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Role Playing (Games)

How to Rule the World (of WarCraft) - 10 Lessons 140

Posted by Zonk
from the everybody-wants-to-pwn-the-world dept.
The Austin Game Developer's Conference, now under new management, kicks off today with a keynote from Blizzard President Michael Morhaime. He started off the event with a discussion of the potential of gaming in the 20th Century, and the lessons his company has learned from the long trial that has been World of Warcraft. Read on for notes from his presentation.
Morhaime takes the stage to applause, and begins by expressing fascination with the possibilities of the modern era. Right now, he says, the ability for people to connect is unprecedented in the history of humanity. Looking back on the 20th century, this puts us now in a very unique situation. Advances in transportation, communication, and information storage have made the world a far smaller place. The rate of change is so fast that we have a hard time coming to grips with it. Future shock is everpresent, but he (at least) views this as a good thing.

For a moment, he takes a steps back to look at the world as of one hundred years ago. In 1907 there were only 8000 cars in the US, with no airforce, and only 8% of homes in the states even had a phone. In comparison, recent years have seen the density of transistors (as described by Moore's Law) increase exponentially. It makes for a really nice graph.

This is the context in which we're looking at online gaming this year, at the conference. The online gaming market is still very much in its infancy, many things are still possible, still unrecognized in the world. The goal of designers, studios, and publishers, should be to live up to that potential.

His focus during the talk itself will be World of Warcraft, the history of Blizzard, and lessons that the online games industry can take from their successes (and failures).

A trio of UCLA grads started the company in 1991, with little more than $20,000 and a pair of PCs. Both were 386s, without CD drives and 'mighty' hard drives that could be counted in the dozens of megabytes. Their first jobs were conversions; PC to Mac or Amiga translations. They learned much from this process, getting a real feel for how games were made. They made a racing game for the SNES' launch, which they completed in about four months.

With the fruits of those early payoffs they pulled some more people in and began to make new console titles. Eventually, with the decline of 16-bit consoles, they turned to the PC for their first RTS: Warcraft. The rise of the Internet made them think hard about players collaborating, competing online. Their sale to Davidson, an educational software company, led through a series of alleys and buyouts to their current relationship with Vivendi. Their initial relationship with the Davidsons has been maintained through all those buyouts, allowing them to keep tight control of their IPs.

WoW has just been their most recent success, though Morhaime admits it has changed the company in ways they never could have imagined. Through buyouts and company modifications, their fundamental concepts have stayed the same. Gameplay comes first. He pulls the 'it all starts with a donut' slide from Rob Pardo's talk last year. The center of the donut is the hardcore gamers, and the casuals are the sweetness all around. To this end, they make an effort to ensure that system requirements are low. "Easy to learn, difficult to master" is also a concern; he mentions Guitar Hero as another title that nails this feeling.

Outside of design, they see the Blizzard name as their most important property. "Blizzard", for gamers, should equal high quality, fun, and polish. A gamer walking into a store should be able to see the Blizzard name on a title and know that they can trust the game will be fun. They only want to make "brand deposits", not withdrawals; they only seek to add value to their name through choices in pricing, polish, and experience.

The biggest pressure is resisting the urge to release early. There is pressure from all sides; budgetary concerns, programmers tired of working on the game, analyst expectations, consumer expectations. They see this as a huge danger. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Missing that opportunity is not something you can get back. They try to think long term. Don't mortgage the future to meet the quarter goals, as it were.

Diablo was their biggest trial. Back in the day Diablo was in danger of 'missing Christmas'. When the time came to make the final call, they held it back to December 31st. Even though they released the game late, that's not how it is remembered. It sold great, and is now an amazing brand. They now point to that as an unqualified success. Most recently they had to do the same thing with Burning Crusade. After the problems with the initial WoW launch, they wanted to really nail that rollout. They were rewarded with the fastest selling PC title of all time: 2.4 million units in one day.

Another pressure they have to deal with is the concept of 'doing everything at once'. The company instead tries to focus in on the truly important things. Build on successes, gain expertise, and then once that's under your belt go for the more ambitious stuff. WoW was a huge undertaking, but it wasn't their first online game. They built on experiences with Battle.net to create that title.

The success of StarCraft and WoW has turned Blizzard into a global company. This necessitates a number of considerations. The games can't just be geared to the US market. Initially they were very much a states-oriented organization, and this led to some frustrations with launching titles in localized languages. Grey market imports of the US version of the game led to lack of interest in brand new launches in Europe. In Asia, meanwhile, the importance of game rooms makes the market completely different than in the west. Accounting for all three of these markets is required for a simultaneous worldwide launch.

A slide showing the global launch growth of their titles shows a huge spike in Asian interest around the time of StarCraft's launch. To this day there isn't a Korean version of SC; they're all playing in English in those well-publicized online matches. They managed worldwide launches with Diablo 2 and WarCraft III, but held back for WoW. They'd never rolled out a Massive game before, of course, so they really wanted to make sure they had successes under their belt before taking the show abroad.

What they don't do is localize games to 'regional tastes'. They see gamers as having different styles of play, but they exist in all regions. They don't make different versions with each being tailored to a specific area of the world. Instead they make sure that all players find something to meet their gameplay style needs. Blizzard is very much their target market; if they like it enough, odds are (they think) that others will feel the same. Just the same, they do need to be culturally sensitive. The Pandarens from WarCraft III were an oopsie along those lines. Pandas dressed in Japanese clothing and having Samurai sensibilities did not go over very well. They responded quickly, changing the image of the Pandaren to a more culturally appropriate style.

By the time WoW was in the works, they had already started to think globally. They identified North America, Europe, and South Korea as the three areas they wanted to target directly for WoW's launch. To do that, they established a full control center, with customer support, server infrastructure, marketing, sales, and administrative control in each area. Other areas saw them teaming with companies that have strong understanding of local customs. The9 in China, for example, handled localization of the game for that market, as well as server maintenance for the game in that country.

Their big challenge for WoW was determining the demand for such a title. He quotes Tom Watson, CEO of IBM in 1942: "There is a worldwide market for perhaps five computers." How much infrastructure do you need for a Massively multiplayer game? How many units at launch? The local Fry's launch tipped them off that things might be different with WoW. Way too many people showed up for their local meet and greet and launch party. "Wow. We might need more hardware."

They had sales information for WarCraft III, as well as the stats for EverQuest's lifetime. They thought of WarCraft as a ceiling, and were dead wrong. At several times in WoW's early lifetime they had to stop shipping boxes to retail because they couldn't have supported the new players.

H.R. is really important, they learned. The company needed to scale up across the board starting in 2004; they went from under 1000 employees to over 3000 in the three years since WoW's launch. They needed more IT folks, additional sales, marketing ... they didn't even have the capacity to hire folks as fast as they needed them.

The big lesson: running a MMOG is not just game development. It's also a service. They thought they had enough experience running Battle.net to handle WoW, but moving to a subscription service was a very different experience. These backend elements are just as important as game design, if they impact the player's experience.

Communication was one of their other big learning curves. They need to make sure to communicate with the players, or 'people would make stuff up.' The Community team needs a process for keeping players informed, and keeping international staffers on the same page. This is especially important when there is a 'fire'. This lead to silence on their part when there was a problem, because they didn't want to say something 'wrong'. As a result, they developed lists and staffers that would ensure less 'wigging out'.

Morhaime briefly delved into the dark underworld of gold selling, credit card fraud, and trojan-laced websites that steal user information for WoW accounts. They see this as a core part of their mission: this adversely affects players across the board, and has to be stopped as best they can.

Testing is all-important to the company. "Never trust version 1.0." Everyone at Blizzard tests, as a result. Public Betas ensure that they eliminate 'cheese'; boring ways to play the game that are most efficient. WoW launched without a test site, and in retrospect they regret that. Patches are now thoroughly reviewed by a wide player audience before they go live. When Burning Crusade rolled out, they took the lessons from WoW's launch to heart. They upgraded their entire infrastructure for the game, and ensured they had extra capacity for their first day of new gameplay. The servers withstood the extra load well, and CS folks said they viewed it as a 'smooth patch release.' This time they did a worldwide release, with midnight openings of the game all around the world. 'Every hour they opened a new market.' They viewed it as something of a New Year's celebration for the folks at Blizzard.

To close, Morhaime displays a video showcases the colorful characters that showed up for the midnight launch of the game in Europe, everywhere from London to Stockholm, from Paris to Dublin. "It's an exciting time to be in the game industry. Good luck."
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How to Rule the World (of WarCraft) - 10 Lessons

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  • "Racing Game" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tridus (79566) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:53PM (#20482403) Homepage
    The "Racing Game" in question that wasn't mentioned by name is Rock and Roll Racing, which was a lot of fun when you had a friend over to play it.
    • by morari (1080535)
      The green flag drops!

      Snake is dominating the race!

      Jake looks lost out there!

      SPIN OUT!!!

      ...ah, memories. :)

      • by sheetsda (230887)
        "Olaf should avoid mines!"

        I remember loving that game, I had no idea Blizzard created it, thanks for the info. Hey Blizzard where's our modern sequel to this gem?
        • by morari (1080535)
          In all fairness, I don't believe that they were called Blizzard back then. Speaking of Olaf however, I wouldn't mind seeing and updated version of the Lost Vikings either....
          • by Novus (182265)
            Back in the early days (1991 to early 1994), Blizzard was "Silicon & Synapse".
    • by Seakip18 (1106315)
      I remember that game. Was a ton of fun, especially considering the upgrades and other various components that you could mess with in the game. Did you sport for those new tires or upgrade to a Hovercraft?

      I also took a memorable quote from the game, "Sit down, strap up and shut up."
      • by Tridus (79566)
        Actually I hated the Hovercraft, due to the gun on it doing very little damage. I usually saved to go directly to an Air Blade, bought a couple of cheap upgrades (tires, guns), then saved for the Battle Tank, which I would upgrade as much as possible.
    • The "Racing Game" in question that wasn't mentioned by name is Rock and Roll Racing
      Now there's a game that deserves an updated release (for the PC *and* all consoles)
  • As one of the first closed beta players to sign up (the counter was only at double digits) I really must say it was more of a rocky road than the president outlined. Server crashes, bugs, hacks, expoits, gold farmers; the list goes on and on. I'd say they've done very, very well for an infant company breaking into the MMO arena. As a result, my subscription to WoW hasn't lapsed yet, I've got five 70's, and I got to webcam in on my wedding.
    • by ToxikFetus (925966) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @02:05PM (#20482597)

      As a result, my subscription to WoW hasn't lapsed yet, I've got five 70's, and I got to webcam in on my wedding.
      Congratulations sir, you are the center of the donut.
    • by milamber3 (173273)
      I was in the closed beta, certainly not as early as the double digits (I never even saw a counter), but I don't remember any gold farming during beta. What would even be the point. No one was selling gold on ebay or anywhere else at that time. There were definately crashes, bug, and exploits but compared to some other games I have tested like Shadowbane and Planetside it was pretty smooth.
    • Why lie?

      Explain to me how gold farmers were a problem in Beta? They were not because there is no money in selling gold that everyone knows will poof.

      Hacks were also not an issue in Beta either. I never once remember any discussion of any hack during alpha or beta, never, not once.

      Exploits are considered bugs in beta too. Once you hit release, it is an exploit.
      • Well, LOTR had gold sellers in beta, 2moons has a nasty problem with them right now. (Crappy game anyway. The visual style is Final Fantasy-esque sans any sort of character customization)
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Slow Smurf (839532)
          LOTRO didn't poof everything when the game came out.
    • by Liquidrage (640463) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @04:03PM (#20484745)
      I've got five 70's, and I got to webcam in on my wedding.

      Sir, please put down the internet and step back slowly.
    • by Lisandro (799651)
      I've got five 70's, and I got to webcam in on my wedding You sure know your way to a lady's heart!
  • Strange game... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdamTrace (255409) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:59PM (#20482489)
    "Strange game.
    The only winning move is not to play.
    How about a nice game of chess?"

    • Why is it strange? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @03:36PM (#20484105)
      The point of games isn't to win, necessairily. Computer games are to entertain you, same as anything else you'd do in your off time. You can't "win" at watching TV or scrapbooking or anything like that. It is just something to do to entertain you and make you happy when you've got free time. As such games like WoW that can't be won actually can be quite fun. You never reach a point where you're like "Well, I'm done with this, I've just done everything there is to do." It's always something you can come back to and play when you want to.

      In fact the only people I observe who don't tend to have fun are the ones that try to win, the ones that are convinced they need to have all the best items in the game, they need to be more powerful than everyone else, etc. They ones that essentially turn it in to a job, a lifestyle. Especially since you are in for perpetual letdown because if you ever did achieve your goal of getting everything, they'll just introduce more stuff.

      For those of us who it isn't about being better than everyone, an unwinnable game is quite fun. Log on and play when you want, there's always stuff to do.
      • by Jaeph (710098)
        The point of games isn't to win, necessairily.
        ---------------

        In point of fact, one of the major definitions of the word "game" involves winning. So games are competitive exercises, sports are physical games, gambling is gaming involving money, and so on.

        The thing is, an RPG can be approached in any number of ways, one of which is by worrying about winning/losing. Another would be socializing.

        I disagree that the competitive types are in any way having less "fun", or that winning/losing automatically turns
  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @02:28PM (#20483007) Homepage Journal
    1 - Cancel subscription

    2 - profit !!!1

    especially after they turned the game into a timesink/cashcow by introducing 10 new levels, endless reputation -> item -> item set grinds, by deciding to introduce an expansion each year.

    now people who bought tbc are going to go into a new zone without ever seeing endgame tbc instances and being able to complete half of a set with wotlk.
    • by bidule (173941)

      especially after they turned the game into a timesink/cashcow by introducing 10 new levels, endless reputation -> item -> item set grinds, by deciding to introduce an expansion each year.

      I am the frosting on the inner side of the donut and I've had 6 months of good fun. In fact, I get more of a grinding feeling with my lvl 44 then I did getting both my mains to lvl 70. I never did the Kurenai grind to get the Mononoke Hime mount, and I only did enough dailies with Ogri'la and Netherwing to get 1 epic

      • by unity100 (970058)
        i lived through swg. if it wasnt for guild members doing a brief stint with wow, i wouldnt stand wow that long.

        but after some time it really gets totally boring - they made the game into a second job. i cant just spare 3 hours a night grinding this and that in order to be able to keep up with the game and hope to see any end game.
    • WoW is nothing but an endless stream of new bells to salivate at the ring of. Players pay for a pavlovian experience.
    • especially after they turned the game into a timesink/cashcow by introducing 10 new levels, endless reputation -> item -> item set grinds, by deciding to introduce an expansion each year

      Wait... You're upset that they're introducing new content? What are people supposed to do after they hit 70? Just sit there until the end of time? I'd rather have something new to do than do the same thing over and over again for eternity, personally.

      People complaining about "grinding" to 70 are usually the same people I see in 70 PvP battlegrounds wearing their level 60 PvP (or even worse, level 60 raid) gear. The "grind" from 60-70 was less than two weeks of real time (not in-game time) for me, as a casual player, and I'd only quested in half the new zones in Outland and run 1/4 of the instances.

      A MMO is not meant to be winnable. You don't get to the "end" and sit above everyone, unassailable. The game moves on. You move with it. If you want a game where you can be permanently better than everyone else, go somewhere else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBGMorden (803437)

      now people who bought tbc are going to go into a new zone without ever seeing endgame tbc instances and being able to complete half of a set with wotlk.

      Newsflash: you can't please everyone. If you setup a game so that EVERY SINGLE PERSON playing has the playskill and time to see that content to it's fullest, you just lost a big chunk of your customer base who wants a challenge. The end-game raid content is there for end-game raiders. Those guys enjoy that and want to do that. Let them. If you're not an end-game raider then that content isn't aimed at you. By virtue of making something actually challenging to the top end guys it becomes virtually im

      • by unity100 (970058)
        nothing about wow is about skill. its about TIME.

        the more you grind, the more better equipped you become, and are allowed to participate in endgame. however, the endgame constantly runs away, with now neverending expansions. (they decided to put out 1 exp every year).

        you get stronger, yet monsters get stronger too with each level. thats allright.

        but, your relative strength compared to mobs NEVER changes. even it is harder to kill mobs at any given time of your equal level and playing area (instance
        • by MBGMorden (803437)
          Most endgame raids are very much about skill. Sure it's often "recipe following" skill if the boss has been downed before, but that doesn't make it easy.

          Illidan Stormrage for example. Take the EXACT toons, gear, etc that have been used in groups to down him. Give those toons to your average IF hangout who just works on tradeskils and grinds a bit. I guarantee that regardless of how many times they go in, they're not gonna kill Illidan. Hell a lot of it will boil down to the skill of the raid leader. I
          • by unity100 (970058)
            illidan is endpoint. anything up until that point depends on itemization. its no excuse that you need to employ a little skill to down illidan, and then just monotonously repeat the same recipe. because in just 6 months time illidan will be history too, and grind will restart. for those who reached this point early putting 4 hours each night, the cycle will continue when they down the lich king at the new exp, and there is 4-5 months for the new exp to come.
    • by Petersko (564140) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:06PM (#20485999)
      "especially after they turned the game into a timesink/cashcow by introducing 10 new levels, endless reputation -> item -> item set grinds, by deciding to introduce an expansion each year. now people who bought tbc are going to go into a new zone without ever seeing endgame tbc instances and being able to complete half of a set with wotlk."

      Why would they not see the endgame for a zone? It's not going anywhere.

      Unless, of course, you're one of those of players who consider WoW a footrace to gear, so that you can stand around in the major cities flexing and showing off your digital attributes.

      Those people are very much the minority. The casual gamers are far more numerous, and our choices in the game aren't driven by what gear we need, but by which areas we haven't explored.

      I just got a level 60 character for the first time (I've had the game since launch). Eventually I'll see the new content, but I'm in no rush. The plaguelands, winterspring, and now the outlands have been new and fun for me, and I never had to resort to grinding for anything.

      I swear sometimes I think the hardcore gamers consider themselves the elite that Blizzard should cater heavily to - but they provide the same revenue stream as a casual gamer, use more resources, and are far less numerous.
      • by unity100 (970058)

        Why would they not see the endgame for a zone? It's not going anywhere. Unless, of course, you're one of those of players who consider WoW a footrace to gear, so that you can stand around in the major cities flexing and showing off your digital attributes.

        it doesnt matter whether you consider it a race or not. it IS a race. if you wait and try to take your time to enjoy the content, you will find yourself alone at your level, like a relic of pretbc wow. there are people who are still maintaining "pretbc guilds". which are dwindling in numbers day by day and each and every member of them are forced to join the race because everyone moves on, and not enough people are left to maintain any pretbc event.

        you cant just "take your time" in such an environmen

        • by ZombieWomble (893157) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @07:05PM (#20487587)
          I have to ask, did someone from Blizzard run over your dog or something? You seem determined to paint the game in as poor a light as possible, with examples which seem to exist only in your own mind.

          From your posts, you seem to indicate that you're an experienced gamer, but also one who doesn't have vast amounts of time to dedicate to the game, and thus is incapable of really experiencing most of the end-game instances (although this doesn't strictly hold, and is certainly nothing like the "omg 8 month constant grind" or precisely calibrated gear sets you paint in one of the sibling posts, it's sufficiently true for most people to not be worth arguing). Hence you feel like the game is ripping you off, with all this new content which just streams by and is inaccessible. Roughly correct?

          The thing is, you're a particular type of gamer who is rather ill-suited to playing WoW long-term. You don't have the time (or, alternatively, the desire to spend the time) to play through the high-end instances, but you're a sufficiently experienced gamer that you can tear through the single player content pretty quickly and reach that vague limbo between level 70 and the end-game, which isn't particularly compelling, I'll have to agree. Hence you get the impression the game is solely tailored to the hardcore people with lots of time to grind, and express this view with great vigor.

          The thing is, WoW's playerbase is not just made up of the "real hardcore" and people like you - there's a non-trivial fraction of players (the GP probably being one of them) who play the game in an extremely casual fashion, ambling through content as the mood strikes them, who would likely take years to get through to level 80 when the next expansion comes out, who don't give a damn that there's some raid instances they're missing out on at levels 60 and 70, because it's simply not part of the way they play the game. And yet, most of these people quite often feel like they're getting their money's worth out of the questing and 5-man instancing available, which is fine, is it not? Particularly on the expansion servers, which have a relatively young population, so there's still an availability of people to instance with and the like. The fact that you want to attack these people for playing the game "wrong" is rather baffling.

          • by unity100 (970058)

            From your posts, you seem to indicate that you're an experienced gamer, but also one who doesn't have vast amounts of time to dedicate to the game, and thus is incapable of really experiencing most of the end-game instances (although this doesn't strictly hold, and is certainly nothing like the "omg 8 month constant grind" or precisely calibrated gear sets you paint in one of the sibling posts, it's sufficiently true for most people to not be worth arguing). Hence you feel like the game is ripping you off, with all this new content which just streams by and is inaccessible. Roughly correct?

            no its not correct.

            i have acceptable time to spend on a game, since its my main hobby. however, i cant put any game in a second job status. because if it was job what i was looking for in my spare time, i would have done overtime and at least made money out of it. im looking for entertainment. and endlessly trying to keep up with a game in NOT fun ways, is not something that classifies as fun for me.

            • I addressed the point that it may have been an unwillingness to spend the time in my next paragraph. But either way, your particular objection it doesn't change the crux of the issue - WoW is not suited for you, but it is for other people.

              The true hardcore gamers like the constant stream of high-end content to be played through and defeated. That's what they enjoy. Your argument that there is "only" two months between completing the end-game instances and the next expansion in a sibling post is the exact o

              • by unity100 (970058)

                The true hardcore gamers like the constant stream of high-end content to be played through and defeated. That's what they enjoy.

                thats not hardcore gaming. hardcore gaming can be starcraft, hardcore gaming can be text based adventures, even mario bros tournaments, but being milked while grinding for the next item is not hardcore gaming. its seeking of 'achievement' feeling. its not related to games, hobby or fun. its the desire to make up for achievement not felt in real life. which is not too healthy.

                its like being a career bitch in a game world. unfortunately, wow does not allow any other kind of playstyle - everything in th

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by ZombieWomble (893157)
                  This really does seem to be a lost cause - you've decided you don't enjoy WoW and as a result have concluded nobody can rationally enjoy it, and prefer to argue semantics rather than address the point (to the extent of defining it as "not a game" without any rationale). You keep harping on about the end-game instance running and the grind which can be associated with it, and just refuse to acknowledge the fact that the majority of players simply don't see that as the objective of the game and don't play it
                  • by unity100 (970058)
                    now there is this.

                    there is always a point in time for a gamer that s/he enjoys totally 'achievement' based games. its a passing stage. after all, even achieving becomes repetitive after a few years.

                    in single player era we had games capitalized upon that, and others capitalized on other facets. but all games tried to strike at least a minimum balance of all elements.

                    now come the mmo era. the subscription based thing is much more preferable for gaming companies - huge cash involved, and keeps coming
                • by Damvan (824570)
                  Ok, ok, we understand you hate WoW and Blizzard, that is fairly obvious. But how dare you assume that since you find WoW unsuitable FOR YOU, that it isn't suitable for anyone else, particularly gamers. Millions of people enjoy playing WoW, or they wouldn't be spending $15 a month for a subscription. But, since you don't like it, those people aren't "gamers" they are achievement junkies who are unsatisfied in their lives and must play WoW to make up for their lack of achievement in real life. The world d
                  • by unity100 (970058)
                    you talk like a wow zealot.

                    its not the person who quits wow, but its the person who tries to achieve, overachieve and try to keep up despite being exploited by non genuine milking tricks like pavlov's dog who wants a position in the world, even if virtual, therefore needing help.

                    its not the seeking of a position in a virtual world structure thats the problem. problem is trying to do in a neverending milking environment, in expense of their self.
        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          game is defined by what gear you need. they explicitly planned the game upon that. you hit 70, you get noticeable set pieces, but they are not even enough to start a decent endgame instance. why ? you need some number of cleverly planned top trinkets that are distributed to each class in order to keep up with the cleverly planned instances. not only one, two but all of a 10 man raid group needs those. if 2-3 lacks them, raid goes into trouble. because it is PLANNED that way.

          Nothing farther from the truth. When we started Kara all our people were in regular old blues. We did fine, and ANY group that knows what they're doing can do AT LEAST up to Curator with no fancy gear. Now that we've actually cleared the place and most of our people are in epic gear, if we take in 5 players wearing epics all from Kara itself, and 5 other players in blues, we can wipe the floor with the place. On a "junk" run (ie, last minute scrounge up some players) the other night I took in 4 tanks (

        • by Ptraci (584179) *
          I have 32 characters on four different servers, none of them in guilds, and I don't give a rat's ass about endgame. I've been playing since a couple of months after the launch and my highest level character is at 60, and I've just started exploring the Outlands. My main motivation for getting her to higher levels at this point is so I can ride a broom on Halloween, so that's as close as I come to grinding for gear. I still have fun at the game as a casual gamer BECAUSE I'm a casual gamer.
          • Basically you are playing single player. Why not play kotor, or monkey island then.

            My main motivation for getting her to higher levels at this point is so I can ride a broom on Halloween, so that's as close as I come to grinding for gear


            you see, you need to get to higher levels even for riding a broom on haloween. thats what i was talking about.
            • by Ptraci (584179) *
              I play with others, all the time, most often my son, but sometimes with different people who happen to be in the same area. I also don't do Windows, so that lets out some games. Monkey Island was great, but not the same kind of thing at all, anyway. I can't play 32 different characters depending on my mood in that. Anyway, the point is that I take my time and do things when I want to, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. I think if you treat games like you're on a treadmill none of them will be
              • by unity100 (970058)
                no, problem is YOU. you are not playing world of warcraft, you are playing a single player game. the setting, events you describe can be realized in ANY game - playing with your son, wandering around here and there, not feeling like missing anything. you dont need any feature of wow for that.
    • I completely agree with your posts in this topic, I wanted to join in the discussion, but no need to say those things twice. Leave those addicts in their skinner boxes. Some of them will realize what WoW actually is:

      Huge boring grindfest with some fun stuff here and there. Better to realize that sooner rather than later. But who cares for those addicted apologists/fanboys, they probably are posting here because they can't play wow at work.
      • by unity100 (970058)
        exactly my feelings now.

        the only innovative/fun side i saw in wow was people in cities having improvised fun totally irrelevant of the game, gnomes, that small joke stuff, snowballs and so on.
  • 2 step plan (Score:3, Funny)

    by corychristison (951993) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @02:40PM (#20483167)
    I have an easier plan! Only two steps! Reap the benefits!
    Step 1: Watch the South Park episode of "Make Love, Not Warcraft [southparkstudios.com]"
    Step 2: Repeat Step 1
  • I'd say no potential at this point, since it's over and done with.
  • Zonk writes that Morhaime says, "When Burning Crusade rolled out, they took the lessons from WoW's launch to heart. They upgraded their entire infrastructure for the game, and ensured they had extra capacity for their first day of new gameplay. The servers withstood the extra load well, and CS folks said they viewed it as a 'smooth patch release.'"

    Obviously this guy wasn't in-game at Hellfire Peninsula at all on any of the heavily populated realms during BC's opening. I was, and the game did not run smoothl

    • Dalaran is a pretty heavily populated realm, and I didn't experience issues with the BC launch. Maybe Whisperwind was just particularly bad, not the norm.
    • HFP was a bit rough at release, but the servers were reasonably stable, with only a couple reboots required in the first week or so. Compared to the vanilla WoW launch, it was a breeze.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @03:08PM (#20483621) Homepage Journal
    What is it with successful companies and the average /. poster? There seems to be some assumed hatred for any company that is big and successful. Take WOW. Look at almost all the first postings, nothing on topic, all mocking the people who play the game or the people who created it. Why?

    We can learn a lot from what these companies do right and wrong. Amazingly they are pretty open with many failings. Its important to understand what they think went wrong because we on the outside never have the big picture. We tend to focus like a laser on our one little issue, find a 3 or 4 more people and declare it a national emergency.

    Diablo and WOW are impressive feats. I don't think we will see another WOW for some time. Its one of those seminal moments in gaming history, when a company just "got it right". It was the right game at the right time. Pretty much the same with Diablo. I doubt they can do it three times but they might just be the only people do so.

    I have to laugh at all the people who claim they are quitting over change X or how many people they know who are quitting because if I had a nickle, well you know the story. The same goes for competitors to WOW. I laugh at the claims "we aren't here to compete with WOW" or "we don't consider WOW competition" . This is almost like an admission of failure. If your not going to aim high why bother taking the shot? This is especially true for known names who are releasing new games.

    Too many games have tanked for the simple reason they released when they were not ready. They most likely failed to clamp donw on features and design and got bit in the ass by feature creep and the fuck up fairy - she loves to poke her head in when you change things. I have played MMORPGs from Yserbius, UO, EQ, DAOC, AC, AC2, LOTR, and yes WOW. None compare to the polish that WOW has. While there are those who legitimately can say they don't like the graphic style of WOW or the class play or even the raiding you cannot fault it for the polish and stability it has.

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      WoW benefited from releasing at the perfect time. I think the bastardization of SWG by SOE along with no other big name companies releasing any MMORPGs at the time allowed WoW to gain such a huge market share.

      Don't get me wrong, I think WoW is a very good game.. it just hasn't really had to deal with any serious competition recently. Once Warhammer and Age of Conan come out, I think WoW will be relegated to #3.
    • Few reasons (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @03:50PM (#20484449)
      The general reason that there's lots of haiting on successful companies is because there's a large population of malcontents on Slashdot. You could assign any number of labels to them but more or less they are just contrarian. They don't like things that are big and popular. That's the reason for their affinity to Linux, not because they actually care about the technical merits, but because they are using something that isn't majority.

      In the specific case of WoW there's hatred for it because it isn't the kind of game that caters to them. WoW is extremely casual player friendly, as I'm sure you've noticed. Even if you play on a PvP server, the game doesn't penalize you for death. This burns many "hardcore" gamers as they derive pleasure form making others miserable. They want to be able to stomp on people who aren't as good at them (read the EVE boards sometime to see what I'm talking about) and WoW just doesn't allow that.

      Also WoW doesn't allow you to become way more powerful than a normal player. There's severe diminishing returns on effort. Even if you have all the top raid gear, you can still get your ass kicked by some guy in blues because your gear is better, but not decisively so. So even if you spend your life playing the game, you can't become a god, there can still be some smartass that plays just on the weekends, but really is pretty skilled, that comes and beats you up.

      Finally WoW isn't winnable. Some people really seem to think that the point of playing a game is to be uber, to have the best of everything you can have. They want their character to be in every way maxed, to have all the best items. Well, that's impossible to do because Blizzard is growing WoW all the time. Even if you managed to achieve that, which would be an amazing feat given all the different things there are to do, they'd just add more content and you'd have to do it all over.

      WoW is a game that really appeals to the masses, and that just burns some people. Thus, they hate on it.
    • Diablo and WOW are impressive feats. I don't think we will see another WOW for some time. Its one of those seminal moments in gaming history, when a company just "got it right". It was the right game at the right time. Pretty much the same with Diablo. I doubt they can do it three times but they might just be the only people do so.

      I think you may be forgetting StarCraft [blizzard.com], which has sold more copies than Diablo and Diablo II combined [wikipedia.org].

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @04:06PM (#20484803)
    Was actually spend time, and lots of it, designing a well balanced, working system for a game.

    Way too many games are designed just kinda based on what the developers feel is right and based on what plays well in testing. That works ok for single player games, but not really multiplayer and especially not MMORPGs. You need an extremely well thought out, well balanced system.

    The game to really look at for this is Starcraft. Here was the first ever game I can remember that had three sides that were very different in operation, but yet truly equal. I never saw a side that had an advantage over any other. That was important, because otherwise that's what everyone would play and it'd get boring.

    Well that same kind of design has to be applied on a massive scale to an MMORPG. You can't create items arbitrarily or you WILL create things that are unbalanced. WoW doesn't do that, you'll find if you search around that there's a mathematical formula that determines how good something can be. If it is this level, and this quality is has X many points that can be put in things and different things cost different point values.

    Blizzard really put a hell of a lot of thought in to the balance like this, and they keep working on it. They don't just sit and say "Eh it's working fine," they keep re-balancing, making sure that if something is found to be out of balance, balance is restored.

    That is extremely important since people have a need to feel things are fair, and since if they aren't people will discover and seek out the advantages, and the game will become a boring monoculture.

    Also they've done an exceedingly good job of making it so that whatever it is you like doing, WoW has plenty of that for you. It isn't a game that says "This is how it has to be played," it is a game with lots of options. Want to do nothing but play alone doing quests? No problem, tons of that. Want to play occasionally in small groups, no problem. Want to do hard content requiring large, well organized groups? Again check. Want to fight other players? Got that. Want to never have to fight other players? No problem. Want to play dressup with your character? Yes you can even do that.

    Basically, the game is extremely diverse and it's not a situation of requiring you to do things you don't like to do the things you do.

    Finally they've created one of the first MMOs that doesn't feel like they want to punish you. So many games, Everquest being the best example, seem to really want to punish people. Death has severe consequences, getting started is very confusing and very hard, there's plenty of ways to get in real trouble, etc. Blizzard took all that crap out. The start is extremely friendly, it's real easy to figure out what to do and who to talk to. Death is similar to what you'd have in a single player game, you just get set back to an earlier save point, but since there's no saves just a walk back to where you were. And no matter how lots you are, no matter how screwed up the situation, the very worst it can ever be is wait an hour, spirit rez, hearthstone and you are back to familiar territory.

    WoW is just extremely well designed. That doesn't mean in terms of art assets or any of that, that mean in terms of actually designing a working system, the same way you'd say that a good assembly line is well designed. They took the time to figure out what people hate about games and not do it, and how to keep their game balanced and do that. Which, though it might sound simple, is a first for the MMO industry as far as I can tell.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Krater76 (810350)
      Way too many games are designed just kinda based on what the developers feel is right and based on what plays well in testing. That works ok for single player games, but not really multiplayer and especially not MMORPGs. You need an extremely well thought out, well balanced system.

      Never played a warlock or a rogue, did you?

      Warlocks went from being an easy kill to being almost invincible. Rogues started off as overpowered, were somewhat ruined for both PvE and PvP before the expansion, and now are apparent
      • > Why does every class have to have a counter for another?

        Because people who do PvP will whine about perceived imbalances.

        I will admit though, the Rock Paper Scissor type of game is more interesting.
      • by Old Wolf (56093)
        Obviously the game is not balanced around one-on-one PvP play, as you say in your second paragraph. But in your first paragraph you whinge about the exact same thing.
        • by Krater76 (810350)
          Obviously the game is not balanced around one-on-one PvP play, as you say in your second paragraph. But in your first paragraph you whinge about the exact same thing.

          That was a troll but I guess I'll bite...

          What I said was that the game wasn't balanced around 1v1 originally but it's moved more toward trying to balance 1v1 when a class imbalance is found. The problem is they over-buff which causes more imbalance.

          An example of this is warlock vs. rogue. Warlocks couldn't kill rogues since a warlock's
    • by MrDoh1 (906953)
      Point taken, but just for the record, EQ has become much more new player friendly in the last few years. There's an actual tutorial now instead of just throwing you to the wild. There are tons of examples of things they've done to help new players. There's maps in game now. Also, the "Attack" command no longer defaults to the "A" key. Boy it sucked being new back in the day and forgetting to hit enter before you started typing a chat message and you end up attacking that NPC.

      I never considered death
  • beautiful, well coded, etc. For the casual gamer, it's too tough. The lower levels fly by with lots of content and lots of progress. Starting at around lvl 14 orso, it seems to get exponentially more difficult to level a character, with the only way being to grind and grind and grind. The rule hacks added to prevent massive character leveling by professional levelers have impacted the casual gameplay to the point where it is extremely difficult to advance without spending a large amount of time grinding
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Knara (9377)

      beautiful, well coded, etc. For the casual gamer, it's too tough. The lower levels fly by with lots of content and lots of progress. Starting at around lvl 14 orso, it seems to get exponentially more difficult to level a character, with the only way being to grind and grind and grind. The rule hacks added to prevent massive character leveling by professional levelers have impacted the casual gameplay to the point where it is extremely difficult to advance without spending a large amount of time grinding, which is boring. The world itself is beautiful, but to have to slay morlocs for days to get an enchanter to the required grunt level to learn new enchanting skills is nuts. 'Bash things because we want to slow you down' seems like the way it goes... I wonder how many ppl are leaving due to that.

      Wut? I've got a couple chars, none above 37 because I'm sporadic and change my mind about what sort of class I like to play from time to time. None of them... *NONE* of them have required me to grind. There's quests all over the place if you just look for them. Now, some people consider quests to be "grinding", but exactly how else does one gain experience in an RPG? So, I can't agree with those people.

      Now, some of the quests are a pain in the ass, but, well, that's the life of an adventurer for ya.

    • by Grimwiz (28623)
      If you find yourself out of quests, move to a different zone. Each of the starting areas should keep you busy through your teens, and each continent has content that can keep you in quests all the way up to 60.
  • Plan or accident (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wilsonthecat (1043880) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:11PM (#20486059)
    By the time WoW was in the works, they had already started to think globally. They identified North America, Europe, and South Korea as the three areas they wanted to target directly for WoW's launch. To do that, they established a full control center, with customer support, server infrastructure, marketing, sales, and administrative control in each area.

    If you played WoW from the start as I do (atleast in Europe) you might find this particularly hard to believe. The servers at the start were absolutely terrible with 30-60 minute queues, very bad latency and frequently the scheduled maintenance went on for 2 days. I think the more truthful version is "We didn't realise how successful it would be, scrambled to get the infrastructure in place while at the same time made a mess of our customer support" (which is still terrible in Europe in terms of getting the actual truth, maybe this isn't the case in Europe - the chairman of Blizzard had to actually apologise to the EU market for the service).
  • Am I the only one who has a giant gray bar blocking almost the entire text of this article from view?
  • And when you're done with that, you may find this [wikihow.com] handy!
  • Game tips (Score:4, Funny)

    by obeythefist (719316) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @09:36PM (#20488903) Journal
    I was hoping for some game tips. Oh well. How to win:

    1) Read the forums and learn what's "broken" (ie, locks and hunters) and employ those strategies.
    2) Give up any notions of doing something because it's "Cool", cool doesn't win, it makes you a scrub
    3) Give up any offline social life or business commitments
    4) Grind to L70 as fast as you can. WoW is only about end game.
    5) Network - Being in a top class guild makes you a contender and gives you opportunities.
    6) Buy gold! Since we are speaking only of winning, buying gold makes you "win". I hate gold buying, for the record.
    7) Raid. Raiding has the best rewards. You will need to raid on a schedule with your guild. Give up anything else.
    8) Farm or play the AH and manipulate markets with your guild if you can.
    9) Play PvE for levelling, it's easier and your equipment at the end of the day will be the same as a PvPers.
    10) Winning WoW = gear. Grind arena, Raid, or farm for tradeskills, but gear = win.

    That's how you play to win WoW. I don't like any of that stuff, so I don't play to win, just to have fun.
  • We used to have something similar... until people realised their *own* lives were more interesting
  • I know, im posting into an old discussion.

    But, What supprised me was the success of WoW, i did play it for a couple of months but to me it was just "more of the same" with some kewl new features (the pvp bg's being one of the more impressive efforts in terms of "fun"). I just never really understood why people were interested in an MMO that had the basically the same concepts as six or so other big hits before it and i certainly didn't believe that the BG's were enough to justify the overwhelming success.

    Bu
    • by ErikZ (55491) *
      Sports are "Just games" too.

      And the reason your hardcore gamer sold his car to get into games is that the games were more rewarding that his life.

      How is this so difficult to understand?
  • Diablo II LoD was amazing. I loved playing that game with friends. And then one of the 'patches' came out and corrupted my favorite character, and then resulted in ever-more-frequent crashes. Now, I can't even start up the game without it crashing right away. Nothing in the logs, no useful errors, nothing.

    Blizzard no longer cares -- I've paid for the software, and I'm not playing WoW -- so tough noogies to me.

    I can't get at any of my characters with the base version, straight out of the box, and installi

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.

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