Why Things Have Been Quiet

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tomorrow (04/01), I had something really fun planned from a couple weeks ago that I hinted at to you all. Unfortunately, it appears that the time for fun and games has ended.

On Friday of last week (03/23), I was alerted to a series of significant internet fraud related crimes that were perpetrated in an attempt to shutdown this blog.

Upon learning of the activities, I immediately contacted the appropriate authorities. Based on the evidence provided, the illegal acts were carried out with forethought and willful acts of malice that involved at least one individual. This week, I'm confident I know who the person is and I have been working with various third parties in an ongoing investigation.

Even after requests to cease the activity, the individual (possibly others as evidence points to at least two other persons involved) perpetrated yet another series of criminal attacks this past week. Given the sheer coincidence of the attacks (the dates), the intention of the attacks, and other strange things going on (like odd comments, hoaxes, and users trying to push me or provoke me into doing things), it appears that this has been planned for a very long time and there is some kind of elaborate and more sinister plan still at play that I don't want to be any part of.

This has become a very serious situation, and there have been direct threats made against me. Given the obvious mental instability of this aggressor, the crimes committed, and I've been told that they have access to private and confidential information, there are also concerns (as well as hints already) of violence and other plans of future malice.

For now, upkeep and maintenance of the blog will probably suffer as I need to re-prioritize.

I'm not sure when I'll be back due to these threats, but I'll leave the blog as is for now. I won't be checking/approving comments here, unless they are pertinent to the case, so please refrain from speculation.

I will still try to make some updates if I can. But they might just be for really important discoveries. Due to the automated nature of Blogspot and the constant (and variety of) attacks, if for some reason the blog is temporarily or permanently suspended, it will not be due to any legitimate reasons; it will be purely due to outside events.

Paid Industry Trolls

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An interesting read on the "confessions" from a former EA Viral Marketer. I caught this yesterday on Reddit too, and just decided at the last minute to write about it.

This is a known job (mostly outsourced and Work At Home) by many in the gaming industry, but most people don't talk about it. There are a lot of job titles and duties that the industry really doesn't like to discuss. :)

It really doesn't matter if this person is a phony or not as what they say about the job is true. I'd really like someone to come along, though, that can provide real evidence of their job and duties and even provide several real world examples of things they've done.

All Andromeda posted, unfortunately, were public Quarterly Shareholders documents that everyone has access to. And they spent very little talking about their job, and more time attacking the company and it's games. It would have been far more convincing if they had provided real documentation from their job (since there would have been a lot of it, and none of which could have been traced back to them.)

That's why I appreciate some of the recent comments made by Brian Fargo, for example, about the real inner-problems that happen between Developers and Publishers that no one knows about. Now, we finally have a recognizable and trusted name providing proof that what many suspected really does happen.

Andromeda's job is basically conducting creative viral marketing on sites and forums (including /v/), praising their employer, and derailing threads or putting down competitors to deflect and control perception about a game.

You never really know who these people are. They spend years creating online identities, and they have multiple identities on several major and minors forums or blogs. A forum poster on MMO-Champion, for example, might have a dozen identities each with hundreds of posts (or one primary account with thousands and a "good reputation"). They're paid to do this 8+ hours per day, so you can only imagine how much time they spend on sites, forums and blogs building up trust and familiarity over several months or years.

It's a pretty easy job too. And there are different kinds of "marketing" responsibilities.

Some of these professional sockpuppets or shills will primarily engage in praising or controlling the perception of a company or it's game. Others, though, might have the task of attacking competitors, talk trash about their games or generate bad press, try to organize mass "uprisings" against certain companies, constantly attack the reputation of someone who is critical of their employer (any attempt to discredit them, including lies), create bad reviews of competing games (mostly targeting crowds to do it for them), or they engage in unethical practices to deplete the marketing and customer support budgets of competitors.

The key though is manipulating crowd psychology. They want as many people on their side as possible to do the most damage, so they're usually highly social (online) individuals within forums and they use sites like Twitter. They also have multiple accounts, so they're hard to distinguish since each account might have different followers. And, the more followers the better. What's also nice is that they can buy the obedience of many followers by handing out free stuff given to them by their employer. :)

It's really hard to spot these shills though. They engage is casual chatter, talk about their day or their family, movies they watch, etc. And, they're hard to distinguish from simple fanboys. Maybe they even act as fanboys as part of their cover. There probably is a detectable pattern, and a way to find these people, but one would need some real and proven examples of posts from their various identities. I'm sure that some of the more talented viral marketing trolls could probably spot each other though.

Just Like WoW

Posted by Daeity On Monday, March 26, 2012

Gamespy had an article where Blizzard's Next Gen MMO was mentioned again. (Anything we can scrape together, right?)

In it, they discuss WoW's basic formula and if there were any major changes planned for Mists of Pandaria. An interesting connection between Titan and World of Warcraft is implied.

"We have some awesome ideas, and we're developing a next-generation MMO here at Blizzard, so we're experimenting with a lot of different ideas there," said lead quest designer Dave Kosak. "I can't say any more about that, but I'll tell you that we're not going to significantly change up WoW at any point in the future. I think there's an expectation when you play WoW. Honestly, I think our combat game is really fun. When you get a quest to kill ten things, that lets you be your class, and you know exactly what to do, which means that you can concentrate on the story, concentrate on the atmosphere, concentrate on chatting with your friends. You can really be in the world."
A while back I had believed that Titan would be very similar to WoW, but much more improved, dumbed down for larger audiences, better NPC AI, and more action packed. I think this is the first team they ever said something like this (ie, "using WOW" rather than "it won't compete with WOW.) Basically, they take WOW and now they're experimenting with different ideas and ways to do things to create a new game.

Most of the original Titan team came from scifi driven backgrounds, including Halo and the old Starcraft Ghost team. But, now they're trickling in WOW developers to continue work on the project.

I'm reminded of Blizzard's "Decision Gun".. maybe it was used for Titan too? :)

Now, it's been a while since I talked about the subject, but if I recall, the WOW Engine was used as alpha testing for Titan.. or possibly Warcraft 4, I can't remember (heck, maybe both.)

There have been some fun rumors that the Next Gen MMO will be a giant new DOTA type game. I'm not sure if I agree with that.. I think there will be facets of shorter action games (like MMOFPS matches) within it, but I am most certain that eSports are planned for Titan (which is also the reason why I think it will be more action packed.) Blizzard has been updating all of their eSports Job Postings too.. they used to all be "Starcraft 2" specific but now they just mention eSports initiatives for Blizzard titles in general. :)

Meaning that eSports is planned for their other future games.

Diablo 3 is one potential too, but not for a long time. Some employees are "all for" a PVP Arena (with RM wages), but the game will be primarily PVE to start out. If there's a lot of PVP integration by the time Diablo 3 X1 comes out, things will look more and more likely for larger PVP battles and arenas. I can see a larger push for competitive PVP especially if JW is moved to head up another project, as unfortunate as that would be.

This is news! Dawnguard Trademark filed!

Posted by Daeity On Friday, March 23, 2012

This just in! Zenimax filed for a trademark called "DAWNGUARD" and it appears to be an expansion/DLC for Skyrim.

Shacknews: "Dawnguard trademark filed by Zenimax"

Kotaku: "‘Dawnguard’ Trademark Filed, May Point to Skyrim Expansion"

VG247: "Bethesda files Dawnguard trademark, could be for anything"

Nowgamer: "Skyrim DLC: 'Dawnguard' Bethesda Trademark Hints At Elder Scrolls Content"

.. etc. etc. etc.

It's making the rounds on the internet now. This is just like "In-Game Ads Planned for Titan" happening all over again. /sigh

(In case you didn't know, I already broke the Dawnguard news a month ago. And the Titan In-Game ads I revealed 2 months before it made the news.)

WOW Annual Pass Surprises

Posted by Daeity On

This isn't exactly a late post, I just wasn't planning on writing about it. :)

It's an issue that has already been talked about to death on many forums, and I prefer the kind of stuff that no one else is talking about. However, a lot of you have asked for my opinion on the matter so I'll oblige.

Basically, many WOW Annual Pass subscribers are upset to learn that they no longer have immediate access to the MoP Beta, and entry into the Beta is actually based on a previously unannounced Blizzard-internal surprise invitation ruleset.

Over the course of the test, we’ll be inviting Annual Pass holders, press, fansites, friends and family, and opt-in beta testers to participate.
In their official announcement, Blizzard makes note that "To find out more about getting into the beta test, including info on how we’re inviting Annual Pass holders, please read the Mists of Pandaria Beta Opt-in announcement and FAQ." Well, at least they created a FAQ on HOW they're inviting the Annual Pass members giving everyone an idea of when they'll be invited!

Unfortunately, here's all they wrote on the subject within the FAQ:
We’re inviting Annual Pass holders in waves over the course of the beta test, and will be ramping up the number of invites we send as quickly as possible. We’ll be inviting Annual Pass holders based on several factors, including how long your World of Warcraft account has been active and when you signed up for the Annual Pass.
The detailed information on "how we're inviting Annual Pass holders" was even worse than the official announcement, and it provides no clues as to what's going on.

This was a vast departure from that Blizzard customers were previously led to believe, but more on that later.

Hey, I Didn't Say That!

You might have noticed that I get misquoted a lot, or people just spread general misinformation about the blog. Anyone can be Daeity, it's just a virtual identity floating around the cloud.

Anyone can also make a post on "Forum X" saying "Daeity said Y" and then when "Y" didn't or doesn't happen, that's actually used as proof that Daeity was wrong. Sadly, unknowing (aka ignorant) users even continue to link to "Forum X" as irrefutable proof. :)

This just happened.. again.. on MMO-Champion. It's a really good read, I recommend you check it out from beginning to end especially the speculation on TOD's identity. And they say *I'M* paranoid. :)

Here's the original post that kicked off the funny feeding frenzy:
More than "90% people with Annual Pass" won't get beta till a month before release

I read this on Digital Castration.

How reliable is this guy?

This sucks if true
But here's what actually happened; it was just a comment made by an anonymous user.
Anonymous said...

On Mists of Pandaria beta and Annual Pass:

More than 90% of Annual Pass holders will not be receiving their invites until 3-4 weeks before the expansion is released.
And here was my response:
Daeity said...

@Anonymous

That's brutal. It was a major selling point of MoP. I guess from Blue's perspective; "hey, at least we're fulfilling our end of the contract. You get to play the beta." :)

Do you have a link for that?
The worst part is that no one from MMO-Champion needed to check the source. In fact, they DIDN'T EVEN ASK FOR THE SOURCE but instead asked for MY source.

Can you believe that?

Just read the first 3 pages alone. 3 posts demanded my source, 13 said I was lying but they refuse to check the blog (or have never read the blog), and 11 just refused to read the blog.

Even after they were told it never happened, and that everyone there was being trolled hard, it still continued. They're currently over 300 posts on the same subject. :)

Someone easily trolled them, and everything they're saying just makes the situation look even more foolish for them. The best responses are when they said that I never provided any sources. Oh my. And in a twisted way, this link will be used as "official proof" in the future that Daeity is wrong and never provides sources. :)

"Don't listen to Daeity. Remember that time he said that 90% of the users won't blah blah blah derpity derp. Here's the link. See, he's full of bullshit."

I've talked about this predictable MMO-Champion mentality before, and here it is again. It's very bad and just embarrassing.

If you're looking for something fun to do, here's something; out of the 300+ posts, see if you can count how many people actually asked for a direct link. Be careful though, some of them are misleading. For example, many users didn't ask for the OP's source, they just asked for MY source because they didn't believe ME. :)

If you want to have even more fun, keep posting stuff that "Daeity said", and just make up a bunch of stuff. Watch the feeding frenzy. Put me down for some ridiculous MoP Release Date (make it a Sunday), but make sure not to provide any links.

So, What I Do Really Have To Say?

From what I can tell, most of the written content about the WOW Annual Pass just guarantees "a spot in the beta test". But they've never said that WOW Annual Pass subscribers will get access as soon as it goes live.
Access to the Next WoW Expansion Beta Test – Get a guaranteed spot in the beta test for the next World of Warcraft expansion (at a time to be announced in the future).
I'll keep digging around, but if any of you know of older (October/November 2011) posts detailing the WOW Annual Pass / Beta Access portion that shows "as soon as it goes live", let me know.

Although it might never have been written by Blizzard, it was certainly said. By Mike Morhaime, CEO of Blizzard Entertainment when the WOW Annual Pass was first announced.



You can watch the exact statement above from his prepared speech (I've linked to the 6m36s mark):
"You will also get guaranteed access into the next World of Warcraft expansion beta when it goes live."
So here's how I see it;
  • This was an official announcement from the head of Blizzard guaranteeing Beta Access for all WOW Annual Pass subscribers "when it goes live." Not "while it's live", or "during the beta".. but "guaranteed access.. when it goes live."
  • Media news sites took this information, and it became a major selling point for World of Warcraft enthusiasts. Blizzard did not correct them or mention any fine print.
  • When the written Annual Pass announcement was made, Blizzard provided no real details.. only that they would have guaranteed beta access. No mention that "terms are subject to change" or any kind of fine print to ensure that players weren't mislead by Mike's statement. This just left players with the Blizzcon 2011 announcement which contained the most details.
  • The sudden back-peddle of the Blizzard's Promise™ was very disappointing as you've seen. If it was obvious from the start that Blizzard was going to invite players in waves and that only certain people would get in when it went live, you would not have seen the negative reaction that had just happened.
  • Leaving everyone in the dark is not good business. It leads to frustration and wild speculation. You need to give customers specific information and stay true to your word.
  • For several months, users were led to believe that they would have guaranteed access when it went live. Even though Blizzard claims to monitor all communications, forum comments, and fan feedback to improve the customer experience, they still didn't say anything to correct this gross misunderstanding. They have paid staff with the responsibilities to set user expectations, and they failed greatly in this specific situation.
What's left now are the "types of players" who are invited first, something I'll be very interested in seeing. Right now, initial invitations are to a very limited beta experience (the Pandaren 1-10 leveling zone) with the new content locked down.

According to Blizzard, they have a "secret internal formula" for invitations (which will drive hopeful Beta testers even more crazy) based on how long the WOW Account has been active, when you signed up for the Pass, if you're from the press or a fansite, a Friend or Family member, an opt-in beta tester, and other criteria.

Blizzard hasn't revealed which of these have more seniority over the Annual Pass members. If you're a WOW Annual Pass member, though, don't be surprised if (on average) the Press & Fansites get invited before you. I think the Annual Pass invites will probably be "sprinkled in" with the various other criteria that are higher on the totem (like Press/F&F).

* UPDATE:

Cool. Proof that even MMO-Champion impartial "Moderators" don't confirm anything, don't read, and their actions are personally motivated after all. It was purely a reaction to a name, even though it was completely fake. :)
Callei, Moderator

Closing. The person the OP refers to is not a credible source, ergo, closing to prevent spreading misinformation.
How many times has MMO-Champion kept threads open even though they knew for a fact it was from an actual noncredible source?

A wise moderator would have closed it with, "This thread has derailed."

MoP Press Event Left Me Wanting

Posted by Daeity On Monday, March 19, 2012

Apparently, the video and images leak pretty much covered everything that was going to be released today so there's nothing new to see there.

I had a hard time deciding what to say about the Mists of Pandaria press event. It's been pretty disappointing for me personally because there's so much they haven't said yet. So, I may have to reserve judgement for later (e.g. after the game is released.)

Here were the big ones I had questioned:

  • The 10 player realm limitation. It was removed, but instead of 40-50 per realm, it appears to be just 11 per realm instead. This was a big selling point for me, and I was seriously considering a new subscription until I saw this. With the MoP release so far away, this can still change however. The problem is that the press question wasn't a very good one; they asked if an eleventh character slot would be opened, but they never asked if "more than 11" would be available so there was no definitive answer to this.
  • The "Item Squish" question hasn't been answered yet. They haven't made a final decision about it yet, so for now it's going to be "Mega Damage". They want to wait until the talent system controversy wears off first so that they don't freak out players too much. Just as a reminder, Ghostcrawler said that "there are some very real computational limitations... PCs just can’t quickly perform math on very large numbers" in regards to Mega Damage. Apparently, PCs can handle math on large numbers now..

    I understand that making this change in the game is a huge undertaking, but it will have long term benefits. I think that they probably don't have enough time to do this before launch. It's going to be a "better situation" for them "in like 6.0 or 7.0 if players are demanding the item squish." Player demand, huh? That sounds familar. :)
  • There's also no firm answer on "cross-faction" PVE Scenarios and Pet Battles like what I was expecting. They've only created 5 scenarios so far, and they're still being deliberately ambiguous about any future events. So, this could still go either way. What they have said, though, is that "players can group together" (they never differentiate with Horde/Alliance, always "players"), and that the Scenarios are given to them by Factions (like the Brewmaster Faction) and you help them out doing something. However, both Horde and Alliance can belong to this same faction. It has been confirmed, though, that a PVE Scenario is in fact an instance. So, it's basically a instance teleport and the dungeon is crafted using a "slice of the world". Pet Battles are unclear too. I was expecting "friendly battles" between Horde and Alliance as well. All I know about this is that you can "challenge another player in the world" (once again "players" but not Horde or Alliance.) However, it is cross-server.. so it might be cross-faction like what I was expecting.
  • And finally, we have the story arc. I was expecting "the addition of more cross-faction cooperative stuff, stories/lore/events that are all about fighting for inner-peace, learning about ourselves, and a whole silly enlightenment thing." And, I was expecting the Pandaren to choose sides to teach them (Horde/Alliance) something about themselves and try to bring enlightenment to them and get them to relax. The consensus of the readers here, though, was that it would lead to a great (PVP) war between Horde and Alliance and there wouldn't be any cooperation at all.

    Blizzard has been a little ambiguous and contradictory on this subject, though. For example, here's that they have to say about Mists of Pandaria:
    "Escalating tensions between the Alliance and Horde have broken out into open warfare. The roar of cannons blacken the sky while naval engagements around the globe fill the seas with blood. As the clash of mortal armies spins the world into chaos, a continent -- once shielded by impenetrable mists -- suddenly manifests itself in the southern oceans. There’s no question that this resource-rich new land will be at the center of a global conflict. Will the Mists of Pandaria part to reveal Azeroth’s salvation? Or will this new battlefield become the flashpoint that pushes the Alliance and Horde over the brink into total annihilation?"
    The "escalating tensions" sounds like it's past tense.. so this could be the pre-events to MoP or just the start of the MoP story arc. And then there are two questions; will this bring Azeroth's salvation or annihilation? Will they work together or destroy each other? :)

    If this was all about a new super war, why would they even ask these two opposing questions?

    Chris Metzen said that the final patch of Mists of Pandaria will be the two factions working together and laying siege to Orgrimmar. Around the 8 minute mark, he said that MoP is basically "throttle off" and more about exploration, exploring ourselves, and no super villain. It's a "vacation.. before things ramp up." And he also said that the Pandaren will play a distinct role in regards to the "factional hate" going on. So, it's a little contradictory. Most of you were expecting that all hell breaks lose and the greatest war ever starts once the Horde/Alliance visit the Island of Pandaria. However, the environments still look very tranquil (not destroyed), and Metzen said that all of the hate between Horde/Alliance is instead manifested in a physical form as Sha. Basically, the whole "your enemy is war itself" and you destroy these physical manifestations of your hate towards the opposing faction.
So, I don't think I'll know any answers to most of my questions until well after the game comes out.

The one item I didn't discuss, though, was AOE Looting. From what I've seen on the forums, users have previously stated that Blizzard would never do this and they have constantly said "No, it will never happen." Many users claimed that it was an engine limitation or some such nonsense. Anyways, I can't find any official quotes from Blizzard stating that they would never do this (except for Diablo 3.) So, if you find any older official quotes (especially when most users were asking around the time Rift came out), let me know.

Mists of Pandaria Video Leak

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, March 17, 2012

* UPDATE: Leaked photos here too. There are 22 total images, including the reveal of that teased female Pandaren silouette.

Apparently, while Gamesradar was preparing their new Mists of Pandaria Press Event videos for release this coming Monday, they inadvertently posted them online (either that or they thought no one would notice.)





These videos don't contain a ton of new information, but they do reveal the new dungeons as well as many of the races, and previously unseen areas. This is just some the footage that every fansite out there will all be showing off (identically along with the same zone/dungeon details). More to read, less to watch come March 19. :)

You'll Think I'm Crazy

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, March 15, 2012

You know how for a while now I've been talking about the region free aspects of Diablo 3, even though they were never officially announced?

I used Australia as a primary example; because games cost so much in AU, they could easily purchase Diablo 3 in a cheaper country but still play in their own. It's a global game after all. I was fully expecting Blizzard to put certain restrictions in place to prevent this from happening.. including keeping the whole "region free" feature of the game pretty low key and blocking sales to other countries.

It appears to have just happened.

A Sacrifice To The Money Gods

According to the Press Release, Diablo 3 will be launching worldwide for all available countries except that the game cannot be purchased in Latin America or Russia until 3 weeks after the global launch.

Starting that day, gamers with a thirst for fast-paced action and adventure will be able to purchase Diablo III at retailers throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. In addition, gamers in the regions above as well as in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil will be able to buy Diablo III digitally via Blizzard’s Battle.net® website.

Players in the listed Latin American countries and in Russia will be able to purchase Diablo III at local retail locations starting June 7. Digital availability for the Russian version of the game will also begin June 7.
Seems a little strange, wouldn't you say?

For one, there aren't actually any "Russian servers".. they will be playing on the European regional servers like tons of other players. Many Russian players have already been playing the beta and latency hasn't been a problem. The game is also ready for Russia. It's done and it's region free.

Even the Russian localization is fully completed:
In addition to the English version, Diablo III will be fully localized into Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, European Spanish, Italian, Polish, Russian, Korean, and Traditional Chinese.
And Blizzard has confirmed in their official statement that Russian players can start playing right away with everyone else on May 15, but that they simply need to purchase the European version instead:
You can also purchase the European version, which includes all the languages ​​of Diablo III European region, including Russian. Then you can play from May 15 (but in Russian - from June 7).
The servers, the infrastructure, the accounts, the game, and everything else are fully prepared for release and play in Russia.

So, what critical missing piece could possibly be holding back selling the game in these regions? Absolutely nothing. This is just a very clever business strategy... maybe. Put on your tinfoil hat.

In the Latin American countries, users will not be able to purchase Diablo 3 in retail stores until 3 weeks after the global launch. The Digital Download is available to them, though. In Russia, users cannot purchase from retail stores or even as a Digital Download.

Russian fansites are speculating that Blizzard is "just being greedy" by trying to force Russians to purchase the European version. However, this could just be a side-effect of something else.

These countries consist of minority player counts, so they're not specifically being forced to purchase the more expensive version of Diablo 3 from other countries, but rather the opposite is happening. They're being sacrificed for every OTHER country, so that these other countries can't purchase the much cheaper alternatives in Russia or Latin America.

You see, because D3 is a region free game, a EU player could easily purchase the much cheaper Russian version of the game, but still play in their own country.

Purely coincidental, but Blizzard has various Battle.net Account purchasing restrictions in place for Latin America Digital Downloads already, but there are very minor restrictions in place for Russia being purchased as a Digital Download. :)

This is why in Russia the game is not available in either medium, but in Latin America, players specifically can't purchase from retail stores, but they can still get the Digital Download.

Three weeks also happens to be the highest sales period for new game launches. After 3 weeks, it won't matter as much if players from other regions start buying from the much cheaper Russian and Latin America retail sources. Latin American prices might be pretty normal for US/EU players, but in countries that order from other Latin American countries, there are huge cost savings.

(Note: If you're interested in purchasing more copies of Diablo 3, you might want to keep Russia in mind. Between now and then Blizzard might put in some new EU security restrictions for Russia.. but right now, it's open.)

In earlier posts, I also suspected that they would "suddenly" disable Diablo 3 gifting.
I also suspect that you won't be able to purchase and give the gift to a friend. The Digital version of Cataclysm (and other games) are transferable right now, meaning that they're not locked to a Battle.net account. Diablo 3 will probably be different on launch day.
This was confirmed in the same "low key" posting about Diablo 3 being region free.
Can I pre-order a copy of Diablo III for a friend?

Each pre-ordered copy of Diablo III is automatically attached to the Battle.net account that purchased it. It is not possible to transfer a digital copy of Diablo III from one account to another.
This was another method Blizzard is employing to prevent other countries from purchasing Diablo 3 and simply transferring to another account. Prepare to put on your "shocked face" when they remove this restriction sometime long after the game launches. :)

The Russian fansites got it right that this is for "greed reasons", but maybe it's not for the reasons that they think it was.

I'm still having a hard time believing that they did this.

Release Date? That's Impossible!

Posted by Daeity On

Outside of the obvious excitement surrounding the Diablo 3 Release Date (which has been confirmed as Tuesday May 15, 2012), there's a lot more I have to say about this subject now that it's been finally announced.

Global Simultaneous Release and Region Free Confirmed

It has finally been confirmed that Diablo 3 will have a global launch date and a region free game. This is something that has never been officially announced or confirmed by Blizzard in the past. But, it's something I've been talking about for a long time now as you're well aware; South Korea and the US launching on the same day. I have been often criticized or called a conspiracy theorist for daring to suggest that Diablo 3 will be launching worldwide simultaneously and that it will be a "global game" (ie, region free). Although the Russian retail/download will not be available until 3 weeks after the launch date, but Russian players can still play the game on the same date as everyone else.

Because it's launching on the same date for all countries, their servers and infrastructure need to be prepared for each of the regions ahead of time. It appears that Russia is the one country out (the game release itself is being held back for 3 weeks) which is quite unusual given that equipment (servers) isn't an issue as they are using the European servers and the Russian localization (as well as the game) are completed.

The reason that Russia can still play on the launch date is because this is a global game. When you buy Diablo 3, you buy Diablo 3 and you can play it in any country.. it's their first "region free" game. This has still not been officially announced or confirmed on the front page yet (which shouldn't come as a big surprise), but you can find these new details in the Presale Details.

What region will I play in?

Diablo III is a global game. Players can choose to play on game servers based in the Americas, Europe, or Asia, regardless of what region they are connecting from. Certain restrictions apply. Further details will be posted on the Diablo III Community Site prior to release.

Note: your game-client version does not hinder your ability to select which regional game servers – the Americas, Europe, or Asia – that you play on.
This is very odd though because one country is suddenly not included ("sort of") in the global launch. Russians can still play the game (download or purchase from non-Russian site), but Blizzard is not allowing their Blizzard Store's Digital Download to be available until June 7.. even though it's ready, they can download it today, it's a region free game, and it's already localized into Russian.

Basically, they can still play the game, so it's still a "global launch", but the game is being withheld in the region specifically for an extra 3 weeks.

Hopefully, you understand why the "Region Free" information and benefits are still being withheld so publicly from the customers though. Or, should I say for such a long time.. because eventually it will be revealed on the forums now that the Digital Download is live and more people read the FAQ pages. Between now and when it was first mentioned months ago, there have been a TON of new Battle.net Regional and Payment Restrictions put into place. Even though it's a region free game, Blizzard has made it very difficult for one country (like Australia) to purchase the much cheaper digital version in the US.

Blizzard, You Announced It Wrong!

Today is March 15 2012 and the Release Date is exactly 2 months away on May 15 2012.

It's highly unusual that they're announcing on a Thursday and also during a very unusual time (pre-scheduled for 6AM). Many should be raising their eyebrows over this.. because the release date could (and should) have been announced this past Monday or the previous Monday.

There were also many Battle.net announcement posts taking place on these Mondays in preparation for the announcement, but it appears that they delayed it by an extra few days. Why? There was no point.

Also in this specific case, the time to Release is shorter than their past timetables.. typically I'll say "2 months", but that includes 1 or 2 additional weeks because they have always announced on a Monday. This is interesting because this time they've skipped the Monday, and shifted the release ahead by 1-2 weeks.

At least Bashiok was correct this time when he stated that they typically announce release dates "two months before release."
We probably won't end beta until shortly before release, and traditionally we've tried to announce release dates about two months before release. I couldn't speculate how invites might ramp up or down when the beta finally comes to a close, it definitely is not coming to a close yet though.
Based on the confirmed Blizzard employee leak on the SomethingAwful forums, we now know that Blizzard was fully aware of the Release Date well before the Q4 2011 shareholders call. (This is the Blizzard employee who leaked all of the new Rune & Skill changes before the announcement and then quickly tried to delete his mistake.) Bashiok even confirmed that they changed their announcement date earlier that week (of the shareholders call.)

On Feb 29, 2012 when the Staff Reductions were announced, Mike Morhaime said in the official statement that the Diablo 3 release date would be announced "in the coming weeks." The layoffs have been known internally by senior management since late 2011 (at least), and this mistake seems to indicate that his message was composed probably 3-5 weeks prior. Knowing that the actual Release Date Announcement was on just the second week from this official statement, it should have said "days ahead." Forum posts questioning this mistake were quickly deleted by Blizzard. Based on Blizzard's previous use of "weeks ahead", it should have meant a minimum of 8 or 10 weeks.. remember the Battle.net Balance announcement? :)

It's Ready, So Why Not Earlier?

As you're well aware, I was expecting a release date announcement on Monday February 6 with a release date of Mid-April (given Blizzard's trend of approx. 2 months notice) because it made more business sense. But, instead I trusted Blizzard when they had said an Early 2012 Q1 release (so it absolutely couldn't possibly be Mid-April).
As for the actual release date itself, I have no idea. I don't have enough information to make a reasonable prediction. Let's just say that I will be very surprised if they release the game at the end of March (but it's what I'm hoping and aiming for based purely on Blizzard's Q1 promise.) Usually their games are released at least 1 month before the end of the quarter, so that they have excellent revenue for the quarter to show off to their investors. Mid-April makes better business sense, but I'm giving Blizzard the benefit of the doubt here and I'm going to fully trust them.
They're still releasing it 1 month before the end of the quarter, but Monday February 6 made the most business sense. It was a PERFECT time to announce it. That Blizzard leak and Bashiok's comments have confirmed that the fixed release date was known before this time, and it was definitely going to be released at this time until something changed.

ATVI stock has continued to plummet since the Feb 9 Quarterly Shareholders meeting. So, why would an important announcement be moved from a critical business date to an arbitrary date one month later?

April 17 was also a completely feasible date for release, even right now knowing that the game is completed and ready (the Digital Download is currently ready and built, and was already prepared a long time ago.) Retailers are also apparently receiving shipments of the game. So, why not April 17? Why was the announcement shifted 1 or 2 weeks ahead, and the release date shifted exactly 1 month ahead?

There's something else I need to look into to confirm this, and I'll update this post when I learn more. Very strange events are afoot, and if you didn't believe previously that Blizzard would just shift something to an arbitrary date (that didn't make logical business reasons), you now see a prime example of it happening.

But only if there's a demand for it..

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lately, it seems like there's been a lot of contradiction from Blizzard..

When talking about their release date on February 23, Jay Wilson assured all of their customers that "You’ll know as soon as I know for sure the exact date."

We think you're going to love Diablo III when it's released, and speaking of release plans, you can seriously expect a launch-date announcement from us in the near future. See, I didn’t say “soon,” so I’m not taunting you. ;) You’ll know as soon as I know for sure the exact date.
Only a few weeks later (March 13), he changed it to "well.. I actually know the release date for sure, but I'm not going to tell you now" instead.. oh, by the way.. "I’m not taunting you. ;)"
You'll know as soon as I'm allowed to say. And no, I'm not allowed to say when that is.
It's been made pretty clear over the past couple months that the new Release Date has been known since at least January.

I really don't have any problems with these contradictions though.. I'm just so used to Bashiok that I expect it. It's the anti-transparency, business treachery and concealment of intent that bothers me.

For example, for a very long time Blizzard has been adamant that there will never be a Real Money Auction House available for Hardcore players. They have explained a lot of really good reasons for this decision, such as the unfairness of losing items you paid for with cash being the biggest.
Can Hardcore-mode characters use the currency-based auction house?

No. Hardcore characters will only have the option to buy and sell items together with other Hardcore characters via a separate "Hardcore-only" gold-based auction house; they will not be able to use the currency-based auction house. Hardcore mode is designed as an optional experience for players who enjoy the sense of constant peril that comes with the possibility of permanent death for a character. All of a Hardcore character’s items are forever lost upon that character’s death, so to avoid the risk of a player spending real money on items that could then be permanently lost when the character dies, we decided to prohibit the use of the currency-based auction house in Hardcore mode.
It's also funny to note that by NOT having the HC mode RMAH, it was a little contradictory in itself. They said that the reason for the RMAH was to prevent shady 3rd party sites, so why wouldn't they have made it available in HC mode in the first place? Well, for very good reasons that protect the consumer of course.

This all changed though after the removal of the Listing Fee. Suddenly, their convictions regarding the "difficult decision" made about their non-RMAH HC mode seems to be waning.

Now, a Hardcore RMAH is entirely possible.
If there is a demand for it we'll consider it.
Like I said, though, this kind of contradiction doesn't bother me. What does bother me is that he's saying that the players will make the decision whether it gets implemented or not. This worries me, because they've said this before.

Whenever Blizzard says, "players wanted it", "we didn't want it" or "there's a demand for it", it's actually Blizzard that really wants it. This just makes it a really great way to deflect blame away from themselves and control the positive perception of the company. They're being completely truthful too.. all you need is one or two players out of millions to ask for a feature, and they can honestly and confidently claim that "players wanted it."

It reminds me of commercials where they state that "Doctors Recommend X Toothpaste", when all they needed were two "newly financed" Doctors to simply say, "Yep. Sure." And they didn't even have to be medical Doctors in the first place.

Do you know what else players demanded that Blizzard had nothing to do with?

The Real Money Auction House. Blizzard didn't want that, it's because the players demanded it! im totlly srsly guys.

Oh, and REAL ID. That's right.. players wanted that great feature originally. Players also (for real this time) demanded it's removal, which Blizzard discretely replaced with REAL ID 2.0 when things cooled off.

World of Warcraft Paid Faction Changes too. And being able to create both factions on a single PVP Server. Yep.

The Mists of Pandaria Pokemon Pet Battle System. Diablo 3 Online Only requirement. Mandatory Battle Tags. Also, Diablo 3 Trade Chat.. players really did ask for this, but they gave them an aborted abomination instead so that they could say, "Well, we did give it to them lol."

Even Character Naming Restrictions, then more restrictions, then suddenly the removal of naming restrictions (that benefited Blizzard) were all demanded by the customer apparently.

Sure, some players thought these were great ideas and really did ask for them.. but do you really think that these were what most players wanted? The average player liked the idea of character naming restrictions, a broken chat system, and real name identification? Did everyone forget the uproar when the Cash Auction House was first announced? The RMAH didn't sound like a customer request at all.

"We only did it because players asked for it."

These kind of statements worry me because it means that Blizzard is seriously considering this and it has very little to do with player demand. When Blizzard says "If there's a demand for it", it means that their prepping customers like what they did with the "Item Squish" announcement. And, with the major changes to the items and RMAH due to the removal of the Listing Fee (gambling concerns), I think Blizzard has been seriously considering this in Hardcore mode to further increase revenue. It will be even more profitable in HC mode due to the risk involved in collecting items as well as losing all of your items in death (and thus requiring the purchase of all brand new items.)

Whether it's worth it to Blizzard or not, though, will depend on metrics. What percentage of players prefer Hardcore over Normal mode for example? If it's just a small percentage, it's probably not worth it. But, if there are a large percentage of Hardcore players, then yes; financial gains trump customer woes (which can eventually be soothed anyways.)

tl;dr; fully anticipate Blizzard (and other large gaming companies) to fully exploit the "only if players want it" statement for features that they actually want.

Wasteland 2 Kickstarter is Live

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Just a quick update:

The Wasteland 2 Kickstarter Page is now live!

Looks like the pledges are rapidly increasing (was just announced on Twitter 30 minutes ago) and I can't wait to see what happens here. Most professionals and members of the media believe that the sudden success of Double Fine was a one-trick pony and they claim that no other game could ever receive the same amount of funding. (I don't think Kickstarter will be as successful with newer titles from unknown developers, but definitely nostalgic titles since they're targeting 30-40 somethings with disposable income, and they will be promoted by well-known names in the industry. Won't last forever though, the first group of Kickstarter games will get the most funding, before this mostly unknown service gets completely saturated years from now.)

When I first went to the page a few moments ago, it was sitting at 500 backers with $37,648 pledged of $900k.

I'll update the Wasteland 2 sticky when I get a chance. I want to check out the Kickstarter project first and make a pledge.

Blizzard TMs, OP Classes, and Other Stuff

Posted by Daeity On Friday, March 9, 2012

Blizzard Trademark Activity

Blizzard just filed brand new trademarks for "Legacy of the Void" and "Heart of the Swarm". It appears to just be some re-organization, as they already had 3 trademarks filed for each game previously (ie, there were 3 HOTS trademarks and 3 LOTV trademarks for the game itself, merchandise, and online services.)

They have condensed all of the trademarks into 1 single TM per game now, so the old 6 trademarks will probably be cancelled shortly.

Blizzard also just received notification that their "Mists of Pandaria" trademark will be published in the Official Gazette on 2012-03-27 for others to see and oppose if necessary. This doesn't change anything though and it's a standard process, so don't try to use it to predict a release date or anything. :)

New Deus Ex Game in Development

On the trademark maintenance front, Square Enix has also just filed for a new "DEUS EX" trademark. It looks to be a partial replacement for the original DEUS EX trademark. In any case, they're being renewed for another 10 years which means there is most definitely a new Deus Ex in development right now!

Overpowered Classes in Diablo 3

If you've been following any of the polls out there, you'll probably know already that Barbarians and Wizards will be the top classes most played in Diablo 3.

Many gamers view these two classes as the ones that will be most overpowered.. the Wizard with incredible damage and kiting/escape skills, and the Barbarian being able to take a massive amount of damage. The perception is that both of these classes will be the best ones for soloing bosses.

Before you jump on the bandwagon, there are a couple things you should keep in mind; the beta won't tell you anything about how strong they will be later in the game (classes that start out seemingly the strongest end up being the worst), skills and damage numbers will be nerfed and buffed a lot, and Blizzard really doesn't like class favoritism and imbalance.

If Blizzard notices too many people playing Barbarians or Wizards, they'll find a way to balance everything out and "encourage" players to start playing the other 3 classes instead. And by balance, I mean nerfing the Barb/Wiz and buffing the other 3. In particular, the Witch Doctor (which the least number of people want to play.)

Something to remember when you're selecting a class.

Even though, to me, a Wizard or Barbarian makes the most sense for farming, I think players might be in for a little bit of shock when they hit Hell and Inferno.. maybe even Nightmare. I have a feeling that the Wizard will start out very powerful, but end up having a lot of problems in Nightmare/Hell. The Barb problems might be more noticeable (compared to other classes) in Hell.

The recent changes to the Monk (30% reduction in damage) are giving me the impression that they want the Monk to be slightly more powerful than the Barbarian, and the DH will replace the Wizard in power. And, I have a very strong suspicion that the Witch Doctor will probably be the best class for soloing bosses.. maybe even the most overpowered during initial launch.

This is all just in the beginning though, but the first few months will be very critical. You want to level as quickly as possible so that you can farm the best stuff faster than anyone else.

Most players will be creating Wizards and Barbarians, but you might want to consider a Witch Doctor (even if you don't like the class) if you're just interested in farming. They might start off more slowly than the Wizard, but I suspect that things will improve tremendously as the difficulty increases. :)

Miscellaneous Stuff

  • There should be an update on the new Alpha Centuari game by/before Q3 this year. I'm hoping to learn something more about it within the next 4-8 weeks to confirm or get an idea of when it will be coming out though.
  • Curious what kind of Google Searches the Blizzard headquarters team does? Here are some examples: "Metal Arms 2" Blizzard, South Korea delay, south korea diablo gambling, diablo illegal gambling, diablo gambling laws, mmo gambling law, blizzard leak, blizzard layoffs, blizzard mass layoffs, daeity, daeity blog, digital castration, Blizzard Payscale, Blizzard Pay, new wow hacks. And then there are specific stuff, like looking for the "new X" World of Warcraft hack or exploit.
  • I've been thinking a lot about what I am going to write about when Diablo 3 finally comes out. I've discovered a lot of cool things in the beta that I'm hoping haven't been reported and will still be there in retail. The first couple months of release are going to be an excellent time to make some money and being a poor student, it's something I'm looking forwards to. Plus, it's going to be a lot of fun since I've made more WoW gold using paper and pencil techniques than anyone ever did using Auctioneer. So, I think that there will probably be some strategies that I won't be sharing right away. Some RMAH strategies I will probably discuss, there are some really critical things that haven't been posted publicly anywhere yet and I really want to keep them to myself for now. The problem is that once I post them, Blizzard will immediately fix it or make major changes. I can't think of any other nice way of doing it, outside of privatizing the blog.

New Scroll and the Panda Press Event

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Please Please Please Play Our Game!

So, the biggest news yesterday and today was about the new "Limited Time Offer" Scroll of Resurrection.

I haven't played WOW in a couple years now, so this doesn't affect me. But I can see how this is really going to piss off a lot of current players.

Basically, a player can send a Scroll of Resurrection to a friend. When they accept the scroll, they're given 7 days of free game time. If they have the original WoW, TBC, or WOTLK they are immediately upgraded to the full digital Cataclysm (and all previous expansions) for free.

This is permanent; you get all of the expansion packs including Cataclysm for free.

With the past issues surrounding the various Christmas deals in NA vs EU, I can see this really upsetting a lot of players. This was something that Blizzard has obviously been planning for a long time and during the time when they were offering each expansion pack for a reduced price, they knew that if players were to just wait another couple months they could have gotten it all for free instead. Many players took advantage of the Christmas savings, and will now realize their huge mistake.

It doesn't end there, though.

The recipient also gets a free level 80. They can make use of their free 7 days, create a new level 1 Cataclysm character, and then Claim Rewards from their Battle.net Account. The character is immediately leveled to 80 and they are allowed the option of a free server transfer.

The level 80 also gets the following:

  • Full Level 80 gear (All iLvl 232 Greens).
  • Level 80 bags (4 Frostweave 20-slots).
  • 75 Gold.
  • Reagents, Food, Water (20 Baked Manta Ray, 20 Heavy Frostweave Bandages).
  • 280% flight speed skill (if not yet learned).
  • 280% Fast Mount (e.g. Horde gets Swift Purple Wind Rider Mount.)
  • Flight paths for a level 80 character.
  • 450/450 First Aid, all other Profession slots open.
  • All spells and abilities purchased and learned up to Level 80.
  • All talent builds completed for you in advance, however you have no glyphs.
  • All old items are unequipped and mailed to you.
So, as you can see.. it's worth a TON of gold. Plus, those who spent months leveling to 80 are now going to see the unfairness of others getting free Level 80's from Blizzard.

This is where it's really clever though. They get all of this cool stuff, but they can only play for 7 days. Once the 7 days expire, they already have the full Cataclysm expansion pack and a Level 80 with great gear and all spells.. they might as well just pay the $15 to continue playing.

Basically, players are paying the subscription fee to get a new Level 80 and a ton of gold while also avoiding a lot of work. The sender of the Scroll, as a reward, will receive an uninspired (but cool looking "must have") mount. I wonder what other pets/mounts they'll just "make spectral" and try to sell? They obviously can't put these up on the Blizzard Store, because it's too obvious as being greedy.. but they can come up with a lot of clever marketing strategies, like what they just did now, to offload these re-skinned virtual items for profit.

This just screams desperation (that's the perception which isn't necessarily a good thing from an investment standpoint) and it's quite obvious to their existing customers what's going on. To mitigate the fan rage, now might be a really good time to finally announce something that has been long anticipated to millions of fans.

Upcoming MOP Press Event

I follow Diablo a lot more closely, and I haven't read anything about MOP since last October (and even then, it was very limited), so forgive me if this has already been covered before in other articles.

With the upcoming Press Event though, I figured I would talk briefly about what I'm generally expecting of the game and at the event.

  • During the event they will be discussing, in great detail, the new zones, raids, dungeons, and PVP Battlegrounds. (This doesn't really interest me though.)
  • They'll talk about the number (and new types) of quests being added. They'll show off some vanity figures like total number of new quests or creatures created for MOP.
  • I'm not expecting any big Guild changes or announcements, but I am hoping that they'll fix Archaeology and discuss major changes to it (to make it more fun or "needed".) They should make dungeons (or other forms of instances), quests, and quest chains that make use Archaeology for example.
  • I don't think they'll be cutting anything big out of the game like what they announced during the last Cataclysm Press Event (Path of Titans).
  • They'll talk about the major Talent changes. It's going to have a domino effect on many glyphs, too, so they'll be touching on those.
  • I think the Item Squish is going to happen, so they'll definitely be talking about this. I think everyone already knows what to expect, but I don't think many players believe it's actually going to happen. It needs to happen though (the issue of content consumption).
  • Finally, I don't know if this will be announced during the Press Event or not, but I'm predicting that Blizzard will be removing the 10 player realm limitation. Instead of 50 per account with 10 per realm, it will just be 50 per account. Depending on the outcome of their various marketing schemes over the next year, if subscriptions continue to drop, expect realm merging (possibly disguised as something else.)
And now for the big mysterious one that no one knows anything about: PVE Scenarios.

This is the one I'm most interested in. And, I'm predicting that you'll see a lot of the same ideas from this old post. Basically, cross-faction quests and dungeons (instances) using all old assets.

Content consumption is a really big problem in World of Warcraft, and it's easier on their developers and creative minds to simply recycle and reuse old dungeons, locations, and assets. The problem is encouraging players to reuse these old assets.

I think PVE Scenarios will either be small instances (or phased areas) that have just been copied and pasted from existing locations. Basically, it's a "dungeon" but some of them will be outdoors. These will also be cross-faction quests and parties (in some scenarios Horde and Alliance will work or party together for a common goal) to reduce queue time and so that Blizzard can get factions to finally visit unvisited territory. So, you can expect a lot of the PVE Scenarios to take place in dungeons or zones that the opposite faction typically don't visit (like early level opposite faction areas, Ragefire, Stockades, etc.) PVE Scenario queuing will also highly likely be cross-realm too.

This might also expand into "larger PVE Scenarios" while will actually just be cross-faction dungeons, but with a really good explanation. This gives WOW Devs the excuse to re-use older dungeons, but having an explanation for their lore (why are mortal enemies working together?) There's also "PVE Battlegrounds", where they're working against each other by doing quests, but they don't actually engage in PVP combat.

The other explanation for the factions suddenly working together has do with the "peace of body and mind" bullcrap brought by the spiritual Pandaren. Metzen kept saying that Mists of Pandaria will be all about "chilling out" and "getting along" with everyone after all..

In the end, though, this is just a LFG for both Alliance/Horde. They all get teleported cross-realm to an instanced area, you do something, you're not allowed to leave the area (or you fail the quest if it's phased), and then you get teleported back to your original location when the PVE Scenario is completed. They've learned a lot of lessons about cross-faction trading, so I don't think players will be able to easily exploit this new feature like how they used to be able to in Battlegrounds.

Wasteland 2 Timeline of Events

Posted by Daeity On Monday, March 5, 2012

I'm creating this Wasteland 2 "Status Update" post to keep track of important milestones taking place within the project. My intention is to "sticky" it to the side navigation menu, and continue to update it for some time. When major announcements come along, I might create a new post.. but I will still continue to update this one.

I figured that a timeline of events for everything that has transpired might be interesting to some hardcore fans. Plus, if the Kickstart project and the game itself becomes a success, it might be nice to have a little piece of history about the beginnings of the game that under normal circumstances would be completely forgotten.

Timeline of Events

January 2012
Brian Fargo notes that during this time he had put away all of his Wasteland 2 design notes assuming that it would never happen.

Apparently, much of the basic game design, story, and concepts for Wasteland 2 had already been conceptualized which is why he was able to get a Kickstarter project up so quickly.

February 10
Two days after Double Fine's Kickstarter project was launched, and when it was made evident that it was going to be a huge success, I immediately contacted Brian Fargo to do the same with Wasteland.

Events kicked off from this tweet when I had recommended funding WL2 through Kickstarter.

February 14
Brian Fargo responded to my tweet that he was seriously considering the approach and started an investigation into the possibility.

I immediately updated the blog recommending that readers here add themselves to his Twitter Followers, and to continue encouraging him to develop the game (I noticed a lot of familiar names tweeting him by the way, so thanks for that!). Due to their sheer numbers, I also contacted NMA-Fallout to do the same. He was quickly bombarded with additional tweets, Facebook messages, and emails of encouragement.

February 15
For several months, @brianfargo had been sitting at approximately 128 total followers. By Feb 15, he had reached 187 followers.

Brian spoke to IGN to start promoting the potential Kickstarter project. He mentions that "he and the rest of inXile are currently working on a production schedule to see if its feasible. But he does think that it'd take at least a million dollars, and hopes that the Kickstarter will go live in the next month." He also notes that this preliminary work started due to vocal fans. "The fans started pinging me first."

The new Wasteland game will be authentic and faithful to its roots, meaning a "top-down, probably isometric, party based, skill based -- where if you'd just finished playing Wasteland and moved onto this you'd feel comfortable."

February 17
Kotaku article about Brian's intention to bring back Wasteland, the precursor to Fallout.

Brian announces that Mike Stackpole (one of the original designers) has signed up for the new Wasteland project.

February 17
Kickstarter project should be live within the next 2-3 weeks. They are working through the process and creating a movie.

February 21
Kickstarter and Wasteland 2 Thoughts by Chris Avellone

February 22
Original producer, programmer and designer Alan Pavlish has also been brought on board for the new Wasteland project.

February 24
NMA-Fallout Interview posted.

February 25
RPG Codex Interview posted.

February 27
Eurogamer Article posted.

Brian tweeted that he will be filming the Kickstarter video on Feb 28 and Feb 29.

Announcement that Mark Morgan (who composed the music for Fallout 1, Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment) has signed on for the project.

March 3
Kickstarter project, assuming no challenges, should be launched by late next week.

Wasteland 2 website will be live Monday, March 5.

NMA-Fallout has created a Facebook Page for the Wasteland 2 venture.

Since February 14, @brianfargo has grown from 128 to 1,153 followers.

March 5
Brian has announced that Ken St. Andre has been brought on board for the Wasteland 2 project. He's the creator of "Tunnels and Trolls", and was part of the original WL design team.

Brian has announced that the official Wasteland 2 site is now live.

March 9
Wasteland 2 information and video submitted to Kickstarter, will take a few days to be approved.

Brian has announced that Andree Wallin has joined the project as their Concept Artist.

March 13
The Wasteland 2 Kickstarter Page is now live. They're looking for pledges totaling $900,000, which Brian Fargo has already donated $100,000 personally. The ETA for the game is October 2013.

It appears that Jason Anderson, one of the originally designers on Fallout 1 & 2 has also re-joined the team to work on Wasteland 2.

Notch just promoted the game, and pledged the first $10,000 to it. Brian must be very excited about this whole thing, probably very surprised by the amount that has been pledged on the first day.

March 14
Brian has announced that another original Wasteland designer working on the project. Liz Danforth also created the Highpool map.

Post on Kotaku, "How Wasteland 2 Went From Hopeless to Half a Million in 24 Hours"

March 15
The WL2 Kickstarter Project has met it's goal in only 2 days (42 hours and 30 minutes to be more precise)!

March 19
The Kickstarter Project is about to hit $1.4 million with 28 days left to go. @Brianfargo has also amassed almost 4,000 followers. Interesting that for years the Twitter account was under 120, but has grown this far since the new Wasteland excitement.

March 21

Brian has announced that their PayPal site is now live. I had actually emailed this recommendation to Brian earlier, but he was already 2 steps ahead of me. :)

Kickstarter is now at $1,465,316 and @brianfargo has 4,170 followers. Not bad.

March 22

$1.5 million milestone reached. Wasteland 2 will have Mac and Linux versions.

Brian Fargo has launched his new "Kicking It Forward" concept. Basically, developers that put the "Kicking It Forward" badge on their Kickstarter project are promising that they will put 5% of their finished product's profit back into other Kickstarter projects.

******

What I'm Hoping For (March 5 Update)

When the website goes live, there is supposed to be a way for fans to leave comments on what they want or expect in the game. Here are some of the important items that I'm hoping for:

  • Top down isometric view. Squad based combat.
  • Real-time movement and exploration, but turn-based combat much like Fallout 1 & 2 (e.g. "entering combat mode" through encounters or via hotkey.) When combat is engaged, you can issue orders and commands to your party members.
  • A really awesome main story line. (I'm assuming they probably have a lot of ideas themselves, so there's no point to expand on this.)
  • A serious, dark, gritty game. Humor is fine, but nothing overly silly in the game like Killer Clowns. Don't make it a parody.
  • A skills based RPG. Large focus on skills, with some players in the party having unique (but useful skills.) Must use skills in order to improve them.
  • All of the skills from the original should return, plus many more. For example, Sleight of Hand, Forgery, Alarm Disarm, Bureaucracy.. but make them actually useful in the game (only 1 party member might need them). Pugilism is the only skill that should be removed though, because Brawling makes it redundant.
  • A lot of exploration. Breaking into homes, exploring abandoned ruins, hidden & buried secrets, weapon caches, etc. Random events are a must.
  • Should be a single player game initially. If highly successful, use momentum for a larger multiplayer game.

Surprise! We Haven't Changed.

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, March 1, 2012

If you're a Mass Effect fan, you've probably noticed that Bioware has been under fire for the past little while because of the apparent lack of creativity in their stories, how they use the same derivative works and recycled material from other sources, and that they're slapping their fans in the face (especially with the new ME3 ending leak, which was actually leaked back in November too).

I never really liked Mass Effect myself. I played through ME1 a couple times to see the different endings, but I had only played through ME2 about 50% of the way before I got completely bored of it. I still remember every inch of the Chrono Trigger story and all of the endings, but all I could remember about ME1 (even though I put a good 100 hours into it) were the long elevator rides.. that's pretty much it. It's kind of sad to think that yesterday the elevator rides were the only thing I could clearly remember about the game.

I can understand why so many other people really like the Mass Effect series and story though (it's obviously a very successful franchise). But, it's just not for me personally.

I think that Mass Effect didn't leave much of an impression with me because I already knew what was going to happen, and I was just going through the same predictable motions. Unfortunately, stealing ideas or stories from old comics or scifi novels have been inevitable these past few decades, but some theft is more blatant than others. I can accept video games taking ideas from 19th or 20th century novels.. but, it's hard to play a video game when you've already played the exact same thing with the same story and characters only a few years earlier. That's one thing I remembered while playing the game at the time.

I'm referring to Anachronox, and it has some remarkable similarities to the Mass Effect series.

  • Anachronox was developed by Ion Storm in 2001. Ion Storm might sound familiar to you as this was the same team that created Deus Ex. Coincidentally, Bioware has also been accused of stealing ideas and plots from Deus Ex for Mass Effect.
  • Mac Walters (Lead Writer of the Mass Effect franchise, and principal writer of Mass Effect 1 and 2) discussed in 2008 the importance of stories in video games and how the video game industry might imitate these older games. He referenced that games now take shape from older titles like "Anachronox" and that they "paved the way for today's Golden Age." An interesting connection from Bioware. :)
  • Both are a scifi 3D RPG consisting of a 3 party squad, and as you progress through the story you gain new and interesting companions. Both games have very similar main characters; a ruggedly handsome male human hero (in a universe of aliens), an archeologist who just happens to be an expert on the ancient alien artifacts, a robot, a scientist, an assassin, a love interest, etc. This can be said of many RPGs though, just like how they are both a tale of Order vs Chaos. This gets far more interesting though, so read on.
  • This 3 party squad would have many funny interactions or conversations with each other during downtime or cut-scenes.
  • As part of your mission, you visit multiple unique and stereotypical planets (secret/scientific, idyllic agrarian, religious, etc.) each with their own unique quests and populations. You are visiting these planets as part of your investigation into strange and mysterious activities taking place within the galaxy.
  • In Anachronox, they had the "Sender Station" (or "Sender One"). In Mass Effect, they had the "Citadel Station". These massive "space stations" were a hub for all commerce and diplomacy for the multiple species in the galaxy.
  • Both were ancient but advanced alien space stations, with the center of the stations being the main traffic control system. They are inhabited by many alien species who discovered the "abandoned" alien construction, and the station is divided into several districts. The same kind of districts are found in both games which range from upper-class zones to red light districts, slums, casinos, and bars. There were also homeless occupants (eg Duct Rats) on both Stations.
  • The governing bodies of the galaxy or "Citadel space" in both games were made up of other alien species, with humans not included in the organization and treated more like a second class citizen. Both games involve a certain level of diplomacy and reporting to a High Council.
  • The "new" alien species (including humans) who took over ownership of Sender/Citadel believe that it was built by an ancient, but now extinct, civilization and they believe they know the purpose of the Station although it still harbors many inaccessible areas. In fact, there is a secret sinister purpose of the Station which is revealed later in the story (identical in both Anachronox and Mass Effect universes.)
  • It was believed that this long-dead alien race also left behind other strange mysterious devices and artifacts all over the galaxy. In Anachronox, this believed-dead alien race created "Spike Relays" which allowed ships to be sent across the galaxy to other relays (or "Senders"). In Mass Effect, the believed-dead alien race (Protheans) created "Mass Relays" which did the exact same thing.
  • In fact, the Sender/Citadel Station and Spike/Mass Relays were actually created by another unknown evil alien race. They were created with the purpose of harvesting the galaxy every hundreds of thousands of years. It's the same race that destroyed the last advanced alien race (who everyone believed left behind these artifacts). These constructions were created to facilitate the destruction of the galaxy which continuously happens in a cycle. In Anachronox they were called "The Chatagra" and in Mass Effect they were called "The Reapers".
  • The galaxy was basically a food source and the advanced evil aliens would repeatedly cull it based on a cycle. The relay system and hub station were used as an elaborate trap, and when the relay is activated the Chatagra/Reapers come through. The heroes were trying to break the cycle that has been going on for millions of years, just like what the previous aliens in the galaxy were trying to do.
  • The advanced believed-to-be-dead alien races who previously occupied Sender Station and Citadel Station were altruistic and unsuspecting until it was too late. They were mostly wiped out by the Chatagra/Reapers during the last culling of the galaxy. (That's why the Sender/Citadel Station were both abandoned when the new/younger alien races found it.)
  • In Mass Effect, ships have Faster-Than-Light drives however even at FTL speeds, it would take centuries to traverse distances without the Relays. The Mass relays create a "corridor" of space-time between each other to vastly boost their speed. In Anachronox, ships also have FTL drives and the Spike Relays create the same hyperspace corridors to boost their speed. Both are alien transporation systems that vastly boost FTL travel.
  • Mass Relays (Mass Effect) and Spike Relays (Anachronox) are mass transit devices scattered throughout the galaxy, usually located within star systems. They form an enormous network allowing interstellar travel. Hailed as one of the greatest achievements of an extinct (previous) race, a mass relay can transport starships instantaneously to another relay within the network, allowing for journeys that would otherwise take years or even decades with only FTL drives. (Description largely borrowed from the ME Wiki.)
  • Mass Effect: In the year 2148 AD, humans made the startling discovery of alien artifacts on Mars. These new discoveries advanced their technology and enabled them to travel to distant star systems.

    Anachronox: In the year 2229 AD, humans made the startling discovery of alien artifacts on Pluto. These new discoveries advanced their technology and enabled them to travel to distant star systems.
  • Other alien races were encountered as new Spike Relays were discovered. Early exploration using the Spike Relay was dangerous and the human species was largely ignorant of travel, leading to wars and conflicts with other dangerous alien species. The same as in Mass Effect.
  • The Sender/Citadel station is actually a disguised Relay system, and it acts as the central portal to the Repear/Chatagra's "dark space" or "Chaos universe". It's basically an elaborate trap so that they can invade and destroy the new alien civilizations quickly and keep doing it over and over.
  • Both "The Reapers" and "The Chatagra" also left behind servants on the Sender/Citadel station to ensure that occupying races didn't discover the true nature of the Citadel among other reasons. In Anachronox, they were called "The Dark Servants" and in Mass Effect they were "Keepers". Both hid in plain sight, pretended to be helpful, but were actually evil maintenance personnel.
  • The Reapers/Chatagra also had other alien species working for them to help usher in the destruction of the galaxy. In Anachronox, they were "Agents of Chaos" and in Mass Effect there were "The Geth". Alternatively, you could also look at the "The Dark Servants" as "The Geth" too.
  • The Chatagra are spaceborn creatures (billions of years old) with glowing eyes and several tentacles as arms. They look like Reaper Cuttlefish (just like The Reapers), except they're smaller in size. Like the Reapers, they are also worshipped as "gods" by some in the Anachronox universe. The last ancient alien race were getting close to finding a way to stop them but they were too late and were harvested like the others. However, they were able to leave behind artifacts, an outpost, and messages to warn and prepare the next young alien races.

  • The new alien species (including humans) also discovered technology left behind by the previous extinct alien race (Protheans) which they dubbed "Element Zero" in Mass Effect and "Mysterium" in Anachronox. This rare material allowed people and ships to basically twist physics and cast magic. MysTech/Biotics could also be used in combat, healing, or for other supporting roles.
  • In the Anachronox universe, a new cult has popped up based on MysTech who have a large following of MysTech Cultists. In Mass Effect, a new cult has popped up based on Biotics who have a large following of Biotic Cultists. Not a major part of either game, though.
  • The term "Mass Effect" was also explained by Project Director Casey Hudson as related to "dark energy" (which physicists are calling) which is also "an explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe - which has only recently been discovered and flies in the face of the previous notion that the universe's expansion should be slowing down because of gravity." Interestingly, this was also described as a major plot point in Anachronox. In Anachronox, the universe's expansion was being accelerated due to the injection of "dark energy" and matter/mass from a previous universe. This additional mass was having a "mass effect" on the universe and hastening it's big crunch. A "Mass Effect" in many senses of the word in fact; it was a mass effect on the universe, the Effect was due to injection of Mass, and Mass had an Effect on the universe. :)
  • Both Mass Effect and Anachronox had the exact same ending. The final battle takes place back on Sender Station/Citadel Station, where the heroes are trying to stop the prime "Dark Servant" from signalling the invasion to begin (using the true purpose of the Station). Grumpos/Saren (who were both believed to be good at one point, but were in fact evil servants) both change forms in the final battle too.. revealing themselves to be Reaper/Chatagra-like and shedding their outside husks. The hero and his party fight a big boss, realize the true nature of the artifacts and station, stopped the threat to the galaxy, and united they were going to drive them back into "dark space" and take the fight to them.
  • Anachronox had unavoidable and lengthy elevator-riding scenes which annoyed players. Sound familiar?
  • Both Anachronox and Mass Effect had level scaling and both games had lockpicking/hacking minigames (remember this was 2001). Anachronox had Mystech powered ammo (or "Ammo Powers" as in Mass Effect) and Mystech/Biotic powered personal shielding.
I can see a couple story elements from different sources borrowed, but there were just too many similarities between Mass Effect and this one single source to just be a coincidence in my opinion. I think that Anachronox had a mass effect on Mass Effect.

So, if you don't like the story (or ending) to Mass Effect 3, you shouldn't be surprised if you find it uncreative or derivative. It's always the same and they'll never change. Besides, ME3 is just a prelude to ME4 where they'll suddenly find a mysterious and coincidental way out of their new predicament.

And, don't blame them if the story seems bland or boring. Ion Storm never released Anachronox 2, so Bioware didn't really have a lot of new material to work from. :)

* UPDATE: A reader alerted me to this link which also discusses similarities between the two games.

* UPDATE: Some other amazing coincidences regarding Mass Effect and other media. (This contains some ME3 Spoilers.)

It's Just a Rumor

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blizzard has finally announced their mass layoff plans for 2012. It was done through both an official News Release and as a message on the Battle.net forums.

According to their release, Blizzard's savings from the layoffs were identified in their Feb 9, 2012 (Q4 2011) financial outlook, but the exact details of the workforce reduction were not considered material or important for the shareholders call. :)

Blizzard did not identify when the business review was conducted, only that it would benefit their 2012 financials and that they are currently involved in the global reduction of their workforce which will eventually result in a total of approximately 600 employees being laid off.

90% of the 600 are those in support function, finance, maintenance, recruiting, training, and other non-development related positions. The other 10% are gaming development related and we already know the names of some of those employees.

If you weren't already aware, I do still continuously update older posts and I was monitoring those Mass Layoff "rumors" up until late January.

Many of the employees from my original suspicion list were eventually confirmed and in the end, there were probably about 40-50 layoffs in late 2011 to early 2012. Most of them were Customer Support staff from both in and outside of their call centers.

I guess we finally have an answer as to why Blizzard was so ambiguous, but not exactly denying, those mass lay off rumors a few months ago.

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!

Bashiok: Hey guys, out of respect for their privacy, we don’t discuss individual employees, but the speculation circulating about ‘massive layoffs at Blizzard’ is just a rumor.
Layoffs of this magnitude have happened with Activision Blizzard many times in the past, and they typically happen around January/February (announced before the shareholders call.)

So, it shouldn't be much of a shock if you see this happen again next February (probably a smaller size though, and more on the Activision side.) The staff they're cutting are just redundant positions (mostly customer support), so these changes won't effect the development times of their games and it just means more savings for the company and happier investors.

Public Chat But Not Trade Chat

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, February 25, 2012

A couple weeks ago, users were celebrating an awesome win for getting Blizzard to finally implement public chat in the game. (Though many believe Bashiok's claim that it was just a mistake.) Whatever the case may be, it's considered a win.

"Blizzard listened to us! We get public chat! Now I can trade items with other players and I don't have to worry about using the RMAH!"

Is this really the case though? What if it's just simple Public Chat, but not intended for Trade Chat? What if trading between players will actually be discouraged or difficult?

If I were Blizzard and I wanted to encourage as much use of the RMAH as possible, I would restrict loot linking, eliminate ways to communicate effectively for trade-specific purposes, or make trading as challenging as possible (for example, poor trading security.) Using a "Trade Chat" system outside of the game (ie, in the lobby room), without the ability to link items, is a great way to do it. Or, one could also make it so that players can't create public games with customized titles (like how trading could be done in D2).

You only need one of these options. If you have secure trading methods, then eliminate trade related communication methods. If you have proper Trade Chat, make secure trading more difficult. You don't need to do all of them otherwise their intentions become too elaborate or obvious. When players question why, Blizzard can confidently tell them that they DO have methods in place to allow trading.

The average player will always travel the soft path. If there are two services available, but one has accessibility or functional issues, they'll go with the easier one. If character-to-character trading is available (and secure), but public chat is limited so that it doesn't support loot linking or gear sharing, it's not a very good service. If public chat has loot linking, but item trading is insecure, it's not a very good service. In both cases it's "bad service" planned in advanced to encourage customers to use a better service.

So, which is the better service.. player-to-player trading or the Auction House?

We really don't know anything about the future Trade Chat features, though. It could go either way. Bashiok had promised details in the near future, so it remains to be seen what Blizzard has in mind. If the chat or trading features are still limited by retail, then we have our answer. If not, then Blizzard will act accordingly to their customer's needs.

Nothing is set in stone at this point. In it's current disappointing state, it requires more forum outrage and complaining, and hopefully Blizzard will eventually implement chat the way players want. If they, however, are looking for every little way to squeeze as much use out of the RMAH as possible, then don't expect loot linking or any other kind of trading mechanisms (like customized public games) in the initial retail version. Besides, if Blizzard won't implement these changes, someone else will always find a way, like that alternative "trade chat" website.

Just as an added note, too, Bashiok happened to make a comment about the Chat system recently as well. Basically, it's not to expect any changes before release. So, this is something I might re-examine 6 months after release (as well how or if players can even engage in some form of public trading without an external website service). But atleast you can understand some of the motivations behind keeping the chat system the way it is. And judging by the SC2 Chat System, I'm not really expecting Blizzard to make any significant changes.

I hope that D3XCHANGE.COM webpage was still being worked on though. :)

* UPDATE (03/01/2012):

Just an interesting note. Recent data mining of Diablo 3 revealed that Blizzard did, in fact, create a UI within D3 for users who wanted to create a custom named public game. So this feature was once in the game, but has been removed. Guess we'll see if Blizzard puts it back in for retail.