Poor site

My site seems intimately connected with the server where I play. Both down.

There’s a thread on the official boards spanning 10+ pages since that server is down from various hours without a single official word. Peoples started to post in all caps to mock the lack of CS and that brought to this reply:

Scootersmash, this post is inappropriate. If I witness you violate our Forum Guidelines using any character on your account at anytime in the future, disciplinary action will be taken. Thank you for understanding my position on this matter.

ANY character at ANYTIME in the future. Beware. One wrong step and they’ll come to get you in your house.

Now I’ll go to check wtf is wrong with my poor site. I believe there’s something between referrers urls and google spam that makes the php go crazy.

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Again on PvP factional balance and server load

Maybe someone remembers my idea. It was about clustering the servers and using a system of portals to regulate the population and spread all the players evenly between the factions and the servers.

Right now Blizzard is severely suffering both (faction and server unbalance). I’m sure everyone can agree that overlooking these fundamental problems isn’t anymore acceptable and Blizzard’s server transfers aren’t going to have a relevant impact.

I pull back up this argument because Jeff Freeman wrote a wonderful article.

He explains magnifically the problems and suggests a structure usable in both PvP and PvE. I believe someone else could be interested beside me. So it’s there if you want to discuss. I’d suggest Mythic to hire him if he wasn’t already taken.

I’m going to write about it as I have time but there are a few weaknesses in his proposed system, imho. Still I’m happy to see I’m not the only one to consider this aspect and propose ideas.

(as posted on Q23)

Patch updates

/cast Resurrection on the dead website

UPDATE – The patch is mirrored here and working.

The patch I mirrored is the full version working on every client, so not the smaller patch that only updates from the most recent one. I’ll update the pages (included this one) shortly with all the latest checksums. Below there’s still the old post, so the information may not be valid.

Basically there are only two patches for the last update. One patch to bring the last public version 1.2.4(4222) to the new 1.3.0. And it is the 60Mb patch that most of the users who played till now need. Then there’s a second patch that will update ANY version of the game, release CD included, but it weighs 112Mb.

The patch currently on my site only update from release CD to 1.2.1. The test patch doesn’t work *at all* since as you connect with it the client will automatically revert to the previous official version (1.2.4) and then download the 60Mb patch.

So I have an hole from 1.2.1 to 1.2.4. There aren’t patches available for this transition and this makes the two patches on my site useless. If you try to connect with the 1.2.1 client you will still start to download the 110Mb cumulative patch, so the same as if you have freshly installed the game.

Now I’m *swamped* as everyone else. I wasn’t able to extract the .torrent file because the old way doesn’t seem to work anymore. I’m trying to get the bigger file that will patch any version but this means it will take A LOT of time to download it here and time to upload it to my website. I do not think I’ll host here the smaller 60Mb patch because I prefer a single file that can patch any version.

So for now nothing. As I’m able to get the cumulative patch I’ll upload it and make it available.

UPDATE: I’m having some luck. The download of the patch is going rather well.
Do NOT spread the url like I do :)

– There are already reports of relevant nerfs to the rogues due to a change in the mechanic of the combat. I’ll explain later but it’s basically a side-effect to the changes to the warriors. We have to see if Blizzard is happy of the result or if they’ll have to fix it later.

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Blizzard smokes dope

I don’t know what is wrong with them. The patch is tomorrow and it was kind of obvious since they cleaned the main forum of stickies and shut down the test server a few hours ago with a fairly long list of bugs still present plus a lot more not even acknowledged and more well-known bugged stuff that is still unaddressed.

But that’s not the point. The point is that I really cannot understand their notation. The patch url says “05-07-04”. What the fuck is that? 5 July 2004? 7 May 2005? 7 April 2005?

The header is more or less the same:
(missing image due to backup)

So you can choose. Or we are at the 3 July 2005. Or we are two weeks ago.

Blizzard, your brand new gold clocks don’t seem to work too well.

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Lineage 2.

That’s one mmorpg that equals to “zero interest” for me. From its general style to the design it’s something I’d never touch even if paid. In particular because it’s a sequel. And I hate with all my soul sequels to mmorpgs.

This game receives updates slowly. WoW is a dream in comparison. Nothing at all happens for months till a new “chapter” is released with some content and changes. The game was released about a year ago and it’s going to deliver its third chapter around May. So there’s a new chapter every six months or so. Twice a year.

Despite this is an awful game on too many core elements I have to say that this new chapter made my jaw drop on floor. Again, I do not like AT ALL the style but the stuff they are showing is of an insane quality and visual *creativity*. It’s amazing. Unbelievable.

Think to a DECENT game with that artistic talent. Ahh… dreams.
(stolen and tweaked code from Krones for nifty javascript, hehe)

Try to paint in your mind how it could be World of Warcraft with that vyvern or DAoC with those armors.
This is both a texture and modeling masterpiece. It matches the perfection in every single pixel. Pure art. You can criticize the hell out of the style but the quality is unbelievable. Inhuman.

Follow with your eyes the tiniest details. The hearts on the boots of the girl, the lines that shape her elbows. How carefully is used the color for the decorations, how everything fits together perfectly. The light reflections of the armor on the thighs of the girl on the right. The study of the posture of the man in the middle.

And now think to the plastic Barbie in EverQuest 2.

(since I’m in *awe* I’ll let this huge image crowd my page for some time before trimming the entry. The source is here. I really recommend to follow it all. Or have fun with the Korean flash site which, honestly, is another masterpiece with voice acting and magnific, unparalleled, epic music.)

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School of fishy design

Ethic demonstrates that even in the trial of EverQuest 2 you can see retarded design. These are 3rd generation mmorpgs. I’d fear the next one, it will be even better.

Well, it’s a good trial if it effectively shows the limits of the game.

World of Tards

So today I logged in World of Warcraft after more than a week. I see someone asking for group for Sunken Temple and I decide that I have enough time to try it. At he end the group doesn’t include that guy. It’s me (51 warrior), a player I know already (Yonti, 52 mage), a guildie (Snagle, 53 Rogue) and two guys on the same guild, Dis (54 priest) and Korpen (57 pally). In general I build even parties but Dis asked me to invite the pally.

We go in and Dis wants to lead. After a few kills he asks me to make him the group leader. I ask why since it’s not that something changes in the game if you are the group leader. Firstly he tells me that it makes sense to be the leader if he is going to lead (?), then he tells me that he needs to because he will have to switch the loot mode because of some kind of drop related to a quest. Yes, sure. I tell him that he’ll have to say when he needs this inexplicable change and I’ll do for him. He shuts up and we move on.

Basically we move up a ramp and along a corridor running around a big room with a hole (pit) in the middle. There are balconies with mini bosses all around, we kill them. Then they say me that we have to go in the pit. They tell me I have to go first, fall from the balcony, run through elite mobs and then jump in the pit. I say them that, maybe, there’s a more logic way to do this since the place is filled with corridors and, supposedly, there’s one leading there. They insist.

Okay, I fall down the balcony, run through the mobs and jump in the pit. The pit is HIGH. There are wandering elite mobs on the bottom but the fall kills me directly. I wonder what’s the point of doing this. I ask them what is supposed to happen next. Then the rogue falls down and dies, the pally survives and the priest too. The mage dies before reaching the pit.

We are blocked, the priest cannot res the mage. The pally tells me to go up (yes, because I can fly) and res the gnome girly mage. I tell him I’ll do with a CPR. Obviously the problem isn’t solved by writing idiocies so I figure out we have to die and simply restart from entrance but I wait to understand what the fuck the two guys are thinking (they speak together in ventrilo). From here I managed to save the chat.

I tell him that I’m not going to continue without her. It’s a group and we do not drop players just becuase their illogic plan didn’t work out.

I do not want to “start doing stuff” without the mage. I’m still not sure if they are trying to go back at her (but in this case why we didn’t come in the pit from the other way if now we are supposed to walk back at her?) or just continue without. So I specify better what’s the problem. This while Korpen (the pally) seems to want to explain me something. Later I understand that he isn’t going to tell me something, he just wants me to follow his character with mine, literally. Even if I’ll never understand why.

I guess it’s pretty obvious that something happened there. I was still hoping for some informations and figure out what they were thinking but Korpen starts to run. I understand what he wants so I run behind him. He runs around the pit, aggroing all the mobs. I imagine he is trying to run through the whole dungeon by training all of them? I really do not know. I just follow as he said. At some point (after the “gogogo”), with 6-7 elite mobs on him he stops and runs back to Dis (aggroing more). I really do not understand what is going on with all those monsters running around. The only plausible assumption I can make is that Dis tried to heal the pally while he was running back and so agggroed all of them. The pally probably took advantage to stone to Ironforge, still alive.

This is the moment between the mobs aggroing on Dis, the pally stoning out, and then the mobs walking back at their place since I didn’t move a finger. I didn’t move because all this happened fast and I was wondering what’s the point of running through all those mobs to just come back and fight a lost battle.

Howd ye die? I don’t know, mabe because you had ten elite mobs on you? The battle lasted no more than two seconds from beginning to end. And I really don’t know what else they expected to happen aside me being killed as well.

The rest is pure comedy.

Yes, why I nto sheep? Maybe because I’m a warrior. Maybe because I’m not going to mess with 10 elite mobs and four peoples party. At this point I really do not know how this Sunken Temple is supposed to work. If they were correct about jumping in the pit and all the rest.

For sure I’m still wondering how a player can reach level 57 without knowing that a warrior cannot fly, resurrect peoples and sheep mobs.

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At the low level

While studying television and media at the university I discover more and more elements that are common (or should be) even to mmorpgs. There are a few of these that found popular success, in particular for programs that must hold and increase the interest in the long run. Technical terms that sadly I don’t know how to translate but that would be also useful to analyze and describe core mechanics of mmorpgs.

One of the laws is to avoid anxiety-inducing and “wrong footing” mechanics. The large public wants a catharsis and wants to know what to expect. Paradoxically the public rewards the lack of surprises. The most popular (on all levels) programs are those that are more similar to a “ritual”, a repetition of always the same structure that all the spectators know already and are able to anticipate. Obvious is the example of comic spectacles based on gags that the public repeats aloud as they are being acted. Or movies where you definitely know how it will end, but still you feel worried and “live and feel” the characters along the story. Famous is the example of Kenny in South Park where this mechanic is openly exploited.

While these are for sure mechanics specific of the television, since its use is concretely different in the fruition and target, I believe that the discussion is still interesting. Even for mmorpgs the attitude could be more effective and popular, with World of Warcraft again as an example.

When you want to hook a bigger public not only you deal with the casual player, but you deal with a lot of elements tied to that aspect. One well-known is the possibility to join easily and play with your friends and this brings directly to the problem of level-gaps that begin to separate and put impassable lines between these players. These are fundamental aspects, the design should focus on this. Another element is that most players would like to relax, accomplish something, maybe even playing something dumb that doesn’t require a full, nonstop attention for two hours pressing frenetically keys in a highly challenging environment. It’s stressful, it’s tiring. It works for brief playsessions but it requires an attitude and predisposition. So it’s not recommended to a mmorpg that is expected to target the largest public and keep the players interested in the long term. It doesn’t “please”.

The same happens for the wrong-footing mechanic. Not long ago I touched the topic about a “too balanced” game. If it’s true, like Raph says, that the main activity in a game is about pattern-matching, the appeal of the game will depend directly on this. In a “too balanced” system it’s hard to distinguish the optimal path because they seem all equal. There’s no choice, everything is even, levelled. At the same time most of these games (like DAoC or SWG) have obscure mechanics filled with exceptions to rules. You cannot “expect” something. If these games are at the core “formal systems”, the main goal for the player (on the meta-level) is to understand the shape of that system, figure out its rules and define the optimal pattern. So it’s founded about the possibility to observe, deduce, understand and forecast results. If the mechanics are obscure or if the game keeps “wrong footing” the player the result is frustration.

Of course there aren’t defined and “safe” answers to these problems. There’s the problem of the target that you choose as aim (I saved a message from Raph about this here). But the problem is still crucial and always present. I believe understimated or even not considered at all when the development is shaken by too many production problems that make appear the few points I described here absolutely superficial.