A Path (to 70) Paved With Good Intentions

While BlizzCon approaches to “reveal” and hype the news that I anticipated a week ago, for me it’s time to do what I actually find more interesting: commenting the new features and expressing my opinion about where the game is heading.

What I’d say is that I both expected and dreaded this rise of the level cap. If there’s something that shouldn’t happen to the game is to chase once again EverQuest’s tail and all its mistakes. The rise of the level cap included. At the same time, if I was leading the design of the game and if I was completely accountable about its progress, I think I’d put in the expansion this fancy feature: the level cap rised to 70.

The point is that the whole argument is way, way more complex and deep than how it appears. From a strictly functional and material (commercial) point of view the first merit of WoW is its accessibility that gave it the possibility to become a “mass market” product. It’s not a novelty if I say that WoW is great about everything but the endgame (this simple reference summarizes a fundamental point). If the players leave or don’t find the game anymore (or not enough) satisfying it’s because at some point you reach the level cap and have to deal with the horrible design that plagued the game from that point onward. Even if it’s true that they tried to cater and cover all kinds of players. Blizzard did a wonderful work to streamline and adjust the design of this genre to valorize the good parts and remove the bad habits, but they weren’t able to see past the curtain and even understand and address the real radical points that represent the mixed blessing of this genre (superficially: the “satisfying repetable content”, whether it is PvE or PvP).

The rise of the level cap is a quick “fix”, both in the sense of game-drug and as a functional and effective way to give back to the players that experience that they loved along the way and that faded when they hit the top, when they had to adapt their habits to the bigger raids and guilds. It works basically like the nostalgia. It’s like if you are warped back ten levels without even remembering to have gone through them and have to repeat the experience like if it was the first time. In this genre the possibility to refresh the sense of awe and achievement is definitely something precious and satisfying for the players. So: why not?

That’s the reason why if I was responsible about the game I would choose to go that way. Despite it conflicts with every other principle I have.

This premise is just to make clear that I criticize this half broken solution, but at the same time I expected it to happen and I also tend to justify it. What would actually matter now is about how it is implemented in order to minimize the problems. Because I believe that if you are aware of the risks, you can also decide to rise the level cap without breaking the game too much and actually offer something new and refreshing. How you use these tools is more important than the type of the tools you use. In this case I won’t go again in an endless dissertation about my design ideas about how this transition could be driven at best. Mostly because noone at Blizzard would read this and so it would be again just a wasted effort on my side and I prefer to dedicate myself to something else I find less frustrating.

Instead I think it’s interesting to point out the possible problems. Those “risks” I hinted. Between the various comments I read, I’d link Tobold’s comments, mostly because he writes clearly and always focusing on one-two arguments that can be then followed linearly instead of mixing and abstacting everything as I always do. His most interesting point beside the design difficulties to adapt the current content (talents, tradeskills, monster levels, PvP rewards etc..) is about the suggestion to stop to play right now and come back when the expansion is out. Which sounds crazy but is also true. While we can argue whether the current content will go or not right in the toilet, what is sure is that the current *progress* will.

We could assume that the players will retain their current gear for most of the hike to 70 but if this is true Blizzard would lose one of the strongest “fun” points: the sense of achievement. In the current game levelling is fun because you acquire new skills, spend talent points, get access to the mount and acquire progessively and constantly new gear. If the next 10 levels become just a grind with each level just giving out higher stats and nothing else, the “magic” would vanish easily and the expansion would finally feel rather dull. A game where you retain the same sword for 10 levels is a game that isn’t fun. So what could happen? Where is the line that will part the brand new level 60 character ready to move to 70 and those other players that have been at 60 for more than one year and collected all sort of powerful items? From my point of view the expansion will HAVE TO replace the gear for *all* the players. So, in a way or another, even the current purple gear will have to be mudflated and easily replaced. Not only through the new endless grinds awaiting us at 70. But also along the way, as accessible content even for the casual players. This is why Tobold is correct. Your current progress in the game is nihil if seen in perspective and prefectly fitting this following, explicatory, image (click on it to read a rather pertinent discussion):

When I say that this idea about raising the level cap is against all my principles it’s because it’s an argument that I discussed to exhaustion back then. It’s about the infamous mudflation. Quoting from three different articles:

“The mudflation is a way to continuously create, burn and replace.”

“The more the system is able to forget, the more the system is able to grow.”

“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)?”

This last comment is particularly relevant because it brings the discussion on its real origin. We are back at considering the “satisfying repetable content”, or the lack thereof. If at the endgame we need to repeat an instance 50 times to get a drop it is not because the developers are sadistic. But because it’s the only way to keep up the pace and save time. I think everyone can agree without the need to follow a billion of explanatory links that the very first problem of WoW at the endgame has been about the “lack of content”. This has been the main topic since launch and it’s a general problem that is shared between ALL mmorpgs. Every developer working in this genre knows that the first issue is to find a viable solution to produce acceptable content at a decent pace. The debate between handcrafted and randomly generated content is still alive and well (think to the brand new discussion about Will Wright’s “Spore” and the use of algorithmic models, textures, worlds), exactly to try to deal with this need to optimize and maximize the production of content.

In this genre this is one of the main issues and probably the only one to which both the players and developers agree. Now, if this is something so absolutely fundamental, why the hell we design games that mudflate, hence erase progressively the content? Isn’t this totally absurd, inacceptable and counterproductive when the very first problem is to produce that content that now is meant to be replaced? How can this be logical and acceptable?

This brings the discussion back to the idea of mmorpgs like “disposable goods”, something that I strongly criticize and feel like the antithesis of the nature and strength of this genre. Not only this type of design is nowhere efficient and optimal commercially (since it demands a pace of content production that isn’t realistically possible and surely not convenient), but it also breaks what this genre has to offer. And instead of actually dealing with this problem, the decision to rise the level cap is mostly a way to “buy time” and postpone.

Blizzard has spent almost a year (and by the time the expansion is out, a year and half) trying to cope with the request for more endgame content. And with just one nimble gesture they are going to dismiss all that work to warp back in time (this is the true nature of the mudflation) and restart from zero to add to the game brand new content aimed to the new level cap and the following super-slow grind to progress on the gear acquisition. This is a silly excuse to waste development time, not a proper answer to the problem and a way to let the game develop in a positive way in the long term. As I wrote in my comments on the mudflation, this type of development will just deteriorate the game over time and its negative effects will be evident only later, when it’s not anymore possible to plan everything in another way.

Adding the comment I wrote on Corpnews for a more concrete and direct summary:

A whole lot of content will go right in the toilet.

The point is that a more or less trivial quest at 70 could hand out a “blue” that would just be more or less the same, if not better, than the “purple” at level 60.

Why the hell would you want to organize raids and farm 100 times those fucking old instances when you can get better rewards from the new content?

You are forgetting that it isn’t enough to go there and finish the instance to get your loot. You need to go there 50-100 times to get your stuff.

And why the hell a player would want to endure that fucking boring grind when there will be brand new shiny content at *all levels of difficulty*?

You assume that level 70 instances will be super hard (btw, “hard” was doing Blackfathom and Gnomeragon at the proper levels, not that dull raid content dissimulated by lag and choreography). But if Blizzard repeats their design and principles at 70 you’d have instances that need super catass equimpent as well as the brand new 5-man we had at 60s made now 70.

Without even considering that the whole lore goes to hell when you kill daily Ragnaros and all the rest. The feeling of a cohesive, immersive and consistent world just goes to hell. It’s violated.

This type of design has its head stuck in its ass. We complain about the lack of ideas, but the problem is that it’s all dark in there.

To conclude, a “dialogue” taken right from the official forums:

Foozle #1:
If the level cap is to be raised, what happens to the people who choose not to buy the expansion? Will everyone be able to level up to the new cap or only the people who buy the expansion?

Foozle #2:
you will have to get the expansion, unless you wanna sit in the world by yourself…

Foozle #3:
stfu and buy it you cheap ninja


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A proof of sense

There’s a thread on Q23 discussing the possibility of Valve working on a mmorpg based on the world of Half-Life. Now what interests me isn’t directly that discussion but a comment that stusser wrote:

Besides, valve is going in the exact opposite way. Half-life2 isn’t about immersing the player in the world. It’s about immersing the player in the narrative. That’s why they put so much work into facial gestures and movement, to aid the suspension of disbelief. It’s the kind of technology suited to handcrafted lovingly designed content meant to experienced at a discrete moment for maximum penetration, which certainly doesn’t describe a PSW.

My comment:

“In fact HL2 would be PvE.”

If you think about it and revert the perspective you could see what I mean. Instead of thinking whether Half-Life would be appropriate for a mmorpg or not, think from the perspective of the mmorpgs and the flaws or weaknesses of the PvE. Now go back to reread what susser wrote. Isn’t what he describes exactly what the PvE misses at this moment?

I think so.

This ties back with many things I wrote, my ideal separation between PvP and PvE (some references here and here) and all the other discussions about the instancing.

Another spin to the wheel

It started as a “quick” reply on this thread to finish to include many notes and abservations that I was waiting to organize. This came out even too easily. I rarely can write this clearly and straight to the point. It doesn’t happen always that I can write without struggling with myself and what I want to say.

The main topic is the PvE in DAoC and the newbie experience. But it then joins a bunch of different topics that I’m discussing these days and that are all related.

I’m going to post this on F13 in a few hours, if you want to stop me, do it now :)

Doing the Champion quests should get you enough CL experience to reach CL3, assuming you do nothing else. As for the rest, I’d argue that unlike TOA, you absolutely do not need CL5 to be RvR-ready. It’s like the titles at RR11+, something nice as a reward once you get there, not something to “grind” to.

1- This ruins the content. At least assuming that for “champion quests” you mean the three chapters. Retaining these to do them at 50 to maximize the gain (since you can start to acquire the exp only at 50) makes the content even more dull than how it is already since the first chapter is tailored for level 30 and the second for level 40. Fighting a bunch of greys to accomplish very simple and linear tasks won’t be all that entertaining.

2- It’s not that the CLs are required for RvR, it’s just that in this case the reward isn’t really appropriate to the time required. In other words: not justified.

Now the points is: why was it changed (nerfed) at the end of the beta? From the comments, true or not, I heard that you received around a .4 for killing an enemy in solo. Which would still be an acceptable balance considering you would have the bar moving and the ten bubbles filling up at a decent pace. There are already the Realm Ranks to define that type of slow and exponential progress, there’s no reason to add another overlapping.

Since the Cs don’t really stack in power (the same assumption that was betrayed with ToA) their purpose is to broaden the class. Offer it some more minor tricks. This has the sole scope of making them more fun to play since one of the limits of the game is about having classes that are too strict and specialized. Hence it’s another of those parts of the game that you WANT to valorize, instead of keeping it away from the players.

The titles in RvR and the Ranks can be “achievement based”. Because that’s their direct and natural purpose and sense. But it’s not so good to retain the achievement based mechanic for the CLs. There’s nothing to achieve because they don’t offer anything that is worth pursuing. Instead they add some FUN to the classes that would be a good idea to hand out to the players for “cheap”. Like it already happens for the weapons.

What I mean is that there isn’t really a good reason to make it slow instead of more quick. You are just pushing back the fun.

And this goes further because it’s a patter Mythic is repeating. In September you nerfed the exp in the TDs. Why? Again there isn’t a good reason to do this and it just damaged the game some more.

Let’s put it in this way: our life is too short to waste time grinding repetitive and dull PvE content that doesn’t offer any challenge. That’s what the TDs are. So why a designer would want the players to spend MORE time there? Where is the gain? Where is the purpose? This problem is really at the basic level. In a game you can offer a grind only for those parts that are already representing a satisfying repetable content.

The RvR in DAoC is a great and perfect example of “satisfying repetable content”. The PvE is NOT.

This is why noone criticizes the Realm Ranks *grind* and why there are players that always praise it above what WoW implemented. The grind here is appropriate. It doesn’t ruin the game. It valorizes it. But it’s completely different when you reapply grindy mechanics to the PvE (both as exp grind and money grind). ALL KINDS OF GRINDS aren’t fun in a dull, repetitive PvE. And there isn’t a single decent reason why you would find acceptable and useful to TRAP the players in a cavern for days. It follows the same unjustified and unfun design trend that we have criticized for all these years. It’s masochistic.

Players complain because this is logically wrong.

So, again, why the exp in the TDs was nerfed? The only reason I can imagine is to rebalance the experience gained there in relation with the rest of the game. In fact there’s that “triad” that I already commented and that is the reason why I was against AlteredOne proposed changes:
1) In TDs you quickly gain money and exp / but not loot
2) In the instanced dungeons you can “quickly” gain Aurulite, hence items / but the exp is crap
3) The quick task quests around the non-instanced zones give you easier *soloable* and short tasks that give you medium money and exp

1) ++money ++exp –loot
2) –money –exp ++loot
3) +exp +money ++easy to solo

The first patter was by far the most efficient. In fact with the money you can also go buy equipment and even aurulite. This is why the only reason I found to the nerf to the exp in TDs is about rebalancing those patterns. But this doesn’t justify it. We still lack the satisfying repetable content and these patterns were rebalanced in the WRONG direction. It was the other two patterns that needed to be brought in line with the TDs and not the other way around.

But there’s even another point to consider. Why the hell we would need three different patterns? The PvE is the same in all three. It doesn’t offer anything different:

You have so many different possibilities just with Catacombs. You can level by taking these solo mini-quests in the new zones, you can farm aurulite in the new instances or the instances of the classic dungeons, or you can do task dungeons to farm directly the experience at an insane rate. But, no matter what you choose, the experience (of the player) is completely MISSING. You can trade between voids. Between empty experiences that are there just as excuses (and excusing what exactly?).

This is why I believe that DAoC would need a *consolidation* of its PvE and not a further fragmentation as it happened. Of course, it would benefit from a fragmentation of the PvE intended as: different types of challenge and patterns presented. Different qualities and something that could be actually involving. But what DAoC diversificates is not the actual PvE (which is dull and repetitive in every case) but the rewards. The reward is the only difference setting apart the three patterns. And it is obvious how this isn’t positive for a game that definitely doesn’t need a grind applied to this type of content, in particular when the fragmentation of the PvE is furtherly made worse by the population problems and the isolation of the players through the instanced content.

We already know that instancing has both good and bad consequences. This is even worse in a game with population problems (in particular at the lower levels, where the newbies need reasons to have fun and get involved) and with this fragmentation of the PvE that has no good effects or logical justifications.

This is why it’s always not so trivial to analyze all these parts and why it’s not possible to just claim a bonus to the exp or something similar. All these things delve deeper. Why the hell we cannot have a place where we can get good money, good exp and even good equipment? What are the valid reasons that brought to the fragmentation of patterns I illustrated above? I don’t know any. What I know is that the great majority of the players are grinding the TDs DEFINITELY NOT because they are having fun. But just because they are the most efficient pattern offered. They don’t enjoy the content. They ENDURE it. And this isn’t acceptable in an environment where you are supposed to have… fun. An environment that is supposed to valorize its qualities and not its problems.

Now I hope my point is clear: the existence of the TDs in the game is completely unjustified. So it makes sense to remove them since they damage the game. Now think to what could happen if Mythic would announce the removal of the TDs. The players would RAGE. And here’s another important point. The players wouldn’t be angry because you remove something fun from the game, but because you remove a viable, consolidated and optimal pattern that they *absolutely need*. It’s their pattern of choice. The “fun” and the optimized pattern must be kept separate. They aren’t the same entity. The players are merely choosing the “less worst” pattern they have available to endure the PvE treadmill and reach the endgame, that, contrarily to WoW, is that part of the game that still justifies a subscription fee. How could we “valorize” the PvE instead of balancing the “less worst” patterns as it happened till now?

Imho the TDs must be completely eradicated. That’s the very first step. They never made sense both from the player’s perspective and the design. They are unjustified and just damage the game. They only “dissimulate” a value by offering the best pattern available. But that value is solely functional and totally inappropriate.

The second step, also following the line of thoughts above, is about moving the “TDs mechanics” (go to taskmaster and take the two-types missions, the “clear dungeon” should be just removed) WITHIN the Instanced Dungeons where you farm aurulite. Because there isn’t a valid reason to keep the “reward” patterns separate. There are no advantages. This would instead encourage the players to focus on something more varied. The IDs offer a more refreshing experience than the TDs and they are naturally suitable to inherit their role. We remove the TDs and carry over their functional role to the IDs where the players would benefit from a more rewarding and complete experience:

a) Players will hunt everything they need: money, exp and equipment. Also helping them to be “viable” for the RvR BattleGrounds.
b) The experience will be more varied and refreshing: the IDs offer more varied environments and challenges.
c) This would consolidate the “game space”, encouraging the players to gather and group.

While ToA exhibited a blatantly flawed design under everyone’s eyes, Catacombs still brought new mistakes that are also damaging the game, just in a more subtle and less apparent way. Which doesn’t make those mistakes any less significant.

I think that what I wrote here is a demonstration of why we cannot compile a personal wish list and expect to do something positive to the game. Things are complex and need an involved discussion where the arguments can be delved and explained. This isn’t a conclusion even if I provided my own. This is instead a possible start to confront those ideas, contribute to shape new ones and avoid to repeat the past mistakes.

Down in Flames

Things seem to return cyclically.

Exactly one year ago I went in a research to read more about the drama I completely missed. Those three posts I archived were what I considered “significant”. In fact one of the purposes of this website is to preserve a “memory”, to retain something from the past so that the discussions can have a sense and don’t have to be repeated over and over like some kind of ritual that doesn’t bring anywhere. It’s in fact when you have an history that you can look forward and expect something new and different.

But, besides this digression, there’s this topic that keeps coming up. The reason why I wrote about it a year ago was because a totally random article on Lum’s blog degenerated in a flame and was finally completely removed. Of course this tickled my curiosity and, as it always happens, reading old articles and forums threads is even more interesting today than it was at that time. For me it’s indispensable to know what came before me, even more so because I arrived too late, when everything was already crumbling. Basically I missed the best and now I feel the need to understand what happened because I think it’s important for me. It’s that piece of “history” that I miss.

It’s not that I don’t have already my point of view and what I’m going to read won’t probably change my ideas. But it helps me to put things into perspective and it’s always funny to go back and reread what I wrote at that time (here and, in particular here). Beside a few obscure points that I cannot understand anymore (I really don’t have a clue about what I meant about the two conflicts of interest) all the rest is still rather coherent with what I think today. The comments I wrote on Lum’s (new) revival and that I’ll archive here below will confirm this.

There are also some funny coincidences that correspond with this whole cyclic thing. In fact just a couple of weeks ago Coke reappeared on this same site and I even got an half-flamed e-mail from D One for reasons I didn’t really understand. All this happened before the revival started and it still made me check their forum because I remember that one year ago I registered there for the purpose to convince them to write again. I couldn’t find those threads (there were some discussions around October 04 that are now gone and replaced by some brand new silly flames) but I stumbled on the same rant (on page 5) that was then pasted in the recent revival. As time passes I find more and more unjustified their hatred against Lum, but, still, I’d like to hear again their point of view on things. Because, even if I can have a completely different opinion, I think that more voices are always good for the community. This is why I’m always happy when new blogs appear (without the blogs and the forums I would have nothing to say) and why not so much when the community splits.

And, to conclude the cycle, thisisnotacommunity.org is back, sort of. Even if D One reminds me the prophecy from Glitchless: “As sure as the sun will rise…”

With the new revival (also discussed here, while on F13 are busy on more interesting and serious topics) I discovered brand new sources that help to see what went on under different points of view. There’s a recap written by Musashi (the pictures offer more insight and are more interesting than what he wrote) which seems the “authorized version” and the one that should take Lum’s defence and another, still mild, on answers.com that originated the rant and the following revival.

Following here the comments I wrote on BrokenToys and that explain my own “distorted” point of view. The conclusion is brand new and also poking some fun at Sanya who accused me.

When people fondly remember (or curse) LtM, most seem to forget that while we had zero problem pointing out that the Emperor was butt-arsed naked, we also noted when things were done RIGHT.

This is exactly what I think as well.

As I wrote on Corpnews it’s *undeniable* that LtM had a strong weight on the success of DAoC in the same way it used to make the difference and become a precious playground that will remain unparalleled just *forever*.

Mythic leeched LtM and they capitalized on it. They used positively the comments to build and adjust their game. And if the game, nowadays, is still good, I believe, it’s thanks to that sort of mindstorming process and chaotic creativity that was LtM back then. It was a laboratory on its own and Mythic took everything from it. The creativity, the vitality and the hype.

There were huge conflicts of interest, but everywhere, not just about Lum. And were those conflict of interest to make things different and make them *matter*. It was an open laboratory where everyone contributed in his own way.

Today all that is lost and not anymore recoverable. The shared passion for the genre is gone. The player base has been dumbed down and “educated”. Now we just squeal from screenshots. That’s how I get 600 visitors on the site at once. The direct involvement is gone forever, the game companies have chosen to detach themselves from their community because they felt threatened when that contact was instead what made them move in the first place.

Now it’s all muffled down, deliberately. And all those coincidences that brought to the LtM phenomenon won’t probably happen again.

My point is: I’ve read a whole lot about what happened back then. That rant site, Musashi’s version, the “answers” page, forums threads, Coke’s posts and so on.

I’ve yet to see all of them disagreeing on something concrete. I didn’t really find divergent versions.

What I saw, instead, is just the same meltdown seen through a lens. Some parts are made bigger, some parts smaller till the point they are omitted. But it all comes down to opinions and how people perceived all that happened in their particular way.

If Musashi’s version is the “authorized” version, I didn’t really find any huge differences to what was written in that silly rant page that originated this thread. Just a different (and partial) point of view. As are different (and distorted) the comments I wrote here above.

Again I should repeat that I NEVER heard of LtM and DAoC before they melted *together* as an unique topic. Here in Italy people started to talk DAoC ALONG with LtM. They talked DAoC BECAUSE of LtM. I believe that what made the site great is what killed it. The community. It’s about that idea of the laboratory I explained above and that saw everyone in a open confrontation. And this (my) perspective is completely different from Musashi’s one because he says that it’s instead the community that ruined the site and that all he wanted to read was Lum and exclusively for his own special and absolutely irreplaceable (this is why, despite the number of website has gone up, we have NOTHING that is even vaguely near to what LtM was) talents: “Lum was a funny writer, insightful, vitriolic, literate, and interesting to read”.

Lum’s talent is unquestionable and he worked as a catalyzer that built something that went overboard. Of course Lum didn’t like this and people who were on Lum’s side also didn’t like it. But from *my own* personal perspective and opinion what happened at the end, the vibrant community that existed for a brief moment before things started to wreck, is the most important point that *made the difference*, and the reason why we STILL talk about it. Both inside and outside this niche community.

What happened back then had an impact beyond Lum and beyond the boundaries of the happenings of a group of passionate players. This is why I use to quote GBob and his line on what LtM was: “Lum the Mad was riding high with his web site, forcing game companies to engage the player base in a real dialog.”

See? It started because Lum’s writing skills and talent (and passion). But it’s where it brought to matter today. Because Lum’s writing skills (and the mock-up things, Katrina’s stuff is another perfect example) still exist, no matter what he writes about. He is publishing a book, in fact. But what we care about is still the little inner world of the mmorpgs and the impact that LtM had back then and that we still feel strong today.

And that Lum definitely didn’t achieve by himself.

My conclusion should be already rather clear. LtM created a controversy. And this controversy fueled DAoC in both a good and bad way. In a moment where both were absolutely needed to keep the game at the center of the attention. This is why Mythic “used up” the community and leeched it till nothing was left. And this is also why not only I believe that they did something legitimate, but also something that I would still like to see today. Because, as I wrote at times, it’s the conflict of interest that makes things matter and become interesting. Without that commitment we just finish to become politically correct and lose track of what actually matters (I agree with the rant site on this point).

This is why I would like the developers discuss THEIR OWN GAME and not some other generic topic and this is why what matters is the actual confrontation and not a “wish list” where everyone posts his own idea completely isolated from the rest and directly avoiding the actual discussion about what is going on. We discuss to agree, disagree and form opinions.

Everything is good but what we really miss is the synthesis. We are right now too fragmented and isolated. Everyone speaks about his own thing on his own blog or forum post. But there isn’t anymore a synthesis and an actual confrontation that can matter and shape what will happen next.

This is my distorted point of view. This is why I think that what is holding Mythic is the indifference. This is also why I don’t really like how things are shaping up. And, finally, this is the reason why my site doesn’t replace my presence on the forums, from the niche communities to the “cesspits” (WoW’s general boards, the Vault, FoH etc..).

What is sure is that I’ll never try or even think to emulate what Lum did. Simply because I lack the charisma and because my voice is just my own and not other people’s voice. I don’t like to pretend to be someone I am not.

It’s like if you have to run all you run all your life to demonstrate everyone you are not who you are. Even if you intimately know how false it is.

People change and yet they remain the same. I believe that you obtain the best result when you don’t fight with yourself to be something else you’ll never be. In fact I liked that entry on the Herald.

Btw, now that I know that “LoH” is Lum’s wife, I wonder if she wouldn’t make a better ranter than himself.. ;)

And a last quote that will allow me to add one note I wrote down and that I forgot to merge with what I wrote above:

Whenever I think “Things were much better X years ago” I immediately think “That’s what my father would say. Am I him yet?”

Now it’s all lost and we have to cry? No because what was written at the time is still precious. This is why we have blogs. To build upon things. To remember, to think. To not just let things glide by.

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Just because I wasn’t done

For the recap I’ll send you here.

I was finally able to read even the first part of the preview, so here’s a few more details that were missing from my other reports:

– The whole expansion will be centered around the Outlands, Medivh and the Dark Portal to make the main storyline progress.

– Background: Sargeras, the Titan representing the “evil” in the game, still wants to destroy the universe. His last plan is to ignore Azeroth, where he ecountered an unexpected resistence, to focus on the Outland. The realm with the remains of the planet of Dreanor, homeland of the orcs. What is left of this place grants access to the Twisting Nether, a portal that can be used to access every other plane of the existence. Here is where the battle between the forces of Azeroth and the demonic forces of Sargeras and his two lieutenants, Archimonde and Kil’Jaeden, will take place.

– The orcs were brought on Azeroth by Medivh through the Dark Portal. Still through the same portal the humans invaded Dreanor and damaged the portal, producing devastations on both sides. Destroying Dreanor from one and creating the Blasted Lands from the other.

– Through the Caverns of Time (located in Tanaris) the players will be able to see the zone surrounding the portal before the disaster and, in particular reenact the invasion of the orcs through the portal. The Caverns of Time are the place where the bronze dragons lead by Nordozmu “supervise” the flow of time.

– The Caverns of Time will allow the players to reenact three events. The invasion of the orcs as written above, the release of Thrall from enslavement and the battle of Mount Hyal, where the humans, orc and elves defeated Arthas and his army.

– The Deadwind Pass zone should get a restyle with the new year to be ready for the release of the expansion and the Kharazan instance.

– At least these two big instances are confirmed. Kharazan and the Caverns of Time.

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Conspiratory flu

This is nothing too serious but it also doesn’t seem all that normal to me. I’m speaking of the whole WoW’s expansion leak, the coverage I gave it on this site and the bland support I received.

Despite I think I did a very good work, from my point of view, I also didn’t create anything myself. I just spent a lot of time to hunt and gather the news, making a clear distinction between what is fake and what isn’t. At least that was my purpose. I believe that who visits this site expects from me (in this specific situation) that type of dedication that you hardly find somewhere else. So I just did a good work trying to investigate and gather the news to repropose them in a more concise, clear and complete form. What I offered was simply a centralized presentation of all that was going on around this topic. Along the hours I gave the “event” a full and consistent coverage that is unmatched if compared to the other sites. You just cannot find another one, big or small, where the news were presented in the same precise and complete way.

In particular, the most important news (the first list of features, the screenshots from the press kit and the translation of the leaked preview on the italian magazine) had their origin HERE and in all the other forums (Q23, Corpnews, F13, FoH and the italian one) where I was restlessly tracking the whole thing in real time, trying to keep everyone updated with the latest happenings and fighting against all the false rumors that were making everything confused and uncertain.

What I find odd is that, despite something interesting was happening, noone cared to underline it. Noone noticed anything beyond the first leak of the cover of the magazine. Despite what came next was thousands times more juicy and interesting than a single quote claiming the level cap raised to 70. The coverage of this whole thing has been bland at best and completely missing if we exclude the fansites of the game. Even when all the major sites write down news about WoW for every stupid little thing they hear. In this case there was a complete silence or, worst, an active pursue of disinformation.

This is also nothing really new. My site surely hasn’t a good reputation and Slashdot deliberately avoided to link me a couple of times (for example about the infamous warrior protest) even when I was writing down more complete reports than what Zonk decided it was worth linking. If there was a news and 5-6 forums and blogs gave it some coverage you can be sure that the one missing was mine. Now I don’t find this surprising, nor it’s something I’d rant about. I wouldn’t link myself and I can absolutely understand why Zonk prefers to wait for other sources and avoid this little corner, down in the filth, half hidden. But this time it was different. The news weren’t covered or commented here. They STARTED here. There are a bunch of sites out there that cut and pasted my own words without remotely referencing me and everything I was presenting here has been systematically erased from the source and represented.

And again there is nothing to rant about. I don’t care for trackbacks, I don’t care if my words are cut, decontestualized and reproposed by someone else. I don’t care because that’s the essence of what I do. I don’t care if Slashdot links me and I don’t care if this site is more or less popular. This is just my “laboratory” and I use it strictly for personal reasons that I hope can be useful for someone else. In this case what I cared about was about sharing and spread the news. This is why I was out on the forums, this is why I worked franctically to put an evident line between a few fake jokes and what was, instead, REAL. And interesting. I tried to remove the confusion and gather all I could about that topic. I just was trying something simple: to inform.

So why I rant? Because more than one day later I saw this entry on Joystiq spreading news like I was trying to do. But the WRONG news. This is why I mailed them to explain what was real, what wasn’t and what they should report. Well, hours later this is the result. See, that page that Joystiq linked had the same list of screenshots that firstly appeared on this site and it was posted hours after I sent them the mail explaining what was going on, that I had a lot more details on the whole issue unavailable everywhere else (till that moment) and, in particular, explaining that their previous news was just about a FAKE. What did they do? They posted a news linking the same screenshots I had and linking back to themselves and the FAKE NEWS to create even more confusion. Wonderful work.

But it’s not over because even Slashdot and VodooExtreme finally join the bandwagon. These big sites arrive DAYS after the news. Still they carefully avoid to link this place where the news were more complete and attendible as it always happened in the past over similar issues. And they decide to hand out very partial and imprecise news. VoodooExtreme has a poor recap of the main features that vaguely resembles mine and a link to a translation that arrived two days later the whole thing while Slashdot links that Joystiq with the FAKE news. What a wonderful coverage.

“I was waiting for more news on it before posting” No. He was waiting another source to avoid to link me.

See, it’s not that I believe I’m the center of the internet and that noone is allowed ignore me. But I mailed Joystiq with the news and explanations. And Zonk (the writer on Slashdot who gave that awful coverage) definitely reads those forums where I wrote down the news in real time, contemporary to what I was writing on my site. The writer of Kotaku reads Q23. And so on. I’m sorry but I don’t believe that they were unaware of what was going on and, instead, I believe that this is the result of a deliberate choice.

Which brings to the last point. The other fake notes that started to circulate were linked just EVERYWHERE and they spread *way faster* than the legitimate news. They appeared only many hours after I started to post the real leaks and hand out a precise feature list, also explaining the sources and the reason why they were confirmed. These notes in fact arrived a few hours after Vivendi called me at home to ask to remove the screenshots. My suspect is that those notes started to circulate *because* of Blizzard. They may have been pushed out to create confusion once they saw that all their precious announces and exclusives sold to the magazines were being leaked a week ahead of time. And the echo that those fake notes received everywhere and in particular on the bigger sites may confirm this suspect and the will from Blizzard to create a total chaos so that noone could understand what was real and what wasn’t in order to still retain some expectance for the BlizzCon scheduled for the next week.

The real point, in fact, is that everyone with half a brain could have noticed at a first glance how those notes were absolutely RIDICULOUS. Once again, I did all I could to spread the truth against all the false news. Despite this, all the bigger news sites preferred to ignore what was actually going on to make everything even more confused.

Now, I definitely *do not regret* that noone linked me (but I find odd that this thing went completely ignored even in our circle of blogs). In one day this site burned 34 GIGABYTES OF BANDWIDTH (and thanks again to Dreamhost who kept the site running smooth as silk). It scared me more than the phone call from Vivendi. In three days I’m above 55 Gb and only thanks to the screeshots that were up only for a few hours. This site was risking a closure in less than five days and if even Slashdot tried to link here you would have seen a black page, right now, instead of these words. So “thank you” again to have avoided to link this corner of the internet that still managed to do a WAY better work than EVERYONE ELSE out there and also confirming as true and attendible the rumors on which I bet five months ago. Only in a very few cases I’ve been wrong and I think I can be satisfied of the little service I’ve offered. Despite I’m the only one to congratulate with myself and the only one to note I’ve done a good work.

On the other side I have the consciousness of the horrible work that the “bigger players” have offered. Still today there’s a whole lot of confusion and what is sure is that VodooExtreme, Joystiq and Slashdot actively contributed to this disinformation and offered an overall poor and unprofessional service.


This is a concern faced by all the “major”, “respectable” sites. Stratics, for one, has shown some editorial spine in the past lambasting Origin for among other things abandoning any pretense of a plot line in UO. Most gaming “news” sites, however, MMORPG related or otherwise, do exhibit an unsurprising lack of willingness to bite the hand that feeds them.

The bottom line is that this is an opinion/gossip/unprofessional rantings site, not a news site. And if you disagree with my choice of news stories, the Internet has about 9 trillion other pages more worthy of your attention.

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“MMO sequels are dumb”

Enough of WoW. I go back to my own logorrheic and foolish commentary noone is interested about. Shoo.

While my site slowly returns to normality, I noticed on my RSS page an entry on Darniaq’s blog with an amusing title: “EQ1 Expansion outsells EQ2s”.

We build sequels because we stupidly think that these *worlds* (because we are creating worlds, not games) have life cycles and need to be replaced as it happens with every other “goods”. This news is another stab to one of those popular commonplaces.

Years of development and an insane amount of money invested into a new project that is now even less successful than the product that it was supposed to *replace*. Money and resources that were CUT from EQ to move them on EQ2. The same HUGE mistake that every other company is stupidly making sooner or later.

Of course it’s too early speak. EQ2 devs are slowly but steadily doing a rather good work and all these efforts could probably bring to a surpass once EQ is more and more left behind and developed in a “flat” direction that isn’t aimed to keep the game fresh and accessible. But this “overtake” is not something that SOE anticipated by looking forward and planning ahead. This is something that they decided and obtained. Something they chose (but I would be so interested to hear their expectations and marketing projections).

I just wonder what could have happened if SOE put all the resources that went into EQ2 to consolidate EQ and make it the best product (and world) out there. Building on top of what was being worked till that moment and reinvesting on the strengths to reinvigorate them even more. Probably even the community could have benefited of a focus instead of being shattered and directly encouraged to move toward brand new worlds (WoW).

Either way, we’ll never know. But I surely have my own opinion.

EDIT: Scott Hartsman commented elsewhere:

It’s an interesting topic, for sure. One other random thing to throw in the mix.

EQ2 has a proportionally larger number of overseas customers who wouldn’t show up in the US NPD numbers. (At least, I don’t believe they would. Fortunately, that’s not my thing. I just make games.)

So many that we adjusted our main US patch schedule to better accomodate the play times of one group (For Asia/AUS/NZ), and more in the other direction to where they really needed to be given their own patchers and downtime schedule. (UK/DE/FR).

Personally, I’d like to see the total numbers for all of those titles that included all locales and downloadable purchases, then watch the discussion.

Until then, good luck, and may the best conjecture win!

– Scott

Come and see a leak of epic proportions (and my website go *boom*)

Part 4 of 4 (123)


1- The feature list I anticipated here is 100% confirmed. All the other fancy leaks you see elsewhere are, instead, FAKE (believe me or not. In a week you’ll see I was right as always).

2- I’m going to edit that post in the next minutes to add lots of more insight infos I got (thanks interweb).

At least if the stress or the cops don’t get me.

It’s all here.

I’m franctically backupping things but I’ll hardly host that here or I’ll go overboard with the bandwidth in two days.

Anyway, if the links go down I’ll find mirrors. The interweb is big.

In the meantime I received my Vanguard beta application invite.

Have a funny leaky day.

EDIT: As explained the screenshots have been removed from this server. The original description was:
“includes more Blood Elves/SunstriderIsle screenshots, Karazhan and Black Morass Dark Portal”

EDIT2: Noone remembers but these new leaks confirm some five months old leaks. Anticipating news is fun and exciting.

EDIT3: First mirror went boom. I’m trying to host the file locally. Expect this own site to explode as well soon (or my bandwidth to go through the roof).

Last minute edit: The expansion feature list I translated here is almost certainly confirmed. The reader who wrote the summary posted on the forum a real photo showing the cover of the magazine. The informations were also confirmed by different sources.

CENSORSHIP HERE WE COME! I just received a fancy phone call from Vivendi asking me to remove the screenshots. The guy who contacted me was actually rather confused and I had to explain that I just collected and organized what I found. Anyway, Blizzard is RAGING and willingly to persecute everyone. The screenshots go down here.

But you are silly if you think you can stop the internet. Even if you have Blizzard’s money and believe you rule this world.

In the Q23 thread the images were thumbnailed and saved on imageshack. The original source seems also still active.

I wish I could still host everything here but I cannot afford the risk to go overboard just because I love mmorpgs and share informations.

Threaten for the win. Blizzard, you won a badge today.

EDIT4: Blizzcon is a thing of the past, so I restore the screenshots I was ‘asked’ to remove:





























































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