EQ2’s evolution for next year?

It’s almost like whatever I care about is now off the official channels.

So I read Scott “Gallenite” Hartsman Producer’s letter and it tells me nothing particularly interesting. While a post on FoH’s forums is much more compelling:

It’s one of our longer term projects. No releasable details yet, but since Smed directly addressed character animations here originally, I’ll say at least this much about it:

What we need to go through to make both armor/wearables and animations for 40-some different race-gender pairs across both US and Alt models isn’t really tenable in the long term. Fixing that is something we’ll be talking more about over the next year.

In the interest of efficiency, this project supercedes making a couple thousand new animations for the existing character system.

Doing that much animation work, just to have to throw it all away when the system itself is fixed (and delaying the system fixes by months in the process), wasn’t really the best option for us.

That’s not to say there won’t be incremental animation improvements in the meanwhile like the tweaks that continue to come out with updates. Just not any massive-scale replacement. Hopefully the reasoning above explains why we think this is the smart call.

– Scott

Actually what this post says is not encouraging: “It was delayed, don’t expect anything soon”. But at least they could decide to address the problem radically when it will be the right time. And this is good, because the problems definitely aren’t “superficial”.

EQ2 is a game that went totally wrong. But now, step by step, it is adjusting the aim, and it’s becoming a good game. Maybe it is watching WoW too closely and backpedaling on a number of design decisions, but overall improving.

Of course it’s a matter of “priorities”. We usually say “it’s about the gameplay, not about the look”, but client optimizations, better models and animations, better UI features, less memory requirements… these are all features that can have a strong impact on ALL players ALL the time. I think that a mmorpg should have a continued development at all levels (the systemic approach). Instead of just tweaking balance and add some new content preriodically.

Right now EQ2 is a decent game, with plenty of content and zones to explore. It still has significantly high accessibility issues, a clunky client, an heavy UI and varying artistic style and quality. But it is satisfying enough. Still far from being polished and carefully designed as WoW, but it has some richer aspects here and there. Plenty to do. Perfect for someone bored coming from other games.

Perfect for those fond of this kind of gameplay and who desire a whole new, huge world to discover for the first time.

Looking at the future I don’t think it is grim. The biggest competitor for EQ2 is Vanguard, as ironic as it could be. EQ2 isn’t a masterpiece and for many players it is like a “parked” experience. Something to do while they wait for something that can arouse the interest again. I believe that if EQ2 plays well its card and continues to improve in the same way it is doing at the moment (at all levels, not just with “more content”), it could have nothing to fear from Vanguard and easily outclass it. Then it will be the time for Vanguard to chase desperately EQ2 as EQ2 is now doing with WoW.

An aggro train.

In the meantime I continue to play casually with my experiment: combat experience turned off permanently and just getting some of it through quests (54 completed, currently). Since there’s so much content to see I decided to leave behind the desire to “level up” and just do everything I can. I made to level 12 but it starting to feel a bit too redundant and vain. I wish there were more quests directing me to new zones and places and a rebalance of the xp points so that more of them would come from the quest completition and less from kill-a-foozle.

Latest sightings of bearded people

It’s too darn HOT to sit in front of the PC. Even if I’d have something to write.

If I try to play some graphic-intensive game I risk to crash just after a few minutes due to heat issues.

I’m in the mood for harsh rants and being mean. But luckily other things will keep me away from the pc.

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Hosting Vivendi’s slides wasn’t a goddamn crime

So Blizzard asked us to remove the slides via e-mail. As SirBruce pointed out (and I’m also starting to think that SirBruce is in the wrong field and should have become a lawyer with all that arguing and stubborness so naturally flowing) the request to remove them wasn’t framed as a legal one. I wouldn’t even judge it a threat.

In the meantime I found this:

3. Information presented on www.sec.gov is considered public information and may be distributed or copied.

So I decided to link directly at least the first of the slides with the Blizzard logo. Why? To mock them a lil and because it fits sooo well with the blue on black layout of this site. Pretty.

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Diablo and Starcraft as MMOs – Last chapter

Blizzard asked us to remove the slides and we did. The slides, though, are publicly available.

People on Q23 still argue whether we need a public execution for this crime or not.

Shild concludes all that went on with a very well written article thaty I’m going to quote. In the light of what has been said, I think that my first reaction still represents the heart of the discussion. Which is about the relationship between Blizzard and Vivendi that has already caused a good number of developers to quit both before and after WoW’s launch (Flagship Studios, Arena.net, Red 5, NCSoft Orange Country, Cheyenne Mountain and Castaway Entertainment to name those I remember, plus the single devs that fled to a number of other companies).

Right now Blizzard doesn’t even have enough resources to support properly the development of WoW and the expansion. Vivendi is another matter.

So I’m concluding quoting SirBruce again and then Shild to underline what we were actually talking about. (edit: added Darniaq)

SirBruce: No one reported that in the future they would only focus on MMOGs or only on one platform; that’s a misinterpretation of what WAS reported, which was “All Blizzard franchises (actually, Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo) to become MMOGs.” The same slide that supports this suggests that those three franchises could expand into the console market, as well.

Rob Pardo is splitting hairs. *Blizzard* may not have any current development plans to do an MMO beyond the WoW expansion, but *Vivendi*, who *owns* them, does. So they can easily give Blizzard a bunch of money to make World of Starcraft, or even decide to delegate that to one of the other development studios under Sierra Online (although that would probably be a big mistake).

The news is “Vivendi plans to make more MMOGs, with Diablo and Starcraft among the IP possibilities” not “Blizzard is currently making Diablo and Starcraft MMOGs.”


Darniaq: Of course, I happen to agree with that, as I always have. They’re held in very high regard, and I certainly won’t argue against their skills. But they’re still a profit center, a division of a multi-national. The average Blizzard fan can believe otherwise, and are probably currently arguing all over the place in defense of some stance they thing Blizzard is taking. But this is still a corporation with goals and objectives and nowhere near complete autonomy.

Gotta love the web :)

F13: Blizzard is owned by Vivendi Universal – or as far as I can tell they still are. They do not get the final word. It doesn’t matter who you ask at Blizzard – including one Mr. Rob Pardo. He’s a lapdog as far as I’m concerned. They pay him the big bucks to do what he’s told. I did not see a single website talk to the executive equivalent to Pardo at Vivendi. Someone might have, but I missed it. Referencing Blizzard/WoW moderators was a true sign of awesome journalism in action. These people, I guarantee, know less about what’s going on at Blizzard than the average player who scours the internet for every tiny nugget of information on their beloved company.

Also, the slide presentation – you know why I didn’t talk about it in my original post? Because it had nothing to do with what I said. See, the problem is, I have a majority of the facts – and put simply, I like playing some cards close to my chest. Especially when it’s about the three headed hydra consisting of Diablo, Warcraft, and Starcraft. By referencing some other folks, you’ve managed to get your dirty little paws on a slideshow given during the Wall Street presentation. GRATS. That slide show presentation – if you haven’t read it – did a great job of dumbing this gaming “stuff” down for people who have no clue what it’s about. They want the bottom line, that’s why population and dollars were the big discussion there. What hasn’t been discussed anywhere, as far as I can tell is the Q&A session that went on afterwards. Shortly after I posted the news, an unnamed source sent me news that people were getting it wrong. That the line “All Blizzard franchises will become MMOGs” came from a Q&A with a Vivendi rep after the presentation. Have I said Q&A enough times? Is someone going to refer back to the WoW Slideshow for Dummies again? No?

A Vivendi representative saying [the bit about franchises] means two things:
1. All Blizzard franchises will become MMOGs.
2. This will happen with the support of Rob “The Ego” Pardo & Co. or not.

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SirBruce on the Vivendi presentation slides

Quoting from Q23:

Subsequent to the story breaking, Blizzard has asked various sites who have posted the slides to take them down, citing copyright concerns. I want to make it clear that the material was obtained lawfully by me, that no confidentiality was violated, and that such usage by the media is also protected under the doctrine of fair use. The presentation is on file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Comission, and is made available freely to EVERYONE So if you want to see the ENTIRE PRESENTATION yourself, including the slides relevant to Blizzard, simply go here.

And shame on Blizzard for trying to bully the media.


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I Wished

This is an article I wrote in italian during the December 2004 that was supposed to appear in the most popular paper magazine about games here in Italy (also the one that spolied the WoW’s expansion before the official Blizzcon, if you remember).

It was a preview of “Wish”, the game developed by Mutable Realms and Dave Rickey. It was supposed to appear in the issue of February but it never did. Just a few days after the New Year’s Day (if I remember correctly) Dave Rickey was kicked out of the position of lead designer (to never be replaced) and the game took a really bad turn. One year later it was definitely canceled.

The article never appeared because all I wrote was wiped from the game along with Dave.

Another MMORPG is coming into an already overcrowded market and people wonder, as always, if it is worth it.

This time Mutable Realms, developer of the game, has a modest team and resources, but looking solid. The path they chose (the lead designer Dave Rickey in particular) is about going in a different direction from all the other consolidated patterns that every mmorpg seem to repeat, to try to bet on original, well thought ideas, instead of trying to go directly against the genre behemoths and rinse and repeat with yet another pointless, boring clone.

It’s not simple to summarize in a few words the differences between this project compared to others, however two are the main points.

The first is about the character progression. The second is about the structure of the world and the dynamic relationship between its parts.

Concerning the first, the progression of the skills will be “linear”. Every character, newbie or veteran, will have from the first minute in the game the possibility to group with other players and have a small, positive role. Without the need to spend hours to reach an “appropriate level” in order to be able to join his friends. Moreover, the focus of the player won’t be on a infinite, obsessive level growth, but will be instead shifted directly on the game mechanics. If you are going to kill a goblin it won’t be to see a skill going from 1.5 to 1.6, but because that action has a meaning within the context of the game. A context where it’s the player to decide his own objectives and where the game world reacts appropriately and actively to those actions (quests in particular).

In short: an idea closer to that ideal of a “virtual world”, on which the very first mmorpgs moved steps and that now seems completely forgotten.

All this leads to the second point. There’s a lot of ambition behind these ideas on which the game will be developed. The final result and concrete value will depend strongly on the execution, but the premises, one year before the planned launch date, are very good. Beside the fact that these ideas will bring a “wind of change” in a genre that has so much potential but that seems now swamped on the same redundant ideas and styles of game.

To explain better concretely, Wish will be developed around a concept, a pivot, around which the whole game will revolve. This pivot is called “House vs House”. To those experienced with DAoC this concept could be easier to grasp.

The idea is about creating a world with villages and outposts spread around. The players will begin the game in one of these villages and will find outside an hostile world. The travels from one village to the other won’t be risk free. These players will have the possibility to form guilds, more or less big, that in this game will be called “Houses”. Once this step is done, they will have the possibility to move out of the starting village and try to go clear and conquer one of those villages under the control of the monsters to claim it for themselves. When an “house” gains control of a village, the village becomes their property and they can then establish a NPC guard system and taxes (beside the usual services such as vendors, blacksmiths etc…)

Essentially both the PvE (Players vs Environment, aka players vs computer controlled monsters) and the PvP (Players vs Players), will be completely immersed in the same game world pivoting around these villages/forts.

The monsters not only will overrun the villages not controlled and defended by the players/houses, but they could move out on their own to attack one of the players’ outposts, becoming an “active” element of the game and not just standing still under a tree waiting for a player to pass by to kill them.

Obviously the “rival Houses” will be able to declare a war on each other and then poke each other with sharp sticks everywhere in the game world. This will still leave the “neutral” players relatively safe, but still subject to the conquest system and the taxes, since thew world around will see a continue evolution.

The goal is to make converge all the positive and “fun” aspects of PvP coming from games like DAoC (of which Dave Rickey was an opinionated designer) to make them converge and then “signify” in a world that reacts actively to the players and just doesn’t remain in a state of staticity and neutrality.

Diablo and Starcraft as MMOs – FACTS

Follow up to this (I will trim the post in the next days).

These are the “incriminated” slides from the presentation. Kindly made available by SirBruce.

The last one is probably the one that generated all the rumors. Still FAR from the claim “All Blizzard franchises will become MMOGs.” But maybe it was presented to the live audience in another way.

For now THE FACTS only describe a remote possibility. Not a concrete plan.

EDIT: I remove the slides at request of Blizzard (I decided to remove them before receiving the e-mail after all the discussions, but I was away from the PC) and the same happened to Grimwell where they were posted first. People on QT3 wrote that it could be copyright infringement. Well, this is something too stupid to get in trouble with. I originally mirrored the slides just because I thought they were public and just to try to dig the facts behind the “news”. It looks like even this time this is about asking too much.

The slides didn’t even show anything we didn’t know already. So I really don’t know what all the fuss is about.

Surely I didn’t mirror them with malicious intentions.

EDIT: Since the slides were removed I’ll just say that the last one showed a scheme where both Diablo and Starcraft were marked as “potential” in the MMO market, as well an extension to the console market for all three franchises (Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft).

As Shild explains here the original claim wasn’t coming from rabid speculation derived from these slides, but from a Q&A session with a Vivendi rep *after* the presentation.

LATEST EDIT: The WHOLE presentation is available publicly here, as reported.

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Needles in the the mouth, for the win

Everything went to smooth on Monday, so I decided to make a new trip to the dentist. No, really.

The pain I didn’t feel that time I’m feeling now. No, really.

Fact is that I discovered that the hole that my wisdom tooth left was so deep that it went right to my fucking NOSE. Air goes through it. A goddamn hole between the mouth and the nose. I couldn’t even imagine it could be something possible. Then, you know, Google-fu answered me that what I felt was, indeed, true.

Back to the dentist when I thought I was good AT LEAST for two years. It lasted TWO DAYS instead.

Got more needles and basically she closed the gum, “extending” it. Now I have STITCHES in my mouth and I feel them. Hello painkillers.

We’ll see if this is enough or if the oddissey continues through more complications.

It was too easy, I had to go back for some more fun.

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Rob Pardo back on ship?

First comments from Rob Pardo in a long while. Commenting the last controversial “news”:

Nothing in that rumor is true in regards to Blizzard. If I had to guess, there was some confusion between what Vivendi has planned for its game division versus what Blizzard has planned. While Blizzard is owned by Vivendi, their game division operates seperately from Blizzard.


Since WOW shipped, we have lost some artists, and a few other folk, none of which were designers. As to faction grinding…I agree that it is way too “grindy” and we are looking to overhaul the way faction works in the expansion. It was one of those features that was put into the game in late beta and never really received the polish and refinement that it deserves.


I really do wonder if he’s always been there or if he quite WoW for a while to work on something else. If he’s back it could be a very good thing.

He does not really convince me with that “if I had to guess, there was some confusion between what Vivendi has planned for its game division versus what Blizzard has planned”. Those quotes from Vivendi were quite precise and they were analyzing WoW’s costs and development time.

SirBruce, wake up and give us the slides (if they weren’t bullshit).