Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mistaken beta-tester mails from SWTOR

I was surprised today to find two mails from EA Bioware in my inbox, one asking me to fill out a survey about my beta-testing experience, and the other suggesting that after having beta-tested SWTOR I might want to pre-order it. Only problem is that they got it the wrong way round: I am not in the beta, but I already pre-ordered. I fired off an inquiry to support, and as it turns out they sent those mails to lots of people by mistake. So despite evidence to the contrary, I'm still not in the beta.

But hey, it wasn't a total loss. I did receive an automated response from EA Bioware customer service that made me smile. And when was the last time an automated e-mail made you smile? It went like this:
Greetings Humanoid,

I am the automatic Protocol Response Droid A1-A1, Human-Cyborg relations.
You have successfully submitted a ticket to the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ galactic customer support team.
A Protocol Droid will contact you in-game or via email within the next 24 hours.
We appreciate your patience and enthusiasm and are looking forward to seeing you in Star Wars™: The Old Republic™!
Galactic support is our speciality…

Looking for raid

I have been asking for a looking for raid feature for World of Warcraft for years. Now that it will be implemented in the next patch, I am not so sure any more it is a good idea. What changed? Well, raiding changed. During vanilla WoW a significant part of the difficulty of raiding was getting 40 people together. An automatic looking for raid functionality would have helped immensely. And a raid dungeon like Molten Core was actually quite suitable for a pickup raid group: It didn't matter if a handful of the 40 players went afk or disconnected or played just plain badly. There was sufficient "slack" in the system that the rest of the raid could pull it through (BTW: That changed with the first encounter in BWL, which made it a major hurdle in guild progression at the time). And during vanilla the main difficulty of a boss encounter was playing your character well, with "not standing in the fire" being a secondary problem.

I don't consider the current raid encounters to be very suitable for pickup groups. With just 10 players in a raid, the organizational difficulty the LFR feature overcomes wasn't that big anyway. And the actions of any single player count for more, making the raid more vulnerable to disconnected, afk, or just plain bad players. And while Blizzard plans to make LFR raids easier than the current version, I'm not convinced they can actually do much: The difficulty of current raid encounters is 90% having learned the dance, and just 10% playing your class well. When Gevlon recently got disappointed by the new WoW raiding he remarked that it was easier now to make a raid with undergeared players and voice chat than with overgeared players without voice communications. Game by Night Chris feels the same, saying "Players who don’t talk simply cannot complete raid content in today’s WoW." But LFR pickup raids will have to do without voice chat, because there are too many different systems, it is hard to organize for an instant pickup group, and many current non-raiders don't even have the relevant software installed.

That leaves us with two possibilities: Either LFR will fail, because pickup groups won't even be able to do raid content on the new, lower, difficulty level designed for them. Or Blizzard will have to nerf raid encounters by staggering amounts or remove features. If you have raid encounters where a single player standing in the wrong place can wipe the whole raid, that raid encounter would have to be nerfed to the point of being not recognizable any more to allow a pickup group without voice chat to complete it. By having made raiding all about learning specific encounter scripts, Blizzard has closed the door to successful LFR pickup raids, and I'm not sure how they are going to pry that door open again.

[EDIT: Seems the LFR raids will be 25-player only. Ignore what I said about 10-mans.]

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Intelligent discussion on burnout

The purpose of intelligent discussion is to arrive at some sort of consensus, even if it is just to agreeing to disagree after each side having made clear its point. Unfortunately that sort of consensus doesn't really happen all that often in the MMO blogosphere. Thus any occurrence is notable, and especially if it happens between Syncaine and me. While we might still disagree about the relative degree, we do agree that there is some sort of burnout happening simply with time, and that burnout speed can be modified by good or bad changes to the game.

The interesting question Syncaine asks is whether it would be theoretically possible that a MMORPG adds content and positive features at a speed high enough to keep players from ever reaching burnout. Syncaine is more hopeful there than I am. In fact, I don't find his examples very convincing. On his question "How long did you play EQ1?" my answer is "19 months", and that isn't terribly long, even if that makes it my second-longest time I spent in a game. And I think he is mistaken claiming EVE continues to grow. As far as I know EVE Online has started to decline in user numbers and activity since the Monocalypse debacle of Incarna earlier this year. I'd be grateful if somebody has a link to solid data about that.

I also believe that even a game with a continuously growing number of subscription isn't proof of player burnout not happening. As Blizzard themselves said, there are now far more ex-WoW players than current WoW players. A game can grow if more new players join than old players leave, and still have next to no original players left after a few years. The MMORPG you play forever might be an utopia for Syncaine, but I haven't seen any indication of that really happening over the last decade.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bored of being nice

I recently got griefed by a rather unusual suspect: Wilhelm Arcturus of The Ancient Gaming Noob blog. Basically he got bored of The Sims Social (so did I), and being bored of playing nice he experimented with the all the options to cause harm to his fellow players. For some reason he chose me as target and documented himself implying my mother was a llama with screenshots on his blog. Now The Sims Social is a Facebook game, and has what I call asynchronous social interactions: You interact with your friends' avatars even when your friends are offline. That enables these games to simply hide a lot of negative interactions. I do see when Wilhelm rearranges the keys on my keyboard, but I don't see him insulting my mother. If he hadn't posted it on his blog, I would have never known, and wouldn't have been forced to send my mother by his house to complain.

But the social mechanics of griefing other players out of boredom also work in games where players can actually harm each other. Proponents of PvP games often claim that griefing would not be a problem as long as the game had social mechanisms that would allow the upright citizens to ostracize or otherwise punish the griefing offender. But that only works if the player is still really interested in the game. If he is already bored, and ready to quit, he has nothing to lose. If the griefers avatar can hurt your avatar, and your avatar can hurt his avatar back, the loser is automatically the person who cares more for his avatar. The player who griefs because he is bored of the game is the automatic winner of such a contest.

Now some people, including companies, propose to solve that problem by introducing real IDs. If you know the real name of a person hurting you in a game, and that person doesn't care what you do to him in game, you can have your revenge outside the game. For example by murdering him. I am still at a loss why anybody would think that is a good idea.

And as I don't want games offering me the possibility of my enemies waiting for me in real life with a baseball bat in the parking lot, I do think that games like The Sims Social still have the best way to handle griefing: They simply hide the fact that you have been griefed from the victim. If another player can't really do anything to you which would hurt your avatar or game progress, there is no griefing.

Non-violent MMORPG Glitch launches

This week a new and highly original MMORPG launched, and almost nobody noticed. The game is Glitch, and it is very different from whatever else you played. The most obvious difference is that it is non-violent. With even kids' MMORPGs like Free Realms features some sort of combat, that is pretty remarkable. How many non-violent MMORPGs do you know? I can only think of Glitch and A Tale in the Desert. If you are very generous, you include Puzzle Pirates in which "combat" is handled by a very abstract puzzle game similar to Tetris. But after that it's either MMORPGs revolving around combat, or "social spaces" like Club Penguin which are barely games, and certainly not role-playing games.

Glitch is one of the most original games I have played in a while. It is funny, and has lots of interesting new features like the world becoming larger through player cooperation. And of course it has features that resemble other MMORPGs, like a skill system that is similar to the one of EVE (real-time learning) or instanced player housing. Glitch is full of highly creative fun features to discover, like your auction house purchases being delivered by flying yoga frogs. Namaste! Gameplay revolves around gathering resources, crafting, and collaboration with other players on projects.

I just wonder if all those people who *say* they want original games are really ready to actually play them. Or whether they say "What? No combat like in all the other games I play? I'm outta here!". Do we really want innovative to the point of being very different? Or do we just want a slightly improved version of what we already have?

The fun curve

This month I had two negative experiences with games which made me stop playing those two games. One of these was Bastion, where somewhere in the middle of the game the difficulty got too high for me. I had to play the Jawson Bog three times before I was able to finish it, and when I again wiped in the level after I decided that the game wasn't worth the hassle any more. The other game was League of Legends, where even after trying the Dominion expansion which solved the "battles are too long" problem, but not the "combat is too twitchy" problem, I realized that I wasn't having fun playing this, and then promptly uninstalled LoL. What cheered me up immensely was reading the post of Tim from How to Murder Time on fun, with this brilliant list of facts on fun:
  • I like fun things, and dislike things which are not fun.

  • Only I know if I am having fun or not.

  • If I am asking myself if I am having fun, I am not having fun.

  • If I have lost a game, and did not have fun doing so, it is probably not a good game. It might not even be a game.

  • If someone else has to have less fun so I can have more fun, I have less fun.

  • If someone else that I like has fun, I have fun.

  • If someone else that I like is not having fun, I have less fun.

  • Sometimes people are fun.

  • If something is too easy, I have less fun.

  • If something is too difficult, I have less fun.

  • Only I know what too easy and too difficult are.

  • Doing a fun thing lots of times makes it less fun.

  • Doing a thing that isn’t fun for the first time makes it more fun.

  • If I have to do a lot of things that are not fun, to have fun at some later date, the net result is usually a deficit of fun over the total financial quarter.

  • Fun cannot be stored.

  • If a thing is described as character building, it is generally as an apology for it not being fun.

  • I try to avoid things that are not fun, especially in my spare time.

  • People sometimes pay me when I do things that are not fun.

  • I sometimes pay people so that I can do things that are fun.
I fully agree with that list. And it is especially pertinent for game design: If a game isn't fun from the start, it is a bad game. The concept of "you need to do something that is not fun for hundreds of hours to get to the fun part" is an abomination. It appears blindingly obvious to me that you could make a better game by cutting out the non-fun part and go directly to the fun part at the end.

Having said that, I do agree that there is some sort of fun curve describing the fun over time you have with a game, and the maximum of that curve is not directly at the start. You don't have the most fun with a game in the very first second, where you are still trying to figure out what the controls are and how the game works. There is an increase in fun while you learn how to play. But that is a period which should be measured in minutes, or at most a few hours. While you might hope to still somewhat increase your fun if the game is easy to learn but hard to master, and you have many hours of fun ahead of you while mastering the game, you can already make a good judgement on the game at the point where you have learned how to play without yet having total mastery. While summoner level 5 in League of Legends is not very much, I can say with certainty that if I hadn't have fun up to level 5, it isn't worth continuing to play. Hope that fun somehow miraculously materializes itself at level 10 or 20 or 30 would be misplaced.

It is also worth noting that regardless of what the game is, the fun over time curve always has a maximum and declines afterwards. Thus when judging a game I look at how much fun I had at the maximum, and how long the game provided a good level of fun. For example while I don't play World of Warcraft any more, that doesn't affect my judgement of the game: I had a lot of fun with it for over 6 years, and the game provided me with thousands of hours of fun at a very affordable cost of about $200 per year. That my fun curve has dipped below an acceptable level after 6,000 hours of play is only natural, and not to the discredit of the game. Hey, 6 years is already more than half of the median length of a marriage in the United States. It would be kind of unrealistic to demand much more of a game.

I have been playing video games long enough to have experienced a time where I had to play the games I had, because nothing else was available to me. Early computers and consoles didn't have all that many games, and my financial means were limited. I played what I had, because I couldn't afford another console or more games, or there weren't any more games available for the platform I had. But the number of both games and platforms on which to play games has grown exponentially in the last 30 years. And my financial means have grown well beyond the point where the price of a regular game poses a problem. Not to mention that these days lots of games can be at least tried for free. Under these circumstances ditching a game I don't have fun with or do no longer have sufficient fun with is just the best strategy, regardless of whether I have "finished" the game. And I'm not alone in that. Games are a disposable commodity product: Play until you don't have fun any more, then switch to the next one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Missing the first week - curse or boon?

If this blog had sound, you'd now be hearing Chris Rea singing "Driving home for Christmas". Because that is what I'll be doing a few days before Christmas, driving to my parents place to spend the holidays with my family. Which means that on release day of Star Wars: The Old Republic I won't be home. I could take a laptop with me, but then I'll be hit with a triple whammy of lack of time, lack of computing power, and lack of a decent internet connection. The safest assumption is that I won't have time for SWTOR before New Year. And I wonder if that is such a bad thing.

I've been present at many MMORPG launches over the years. And the overwhelming majority went badly: In some cases you couldn't even reach the website to open your account. Game servers were generally overloaded. And in the newbie zones a dozen level 1 characters were camping a single mob spawn point.

Now things have generally gotten better over the years. But in the case of SWTOR I'm not terribly confident that they will have a smooth launch. They will have to deal with the onslaught onto Origin, with hundreds of thousands of people trying simultaneously to download a multi-gigabyte client. And while EA Bioware has people from Mythic on board, SWTOR is technically their first MMORPG ever, so there is still a chance of them getting surprised by stuff SOE or Blizzard would just yawn about.

Starting a week or two later would give me both a better chance of a stable service, and less overcrowded newbie zones. And as I do not consider MMORPGs to be a race to the level cap, I don't see what I'm losing out on. So what do you think: Is it better to start SWTOR on day one, or rather a week or two later? What are your plans for the launch?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Everquest 3 will be Free2Play

While I was just recently discussing the relative advantages and disadvantages of the Free2Play and monthly subscription business models, it seems that some people can't bury the monthly subscription model fast enough. Thus John Smedley proclaimed his belief that Star Wars: The Old Republic "is going to be the last large scale MMO to use the traditional subscription business model. Why do I think that? Simply put, the world is moving on from this model and over time people aren’t going to accept this method."

I do believe Smed is misinterpreting some things here. SWTOR had nearly half a million pre-orders in North America alone before they even announced a release date. If you *know* that people are going to clamor to be able to play your game, charging them $50 up front and a monthly subscription is just good business sense. Obviously there isn't a huge number of games like this. But I would be really, really surprised if Blizzard's Titan would launch as Free2Play. It is exactly the "large scale MMO" games which will remain monthly subscription in the future.

Thus the only conclusion that I can draw from his statement is that John Smedley believes that the future games of SOE will not have that sort of critical size to support a monthly subscription business model. Expect any future SOE games to be Free2Play right from the start. Which might not be such a bad thing, I do think that designing games to be Free2Play from the start leads to better results than releasing them as monthly subscription and then switching to a different business model after a year.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

League of Legends

As I don't play real-time strategy games all that often, I never played the Defense of the Ancients map of Warcraft III, nor any of the DotA-like games that were based on it. But having already been surprised this year against expectations how much I like World of Tanks (which isn't a Dota game, but still has arena PvP combat), I decided to give the most successful Dota-game a try: League of Legends.

I am not going to give a description or review of League of Legends, but only my personal impressions and experiences. The first thing that struck me was that I had to wait in a login queue for 5 minutes on my very first login. Given that League of Legends is 2 years old by now, I would have expected them having sufficient hardware and bandwidth by now. Once in the game I was offered a single-player tutorial which explained the basics of the game to me. After that I was encouraged to first try a battle with 4 fellow players against AI bots. Very good new player experience, I must say. World of Tanks is missing that, but somehow I doubt you could program an AI that is playing World of Tanks well. The LoL bots were playing very good, out of 3 games against the AI the bots even won one (okay, helped by one player disconnecting, but still). I bought my first champion with the influence points I earned in these battles, but that is about how far I got yet.

I doubt I will play a lot of League of Legends, or spend any money on that game. There are several things about the game I don't like: Combat is relatively twitchy, but battles are much longer than I would like. But what is probably the deciding factor is that I don't like pet classes in MMORPGs: In League of Legends the brunt of the work is done by AI-controlled minions mindlessly running down the three lanes, and the players always need to stay behind those minions. That is something I find really annoying. You spend half of the battle running away or teleporting back to your base to heal, waiting for the next group of minions behind which you can hide. I don't feel I have enough freedom of action in such a game.

Well, lots of people tell me that popular isn't the same as good for games. It follows that even if a game is good, not everybody has to like it. I don't like League of Legends. I'll play a few battles more to see various maps and aspects of the game, but then I most likely will uninstall the game again.

Heroes of Neverwinter

I've been trying D&D: Heroes of Neverwinter after receiving several invites from various Facebook friends. I played a cleric up to level 3, but I'm not sure I want to continue playing. I simply find it too annoying that three quarters of my group consist of characters that aren't my own. I already disliked Dragon Age Legends for exactly the same reason.

I can see how the developers got the idea: Playing a Facebook game with your friends doesn't sound all bad. But in the end the problem becomes exactly the same as with playing World of Warcraft or other MMORPGs: You can only play with friends of an appropriate level. If you friends are much stronger than you, your own contribution is minimal and thus boring. But if you outlevel your friends, their lack of progress is holding you back.

Heroes of Neverwinter is somewhat better in that respect than Dragon Age Legends, because you can always hire mercenaries instead of friends in the tavern. And I see that as a trend in MMORPGs as well: Games like Guild Wars, SWTOR, or Diablo III all offer NPC mercenaries / companions / henchmen to help you over your lack of friends.

Total Domination: Nuclear Strategy

Hello facebook games fanatics, lately I have not been updating this blog too much, had no time and it was also really hard to find some games that are interesting for me. Well, finally I have found game that is good enough to be placed here on best facebook games.
The game this article is about war strategy sci-fi game and if you visit this blog regularly, you know that I just love these games. This game is situated to post apocalyptic world that is divided to small sectors where local leaders fights against each other for power and resources, in this future the most important resources are titan and uranium. When you have enough of titanium, uranium and money, you can buy lot of soldiers and defeat other players, what is of course the goal of this game. There is also research that allows you to upgrade your units or create new ones, you have to store your resources properly and much more. It is in fact quite complex game, even the basic principle is quite simple. Well it is not so simple, that would be so much fun, because this is of course social game also you can make alliances, you can trade resources and special modules you need for research with other players and more.

From the first moment of playing this game you see that this is really very professional work, because the graphics of this game is beautiful and all the futuristic buildings and units looks really great. If you have already played Backyard Monster, which you can also find here on this blog, you will probably now very well how to play this game. You are just building buildings for your resources, army and defense and then you attack enemies and defend yourself really very similar as in Backyard Monsters. I have to say that I like this facebook game more, because Backyard Monsters seems to be more childish and I really like the world this game is situated much more. So if you like strategy sci-fi games, you gonna love this one. If you want to play one of the best facebook games created this year, then try Total Domination: Nuclear Strategy.

Rating 9/10

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All I want for Christmas is a lightsaber

EA Bioware just announced the release date of Star Wars: The Old Republic. The game will launch in North America on December 20th, and two days later on December 22nd in Europe. A 1-month subscription will cost $14.99 or €12.99. While a release this close to Christmas risks losing some holiday sales, I guess it was a compromise between readiness and getting the game out of the door still this year.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Diablo 3 delayed to early 2012

Blizzard announced today that Diablo 3 will only be released in early 2012. I still refuse to believe that these release dates have anything to do with games other companies might or might not release in the same period. But now I sure hope that SWTOR isn't delayed into 2012 as well, because otherwise I'm not sure what I'll be playing on Christmas.

10,000 hours to mastery

A game ofchess played by World Chess Federation rules gives each player 90 minutes forhis first 40 moves, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game if necessary. Youcan also play Blitz chess with each player only having 5 minutes, or you couldplay chess by mail with each player given near infinite time to think about hismoves. That all works out pretty well, because generally both players have thesame time limit. A typical MMORPG has no time limit at all. And players withmore time aren’t limited to the same number of moves as players with less time;they can simply play more, and thus advance more. Surveyed in the Daedalus Projectby Nick Yee, aquarter of players said they played less than 10 hours per week,while 1.6% of players played over 60 hours. The average player spent 22 hoursper week playing his favorite MMORPG, but the distribution is very wide, withthe most active players playing over 10 times more than the least activeplayers.

Now veryactive players tend to cite examples like tennis, where obviously somebodyplaying 10 times more than somebody else for several months will end up beingbetter at playing tennis. Unfortunately MMORPGs aren’t tennis: In a MMORPG thecontribution of skill to your progress is relatively small. Even a completemoron would easily outlevel and outgear the world’s brightest genius if themoron played 10 times more. Furthermore in a MMORPG progress isn’t linear withtime, but there are certain steps in the curve where having a minimum amountfor this or that activity results in a huge step up in progress. For example ifyou have the time to complete dungeons, or if you have the time required toraid, your endgame progress per hour played will be much higher than that ofsomebody who has only very short play sessions and can’t do more than doingdaily quests.

If youconsider a theoretical MMORPG with an infinite number of levels andfree-for-all PvP, it is pretty obvious that the players spending the most timein the game would crush those spending the least amount of time. Add a monthlysubscription business model, and you end up with a system in which your worstcustomers (costing you the most for equal revenue) drive out your bestcustomers (costing you the least for equal revenue). That simple considerationexplains the majority of developments in MMORPG game design over the lastdecade: Games are now mostly PvE or consensual PvP with safe areas. Games arenow more solo-friendly, so the good customer playing 10 times less isn’tactually in any competition with the guy playing 10 times more. There are xprest bonuses boosting those who play less. Games now have shorter levelingtimes to the cap, preventing the guys playing 10 times more to get furtherahead. And there are now constant “resets”, where content patches andexpansions make all previous progress obsolete, so the players playing theleast are made equal again to those playing the most. In short, MMORPGs havebeen made a lot more casual-friendly since Ultima Online.

Of coursenot everybody likes that. If you actually want to spend 60+hours per week in a MMORPG, many of these developments work to yourdisadvantage. You aren’t allowed to use your superior progress to kick lessadvanced player’s ass. Your progress is constantly hindered by artificialbarriers, and then reset. And for your needs the game becomes too short, andtoo easy. It is said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to mastery. Even Igot over 10,000 hours of MMORPGs played since UO, and my play times are closeto average. 20 hours per week makes about 1,000 hours per year, or 10,000 hoursin a decade. Thus among the veterans there are a lot of players who can be saidto have mastered MMORPGs, but who are confined to games which are designed tobe accessible to new players and people still far from mastery. The few gamesmade specifically for those veterans end up being rather bad due to lack offunding, as making a game that can only be played by people who are alreadyvery good at MMORPGs and spend lots of hours per week playing is obviously abad business plan. There are simply a lot more people out there who haven’teven started playing MMORPGs yet than there are players who already masteredthe genre.

It is allrather bad for the veterans who can’t adapt to a more casual play style. Thuswe get blogs of people like Wolfshead or Syncaine who constantly complain howthe MMORPG genre has been ruined, who constantly tell you how much better thegames of the past (or niche games made like games of the past) were, and who oncloser examination turn out to be online game pundits who don’t play onlinegames anymore, because the genre has moved on and left them behind. There are alot of subjects in life where somebody would profit from having a 10,000-hourmastery of that field. MMORPGs aren’t one of them, there simply isn’t anopportunity to exercise that mastery. Having 10,000 hours of mastery in MMORPGsunfortunately is only worth about as much as having a 10,000-hour mastery inwatching TV: Nothing.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An accurate description of World of Warcraft

I stopped reading Gevlon's blog when he started insulting my wife. So I only got the news that he actually wrote something sensible for once 6 days late, via a quote somewhere. After years of telling people that they are morons & slackers when they stand in the fire, Gevlon finally realized that getting out of the fire isn't fun because it isn't the core gameplay of World of Warcraft. And to boot he tops it off with a brilliant definition of what World of Warcraft is: ""WoW-playing" is therefore defined as "solving tasks by using class abilities"."

This is exactly why I am not playing World of Warcraft any more. I've been a pretty hardcore raider in vanilla WoW, where I got up to the end of BWL with my priest. And at that time it was all about how good I was at using my class abilities to heal the raid. Between triage and managing mana efficiency, that was challenging in a "using class abilities well" way. But with every expansion using my class abilities became less and less important. Instead World of Warcraft turned into a huge game of Simon Says, where everybody is supposed to learn all the boss encounters in the game, and to be able to quickly react correctly to a series of scripted inputs. Healing isn't easy, but if you compare the situation now to vanilla, the actual using of healing class abilities well has become easier with concepts like downranking spells or mana efficiency having been removed. And in place of the challenge of using class abilities well, there is now the challenge of finding the time to use a very basic set of class abilities while constantly jumping in tune to the blinking lights the boss fights are all about now. And in Cataclysm even the 5-man dungeons are about knowing the script instead of being about using class abilities.

Gevlon describes that as: "A math competition with differential equations is hard. But imagine that in a math exam one of the tests would be "do 100 pushups". That would make the exam significantly harder in the meaning of "less people can do it". However people would say "It's not mathematics, what the hell pushups do here?!"" I fully agree. Modern raiding is not solving tasks by using class abilities, what the hell is Simon Says doing here? I am not interested in learning scripted boss encounters, where mastering one boss does zilch for your ability to fight the next one. I am not interested in challenges that only test my split-second reaction time, where muscle memory leads to better results than actual thinking. I would like to succeed because I know how to play my class well, because I can solve tasks by using class abilities. This isn't about how easy or how hard raiding is, it is about what kind of challenge raiding offers this day. It sure is challenging, but it just isn't World of Warcraft any more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not a Friday

Syncaine points out that it isn't a Friday, so I can't completely disagree with what he writes. Fortunately I fully agree with the paragraph in which he says:
On top of that, one would think that as you get older, you get a little smarter, and so things that challenged you as a teen are pretty easy for you now (non-twitch of course), yet somehow in addition to a reduction in time, we also need a reduction in thinking? That we can’t handle social situations? That we can’t grasp the concept of not everyone being the hero? At what point did getting older turn into becoming an oversensitive baby who needs a trophy just for showing up? That sounds a lot more like becoming a child than growing up.
I fully agree. I would prefer my games to require more thinking, more strategy, more maturity. And that having "twitch" as the only sort of challenge in a game turns me off, which is exactly why I quit World of Warcraft.

But where I don't agree with is that time requirement is a suitable challenge. Recently Syncaine is praising long games like Everquest simply for being long, and bashes Facebook games for being short. Well, I played Everquest a decade ago for over a year, and while it sure was "hard" in the sense of punishing and frustrating, I never considered Everquest a challenging game in the sense of needing a high IQ to play it successfully. For example I still remember camping the Mammoth Cloak for my druid. That took 16 hours (over several sessions). And the "challenge" was to sit in a cave where a mob respawned every 23 minutes, and kill that mob over and over until the rare cloak finally dropped. The intellectual challenge of that is zero. You can fill 2,000 hours of gameplay with stuff like that, but that doesn't make the game any good.

I think it is consistent to demand more intellectual challenge from a game, but still to reject the model in which "challenging" is equal to "time-consuming". World of Warcraft would not be a better game if you simply doubled the xp requirement per level and halved all the loot drop probabilities. It would only be a longer game. If you wanted to make WoW more intellectually challenging, you would need to replace scripted encounters by random encounters, forcing players to think on their feet and come up with strategies of their own instead of strategies from YouTube. You would need to design talent trees and combat abilities in a way that every choice has advantages and disadvantages to consider, instead of creating a system with a mathematical optimum talent build and spell rotation which is identical for every encounter. There are lots of ways to make games more intellectually challenging, the current batch just isn't there yet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Diablo III ranged classes and AH

This weekend I got around to playing the Diablo III beta some more, testing the last two classes I hadn't played yet: Wizard and Demon Hunter. Both of which fortunately turned out to be quite fun to play, which means that from the beta I like 4 out of the 5 classes. Comparing the two ranged classes, I preferred the Wizard over the Demon Hunter. The Wizard plays pretty much exactly as you would expect, starting out with single-target magic missiles and point blank AoE, and getting really good once he acquires ranged AoE spells.

The Demon Hunter is a bit more complicated. It is the only class having a split resource meter, using both hate and discipline. Hate powers aggressive abilities, discipline defensive abilities. Discipline recovers much more slowly than hate. Now that might work better at higher levels, but your problem at lower levels is that you can only use 2 or 3 abilities, and putting a defensive ability using discipline on one of these few slots is simply a waste. I did like the exploding bola ability for its fun value, but practically an AoE explosion with a 5-second delay is obviously less useful than the immediate explosions of the Wizard spells.

As remarked earlier, a large part of healing in Diablo III works via health globes that can drop when a mob dies. That puts ranged classes at an inherent disadvantage, because they tend to stand somewhat away from these health globes. The Barbarian and Monk have a much easier time scooping the health globes up, and they both have self-healing abilities. So I would say that the ranged classes are somewhat harder to play. Especially the Demon Hunter, whose defensive abilities at least in the early game are limited to back-flipping or tumbling out of the action, with a certain risk of these moves getting him deeper into trouble by jumping right into the next group of mobs. The Wizard's frost nova is a lot more useful as defensive ability, even with its cooldown timer.

New this weekend in the beta was that the auction house opened. Gold only, obviously, no real money trade in the beta. The AH is apparently modeled on the WoW version, with bid and buyout system, and all the related disadvantages. I generally prefer AH systems in which you can't see what the asking price is of all the other players, because then you don't get those permanent undercutting wars. One innovation is that when bidding you can put in a higher bid amount, and the AH automatically adjusts your bid if somebody outbids you, like on EBay. What is also new is that you search by character, as in "all the chest armor pieces my Barbarian could wear". That has advantages for buyers, but is somewhat cumbersome for sellers who found an item their characters can't use and would like to find out its market value. The beta not having all that many players, and the AH being new, prices still were all over the place. But it was already clear that the only items really selling were those that had good stats for their level requirements. Your average loot drop isn't going to sell for much, and you might be better off disassembling it into essences and crafting something better from those.

Angry Birds on facebook

When you speak about best games, you probably cannot forget to mention Angry Birds. Even this is not that game that is famous because of facebook, lot of people wants to play it on facebook, but it is sometimes hard to find this game there. There are lot of fake links that leads somewhere where you wil not find real Angry Birds on facebook.
The original Angry Birds is game developed by Rovio Mobile, company from Finland. It was first released for Apple and it got really big succes. That was the reason, why this game was released in few other version, very important was to create version for Android mobile phones.
Well, Angry Birds is not game only for mobile phones, people wants to play this game on their computers also, they wants to play it online and of course also on facebook. Well, I have been looking for Angry Birds on facebook for quite long time, but finally I found them. I think that Angry Birds really belongs here to best facebook games, even this game was originally not designed for facebook, it is so popular now that it must be one of the best games and if you can play it now on facebook, it really is one of the best facebook games.
If you don't know already what Angry Birds are about than you should know that your task is to get your stolen eggs from group of bad green pigs. In every level, your task is to hit the pigs using birds and slingshot. You can hit the pigs directly or eliminate them by destroying their structures.

The address where you can find real Angry Birds on facebook is this one

Rating 8/10

Monday, September 19, 2011

Which business model is better?

Syl yesterday asked an interesting question on the post about monthly subscription and Free2Play business models: "The really interesting question though is what's better for the player? - or rather, which model is/was better for whom and why." Now many people will instinctively answer that the monthly subscription business model is better, and point out the many rather bad Free2Play games as proof. Which of course is a fallacy, based on the inability of people to distinguish between the quality of a game and the quality of its business model. There have been many cases where a game switched from monthly subscription to Free2Play, and obviously that doesn't change the quality of the gameplay. And there are some rather horrible monthly subscription games too. No, to check what is better for the players we can't just compare the most popular monthly subscription game with some cheap Free2Play game. We need to look at the business model separately from other aspects like gameplay, which aren't strictly related.

Which business model is better for any given player depends on how much he has to pay and what he gets out of that money. Thus "free" isn't always best, because if for a small payment you could get a lot more fun, that would probably be the better option. It helps to consider how other hobbies work: How much does collecting stamps cost? Simple question, but obviously it doesn't have a simple answer. If one thinks how stamp collecting works, and where the cost come from, it slowly crystallizes that the cost of stamp collecting is related to how committed you are to your collection. A beginner or somebody not striving for anything like a complete collection can have a lot of fun for next to no money with kiloware stamps. But once you travel to stamp conventions and pay for the stamps missing in your collection, the cost goes up. The more important your collection becomes to you, the more money you're going to spend. And that is pretty much the essence of how Free2Play games work as well.

That does have both advantages and disadvantages. One obvious advantage of Free2Play games is that you are always given the opportunity to start playing for free. If you don't like the game, you haven't incurred any cost to find out. Of course that advantage isn't exclusive to Free2Play games, many monthly subscription games have free trials now. But unless you count betas, free trials usually aren't available in the early days of a subscription MMORPG. Where the advantage becomes unique is in the case of people slightly more committed than the free players, but spending very little. Or, in a related case, with people playing a game on and off, with low intensity. As your spending on a Free2Play game depends on how intensely you are playing it, you don't pay anything when you are on holiday or taking a break from the game. That is a lot more difficult with subscription games, subscription game companies make millions from players who stopped playing but fail to unsubscribe for some time.

The obvious disadvantage of that model is that if you are very committed to your game, you might end up spending quite a lot on it. And that where the monthly subscription games become better: Because everybody pays the same price, regardless of how much they play, the people playing the most obviously get the best deal.

St. Thomas Aquinas believed in the notion of a just price, the notion that there is something like a true value of a good, at which it should be sold, based on the cost of production. Neither of the two business models discussed here achieves that, both are in some way "unfair", with some players subsidizing others. In a monthly subscription game, the people playing very little subsidize those who play a lot, because the cost of providing the game has components like server load and bandwidth which go up proportionally to play time, plus other costs like running forums or providing customer service, which also tend to get used more by people who play more. In a Free2Play game a minority (industry rule of thumb is 5%) of players pays for everybody else, with a very few people with too much money spending rather outrageous sums. If you would want to design a business model which is closest to fair, to a just price, you would have to charge by the hour, like World of Warcraft does in China.

So ultimately which business model is better for the player depends on what kind of player he is. People who tend to stick to one game and play it very intensively do better with the monthly subscription model. Players who like to flit from game to game and never commit to one game for a long time do better with the Free2Play model. Conflict arises from the fact that the group who is subsidizing the other players in each of these models would be better off playing a game of the other business model. Thus some people feel the need to disparage the business model that is less advantageous to them, so as not to lose their sponsors. If everybody would play only games with the business model that was the most advantageous to them, game companies would make a lot less money, and would have to raise prices or put more paywalls into their games. Maybe one day everybody figures this out, the two business models crash simultaneously, and we'll see pay-per-hour games rising from the ashes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Free2Play vs. Subscription numbers

Just a quick link to an interesting article in Massively, where the long argument between Free2Play and subscription based business model is reduced to a few simple numbers: Revenue from subscription for MMOs went down by 5% from 2009 to 2010, while Free2Play revenue went up 24%. Nevertheless the subscription model is still ahead, with $1.58 billion annual revenue versus $1.13 for Free2Play.

Note that this is revenue, not profit. I don't have any numbers, but I'd like to point out that in a subscription game everybody or nearly everybody pays, while a Free2Play game has to carry up to 98% of freeloaders, which *do* have some cost. Thus I believe that subscription games have a better profit margin.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gaming Facebook Games

Michael Hartman of Brighthub wrote a very angry rant about Facebook games. Quote:
When I play a Facebook game, I feel less and less like a gamer and more and more like an employee of the developer's marketing division. It feels like half my gameplay time is spent sending messages to friends, asking friends to click on links, inviting friends to play, or otherwise pimping the game in one way or another.EXAMPLE: In The Sims Social, you cannot build rooms, buy certain types of furniture, advance certain quests, or do much of anything without the direct contribution of your friends. I'm serious.

If you have ever played any of the "real" Sims games, just think about how absurd that is. Think of every single time you built a new room, advanced one of your "wishes", or did a whole host of other core gameplay elements. Now imagine instead of actually getting to do those things, you had to wait until 2 to 10 friends:

1.Happened to be online.
2.Happened to be checking your messages.
3.Happened to have the same game installed.
4.Happened to feel like clicking the link.

What a titantic PAIN IN THE NECK. I just want to build a room for crying out loud! Why do I need permission from 10 of my friends to keep playing this game?

Why do they do this? Simple. They want your friends to see these constant wall posts of yours asking for help. They want you to beg your friends to install the game so they'll click on the links that let you trudge inexorably forward in the game.
Of course he is totally right. Needing the permission from 10 of your friends to keep playing is infuriating. But what if those friends not only had to come online and click on a link? What if to advance you'd need your friends to be online at the same time as you, doing the same activity in the same game as you for a continuous block of several hours? Then you'd be raiding in a MMORPG. :)

The chances that among your real-life close friends there are a sufficient number who actually want to help you with your various game chores is slim. Which is why guilds in MMORPGs have reverse social engineered the problem a long time ago: If you don't have enough friends who want to raid, you simply seek out the people who want to raid, and declare them your new friends!

And as we've seen that Facebook games actually require much less effort from your "friends" than a MMORPG does, the same trick works there even better. You don't pimp a game to your friends, you pimp your virtual friendship to people who happen to play the same game. Problem solved. Just like in a guild your fellow raiders need you as much as you need them, the players of Facebook games all need each other. You usually get a list of game requests when you start the game, and clicking through them is a matter of seconds. With very little effort you quickly make all of your "friends" happy, and thus don't have to feel embarrassed if a bit later you find you need to spam them with your requests. It's a click for a click, a simple deal that benefits all involved. Except of course for the marketing people who had hoped you'd pimp their game to some of your real friends.

Developers design reward systems to make players behave in a certain manner. But that only works on some players. Other players look at the reward system, and quickly find out how to game it to their best advantage. That is the very thing that makes online games so interesting to observe. Emerging player behavior in response to some rule system. And because game rules are different from real life rules, one even has the chance to observe modes of behavior that don't exist in real life. Albeit not in this case: If your real-life friends don't want to play tennis with you, you'd join a tennis club and make new friends in real life too.

I do think that the latest generation of Facebook games has gone a bit too far in how much you either need to have help from your "friends" or as an alternative how much money you have to spend to advance if you don't have enough friends. In Adventure World I'm working on my second tool shed upgrade, and if I'm not willing to get 75 clicks from friends, I'd need to pay 50 bucks for the upgrade. Which is rather ridiculous. And probably counter-productive, as this is way beyond what most people would actually be willing to spend. Lower prices would be a lot more profitable, because then friends or cash would actually look like viable alternatives. As it is, we'll just see the evolution of something like "guilds" on Facebook, interest groups of strangers banding together to game the social requirements of the games.

Indiana Jones game

Thus is my general appreciation of Zynga that when they this week renamed their newest game Adventure World into "Adventure World - An Indiana Jones Game", I was thinking they had done so without the permission of Lucasfilm. Turns out I was wrong, they actually made a deal. Adventure World is officially featuring Indiana Jones. What was kind of interesting that the game was there first, and the brand was attached later, albeit not much later.

I am currently playing Adventure World, and it isn't that bad for a Facebook game. Unlike most other Zynga games there is a heavy emphasis on exploration. While gameplay can still be described as clicking on things, and isn't all that challenging, it is kind of fun to find the best path through the various maps, disarm traps, battle wildlife, and find hidden treasures. It sure beats clicking on cows and potatoes.

Nevertheless, one word of warning: Like most Zynga games these days (and in fact many other Facebook games as well), you either need a lot of friends or a lot of real money to advance. Feel free to friend me if you need a neighbor in this game. Most of my "friends" on Facebook are people I've never met in real life, and who I mostly know by exchanging gifts and favors in various games. Probably not what Facebook had in mind when they created the platform, but it works well enough.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Widget artikel terkait untuk Blogger / Blogspot

Widget artikel terkait  untuk Blogger  adalah Widget untuk menampilkan posting terkait di bawah setiap posting blog Anda.  Artikel  Terkait dipilih dari posting lain dalam kategori yang sama / label / tag. Dengan Widget ini memudahkan   pembaca atau pengunjung Blog Anda melihat artikel terkait yang merka cari/baca. ( Baca Juga : Mengedit Header Menu Di Template The Mez )

Screenshot  Widget artikel terkait  untuk Blogger / Blogspot :
Widget artikel terkait  untuk Blogger / Blogspot
Cara menambahkan Widget artikel terkait untuk Blog Anda :
  1. Pergi ke Layout> Edit HTML di Dashboard Blogger Anda. 
  2. Download Full Template Anda yang sudah ada sebelum membuat perubahan!
    Download Full Template 
  3. Pastikan untuk menceklist kotak "Expand Template Widget".Expand Widget Templates 
  4.  Cari tag </ head>.
  5. Tambahkan kode berikut sebelum tag </ head>
    <style> #related-posts { float : left; width : 540px; margin-top:20px; margin-left : 5px; margin-bottom:20px; font : 11px Verdana; margin-bottom:10px; } #related-posts .widget { list-style-type : none; margin : 5px 0 5px 0; padding : 0; } #related-posts .widget h2, #related-posts h2 { font-size : 20px; font-weight : normal; margin : 5px 7px 0; padding : 0 0 5px; } #related-posts a { text-decoration : none; } #related-posts a:hover { text-decoration : none; } #related-posts ul { border : medium none; margin : 10px; padding : 0; } #related-posts ul li { display : block; background : url(&quot;;) no-repeat 0 0; margin : 0; padding-top : 0; padding-right : 0; padding-bottom : 1px; padding-left : 21px; margin-bottom : 5px; line-height : 2em; border-bottom:1px dotted #cccccc; } </style> <script src='' type='text/javascript'/>
  6. Sekarang cari kode  <data:post.body/>. Dalam beberapa template kode ini mungkin terlihat seperti ini
    <div class='post-body>
  7. Tambahkan kode berikut persis di bawah kode <data:post.body/>. atau salah satu dari kode diatas yang sama dengan template yang anda pakai.
    <b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'>
    <div id="related-posts">
    <font face='Arial' size='3'><b>Related Posts : </b></font><font color='#FFFFFF'><b:loop values='data:post.labels' var='label'><><b:if cond='data:label.isLast != &quot;true&quot;'>,</b:if><b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == &quot;item&quot;'>
    <script expr:src='&quot;/feeds/posts/default/-/&quot; + + &quot;?alt=json-in-script&amp;callback=related_results_labels&amp;max-results=5&quot;' type='text/javascript'/></b:if></b:loop> </font>
    <script type='text/javascript'> removeRelatedDuplicates(); printRelatedLabels();
  8. Simpan Template / save template.
Catatan :
untuk mengubah jumlah maksimum artikel terkait yang ditampilkan untuk setiap label/Tag, Anda tinggal  mengubah nomor "max-results = 5" ke nomor yang anda diinginkan.

Referensi :
Author    : John Smith 


I'm not always a friend of charity drives in games, because I feel that sometimes these are just marketing tricks that help the game company more than the charity. Especially if not 100% of the money goes to charity. Why would I want to buy a virtual item for $10 of which half goes to charity instead of giving $5 or $10 directly to that charity? Having said that, player-run charity drives are obviously a different story.

The guild Sacred Fire is doing a 24-hour charity MMORPG marathon playing session on October 15th and is looking for your support, with 100% of the money going to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. So if you are willing to pledge $1 per hour for one of the participants, you can do that on this page. Looks like a worthy cause to me.

Sticking to your guns

I am way beyond the point where I care about how hard or easy any particular dungeon or raid is in World of Warcraft. But when I read about the Firelands nerf and the reactions to it, I feel as if Blizzard managed to make everybody unhappy. I do believe that a good MMORPG could be made with raid content that is accessible to the majority of players, let's say down to average player minus 1 sigma, which would be 85% of all players. I also believe that a good MMORPG could be made in which only the players at least 1 sigma above average have access to raid content. But the important thing is to chose one model, and then stick to it.

Right now, if somebody asks you the question whether raiding is hard in World of Warcraft, you need to reach for a calendar to give an answer. Raiding was hard from this point in time to that point, then it got harder, then it got totally easy, then it got hard again, and now it's being nerfed to easier again. And every time the difficulty changes, players have to adapt.

In a multiplayer game, the question with who I can play is of extreme importance. If the game has a difficulty level which basically allows nearly everybody to beat the content, or at least gives a group of more competent players the option to "carry" their less competent friends (e.g. 40-man raids), people choose who to play with on the basis of social criteria. They play with their friends, with people they like, with people who are agreeable to hang out with and have fun. If the game has a high difficulty level or other reason for a team to play "at least this well" (e.g. for a competition), the criteria for team composition dramatically change. If you plan a fun bowling evening with your friends, your selection criteria are different than if you try to assemble a bowling team for a local championship. Both methods of team assembly are valid, but as they are done in response to the challenge level, you can't have the challenge level fluctuate wildly without that having serious consequences.

Thus I would really prefer Blizzard to finally chose a side, and tell us what they want their game to be. Ideally they'd make the leveling game consistent with the end game. The situation that drove me away from early Cataclysm was one where the leveling game was too easy for me, and the endgame too hard. Blizzard either should be consistent with their Raid Finder plans and from now on only make raids which a pickup raid group of average players is actually able to beat, or they should make a leveling game which offers some challenge and culminates in a hard raiding endgame which then isn't nerfed just weeks after release. Decide, Blizzard, and stick to your guns. Listen to President Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. World of Warcraft is suffering from trying to please all of the people all of the time, and ends up see-sawing between different models.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What drives players towards harder content?

When discussing Diablo III on Monday, there were some interesting comments from Gevlon, who believed that the AH economy will be driven by people buying items so that they can play through Diablo III at a higher difficulty level. Quote: "However there will be significant social pressure on the player to keep "progressing" on higher difficulties, and don't be a "noob" who just did it in normal." Now I can see how somebody observing MMORPGs could come to such a point of view. The social pressures to progress to higher difficulties in the form of raiding and not be a noob without epics most certainly exist. But I am not sure that these social pressures are ultimately the reason why people play beyond a difficulty point with which they are totally comfortable. And thus I don't believe the same forces will work in Diablo III.

What I consider the key difference between let's say Diablo III and World of Warcraft is the nature of the harder difficulty content. In World of Warcraft the harder difficulty content is an additional and very different game, the raiding endgame. In Diablo III the harder difficulty consists of playing through exactly the same content a second time with the mobs being tougher. That does not hold the same attraction.

In short, I believe that average players let themselves get dragged into raiding even if they aren't very good at it or enjoy it very much not because they are offered shiny epics, but because they are offered new, and very different content. It isn't as if WoW is offering all that many alternatives at the level cap if you don't want to go down the heroics / raiding route. In Diablo III the *only* thing you can do once you reached the end, is to start over. You only get the choice whether you want to start over at the same difficulty level or at a higher difficulty level. Thus I believe that most average players might *try* higher difficulty levels, but those who don't really enjoy them will rather opt for normal difficulty than going down a path of paying real money for legendary gear from the auction house just to be able to do the same content at a higher difficulty level.

Mengedit Header Menu Di Template The Mez V2

Mengedit Head Menu Di Template The Mez V2: Yang di maksud Head Menu adalah menu yang letaknya berada di bagian sebelah kanan atas blog. Menu ini sangat berguna untuk membuat tautan atau link ke halaman yang ingin mendapatkan perhatian lebih dari pengunjung blog anda ( Baca Juga : Cara membuat kategori otomatis dengan gambar thumbnail )

Mengedit Head Menu Di Template The Mez V2
Berikut cara untuk mengedit Head menu :
  1. Silahkan login ke blogger dengan ID anda.
  2. Klik Rancangan / Design
    cara mengedit Head menu
  3. Jika masih dalam posisi tab Elemen Laman, silahkan klik terlebih dahulu tab menu Elemen Laman.
    tab Elemen Laman
  4. Klik Edit pada elemen yang bernama Head Menu.
    Edit elemen Head Menu
  5. Setelah jendela editor menu muncul, tambahkan link yang di inginkan pada form URL Situs Baru, tambahkan kata kunci yang ingin di pergunakan pada Nama Situs Baru.
    Mengedit Head Menu Di Template The Mez V2
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  7. Akhiri dengan klik tombol SIMPAN / SAVE
  8. Selesai
Sumber :
Author : Blogger Templates Gallery

There will never be stress-free healing

Zelmaru of Murloc Parliament and Ionomonkey of Screaming Monkeys are having an interesting public argument about the number of healers in a 10-man World of Warcraft raid. Their guild apparently ran into a situation where the standard 3 healers in the raid had the healing task well under control, but the 5 damage dealers weren't able to kill the boss before the enrage timer struck. Thus the damage dealers want to remove 1 healer and take 1 dps character more, while the healers feel as if that would punish them for doing their job well, and that the damage dealers should just man up and Learn2Play.

It is easy to understand the point of both sides. But regardless which game we talk about, or which raid size, as long as there is the holy trinity of tank, healer, and damage dealer, the general raid strategy will always be to *minimize* the number of tanks and healers. It is an inherent flaw of the system that any excess of healing or aggro management is a waste, but any excess of damage serves to speed up the fight. If you had a raid team which was perfectly able to take down a boss and the game would allow you to take one more person on the raid, you would always chose a damage dealer. There is such a thing as "enough" tanking and healing, but there is never enough damage output.

Not only is additional damage more useful, your guild is also more likely to have excess damage dealers than having excess tanks or healers. The consequence is that whenever healing is going well enough to offer the healers a relatively stress-free raid night, the guild is likely to remove one of those healers to squeeze more damage dealers in. In the end even the easy "fun" raids end up being as much hard work for the healers as the progression raids. No wonder healers burn out so fast.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Diablo III account sharing forbidden

My wife is showing some interest in Diablo III. Great, it is always nice when we play the same game. But then I realized that something has changed: We played Diablo I on one computer using a single copy of the game. I'm pretty sure that at least for the single-player game that was perfectly legal, with games generally having a single computer license, playable by the whole family. That isn't the case any more for Diablo III: You need a account to play Diablo III, and sharing that account is forbidden. Blizzard says so themselves (see point 3 there). If me and my wife want both to play, even if it was on a single computer, we will need to buy two copies of the game.

And yeah, I know that I could get around that, because on a single computer Blizzard would never be able to find out we shared the account. But I'm talking about the principle here: Earlier Blizzard single-player games had single computer licenses, now we are down to single user licenses.

Cara membuat kategori otomatis dengan gambar thumbnail

 Cara membuat kategori otomatis dengan gambar thumbnail : Salah satu fitur yang sangat menarik dan berguna pada The Mez V2 adalah fitur Automatic Featured Category, dengan fitur ini anda dapat menampilkan kategori yang dianggap penting untuk di tampilkan dihalaman depan.
Cara membuat kategori otomatis dengan gambar thumbnail 
Tahukah anda, bahwa kategori yang di pasang akan tampil secara otomatis tanpa anda harus repot mengeditnya setiap saat, dan gambar thumbnail nya pun secara otomatis mendeteksi sesuai gambar yang ada pada posting tersebut, menarik bukan :)

Apa yang harus dipersiapkan? yang harus anda persiapkan hanyalah nama kategori serta alamat kategori yang ingin di tampilkan. Namun perlu diketahui bahwa nama label ini bersifat case-sensitive artinya nama yang di pasang hurufnya harus sama persis dengan label di blog anda, misal nama kategori Kesehatan berbeda dengan kesehatan oleh karenanya pastikan terlebih bahwa nama label sama persis hurufnya.

Cara yang mudah untuk mendapatkan alamat link kategori atau nama kategori adalah dengan klik kanan pada nama kategori yang di inginkan, lalu pilih Copy Link Location ( untuk browser Firefox), paste pada tex editor seperti notepad, wordpad atau sejenisnya.

Cara membuat kategori otomatis dengan gambar thumbnail

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World of Tanks Release Plan

The devs from posted a detailed plan for what they plan to add to World of Tanks in 2011 and 2012, including which new features are expected in which quarter. Now I do wish some other companies would publish their plans the same way!

Diablo III beta thoughts

I'd like to start this with a public service announcement: Diablo III beta invite phishing mails are the scam flavor of the month. Please be careful! Don't send your account data to anyone by e-mail or click on a link in an e-mail promising you Diablo III beta access. In fact the REAL Diablo III beta invite mails do not contain a link! They simply tell you how to go to your account status and download the beta client from there. Added bonus: You don't need the e-mail. If you got an invite and accidentally deleted it or it got eaten by your spam filter, you only need to visit to get the client, and log on using you account. Curiously the current Diablo III beta client doesn't use the authenticator, even if your account does.

So where am I in the beta? I'm on my fourth play through. The beta is rather short, just a couple of hours until the final boss and a message that you have beaten the beta. I played through that twice with my first character, the barbarian. First time got me to level 9, second time to 11. There doesn't appear to be a hard level cap in the beta, but there are obviously diminishing returns by playing through the low level content repeatedly. Nevertheless I like the concept that you can at any time jump back to a previous stage, keeping your character and only losing story progress voluntarily.

The barbarian is a solid melee character, and I especially liked his leap attack which can also be used to overcome some obstacles or jump *out* of combat instead of into. The second character I played was the monk, and in many ways that one was even more fun to play as melee character as the barbarian. The monk is a bit more difficult as he uses active healing compared to the barbarian's passive healing abilities. But the monk clearly has advantages with his melee attacks having a better range and hitting several enemies. The barbarian is probably better against hard-to-kill boss mobs, but most of the time you are dealing with large amounts of low-level mobs, and the monk dispatches these with less clicks than the barbarian.

My fourth play through with the third character is with a witch doctor. Frankly, I don't like that character. I've never been a fan of the indirect combat of pet classes. Furthermore in Diablo III you not only attack a lot of monsters, but also plenty of barrels and other containers. And you do that by launching your standard attack with your left mouse button on the barrel. It isn't as if that doesn't work if your standard attack is a haunting curse or throwing poisonous toads, but opening a barrel that way feels very silly. Another disadvantage I see with the ranged classes is that your main healing comes from walking through the health globes dropped by enemies you kill. That works very well in melee, but for a ranged character the health globes drop far from where he is standing. With the witch doctor the health globes mostly drop wherever your zombie dogs decided to attack, and you don't really have much control over that. I'll have to play the other two ranged classes to see if that works out better for them.

Betas in general often evoke the old discussion about what they are good for, with one side claiming they are for play testing, the other side seeing them as a marketing tool. The Diablo III beta is clearly on the marketing side of things. You only get to test a short part of the game, encouraging you to buy it to see more. I consider that valid, unless you run into a case like Age of Conan where the content *after* the part you could see in the beta was completely different from the part the beta showed. I don't think there is much risk of that in Diablo III. On the game testing side I honestly wouldn't know what I could "test", the game is already extremely polished. I could imagine Blizzard testing server capacity when the beta goes public, but other than that there is not much of a job for a potential beta bug tester.

Is the game any good? More and more I find that this question very much depends on what you expect. For example the other game I tried this weekend was Adventure World, a new Facebook game from Zynga. Which is brilliant *compared to expectations*, that is "for a Facebook game". Diablo III is undoubtedly much better than most other similar games, but then expectations are also much higher. It is very close to the best you can get out of an action RPG game with random dungeons. But it still suffers all the inherent disadvantages of an action RPG game with random dungeons: The deja vu of walking through the same building block of the random dungeon several times; the endless clicking on stuff; the ups and downs of random loot. If you loved the previous versions, you'll love Diablo III. If you played through to many Diablo clones in the last decade, Diablo III isn't going to offer you a fundamentally different experience. Just a more polished and cooler version of the same.

My biggest surprise in the beta was how closely integrated your different characters are. They not only share a bank, but also their gold, and even their crafting skills. Due to the crafting and the sharing of random loot, playing Diablo III with several alts is quite an attractive option. You *do* play through the same story several times if you have alts, but you'll find a lot of pages of training that way, which are the "skill increases" of Diablo III crafting. I do like the crafting system, where you disassemble unused items into essences and reassemble those into the items you want.

Although the auction house isn't switched on in the beta, the crafting and exchanging items between alts made it clear to me that the discussion of the auction house has been focusing on the wrong problem. Everybody was only discussing money, and gold farmers, and Blizzard's share in that. But the more fundamental issue here might be difficulty level. Now I can't say much about the final difficulty level of Diablo III based on the beta, which is said to be rigged towards even easier, and only offers the lowest difficulty level of "normal" and the lowest levels anyway. But I noticed the huge difference just twinking your alts with crafted and previously collected gear makes, and can only imagine how much worse that gets if you buy the really good stuff from the auction house. As far as I've read, you need to play through each difficulty level to unlock the next one, and then the higher difficulty levels hand out better loot, which make the game easier again. That is already a strange cycle for a single player with a single character. But if you add the possibility of characters on normal difficulty level wearing gear collected at "inferno" difficulty, you risk making the experience completely trivial. I can already hear the arguments of people claiming they need to farm gold to buy stuff from the auction house to enable their alts to play through the lower difficulties faster and get to the end game "where the real fun is". That fallacy of doing stuff you don't enjoy to make a large part of a game too trivial to enjoy, in the hope of getting faster to more fun at the end is already doing great harm to World of Warcraft. I'd hate to see that repeated in Diablo III.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Interview with Louis Cyphre from EVIL ONLINE

In our ongoing discussion on whether game companies can be evil, I welcome Louis Cyphre from Hellware, developers of the upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game EVIL ONLINE for an interview. Louis, can you tell us something about EVIL ONLINE?

Louis Cyphre: Our motto is: "Real evil, real emotions". EVIL ONLINE does away with the boring and repetitive do-goodery of typical MMORPGs, in which the players are forever condemned to perform helpful chores for NPCs. Instead we offer player the opportunity to crush your enemies, see them driven before you... and to hear the lamentation of their women!

Tobold: So EVIL ONLINE is a PvP-only game?

Louis Cyphre: PvP-centric. We found that there are no real emotions involved when interacting with NPCs. We have quests in which you can be cruel to NPCs and torture them, but in the end there is nothing as exhilarating as making a real other player cry. We do have PvE areas that give n00bs a false sense of security, only to make it doubly bitter when they are betrayed and assassinated there.

Tobold: What other features than combat does EVIL ONLINE have?

Louis Cyphre: Well, we learned a lot from the real world: Simple violence is just a minor evil. To really get to somebody, you need to appeal to his greed. Thus we have an extensive player-run economy with crafting, trading, and all sorts of financial instruments. In addition we have a political system. These systems together offer extensive opportunities for all sorts of treachery and scams. Which by the way are made legal in EVIL ONLINE through our terms of service.

Tobold: Speaking of which, there are some really strange terms in your terms of service, about players selling their soul.

Louis Cyphre: (peeling an egg) You know, some religions think that the egg is the symbol of the soul, did you know that? (takes a bite out of the egg) That part is completely optional, a quite favourable deal for the best status items from the item store.

Tobold: So, back to the initial question: Are game companies evil?

Louis Cyphre: We are just giving players what they want. Do you know any successful games which are about pacifism, harmony, and working together for a greater good? We here at Hellware are convinced that EVIL ONLINE will be a smash hit, because players *want* to hurt other players emotionally and clearly demonstrate their own superiority. But we are offering a sandbox game, if the players use it to commit evil, it isn't our company that is evil, but the players.

Tobold: Thank you for that interview.

[NEWSFLASH: Shortly after the interview I got the message that EVIL ONLINE was cancelled. An Icelandic judge had ruled that the game in both name and content infringed upon the intellectual property of a local company.]

Friday, September 9, 2011

Anthropomorphization of game companies

I was reading various blog entries on my newsreader, as well as comments on this blog, and it struck me how often people use phrases like "Blizzard hates talent trees", or "Ubisoft should respect their customers more" when discussing game companies. I probably fall in the same trap often enough. But the fact is that "Blizzard" or "Ubisoft" are not persons, but companies. They don't feel or hate or do anything else which would require a personality. Maybe one or several persons working for that company expressed some opinion somewhere, but the company itself has no feelings. In most cases the feelings or motives attributed to a company are not shared by everybody working for that company. Sometimes *nobody* in the company feels or thinks that way, especially when considering the wilder claims of some people how this or that company is out to ruin a certain market or product.

Of course this anthropomorphization of companies is only natural. I'm happy that Blizzard invited me into their Diablo III beta, and not so happy that Bioware didn't invite me to the SWTOR beta. But of course "Blizzard" didn't invite me, somebody working for Blizzard did. I doubt that "inviting Tobold into betas" is part of the official company policy. And as far as I can fathom, "Bioware" doesn't hate me, they just haven't even started the European beta yet (and cancelled the September beta weekends in the US, which to me suggests technical problems). Even if Bioware sends me a beta invite some day, it would be hard for me to tell whether they did that on purpose, because somebody in the company thought it was a good idea to get bloggers on their side, or whether it was by random chance due to my pre-order and sign-up for the beta. If some company treats me better than another, it is either a small company with a deliberate "marketing via bloggers" strategy, or a bigger company where some individual employee just happens to like my blog. "Bioware" doesn't "hate" me, on a company level they aren't even aware that I exist.

On a related note I had to laugh when I read yet another conspiracy theory claiming that Blizzard launched the Diablo III beta to divert attention away from SWTOR. Again, "Blizzard" is neither a person nor a monolithic entity, so there is serious doubt that every single Blizzard employee feels threatened by SWTOR. And even if there are probably *some* strategic thinkers working for Blizzard marketing, the Diablo III beta launch is more likely to be related to a presumably planned end 2011 release date than a strategic move to cause problems for any game with a similar release date. Launching games "when they are ready" works both ways, Diablo III simply is ready for that stage of the development cycle.

The discussion gets downright useless when people use arguments of morality on an anthropomorphic image of a company. Companies aren't "good" or "evil". They can, like Google, have a mission statement encouraging employees to not be evil. Or they can have company policies with different degrees of taking morality into account. But while there are questions in the life of a company that require a moral decision ("do we use a cheap sweatshop as sub-contractor for our goods?"), those questions are few and far between. If a game company decides whether to use DRM, and in which form, that is a business decision, not a moral question. It is based on technical aspects ("does the DRM work?"), and marketing aspects ("do we make more money from people who buy our game because they can't steal it than we lose money from people who don't buy our game because it does have DRM?"). And somewhere in that company some manager is paid for making this sort of decision. You might agree or disagree with their decision, but in the end it is that manager who decides, and that often based on data you don't have access to. I am pretty certain that there are cases where always-on online DRM protection is both the best technical solution, and has a positive effect on profits. That makes it a "good" business decision, but not in the "good or evil" sense. You can have influence future decisions of that type by refusing to buy a game with DRM, but ranting about how "evil" that company is for not letting you steal their game isn't going to get you anywhere.

The biggest danger for any company is becoming so big and self-absorbed that nobody high enough placed in the company's decision processes is considering the tendency of the public to anthropomorphize the company. Perception *is* important for a company. While the company isn't in reality "evil", a few bad decisions can make people perceive it as such, especially in situations where that company holds a monopoly or dominant market position. In spite of their "don't be evil" motto, Google is on a dangerous path towards being perceived as the next "evil empire" of big IT companies. Facebook already went from being everybody's darling to having every move regarded with suspicion. And even Apple is learning that people's perception of it changes when markets are concerned in which Apple dominates the competition. Nobody can please everybody all the time, and the more customers you have, the more likely are you to make some of them angry with some decision. MMORPG companies are very much at risk here, because they effectively sell something approaching a life-style to their more committed customers. But sometimes the reactions of players to some nerf or other game design decision are downright silly. Game companies aren't persons, and even if you'd consider them as such, it would be unlikely that they were involved in a conspiracy to ruin games. The wildest claims in the MMORPG blogosphere tell you more about the mental state of the blogger, than about how companies really work.