Tag blizzard

Give Me A Convincing Argument And I’ll Stop, Honest

I has pony! Or, well, not me. I'd never play a Night Elf male to level 80. Brrrrr.

Oh no! This piece of juicy drama is not getting away from me. I know you’re all fed up reading about the Celestial Steed, so instead of beating that old dead horse (pun very much intended) I will keep this quick.

A few points on the discussion about the sparkly pony in World of Warcraft:

- The people that are sceptical, in a sane way, will not be persuaded to like the sparkly horse by being told to “deal with it” or “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it”. Those are not very good arguments, since they have nothing to do with the matter at hand. I’d go to as far as to say that they are not arguments at all. They are dismissals.
- The people that are sceptical, in a sane way, are usually grown up and have enough disposable income to buy the horse themselves. They are usually not jealous of the people that spent $25 dollars on it.
- The people that are sceptical, in a sane way, are usually worried about what kind of message this sends to the developers. Or, in this case, the publisher who is happy to charge outrageous prices for content already.

I’m not angry at the people buying the horse, but I’m not convinced this is a good move for the consumer either. I think the pricing is outrageous and don’t believe that the hundred of thousands of people that thought it is alright to pay $25 for it make the whole thing alright. I don’t think the pricing of the Stimulus Package is warranted either, but obviously the 2,5 million people who downloaded it during the first week thought so.

That’s where I believe the standard for future DLC from Acti Blizzard was set, by the way. If people will pay 1200 Microsoft Points for 5 maps (two of which are re-used from the first game), then why wouldn’t they pay $25 for a sparkly horsie? Obviously, they would. (Would I pay $25 for a proto drake? I’d rather not think about that, considering the amount of time I spent hunting for the Time-Lost Proto Drake.)

D&D Online

Here's what I think of your offer wall! Haiiaaah!

Neither will I ever apologize for thinking that Turbine made a mistake when they introduced the offer wall and only being glad that they took it away. Too many scams have been perpetrated through such offers, enough for me to believe that no serious business should get themselves involved with it. I don’t care how much money is being generated, or that a lot of people like the system. Being told that it’s the future, without any more tangible proof why I am wrong, will not convince me otherwise.

Zynga made a similar mistake during GDC. Instead of trying to explain why their game actually had something to offer, or explain in a good way why other devs could learn real and tangible lessons in gamedesign and not only new ways to milk the audience for more money, they just alienated themselves even further from the people who already hate them. And probably made even more people dislike them in the process.

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

The sparkly pony is just another move towards a future that I’m not sure that I like. Should I shut up about that because it seems like that future will win over one I’d prefer? Hardly. There might be great changes coming, I don’t doubt that they will. But I want more proper arguments why these changes will be good for the consumer before I accept them as a good thing. So far, I have yet to see one apologetic reason that has me convinced. Until then, I will remain sceptical and critical – of the F2P genre (which I really weren’t, until Allods and the rise of social gaming gave me another perspective on things), of the offer walls, of any sparkly ponies being sold for $25.

I am only happy to be proven wrong, though. There’s a comment section below, feel free to use it to convince me why I am not making any sense. Please, give me an argument that will blow my little ship out of the water. I’m inviting you to do so!

And while Activision Blizzard keep overcharging for their content, and offer walls keep generating income for the companies that use them, I will sit here hoping for someone to actually give them some competition by simple virtue of being less outrageous. Modern Warfare 2 has Battlefield Bad Company 2, which might give Acti a run for their Call of Duty-money in the future. Now we just need someone to show the consumer (and the industry) that you can deliver a great MMO (or social game), and show the industry that you can make a lot of money, by being much more reasonable when it comes to pricing.

Next up on DFTM: A happy post! Enough with the grumbling, let’s hold hands and be happy.

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Late Night Rant: Let’s Talk Security

I want to start out with saying that my hacked account story had a happy ending – all my stuff is back and my account has been returned to me. It went fast, I am extremely happy. I won’t be touching the game again until I can get an authenticator though, I don’t want to go through this again. I trust my friends will let me know if something dodgy is going on, but the password is changed and I’ve gone through my own security habits and updated them a lot. You won’t get my stuff again!

Pantless gnome

My character ran around like this for hours, farming elementals for the hacker.

But let’s talk security. When your account is hacked, who is really to blame? This is all a thought experiment, this is not actually blaming anyone for what can happen to your account. Don’t get upset. But I can’t help feeling that the usual defense – “it’s all your own fault, Blizzard/NCsoft/Game Company X had nothing to do with it” – can be a bit, well, weak.

Because frankly, we don’t know. We don’t know what is going on on their side. While I am quite sure that this was all my own fault, somehow, it is hard to not hear warning bells ringing when every sweep of my computer turned up nothing at all. Now, no anti-virus or malware-scanner is infallible. Something might have been missed. It might not even be on my computer, perhaps it’s from a forum or WoW-related site that I used the same e-mail and password for (I just love logging into WoW with my e-mail, btw. Absolutely love it. /sarcasm).

There has been a rise in hackings lately, we certainly saw a huge rise in it around Christmas. There might be all kinds of reasons for this, but I won’t rule out that there might have been a security breach at Blizzard. It’s unlikely, a huge company like that can of course afford the best security money can buy. At the same time, the hackers are getting bolder and bolder, and – worst of all – richer.

Do you seriously believe that they would add an official authenticator to your account if they couldn’t afford to buy one just for that particular hack? They get your username and password, add a $6 authenticator to it to buy themselves enough time to grab as much gold as they can before Blizzard can intervene. That’s $6 dollars off the bottom line that they just have to hope will be worth it in the end (I doubt that my account was worth it, I hardly had any gold worth mentioning and not many emblems for gems), for every account. It’s no longer a quick hack and run. It’s a hack and fortify run.

There’s so much money in World of Warcraft now that these schemes are getting more and more complicated. The hackers constantly come up with new plans to circumvent the security measures that are put in place. Even the authenticators, hailed as a way to end hacking, are being used against the poor sods (like me) that don’t have one. And they will keep doing it, until either someone comes up with a security system that is fail safe, or the market in World of Warcraft gold collapses. And only the players can make that happen.

Because of this, I don’t buy into the whole “it’s always your own fault”-idea. It is probably true, but since we don’t know what actually is going on at Blizzard, I think we should at least be open to the idea. People make mistakes, every security system can potentially be compromised. And the hackers have shown, over and over again, that they are able and willing to do whatever it takes to get hold of your gold. There’s just too much money in it.

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Joins The Hacked Masses, Blames Gold Buyers

It’s not like I really needed more proof that buying gold makes you an asshat, but to drive the point home even further I got hacked today. A friend called me up and asked if I was playing, since I was online, not answering in chat and had emptied our guild’s bank at 7am. Considering that I haven’t logged into World of Warcraft for several days, it was easy to draw the quick conclusion that my account has been compromised.

Now, it would be easy for me to play the blame game and start to point to some form of security fault at Blizzard. It might be, considering the rise of hackings lately. At the same time, hackers might just have found more sneaky ways of getting into our accounts – or simply, the market might be lucrative enough these days that there are just more hackers around now. I’ve really tried to make sense of where I did wrong, uninstalling applications that I’ve downloaded lately, doing a full spyware and virus scan. The virus scan is still running, while the spyware scan turned up nothing.

Victor pointed my to this post at Destructoid, which might give further clues to what happened, while Balsakian mentioned addons. Could be a mix. Could be all of them. Could be neither. I have no idea. I might have clicked a bad link, or an addon is infected, or…I just don’t know. I feel a bit clueless right now.

My virus scan just finished, deep scan on my system and external drive. Nothing found. I’m at a complete loss where to go from here.

Really though, I am not as mad at the hacker him/herself as to the culture that has caused this. They hack accounts to get to the gold, which they can sell. Don’t get me any crap about bad game design and that’s why you buy gold. You’re an idiot who keep fueling money into an industry that is illegal, immoral and has no qualms about hacking into peoples’ accounts.

My gnome is running around in Northrend without pants because of people like you. I love MMOs, I love the culture and the communities. But you, Mr or Mrs Goldbuyer? You’re an asshat. Go cheat in The Sims 3 instead, where you can feel all high and mighty instead of screwing your fellow MMO-players over. The spam, the hackings, they wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t a market. Go QQ somewhere else. You’re scum.

I’ve filed a support ticket, with all the information I could enter, and I hope that Blizzard get back to me soon. I don’t really care that much about my current gear, it wasn’t all that anyway, but I want my old stuff back. My 7/8 pieces of Tier 1, my Onyxia Scale Cloak, the old Onyxia attunement amulet that isn’t available in the game anymore. My Perdition’s Blade, that I still had stashed in a corner of my bank. Those are things I’ve been holding on to for years, because of nostalgia. I will miss them.

Krystalle has written up a good guide on how to spot those fishy mails that you might get. She’s also written down some of her own thoughts about hacking and buying gold. Very good read.

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The Armory Is An Invasion Of Privacy, Period

Big Brother Is Watching You

And posting your details on the Interwebz!

So, there are some new fancy features over at the WoW Armory, including a nice 3D model viewer of your characters. It’s really nice and I can’t believe it took this long for them to get it in there – FigurePrints have been able to access that data through the Armory backend for a long time. But good stuff, finally! And then there is the feature that has got some people up in arms – the “Recent Activity”-log.

It’s a simple feature, it simply updates what you’ve done in the game lately and on what day you did it. Like what bosses you’ve killed, which achievements you’ve pulled off, what loot you got. All that stuff that’s not really interesting to anyone except yourself most of the time. It’s even RSS-enabled, so if you want to pull your friends’ activity feeds into your newsreader of choice, you can do that. Why you would escapes me, but you can.

The problem with the activity log is that there is no way to turn it off. I can’t choose if it should be included on my Armory-page or not. So anyone who knows what my character is called and what server I play on can see what days I’ve played World of Warcraft and get some form of idea what I did on those days.

This has caused a discussion about invasion of privacy. A lot of people just don’t want their activities to be shared with the world. This has caused quite a debate on whether Blizzard, by pulling this data from their own servers, are invading our privacy or not. And, if they do, if it’s actually important. All kinds of weird stuff has been said, some valid, some insanely stupid. I thought I’d just sum up my thoughts on the whole affair…

…because I believe, quite firmly, that the activity log on the WoW Armory is a blatant invasion of my privacy. My privacy as a customer, a player and a private person. By not giving me the option to opt out or in, Blizzard is now sharing what days I’m playing WoW with the rest of the world. Not only that, they also show what I’ve been up to. No matter how you twist and turn it, it is an invasion of my privacy. I might not care, but it still is.

A lot has been said about how this feature could be abused, with the pro-camp pointing out how hard it would or how pointless it would be for a (for example) cyber stalker to use this information. I agree that in 99,9% of all cases, the WoW Armory data won’t do anyone any harm. But in that last 0.1%, if the option to opt out of the log would have helped someone from being hurt, it should have been there.

It’s not actually even about that. It’s not about what the data being shared by Blizzard could potentially do to harm me or anyone else. Maybe nothing will ever happen, chances are pretty good that it will never be abused. But I should still be able to choose if I want to share my in-game activity with the world or not. Seriously, you don’t have the right to see what I’ve done or haven’t done while I’m logged in. I can show you, if we both agree on it being in our mutual interest, but Blizzard just going ahead and putting it up there without asking me first will always be an invasion of privacy, no matter if I’ve signed the EULA or if it’s “only a game”.

Nayboor kitteh lolcat

I really couldn't resist including this picture, I am sorry.

I don’t have anything to hide. I am a rather public person. My contact information is readily available, my Raptr account sends an automatic tweet every day and tells the world what games I’ve been playing in the last 24 hours (including WoW). I will happily link my Armory profile (ignore the level 73 ring, I just came from a hiatus, remember). My name and e-mail is printed, every month, in a magazine that’s read by about 100 000 people. There’s a whole list of contact information on this very site. But I’ve chosen that. I choose what to share and what not to share. I will not have Blizzard making that choice for me.

I will keep logging in to World of Warcraft, even if I know what I am doing in there is being broadcasted to the world. I won’t rage quit, even if it was close there for a minute. I believe that Blizzard should have treated this matter in a much more delicate way. My gaming times, my achievements, my loot, my heroic dungeon runs…all of those things are my business and my business alone. Blizzard might have the legal right to do whatever they wish with that information (I did sign the EULA blahblahblahfnordblah), but I don’t think they have the moral right.

Finally – props to companies like Turbine, who allows you complete privacy control of what characters and activity logs to show on your my.lotro.com-page. Oh, here’s mine!

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Joining The 2010 Predictions Fun!

In 2010, we will all be wearing funny hats.

Yay! Scott Jennings, Heartless and Keen have done their predictions. Syp went on Massively Speaking and did his (I believe, haven’t had time to listen to it yet). I want to have some fun too, especially since I can then look back at my mistakes at the end of 2011. It all works out for the best. Most of this is pure speculation, of course, and I am not sure I believe all of it myself. “But it seemed so plausible,” you will hear me moan. G’damn it, I’m a doctor of journalism!

/cough

I guess I’ll just do the whole year company by company, starting out with the most obvious choice…

Blizzard: Blizzard stall the Icecrown Citadel raid zone for as long as they possible can, until Arthas is being farmed by every guild in existence. Wrath of the Lich King is good for one more content patch, presumably adding another Troll raid. At E3, Activision Blizzard announce that they will release Cataclysm at the end of September, with Blizzcon being used to hype the expansion like crazy. This will be the last Blizzcon to focus that much on a World of Warcraft-expansion, however. Patch 4.0 is released a month before Cataclysm and Arthas will be killed by a 3-man (druid/paladin/death knight) group. There might be films on YouTube about it. A content patch is planned, ready to strike against Bioware’s upcoming release of Star Wars: The Old Republic. I will probably be raiding again, denying ever having left the scene.

Cryptic: Star Trek Online is delayed by two weeks because Cryptic still have a lot of work to do before it is “ready”. The game will be released, lacking a core function or two, which will have its players up in arms for a while. Balance between players and mobs will be an issue, especially in space, just like a lack of content. Cryptic will have learned some lessons from CO, and the uproar won’t be as gigantic this time around – except amongst Trekkers, who will constantly complain about the game not being Star Treky enough on the official forums. Forums you can only post on if you, ya’know, still subscribe to the game…

NCsoft: NCsoft will remind everyone that marketing is marketing. Aion will get some new features, but no housing in sight. Around E3, the company will announce the game’s first expansion pack, which they promise will bring the graphical updates shown in Aion Vision. It will not be released in 2010. At Gamescom, NCsoft will talk about expanding Aion and show some new videos from Guild Wars 2, perhaps force a shy Korean producer to talk about Soul and Blade. No real hands on with GW2, though.

Pic unrelated.

In December, millions of emo Jedis will invade the Internet.

Bioware: The Old Republic goes into closed beta towards the end of the summer, with release set in November/December. After all, EA need their money. The game will be praised for its storyline content, with some players burning through it in a matter of weeks so they can troll the official forums about the lack of end-game content. There will be an actual lack of end-game content. The game will show us that “full voice overs” is a relative term. There will, of course, not be any space content. Seriously, you expected actual space content? We will all be playing it.

Mythic: Warhammer Online gets another server merger, Mythic keep trying to straighten up Tier 4 and city sieges. During Q2, they will announce the first expansion to the game, which will be a digital release comparable to EVE Online’s model of doing things. It will not have a third faction, but new zones that you have to pay to get access to. EA will sack some more people, but the game will not be cancelled. Live events will be held, as usual, and the expansion will be released after Cataclysm. WAR will not become free to play.

Funcom: Rise of the Godslayer is released early summer, it will get high grades in the press but fail to make a large dent in the MMO genre. Funcom will keep moving people over to Canada, and move devs from AoC to The Secret World. TSW will go into closed beta towards the end of the year, major hype will start to build up and it will become Funcom’s new flagship game.

CCP: EVE Online will not get walking in stations.

SOE: Despite rumors of their demise, Star Wars Galaxies and Vanguard will not be cancelled. SWG will get the Galactic Civil War update early during the year, with additional game updates over the next 12 months, and the players will complain about their light side jedis on the forums for all eternity. Free Realms will not be released for the PS3, DC Universe Online will fail to shift many units when it’s finally released for console during the summer. Most MMO gamers will give up on the whole “MMOs for console”-thing for this generation of consoles. A new MMO, maybe EverQuest 3, will be announced during the autumn, SOE will be very silent when asked about the new game’s business model.

All new games mentioned above will get completely pointless and annoying Twitter/Facebook-features, of course.

In 2010, Great Cthulhu will arise and devour some people.

Then we have the unknowns, like 38 Studios, and the ones most people don’t really care that much about, like Aventurine. I will leave them out of my predictions, since I’m not convinced that 38 Studios will tell us what Copernicus actually is or that Aventurine will do anything really interesting with Darkfall. Then there’s that scary question about what Winch Gate will do with Ryzom, but I don’t want to think about that for too long, since I might get all sad.

I won’t go into the whole “war of the business models” either. That’s really tricky and it’s getting late here. Predicting the future like this is hard work and the Old Gods of Time And Space want their tribute. So, Cthulhu fhtagn! and have a great New Years Eve!

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The End Times: Immersing in the Apocalypse

Immersion. Ah, that magical word. It’s the Holy Grail of MMO design, or at least it should be. In theory, it is what every company that decides to give the genre a try should aim for.

I say “in theory”, because sometimes I feel that the word doesn’t carry as much weight as it should, at least according to my – clearly biased – standards. Building immersion in a virtual world, at its core, should be to create a world or a setting that somehow makes sense. An immersing game should have as few “breaks”, moments when you remember that you’re only playing a game, as possible – it should be self-contained and follow its own natural laws and rules. It needs to be as consistent as possible.

Time... running out... cant fly...

Timer... running out...

Aion is a good example of a game that sacrifices immersion for the sake of gameplay – giving you the ability to fly, yet restricting it by artificial means like a timer or taking away the ability completely in certain areas. I’ve talked about it before and it is one of the major axes I have to grind with that particular game. Instead of working gameplay around the ability to fly from the start, NCsoft have instead worked the ability to fly around gameplay, not intending to fully deliver until much later in the game. Why else are you not be able to fly in Pandaemonium or Sanctum, even though they both host hundreds of Daevas, or find yourself stuck on the ground as soon as you venture into Moslan Forest?

Blizzard did a similar thing with Wrath of the Lich King, where they took away your mount’s ability to fly in Northrend until you hit level 77 – it made sense from a gameplay perspective, but instead of building the gameplay around Northrend, Northrend had to change to accommodate Blizzards’ desire to tell a story. As immersing as that story could be, a certain rendezvous with a Lich springs to mind, the world itself had been sacrificed and with it, immersion took a blow.

I know I can be extremely picky when it comes to my personal “breaks”, which include too much zoning (EverQuest II, Age of Conan) or instancing of open zones (Champions Online, Age of Conan, Aion). I guess Fallen Earth is, in many ways, the perfect MMO for me. Just like EVE Online, where the “zoning” makes perfect sense (jumping from star system to star system) and the gameplay is actually supported by the lore, Fallen Earth delivers a world that makes sense. It feels, up to a point, real.

Its a goldmine!

It's a goldmine!

What Fallen Earth manages to convey is a sense of desperation in a post-apocalyptic world. The small makeshift towns are surrounded by bandits and wild animals, the people that are trying to rebuild society are all trying to do it in their own image, dividing the human race into factions in the process. You don’t only mine copper or gather herbs, as you do in most MMOs, you also scavenge through refuse and garbage bags to find materials you can use to build your weapons and armor. One of the most priced resource nodes is a burned out car, as they can yield a whole bunch of scrap fasteners if you’re lucky.

The sense of desperation also affects the interaction with other players. Even though Fallen Earth isn’t a free-for-all PvP game, there are PvP areas where anyone is fair game (as far as I’ve understood it, since I haven’t been to one yet). That means the player that is helping me today, or is accepting help from me, can be the same guy that puts a bullet in the back of my head while I’m scavenging from a valuable node in a PvP zone. I also know that I might be the one that’s bashing his skull in with a lead pipe. After all, resources are scarce and it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Fact of life in post-apocalyptic Grand Canyon.

It’s been a long time since I saw a new MMO take immersion this seriously – as the genre goes forward, that trait becomes increasingly rare. Fallen Earth has many flaws, which I will return to at a later point, but it’s hard for me to shrug off the thought that this might be what I’ve been asking for so many times in the past. Will we have to look to the indie games for fascinating game worlds while the major MMOs lock themselves into the typical questing and level treadmill without offering any form of immersion in return?

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GRTV: Starcraft II single player preview

I’m sorry for just doing another GRTV embedding, but I’ve spent the majority of last week in Germany covering Gamescom and I’ve had no time to do any blogging. I’ve had a blast, despite the stress, and I guess I’ll get back to both what I saw there and my initial thoughts on Cataclysm during the next couple of days. Until then, I leave you with the Starcraft II preview above. As I’ve mentioned before I went to LA a few weeks ago to check out the first single player campaign and this video has been under embargo ever since. In it me and Thomas have a discussion about innovation in games, especially in the RTS genre and how Starcraft II fits into that.

If you take the time to watch it, and please do, feel free to drop a comment and tell us what you think about the format we chose. We haven’t done a preview this way before, I am really satisfied with it, but I’d love to get some feedback on it. If people like it I think we’ll do more shows in this style – I personally prefer it a lot to our old content. In many ways GRTV is still in its cradle, but we are working hard to develop it as much as we possibly can. Thus feedback is always, always welcome.

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Wrapping things up for the coming week

I had some high hopes for getting some gaming time in Final Fantasy XI this weekend, but real life decided otherwise, which I am thankful for. As much as I love gaming, a brief look at my gamerDNA-page proves that, one can use a break from time to time, even if it’s just for a day. Early tomorrow morning I’m flying out to California for a press trip, finally getting to visit Blizzard’s HQ in Irvine, being back in Sweden on Wednesday evening.

I both love and hate those kinds of quick trips, but I haven’t been to the US in two years so I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy that I’ll be transferring in Zurich instead of Chicago this time, it’s somehow easier to navigate an European airport than an American one when jetlagged. I’m also happy that I’m not as scared of flying as I was back then, I’ve managed to come to terms with it over the last couple of years. I used to be a panicking mess, even for shorter flights.

I have stuff to take care of today, including finishing up an article, getting stuff packed and all kinds of notes transferred from my comp to paper (hotel address, flight numbers, itiniaries, phone numbers, interview questions etc) since my printer isn’t doing too well (being ink-less and packed in its box in my basement). I’m in a really funny mood, trying to wrap my head around the most basic of concepts, and a short break to have a coffee with a friend down at the local square didn’t set my head straight in the way I hoped the fresh air would. The weekend has been weird, it has introduced all kinds of strange thoughts and hopes (“and hates and passions just like mine“), while also remaining a generally positive experience. That’s real life for you, I guess.

When I get back home I will revisit this blog, go over tags and the theme, see what can be improved to make it a bit smoother than it is now. I also hope to hit level 20 in Final Fantasy XI by the weekend, to see how the game picks up from there and then blog about it. Then I shall go from there and see what real life can bring if you try to make something new out of it.

Right, packing. See you later this week.

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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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