[Lured by the siren song of easy VC money from California, Game Developer magazine-featured humor writer and developer Karsden Morderhaschen gathers his team to brainstorm a World of Warcraft killer.]

Another day at Schadenfreude Interactive

Just a few days ago, I found a strange man talking loudly to himself in our conference room. That he was talking to himself was not the strange part. Our lead programmer, Otto, talks to himself all the time (then again, he also claims to think in reverse Polish notation).

On further investigation, the man in the conference room revealed that he was here to see me. He apologized for "Bluetoothing," saying he "just needed to free up some bandwidth in order to maximize our present synergy."

He then introduced himself as Chad. Just Chad. Was he here to sell us something? Toner cartridges? Vacuum cleaners? Digital rights management software?

No, he wanted to talk about World Of Warcraft.

Chad was a venture capitalist from California. Chad had heard a lot of things. He had heard that WoW had over ten million subscribers worldwide. He had heard that video games made more money than Hollywood movies.

He had heard it was cheaper to outsource game development to Eastern Europe, which is what brought him to us. Note: we are located in southern Germany. "East" is, I suppose, a relative term. Apparently he had not heard many native German speakers, though, as he was disappointed that my accent did not sound like Hans Gruber's in Die Hard.

I found myself slightly offended-but then he offered me three million dollars.

Here be Dragons

I told Chad we would consider his offer, although privately I had some concerns. At Schadenfreude Interactive we prefer to make single-player games, as we have trouble handling groups of more than ten people. My co-workers can barely manage a CC list without spamming a 250-Euro Neiman Marcus pfeffernusse recipe to everyone and their grandmother.

And I must admit, I have not actually played World of Warcraft. Our art director, Lothar, is a fan, and he is forever trying to tell me some fascinating thing about murlocs, which I tune out as I do when he tries to tell me some fascinating thing Joss Whedon said about existentialism.

Although Schadenfreude has made two licensed Lord of The Rings auto-racing games (Nazgul Thunder and Need For Speed: Underhill), I do not myself care for swords-and-sorcery.

The last time I played Dungeons & Dragons was in 1984 - I got up to go to the bathroom and while I was gone, a kobold wielding only an oyster fork murdered me in cold blood and stole my Hand of Vecna. These kinds of things just do not happen while playing Settlers of Catan.

Then again, three million dollars is a huge sum, even in American money.

But how could we come up with a game so amazing that it would steal World Of Warcraft's thunder?

Welcome to the Thunderdome

I ushered my employees into our tiny lounge, home to a refrigerator, card table, and our prized ancient Grabungadung arcade cabinet.

"Schadenfreudians," I declared, "We are going to stay in here until we come up with a game that will beat World of Warcraft." Gathered around the card table, pens and notepads at the ready, we commenced brainstorming.

"Has anyone read The Eye of Argon?"

"What if every player is a gelatinous cube?"

"It's like Loom meets Omar Sharif Bridge ..."

"Yes, but could a mermaid drive a manual transmission?"

As the hours crept by, the room grew uncomfortably warm. Otto even took off his omnipresent sweater vest. Crumpled balls of paper piled up at our feet.

This nut was harder to crack than we had thought.

"... wouldn't that make it a MMORPQ?"

"Needs more giant space hamsters."

"You go into this dungeon and there's another, smaller dungeon ..."

"... the dark elves steal everyone's pants."

It was becoming clear that we would crack long before the nut did. Someone suddenly recalled that there was beer in the refrigerator, left over from our intern's ten-year anniversary party.

Many beers later we were all very enthusiastically designing a massively multiplayer drinking game called World Of Barcraft - a cross between Bard's Tale, Diner Dash, and that movie where Tom Cruise makes fruity cocktails.

Otto and Lothar even choreographed the races' dance animations for us: their "Wight Wench Watusi" and "Beholder Busboy" moves were particularly impressive. It is shocking how much Otto loosens up once he gets out of that sweater vest. I can only hope that none of this shows up on YouTube.

Bye, Bye Mr. American Pie

I awoke the next morning underneath the card table with my aching head resting on a stack of Game Developer magazines and a Post-It that said "UNDEAD PUB QUIZ?" stuck to my ear. The dark elves had stolen my pants.

We had not come up with a game that would beat World Of Warcraft, but I did come to an important realization. I founded this company to make the games I wanted to play, not to copy other people's games, and certainly not just to make money. So many people are trying to get a piece of the massively multiplayer pie!

Chad did not want us to make him a good game-he wanted us to make him a pie. And while that pie may look tasty, it's served a la mode with a scoopful of meretriciousness and heaped with the non-dairy whipped topping of avarice.

No thank you.

I called Chad and turned down his development offer. I am sure he is headed to another game company in Romania, Belarus, or perhaps even Boston - "east" is, after all, a relative term.

[Karsden Morderhaschen is CEO of very important South German game development studio Schadenfreude Interactive. Email him at [email protected]]