September 2001

TRIVIAL PURSUIT [Author: Snowspinner]

Absor’s big argument here seems to be, to use his own words

The Trivial Loot Code is indeed a restriction based on the level of the character. But it isn’t a punishment, as if gaining levels was a bad thing. It is simply a way of keeping content available to those characters of the level that the content was designed for. It’s really no different than the fact that low level characters are restricted from accessing high level content, or that enchanters are restricted from accessing certain quests designed for paladins, or that worshippers of a certain deity are restricted from using items designed for worshippers of another deity.

This is all well and good, except for the fact that it’s not what the TLC does. Let’s say they introduce two really cool breastplates into the game. One of them is the result of a warrior quest. The other is the result of a mid-level paladin quest. Are these equally unfair to high level paladins? Ummm… no. Because eventually, the mid-level paladin will become a high level paladin, identical in every way to the other high level paladins, except for the fact that he was given additional opportunities for items that the high level paladins never had and never will have.

Absor’s argument that this is no different from mandating that the level 30 character go on a quest and gain a lot of levels to get into Veeshan’s Peak is, quite frankly, ludicrous. Why? Because the opportunity for advancement to the higher level content exists for the low or mid-level character. It does not exist for the high level character. If I have a level 55 paladin, he cannot get to do any of the low-level Luclin quests unless he dances around Neriak in his birthday suit.

Another example. Have you ever talked to a paladin who has been stuck at a level for the past three months because he hasn’t managed to get the Nagafen and Vox kills that he needs to? It fucking sucks. Is it necessary? Arguably, to make Nagafen and Vox loot accessable to a larger number of people. But it really, really blows hard for paladins. And, were it something other than the two of the most special mobs in the game, it would be unforgivable. Except with the Trivial Loot Code, that’s what’s being done across the board.

The point here is that gaining levels is supposed to be a desirable thing to do. Does this mean that each dungeon should be cooler than the next? Yes. Does it mean that higher level characters should get more opportunities to do things than low level characters? Yes. Low level characters should still get enough to make it interesting, but the game should in fact reward you in some way for putting in the time to make it to the high level encounters. This is not rocket surgery.

The Trivial Loot Code turns this idea on its ear. It says, fundamentally, that “because you have leveled, you do not deserve to be able to do this.” That’s a major change from “Because you have not leveled, you do not deserve to do this.” And it’s a major change from the idea of a game that leveling has any purpose in.

Before I turn over the soapbox, though, let me just highlight one more of Absor’s points.

It’s not that we are unaware of the desires of the players. We are very aware of those desires. But there are a lot of players, with characters of all levels. And all of those players need to be taken into account as much as possible.

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. The game does need to be designed for all players. That’s why you have a poll feature that you can use to find out the desires of all players when they log into their accounts. And I have to say, I haven’t noticed any polls asking if we want the Trivial Loot Code shoved down our throats. So maybe it’s a little too soon to say that this is obviously what the player base wants?

BLIZZARD THROWS THE HAIL MARY, ZUG-ZUG TO RECIEVE AT THE ORC 20 [Author: myschyf]

Which is good, because lately that’s about all they’ve been able to do right. I know, heresy! Blizzard are the gods of the industry, who can do no wrong! Well if you still believe that, you must have been sleeping the past couple of years. Here, I’ll fill you in while you get some coffee.

First Blizzard totally dropped the ball on their Warcraft license. Warcraft 2 was a solid hit for Blizzard, and the plan was to follow it up quickly with Starcraft using the Warcraft 2 engine, an adventure game title, and finally a next-generation Warcraft 3. Well, when an early build of Starcraft was shown at E3, it was laughed out of the auditorium. It was literally Warcraft 2 with orcs in space. To their credit, they took it back in house, retooled it, fixed it, and had a monster hit. It wasn’t really Warcraft, but they sold a copy to literally everyone in Korea (where it displaced Buddhism as the national religion) and quite a few elsewhere so it was OK.

Meanwhile Blizzard plugged away at Warcraft 3. It was originally intended to be a hybrid role playing/real time strategy top down 3D title. Then they decided to drop the role playing element. Then they decided to drop the top down 3D element. Now it looks like Age of Kings with orcs. Which is nice and all but not terribly revolutionary and you wonder why is taking Blizzard around 30 years to create Warcraft 2 with a nicer game engine.

And then you have Diablo 2. Diablo 2 was really Blizzard’s fall from the heavens. They saw that Diablo was a cheater’s paradise. Why? Well as Raph Koster wishes he had never said, “the client is in the hands of the enemy.” Well, with Diablo, it was not only in the hands of the enemy, it moved in with the enemy, crawled into bed, and wore a slinky negligee while crooking its finger alluringly. The “revolutionary” Battle.net service which Blizzard was praised loudly for maintaining “FOR FREE!” was merely a matching service. Think Gamespy with ad banners. Except Gamespy has ad banners too. OK, so it’s basically Gamespy. ANYWAY. Since Battle.net was merely a matching service, the games themselves ran on the client’s machine, which meant clever young boys could lovingly craft DiabloTownCheatKillMaimDestroy v6.3 and show everyone how studly they were at pushing buttons that caused other players to explode.

Blizzard decided this was bad and had a brainstorm – why not be like those Ultima Everquest Online games and host the games on Battle.net? I mean, Everquest makes a lot of money, and OSI is still around and stuff. It’ll be great!

So Diablo 2 launches, eventually (Blizzard taking its time-honored sweet time in releasing what turned out to be code as buggy as any other game release) and players try to log on to Battle.net to play it.

They tried. Really hard. The players that is. Blizzard apparently didn’t try very hard. Or maybe they thought they could run Everquest-style online massively multiplayer game servers and the required hardware and bandwidth for these monstrosities off of Battle.net’s income.

You remember Battle.net? The free service? That made its money off of ad banners? Well, that certainly worked out well. So well that every game that Blizzard sold cost the company money assuming they actually tried to, you know, play it online.

Blizzard’s response was to go “uh, er woops” and try to patch up things to sort of work while their customers decided to either play on Diablo 1-style client-side-networked games (which became as cheat-happy as Diablo 1) or to simply play the single player game and put it back on the shelf. Meanwhile, Blizzard’s only source of funding for Battle.net since the ad banner collapse remained selling titles. When Diablo 2 stopped selling in Korea, Blizzard brought out an expansion. It was pretty weak (one long dungeon in particular was repeated identically), the new classes weren’t tested very well and quickly nerfed on release, but it got on shelves and sold just like every other Blizzard title did – astrnomically. Which I guess made sense, since it had very high production values and the in game cut scenes were cool. Gameplay, as I said, was weak, but that’s a minor detail these days.

But everyone has the expansion now. SOMETHING has to pay for Battle.net. Obviously ad banners aren’t going to do it. So it’s time to actually get something on Battle.net that pays the freight. A massively multiplayer title. You know, like Asheron’s Anarchy Age of Call of Camelot or something. No, I know! “World of Warcraft”! They can just get some old Warcraft 2 maps and throw out some sprites and have players rox0r each other and charge $9.95 a month.

Really, it’s quite doable. You read it here first!