Passing quotes (and comments)

Memories of Ice, Steven Erikson:

And perhaps that is the final, most devastating truth. The gods care nothing for ascetic impositions on moral behaviour. Care nothing for rules of conduct, for the twisted morals of temple priests and monks. Perhaps indeed they laugh at the chains we wrap around ourselves – our endless, insatiable need to find flaws within the demands of life. Or perhaps they do not laugh, but rage at us. Perhaps our denial of life’s celebration is our greatest insult to those whom we worship and serve.

It’s a while since I’ve last written about books. I haven’t stopped nor even slowed down reading, but it’s taking time to get to a point.

I’m currently reading in parallel three books. 550 pages into Memories of Ice (halfway through), 130 pages into the Colour in the Steel of K. J. Parker and 150 pages into Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. Oh yeah, I’m reading Goodkind. I decided that a lightweight interlude would be nice between the two other more demanding reads, and I also want to watch the TV series only after having read the book, so I had to do it soon.

On Memories of Ice I have mixed feelings that I’ll probably explain better if I manage to write a review when I’m done. It’s an ambitious book that packs way too many themes. It’s a paradox because you have these books that exceed 1000 pages, and instead of having a boring and padded storyline to fill the space, you have instead way too many aspects that aren’t fully used. It’s a wasteful book that throws away too many good ideas (this quote here above could lead to a deep character development, with lots of implications, but it is started and done in two pages). There’s also less “genius” in the writing. When I was reading the novellas every paragraph was a form of art on its own. It made wonderful quotes. With this book I find very hard to have quotable pieces that work as brilliant standalone. It’s convoluted in its own dimension, filled with jargon and internal references. It’s not hard because I’m well used to all of them, but I find the writing of a quality below the second book. Still enjoying it immensely though.

Colours in the Steel is a book I decided to read after I read online the excerpt from The Company, the latest standalone from the author. I thought the characterization was so well done that the book deserved to be read, and not just that, but also what came before. So I bought this one other book that is the first on a trilogy. The same author, beside the recent standalone, wrote three complete trilogies. Very, very different from the rest of the fantasy genre. It feels a bit like historical fiction, with a strong realism in setting and characterization, but the world is still entirely fictional, even with a spark of magic that still feels very “real” (it reminded me the beginning of Stephenson’s Anathem with the monks). The writing on this book is more traditional than the other excerpt I read, but the characterization is still outstanding. For theme, development and obsessive attention to technical details (it explains exactly how weapons and siege engines are made) one would think it would make for a slow, boring read. Instead it is “brisk”, never dull. Really well done on all levels and unique in style and plotting from the rest of the genre.

Finally Goodkind (Wizard’s First Rule). As I commented on a forum, it is extremely accessible. It uses all the tricks to win the reader from the first pages. It’s the average “young adult” fantasy, with added gore. I read it knowing well how it is hated by the critics, without expecting much. For now it’s easy and fun to read and as I said it is a good interlude. Here and there it gets silly and unbelievable but there were also parts that didn’t come out completely trivial. For example there are the good guys and the bad guys, but it went explaining some ambivalence that is interesting to consider. A lot of the background doesn’t make sense though. Maybe it will be explained later but for now the story is inconsistent and illogical.

Mark Jacobs on ORVR

If today’s announce on ORVR future plans doesn’t prove how Mythic is out of touch with their game, nothing else can.

Quoting a random message from VN as a slight elaboration on what I said up here:

Seems like your adding a bunch of stuff but not fixing any of the underlying problems. Why add an RVR influence system when you already have renown ranks? Just make the renown ranks actually mean something would seem a better idea instead of adding yet another grind to your game.

Or, in F13 way of putting things:



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The game sucks? Talk to a CSR

If the game design sucks then blame the players and talk to a CSR.

From a thread on Warhammer Alliance, the well known problem of keep trading (plus a variation on the theme):

Basically the leaders of the biggest order and destruction guilds get together online and agree to work together for easy/free renown. One side takes all the BO’s and keeps in a zone like Dragon wake, while the other side takes all the BO’s and keeps in a zone like Thunder Mountain. They then recapture each zone as a large group with no resistance. Both sides agree to leave each other alone and then set up the next zone to continue the renown swap. It’s general about 6k a zone, plus free keep loot, though it’s broken.

Sometimes a few “scrub” guilds will attack but they are generally too small or too lowbie to change anything.

In effect, the two sides have stopped fighting to make renown ranks go faster.

Brilliant answer from Mythic community manager:

If you have evidence that there are infractions of the ToS occurring on your server I would recommend that you submit an ingame appeal for it to be investigated.

As this is a Customer Service issue, I’m afraid that there is little more that I can say on the subject.

The job of a community manager is to read feedback, understand it and then get back to developers to point out that there are problems in the game and that some mechanics aren’t having the intended effect. This is clearly a problem of game design that needs to be communicated to devs and urgently addressed. Instead this community manager puts the blame solely on the players and tells them to swamp CSRs with problems that not compete to them.

So, the few of you who still play the game, get ready to send appeals for all the broken systems in the game and all those players who rightfully indulge with bad game design. All of them.

Please go on, it will be a memorable show. Go on and ban all those players who bother engaging into open RvR. Ban them and blame them for Mythic’s bad game design. Blame the players because Mythic didn’t think they needed a game designer and thought Mark Jacobs is fit for the job.

In the meantime I read that Mythic has already retreated into their ivory tower of “positive thinking”, purged of all heretics. Two ivory towers to be precise. The perfect ostrich head in the sand strategy. If you ignore the critics, they won’t exist.

Keep around you only those who agree with you. It’s the perfect world.

(my opinion was here)

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Problem on the site

For some weird reason all the comments on the site were deleted, so I had to upload an old backup that is one month old. Everything in this month was lost.

No idea if the comments work well now.

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WoW Lead Game Designer

From an interview:

We are adopting a new kind of philosophy towards raiding which is kind of inspired by the way we did Zul’Aman, which is that we want the raid to be accessible, you know, not just for 10-man groups but also 25. Then kind of have a hard mode built in so that you get rewarded for doing it in a way that’s more difficult. Sort of with Zul’Aman, doing it in a shorter time, rescuing in the prisoners, that sort of thing. So that’s kind of what we have in mind, a hard mode for it.

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WotLK credits

I gave a quick glance at WotLK credits. It seems that the happy trio got promotions.

Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan is now “Game Director”
Tom “Kalgan/Evocare” Chilton is now “Lead Designer”
Alex “Furor” Afrasiabi is now “World Lead Designer”

The hard part is getting in the loop.

RvR done wrong: another unlearnt lesson from Warhammer (and WoW)

It’s so boring and unexciting when you see the mistakes coming from 100 miles away.

This is what I said:

2 October: So let me state this bluntly: the game, in particular endgame big objectives, risks to become “hide and seek” events where Destruction and Order take turns at the bag of loot. Without any incentive for defense the game risks to be more rewarding for avoiding each other than to fight.

Shortcut to victory.

15 October: Handing out a lot of points for just conquering a keep, instead, encourages the factions to just trade the objective instead of fighting for it. It teaches them to AVOID the fight to maximize the reward.

24 October: I’ve read players in Tier 4 reporting that the factions are avoiding each other in order to farm Keep Lords and have a chance at very rare drops. If Mythic executes their plan of rewarding more and more the objectives and not the fight, this problem will worsen considerably and we are looking at a future patch that will break the game even more than how it is now. That’s the next step.

That was indeed the next step (not just one case, I’ve read similar complaints on F13 as well) and I guess we aren’t even done yet.
Quick edit: more threads are starting to appear.

Mythic is doing baby steps in regard to open RvR. Baby steps that go in the wrong direction and are encouraging enemy players to avoid each other. So much for “war everywhere”.

Since I’m filled with deja-vu, I’ll be quick: PvP design should reward activity, not avoidance. This means that “the carrot” should be where the fun is: in the fight. In order to obtain this you need to provide a convergence, build a critical mass of players, and then put the carrot right there. The carrot should be proportional to the activity. No activity = no carrot.

I’ll repost my proposal adapted for Warhammer that achieves exactly that:

– Players take a Battlefield Objective (or keep) and cap it (worth nothing for now). Guilds can put a banner on the BO and stack benefits.
– For the time the BO is being actively defended (meaning there are real players in its proximity) it “blinks” on the map for all the players in the zone, for both factions. So that all players know that there’s activity there.
– All the kills (both defenders and attackers) that happen within a decently wide radius from the BO starts to be worth more points (XP, renown). A bonus that should be slightly higher for defenders, to encourage defense.
– For all the kills that defenders manage, some points go into a “bounty pool” in the BO. The more kills, the more this pool increases. I’d also make the BO generate some of these points even if no one is around, so that if left untouched for a lot of hours it actually start to be worth something anyway.
– This means that the longer it takes to conquer the BO, the biggest is going to be the reward, as it increases with the time and makes the prize progressively juicier.
– In order to “collect” these points the attackers need to conquer the objective themselves and “cash” the reward.

This has mainly three effects:
1- The BO works like a magnet, like a natural convergence since the direct kills are worth a lot more when they are closer to the objective. This makes the players know where to go and the action is focused on a smaller area (those who played Planetside know what I mean). This reduces the problem of RvR lakes being too dispersive.
2- The bounty points increase over time, so growing to a level that will likely motivate the other faction to take action. It will also move the “hot” RvR area around instead of repeating what happened with “Emain” in DAoC. It puts variety in the system.
3- It avoids exploits and disruptive behaviors. Points in this system come from direct kills. Handing out a lot of points for just conquering a keep, instead, encourages the factions to just trade the objective instead of fighting for it. It teaches them to AVOID the fight to maximize the reward (we saw some of this in WoW). My system instead focuses on the fight itself. It motivates it and makes sure it is rewarding since it promotes and rewards the activity.

That was my proposal and is still valid today. To make it work, though, there are two important prerequisites that should be patched NOW:
1- Add flight masters between ALL warcamps and ALL chapter PvE hubs. If this takes time to implement, add temporary teleports.
2- Reduce the diminishing returns in open RvR from the actual ten minutes to TWO.

What I think is that Keep Lords should NEVER drop gear. There are already renown gear vendors whose purpose is exactly that. Warhammer RvR design is already a convoluted patchwork of elements, it doesn’t need more complication.

I still wish Warhammer would be enormously successful. I still think that a lot can be done to improve it and make it great. But the reason why this *won’t* happen (and we’ve seen plenty of demonstrations of this) is because of its cockblock, and that cockblock is too egocentric to step back for the good of the game:

Tomorrow WotLK launches. I care zero and won’t play it, but if Warhammer loses players it deserves it.

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