And the Heavens Shall Tremble

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A couple weeks ago, I had said to expect some kind of announcement on November 30th.

Bashiok has recently sent a new Tweet semi-confirming that something will be announced today. Many users are expecting an imminent release date to be announced, but I think it's more of a troll by Blizzard. :)

It's certainly dramatic, but don't get too hyped up. When you say something like, "The Heavens Shall Tremble", that's a pretty huge deal and it means that something really really really really huge is coming. It was also the phrase used in the original Diablo 3 teaser/reveal. It's not a phrase one would just throw around, so it SHOULD be a big announcement.. but, it will probably be various Diablo related information releases, game details, beta keys, Book of Cain information, more street art, Diablo in-game vanity pets, or any of the other possible stuff that I had previously mentioned.

It's certainly being hyped up like it's going to be a release announcement, but prepare for huge disappointment.

Yesterday, the Blizzard store and D3 NA/EU websites underwent some unscheduled maintenance as well. It would be nice to have the Digital Download available, but the release date will be announced before that ever happens.

Strangely, it seems that Diablo's 15th Anniversary might have moved from November 30 to some another date now. For a long time, the Diablo 1 release date was always recognized as November 30. However, it seems to have been moved to December 31st, or maybe January 2, or maybe January 7th. Some sources even have the PC release in 1998. Blizzard also removed previous mentions of the Anniversary Date from their website. :)

I'm going to have to go dig through some old magazines to see when it really came out. Either way, prepare to be trolled by Blizzard today. :)

* Update:

Well, whatever the Anniversary Date really is, expect another announcement on that day too.

The November 1996 issue of PC Gamer had a Diablo review and they said that it was "AVAILABLE NOW" for Windows 95.

Blizzard announced Diablo 1's release on January 3, 1997. Either it was a late response, or retail stores broke the street date on Dec 31st, making that the "official" anniversary date instead. :)

I also discovered Blizzard's early attempts at vanity figures: "BLIZZARD ANNOUNCES OVER 13 MILLION GAMES (played over Battle.net)". Forum users (even now) were taking about this really old announcement and are claiming that Diablo 1 sold "13 million copies."

They didn't read the fine print though, it was 750,000 copies "sold-through" worldwide. It's scary to see how easily they were influenced even now by something so blatantly obvious. Blizzard has gotten even better with their wording since then. :)

* UPDATE:

The D3 website has been updated to announce the new "J!NX Holiday Line". They claimed that "The Burnings [sic] Hells have been unleashed, and the world of Sanctuary requires your aide, brave adventurer." Weren't the Burning Hells already released though.. in the form of street art?

Anyways, I really hope this wasn't their troll attempt. They can do still much better.

* UPDATE:

They did much better, it was a giant troll for the new and improved Diablo intro cinematic v3. It's going to have 17.2 seconds more footage than all of the others that we have already seen! Can't wait!

* UPDATE:

Matais pulled one of the files from the original Diablo 1 disc.

Guess what? It's dated "November 30, 1996". :)

So the game was completed and out (gold) by November 30, 1996 and it hit stores by December 31, 1996. I don't know.. which one would you consider it's real anniversary?

What's Really Holding Diablo 3 Back?

Posted by Daeity On Monday, November 28, 2011

It's been over a month now since Blizzard stated that they're really just at the "fine tuning stage" of Diablo 3. We all know the game is done and Blizzard employees have been playing from beginning to end over-and-over with only a couple hints of the end-game boss (Diablo) being bugged.

All of the content is completed; voice recording, art, sound effects, assets, story, text/lore, bosses, NPCs, game engine, mechanics, animation, etc. According to Wyatt and Jay, it's really just fine tuning, character balancing, and technical systems (e.g. servers, load balancing, etc.)

Quality assurance and bug fixes will always be an ongoing process. Right now, the D3 beta is in excellent shape, and comments made by Blizzard employees paint a picture of very few bugs in the full game.

Minor bug fixes, fine tuning, and character balancing never held back their previous games though. In WOTLK & CAT, there were very few changes from beta to retail, and most of the fine tuning and character balancing happened post-retail.

You might argue that because WOTLK & CAT beta test periods lasted approx. 5 months each, that Diablo 3 should be expected to last the same. However, D3 is completely different in scope, game size, playing length, and gaming systems (consider the number of bugs in a smaller game like D3 instead of WOW). PVP is also very minor in D3, so very little balancing is required in that regard. During Blizzcon 2010, Jay Wilson expected that the D3 beta would last 6 months before release, but that was for the full Diablo 3 game. They shortened the beta into a tech demo for the most part, and changed their beta plans into a much more condensed release schedule of 2-3 months. That's what we're in now, and we're getting really close to 3 months.

The game itself is polished and ready. Really, all that's left are "technical issues" and fine tuning.

But.. if they were serious about addressing technical and server load issues, why are beta keys being released so slowly and also in so little quantities? Why had there been so little changes to the D3 beta at Blizzcon, and so few changes still? Why so much minor fine-tuning that's typically done post-release? Why the extension of the beta? Why the release pushback and official announcement which they've never done before? Why no crunch time and reallocation of employees right now to "fully" complete the game?

It's almost as if everything is moving very slowly on purpose. The development team is keeping themselves busy with minor character balancing and tweaking, and releasing keys slowly (remember that there's also high attrition due to the beta game length), as if they're trying to buy time for something else.

It can't be technical issues, like preparing or testing their servers. They've been through this so many times with all of their other releases, it's just a standard activity with no big surprises now. As well, there would be a major influx of beta keys when it's time to really stress test their servers..

During the last quarterly call, Morhaime said that RMAH testing would begin "very soon".

Could it be that it's just the RMAH holding everything back?

The game is ready, servers are ready, and they're just keeping themselves busy by making minor tweaks to the game now?

The RMAH is a really big deal for them, after all. Blizzard has been stressing the two most important aspects of Diablo 3 to their fans and investors; it's an item centric game and it has real money trading. Blizzard C-Levels even rushed to Korea to argue for it's implementation and use in SK.

I can't even begin to stress how much of a big deal it really is. It's Diablo's replacement for the (standard WOW) "subscription model" and it's also the new replacement subscription system for future games. If it's proven to be successful in Diablo 3, that is.

Could it be that they're just waiting for the RMAH to be approved? And that's when crunch time hits and they release the game shortly thereafter?

If that's the case, the game could be out today in a highly polished stated, but it would only have the Gold Auction House. The RMAH could be implemented a couple months later, but as a major content patch (or it could just be disabled until fully approved within the player's country).

Perhaps they're being questioned by various government bodies or approval agencies about the gambling aspect of the RMAH? Maybe these agencies don't even know about the gambling aspect of the RMAH, and are focusing on item drops instead. (The SK gambling board, for example, didn't know about it.)

Remember that a lot of these classification and approvals boards you're reading about on gaming sites might not care about gambling within the game, and it's other agencies that investigate these claims (after the fact). Announcements about "D3 APPROVED FOR PURCHASE IN X COUNTRY!" might not mean anything when it comes to the RMAH or gambling.

For example, when gaming blogs (like incgamers) announced that Diablo 3 had received a BBFC 15 rating. The BBFC doesn't care about gambling, the game or it's mechanics. They're film censors and they're only interested in cutscenes and gameplay animations. That's the extent of their scope.

According to the USK (Germany Ratings Board),

Payment systems have no impact on the rating decisions which are made on the basis of the Children and Young Persons Protection Act. In Germany this is a question of consumer protection and regulations around that field more than those of youth protection.
According to PEGI Consumer Affairs,
The transfer of money for in-game objects is fairly new. This method, in some games referred to as micro transactions, is still finding a way to implement itself on a more regular basis. We are aware of this and also recognize the fact that Diablo III is in the forefront of this development.

Because this is still such a rare phenomenon, we can’t really classify this.
Once these games (incl. Diablo) have hit the market, we can review all these complaints and let our experts group take a look at this. This panel is composed of scientists, child psychologists and media experts, and they are the once who can make the final judgement if our system has to be changed. This is not something we can do if we feel like it. All the changes to our system have to be based on scientific proof/research that it is indeed harmful, or should be warned for.
According to PEGI, there have also been complaints about the Diablo 3 gambling system. But, they will still allow the game to be approved so that they can study it's long term impacts before coming to a full decision regarding it's legality.

Knowing this, I wonder if the Korea ratings board is the only government body that Blizzard is waiting for. So, D3 is primarily being held back for a feature that's not necessary, most people have mixed feelings about, and because of one country? It's all so quiet on the media front, it's really hard to find out who is reviewing the game or who Blizzard is waiting on for approval.

So right now, it's really difficult to tell if the RMAH is the main reason for holding back the game. There are a few ways to confirm if this is the case though; timing of announcements (approvals vs release), public government reports (if you can find them, or if they take months to release), significant beta/game changes, beta key releases, technical problems, and testing of the RMAH. If the RMAH isn't tested "very soon" (e.g. 2011), for example, then we'll have more answers. :)

Weak-ly Updates

Posted by Daeity On

Easier Reading

  • I'm changing the format of these posts to something like this, rather than making them bullet point lists and readers not really knowing what each minor post entails. For example, you might want to know more about Titan but you don't care that I had a random thought about why video game companies no longer say "Proudly Presents" in any of their intro cinematics (the last game I can remember ever doing that was Westwood's Red Alert.)

  • And, if you want to make things easier for me, please create yourself an alias name when post comments. That way, I'm not always responding to "Anonymous". It's just one extra step (under "Name/URL" instead of "Anonymous") and you don't even have to put anything into the URL section. It's still anonymous, but now I can have a specific name to respond to. :)
What's Really Holding Diablo 3 Back?

(This one ending up becoming quite big, so I cut it out and put it into it's own post. I will post shortly.)

January 17th Release Date

On a related note, the January 17th release date is still predicted by some.

VoidTester alerted me to a post about one person's reasoning for the January release date.

The link I originally read (on the Battle.net Forums) wasn't too well organized, but there's a much better thought out and articulated post here (possibly by the same person, Druwin):
- Diablo 3 will be released on January 17th, 2012. Why? Because the free 30 days trial period of SWTOR expires exactly mid January.

- Diablo 3's release date will be announced in 2 weeks on Dec 10, 2011 during the Spike Video Game Awards. Why? Because a.) SWTOR launches 5 days later, b.) competitor BioWare also reveals their new strategy game during the show, and c.) Blizzard did the same with the announcement of WoW “The Burning Crusade” which, by the way, has once been pushed back from a late 2006 release to mid January 2007 as well – same situation as with Diablo 3.

- Amazon knows NOTHING. It’s all just placeholders.

- Selling of Diablo 3 merchandise has begun: Tyrael hoodie, SteelSeries mouse, pad, headset etc. The “Book of Cain” will be released on Dec 13, 2011 – 3 days after the release date has been announced during the VGA.

- I expect a big, final Diablo 3 stress test with a lot of additional beta invites starting mid December, when SWTOR launches.
(TBC wasn't announced at the VGA, though, they just released the intro TBC cinematic.)

* UPDATE (11/30/11): Confirmed. They're just going to be showing the full Diablo 3 opening cinematic at Spike VGA. Same as last time.

Still, they listed some pretty good reasons. And there are other favorable marketing cases for a mid-Jan release date (plus, it's in the beginning of the quarter), but this would be assuming that the game is fully completed with a working RMAH.

I believe that the RMAH is the one piece holding everything back though, and we'll know more within the next few weeks. If an announcement is made at VGA, it would be more likely for a Feb release date. That leaves a Jan announcement for early March, but there won't be any releases in mid to late March, since it's too close to the new quarter.. they would rather push it into the first couple weeks of the next quarter instead (early-to-mid April.) I think everything is going to depend on the RMAH testing schedule and government approvals (especially in SK.)

At this point, I'm going to say that January 17th isn't a likely release date and there won't be an announcement at VGA.

TitanGuru.Com Account Suspended

The TG site went down over the weekend, again.
This Account Has Been Suspended
Although I'm not advocating use of the website, you can still get their latest updates here on their Twitter page.

I don't recommend them because TitanGuru ripped off a large amount of new Titan details from this blog where it was discovered first. The site owner refused to acknowledge the real source and will not provide citations to his readers.. but they rather claim that "they came across it". Since then, they've been very careful not to mention this site or link back to it in any way (and deleting posts about it if ever mentioned). They still frequently visit this site for new Titan information, however, so that they can continue to claim it for their own. :)

If you're looking for Titan information, I would recommend this site (of course) or TitanFocus.info as better alternatives. As an added bonus, those alternative sites don't need to buy visitors or use paid botting services for FB Likes. So you know that the traffic is "honest" and visitors are only there for Next Gen MMO information and not gimmicky tricks.

Since TitanGuru still hasn't posted any updates on their Twitter or Facebook page today, you can probably assume that he just hasn't logged into the site since the Thanksgiving Day long weekend to correct the problem. It will be back up sometime later and it probably just went down due to quota violations (more than 100 visitors in a single day on that site is serious business.)

You're not missing anything right now. They haven't had any decent posts in a while, and even then, it was the stuff they got from here. They're not down due to releasing "HUGE NEWS!!", as some might suspect. It's down just for silly reasons, and they're not a site to ever find or have inside leaks.

FB Dangers

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, November 24, 2011

Continuing on with my thoughts about manipulation and how (many) users don't view Facebook was very useful or reliable, I wanted to demonstrate a practical example of how it can be used and has been used (many times) with great success.

This is also a warning piece about the dangers of employees using Facebook, really any profile site for that matter.

Here's a very good practical example from a completely open (public) Facebook profile:

And remember, this is just one example out of HUNDREDS, if not thousands. I chose this one specifically because it was public, and you can see it for yourself.

While others are saying "Facebook is unreliable for real information!!!" I think that you're beginning to see some of the real possibilities here.

The problem with WOW phishing scammers is that they don't really have any personal details about their targets, so they're left with very generalized phishing lure emails, and they try to email as many people as possible (usually using email addresses datamined from WOW gaming forums.)

But look at the dangers associated with Facebook in this case.

  • You now have detailed personal information about every one of these individuals.
  • You know where they live.
  • You know their profession and where they work.
  • You know their family members and their email addresses too.
  • You have their own personal email address.
  • You know that this is also their Battle.net LOGIN ID.
  • And you know that they're in the Diablo 3 Friends & Family beta.
I don't know about you, but to me that's a tremendous amount of highly useful information for targeted and very convincing phishing scams or trojan horse email attachments. This is the kind of stuff that scammers salivate over.

All of these users just publicly posted a ton of information about themselves and they didn't even care. This is how dangerous Facebook is, and why it is indeed reliable for useful information or leaks.

All over Facebook, Blizzard employees have been handing out F&F Diablo 3 beta invites like candy (typically 15 available each). Even to people they hardly even know. Can you see how easily certain employees could be manipulated, or how anyone with insincere intentions could get an invite too?

Here are some theoretical examples;
  • Pick a group of lesser known Blizzard artists (Concept, Cinematics, Character, Environments, etc) who have Facebook accounts. Start following them on their blog or art forum, compliment them on their new postings, stroke their ego, and do it over a few weeks or months. Once they start getting use to your name/alias, send a FB invite to join them and tell them who you are ("Hey, this is uberfan98 from CGHUB! I love your art, mind if we connect through FB?") It works better before the F&F beta starts of course, but it's still possible get an invite if they haven't burned through them already.
  • This isn't just limited to artists or developers, though, often the support staff or sound engineers are overlooked and they have plenty of extra beta invites available; IT Managers, Customer Service, Recruiting, DBA, Network Administrators, Web Designers, etc.
  • You can also get invites through their blog, Twitter, or other profile. And, the shy or quiet ones will always have a lot of beta invites available (look for ones who blog about their cats.. just sayin'). If their blog is more about themselves, and they don't have any pictures of their family or friends, they'll have a lot available.
  • People who are in a hurry can just randomly send out Facebook invitation requests to random employees to see who bites ("I'm a huge fan! Let's be friends!"). Or, because FB reveals so much about users, it's makes it really easy just to pretend to be an old friend from high school or college ("Hey! I sat behind you in.. uhhh... History, yeah that's right").
  • The problem with pretending to be someone else, though, is that you need to create a backstory for your new internet identity. For example, create a new email address, create a new Battle.net account, and use a different mailing address in your registration. The overly paranoid should also use VPN during all of this. It's very unlikely that your "mark" would every confirm IP information to your location, though, and they would just look at your email address or B.Net account summary.
This is something I've known about for a very long time, and I know for a fact that many people have exploited their "friends" for Beta invites. There are hundreds of profile accounts out there right now, with thousands of F&F beta invites still available. And, once you get your foot in the door, you're more eligible (almost guaranteed) for future beta invites.

Facebook unreliable and not very useful? Right.

Anyone who ever says this is completely oblivious to the dangers of the internet, and they have probably revealed a ton of personal information about themselves publicly. If you were to leave a USB drive labelled "naughty pix" outside their front door, they're the kind of people who would plug it into their work computer to see what's on it (and not even consider the ramifications.)

The internet is not always a nice place, and you would be wise to remove all personal information about yourself from it. This is just one example of why (and why you should never mix your social life with work).

Another Blizzard Doc Leaked

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apparently, a WoW Law Enforcement guide was leaked by Anonymous/AntiSec.

It's already on a couple other blog sites already, where you can check out the various law enforcement guidelines.

For example, how "Player Mail is not maintained for more than 180 days."

The document doesn't really cover Player Chat very well though. It says they can do realtime monitoring of chat, and they describe Player Chat Logs, but they don't say anything about retention of older chat logs.. so, they only retain old Mailbox messages?

There was also another contradiction. In one paragraph, Blizzard wrote "Warcraft alone has more than 9 million active users worldwide spread across several hundred servers", but later they wrote "Because Blizzard has over eleven million active users, Blizzard does not have the ability to retain all types of information indefinitely." In December 2008, they announced 11.5 million subscribers and then in Feb 2010 Morhaime announced that there had been no growth since 2008.

Maybe they dipped quite a larger subscription number than everyone had estimated? (e.g. 11.5 to 9 million)

This was the really interesting part though:

Blizzard currently maintains more than 500 WoW servers with well over 100 dedicated to the North American region.. Each server can host more than 3500 players at the same time.
This is the first time I've ever seen a source directly from Blizzard confirming the maximum number of concurrent players per realm (i.e. "players at the same time"). It was always estimated that each WOW Realm could support about 5000-6000 concurrent player logins.

Although WarcraftRealms isn't a very good source for total player counts (because there's a lot of overlap of players), it is a very good source for daily player activity.

If you look at the Average Daily Activity Chart here, it shows total number of players logged in during each hourly interval. Remember though, that the same players might be logged in for 8 hours straight. And, if you look at the graph below the chart, they all max out at around 3500 concurrently per realm. :)

If you assume that an average player spends 3 hours per day playing WOW, that's about 6950 unique players per realm (on average) that play throughout the day. Blizzard has less than 900 realms worldwide, which makes it about 6.3 million players.

I wouldn't be surprised if this 2009 policy is the exact same one still used today. Documents like these are very rarely updated, and it doesn't look like they spent a lot of time preparing it. Still, it's pretty interesting..

You Are Being Prepared

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Defining Manipulation

Yesterday, I was talking about how easily users or news media can be easily manipulated. "Manipulated" is such a harsh word, though. I meant it in it's harshest sense yesterday, but there's also another kind of manipulation that happens all the time that most don't view as manipulation.

It's the kind of manipulation you've grown accustomed to in television, billboard, radio, or internet advertising; sex in beer ads, Photoshopped women in magazines, survival or fear inducing advertisements that get you to buy a security system or gun, mood changing music, disturbing imagery to encourage charitable donations, or anything else that can manipulate your baser instincts.

You're manipulated into what you should buy or what brands you should trust. News media manipulate you with click-bait news reports about "Africanized Killer Bees" to get you watching their stations. (I'm still waiting for those killer bees that were supposed to wipe out the US.)

We are all being manipulated through very subtle means, but it's still manipulation.

Video games companies are no different. It started out as just groups of friends making fun games and selling them. The only marketing they were concerned with were retail box aesthetics, and where to advertise. But, as businesses evolved so did marketing.

These days, video game corporations employ scientists and psychologists who are experts in market research, analytics, consumer behavior and psychology, demographics, and purchasing patterns. And all of this is backed up even further by decades of marketing and gambling research performed in other fields of business. Even smaller video game companies, if they can't afford psychologists, will use marketing techniques from research studies that have been tempered over the decades.

So, when I use the word "manipulated", I mean it within a strategic marketing context.

Blizzard's Gentle Nudging Towards Titan

Now that I've gotten that out of the way.. did you know that Blizzard fans are being manipulated as we speak?

They're being prepared for "something" and most people won't even realize the plan until after fruition (if they even find out at all). But, I've always found it fun to see the plan from the beginning, watch as it unfolds around you, and see how users are being manipulated without even knowing it.

Their Next Gen MMO has been in the works for a while now, but they also have a lot of future features and services planned for release or post. There are many scheduled activities, and they don't just happen because of "last minute brainstorms", but rather they are planned YEARS in advance. Some things need to happen first, too, before the game comes out.

We're being prepared for Titan right now, and one thing that needs to happen is gamer acceptance.

Blizzard's revenue generators are changing, and with subscriptions becoming less and less acceptable (there are more AAA games with free subscriptions, and players are beginning to realize the true, extremely cheap, operating costs of these services), Blizzard needs to create new ways to generate revenue.. and players aren't going to like them.

It's going to be one of those "removing the band aid slowly" versus "ripping it off" type approaches. :)

The Real Money Auction House

This is one of the items that should be most obvious.

Blizzard needs the RMAH system to be more accepted by their existing consumers so that they're prepared for future similar changes to new (and possibly even existing) games.

There are promises of wealth and they're going after our greed needs just like lottery tickets.

Jay Wilson, Diablo 3 Game Director, is even hoping that Diablo 3 will be "the greatest slot machine ever made." (I knew that IGN quote would come in handy one day!)

I don't believe myself that the original concept (or multiple iterations) of Diablo 3 ever had a RMAH planned.. I think it was something that came out within the past 1-2 years, and it only came about after Titan brainstorming discussions. I think it's a way to make these systems more acceptable for Blizzard games, get player's feet wet, and get them prepared for Titan.

Even if the RMAH fails (meaning that it still generates revenue, but not within their expectations), they still have something else planned that's going to be huge.

Real ID 2.0

Have you noticed that over the past year, Blizzard has really been pushing their customers to start using Facebook? They're targeting players in all of their franchises: SC2, WOW and D3.

Starting with Starcraft 2, they even integrated Facebook features within Battle.net, and are integrating Battle.net features within Facebook. They also have plans on implementing even more "Facebook-related features on Battle.net" that will "be announced at a later date." These are all just the initial steps of a larger long term plan.

They're also having major contests through Facebook now, where you MUST have a legitimate Facebook account in order to be eligible for participation.

Hmm.. that's interesting. They're pushing Blizzard gamers for Real IDentities. Wait a minute! Didn't they just try that in Battle.net? Blizzard is pushing "Real ID" again, but indirectly. This time, though, there's no fuss, no outrage, no uproar, and no one's complaining.. interesting. :)

Don't be surprised if Blizzard creates new ways to push Facebook signups and utilization even further:

  • There will be heavy advertising and promotions (especially as Titan gets closer) to attract Blizzard users to Facebook.
  • Gamers will be encouraged to share with friends through Facebook.
  • Existing FB users can invite friends for special bonuses through FB.
  • Special bonuses or features for users who already have FB accounts. Virtual items like tabards, pets, or achievements for FB users only.
  • Using FB "Likes" to unlock certain FB pages, videos or images (which forces more users to sign up on FB.)
  • Videos or information that are only available through FB pages.
  • Sweepstakes or mini-games that can only be played on Facebook.
Mini-games you say? Yes, during Blizzcon 2010 and again in 2011, Blizzard noted that mini-games might be planned for future Blizzcons. FB would sure make a great platform for Blizzard mini-games.. and they don't all have to be played during Blizzcon. Do you forsee some possible FB mini-games that can be played by anyone who signs up with FB? :)

(Make note too how a lot of these movements started in 2010.)

How Is Real ID 2.0 Useful Though?

So Blizzard is heavily pushing Facebook use, Facebook is integrated with Battle.net, and Facebook contains real player information and details about their life, interests, profession, what they like, and what they dislike.

Real ID through Battle.net was completely unacceptable because of privacy concerns. But, Blizzard just integrated your personal Facebook details with Battle.net and you apparently found that completely acceptable.. or you just never realized the connection. :)

Remember.. FB applications and this new B.Net integration have no boundaries. Battle.net now has complete access to all of your personal details that you think are only restricted to your close friends and family. (Real ID is still active, mind you, but it's just not mandatory. It can still be used internally by Blizzard for targeting, especially if combined with other databases.)

So, what was the purpose of Real ID in the first place?

Targeted advertising.

Back in July 2010, Blizzard had planned targeted advertising within Starcraft 2. They entered into a contract with Microsoft's Massive Inc. to deliver in-game advertisements within Starcraft 2.

Coincidentally, this was also around the same time that REAL ID was announced. :)

Real ID caused a scandal and it failed, and then within about a month, Blizzard cancelled their contract and pulled the plug on their Microsoft partnership and SC2 in-game advertising.

It's almost as if in-game (targeted) advertising was dependent on the Real ID system. :)

Having a constant flow of 10-20 million players per day and access to a very sophisticated targeting advertising platform, Blizzard can reap a MASSIVE amount of profit by entering into the advertising business. (Targeted advertising is bigger than most people realize. It's where Google's immense wealth came from.)

Their first in-game advertising attempt failed due to Real ID "1.0". But, now they have Real ID 2.0, and a new monster to deliver in-game advertising.

In-Game Advertising

I'm adding this quick entry to the list of "items needing gamer acceptance."

It's not that big of a deal as most gamers are okay with it (as long as it's not obtrusive or annoying). But, with their (failed) attempt at in-game advertising within Starcraft 2, Blizzard made their intentions clear that this is something they want, it's important, and they're trying to get our "feet wet" for more future implementations.

Battle.net 3.0

While we're on the subject of getting players "feet wet", according to the most recent Blizzcon Survey, Blizzard might also allow Virtual Ticket holders to play games remotely.

This sounds a lot like Battle.net 3.0. :)

Titan is supposed to have a wider audience and more "broad appeal", and it was theorized that that the Next Gen MMO could accomplish this through a gaming on demand service where it could be played on a large number of platforms:
It would fit in very well with their Battle.net services and would definitely work well with their new "Next Gen" MMO. Maybe the "Next Gen" bit isn't just about new consoles, but rather opening up their games for many platforms regardless of age? With live streaming services, you don't have to worry too much about processor speed, video card performance, memory, or harddrive capacity.
If it's feasible, gamers could have high end graphics but on low end PCs.

Blizzard would just need to test it out, see if it's possible, how much of a reach the streaming service has (distance limitations), and acceptable performance. Blizzcon 2012 might be a good time for some initial testing. :)

How This All Relates To Titan

It's not just Titan though. Other Blizzard games could have any number of these features implemented, depending on how successful they are (and other factors).

Since Blizzard now has a new Real ID system, it will be perfect for targeted advertising within future games. But, it's not possible within all genres of video games. Advertisements could be used in Diablo chat rooms, for example, and on Starcraft 2 in-game billboards. But, they're not appropriate within the Diablo world itself.

A certain type of game would be needed to accommodate in-game ads. Something that matches our real world more closely; a modern world, with virtual billboards, radio, and TV. And that brings us to Titan.

Titan is rumored to be similar to Second Life, it will have a lot of characters (NPCs) within it, there are a large number of environments, and it might have more of a real (or modern) world feel to it. If so, a world like this would be perfect for in-game ads and linking real world items with in-game purchases or vice versa. (RL ads to get you buying virtual items, and in-game ads getting you to buy RL items.)

A lot of this can be done through a Real Money Auction House, which you can bet will be implemented in Titan if the D3 testing is successful. Titan would be perfect for a large quantity of items, homes, or furnishings that can be created or sold. Personally, I don't think there will be houses or land for sale, but I do think there will be a large number of vanity items that can be crafted or sold for real money.

(Even if there are multiple environments, like the historical and ancient cities that have been hinted at, advertising would still be possible whether they're at a certain hub, meeting place, or even in these environments depending on suitability.)

The Titan RMAH might also go under some (currently planned) changes.. for example, Blizzard selling virtual items like how the TF2 store is run. Blizzard doesn't want to offend any players right now by selling items directly themselves, so they're getting users familiar with the new system first before moving into their next phase. (Much like "Real ID 2.0", they're playing it cool and doing it smart).

Right now, they're targeting existing Blizzard customers and getting more of them to start using Facebook. Eventually, they'll target FB users (who are not Blizzard customers or MMO gamers) to become Blizzard regulars.

Of course, all of this could just be something as simple as using socialization to increase recognition, chatter, and new consumers. The failure of mandatory Real ID and the subsequent cancellation of their in-game advertisements could have been a sheer coincidence. But, I always found it strange that they wanted Real ID in the first place.. their reasoning never made any sense.

All of their pushes have been Facebook specific as well. When it comes to "pushing users", they're ignoring all of the other social platforms and advertising mediums. When was the last Twitter-specific contest? Twitter is just used to link back to Facebook.

They've talked a lot of Battle.net monetization and finding new ways to generate revenue. Subscription based games are slowly going away, with advertising or taking cuts from real money transactions making a great replacement.

I think it's all part of a greater plan. Like Blizzard said, Titan is their most ambitious project ever. And all of these systems or strategies are very easy to implement, they're practical, and they're highly lucrative.

It's just going to take a few years of nudging players into the right direction and adjusting their personal level of acceptance. You can call it "manipulation" if you want.. the description is apt.

tl;dr; Blizzard slowly entering into the advertising business. Titan will be subscription free, have more real life connections, have real money transactions, and have in-game advertising.

"Telltale" Signs

Posted by Daeity On Monday, November 21, 2011

Last week, Gamespot made a post about Telltale Game employees feeding perfect 10 scores into Metacritic.

Quite a bold statement. So, what exactly was their investigative technique to confirm this with 100% reliability?

The reviews had above-average grammar, and their aliases (e.g. "TANTRAD") happened to match the aliases of Telltale employees. Yep, that was it.

Between the reviewers' constant lionizing of Telltale Games, complete sentences, proper punctuation, and paucity of spelling errors, we began to suspect that the user reviews were not the product of actual players, but of Telltale representatives. Sure enough, a cursory Google search on the reviewers' user names backed up our suspicions. One of the reviewers was a user interface artist at Telltale; another was a cinematic artist. According to their LinkedIn profiles, both were relatively new to the studio, but they should have more than enough experience in the industry to understand this was a bad idea.
(Funny.. I didn't see a ton of other gaming blogs attacking and scrutinizing them for their investigation process.)

I really liked this part of their article:
But if the goal was to drag those individuals over the coals, you'd see their names and LinkedIn profiles here.
They said this after they gave all of their readers the means to find it out themselves:

1. A link to the Metacritic page
2. Told everyone it was a perfect 10 score
3. Told everyone it's the oldest score on the page (Nov 15, 2011)
4. You can use Metacritic to sort of by date on the positive reviews
5. Grammar is above average
6. A cursory Google search of their alias and "Telltale"
7. On his LinkedIn profile he's new and a User Interface Artist

This actually reminds me of that Facebook investigation. I'm showing you how they probably came to that conclusion, or how they most likely investigated, and I'm probably right. Maybe I'll be scrutinized for this post.. "you're jumping to conclusions", "LinkedIn Profiles are unreliable, I can't believe you use them to confirm if they work for companies", "FAKE NEWS!!"

The Point

What's most scary about this whole thing is that Gamespot is probably 100% correct and that they came to the conclusion through a very simple investigation.

This is a point I've been trying to make for a long time.. there is a ton of information on the internet that most people think are unreliable or useless, but they're not. For the most part, people are very open, honest, and not very careful about what they type on the internet.

In cases like this, though, look at what happened. Gamespot went by on online alias (unable to confirm who actually owned the alias), posted it as undisputed evidence, caused rage, which resulted in a substantial number of negative reviews from users who never actually played the game but were just angry about the situation.

Can you see how both users and media organizations (or internet "journalists") could have been easily manipulated in this situation?

This is why I show as many sources as I do, and proof to backup every claim. I see what happens on these other sites (like Gamespot, who just made the claim and did not provide their sources and proof that the Metacritic alias was indeed used by the employee), and I want to show how I came to a conclusion so that people can come to their own.. I may be right or wrong, and sometimes there is no way to be 100% positive. I can only guess that this case is probably correct given the evidence, probability, and past trends.

Let's go back to how just Gamespot investigated the incident:

If I was a competitor, and I really wanted to ruin the reputation of a game, why not just create multiple aliases of employees and give it a glowing review? And then, give negative reviews for my own games?

It wouldn't take long for blog/gaming sites to pick up on these, investigate (reverse alias search on Google), put 2 and 2 together, and report incorrect information resulting in sympathy for my own company and negative reviews for my competitor. I wouldn't be surprised if something like this has already happened.

A disgruntled employee could even do it to their own company, or targeting another employee they don't like. A disgruntled fan could do it.. anyone can do this and it would be perfectly legal to use your own alias (even if it happens to be used by another person) and make a review, but it would be the news sites or blogs that create the rumor or make the libel post in the end.

Diablo News on November 30

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, November 19, 2011

I wanted to remind everyone that this coming November 30th is Diablo's 15th Anniversary which is a pretty big milestone for the franchise.

As you might have noticed, Blizzard has been doing a lot of "celebratory" activities recently. They've had a lot of interesting things prepared for their 20th Anniversary, and even though they have minor Anniversary activities within the World of Warcraft, they reserve special bonuses for more notable milestones.

We plan to reserve this sort of celebratory bonus for the most notable milestones or events in the future.
(FYI: World of Warcraft was released on November 23, 2004, which was the 10th Anniversary of the Warcraft franchise.)

I don't think that the game will be released (or the release date announced) on November 30th of course. They still haven't tested the RMAH yet and technical stress testing is far from completion. And, they still need a major ramp up of beta testers too due to the high attrition rates associated with the short beta gameplay.

The 15th is still a big deal though, and there will be something for all Diablo fans.. it won't just be limited to beta testers like how the WoW Anniversary is limited to WoW subscribers only.

There might be a minor announcement (a major beta wave sometime after Dec 12th), but I'm expecting some kind of information release like more lore, loot details, D3 art galleries, maybe a retrospective video, music, "making of" videos, etc. Simple stuff to keep Diablo fans busy until the release date.

(* UPDATE: There is a "Diablo 15th Anniversary Music CD" available in the Blizzard Store.)

The "Book of Cain" is also rumored to have moved it's arrival date up from Dec 15 to Nov 30 coincidentally as well. :)

November 30th would be a great time to announce the Diablo 3 release date though. It could be used as the "big bang" to finally close up the whole Blizzard 20th Anniversary celebration that has been going on over the past several months. After all, they had originally planned on a surprise D3 release announcement at Blizzcon 2011 which no one knew about (except one person/blog) and Nov 30 is awfully close to their originally planned release date (Nov 24).

Now that I mention it.. you know, it's funny that the individuals who scrutinized TOD's old March post conveniently forgot about something rather important. During the Q4 2010 (Feb 2011) Quarterly Earnings Call, Blizzard stated that they would not be releasing any games during 2011. It made the majority of gaming sites.. "no releases in 2011". That was the firm belief of everyone.

And then on March 23 2011, Daeity said that they were actually intending on releasing Diablo 3 in 2011 before Christmas, that there would be a surprise at Blizzcon, and there was a "mid-Jan backup date". Whether you originally read it in March, or in August when the site was brought back up, people were still saying no releases in 2011.. but TOD was saying the opposite.

Then suddenly, Blizzard announced on September 23 2011 that "'Soon' Was Too Soon -- Diablo III to Arrive in Early 2012" and D3 had been pushed back to 2012. They revealed publicly that they were fully intending on releasing D3 before Christmas. This is the first time Blizzard ever announced anything like this, and apologized.. that's just how big of a deal it really was. They had already announced "no releases in 2011" so there was absolutely no need to ever make this post since 2012 was already the target like everyone knew. That apology ended up confirming why TOD kept saying that it was going to be a "big surprise" at Blizzcon 2011.. they've never done anything like that before, it was a very big deal. No one else was reporting this, it was just one person, and it turned out to be true just like everything else.

On a side note, while I was looking over that old Q4 2010 post, there was also this interesting piece:
* UPDATE:

Confirmation regarding lay-offs. Both Vicarious Visions and Freestyle Games have been hit with notices shortly after the meeting. According to Activision Blizzard's 8-K, they'll be getting rid of approx. 500 employees. The decision was made Feb. 3, and will be taking place on March 31 for the staff.

This same time last year, they laid off approx. 200 people. Apparently, February is the time of month when the non-performing studios need to start worrying.
This further confirms what I was writing about earlier regarding the "mass layoff" WARN notification system. Apparently, the 200 employees were reported to the WARN system.. but there were another 500 employees who were laid off, but it wasn't reported in the WARN system. Interesting.. apparently a "mass layoff" can be 1 to 5 employees, but 500 employees isn't considered a "mass layoff". :)

Weak-ly Updates

Posted by Daeity On Friday, November 18, 2011

  • Electronic Arts has just registered a couple new trademarks called "BLACKED OUT". It's a video game, but I have no idea what it's going to be about.

    Moments later, two more Trademark registration came through. Another game called "SECRET ISLAND".

  • It looks like Cameron Dayton has created a new online blog. Something to monitor closely in the beginning especially if he mentions anything Titan related. Right now, it just has all of the "hello world" blog template artifacts. I'm not expecting anything big to be revealed on the site, though.

  • Apparently, we have an unofficial sister site in China now (http://daeity.blog.163.com/). The blog is translated as "Digital Harmony", so I don't know if it was a mistranslation from either side or if the name was just offensive and renamed. :) Basically, the blog owner is taking posts from here, translating them, and putting them up for Chinese readers. (163.com is owned by NetEase by the way.)

  • On a Diablo 3 note, I've gotten a pretty good (new) quote from Jay Wilson regarding the comparison of Diablo 3 to gambling. :)
    IGN: Charles Onyett on IGN's PC team lovingly calls Diablo III the greatest slot machine ever made. Would you say that's an accurate statement?

    Jay Wilson: I certainly hope so.
    The "Greatest Slot Machine Ever Made" article is here, where he's talking about the feelings experienced from massive loot drops and being able to sell them. He's basically describing the same psychological effect and endorphin rush experienced during gambling.

  • For that Path of Exile account giveaway, I think the contest will be an information seeking quest. Not a puzzle, or anything like that, but rather you go out there and find out something new that I can post here. You can use those "Gaming Leaks" post to help guide you, investigate forums, Twitter, personal blogs, Facebook, etc.. basically something with interesting gaming related information that no one else knows about (looking for Blizzard related things mostly). Or, finding a new source of information that can't be searched on Google and is therefore overlooked by many. If you find something, you don't need to write an article or anything about it.. I'll do that myself (if it's something I don't already know), but you'll still get credit (plus the account) for finding the information. It won't be a 1 or 2 day thing either.. I figure you would need some time to hunt around. I'll talk more about it next week, but you might as well start looking around now and see what you can dig up.

  • If you're looking for anything Titan related (or you're a Titan blog owner), you should add Pior Oberson to your list of Titan artists. He's the Senior 2D (Concept) 3D (Game) CHARACTER ARTIST for Titan, and you can see all of his other Character-specific art in his portfolio. The one thing that Titan will be big on is a variety of characters, and it seems there's more focus on "people" than "monsters".

    His LinkedIn profile has him as a "2D and 3D character artist - traditional and digital art, lowpoly and highpoly" but it used to have "Concept and execution of highpoly sculpts and character models, realtime 3D characters, 2D character concept art" in relation to his specific job duties on the Next Gen MMO.

    His resume has also undergone a few iterations:
    Dec 2007 to present day - Blizzard Entertainment - Irvine CA.
    2D 3D Character artist.
    Nov. 2007 to present day - Blizzard Entertainment - Irvine CA.
    Senior 2D 3D Character artist on a nextgen MMO title a.k.a. TITAN + additional art on WoW : WoTLK.
    2007 to present day - Blizzard Entertainment - Irvine CA.
    Senior Character artist on a NextGen MMO title.
    So, you might want to pay close attention to his "highpoly sculpts" from 2007 and up.

    There's also a "30 Minute Sketchclub" blog consisting of Josh Singh, Paul Richards, Vadim Bakhlychev, Marc Brunet, Gino Whitehall, Pior Oberson, etc. All employees who were working on Titan. :) There are sketches there that they made during the lunchtime when not working on Titan (as well as many more developed 3D art pieces built at work or at home.)

    There's also Zach Baker, who was also on the Next Gen MMO team (he left Feb 2010). He has an article Looking Back at Blizzard. It doesn't provide anything useful or interesting though, but I figured it would throw it up here anyways. It's been sitting on the shelf for months, and I just never got around to posting it.

How To Confirm That Titan Leak

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is more of a reminder (or a placeholder) for something that should be revisited after Diablo 3 goes retail to confirm the legitimacy of an old Titan related leak.

You might remember that back in mid April there was an alleged Diablo 3 leak on 4chan. But, it's looking more and more legitimate now that the beta and the Azmodan video at Blizzcon were released. Remember, this 4chan leak was long before the F&F beta started, and before anyone knew any details like these about Diablo 3. At the time, it was met with a LOT of criticism and disbelief.

[On a little piece of historical trivia, the D3 F&F beta didn't start until the first week of Sept 2011. That was when Sixen said that there was no F&F beta. :) The next day, I posted a comment from our well known source that the closed beta would be starting on Sept 20.. which it did. :) Forcegaming was predicting Sept 12 at the time. It's one of those small tid bits that a majority of users sometime miss. My comment was actually the result of another email I had received from TOD after his/her mid August leak.]

Here's a link to the entire archived chat log. And, here is a collection of his claims (which were considered "bullshit" back in April). :)

(* UPDATE: The archival site has been down for a few days, and the cache will most likely disappear, so I created a mirror here. Pastehtml will probably give a warning before going to the page, mostly because of all the 4chan links in it.)

Confirmed:

1. Plans for a D3 console port. (Blizzard intended to port it to consoles when the expansion development began.)
2. Levels were generated in mediocre way.
3. Didn't feel as open as D2. Levels in D2 were much bigger. In D3, "open world areas are small with little side areas, and its randomly generated dungeon levels are mediocre, with rectangular areas glued together."

This part about the open areas with little side areas and dungeons glued together with rectangular pieces is what really stood out to me. I mean, he really nailed it right there. That's exactly what the beta is like, and one of the concerns players have over the post-Act 1 areas. Blizzard has promised that this isn't the case though. I still have my doubts though.

4. No runewords.
5. Low system requirements.
6. Same model as Starcraft 2, no LAN. Online only requirement.
7. Final stage is not the High Heavens. (An old rumor.)
8. Boss battles are scripted and easy. (One common complaint from beta players, and the same is expected from all of the other bosses.)
9. Elites "not as crazy as in D2; they have less enchantments".
10. Level design.

Level design? In what order? I.E: Does the desert come in the second act, or later?

First act: Tristram and surroundings (monastery, Leoric castle,etc)
Second act: Desert
Third act: The bastion keep. Really [bad] act.
Fourth act: Begins where the meteor hits, then you descend into hell
This was another pretty good confirmation. Except he says "where the meteor hits", which I always assumed was the Tristram Monastery. But Act 4 does start in the "Holy Sanctum", "Blessed Chancel", and "Radiant Chapel" before moving to the Spire and then into Hell. It could be that another segment of the meteor (or another meteor) hit the Monastery? Still.. very specific and very accurate.

Unconfirmed:

11. Codex and spell rune combinations.
Is there any kind of in-game codex for [stuff] like monsters and spell rune combinations?

No. There are recipes, and some special items like lost scrolls with some lore in them, used in recipes.
This one is iffy. He either confirms no rune combinations and/or in-game codex stuff. He says there are recipes and lost scrolls for recipes with lore in them. And, it's possible that the in-game codex lore for monsters were after his testing.

12. "You fight Tyrael in act 4." (Probably not the end boss, but rather in the middle or just before Diablo, if this is true.)

13. Plot Line
When Tyrael broke the Worldstone in D2, it basically destroyed what separated the mortal world from heaven and hell. So Asmodan devised a way to resurrect Diablo because his essence wasn’t completely destroyed with the soul shard. They invoked a meteor to hit Sanctuary for its impact would generate enough energy to provide a portal from hell for a massive army. Tyrael was corrupted by Asmodan. Asmodan is boss of act 3.
Azmodan has been confirmed as the boss of Act 3, which was pretty specific. And everything else above seems pretty close to the truth based on the small amount of information we know about the game.

14. In the end, the hero will sacrifice themselves to act like the Worldstone before it was destroyed, thereby separating Hell and the mortal world again. Diablo gets chained in Hell, never killed.

Conclusion

He did a pretty good job nailing many of the fine points in the game. If items #12, #13, and #14 end up being true, then it lends him some very good credibility to his claims of being an internal tester.

And, it also gives some credibility to his other Titan related comment:
-Do you know anything about Blizzard’s other projects? Brief thoughts on all the classes? Favorite thing from D3? Is it ever going to be released?

That Titan MMO will be integrated with Facebook, and will be more or less like Second Life. The classes are well designed, with each having different gameplay. I liked the skill system plus runes. Expect a beta announcement at BlizzCon.
What I always found odd about this, though, is that he was a tester for Diablo 3.. so why would he also have access to the Titan game? Perhaps he heard it from a coworker.. or perhaps he heard it from somewhere else. :)

I've actually heard this very specific comparison before (e.g. "integrated with Facebook and like Second Life".)

It was something that the Original Daeity once said. Right before it was removed. :) (And at the time, there were no other websites or sources that compared Titan to Second Life and Facebook.)
kOOpat wrote:

Many people will call bull on this, they said the same about the slate leak ;)

But what he said about Titan certainly drew my interest. It's the exact same thing that Daeity said before Blizzard perma shut down his blog. He said that the closest comparison to Titan was Second Life there was a large variety of environs, customizable player appearances (e.g. suits, ties, dresses, army outfits, fantasy & scifi wear, etc), heavy interaction with social networks like Facebook and other ARG-like influences, maybe even "customizable worlds" that can be shared with friends. There was a load of other leaked info, but it was killed fast and I didn't take screenshots.. cuz who could have really anticipated that would happen. What I saw of the art work though it looked awesome!

Regy wrote:

@kOOpat: With that logic, the guy who posted this could easily have been a reader of Daeity's blog prior to it being shut down, so his information was taken from there.

The fact remains that this was posted on 4chan of all fucking places, and that he's lying about the NDA loophole (no company miswrites NDAs to that extent)

To easily discredited to take seriously, and the fact that he sounds like a raving lunatic.

The Greatest Days wrote:

Did it occur to you that maybe he's one of the many people that read Daeity's blog? He's more than likely recycling info from that. Blizzard shutting it down made tons of people believe in the info's legitimacy, so this chumpstain thinks he struck gold.

I, for one, believe nothing. I mean sure, does some of his plot info sound plausible? Yeah absolutely, if only this wasn't coming from this particular chumpstain. Lifeless losers have gone to much less trouble to achieve their 15 mins of anonymous e-fame.
As you recall, TOD had a post (that was involuntarily deleted) that covered a ton of info about D3, Titan, and subs. He also had another post about subscriber figures that was also deleted. And others were removed completely. But, he summarized a lot of those details into the important parts that would be announced at Blizzcon (e.g. level cap, required online connection) in the "Huge News" post.

There are still bits and pieces out there that mention details in his last posts, and "koopat" just confirmed a link between Daeity's old posts and this D3 leak.

Also coincidentally, the Daeity D3 leak was on March 23 2011, and this 4Chan D3 leak was on April 13 2011. :)

The whole situation just seems oddly connected; D3 tester not associated with Titan gets Titan information, compares to Daeity remarks, leaks D3 information, Daeity also leaked D3 information, and all of this happening so closely together.

This might just be an incredible coincidence of course. There's no way to tell what really happened: he might have been a legitimate internal tester and they just both knew the same internal details about Titan (which helps in a confirmation regarding Titan), he pulled the information from the blog (the probability of the timing and details is pretty amazing), or maybe he just really did his homework and pulled pieces from all over the internet or through his own lore research. But to have so many parts correct and so specifically written, I don't think it could have been gathered from rumors.

Anyways..

If you exclude all of these interesting coincidences, if everything he said is indeed proven to be true, then it certainly lends a ton of credibility to the Titan game design.

Also, a lot of Blizzard's decisions about Titan were made during a time when Zynga was extremely successful, they had partnered with Facebook, and they intended on implementing Real ID (with FB) into their new games. It's quite possible that a FB integration has been planned for a very long time, and they're getting their feet wet with SC2. (Just like the RMAH in D3.)

It will be interesting to see (and another confirmation) if Blizzard introduces new FB integration features within Diablo 3. For example, seeing online players that are linked to FB profiles, messaging in-game users from FB, forming FB-based guilds (instead of in-game guilds), maybe even a FB/RMAH or inventory management system if it proves to be successful.

At Blizzcon 2011, they mentioned that they were looking for a way to implement guilds. A Facebook based guild system would certainly explain why they left out in-game guilds for retail. Now, they won't call it a "guild" system though, it will be a Facebook Friends linkage page or something (I wonder how it could be integrated in-game though?). But, it will be a good way of getting non-users to start using Facebook for Blizzard games. :)

I Smell Fraud

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Something interesting brewing on a couple wine enthusiast websites. Apparently, a large quantity of users there have suddenly been hit by multiple credit card charges from "Blizzard Entertainment".

The situation is suspicious because so many users grouped together on these very specific forums are all being charged fraudulently by the same company. Most of the charges are Blizzard related, and there are also common iTunes purchase trends. Check out the Wine Library forum, for example. This one too, but it requires an account.

Many of the users there weren't familiar with Blizzard, so many guesses were about the "Wizards of Warcraft" game and if Blizzard was some kind of Adult Entertainment company.

What is apparent, however, is that there have been many fraudulent credit card charges just recently and dating back over the past couple months. They all probably use the same wine (or related) online ordering site, and their credit card numbers have been compromised. (They have not received any breach notifications, however, which most companies aren't required by law to report anyways.)

Normally, I would suspect overseas farmers.. but most of these charges are for continued monthly subscriptions (only subscriptions, no extra purchases like software), and they're also making iTunes purchases. Maybe teenagers? :)

SS Chris wrote:

"Blizzard must be having a spectacular quarter from a Revenue perspective."
On a related note, Blizzard is actively investigating the issue it seems. I received Blizzard HQ traffic from the wine forums which I found highly unusual, and it was really the only reason I looked into it. Perhaps it was one of the "legendary" Fraud Specialist / Billing employees. According to Blizzard experts, though, the position does not exist, it has never existed, and only a raving lunatic wearing a tin foil hat could ever imagine and make up the fact that Blizzard would ever actually hire for a "Fraud Manager" or "Fraud Specialist" position. :)

I never realized this was such a problem, but apparently the issue goes back for many years.

Here's an older one that probably was farming related:
Blizzard just took $1100 out of my account and I've never even heard of them before today let alone bought anything from them! They took out 6 lots of $91.63 & 3 lots of $183.27.
These other, more recent ones, are just for continued monthly subscriptions, and they've ruled out their own children.

After seeing all of this, I have to wonder if any of these Active Subscriptions were used in their vanity figures? Some fraudulent charges might never get caught, or are only discovered after several months. I wonder what percentage of "Active Subscribers" are actually fraudulent charges? :)

* UPDATE (11/22/2011):

Looks like it finally got picked up by some other sites.

Apparently, the Winelibrary site itself maintained a list of user's credit card numbers. Possibly unencrypted plaintext?

* UPDATE (11/29/2011):

Blizzard has just updated their MVP FAQ.

One of the readers here was very upset that a MVP could ever be considered a Blizzard expert or ever be credible:
And btw, calling a MVP (which is not paid by Blizzard) a Blizzard expert isn't doing good for your credibility. You're starting to employ the same tactics as those that you pretend to uncover.
According to Blizzard, though, they have officially stated that:
"MVPs.. answer other players' questions consistently and accurately. It lends a note of credibility to what they post; it allows players seeking answers to take what they say at face value, and frees up Blizzard representatives so that they can focus on their primary responsibilities."

"MVPs promote constructive posting wherever they can. They contribute to the community and encourage polite discussion throughout the forums. When you see an MVP post, listen to what they have to say—they were also chosen for their knowledge of the game."
And the MVP that was quoted in regards to the Fraud position was the #1 MVP of them all. That's pretty credible, wouldn't you say? :)

A Rumor Indeed..

Posted by Daeity On Monday, November 14, 2011

So you all know the story: Joystiq received a rumor last week that John Staats was terminated, but they never released any source details so I followed up to find out how they could have possibly known this. One explanation was that their recently updated FB statuses showed past employment with Blizzard. A couple of them have corrected their mistakes, but others have still left their FB profiles as ex-Blizzard employees.

Blizzard denied multiple layoffs, and most news media blogs/sites re-posted it as "NO LAYOFFS CONFIRMED". Joystiq denied any layoffs, and started throwing people under the bus.

Very well-known and public Blizzard employees and "professional journalists" found it hilarious that a profile site could ever be used for reliable information. You know, even though John Staat's recent unemployment was confirmed through Facebook.

I also discovered, much to my disappointment, that many blogs and "professional journalists" never actually read the blog entry and they misreported it on purpose to try drive up visitors I assume. There's a metric ton of misinformation out there.. if you want to know the truth, just read it from the source.

So, my last comment was:

So, this brings us all back to the original speculation. We may learn more in the coming weeks or months.
Well, it just happened. Paul Richards (who was on the Titan team for about 1 year) has just confirmed a recent termination as well.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2011

LOOKING FOR WORK

The short story : A month ago I quit Blizzard after one year of service. This wasn't exactly my plan, but my hand was more or less forced. That's as far as I can discuss it publicly. I've a few promising leads -- have been interviewing here and there -- but want to see what posting this does. Call it an experiment.

If anyone's got a suggestion/contact, I'm currently seeking a full-time position doing concept art*, and would love to hear from you personally at the following address :

djunderfoot(AT)gmail(DOT)com

*portfolio
http://www.autodestruct.com/
Paul Richards (Titan Concept Artist) as you know was one of the speculated terminations in my earlier post. He had also updated his FB status entry showing past employment with Blizzard.

There are still many more to go.. and I'll update if I receive any other confirmations.

So basically, it appears that the initial reports of "NO MASS LAYOFFS" or "NO MASSIVE LAYOFFS" were defined as Blizzard as more than 1000 people. Which is incorrect and THAT rumor is false. However, when I defined "MASS LAYOFFS" meaning multiple, then YES that rumor appears to be true. Apparently, there are a lot of people who owe me an apology. :)

(Like everything on the internet though, this source might not be accurate or correct. But, like I said earlier, I'm reporting on something with real sources, a real person making the claim, and reasons to support the information. If it turns out to be one giant troll, which is unlikely since Blizzard would be purposefully deceiving the public, I'll update with new information. Simple as that.)

* UPDATE:

More confirmed names that can be added to the list of recent terminations:

(John Staats)
(Paul Richards)
Trent Kaniuga (Feb 2012 - Sr. Concept Artist, left his status as still "Working At Blizzard" too)
David Lesperance (Nov 2011 - Sr. Environment Artist Titan)
Stephen Lim (Aug 2011 - Sr. Producer Titan)
Constance Wang (Aug 2011 - PA on Titan)
Morgan Fainberg (Oct 2011 - Systems Engineer)
David Pacanowsky (Aug 2011 - QA Game Tester D3)
Jodi Armstrong (Aug 2011 - HR)
Annika LaVallee (Sep 2011 - QA Analyst)
Daniel Favela (Sep 2011 - Software)
Nick Downs (Sep 2011 - IT Admin)
Jordan Schwob (Oct 2011 - Accounts/CS)
Colt McAnlis (Jul 2011 - Titan)

There's also atleast 20 CSRs, but they worked out of call centers outside of the US so I didn't include them. These are just the ones that happened to have LinkedIn accounts with confirmed terminations, which is a very small percentage of Blizzard employees. I haven't even looked at potential layoffs with Activision either.

* UPDATE (01/18/12):

Another name confirmed! And this was one from original suspicion list.

Matt Milizia has finally made a comment on his Facebook account confirming his last day with Blizzard. This was one of the names I suspected along with Paul Richards (who was also later confirmed.)
Today was my last day at Blizzard Entertainment. It was very much time for me to move on. It was a pleasure working with such a talented team, but just wasn't a work cultural fit. I wish you guys the best.
January 13 at 3:15pm

* UPDATE (01/20/12):

Senior Game Producer Steven Parker just announced that he has left Blizzard Entertainment as well (December 2006 – January 2012).

3 days before his announcement, a couple coworkers left him some new recommendations on his LinkedIn page too.

What a coincidence. More than one termination right before their next Quarterly Shareholders meeting (February 9, 2012). :)

Update: Team Titan Timeline

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, November 10, 2011

As we all know, Drysc (aka Bashiok) first "officially" referenced Blizzard's Next Gen MMO on December 2007 (while recruiting had put out job postings during the previous April.)

"No, it is an unannounced next-gen MMO," said the rep. "And that doesn't mean an expansion for World of Warcraft either."
Sam "Slouken" Lantinga was hired as a technical lead "on a small unannounced project that was getting underway" in January 2009.

He never mentioned "next gen MMO" or "Titan" of course, but the next mystery "Untitled Project" was rumored to have started in 2009 as well.

During March 2009, Sam mentioned on his blog that he started hiring for the most urgent engineering positions.

On March 9, 2009, Sam posted on the SDL Mailing List that he was the Engineering Lead on a new Unannounced Project, and that they were looking for developers.
Hey guys, I'm engineering lead on a brand new unannounced project and we just opened two positions:
http://www.blizzard.com/us/jobopp/programmer-client-software-engineer.html
http://www.blizzard.com/us/jobopp/programmer-software-engineer-gameplay.html

We're using the WoW engine at the moment, and it doesn't use SDL, but if you have experience in the industry and are interested, I'd love to see your resume.

Please follow the instructions on the job postings if you want to apply.

See ya!
-Sam Lantinga, Lead Software Engineer, Blizzard Entertainment
This indicates that the project he was working on was the other mystery project.

However, on March 6 2009, the Client Software Engineer job position was for for "an unannounced next-generation MMO." It changed to "unannounced title" by or before March 21.

On March 10 2009, the Software Engineer Gameplay also changed to "an unannounced title" even though it showed "Next Gen MMO" for a couple days after March 6. :)

The mystery "Unannounced Title" game was not discovered by news media on the job boards until March 22 2009 when it no longer referred to the "Next Gen MMO."

And finally, Sam Lantinga's resume (previously sourced here) claimed that he started work on this project in January of 2008 (and the blog said that work didn't pick up pace until 2009). January 2008 was the right time for Titan, and the Untitled Project didn't start until 2009.

So, was it another iteration of Titan (like I've mentioned in the past) or the actual "mystery" Untitled Project?

Thankfully, we've received an official confirmation from Michael Sacco!
Like this post http://daeity.blogspot.com/2011/10/team-titan-timeline-and-tribulations.html that extrapolates Sam's work on a "small project" to be Titan. He was not working on Titan. It's false.
Sacco is a Writer and Editor for Joystiq.com, a former Blizzard employee, and someone who has internal sources and connections within Blizzard. So, this is definitely a very reliable source of information on Blizzard's secret projects.

He has confirmed for us that Sam "Slouken" Lantinga was working on the other mystery "Untitled Project", so we now know that Sam's blog is confirmed, the information is true (no longer a rumor), we know it's timeline, how far along it is, problems they have been experiencing, that they used the WOW engine as the prototype, and we know a great deal more information thanks to our new Blizzard source. :)

Sacco has also confirmed that Sam's resume (which he updated after leaving Blizzard) is incorrect. Even though it said he started on the Mystery Project in January 2008 (which indicates Titan), it was in fact January 2009 (according to Sacco) which would change the project from Titan to the other "Mystery 5th Project". So, Sacco is essentially confirming that his work must be on the upcoming World of Warcraft online card game. Apparently, it has been in development for a lot longer than I expected.

(Can't wait to find out what more he is going to share with us about Blizzard's secret projects. Thanks Mikey!)

Who would have thought that Joystiq would create a rumor mongering post about Blizzard layoffs, then try to scapegoat the entire affair onto a much smaller blog, only to turn around later and give them a wealth information on Blizzard's mystery game by confirming a rumor. Must be karma.

Facebook Leaks Are Unreliable

Posted by Daeity On

Resumes, blogs, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been proven to be a great source of information on (confirmed) leaks.. but apparently Facebook is not a reliable source of information.

I've never used Facebook before for sleuthing, but apparently that's the opinion of many. Blizzard employees (Zarhym, Bashiok, and Rob Pardo) and many many others found it laughable and ridiculous that Facebook could ever be used as a reliable source of information.

"pretty sad how if someone makes a facebook post to their friends how it can turn into rampant internet rumors about mass lay-offs lol"
Is it really that far fetched though?

I would assume that Facebook would be just as reliable as any resume, profile site, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Wikipedia entry. What's different about Facebook though, is that it's an open forum with your friends and family, you feel more comfortable, and you're more likely to be honest with your feelings and thoughts. After all, how many people have been fired for saying something on their FB profile that they shouldn't have? How many people, upon being fired or breaking up with their S.O., login immediately to their Facebook profile to update their status?

Look at Cameron Dayton's Twitter and LinkedIn slips about Titan for example. Two mistakes on two separate profile sites. TOD even warned Blizzard and other developers about FB profiles specifically. Where do you think many of his (fully confirmed, mind you) leaks and discoveries came from over the past year? :)
"On a related note, if you're in the game development field: get rid of your entire global internet footprint. You shouldn't have a Twitter account, a blog, a YouTube account, participate in any forums, play online games with people you don't know, share art or pictures, take pictures within your workplace and post them online, have a Facebook account, share details with OPEN Facebook accounts, or even have a Google account w/out making sure your Docs and Buzz are completely disabled. I don't even know where to get started.. I know way too much now."
Facebook profiles with high resolution pictures taken at work.. showing LCD monitors and whiteboards in the background.. with concept art, gaming design flow charts, and in-game images. Yeah.. Facebook photos alone can't be used as a reliable source of intel.

I don't know if any lay offs have happened, or how many, all I know is that Blizzard said that the "majority" of names listed on the blog entry were still employed with Blizzard. (Tweeted when about half the names were listed by the way.)
Zarhym: The vast majority named in that article are at work today. FB profiles can't be used to confirm anything, especially a mass trend
There are 3 ways an organization can respond to questions: Confirm, deny, or no comment. Blizzard's official policy is "no comment", but they didn't in this case which is highly unusual. And, there was no denial of multiple lay offs at Blizzard. They only said that the wild speculation and rumors were untrue (e.g. rumors of 1000 people being laid off are untrue). Tom Chilton recently did the same.. the wild speculation and rumors about Mists of Pandaria were also untrue. :) And, has anyone forgotten that Blizzard lost 10% of their subscribers.. but yet are still employing the same quantity of support staff?

So how about Facebook though.. is it a good place for leaks or reliable information?

Well, let's check. Hmm.. Assassin's Creed Revelations was recently leaked on Facebook. Dishonored gaming details were leaked on FB (Magazine cover scan) too. Killzone 3 gaming videos.. MW3 gaming details.. DNF concept art and screenshots.. hundreds of car concepts leaked, new technology or gadget concept art and hardware specs, iPad apps, concept drawings on new gaming systems, studio clips of songs and upcoming albums leaked, Facebook leaking its own code, leaked names of violent offenders, accused underage murderers, pictures of murder scenes, murder investigations, communications between violent groups or individuals, celebrity personal details leaked.. holy crap, there are a lot of legitimate leaks and investigations into Facebook.

Even the Israeli military called off a raid in Palestinian territory after a soldier posted details on Facebook about the time and place of their raid.

Al Jazeera reporters use it, investigations by CNN, Reuters, Washington Post, etc. Even NPR finds it an "invaluable" source of information.
“There hasn’t been any query that we haven’t gotten good sources for,” Peralta said. From finding high school dropouts to people who have recently been laid off from their jobs, Peralta said the organization regularly posts inquiries for sources as status updates on its page and receives hundreds of valuable responses.
It doesn't end there. Even Governments and authorities use it as a reliable source of information.
"Government authorities rely on Facebook to investigate crimes and obtain evidence to help establish a crime, provide location information, establish motives, prove and disprove alibis, and reveal communications."
It all depends on the data, who wrote the data, and what they wrote or did.

I think Facebook it's about as reliable as any other site out there. Some is real, some is exaggerated, and some is fake. And there are also accidents:

* Gino Whitehall has now updated his Facebook profile to show "Concept Artist at Blizzard Entertainment" now instead of the "previously worked at" status.
* Trent Kaniuga has also completely updated his FB profile to make it more accurate. It now shows the correct "Sr. Concept Artist at Blizzard Entertainment" as well as other updates.
* Jay Wilson left a comment on Trent's page: "I actually got asked if you were still working at Blizzard by PR at dinner last night, Trent. I reassured them you were, of course. Just remember, no such thing as bad press. :)"
* Paul Richards is involved in the conversations, and very well aware of the rumors. But, he has left his employment as the previously "Worked At" Blizzard. :)
* John Staats hasn't changed his status either.

But, wait one second. If they're updating their FB profile to be accurate, doesn't that mean they're serious about having correct FB information in the first place? I thought FB wasn't supposed to be reliable and it's all incorrect information? Perhaps this means that FB profiles are indeed reliable sources of information for certain Blizzard employees after all? Jay Wilson said he was talking to PR at dinner last night.. was he lying, or did Facebook just become a reliable source of information? :)

Also, look at the flip side of the coin. Consider what information was picked apart and shown, versus what was left out. I only talked about 8 potential names, for example, and mentioned a dozen others that I couldn't get any confirmation on their last working date (some were confirmed to be unemployed, but I couldn't confirm when their last day was.) What I didn't write about, though, were the hundreds of other names that were still showing employed and yet still accurate. If you have a report with 1000 names on it, but 2% of the information is incorrect, could that report still be considered as a reliable source (with a caveat)?

tl;dr; If Blizzard is saying FB profiles are inaccurate, then the opposite must also be true. The thousands of FB profiles showing "still employed" must not be correct or reliable. :)

I think I'll use Facebook again for certain investigations though. I realized some interesting stuff about it, discovered some new things, and it's an untapped resource for me. I've mostly focused on other sources of information.

* UPDATE:

Just an interesting update here.

Trent Kaniuga was indeed laid off and part of the same group as other layoffs. His last day at work was in February. However, he changed his status to "Working At Blizzard Entertainment" and left it that way even when he was no longer actually employed by Blizzard.

Blizzard Q3 2011 Results and 2012 Expectations

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Q3 2011 Conference

A copy of the transcript can be found here.

Mike Morhaime stated that WoW "finished the quarter with 10.3 million active subscribers worldwide", so that would be subscribers as of September 30, 2011 as opposed to right now. This also confirms that this older post now holds true: even after the Cataclysm launch in China during this quarter, the 4.2 content launch, and the simultaneous WoW Starter Edition launch, they still lost a considerable number of subscribers (11.4M to 11.1M to 10.3M). Remember too that these are "Active Subscribers" which represent a significantly larger of real players (vanity figures are common in the industry).

Mike Morhaime also said,

While the majority of these declines are coming from the East, World of Warcraft continues to be one of the most popular online games in China and remains by far the most popular subscription-based MMO in the world.

I guess, I can say this, the majority of the declines were in the East. China still represents more than half of our global player base and historically, December has been a very good month for subscriber trends.
Note that the majority of the decline was from China, but China also makes up the majority of subscribers. So, it makes sense that if subscribers dropped worldwide, that the majority on average was from China. :)

"Active Subscribers" in China are even more skewed in terms of real players, and if there are declines in China, it is much more representative of a larger player decline than in NA or EU. (China subscriber counts include IGR players and active prepaid cards.)

It's also of interesting note that this blog has claimed many times that Chinese WoW players make up 50% (or higher) of total WoW subscribership. It was based on research, speculation and predictive analysis of past announcements.. however it was met with great hostility and disbelief. There were many "here's your tin foil hat" comments in response to the claim that Chinese gamers made up 50% of subscribers. Finally, though, there's now something official on the subject from Blizzard. And consider this, if Chinese players make up more than 50% of total players, then you can use Chinese figures to determine real players as opposed to subscribers. NetEase, for example, has actually released real player figures.. which is something that has never done in NA or EU. :) This Blizzard comment has actually confirmed what TOD (and myself) have been writing about for a long time in regards to "Subscribers".

Q3 2011 - Live Stream Viewers

So, if you remember this post, I was expecting Mike Morhaime to talk about virtual ticket paid viewers (e.g. "make note of Mike Morhaime's special wording of Virtual Ticket Live Stream viewer counts.")

My prediction was based on all past trends:

1. Blizzcon 2009: Mike said "more than 50,000" live via Pay Per View.
2. Q3 2009 Report: Mike said "tens of thousands on Pay Per View."
3. Blizzcon 2010: Mike said "more than 100,000" paid DirecTV customers.
4. Q3 2010 Report: Mike said "95,000 paid viewers following along via DirecTV."
5. Blizzcon 2011: Mike said "more than 60,000" DirecTV viewers.
6. Q3 2011 Report: SUDDEN CHANGE!

I was really hoping this would happen. The one thing you'll learn about Mike is that he's very consistent and detail oriented. He now says, "more than 1 million online viewers." It looks like Mike might be a reader here after all. :)

Q3 2011 - RMAH and Q&A

I also mentioned last week about the whole PayPal/Battle.net integration. According to Mike, they'll be testing the real money systems very soon.
We've also been testing the gold auction house functionality through the Beta and are gearing up to test the real money systems very soon.
This will just be for beta members.. and it will probably be for the Battle.net credit system only. Blizzard will give beta members a certain amount of credits, for example, to practice using in the in-game RMAH. For the PayPal aspect (e.g. real money), that part will probably be done by employees working in conjunction with PayPal. As for integration and instructions for all other gamers, that announcement should go out one or two months before retail/digital.

During the Q&A portion of the call, Mike sure was put on the spot. Almost all of the Q&A questions were Blizzard related, which was unusual. Apparently, there's some concern about how well MoP was received. On a related note, check out the Mists of Pandaria Preview Trailer, and compare Likes/Dislikes to WOTLK and Cata. I've never seen anything like that before.

2012 Expectations

This isn't related to the Q3 call, and it was something that I have already been preparing so I figured it would fit nicely into this post.

I was digging around through old job posts looking for anything Titan related. One thing I found interesting, though, is that all references to those old Fraud Specialist and Fraud Manager positions have been completely wiped off the face of the internet. :)

It's was written about back in this post, and TOD had also backed it up with some Google results (1 2 3 4). They're all completely gone now and it's pretty interesting. Apparently the jobs were publicly available for a week or two, and then after it was posted it, it was suddenly removed from all websites (e.g. Blizzard and recruiting agencies/outsourcers) all at once. They were pulled even a month before the deadline. :)

(By the way, if you ever find references to those positions in old archival websites, let me know.)

Anyways, Blizzard is hiring for Summer 2012 internships. A whole ton of them. I think they'll probably receive more serious instructions, though, on keeping confidential information off of their resumes moving forwards. Interns are a pretty good resource for new discoveries. :)

This intern position in particular interested me:
"The strategic initiatives team focuses on broad initiatives that address company-wide or development-specific opportunities and challenges. Our projects range from strategic planning to organizational and / or operations initiatives to purely quantitative analyses. Our roles are as varied as our projects. We may support, research, consult on, or drive projects. Some past and present efforts include: business analysis and visioning for the D3 Auction House; the development leadership councils; the side projects program; quantitative and qualitative analysis of cross-company survey data; franchise development; assistance with BlizzNet (Blizzard Entertainment's internal intranet); email Mike and ask the execs; Blizzard Entertainment academy; and other initiatives aimed at helping fulfill the top development, business and organizational goals of the company."
It's interesting in that one of their first duties will be "business analysis and visioning for the D3 Auction House." They'll be hired during a time when D3 will be well underway, but they're still interested in future vision and expansion of the D3 Auction House. Blizzard is looking for fresh perspectives, new D3 RMAH features or services, and probably ways to leverage the D3 RMAH and apply to Titan (assuming the new business venture is successful).

Overhyping Titan?

I have also come to the conclusion that I might be overthinking Titan too much, and setting my expectations too high.

Paul Sams once noted, "We're confident in Titan. It's an awesome one." and "We're playing it already. It's a total ball to play." He was describing a prototype of course, which would still be backed with concept art and a strong vision.. but his wording of the game makes it seem like there's more action involved than the typical "turn based" combat experienced in WoW.

It's also what Blizzard has NOT been saying about the game that convinces me that Titan is being overhyped. They're not saying, "it takes gaming into a whole new direction" or "it's innovative, it's different and awesome". Every description of the game is the same as how they once described World of Warcraft.

Cameron Dayton's description of the game even portrayed a fixed history, philosophy, heroes, villains, and a main story line. This isn't a customizable or immense world shaping game, it's a standard MMORPG with combat (heroes/villains), new characters, and a new story to tell.

I don't think Titan will be taking gaming into any new direction. The "Next Gen" term is just referring to the graphics engine and really nothing else (except for maybe in-game revenue generators). There's also Titan transmedia at work.. since there are new colorful characters in this game, there will be novels, comic books, t-shirts, toys, mousepads, posters, etc.

And also interestingly, the development team has been focusing more on player and NPC design than "monsters" or "creatures".

I'm expecting that it will be a standard MMORPG/FPS like WOW, but targeting additional demographics. I'm inclined to support Daeity's earlier posts; modern setting, low scifi, low fantasy, a multiverse of environments, a large world full of users and NPCs (one server per region, everything can live in different countries, times, or locations in-game), and the storyline could be anywhere from modern wartorn countries, to parallel dimensions, to time travel, or maybe just a messed up Doctor Who story with multiple times existing at once.

In a massive world, with a large number of players and their own market place, it makes for a great opportunity to exploit D3's RMAH. D3 will make the decision, though, whether it will be implemented in Titan or not.

Future Predictions

And, for those watching trademark registrations,
  • In 2012, about 3-4 months before Blizzcon you will see a registration for a strange name. It won't be Titan, but rather the D3 expansion pack. (Of course the name might be obvious, like "Heaven's Sin" or something.)
  • During Blizzcon 2012, they'll announce the D3 expansion pack, there will be demos, a video, and 1 new class. New PVP features, and a new profession probably developed by the S.I.T. to further exploit RMAH usage and growth.
  • Diablo 3 will also have new friend invite systems and "Scrolls of Resurrection", but they'll probably not be announced during Blizzcon.
  • In 2013, D3 X1 will be released and WOW X5 will be announced (once again, trademarked shortly before Blizzcon.)
  • In 2014, X5 released and assuming no more delays, the real Titan game name will be registered and demonstrated at Blizzcon. This is when everyone rushes to get domain names.
  • The Titan trailer will be a mind blowing graphical festival of the eyes with a deep commanding voice narrating. Pants will be crapped, fans will spontaneously combust, and burly men will swoon. But it will just be another MMO with really cool graphics.
  • After WoW X5, I think the development and delivery trend is going to change. They'll be very few and far between, and Blizzard will probably push their Digital Download platform, make the expansion packs smaller, and pretty much just turn them into DLC packs (instead of full blown expansion experiences).
  • And, SC2: HOTS/LOTV fit somewhere up there too, but I think they're going to be delayed.
Blizzard reads all of this of course, and I'm the only site doing it. :)

* UPDATE: With Blizzcon 2012 being cancelled, I'll still keep the same timeline just without Blizzcon.