Monday, June 09, 2008

What the hell does "polished" mean anyways?

Some words in the MMO industry are used way too frequently by developers and as a result lose any unique meaning they might have once had. After Everquest the words "next generation" was the popular term to spew out if you wanted to hype your game. Apparently, there are multiple generations of MMOs but no one is really sure what differentiates them or even if they share any common design elements. It's like asking a person to define the age range for Generation X or Generation Y. You'll get so many different opinions that the terms are basically useless as adjectives.

I've personally seen the term "polished" go through the same overuse pattern that "next generation" went through. I know this isn't a news flash since I believe even Sigil used the term when describing their work on Vanguard. How their tongues didn't blacken and fall off from that liberty with the truth I'll never know? Anyways the term "polished" once had a very simple meaning that tied directly into a game's release. It first started popping up with World of Warcraft and basically meant the developers spent enough time working on the game so that the first users weren't really beta testers. Previous MMO philosophy being that as long as the servers could stay up for longer then a hour then you went ahead and released.

Nowadays "polished" can mean a game is fun, easy to learn, has stable servers, has good artwork, has a custom UI, is casual friendly, has endgame content, and well the list really goes on and on. Basically, what was first used to describe how complete World of Warcraft was at release can now stand in for any of it's features. In fact I think it would be hard to find any MMO in the future which won't have the word "polished" used to describe it. At least now there is a common assumption that any game which uses the term must be reasonably stable upon release. Hopefully, this means it will be mysteriously absent on games that are planning on following in Vanguard's footsteps.

P.S. SOE has actually given Vanguard a lot of love lately and its greatly improved from what I hear. But honestly there are only so many disaster launches and Vanguard was probably the most spec-tac-ular. NGE is a close second.


sid67 said...

Polish has lots of meanings:

--the property of being smooth and shiny

--a highly developed state of perfection; having a flawless or impeccable quality; "they performed with great polish"; "I admired the exquisite refinement of his prose"; "almost an inspiration which gives to all work that finish which is almost art"--Joseph Conrad

--make (a surface) shine; "shine the silver, please"; "polish my shoes"

--Improve or perfect by pruning or polishing; "refine one's style of writing"

--bring to a highly developed, finished, or refined state; "polish your social manners"

I tend to think that the marketers like to use this word because it implies all of these things. They even want you to think it is smooth and shiny. But mostly, they want you to think it’s a state of perfection. I (personally) this is has more to do with refinement or perfecting something. In WoW’s case, they refined and improved a number of different features found in other games.

Stropp said...

To me, as a software developer, I see a polished game as one where the developers have spent time making sure everything works as it should.

A beta game should be reasonably feature complete and those features should be tested and working properly. The known bug list should be reduced to the point where there are only minor or cosmetic bugs left, and those should be being addressed. Of course new bugs will spring up after launch, but you deal with them as they happen. There shouldn't be any major bugs that affect gameplay.

The polish comes in when the system is working as intended and the developers are focussing on the cosmetic aspects. The GUI, quests, spelling, performance tweaks are all part of this.

Unfortunately, as you say, it seems that most mmo developers these days think that polish is simply fixing bugs and adding new content. That couldn't be any farther from the truth.