Too scared to talk, you cowards, all of you

Last on the list, official forums.

Once again I think another step in the wrong direction. Why? Ive always been for official forums. First to receive support and not talk to each player individually (as, usually, when problems exist they are experienced by many), second to quickly gather up to date infos that don’t fit on a web page (servers going down, problems to connect etc..). Then obviously to get feedback from developers and discuss meaningfully the game.

I’ve explained the way I’d moderate it. Not tolerating spam and trolling. Not looking for manners or good disposition, but rewarding arguments, motivations.

There are two aspects that make obvious what Mythic’s forums will really be.
1- Account levels that will allow Mythic to pick their favorite posters/friends/supporters and rail them as champions of the community
2- Developer feedback is a privilege, not a right

There all that is wrong. In order to discuss things and read what developers think, you have to be a privileged person who’s passed Mythic’s rite of initiation.

Mythic’s dev feedback is too precious to be shared among customers. It is of a so high complexity and depth that enlightened players with access to it will have to sign yet another NDA that will forbid them to divulge the Sacred Words.

I hope you’ll do nicely, with your fist of sand.


I still also remain convinced that having official forums are not a guarantee of success for an MMO.

…Do you know where he may have possibly heard that official forums guarantee success for a MMO? In his head, you say?

I laughed (but look at the screenshot down that thread if you think nothing could surprise you anymore). Developing a forum grind is some form of misunderstood genius.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Headbanging to walls

Every time I spend some time looking at what’s happening with Warhammer I find more and more proofs of game design incompetence.

Beside the latest, blatant, “People who really want to do Open RvR, though, were falling behind PvE and scenario players in terms of gear” and Mark Jacobs’ “avoiding other factions in a RvR/PvP game are always tough to solve even if you could only level through RvR/Pvp since many players/groups tend to always want to have an edge on the other group”, now we have this upcoming change to BOs and keeps that mirrors exactly what I was saying: they do not get it, and so keep making things WORSE.

Since players loved to swap BOs and keeps quickly to get points, you know what will happen next patch?

That you’ll have to SIT in a BO for half an hour, and a keep for TWO HOURS in order to get the points/loot. Awesome. I’m sure players will love this.

The REAL problem here is that they are handing points for PvE (NPC guards) objectives. Players learn this and learn that if points come from killing NPCs then fighting real players is just an hindrance. So they go killing NPCs and avoid fighting each other since this maximizes the reward.

Instead of fixing this system and link the ORVR rewards to RVR activity (as is reasonable to do if they had a clue) they double all the timers in the game, so that it’s not possible anymore to swap quickly the objectives. But, since the rewards STILL come from PvE, the only effect is that now you’ll sit idle waiting for a timer to run to zero and the bag of loot to open to you.

If you are a kind of player who enjoys this kind of gameplay then I’m glad for you.

This game isn’t flawed in production value or because Mythic isn’t working hard enough. This game is flawed because they don’t get the basics of game design, and four months down the road they still haven’t understood problems that the majority of players noticed all along.

You can work as hard you can, but if the direction is all wrong nothing good will ever come out of it. That’s Mythic’s path.

And to demonstrate that I base my critics on concrete motivations and not bias, I’ll also say that making ORvR authoritative over Scenarios is a step in the right direction (meaning that if you control a zone in ORvR you’ll control the zone in the campaign as well, no matter the results in the Scenarios).

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Why Warhammer goes nowhere

When I thought I was done being surprised I find this.

Mark Jacobs answers a player who brings up the same complaint I’ve been reading for the last four months: players avoid the fights and run in a circle around the maps.

– Tier 4: problems with everyone farming renown and inf by avoiding each other faction, instead of that “War is everywhere” that all we want.

This is Mark’s comment to this long standing problem:

avoiding other factions in a RvR/PvP game are always tough to solve even if you could only level through RvR/Pvp since many players/groups tend to always want to have an edge on the other group

I’m honestly baffled.

He doesn’t have even a VAGUE idea of how the game works. He thinks that players run in circles and avoid fighting because THEY ARE SCARED TO LOSE.

Could he be more out of touch? The problem is game design giving out RvR rewards (exp, gear, renown) for PvE action. The system TRAINS players to realize that it’s faster and more convenient to bypass the enemy than to put on a fight because the rewards don’t come from PvP itself. Players avoid fighting because the system can be exploited, not because the players don’t want to PvP because they are cowards.

For all the time Mark Jacobs wastes justifying his work, for once he should stop and actually listen what others are saying. BECAUSE HE IS CLUELESS.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Famous Last Words

I was digging the archive to see if I could find the quote where Mark Jacobs said that Warhammer will never be like DAoC (since the announce of Darkness Falls).

I didn’t find it, but I found this:

“The initial partnership between Mythic and GOA resulted in Dark Age of Camelot being the number one MMORPG in Europe for many years,” said Mark Jacobs, CEO and President of Mythic Entertainment. “With WAR our goal is nothing less than to take Europe by storm and regain that leadership position in the European market.”

We love DAoC and by continuing to improve and invest in the game, it will be able stand up in the face of current and future competition. We believe by continuing to drive DAoC’s evolution, it will remain the top RvR-based MMORPG as well as one of the top MMORPGs in the world. If you agree with us, we’re willing to put in the time and investment to make it happen.

Yes, I agree. But I’m not that gullible so I don’t believe (and didn’t).

For once we agree.

On building false hype

I’m strongly against this new habit across game companies of announcing the announcement. Hype should be built on the merit of things, not on false expectations or projections. I say this not as a personal preference, but because I believe that hype built without a foundation is hype that will hurt in ALL cases, even the best ones.

Mythic will announce something next week. Dunno if it’s a free expansion, a patch or whatever, but these are the small expectations Mark Jacobs is building:

While our patch notes for the next version are certainly worth reading, I think the new content is pretty good as well. Now, whether players consider them totally over-the-top, mega brilliance or simply, kewl, interesting, next generation stuff will be interesting to see. There are other options of course, but I’ll stick with those for now.

Imho, things should be talked about in two cases. Before the fact, if devs want to participate in a discussion and and confront and integrate players feedback. After the fact, to discuss the merit of things.

But announcing and hyping the announce, without anything concrete and objective to say. Why? What for? It’s since release that MJ hypes patch notes, only to have real patch notes out deluding players and him ready to hype the next. This policy operates at a loss, every time it’s a little worse. You’re training customers to not trust you.

Especially when your customers have a critical eye for what you do and you keep going with blind self-praise. It creates a disconnection with the players that won’t bode well at all. There isn’t anything worse than self-praise in the face of your customers.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

The worst horror movie ever made

Sometimes you have to recognize some merit in being exceptionally crap (and without ANY redeeming feature).

From a review with which I absolutely agree:

I like watching snakes eat mice just as much as the next fella, maybe even more, but “The Strangers” turns the gobble-’em-up into an ordeal. It’s a fraud from start to finish.

In the film, three strangers in campy Halloween masks stalk and torment two handsome 30-somethings in a well-appointed summer home. The two victims are all but defenseless in the face of the assault, so they never acquire much respect from the audience; though if the movie’s a hit, you can bet Smith & Wesson’s profits go through the roof. The unfortunate couple, played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, are initially presented as somehow dysfunctional; they mumble morosely and act like they’ve wandered in from a Bergman movie about anomie in suburban Stockholm. Like everything else in the movie, this is never explained.

When, in the middle of the night, someone knocks on the door, domestic problems are forgotten and survival becomes an issue, though both are completely incompetent. Writer-director Bryan Bertino leaves no stone unturned in his quest for cliche and his unbelievable depictions of behavior. For the latter, try this: A fellow passing by the house has his windshield blown out by a shotgun. Does he step on the gas? Does he call the cops on his cellphone? No, he gets out of the car and walks into the house showing clear signs of violent disturbance without announcing himself. A tragedy soon follows, but not as big as the one that compelled me to sit through the whole thing.

What a wonderfully craptastic movie. If it was like the usual mediocre horror movies I wouldn’t talk about it here, but this is outrageously bad, to the point you develop some spontaneous hatred toward the director.

It starts with a mood full of unmotivated pathos even if the situation presented is conventional. You keep wondering what are the reasons behind all that but the truth is that there are no reasons, it’s just done badly. Since the beginning there’s a constant use of shaky cam even for normal dialogues, after a while you figure out that it is meant to give the impression that the protagonists are “being watched” but the effect continues to be used out of context throughout the whole movie to the point it becomes just annoying. Not only it’s a bad movie, with not even a pretense of story or internal consistence, but it is even enormously pretentious. There are no motivations gives for anything happening, the stalkers have super-powers just to excuse freaky situations (disappearing all at once) or easy ways out (dodging bullets) and everything else is smoothly driven and pre-planned as the characters move around as puppets just because the screenplay wants things happening without any effort to justify it or make it even remotely believable. It’s just for the effect as the director can’t be arsed to explain what’s happening or even make scenes consistent. Why? Just so. Edgy. Manneristic.

I blame who gave the director the money. A talentless narcissist.

I want to save some of it. To make things even worse this movie was marketed as a real story when it’s obvious while watching it that there’s nothing of it that may be even remotely true. In fact it’s not. When the director was a child someone came to his house asking for someone unknown. The day after he discovered that some houses in the neighborhood were robbed and he was deeply impressed. This is the whole “real” story.

The movie lacks any motivation and consistence because it’s the product of wild imagination. Just an elaboration of childhood nightmares that obviously don’t need justifications but that are actually more disturbing because of the lack of them. The movie is, simply put, a representation and projection of irrational fears.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

On Seagate hard disk clusterfuck

There’s a problem potentially affecting the great majority of Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard disk, including models based on the same series (Maxtor).

Since these were in the last year the best performing drives on the market and with low prices as well, I also bought two. The problem is a most pleasant one, instead of presenting issues that you can recognize and fix, the drive simply stops working one day and you can’t do anything anymore about it. If at the time of shutdown the internal drive journal has the magic cumber of 320 entries in it, when you power on the computer again the drive will be dead.

This event is clearly rare, but you can also understand that every time you turn off your pc there’s a small probability that it happens. The more time passes, the more the chances.

From this originated the whole clusterfuck. Since the problem was affecting most of the drive models, a huge number of typical anxious computer users started to storm Seagate with mails to get their fixed firmware before it was too late. With this big tide coming to them Seagate decided to break their usual policy of only offer firmwares via dedicated mails and instead made the “fixed” firmware public.

Only that this broke their usual safety processes and lead to the majority of people getting a wrong firmware for their drives. The huge number of people started giddily flashing their drives to prevent the problem and only obtained to have the problem executed. What was before a rare risk, became certainty after flashing the bios. All drives went dead. A huge number of people with suddenly dead drivers thanks to a fix that was supposed to prevent exactly that rare risk. A funny implementation of reciprocation.

The story goes on Slashodot and the tide continues to rise. From a side all the users that got to know about the potential failure, from the other all the early adopters who were rewarded of their zeal with a dead drive. Both asking for a fix. Now.

Today the fix arrives, with model versions clearly spelled. On the forums people are reporting that they seem to work.

I’m here wondering if taking the risk of flashing my drives (no space for backups), or live with the other of one day turning on my PC and see all my stuff gone. Sure this was good advertising for Seagate.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

On MMO’s recent numbers

I’m the first to say Xfire numbers are unreliable. If you look at Eve-Online the game had a HUGE increase of active players during the holiday, that now seems dying down. This coincides to when they reactivated all canceled accounts for a period of time, so it may explain the surge of activity.

But the “real” numbers looked almost unaffected by that. Look at these graphs. These measure the activity in the same way of Xfire, only of all the players instead of a smaller sample. It is weird that the huge activity increase that Xfire showed is only very slightly reflected in the other graph. The recent weeks also aren’t showing the same consistent dip on Xfire. How can this be explained? Maybe they had a special promotion through Xfire that rigged those results, maybe some bug on the client or database.

In any case Eve-Online seems to have stalled during the last year, maybe reaching its full potential within the constraint of game design that sure isn’t made to be appealing to the large public (along with basic flaws that they simply decided to not address). Now it is slightly growing again, but probably as result of momentary situation related to promotions or launch of expansions. They have already another in the works where they rewrite for the 10th time the tutorials (hint: it’s gameplay that should be reworked, not the tutorial text).

Hard numbers: currently Eve-Online has 250k subs. Putting it head to head with DAoC at its peak.

Now lets see Warhammer. No real numbers to see, beside it vanishing from forums discussions and relevance overall. Xfire is all we have. Not meaningful or reliable, but reasonable. The game is relatively stable, slightly dropping as players burn out. We don’t have real subs numbers, not even projections. Sure is that we won’t have them as EA is likely not too pleased to the point of publicizing them. MJ public “target” was at least 500k, but from other interviews it was quite obvious that his and EA target potential started from 1M going up (or better, a target to reach. didn’t mean to have 1M in 1 month).

Warhammer doesn’t likely have 1M now, I doubt it has 500k. I doubt it has 400k. From Xfire and general reception it is likely that by now its success is set. Meaning that I doubt it will see a relevant increase or even a sudden relevant decrease. It is whatever it is. We can only guess that number, but we know that to sway it now it will take some “extreme triggers” that it is not realistic to expect (especially from Mythic’s righteous game design).

On Warhammer potential subscribers I’ve said a whole lot of different things. Now I’ll explain so people won’t accuse me of writing all kind of things to the different forums and then only link those that were right (I’m not one who wants to win arguments when in fault). When Mythic decided to sell out to EA, I said that Warhammer would have never surpassed DAoC at its peak. 250-260k then. This was as a reaction to the sellout. I explained that I thought it was a bad move. Mythic needed money to be more “secure”, so they went with EA that was working like a guarantee and put them out of troubles. My point was that this transition also had negative aspects to not underestimate. One of them is that if you get much more money to make the product, then this product also HAS TO be much more successful. So if Mythic could be successful by reaching a certain target, with EA’s acquisition that target would become much, much bigger. It’s like as if going from 1 to 10 Mythic didn’t want to go through all the steps, but make a big leap and find itself at 10. I’m against those sort of things.

This year, in August, I got the occasion to try Warhammer. I was surprised, found a game much better than how I was expecting. Good execution, good artistic talent and direction, overall well done and strong in potential. Under these conditions and in a moment favorable for MMO market (no matter what you are going to argue), I thought that the potential subscriptions would climb from my own first “blind” guess. So I wrote on F13 that I expected it to be between 250-500k, with the potential for more if they solved some basic problems (irony: look two posts down and there’s another revelatory in retrospective question).

Well, not too shabby for a prediction. Four months later Warhammer didn’t solve those basic problems, but made them worse in some cases. As I wrote in various occasion I don’t think the game moved in a positive direction, but actually did a number of counterproductive and wrong moves. Pretty obvious that all the potential I saw wasn’t and isn’t going to be realized. The game’s real performance seems rather close to my view.

Today, it is a meaningful thing to notice Eve-Online is probably going to be more successful than Warhammer. We won’t know when exactly since we don’t have numbers. But it is happening.

It is also an obvious defeat for all those who thought EA’s marketing power was enough to attract the big numbers.

About showing numbers and naysayers: this will never affect the market in a relevant way. Sure, forum warriors use numbers all the time to prove validity of their opinion (I did it here), but they do not influence results. If there’s a site who shows a chart of a game population going down the game won’t continue to go down because of that chart. The numbers are consequences, not causes. So: fire all marketers, hire competent game designers with eyes that can see.