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Posts with tag developers

Blizzard vs. Relic Entertainment in The Escapist's March Mayhem

The good folks over at the Escapist are giving March Madness a little game developer spin -- they've pitted 64 different videogame developers up against each other in an NCAA Basketball-style showdown, with readers voting for which dev moves on to the next match. And our favorite developer, Activision-Blizzard, is still in the running after a few rounds: they've beaten Wideload Games and Crytek, and are currently facing Relic Entertainment (makers of the Dawn of War RTS series, as well as the classic Homeworld). Unfortunately, Escapist had to list them as "Activision-Blizzard," though what we're really voting for here is Blizzard, since companies who make Activision's other hits (like Infinity Ward, who make the best Call of Duty games, as well as Neversoft, who've overseen most of the Guitar Hero games lately) have their own places in the showdown.

Blizzard's got a tough road ahead, though -- if they win, they're likely facing fan favorite Harmonix (heck, I love Harmonix), and then will probably show down against either Bioware or Rockstar, both extremely popular developers. The other side of the bracket will likely have heavyweights like Nintendo and Valve coming out of it, too, so it'll be a tough road if Blizzard wants to make it to the top.

To vote, you just have to head over to The Escapist's forums -- the next round starts tomorrow morning, and every few days they're moving the developers on to the next matchup. The final round will be decided on April 8th, and while of course winning means nothing at all, this is a nice chance to show off your developer pride. Say what you want about the recent class changes, but Blizzard has given you Starcraft, Diablo, and World of Warcraft -- how can you not vote for them?

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

On Blizzard and caving

Players complain that dual specs are available only at the highest level, and Blizzard drops them down to level 40 (and removes the reagent, to boot). Engineers complain they don't have a self-buff, and they get one. Hunters are finally getting that last bag back. Even after the Love is in the Air holiday ends, Blizzard decided to nerf the achievement so everyone can get it anyway. And when ghetto hearthing, a much-loved exploit, is removed from the game, Blizzard decides to nerf, of all things, the hearthstone cooldown. Is it just us, or is Blizzard doing a lot of spelunking lately?

Not that it bothers us -- most of those changes are welcome. The good thing about Blizzard caving is that at least it'll make somebody happy. But on the other hand (just to play devil's advocate here), this game is great because the devs made it, not because the players did. If Blizzard caves in every time players throw a fit on the forums, won't that hurt the game?

It's not happening, says Zarhym. He says the Hearthstone change, as well as presumably all of the other changes above, came about not because of constant pestering of the devs, but because they sat down and made the decision that it was right for the game. He doesn't say they never cave (we can probably all agree that the dual spec at 40 change likely came about from player feedback, even if it was very insightful feedback), but Zarhym says the devs won't move on stands they believe in. Given that patch 3.1 is like an early tax return with all of the bonuses we're getting back, we wonder what exactly those are.
Patch 3.1 brings us Ulduar, dual specs, significant changes to all the classes, and more! We've got you covered from top to bottom with our Guide to Patch 3.1.

Filed under: Patches, Items, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Blizzard, News items, Instances, Forums

The pros and cons of raid IDs

Freya recently posted a plea on the forums: Please, Blizzard, get rid of raid IDs. Raid IDs were put in the game as a way to make sure the best loot in the game didn't flow freely: rather than just running endgame raids over and over (and over), Blizzard put a hold on just how much one player can run them. If you get saved to a raid ID, you're usually out of that raid until things reset on Tuesdays.

But there are lots of issues -- at this point, agrees Zarhym, it's too easy to get saved to a raid. It's lame to jump in on a PuG where you do one boss and then the group breaks up for the rest of the week, and it's even lamer to have your raid ID ninja'ed by a few folks who decide they want to disband the group early. The mechanic is important to keep around, though -- if you think it's too easy to get endgame gear now, just think what things would be like if people could run Naxx or OS daily or even hourly.

But the actual saving is an issue, and one that the developers are working on -- they're planning on making it so that you would only be saved to an instanced when it's partially or even completely cleared (though that too would likely spread a little more loot around than wanted -- people would run the instance until the last boss and reset it to do it all over again). We'll have to see how this pans out.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Instances, Raiding, NPCs

Kaplan to speak at the Game Developers Conference

Jeffrey Kaplan (also known as Tigole) is scheduled to speak at this years Game Developers Conference, which should prove to be really, really interesting for us WoW players. The conference is aimed at sharing knowledge among game developers, and Kaplan's panel is aimed at discussing World of Warcraft's questing system, as well as how gameplay has an effect on lore and story.

As someone who regularly geeks out about the lore of Warcraft, it disappoints me that I can't be there to listen to it in person. Gameplay always has a really large effect on how the lore of a video game world is allowed to play out (especially in MMOs) but a lot of those constraints have been overcome with the advances made in Wrath of the Lich King. The things they've done to overcome those issues largely come from Tigole's team of developers.

I very much hope that transcripts of GDC's panels find their way to the web shortly after the conference. One of my favorite parts of BlizzCon and BlizzCast is the somewhat behind the scenes look into the process, and the philosophy that goes into how and why Blizzard does what they do. This pretty much sounds right up my alley, and I know a lot of you have expressed the same sentiment each time a new BlizzCast has gone live. I'll definitely be watching for any transcripts that pop up.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Blizzard

Developer resolution for 2009: Beat Warcraft

Our friends at GameDaily have a nice set of resolutions for game developers next year, and it's definitely worth a read if you're interested in seeing where they think the game industry might improve in 2009. But number three is the most interesting one for us: they suggest that game developers (and MMO devs in specific, we'd imagine) should make this the year that something else beats World of Warcraft.

It seems much more unlikely than last year: last year, we were looking down the barrel of Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, and wondering if either one of those might cause a road bump in WoW's traffic. Age of Conan was called the steak to our game's McDonald's, but in the end, WoW players didn't do much more than give it a cursory glance. And while Warhammer seemed like a good contender to the throne, it hasn't come close to taking a bite out of Azeroth. This year, it doesn't even seem like there will be any MMO contenders. GameDaily cites Bioware's Star Wars MMO, but that's not coming out in 2009, and while The Agency and DC Universe Online might be getting close to finished, it's unlikely we'll see them on the shelves this year either.

This might be a year of recuperation, for both Blizzard and their competitors. Lord of the Rings Online is doing well, so their big task is just to keep the content moving, and unlike last year, Blizzard has no real impetus this year to really push their playerbase to stick with the game. As with everything, we'll have to see what happens, but I'd expect a much more subdued year this go-around for the MMO market. When the MMOs in progress now come to fruition in 2010, then things will likely get more interesting.

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

Former Blizzard devs at Red 5 Studios plan their own MMO

Gamasutra has an excellent interview up with a company called Red 5 Studios. Their CEO, Mark Kern, served as a former team lead on World of Warcraft (though it's been a while -- since a little less than a year after the game's launch), so WoW fans (and Blizzard themselves) are curious about what the studio is up to. Unfortunately, they're staying vague at this point -- while they are definitely working on some kind of fantasy MMO, they're not exactly forthcoming about what it'll be.

They do say what they're not -- "we're not trying to be a sequel to WoW," Kern says. And they don't consider themselves in the same areas as Warhammer Online and Tabula Rasa, two games that showed promise earlier this year but never broke out as their developers expected. Instead, they want to do something different with the MMO idea, but as for specifics, don't hold your breath. They don't have a business model planned out quite yet, and even the game's announcement is "months" off.

So for now, we'll have to wait. It should be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of the studio -- many people have said that WoW can only be topped by Blizzard themselves, and while having a history at Blizzard doesn't necessarily prepare you for making brilliant games every time (see Hellgate: London, created by former Diablo devs), it would be interesting to see if Kern (who has made his mark on WoW) can help Red 5 get another success together.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Making money, Interviews

Ghostcrawler and Vaneras on the classes that GMs play

What classes do Blizzard employees play?

This is an often asked question by people on the forums. Sometimes it comes with a finger pointing at such and such a developer or community manager, accusing them of favoritism for a given class because it's the one they play the most.

Over the past few days we've seen two blue responses over this issue. Vaneras over on the European forums makes note to say that the GMs play the game just as "everybody else does." They encompass all classes and all play styles.

This is interesting in that it shows that Blizzard folks are involved in both casual and hard core raiding, and casual and hard core PvPing. I find this particularly interesting, since after a long day of work at WoW Insider sometimes the last thing I want to do is sit down and trudge through some raid content. But then again, sometimes I do.

Ghostcrawler also weighed in on the issue a few days earlier, making several interesting points.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Classes

A very crabby Hallow's End

Yeah, I know, more Ghostcrawler love. We all look like a bunch of fanboys, don't we? Well, what can I say, we love developers that communicate, even if they make mistakes and end up wrong sometimes. We're not the only ones that love him, either.

The fabulous crab-o'-lantern above was made by Isana of Lightning's Blade-US. As far as we know, there's no huge story behind it, it's just downright cool. It's made even more cool by the fact that my jack-o'-lantern skills don't go beyond triangle eyes and crescent moon mouths, so this just blows my mind. I think it's about time I pick a quirky mascot so people start carving me pumpkins. I'm cool too, right? ...Right?

Guys? Why are you leaving?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard

Ghostcrawler introduced to BlizzCon


One of everyone's favorite people in the beta is Ghostcrawler. He's out there all the time interacting with fans, talking to developers, bringing back good information and discussion. Today Tom Chilton introduced him at the class panel. He got the largest applause of the day. Everyone was very excited to get to see him and hear what he had to say.

Ghostcrawler, a.k.a Greg Street, is the lead game systems designer for WoW. Basically that's designing the classes and other systems in the game.

He handled the crowed very well. He probably could do some stand up with his wit. When people booed about something they didn't like he'd make a joke and have them laughing the very next second. Perhaps the best moment is when he jokingly said to a question about retribution paladins: "Don't nerf me, bro!"

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, BlizzCon

New details on upcoming 3.x patches

Curse is running an excellent story about their time spent last evening with Blizzard developers Jeff Kaplan and Tom Chilton. There's a few things we didn't know before that are in the article. The major ones are:
  • Patch 3.1 is already done (says Kaplan). Will release Ulduar 10-man and 25-man raids.
  • Patch 3.2 will contain a yet to be announced raid instance. Hopefully more on this over the next two day. Release date / timeframe is unknown.
  • Patch 3.3 will continue the Ashbringer storyline. Release date / timeframe is unknown.
  • Dance studio to be released after WotLK.
  • Guild ratings, where guilds get a rating based on PvE/PvP achievements. The idea is being "tossed around."
The other interesting note is that the development team is three patch cycles ahead of the live game. That's amazing, in my opinion. And beyond that, they're also working on the next expansion. Doesn't that raise your eyebrow just a bit? Perhaps we'll hear something major in the next few hours...
Patch 3.1 brings us Ulduar, dual specs, significant changes to all the classes, and more! We've got you covered from top to bottom with our Guide to Patch 3.1.

Filed under: Patches, News items, BlizzCon

Submit a question for the devs to answer at BlizzCon!

Just popping in with a quick note here; even if you're not going to BlizzCon, you can still enter a contest to have a question answered live by the developers.

I braved the red tape for you all to figure out the following:
  • You have to be at least 13 years old.
  • You can't be a resident of North Dakota, Connecticut, Vermont, or Maryland in the U.S., Quebec in Canada, or Queensland, Victoria, or the Australian Capital Territory in Australia. Otherwise, if you're a player in the U.S., Canada, most nations of the E.U., South Korea, Singapore, or Australia, you should be eligible. No word on Russian, Mexican, or Latin American players so you guys may, like me, be ineligible.
  • You have until 4:00 pm PST October 11th (this Saturday) to enter the contest.
Twenty contestants will be selected to have their questions answered, and if you're one of the winners, not only will your question be answered, but you'll also get a prize package containing various Blizzard swag items plus a new ATI graphics card.

The actual submission form is right here if you're interested (with the laundry list of rules here if you want to make sure you're eligible to win), and you can ask any question related to Starcraft, Diablo, Warcraft, or World of Warcraft. Good luck!

Filed under: Events, Fan stuff, WoW Social Conventions, Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items, Contests, BlizzCon

WoW Insider's BlizzCon Bingo 2008

Our BlizzCon Bingo game is back for its second year -- last year whether you won or not depended on what you saw, but people mostly were able to complete the necessary five across, with or without the help of the free space. This year, things are a little tougher, mostly because we just don't know what Blizzard is going to do -- will they announce the third expansion? Will they announce a new IP? Will they announce anything, or just treat the whole weekend as a Wrath preview?

Whatever happens, make sure you print out your bingo card before you go, and then throughout the weekend, cross off everything that you see on there. If, by the end of the weekend, you've nabbed five across, you win! And while last year, all you won was the satisfaction of seeing something cool, well heck, let's throw something else into the mix -- if you're the first person to personally show me a completed bingo card by the end of the convention, I'll have a prize waiting for you.

And no cheating! Trust us, there'll be plenty of Paladin complaining at the Q&As -- you won't have to go do it yourself.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Contests, BlizzCon, Wrath of the Lich King

Do the developers' personal preferences affect class balance issues?


Reader Paul wrote in this afternoon because he was curious about the WoW community's views regarding class balance issues and how they are handled by developers.

He feels that people become very emotional about the topic, and points out that developers are people too, and proposes that their feelings play a major role in how the classes are balanced.

Considering how many developers there are, I highly doubt that changes are implemented that don't support the vision of the entire group. Of course people have preferences and feelings, and that can never be fully separated from anything we do, but it is important to keep in mind that the developers are paid professionals working together, not alone.

Their jobs depend on balancing the classes as much as possible, and I doubt any one of them is going to risk their (awesome) job just to try to give their class a boost. In addition, even if one or two developers favor Boomkin, the rest have other favorites and are not about to let any one class get out of hand.

Personally, I think it is the players who become too sensitive or worked up about class balance issues in testing phases. Changes are made just so the developers can see the effects on a broader scale to give them a better idea of where and how things need to be tweaked.

How do you feel about this issue? Do you think that a developer's personal preferences and feelings have a strong impact on class balance issues? If so, how? I'm interested to hear the opinions of the community, and I know Paul is too.

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions, Classes, Wrath of the Lich King, Forums

Forum Post of the Day: How do you like DEM clams?


I love it when an amusing blue response to a forum post crops up, and this one made my day.

Earlier in the week, Ghostcrawler made a light-hearted and funny little post mimicking a Beta tester testing a talent tree that includes such gems as "Clever Banter" and "Sarcastic Yet Suspiciously Unfunny."

At the end of it, she announced that clams are becoming stackable items in order to cheer us all up.

As good-natured as all forum-goers are, the jokes surfaced about how amazing this change is, how it's going to crash the clam market, and how Blizzard is clearly pandering to casuals again.

In response, Ghostcrawler wrote up the product of a fictitious emergency developers meeting, held with the goal of bringing clam-related things to do for the hardcore.

I actually laughed out loud: this one is not to be missed.

Filed under: Humor, Wrath of the Lich King, Forums, Forum Post of the Day

BusinessWeek inside the world of Blizzard

BusinessWeek spent some time examining the indisputable success of our Blizzard overlords. At the very beginning of the article, BusinessWeek credits Blizzard's mastery of gaming to the often-spoken, often-hated "when it's ready." In a quote from Jay Wilson, Blizzard says that if "a product isn't good enough, we cancel it."

The BusinessWeek article talks a lot about the overwhelmingly involved culture of Blizzard employees. The developers play their own games, both on the clock and off the clock. Dedicated "strike teams" spend lunch cruising the games' latest builds. Players in beta provide instant feedback, which executives and designers hungrily consume to make the best possible decisions. And if a game isn't deemed "fun enough," it's sent off to black-can land, where it will never see the light of day.

According to the article, though, Blizzard still plans on releasing a new expansion every year. This is in addition to Starcraft II and Diablo III. While we can obviously expect these games to show up "when they're ready," it paints a very active, competitive future for the Activision Blizzard group. The article does credit a new milestone for our beloved World of Warcraft. According to BusinessWeek, the subscriber base is now nearly 11 million. With the Recruit-a-Friend benefits, I hope we see this number grow to 12 million by the end of the year.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Expansions

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