Here’s your fluffy cloud of vapor

Blizzard released the first informations about the upcoming patch.

Call me unimpressed. There’s already a lame pic around but the point is that this patch really doesn’t sound worth the wait.

To summarize:
– Battlegrounds and Honor System dealyed, see ya
– New dungeon (Dire Maul 56-60)
– sidebars and quest tracker (ripped from the user mods)
– Chat bubbles on screen
– *Amazing* fixes to classes:

# Mage – New Spell: Mage Armor allows mana regeneration to function while casting and increases resistance to all magic schools
# Druid – Cat form damage per second increased
# Warrior – Rage will now generate when attacks are parried, dodged and blocked
# Priest – Power Word: Shield can now be cast on all raid members

– Meeting stones

Who wants to bet that the meeting stones will be forgotten by the players in less than a week.

More than two months for a patch filled with fluff.

Moral: when you see the devs and community reps go all silent it’s not because they are working too much. It’s because they have nothing to show.

This announce is really a cover-story to hide the fact that both the honor system and the battlegrounds are, again, delayed.

I guess my prediction

When Blizzard will finally release a content patch it will be rather big. Peoples will stop complaining about the lack of updates in two seconds (till the next month). Instead the servers will decide to explode and everyone will start to scream about them releasing it too soon.

…was a bit too optimistic.


(The message also hints the plans for a test server for the battlegrounds and honor system. It isn’t clear how they’ll deal with it but it’s possible that they’ll target or mirror one of the live servers)

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Mudflation as antibody of a “stain development”

As an observer in this industry my duty is to analyze what happens from a personal point of view, that is equal to my sensibility and limited knowledge, and underline the tendencies. So that I’m able to anticipate if something is supposed to go in a good or wrong direction. This is the direct reason why I often play to foresee the future and predict how things will go. Peoples usually mock me (rightfully) at this point. In most of the cases what I repeat is glaring obvious as predicting that the sun will rise the next day. Now the point is that I’m still an observer, till the game companies will keep doing obvious mistakes I’ll have to keep predicting the obvious.

The fact that “the servers will crash” isn’t obvious till I won’t see the problems addressed at best. So I’ll keep underline it. How am I supposed to know what is “at best”? It’s simple. In the case of World of Warcraft I preached since August that their choice to divide the servers by timezones would make the overcrowding problems more serious. This problem isn’t trivial as it seems, there are a large number of implications. What was the result? The result was that what I predicted was ignored till Blizzard got swamped in the problem and had to start to suggest the players to log in servers that do not correspond to their timezone and relative peak times, disrupting directly their plan and even a few important design implications, like the 24h clock, GM support and scheduled downtimes. A couple of weeks later they released an emergency patch to remove from the UI the timezones.

Again, it was obvious. Again, it was ignored. Now let’s move on. The game is now released and we hit another prediction I made. Blizzard is not correctly prepared to sustain the scope of this project. They somewhat admitted it and I don’t have the knowledge to judge if what they are doing is the best possible or if they are committing errors in the process. But I can still observe the game and understand what it needs. The direction that will help it to improve and not just decline as all mmorpgs are supposed to with the passing of time.

Maybe, they aren’t committed enough to this game. Maybe they are moving the focus on other projects, leaving only a small, not adequate, team on this one. The reasons and the choices depend on elements that I don’t know and I cannot control so the best I can do is to point out a doubt and the reasons of this doubt. And I move forward of another step.

This another step is about a “direction”. The game needs work. As I often state the release is just the beginning for a mmorpg, the real development and challenge (with yourself, not with the competition) start now. But what is the best direction to move to? What will damage the game? What will improve it? These are the topics of this new step. Peoples everywhere claim for “content” but this path isn’t that obvious. I believe that one of the worst things that may happen to World of Warcraft is a rise of the level cap. If everyone reaches level 60 and starts to whine because they reached an endgame that sounds like a “game over”, the most direct solution is to push forward the finishing line. Let’s move the cap to level 70 or more.

This is a common process that can be assimilated to the concept of “mudflation”. The keypoint here is that the term defines in particular those games that are generally considered “content-intensive”, EverQuest for example. You aren’t supposed to complain about the lack of content in a world like EverQuest but the fact is that, concretely, the lack of content is its main problem. And here I said once again an heresy. The reason comes exactly from the meaning of the world “mudflation”. Its meaning is about an “erosion” of content. The mudflation is an active process *on the content*. It means that the elements in a game are replaced and made obsolete by something new. It’s true that *apparently* there’s load of content, but this content is actively eroded and forgotten.

Why does this process exist? Because it’s a recursive process. You cannot stretch too much the treadmills or you shatter the community. If the whole development is about adding terrain for the treadmill, it will become increasing hard for the new players to join the game and integrate themselves. The space between the first levels and the last increases exponentially representing an unending ladder to climb just so that you are supposed to join your friends and their activities. These treadmills are barriers between the players. They do not work by definition because they break the accessibility and uncover the true, emptied nature of the model. The mudflation is a process that exists to solve this situation. The mudflation is a positive “antibody” developed directly by the game itself to survive. It’s the only way for the game to remain cohesive, to not finish fragmented into too many pieces.

So there are two elements to consider here. The first is that the mudflation is a direct, positive consequence to fight back a process that was started “outside”. It’s an auto-defence of the game. It’s “wrong” only because it is reacting to a damage from the outside. The players still need a communal ground where to meet. Communal goals to achieve. Too much content would actively shatter this. Spreading all the players everywhere without them joining to reach their objectives. This would produce a dispersion, a desert. The mudflation is the consequence of a *problem*. This is the second point to consider. The problem is elsewhere, in a broken model of development. To excuse this development only new goals to achieve are added. These goals, to be considered worthy, need to become bigger rewards. The development model here is the one of a stain. The original release of a game is the center, then the developers keep adding stuff (areas, monsters, items) around it, like a stain that is slowly enlarging.

The mudflation is an antibody to this model. It’s an attempt to keep everything together. The erosion of content is needed to sustain the expansion. An expansion that isn’t mirrored by the expansion of a server. The players become just drifting ships on this stain. The more the time passes the more the ships will crowd the borders of the stain (the end-levels). As new content is released the stain will expand again and the ships blocked on the border will drift once again till the new border. This while the center is exsiccating. Noone looks the center anymore. Even if the center is the game. The center is the heart and, still, it’s ignored because all the ships are on the border, not anymore in the center.

Soon this heart will die but noone can see this because there are still the boys surfing on the borders. Where the game seems still full of life. The mudflation is a desperate attempt to counterattack this unexcused expansion process. To keep its heart alive this growing stain tries to cut away what it can. The less important parts are abandoned so that the life sources can still be focused elsewhere and sustain the unending, pointless and foolish enlargement.

At the end the moral is that this cannot be an optimal process. There must be something better. The games modeled on a stain give only the illusion of content because the truth is that they are kept alive thanks to the mudflation. The truth is that the erosion, so the loss of content, is the reason why they still survive. This rings a bell? How it is possible that an old game can only survive through a loss of content when that content is supposed to be its main strength? How it’s possible that this loss underlines a quality (and probably the only one it has)?

Those are the questions that is useful to answer. If they will remain unanswered the unacceptable and inexplicable destiny of these games will remain the same: die of age.

About factional balance

(and I swear that I’m done for today)

I save here a discussion before it’s lost. The topic is the factional balance in a PvP game but from the perspective of “why one side is more appealing than the other”.

Oh, I wrote too much about it on this thread.

My idea is that the players choose deliberately specific archetypes:

I’m saying that the race is not relevant. What is relevant is the alignment.

The alignment is a constant throughout all the different mmorpgs. Here’s a “rule”. A pattern repeating in different contexts at a glance.

If you allow each race in WoW to chose if to be alliance or to be horde you’ll have, at the end, that the alliance outnumbers again the horde. This is the point.

An orc and a troll aren’t choosed not because they are ugly, but because they do not incarnate a ‘good’ alignment. Not a case that the most choosed class (and by far) is the paladin.

And I want to add:
The only way to “fix” this at the origin, as you say, is to build in the game factions that cannot be linked easily to archetypes. And, believe me, you don’t want to go this way.

Archetype means that a “figure” acquired with the time a cultural meaning. This meaning becomes an archetype that goes beyond the boundaries of a single game, it becomes a concept by itself.

So these games are unbalanced because they work on consolidated archetypes. When a player chooses one it doesn’t choose just an image at the log in screen. The choice is about a cultural, shared background.

In general players want to be heros:

The other reason is that human, elves, dwarfs and even gnomes are standard fantasy setting. While undeads and taurens aren’t. Plus the trolls don’t look like trolls and are (arguably) the ugliest race.

In WoW this unbalance is just about the perception and the ‘good’ faction will always be more popular than the ‘bad’ faction.

Calistas then wrote better my concept:

No need to be metaphysical, they are just ‘bad’.
Show pictures of the races/cities to anyone and ask them to pick the baddies and the goodies and is, largely, obvious.

People aren’t going to ponder which one to chose. Many will just chose the goodies out of habit.

ALL this genre has value JUST because it’s archetypical. That’s the only reason why this stuff is “popular”.

This is also why I strongly criticize Raph when he thinks to these games just as formal systems. It’s the culture to permeate and give a meaning to the formal system. The formal system is nothing without the other part.

Group Hug

From the Mannoroth forum Sato, a level 59 undead warlock, says:

Goodbye Mannoroth :(

To everyone I have played alongside, its been great. To everyone I have played against you have been worthy opponents. And to everyone I have been ganking in the Wetlands with my 34 Rogue Archangel, I had a blast with my final days.

I will be logging in one last time this Friday to change leadership of my guild and say goodbye to them. We have been together for over 2 years, and through several games. I hope our website comes back up again so I can keep in touch with you guys.

Special thanks to Necrocyde, Aradesh, Deathgaze, Kilour, and any of the other warlocks that I have had such a good time with in the Warlock channel.

A bit below:

Where are you going? :(

What do you think?

I have to focus on school. Its also time to end my addiction with video games and get back into the real world.

I dont need to fail another semester of College because of MMOs.


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Even FFXI patches HARD

Can I STOP writing today? (also considering that this site is a fragment of what I write everywhere)

Final Fantasy XI, also known as another painfully slow mmorpg to release relevant changes, has massively patched today.

Just the new Fishing System deserves a page on its own. Squaresoft is starting to do something about the farmers. Not only they began to take actions against them. But now they are finally also addressing the awful mechancs that *produced* that situation. So we have changes to the notorious monsters and this new fishing system that finally looks interesting. Probably superior to the timid attempt in World of Warcraft.

Now you have to actually “fish”, reacting to the movement and the stamina of the fish in order to successfully pull it out the water. I guess the default AFK-(macro)-fishing will be a bit harder now. A right step to deliver some more gameplay and address the farming problems.

I also noticed that these patch notes make sense and are more detailed. Maybe Squaresoft is also reconsidering the communication process. Maybe they saw as well the subscriptions numbers sinking.

There’s also a new, rather complicated, search system that allows the players to set categorized messages. It doesn’t sound so straightforward in how it’s integrated in the UI. Probably one of those features forgotten and abandoned by the players in two days.

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New server statistics

I took some more data.
There’s a total of 3246 players on Blackrock and 3340 on Warsong. Both without queues. Maybe they relaxed the server cap a bit. (EDIT: I tested a few hours later when there was a small queue of 20 people on Warsong and the total population was 3350, so this is still the cap. People complained a lot about the lag.)

To see what I gathered follow the “read more” link on the right.

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I’m levelling too FAST!

I’m starting to worry. In World of Warcraft my rest bar is growing faster than my experience bar. I cannot catch up. No really.

The result is that even if I play so rarely I keep crunching levels as peanuts. I find myself doing grey quests all the time because I keep outlevelling them but I’m still curious to finish them and discover new story lines (and quest lines).

COME ON, I barely finished Maraudon and I’m going to outlevel Zul’Farrak before even starting with it!

Where’s my “level down” button!?

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Some more /pizza (plus ugliness)

On ZenOfDesign, Ubiq has summed up what peoples didn’t get about the EQ2 new /pizza command.

Here’s why:

On an unrelated note, we saw a particularly shrewd bit of marketing in Everquest 2. A new “/pizza” command opens up an external web browser and loads up the website for Pizza Hut. Slashdot, Boingboing, and even the more mainstream CNN all reported on the new feature putting millions of eyes all over the Everquest 2 logo. Certainly advertisement deals helped motivate this change, but the mainstream coverage of EQ2 alone made the feature well worth the cost of adding a URL to an in-game slash command. Even if they don’t sell one single pizza, the attention to the feature make it well worth the cost.

The same applies to the “Pizza Hut” brand.

(It took me more than a fucking *hour* to search everywhere where I did read it. I need to archive more stuff)

Plus an interesting news. It seems that the asian version of EQ2 doesn’t have “deformity” as a standard of beauty. Incredible! Or at least it’s a good competition between the two.

Here you have the best comments like:

“wow US got shafted.”

“If those pictures are really the models – I’m fucking outraged. This is obvious proof that SoE needs to outsource it’s artists not it’s customer service.”

“Damn, I’d pay to play EQ2 if the models looked like that”

Take this and your meaningful localization, Ubiq :)

EDIT: Cosmik commented too.