WoW’s stack of comments

I’m piling here various things I wrote on the beta forums that I need to save. Specifically more forced servers fights and PvP design ideas.

Lenghty stuff on the forum

One of the best things to come out of mmorpgs is getting to know people from all over the world and being in guilds of the same…

I so agree.
It’s seems that this “playstyle” isn’t supported in WoW.


Someone remembers Lum the Mad? This is a part of one of his articles. I still consider him one of the most intelligent person in the industry:

And now we come back to MMOs, where their particular form of pattern involves other people being involved. If you ask any dozen MMO enthusiasts which MMO they prefer the most (or, depending on how jaded, despise the least) and you will get a dozen different answers. Because the dirty little secret that designers don’t want to admit is that the actual game is completely irrelevant! No one cares, really, how well the pattern is crafted. Because what brings people back to MMOs isn’t the game, but the people within. No computer can come up with AI unpredictable enough to emulate your average bazaar shopper. Which is why, if you ask those dozen people which MMO they prefer, you get a dozen different answers. Because it’s where they are from.

So what does all this have to do with anything? Well, reading the links I started with, I read a great deal about the minutae of design theory. Gamers want their games to be hard! No, they want them to be easier! More casual friendly! More aimed at the core!

No, gamers are going to be bored. Because these things run on computers, and no matter how many pixels you cram into the pixel people, they’re still just pixels. Now, the community behind the games – they’re not quite as pixilated. And maybe perhaps that’s where we should be focusing.


Perhaps Blizzard should start to dig more under the surface of this genre because even if they built a nice game, they still seem to completely miss what a MMOG really is.

I don’t link the original article because Lum could kill me. If you are interested to read the rest you should be able to search it.


Now, SOE surely didn’t let slip this MAJOR breakage:

A Message to our European Players

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) would like to reiterate that (as announced in the European Beta press release dated 9/7/04), players in Europe will be able to play on any of SOE’s EverQuest II servers, including those servers based North America (and vice versa). There will be no server lock-outs based on location. European and North American players will be able to play with their friends on the server of their choice.

SOE’s goal is to provide a high level of service worldwide. At launch, there will be English, French and German servers, each localized in the corresponding language. SOE is taking the time and expense to make sure that French and German speakers have the same quality of gameplay that English speakers will.
============================
Moorgard
EQII Community Guy


Source

Good work Moorgard.

Now, this doesn’t change that EQ2 is horrible and WoW a wonderful game.
I really cannot believe why the situation is so ridiculous.

I really hope that EQ2 to overwhelm WoW at this point, since I’m sicerely upset by Blizzard planning. But EQ2 is still horrible as a game.
So. Damn. Frustrating.

Well some bells must be ringing when the competition responds to your plans in a way like this.

I really wonder if there is not a lot of regret for that statement at Blizzard europe now.


As I said, SOE simply is unable to make a game, but they have a good managment and a lot of experience.

This decision from Blizzard and Vivendi is bad for marketing and design in general. It’s unacceptable that the design team has accepted this compromise.

The community is the BASE of a mmorpg.

Kaadath: Have you read the Blizzard post in this thread? Americans will be free to choose between either set of servers.

No, I don’t know how to write it more clearly but I’m underlining ANOTHER PROBLEM.

When you choose a server your character will stay in that place. During an evening, while you play, your character won’t migrate from server to server to smooth the population. Your character is bound to a precise server. Obviously.

So what changes from EQ, for example? It simply changes that players and guilds won’t make a choice simply on the *name* or *type* of a server like it happened till today. It means that in WoW the guilds will choose a LOCATION. This means that the population on a single server will be DETERMINED by the LOCATION. Even if it’s not about 100% of the players (because you can still make a different choice) it will still strongly affect each server.

If you read my message with these premises you’ll understand why all this will have bad consequences to the point of breaking the game.

A mmorpg is playable when there are other players and groups to join in PvE and other groups to fight in PvP. The choice Blizzard took simply reduces the time span that determines at which hours a specific server is playable.

This is for EVERYONE, no matter what is your choice.

In every single EverQuest or DAoC servers, at any time, there’s a mix of east and west coast players. The choice Blizzard took will strongly affect the result achieved in these other games.

It’s the BIGGEST design mistake I’ve seen slipping from a design team in many years that I follow the industry.


This message is tied to the last news but the purpose is to see it stictly from *game design* point of view. So I hope it won’t be locked since the argument is specific and different.

And I really would like to hear Eno’s point of view because I consider the whole issue unacceptable and unbelievable exactly because it goes against every idea of game design. Since Eno is the one responsible for this aspect of the game, I cannot realize from where this solution is coming from and how the design team managed to approve it.

The object of the discussion is about the choice to separate East Coast servers from West Coast. I strongly believe that this choice not only is annoying, but it will damage directly both the servers and the players.

Why I’m saying that this is strictly a design issue? Because this is a mmorpg. A mmorpg has a sense because you play with other peoples, more or less as every other interesting experience that could happen on the internet. So the “health” of a game-world strictly depends on the players. The community (from small groups to the largest guilds) is EVERYTHING for a mmorpg, it’s the most important resource, it’s a TREASURE. The *very first duty* of a game designer is to help, support, develop and incentivate the socialization, which will directly affect the subscriptions and the retention of players. This should be on TOP of every single choice.

Now, it’s already obvious one side of the problem. The decision to split the servers on the two coasts is already a major breakdown right in the fabric of the game. Blizzard is breaking the most important aspect of the game by creating problems for the players, by shattering guilds, by forcing decisions and all the rest. But this is still only one side of the problem. A narrow sight of a design team could ignore (with an enormous mistake) this situation simply beacause of the lack of experience with dealing with this particular genre. But the other side of the problem is too glaring to be left ignored like it happened at Blizzard and I really cannot understand how it happened, considering the respect I have for them just by looking at their effective results.

So, what is this major flaw that will damage both the servers and the players? It’s something that should be evident to players coming from other mmorpgs, DAoC, FFXI, SWG, EQ etc… The fact of having, on the same server, all the different timezones between the east and the west coast, helps stongly to have a balance on the population. It helps to mantain the game-world always active and playable for many hours a day because the population on every single server will be kept more regular. This means that the more timezones you include, the more the population will be kept regular. Concretely it means that a player will have a better possibility to find groups and to play the game in an environment that is kept alive. The timezones directly allow a server to mantain the “life” inside a single server for several hours a day. This isn’t only theory of game design, this is something that you can touch with your hands in the mmorpgs that are currently released.

Can you see the direct effect of setting apart the server on the two coasts? This means that every single server will jump sharply from not enough players (during the night and the morning) to a complete overcrowded situation (during the envening). While this effect is smoothed in other mmorpgs by the presence of players equally spread among the various timezones, WoW will loose completely the benefit of this. The negative effect will be way more relevant than what you can imagine. It will directly affect everyone from the first minute to the last. The “playability” of the server will be strongly reduced by problems with desolation and overcorowding together. This will strongly reduce the life cycle of each server for each day. And all this without even considering who isn’t able to play regularly exactly at the same hours each day and, so, who cannot manage to play the game in those few hours when the sever is effectively playable without being overcrowded or deserted.

Add this to the fact that WoW offers 60 levels + hero classes along with a quite small server population (it averages at 2000 players at peak time) and you’ll probably understand that the game, after three months, will be completely unplayable for who wasn’t able to reach the last levels along with the majority of the population. What will happen when you won’t be able to find group to join? Or when you want to do some PvP but there’s noone around?

Now. Squaresoft was able to learn that making players of different timezones on the same server has the result of balancing the popluation during the day. They wrote a long report about this and made it public. On the other side they have a client that isn’t playable in a window, a ridiculous user interface and an idiotic billing system.

WHY DAMN WE ALWAYS FINISH WITH HALF A BRAIN?

No, really. I cannot believe that this is happening at this point. The game was too solid for things to go wrong. It’s like doomed to be a success. Who could imagine this? Who could imagine that Blizzard was able to make a great game to then break it in one of the most obvious but critical parts?

I’m still wondering if it’s a bad joke or something. Because the design team cannot be THAT clueless. For God’s sake.
What damn is happening at Blizzard?

P.S.
It doesn’t matter if you’ll be able to choose between the two coasts, what matters is that the life cylcle of each server for each day is reduced. And this affects directly the communities and the playability of the game.

One thing that makes EQ so successful is the ability for people from different countries to get and be together.

This isn’t EQ, this is the internet.

Mmorpgs are more near to the concept of “internet” than to the concept of “game”.

This is why I’m among those that is worried about the ability of Blizzard to shape a mmorpg aside a good game. This decision is just getting more attention because it pisses off the community but there are more and more critical parts on the design where Blizzard is doing various mistakes.

A few months ago I wrote an article titles “WoW isn’t a mmorpg” (realted message) and most of the issues are still there because we still have to see parts of the game that really use the potential of a mmorpg compared to a single player/cooperative game.

Other discussions are still about the depth of the game. Many are commenting that WoW offers a very narrow gameplay type. Which isn’t bad on itself. But there’s surely a need to “develop” it toward the strength of a mmorpg: the social aspect, the cooperation, the interaction with the world. Many agree when I say that WoW feels too much as a single player game. It isn’t bad because it will help newbies to slowly experience this fascinating genre. But then? It’s important that their entree is easy but, then, you also need to offer them something more. Something unique. Something that is *different* from a standard, singleplayer game.

Something that will “stand out” when games like “Guild Wars” will try to sell something else as a mmorpg.

And this is exactly what a mmorpg SHOULD offer. A community that cooperates to achieve a result, to modify or control the world and the systems ruling the world. More concretely: the players also need something that “excuses” this level-based treadmill. There’s the need of something important and different at the end and not just another, longer treadmill for powerful loot and elite professions. Or even an higher level cap.

The endgame should excuse the treadmill. To offer a purpose, to offer involvement. It shouldn’t be another checkpoint for an infinite treadmill that will become just boring and, above all, pointless.

So it’s here that the game should and needs to change. It’s where a more complex form of PvP can be deployed to give more power to the players and let them *change* the world, fight an epic war that isn’t just faked between various static quests or instanced battlegrounds with no real history.

It’s both where the players should cooperate and where the world should become dynamical. Where the mmorpg, as a genre, should show its strength.

If you fail to do so you’ll still have a beautiful game but players will keep asking themselves if it wasn’t better as a single player game:

***

Even though the systems for kills and quests in WoW work fairly well, it still makes me think the same thing all mmos make me think. ‘Man, this game would be sooo much better if there weren’t any other people.’



I’ve sent a suggestion about opening a chat channel completely zone-independent.

It means that everyone can read the channel everywhere in the world.

The idea is to make it completely automated with commands (so that you can use it for an exact purpose and not to write custom text). Basically it can be an automated, global, LFG system where groups can send LFM requests, quests etc…

I hope that Blizzard looks into this idea and implements it if it’s technically doable.

Anyway, bots are currently permitted in WoW. That is likely, of course, to change. Other hacks have been found and fixed.

Yeah, like in DAoC.

Powerlevelling is the most used practice in the game and the issue tied with buffbot is a major menace for the game and I really hope Blizzard doesn’t ignore this.

The difference is that powerlevelling isn’t against the rules, a cheat is. Yes, they are both a cheat on the gameplay level but one is accepted and tolerated.

From the other side I think that higher level players helping friends on some quests isn’t a behaviour to toss away. I would just suggest to put in the game a “cap” to tolerate an help but not between enormous levels of disparity.

But my faith in Blizzard to solve this is near to zero.

There’s a lot more to delve. My approach designing the game would be completely different because I think that old and new players should be pushed to play together the more possible. CoH did this with the sidekicking system, DAoC copied it more or less.

There are also better solutions.


(related design idea)
I wrote down an algorithm to explain the plan I posted above:

1- A battle begins.

2- The server registers which group does the first attack anf “flags” that group as “attacker” and the other as “defender”. Every other group joining the same battle executes this point again to be flagged properly.

3- The fight takes place. The server registers who damages who, based on the groups and not on the single characters. Also registering the total damage (in %) for *each group*.

4- Someone dies. The server considers each group that damaged the target and starts the following procedure for each:

a- A “balance check” is done by calculating the average level of the two groups (attackers and defenders).

b- The two average levels of the two sides are compared to measure the “fairness” of the combat. Determining if there will be a reward or a penalty.

c- The reward/penalty status is once again modified by checking if the winning group is flagged as “attacker” or “defender”.

d- The amount of “honor points” (to add or detract) will be calculated based on the “value” of the target and the % of damage dealt by the group to this target. then split equally between every member of the winning group.

e- For each player the amount of honor is adjusted again by considering the rank (as described at the (5) point of the plan I posted above).

– |a to e| Are repeated for each group who damaged the target.

This is the whole algorithm. The only part that it is missing is the modifier that I desribed at the (4) point of my plan that I let out to not make things too complex.


Just a few words about peoples complaining that PvP will have a stronger role in the game.

I agree that this is bad, even if I believe that the PvP is the most important part on a mmorpg. The point is that it isn’t impossible to make the two “playstyle” coexist without one tumbling on the other.

Peoples should NEVER be pushed to the PvP because it’s the ONLY way to receive a powerful reward accessible only by following that playstyle. The PvP should attract peoples because IT IS FUN. And not because it’s an obligation you cannot dodge. So I totally agree with who is complaining.

Related message
My original suggestion included a way to “solve” this situation. I believe that “skill and tools” you can achieve in PvP should have an impact ONLY for PvP.

A PvP skill should be usable ONLY in PvP. And so all the rest. In this way we keep every player to its own playstyle without messing with forced gameplay. I explained how the skills should be implemented and I still believe it’s the best way.

Instead I’d like an integration of PvP with the standard levelling system. I’d like to receive also experience points when killing an enemy, not just honor point.

And please instance the proper battlegrounds, also capping levels and numbers.

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WoW beta .torrent

Finally. Two days of PAIN to download this patch, now I can finish the last 100Mb in relax.

Some guy managed to create a working .torrent:
WoW beta 0.10.0

An hacker night. Again, as below, I wonder why I have to break the rules simply to be able to play a game as everyone else.

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Finally a new hack for FFXI

Amen.

I finally found a link to a page with a working hack for Final Fantasy XI. The program will allow the players to finally be able to alt+tab again and play in a window.

Yes, I fully support hacks when they have no impact on the gameplay and when they are about an option that should be directly in the game.

What is wrong is that I have to search the help of an hacker and break the TOS to solve glaring issues.

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Again on local and forced servers

The summary:

Three basic reasons about why the choice of local servers will create problems beyond what’s expected:

1- It pisses off the community. Aside the fact that this point is obvious, there’s still the concept that, in the “age of internet”, instead of removing barriers between the users (this should be the very first aim of a mmorpg) we are creating more and more “walls”. I consider this the most critical part for a mmorpg and it’s disappointing to see the approach taken by Blizzard.

2- It creates direct problems for every player on every server. Even Walter Yarbrough (Mythic’s content producer) underlined this point:
“WoW’s population peaks and valleys will be worse than most other MMO’s out there. / Having a worldwide server – like EQ – means that population lows in Europe, East Coast, West Coast and Asia don’t coincide – the servers remain relatively populated as players log in and log off throughout their peak playing hours. / WoW won’t have that – when they are at off-peak, they will *really* be off peak, and their server populations will be very low.”
This makes the server (every single server) overcrowded during the peak hours and deserted during most of the day. This makes the game less playable for everyone. The “life cycle” of each server for each day is strongly reduced. Putting a barrier between the two coasts will make the situation worst. Not only it may shatter the various communities, but it will make the population jump up and down even more roughly.

3- The choice will require Blizzard to deploy more resources and, so, spend more money in proportion with the number of subscribers. Why? Because a local server will “saturate” more quickly than a worldwide server. It means that a single server will reach its “top capacity” sooner. The number of unique accounts that each server will hold is reduced and Blizzard will need to push out and mantain more servers even if for the same number of paying subscribers.

This means that this is a terrible choice for all the “three parts” involved:
– The community is pissed off.
– The gameplay is damaged.
– Blizzard will spend more money.

So, why the decision has been taken if there are only bad (and relevant) consequences?
I can find only a reason:
– Blizzard. They are pushing and investing on Blizzard Europe and they don’t want the european players to migrate to the USA when the USA version will be released ahead of time. Blocking foreigner accounts will help to promote Blizzard Europe (and other regions when they’ll launch) avoiding the leak of users to the USA.

The rest could be about marketing strategies that Vivendi may impose on Blizzard (trying to not kill the sales on Europe). But the point is somewhere else. I’m an idealist and I believe that any choice that will damage the game (and this one will) must be ditched. Not only because the game is the focus and the money the consequence, but because if we damage the game we also damage the quality of the product. So the money again, recursively.

The other aspect is about a ridiculous idea of the market. The market should REACT to the demand/offer, instead, in this case, the market seems to force the demand. If the european players will leak to the USA servers without going back it means that the demand for a localized game and server *doesn’t exist*. So, there are two ways. Or Blizzard considers this fact and realizes that they are wasting money on Blizzard Europe for an offer that isn’t present. Or they accept the European market for what it is. Leaks of players to the USA included. I strongly believe that the “demand” for the european localized servers is STRONG and the leak of players to the USA won’t prevent Blizzard Europe to be successful.

On its own merits, not because of forced rules.

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Simply Awesome.

Simply Awesome.

Someone posted links to a serie of 37 screenshots coming from the Korean beta of World of Warcraft (which is ahead of time since they had no tornados):

http://www.starbabie.com/pvp-korea/01.jpg

Manual navigate from 01.jpg to 37.jpg for more *jawdropping*.

It’s me or the Korean Taurens are gigantic?!

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Jump to Lightspeed

Well, I’m in the beta. Not going to break the NDA but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to play before the game launches considering the slow connection I have and the long download.

Instead it’s already interesting reading the comments of the other players on the forums.

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They woke up

The thread breaking EQ2 NDA has been finally shutted down:

While Blizzard has lifted the nondisclosure agreement for World of Warcraft, the Everquest 2 NDA is still very active. I ask that players respect the EQ2 NDA and not discuss knowledge learned from their closed beta here.

Tyren

An unrelated comment: Caydiem is doing a wonderful work. Best Community Manager I’ve found in a mmorpg. Give her more power, Blizzard.

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Breaking NDA without a worry

There’s a thread on World of Warcraft where users are freely and happily breaking EverQuest 2 NDA. Blizzard moderators are watching amusedly doing nothing at all. Perhaps enjoying a positive publicity.

I always *hated* NDAs, I think they are worth nothing and a game only benefits by not having it but I do not accept mass leaks like what is happening now. Or you accept the rules even by criticizing them like I do or you stay *outside*.

Or SOE removes this worthless part or they *enforce* it. The fact that Blizzard is doing nothing upsets me. Play fair.

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A funny quote

A funny quote, the subject is Star Wars Galaxies combat system:

If they could revamp (imo ‘total overhaul’ is needed, not revamp, but hey…that’s really not in the RoI) to a good combat system, especially with the almost unmatched potential for cool pvp (rebels vs empire? c’mon!), it could be such an incredible game, which is why I even bother lamenting that it’s not.

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