Haemish writes a good rant

Not much to say beside the title. I completely agree with what he says.

But what Mr. Brown seems to be advocating here is similar to the douchebaggery exhibited by Brad McQuaid in his recent f13.net interview about the failures of Vanguard. Both seem to be saying that publishers should just give them one gigantic barrel of money to start with and then leave them alone until the game is done. Milestones, benchmarks, deadlines are BAD for MMOG development because they unnecessarily hamper the development process. This is horseshit, of course.

But the real important point is that the lesson devs seem to learn from failed projects are always the stupid ones. The blame is always on lack of time and lack of money. And WoW provided the perfect excuse for everyone to hide behind.

More money. More time. Even if the design doc was shit from day one or never ever completed.

Imho, some things have to be chopped off sooner than later. Not overstretched indefinitely when it’s already obvious that it isn’t going anywhere and that the premises are all wrong. That’s how you learn. By reacting instead of drifting indefinitely. By facing the truth instead of delaying betas and releases over and over because you fear of getting burned.

Read it!

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Return of the Crimson Guard – Reviews & Interviews

One downside of reading Steven Erikson is that I don’t have anymore the excitement and curiosity of what to read next, as I have a (growing) pile of books still to read and I know it’s better that I don’t let pass time between each to not risk getting lost and enjoy all the details and layers.

This means that I wait eagerly for all new Malazan things. I wish a review for “Toll the Hounds” would come soon to give me at least an idea about where it sits in the series (from quality point of view), but no review on the horizon. In the meantime we got more infos about Esslemont’s second book, whose wonderful cover is on the left, but just for the expensive collector edition.

There’s an interview with the author discussing some interesting things, but that I had to skip here and there to avoid spoilers. It also gives more details about the correct reading order:

The events occur just before Steve’s Toll the Hounds and relatively soon after The Bonhunters. Unforunately, due to timing, Steve’s Toll comes out just before Return – rather than the reverse. It would be better had Return preceeded Toll, but that’s just how things turned out given my coming into all this later than we both had wanted originally.

And something about the next book planned:

The third novel deals with the over-reach of the Malazan occupation of Korel lands to the south of Quon. After internal reordering the empire turns its attention, and resources, to this drain on its treasure and blood. Currently I’m just getting into it – the writing is slow in that I’m trying to learn from my experiences with both prior novels and adjust accordingly (fan feedback helps here!).

This left me doubtful. He wrote ROTCG for at least two years, and it was already completed in an early form even before “Gardens of the Moon” was published (so very long ago). So the next book will likely arrive for 2010 or later. And by that year Erikson should be done on his own side. In previous interviews Esslemont said he had a plan of five novels in the Malazan world:

1) Night of Kinves – About Dancer and Kallanved’s assassination
2) Return of The Crimson Guard – About the invasion of the Crimson Guard to Quon Tali
3) Stonewielder (working title) – About the Korel campaigns
4) ? – About a return to Darujhistan
5) ? – The epilogue to Erikson’s last book

And he also said that the fifth book may even split in two… In order for this to work Esslemont should start working on the fifth volume as close as possible to Erikson’s last. So what will happen to everything in between? Maybe the return to Darujhistan was integrated with “Toll the Hounds”?

Sure is that the Malazan project is truly massive. With the downside that the authors may feel bored or demotivated and not complete it. Let’s hope the enthusiasm sticks.

Finally, about ROTCG we’ve got two reviews. One from Pat, the other from Dancer on the forums.

Fattest epic fantasy series just gets fatter

Transword just put up the page for “Toll The Hounds”. Eighth book in the Malazan series, for a total of ten planned.

Official page count for this one (hardcover) is… 944 pages.

Wow. It means that if they stick to the same typeset it’s the biggest book in the whole series. They keep growing and growing…

Bonehunters was 912 (1232 massmarket), Reaper’s Gale 928 (1280 massmarket).

This one risks to break the 1300 pages in mass market.

Can only be good. More to read for me for something that I like more and more (300 pages into Deadhouse Gates, the more I like it, the slower I go). With the hope that the quality stays up and the writing doesn’t become “perfunctory”. For sure the writing in the second book isn’t. Topmost quality.

One wonders if Steven Erikson is human. 1300 pages again written in about ten months. He keeps the pace and never delays. At this point of the year it’s fair to guess he is already 2/3 into the ninth book. And that means he’s almost done. Not only he is one of the few who’s going to actually complete what he planned. But he also planned it so large that he’ll probably stays in history unsurpassed.

In the meantime we also got a first version of another of those illustrations that will go into “Gardens of the Moon” collector edition:

A few imprecisions. If I remember correctly there were absolutely no trees in the area, and Quick Ben is a black man.

You can see Hairlock in the ground, missing his lower body. Quick Ben, the mage, in the center, with the puppet wrapped up in his hands, Wiskeyjack on the right, Kalam on the left, and Sorry in the background. Pat should put a bigger version on his blog later.

PvP rule number one

Just to reiterate:

Systems like PvP escalate and specialize over time. This always means that it gets harder and harder for new players to breach in easily.

Veterans will find ways to stay IN the system, by consolidating their victory margins.

My point is: you need a PvP system that keeps entry costs low *for noobs*.

Where instead Eve-Online’s PvP lowers costs for veterans and makes them higher for noobs (as you are “paid” only when you are moving toward a decent victory ratio).

You absolutely need, in order to make it viable, a system that leverages new players.

Discussing all this I think: why I have to repeat these basic lessons all over again? Because we’ve been through this.

Blizzard, with WoW, already put in practice that rule in a perfect way. PvP is accessible to everyone and maintains low entry costs. So we are already there.

But that’s counterbalanced by the fact that WoW’s PvP is shallow and lacking any depth due to the overall layer being completely absent. Not the meaningfulness of the death penalties, but that of the conquest system and overall cooperation toward communal goals and a degree of persistence.

WoW got one part. Eve-Online has the other.

We got 1 and 1 in two different games. And we need someone who can do a 1 + 1.


PvP design philosophy

Discussing on the forums the Factional Warfare concept that I criticized here revealed something rather important: I’m ranting about a game that I don’t play.

Moreover, I’m ranting simply because CCP design didn’t follow my own expectations and desires. And obviously CCP isn’t my property and what I personally think doesn’t matter.

So: I’m ranting because an hardcore game is made for its audience, and not for me.

Sure. I anticipated this and explained my reasons on the first post I wrote recently. Where I wrote that my opinion is that Eve-Online has reached its critical mass and if they now want new players they need to start open up their systems. Bridging the early (and dull) game to the more deep stuff.

Factional Warfare isn’t doing that, and I ranted.

This also raised again the idea of a PvP design philosophy. A concept that I would like to see in at least ONE game. But that right now is completely absent from the market.

Which would be then meaningful only if there would be a big market for it. I believe there is. And that it is commercially BIGGER than what we have currently (for PvP). So: design philosophy and personal opinions. Personal opinions that matter not because *I* write them, but because when I write them I also *motivate* them.

This PvP design philosophy is about the progression system. Every decent system needs a progression. And every decent progression needs to be accessible. So that everyone can move through. More slowly or faster, but still move through.

Translating this to PvP simply means: PvP will NEVER be accessible and widespread if it works at a loss. So this is how it should work: if you want a system where PvP is more frequent and fun, then you need a system where people can participate without losing more they can gain.

In a system where the experienced players are MUCH, MUCH powerful than new people who enter for the first time, you need some mechanic to leverage them. Especially in the longer term, when people who are already inside become more and more powerful and the wall to climb for the new players higher and higher. In Eve it doesn’t matter if there’s a corp who decides to take over, new players won’t have a chance if they enter a system where EVERYONE is more powerful than they are.

For PvP to work and be popular and widespread entry costs need to stay low. As low as possible.

In Eve-Online and other “hardcore” PvP games the costs are instead higher to the lower end than the higher end, where you can develop a fair margin of wealth to stay safe. Noobs pay higher costs than veterans. And this creates a gap between players that is harder and harder to fill, in a similar fashion to what happens with PvE raiding endgame. The game becomes increasingly specialized and less and less appealing and accessible for new players. That for a MMO equals to a progressive, unavoidable decline.

So: a PvP system with very low entry costs and at a gain. Where you gain through participation. Progressively.

In EVERY game and PvP systems you die a lot when you enter for the first time. In Eve-Online not only you would die a lot, but you’ll also PAY a lot. So a lot of players shy away because the game isn’t for them, while a smaller subset cling to the mechanic and find an exponential success, because once you climb the wall you can look down at things from far above. And it is rewarding.

But it’s also an overall mechanic that is divisive and that works only toward a minority. A minority that will be eroded over time.

This means it is a choice, and that there’s nothing wrong to make a game that aims at a niche. But you also have to recognize and admit what you’re doing.

I’m not fighting against the idea that hardcore players shouldn’t have their game. But that PvP can be both deep and accessible. And I want to play that game. And I believe it would be extremely successful.

I don’t like the idea that I have to grind boring PvE missions for a week so that I’m able to participate in PvP for an hour. PvE should never be a requirement so that you can enjoy some PvP. I want a PvP system where participation costs are LOWER than the rewards. So that I can stick to it and continue to play and have fun. Without punishing mechanics to push me to the lowest risks.

These are the points I’ve offered for Eve:
* Open/factional PvP should be limited to SPECIFIC battleground systems tagged for Factional Warfare. While secure space should stay secure even if you are signed in.
* Within these tagged systems NPC factions should provide you the “gear” to use. Gain ranks to get access to better gear/PvP sets. If you blow up, you get replacements. As long you fight for them. (free participation costs)
* Forbid players to bring NPC-rented equipment outside battleground systems. So that the gear you gain can only be used inside this system. (not disrupting the current game)
* Forbid you to swap sets. So that you are only able to fly in NPC-rent sets, and not bring a goddamned Titan to a noob battleground.

The last point would allow these battles to be accessible to everyone, both noobs and hardcore, and yet provide equal opportunities as no one gets access to more powerful stuff.

That’s how you “train” people to PvP. By making it fun, accessible and frequent.

To these proposals some players replied that the PvP would lose all “meaningfulness” if you don’t risk to lose anything anymore. To that I replied that for me “meaningful PvP” is about communal objectives. Conquering and holding public space, expanding the empire.

I don’t intend and don’t like “meaningful” as a personal cost.

With that, I hope the argument is exhausted in all its points.

– lowering entry costs
– provide plenty of targets
– create a convergence
– add a strategic communal layer (conquest mode)

Factional Warfare further down the drain

More dev blogs arrived and they didn’t reassure of the situation, they made it, if possible, worse.

Factional Warfare is then nothing even close to make PvP more fun and accessible, it’s a way to PRETEND to do it. It works when it will be time to spread around banner ads for the game.

I was worried that the system allowed gankers to finally be able to gank everywhere in space as long their targets were in one of the three enemy factions (which is confirmed), now we learn that not only by enlisting you sign the right to be ganked everywhere, but EVEN NPCs HUNT YOU.

You’ll also find that, as a fully paid-up militia member, hostile factions won’t like you all that much. If, as an Amarr Militia member, I venture into Rens, the Republic Navy is going to try its hardest to clear me out. Be aware though! The Navies have finally twigged that two frigates and a cruiser aren’t really a significant threat these days, so they’ve upgraded their rapid response teams. Considerably. They won’t scramble, but if you hang around expect to get hurt.

Expect to get hurt.

Because these days two frigates and a cruise are no threat within A FUCKING SYSTEM MEANT TO BE ACCESSIBLE.

What the fuck. Petition CCP to forbid them the right to be able to use the “accessible” word ever again. They can’t fucking mean it.

And how they expect to protect the Factional Warfare system to fall in the hands of a dominating corp and use it to dominate the rest and destroy the fun for all other players? WITH A COCKBLOCK!


Alliances are not allowed to enlist, and neither are corporations in an alliance (or with an outstanding alliance application). There are a number of reasons for this, technical and otherwise, the most important of which is that we just don’t want the major power blocs to descend en masse and take over everything. It’s obviously not a hard limit on the players involved, but it’s designed to encourage the idea that if you’re a major player on the nullsec political scene you’re already doing something incredibly worthwhile and shouldn’t let yourself be distracted by the petty machinations of the Empires.

It reduces the likelihood of Factional Warfare being completely dominated by existing major players by forcing them to divide their characters and their focus if they want to participate without giving up their 0.0 holdings. We don’t envision it being a “hard limit” on Alliance players (as distinct from characters), but more a social, logistical and organizational inconvenience which will at the very least reduce their effectiveness a little when deploying Factional Warfare enabled fleets.

So, since they fear that the system can be dominated by existing major players and so losing its (pretended) accessibility, they forbid all alliances to join.

Like if it would prevent anything. This is equal to hide a mammoth behind a blade of grass. But the real reason is that CCP knows well their game. Better than you expect. They know that there are very limited slots for characters and this choice is a brand new incentive to make alts, and so create double accounts. And so pay more. Money ahead of gameplay. First give us money, then we think about how to make a good game.

NOTHING, absolutely nothing, prevents players to organize and dominate the Factional Warfare system. And IT WILL HAPPEN with mathematical certainty. Either that, or the Factional System is so badly designed that no one even cares about it. But if people care about it then you can be sure that someone will try to take over it and damage the fun of others.

If you expect that it won’t happen because you put there a minor cockblock then you are absolute fools who never observed dynamics in a MMORPG. Noobs.

I’ll tell you how it works. You don’t make a good game by limiting WHO can play it or access certain aspects. You make a good game by shaping HOW players interact with it and contribute.

Not who, but how. Anagrams.

CCP go back at fiddling with petty walking simulators and metallic-looking textures. It was better.

Books at my door (with gloating)

Not just a book, THE book:

It arrived here in very good condition and I’m happy of the purchase. Soooo pretty. And the best edition ever made.

I decided to get it as I didn’t have an original copy of the book and because I found out it was available on Amazon relatively for cheap. Now that I have it in my hands I’m not worried anymore to publicize you can have it too for just $53.55 ;)

It IS cheap if you consider it launched at $100-120 and now sold at $85. There’s also another 50 Anniversary edition in UK but it isn’t as pretty ‘n awesome.

This is the book exactly like Tolkien wanted it, one volume and with all the revisions to the text. Researched with extreme meticulosity.

The feature list says:
* Finest edition ever offered, complete in one volume
* Fully corrected, all new text setting
* Color insert showing leaves from the Book of Mazarbul (Tolkien’s own painting, three pages)
* Deluxe leather binding with two-color foil stamping
* Gilded edges, ribbon bookmark
* Two foldout two-color maps (standard and Gondor)

To this I add there’s a third map at the beginning of the book showing The Shire and the book has an index at the end with names and places similar to the one Tolkien wanted to add. There are also three different introductions, two explaining the various revisions to the text and the different editions, and one of Tolkien himself extremely interesting and explaining how the novel was conceived and its purpose.

Th prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, or deeply move them.

The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except oner that has been noted by others: the book is too short.

Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of the readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

A few days before I also received a completely different book:

This came out a couple of weeks ago in the UK mass market edition, the one I got.

Can’t read it yet since I’ve read it spoils some plots in Erikson’s later novels I still have to read. 470 pages but it has just around 200 real ones as it’s written huge like a book for kids. I would have liked it more in a smaller edition, odd choice they made. It also contains two maps, one of the Malaz city (already appeared in one of Erikson’s books) and another I haven’t seen before of the Malaz island.

While I can’t read it yet I’ve skimmed it, especially because at the end there’s the prologue and first chapter of “Return of the Crimson Guard”, the first “serious” book written by Esslemont and with the ambition to rival Erikson in depth and complexity. I’m not sure I like the style, it’s more plain compared to Erikson and with short phrases. But it seems evocative.

Next week Pat should write down the first review, so we’ll have more clues about whether it is good or not. I really hope it is valid so I’ll have more and more and more to read about a world that I truly like.

For now we are left with one liners:

I’m about 100 pages into it and I have to agree that ICE has matured as a writer. This one reads more easily than NoK.

For those who were disappointed by NoK, know that RofCG is as convoluted (so far) as any of SE’s Malazan offerings.

220 pages into it, and it’s pretty damn good so far!

Storywise, RotCG is on par with most Malazan books by SE. But though his writing style has improved, ICE’s prose is not as fluid as SE.

Nevertheless, in terms of plotlines and such, this is a terrific book so far!

336 pages into it, and things have definitely started to heat up!

430 pages into it, and let me just tell you that TtH will have to be quite something to be the top Malazan…

The book will be published in UK in August.

I’m also eager to read the first impression of Toll the Hounds. Really, really hope it will be good.

Enthusiasm for Factional Warfare already smothered

Goodbye to the hopes that Eve-Online may become a game I like and decide to play.

Two short posts of a dev on a forum and all the nightmares are coming alive:

If you sign up for a faction you can be attacked by anyone in opposing factions anywhere. it is that in low-sec we have marked out control points which will bring the combat to them making it easier for you to find and take part in.

Attacked by anyone anywhere? Wow…

This means they are basically removing the whole concept of CONCORD polishing empire space. It’s like in Ultima Online being ganked right next the bank in Britain because your guild declared war on another. Considering that there are four factions, it means that the number of targets in empire space will be still high, and that you won’t be safe anymore ANYWHERE.

Or: this game isn’t for noobs. Go away.

Then it gets worse:

This is something that should become clearer over the next few blogs, but for now let me just say that while there’s no functional limitations on what you can do solo, you may want to try and find some ad-hoc FW-buddies to give you a bit of leverage

No functional limitations.

It basically means that in practice if you are solo you’ll only be a bag of money for others, and there’s no fucking possibility that you can compete if you don’t have support of others. Or a lot of wealth to be ahead of others.

So the whole concept completely FUCKED. The accessibility of the system as the goal just completely gutted.

Instead of catering to those disorganized players who have difficulty to access the later part of the game, they make a system that is going to be used mainly and ONCE AGAIN by organized players who can take control of IT and farm the few noobs that are curious.

So what’s the difference from before? License to kill.

If before the gankers and carebears sit in two different places of the game, this system offers the gankers the license to liberally kill EVERYWHERE.

I was a FOOL thinking that CCP would develop something for all players and not just the hardcore as always. A fool.

Question: Does it mean I can also attack the opposing faction anywhere? I mean let’s take a stealth bomber to a newbie zone of the opposing empire and smoke some folks … or camp Jita just for the fun of it?

Dev: You can not go killing noobs with impunity by signing up. You can go killing anyone signed up to an opposed faction.

You, whoever you are or whoever is behind this idea, are an idiot.

What is the fucking difference if first you make the system as a “gameplay bridge” to encourage noobs and disorganized players to engage in PvP, and then say that you can’t kill noobs with impunity, because those noobs have just SIGNED to be killed with impunity.

This is simply a license to gank noobs who, like me, were fooled by CCP disguising a system as something accessible and made for everyone, when instead just feeding the hardcore with more targets.

Three quotes from Deadhouse Gates

The quarrel struck her forehead an inch above her left eye. The iron head shattered the bone, plunging inward a moment before the spring-driven barbs opened like a deadly flower inside her brain.

Maybe we didn’t listen because none of us believed we would ever reach the coast. Maybe Heboric decided the same after that first meal. Only I wasn’t thinking that far ahead, was I? No wise acceptance of the futility of all this. I mocked and ignored the advice out of spite, nothing more.

‘Why did you leave the priesthood, Heboric? Skimmed the coffers, I suppose. So they cut your hands off, then tossed you onto the rubbish heap behind the temple. That’s certainly enough to make anyone take up writing history as a profession.’

This book is wonderful.

Felisin is an incredible character, I’m amazed at what Erikson can do. He went deep and with a kind of realism that other fantasy writers not only can’t do, but aren’t even willingly to do.

While the first book lacked in characterization, this second improves and then goes beyond.