[BURNS EYES] The New Kotaku

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Misc

I know it may seem stupid to make a blog entry dedicated to a news site, but if you’ve been to the new Gawker.com and Kotaku.com, you’ll likely be feeling some of the rage I’m feeling right now.

The biggest draw for Kotaku was that  it was a Gaming news site.  I always hit the site first from an RSS link, read the article, and then hit the title link to get back to the homepage.  From there, I could scroll up and down to find a story that interested me.

They took that and punched it in the face, much how the front page continues to punch me in the face.  All that exists on the homepage is a main story and three of the latest stories.  This is fine if you’re not interesting in reading a bunch, but since this is a game site, it seems counter intuitive to limit the amount of information visible to the user on the main page.  There’s a reason that our task bars and desktops have simple titles for items.  It’s an index of sorts (probably why they called it INDEX.HTML originally) and you can navigate from there.

The entire look makes me feel claustrophobic.  I want to scroll down to see more headlines, but I can’t.  Add in the fact that the right “list” of items doesn’t scroll with you, and you’re really starting to irk me.  Having to page through stories to find something worth reading is NOT intuitive.  Magazines don’t do it.  Normal news sites don’t do it.  Why is Kotaku doing it?  Is it hip and trendy?  Is it meant to be read on a iPad or something?  I don’t need another reason to hate Apple, guys.

In short, head on over to Kotaku and wave goodbye.  I’ll be reading via RSS now, and cutting off any advertising revenue they may have gotten through me.  My clicks are precious, fellas.  Pass that on up to whatever nutfucker thought a purely AJAX driven news site would be Epic Win.  It’s just crap.

[WAR] Nothing Good to Say

Posted: January 28, 2011 in WAR

My mom always told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”  My mom wasn’t a blogger.

If you still wear your rosy glasses when looking at WAR, that’s cool.  I respect that. It may not seem that way, but I do.  Anywho, I wanted to take a little bit of time to dissect the Producer’s Lettter.  I’ve done this in the past, so this ain’t my first time to the rodeo.

Our first patch for the year (1.4.1) will be a smaller version dedicated to bug fixes and a few new features. Amongst those features will be a new way to claim account entitlements (such as the Snotling Herald Pets). This new interface will replace the current method of delivering account entitlements via the in game mail system. We did this for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that in-game mail expires by necessity. The new claim interface will allow you to claim the items anytime. The second reason is that we wanted to give you an easier method to recover lost items that you may have misplaced over time. For items that don’t have charges or function as a ‘currency’ item, such as War Tract scrolls, players will be able to reset those account entitlements at their leisure without having to contact customer service. This new feature will cover all item based deliveries from account entitlements whether they are paid items like you can purchase on the EA Store or marketing rewards from events or the collector’s edition.

Really?  This is a high-priority item?  I’ve been reading the forums rather religiously over the past couple months, you know, with the WARdrobe and all.  I don’t think I’ve ever read that someone was missing this.  It boggles my mind that resources are being put into things that don’t directly contribute to player retention.  I’ve not seen an “I quit, I lost my snotling!” post.  Really, I’ve looked.

Another feature of the patch is a re-structuring of our Scenario line-up. We’ve monitored feedback and statistics over the last year and decided to shake up what scenarios are available all the time for each Tier. The current structure of the Scenarios will remain unchanged, but the Scenarios themselves will be different. Some scenarios stayed where they are, some changed what tiers they are available at, and some are gone and replaced by other classic scenarios. For example; The Maw of Madness will be making its return to the Tier 4 scenario Queue. We’re going to be closely monitoring the scenarios when 1.4.1 goes live and will make further adjustments in later patches as go through the year based on your feedback.

I remember the lashing out the last time they tweaked Scenarios.  And then they put in the Weekend Warfront.  Is anyone else out there tired of getting rehashes (if that) of existing content and calling it “new” ?  People want NEW scenarios.  Just one would pacify the masses for quite some time.  It shouldn’t be a shocker that this part is going to piss people off, almost as much as the first.

We have plans for major features for each of our numbered patches this year. The plans include expanding existing areas and features as well as new concepts to the Warhammer Online experience. With each subsequent producer letter I plan to share more of these plans.

This is more of the same “We have a promise that we’re going to do something, and eventually we’re going to tell you about it.  Maybe.  Unless we decide not to do it.  Yeah, then we’ll just move on to rotating scenarios again.”  I’ll put this in Bold in Italics:  You are not doing your customers a service by dragging them along in the dark like this.  You are hurting yourself.  When you start to realize this, and do something about it, you will see an immediate change in your customers’ attitudes.  Until then, you can expect to see the same type of apathy, anger and lack of trust in you, the provider of our paid services that you see today.

We’ve been down this path of rhetoric before.  Nobody buys it.  If you’re telling us that you have nothing of significance that is in a format that is concrete enough to talk about, then you have bigger issues than just your communication.

Shifting gears a bit, I’d like to tell you about our plans for Live Events. We have eight Live Events planned for this year. Some of these are returning favorites (like the recently completed Keg End) and the forthcoming Night of Murder in February. Others are new ones we have planned to fill in some of the calendar gaps. Along with the Live Events, we’ll continue to support Weekend Warfronts with plans to introduce some scenarios that haven’t made their debut in the Warfront format. We also have some very special plans for Grovod Caverns.

I’m actually somewhat enticed by this one.  I like Live Events.  They’re pretty fun. Recycled ones…are not fun. How many times have you completed Keg’s End?  The new ones better be sweet, and better encourage PvP. And the WW is going to likely bring back the current SCs we play, which are retiring in 1.4.1

Along with the patches and live events, we also have plans to expand our services and Account Entitlement offerings this year. This includes introducing paid name changes, more pets, and more ways to personalize your character.

Lump this into the whole “Stuff that should be developed when the game is in a polished state.” You’ve made it no secret that developer resources are INSANELY hard to come by.  Like… don’t bother asking for em.  Yet, they’re spending time doing more pets?  Name changes?  When you have to dedicate an entire patch cycle to fixing bugs…don’t you think you should put all those developer on them?  Just a thought.

Finally, I’d like to address a topic that I’m sure is close to everyone’s hearts; server population. We’ve been monitoring the situations on each of our servers in every market. Our current situation on most of the servers shows us numbers that fall within traditionally acceptable parameters, notably our peak population values. Peak population is where we see the most activity on the server; during what is considered prime-time for the server or ‘peak’ hours. However, we understand that population is a key component to enjoying the game. As part of an effort to ensure off-peak hours are as enjoyable as peak hours can be, we are actively discussing our plans for lower population servers. If you haven’t heard anything to this effect by the time this letter sees print, you should see something very soon. We are committed to ensuring that we do what is needed to make sure players enjoy their experience in WAR.

This one is a real punch in the gut for quite a few players.  For a fee, you can make sure this issue isn’t close to heart.  Unless you can’t afford to pay MORE to play the same game as everyone else.  It may not be Mythic that is directly causing the population issues.  Players leaving lower population servers just to play the game is a HUGE factor.  The fact that Mythic takes too long to react to a sinking ship (Here’s looking at you, Vortex) is another factor.  If you don’t see some server consolidation coming soon, I think you’re going to start losing servers at a time.

My personal take on this whole thing is… I feel sorry for James.  This is your first time out in the public eye like this, and your superiors didn’t give you jack crap to talk about.  Look at the image rape that Carrie has gone through.  I wish you didn’t have to go through the same thing, but it’s looking like you will.  It would have been nice if you could have come out of the door swinging, rather than limping. 😦

[WAR] And it has Come to this…

Posted: January 25, 2011 in WAR

After the Great Blackout of 2011, Andy is back.  He was welcomed back into open arms of a patient community that had been waiting with baited breath.

Not so much.

On one hand, I feel bad for Andy.  It appears that the higher ups really don’t give a rat’s ass about community.  I mean, I think they did at one time.  These days…not so much.  There used to be an actual community team.  They’d gather feedback, respond to posts, spread a passionate vibe all around.  They’d frequent various boards including WHA and VN.  It felt like a community.

Those days seem to be gone, though.  The last time Andy posted on WAR’s VN was August of last year.   Since July of last year, he’s only posted on WHA twice.  Not everyone reads the OF, especially after the transition to the Bioware forums.  The original OF were bad.  These are abysmal.  This isn’t a post about forums though.  It’s a post about community.  Forums are merely a subset.

On the other hand, I think the lashing out is deserved.   Not at Andy personally, though.  I don’t fault him for what he’s doing.  He’s doing what he’s told.  He works a shit-ton of extra hours.  I’ve talked to him at 11pm quite a few times (which is midnight there) while he’s editing up patch notes, and various other stuff.  I think the lashing out speaks more to Mythic’s ineptness at dealing with the community, not Andy’s.  He only tells us what he can. For all you nimrods out there calling for his job, read this:  If Andy is fired, he will be replaced by someone who is tasked with the same job description, the same handcuffs on what they can say, and the same lack of information to share.  Calling for his job is pointless.

The biggest question is:  Why is Mythic coming off so inept when it comes to community management?  In a day and age where projecting your community image is key to retaining subscribers, how did they manage to drop the ball?  You can blame it on the Shaman Mechanic Fiasco, you can blame it on lagging subscriptions.  The source of it is mostly irrelevant, though.  The effect is this:  Your patient community, who has stuck with you through thick and thin is getting tired of waiting.  They’re tired of getting lead around in the dark, not knowing where they’re going.  They’re tired of promises to reveal info “when things are more set in stone” or “when they are ready.”  There’s two methodologies in this game.  Full Disclosure, and No Disclosure.  The first didn’t work.  You got bit.  Naturally you picked the second.  That isn’t working either.  Patience is running out, people are moving to other games, and the players that are left are hopping off lower population servers to higher ones, just to keep playing the game.  That screws other players who may not be willing to pay to make the leap, especially considering there’s no concrete future for this game.  Paying an additional $20 to keep playing a game that has a future of “bug fixes and class balance” is a tough pill to swallow.

It would make sense to find a middle ground between No Disclosure and Full Disclosure.  Right now….it isn’t working.

[Web] The Numbers Game

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Web

Yesterday I took part in a bit of masochism.  I argued on Twitter.  Quite frankly: Twitter sucks for a debate.  Organized thoughts are often truncated and cut into multiple snippets, which are often interrupted and interjected.  You have to be insane to try to carry on a meaningful conversation on Twitter, but here we are.

At heart of the lively debate was whether or not X-Fire stats mean anything.  Some say they do, but I disagree.  Sure, they mean something to the users of X-Fire.  More people using X-Fire means just that, and only that:  more people using X-Fire.  Anything other than that is merely inference.

The crux of that opinion comes from a single word: Representative.  In order for you to be able to extrapolate bigger numbers from smaller numbers, the smaller numbers have to be representative.

For example:  If you know that 3,800 people using X-Fire play WAR, it is impossible to infer the number of WAR players unless you know what % of WAR players use X-Fire.  3800 = Y * X (where X is the percent of players and Y is the total players).  The problem with X-Fire is, you don’t know what X is.  X varies from game to game. X varies from month to month.  X can even vary from day to day.

The fact that X can change without adding/losing a subscription makes it hard to rely on those numbers as fact.  The “Number of X-Fire users playing WAR” simply represents…wait for it…. the “Number of X-Fire users playing WAR”.  That’s it.  If that number goes up, it may mean more subs.  It may not.  What if an entire guild is told they should be running X-Fire?  They all install it.  That number goes up. Does it mean more people are using X-Fire in WAR? Yep.  Does that mean more people are playing WAR?  Nope.  See where I’m going?  The same argument can be used for polls conducted on the forums.  Do they represent the players on the forum? Yep.  Do the represent players overall? Newp.  Quite a few developers have outright stated that a majority of players don’t use the forums.

Now let’s get back to the word “representative.” I used the Nielsen ratings yesterday in my argument.  They’re a truly representative system, if not a very small subset.  What they lack in numbers, they make up for in accuracy.  While everyone has different viewing habits, the fact that they proportionately depict the overall makeup of the US and A makes it a meaningful statistic.  Sure, you may not like or agree with the results of the Nielsen ratings, but they’ve proven to work in the past, and are overall reliable.

How X-Fire differs though, is that you don’t have equal representation.  You have a particular sect of gamers. While albeit 17 million is a beefy subscriber base, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the casual gamers out there.  It may, it may not.  It may not reflect the players who have crappy machines and don’t want any overhead running.  It may…it may not.  The only thing X-Fire accurately depicts….is the number of players using X-Fire.

[WoW] Surviving

Posted: January 12, 2011 in WoW

It’s no secret that I’ve been playing WoW for almost a month now.  As much as I hated to throw in the towel on WAR, I felt I had to.  This decision raised a lot of questions for me.  There’s one big one though:  “How does a WAR-type player survive in a WoW-type game?”  WoW and WAR have always been compared, and the resulting flamefest is only a small indication of just how different the two games and playerbases are.  Oil and Water is an understatement.

There were three and a half metric shit-tons of things I hated about WoW when I last played it, prior to Burning Crusade.  Going back to WoW with a free-trial, I figured I’d give it a shot and see how things have changed.  Here’s what I hated, and here’s how they changed it up.

  1. Grinding

      * Then – I always felt like I was just doing the same ol’ thing.  Killing five million Murlocs was awful.  Really awful.
      * Now – After getting to level 61 last night, I can honestly say that I’ve never grinded.  Not one time did I feel I had to sit there and farm a mob over and over again.  Sure, there are times when you need to find a random drop from mobs, but it isn’t audaciously bad.

      • Questing
        * Then – Questing wasn’t innovative.  Kill 20 of these.  Farm 5 feet from bears.  Give Sammy Hagar over there some new threads.  Boring…boring…and boring.
        * Now – Things have gotten better.  There’s a bit more variety.  You still have the ol’ “Verb Number Noun” quests, but there’s some other *fun* ones too.  Flying above Booty Bay dropping bombs on pirate ships was pretty enjoyable.  Adding in the Phasing aspect greatly increased the believability that I was doing something important.  Additionally, the quantity of most quests has gone down.  Where you’d have to kill 40 ligers before, you now only need to wack 10 or 12.  Finally, stealing the “Red Blob” from WAR was a good thing ™.  I hate wandering around looking for skeleton arms.  Now I know where to go!

        • Instances
          * Then – You’re sitting in Ironforge, spamming the Trade channel looking for that last DPS to fill up your 5-man raid.  And then your healer quit. Sonofabitch.  It took forever to get into the instance, since you had to run out there to boot.
          * Now – Cross. Server. Queues.   – I’m in love with this feature.  It’s strikingly similar to the SC function of WAR.  Queue up, let the system match-make the group, kill.  I wish WAR did the match-making part, honestly.  It was no fun SCing it up with no heals.

          • Achievements
            * Then – ???
            * Now – They have them.  There’s a hell of a lot of them, too.  I’m an achievement whore, so this caters to me specifically.  I like to get out there and just rack up some numbers.  It is a nice break from questing or raiding.

            • Gold
              * Then – I always felt poor when I was on my Warrior.  I did quests, I grinded mobs, I sold loot…and I was still piss broke.
              * Now – At level 60, I went and bought my flying mount, the training required and the Cataclysm training for the old-world flying. I dropped a little less than 500g, and still had over 250g to spend.  That’s some good cash.  Showing the sell-value on the quest rewards was a HUGE part of this.  Even though none of the rewards are useful, I can still pick the one that sells for the most.

              After all this, it was pretty easy to hop back in.  The level of polish in the game really speaks to the deep pockets Blizzard has.  I realize that they have a hell of a staff to put towards even the most tedious minutia, but that’s the stuff that translates into a refined experience.  I wish all games had the coffers that Blizzard did.  That would be an interesting market, ripe with competition and innovation.

              [Betas] Am I Missing the Boat?

              Posted: December 29, 2010 in Misc, Web

              Edit: I missed APB.  Holy smokes.

              What’s up with the MMO Community and Beta Amnesia?  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, odds are you have it too.  It seems that every time a new game is up for Beta, the world takes notice.  People start sipping the Kool-Aid of concept art and testifying and re-preaching the developers’ posts as gospel while the rest of us sit in a stupor of wonder and amazement.  “Is this really going to be the next best MMO???”  “My friend Drizztdj is in the beta and he loves the game.” “Oh man, I need to get in that beta, it sounds awesome.”

              Why do people continue to get so excited without taking into consideration the string of MMO failures over the past three years?  It’s not an auspicious trend, people.  Hey, let’s shake the dust off the past three years and see where we’ve come from:

              Age of Conan – May 08

              Age of Conan was ALL the rage in 2007 and 2008.  Holy shit folks, a beautiful game that shows boobies.  This MUST be the game that ends all games.  It has a unique combat system that’s sure to entice and absolutely no content beyond level 50.  Walk. Don’t run through this one, Drizz.

              Warhammer Online – Sept 08

              From the makers of DAoC….a game that is nothing like DAoC.  A hybrid between DAoC and WoW that picks up the shiny interface of WoW, the Gear-drive progression of WoW and the raids of WoW.  I’m not sure why it’s called a hybrid, if it didn’t pick up anything from DAoC.  At any rate, you can get to level 40 faster than you can get a server transfer.  Something about losing 68 of your 100 servers within six months, and 23 more over the next eight months.  If the server population scales appropriately, with the 750,000 subscribers touted at launch spread across 100 servers, that’s 7,500 players per server.  With that same player to server ratio, you’re looking at about 67,500 subs.  Not sure anyone would agree there’s 7,500 people on the servers, save maybe Badlands.

              Champions Online

              Champions did some really neat things.  Cell-shading for the graphics is probably the best look in an MMO I’ve seen.  I just love the feel of it.  It felt like this game was a bit of a rip from City of Heroes, which is still going strong.  I’m not sure what Cryptic was thinking though, with only releasing five areas for the entire game.  By comparison, WAR has 16 (including Land of the Dead).  It shouldn’t have been a shocker that after two years in the wild, CO went Free 2 Play.  That’s not necessarily a kiss of death by any means, but anytime you have to rearrange your business model, things likely aren’t going how you planned.

              Fallen Earth

              I’m glad someone did a post-apocalyptic MMO.  There’s a metric crap-ton you can do with the premise that life is changed as we know it.  It’s a pity that Icarus did a crap job developing it.  From the get-go bugs were rampant and the overall experience was lack-luster.  Hell, I couldn’t even stomach the beta, and I have a HUGE tolerance for buggy games.  I managed to live through Shadowbane before it got the axe.

              Aion

              This game was released in Korea long before it was released in the US.  Touted as not being “overly grindish” in order to cater to the grind-intolerant North American audience, it took about four hours of actually playing the game in order to realize that “overly grindish” statement was horseshit.  Sure, it wasn’t Lineage 2, but then again…most games aren’t (thank God).  Once you managed to swallow that load of crap, you had to deal with bots and farmers.  Oh were these bad.  They were SO bad, NCsoft was considering putting in a resource-farming debuff that could only be removed by validating againt a CAPTCHA.  Really.  I’m not sure if it went in, since I booked it out of there.  Something about not being able to log in for hours due to players setting up the ever-lasting Private Store and going to bed.

              Star Trek Online

              I actually didn’t read anything about STO.  I hate the ST universe as a whole and wish it would just go away.  If that doesn’t please you, you can go beam a fist into you…nevermind.

              All Points Bulletin

              This writeup is likely longer than the life of this game.  It sounded neat on paper, but was offline faster than Mastercard.com. There aint’ much that hasn’t been said about this game.  Poof, there it went.

              Final Fantasy XIV

              Trying to play off the success (if you’ll call it that) of FFXI, FFXIV released just earlier this year.  FF14 did for the MMO world what FF13 did for the Console RPG world.  It punched it in the nuts and took its money.  That’s the feeling you get from FF14.  With a Metacritic score lower than Mary Kate and Ashley, it isn’t a shocker that Square Enix apologized multiple times for the rubbish people paid for.  The shocker is that they feel so bad, they won’t be charging people to play it.  That’s some deep pockets, Square.  Your game is in the tank, so you might as well squeeze customers where you can.  I mean, that’s what all the others above are doing.

              This all sounds a lot more bitter than I intended.  Maybe I’m bitter.  I don’t think I am, though.  If anything, a burden has been lifted off my chest and I’m playing a game now that I’m having fun with.

              But the question remains…with all the craptacular MMO releases in the past, why do people still get so overly excited about a new MMO?  Do they really think it is going to “win” the internet and the MMO genre and redefine life as we know it?  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

              I for one am off this boat.

              [WAR] Goodnew and Badnews

              Posted: December 27, 2010 in WAR, WARdrobe

              Well, which do you want first.  Oh you can’t answer.

              How about the bad news:  I’ve unsubbed from WAR.  This really isn’t as big a deal as you might think it is.  Truth be told, I’ve not played much at all since I started working on the WARdrobe.  It is a pretty intense project.  I’ll have my free trial account, but I’ll no longer be a part of Core.  That’s not a big deal though, really.  Anything I knew about in there, I couldn’t share, nor would it influence the WARdrobe.  Besides, being part of Core really didn’t elevate the status of WARdrobe and get me any sorts of insider information to help me develop for it.  That was good ol’ digging on my part to pull in all the pieces of their API.

              The good news is that fortunately for me, I don’t need to be subbed to WAR to work on it.  With the endless free-trial, I have access to everything I need to continue to maintain the addon and the site alike.  I remain committed to developing for this game, even if I don’t play it. I like the community (even Testpig), and feel an obligation to help them out wherever I can.  I hope to have the uploading issues worked out over the next week or two.  Things have been…arduous.  (First time development is easy, as you can start over if you want.  I need to triple-check things to ensure I don’t fubar existing data now).

              So there you go.  That’s the big news.  Hope everyone had a good holiday, and I hope you don’t hate me for jumping off the WAR wagon.  I was pretty burned out on the existing experience, and tacking 20 more levels to the end and a randomly playable Skaven wasn’t enough to entice me to keep on truckin’ to 100.  Sorry Mythic.  I kept on keepin’ on longer than I should have.  Maybe that was wishful thinking.  Maybe it was a feeling of dedication from all the fun I had in DAoC.  Who knows.  Anyway, I’ll raise a glass to hoping you pull the nose up before you hit the water.

              See everyone after the new year. 🙂

              Merry Christmas!

              Posted: December 25, 2010 in Misc

              Just wanted to wish everyone reading this a Merry Christmas.  I hope you both have a great day and if you’re on vacation…hope you have some good game time.

              May your Zergs be small, may your numbers be purple, and may your bags be Gold.

              [WARdrobe] Talk it up!

              Posted: December 22, 2010 in WARdrobe

              Development has been a bit slow lately.  Holidays will do that to a guy with a wife and two kids.  Coupled with the fact my kiddo’s birthday party (he’s now 3) was this weekend… and yeah I’ve not had a hell of a lot of time to do anything game related.

              I did however get a good chunk of time over the past couple days to add in comments.  Now you can add details around each item on the WARdrobe.  See some busted stats? Comment.  Know how to get the item?  Comment!  Anyone can comment, even those without an account.  If you are logged in, however, the comment will be associated with your account.

              I also did a little bit of revamping on the homepage, so I could add in a “what’s new” for comments.

              As always, if you notice any wonky issues, let me know!

              http://wardrobe.war4scrubs.com/

               

              PS:  This is probably going to be the last major dev release for me until after this whole holiday season.  We’re quite booked through the end of the year.

              Merry Christmas in advance! (yes, I don’t say “Happy Holidays”)

              [WARdrobe] Builder Updates

              Posted: December 12, 2010 in Misc

              I figured I might as well wrap up the functionality of the Renown Builder this weekend.  It wasn’t “too” much more work.  I’ve also wrapped up a couple extra issues:

              • Career Builder: Renown Abilities should no longer show up in the “Core” section.
              • Career Builder: You’ll now have a digest of your current spec available in the “Summary” textbox below.  It’s ready for copy/paste into a forum post. 🙂

              Now for the list of changes to the Renown Builder.  These are mostly “finishing touches”, but here they are :

              • It’ll now check to ensure you don’t go over 100 points.
              • If you select an active ability, it’ll set the min-rank to 20 for you.
              • Added the total stats to the Stats row (thanks for the idea, Syrioq)
              • Will show how many points you’ve spent
              • Added a Text-box summary that you can use to paste into the forums.

              There ya have it.  Check it out and let me know what you like, love or hate.