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Posts with tag Gamasutra

Gamasutra examines character names in World of Warcraft

Gamasutra examines character names in World of Warcraft
What does your character name say about you? Gaming website Gamasutra asked that question while performing a massive investigation on player names in World of Warcraft, and came up with some interesting answers. Obviously a game like World of Warcraft is going to have a ton of unique character names, simply due to the limits on names per server -- but WoW boasts a whopping 3.8 million unique names, which actually makes the game far more diverse than real-world names.

As can only be expected, there was a much larger variety in names on RP servers -- while on average, 58% of names were unique, on RP servers that number jumps to a staggering 83%. But what is unexpected is the correlation between class, race, and name ultimately chosen to represent the character you play. Other information painstakingly investigated included represented regions, name origins, common threads between popular names, and an all-too-interesting look at the differences between negative, positive, and neutral names.

It's a fascinating glimpse into one of those things that players tend to take for granted. While you may think you're creating a name that's completely unique and carefully chosen, there's a strong likelihood that somewhere out there in the far-flung reaches of the global playerbase, there's at least one person who's had the exact same idea as yourself. Take a look at the full article for more interesting tidbits about the curiosity of character naming on Gamasutra's site.

Filed under: News items

The Lawbringer: 7 tips on holding the security line

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, and esoteroic topics that slip through the cracks.

Data breaches cost a lot of money, consumer satisfaction, and trust. In the MMO world, the trust that exists between the game's developer and the player is a tricky relationship to navigate and extremely fickle. Any number of wrong moves or postures can turn your profitable subscription MMO into a public relations nightmare forced to turn the wagon around mid-trip. Security compromises a large part of that MMO trust.

Blizzard has had its fair share of security issues and trust problems between the players and itself. As the first MMO to have to battle hackers and not just gold farmers to the scale present in WoW, Blizzard had to invent its own way to do business in the world as it was -- an insecure place dominated by gray-market gold sellers and account hackers looking to sell to an eager, ready-to-spend playerbase. While WoW isn't the astronomically large service that some others affected by recent and notorious hacks are, it serves as an example of one of the big guys in the industry doing their best to navigate a minefield.

Greg Boyd and Gary Kibel wrote an article for Gamasutra discussing seven steps to improved security in the online and gaming space. After reading over the article, I felt that many of the points discussed had Blizzard and WoW-specific analogs and real-world examples that might shed some light on the security concerns still out there, what WoW has accomplished in the MMO security space.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Facebook vs. World of Warcraft

They both have millions of users across the world. They both have made and broken friendships and relationships, and they both have raised millions if not billions of dollars for their respective companies. And chances are that they're both so popular even your grandma knows about them. Gamasutra has written an interesting post comparing both World of Warcraft and Facebook of all things, and they say that the two are more alike than you might think: both enable you to create an identity, and use that identity to interact with others, and both give you a wide variety of options to do so (in WoW, you can slay dragons together, and on Facebook, you can tag pictures or post on walls). Gamasutra wants to get to the center of where exactly the interactivity lies, and in doing so, figure out what makes Warcraft a game, and Facebook a network.

One major difference is in the interface -- obviously, WoW is wrapped in a fantasy world, so that in between all of the socializing, you're also fighting the Scourge or the Burning Crusade. Facebook has games, but it doesn't have that overarching narrative. WoW also rewards group teamwork and coordination, while Facebook leaves collaboration to its own rewards. And of course the cost is another big difference: WoW is still a subscription game, while Facebook pays in other ways. But the amount of similarities between the two are pretty fascinating. And comparing the two, as Gamasutra does, really makes you think about just what interactivity means, and how two apparently very different types of interactive media aren't that far apart after all.

Filed under: WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Forums

Is WoW's audience still increasing?

I'm not sure how much of this is legit, but stick with us for the information first, and then stay for the debunking. Edward Hunter over at Gamasutra decided to do some poking around in comScore's MediaMetrix application (which can track, based on a survey of a few million users, access to various applications on a computer -- which programs are run when), and he found something that surprised him: despite the economic downturn and the emergence of a few other popular MMOs recently, World of Warcraft's audience is estimated globally at 13.1 million. In other words, it's still growing from the last official numbers (11.5 million players worldwide) we heard.

Now, the first issue we'd have with these numbers is the situation in China -- Hunter doesn't mention it at all, and in fact his graph (from comScore) doesn't have any dips at all in it, even though the game, and presumably its millions of players, went offline over there earlier this year. That right there throws a wrench into all of these estimations -- it's very likely comScore's information is just plain wrong.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Rumors

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

Pardo at GDC lunch: It's all about nailing the execution

Blizzard isn't making too much of an appearance at any of the gaming conventions this year (save for, of course, BlizzCon), but they are floating around the Game Developers Conference going on on San Francisco this week -- Rob Pardo showed up at a luncheon panel yesterday to talk with luminaries like Will Wright and Warren Spector about the latest trends in social gaming. He was actually introduced by Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, who said that "social is buying someone a drink," not "sitting around in your underpants," but said that Pardo manages "maybe the largest group of people in their underpants in the world." Funny.

Pardo defended the game, saying that what was once a hobby for outcasts has now become quite cool and that no matter what you're sitting around in, the people who play WoW are people with real relationships, responsibilities, and lives. And he says later in the chat that Blizzard doesn't necessarily aim for innovation, but for "nailing the execution." That's something Nintendo does as well, he said, and many times, that's the key in game development. You don't necessarily have to get it first, but you do have to get it right.

The rest of the conversation wanders away from MMOs (and Pardo), but it is a fun look into what these gaming development greats are thinking about what's next. Stay tuned to both us and Massively for more coverage from GDC -- Jeff Kaplan is scheduled to be on a panel there today, and we'll bring you news of that soon.

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

World of Warcraft as evolutionary model

This must be the time of year for zany social theories about videogames. First, we heard that World of Warcraft might quality as being a religion. Then we heard that it might make for better citizens. And now, in an essay over at Gamasutra on the event of Charles Darwin's birthday, Noah Falstein suggests that games like World of Warcraft are actually models for evolution -- as we level up with experience points, our characters get stronger and more evolved, and we feel comfortable with that because that's exactly what we see happening in the world around us.

Technically, of course, you can't model Darwin's theory of evolution with a single character -- evolution isn't about one individual getting better, it's about a process of natural selection in a species over a period of time. To really model evolution, you'd have to play hundreds of alts, and quit them each time you ran into a problem, leaving you with just a few characters that worked really well. Wait -- maybe some of you are already doing that.

But Falstein makes good points in saying that certain elements of what Darwin described as evolution have shown up in game design as well -- the idea of specialization for certain character classes, tribal and national allegiances, and even the idea of memes (which are certainly widespread in WoW -- anyone ever heard of Chuck Norris or Leroy Jenkins?) are all drawn from Darwin's thinking and definitely embodied in the game we play.

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

World of Starcraft could still be the next-gen MMO

Arena Junkies picked up an interesting tidbit by comparing two different interviews. Rob Pardo, Blizzard's EVP of Game Design, gave an interview to Onlinewelten in which he talks about the next-gen MMO. That interview isn't exactly news on its own. We knew since Diablo III was announced at the WWI that it probably isn't the new MMO, and Pardo confirms that in the interview. "..Diablo 3 isn't an MMO," Pardo says, "So we have another development team."

But what is that new MMO being developed? Some speculate it could be an entirely new property. Well, Paul Sams, Blizzard's Chief Operating Officer, has an interview with Gamasutra that indicates no new IPs are coming soon. "Are we ever going to release a new [franchise]?" Sams says, "I would absolutely say we will at some point. I just don't know when that day will be quite yet."

Okay, so Blizzard's still working on a MMO, but there's no new IP on the horizon. So, what's the next-gen MMO going to be? World of Warcraft 2? World of Starcraft? And if Diablo 3 isn't considered an MMO, then is there a possibility of a World of Diablo? For me, this just means that my hopes of Tauren Marines aren't yet dead.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Aftereffects of the Activision-Blizzard merger

Unless something crazy happens, it seems that the Activision-Blizzard merger (which is really the Activision-Vivendi merger, actually) will go down without a problem -- shareholders are voting on it this week, so by next week we should see confirmation that Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft are under the same umbrella.

Gamasutra has posted a nice long feature about what exactly that means, for both companies and for the rest of the industry. As we predicted, there probably won't be huge repercussions for either of the biggest companies involved -- both Activision and Blizzard will continue to go their own separate ways for now, sharing only a name among investors (Gamasutra even says the names on the game boxes won't change at all). The biggest impact will be on the little guys in between -- Activision's previous shareholders now have to answer to Vivendi (who will hold a majority stock in the company), and Viviendi's smaller division, the former glory of Sierra Games, will have to answer to Activision before publishing any of their titles.

And of course the other big consequence we've seen so far is that Bobby Kotick apparently feels he knows everything there is to know about the MMO game. Sure. For now, though, it's business as usual for both Activision and Blizzard -- if there will be any change in either company because of the merger, we likely won't see it for a while.

[via Blizzplanet]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Blizzard named 3rd of 50 top developers

Game Developer magazine has done a study naming the top 50 videogame developers in the world, based on "sales and reputation data," and our favorite folks at Blizzard have been named number three on the list, just under Nintendo Kyoto (responsible for Brain Age and Wii Play) and Infinity Ward (most notable lately for Call of Duty 4), and ahead of EA, Valve, Harmonix, and Square Enix.

I tend to think this chart is weighed a little bit towards recent sales more than reputation -- as far as I know, Infinity Ward doesn't have a big enough following to actually hold a convention based on their games, and while there's no question that Nintendo has a huge fan following, I'm not sure that it's quite right to include a first party console maker on a list of developers (yes, I know Nintendo Kyoto is a studio, not the company itself, but would the average Nintendo fan on the street know the difference?). Still, lists are lists, and there's no question that all of these developers, Blizzard included, are held in the highest regard by fans of their games.

[Via Massively]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade

Frank Pearce talks WoW 2, competitors and Team 3 with Gamasutra

Senior VP Frank Pearce and Starcraft II producer Chris Sigaty sat down with Gamasutra to chat about "The State of Blizzard's Union" recently, and while there's not a lot of new stuff ("Team 3" is mentioned, but no hints are given), it's always cool to have an inside look at what it's like running the biggest MMO in the world.

Pearce does talk about a possible WoW 2 (not gonna happen, he says, until Blizzard needs a whole new framework, and that's not going to happen for a long time), and WoW's competitors-- he namechecks Warhammer and Age of Conan, but as I've said before, we won't know how those games will actually do until they see release.

There are a few interesting numbers thrown around in the interview as well-- while Blizzard has said they've got 9 million before, Pearce specifically says 8.5 million subscribers, so it does seem like they're dropping a bit (updated-- see note below). Still, especially with the release of Wrath of the Lich King in the next year or two, they remain optimistic that they'll hit 10 million before it's all said and done. It's also amazing to see Blizzard's growth-- Pearce co-founded the company, and they started out with around 50 employees. Before WoW, they had about 500, and nowadays, they've got 2700 people working for them. And the teams are really interesting, too-- WoW has 135 developers, Starcraft II has 40, and Team 3 has 50, plus Blizzard has 85 people (also devs, however) that work on their famous cinematics, and extra teams for sound and quality assurance.

Very interesting to get a look inside such an amazing videogame developer. Now if only we could find out what Team 3 was...

[ via WorldofWar ]

Update: Blizzard contacted us to say that this interview happened way back at E3, which was before this press release dropped. Subscriber numbers are not dropping-- when Pearce did the interview they had 8.5 million, and after that, they rose to 9 million. And Blizzard tells us that since then, they are above the 9 million mark.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Interviews

Studying the WoW Tribe: Gamasutra asks "Is there life after World of Warcraft?"

Gamasutra has an in-depth interview with several academics asking "Is there life after World of Warcraft?" Neils Clark suggests that the majority of of MMO players don't spread themselves out over multiple MMO games, but instead migrate like a flock of birds or a "gamer tribe".

I do think that the same chunk of players went from EQ to Galaxies to WoW with some dabbling in games like AO, DAOC and CoH inbetween. Obviously, Blizzard attracted about 8 million extra people to our "tribe", however, so I wonder if our tribe just got a lot bigger or if we are now just one tribe of many.

Clark interviews 5 academics about how gamers will move from WoW to other games and what what has made WoW the powerhouse that it is. The discussions of social networks, lures of new fantasies and the ramifications of a WoW collapse are very interesting.

Clark also says that he thinks WoW is the "king of the mountain" not because it is the best game out there but because it attracted the "right people". I say the "right people" are playing because it's currently the best game out there. What do you think?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items

Are we learning the wrong lessons from WoW?

Gamasutra has published a soapbox piece examining what WoW is teaching us about gameplay, and asking whether it's teaching us the right things.

The main points include the much debated "Time over Skill" mindset imbued in the endgame, the push away from self-reliance to group play, and the "You're either with us or against us" guild mentality. Finally, the extensive Terms of Use Agreement and its use in disciplining players is also brought up.

Not all of the lessons learned here are bad--there are real-life echoes of all of these points, and learning to invest substantial amounts of time in a task as well as how to effectively work in a group could be considered positive aspects of WoW. However, these four points are all fairly offputting to casual players, especially when those casual players reach the endgame.

Having played solo for most of 60 levels, suddenly a player learns that they're not going to be able to take part in much of the remaining content without a guild or group. They're competing for places in guilds or raids with those who have invested much more time, and thus have better gear. Bored, they turn to exploring the game world, and suddenly get banned for being in a place they shouldn't have found. Harsh lessons indeed.

Obviously, the "hardcore vs casual" debate has more to it than this; but in terms of the lessons taught by WoW, it seems there are two sides--one for those with lots of time and a popular guild, another for everyone else.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends

User feedback in MMOs

The sheer number of players in WoW means that you'll run into a variety of people while levelling and otherwise passing the time in-game. Currently, the in-game feedback mechanism is one-sided, and limited: if a player is unbearable, then they can be welcomed to your /ignore list, but if they're worth remembering then they get a place on your friends list.

Depending on how you play, these lists may be sparse or full, but if you're anything like me then you wish there was something more to it: the ability to see what others think of a player, and the ability to help others stay away from bad players or gravitate towards good players.

This soapbox piece over at Gamasutra goes into the ins and outs of character rating systems as applied to MMOs. It brings up some important points; people will try to game the system, by creating characters solely to leave ratings, and there should be further requirements such as having to group for X minutes. Also, there would have to be a RP explanation for ratings, and a decision would have to be made over whether to use user-specific or character-specific feedback. The former means that everyone can be forewarned you're a jackass; the latter means you can RP a jackass without harming your other characters.

Personally, I'm not sure I want a disgruntled group member harming my reputation for life just because we disagreed on the best way to heal -- nor do I want the person who called me a n00b because I wasn't specced the way he wanted to have much of an impact on my ability to find instance parties. On the other hand, I'd definitely like to be able to avoid people like that.

It's unlikely a system like this could be shoehorned into WoW by Blizzard, but it's certainly fair game for an addon, if enough players would install it.

[Image credit: Fan art by George Tutumi]

Filed under: Odds and ends

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