebook pages that are dedicated to MAG is unbelievable! I got this game for my husband for valentines day 2 years ago and at first I hated coming home to watch him go boom boom. Then he made me a character and said try it. The thing that hook me was being a medic, as a nurse in real life that appealed to me. It would be nice to have an offline version since PSN is down at the moment, or like the days that your just so mad all you want to do is blow things up to release that tension instead of playing with other and ruining their fun with your mad at the world attitude. I personally recommend this game to everyone with a PS3. Because NOTHING compares to the MAG experience. I'm not the best at FPS but I love to play the game and play with my clan. and if it was 5 bucks a month I would still play on BOTH my PS3's because I love MAG and the people that I have gamed with. Then again if it was 10 a month I would not dare pay for it. Just saying that MAG has a following. Just tweek some stuff and we will be good to go.

    PSN: Goddessofwar09

  9. Thanks to Mag Worldwide for the interview and Mr. Dunham for taking the time to answer.

    How common is it for video game companies to say "no plans for a game" when in fact there are? What language did Zipper use when asked about Socom4 before its official announcement?

    I would be seriously bummed if I had to wait years for a MAG 2. It's a revolutionary title that's been the best online gaming experience of my life.

  10. agree with the young lady. if companies want more female gamers you have to let them be themselves.

  11. See I wouldn't mind waiting if it meant dealing with the few kinks that MAG had. not year tho!

  12. best game i ever played. i cant play offline anymore either. curse you zipper!

  13. A MAG 2 with a $5-$10/month subscription fee that improves upon all the things MAG did right and fixes all the things that went wrong could change the world of first person shooter gaming because no other shooter out there at this moment can offer the experience that MAG does.

    The appeal of 8v8 and 16v16 fps gaming is drawing to a close and 32v32 and larger is the future. I just hope Zipper and Sony wake up and realize this now and start to work on getting a sequel to market before everyone else like Infinity Ward jumps on the bandwagon and steals all the thunder that is ripe for the taking.

  14. @Anonymous, May 13, 9:26 PM: Wow, I was just about the say the same exact thing.

    Sony / Zipper need to realize that MAG has the potential to overwhelm the FPS market. Sure, some people enjoy the super fast paced ridiculous action of certain games, but many players just want something where they feel they can make difference. Many people I know are beginning to hate CoD for its ultra repetitive, stressful gameplay, but have few other options than other CoD clones.

    Personally, I was a devoted CoD player until MAG came out, haven't touched a CoD game since (except with friends). MAG offered an amazing style of gameplay in a form I rarely see.

    They need to seriously treat MAG as its own franchise, and give it the attention it deserves. Otherwise, like the above says, another party will take hold of it and make it their own. Looking at some of the newer games coming out, like Starhawk, large numbers of players in a large map with strong visuals are becoming more common, and MAG would need to adopt some amazing new features to compete (not necessarily graphics).

    Splitscreen opens up an entire market for 'party' games (I've bought games just to play them with friends, like CoD), and unique elements, even if untested, offer that special interest in a game (MAG has its player counts and command structure, expand on it!).

    I've got several more ideas that could attract different types of players to MAG, but since this is getting excessively long, I'll leave it for the forums and the return of the PSN.

  15. Thousands of maps? Went from "thousands of maps" to 15, and zero new ones for Sabo/Acq/Dom. GJ BRO.

  16. DUST514 next year i hope and it looks good and will expand on what MAG did and take it to the next level

    MAG2 would have to be damn good to beat DUST tbh but if it was good i could play both easily i hope


  17. If there are no plans for a MAG 2 or to continue the game further than what it is beyond a few more upgrades and patches, then Zipper should NOT be charging us for the character slots.

  18. It would definitely be a shame if MAG came to a close rather than continue to evolve into an extraordinary game that: (1)meets the demands of the constant changes of technology and gaming as it relates to online multi-player game-play and communication & (2)meets the demands/requests of dedicated players who expect high quality, high standards, multiple advance in-game options, AND the very basics (such as no freezing, no lag, MUCH BETTER CLAN & CLAN WAR OPTIONS and FUNCTIONS).

    MAG, in my opinion, is the *BEST* current multi-player FPS,..and should STOP being compared to limited ability games such as COD, and look to Battlefield 2 & 3 as its inspiration to be better, not out done, and/or brought to its death/close.

    MAG has not reached its PEAK yet as to what it can offer and do...BUT Mr.Dunham, Zipper, and Sony, I sure hope you do not give up on MAG and its current accomplishments and potential for LASTING GREATNESS!!

    Thank you MagVets & Mr.Dunham for a good interview thus far and for giving us MAG fans some of what we want, which is answers to our questions :)

  19. Now, on a serious note, Mr. Dunham & Zipper, please contact me, I AM STILL AVAILABLE to fill a position on your staff and/or an internship! :D


  20. If is was not for MAG, I would not be playing video games, nor be part of this awesome Video Game Community.

    And only because of playing MAG have I been given the opportunity to become part of an extraordinary team of fantastic Female Gamers, [ F ] Femme Fatale!

  21. how could anyone go back to small games after mag?

  22. Why jeremy dint mention <3 and GUN? definitely both are best in MAG too...

  23. Okay so SOCOM 4 has been released, Zipper probably have 6 months of work fixing bugs and finishing DLC. What then? I'd like to see the $5 model come in for the current MAG. Confirm a level of DLC release, Clans wars and tournaments and you have a winner. Subscription gets you reduced MAG2. GO FOR IT ZIPPER

  24. current mag won't bring new players and mag needs new players bad. make mag 2 and give the marketing and the new features a chance to attract new people.

  25. Zipper short and sweet! I have every DLC that came out. No one plays them and not mad took a chance and supported you. But to not expand on sabo and such popular maps has been a crime. I have over a 1000 hours of play and hear it all the time need more maps. I have all cod games and bfc games and always play mag. This game has made me friends from all over the world that I talk to still on the phone.if you promised you would listen to the community know 5$ a month would be fine to charge. So sorry this wasn't short,but tried to make it sweet. Bigworm1877

  26. <3 vs LoL...its happening baby

  27. Dunham, you're a fat sack of crap.

  28. Fix the damn freezing in dom! Was never there before you guys started giving out those stupid flash bangs!

  29. Boyos MAG was great, but now thats only one big LAGfest,out-off-map party etc.. If you really care about MAG and community "in" then try to make something with that!! I paid for game, for DLC´s too and what i have now, just freezing, cheaters behind maps, freezings, disconnects, LAAAAGGGG like never, knives from ten metres, homing bullets behind corner, shots trough walls etc.. WTH LADS IS WITH YOUR GAME?? MAG WAS AWESOME and for me is legend, but now thats JUST PAIN if you are "IN" DEAR ZIPPER can you fix all issues?! MAG had big potencial, but you just throw that in the garbage, because you honesly don´t care.

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