Two of three – dunk at the wheel

There is no “Blizzard”. Old argument.

From Caydiem the confirmation that today World of Warcraft is lead by a “hydra”:

Foozle question:
Didn’t the lead developer leave blizzard and go to NCsoft?

EnoYls is still here, as are Tigole and Kalgan… these people being the lead developers for World of Warcraft.

So no. :P

Who are these guys? Is this really Blizzard or just a bleached shade of the old company?

EnoYls is Rob Pardo. He definitely is a piece of Blizzard history and knows how to design a game. He was behind Starcraft, Diablo 2 and Warcraft 2 and 3. If WoW is so much successful it’s because he knows how to do his work. He’s also one of the few who remained on the projects from the beginning to the end. He is responsible for the game in all its parts.

Tigole? I don’t even know his real name (found it: Jeff Kaplan) and he’s known mostly as a “catass” guild leader. I do not have many more informations. He is one of the two we know about that was hired specifically for this project (the other is “Furor”, part of the Quest team and not a “lead designer”) and, specifically, to make the game appealing for those “uber guild”. In fact he is responsible for the endgame raid content. From my point of view he isn’t a bad guy and definitely knows what he is doing. But we also know where he wants to go and right now the “endgame” in WoW is clashing directly with the rest of the game and the part that has more problems. In this case it’s the approach to be wrong and not the specific work of the designer himself. Beside this, he is definitely not “Blizzard”. He arrived just for this game and was hired in 2002 when the project was already ongoing:

Originally posted by Tigole, 4-18-02

Blizzard’s desire to provide well designed high-end content will prove to be a breath of fresh air for the readers of this site. Unfortunately, I cannot go into much detail at this time but I can say that there are ideas being discussed for the hardcore, end-game player which are nothing short of groundbreaking. You guys, the fans of this site, know how discerning I am when it comes to “uber” content in a game. Trust me, you have much to look forward to.

And finally we have Kalgan. My little pet peeve. He is the one responsible for the utterly horrible PvP system. The one we have to thank for having thrown the true potential of the game right in the toilet. Depending on your opinion you can also blame him if you feel the classes aren’t balanced. If Tigole cannot be considered a Blizzard guy even more so can be said about Kalgan. He arrived when the game was in beta and just a few months from release. Right in time to wreck the PvP implementation, killing all the fun we started to see and appreciate with the well designed (at that time) PvP ruleset servers. He is also known as “Evocare”. He used that nickname when he was the lead designer of Ultima Online. Real name is “Tom Chilton”. If mmorpg development is a social treadmill he is one of the best at catassing it.

Two of three are “not Blizzard”. Blizzard itself does not exist anymore. It has been cannibalized between Blizzard North, South, Vivendi, NCSoft, Flagship Studios and hell knows what else. Companies and brands are a stupid illusions. What matters is about the people behind. The authors. Those who keep jumping as grasshoppers from company to company and from game to game.

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Guild Wars and Eve-Online subscribers situation

Just to archive semi-old data for my “subscriptions” category.

About the situation of Guild Wars, a post from SirBruce:

NCsoft has announced sales figures for Guild Wars. The game sold 650,000 copies in the US and Europe, but only 27,000 in Korea. Total sales are about US$27.5m versus US$50m forecast.

Arenanet’s operate costs are about US$9m/year. Guild Wars itself cost ~US$16m, including marketing costs. If NCSoft is committed to the product, they’re going to have to release 1.5 – 2 expansions a year and hope they sell consistently to keep the game profitable.

Since NCsoft is also the publisher, it’s all theirs, minus COGS of course, but how much does A.Net get? That’s the real question. If it’s a set percentage, then they might not be, as a “division”, profitable. If NCSoft decides to operate it at a “loss”, that’s fine, so long as the company is making money overall.

But you’d better believe they need to do expansions within three years, because you left out development costs. Box sales have recouped the games costs and covered A.Net for one year, but each year it’s going to cost about $9M a year to operate. So you have to generate at least that much in box sales every year through expansions, plus however much it costs to actually produce that expansion — probably not as much as the whole game itself, but still, not chump change. And you have, of course, opportunity cost to consider — sure, maybe GW is making money, but is it really the best use of NCSoft’s money, or could they make more with a traditional subscription-based game?

Now, 1-2 GW expansion per year should be okay, even if only half the people who bought the first box buy the second one, but you don’t want that number to keep declining or you’ll be in trouble really quick. Also, A.Net had already missed its first “window” for an expansion; they won’t have one until next year. So it remains to be seen if they are even CAPABLE of delivering on schedule.

More data about the situation in Korea at Terra Nova.

Someone also doubted od the possible failure since the 26-27k reported is about the licences sold to PC-bangs and not actual subscription numbers. It seems that Lineage 1 has just around 19k of those licences active. Which would transform the apparent complete failure of the game into a huge success.

The numbers on Terra Nova contradict this hypothesis, though. So it’s hard to understand what is going on.

About Eve-Online the situation is more clear. CCP is organizing to try to push the game in the eastern market as well but for now there are just normal subscriptions following a positive, always growing trend. Which is the best a mmorpg could aspire to and that rewards one of the most original and less derivative products out there.

11.7.2005 – New Online Record

Yesterday, Sunday, you set a new online player record when 12.895 of you were playing at the same time! No reports of lag were reported, the ‘cold war edition’ seems to have yet again lessened the server load.

More details about the actual subscription numbers from a rather recent post on the forums:

1. How many suscribers does EVE currently have?

I think we just went past 60.000 paying subscribers the other day. That means an active account which is being paid for and is the industry standard for “subscriber”.

PvP faction balance in Korea – first attempt

We know through the community manager that Blizzard is working behind the scenes to address the population unbalance between Alliance and Horde. We also know that one of the most effective idea to have the PvP Battlegrounds active and playable isn’t coming in the foreseable future.

I steal this piece from Terra Nova that explains the new strategy that is being tested in Korea. It’s only a guess but I believe this is a test to a system that may be deployed consequently even on the North American and European servers.

According to today news, Blizzard Korea primarily categorizes war(PVP) servers into 4 groups:

A: alliance & horde both over-population
B: both optimal
C: horde want
D: Both want

7 servers belongs to A group, 8 to B, 11 to C, and 21 to D.

The process of character migration in WoW Korea will be going as follows.

First, 7 new severs will be created.

Second, horde players in group A can have choice of migration to one of new 7 servers.

Third, alliance players in D will automatically be migrated to one of new servers assigned by Blizzard Korea.

Last, horde players in D will automatically be migrated to one of group C servers assigned by Blizzard korea.

Then, how many really bad Alliance/Horde imabalances are hiding in category D could be inferred from above procedure.

Which is a lame and static version of my cluster idea.

I wonder when these big companies will start to plan ahead the server infrastructure in order to isolate and address radically these problems BEFORE release and BEFORE it’s too late to change something at the low level.

Well, beside with Guild Wars.

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Stupid is as stupid does *ashamed*

Time for the apologies. I was wrong in my last report about the broken distribution of honor points.

The patch of this month actually solved the issue and what I noticed was just a minor glitch in the Honor tab.

Well, too much alarmism and call to arms from my side. I have to be more prudent. This is my Honor tab today:

The Honor points missing from the session of two days ago showed up in the stats today. So what I saw wasn’t a bug in the allocation of the points but just the Honor tab losing track of the points that were being split between the two days.

Which isn’t anything critical to point out and yell about. *ashamed*

(it’s odd how the Honorable Kills of the “Last Week” and “Lifetime” sections didn’t update with the new numbers)

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Two months later – Honor points still broken

Someone with a good memory may remember my personal “crusade” about the Honor points not being correctly distributed in the Battlegrounds that started more than two months ago. It was the middle of May, the Battlegrounds were patched on the test servers and they were still severely bugged in all thier parts: design, implementation, polish, balance and so on. We were just behind the E3 and Blizzard decided, after a week, to close Alterac because too bugged to be displayed at the show. It was a rather odd choice because Warsong was way more bugged, to the point of being completely unplayable. The flags were vanishing as the players logged or ported out and this made the instances lock and stall without the possibility to reset them. The players could just try to join one just to discover that the flags were missing. This while Kalgan was already celebrating their success.

I check back a couple of weeks and patch later to discover that NONE of the severe bugs were solved. Instead they were able to break things even more (thread also here. When the Battlegrounds launched on the test servers a player was getting 498 honor points for each flag returned, a few patch later, instead of fixing the actual problems, a flag was worth just 68 points. Unblelievable. Returning the three flags and completing the BG was worth just a total of 166 points. Less than a single kill:

This means that, you know, playing the CTF game is now completely USELESS. You just go there, leech kills in solo for a bit till the diminished returns are off and then jump on another instance searching for new opponents. That’s the behaviour that this system is rewarding and encouraging.

I’d really congratulate myself with the dev team. I definitely didn’t expect them to be THAT clueless. That’s not anymore a matter of good or bad design. Whoever came out with this last idea is just an idiot. Nothing else. There’s no need to disturb the “game design” on this issue. That’s just pure idiocy.

But then a day later Kalgan comments the problem on the forum and dispels my attacks by stating that the change to the points is unintended and just the result of a bug. Which brings to my withdrawal from the discussion: the problem is acknowledged and there isn’t anymore a reason to rant about it, the BGs are still on test and we will just have to wait for a fix before the patch is pushed live.

Some more than a week later, after having confidence that the bug was being solved, I opened with a clear title: “I’m a fucking optimist”. The patch reached the live servers, the test was complete but THE BUG WAS STILL THERE, UNTOUCHED. Actually BOTH the bugs. The display of the points in the UI and even the actual amount of points rewarded. Which is so terribly frustrating when you spend so much time testing the patch on the test servers, writing detailed reports and comments about the bugs and trying to draw the attention so that they get properly addressed. FOR NOTHING. The whole problem was blatantly ignored as a minor detail.

I started to investigate the problem some more till I got some evidence that not only there was the display bug, but even the actual points weren’t correctly distributed. Along with me even some other players started to notice that something was wrong. From Blizzard just silence.

From there I stopped to bring the issue up. It was just about wasting time. On the official forums there were multiple threads spanning more than twenty pages, with zero answers from Blizzard. The Honor system was so utterly horrible that the players didn’t even care about it to a level that could have moved some devs from their prolonged nap.

Another two weeks pass without a word, till Caydiem “magically” appears on one of those threads that some players continued to bump:

Random Foozle:
Why are people getting this misconception that you earn 1660 for winning a Warsong? Look at the scoreboard, it says 49 for first capture, 99 for second capture, and for winning you get 166, meaning you either get the addition of all 3, or 166.

That is not the proper honor reward. The correct honor is 1660 for the level 51-60 bracket.

We’re looking into the display issue.

Smarter Foozle:
There is a display issue. It’s showing 166 instead of 1660.

There is another issue – you are not being awarded 1660.

My apologies. I was and am aware it is more than merely a display problem, but I was posting rather quickly. :/

The database folks are investigating why honor is not being correctly distributed.

So we are back at the same point. More than one month passed since the bug was intruduced, the patch was published on the live servers with the problem still there untouched. Two week later we get another confirmation that “the database folks are investigating it”. Okay. What exactly are these database folks? Let’s wait some more I guess? Eventually we will see a fix with the next patch. Or it’s asking too much?

This while a keen player posted an interesting discussion with a funny GM about those points disappearing in the ravines of these mysterious servers (re-edited to cut out random spam not relevant). Where the fuck these points are going? We will get them back someday?:

You gained honor from the individual kills!

You have pride in the victory!

Have a super-fantabulous day in World of Warcraft!

What. The. Fuck?!

This was still happening three weeks ago, we were about in the exact same situation and again I decided to keep all this aside and wait the next patch. This patch arrives the 13 of July. I do not even bother to check because, once again, I have no doubts that the bug has been finally solved after all the protests from the players and not just an from an isolated fool on his blog. I’m busy with other stuff and I really do not care to waste my time to go back and investigate the problem *again*. Till yesterday.

I don’t have time to spend in long raids, so I decided to play these days in Warsong and gain some points. I wasn’t trying to find something to rant about. The Honor system is crap whether it works or not. I just wanted my reward for what I was able to do. It’s late in the night and there’s enough players just for one active instance. We win it easily, three times in a row within a short time span. We probably aren’t going to get many points from direct kills because there are just us around and we fight against the same horde characters over and over.

But there are the flags. The flags do not have those fucking diminished returns.

Today I log in and this is what I find:

There were two bugs, the “display bug” and the actual points not being received. Guess which received the priority and is now solved? Time to reopen the thread:

Okay. It’s from the middle of May that I rant against this and it’s bordering the absurd.

The Honor reward for winning the CTF game in Warsong is STILL BROKEN after more than two months and multiple threads spanning more than twenty pages with absolutely zero feedback from the CMs or developers.

This is my Honor tab today.

In the last two days I didn’t log in so the yesterday tab is showing just the brief session I had in the night.

As I said the session was deep in the night on Mannoroth, around 5AM. There was just one single instance spawning and the exact same group of Horde and Alliance playing.

We were able to WIN THREE TIMES IN A ROW in a short time span.

Now we all know that due to the retarded diminished return system we didn’t got Honor points from the direct kills after the first session since we faced three times just the exact same opponents. But what about the honor reward given by returning the flag?

We won three times. Each time grants us 1660 points. Straight and clean and without counting the direct kills of 10 horde players for a minimum of four times.

1660 * 3 = 4980

We MUST have AT LEAST 5000 Honor points as a bare minimum. Plus the kills we did along those sessions. The correct amount would be near 6000-7000 HPs.

Now look again the Honor points that the system ACTUALLY granted us:

That’s enough for ONE session while we went through it three times.

I’d like to receive some “feedback” on this because after two months of reports and demonstations we don’t even have the problem acknowledged and if this isn’t the duty of a Community Manager I don’t know what it is.

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Cross Server Battlegrounds

I found this message from Tigole while digging the archives. The reason why I’m digging the archives is another, though, and you’ll see it soon:

Yes, we have definitely thought about Cross Server Battlegrounds. It’s a cool idea for several reasons and also solves some problems.

Unfortunately, at this time, our server architecture does not support the concept. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t the chance that someday we could restructure things to accommodate the idea. It’s a cool idea and we’ll keep discussing it.

It’s a “cool” idea? No. It’s a working solution to a core problem of the battlegrounds that seriously need to be addressed.

The fact that its implementation needs work isn’t a justification. We were anticipating and discussing this exact problem more than one year ago. When there was the time to develop the premises that could have made this idea concretely possible and that would have PREVENTED the problems in the first place.

Instead of waiting till it’s too late and the problems arrive as a “surprise”.

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Easy points

Bah, diminished returns.

It’s late in the night and on Mannoroth server there’s just one instance active with the exact same players between the various sessions. I’m one of them.

The Horde group must be particularly poor because we were able to win two times in a row in a short time span, without too much coordination and effort, just random direct encounters on the battlefield.

Well, the third session didn’t spawn, probably because the other group was tired of getting owned. And that’s the problem of the diminishing returns. After two battles in a row against the exact same team you just don’t get any points if you do not score the flags, so this must have been terribly frustrating for them and now they just decided to log out instead of feeding us the easy points.

I had promised myself that the third instance was the last. I’m so good tempered that I was feeling bad for them and decided to not take advantage of this over and over.

Oh wait. The instance spawned, let me go get another 1660 points :)

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Mythic plans “Hot Tub” PvP arena. I cry.

It’s unbelievable. I passed most of the last days writing and analyzing the PvP systems between the various games, focusing in particular on the strengths of DAoC. For once I even seem to have people agreeing with my points. I happily reactivate my account to play on the new servers, play with the interface, even plan to build a guild if possible. And then I see once again the game take a bad direction.

It’s unbelievable that every time I reactivate my account Mythic systematically manages to push me away with poor decisions about the future of the game. My motivation to level up my Minstrel on the Lamorak server is now close to zero.

I also wonder if the problem is just about myself. If I just cannot appreciate anything at all. But I believe it isn’t so. There are concrete reasons why I believe they are doing yet another mistake and there could be plenty of interesting ideas that would make me happy, instead, and would help the game to move again in a positive direction.

Concretely. Mythic is planning to throw the players in a “Hot Tub” PvP arena, through the implementation of an island that will now connect the classic frontier zones of the three realms. The main goal is evident:

It has become obvious that the Camelot community misses a central battleground area served in the old frontiers by the Emain Macha zone.

This is in fact one problem of the implementation of “New Frontier” that was already isolated by the players when the patch was still in its design phase: The frontiers are too big, the action is too dispersive, there isn’t dynamism and the actual gameplay consists in painfully long downtimes about your group running endlessly around or eternal sieges at the keeps lasting for hours without a slight evolution (“playing tennis” with siege engines).

A way better solution (still possible and valid today, even more so considering the lack of players on most of the servers) could have been about trashing the concept of the frontiers as three separate homelands (four zones for each realm separated by two zones filled with water for a grand total of fourteen fucking zones) belonging to each realm and replace that with a SINGLE mainland that is kept always contested with a total of ten keeps (so that the realms can never be “even”).

That would have helped to consolidate the RvR in the same environment shared by everyone and removed that painful boat transportation that has always been unfun, unpolished and completely pointless. If this site didn’t start just slightly more than one year ago you would have seen archived plenty of complaints about that foolish, stupid idea of “pirate battles” in the ocean that was used to hype the expansion along the other features.

Instead what we have here, with the announce of “The Isle”, is the repetition of a trend I know even too well. Mythic wants to be “trendy”. Back then at the planning stage of ToA they looked at more popular games (EQ). They saw that those games had PvE raid endgame that was popular.

The stream of thoughts at Mythic was evident: Hey, EQ has a PvE treadmill and endgame raids. DAoC has the PvE treadmill and PvP endgame. So EQ is like 1+1=2 if now we add the PvE endgame raid to DAoC we are like 1+1+1=3! We win! The better of all worlds!

I believe that today it should be evident how that approach was utterly superficial and stupid. All games are successful by building on their own qualities, not by leeching ideas coming from other games. That will just ruin progressively the identity and qualities of your own game by suffocating them in contexts that aren’t appropriate.

The trend is now about quick PvP battlegrounds and Mythic wants to be there as well for its slice of the pie. But they are just fools if they believe that this is the path that will bring them there.

My comments follow:

I’m the only one with negative comments ready?

With half the servers currently dying what we DO NOT need is more landmass to spread even more the action. Even worst if we go back to the Emain model for repetitive and pointless zerg rush.

A better idea could be about removing those two retarded zones filled with water we have right now and connect the three frontiers via the same bridges but WITHOUT the island in the centre. Or at least a very small isle instead of another full zone.

The players, in particular at this moment, are in a finited quantity. The battlefield need dynamism, not to get rooted in the same form and never move from that point. What we are going to lose is the sieges at the keeps and the actual conquest system that made this game unique. Instead what we will get is a bleached version of the Alterac BG in WoW. Just more dull and without mini-goals. There will be just groups and zergs running around in the new “hot tub” while the other TWELVE zones are left to ROT. Along with the uniqueness of this game.

Believe me, this game is still (partially) successful for the uniqueness of the PvP. Not for the old and obsolete mechanics of the combat. With this island you are erasing the qualities to put the players back in a small garden where they can play. It will be extremely fun for a few days. A week at max.

Then we will be once again all bored to tears. Once again with wasted landmass that noone uses, like 90% of the old PvE.

What DAoC needs is definitely NOT more obsolete space.

The Island should help concentrate RvR. I don’t see it diluting it at all. Sure, NF is way too big, but this will help in giving players a common fighting area.

But this is yet another poor workaround instead of getting the problem addressed. The “common fighting area” is going to REPLACE the action in the other zones. Sure, you can still go on with the conquest “if you choose so”. But you’ll do it ALONE. That’s the point. How is fun to PvP alone? Really, that’s the point. There aren’t anymore incentives to play anywhere but that damn isle. That’s where you find the action and that’s where you are FORCED to go if you don’t consider the PvP as a stroll to watch the panorama.

This is the mudflation applied even to PvP. A mistake (the zones too big, not enough players) is replaced by “Yet Another Zone” (flavor of the month) where 95% of the players will go. Again with the rest of the world all left to rot.

The fact is there won’t be any incentives to “play the conquest” again. Everyone will go to the “improved zone” and the rest of the system will be left there as ruins of an old game that Mythic refused once again to fix. Instead of addressing the problems they shove once again new stuff to replace what was broken and needed to be improved. And the result will damage the game by dumbing down the gameplay to a level that simply cannot hold the competition with other games.

They are erasing the complexity of the PvP to throw everyone in the “hot tub”. As I said this will last for a week. Then the players will start to notice how the game became dull, pointless and without any depth.

This decision simplifies RvR again to its basic elements.

For God’s sake, the RvR in DAoC isn’t interesting for its basic elements.

The mechanics of the combat in DAoC are utterly obsolete and the players that just like those basic elements *do not play anymore this game*. The context is different today.

If some players still like DAoC it’s because it has a more complex, meaningful PvP endgame. The players who didn’t care about that endgame aren’t anymore playing THIS game. They are playing Guild Wars and WoW where the focus of the development has been on THOSE mechancs that are now way better than what DAoC can offer.

If Mythic still hasn’t realized this basic point, I really don’t know what could. DAoC isn’t still popular because it has fun combat mechanics. WoW is head and shoulders above it, it is way more fun, it gives you more tools, it is way more fluid and complex.

If Mythic now plans to throw the players in an “hot tub” PvP arena, they’ll just kill those few qualities that are left instead of building on them. The PvP will go back at the old and pointless zerg rush in Emain to give the players an illusion about how cool were the old times. But it’s a silly illusion.

It worked a few years ago. Now it’s just an announced failure. The enthusiasm of some players is about an illusion that isn’t anymore actual today and that will reveal its ephemeral nature as it will get touched. As the players will remember what Emain was and as they’ll notice how that type of gameplay is now available in a better form in other games.

Emain was not pointless. It was the Hub/Mecca/Center of the PvP universe before NF diffused it.

I agree that NF has the problem of diffusing the action too much. But that’s the problem to address so. Adding another zone where the players can go is just nonsense.

I wouldn’t complain if they were planning in a consolidation of the zones. But they aren’t. The model would work if before they add they also rearrange or remove space. But instead they are adding something that will have the result of suffocating all the rest.

Who cares about defending or taking a keep when you can heap 5x more RPs by just roaming in the hot tub?

From the Herald:

Some nights it’s hard to coordinate a war and you’d just rather kill people.

Every night.

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