Posting the Wrong Thing in The Hive

So I created some mess :)

You, know, posting the wrong thing in the right place. The result is a lot of noise and the Shane guy to wake up:


In case some of you don’t know, I’m Shawn from the interview. (I lurk – that’s what I do.) Let me address something in the hopes of providing clarification on my comments before things get too much further out there.

When I said “possibly” as to when an expansion will be out, that’s exactly what I mean. It is an estimation on my own part – not Blizzard’s official stance. That’s not me saying on behalf of Blizzard “mark your calendars”. The release date is determined not by a game designer such as myself – I can only provide anecdotal information based on my own experiences. An expansion is certainly NOT officially “slated” for any time whatsoever currently.

There are a lot of folks working on the project, and to assume I speak on behalf of the entirety Blizzard as the source of information as to when an expansion will be released (unless I say “Hey, here’s the official release date!~”) is a mistake. It could be out sooner or later than what I estimated, or I could be the Amazing Kreskin and have predicted the date spot on. There are a lot of unpredictable factors to weigh, and there are plenty of factors that frankly I just don’t know based on my position.

Just know that we’re working hard on things here, and are very excited about getting some good stuff out to you all.

Thanks much folks – back to lurking I go.

— Shawn Carnes
Game Designer
Blizzard Entertainment

Since I’m the one to have caused all that noise I’ll justify myself saying that an estimated date from a dev is better than no informations at all. Everyone has the right to discuss this, loud or not, happy or ranting. The discussion is always good from my point of view and never negative. I already explained my opinion.

Now I wonder. When is last time Blizzard respected an estimated release and when is the last time they released a product AHEAD of the estimated release? Just saying. If there are confirmed and official news we discuss those, if there are rumors we discuss the rumors.

Anyway, I wish it was this easy to drag the devs also into the meaningful discussions. Sadly, the discussions between the players and devs are a thing of the past.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

WoW’s expansion planned smartly and slated for “late 06”

Taken from a thread on RNG forums (part of Grimwell diaspora):

What range of levels will the content cover in this expansion? Will it focus only on the high level characters, or will there be something for everyone at every level?

While the full range of levels is covered, it won’t be equal; the support will be proportional to the population of the game, so it will tip to the high end of the game (as most veteran players will be of high level).

Any new quest arcs will fit into existing areas and arcs. Since WoW takes players on a deliberate path through the levels in specific areas, any new quests need to take advantage of these areas and pair up with existing content instead of making new areas for the same level range and moving or splitting up the player population.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something smart and informative in an interview to a dev (I never heard before of this “Shawn Carnes”, he appears as a quest designer in the credits of the game) and in this case the whole interview is worth reading.

I quoted that part because it finally accepts concepts that I fought for in the past. And I’m definitely glad when my ideas can be proven correct and can be confirmed on a real game. In particular I’m referring to this and another post on this website. Beside all the lenghty articles I wrote about the mudflation.

Compare that quote from the interview above with what I wrote some time ago:

Right now “new content” and explansion packs are added to the margin of the game even when the “core” is still broken, not functional, unfun or unused. The fact is that this new content keeps derailing the development on something irrelevant. My idea is that you can add and expand the world by keeping a cohesive approach. To consider the game world as a “whole” instead of an amass of stuff you pile up randomly and that keeps growing without a sense.

Instead of creating new zones with new mobs and new quests, you can also re-consider what’s already in the game, add more paths and quests, add interactivity, adjust something that isn’t working properly and so on. With this approach you do not need a brand new zone with brand new monsters and quests in order to keep the game up to date and the interest of the players alive. The development can reuse, adjust and expand what is already available and add more “space” only when it is truly required.

(There’s also This thread where I discuss the same concepts with Brad McQuaid)

I believe those points are important and define the guidelines to bring the game more toward a “Virtual World” with its own complexity and personality instead of an enlarging stain of mudflated content that dries up and vanishes with the time, making the whole game progressively age and die. If they keep going in that direction WoW may have something to demonstrate even about its longevity.

But as I said even the rest of the interview is interesting. Firstly because it gives us more details about the behaviour of the subscribers (even more interesting today after this announce):

With WoW breaking every MMOG record for subscription numbers, what is the plan at Blizzard for retention of users?

Current retention is high, and I am more impressed by the low turnover than our resubscription spikes during patches. The WoW live team continues to work on content directed to the existing customers to keep them interested in the game. If I had to guess, somewhere between 15 – 20% of our accounts have at least once 60th level character, so the content needs to cater to those customers.

You mention spikes during patches. What are you seeing there?

Every time a major patch has been dropped for the game, we see a notable number of accounts reactivate. These spikes are easy enough to see and can be related to people wanting to check out the new content.

Then for some smart stabs at SOE:

Blizzard has no plans for in-game advertisements. They really do not fit the general nature of WoW. The development for WoW is, first and foremost, focused on the total game experience. What the players experience is our key to continued success.

What of real money trading (RMT) for in game goods? Has Sony’s move to launch the ‘Station Exchange’ caused Blizzard to rethink its stance on RMT?

Blizzard does not condone RMT. We are more concerned about the experience of the players than we are in expanding in other directions.

And finally a surprising statement:

An expansion is planned, not in 2005, possibly in late 2006 barring unforeseen chaos. Work is already going on for the expansion, and it’s going good. What to look for?

Blizzard is good at polishing what we do well. The WoW expansion will be like other game expansions in that there will be new characters, items, spells, etc. but it will have the Blizzard twist.

And yes, between all the good ideas, I believe this one is particularly daring and will indeed payback. Breaking another of those annoying commonplaces about mmorpgs needing an expansion every six months or a year.

I already explained on Q23 why I believe Blizzard isn’t and shouldn’t be in a hurry:

Honestly I’m surprised we haven’t heard of an expansion pack for WoW yet.

Beside the other reasons, Blizzard has still the single-player mentality and you usually release an expansion pack when the game starts to sell less, so you can push it again in the shops.

But WoW is still at the top of the charts.

And now I’m positively impressed. They are taking their time to plan and develop a wonderful expansion, built on good principles and without rushing it. Focusing the rest of the development on the live game which is what truly matters right now.

Good work.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Asheron’s Call transforming into a snowslide

Just a few days and the “sky is falling”.

It started on Thursday of the last week. Arthur_Parker links to some rumors about AC2:

Developers down to two, support slashed to minimum people, and closure planned.

Just from talking to people that say they know a turbine employee and this is what is going on in AC2. This is AC2 only, all other projects are running normally.
The bad thing is I have heard this recently from two totally different people that live states apart. Both just happen to play other games I play.

Then he links together two other rumors. One says “Farewell Citan”. The other says that “Perpetual Entertainment hired veteran developer Daron Stinnett as Executive Producer in May”. The company now working on Star Trek Online.

Citan = Daron Stinnet, I guess.

Later the same day, we discover that the rumors are true and that AC2 is done. Along with the game, Turbine is shutting down the studio in Santa Monica:

Turbine reps tell GameSpot the studio will be officially shuttered concurrent with the shut down of AC2 in late December 2005.

Turbine staffers downplayed the connection between the two bits of news, stating the Santa Monica office was focused solely on the original Asheron’s Call, released in 1999. The rep elaborated, stating all business-development functions had transitioned back to Turbine’s headquarters in Westwood, Massachusetts, months ago.

He added that all 10 staffers in California will have the opportunity to relocate to Turbine’s headquarters in Westwood.

Uhm, 10 staffers. I guess most of them left the building long ago.

More insights:

How many of them moved from Mass to LA last year? Having done two cross-country moves in two years myself, I know the financial havoc it can wreak.

Mr. Poppinfresh:
The move was two years ago, and was all of the AC1 team as far as I know. That leaves a lot of people holding on to mortgages by now, I’d guess.

Now excuse me. AC2 is closing but noone is being laid off. All its devs are now working on DDO or LOTRO. The studio in Santa Monica is closing too. But then the studio in Santa Monica had only 10 people left in it. And working on AC1, not on the sequel.

It was rather obvious that more was to come.

Firstly we have the confirmation that Citan, executive producer of AC2, is indeed leaving Turbine.

Yesterday, the news that even AC1 may be in trouble.

Sandra “srand” Powers, formerly a Lead Engineer and Producer, leaves AC1 and puts someguy called Alex “Ibn” Beckers in her place:

I wanted to post to let you guys know that I am no longer with the Asheron’s Call 1.0 Live Team. My last day at Turbine was about a week ago.

Before I left, the team worked out a solid plan for the future: Alex “Ibn


World of Warcraft breaks the 1 million mark just for NA subscribers:

IRVINE, California – August 29, 2005 – Blizzard Entertainment®, Inc. today announced that World of Warcraft®, its subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), has reached more than one million paying customers in North America. This brings the total population for Blizzard’s critically acclaimed game, the largest MMORPG in the world, to more than four million paying customers.

“It’s very rewarding to see so many new and returning players logging in to play World of Warcraft daily,” said Mike Morhaime, president and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “With the continued support of our retail partners, World of Warcraft has reached more than one million paying customers in North America well before its one-year anniversary in November. We would like to express our appreciation to both the players and our retail and license partners for helping us make World of Warcraft one of the most popular online games in the world.”

World of Warcraft’s Paying Customer Definition
World of Warcraft customers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or purchased a prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the installation box bundled with one free month access. Internet Game Room players having accessed the game over the last seven days are also counted as customers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or canceled subscriptions, and expired pre-paid cards. Customers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.

My comment is still the same with the difference that this time I’m really surprised (past considerations).

I know that the game is still a best seller but I was expecting the subscription numbers to remain steady or just slightly rise. Balanced by the players leaving the game (the game is popular between younger players, which I considered less reliable long-term subscribers).

I underlined Mike Morhaime quote for a reason. WoW is considered the “fast food” of mmorpgs but I was wrong to believe that this fast food had a short life. In fact I still believe that the game has an high churn rate (people unsubscribing) but this is constantly compensated by returning players. McDonald’s is a fast food and we can criticize it on the quality of the food, but I don’t think today it has less customers than a few years ago. As McDonald’s, WoW is now conquering popularity (and unpopularity) all over the world exporting its own style. A successful style. As I already wrote this game is becoming more than a game and nearer to a cultural phenomenon.

Half a billion dollars a year. PC gaming is dead?

No, just owned.

Psyae commented on Ethic’s blog:

This is it. Finally, Bliz cracked the code opening the portal to this nth dimension. It’s what the geeks, the nerds, the hackers, the power gamers, the entrepreneurs, the closet RPers, the closet PVPers, the heroes, the maidens, the X-ers, the modernized baby boomers, the quiet, the loud, the you, and the me can all play together, simultaneously, daily, infinitely, and get a boatload of pleasure from it without feeling ashamed that you spend more of your “offtime

Cesspit grounded

If you didn’t notice the site went down.

It’s “only” eleven hours that I work on it without moving my ass from the chair. I’ve done all sort of crazy stuff, messed with mysql, started to upload chunks of an old backup to see what exactly broke it.

Nothing. The site just didn’t load. Zero error messages and a blank page that didn’t even refresh without shutting down the browser entirely. I thought it was a security issue since I don’t update Drupal from a few months but now I believe the problem is different.

I deleted everything and put up a backup taken 15 days ago. The site was still broken.

Now I think, after 10000001 experiments and endless upload/downloads/dumps/resets, that something doesn’t work at Dreamhost.

If you can read this now it’s NOT because I nailed down the problem. This is an half broken backup that has at least all my entries working (not the comments, the newest ones aren’t lost and should return as I update the DB). It’s nowhere different from the version that didn’t work. What I did was to change the configuration from php 4 to php 5 and CGI.

And it seems to work even if I cannot pass the right parameters through the .htaccess (like to keep alive the sessions and cookies).

So expect the site to not work. I hope someone at Dreamhost figures out what stopped to work or I’ll have to start building the PHP locally. And I really don’t want to mess with that.

Enjoy this temporary version.

EDIT – The site is back to its last backup and “should” work. If it doesn’t it could be because I’m messing with it or because I just cannot be lucky and more problems must arise. Since it is using another configuration the sesssions will be messed and the site will log out registered users after half an hour. If Dreamhost doesn’t figure out the problem it will stay. I just cannot do anything about it if I cannot pass the parameters through the .htaccess

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

The steam Turbine

After about three years from launch, Asheron’s Call 2 is finally done:

Dear AC2 subscribers,

In spite of our hard work and the launch of Legions, AC2 has reached the point where it no longer makes sense to continue the service. We will be officially closing the Asheron’s Call 2 service on 12/30/05. Until then, we plan to run live events, but we will not be adding any content or features.

We deeply appreciate the many dedicated fans of AC2 who have stood by us over the years. You have our sincerest gratitude.

Best regards,

Jeffrey Anderson
CEO, Turbine

We could argue again about MMORPGs life cycles but the truth is that this one was already dead the first day of release. “Mmorpg sequels are dumb”.

Calandryll succintly commented at Corpnews:

Not really much more to say. Nobody on AC2 was laid off, they’re on other projects (DDO and LOTRO) now. AC1 devs have all been given the option to move to Mass.

Obviously this is a difficult time for a lot of people and our first priority is helping out our friends in CA.

The first and only expansion (Legions) was released just this May, probably as the last attempt to see if there was something to save or not. There wasn’t much, of course.

One month after the expansion Turbine got even more founding. With two failures (as of today) on two released products and two upcoming projects based on popular IPs (Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons) I’m looking forward to more fireworks and even more spectacular failures.

As noted on QT3 the first thing you see on the front page is a free month for old players. Without a notice about the shutdown.

Eve-Online growing some more


From the boards:

“Due to the efforts of the Marketing team, magazines and player recommendations, EVE now has over 65k active accounts and close to another 15k on trial.

We are on track for over 75k active accounts before the end of the year.”

Actually I’m starting to believe that they are pushing the marketing right now at its best and they cannot keep this pace for too long. A slow, steady growth is still possible, though and it will just do good to the game in the long term.

As long they keep working on the game as they are doing now.

Waving Anyuzer like a shredded flag

See Lum waving Anyuzer like a flag. Whatever he says is True. And deserves reblogs.

So why can’t I do the same?

Then there are the designers. From my own personal experience, these guys are also just people who somehow fell into their job (usually from ‘QA’ as well, which, I have to admit, seems like a piss poor place to pull designers from in my opinion). They don’t really understand the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ of what makes games work. If you mention ‘player psychology’ to them, they’ll usually blink vacantly at you and reply with something like: “Is that, like, a rock group or something?”

Let’s dig something old?

The problem is that game design is what everyone wants to do (or more accurately everyone thinks they can do) so most companies hire internally for that sort of thing. Your best bet is to get an entry level job (CS, QA, whatever) and work your way up, but be aware that all your coworkers are trying to do the same thing.

What he said. Support jobs are an easy way to prove your sentience — in CS and QA, you have plenty of opportunities to suggest solutions to the problems you report, and if they’re good, somebody will notice.

Barring that, trust me, the cream rises to the crop in this industry really well, especially in larger studios. If you are the best CS or QA person in your division, you will get noticed eventually. On UO2, we promoted at least 3 people from below to worldbuilding and data positions from CS and QA. John Hanna and Carly Staehlin both got lead design positions that started from being top-notch community people.

Depends on how flexibly you define “game design”. Mythic hires most of their content team, world builders and the like, from their CS team. For that matter, I think two of the three people who filled my slots at Mythic after I left started in CS.

Positions in CS, QA – even art and programming – are the best ways to demonstrate your worth. If you’re cut out to be a designer, a (good) company will definately notice it and you’ll get there.

We have VIPs there. Instead I agree with Anyuzer. I’m pointing at the same problem from a long time, even without being there and experience it in the first person. If I quote him it’s not to jump on his bandwagon and make his wit, my own.

The summary of what Anyuzer says is rather simple: wrong people in wrong places.

Or you do agree, or you don’t. Not both. And Megyn said it better.

I also believe that there are more problems deeper than that but that only come as a consequences. From the descriptions I hear there is no true and positive cooperation between the different developers and everyone works into tightly defined compartments, knowing nothing of what the other guy next to him is doing. Even in the disposition of the work spaces everyone is closed in his own little cubicle, peeking out only when called. It’s rather obvious that nothing can work with these premises. It’s not surprising that if a good game comes out of this insane, unbelievable process, it is seen as a miracle.

It *IS* a miracle.

Posted in: Uncategorized |