Shake your booties, It’s unexpected!

So it seems that World of Warcraft is having problems with the servers. Unexpected!

Oh, the irony. Blizzard is fucking up its own localized server policy:

Right now, the realms listed in the Eastern and Central tabs of the Change Realm screen have large populations. To balance realm populations, we ask that players select realms listed in the Mountain and Pacific tabs when choosing where to play.

This will not result in lag

Weren’t the localized servers supposed to ease the lag letting the players choose the server more close to their location?

I repeat: this is a design issue. One that was expected way back in May, when I, along with other players, started to suggest various levels of solutions. Again in September, during the stress test, I wrote down a long post pointing out all the issues that needed to be solved. Proposing solutions to each. Obviously everything got blankly ignored.

I’ve already my own ideas about how to get rid of these problems and I do not accept when something says that they are “impossible to solve”. They aren’t, there’s only the need for better design. Better design that I tried to imagined for my dream mmorpg. Adapted here:

– Part of the problems here are directly related to the choice to localize the servers. As I (along with others) explained months ago this makes the peak times more sharp, leaving the server empty for the rest of the time. If the servers were not bound to a local flag they would have reduced the overcrowding problems by 15-20%. Both now and in the long run.

– When I say that this can solve with the design I mean about addressing the problems. My proposed choice needs a game to be developed in that direction but it works and adds A LOT to the game itself. Forever and not just on day 1.

The idea is about allowing the players to walk between the shards, as a gameplay element. You build up “portals” in the game, attack them to PvP mechanics so that you need to conquer power nodes to open the portals. Then you can step in and have your character travel between different shards.

Now you can attach three kind of rules to these portals:

1- The first rule is a threshold on the load of a server. So that a portal cannot be opened if a server is overcrowded. This allows to solve lag-problems.

2- The second rule is a threshold on the PvP factions. So that you cannot move to a server where there are population balance issues. So that we solve another long-time and severe problem of massive PvP worlds.

3- The third rule is a PvP-gameplay related rule. Just an in-mechanic that tells you how to play to conquer the power nodes and open the portals. So that you can use them as part of the game world and not as an out-of-character mechanic.

That’s my solution. The players enter the game in a random server/shard. Yes, you CANNOT join your friends. You’ll have to play the game because joining your friend will be part of the gameplay. You’ll need to take part of the PvP, conquer power nodes and open the portal to travel where you need to go.

Why I expect this to work and be accepted by the players? Because I’m not going to ask them to make a new character, I’m not going them to ask to play forever away from their friends, I’m not telling them that where they choose to go is a one-time choice that cannot be changed. In my idea you never lose the progress you made with your character and you’ll always have the possibility to join a new community or reach your friends or your guild. The difference is that you’ll have to gain that with your play. Inside the game. You’ll need to earn a portal and gain the possibility to travel.

Perhaps you won’t succeed exactly when you want, but you can try the next day, or the day after that. It will be part of your achievement.

Not only we solve the load on the servers, not only we solve the population issues in PvP games, but we also build an interesting gameplay structure which provides purpose for the game. And instead of having 41 undependent servers we really build a massive world where the possibility of interaction are endless.

Nick Walter:
That’s nice. But how does that solve the problem of player volume in the first week exceeding the average volume and therefore exceeding the available hardware/network resources? What you proposed is a rather complicated load balancer. One that doesn’t seem very reliable.

My idea works as a permanent gameplay element. It solves WoW’s current problem because right now they HAVE the power they need, but the players are ALL FOCUSING ON THE SAME SERVERS.

Exactly as a direct consequence of the local server plan. You CANNOT go play on a different server because you’ll know that you are cut away from your friends FOREVER. Can you see why my idea works? Because I wipe the “forever”. I can tell them: go play on a less crowded server today, because tomorrow you’ll still be able to join your friends. Without having to make a new character.

So, it’s clear till now?

Blizzard is currently swamped because some servers are packed while some are empty. My solution addresses directly this.

Breaking WoW’s forced server – How?

I’m going to list here my plan to make through this painful choice of blocking foreign players from World of Warcraft american servers.

– The first step is obviously about getting the box of the game. I ordered it directly through Gamestop. They shipped it in time and the box just took off from Paris, on a plane, heading to Italy where I live. Aside Gamestop you can try to buy it through dvdboxoffice (cheapest choice). But I don’t guarantee you’ll receive the box soon. I had both good and bad luck with them.

Then the problem is about actually getting an account. In fact you cannot use the “free” month included in the box without registering with a valid credit card. And we know that Blizzard blocks foreign credit cards. So, there are workarounds to this problem?

– The first workaround (not confirmed) is about ordering a gamecard. These are prepaid cards with 60 days of “play time”. It’s the easiest way to play without a credit card so it will be probably possible to log in the game even as “foreigners”. Both EBworld and Gamestop ship these cards but they won’t arrive (at the shop) till this Monday.

– The second workaround is by getting and using a Paypal account. Even this possibility is unconfirmed since it’s still not enabled. Blizzard announced that they are trying to solve the issues so that they can enable it. No ETA. Possibly “soon”.

– The third workaround is confirmed by a few players. It’s the easiest one but a bit more “risky”. If Vivendi goes berserk now, in a month or more you can finish with a banned account. It shouldn’t happen but it’s still something not impossible. The trick consist to feed the billing application with a valid australian zip code and obviously setting Australia as your nation. If all goes smoothly the billing process will digest your foreign credit card and you’ll be able to pay monthly as with every other mmorpg.

– The fourth workaround is about getting a virtual credit card. To do this you need an already working credit card. From what I understand you are going to create a virtual card on top of your real one. Then you can change the billing infos of your virtual one so that you can finish with a “faked” USA credit card that Blizzard’s billing process will be able to digest. I went through this and the process isn’t easy. After registering the virtual credit card the company will charge your real card with a random amount. From 0.01$ to 2$. You then have to figure how much exactly it is (calling your bank) and send them this info. This process is needed so that they are sure that you own the credit card. Once your real card is verified they’ll enable your virtual credit card and you’ll receive a new number and CVV2 code. I believe that you can change the “owner” behind this card to whoever you like (and so someone living in the USA, enabling you to get into the game). This is why you can read on the site that the virtual Visa allows “anonymous purchases over the Internet”. The card is also pre-paid. So you can set an amount of money you want to put into it and have it enabled to spend that and not more than that. I also believe that your real credit card won’t be charged at all till you don’t start to effectively spend the credit.

That’s it. When my box arrives I’ll see which one works. Hoping to not finish with a banned account and a lot less money when I’m just trying to play a game and not being a l33t hacker.

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Trying to “break” WoW’s forced servers

Posted on Grimwell and pasted here.
Note for who doesn’t know me: I’m italian and Blizzard has decided to not accept credit cards linked to foreign addresses. This is why I’m searching “workarounds” to the situation.

So, I’m a looser and I decided that it’s worth loosing money to at least try to get in. It will cost quite a bit but perhaps I’ll make through and will be able to play without waiting months. This because WoW is the only mmorpg I’m looking forward for a long, long time. So that’s it.

Gamestop was the only shop I found to ship outside the USA and in fact it worked and my box is in transit:

Nov 22, 2004


Nov 21, 2004

Tracking results provided by UPS: Nov 22, 2004 11:16 P.M. Eastern Time (USA)

Then I’ll see what happens and if I’ll be able to pay and play the game. The first thing I’ll try is to see if they’ll accept my credit card (you never know, perhaps they forgot to put in the block), if it doesn’t work I’ll try to cheat a bit with Paypal and see if I make through it.

If even that fails I still have a last resort. In fact I also ordered the game card box from EBgames which should ship tomorrow or by the end of this month.

This will cost me 130$ plus taxes (probably another 20-40$) for the standard box. But also considering that two months of subscription are included. I also wonder: I’ll be able to use the free month?

I expect that to use it you need to register the credit card, but then what happens for peoples using the game cards?

Anyway, it should work at least till the end of February, by then I hope to be able to pay following the normal ways. Wish me good luck :)

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S33cr3t sources

I have seecret sources to attempt another analysis of the future. Who will win between EQ2 and WoW? How they’ll affect the subscriptions of the other mmorpgs?

I won’t explain the merit of my conclusions so you can take all this like bullshit:

From what I heard and from what I see WoW not only will “win” over EQ2, but it will gain a quite relevant advantage. Both right at the start and in the long run. EQ2 will show very modest numbers (or better, it won’t show since SOE will never release the actual numbers when they could demonstrate a partial failure). The game will go on but without reaching the expectations of its management. This means a maximum of 250k of unique accounts in the short-mid term (till six months), but probably settling on the 200k line, more or less.

WoW will succeed both in the short and the mid term. It will actually do better than what I expected and imagined before, breaking easily the 400k mark when the european version will launch. The side effect is that Blizzard will have to face for the first time a bunch of “unexpected” problems, from lag, to collapsing servers, to exploits. This not just at release but also along its cycle. A lot of things will change in Blizzard’s attitude, both in how it works internally and outside with the community. Good or bad? We’ll see. It’s a huge mainland, before it settles down there will be some earthquakes.

What about other mmorpgs? Niche games will feel the impact but not so much, they’ll just have to face a downward flexion but nothing too relevant. At least in the short run. In the long run the situation will ask these smaller worlds to show some fighting spirit or they’ll slowly die. Not-so-small worlds will face a stronger, more direct impact, in particular because they offer directly the same type of product, which more then often looks already “tired” on its own. In this case I expect a downward flexion in subscribers around 20% for DAoC, the game I follow more closely. Other mmorpgs could show different results but everything will happen in the long run, slowly.

Future competitors? MEO isn’t worth the attention, same for Matrix. Tabula Rasa will show soon its limits and only Guild Wars will find a good place where to settle down but mostly as a side-effect of this genre instead of a direct competitor. Vanguard is still an empty envelope with a lot of mist inside and all the other project are too immature to be judged at this point.

The italian situation

I posted this on the DAoC.Catacomb site since the Vault forums are now heavily censored moderated.

The situation is more complex than how it appears. On the surface it is just another fraud story, one of those that made this country famous. The company failed and the former owner of the group is involved with lawsuits and frauds.

Basically DAoC in Italy was managed by decent-sized company called CTO. This company imported games from the USA and had a strong contract with EA to distribute directly their games. The deal made the company grow with time.

During this expansion a sub-group called CTOnet was created to focus on the online market. The first good and relevant effort has been about acquiring DAoC’s licences, localize the game and open the servers.

Things started to go “wrong” when EA decided to break the contract with the main group and obviously the whole company collapsed on itself since its structure was still strongly based on that type of business. CTO basically became an empty envelope and lawsuits with EA started (and they are still going on, I believe).

From there began a bunch of legal and less legal attempts to both save the CTOnet side and squeeze more money from the goons (both from the administrators and the players).

There’s a whole collection of lies all around. To the players, to the law, to the administrators. Not much that you would hope to “save”, it’s really so bad and dishonest that you would just hope to not hear about it again, wipe everything and restart.

Instead the whole thing keeps agonizing. The servers go on their own, without updates, without support from more than a year and half. Aside speculating on this situation and on the cheated playerbase nothing else really happened. Even when things were good the managment of the game and the relationship with the playerbase was poor, now you can imagine how the situation went to hell even starting from an already terrible status.

Unattended servers, lies to the playerbase and peoples and groups speculating on the carcass. You would hope a quick, painless death. Instead it’s going on and on, like the most awful soap-opera you can imagine. Something that, if happened in the USA, would make the news for the next five years.

All this while the players still play the full monthly fee.

I don’t know what will happen. I fled to the USA servers the week after the launch in Italy, one year before that this whole mess started.

Believe me: what happened isn’t a surprise.

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Licking asses tastes good

IGN managment is trying to bring back Mythic’s devs to post on their boards:

Little bird told me you would be seeing more of Mythic Staff soon, stay tuned for an announcement

How they will try to reach that goal?

This is straight from the VN TOS, I hope it clears up your question some;

Excessive Ranting/ Game Bashing (back)
Posters who we feel are here to heckle the fans of the game, make it their duty to “warn off others” from trying a game, or simply making negative comments on a game and its fans at any given opportunity, will not be tolerated. Posters are free to discuss a game, but if we feel somebody is taking their comments “over the edge”, we hold the right to remove their posts and possibly ban them from this forum.

The Vault Network is a fansite and these are still fan boards. Fans of the game whether they have negative or positive opinions are welcome. Non-fans/former fans that hate/despise and think the game is a “POS” or any variation there of, are welcome to move along and find somewhere else to be, as we feel you are contributing nothing to the community and are disrupting it. If you feel strongly about something, then modify your style so we are not dealing with flame wars all the time.

Posters are free and encouraged to use “constructive criticism”. What do we define as constructive criticism?
Basically, it’s when a user defines a problem, posts why they think it’s a problem, then offers a solution to fix that problem, then people can debate it on its merits.

And Sanya’s comment followed:

Plain and simple – some people have already made up their minds. They’ve said, in this thread, that NOTHING Mythic does/says will change their minds.

There are only a certain number of hours in the day, there are only three people on the Herald team – and there is no reason for me to spend time on people who say they’ve made up their minds. I respect people enough to take their word for it. I don’t understand why those people would still be here taking the time away from real customers and players that care.

There will never be personal responses to every thread and every email until there are as many members of the Herald team as there are customers. We try to read it all, synthesize the information, and present it to the development team. I wish personal replies to everything was possible, but it simply isn’t.

The more productive this board is, and the more actual customers are represented here, the more Missy will be able to post. I interact with hundreds of customers a day – this thread, and this board, are in no way representative of my players. My players are civil and well spoken, and realistic even as they dream.

The two messages collided. The result?
A massive censoring campaign spreading around all the forums.
Now the boards represent way better the community.

Remember: The reality is only what you can see. There are peoples choosing what you can and what you cannot see.

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In the meantime, in another country…

…DAoC hopefully dies. Yeah, in Italy.

“Hopefully” not because of something Mythic-related but because the company behind it is simply a stack of incompetence that you cannot even imagine. It’s from a year and half that the game doesn’t receive any form of update, basically blocked at the post-SI status. Well, some american players could see this as an actual paradise since it means no-ToA and no-New Frontiers but the situation remains pathetic.

With a message on the homepage they let the community know that they won’t accept anymore orders for new boxes of the game. Why? Because the peoples working in that department were fired during this summer.

The limbo goes on, there are just unattended servers with 800 or so players (regularly paying the full price) during peak time. “Communication” with the playerbase is something that in Italy doesn’t exist even in the dreams.

It’s impressive how long it takes a death by boredom.

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World of Warcraft beta closes tomorrow.

Blizzard definitely loses the possibility to show that they are able to hold the load on the servers.

Now dream about magic patches to solve-it-all.

Same fate for the half-promises about keeping the beta characters active, at least on a special server. Or some kind of different reward for the closed beta testers. Here’s what you get:

you’ll have the knowledge that you played an instrumental role in the creation of a game of epic proportions that players will enjoy for many years to come.

Knowledge for everyone!

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