February 2008

That Warlock Thing 2: Catholic Boogaloo

Warlocks, frustrated, cast Divine Intervention

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Dear God, please intercede on our behalf to grant wisdom and strength to Blizzard Entertainment. They are truly servants of God, they bring happiness to millions of people the world over and through their games encourage holy chastity.

In these troubled times, however, their wisdom has been clouded. In your infinite power, we pray to you to do us the service of interceding to prevent the life tap nerf.

The true god of warlocks had no comment as of yet.

That Warlock Thing

Seems Blizzard is doing some minor change involving warlocks.

Seems warlocks are unhappy about it.

Seems that you have to be over level 60 to even notice this – since my own warlock just dinged 58, my reaction was immediately “Uh, OK“, since like every other caster pre-60, my itemization involved high levels of INT, resulting in a larger mana than health pool. This changes radically post-60. Hi, expansion!

Seems Blizzard admitted through a community rep that the high-end itemization and gameplay style of a class thoughout the entire game was being clubbed like a baby seal thanks to “PvP issues“.

Seems thanks to those PvP issues that most of the reaction from PvPers not warlocks can be briefly encapsulated thusly: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA (breathe) HAHHAHAHAHAH

Seems that yet again, reationary far-reaching gameplay changes are being driven through a knee-jerk response to PvP imbalances, which tend to be the hard crucible of gameplay competitive min-maxing.

Seems that there’s probably not a lot that can be done about this, since part of what makes MMO PvP compelling is its existence within a larger world, which includes much of a larger gameworld that has – and wants – little to do with PvP.

Seems like the effects of this are going to be fairly far-reaching, and either Blizzard will have to dial back the planned adjustment, or redesign the class entirely. Which you generally do not want to do when the vehicle is in motion.  Or perhaps embrace community proposals from a now-panicked class which is staring down the barrel of a virtual gun.

Seems Blizzard is pretty commited to battleground-style PvP, so this probably won’t be the last time something like this happens.

Seems like this has happened before.

Sims Online Resurrects At Healer, Naked Save For Robe And Newbie Dagger, Runs After Second Life Being Stabby

Sims Online reappears as EA Land.

In EA-Land players can play for free for as long as they want, in TSO Players were limited to a one-time 14-day trial period. That trial period, however, enabled all game features, while in EA-Land free players do not have access to all features.

In EA-Land users can upload custom content, including bitmaps, and at this stage chairs and scultptures. Users can also ‘skin’ objects by applying the uploaded bitmap to change the appearances of objects.

Another point of interest is almost casually dropped in the free-to-play FAQ:

Because we intend to let user sell their Simoleans for real money, we cannot have the game give money to free players.

Plus, this game has quite possibly the coolest name ever. LETSPLAY IN EA LAND!

Blizzard: Gold Buying Is Bad, Mmmmkay?

Today, on a very special episode of After School Special, Blizzard teaches us how gold buying and powerlevelling is harmful.

 Through our normal support processes and the assistance of players, we also find that many accounts that have been shared with power-leveling services are then hacked into months later, and all of the items on the account are stripped and sold off. Basically, players have paid money to these companies, sometimes large amounts, and they’re then targeted by these same companies down the road. We come across stories every week of the aftereffects of players using these services, and some players now have to deal with long-term repercussions — In addition to consequences such as possible account suspension or closure, in many cases the companies they paid then use their personal information to perpetrate identity theft and credit card fraud. These are long-lasting effects on players’ personal lives that can take years to recover from.

In virtual worlds, there will be prohibition and there will be mobsters. And, eventually, prohibition will be lifted.

“You talk about laws? I AM THE LAW!”

I’m not at GDC this week, which means I missed this fine talk.

 In 2005, City of Heroes saw its European launch, soon followed by City of Villains. But, Emmert said, “What I really delivered was a City of Heroes experience with a slightly evil twist.”

I’m sure the rest of the City of team at Cryptic were glad that Jack Emmert was able to deliver City of Villains by himself, emerging Athena-like from his pristine forehead. This is always one of my irritations with the gaming media – the assumption that games are created by one person, usually the one the media likes to talk to, and people who know better shouldn’t play into that. It’s the sign of a rampaging ego. Hell, next thing you know, he’ll start up a blog!

Emmert goes on to contradict what most people on live teams are well aware of through constant beatings. No, really, players don’t mind nerfs!

Despite the forum raging and conflict, however, Emmert stressed: “No nerf ever, ever caused a statistical drop in subscription base, ever. I tracked every single one, and never, in that particular day, week or month, did more people drop the game than in any other particular month. Fascinating.”

Yes, fascinating:

 “There is one nerf that I did that we lost a couple thousand people on,” he admits. “It was called enhancement diversification… and that really did make people mad.”

I think on that point, the City of team is quite willing to let Emmert take sole credit on.

I am picking on Jack Emmert somewhat – most of his talk seems to have been accurate, if suffused with the hubris he’s known and loved for. You do have to dance with the horse that brought you.

Can You Actually Unring A Bell?

I’ve just received this charming note from Brock Pierce’s lawyer regarding the Debonneville v. Pierce lawsuit.

It has come to our attention that you have made postings on the website www.brokentoys.org that violate the United States District Court’s Order sealing the Complaint in that case.

To avoid further harm resulting to our client from the violation of the Court’s sealing Order, we hereby demand that by no later than the close of business tomorrow (February 15, 2008) you: (1) take down your January 30, 2008 article discussing the allegations in the sealed document and (2) send our office all copies of the Complaint in your possession, custody or control.

Well, I certainly would not want to violate the spirit or letter of such a nice notice, even if their information on where I live is somewhat out of date and no other attempt was made to contact me before this. So, of course, late tomorrow afternoon, I’ll edit this post and remove the offending information. That should make everyone happy, right? It *is* what they asked for!

Just in the interest of openness, my response:

Although it is my understanding that I am under no legal obligation to comply with the court order you provided, I will comply fully with your first request and take down the blog article referenced by close of business on 2/15/08.

As I have no copies of the document you refer to, I cannot comply with the second request you have made.

I welcome your client’s renewed dedication to legal documentation and remind him that there are several outstanding end user licensing agreements attached to games I have assisted in operating in the past, regarding the explicitly forbidden trade of virtual items and characters in said games that he and his company have performed and expedited, that would benefit from his and his company’s attention.

So, once again, this article will be edited sometime later tomorrow afternoon. This article. Over here. Yeah, this one.