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Posts with tag Development

Blizzard looking to hire "product placement" producer for next-gen MMO

As Blizzard charges into 2012 with three big releases (Mists of Pandaria, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and Diablo III) coming soon, rumors begin to swirl as a new job posting became available on the Blizzard career site for a franchise development producer. The interesting facts in the job listing are that the position is for the next-gen MMO, focused on working with consumer brands and creating brand-extending merchandise.

What does this mean for the next-gen MMO currently roasting slowly at Blizzard's complex? We don't really know. If we look at other games that have had advertising, it's usually in the form of billboards or sponsorships, featuring products that you and I know of. The possibilities for where ads could go within the game world of an MMO are endless, but it does preclude some settings and time periods. Intriguing, no? Something to freak out about? Definitely not.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Nothing Gold Can Stay: Change and the game's development

There was a time when the following were all known truths, enshrined in the game by its developers and its players.
  • Raids all require 40 people to run.
  • To run a 5-man instance, you have to assemble the group via friends or through people on your realm.
  • The only acceptable warrior is a tanking warrior.
  • The only acceptable tank is a warrior tank.
  • Hybrids heal. If they don't heal, they're not hybrid. More importantly, if they don't heal, you don't bring them to your group.
  • In order to understand how to use a weapon, you must learn how from a trainer and then go out and attack things with it hundreds of times.
These are just a few of the sacred cows that WoW inherited from other games and at one time treated as if they were bedrock assumptions, virtually built into the DNA of the MMO genre. And to paraphrase, if you meet the ancient MMO truth on the road, WoW must kill it.

I would argue that in nearly every case that the development team has looked at a truism (even one enshrined in their current design paradigm) and decided to change or remove that sacred cow, it has been for the good of the game. Perhaps this has not always been the case, but certainly very often.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding

WoW, Casually: Things to know about upcoming patches

Robin Torres writes WoW, Casually for the player with limited playtime. Of course, you people with lots of playtime can read this too, but you may get annoyed by the fact that we are unashamed, even proud, of the fact that beating WoW isn't our highest priority. Take solace in the fact that your gear is better than ours, but if that doesn't work, remember that we outnumber you. Not that that's a threat, after all, we don't have time to do anything about it. But if WoW were a democracy, we'd win.

The above video has absolutely nothing to do with WoW or upcoming patches or even gaming. It's just a feel-good video that is currently at the top of my current YouTube favorites. Besides, everybody's doing it. Now, onward to the actual content...

So, rumor has it that patch 3.3.3 will be out either next week or the week after. The PTR seems stable-ish and the downloading of much of the patch has already been happening. So, let's talk about what we have to look forward to in the patches before Cataclysm, particularly 3.3.3.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW, Casually

Jeff Kaplan on WoW development: "We debate like crazy"

Our buddy Phil Kollar of Game Informer (who was on the podcast recently) got a chance to talk to Jeff Kaplan about the World of Warcraft, and while Kaplan repeats a lot of what he's said before, the interview is worth a read for a look inside Blizzard's design process. What's probably most interesting is that it's very fluid and very dynamic -- just as much as we're arguing on this site and on the forums about how Blizzard should do things, they're also arguing and going back and forth behind the scenes.

He does talk specifically about cutscenes, saying that the Wrathgate scene was an experiment that paid off well, and we should expect some more of that kind of storytelling even as soon as in patch 3.3 (you may have seen it before if you're checking spoilers). And he does talk about raiding sizes and accessibility -- Blizzard has always wanted to do smaller raids, both for the feel of them and for the tuning, but it apparently took them a while to bring 40 down to 25 and then down to 10 correctly. Finally, he doesn't reveal anything about the new MMO, but he does say that singleplayer gaming will always have a place at Blizzard's core -- even when you're playing a multiplayer game, the singleplayer experience should still feel right. True enough, good interview.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Quests, Raiding, Interviews, Wrath of the Lich King

The two steps of ability development


After someone asks a question on the forums about the new Mage Tier 10 bonus and the numbers behind it, Ghostcrawler brings up a little interesting insight into the way Blizzard puts these abilities and attributes together. He says that there are two steps to implementing a new ability: mechanics first, and then numbers later. That may seem common sense (and to a certain extent, it definitely is), but it's interesting to note that it's always what the ability does first, and then numbers later. Blizzard is much less likely (relatively speaking of course, and there are plenty of exceptions to this rule) to put a new ability into the game than just tweak current numbers.

It makes sense, and if there's a new ability you've been waiting to see in the game, maybe the reason Blizzard hasn't tackled it yet is that they're working on tweaking numbers to try and fix it without starting up a new mechanic. Ghostcrawler also says that this is the PTR we're dealing with, and so of course those Tier 10 bonuses aren't set in stone yet, just like everything else being tested. They don't call it the PTR for nothing.

Filed under: Mage, Tips, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions

Alex Afrasiabi on Cataclysm and the origin of phasing


Gamasutra has a nice interview with someone on Blizzard's team that we haven't heard from very much before -- Alex "Furor" Afrasiabi is currently a lead world designer for Cataclysm, and while we have definitely seen him at BlizzCon a few times, he hasn't done as much press as, say, Tom Chilton or J. Allen Brack. But here he is on Gamasutra, talking about what Blizzard is doing to the World of Warcraft in the next expansion.

And boy are they doing it. As we knew, Desolace and Azshara are getting revamped completely, while Feralas is in for some questing changes and zones like Loch Modan are seeing some "light" modification. Blizzard apparently looked at each zone and determined where it lay on the list of todos: Azshara is becoming the 10-20 Horde zone and so will get reworked extensively, but Silithus, while it may need work, probably won't get more than a few tweaks.

Afrasiabi also talks about the surprising origin of phasing and Blizzard's philosophy. More after the break.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Instances, Cataclysm

The making of the World of Warcraft

Eurogamer has a nice long look at the early days of World of Warcraft, way before Northrend and Outland and even Molten Core, back when the question wasn't just how big the game would get, but whether Blizzard, a company known for their polish rather than their size, could pull off an entry in this new MMO genre. They've interviewed some of Blizzard's luminaries, and the piece offers a really good look at what it was like at Blizzard even before WoW's release, when they were hashing out some of the ideas and mechanics that have now set the bar with World of Warcraft: the stylistic Warcraft look, and questing as storytelling (originally, they thought they'd only do quests through the starting levels, and then have the game move to a grinding, monster-killing stage towards the end, but players said the game was boring without quests).

There are all kinds of great little tidbits in here: originally, Warcraft III was planned with the over-the-shoulder look that WoW now has, and that's one of the reasons they wanted to create a more straightforward RPG game. Tom Chilton showed up on the team about a year before WoW's release, and to his surprise, the game was almost completely unfinished -- the level cap was only 15, the talent system wasn't implemented, the AH or mail systems weren't in, PvP wasn't in at all (of course, even at release it was pretty barebones), and endgame raiding was nonexistent. Most of the things we think of as intrinsic to the World of Warcraft -- even things like the Horde and Alliance not speaking to each other -- were debated and almost not in at all as they moved towards release.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Instances, Raiding, Interviews

Waiting on StarCraft II? Blame WoW

Like many other Blizzard fans, you're probably super excited about the upcoming release of StarCraft II -- it was "about time" when we first heard about the game, and now, this close to actually having the game out, anticipation is higher than ever. So why have you been waiting so long? According to Eurogamer's latest interview with Rob Pardo, you can blame none other than World of Warcraft for the delay. He and StarCraft II's lead designer both confirm that quite a bit of the RTS team were called back in to working on Blizzard's MMO. Artists and class and map balance guys alike were put back on WoW, resulting in the StarCraft title's delay for more than a year. Taken at face value, they're saying you could have started playing the new RTS last November if it wasn't for the whole Azeroth thing.

It's worth noting, though, that when they say "working on WoW," they don't mean developing the Crusaders' Coliseum or even Outland -- they're talking about the original design of World of Warcraft for the release way back in 2004. Even though Blizzard didn't announce the next StarCraft until a few years ago in 2007, production actually started seriously (with multiplayer first, strangely enough) right after the launch of WoW, in 2005. Which makes the choice all the more intriguing: they decided to delay the RTS even before they knew WoW would be the runaway success that it is today.

Guess the choice paid off. The beta of StarCraft II should be kicking off any day now (you all got keys at last year's BlizzCon, remember?), so even though that year delay was caused by WoW way back at launch, we'll see if they've had the time since to make a game that'll meet players' expectations.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions

The opposite of Heroics

Reader Malos on Nagrand sent me an interesting idea that I thought was worth some discussion. For a long time now, I've been a big fan of the idea of turning the old instances into Heroic versions -- I think it would be really fun to play Deadmines as a level 80, or roll through Scarlet Monastery for badges. But obviously the problem there is that Blizzard already has enough to do -- they're focused on creating new content, not revamping old instances that people have already played.

So Malos has a solution: instead of tweaking the instances to us, how about tweaking us to the instances? He suggests a set of gear, much like the Heirloom gear, that matches your character to whatever instance you happen to step into -- if you enter Deadmines, it powers down your level 80 character to an appropriate power and level for the instance. That way, all Blizzard has to do is make one set of gear per class (that could even scale upwards, so they never have to make it again), and boom, every instance could be played at the standard difficulty by any character any time.

Will it happen? Probably not. But I really like the idea of tweaking the players, not the instances, and I think there's a lot of possibility there for Blizzard. They've had such a tough time trying to balance out content for all kinds of players (including all of the hard modes and extra gameplay in Ulduar), that it might be interesting to try and measure the difficulty by going the other way -- balancing players out for all kinds of content.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, News items, Instances

Forum post of the day: Go blues!

Snaboo of Greymane shouted out to the Blizzard posters on the forums. He appreciates that they are being customer focused and social. This elicited positive responses from a handful of blue posters, except Bornakk, who's still grumpy.

Some posters disagreed about the attention the blues pay to the community. That they are slow to respond to "serious" questions or that they seem disrespectful of players. Crygil pointed out that in many cases there are several threads on a particular subject. The blues try to address at least one of them, but aren't able to respond in all of the threads on a single topic.

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Filed under: Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Forum Post of the Day

Battle.net Mobile Authenticator hands-on

Last week, Blizzard released their very first piece of iPhone software, and it wasn't a mobile mailbox or an ingame chat client as some of us had hoped. Nope -- out of the blue (get it?), they introduced a replacement for the hardware version of the Authenticator, and they released it for free.

I've installed the software on my first-generation iPhone and have been using it for a little while now. And while it's not much more than barebones -- if you're expecting anything other than an application that periodically gives you numbers, you'll be disappointed -- it's definitely a worthwhile substitute to buying a dedicated Authenticator.

There's short walkthrough of the program after the break, and you can check out a few screens of the app below. It's available right now on the App Store for your iPhone or iPod touch.



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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Carbonite going free, continuing development

The guys behind Carbonite have finally responded to Blizzard's new addon policy, and probably not in the way you might have guessed: they're continuing development, and they're making the addon free. Carbonite was rumored to be the addon that started all of this trouble: they had a partial version up for free download, and were charging for the full version of the addon, which apparently Blizzard didn't appreciate. But rather than shutting down the addon completely, they've decided to go free for everyone, and they're continuing development -- version 3.00 is supposed to be out next week.

It's worth noting that they still have a number of donate buttons on their download page, which Blizzard is supposedly fine with -- all Blizzard wanted was the donate buttons out of the game itself. And of course, if you find this addon (or any other) helpful, you should definitely support the people who make it.

Reaction on the addon's forums is grateful as expected -- lots of people figured that this addon would be shutting down for good, so many are glad to see it will be continuing development. And one developer does say that Carbonite will be removing any obfuscation from their code, as per the new policy, so it's possible that other addon developers will be able to more easily hook into their code and use their techniques. Of course, whether the addon will still be financially worth it for the devs remains to be seen but for now, they're going along with the new policy and widening their audience at the same time.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Add-Ons, Making money, Hardware

Ghostcrawler speaks on Arenas and Battlegrounds


Ghostcrawler posted numerous responses in a long thread that referenced the findings that far fewer players were participating in Arenas in Season 5. It's an extremely good thread where he addresses numerous posts, defending Blizzard's treatment of Arenas, attempting to explain the drop in participation, and conceding various points to players sharing their thoughts. Here are a few things that Ghostcrawler mentions that stood out for me:

On Arenas
  • "Players go where the loot is." - on why he thinks Season 5 has less participation, pointing to the fact that it's easier to gear up through PvE
  • "Getting 100% of WoW players into Arenas is not our goal. Getting 100% of players who like to do Arenas into Arenas is a goal."
  • "I hope it's obvious we would not have gone for that new system if we did not think it would offer an enormous improvement over the old one." - on Blizzard's planned move to a new rating system (again) in Season 6, where teams start from 0
On Battlegrounds
  • "It actually takes a great deal of time to make a BG. It isn't the map creation; it is making all of the rules work. We are working on building better tools though to streamline that process." - responding to a post saying that Blizzard can crank out a Battleground every 8 weeks
  • "If we offered epics through BGs, it would basically be (right now at least) some kind of grind fest."
  • "We would LOVE to offer good gear through BGs, don't get me wrong. We just haven't figured out a great way to do it yet."
  • "I think this is fair. We have some BG plans up our sleeve." - on the accusation that Blizzard has focused on Arenas and largely ignored Battlegrounds
He also digresses a little into discussions about raid difficulty, challenging players to get to Algalon. Overall, it's a rather engaging thread where Ghostcrawler explains (as he usually does) Blizzard's philosophy on building things. He also clarifies that "bring the player not the class" is a PvE goal and doesn't necessarily apply to Arenas. Although he continues to defend Arenas by noting that many factors contribute to its lowered popularity in Season 5, it's a good sign that they are starting to give more focus to Battlegrounds. As excited as I am for Season 6, I think the new Battleground has whet my appetite even more.

Filed under: Blizzard, PvP, Battlegrounds, Arena

Forum post of the day: Don't be bothered by bugs

I don't really need to tell you that WoW has been a little rocky since patch 3.0.8 launched. The forums are filled with players who are angry and threatening to cancel their accounts. There are some that think we need to give a Blizz a break.

Snagger of Quel'dorei pointed out that there are risks involved in launching new programming. The PTR cannot quite grasp the effect of millions of users. I've experienced bugs in new software releases in many areas. Everything from the Windows XP security bug in service pack three to software developed for my employer that regularly crashes the computer. We come up with work-arounds and the the developers work to resolve the issue. What we're experiencing is not unique to WoW. If you're missing out on your favorite WoW activity, try something else: run battlegrounds, work on reputation, help some lowbies, roll a healer.

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Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Bugs, Blizzard, Forums

Ulduar and Blizzard's "hard modes"

We're only a day into 2009, and we've already got an update on one of our predictions. Vaneras has appeared on the EU forums talking about Ulduar's difficulty level and he says that yes, it will make a PTR appearance, and yes, it will be hard, but probably not in the way that we'd expect. He says that Blizzard is pleased with the way the "Sartharion with no drakes" worked, so they're planning to expand on that idea in the upcoming raids, by including more "hard modes" and more achievements, with "an increase of reward level if successful."

So the odds are that we'll still see Ulduar's normal mode downed within days if not minutes on the live realms -- it won't actually be "hard" in the sense that the guilds with high level gear won't be able to plow right through it. But there will likely be multiple challenges within that are very hard, and achievements that will likely reward special gear or titles that will take guilds a while to do. This probably won't satisfy most of the really hardcore raiders, but we've been over this one -- Blizzard would rather have the majority of the playerbase play these raids, and since challenges and achievements don't take as much development time, that's what the minority of really hardcore players will get.

Of course, as with everything, we'll have to see how it works out -- Blizzard is clearly trying to make sure everyone coming to these raids finds what they're looking for in terms of a challenge. Ulduar itself might not be as hard as we predicted, but if Blizzard really ramps up the "hard modes" within the instance, it could be a while before we see anyone able to topple all of the challenges in there.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Raiding, Wrath of the Lich King

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