Here’s Furor big face, handy as a dartboard

I like to put a face on devs or people I know only through words. Not like it tells you much more, but it’s always interesting to finally see someone after you have passed so much time reading and discussing about imaginative figures.

This in general. Of course I wasn’t particularly interested to see Furor’s big face, but this is what I got today (assuming my guess is correct). Looking like a slightly oversized version of Clark Kent. It was somewhat amusing to see the FoH’s guys going: “Who is Alex?”

Alex being Alex Afrasiabi. No, not that guy in Might armor in the Valley of Heroes right outside Stormwind, that’s only his e-peen. This being the real one, Furor, former leader of the “Fires of Heaven” catass-stereotype guild and pensionate EverQuest ranter that finished to get hired by Blizzard. He is a quest designer now. Or at least he was. Maybe he got a promotion and joined the fun trio, or maybe he is just working is ass off to get there and command the team to replace the sun with his big smiling face during the sunny days in WoW.

And now we even discover that Foton’s favourite scapegoat may even be responsible of some nice content. UNPOSSIBLE! That’s one of the signs of the Apocalypse. In fact we know that he is responsible for everything broken in Alterac Valley! We need scapegoats after all. And one definitely isn’t enough.

Well, from this other report we can finally blame him about something concrete: “Alex designed the Dire Maul Tribute Run.” Wait. It cannot be. That cannot even remotely live up to his reputation. Honestly, I don’t remember anything in particular about DM North. There’s nothing about it sticking out. Neither good nor bad. It’s a fairly decent run, not too long with a couple of good ideas. If he designed Gnomeragon I would have to praise him but I didn’t get any particular feelings from DM. So there, I don’t have much of an opinion, you can have your own.

It’s also worth noting that the lead designer is now Tigole. What happened to Rob Pardo and Allen Adham? Good or not, this seems to be the new Blizzard. It’s interesting how the innovation could come from here. Passionate players with some crazy ideas and with almost no practical experience as devs. Maybe Blizzard dared a bit and gave these guys a possibility. Maybe the worth of the game is the result of those choices and not in spite of them.

You know that it’s what I would like to believe.

I’ll end with a quote from MIA Anyuzer:

The end result is this. Online, Furor was an asslord. A monkey fucker if you will. A loud mouthed, egotistical, over the top bastard, and hardcore gamers loved him for it. In real life? Probably has a massive amount of knowledge in his head, loves MMOGs (obviously to stick around for so long) and wanted to get into the industry. He kept his eyes open, saw an opportunity, went for it, and made the right impression. Now he’s involved with what he loves, and everything he’s vocally screamed about in the past is pretty much a non issue. Good luck man, don’t make quests that suck.

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Raph has the blog flu

Maybe you noticed but Raph is really trying hard to promote his new blog thing wherever he can. In all the forums I follow he went to ask some sort of attention (here, here, here and here). Now I don’t find this bad or something, but it surely looks odd.

You know, you would expect that type of behaviour from *me*, in fact people cannot stop to mock me when I link back something, even when it is in-context. But the point is another. Now Raph is posting restelessly on his blog, his entries took over my RSS feeds. So I wonder what are the real reasons about all this turmoil. Okay, I can understand that he has lots of stuff to write but he is way too restless to make this look just normal. Heck, now he even goes with the livejournal types of tests.

It’s nowhere possible that he’ll keep this pace for long, I give him a month. He is way too restless to make this look like a long lasting interest. He seems frustrated about something, like trapped or something.

I’m not sure if you understand what I mean. I’m not criticizing or blaming him. It’s just that it looks like a frustrated kid with a new toy, he goes all hyper and then loses all the interest two minutes later because he is bothered by something else.

So, just to make some sense, there are two things. The first is that I don’t belive that Raph will get what he expects from this blog thing and after a month we’ll see him posting every so often if not abandoning the place to just poke at it sporadically like it did with his previous place. The second thing is that he looks really too restless to the point that I recognize something of me in that attitude. And it’s definitely not normal. So there may be something behind.

Or maybe it’s just that nasty blog flu.

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Don’t do this at home

I cannot catch up with the things I should write. I have a “notes.rtf” file on my desktop that exceeded the 100Kb of text and it’s becoming way too large to even be useful.

So I’ll try to cut out at least this part before I forget it, that doesn’t require me to comment. A few couple of quotes I save from an interview with Jessica Mulligan:

Truly, my favorite part of the job is encouraging members of the team to exercise their passion for games by taking ownership of various pieces, then watching them and the game flourish as they build. I’m very consensus-oriented; we all know what the mission is and I mainly make sure we all agree on the mission, that we articulate it clearly to the players for their feedback and suggestions and then make sure the train doesn’t derail while we build.

Get educated. It isn’t enough to just get a job in customer service at game company and then work your way up the ladder while experimenting with different types of games. Those days are gone.

If you want to make compelling games, get a broad education in everything from computer science to the humanities. THEN go work at every job you possibly can in the industry – everything from development to customer service to marketing – and get a broad education in the business of games.

Third: Once you have that education and have some chops in the game industry, find funding and start your own company. That is the only way you’ll ever get to make the games you want to make, especially if you want to make something other than a horrid sequel (and how long will it be before we see “Killer Babes In Bikinis IV: Death Wears A Thong”?).

I guess this second part works as an update to this early post. Which also goes back to this.

I’m not really meaning anything, I don’t see a pattern yet about this. Just placing some points and drawing some links to see if they lead somewhere.

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Commentary from BlizzCon

At the end, and despite an early comment, BlizzCon was useful to delve a bit deeper on the plans about the game.

Here you can find three screenshots of concept art for Tier 2 armor sets that look a bit too much like Power Rangers. (mirrored at the bottom of this article, will be back in a few days)

And linked through FoH some surprisingly interesting and information-dense articles on various aspects on the game that were discussed during the conference. I don’t think we will get much more than that in the upcoming months and I’m also sceptical that those features planned for the live patches will be added in time as planned.

You can go follow those links or “read more” for my consolidated backup. (I’ll repaste it when the kids move on)

P.S. For the goons thinking I’m taking the paternity of what was written below: I DIDN’T WROTE THAT. Hell, I didn’t even go to BlizzCon. If I take informations from the internet and archive them here instead of just linking them it’s because after a couple of months I have the blog filled with broken links. To preserve the integrity of the informations I back up them AND provide the original links to the sources till they are available.

What the hell. Fuck you all. Get away from this fucking site. Follow the goddamn links you LAZY ASS.



BlizzCon: A Brief Look at Blood Elves

The new Horde race for the World of Warcraft game, blood elves, will become available in next year’s expansion, and it was previewed at BlizzCon in Anaheim this weekend.

A guildmate of mine pointed out that waiting in the 90 minute line to play the Burning Crusade expansion wasn’t necessary, since we could wait for two minutes at the Nvidia booth to play it there. So we did.

Pregenerated blood elves — mage, warlock, warrior and priest — were set up on all the demo machines at BlizzCon, and we each gave Blood Elves a whirl. Only one quest was initially available on Sunstrider Isle, although I suspect people before us did most of the level 1 quests. The one quest available was to kill mana worms — think tiny versions of the flying dragon snake thing in “The Never Ending Story.” But running around the island, we got to see hostile miniature treants, a banished blood elf warlock (hostile) and some small great cats, also hostile.

The blood elves are definitely not simply repaints of the existing night elf models. Their features are more rounded, their ears stick straight up, and their bodies are less muscular. All of their newbie gear has a more stylized look, including kukri-inspired daggers and swords, and newbie robes with gold ornamentation. They jump in sort of a flying martial arts pose and instead of sometimes flipping, they sometimes spin instead. Their dance is a 1950s style shimmy of the hips combined with rubbing a toe on the ground — I think that might be called the Mashed Potato, I’m not sure. It was too loud to hear any vocal emotes, if they’ve even been added at this point.

Their innate mana-draining ability is pretty impressive against level 1 and level 2 foes, but only the silence ability — which has a significant cooldown period — is likely to be useful past level 20 or so.

Sunstrider Isle looks sort of like I’d imagined: Take night elf art and architecture, rip out all the nature-based motifs, and replace them with a strong reliance on magic. Objects like bookshelves float or even rotate in the air. There are small translocation gates used to get around between floating platforms. Pet Siamese cats are everywhere. Life for survivors of the Scourge attacks on Quel’Thalas looks to be quite comfortable, even if they’re effectively just living in a small gilded cage.

The one quest text I was able to read specifically mentioned the destiny of the blood elves is on Outland.

Having seen the new race creation process through the alpha period, from this brief glimpse — only one quest, and I wasn’t able to get to the zoneline for the next zone, if it was even open, with a level 1 blood elf dodging angry treants — the polish and quality looks comparable.



BlizzCon: Rob Pardo talks WoW classes, up to level 70

Blizzard Entertainment’s Rob Pardo presented an overview of the classes in the World of Warcraft, addressed questions about what raising the level cap to 70 in the Burning Crusade expansion would mean for characters and fielded audience questions Friday afternoon at BlizzCon in Anaheim.

For starters, he noted that on “normal” servers, players with level 60 characters respecced their talents an average of 2.8 times. On player-versus-player servers, the average was 3.6 times.

With the understanding that talents are important to players, Pardo said that they would be extending the talent trees up 10 points, so that players would have to choose between putting their additional 10 points in previously available talents, or going after new 41 point abilities.

But those won’t be the only new abilities player characters will be getting: Look for new types of abilities or spells between 60 and 70 — “probably four or five new spells, per character class” — and in time, the team would be going back and adding more new abilities between 40 and 60.

Also look for more racial differentiation within a class, similar to how priests have a special spell based on their race.

Paladins wanting a break from buffing, buffing, buffing on raids will be able to buff all the members of a class at once on a raid in the 1.9 patch.

Fire mages concerned about the high fire resistance on many current raid targets (although Pardo said fire resistance wouldn’t be an issue in the next two raid dungeons added to the game, the Ruins of Ahn’Quiraj and the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj) have some help coming in the form of the Spell Penetration ability on equipment, which will allow a spellcaster a better chance of penetrating an enemy’s spell resistances.

And Invisibilty, a spell that was removed from mages during the beta test, will be coming back in a significantly altered form as a post-60 spell in the Burning Crusade expansion.



BlizzCon: Chris Metzen explores the lore of Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment’s Chris Metzen delved deep into the lore of Azeroth, Draenor and the rest of the Warcraft universe in a discussion with Blizzard gamers Friday at BlizzCon.

He started by discussing the just-announced expansion to the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

“It’s the proper name of the ongoing war of the Burning Legion to snuff out all life,” he said. “The Burning Legion has wiped out thousands, tens of thousands of worlds.”

The only world to ever survive being in the demonic Legion’s sights is Azeroth — and the world has done it twice now, most recently at the climax of Warcraft III: The Reign of Chaos.

“The Legion has thrown themselves against this planet twice now,” Metzen said. Recognizing their problems with Azeroth, the Legion is changing tactics as a result: “The Burning Legion is going full court press on every other world out there. And the heroes of Azeroth are being called into void to fight against the Cruasade.”

Although there are numerous other areas Blizzard could have chosen for this expansion — Metzen specifically mentioned Northrend, Undermine and the South Seas — the Burning Crusade’s Outland focus was chosen because it reinforced an important theme of WoW.

“At this point, we really want to stress that this is a cosmic conflict.”

(Northrend is also out for another reason: The expansion is only raising the level cap to 70 this tie. “I mean, come on. Arthas at level 70? No.”)

But there’s a wrinkle in the heroes’ fight against the Burning Legion. Illidan Stormrage, licking his wounds after his battle with the Lich King, has shut down all of the dimensional portals originally opened by the orc warlock Nerzhul to other worlds. Illidan is afraid the Legion will find him through the portals.

“We’re going to Outland to reopen these gateways and take the fight to the Burning Legion,” Metzen said. “Of ourse, Illidan is not going to be happy about this.”

Blood Elves were chosen as the Horde expansion race in the Burning Crusade because designers were thrilled with how well Samwise had redesigned the classic wood elves with the night elves. And they knew that, “one day, high elves are going to have to get a facelift, too.

“I don’t think anyone has abused high elves to this degree,” Metzen said.

Players surprised that the Blood Elves would have any interest in joining the Horde don’t know everything that’s going to lead the groups to joining up.

“Magic is absolutely corrupting. You shouldn’t play with it.” In the wake of the destruction of the Sunwell, the high elves of Quel’Thalas turned to demonic sources of magical energy to feed their magical addiction (which was thanks to thousands of years of constant exposure to magic, even for the high elves who didn’t practice magic themselves). But messing with “fel energy” is scary stuff, and it frightened the other races in the Alliance. “Dwarves and humans don’t want to hang around them. They’re not returning their phone calls.”

But the Blood Elves “could care less, they’re going to do whatever they have to do.” And thrilled by this new, seemingly endless supply of powerful magical energy, the Blood Elves have a unique take on the shattered planet of Draenor, now known as Outland. “They view Outland as an Eden. … Their homeland is great, but Outland is where their destiny is.”

The Blood Elves will leverage their relationship with Sylvanas, leader of the Forsaken and the former Ranger-General of Quel’Thalas. And more importantly, the Blood Elves will not come to the Horde, hat in hand.

“The Blood Elves are going to bring something to the table the Horde can’t do without.”

Look for the lead-up to the Burning Crusade to play out across World of Warcraft servers in the coming months.

The Alliance heroes of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, who sealed themselves on Draenor as Nerzul’s dimensional portals tore the planet apart — and whose statues can be seen in the Valley of Heroes in Stormwind — will play a major part in the Burning Crusade.

“They’re still alive, and they’re kicking ass. They’re BAD. ASS. There’s a reason their statues are in Stormwind.”

The development team also fielded questions from the audience.

The two Hakkars that appear in Warcraft lore was Metzen’s fault, he said.

“The answer is my bad.”

He liked the name when he read it in drafts for Richard Knaak’s War of the Ancients novels, but forgot where he heard it, and when it came time to give the Soulflayer the Zul’Gurub trolls worship, the name came right back out.

“That happens daily” to him, he said. “‘Dude, there’s already a Luke Skywalker.'”

Lingering quest lines, including the intrigue with the Grimtotem Tauren and the fate of the King of Stormwind will be resolved, although the team couldn’t promise an immediate resolution. But things are happening: The King of Stormwind will be gone from the island prison many players have found him in when the 1.9 patch goes live.

“We know there are some unfinished quest lines out there that we’ll get back to,” Pat Nagle said.

The racial lifequests talked about for each race before the game was released have been scrapped. The idea had apparently been to give each player a storyline that would take them from humble beginnings to heroism, but while the quests felt great in a single player context, they didn’t work when thousands of undead were dealing with feelings of abandonment, or everyone was searching for their long-lost father, and so on.

“We didn’t want to make this canned story for everyone,” Metzen said.

Players wanting more interaction with the dragons of Azeroth will get it soon. Anachronus, the dragon guarding the Caverns of Time, will begin giving players quests in the 1.9 patch.



BlizzCon: Blizzard surveys the battlegrounds

Blizzard Entertainment developers held a candid discussion of the bumpy learning process experienced when making player versus player battlegrounds for the World of Warcraft Friday afternoon at BlizzCon in Anaheim, including a discussion of two scrapped battlegrounds.

Alterac Valley was originally going to be a persistent — not instanced, in other words — and quests and non-player-character-driven content was added to give players something to do for the times when no one from the opposite faction was around. When the team ended up making the battleground instanced, the quests and NPCs remained, but Alterac Valley, as it was, had quests that took players away from trying to achieve victory conditions, had a high risk of player death due to NPCs instead of players and had several zone design issues that made achieving objectives harder than they needed to be.

Azshara Crater, which was to be the second battleground, was very similar to Alterac Valley, but given all the problems that had cropped up with the battleground, work on it was stopped, although its entrances are still located in the game.

Following the success of the “lunchtime battleground,” Warsong Gulch, which featured a PVP standard, Capture the Flag, Blizzard looked at using another PVP staple, single-elimination Deathmatch play. The battleground, Gurubashi Catacombs, was to be located beneath the Gurubashi Arena, in pens where dangeous animals were once kept.

But the 5 versus 5 single elimination match invariably turned into melee classes killing spellcasters immediately, which was great fun for the melee classes, but absolutely no fun for the casters: “Of course you’re going to kill the guy in the dress.”

The issue could not be resolved, the designers felt, without a fundemental class revision that would make every class equally able to survive an attack by any other class.

The battleground was scrapped, but group duels might be made a feature of the game independent of battlegrounds at some point in the future instead.

Learning from the mistakes of their past, Blizzard has plans for future and present battlegrounds:

* They are lookin at a variety of ways to get battlegrounds to the critical mass needed to start a battleground more easily.
* They are looking into ways that, when possible, the game will automatically match up opponents more evenly.
* They will attempt to even out the honor gained per hour in each of the battlegrounds, so that people will choose a battleground based on what they enjoy, rather on where they will get the most honor.
* Battlegrounds will begin to have some sort of impact on the world outside of the zone.
* More improvements to the queueing system will be coming.
* Groups will automatically form when players enter a battleground.
* Siege weapons are currently not being worked on, since they couldn’t be made cool enough, but will be worked on again in the future.
* General PVP changes will be coming later, with announcements to follow.
* And in the 1.9 patch, multiple battleground queues can be joined at once time, and those who /AFK out early will be assessed a penalty on their times for the next queues.



BlizzCon: The shape of raids to come

Blizzard Entertainment’s Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan walked BlizzCon attendees through the design process for raids, starting some of the basic design philosophy.

“Players are only going to level up, and we want to have something for them to do.”

He also took issue with the belief that many players don’t raid.

On an average weeknight, he said, citing statistics collected by Blizzard software, 250 instances are running of Blackwing Lair, 700 instances are running of Zul’Gurub, 500 instances of Molten Core are running and 150 instances are running of Onyxia’s Lair. And given that all of those zones lock players out from visiting on consecutive days if they successfully kill a boss in the zone, the numbers of people using each is even higher.

Other things Blizzard designers take into account are what each class should expect to be doing on a raid to contribute — and it’s not always the same tasks: Druids were consciously given a chance to use their crowd control abilities in Zul’Gurub, for instance. Designers also like to design with a set duration for an average instance session in mind, which varies with each dungeon.

He also answered the common question of why non-player characters aren’t “smart” and behave like players, say, by killing characters who can heal others first.

“OK, we can kill you at any point we want,” Kaplan said. “That doesn’t make for a fun fight.”

How many healers would be interested in coming to fight Onyxia, he said, if the first thing the black dragon did was to target and pick them off?

Going back to results from Blizzard’s software, he ran through a list of the deadliest raid opponents in the game: Since the game went live, Vaelastrasz has killed more than 24,000 player characters, the Bloodlord had killed more than 11,000 and Firemaw has killed more than 10,000.

The software is used as part of an overall system of testing after content is released. In-house testing, he said, could never be as good as having players hammer on content, because despite having many highly skilled players on the team, a cohesive guild that raids together regularly will always be better at handling challenges than a group of competent people who rarely play together. (Quality Assurance has a new in-house raiding guild that is working their way up through the content, however, to help improve the testing of raid content.)

The panel also previewed the next raid content to be added to World of Warcraft: The Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj (an outdoor 20-person dungeon comparable to Zul’Gurub in difficulty) and The Temple of Ahn’Qiraj (a mostly indoor 40-person dungeon slightly harder than Blackwing Lair).

The zone will open with a war between the Horde and the Alliance (and presumably the Cenarian Circle) and the returning Ahn’Qiraj menace. The war begins in Silithus, but takes place all over the world. Before the new dungeons are opened up, players of all levels will help fuel the war effort by gathering materials and achieving certain military objectives. Meanwhile, the uber guild types will be assembling a four-part scepter, which is used to ring the gong outside the Scarab Gate. And at which point, all hell breaks loose, and Silithus is consumed in a massive war. When the dust settles, two new dungeons are available on the server forever more.

The expectation is that most servers will accomplish the tasks within three weeks of the dungeons being patched in with the 1.9 patch later this year. On the off-chance the players on a given server have no particular interest in advancing the war effort, non-player characters will eventually get the job done on their own.

A brief run-down of the Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj was given, including a glance at General Rajaxx, the first boss reachable in the dungeon. Players will fight him with the help of NPC allies, and the more allies that survive, the better the resulting loot will be, similar to how the tribute run in North Dire Maul works. (The Temple of Ahn’Qiraj will have a similar event.)

Even more so than Zul’Gurub, the ruins will be a non-linear dungeon, allowing raids to pick where they want to go and who they want to fight to a certain extent: “All roads lead to phat lewt.”

The peek at the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj showed obsidian destroyers, and the first boss, the Prophet Skeram. The dungeon is huge — the map of the Scarlet Monestary library wing was showed beside the temple layout to scale.

“Scarlet Monestary can, like, fit in the boss room” of the temple.

They also briefly talked about Naxxramas, Kel’Thuzad’s necropolis floating above the undead-controlled city of Stratholme. The final fight will include a massive frostwyrm and the necromancer Kel’Thuzad himself.

The tower of Medivh, Karazhan, which will be part of the Burning Crusade expansion, will be a 10-person raid zone, probably, and one of Blizzard’s biggest dungeons to date.

“It will definitely be bigger than Blackrock Spire, upper and lower combined.”

Among the highlights: A fight in an opera house within the tower, including a battle on stage with a boss.

Also in the Burning Crusade will be the Caverns of Time, a dungeon with four wings, including at least one five-person dungeon and a full-blown battleground.

The Outland fortress of Kael’Thas Sunstrider, Tempest Keep, will also be designed with wings, and include a Molten Core-sized raiding instance.

In contrast, Hellfire Citadel, the prison where Magtheradon is kept, will be similar to Onyxia’s Lair, where players only need to dispense with a few “trash” enemies before getting to the showdown with Magtheradon himself.

And, of course, Illidan Stormrage will be the ultimate goal in the Black Temple.

Look for smaller raids in future rather than larger.

“We feel that even a hardcore raiding guild enjoys a smaller raid zone,” Kaplan said.

There will also be a change in the raid lockout system in the 1.9 patch, changing to a calendar-based system, but the details of what that meant were not clear.



BlizzCon: Morhaime & Dabiri kick off BlizzCon

After a horrendously long registration line — next year, Blizzard Entertainment needs to just mail tickets to folks, and if they don’t, make sure to get your tickets the night before the show, no matter what — Blizzard President Mike Morhaime welcomed gamers to the company’s first-ever convention, BlizzCon.

“Eleven years ago, we created the first Warcraft game, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. It could be played by two humans over a modem, and we thought that was pretty good,” he said. “When Frank Allen and I started Blizzard, we just wanted to make great games.”

Almost 8,000 people were expected to attend BlizzCon over the weekend, he said.

“So, on behalf of everyone at Blizzard, we want to thank you.”

He also had two bits of news. The second — that Blood Elves would be playable in the first World of Warcraft expansion, the Burning Crusade — was already fairly well-known via leaks from the international media prior to the show.

But the first was greeted with applause and cheers: The zerg will be playable in multiplayer StarCraft: Ghost, the forthcoming console game.

Shane Dabiri, the lead producer for World of Warcraft, then took over the presentation, segueing into a presentation of the Burning Crusade.

Like Morhaime, Dabiri thanked the players in attendance for making it all possible, and reaffirmed the development team’s commitment to content updates for the current game. Among the forthcoming additions to World of Warcraft were the two dungeons of Al’Qiraj, Kel’Thuzad’s flying necropolis of Naxxramas, linked auction houses “in every city” (at which the audience predictably went crazy), weather (“I’m not talking about Southern California-type weather,” but sandstorms, blizzards, driving rain, fog and so on) and more.

As for the Burning Crusade, he covered what had been rumored in light detail:

“You’ll be able to play two new races, the first of which we’re debuting today: The Blood Elves of Quel’Thalas.”

Also included in the Burning Crusade will be Medivh’s Tower of Kharazan and the Caverns of Time, along with a chance to face off with Illidan Stormrage himself, the main villain of the expansion.

“You get to go to the Black Temple and kick his ass.”

Epic flying mounts will be available in Outland, the shattered remains of Draenor. And they’ll be needed, since there will be areas that cannot be reached except by flying.

The new profession of Jewelcrafting, which owes a lot to the Diablo II socketing system, will also be added in the expansion.

“There’s just too much. I’d rather just show you,” he said, signalling for the video to play. (The video is also available at the Burning Crusade official site.)

“Blood elves, huh? I guess that means more guys playing girls,” he grinned.











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EQ2 character models going from hideous to ugly

Hey, that’s an improvement!

On the left the original american model, on the right the new SOGA models done for the eastern market and now optional for everyone:

Skintones still completely unrealistic, gouraud shading with almost no texture and plastic Barbie instead of Pongo.

As someone else commented: “Hello, wru art direction?”

WoW’s expansion further confirmed

On the FoH’s forum you can find a thread with the links to the scans of the 10-pages expansion preview further confirming what has been leaked all around, in the case you were fooled by the awful coverage of the mainstream gaming news sites.

No need to squint over the scans. Those articles are long but say nothing over what I already summarized a week ago.

What was interesting to read, instead, is some lore informations about the Blood Elves. The way Chris Metzen describes this race and its relationship with the Horde is in fact near to the thoughts I wrote back at release:

For example I didn’t know that the actual “normal” servers are excused in the lore, while the PvP servers are more ‘off’. The two factions aren’t at war from the lore point of view. Yes, they don’t coexist easily but the positive direction is about trying to find the peace. In this scenario, right into the lore, there’s NO distinct line between good and evil as alliance/horde. The horde isn’t evil at all, in particular the Taurens and the Forsaken (undead). To the point that the Night Elves could even be considered more evil than those (same for the Gnomes that aren’t portrayed as a good race *at all*).

From the lore point of view the gank squads on the PvP servers aren’t anymore patrols “to defend” a realm, they are instead attempts at breaking the alliance between the two factions, disrupting all the progress that was being made. Like terrorist acts to destabilize the situation. Something that I’m not sure the players are actually seeing.

Not only we have solid gameplay with each class working into its own special way, but even the races have back stories with a lot of depth that shape their role into the world and they are also not superficial at all.

They go right into the heart. Trying to reply the true essence of our myths. Civil wars, terrorist acts, heroism, peace, alliances, truces: the Taurens/native americans, the gnomes and their faith into tech that made them nuke their own population (Gnomeragon), the Dwarves and their nature to preserve and stay away from the battles, with a nostalgic attitude about the past, the Night Elves and their troubles with a world changing and destroying the “magic/nature” that they need to preserve so they can survive, the Orcs and their attempts at searching tranquility, in a dichotomy between a simple but rude attitude that makes them trying to go close to the peace they are searching and then ruin it…

WoW tries to shape and reproduce a long, long list of myths and archetypic situations. Even from the lore point of view it’s a masterpiece and does a lot more of any other game at trying to capture the essence of a fantasy world or also ‘why’ so many peoples love it.

When we firstly heard about the Blood Elves many players started to rant because they wouldn’t fit with the lore, but, in the light of some more details that were revealed, I believe that not only they fit perfectly, but they will also add a lot of appeal and justified controversy to the Horde. Metzen speaks of a “cultural trauma” that forced the Blood Elves to ally with the Horde just as a desperate act to survive, along with an ill-fated path with Illidian in order to draw their life source from demons. Their curruption isn’t blindly tied to a superficial dichotomy of good/evil. Instead it delves deeper in out cultural myths and how we perceive them.

The separation between good and evil is never so blatant and definite, “evil” is often the result of a compromise that just cannot be avoided. The most interesting evil characters are those that are felt “trapped” in a situation where they have no choice and where they need to accept the corruption only as a way to survive or even try to save who they love. “Corrupted good” is always more interesting than just straight evil and simply because it goes near to the real life and the situations we see each day. After all we love these fantasy worlds not because they are far from the reality, but mainly because they abstact and shape concretely (even visibly) those true cultural myths that strongly influence our life. Squeezing out the essence of the “cultural world” we perceive and within which we live.

Not only the Horde gains a graphically appealing race, but it also benefits from a further blur between good and evil. This faction acquires some more depth, becoming even more believable and solid than how it is already. From the perspective of the players more interesting to impersonate and feeling involved with.

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INFERNO – DAoC 2 is possible, here’s how

On the Vault Mythic asks the dreamer to dream:

Okay, here’s the deal. The producers of Camelot (Walt and Jeff) wanted me to start this thread the other day, and I got bogged down in distractions. So do me a favor and make the most of it, and give the guys plenty to read today :)

What kind of expansion pack would make you excited? Wouldn’t be until next fall, and all the patches between now and then are probably going to be small improvements/fixes/revamp/tweaky things.

Land? Dungeons? Cities? Races? Classes? What about atmosphere, quests, items? What would be cool for you?

Again, leave this thread to the dreamers, everyone.

Despite the fact that the line saying “all the patches between now and then are probably going to be small improvements/fixes/revamp/tweaky things” doesn’t put DAoC’s future into a positive light, here are my ideas:

Everyone playing the game would tell you that what would be interesting for the game would be about RvR and not PvE. Fortunately or not, DAoC was thought so that its RvR is designed more as a “virtual world” and that “satisfying repetable content” I quoted often in the last days. So the mudflation just doesn’t stick on it and thinking about an optional expansion for DAoC has always been rather hard since the premises of the game drag it in a completely different direction. In a similar way to what happens with Eve-Online (in fact CCP decided to not release pay-expansions but just work through the subscription fees and keeping to radically develop the game).

This is why the production of the game has always tried to find “tricks” to work on the RvR and still keep it free, like the “free expansion” concept that brought the whole “New Frontier” overhaul. Basically we have a problem. We need good ideas about features and content that can be added to the game but that would still be optional to a degree and not absolutely indispensable but at least desirable. The problem is that the idea of “content expansion” is appropriate for mudflated games but not to one where the real focus is the RvR and the competition between the players. You cannot offer the players buying the expansion a direct advantage over those that won’t. It would just break the game (the design between the past expansions always tried to maintain a delicate equilibre on the edge between desiderable -to encourage the players to buy the expansion- and optional content, sometimes going overboard like it happened with ToA).

One of the basic design principles that was behind ToA but that was also betrayed, is about the possibility to give some of the players access to tools that can then benefit everyone. Considering this premise and considering some humor about other problems, I’d say that whatever could be added in an expansion should NEVER be usable and useful for 8vs8. This to mark a line. If it was, we would just add to the game another brand new requirement that the players would just hate. So what would be left is the possibility for the RvR to develop something related to the keeps warfare or something related to larger RvR missions that could be triggered by someone with the access to the exp and then experienced together.

Another of my ideas could be also adapted to provide a viable and expansion-friendly further character development. While the possibility to raise the level cap (and creating enough content to justify an expansion) is just inconceivable for this game. It would just destroy it and force it for years to tweak and adapt everything to the new cap.

As you can figure out there isn’t much left. As I said, the game just isn’t suited to be expanded in this way. It needs a completely different plan. But this goes also beyond the scope of this article and I don’t want to go too radical and irrealistic. I will just have to find something viable, that doesn’t damage the game and that is still possible to package as an “optional” expansion.

The premises of my thoughs are described here above. These are the ideas I squeezed out:


+ Add in the exp pack a key-code usable only once. This key-code would allow a player to flag a character and instantly /level it to 45.

+ “The Evolution Server Project”. Transform the “evolution servers” idea into the exp pack (sort of a DAoC 2 built directly on DAoC). This would be a way to go heavy on the development and keep these servers as a separate project that can be accessed only to those buying the expansion. An occasion for Mythic to go back and solve radically the basic mistakes and offer to every player an occasion to start again (and, in the case they choose so, use the key-code to have a levelled up character and enjoy the endgame without really having to repeat the grind). I won’t go in the details about how the Evolution servers should be shaped up because it would go beyond the scope of these notes. But this is supposed to be the major content of the exp and not a superficial tweak to the rules.

+ (all servers) The possibility to use “formations” in RvR groups. These will be selectable by the group leader and will be triggered on/off just by /sticking to the group. Pressing a movement key would break the formation as it currently breaks the /stick.

+ (all servers) Follow and build on the Final Fantasy XI idea of adding NPCs henchmen. At level 20 the players will have the possibility to do a few duties for the realms (similar to the Chapters of DR, with missions based on the classic world) and receive a personal henchman (realistic or not) summonable only on PvE zones.

– These henchman will have their own classes based on the basic archetypes. All their skills and spells will be designed from zero and some can be “commanded” directly by the player (see below).

– An henchman gains experience and levels like the player. He acquires experience twice as fast compared to a normal player and his level cannot surpass the one of the player.

– An henchman can “respec” to different archetypes. Each respec can be executed freely but “burns” 20% of the current exp of the henchman for that level.

– The henchmen will have separate exp bars and levels for each archetype. So each archetype will need to be levelled separately or not at all if the player decides to specialize.

– This is also a chance to rework the AI of pets and the interface to make the controls more deep and interactive (like the possibility to “command” the execution of specific skills from the NPCs).

– The appearance of these henchmen can be customized, both in look and equipment. The henchmen can be equipped with the standard items used by the characters, special items and specific new items only usable by henchmen that will be linked to specific new quests.

– Each henchmen will be named by the player.

– Only two henchmen at max can join the same group.

(A note on the purpose of these henchmen: For a solo player, the possibility to have a bit more involving and interactive PvE and the possibility to level more efficiently, cutting down the downtimes some more. For the groups, the possibility to “fill” roles and classes missing from the group, for example to partially solve the problem of healers, or tanks, or whatever the group misses. The henchmen should never be more effective than a player playing the proper class and they should only count as a “half” player when calculating the group experience, so that the bonus should be inferior.)

+ Style redesign. This is an occasion for all the server types, included the Evolution servers to redesign the styles (both visually and the mechanics). The new style system would included simple “combo” skills that can be performed by coordinating some skills or spells with other players. These combos can also be used with henchmens (see the possibility to “command” the use of a skill). This change would affect players with or without the expansion.

+ Finally my favourite: Add INFERNO (all capitalized because it’s more badass). “Inferno” is a brand new zone, graphically similar to the “Veil Rift”, with chasms and floating platforms moving in circles around Lucifero’s dark castle. This would also allow to introduce a new technical feature: a physic engine (borrowing from Warhammer development). The physic will only be applied to the chasms and platforms. Basically these platforms can “bend” in a direction, randomly, because triggered or because of how the players are distributed (so that the platform will bend if all the players are in one spot instead of spreading around and distributing the weight). The players will have to fight both on these unstable platforms while facing the difficulties added by the physical engine, as well on more stable constructions.

– The physical model won’t factor the collision between the players and affects exclusively the inclination of the platforms. When a platform bends in a direction the players will have to move in the opposite direction in order to maintain the position and not fall off it. The different types of environmental happenings that the physical model includes will be: earthquakes (the player is shaken, making it lose the direction), dynamically opening chasms, and the inclination of the platform.

– If a player falls off a platform he will disintegrate. In this case he will reappear at the entrance of the zone at no loss after a short timeout (think to WoW’s graveyards).

– This zone has hard PvE content tailored for at least three full groups and divided into consequent segments. The players will start on a floating platform and will progressively move around controlling it (like a manual elevator or a flying carpet). With this moving platform they’ll access various points on the map where to fight a sequence of encounters and different mini-bosses to remove progressively the “locks” to the castle. Once the castle’s seals (graphically shown as huge chains attached to the castle) are broken (graphically shattering and falling down in the void), the players can storm in and eventually kill Lucifero in a final, epic battle.

– If a player dies or falls off a platform, he’ll be ported to the entrance as I already wrote. When there, he can have access to some sort of flying “taxi” that will bring him back to the main floating platform where the other players are. These taxis will be named “Charons” and should be shown graphically as gondolas driven by a masked dark figure. The Charons should speak through voice overs.

– Lucifero should be designed to be hard and as a very long fight.

– Once Lucifero is killed the zone will seal, porting out the players at the relic keep. The doors to the zone will remain closed at least for a week.

– The entrance to this zone will be placed in the center of Agramon.

– This zone is flagged for RvR, once open every realm can enter it, fight the enemy realms on these floating platforms (with the added fun of the physic model) and attempt to be the first to kill Lucifero.

These ideas would make DAoC stand out again among the competition and revindicate strongly its predominant role as an unparalleled RvR game for the years to come. The “Evolution server project” would be a way to appeal brand new players with the possibility to start in a brand new world refactored to eliminate all the radical flaws that plagued the game along these years. While the INFERNO would offer an innovating experience mixing brand new mechanics like the physic system of the platforms and chasms with the classic RvR wars for the ultimate RvR experience.

And let’s see if WoW can outperform that.

And to conclude I’ll also explain why the ideas I wrote here will never be implemented. Mythic is working on Warhammer, in a year it be in full production mode, while the playerbase of DAoC, in absence of significant changes and signs from Mythic, will be even more shrunk. Planning something daring won’t be considered as worth the effort by the guys at the decision-making positions.

What Mythic can still accept to “waste” on DAoC is the content team. A few artists, the quest team, a couple of new races or zones and so on. This is, sadly, what awaits DAoC, just a dumbed down, inexpressive support that is going to hand out to the players the yearly “sop”. A brand new weapon or piece of armor, a couple of minor skills. The actual “development intensive” roles, the production, designers and programmers will be busy working on the new game while DAoC will be left just to “train” a few new guys at a low risk, just to keep the game running and teach these trainees how the company works and offer them a chance to show their worth and get trapped like a “cog in the vast machine” that kills all the good ideas.

So I don’t expect much because along these years I get to know how Mythic thinks and reacts. Of course I would love to be surprised but I’d lie if I’d say that I think it could happen.

Again, leave this website to the dreamers, everyone.

After the War on Terror, the War on Pr0n!

Oh my god, this is hilarious.

I thought it was a joke but it’s on the Washington Post:

The FBI is joining the Bush administration’s War on Porn. And it’s looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau’s Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as “one of the top priorities” of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of “the Director.” That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Hey! I thought the FBI was just about conspiracies and aliens, I didn’t know they even surfed the web searching for pr0n.

“Anti-obscenity squad”? Wow, that “The Filth” comics (btw, a masterpiece) written by Grant Morrison isn’t anymore completely off.

“The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top priority remains fighting the war on terrorism,” said Justice Department press secretary Brian Roehrkasse. “However, it is not our sole priority. In fact, Congress has directed the department to focus on other priorities, such as obscenity.”

Obscenity? And who will watch the watchmen?

(comics, pr0n, computer games, rpgs, blogs. Do you need more geekdom today?)

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Mudflation as a mind-set

A precisation about the mudflation and the rise of the level cap.

We used think about the mudflation when it comes to the content, itemization and economic systems but we forget that the mudflation goes beyond these boundaries. As I wrote in the other articles, the mudflation is a style of development that affects the whole game-world at its roots.

In particular I have a quote from Shane Dabiri (a producer of the game) which is reliable and adds one element that slipped out of my previous article: “We do not only give the existing spells a new level, we create new skills and talent-mechanisms”.

This is rather important because the mudflation will have an effect even on those new spells, skills and talent-mechanisms. The idea of having more tools and mechanics is an illusion. The mudflation, as explained, is a progressive erosion and loss of content. Not a growth.

The idea of adding depth and purpose to the game is exclusively a pretense and excuse. It’s a recursive, blind pattern coming right from the game mechanics to justify themselves and excuse the waste of more development time. It’s like if at the origin of a project there were deliberate flaws so that the product can be systematically replaced later on. This is the awful inheritance of the consumer society. We need to EXCUSE the production of new goods, so everything is created to be *already* flawed, disposable and temporary:

Jeff Freeman:
We’re more like Sports Illustrated.

The reason why game companies produce expansions for mmorpgs *is not* to expand and let the game-world evolve. It’s to PREVENT this. The mudflation is a way to CHOKE the potential and freeze the game in a recursive status where brand new excuses (like the rise of the level cap, or “better” versions of items) are produced to justify the new “fix” of content. We consume these worlds till there’s nothing left and need to move to something brand new to leech.

This could work for all the derivative goods that we consume daily. But it doesn’t work for a world. It is not appropriate and prevents the games in this genre to fulfill their true potential.

This is why I wrote down that silly idea about “MMORPG design with an ecological sensibility”:

Mudflated games finish to become just patchworks of more or less successful development. In 90% of the cases something broken or terribly unfun isn’t properly addressed and refactored. It just lies there as a “museum” while the developers work on something completely new in order to replace that part.

This is an approach that is strongly deep-rooted in a CULTURE. We produce JUNK. Nothing is reused because we throw everything away and buy something brand new. It’s the consumer society.

I do not like this because as in the real world this approach is killing the place where we live. It’s viable only as a temporary solution. We live on a countdown. We destroy the world because we have the illusion that everything can be replaced. There’s always space, always an exit. If something is broken or has problem, we do not fix it: we throw it away. We do not face the problems, we simply dodge them.

We bury them like we do with junk. We hide.

Going back to the idea of new talents, spells and skills. As I said, this doesn’t represent an exception to the mudflation. WoW is already *overwhelmed* by the insane amounts of buttons. While this made sense to offer classes that have more tools to use in the different situations, the principle has been stretched too much, chasing the superficial idea that: more is better. Whoever played some tactical games and understood how they work, knows that the depth of a system isn’t just because of the number of elements and rules involved. In fact the more you add them the more you move away from a tactical depth to drift toward something way more simple: the randomness. When there are too many rules and elements you obtain just a system that behaves at random and that noone can figure out. It would just be unfun and clunky.

If right now the buttons and bars take an 8% of the screen, I really hope that after 4-5 expansions I’ll still be able to see something beyond the UI. Good systems are kept simple. This is why the mudflation will have to take over this part as well. Some of the new skills and spells will *have to* replace old ones and become preferable (something similar already happens with the trinkets). An encounter cannot last for an hour so you can deploy all you have. At the end you’ll figure out an optimal pattern using around 8-10 buttons while the others will remain as rare, situational quirks.

This is why the fancy feature list on an expansion box claiming “more this and more that”, is just another empty excuse to justify the expense of more money while the designers remove content and open gaps that you *have to* fill if you don’t want to be outcast from this game-world.

Basically you are forced to join to comply and conform to this consumer sub-society with the greed for “more”.

And if they do this, will there be enough Lv70 type 5-15 man instances to appease the general public? and if they are in fact locking us out of the older Lv58-60 instances, are they gonna become ghost towns? Like 98% of EQ’s contentafter 5 years?

Well they’re basically destroying what little content there is existing in the game, announcing it a year’ish in advance.. whats the point of even continuing if I come back 6-7’ish months form now, get the same gear in half the time and just plow through whatever new content there is at 70 for gear that’s might be worth keeping around that much longer =p

I guess what I’m getting at is that kills any sense of progression I’ve made so far.

This is what was concerning me also. If this is the case, why grind MC BWL and all that shit right now, when in a 1/2 years time all that shit will be obsolete anyways.

Algol Devilstar:
Why is this always brought up? Its called mudflation and it happens in every MMoRPG. Get used to it.

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