PvP honor system – Rated honor

News on the work, I’ll keep updating it in the next hours as I form up opinions.

Kalgan answers many questions about the criticized “Honor System” that is supposed to give World of Warcraft’s PvP a new depth. With the new informations it’s now possible to narrow and deduce a more precise model and see if and how they solved the most criticized parts.

My previous (strongly negative) comments are: here, here, here. Plus two solutions I suggested: here and here.

For how I undestand it the Honor Points should behave like a “fall off” on a equalizer display. Think to those colored bars on an audio equalizer that jump quickly as the volume increases in a moment but then “fall” more slowly, lagging behind. Or like drops of water splashed on a vertical surface: they quickly move up to then slowly glide down.

The biggest news: there’s a “rating system” that they are still keeping hidden despite it’s the main part of this puzzle. They never talked about a rating system before, nor they explain now clearly how it works. We just know that the total of honor points will be “rated” and this value will be compared and proportionally corrected with the current rating (weekly). The rank (so the relative reward) will then depend strictly on the rating.

(about honor “decay”)
This is a misunderstanding as to how the honor system works. There is no true “decay” there is only a percentage correction between your current honor rating and your new rating. This is because honor points behave more like a rating system.

Rank changes as a percentage of the difference between a player’s current honor rating and their current week’s honor rating. However, in order to give players a cushion for “off weeks” the correction is substantially faster when a player is increasing their honor rating than it is going down.

We feel that since pvp is inherently competitive in nature, the system that rates and rewards players should also be a competitive system and not another leveling system. A rating system helps make it possible for players that enter the game years after the system go live to “catch up” to other players.

The rest honor points system: Kalgan explains that each week a bonus pool will be reset for everyone. This means that *all* the players, catasses or not, will have a threshold of bonus points (probably letting you earn 200% of honor points, like the exp bonus currently in the game), once the pool is used-up the honor points will lose the bonus till the week after, when the pool is reset.

Now. What is the sense of a bonus given to everyone equally. Can it still even be considered “bonus”? While a catass will systematically take advantage of it, the casual player could even finish to not use it completely. So the gap increases instead of decreasing. This bonus doesn’t make it more thin, it works more like an “elevator” to bring quickly the players up till a set level to then leave them on their own.

The result is, once again, a confirmation of the two ladders. Till the sixth rank available for everyone, from the sixth till the last for the pure catasses.

The requested features that would make the system a bit more interesting are all dismissed at this moment:
– No guild ranking or involvement in the system
– No goals to accomplish outside the battlegrounds
– No public ranking system and ladders
– No dynamic rewards (like suriviving many encounters, fast kills and so on)

The biggest flaw is that in the whole game the guilds are still just a shared chat, a tabard and nothing else.

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MMORPGs will die soon – Part 2

The first part is about my personal consideration on the genre, in particular about the collision of commercial and design needs. This second part is just about an excerpt of an interview with Jeff Strain, producer of Guild Wars and Blizzard’s escapee:

Probably the reality is that we sat down and said “This game will not provide a subscription fee. Period.” That was statement number one. I would say that the design came out of that, rather than the pricing model came out of the design. What it comes down to is that we don’t have to try and find ways to keep you playing. It’s perfectly fun to have 70 hours of content which takes 70 hours to play through. If you buy the game, play it for 70 hours, have a rip-roaring time, put it down and then six months later when the next chapter comes out and you want to come back and experience that… well, that’s great. That’s fine for us.

It means you don’t have to feel guilty to be paying a subscription fee and be not actively playing the game. Another comparison is that Harry Potter books. They come out every two years, and it’s enjoyable when another one comes out, but it’s not as if you’ve been reading Harry Potter for the entire time between books. Here’s something I enjoy. I’m going to extract the fun out of it, and then I’ll do something else until the next one comes out… and I’ll have fun with that too.

I believe that it’s clear how this strongly ties to my considerations in the other article.

To underline the point I’ll add an exchange between me and Jeff Freeman on Terra Nova:

Jeff Freeman:
As opposed to pretending that we’re developing an MMO to last for a billion years, even though we know that’s not something that will happen, nor something that we even want to happen.

Why not? Tolkien has an expiration date?

Jeff Freeman:
We’re more like Sports Illustrated.

The title should change accordingly: “MMORPGs will die soon (if they ever existed)”.

Disposable worlds for the consumer society. We eat worlds.

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Parsing and archiving GameRifts:

Another One Leaves SOE
Is Sony Online becoming a sinking ship? Sean Kauppinen, head of product public relations for Sony Online Entertainment has left the building and moved into Kohnke Communications as an account director.

Deja Vu
MMORPG is announcing that Dana Massey, formerly of Mutable Relams for Wish prior to it’s demise has joined the news team in the role of “Lead Content Editor.” Dana used to be a fansite manager over at Vault Network.


Tyren says:

Actually, pretty much any idea I’ve ever come up with, they have thought of and discussed. Say what you will about Blizzard, but we have some of the most talented game designers in the world. :)

Meeting stones.

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Rhetoric in politics

Oh, I’m having too fun. Sorry if I pass a moment over italian politics:

1- Berlusconi starts a political campaign in preview of the next regional elections. His main argument is to backup Bush tactics and use the anxiety as a main scheme: “The Left” leading the nation is a menace.
2- Berlusconi is on TV. He explains that what is wrong in our nation is that it isn’t a complete democracy. In his words a complete democracy is a nation where the population doesn’t fear the other political part at the government. Where there is an alternation with no fears.
3- Berlusconi tells that this isn’t possible in Italy because the other political side is a menace, so not a viable alternative.

Now. I guess it’s obvious how these points are recursive and directly contradictory. He is the one to fear the other side and use this fear to mantain his government. At the same time he explains that it’s the fear that “forces” him to be at that place in order to “save” the nation from the other political part. He is a Holy Rescuer.

So he accuses that in Italy we don’t respect the other political part. But why we cannot do this? Because the Left is “the evil” and we cannot tolerate it. A tautology. You can only vote for me or it’s Doom. If you vote for the other side you are going to destroy the nation. A direct demonstration of respect for the other political part. He creates the arguments that bring to a tautological conclusion: vote for me because there is no choice.

He creates the rule for a democracy: a possible alternation where each side respects the other.
He creates the reason why the rule above isn’t respected: the other side is a menace, the alternation isn’t possible.
The second point feeds the breaking of the first rule: there is no choice, you can only vote me.

It’s like hiding drugs in the pockets of your opponent and call the police.

On the other side it’s absolutely true that everything that Berlusconi says is sistematically decontextualized and distorted by the press.

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In the Cesspit

In the Cesspit you go when you are stuck in a degrading situation with no light at the end of the tunnel. World of Warcraft servers are collapsing. This isn’t a news for who plays the game (I don’t have enough time) but it’s four months that these problems exist and the point is that the situation is worsening. What I expected in November now looks too optimistic even if appropriate:

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.

And the earthquakes are still shaking. Blizzard made too many mistakes that every player with some experience in the genre largely anticipated. Problems too important to not be considered but that today are deep-rooted and perceived as “features” of the genre itself. They become commonplaces like the “grind”, the lack of depth, the infinite treadmills, the commercial non-viability of PvP and so on. Blizzard was able to discard some of these but it overlooked many other fundamental problems that were glaring. Both at the design and technical level. I ranted since August against their decision to have local servers divided by timezones in order to offer the 24h clock, proper GM support and plan the downtime periods. I repeated in every way possible that this segmentation would have aggravated the load balance between the servers and during the day. In fact this was the first action that Blizzard tried when the servers effectively started to die due to the load. Two weeks after the launch, with an emergency patch, Blizzard removed directly from the UI the display of the timezones and asked directly the players to log during off peak hours or log in servers from other timezones, throwing at the same time all their plans in the toilet.

It was only the tip of the iceberg. The problems seem at the root and way harder to solve than expected. Blizzard is justifying what is happening by saying that the game is still selling (which is true) so the load is progressively increasing. But the real situation isn’t about catching up with a growth. What is concretely happening is that, as the time passes, the servers suffer more and more. Each server is capped. When there are 3200-3400 players logged in the queues will start. This means that the load cannot exceed that limit. We are now four months after the launch, the actual load during peak time is decreasing. While the game is still selling savagely the players logged in at the same time aren’t directly increasing. This is a rule valid for all the mmorpgs. When the game launches everyone wants to play, in particular if you have the Christmas just the month after. Some players will cancel for many different reasons and the great majority will still play but more casually and for less hours. It’s not a case that Blizzard reached its “record” of contemporary logged in players at the same time exactly during the Christmas. Since then the load decreased. The problems with the servers not.

So what brings to all the problems that the servers are experiencing now? What I suspect is again a deeper problem. From my tests the caps are often lowered on each server instead of increased and this despite the continue efforts of Blizzard to optimize and restructure their network. But optimization toward what? There is no concrete improvement. The european servers, right now, seems way more healthy and stable. This is another sign. What is happening is not what Blizzard is telling the players. The performance of the servers isn’t lagging behind an increased use and more players logging in, the performance of the servers is degrading over time. There’s a loss. This is what is happening. All Blizzard’s efforts seem aimed to stop this erosion and not to increase their capacity.

The second element was noticed by Darniaq weeks ago. The servers aren’t independent, they seem clustered together. This means that if a server is under stress, this stress is inherited by all the other servers on the same backbone. If one of the servers has a major collapse it will ground also all the other connected servers. The situation is: or they work together, or they die together. Now this means that the problems lie at a level completely different than “optimizing” and “fixing bugs”. There’s something below that will “eat” all these efforts because it progresses on a completely different pattern. The servers do not die because of the stress of the load, the servers slow down over time. This is why the european servers, that are only one month old, are able to deliver a better overall performance. It’s an aging process, it doesn’t happen in a single moment of peak. The peak times just underline the problem but they aren’t its direct cause.

This just to explain that, if what I’m seeing is true, it will be really hard for Blizzard to figure out and solve the origin of the problem. Even if the game will stop to sell and the players will play less the benefits will be again temporary. The ease is brief and the servers will keep deteriorating, just more slowly.

The rest is obvious:

Our first step in trying to alleviate the situation was to offer character transfers to reduce the amount of players on these high-population realms. The character transfers did reduce the total amount of players on the shared infrastructure, and we noticed an immediate performance increase. However, this increase only lasted a few days.

World of Warcraft is an heavy elephant. As I feared, the problems arrived after the launch. The game is suffering from its “tonnage”. Commercially it was an incomparable success but a mmorpg has to be judged in the long term. It has value in the long term. Not only the servers suffer from an overlook about core elements of the genre, but this “weight” and lack of flexibility is inherited by all the parts. Blizzard is slow to react to the problems, it’s slow to patch new features, it’s slow to communicate with the playerbase, it’s slow to plan ahead what will be the game’s future (yes, the rumors about the explansion are obviously false). In general they are slow to understand their own creature. They planned a “release” but they didn’t plan its future and development. They used an old approach during the development cycle that was able to deliver a wonderful game but now it’s also its bigger problem. Blizzard isn’t ready to tame this situation. They aren’t organized to build on this to let the game grow as it should happen in this genre.

What made the success is also killing it.

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Currently reading

Not Really Organized.



Yes, I know nothing.

(thanks Chris…)

Minor patch mirrored

Blizzard just released a minor patch for World of Warcraft to address minor bugs with the UI. This new patch moves the client version from 1.3.0 (4284) to 1.3.1 (4297)

This time I’ll try to save all the smaller jumps between the minor patches in order to not leave behind gaps that will require to download everything from scratch once the next standalone patch will be released. Since this isn’t a .exe to launch automatically, you’ll have to follow the istructions I wrote next to the download link.

As always the patch is mirrored in the wow-repository section, also accessible permanently from the sidebar.

No more lost patches and repeated downloads.

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A god is born. For real.

This surpasses all the news.

Sony Online Entertainment just sent notice that some poor baby has been named after a character in EverQuest. Apparently players really, really love this game. Case in point: player Tabitha Ayers gave birth to a baby girl January 6, 2005, and promptly named her Firiona Vie Ayers, in honor of EverQuestâ