All of us love our games (I assume you do too, and that is why you are here) and most of us want exciting new games to come along. We want them fun, we want them nuanced, we want them polised. Oh, and we want them right damn now. Why does it take so long to develop a game anyway? While I suspect that most of us have ideas why games take so long, I think that most of us don’t really think about some realities that govern whether a game is polished (seemingly a large yardstick for measuring the success of a game), fun, and attractive to us. I don’t think most of us have any idea of the scope of these games or the resources required to develop or operate and manage them.
During AGDC this week during 2 separate events Blizzard Entertainment shared what they think makes them unique in this regard.
The first, a Gamasutra interview with Blizzard lead content designer Kevin Martens is relatively simple: Iteration. Taking something and playing and testing it over and over. Tweaking it and playing and testing it over and over again. I suspect that many of us would expect that this is the essence of “polish”. How can something be polished without lots of testing and lots of adjustments from what you found while testing? Of course all of this iteration costs money, so that excludes some studios who may be operating on a shoestring or are under time-pressure to release a game. It’s also clear that this is why Blizzard takes so bloodly long to get anything out.
When we are talking about the events in MMO history that have caused a company to become reviled among the player base, the Star Wars: Galaxies NGE is frequently brought to the forefront. SOE still hasn’t lived down the whole debacle. It’s not even entirely clear that it was their idea, as I hear a lot of people who should know such things point their fingers at LucasArts. SOE would still be to blame for the timing, just days after an expansion shipped that a large percentage of their player base paid for. SOE or LucasArts, it’s hard to argue against that event being the nail in the coffin of SW:G’s hopes of world dominance.
With that as a background, Blizzard announces this week that they are going to make sweeping changes to their Goose in the hopes that it will continue to lay Golden Eggs at the same or an increasing rate. For the most part, other than the Horde getting screwed with gobby’s as a race when the Alliance is getting effing Werewolves, the player base looks at it and says a collective; “Hells yeah.”
What’s the difference?
Well there are many and fundamental differences. I won’t rehash what SOE did too much other than to say that they changed the fundamental nature of the game, some even say the genre. Blizzard is continuing it’s tradition of changing and rebalancing classes on a continual basis, but overall the fundamental game play will stay similar. There are going to be a LOT of new features in Cataclysm, but most of them are net-new stuff and won’t likely be viewed as take-aways. Blizzard is also giving us something that no other MMO company in my (admittedly faulty) memory has done, which is to go back and try to make the old, tired, and trivial content usable and playable again. I think this makes a lot of sense, because you can redevelop and area and make it good a lot faster than you can go and make new areas, and adding new stuff doesn’t address your abandoned content problem.
I don’t know how the Cataclysm is going to work out. I am willing to be they will sell a ton of it, but it remains to be seen how the whole things comes together. A lot can definitely go wrong. Blizzard’s track record suggests it probably will be mostly solid. We’ll see, I guess.
For now, I have to say that I’m impressed that they are willing to take a chance and do something bold. This is certainly bold, if nothing else. I hope it works out for them. There’s nothing I want more than a dilemma about whether I should be playing WoW or SWToR, or even Copernicus, if that is out during that time frame. Choices are what it’s all about. It’s going to be a while before we find out if this is a good one for Blizzard.
In addition to the huge changes coming to the game world, it appears that WoW 4.0 is going to bring some pretty substantial changes to the way the classes work. I’m going to reference an article that I’ll link from the live blog at Blizzcon’s Class, Items, and Professions Panel today. Here are the major points…
- Goblin Racials will be Rocket Jump (20 Yard jump, 2 minute cooldown), 1% increase to attack and casting speed, Pack Hobgoblin (calling a personal servant to run your bank errands every 30 minutes) and +15 to Alchemy.
- Worgen Racials are Darkflight (sprint, on a cooldown), Reduced duration on curses and diseases, Flayer (bonus to skinning, no need for skinning knife), and of course Worgen form. You can choose to be human or Worgen out of combat, but in combat you are always Worgen.
- Soul shards will not take up bag space. They are reworking the shard mechanic completely, may end up being generated on a cooldown.
- Summoning demons will no longer take soul shards.
- Lots of changes to fears and instant casts.
- Hunters will no longer use mana. They will have a stat called Focus, which you may remember if you were in the beta. It’s a similar mechanic to Rogue energy.
- Ammo may become an item, rather than a consumable.
- MP5 is probably going away. Spirit will inherit it’s functionality. (I’ve always thought it was odd to have both. Very confusing for a lot of people.)
- Healers will get “Meditiation-like abilities.”
- Spell power and attack power are going away completely.
- Intellect will scale both your mana and your damage.
- Agility now provides AP for rogues, hunters, shaman, and druids. “No more plate-wearers stealing your gear”
- Defense will be gone.
- Tanks will recieve anti-crit via abilities.
- Armor penetration will be gone. (Yay!)
- Adding a stat called Mastery, which sounds just as confusing. More on that tomorrow.
- Haste will speed up casting for casters, and energy/rage/etc. for melee. No attack speed increase.
- Block will now mitigate a percentage of the damage.
- New legendary item, “Shadowmourne”, a 2-handed Axe. “Obviously a Hunter weapon” they joke.
- New profession archaeology. Still a lot to be decided there. Evidently you will use it to open “Paths of the Titans”.
- Looks like it will unlock titles, vanity pets, maybe other special abilities.
- Reforging will allow you to “increase customization of your gear”
- Making fishing more fun. They’d almost have to.
- Planning on making racials more interesting.
- Trade skills will increase another 75 points, new title: “Illustrious”
- There will be a caster legendary item in the first WOW:C raid
- Talk about making Shaman better AE healers, toning down Priest and Druid group healing.
There will be another panel tomorrow. I’ll keep an eye out and if I see anything interesting, I’ll let you guys know.
Original Live Blog here..
I’ve been reading Tobold’s series of posts since his un-retirement (from blogging) that all share the “Why we play” theme. I think his posts are thoughtful and incisive, although I don’t always agree with him.
One thing I’m noticing is that there seems to be a distinct “what’s wrong with WoW” tint to the series. For example, in the current post, Why do we play? – Social interactions. Tobold points out why the social temperature in WoW is poor, while it is better in “free2Play” games. Specifically, he points out that raiding guilds are like professional sports teams;
But a professional sports team isn’t a group of friends who decided to play together, but rather an assembly of people each talented for whatever position he is playing. And WoW raiding guilds are designed around the same principles: Guilds don’t recruit nice players, they recruit a “healer with epic gear”. There are guilds where you can get kicked out for crimes like taking a three-week holiday. And good luck explaining to your guild that you are retiring your raiding priest, because you’d rather reroll a hunter.
Hi everyone. Genda asked me to take a few moments and post some thoughts on the end of the world as we know it. No, I’m no a preacher with a wooden sign over my shoulders screaming about Armageddon. No, I’m not talking about people paying 5 grand to watch Kobe Bryant talk at Michael Jackson’s Memorial (And really, Kobe? why?). And no, I’m not talking about Star Wars The Old Republic’s release date (which we all know we’ll be clamoring for).
No, I’m here to talk about The Cataclysm. Not “A” Cataclysm. THE Cataclysm.
The cataclysm is the Greek expression for the Deluge, from the Greek kataklysmos, to ‘wash down’ (kluzen “wash” + kata “down”)* – Source Wikipedia.com
This past week, Blizzard decided to file for copyrights to the name regarding computer games, paper based products, and, lo and behold, online entertainment services. COUGH wow COUGH. Everyone knows with Blizzard you take it as it comes. Some people have already looked at this as the name of their next Generic MMO, rumored to be working on the Xbox. Others have seen it as something to do with Daiblo III or potentially Starcraft II.
One smart guy though saw this… and said, oh wait…
Swirls for the win... or complete wipe-out
Yup, that’s the center of the map from your friendly neighborhood WOW MMO. It’s been like that since pretty much day one. Speculating that this is truly the name of the next WOW expansion, and taking into consideration some facts about WOW Lore, here’s the short run down.
So you have been plodding along playing WoW. You’re over the group that you have been playing with or your guild disintegrates. One of your friends (or a blog writer) convinces you to restart on another server and on the opposite faction. You level that character up, all the way to max or near-max level. You fall in love with the new class you are playing. Then that deal falls apart too.
You get talked into going back to your original faction, but you miss your high-level (insert class here.) Oh, that character also has a few thousand gold. What do you do?
Fret not my friends. Blizzard has sensed your malaise and has offered a solution. According to an article on WoW.com Blizzard will soon be offering a new Faction Switching Service, for a reasonable fee I’m sure, that will allow you to turn your gnome into an Orc or your Tauren into a Space Goat. This wow.com article was derived from this post on the WoW forums, which now has over a hundred pages of responses. People definitely have an opinion on this service.
I opined earlier that a lot of the catering to the user base is bad for the game. I’ve reconsidered. Exploiting a title for all it’s worth is management’s job. So in spite of all the altruistic qualities we gamers would like to see our fearless leaders espouse, at the end of the day they report to their stakeholders. How well they deliver what we want is what is going to drive the revenue to satisfy those stakeholders, so it’s a blade’s edge they walk. This is something at which Blizzard has become expert.
As soon as I brought this up in guild chat, people started thinking and every one of our core players mentioned not one but two high or max-level characters that they would bring over to the guild from the other faction. Myself, I have a Lock and a DK over on Rexxar that I wouldn’t mind playing more. I loved my DK but I haven’t had time to start leveling a new one over on Jaedenar where I play now.