In the Hands of the EnemyFraternizing with the EnemyIn the Hands of the Enemy - RSS 2.0
Since he has to lay low, he doesn't even have the luxury of killing people who piss him off. M59's PvP system is similar to UO's: You can kill anyone you like in most areas, but you're branded a murderer. Since Green's characters are already on the downlow, drop kicking a message board troll would only bring up more blips on the radar. "If I started killing every person that upset me as a developer, people would be able to pick out my characters too easily," he says. Some people just have to be worth the reroll, though. "Some of the best times I've had as a mortal character were when I defeated a notorious asshole in PvP combat," he finishes with a grin. I guess, even if it means losing your digital self, righteous anger always grips firm.
But really, how does he keep going? Sure, developing the game pays the bills, but getting in game just to get an idea of what players want can't be worth having to repeatedly create new identities every time someone figures out who you are. "It's still fun, but it's like any other game you've played for a long time. Eventually it doesn't hold the same spark of interest it did when you started," he says. "Meridian 59 is based upon discovering information, so when you're the one developing and implementing the secrets a large part of the mystery goes away."
The fact he manages to keep logging in after eight years of living the dual life of a developer and player is amazing in itself. He's brought on Mike "FattyMoo" Emmons to study under him and ultimately take over as Lead Designer, and since then, he's been able to discover things someone else created again. But still, Green continually flirts with burnout. He finds keeping his plate full is the best way to counteract boredom. "I've been doing consulting work for other games in development and have been doing expert work at a law firm, helping to overturn a patent that threatens literally the entire online game industry," he tells me.
But it's not all bad. Playing the game - despite the dangers of losing a character to his own fame and burning out on your monthly income - offers Green special insight into his player base. Unlike forums, where "the fear of being ostracized for having a contrary opinion, or worse, being labeled an ass-kisser for supporting the developers" paints a giant target on your back, "talking to people in real-time through in-game conversations is much more meaningful," he says.
And that speaks volumes for the type of dedication developers like Brian exhibit. The guy logs into his game, risking exposure and flak from those industrious enough to root him out, not just to blow off of steam, but to figure out what it is the teeming mass of humanity that plays his game wants. And he still finds a way to piss off half of his players, because according to him, "I have at least half again as many opinions as I have players!" But he and his ilk still make it into the game every day, despite the fact no one on the receiving end of a nerf will ever believe it.
We say our goodbyes and go through the usual rituals of kids playing at being grownups. We talk about future conferences we'll be attending, poke some fun at a few mutual acquaintances and bitch about E3. And, as always, I leave Brian by regaling him with a story from Meridian and a promise to return someday, if only to say I'm buddies with the guy who holds the world in the palm of his hand.
Joe Blancato is a Contributing Editor for The Escapist Magazine, in addition to being the Founder of waterthread.org.