The Diablo Delay Debate

Posted by Daeity On Friday, December 30, 2011

If you're a regular reader, I apologize for the repetition in advance. Some of it you'll recognize, but there's a lot of new stuff.

The reason I'm doing this is because there's a lot of information scattered throughout the blog, and I wanted to make ONE POST that consolidated everything. So, I'm putting all of the pieces together here to create one comprehensive article of arguments that I can "sticky" to the front page.

The following is supporting evidence why I am fully convinced that the South Korean RMAH problems are the primary reason for the initial (and continued) delay of the Diablo 3 release.

Importance of Korean RMAH

On September 22, Blizzard management rushed to Korea to address sudden issues within the GRB approval process dealing with concerns over the RMAH and gambling.

Immediately the day after (September 23), Mike Morhaime published the “Soon” Was Too Soon -- Diablo III to Arrive in Early 2012 announcement.

This is key. Michael Morhaime, the Chief Executive Officer of Blizzard Entertainment made an unscheduled and rushed visit to Korea because of concerns regarding the RMAH & Gambling aspect of the game. He was also there with Robert Bridenbecker (VP of Online Technologies), Blizzard Korea Directors, and probably many other Senior Managers.

When the CEO of a major corporation gets involved in something, that's because it's extremely important and critical to the business (as well as the future of the business.)

Employees at the Blizzard US office very rarely even see Mike. He gets paid over $750k per year, and doesn't care about little things like rune decisions, polish, or minor bugs. His concerns consist of important and high level business decisions.

He didn't field questions by conference call, he didn't attend via video conference, he didn't get the Directors in Korea to handle it.. he jumped on a plane and traveled for over 15 hours.

So, the GRB delay was very very important to Blizzard. And when the CEO is involved, it's of the highest importance.

Immediately the day after, the release in all other countries was delayed. This was only made available in Korean newspapers, no one knew about this in NA/EU until I had made others aware of it. Unless Mike had jumped on a plane immediately after the press conference, there's a very strong chance that the Global Delay announcement was even made by Mike (remotely) while he was still physically located in South Korea. :)

So, yes. The decision to have the RMAH in the Korean game is EXTREMELY important to Blizzard and it did effect the launch in all other regions.

Battle.net Blogs & Articles

When that "Soon Was Too Soon" article was posted, did you know that this was the only time that Mike had ever published an article himself on the Battle.net front page?

Most articles are prepared well in advance; several days to several weeks. Upcoming announcements, new features, new contests.. all of these are published by "Blizzard Entertainment" and prepared many days ahead of time. They typically wait until certain days, do some last minute checks, and then click "Publish".

This was a very last minute post, made by Mike the CEO himself. Not only was this totally out of character, but so was his posting time: 5:30AM.

Even the "Diableard Challenge" was cancelled, because everything by this point was completely up in the air and they had no idea what the new worldwide release date was going to be now.

We Have Been Given More Time

In this blue post, Blizzard confirms that because of the delay, they now have more time to add new features and services.

..the fact that some changes or features were added only after the announcement of the postponement of the game in 2012.

Having moved the release date, our development team has been available to the additional time they are using is to finish the game, but also to add items that were not able to be included with the old date of issue (or better with the old forecast).

Having more time means having more content.

Unfortunately, there comes a moment when we must draw a sharp line and decide that the game should be released and that some features or changes are not necessary.
Consider this very carefully and use all the powers of logic at your disposal.

The game was delayed. They now have time to add new features, new content, fix bugs, polish the game, adjust runes, balance characters.

Do you see the logic here? The runes, bug fixes or polish did not come BEFORE the delay, nor did they CAUSE the delay. There was "A DELAY", but now they have time to work on the runes, bugs, balancing, and polish. They also have more time to add NEW FEATURES and NEW CONTENT.

This means that it's NOT the runes, bugs, balancing, tweaking, or polish delaying the game. "Something else" delayed the game, but now they have time to work on all of those things.

And if they have so much extra time available to add NEW FEATURES and NEW CONTENT, doesn't that just speak volumes that there was nothing actually holding back the game? This means that the game was practically done, because now they can add NEW stuff. Because things are so open ended with the release date, they have so much extra time available that they can just add new features, services, and content.

If the game was delayed because of game-play issues, they would have been given extra time to correct those issues specifically. That's when they enter "crunch time", and work hard to get rid of those last minor issues. They wouldn't be using that time to add brand new features and content that would add new bugs, new balancing issues, and other new problems. No, they said that because of "THE DELAY", that they now had time to add new stuff. And because they made the distinction, "THE DELAY" has nothing to do with the game or game-play elements itself. That just leaves an external factor (or factors), without actually stating specifically what it is.

This should all be common sense.

Sometimes They're Not Good Sources

The best time to get useful or honest quotes or information from Blizzard is when the source is not paying attention, when they're answering another question (to which you can glean other information from), when they're caught off guard, or when they let something slip accidentally.

This is why a lot of the best or unannounced information comes from live interviews, unedited videos, or posts from Blizzard employees who reside outside of the US. Employees who work at Blizzard HQ are more careful about what they say or release. Those in other countries; not as much. (Where did that gigantic Product Slate, Subscribers, and Financials leak come from? Oh right, China.)

When a source is discussing a particular subject, they're very careful about what they say. They'll review their post, word and re-word it, and be very careful to make sure it's as ambiguous as possible. And when Bashiok is involved, his answers are very specifically ambiguous and open to interpretation. When he types, there's no commitment and no clear confirmation or denial. Just like any good politician. :)

You've seen this sort of ambiguous Blizzard response in the past. For example, in regards to the "rumors" that "Mists of Pandaria" was going to be the name of the next WOW expansion pack, and that the Pandaren were going to be in the game, Tom Chilton (Game Director and Lead Game Designer for World of Warcraft) said that this belief was only speculation and "wildly overhyped." And that, "if you look at traditionally how we've handled that race it's been in those secondary products because we haven't realized it in the world. Most of the time when we do anything panda-related it's going to be a comic book or a figurine or something like that."

Many users and gaming sites took this as a DENIAL that MoP was the next expansion pack or could have possibly involved the Pandaren in any way. Smarter people knew, though, that he was neither confirming nor denying anything. You might as well have just ignored everything he said, because he wasn't telling you anything.

Here is Bashiok's primary RMAH Korea post that he and others frequently link back to:
Thank you for voicing your concerns, Starbird. I realize you and many other people are excited to play the game, and are probably feeling a bit let down that we haven’t yet announced a release date. While you bring up a number of points of speculation, I just want to cut right to it and state that the reason we don’t have a release date yet is because the game isn’t yet where we want it to be in terms of our quality standards. We aren’t holding it back on account of any one piece of the game, or for any other outside factors. While it is indeed playable from beginning to end, we’re still actively working on many individual game elements and the ways that they interact with one another, with a great deal of iterative tweaking, balancing, polishing, adjusting, redesigning, and retesting going on. We’re going to continue beta testing, and before too long that’s going to include a large influx of new invites.

Much of this iteration obviously takes place behind closed doors, so I can sympathize with the concerns about the lack of visible progress, and the sentiment that we should just go ahead and ship the game. Until we’re able to reveal more of the results, I can only assure you that we are indeed working on critical game systems that directly impact the core of the experience.

I also realize a lot of people were hoping for a release date announcement at the VGAs. We’re simply not going to be able to dispel or comment on release date rumors and speculation every time someone expects an announcement. We’ll be announcing a release date when we determine the game is ready, and not holding it back just to line it up with any particular game-industry event.

The bottom line is that development of our games and preparations for release are long and complicated. We’re just as excited to get the final version into your hands as you are to play it, but making sure it lives up to our quality standards will always be the most important factor in that process.
What does he really say here though?

He says,
  • that they don't have a release date because it's not ready yet.
  • that they're not holding it back on account of only 1 piece of the game or 1 piece of some outside factor.
  • that they're actively working on tweaking, balancing, polishing, etc. (But, all of that stuff that have been given extra time to work on since "the delay".)
  • that he can only assure you that they're were working on game systems.
  • that they'll announce when they're ready.
  • and that development time of games is long and complicated.
He doesn't confirm or deny anything; he says nothing. This can't be used as a source of information for anything, other than that they're working on the game still.

He even used a thesaurus for describing "the great deal" of the so many things going on in the development process: "tweaking, balancing, polishing, adjusting, redesigning, and retesting". That's the same thing! Seriously.. look up a thesaurus.. other than "testing", everything he said was the same thing but described differently.

And then there's this post from Bashiok later:
"I don't know what translation you're reading but no where has it been stated the release of the game on a whole is delayed because of a GRB rating. Might it delay the game in Korea? I suppose no one knows, but we still have some time since the game is not finished. We're playing internal builds, the entire game, we'd know if it was. I'd know."
What interests me is that he deleted it shortly after posting it. Read it over.. what is so seriously wrong with the post that he had to delete? Is it abusive or rude? Nope. Is he trolling? Nope.

Perhaps the problem with his post is that it wasn't ambiguous enough. :)

He says,
  • Blizzard has not stated anywhere that the global release is delayed because of the GRB rating.
  • the global release of the game is NOT DELAYED "ON A WHOLE" because of Korea.
  • No one knows if the GRB rating in Korea will delay the game in Korea.
  • They still have some time since the game is not finished.
  • They're playing internal builds and the "entire game." (Hey, I thought it wasn't finished?)
It's perfectly honest and truthful to say that the SK Ratings issue is not the reason for the delay of the game AS A WHOLE. For example, the SK issues might be the leading reason, might have caused the delay, but it's not the reason for the current delay. Right now, it's 99% of the reason, and 1% of the reason is all of the new bugs and features that they have added since the delay. It's all about wording. There's nothing dishonest or incorrect about what Bashiok is saying at all.

In either scenario though, you can't take it as a confirmation or denial.. it's too ambiguous.

After all, ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

And what kind of actions have been taken? The Book of Cain was postponed, even though it was published, done, and ready to ship. Forum posts were deleted (it's the deleted posts that are the most important). New forum pages were created. CEO and managers took an emergency trip to Korea. Every announcement or delay comes right after updates from the GRB. Timing of the delay announcements, and everything else listed in this post.

The Plot Thickens

So, here's a direct link to the original Bashiok post (mentioned above) that was deleted. As you can see, #225 and #227 are there, but #226 is gone.

If you go to the Diablofans Blizztracker, the full original entry is archived there.

But look at D3SANC's entry for Bashiok's post. (Scroll to the very bottom.)

No, you're not losing your mind. Bashiok's post has been heavily edited, with a significant portion of the original post cut out.

The thing is.. this is a deleted post, it's doesn't exist. Why would D3SANC go back and edit it to remove that certain paragraph from the post. The whole thing was deleted, they should have just removed the entire entry so that they're properly mirroring the forums.

I'm not sure what's going on here, so I asked D3SANC for a clarification. Apparently, they answer their emails within a couple minutes or it might take a couple hours at the very most. It's been a couple days now, and still nothing.

It's not unusual for Blizzard to ask fan sites to remove information that they don't want users to know about. But at this point, I have no explanation for why the entry was edited or cut out.. so, I have my suspicions but that's all they are.

Blizzard Wants It To Be A Global Release

If you are committed to a global release, then it has to be released in all countries simultaneously correct? If one country is having problems, then it needs to be delayed for all other countries.

During their Q2 2011 Financial Results in August, Activision Blizzard described Diablo 3 as a "global release". This is wording that has never been used before to describe any of their past games. It was announced publicly and to their shareholders.

They even developed a global version of the game. Back in October 2011, Robert Bridenbecker (VP of Online Technologies) described the game as their first "region free" game. As Robert explained, "When you buy Diablo 3, you're buying Diablo 3." You can play it anywhere in the world, it's not region locked, and players can select any server they want, and any language they want.

This game can be bought in any country and you can play it in any other country you want. When (or if) the Digital Pre-Downloads go up, it's going to be a worldwide global launch whether Blizzard actually wants it to or not. But, of course, it makes perfect sense for Blizzard to launch globally since they're producing a region free game.

In their "Soon is Too Soon" news release, they made a global announcement ("As we're announcing globally today..") In this announcement, they state that they were originally targeting the game for end of 2011 (end of Nov release date). This wasn't a specific country or regional announcement like they've done for WOW, Starcraft, and all previous games, this was a GLOBAL announcement and a global change that all countries needed to be aware of.

In that same announcement, they also stated that "Blizzard will use the additional time to extend the Diablo III closed beta test." Additional time to add more new services and features.. and more stalling to keep players busy. (More on this later.)

Zhydaris of Battle.net EU stated that they are intending on having a global release.

Blizzard Korea officially described Diablo 3 as a "Global Version" in their application for consideration.

Blizzard wants this game to be a global release. It's being developed as a global game, it's being sold as a global game, it's being described as a global game in official documentation, and Blizzard has described their intention to make it a global game. This piece alone, skipping all other supporting evidence, should be enough to show that Blizzard wants the game to launch simultaneously worldwide.

It could have still been launched globally this past November, if they had cut out the RMAH completely from the Korea launch knowing that there would have been issues with their new legislation. Instead, they delayed it, then they missed including RMAH related documentation in their approvals submissions, delayed again, then they offered to remove only the cash-out feature only, and it was delayed yet again. They really want a paid RMAH system within the Korean Diablo release.

* UPDATE

On January 4, an official news source confirmed that Blizzard is committing to a global release (spokesperson from Blizzard was quoted.) They also confirmed that Blizzard is planning on a simultaneous global launch, that it will be a region-free game for the first time in it's history, and because of this the Korean GRB's decision is preventing the launch in other countries. This is from an official news source that is held to journalistic standards.. not an anonymous forum post, not a blog, not a fan/gaming site.

Runes, Bug Fixes and More Layers of Polish

These are apparently the biggest issues holding back the release and what many users are constantly reiterating.

The list seems a awfully light don't you think? THESE are the reasons for the delay? That's it? What doesn't make sense is that the beta was already polished, there were very few bugs (and minor ones at that), and the rune system was ready.

Starcraft 2, on the other hand, was delayed because WOTLK was taking up the majority of the development team's time, Blizzard didn't want it to conflict with the MF2 launch, there were still stability issues (plus bugs & polish just like D3), and because the Battle.net service and the technology was not prepared. It was officially delayed because "essential" and "integral" parts of the game and Battle.net were missing.

However, Diablo has been delayed for several months because they still need to fix their runes, bugs, and add more polish. That must be a LOT of work.. the entire development team must be working on it. Gosh golly.. you know, they might even need to bring in more workers from other departments to help out. And, of course, Blizzard would never launch a game that has bugs in it.. World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2 have never had ANY bugs since launch. Melting videos cards was a "feature."

If they've been polishing the game over the past 5 months, as Bashiok has stated, why is it taking so long.. and where exactly IS this polish? I had thought polish were last minute additions and graphical tweaks to clean everything up. But, they're adding new features and new content.

If this is true that they're applying more layers of polish, it means that retail will be far more polished than the beta. How much do you want to bet it will still look the same?

How about the bugs? When the beta first came out, users were very impressed on how well polished and bug free the game was. Bugs only started happening AFTER Blizzard started adding new features (like Simple ToolTips) which only came AFTER some unknown delay. They were given more time to add new content, new assets, and new features that were all supposed to be added post-retail. So, the bugs you're seeing now are the ones that were supposed to be there a few months after launch. Except, there probably would have been more emphasis on correcting them more quickly. As beta players are seeing, the minor bugs currently in the beta are being fixed very slowly or not being fixed at all. Are they game breaking bugs? Nope. Game frequently crashing? Nope. Minor bugs? Yup. I'm willing to bet too that many of the beta bugs will also be present in retail. The same thing happened with all of their other games.

And finally, how about the big one: runes.

Jay Wilson already said that the Rune system was good enough to ship as is. The team has been experimenting with different rune systems, and Jay said that they're trying about 2-3 different ideas. If they're ready and the dev team likes them, they'll see how the players like them. However, they're just ideas and they are not a deal breaker. Jay said;
"The system is already cool as it is, so if it does work (the new rune system), we'll just leave it as it is."
Jay made it clear that the rune system would not hold back the release. They just have many options available right now, but they like the old system. They would like to test out new things, but most of these changes will be done post-retail just like the WOW talent system. How many iterations and tweaks has the talent tree undergone since launch?

During an October 22 2011 interview with Jay Wilson and David Adams, Jay confirmed that the rune system WILL NOT hold back the game release and that the team working on the runes just has the luxury right now to play around with different versions. At the 6:10 mark, Jay says that runes is not a big thing and not the "final thing" that they're finishing up. What they are finishing up for the release, however, are "mostly the game wide polish, bug fixing, and some technology.. online technology.. things like that." You should watch this portion of the video and see his mannerisms while trying to explain what's holding back the game. :)

On November 29 (last month), even Bashiok wrote that they'll go back to the original "totally awesome" system if they don't like the testing results of their other ideas. (This echoed exactly what Jay Wilson had stated months earlier.)
"We actually have moved on from the previously discussed unattuned system. We've been trying many different ideas out, but we're not quite comfortable enough with any of them yet to invite you in and see what you think.

Let me also say that the old system wasn't broken, per-se, it just had a few issues we thought we could resolve. Runestones are a huge part of Diablo III, and we think it's worth trying out some alternatives and see if we can't improve it. But if all of our experiments fail we can easily go back to the original system, and it will still be totally awesome."
Basically, they scrapped the unattuned system, they're experimenting with other new systems, but the old system is great and it's their primary fallback. The old system is also "totally awesome". Runes are ready, they're not going to hold back the game.

So what's left? Runes are done. There's no more polish needed. Bugs are new, but there's little time spent on them and they're only here now because they were given more time due to some other external delay. If that's the case, then the delay couldn't possibly be related to the bugs, polish, or runes.

More Stalling

(Much of this you can find in earlier posts.)

* Diablo 3 was supposed to be released late November.

* During Blizzcon 2010, Jay Wilson originally expected that the D3 beta would run for "six months" before release but this wasn't the beta you have now. It was going to be at least the first 3 acts.

* During Blizzcon 2009, users were able to play through the full Act 1 and Act 2, Act 3 was revealed, Act 4 was kept as a surprise for release, and in 2010 they were able to play the PVP portion. Based on Blizzard comments at the time, players were expecting that the beta would be Act 1, Act 2 and possibly a portion of Act 3 (since Jay Wilson confirmed that Act 4 would be the smallest Act.) Even Bashiok said in April 2011 that the beta would consist of the first 3 acts: "You’ve actually seen some of the first three Acts already, and we probably won’t be revealing too much more than what we’ve already shown." The last act(s) and additional difficulty levels were going to be "a surprise" saved for the retail.

* In 2011, the beta was shortened to a 2-3 month testing period and just a fraction of Act 1 because they only needed to test servers, network, and the new auction house systems. The plan was to release it before Christmas.

* Now, shouldn't the small beta size also be a major clue as to how much progress was really made to the game? The game was done, it was ready, they didn't need the full game to be tested by users for feedback, and instead they just released a very small tech demo. That's just how complete the game really was.

* On September 22, Blizzard C-Levels rushed to Korea to deal with the fallout of the GRB approval process and their questioning about the gambling aspects of the RMAH.

* On September 23, Blizzard immediately published their "Soon Was Too Soon -- Diablo III to Arrive in Early 2012" announcement. Coincidence? :)

* Right after Blizzcon, even the Book of Cain was suddenly pushed back from it's November 15 release date to an undecided time. This happened even though the Book of Cain was done, published, stocked, and ready to ship. Several copies were also sent out months before release to reviewers. This left many people completely baffled as to why it was pushed back.

* The GRB's "final decision" was about 1 week away. On Nov 21, Rob Pardo tweeted "time to get serious and work hard on Diablo 3" possibly indicating that they were getting close to crunchtime.

* On November 30 (or possibly Nov 29), Blizzard received an update from the GRB that they were still in deliberations and a final decision would probably be made by January.

* Suddenly, there was a huge explosion of Diablo information.

* On November 30, Blizzard announced the official release date (Dec 13) for the Book of Cain following several date changes over the previous months.

* On December 1 (the day after), the Global RMAH testing was announced. Blizzard also started releasing information on items and Artisans and new pages were published. All within a very short period of time, almost as if they were just waiting for weeks for someone to finally click "Publish."

* The "Day In a Life" series was originally supposed to be 3 interviews. After this announcement, the page was redesigned, new content was uploaded, and it was expanded to 5 employee interviews instead of 3.

* On December 5, Blizzard Korea also made an official update on the Korean Battle.net site about the delays of the game and the status updates on rating approvals. They stated that the Diablo 3 release was being held back because of issues with the GRB.

* On December 8, AUS Beta Key contest announced. Contest expires on Dec 31.

* On December 9, Blizzard finally revealed the long predicted "Battle.net Balance" system and that it would be rolled out within a few weeks (ie, 2-3 weeks time).

* On Friday Dec 16, Blizzard received notification from the Korean GRB that more information was needed. The hearing was schedule for Dec 21 for their answer, however it was cancelled and postponed until Blizzard could provide proper data. (They were given 7 days to reply.)

* On Monday Dec 19, this news made front pages of Korean news sites.

* On this same day, a major wave of opt-in beta keys went out. The next day, Blizzard announced a new US-based beta giveaway which overlapped with the last week of Facebook giveaway. Also, the number of keys available didn't match per capita with the AU/NZ beta key contest. It expires Jan 23 2012. (More stalling.)

* On Dec 22, the SK GRB received Blizzard's resubmission for a rating, however they are excluding the "cashing-out" function of the Real Money Auction House this time around. Players will still be charged money, however, but the money will be stored as Battle.net Bucks instead which can only be used for Blizzard goods and services.

* The GRB's next "final decision" is scheduled for Wednesday, January 4 2012.

* On January 4 2012, Jay Wilson tweeted "Asia is not holding us back. You'll know soon enough." The first time a senior manager commented on the SK Release Debate.

* Since polishing is obviously not the hold-up, the only other public item they have announced are runes. Runes should not cause any delays though. They have multiple iterations of the rune system, and I don't think it has anything to do with the how they designed them but rather how they will be used. Because runes are item drops, and their rarity can be controlled, I suspect that the Diablo team might be trying to monetize runes. If there are rare item drops, they can be sold on the RMAH. This makes runes very restricted for the development team and it does not leave them many options for innovation. Because of this problem, there's a very good chance that itemized runes will be removed (ie, they can no longer be sold on the RMAH), and simply changed to skill "level ups" like in World of Warcraft. By using this approach, they can spread out skill level ups from 1-60 but find another way to monetize "runes" such as +skill gear like in Diablo II. I will discuss this topic in another future post, because there are many problems having item-based skills.

* "Final decision" postponed again. They'll be meeting to "finalize" again on Friday, January 6 2012. (Which was postponed again too.)

* On January 5 2012, Bashiok stated that they are not in a polishing stage yet.
It's making sure everything is perfect. We're not really in a strictly polishing phase yet though, although certainly that's true for some areas of the game. Still, we're in the process of working on some rather large game system changes, some of which we'll be sharing shortly before or with the next beta patch.
For several months, Bashiok and other Blizzard employees have been stating that they have been polishing the game, which is the cause of the delay, and that they're in it's final stages. However, now Bashiok has re-clarified that they're in fact, NOT in the polishing stage and that they're adding large game system changes.

* On January 5 2012, Bashiok also confirmed that they're now planning for a release in First Quarter 2012. Previously, they planned on a release at "the end of 2011".

* On January 7 2012, I noticed an explosion of new information, and due to this, I suspected that something must have happened internally with the GRB or Blizzard revised their submission again to remove the RMAH entirely.

* On January 12 2012, that game was approved by the SK Game Ratings Board. It also came with the revelation that Blizzard had submitted a THIRD revision of the game that no one knew about. This third revision removed the RMAH entirely. (The first version had the full RMAH, second version had RMAH only for B.Net Credits, and the third version apparently only has the Gold Auction House.)

* Considering how extremely important the SK RMAH was, prompting visits from C-Level Executives and even revisions to the Ratings Submission, it is highly unusual that Blizzard now wants to remove the RMAH completely. If SK was not a concern and it did not impact other countries, they could have just launched the game in every other geography but without selling it in SK at all. But instead, they removed a critical piece and all signs point towards a global release.

* Also on January 12 2012, Zarhym stated that Jay Wilson will be posting a large status update on the state of the game and beta. It will be posted late in the week (meaning Friday, January 20th) followed by an update to the beta servers.

* On January 13 2012, Bashiok released information about the Korean server that contradicted information provided by The Korean Times and the GRB.
With an NA account you'll be able to play everywhere, but you'll only be able to use the currency-based auction house in NA.

Just for normal play, imagine it like Diablo II. On every region you have access it's a completely separate database, different gold auction house, and you have a different set of 10 characters available. Each region is a separate 'realm' of the game.

We'll have more information about the whole cross-regional play closer to launch.
Sorry, it's a bit confusing to explain even though it's extremely simple and obvious in practice.
Pretty solid, of course nothing is guaranteed.
Yes the whole point is you can change regions in-game.
You're welcome. :)
I'm unaware of all the regional breakdowns. I'd wait for the more info I referenced.
Hrm. Well Korea still has a currency-based auction house, there's just no current cash out functionality. They can buy and sell items and still build up their Battle.net balance to buy Blizzard goods and services from the store.
Deleting my response until I can verify what actually occurred. Maybe I'm incorrect in my understanding of what was submitted for approval.
So, I was right, they have an auction house that uses Battle.net balance, which is separate from the gold auction house. There are some details I'm still fuzzy on because the Korea Battle.net balance works a bit differently from ours.

In any case, it won't be the currency-free option you're looking for.
This thread is broken, IMO. If you have a specific question or topic to discuss please create a new thread for that specific topic. Also! Stop getting so angry.
Thread was locked for several hours, but then the thread was suddenly deleted shortly after.

* On January 19, Jay Wilson's post finally went live to the anticipation of many. Users were led to believe that the post would detail a complete explanation of the major jobs that they have been working on since "The Delay" in September 2010. It was meant to justify why the SK issues had nothing to do with the delay. Instead, they were surprised when they were confronted with a simple bug patch list of minor tweaks that were already completed and ready for the next beta patch. What was supposed to be an explanation of the long delay was instead an update of the minor changes that they had been working on over a few weeks.

* It has been 7 weeks now, and the Battle.net Balance feature has still not rolled out. It was supposed to be rolled out within 2-3 weeks of December 9, 2011. Considering JW's post and the lack of RMAH progress, this leads me to believe that the current delay is quite possibly related to the B.Net Balance / RMAH / PayPal integration. There may even be problems that PayPal is experiencing; for example, they would be the ones facing prosecution and taking the risks if the game is declared illegal gambling (the SK issues may have raised concerns.) This current delay might also have to do with a new D3 version being prepared for South Korea since Cash Trading is no longer permitted. (I have talked about this before, and what to expect if the game goes live but the RMAH is removed.) I'll know more once the game goes live though.

* On January 31, 2012 the new Battle.net Terms of Use (which included the new Diablo 3 and RMAH updates) were finally published for NA & EU. However, the document shows a Last Revised date of December 10, 2011.

* On Monday, Feb 6 it was predicted that there would be a big announcement released, the Battle.net Balance finally launched, PayPal finally integrated allowing purchases and payments, and all of this would logically be accompanied by a Release Date announcement (since Monday, before the Shareholders Meeting was the most logical.) A Release Date announcement was made, just not the kind that everyone was hoping for. Previously, I had stated that if a release date announcement was not made by the Monday, then the chances of a Q1 release quickly diminishes, meaning a Q2 release.

* On Feb 9, Bashiok confirmed that they decided that week to delay to Q2 instead, meaning that a Monday announcement was highly likely. On Feb 18, the week following the Shareholders Meeting, a Blizzard leak confirmed that they already had a Release Date set, meaning that they could have announced it right before the investor's call.

* On Feb 17, it was revealed that the entire game was overhauled because Listing Fees had to be removed from the RMAH. This was a huge financial loss for Blizzard, and the only reason for making this change was because of Illegal Online Gambling concerns. By removing Listing Fees, they removed the player's monetary risk and avoided future legal complications.

* On Feb 18, Blizzard also revealed a major overhaul to the Rune System (which was blamed for the past several months of delays), which was changed due to the major overhaul of the RMAH and complications trying to monetize the items. They are no longer monetizing Runes, and a trend is emerging showing that all of these delays simply relate back to the RMAH and gambling.

* On March 15, Blizzard has finally announced the official Release Date (May 15, 2012). They have also confirmed that the game is indeed a global release (all countries will be able to play it on the same day) and it is a region free game.

Frequently Asked Questions

I'll leave this space open for FAQs. As the game and announcements progress, or if I realize that I missed anything in the post above, I'll update this document.

Q: Even Blizzard's new submission has the RMAH. Why can't they just leave the RMAH completely out of Korea so that it can finally launch?

A: Even though Korea represents a major portion of their sales and RMAH usage (they're in the top 10), it's not just about the money. If Korea does not have the RMAH implemented, it's going to be a logistical and account management nightmare for Blizzard. The game is region free, and Korean players could use the RMAH in other countries. Blizzard would then be supporting illegal gambling (and for minors.) It would be very bad for the company. It's much easier for them, and more lucrative, to wait. Their last resort is not to release D3 in Korea, and therefore make it illegal for users to play the game. That way, Blizzard is not held liable for user's actions, and the government must regulate it's use on their own.

Q: Why doesn't Blizzard just tell everyone what's going on?

A: Are you kidding me? "Hey, this game is being delayed because of one country. We really want the game there, because we make more money and it's easier for us so that we don't need to create a lot of new security systems. You could have been playing this game in November 2011, but this is all about us, not our players." Yeah, that will go over really well.

Q: Will I be a total douchebag if I don't read anything you've written, but then attempt to refute one of your claims and use that as proof that everything here is incorrect?

A: Yes. Only weak and unintelligent individuals will try to take one small part of a massive list of arguments, try to disprove it, and then use that single reference as "proof" that everything else is null and void.
"You misspelled 'their'. How can I take any of this seriously? Since the spelling is wrong, the argument is wrong, and therefore EVERYTHING written is wrong. QED."
Q: Wow, you collected a lot of stuff. It looks like Blizzard employees release a great deal of information about their games and inner-workings that no one knows about in the US. Where can I find this stuff myself?

A: First, go to "http://translate.google.com". Here are some sites to get you started:

http://kr.battle.net
http://eu.battle.net
http://thisisgame.com
http://diablo3.playforum.net
http://www.inven.co.kr

Q: Hey, you missed that really important post where you or someone else discussed X and how it impacted Y. Can you please add it to the list?

A: Sure, just leave a comment with links, sources, proof, etc. If I missed anything, I'll add it to the list.

Q: There are some posts on the EU Battle.net forums from blue that mention a "global launch." What's all that about?

A: No one is supposed to know about that, and blue isn't supposed to be talking about it or mentioning it. A "global launch" for Diablo 3 hasn't been officially announced yet and Blizzard won't be announcing it until they get full approval from Korea. Blue forum posters shouldn't be assuming it will be a global launch, after all. That's the plan, but if it gets rejected, it won't be a simultaneous worldwide launch.

Update on D3 Korea Decision

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, December 29, 2011

News from Ichigo about the SK approval. Another source here and here. This was an update received by Korean news sites yesterday (Dec 28).

The GRB decision has been pushed to either "Mon, Jan 2" or "Wed, Jan 4". (They say Monday, but write the 4th.)

Apparently, there are still concerns about the Battle.net Balance gambling aspect of the RMAH, even though they cut out the cash-out function from the SK version. It's still on target for first week of January, but it appears that their deliberations were postponed again.

Will provide more updates if I can find more sources. Really, this doesn't change much though since we already knew that the first week of January was "decision week".

* UPDATE:

One of our readers understands Korean (Thanks Anonymous!), and it says "January 4th" so the decision should be made by Wednesday of next week.

Re-Thinking Starcraft 2 DRM

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hypothetical scenario. Learning from mistakes in SC2: WoL, what if Blizzard decided to make changes to their DRM for Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void?

In WoL, we're already aware that an initial activation check-in is required to play offline. Even on the retail box, it said "Internet Connection Required" which concerned a lot of people before Blizzard clarified what they intended.

If HOTS were to require a persistent online connection, groups could still crack the game because all content it still included with the game. A simple bypass or authentication emulator is all that would be needed. But, what if they were to design the game a little more like Diablo 3 though?

In HOTS, they will likely still include all level design, maps, scripting, missions, and audio/video assets locally. Excluding server side achievements, player communication, and game saves, let's say that they left out one very important aspect of the game that's difficult to emulate: Server Side AI.

Many games that require persistent online connections can still be cracked, since you already have the full game, and they don't need any streaming data from the server (other than for achievements or online chat). It's just used for authentication based copy protection.

But, what if the streaming data was critical and gameplay actually depended on it? (D3 servers do map designs, random chance, loot drops, proactive (made in advance) combat calculations, movement, NPC AI, etc. SC2 would just need server side AI and everything could still be stored locally.)

Of course, this would all depend on piracy issues, loss of revenue, and research using their own internal statistics. Blizzard would be well aware of how popular the "offline versus online" versions are. And Blizzard has really been pushing the online components of the game. They'll use methods like Achievements, Paid Map Marketplaces, DLC, and emphasis on Multiplayer PVP features and services to combat piracy. Offline play might not be a big problem, and not a market that they want to capture or restrict.

This "new DRM" version of Starcraft 2 could still be "cracked" if these piracy groups were to create a server emulator that could both authenticate and feed instructions to the client for offline NPC AI gameplay.

However, the pirated version of the game wouldn't be fun, and it would take the crackers several months (maybe even years) create an acceptable AI. And that's even if they had experts in the field of AI programming. At first, they would probably just whip up stationary dummy bots and eventually some rudimentary NPC behavior. There would be no real gameplay or challenge without the real AI.

Even if they could create some intelligent AI behavior, Blizzard could create checks within the game that monitor authentic Blizzard-designed AI behaviors. :) If those checks fail, there should be random effects within the game that don't make it obvious that they're copy protection methods. For example, random crashes. If they don't know there's copy protection, they can't hunt for it.

To make matters even worse for the cracking groups; just don't announce this feature ahead of time. :) Announce that a Persistent Online Connection is required for offline play, and wait for their shock and surprise when they realize the new type of DRM employed.

The biggest downsides to this, are of course, two main points:

It requires a persistent online connection. Something Blizzard is already doing with all of their games now anyways, and you already need to be online (and therefore already have an internet connection) to be authenticated anyways. The first game is a nice stepping stone, and the new DRM could just be marketed as an "Advanced Artificial Intelligence" that's too powerful for home computers. :)

Lag concerns over AI streaming instructions. The thing is, SC2 has a strong emphasis on online multiplayer action, and you're already doing this but with real players. Your offline gameplay would be experiencing the same negligible lag that you experience with other players.. except in this case, there would be much less data being transferred, and you would only be talking to your nearest localized server. So, imagine latency on your best days and that's what you would have for offline sessions.

Crazy idea, but consider it from Blizzard's perspective. Could it force enough pirates to actually buy the game? Are the numbers feasible? Who knows.

D3 Resubmitted in SK for Approval

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, December 25, 2011

It appears that Blizzard might be sick and tired of waiting, especially since players are getting really frustrated and many are now aware of what's really holding back the release.

According to sources here and here, instead of submitting documents describing the RMAH process, they're just going to cut out the real money "cashing-out" part of the Korean version instead. They want to add it later as a patch, if they can obtain approval.

(At first I thought these were just opinion pieces, but they have quotes from Blizzard and a GRB official confirming these new developments.)

Blizzard was contacted on Dec 16 and asked to provide more information about the RMAH. The original hearing for the Korean GRB was slated for Dec 21, but it was cancelled and postponed to a later date. Blizzard was given 7 days to file their additional information.

As I've noted many times in the past, they have to be really careful about what they submit so this doesn't come as a surprise at all. They've been dancing around the issue, and trying to show that "random loot" is the only gambling related activity in the game. However, the RMAH operates just like a slot machine and there is real monetary risk involved. Given only 7 days to prepare information, it was a wise decision to take more time to prepare their best documentation.. they might even rethink the RMAH process for SK specifically.

It appears that Blizzard submitted their amended request and it was received by the GRB on either Dec 21 or most likely Dec 22 (it was reported in the Korean news on Dec 23). However, they're still leaving in the RMAH but for "Battle Coins" (B.Net Bucks) only, so there won't be a way to cash out with real money. It's kind of sneaky, since it's still worth real money.. but it does demonstrate just how important it is to get Korea on board with the RMAH. They could have just cut it out altogether so that it can finally be released for all other geographies.

This is still a re-submission for approval though, and the GRB needs to review their new approach to the RMAH. The new RMAH process still actually involves random chance and possibility of losing money.. unless the Korean RMAH does not charge for Listing Fees. They're expecting to have a final decision made by the first week of January.

Coincidentally, on the day of or right after that resubmission for approval, Bashiok tweeted:

"#Diablo15 year anniversary is in 9 days! (We have a little something fun planned for the week after.) How are you going to celebrate?"
They still haven't received the GRB confirmation though, but it's expected "the week after" Diablo's anniversary.. which is the first week of January. He says "a little something fun planned", meaning that it's not supposed to be anything important like a release date but it's left open for interpretation. Strange that they're not announcing anything on the anniversary date, but rather sometime during the week AFTER. :)

If you weren't aware, Bashiok also confirmed that the GRB rating was indeed a facet responsible for their planned D3 global launch. He wrote the following, and then immediately deleted it, even though there was no reason to delete it except for the GRB comment:
#226 - 2011/12/21 05:37:00 AM

I don't know what translation you're reading but no where has it been stated the release of the game on a whole is delayed because of a GRB rating. Might it delay the game in Korea? I suppose no one knows, but we still have some time since the game is not finished. We're playing internal builds, the entire game, we'd know if it was. I'd know.
I hate it when they try to hide this stuff. I understand why though; players would be really angry if Blizzard did admit to Korea being the reason for long delays.

I find your lack of sales figures disturbing.

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Dec 21, I was sitting around waiting all day for Bioware to brag about their "First 24 Hour" sales figures. It's been 4 days now, and still nothing.

Typically for a major AAA release like this that has been so heavily promoted, hyped, and anticipated, other publishers or developers release sales details within a couple days.

I'm not really surprised in this case though. If we do get a sales figure announcement, it will probably be a "First Week" or "First Month" sales. As you already know, when sales are less than expected, companies will often make their first sales announcement the one with the beefiest numbers. Really good sales though will get the "first 24 hours" announcement.

Sometimes companies can cover figures up (or massage them) with special wording to give the impression of more sales than they really are. Here are some examples:

  • The most common is "Shipped" rather than "Sold". Companies will announce "Shipped over 4 million copies", but that only means that they shipped unsold copies to retailers for sale. That doesn't mean any of those copies will sell however.
  • Using "Registered Users" or "Registered Players" instead of actual sales numbers. "We have over 3 million registered accounts!" which anyone can, in fact, include free registrations, forum user registrations, demo users, and beta players. Plus, any number of other definitions for "Subscribers", "Users", or "Registered Players".
  • New forms of Digital Downloads, where players can purchase, download, and install the game months before release. That technically puts the "First 24 Hours" on the first day it was made available, but they include the first couple months as their "First 24 Hours".
  • In addition to #3, they'll use the wording "Sold Through As Of". That's more deceptive wording to pay attention to. Why is it "Sold Through" instead of just "Sold"? :)
  • They'll disguise the period of sales and geographies sold in. If, for example, the game is launched in NA and then 4 days later in EU, they'll say "First 24 Hours", but they'll include NA, the full 4 days of sales in NA, and then 24 hours in EU. Sometimes they'll even launch a smaller country (with very little sales) last, so that they can include several days of sales from major countries.
  • And, of course, when companies are embarrassed to release first day sales, they'll do first week or first month. Even then, they can use options from above to beef up the number even further. :)
Usually it's not a good sign when companies do this. They need to be deceptive to hide real numbers, possibly because it fell short of minimum expectations.

A while ago, I had made some SWTOR Sales Speculations of my own, and I estimated that first day sales would be around 900k (+/- 100k). Professional analysts predicted 1.5 million pre-orders and 3 million total sales within a little over a week after launch. So, many readers here thought I was crazy to estimate so low and many probably questioned my sanity.

After all, there's already been so much hype from Bioware about their figures, that 2-3 million sales was anticipated for the first day of release. Everything pointed to AT LEAST 1.5 million on the first day. And even pre-order numbers were apparently 950,000 two weeks before the launch. Anything less than 1.5 million was inconceivable.

Now, BioWare has recently announced "player figures" though. They're reporting "one million registered players" 3 days after the launch. If this was a normal game, and they had 1 million sales after 3 days, that would mean that first day sales were probably around 600-800k. (There's also a blog entry about it here.)

Bioware is also calling it the "fastest growing subscription MMO in the history of our industry." Meaning the Star Wars MMO industry history, not MMO history. :)

Something really bothers me about their wording and statistics though. Here's what Bioware wrote in their Press Release:
To date, players have:

  • Logged 28 million in-game hours – roughly equivalent to watching all six Star Wars movies, two million times
  • Averaged well over five hours a day playing the game
  • Created more than 3.8 million characters; 510,000 Jedi Knights and 550,000 Sith Warriors
  • Killed more than 2 billion non-player characters in the eight days since Early Game Access began
If the average player spends 5 hours per day playing the game, and they have 1 million players, shouldn't that be 15 million in-game hours since "launch" or 50 million in-game hours since the retail game has been live (Early Game Access + 3 days before announcement.) It looks like they're picking and choosing numbers, and jumping back-and-forth between statistics for Early Game Access, first 8 days, first 10 days, and even using Beta player statistics.

It might also have something to do with the recent lock out. There are 1 million registered users, but only a certain number are allowed to play. You can still buy the game and register, but you just can't play the same.. Bioware could still using those "registered" numbers though as vanity figures.

I'm getting the feeling that they won't be releasing sales figures at all.. for good reason too. Apparently, it was a wise idea after all to estimate low. :)

The 2-3 month period should be an interesting one: will there be actual growth or more deceptive press releases?

Power Creep in Pandaria -- Part 3

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, December 22, 2011

Here are the first two parts of the series to bring you up to speed:

Power Creep in Pandaria -- Part 1
Power Creep in Pandaria -- Part 2

It was only supposed to be two parts, but I realized another trend while writing those original posts. This was originally supposed to be an addition to Part 2, but it ended up getting so "textful" (as things often do here), that I just decided just to create a new post. :)

The Death Knight

The topic of content consumption got me thinking that this is probably the main reason why Blizzard abandoned the Hero Class format.

Because the Death Knight class started so high level, it skipped all of the starting zones and content. Blizzard would later realize that this was a mistake, and it's probably the reason why they'll never do it again. Their decision, after all, wouldn't have had anything to do with the DK skills or abilities since they can easily be scaled or balanced.

Players liked the idea of skipping a lot of the beginning content, but it didn't benefit Blizzard in the end so that same mistake can't be made again. (In any of their games FYI.)

And the timing seems to work out well too. When WOTLK first came out, they didn't understand the issue of content consumption (or maybe they didn't think it would become an issue due to the wealth of creative material they had already amassed.) It wasn't until mid-to-late WOTLK did they start making changes and adding new features to re-use older content. Then, Cataclysm came out and the entire expansion pack was ALL ABOUT reusing old content. To make their intentions ever more clear; it introduced the new Archaeology Profession. :)

A Belated Solution

There's actually still a way to correct this "failure" and it might be really fun for users and Blizzard alike.

Basically, create an "Origins" story for the Death Knight class where you start at level 1 and show their progression and character development from a simple peasant to a Death Knight.

Since you don't want to take away the instant 55 Level Up, this could be a completely optional "Starting From The Beginning" feature.

For example,

  • You create a new character and select the DK class.
  • You are then given an option for your "Starting" pre-DK class (e.g. a Warrior, Mage, etc.)
  • After some introductory in-game cinematics, or even a brief Level 1-5 tutorial stage, you're given the option to "Skip To Your Rebirth?". (The Origins story stops here, and you just jump to the main DK story.)
  • If you continue the "Origins" story, you're locked in.
  • You start out as a "Farmer" Class earning a meager living on a farm. :)
  • You level the temporary "Farmer" Class until 10, at which point you join the military or a resistance, and you switch to the early level "Starting" class you had previously selected. (e.g. You train to become a Warrior, Mage, Rogue, whatever.)
  • Blizzard could have a lot of fun with a temporary 1-10 "Farmer" class too.
  • At this point (Level 10), you can start doing normal quests and such that have already been created by Blizzard. But, now there will be new customized quests only available for your character that develop the back story. Even every 10 levels there could be missions or special quests that work into the main lore. (Like going off to war, war campaigns, secret missions, rising through the ranks in the "Military" or "Resistance", your family, new lore discovered, etc.)
  • As you rise through the ranks, it finally culminates at your death (at Level 50 or 55) by the hands of the Undead. At which point the main DK story kicks in.
This gives Blizzard an excuse to use some of their old lore and back-history on the Death Knights that they haven't used yet.

Plus, they're not creating a whole series of new quests just for the "Origins" story, but rather bits and pieces here and there (like every 10 levels). Less development time.

Players will go through all old content again, which is what they want. But, they will still have the option of jumping right to their Level 55 DK if they want to.

To encourage players to follow the "Origins" path instead, though, they can offer special bonuses that are made available during the story line: special gear with really cool aesthetics (they will be farmed for transmogrification), new pets (which players will jump at the chance for upcoming Pet Battles), vanity stuff, new achievements, or trinkets that have special visual effects.

I suppose the "Origins" path could also be made available as DLC.. especially with the new Battle.net Balance. :)

If not, at least Blizzard could use it as a test to determine if other "Origin" features could be successful for other classes (Rogues assassinating their way to the top of their Rogue guild before getting kicked out). In order to experience the "Origins" story, players must create a new class. Players may or may not like this, but it would definitely be very cool for the DK class. And, having special bonuses for following this path, however, might encourage many players to do it. Especially the ones who haven't created alt characters yet, which Blizzard already knows.

What do you think? If you guys really like the idea, drop some hints with Blizzard. :)

I think it would be a lot of fun, plus it addresses a lot of the issues they're trying to fix.

Battle Tag Battle Incoming?

Posted by Daeity On

Here's something interesting.

So, you've already seen the BattleTag™ announcement. And you'll notice the TM symbol attached to every little instance of BattleTag™.. so it's a trademark owned by Blizzard right?

Apparently not. UBISOFT ENTERTAINMENT owns that trademark. :)

It's an old filing (2010-06-09), and there hasn't been much activity until just this week. Oddly coincidental.

They filed an "Intent-to-Use" report with the US Patent and Trademark Office, which was just received 2 days ago. So, UBISOFT wants to start using their "BattleTag"/"Battle Tag" trademark too.

There's also another older trademark for BattleTag by another business, but it's just for wireless devices. The UBISOFT one is for entertainment services, computer games, LAN services, etc.. so it matches with what Blizzard wants to use their Trademark for. And, UBISOFT owns the TM in Europe too.

I guess this leaves a few possibilities:

1. UBISOFT is a typo in TM database. (Very very doubtful.)
2. Blizzard bought the TM from Ubisoft, and the changes aren't visible in the TM DB yet.
3. Blizzard is getting a "BattleTag" trademark instead of "Battle Tag". Still, a punch in the face to Ubisoft since they intend on using it too.
3. Ubisoft is going to make a stink about the trademark (TM infringement). It's too similar: "Battle Tag" vs "BattleTag". And, it would be funny if they use it themselves in the same way Blizzard intended.
4. Blizzard might change the Battle Tag name to something else.

Blizzard would have known all about the Ubisoft TM well in advance, though, before using the name.. so I wonder what's going on?

Blizzard is also using both wordings "BattleTag" and "Battle Tag" in their posts (Ex 1 & Ex 2) about the service. And, Blizzard users aren't making the distinction either (so this "confusion" could actually help Ubisoft if there was a legal case.)

Seems awfully coincidental too that Ubisoft wants to suddenly start using the trademark.

There's also a 5th possibility.. but I don't even want to consider it. It's too scary.

Power Creep in Pandaria -- Part 2

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why Are They Doing This?

The rate of content consumption is also a quality vs quantity struggle. Content consumption is harmful to Blizzard and it needs to be regulated and controlled. Right now, it's very important to slow it down and get older content consumed again. Blizzard wants to deliver higher quality content, at a slower rate, rather than quantity (bad quality at a higher rate.)

High leveled players will start visiting older dungeons and raids again, because the item drops will be useful again. They want players to re-consume old content so that they don't have to put out as much anymore, or at such a high rate. It's basically a way to buy them time to produce higher quality future content.

The Item Squish will get players progressing more slowly in higher tiered dungeons and raids. Because of the difficulty to progress, it slows down our growth rate to match content delivery. It doesn't, though, make dungeons more difficult to complete.. this isn't about making dungeons harder (that was an attempt made by Blizzard, but it failed), it's more about "not jumping ahead" too quickly to new content.

The Item Squish is really smart from a business standpoint and for future planning. I hope that other MMORPG developers don't make this same mistake, and you can be confident that Diablo 3 and Titan won't be making this same power creep mistake in their own expansion packs.

  • This change starts setting a new pace for players that Blizzard wants. Players are consuming content too quickly, and Blizzard needs to slow them down.
  • This gets players prepared for future games and expansion packs. After MOP, expansion packs will debut with a smaller number of zones and dungeons, so that they can be added as major content patches later when Blizzard is ready.
  • It's possible that MOP might be the last major Expansion Pack, and future "expansion packs" will be more DLC (smaller Digital Download only mini expansion packs.)
  • Old content is no longer wasted and unused.
  • Players now have more to do, and more options available. This is the big one: giving players more options, rather than being stuck with the same dungeon run over and over.
  • Content is no longer skipped over, and players must progress through Blizzard's content at a certain rate (more lore delivered this way too.)
  • This gives players the impression that Blizzard is "constantly delivering" and "updating" the game. They cut out content that should have been released in the expansion pack, but instead release it in smaller bits at a time.
  • Players are happy that there's a constant flow of new content to consume, even if they don't realize they're being fed with smaller portions.
  • Originally, Blizzard was going to deliver monthly major content, which didn't work out for obvious reasons. It's an old sore spot that they're finally able to address.
  • Slowing down consumption gives the artists and designers more time to create new content. Less stress, and less time needed to figure out how to ramp up item stats for new dungeons, encounters, or expansion packs.
Blizzard Already Doing The Prep Work?

In the past, Blizzard has already tried several methods to get players re-visiting old content:
  • The Cataclysm expansion pack itself.
  • Adding Heroic difficulty levels to dungeons.
  • Dailies and Seasonal Events that require traveling all over the World of Warcraft.
  • The Archaeology (/spit) profession.
  • Transmogrification.
  • Exploration (hidden gems) and Exploration Achievements.
  • Lore quests that sent you to many destinations.
  • Special Events that only take place within older Dungeons.
  • "Path of Titans" was meant to do this too, but it was cut.
The idea was to make more "new options" and "new places" available but by re-using all older content that might have been skipped, run through too quickly, or just unnecessary (like old items.) Blizzard is trying to re-use everything in the game to avoid hard questions about content delivery and so that hard work isn't wasted. It's also a really cheap way to avoid costs, resources and work. Doing this saves them a TON of money.

They also tried different ways of extending longevity and controlling content consumption:
  • Leveling restrictions. Once you hit 80, you HAVE to move onto CATA or else you receive 10% experience gains.
  • Making dungeon encounters difficult in the beginning, and then nerf them later.
  • New Dungeons rolled out more slowly. Less zones/dungeons in Expansion Packs. Introduced as Major Content Patches after 2-3 months.
  • PVP Seasons, locking in items until Blizzard is ready for the next round of consumption.
  • New Talent Changes to shake things up, make things new/novel again.
  • And of course, all of the obvious stuff to keep players busy, like professions, auction house, exploration, achievements, pet battles, seasonal events, etc.
Even with the Item Squish, even though it's "just an idea", they've already made arrangements to start getting players prepared for it (and for internal testing purposes):
  • Ghostcrawler's Forum Post, of course, making everyone aware.
  • Creating items that have scaling stats: Heirlooms.
  • Buffs, Spell Damage and Mana Utilization is all based off percentage calculations (of base numbers) now instead of fixed numbers in the past.
  • Changing Tool Tips to get players familiar with "Costs 20% of Base MP" calculations. So, when the change comes.. all of the Ability Tool Tips and Descriptions still stay the same. :)
  • Another New Talent System (skill based rather than number manipulation.)
(Note: I haven't played the game in many years now, so if there are any other pieces you've noticed in-game that relate to this, let me know and I'll add it to these lists.)

Other Alternatives

The big problem with the Item Squish is the feeling of being nerfed. It doesn't matter if everything else is normalized, once those big numbers disappear there's going to be a lot of rage.

Role Playing Games are all about creating a better player (better than everyone else), so it's very important to give them a feeling of progression and a godlike sense. Everyone wants to a god, after all. :)

This is a problem that only affects high level players though. There's an alternative option available where high level players stay the same (still godlike), the power creep issue is fixed, and you can make low level players feel better about themselves.

The "Item Inflation" Method

What you do is eliminate the power creep between Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, so no huge item stat increase between the transition. This just leaves power creep issues which span from Vanilla to Cataclysm. During those phases you create an Item Inflation.

So, something like this:

What happens here is that everything scales properly from Vanilla all the way to the end of MOP. But, new characters will start out with (what they think is) uber awesome gear stats, but mobs are also adjusted so they still take the same length of the time to kill.

High level players stay the same, and low level players feel awesome again. Big changes are going to happen anyways, but at least in this scenario, high level players are happy, there's no mass exodus, and Blizzard receives the same result: no more power creep.

Even Ghostcrawler's "large number calculations" don't even need to be used in this approach; because of the relative progression, large numbers can just be "displayed" for users to see, but they're actually represented by smaller numbers (and smaller calculations) on the back-end. Having uneven exponential growths in their numbers, like how it is now, is what led to their problems. Not that any of this should have been a problem in the first place.. even 2 trillion isn't exactly a very big number for modern computers.

The Future

Because of this approach Blizzard is taking, you can start to make assumptions about their future games and expansion packs. For example, there won't be "uber items" available within Diablo X1 or Titan expansions. They also plan on leaving out a ton of content so that it can be added later as a major content patch.. new dungeons, mobs, bosses, or rares added to Diablo later for example.

This gives Diablo 3 the impression of frequent content addition, even though all of it was originally intended in the first full package. Titan will be the same. New expansions will have, say 2-3 "dungeons", and 4-5 new "dungeons" will be added for the following 2 years before the next expansion pack.

Blizzard wants players to keep reusing old content over and over and over. They'll find new methods to get you revisiting older content (e.g. difficulty levels.) This is almost how Diablo 3 was completely designed from the ground up. :)

With Item Squishing or Inflation, because dungeons take longer to progress, Blizzard can start introducing even newer ways to get players visiting older dungeons. For example, rare spawns with high-level stats that appear in older dungeons. So, a Level 90 might visit Level 75-80 Dungeons, take a long time to beat the dungeon, only so that there might be a chance of a rare boss appearing that carries Level 90 items. WOW players will roam for rares, just like in Diablo 3.

Oh, and one interesting note about Item Squishing.. it's going to bring back the good old days of bugs and exploits. :) There are a lot of mobs, abilities and items to go through.. and some will be missed. So, there might be a mob with an uber-damaging ability still based on old calculations, or a special item/gear piece missed that still has uber-stats. A lot of unchanged "bugged" stuff is going to make it's way through, and they'll be exploited quite a bit. :)

They would have to make the change during a quiet period.. so, months before launch or months after launch. With my Item Inflation method, though, there's less likely chance of exploitation, because bugged items can only be underpowered and they would really only have to specifically focus on boss skills. :)

Some interesting new information from Bashiok.

A player asked about the possibility of the RMAH being used to buy and re-sell items from the Gold Auction House of other regions.

For example, you "lock-in" your RMAH to NA, your primary characters are on the NA servers, but you create a new character in the EU servers, buy items from their Gold Auction House, and then put up for sale on the Real Money Auction House (which is US-based.)

Bashiok made it very clear that this is not possible:

Characters are still region based. Just like Diablo II. You could log in to USWest, or USEast, or Europe, or Asia, but you had different characters on each. There's no possibility of trading between regions.
He also went on to say:
Each region is compartmentalized. Character's on one region cannot play with characters on another region. Similarly, each region has its own gold and currency-based auction houses. Only characters on a region can use that region's auction houses (and of course a restriction from the currency-based if it's not your home region).
Here is the original source of all of these citations, although the top link is probably your best source now because Blizzard has gone through and deleted many of Bashiok's (and user's) posts regarding the Korea/RMAH Gambling delay being the primary reason for the D3 global launch.

What Bashiok (Community Manager) wrote, though, directly contradicts with what Robert Bridenbecker (VP of Online Technologies) said in an interview. More details about that interview here and here.

Robert said that you're locked into your own RMAH, but you can still access the Gold Auction Houses of whatever region you're logged in to (even if it's not your own). When you pull up the RMAH window, while logged into another region, you only see the RMAH from your home country.
"If you say you're from the US, we're going to treat you like you're a US player and wherever you connect in the world, we will enforce you as a US player. If you say you're from Korea, the same thing applies."
Bashiok, however, is saying that if you login to other realms you can only use their Gold Auction Houses. Which means you can only pull up your RMAH menu while on your home region, and it simple won't be an available feature if you're logged into another region.

So, which one is it?

Power Creep in Pandaria -- Part 1

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm switching gears here for a moment, because I really wanted to talk about Mists of Pandaria and one potentially significant upcoming change.

Two months before Cataclysm came out, TOD made a post about Cataclysm "Repeating the Past". His idea was trying to make items from Classic Dungeons (and the Dungeons themselves) useful or novel again, and in general, to get players using older dungeons again because they were practically empty with the introduction of new expansion packs. After all, it's a shame that all of that immense work had went into designing the art and media, only to be abandoned at the onset of the next expansion pack release.

"With scaled gear, you can still have the same old equipment look (with or without a slightly different name) but with different stats scaled for the player. They've already been doing this experimentation with heirlooms, so it shouldn't be that hard to do it with old instance drops."
Remarkably (maybe even suspiciously) clairvoyant of the new Transmogrification system, wouldn't you say? That post is also relevant for another issue.

Transmogrification is one of Blizzard's latest attempt to get players revisiting classic dungeons, and to bring in diversity and novelty once again to the game. But Mists of Pandaria will also be introducing (maybe) a new fix to correct the power creep issues and to make all older items, dungeons and quests viable and even fun again.

Blizzard is calling this "The Great Item Squish (or Not) of Pandaria". It's an older post and you've probably read it already.

All of the discussions I've seen about this potential update is "Me me me. How does this effect me?" They want to talk about it's impact and how it affects players. No one is talking about WHY they're doing it. Even Ghostcrawler never fully explained why they're doing it.. only that "because the numbers are too big" and that "users might not like it."

So, what are the real reasons then? We know that the change must be financially motivated.. so what are the reasons from a business perspective? That's what I want to talk about. :)

A Quick Recap

Blizzard wants to fix the power creep issue through two "options":

Option 1

The first option was Ghostcrawler's "Mega Damage solution". It basically means following the same route they've already been taking, but to change the appearance of the big numbers because they take up too much space on the screen.

In regards to these "big numbers", Ghostcrawler wrote;
"Now there are some very real computational limitations. PCs just can’t quickly perform math on very large numbers, so we’d have to solve all of those problems as well."
I hope no one actually bought this. He's talking about "big numbers" like 150,000 instead of 20,000. We're not talking about calculating monster prime numbers that are 2^32,123,456-1 digits long. It sounds like an old man trying to describe these new fancy com-pu-ter ma-chines. :)

None of this really matters though. He kept this part of his post really short, exaggerated the issue, and tried to shrug the whole thing off as a ridiculous "alternative option". This means that he has no intention of even considering this and the team has already set their sights on the Item Squish option.

This is like when you go to your parents and ask them for something ridiculously overpriced, so that when they say no, you can "reluctantly settle" for what you really wanted in the first place.

The "Mega Damage solution" is not really a serious option.

Option 2

This is the Item Squish. I trust that you already understand what they're planning on doing.

Basically, they're going to take gear stats and "even everything out" so that it's a consistent power growth from Vanilla all the way to Mists of Pandaria without any major "bursts" in item power. The term "Green is the new Purple" will no longer apply to future expansion packs.

They want to make growth rates more like this:

Fig. 5. Item level vs. character level before and after ‘squish’. Brown = vanilla. Green = BC. Blue = LK. Red = Cat

And, of course, users are split on this potential update. Mostly because players will feel as though it's a major nerf.

But, it's not just the players and their items getting the "nerf", mobs and bosses will also be adjusted accordingly. You'll still be healing and damaging at the same percentiles as normal, but you'll just see smaller numbers on the screen.

However, they will be making it so that soloing old content will be much harder, but you'll receive viable awards based on the difficulty level. Because there will be a marginal difference between level 85 and 90, you can still run CATA dungeons (and even WOTLK dungeons) for gear that can be used in level 90 encounters.

Everything in the game will be changed relatively, and they want the entire game back to how it was with "expansions" within Vanilla (ie, major content updates like dungeon additions).

Understanding The Problem

I think it's a very good idea for the Item Squish, and it's something they should have done a long time ago. They probably started to realize the implications by late mid-late WOTLK.. it definitely wasn't during TBC. :)

What it comes down to is a problem of content consumption versus our need for growth.

Blizzard spent a lot of time building dungeons, raids, instances, and scripted events. During Vanilla, most players on average had visited all of the dungeons/raids and rather frequently. They consumed the content slowly, at the pace the Blizzard preferred.

Once TBC rolled out (and follow up expansion packs), there was no more need to visit old dungeons, and they would just skip ahead to end game content. Older dungeons didn't need to be visited anymore, especially with players carrying you through pre-raid or end game content. Dungeons, raids, and capital cities became ghost towns. (Something that wasn't a good impression for new players, which is why they made capital cities central quest hubs again.)

Since players grew faster than they could consume content, Blizzard was (is) always under increased pressure to produce new content for us.

And, there's a finite limit to the amount of content they can provide for us before it just become recycled garbage. Everything needs to be slowed down, from player growth to player consumption to content creation to creative process and resources.

It was really fun in the beginning, but they burned through so many ideas (i.e. dungeon designs, art, audio effects, encounters, mobs and bosses) that they're now realizing that they need to start saving up this content for future use and not allow it to be consumed so quickly.

There's also the issue of creative burnout, something also experienced in the music and book industry. The video game industry is not immune from writer's block. If things move too quickly, and they don't keep filling up their "creativity pool" (for future expansion packs and games), then their games start getting repetitive or boring, and they have to resort to common world objects for creative inspiration, like using every kind of animal as a race, mob or boss. I can't remember.. did they already do a Cow Boss, Lobster Boss, Bird Boss, Snake Boss, Tiger Boss, or Panther Boss? :)

More to come..

Diablo 3 SK Review Postponed

Posted by Daeity On Monday, December 19, 2011

The SK Game Ratings Board was originally planning on having a hearing this Dec 21st, but it's been pushed back due to the lack of data and documents provided by Blizzard.

The GRB review process started on December 1st (or possibly the day before), and according the article, after 16 days of reviews and investigations, they had asked Blizzard for additional information.

So, Blizzard Korea was probably contacted this past Friday (Dec 16) for the information and media organizations found out about it today (Monday).

Kim Jong Il died shortly after hearing the news about the Diablo 3 delay. He had been experiencing significant stress over the past several weeks, due to the multiple release delays, causing great mental and physical strain and finally accumulating into a fatal heart attack after hearing the devastating news of another delay. Kim Jong Il was planning on creating a Barbarian, because he felt that the class was the most overpowered and godlike.

And also, coincidentally, Dec 16 is the same day that Bashiok finally addressed the delay concerns by being very ambiguous, not denying anything, and just confirming that there is a delay and to be patient.

It's unfortunate that Blizzard was not fully prepared for this review considering the seriousness of the issue. They explained that they weren't expecting this to happen because they've never had problems like this before from their other (non-RMAH) games. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if certain details were left out.. like the metagame gambling nature of RMAH item selling. :)

Based on what I could translate, it appears that the "additional material requested period" is 7 days from now, at which point they'll undergo their investigation process again. So, it's still a couple weeks away.

So, on the bright side.. it looks like they were making some pretty good progress, and the decision was closer than we think (this year.) Unfortunately, because Blizzard did not provide enough information, it's been delayed, pushing it all back to probably the original early-mid January expectation.

So much for a Dec 31st announcement.. I guess it'll just be a major beta invite, pictures, and game information.

SOPA? Yes Please!

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, December 18, 2011

I wasn't going to talk about this subject on the blog but it was requested. So, here are my thoughts on the whole SOPA/PIPA situation. :)

What I Want

  • I want SOPA to pass and I hope it's used to the extreme.

  • I want to see Facebook, YouTube, search engines, blogging sites, pirating sites, forums, legitimate torrent sites, music and movie sharing sites, file upload/sharing site, photo and storage sites.. everything.. censored and shutdown.

  • I want to see the government force people out into the streets with crowds of other people complaining loudly about this injustice, instead of complaining silently in front of their computer screens.

  • I want the world to see the decision makers of this legislation (those in the government, corporations, and anti-piracy organizations) for who they really are; incompetent and archaic dinosaurs desperately struggling to halt progress, stop change, and to hold onto monopolies and dying business methodologies just so that they can pad their own wallets at the expense of their country and the scientific advancement of the human race.

  • I want them to first start destroying entrepreneurship so that no new businesses are ever created in the US, and I want them to make it extremely difficult for the rest of the world.

  • I want them to stifle creativity and innovation, and send us all back to the dark ages.

  • I want to see the looks on their faces when new and existing businesses fail, the entertainment industry incurs substantial revenue loss, and people stop buying games, films, and music.

  • I want to read the newspapers: "PROFITS DOWN", "LESS THAN EXPECTED REVENUE", "SELLING ASSETS", "STOCK DOWN". I want to see millions laid off within the entertainment industry. It'll be a fucking tragedy.

  • I want to see the looks on their faces when they realize that piracy and freedom of ideas/information was actually the reason for their highest profits.

  • I want this all to happen that so that, finally, there's undeniable proof (it's an actual fact.. it really happened) that piracy has actually benefited the entertainment industry this entire time. And, finally there's indisputable evidence that all of the anti-piracy organizations must have been lying about and manipulating all of their research and statistics this entire time.

  • I want these SOPA supporters (RIAA, MPAA, ESA, Gov, Corp, etc) to embarrass themselves and never to be trusted again. They'll plunge the planet into the greatest economic and scientific crisis ever seen.

  • I want everyone to realize that these people are SHITTING on the memories of our veterans, soldiers, and forefathers who fought for freedom and peace in our nation. They're just mean old men with old ideas who are destroying freedom out of incompetence, greed, or possibly dementia. I want them to be remembered as the worst people in history. I want their families to change their last names out of embarrassment and fear.

  • I want to see these people try to talk their way out of this: "Profits aren't down because of this.. there MUST be another reason!"

  • I want to read the headlines when all of these politicians, record labels, entertainment industry, and anti-piracy organizations leading the charge are the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

  • Then I want to see some real change.

So, what should we do?

The entire entertainment industry needs a wake up call.

Yes, that's right.. you heard me: ALL OF THEM.

There are no innocents. Just because they're not listed as a "supporter" for SOPA, it doesn't mean they don't want it to happen or they're not supporting the initiative. Many companies pulled their names out of SOPA/PIPA/MPAA/ESA/RIAA "official support" purely because of the Public Relations opportunity.

Even with billions in revenue, they won't even lift a finger or even raise awareness on a single forum post. They all need to be brought to their knees so that they don't just sit around and do nothing (or they only get involved for PR purposes). They've all been on the side lines for too long, and they have the resources to fix this issue.

It's easy to do too, you just need the numbers.

Stop buying new video games and DLC. Stop buying new music. Stop going to the theater. Stop paying for films or streaming videos. Cancel your subscriptions.

All of the major entertainment leaders are heavily invested into infrastructure, manpower, IP, advertising budgets, and investments. They need this regular income to support the rest of their business and by lowering their revenue even by 20-30%, you can devastate them.

So, stop purchasing any types of NEW entertainment (e.g. games, movies, music) for even two quarters (6 months) and watch what happens.. stocks tumble, investors lose faith, they lay people off, they sell off assets, investors get even more worried, the cycle continues. Scare the shit out of them. They should be begging you for your financial support.

Your entertainment doesn't need to stop, you can just put your money into other forms of entertainment:
  • Start playing indie games like Minecraft, Terrari, Space Pirates and Zombies, Trine, etc. If it looks like an independent, but they have a major publisher, skip them. Find some good games, get your friends playing them.

  • Freeze new purchases, and just play older games instead. Break out your old gaming systems, buy older systems/games from pawn shops, get a new movement started.

  • You can even purchase big games (but slightly older) from Bargain Bins or pawnshops. Major publishers actually hate that. They want you to buy new stuff. So, it's very important that none of their newer titles sell.

  • Stop paying for music, and instead start listening to indie bands and songs. The same goes for independent (free) films.
The corporate machine is more delicate than you might think. Just stop feeding it, and things break down pretty quickly.

When all of this falls apart, perhaps those in power might even have an epiphany:

"If this is what happens when information is censored and intellectual property is protected, then the opposite must be true. So.. in a world without censorship, anti-piracy outfits, patents and intellectual "property" there will be major scientific advances, cures for every cancer, inexpensive goods with inexpensive production, new ideas, new innovation, better entertainment, better games, better movies, real competition rather than monopolization, and even more prosperity."

But they didn't get into their positions by being deeply insightful thinkers unfortunately.