Pushing Counters

Somewhat relevant: how hard-core wargames actively alienate potential customers through having painful UI.

Imagine this scenario. You are the Supreme Allied Commander for Allied forces in Europe during World War II. You walk into your office and your aide-de-camp says “Good morning, General Eisenhower. Your general staff awaits you in the conference rooom to discuss Operation Overlord.”

“Excellent. I’ll be right there.”

“One moment, sir. Before that, you should be aware that Fox company of the 506th has run out of condoms in their survival kits.”

“Uh, well, get them replacement kits.”

“Very good sir. Also, a truck was destroyed in the Ardennes. Should I requisition a replacement?”


“I’ll get right on it. A number of toothbrushes have gone missing in a training camp in North Carolina. How many staff sergeants would you like to assign to investigate the crime?”

At this point, in real life, Eisenhower would court-martial his aide-de-camp for being a Nazi spy.

There is important information, and there is unimportant information.

Great Moments in Customer Service Pt. XCIII: Please Stop Hacking Our Game

Massively has the story of an Anarchy Online player event. If, that is, by “player event” you mean “player gets a GM account and starts killing people a lot”.

Please also keep in mind that a great many of these activities are illegal (regardless of whatever “experts” tell you on the “internet”)…and while it isn’t easy to motivate anyone in law enforcement to actually do something about it…eventually we’ll speak with someone responsible and you are going to feel very stupid explaining to real criminal that you gave up your freedom and greatly impacted your future to “Hack a video game”. Given the opportunity I will throw the entire book at any of you I get a reasonable chance at.

To be clear here…this whole thing doesn’t make me angry.

Well. I’d hate to see what he’d advocate if he got angry.

These kind of attacks are generally going on ALL the time…if anyone is reading this who is responsible for these attacks GIVE US A BREAK. All we are trying to do here is trying to continue to develop a game we all enjoy. If you are mad about your accounts being banned…or something like that…please try to grow up and accept the fact that you very likely deserved it.

That seems likely!

Great Moments In Customer Service Pt. XCII: InstallShield Is Hard

SOE’s kind of busy with launching DC Online and all, so could you just uninstall the beta manually yourself? And come in on Saturday? Yeah, that’d be great. (GoogleCache due to DCO beta forums being taken down.)

I’m sure you all realize that the focus of the development staff is currently going to be bmaking the game as awesome as possible for the retail release. The broken uninstaller is a forgivable and understandable over-sight.

Response from the Internet

If a user has to hand-delete every file associated with your product, including digging through their registry, that is bad and your programmers should feel bad.

Search Terms, 2010 Edition

For those of you just joining us: I love search terms (things people search for on Google that bring them to this site). It’s like a window into the collective gestalt. A very scary window. With teeth. Here:

People With Long Memories

daoc stungard
ea land
epic mount sex
rainz ultima
tseric meltdown
blizzard takes mark jacobs lunch
evony lu lu

People With A Whole Lotta Nerd Rage

zam forums fanboys final fantasy xiv
second life sucks
site:brokentoys.org pvp
who made this guy leader wh40k
on my gaming addiction + matt firor
world of warcraft losing subscribers
fuck paul barnett
i will kill you
rom stop gold farming!
people play apb?
rupert murdoch the antichrist

People Doing Market Research At The Last Minute

blizzard production schedule
blizzard project titan
mmorpg breaks thousand subscribers
when did wow achievements exist?
designing world of warcraft
questing system design
how to make a pvp game
industry analysis how many toys are being

People Doing Due Diligence On Scott Hartsman

scott hartsman bio
scott hartsman wikipedia
scott hartsman lum
scott hartsman gallenite
scott hartsman ohai
scott hartsman everquest

People Who Still Are Very Creepily Obsessed With A Certain Female Producer

jade raymond ubi
ubisoft woman
jade raymond assassins creed
jade raymond maxim
jade raymond nude
jade raymond sucks off gamers to get the

People Who Just Are Really Lazy

final fantasy 4 ending
lord of ultima exploits
does free realms have raiding
how did hitler die

People Who Think They Are Mr. Leet Haxor

x-powered-by: php/4.4.8 hack
wordpress 2.9.2 exploit
facebook phishing stolen credit card
create false “police record”
nwn premium modules activation bypass
income potential for wow private server
how to close an l2 server
how does blizzard spot gold buyers?
how to get people to stop billing them

People Who Think This Blog Is Only About Second Life

men posing as women in sl
nude sl pictures
how to get around paying for second life
limit to sim estate managers second life
land server for second life
linden lab court cases in us
lawsuits linden labs
prokofy neva crazy cat lady
i hate sl viewer 2
second life tentacle sex 2010

People Who Use Google Instead Of Tech Support

easylist gets rid of imvu ads
earth eternal not working
darkfall prerequisites won’t connect
your account has been disabled by linden

People Who Really Want Warcraft Porn

world of whorecraft
world warcraft sluts
world of warcraft humans nude
flash sex world of warcraft
world of warcraft is better than real life
wow porn tauren

What The Hell I Don’t Even Know

oliver tractor advertising
gorilla fight
gorilla with open mouth
hitler it wasn’t always fun and games
the developers of farmville are better
how to create microsoft pvp
video of baby jesus crying
grinless child
32 ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok o
lied drie vier grenadier
thanalan dodos grinden

Oh God I Don’t Want To Know

next top model naked
naked goblin wow
rape porn
rapr porn
porn rape
rape and death porn
rape murder erotica
rape mmo
game fight and graphically rape
rape girls
rape games -rapelay
online rape games
rape porn games kill
porn murder
how to make aion characters naked
puny porno
50 things to do butt naked
final fantasy all girls
girls ff
dragonlance cosplay

Second Kinect

I have to agree with W. James Authis is pretty big. Possibly gamechanging.


If you look at that and think to yourself “um, that sucks, why would I care?” — it’s not for you. It’s for the people who think MMOs, virtual worlds, and hell, even home computers are the realm of the terminally dorky – but have consoles.

Again – this has the potential to be *really*, *really* big.

(Especially once someone hacks it to be R-rated…)

You Probably Also Should Rethink The Blogging Thing, Too

Jeff Vogel, indie RPG maker, says reading your own forums is a bad idea.

This is why big, smart companies with actual budgets hire community people who do nothing but deal with and sift through forums. Managing fans is real work, and picking out the realistic and worthwhile comments takes a ton of time and judgment. That is why smart companies put a layer between the fans and the creators. If you don’t have this layer, you should keep a safe, respectful distance.

It’s a pity. My company, Spiderweb Software, has a really awesome, active online forum. Been there for years. Always active, full of all sorts of discussions. However, unless I’ve just released a game and are looking for signs of early, evil bugs, I have to stay away from it.

Some of my fans really resent this and take it personally, and they haven’t been shy about letting me know. But if you’ve ever wondered why the creators of your beloved games often avoid the forums (especially the Word of Warcraft forums, Yeesh!), this might help you to understand why.

2011: WoW, Not WoW

Monkey in the middle of a metal detector
Hat of the cousin of the tax collector
Automatic sensors in the president’s skull
Do you have yesterday’s time?
What up, dog?
— Was, Not Was

2011 will be an interesting year for MMOs.

Without a World of Warcraft expansion shipping (Blizzard seems to be holding to an 18 month cycle for shipping them) – although Diablo 3 will ship near the end of the year and be a massive, utterly predictable hit; and though we can expect to hear the first bit of Titan (my guess: MMO first person shooter or similarly actiony, if only to be as different from WoW as possible) and the beginning of the hype train for WoW’s 2012 expansion (new hero class of healer, to go with a druidic “Emerald Dream” as the next expansion theme), this will be the launch window for… everyone else. Or, as Rift put it in their new TV commercial, which neatly summarizes the not-quite-truth-in-advertising of every WoW clone:

Though we may be in a world eerily like it

So, in 2011: DC Online, Rift, Planetside Next, Tera, World of Tanks and a game based on a somewhat well-known science fiction license are all varying degrees of being confirmed to launch. We could also see titles such as Guild Wars 2 (disclaimer: yes, I work for NCsoft, no, I don’t know when it’s shipping, and no, I couldn’t tell you when if I did), Neverwinter, Faxion, and possibly Jumpgate Evolution and (less likely) The Agency and The Secret World.

That’s a lot of MMOs. It’s safe to say you’re not going to play them all. Or even most of them. Some of you will play some of them! And, thankfully, not all of them are blatant World of Warcraft clones – in the 2011 lineup we have action games, shooters, tanks (ironically, this one may be one of the most successful!), space games, and, of course, games including elves and skeletons and things that fall down containing pants. But still, a heartening number of NotWoW, which tells us the market may be learning that NotWoW may be one of the easier ways to make your place in a market where everything not called World of Warcraft is technically a statistical aberration.

The biggest event, and the one that will shape 2011 in terms of MMO development, will be, of course, the Old Republic. EA has bet somewhere north (maybe well north) of $150 million that Bioware has the secret sauce to bring an MMO to market that isn’t a statistical aberration. Could they be right?

On the one hand, it’s Bioware, which has yet to make a really bad game (even Jade Empire had its good points!), and they made the very wise decision of basing the game in their own George Lucas-free Star Wars universe of millenia past, meaning that everyone can be lightning-bolt flinging Jedi masters without plaintive cries of MY IMMERSION! from the license holders. It may also be one of the most anticipated (if not most hyped) MMO titles of, well, um, ever. Lots of people are going to buy this.

On the other hand, it’s Bioware, which hasn’t done such a great job with online so far – their attempts to leverage DLC content for their RPG releases have been slow to release, and full of technical issues when they do (one DLC pack for Mass Effect 2 shipped for the Xbox 360 initially as a massive file of nothing but zeros, which admittedly is an interesting way to cut development costs). Of course, this is why they made a new studio in Austin full of MMO veterans, and why EA gave them control of Mythic, and all sorts of other very good reasons to maybe possibly ship the most expensive MMO of all time at some point.

And it will ship in 2011. It has to. Even EA can’t afford a burn rate for another year that Bioware Austin is spending on development. It’ll be out, rest assured. And there are enough bitter veterans there to know that shipping an incomplete, yet successful game ….isn’t an option.

Are you thinking that I’m cheering for the other hand? You’d be wrong. I’m well aware that The Old Republic has a lot of hoops to jump through, and many mines to dodge. And I’m fearful that almost literally insane cost inflation of development will price all but Activision and EA out of contention as first-tier MMO producers. But all the same, I hope The Old Republic is a massive hit, with millions of subscribers, enough to make back its development costs and then some. Because the market needs real competition. Because Austin needs studio that has a successful MMO shipped within the past decade. Because a lot of my friends work there and I’m pulling for them. Because I’m a Star Wars nerd, a Bioware fanboy, and I’d kind of like a cool game to play.

And because in 2012, the Old Republic development team may get some sleep.

Your lack of faith in our ability to compete with Activision is disturbing.

The Old Republic will be make-or-break for the MMO industry in a lot of ways.

If it succeeds, it will show that the “big iron” still works – throw as much meat as you can at the machine, and crank out a huge project, and spend your way to greatness. It will prove that the subscription model is still potentially the most lucrative way of monetizing an MMO, at least in the West. And everyone will breath a sigh of relief. The old gods still listen to our prayers, now shut up and find more virgins, we have to get the sacrifices ready for the next expansion pack.

If it fails, expect a rethinking everywhere.

Expect huge studios to throw everything at Facebook/casual gaming YESTERDAY, in a frenzied, and possibly futile attempt to survive. Expect it to be very difficult to fund new traditional MMO projects, as even the most clueless venture capitalist will remember news stories about EA and the Old Republic and how Blizzard was the exception that proved a rule. Expect free-to-play cash shop gaming to be The New Order for almost every MMO, launched or not. In short, expect the apocalypse in 2012.

And expect all the usual suspects to ignore all the games listed above that didn’t do that badly, because they’re still essentially statistical aberrations next to WoW.

2011 is the year of WoW: Not WoW. This is when those of us who still enjoy the old-school massive content-rich expensive-to-produce MMO (and I number myself among them) find out if we can have nice things.

Great Moments In Customer Service Pt. XCI: Bioware Hates You

The original post, from the Dragon Age 2 forums:

Do we know if DA2 will have a better range of racial diversity? I was dissapointed that Dragon Age, a game that seem to use elves as an allegory for black slavery and the treatment of native Americans lacks any black or asian people. That and it’s a fictional fantasy world that’s not based on anywhere specific so it just seems thoughtless to the point of discriminaton to not include other ethnicities. Not to mention that the character creator doesn’t really let you make a black or asian character with its messed up colour settings.

Will this be changed for DA2?

This is what we like to call a ‘community challenge’. Here is a player who raises some points, albeit in an aggressive, chip-on-the-shoulder way. What you should do is see these points:

1) The player feels disenfranchised because they can’t create a player avatar that fits their self-image.

2) The player sees echoes of RL racial/ethnic issues echoed in previous installments of the game, and would like to continue seeing that addressed.

Both of these could be addressed elegantly by one calling the other – highlighting the game series’ social consciousness and willingness to ask the player to think about racial issues in a different light, and contrasting that with how the game will, in fact, allow you to create world-appropriate/period-appropriate ethnic variations while explaning that in Talanthassala or wherever the game is set, there are no Asians, say, within the framework of the story thus limiting the choices available within customization to keep the strength of the world and the narrative – which, as mentioned, uses a coherent world view as a setting, in the best science fiction/fantasy tradition, to echo those questions of racial/ethnic conflict.

Or, you know, you could just conflate Jews and Yu-Gi-Oh players. Whatever works for you.

It can also be an allegory for the Jews, North-American Japanese during WWII, the poor, the Romani, Yu-Gi-Oh players or any other peoples segregated and ghettoized for reasons other than race.

(Note to presumably-Asian Stanley Woo – the Japanese internment in World War 2 was in fact for reasons of race. You know, if you really wanted to go there for that example. By the way, you really didn’t want to go there.)

You should probably play the game to find out. i have not yet met anyone who disliked a game because of “lack of racial diversity.” Most folks will concentrate on story and gameplay, but what do I know? That’s just my opinion.

Aside from the fact that players do in fact derive value from role-playing avatars that suit their idealized self-image, which in fact may not be white, anglo-saxon Protestants:


It’s not “just your opinion”.

You have a cool tag by your name that says “Bioware”. On a forum run by a company called “Bioware”.

When you post things, it’s not just your opinion. It’s the official position of your company.

So, congratulations. You just told a potential customer that their concerns about a future product being relevant to their needs is less important than your need to score Intarweb points in a ham-fisted attempt to make light of racial sensitivity. But what do I know… that’s just my opinion.

* Hi, Bioware forum posters! Welcome to this blog. I know you won’t actually read anything else on it, but I thought I’d just use this opportunity to say hi anyway. Hi.
* I didn’t link to the full forum thread because I am, in fact, a horrible person.
* Giving someone the ability to make dark skin hues in a character generator is not the same as including the ability to create members of different ethnic groups.
* I promise I didn’t read David Gaider’s followup post…

Yet I think it’s fair to say that we could have included a broader spectrum of visible ethnicities in our world, if we wished to. I have to agree with Stan that this isn’t necessarily a worthy goal for its own sake. It might be interesting, sure, but it could also be pretty banal– if I were to include that in a setting, I certainly hope it’d be more than just tokenism. I don’t think anyone wants that.

There’s a little too much privilege involved to say this shouldn’t be a problem for someone (not that you’re saying this, Alex, just a comment on some posts I’m seeing). Obviously everyone wants to see themselves reflected in a world they’re enjoying, at some level, and I can see how someone might perceive a lack as feeling excluded. Ultimately we’re going to tell the stories that we think we have something to say about, and if they work as allegories to issues in the real world I think that’s possibly a bit better than having everything stake out a claim in our fantasy (also as Stan said). Racially speaking there are multiple human races represented in Thedas and you’ll see them depending on where you go– Kirkwall is in a different part of the world than Ferelden, so you should see that reflected in DA2.

In the end it’ll be up to you to tell us how well we did. With any luck the effort we made to have your family represent your appearance choices will show we’re at least listening.

…before writing my own “what they *should* have said” (which is pretty much the same thing but with 300% more pseudointellectual claptrap), so any similarities are wholly coincidental.

Prognostimarfication Is Hard

A yearly tradition I have is making wild predictions, and then noting how badly a job I did of it a year ago so that you can feel free to ignore what I did. Far be it for me to mess with success and/or failure!

Here’s last year’s predictions, hosted elsewhere as I was writing for money due to sudden unemployment at the time (something 10% of you are familiar with).


November saw the release of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Cataclysm. Complaints about the low number of high-end raids released with this expansion paled next to the roar of millions of new goblins and worgen rushing through the revamped introductory zones as swiftly as they can, so that they could get to the endgame of high-end raids that they could complain about. The huge lines at Cataclysm release date parties attract a great deal of media attention (especially the scantily clad female goblin cosplayers), but the total revenue for the weekend of $275 million globally, while record setting for an MMO release, fails to dent Modern Warfare 2’s record of $310 million sales on its first day. Some industry analysts begin to wonder if the MMO market in general has peaked, thanks in large part to some industry analysts confusing the words “MMO market” and “World of Warcraft.”


Total revenue for Cataclysm’s first day: $130 million (based on 3.3 million box sales at $40), which is record-setting not only for MMOs, but for a PC game in general. But still not in console-record territory:

But while ‘Cataclysm’ may be the fastest-selling PC game, it did not topple the record for fastest-selling video game overall. “Call of Duty: Black Ops” — launched just last month — still holds that title. The first-person shooter for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and PC sold 5.5 million copies in its first 24 hours on sale.


Pretty much, though my wild huge guess at sales figure the first weekend was off, and there wasn’t that much doomcasting over Blizzard not actually outselling every other game ever made in 3 hours. It’s a bad idea to bet against Blizzard.


Bioware finally lifts the veil on The Old Republic with a “limited open beta” in October. (Some wags speculate that EA forces Bioware’s hand to steal some of Blizzard’s thunder as Cataclysm’s impending launch begins a media feeding frenzy.)


It didn’t.


Nope. It’s still scheduled to ship in 2011. Note the word “scheduled”.


Virtual worlds receive a shock as Linden Lab, bleeding cash, announces a sale of Second Life to Sony Online Entertainment in August so that a (much smaller) Linden studio can fund a newer VW in development.


Despite many rumors of buyout offers and talks, and Linden Labs indeed becoming much smaller, the former bete-noire of the mass media continues to lurch forward, with seemingly little planning for the future save very surreal Facebook ads.


Nope, though to be fair this one was pretty intentionally a Hail Mary pass of a prediction. If you phrase it more generally as “Linden Lab has issues”, then definitely.


Revisiting Final Fantasy 11’s trailblazing and somewhat difficult release on the PS2, Final Fantasy 14 comes out for the PS3 in September, causing Japan to basically shut down and roll Moogle Red Mages, er, I mean Lalafell Thaumaturges. The Windows release is “delayed”, and difficulties with integrating an MMO into the Playstation Network cause woes that last into the remainder of the year, putting a damper on worldwide sales.


Instead of the PS3 release delaying the PC release, the PC release delayed the PS3 release, primarily due to the PC release being, by most reports, one of the worst MMOs ever to ship, in fact having so many ‘difficulties’ (including rumors of the entire thing being essentially farmed to China, rumors which Square themselves vehemently deny) that Square has effectively extended the “free trial period” that comes with the game indefinitely, amidst news of the management of the game commiting ritual suicide in the backdrop of an epic drop in Square’s revenue. The world is no longer Square, and my inner pixel-dragoon fanboy is sad for this.


Nope. I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how badly Square mishandled the launch of their flagship product.


SOE causes a stir when it announces in early 2010 that DC Universe Online will be the second major SOE title (after Freerealms) to be free-to-play. When DCU launches in August for the PS3, it becomes of the flagship games of the platform (though it struggles in its Windows incarnation versus Champions and the still-market-leader in men-in-tights games, City of Heroes)


DC Online didn’t ship. It’s been postponed until early next year (though a beta just shipped for paying PSN members on the PS3 this week). Just for good measure to make sure I got everything wrong, they’ve also announced that the revenue model will be subscription-based.


Nope, in fact this prediction shows you should probably ignore anything I ever say, ever.


Star Trek Online becomes Cryptic’s second huge hit (remember, they originally developed City of Heroes before selling it to NCsoft) with subscriber numbers stabilizing in the 500,000 range.


While Cryptic’s never released subscriber numbers, it’s safe to say that STO wasn’t a huge hit – despite over a million in initial accounts, Cryptic’s Jack Emmert later stated in a podcast that the game had “well over 100,000 subscribers”. Many players, at least anecdotally, ran up against a lack of content fairly quickly and promptly left.


Who knows. They could have 500,000 subscribers. YOU’LL NEVER KNOW! (I would hazard a guess not, though.)


All Points Bulletin, a technologically innovative open-world modern crime MMO which would ordinarily be much higher profile a release, but had the misfortune of releasing into the teeth of Catacylsm in December.

Did not get delayed to December. Probably should have.

Jumpgate: Evolution, which released in June to little fanfare and about 100,000 subscribers

Nope. Still not out.

Mortal Online, a hardcore PvP game released in March which attracted the roving attention of hardcore PvP guilds for about three months, who all proclaim it the next big thing in message boards before leaving complaining about a patch in May.

Mortal Online DID actually ship! Did you know that? Yeah, me either.

Predictions of Warhammer Online’s demise were exaggerated, for example (though not greatly so, as the game finally shrinks to a single server)

Warhammer is still alive, and still has 9 servers, at least according to their somewhat broken server status page.

Most MMOs not named World of Warcraft, from Aion to Everquest, to EVE to Darkfall, remain essentially static; holding on to a core of fans who have found communities that won’t go away any time soon despite the storm and thunder of The Next Big Thing

This is true – there’s been no real high profile implosions, and if you played a MMO not called World of Warcraft, you probably still do at some point.

And for those of us odd folk who actually try to make a living in this crazy industry, 2010 was something of a relief after 2009’s serial executions. A great many startups started to get funding again (Richard Garriott and Mark Jacobs in particular both attracting much attention, if not a lot of actual news) as investors started to realize that (a) MMOs do make a lot of money! Really! and (b) 2010 was a good year to hire a good deal of out-of-work people to make those. By the time 2010 closed out, the health of the MMO market, at least employment-wise, had started to return to where it was in 2008. (And yes, someday I’ll be able to tell you what I’m working on. Again.)

Eh. Mark Jacobs still hasn’t gone public with his plans, and Richard Garriott hasn’t gotten much traction with his save suing his former (and my current) employer. And while the economy is rebounding some, it’s still not to where it should be.

I can tell you what I work on though! Though I doubt you’d be interested in patcher technologies and authentication log queries.