Reviewing Guild Wars in a line

I have so many thing to say about Guild Wars that it will be hard to organize and write down everything. So this is a review in a line:

“Right now it’s the icon on my desktop I press more gladly if I feel like playing something.”

Ça suffit?

DAoC’s next expansion – spoilers

As every year Mythic is going to release another expansion even if noone feels the need of one (because the game needs serious attention elsewhere than adding arbitrarily more stuff). Target date is October or December as always. Let’s see what we have:

– Mounts. Probably just horses. It seems that they’ll be customizable to an extent.
– Champion Levels. Like the dreaded Master Levels (quest based), but supposedly doable with single groups and both in RvR and PvE. Five levels in total. Each level adds health, endurance, mana plus points to spend on brand new skills. Similar to the normal levelling but quest-centered.
– Champoin weapons. A last quest to deliver leet weapons with sparkling effects like if Christmas.

Obviously I’m unimpressed (even if this will probably be just a part of the content of the expansion) but also not deluded. I wasn’t expecting anything different, sadly. As I said it seems Mythic grew completely blind toward their game and this limited feature list confirms my doubts. I guess with these “Champion Levels” they are trying to anticipate WoW’s Hero system that may go live around the same period (but for free).

As a returning player I care less than zero about this stuff. What matters for the quality of the game and its health isn’t the addition of more plug-ins. DAoC has its quality and its potential in what is already in the game and that seriously needs work. If this work doesn’t happen or is delayed again, the game won’t go anywhere. This is why everything depends on what they are able to do with the live content. If they start to address more aggressively the problems, they can hope to arrive to the launch of the expansion with a solid game. If this doesn’t happen everything will simply continue to crumble.

The biggest mistake with ToA that caused the whole expansion to collapse was to plan the content without having the tools and a good base on top of which to build. So that content just become terribly frustrating and umplayable. A mix of horrible design and bad planning. The same happened for the boat system that still today it’s the most bug-ridden, jerky and unintuitive part of the whole game. Again because it was created on a system that wasn’t suitable. If Mythic doesn’t get the priorities of the game straight this won’t be anything but another clusterfuck.

On the bright side it seems there will be some work on the guild system as part of the live content. They’ll probably add a dedicated UI for it and carryable banners to provide bonuses in PvP as previously hinted (bah, another of my ideas fleeing).

But again this won’t add anything if the core problems will keep getting ignored and dismissed.

(I also suggest Mythic to give at glance to one of Darniaq’s ideas if they are searching for inspiration that doesn’t suck)

EDIT: Official spoilers were released on the European website.

EDIT-2: Follow-up here.

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Fuck the industry

It was a comment, but I decided it works as an independent post as well. So.

Jeff Freeman commented my accuse to the “industry” of being incestuous after I found out that Kalgan = Evocare, former UO Lead Designer:

It’s not like we’re accountants or generic businessmen – where we can leave a job in the corn chip industry and go right to work doing the exact same thing in the oil and gas exploration business.

My reply:

Have you followed the link?

That’s the “negative” sense of my comment: the developers go out from a door and reenter from another. We wonder about the lack of new ideas and different games but the truth is that the panorama is dominated by the same small group that keeps moving from a studio to another as the most natural thing in the world. Like going out for shopping. Every time there’s the need to hire someone the requirements become “closed doors” to everyone coming from the outside who could be able to express something different from the exact same screwups we all know way too well. It’s roleplaying a change because NOTHING changes at all. We just get the same devs disguised as someone else behind stupid nicknames.

More than a creative place it’s a fridge.

I’m not saying that everyone should be fired and remain unemployed, I’m not even remotely commenting the personal level. What I believe is that, once again, there’s zero commitment and zero responsibility in the industry. The majority of these devs jump from a game to another. It’s normal. Think what would happen in politics if something similar would happen. Yes, it’s exactly the SAME thing. Mmorpg design is politics for the most part.

In this precise case looking at the past helps a lot to understand the future. Games don’t have their own lives, they simply represent the people working behind. If the people keep shifting at an insane rate (like it’s happening at SOE) the game will just transform into a body without an head or a soul. Blind. Meaningless. Empty. Lost.

I seriosly believe in the importance of a solid, permanent team. Even if the worst screwup happen those people should be responsible of that and work their asses on it at their best. Not fired. Not replaced with someone fleeing from another screwup happening somewhere else. What’s this? War refugees?

What I criticize is this relativity. It looks like games are all equal, so any dev, flaunting proudly years of experience, can jump from project to project as the most natural thing in the world. As if there’s anything specific to what you are supposed to do. This isn’t “normal”, this is unbelievable. These devs become “gurus” with insane egos like Richard Garriott beliving their hands have a magical touch that can make everything great and wonderful.

Look at this specific case. This guy joined in March of the last year, about the same time when I joined the beta. Guess what? I love the game as everyone else. Guess what? The PvP system is the most awful thing in the game. Guess what? It’s not coming from Blizzard, it’s coming from an old UO dev.

For me *this* makes sense. The quality of the game begins right as you decide who to hire. And this crucial step is always fucked up by the choice of an infinite list of “references” (prides). Imho, those references should be the very first reason to *avoid* someone. Because you know what he did. Those references are *warnings*. I’m tired of seeing Senior Designers jumping from game to game and repeating the same screwups, jumping away without taking their OWN responsibilities. And publicizing around how they joined the best team EVER, how they are so TOTALLY excited to work on this and that. Hypocrisy. Just “words” to praise this and that in order to make everyone happy and proud. And warming chairs.

If I wanted to play UO I would have paid for it. Now I find the exact same designer on my “new game of choice” to bring along the same screwups I was HOPING TO FORGET. To LEAVE BEHIND.

What I would like to see is devs committing to projects. I’d like to see developers as AUTHORS, okay? I don’t want new ones to step in and invade other types of “narration”. I want SPECIFICITY. I want to choose what I want to play and I want THAT game to be the expression of THAT specific author. I don’t want people to step in and out DAILY. What the fuck is that?

And since I give A LOT of value to the work and expression of these authors I’d also like to follow them. Not the titles. I don’t care if what I play is Mythic, SOE or Blizzard. That means jack shit. That’s the superficial label. Any of these companies can fire all the devs, form a new group and still develop the SAME FUCKING TITLE.

This is INSANE, imho.

You can try to change restaurant but the chefs remain the same. Where’s the choice?

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“Evocare” is PvP Lead Designer on WoW

Nothing is more horribly incestuous than this industry.

12 March of the last year, Tom “Evocare” Chilton, Lead Designer of Ultima Online, leaves EA along with many other devs after the decision to close the Origin studios, in Austin. There were already voices about him joining the World of Warcraft team to work as a Senior Lead Designer.

Today Blizzard publishes another list of excuses to justify that colossal fuckup that the “Honor System” represents. It’s not anymore just “Kalgan”, it’s Tom Chilton. The image header reads: “Insider Interview with a Lead Designer on World of Warcraft”.

He was behind the most awful period of UO (Lord British Return, Age of Shadow). It makes sense, all the pieces are coming together.

Now tell me how can we be surprised if the industry doesn’t even offer NEW screwups.

I love Guild Wars

Pure love of the momentum. Today they finally enabled the Digital Download. This means that you can sign-up and get the code online, without waiting more than a couple of minutes before stepping right in the game.

CD-Keys for the win. Of course I’m faithful to what I said and I went to buy my key right away.

I just fired up the .exe file I still had on my HD from the last open beta in October. It updated itself to the last version and now I’m creating my account.

Congratulations to Guild Wars staff, it won’t be my mmorpg of choice but the execution is great.

Flawless Victory.

Jedi Mindtricks

This is way too funny. I’ll just steal the post from Grimwell:

SoE reminds me of headless chickens with wannabe Darth Cash at the ‘top’ more and more.

This was the ‘poll’ they conducted regarding the Station Exchange feature on current live EQ2 servers:

Apart from the illigible text (that was indeed a feature that got patched on some servers), the questions are not really approachable.

First question:
What do you think of Station Exchange?
( )true ( )false ( )don’t care

uhm.. looks like they let some programmer develop the questionnaire – true/false?

Follow ups to news

The first news is the destination of Jessica Mulligan. We know she left the AC franchise now we know she arrived at Nevrax, to work as Executive Producer (for a change, yadda-yadda) for the unhyped Ryzom:

PARIS, FRANCE – April 27, 2005 – Nevrax, the premiere developer of the ground breaking massively multiplayer online role-playing game The Saga of Ryzom, announced the addition of Jessica Mulligan as Executive Producer of The Saga of Ryzom.

A 20 year veteran of the MMG industry, Ms. Mulligan most recently worked for Turbine, Inc., developer of such titles as Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2, as Executive Producer and Creative Director for Asheron’s Call. Prior to joining Turbine, Ms. Mulligan held a variety of industry positions, including President of the Themis Group, Director of Operations for MM3D, Inc. and as a Director on Ultima Online for Origin Systems..

Maybe I could check the game soon but back in beta it seemed a collection of dispersive and ineffective design. Good premises but a complete lack of appeal.

The other “news” is again a follow-up to what I posted just a few hours ago as a warning. “Beware WoW’s battlegrounds because they will become another spectacular fuck up.”

Well, the first confirmation arrives from an official FAQ posted about the Honor System. This part in particular:

Repeated killing: you only get full CP for killing the same player once per day. The second kill on the same player on the same day gives 75% of the CP, the third 50% and the fourth 25%. Subsequent kills give no CP at all.

Ahah, have fun in the battlegrounds farming the same players for zero points. Priceless.

Guessing the Honor System and Tigole dancing as a clown

I wish I had more time to follow World of Warcraft because lots of hilarious things are happening. For example, one week after it went live, noone still is able to understand how this fucked up Honor system works. No, really.

My stats:
54 warrior – Mannoroth
1941 Contribution Points
1368 Standing
76 HK
Rank 2

Zergablility: 25.5

I introduce this new value called “zergability” and it’s interesting. You obtain it by dividing your total contribution points of the week for the total of Honorable Kills and you get the average of contrib points per single kill. If you have an high value it means that you are koool and skillful and artsy killer. If you have a low value you are a zergaholic spawn of hell. What’s your Zergability value?

But lets go back to the topic. Still today noone knows how this Honor System is working. Oh yes, we know roughly how we are supposed to behave and we learnt new exciting features, like the fact that if you do not pass a minimum threshold the server laughs at you and points you back to kindergarten, wiping happily your risible progress. But noone still knows how the ranks are calculated. As I logged into the game both the Stormwind and Ironforge chats were filled of fancy guesswork. Some believe that Blizzard hardlocked the ranks above the fourth, some believe that you need to stay at a rank for “x” weeks before having the possibility to step higher, some believe that there’s a minimum threshold of points to pass, some noticed the odd power curve, some thought about a mix of all these possibilities. Some also noticed that the levels of the characters prevent the players to achieve ranks. Even if you got the points you won’t pass a rank if you are below level 30 and you’ll also rank below an higher level character even if you have collected more points. It makes sense. Yes, sure.

Why the FUCK we need this guesswork? Why Blizzard cannot reveal the rules of a system we are supposed to play with? How are these ranks working? How will work the decay rate of honor? What are the requirements for each rank? What’s the impact of the level of the character on the ranking system? How the rest system of honor points is supposed to work? What’s the minimum threshold of points to pass to not have the progress wiped?


It’s simply ridiculous, unimaginable. You take the common sense and draw the purest from of satire from it. An hoax. It breaks all the basic lessons of game design. It dances on them.

Oh, and let me anticipate what will happen next. Because stating what is under the eyes of everyone is just boring and pointless (at least if you aren’t a wonderful reporter):
The battlegrounds won’t be the solution to all the problems. They’ll bring their own stack of problems (queues, unbalances, pointless goals, no depth, repetitiveness, lag and more). They’ll ruin even more the game, not make it better. They’ll be another magistral fuck up.

With fireworks.

The other topic is Tigole dancing as a clown. Before the patch that introduced the two outdoor raid bosses the worries were rather obvious:

Will players train Kazzak or Azuregos to towns and grief people?

Of course not. That’s obvious, it’s the first thing they made sure to not happen. Here’s Tigole:

They are pretty hard to train.

Yes, see Lord Kazzak on a stroll around Stormwind. On the live servers (Kel’Thuzad).

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