New Battle.net TOU Confirmed!

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two days ago, I had said to expect a new Battle.net Terms of Use to roll out soon, and once the new contract was live, users (who even signed the older one) would be presented with a new TOU that contains D3 / PayPal / RMAH related revisions.

It just went live earlier this morning.

The new Battle.net Terms of Use are actually dated "Last Revised December 10, 2011", however the official US link to the TOU (as of today) is still showing the old May 25, 2010 contract.

Interestingly, this TOU was updated on December 10, but it has only gone live just recently for others to see. It wasn't posted online for a good month and apparently Blizzard has been sitting on this new contract since December 10. On December 9, by the way, Blizzard first revealed the "Battle.net Balance" system and stated that it would be rolled out within a few weeks (it's been over 8 weeks now.)

You should see this information hit fan sites and the larger blogs later today or tomorrow.

As I had said in the earlier post, the sudden appearance of the old Terms of Use was just a prelude to a new TOU for users to sign.

Omega, Blizzard's Forum MVP, however stated that this was not the case at all. He reassured users that this was actually just an old feature, and the recent appearance was nothing more than Blizzard simply resetting the "has already read" checkbox to remind some users to review it again...

Daeity 1, Omega 0. :)

New Knowledge Base Articles Too

Some users are reporting that they were able to visit their eBalance Purchase page briefly, but that feature has now been removed and disabled. (Original US link, EU link.)

There are also new Support articles live that contain a wealth of new information. These are the US links, but EU users can search for Battle.net Balance or PayPal to see the new KB articles.

One was last updated January 20, with the others just yesterday afternoon ("Updated: 1/30/12 2:37 PM".)

Battle.net Balance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Syncing PayPal with Battle.net

Adding Funds to Battle.net Balance

Changes to the Terms of Use

Here's what a cursory glance revealed. If I missed anything important, please let me know and I'll add it.

  • A brand new section all about the new PayPal/RMAH system:
    6. Storing Value on the Account.

    A. The Account can be loaded with funds that can only be used to purchase goods and services on Battle.net. The Account is not a credit line, overdraft protection or deposit account. Unless otherwise required by law or permitted by this Agreement, all balances on the Account are non-refundable and may not be redeemed for cash. The Account does not expire, and you will not be charged fees for any reason. Funds which are loaded onto an Account do not accrue interest, and are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

    B. To load value onto the Account, go to https://us.battle.net/account/management/ebalance-purchase.html and follow the instructions provided to you on the page. All Account transactions are governed by the Terms of Sale, which can be viewed at https://us.battle.net/account/management/transaction-history.html. The minimum amount that can be loaded to an Account is $1.00, and the maximum daily Account balance is limited to $200.00. Blizzard reserves the right to change the maximum and minimum amounts at any time. You may load different currencies onto the Account (e.g., US Dollars, Mexican Pesos, Chilean Pesos, Argentinian Dollars) in order to engage in transactions on the Diablo III Real Money Auction Houses that use those currencies. The value loaded onto the Account shall be determined by converting the value of each of the various currencies that you have loaded onto the Account to US Dollars using the currency conversion formulas posted on http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3021-forex.html. All amounts loaded onto the Account are held and denominated in U.S. currency. Blizzard will not send you a statement of itemized transactions on the Account. In order to check the balance loaded on the Account, or review recent transactions on the Account, to go https://us.battle.net/account/management/transaction-history.html and follow the instructions on the page.

    C. Funds loaded onto the Account are used like cash for purchases on Battle.net, and you are responsible for all transactions made by someone using the Account. If you suspect that the Account has been compromised, you should contact Blizzard Customer Service at http://www.battle.net/support. The balance on the Account will only be protected from the point that Blizzard issues a message to you indicating that Blizzard has received your notice that the Account may have been compromised. From that point forward, Blizzard will take actions to freeze the remaining balance on the Account, and will unfreeze the Account once Blizzard has returned the control of the Account back to you.

    D. If Blizzard believes that the Account contains funds acquired illegally, either by means of compromising other Accounts or otherwise, Blizzard may remove those funds, suspend your access to the Diablo III Real Money Auction House, terminate the Account, and/or exercise any additional legal remedies available.

    E. If you agree to purchase goods or services from Blizzard and thereafter default upon your obligation to pay for such a purchase, you hereby agree that Blizzard shall have the right to freeze any funds currently loaded onto the Account and/or to remove and use those funds to fulfill your payment obligations in full or in part.
  • The "9. Ownership" section has been expanded to include the RMAH:
    C. Virtual Items. Blizzard owns, has licensed, or otherwise has rights to all of the content that appears in the Service or the Games. You agree that you have no right or title in or to any such content, including without limitation the virtual goods or currency appearing or originating in any Game, or any other attributes associated with the Account or stored on the Service. Blizzard does not recognize any purported transfers of virtual property executed outside of a Game, or the purported sale, gift or trade in the "real world" of anything that appears or originates in a Game, unless such transfer is made using a marketplace administered by Blizzard, including without limitation the Diablo III Real Money Auction Houses.
  • The whole section "7. The Blizzard Online Store" has been cut out of the TOU.
  • The "Account Suspension/Cancelation" section has been expanded to include "a Game-specific Terms of Use", rather than just the Battle.net TOU and other agreements.
  • A new entry in the "General" section has been added to let you know Blizzard will be collecting a bunch of information from your PC:
    E. Collection of Non-Personal Data. Blizzard shall have the right to obtain data that cannot be used to identify you from your connection to the Service without any further notice to you. Certain Games playable on the Service include a tool that will allow your computer system to forward information to Blizzard in the event that the Game crashes. This tool will collect system and driver data from your computer system during the crash, and forward a report containing that data to Blizzard.
  • The "Massive Inc" in-game advertisements section, that was originally created for Starcraft 2, has been completely removed and replaced with a more general "expect there to be advertising in the game."
    16. DISCLOSURES; THIRD PARTY FEATURES.

    A. Advertising. Blizzard’s Games and the Service may incorporate third party technology that enables advertising on Battle.net and/or in certain Games playable on Battle.net, which may be downloaded temporarily to your personal computer and replaced during online game play. As part of this process, Blizzard and/or its authorized third party advertisers may collect standard information that is sent when your personal computer connects to the Internet including your Internet protocol (IP) address.
The Interesting Bits From All Of This

  • Blizzard and it's third party advertisers may collect "standard information" from your computer system. They were very ambiguous about this.. they did not specifically state "non-personally identifying information" like Warden and they stated that their advertisers may collect information from your PC when it's connected to the Internet. This could pretty much mean anything at all and at any time, including personally identifying details.

  • Users worldwide will soon be able to use PayPal to purchase anything you want from the Blizzard Store, and it's no longer just limited to WOW Subscriptions.

  • There seems to be a PayPal / Battle.net location check, like what I was predicting months ago.

  • The Battle.net Balance maximum limit is $500.00 USD.

  • You can add funds in increments of $10.00, $20.00, $50.00 or $100.00. Or, users can select "Other Amount". According to the Terms of Use, a minimum amount of $1.00 must be loaded and there is a maximum daily balance of $200.00 permitted.

  • If Blizzard suspects that you cheated in any way to acquire your Battle.net Balance funds, they can remove all of your Battle.net Balance and suspend your access to D3 or your Battle.net account. There are a few other sections that also discuss the non-refundable conditions for your Battle.net Balance credits.

  • If a prepaid credit card is declined, there's a $1.00 temporary hold of funds for each transaction attempt.

  • Regional stuff: ".. you will be able to add value to your Battle.net Balance using your local currency (in EU, for example, players will be able to use Euros, GBP, and RUB). In certain regions where game realms and servers are shared by players in multiple countries, you will be given the option to choose one single currency. However, please note that Battle.net Balances for different currencies are tracked separately and cannot be used interchangeably. For example, you cannot use Battle.net Balance purchased using U.S. dollars in a non-USD-based auction house, and you are not able to transfer Battle.net Balance purchased in one currency to or from Battle.net Balance purchased with a different currency."

  • Right now, you can't transfer B.Net Balance as a gift to others, but they plan on adding that feature in the future.

  • Battle.net Balance cannot be used as an automated payment method for recurring WOW subscriptions.

  • This TOU was revised specifically for Diablo 3, but you can expect another revision to happen as the SC2 Marketplace gets closer to completion.

  • If you're a regular reader here, you'll know that I had been anticipating these changes this week since they were needed as a precursor to the release date announcement. Once the announcement is made (Monday, Feb 6 being the most probable at this time), the Battle.net Balance system will be fully implemented with the D3 Digital Pre-Download being made available sometime afterwords. After this is done, it will also be followed by new posts and official announcements about the PayPal and B.Net Balance system with instructions on how players can setup their accounts and start using it right away. All that remains now is if the actual release date will be 2 months from the announcement (traditions), or a condensed timeframe (which has been discussed in the past.)
On a final note.. boo-yah.

* UPDATE:

The "Battle.net Balance" and "PayPal Syncing" Knowledge Base Articles have just been removed by Blizzard. :)

I'm not sure if this is just temporary, or if they weren't supposed to reveal these Knowledge Base articles until the announcement (or later this week). If you didn't catch them earlier, you can still see their Google cache.

Go to Google.com and type:

"cache:http://us.battle.net/support/en/article/syncing-paypal-with-battlenet"
or
"cache:http://us.battle.net/support/en/article/adding-funds-to-battlenet-balance-3100032"

* UPDATE:

The "Syncing PayPal with Battle.Net" article is back up, and it's now showing an "Updated: Jan 31, 2012".

The "Battle.net Balance" article has been down for several hours now. It's possible that the Battle.net Balance article wasn't supposed to be put up until another announcement (front page post) took place first. Obviously, right now players can't even add money to their Battle.net Balance accounts so the support article is useless.

New Battle.net Preparations

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, January 29, 2012

If you try to sign-in to the Battle.net website, you might have noticed that a new "Terms of Use" contract appears. You have the "option" of signing it if you want to access your Battle.net account and play your games. (The TOU pop seems to be region specific, yesterday Renvex saw it, but no one else received it or could confirm.)

The Battle.net contract itself is actually a really old one (May 26, 2010), but this extra page has been added to the Battle.net signin system because Blizzard plans on rolling out a new contract shortly.

The current TOU even has Blizzard's old Starcraft 2 in-game advertising partner (Massive Inc.) still in the contract.. even though they went defunct years ago.

When the new contract rolls out, you can expect to sign another brand new contract. Whenever a new contract or update is made, you'll need to sign the new one (just like what you have been doing within the games themselves.)

For the next contract before the Diablo release, you should see some new regional and user-specific security restrictions added especially for Blizzard's new region free game(s). I've been predicting these changes for a while now, including changes like this to Battle.net and a new "authentication system to intelligently track your login locations" which has recently been added.

You'll be happy to know, though, that this new Battle.net License page is tethered to the release date announcement.

When the release date is announced, it will be accompanied by D3 costs and availability, Digital Download information, and most importantly both the Battle.net Balance service and the PayPal RMAH integration will be finally available within your account. Users can configure and setup their payment systems in preparation for the future release. (The Release Date announcement should, logically, come before the B.Net Balance/PayPal integration though.)

It needs some major updates for D3 because in it's current state, for example, Blizzard expressly prohibits the buying and selling of gold or items in Diablo 3. :)

Virtual Items. Blizzard owns, has licensed, or otherwise has rights to all of the content that appears in the Service or the Games. You agree that you have no right or title in or to any such content, including without limitation the virtual goods or currency appearing or originating in any Game, or any other attributes associated with the Account or stored on the Service. Blizzard does not recognize any purported transfers of virtual property executed outside of a Game, or the purported sale, gift or trade in the "real world" of anything that appears or originates in a Game, unless otherwise expressly authorized by Blizzard in writing. Accordingly, you may not sell in-game items or currency for "real" money, or exchange those items or currency for value outside of a Game, without Blizzard's written permission.
The new contract will have all of the new updates for Diablo 3. Some of it might even contain spoilers since it will reveal information about the service or features that we currently don't know about. Possibly even changes for future games (like in-game ads.)

So, when the License goes live, not only will the new Battle.net features be live, but also new information about the services will be announced (like the RMAH region information we have all been waiting for.)

Interestingly, the contract currently forbids "Data Mining." Blizzard forbids you from obtaining or attempting to obtain any information about the Service (Battle.net). But everyone who reads these TOUs are actually data mining them for information. That makes reading or learning information from these TOU's against their policy. Apparently, my Battle.net account is at risk of deletion or suspension because I data mine information from the TOU. :)

Other than that, I've been told that forum threads discussing the appearance of this new Battle.net TOU page are being deleted by Blizzard for some reason. If any of you have more information on that development, let me know.

* UPDATE (01/30/12):

Users are beginning to experience some of the transparent changes made to Battle.net. Previously, users were able to change their address and country in their Battle.net settings.. but not anymore. In order to change your country, you now need to call technical support and you need to provide proof of your new address.
However, with the coming changes to Battle.net and the inclusion of Battle.net Balance and the Diablo III Auction House, it has become more important again for us to ensure that players are performing transactions in their local currency (where possible) and that this data is correct.
This was one of the many Battle.net changes for the RMAH that I have been anticipating for a while.

Looks like they're gearing up for the Battle.net Balance/PayPal announcement, and maybe something else right before it. *fingers crossed*

Cannibalization? No Problem.

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yesterday, one of our readers raised a good point about Blizzard cannibalizing their own games, especially if they plan on releasing 3 games in one year (which would indeed be quite unusual.) I figured I would make a post about it, because it's an interesting topic.

Basically, there's only a fear of cannibalizing World of Warcraft players.

There's little concern about taking players away from Starcraft or Diablo. If WOW steals away players from D3, it doesn't matter because D3 players already bought the game, but WOW has a subscription fee which provides Blizzard continued revenue. The same with SC2; if WOW were to somehow steal away SC2 players, who cares.. they already bought the game.

This can also apply to Titan, especially if it uses a new revenue model (both RMAH and Product Placement/Advertising combined.)

WOW is a subscription based game which constantly generates revenue. Diablo and Starcraft are not, they are only one-time costs (excluding DLC of course) so those players are of no consequence.

To help even better explain: World of Warcraft PROFIT needs to be protected from cannibalization, not the PLAYERS. :)

So, what Blizzard needs to do is create new systems or methods where players will still contribute to subscription fees, but they will also one-time purchase their other Blizzard titles.

This is why the WOW Annual Pass was such a great idea. It locks players into a 12-month purchase plan, but they will still be getting the Diablo 3 game. It comes with a beta invite to MOP, so even though they might play Diablo 3 for a few months, they're still guaranteed to return to WOW when MOP releases (and probably 'coincidentally' close to when the WOW Annual Pass expires.)

Blizzard wants players to use Diablo 3 for the RMAH, and start building up Battle.net Balance Credit, and use that to purchase other Blizzard titles and monthly WOW subscription purchases.

Because the RMAH system is so critical (especially for their future), it's the reason why HOTS nor MOP will be released before Diablo 3. They want players to start building up B.Net Bucks and get comfortable with the new credit system.

Diablo 3 actually complements MOP very well (it won't cannibalize players) because it's a "free game" (or a one-time cost), and since there's no subscription, there's no rush to play it and players will use D3 to pay for their WOW subscription.

Blizzard will also find other new or clever ways of motivating you to use your B.Net Bucks or ensure you buy WOW:

  • Release MOP 6+ months after D3, say, when most WOW players and Diablo fans already own D3.
  • If they can roll out the D3 RMAH, and then the SC2 Arcade, users from both the Diablo and Starcraft franchises will be selling virtual items on those systems and building up Battle.net Credit to purchase other titles or subscriptions.
  • This is also why it's so important to increase their game catalog. (Talked about in other posts about Activision games in Battle.net.) If the RMAH and Arcade are highly successful, they'll need to increase their Blizzard Store merchandise, features, and titles. I think they're going to wait and see what happens with the RMAH first though.
  • Blizzard may drop prices if B.Net Credits are used to purchase games or subscriptions for friends and family members. You might not be able to get a SC2 gamer playing WOW, but you can at least get them to buy gifts for their friends. And, perhaps you can receive bonuses yourself (appeal to our selfishness) if you invite friends.. like, special banners or aesthetics in D3 or SC2. WOW already does something like this for friend invites (power leveling, mounts, free subscription time, etc.)
  • The B.Net Credit will be much easier to setup than the PayPal system. There will more restrictions and punishment in place for using the PayPal system (e.g. hefty cash out charges to encourage you to use the B.Net Balance system instead.)
  • When Diablo 3 is released (or right before), make WOW as undesirable as possible. Implement changes that piss off players, don't make any updates, make them bored, etc. The intention is to get them playing Diablo 3, but then make MOP extremely desirable again when it comes out (very positive changes and an overpowered Monk class until after Christmas, etc.)
  • For the above, this will probably be around the time too that Blizzard removes the 10-character restriction from realms. Removing that restriction is a great way to bring players back.
  • Make certain WOW virtual items (specialty pets or aesthetic changes) only available via B.Net Balance credits.
  • Make certain payment methods more difficult, region locked, or restricted to control which methods players are more statistically probable to use. Hard to see buttons, missing instructions or support, etc.
  • Special events where users can save money using B.Net Credits for purchases. For example, you can save 5-15% on the MOP or HOTS pre-download if you purchase using B.Net Credits earned through Diablo 3.

Sneaky B.Net Article Editing

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The image on the left is from the EU Battle.net post, and the image on the right is from the US Battle.net post. (Thanks qmk and rpgguy.)

Since the cache from the original US post is gone, and Blizzard had made modifications to their website to prevent archiving (e.g. change detection websites, archive.org, etc.), I don't have a copy of the original US one. Luckily, some individuals copied and pasted the original post which confirm that these changes did indeed happen within the US post.

So.. notice something missing?

"Download the digital version via Battle.net for free when the game launches early next year" has instead been replaced with "Download the digital version via Battle.net for free when the game launches."

As of right now, the EU post hasn't changed, and this could just be a result of those users who want to cancel their WOW Annual Pass by claiming that Blizzard did not uphold their end of the contract since they explicitly stated "Early 2012" or "Early Next Year." If that's the case; not cool.

Users are also reporting that other WOW Annual Pass verbiage has been modified to remove the "Early 2012" mentions. If you look under all of the WOW Annual Pass Support Articles, you'll see that they have modification dates of January 16 or January 17.

While I was doing some digging around for PayPal and Battle.net Balance updates a while back, I also noticed the same "Updated On: Jan 16 or Jan 17" dates. I just ignored them, though, because I couldn't view the old cache. Surprisingly, when Blizzard makes changes they are updated almost immediately by Google. Same thing with the latest WOW Annual Pass changes. Even when pages or forum threads are deleted, I see that Blizzard leaves some of them Google cached and others not, so I imagine they have some measure of control over this.

This article update might not mean anything at all, though, but we'll know for sure over the next two weeks (see my post from earlier today.)

Blizzcon 2012

Posted by Daeity On

So, you all know by now that Blizzcon 2012 has been cancelled in lieu of an eSports Tournament event "somewhere in Asia".

I'm really disappointed. Not because it was cancelled, but because I was saving up a post for September about Titan!

Right now, "professionals" have predicted that Blizzard's Next Gen MMO is going to be announced at Blizzon 2012, and that number was only going to increase substantially as the date approached (ie, analysts predicting that the Next Gen MMO would be revealed), but I really wanted to wait until the opportune time to say "NOPE", that it wasn't going to be announced. Damn.

I'm still sticking to late 2014-2015 by the way, even though everyone else is saying 2013 or 2014 at the latest right now. :)

You weren't going to miss much at Blizzcon 2012 anyways. If you have read my earlier posts, I made one last year predicting what to expect in 2012-2014. The only game they were going to announce in 2012 was Diablo 3 X1, but due to the major setbacks they have been experiencing with D3, it's understandable that it has been delayed (to 2013), and Blizzcon 2012 would have had no release announcements to speak of. It would have actually ended up just like the "Demon Hunter Blizzcon" (2010) which caused some great disappointment.

This means that there will very likely be two games revealed at Blizzcon 2013 (D3 X1 and WOW X5).

Plus, setting up Blizzcon is a very exhausting event for the team members. Sure, it's a very profitable event, but they have other stuff to worry about without having to deal with the pressure of Blizzcon. During the past Quarterly Shareholders Meeting, Thomas Tippl committed to a "minimum of 2 Blizzard titles in 2012". It really doesn't matter what CUSTOMERS are told or promised; what really matters is what the SHAREHOLDERS are promised.

I think some of the big problems they're having relate to Battle.net. Not stability or performance issues, but rather integration problems with PayPal and their new Battle.net Balance / Blizzard Store / RMAH systems. This might put their integration plans of the Activision Game Catalog into Battle.net on the back burner (e.g. using B.Net Balance to buy Activision games rather than just Blizzard titles, and selling other publisher's games to compete with Steam and even Origin which has just added 11 new publishers.)

On that note, Blizzard has recently started hiring for a ton of "Critical" positions on the Battle.net team. :)

Back To The Announcement, Though..

According to the Blizzcon 2012 cancellation announcement today, more details about the event will be revealed "in the months ahead." Meaning that they're releasing this information very early, when they could have just announced it a few months before Blizzcon. They're making this announcement early for a very good reason.

For a while now, I've been talking about keeping a very careful eye on this week and next.

If a release date announcement is made, it will be done right before the investors conference call (and on a Monday.) If it's not made before the investors call, then the game truly has been delayed until after March. If the release date announcement is not made on the Monday, then the chances of a Q1 release greatly diminish (meaning a Q2 delay off-hand comment made by Mike Morhaime is highly likely during the Q4 call.) Monday, February 6 is the most logical choice but I had said that we don't necessarily have to wait until Feb 6 and that there would be other signs of what might happen beforehand.

For example, if we don't see any new information released during this week and the week of Jan 30 - Feb 3, the probability of a release date announcement diminishes. But, if we see a lot of interesting or unexpected posts (especially about Battle.net), then there's a very good chance of an announcement.

This recent announced by Blizzard is very disappointing to everyone, but it's also surprisingly being done very early. Either this means that they have more bad information to share and they just want to rip that bandaid off now and just get it all over with (so expect more bad news during the call.) OR, they're just getting the bad news for the year out of the way first before revealing the really good news; like an imminent release date announcement, with the game coming out earlier than people were expecting. Blizzard has "promised" Q1 after all, so I'm putting my trust in Blizzard.

This just leaves us back to what I've already been saying; pay attention to the other details they release over the next 2 weeks (up to the days before the shareholders meeting.) And because they have all of this extra time now, we can even certainly expect to see 3 releases this year (instead of just 2). :)

Where's PayPal?

Posted by Daeity On Monday, January 23, 2012

As you know, I'm still waiting for that Battle.net Balance to be implemented, and I have suspected for some time that Blizzard may be having some PayPal or RMAH/Balance integration issues.

Coming Soon: Battle.net Balance
We’ll be rolling out the new Battle.net Balance feature in the weeks ahead.
It's been over 7 weeks now, and the Battle.net Balance feature has still not been rolled out.

I also noticed something else related to this delay. About a week before Mike's "Soon Was Too Soon" post, Blizzard also revealed that they were going to allow PayPal to be used to purchase Blizzard products and services on Battle.net. However this time, it would be available for several regions, and not just limited to WOW Subscriptions for NA users only.
PayPal will also soon be added in several regions as a payment option on Battle.net, providing another convenient and secure payment method for digital purchases of Blizzard products and services.

We’ll share region-related specifics, as well as further details on everything mentioned above, in the near future. Stay tuned!
This information was supposed to be revealed in the "near future". And, I assume that based on what they're saying, that both the RMAH Region Information and PayPal integration details would be revealed at the same time. Some of the RMAH Region details have already been revealed, but what happened to the PayPal system? It's been 5 months now.

Finding Delays Where They're Not Telling You

It's been made quite clear that the past (and current) delays have not been a result of game development process. They've had the luxury of extra time to add new features and content, there's been no crunch time, no rush, and due to Jay Wilson's recent "major update", we've learned that they're not even adding new content, but rather just making minor changes and deleting content.

Since we're left in the dark, there are other signs of delays to look out for that might give us an idea of what's going on. For example, if we discovered that they were having major hiring problems, not enough customer support, or enough developers on a game, we would know that it would be a reasonable explanation for delaying the game.

The South Korea Approval issues definitely had an impact to their timeline. And these other delays in announcements are also confirming my suspicions that PayPal and B.Net Balance systems have also caused a major delay in their release schedule.

Even their special definition for future time was changed. Mike said that "Soon Was Too Soon", admitting that even their expectations for "Soon" had to be pushed back significantly because "Soon" didn't end up being what they thought their "Soon" release would be. I hope that made sense.

As well, both "Near Future" and "Coming Weeks" have always meant about 2-3 weeks for Blizzard. But in the case of PayPal and the B.Net Balance roll outs, they became several months instead.

So, the Battle.net Balance system was delayed (we can't charge up our accounts with PayPal or any other credit system yet), the RMAH Cashing Out feature with PayPal was delayed, and the PayPal system for purchasing Blizzard Store items was delayed.

Are there internal problems with PayPal? Is this a technical or systems integration issue? Are there legal problems? Is PayPal getting cold feet after hearing about the SK Government Gambling issues? After all, online gambling (in itself) isn't illegal in most US states, but the transactions to/from online gambling sites are illegal. PayPal would be taking far more risks (UIGEA) than Blizzard in this case.

Or, perhaps Blizzard is implementing new security systems internally (and with PayPal) to ensure that prohibited countries are not able to participate in the RMAH? (A difficult task considering that SK players can register a US B.Net account, and it's a region-free game.)

I've talked about these subjects before though. When PayPal is finally implemented, I suspect that there will be new security or regional payment restrictions in place to limit players to specific countries (both through their B.Net Account and PayPal.) I don't think there's anything stopping users from buying the Region-Free Diablo 3 from overseas retailers, though, and playing it in their own country. That's if they even know it's region free. It's something that still hasn't been officially announced.. and for good reason.

Selling Skills

While on the subject of these PayPal announcements and the RMAH, there's one subject that I'm surprised more people haven't talked about. I've known about it for a really long time now, but I never really had a reason to talk about it; Blizzard wants the RMAH used for selling skills and not just items.

It's actually a really smart business move. Rather than limiting yourself to selling items (which improve the damage of skills), why not just sell the skills and their effects too?

When PayPal first announced their partnership with Blizzard, they pointed out Blizzard's intention to sell runestones (which represent skills) on the RMAH:
They’ll also be able to use PayPal to cash out any real-money proceeds they receive from the sale of items — such as weapons, armor, runestones, and other loot obtained in the game world — via the currency-based auction house. (There will also be a separate gold-based version of the auction house that uses in-game gold for item transactions.)
By the D3 Dev Team wanting to make runes so that they could be sold on the RMAH, I think that this was the reason why they had so many problems deciding on an approach, and why they had so many iterations of the rune system.

I imagine that the business department told them what they wanted done, and how they wanted to ensure that the runestone (skill) system had a monetary aspect. Because of this pressure and restriction in place, it changed their design principals and they had to work around the limitation rather than having the freedom to innovate. It's no surprise they had a lot of problems creating the rune system.. it had to be something that Blizzard could profit from.

The problem, though, is that the RMAH was designed for only high-end items. So, they would have had to give runes low drop rates in order to make them rare enough to sell on the RMAH. This would have seriously limited the development and growth of players causing frustration knowing that they would have to shell out cash for skill upgrades (buying rare runestones from the RMAH.)

I wonder if there's more of this planned or in another format? More testing of new concepts in D3 to see if they're successful enough for future games possibly? :)

Skills vs Items

If I was responsible for a game design, I would want to leverage the RMAH as much as possible and I would (try to) create a non-obvious method of selling skills/abilities without actually selling them directly as "skills". :)

For example, as players level they are rewarded with new skills when they hit certain milestones. However, for the skills to actually be useful, I would want the players to purchase upgrades to the skills that add new strategy, different behaviors, and new visual effects. On its own, "Kick" is pretty mediocre.. but when you purchase "Fire Kick", it's suddenly a great AOE attack. Makes sense right?

Collecting items is a lot of fun, but there's much more enjoyment to be gained when you are rewarded with new abilities. It's something you can see, it's unique, it's something you use actively (not a passive effect), and it can completely change your strategy or gameplay. Because skills change your gameplay, it's also a method of appeasing the players need for content consumption. Basically, gameplay needs to be "mixed up" to keep players interested. (Which is why I'm really worried about Diablo 3's "dead zone". There are no new skills to be achieved, and the grind won't be as much fun anymore without clear rewards and achievements with each new level.)

Gaining new skills is actually a more enjoyable reward system than items, leveling, pets, or achievements. Selling items or pets are easy, but trying to "sell skills" is a very difficult task since players associate it with necessity for growth. If they work hard, they should be rewarded.. there shouldn't be another limitation (monetary at that) on necessary growth. "I have to PAY for that skill? WTF!"

Players should be sort-of used to this, though. When they hit a certain level, they visit vendors, and they pay for the skill. But that's all part of the game, and it's much different when they see a skill being sold for cash by another player who has it.

Even though it's a really great idea to sell skills (from a business perspective), it's really hard to pull off. If they were to lower RMAH fees, low-medium rarity items and skills could be worked in, but that cuts down on their profit. And even then, it's skills for cash.

I think the only way to do it, that would appear fair to customers, is to make skills a reward system from hard work. You can have three options available: work hard to get it yourself, work hard in something else (gold farming) and buy it, or simply pay cash for it. So, skills could be obtained multiple times by the same person and sold to other players, but they need to work hard to get it each time and it results in cash payment. It's something that CAN NOT be left to random chance, it must be a clear goal at the end of certain timely tasks. Items can be random, but skills can't.

Rather than selling skills, perhaps developers should view it instead as an important piece of content consumption. You might not make money from it, but you can reduce future expenses (eg, development time, creativity, hiring staff.)

Blizzard Korea Videos

Posted by Daeity On Friday, January 20, 2012

The Blizzard Korea 2012 New Year's Videos are now up.



But, here's what the subtitles "really" say:

GREETINGS KOREAN GAMERS, MY NAME'S JAY WILSON AND I'M THE GAME DIRECTOR FOR DIABLO 3. I WAS TOLD TO SIT IN THAT DARK ROOM BECAUSE IT WAS CONSIDERED "ARTISTIC", I AM SORRY IF YOU NEEDED TO INCREASE YOUR GAMMA. I JUST SAID "2012" SO I WILL PUT THAT IN THE SUBTITLES NOW TO THROW OFF SUSPICION. I HAVE A VERY SECRET MESSAGE FOR YOU. THE GLOBAL RELEASE REALLY WAS BECAUSE OF YOUR RATINGS BOARD. WE HAVE FINALLY RESOLVED THE PROBLEM BUT GAMERS HERE ARE ASKING TOO MANY QUESTIONS. SO, I WILL TAKE SOME OLD BETA PATCH NOTES AND TURN IT INTO A REALLY LONG POST TO MAKE IT SEEM LIKE IT WAS A LOT OF WORK AND IT TOOK 6 MONTHS TO DO. IT WILL BE A GREAT DISTRACTION. BASHIOK ALSO HAS AMBIGUOUS TROLL TWEETS PLANNED IN THE COMING WEEKS TO FURTHER ANGER AND CONFUSE OUR CUSTOMERS TO STALL FOR TIME. PLEASE DO NOT SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH ANYONE OUTSIDE KOREA. BTW DAEITY IS SUPER COOL AND ATTRACTIVE.
If you're interested in this sort of stuff (the videos, not the jokes), they also have a WOW Mists of Pandaria greeting here and a SC2 one here. The general Blizzard Korea video account can be found here if want to see the other older stuff.

(FYI, if you had actually thought that the subtitle translation above was real, then I am embarrassed for you. Looking in your direction, PrisonCharlie.)

UPDATE (01/21/12): The Bashiok Code

Remember yesterday I said that Bashiok was going to "FURTHER ANGER AND CONFUSE OUR CUSTOMERS"? Well, check out his latest post today.
I expect this response to further confuse and enrage, unfortunately.
He must have been reading this blog yesterday. :)

And since I was on the subject of secret hidden messages, I think he dropped his own secret message within this same post! Bashiok wrote:
Being perfectly honest about the cauldron and cube, they were removed for very 'designery' reasons which makes it difficult to explain to people playing the game.
Designery is emphasized and it's also not a real word. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that 'designery' is an anagram for 'greedy sin'. Gasp!

Seriously though.. Bashiok's posts were just embarassing. Here's the full entry:
White items will not be worth the inventory space. No one will pick them up. If people start picking them up we'll reduce the meaningless amounts of gold they already sell for even further. We can address these things if they happen.

Being perfectly honest about the cauldron and cube, they were removed for very 'designery' reasons which makes it difficult to explain to people playing the game. Players want more freedom, more choice, almost limitlessly, but a game is defined by its limitations. It's our job to define those limitations, and enforce them to create the type and feel of the game we're attempting to produce. There are a lot of good reasons, such as breaking up combat, giving very solid and safe stopping points for groups (especially strangers), as well as ensuring players are staying acquainted with the town, its inhabitants, features, and what it offers. A player may say, well that should be my choice, I should just be able to kill demons without a break for as long as I want. It's our job to make those limitations for the betterment of the enjoyment of the game, even if it's an intangible and almost psychological improvement that on the surface appears to be a nonsensical remove of freedom. I expect this response to further confuse and enrage, unfortunately.
He says that no one will pick up white items. Okay.. so, why put them in the game in the first place then, and why do they have vendor sell prices?

Then he basically says, "Well, if someone does actually pick them up for fun, we'll fuck the shit out of them so that they're not fun anymore and so that I can laugh at you."

He goes on to be "perfectly honest" about the removal of the cauldron and cube; "Yeah.. uh, they were removed for reasons that you don't need to know about.. you know, 'designery' stuff." What a cop out. I had thought they made games for their players? Instead, it was "Players want choice and freedom, but it's our job is to remove that choice and freedom."

Well, OF COURSE your response is going to further confuse and enrage. If I kept contradicting myself and I told my customers that they're too stupid to understand our "internal reasons", that I was going to screw them over one day, and I continued to insult their intelligence, of course they're going to be a little cross.

Final Fantasy Dimensions

Posted by Daeity On

Square Enix just registered a new trademark called "FINAL FANTASY DIMENSIONS".

It has the standard description for a new video game. It will probably be a brand new series though.. so, it might have something to do with bringing back old characters and uniting them, or maybe a tie-in to their new time travel approach in recent games.

They have a domain registered as well: http://whois.domaintools.com/finalfantasydimensions.com

You should see news of this title hit fan websites sometime later today or tomorrow.

There were a ton of new trademark registrations last night, but they were all pretty boring. I swear, there must be 30 new mobile and web-based games trademarked every day.

Since I'm not really offering much in the way of news, here's a Path of Exile Beta Key: FRFKQ-ECR46-4K9QD-LJQ8Z

I have another that I'll be giving away next week. If you were lucky enough to be reading this post and got the key, please send us back your Friend Key so that I can keep giving them out to the other readers here. :)

* UPDATE (01/21/2012):

A little late, but it looks like other sites have finally picked up on it.

My Fears Have Been Confirmed

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, January 19, 2012

Whatever issues are revealed tomorrow (e.g. "core system mechanics"), they obviously can't say polish, bugs, player balance or runes. They'll need to come up with something really good.
Jay Wilson's post just went up moments ago.

So, Jay has been preparing this for a few weeks now and everyone was anticipating a significant post detailing the drastic mechanic changes and huge additions being made.

Boy, are they in for a surprise.

It ended up being exactly what I thought; they're still "polishing the game, the rune system, and minor UI changes". The same stuff they've been doing for months and months. It really can't get any more obvious than this; the recent explanation is not a good reason for the delay.

They're cutting out a ton of stuff (Cauldron, Identification, Mystic Artisan, Nephalem Cube, etc.) but they're adding one extra button. And, they're still constantly "tuning and making balance changes."

I am completely shocked that they tried to pass this off as their excuse.. I was expecting something really big, at the very least, that could have possibly explained the long delay. I imagine that others are beginning to clue in now after reading that "big update".

There must be something else going on. One suspicion is the RMAH, Battle.net Balance, and system integration with PayPal which has been postponed by several weeks now.

* UPDATE:

I'm not sure I really agree with this @Diablo tweet:
Jay Wilson (@angryrobotics) just released a wealth of insight into dev iteration & core game systems changes inc: http://ow.ly/8yAHo #D3
A wealth of information and core game system changes? Here's a summary of everything they actually did:
  • We have been finishing and polishing the content for about a year now.
  • Oh, and there's lots of work left to be done. Over the past few years, we've been tuning and making balance changes too.
  • Most recently, we removed Scrolls of Identification. That took us about 5 minutes.
  • We also removed the Mystic Artisan. Oh wow, this was a tough one.. took all day.
  • We removed the Cauldron of Jordan and Nephalem Cube. 5 minutes.
  • We removed salvage option from common white items. 5 minutes.
  • We moved the fifth quick slot button. That took a while.. it was like 30 minutes of work.
  • We moved the Stone of Recall button. 5 minutes of work.
  • We moved the Salvage button to the Blacksmith Artisan instead. 10 minutes of work.
  • We moved character stats to the Inventory UI. 15 minutes.
  • We renamed Attack, Precision, Defense, and Vitality to Strength, Dexterity, Intellect and Vitality. In a way, we sort of brought back Willpower, which was actually removed from the game in late 2010. This didn't take any time at all, because we've already been experimenting with attribute changes over the past few years.
  • We were able to complete all of these massive changes in 3 days, but trust me, we're still doing A LOT OF STUFF right now. It's like really busy. That's the Blizzard Promise™.
Basically, art, music, and programming are the forms of content in game development that take up the most amount of time. The changes that Jay Wilson described are all simple back-end database adjustments (text and numbers).. there has been no new content designed or added.. only deleted. Even the attribute changes are minor and they have been reworking it for years now.. even longer than they have been experimenting with runes. Everything described is nothing "new", it's really just polish.

* UPDATE:

I just want to make a clarification here. Jay Wilson's post shouldn't scare you at all.. this is just a stall for time to ease player frustration and to give the impression that some "real work" has been done (because it has nothing to do with the SK delays.) :)

To me, this does not mean a delay at all. Mark my words: all of these changes are DONE and they were probably completed weeks or months ago. Everything Jay detailed will very likely be in the next beta patch or patches. This IS and WAS NOT a lot of work and it should not worry you at all. This is all minor stuff that has been completed and they do NOT have a lot of work ahead of them.

Jay's post does not mean a delay. So, don't panic.

My only concerns now are with the B.Net Balance system and PayPal.

* UPDATE:

Post from Bashiok:
Keep in mind everything detailed in the article today is already in the game, and most of it is complete. Once you get Patch 10 and see that, I think it may sink in that these aren't theoretical changes we're still working on, they're changes we've completed.
Ah, here we go.. you guys need to start reading between the lines! :)

Read Bashiok's entire post; he just echoes what I've been saying. Most of this was probably completed a long time ago.. the Jay Wilson post is just to show that "something is being done". But it's all just minor stuff, meaning that there's something else delaying the game.

Weak-ly Updates

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Possible Site Issues Tomorrow

  • There's a SOPA protest / blackout tomorrow. I don't think Blogspot is planning anything, but don't be surprised if something weird happens to this blog since IMGUR is going down (and some of the media here is hosted by IMGUR.)
Take Two Interactive
  • The Max Payne 3 release date has been announced by Take Two. XBOX/PS3 on May 15 and May 18, PC version on May 29 and June 1. I won't be buying the game myself, so I don't really care.. but what I do care about is finding out what Rockstar Toronto's next game will be. With MP3 out of the way, we might finally learn more about what's been going on at Rockstar Toronto, and I'm hoping that they haven't given up on RDR PC.
  • Take Two's Quarterly (ending Dec 31, 2011) Shareholder's meeting will be held on February 2, 2012. That's why you have been seeing a large quantity of news announcements and game releases recently. There should be a couple more announcements before the call too (stuff I probably don't care about). I'm not really expecting much on the call, but there should be some talk about GTA V and expectations for the year (which we already know what's coming out for the most part.)
  • UPDATE (01/19/12): "There should be a couple more announcements before the call too (stuff I probably don't care about)."

    LOL.. and here's one of them now.

    BioShock will have a "1999 Mode" which is basically a harder difficulty level and it will include new "tweaks and features" (ie, a nostalgic UI.)

    This is what they're announcing to impress their shareholders with? This doesn't exactly fill me with much confidence. I'm getting the feeling that the Take Two meeting isn't going to go very well.. so, don't be surprised if GTA V gets pushed back.
Activision Blizzard
  • Speaking of Quarterly Meetings, Activision Blizzard's meeting has not been announced yet but it should be very soon. They always announce 3 weeks (or less) prior to the meeting, and the meeting will be taking place likely on February 8 or 9. If a Diablo 3 release date announcement is made, it will be announced BEFORE this meeting. And traditionally, release date announcements are made on a Monday.
  • During this call, they will also be detailing their forecast for the year. During a previous investor call (May 9 2011), Thomas Tippl said "Our outlook at this time does not include a new game from Blizzard in 2011. Should Blizzard not release a major title this year, we would expect, for planning purposes, to launch a minimum of 2 Blizzard titles in 2012." I'm expecting the minimum, and not confident that Blizzard will be launching 3 titles this year. It should be HOTS launched with Diablo 3 in 2012, but you never know. Whether it's HOTS or MOP, expect it's release date sometime in early 2013.
Other Stuff
  • TERA Online's release date has just been announced today too. It's arriving May 1, 2012. TERA has the type of fluid fast-paced hack-and-slash type action that I am expecting in Titan actually. Unfortunately, the game is subscription based so I probably won't be playing it. If the game was developed by Turbine, I'd say that this game was definitely another free-to-play candidate, but this is En Masse/Bluehole and due to their fledgling status, I'm expecting them to be rather stubborn (to the end) in their business decisions. So, I'm not hopeful of a full F2P version for quite a while.
  • Alcatraz just aired. I haven't watched it yet, but I'll probably be making a post about it after I do. I am fully expecting it not to do well though.
  • I've been thinking about a post on overcoming content consumption through a new skills-based RPG leveling system (and how it's more important than items), rather than the standard RPG games that we have now. New information is fairly scarce at the moment (a few dozen Blizzard Facebook and Twitter accounts were locked down or deleted after some of my last posts), so I might bore you with anecdotes or find some other ways to stall for time just like Blizzard has been doing. :)
UPDATE: Layoffs Still Being Confirmed
  • I don't know if you've still been following this or not, but there are still names from my original suspect list being terminated. Matt Milizia is the latest, who has finally confirmed that he is indeed no longer employed by Blizzard (probably given notice 4-5 weeks ago, depending on how long he was employed). Matt, as you might recall, was on that list with Paul Richards (who was also confirmed on his Blogspot account that he was terminated.) There's still two other names I suspect, but I'm still waiting for them to update another source to confirm if they are employed or not (unfortunately they abandoned their accounts, so it's difficult to say.)

    This was a conspiracy theory, remember? Blizzard couldn't possibly have laid off more than 1 person (John Staats) and there's no way a Facebook Profile update could ever mean a change in employment. :)

    Over a dozen names have been confirmed so far, but this is considered meaningless and completely unreliable:

UPDATE (01/19/12): Activision Blizzard Investor Call Announced
  • Ahh.. there it is. Activision Blizzard will be releasing their Q4 2011 results on February 9, 2012.

    If we don't get a release date announcement on or by Monday, February 6 or we get the sense that there won't be an announcement that day, I think the game might be pushed back quite a bit more. :(

New Approaches for Online Casinos

Posted by Daeity On Monday, January 16, 2012

I had mentioned before that I hoped other developers and publishers would be keeping a sharp eye Diablo 3's Real Money Auction House progress.

Almost all ratings boards (except for South Korea) don't concern themselves with gambling and they leave regulation up to other government bodies. So, if any gambling inquiries or concerns do arise, it will be well after Diablo 3 launches.. possibly even a year or two later.

And because Activision Blizzard's army of lawyers reviewed and approved this new system, they'll be there to defend it in case of trouble (potentially setting new precedents in legal cases). Other video game businesses can use this to their advantage and implement the same RMAH system in their own games without concern for legal entanglements.

I wonder, though, if other gaming organizations are monitoring these developments?

RMT is very common in games, but Blizzard has created a unique method that can completely change the online gambling industry, and finally give them the loophole they need to avoid legal prosecution (if illegal in their country), licensing, regulation, and/or heavy taxes (if legal, but controlled).

Assume, for example, that you live in a country where online gambling is illegal. Here's how someone could design an online casino where they can profit from gambling, but it's not legally considered gambling as it uses the same process as the D3 RMAH. I've compared D3 to a slot machine before, but this is a lot more in-depth (a practical guide). :)

I'll use the example of a virtual MMO game called "Casino World", although this could easily be done through a webpage as well.

  • In this game, you can wander around a virtual environment with other players. It's a virtual casino consisting of games like Craps, Blackjack, Roulette, Slot Machines, Poker, Horse Races, Sports Betting, plus any other game that casinos typically have.
  • The Casino World programming team can control the odds of all their games.
  • Real money is not exchanged within the game, but rather players use a virtual currency which we'll call "G Credits".
  • When players first buy the game, they're given a certain quantity of "G Credits" to start out with. However, if they want any more "G Credits" they have to buy them other players on the Player-Run Auction House using real cash. Alternatively, they can provide special services for other players in exchange for "G Credits", or play the in-game "free to play" games that pay out "G Credits" in small quantities and over long term.
  • As a player, if you want to convert your "G Credits" into cash, you have to sell them to other players on the same Auction House.
  • When participating in the Auction House, the casino will take a cut of your transactions. There will be a listing charge and a percentage based the amount being sold (the percentage is adjustable too, based on your seniority. The casino will take less if you're a more senior member.) It will not cost anything to buy items or G-Credits though.
  • In-game items can be won as prizes or bought and sold between players. These items can be used to customize your appearance, populate your virtual "Casino World" apartment or house, or actually do useful things like upgrading your in-game membership card allowing you to play different games, play games with higher stakes, or offer various forms of insurance. Special items can also increase your odds or chances of winning prizes (1% increase of odds in winning x card or x item.)
  • Although many prizes are useful, they can also be converted into "G Credits".
  • Players start out with low social status and they need to upgrade their membership card (upgrades purchased from the other players on the Auction House) to play more games, play games with higher stakes, unlock social or gaming "skills", or get access to new areas and elite rooms. Players also need to pay fees to play games, but having certain upgrades on their membership card will cut down on those costs.
  • The game will also have a lot of socializing; private rooms or public chat areas where virtual drinks or dancing women can be purchased for "G Credits".
  • When players sell their "G-Credits" to other users, this real cash goes into their in-game Bank Account. Using this cash, they can use it to shop at the Casino Store to buy real items or video games. Alternatively, if you want to "cash out" to receive the real money, there are additional fees and percentage cuts that you must pay.
  • All of these transactions need to take place between players, and "Casino World" is just providing a service to allow them to safely trade and communicate with each other. It's important to keep some fees low to encourage gameplay. But, the idea is to get users playing the gambling games, get them addicted, which forces them to purchase "G Credits" from other players. The company's job is to get players using the Auction House, because that's where their profit comes from.
  • Since the company is not directly awarding prizes or paying out cash, they're not involved in gambling as all transactions take place only between players.
  • The price they pay is receiving a percentage of winnings or losses in exchange for legalizing gambling. However, because they can increase player numbers (being legalized and all), it's an automated electronic game, and they avoid licensing and taxes, they are substantially lowering their expenses and raising revenue. They also make money by selling goods (e.g. video games or merchandise within their Casino Store.)
There's a lot of consider in a system like this and it needs live player testing and analysis. You need to balance "G Credit" sinks to keep it valuable, while also providing enough "G Credit" wins so that players keep using the Auction House. But, the "Casino World" operators have complete control over the virtual currency flow as well as the games itself; they can control all odds, or adjust per player based on their behavior or psychology. And even those minor adjustments can be made automatically, ensuring that all of your players keep paying the machine.

What's great about this approach to online gambling is that even in countries where it's legal, it's typically regulated and you pay absurd taxes or licensing fees. Using this system, however, it's not gambling but rather just a video game with players who trade with each other so you can avoid all of those extra expenses.

All the "Casino World" owners are doing is "introducing a powerful auction house system that will provide a safe, fun, and easy-to-use way for players to buy and sell G Credits they obtain within Casino World. Items can be sold and purchased using real-world money or G Credits. Casino World does not plan to post items for sale in the auction house. The driving purpose of the auction house is to provide players with a fun additional in-game option for what they do with the items and G Credits they obtain in the game."

There's nothing wrong with this at all.

"But officer, this isn't gambling.. it's just a EBay like auction system which has been around forever. It's a PLAYER-RUN auction house and we're just providing a safe and secure way for players to sell their G Credits."

This can sound a little complicated and there's a lot I left out (e.g. "What If" scenarios.) But, I'm hoping you can work this out in your mind and see how it would operate. If you have any questions, though, let me know.

Diablo 3 Approved For South Korea!

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, January 12, 2012

Diablo 3 has been approved for use in South Korea but this time without the cash-out feature. If you recall, in the second revision, Blizzard requested that the RMAH remain in-game but for Battle.net Credit only.

You can see the ratings for yourself here: http://www.grb.or.kr/Statistics/GameStatistics.aspx by searching for "Diablo III" or decisions made on 2012-01-13 (If you don't have a built-in translator, please goto http://translate.google.com first before visiting these URLs.)

The rating on Diablo III only shows "Violence", but there is no "Gambling" in the game. This seems to also indicate that the RMAH has been removed entirely.

Approved in SK on Friday the 13th by the way. :)

Based on various news articles, it sounds like Blizzard might have resubmitted it again, but with the RMAH completely removed. Based on the translation, it says that cash transactions between users were not subject to review because they were not implemented. It also says that if the service modification is made in the future, it's not subject to reclassification but it will face Law Review and other associated organizations. Basically, it's not the GRB's problem anymore if Blizzard decides to implement the RMAH.

I'll need our Korean translation expert to confirm this translation though.

If this is correct, it appears that Blizzard might have resubmitted another version that completely excluded RMAH (i.e., not even the B.Net Credit system) some time ago, knowing that this would finally fully approve the game.

* UPDATE:

According to the Korea Times, Blizzard did in fact submit a 3rd version of their submission, but this time without the RMAH entirely. There's no word on when it was submitted, but I'm guessing it was shortly after their 2nd submission (when they requested that the RMAH remain, but only for B.Net credit.) Which would have put it before this tweet too. :)

Korea Times also said that if it was added as a software update, it would face a new round of evaluations. (So it will still go back to the GRB, and won't directly face other government bodies like I originally interpreted from those other sources above.)

I'll see if I can find out when Blizzard submitted the 3rd revision. That aspect is what really interests me.

* UPDATE:

After some forum deletions, Bashiok has confirmed that the RMAH is still in the SK version, but that it will be using only the Battle.net Balance system (which was the second submission, meaning that it wasn't revised again.)

So, I was right, they have an auction house that uses Battle.net balance, which is separate from the gold auction house. There are some details I'm still fuzzy on because the Korea Battle.net balance works a bit differently from ours.

In any case, it won't be the currency-free option you're looking for.
There is a lot of confusion about this. Some sources still say the RMAH remains, others claim it has been removed completely.

* UPDATE:

Bashiok's locked thread that contradicted information about the RMAH has now been completely deleted. You can see the original here. There was nothing wrong with the thread to deserve deletion, other than Bashiok's information. So apparently, the Korea Times and the GRB must have been correct and the RMAH was removed completely.

Based on the limited amount of information available on Titan and Blizzard's history, I can make some educated predictions on what the game will probably be like. As of today, Blizzard hasn't released any details about the game whatsoever.. but there are tidbits of information collected from resumes, Tweets, and job positions. What I'd like to do is "sticky" these posts, so that years from now when the game comes out, you can go back and compare. Plus, I can show a chronology of expectations for the game as new information is made available.

Expectations: What It Will and Won't Be

Blizzard Will Be Playing It Safe

  • There's a lot of hype around what Blizzard means by "Next Gen MMO". The imagination can run wild with this title, with gamers hyping up a brand new approach to gaming. But really, all they mean is a game for Next Generation consoles and systems with improved graphics.
  • Most of the team members developing Titan all come from heavy console gaming development backgrounds. Blizzard also really wants to break into the console market, so it's highly likely that Titan is being developed for the PC, X720 & PS4.
  • Even though high quality graphics are being created, the job requirements for some of the Next Gen MMO artists include converting high-poly sculpted characters into lower poly game models, and to develop graphically appealing but lower resolution images for older PCs. They want the game to run on as many systems as possible, just like what they've done for their other games.
  • Blizzard might experiment internally, but they play it safe when it comes to the finished product. Even Bashiok has admitted that Blizzard does not innovate; they copy, improve and refine. Blizzard will not take chances, and they will only create games that they know will be successful. So, they pay attention to the success of their competitors and they create competing games. They'll take a really great game, and then improve it even more.
  • Activision and Blizzard will not compete with their own games. Activision won't release a fantasy MMORPG, just like Blizzard will not create a warfare FPS shooter. They will try not to cannibalize players from one game until it's popularity wanes. For example, during the height of Starcraft 2 popularity, there will never be a World of Starcraft. WOS would only be a possibility once SC2 dies down.
It Won't Be Groundbreaking or Innovative

  • I wanted to have this up at the top before you read any further. Your imagination can be your own worst enemy, so I want to make sure you're firmly planted on level ground before you jump to conclusions about how amazing Titan will be.
  • Don't get too excited. Titan will be fun, but it won't be groundbreaking or innovative. Much like the gameplay and graphics, the lore and storyline will also be repetitive and contain derivative works.
  • Blizzard is not hiring a brand new team of professional writers, scientists, and psychologists to create the greatest fiction ever written. They're not even looking for new writers, and they used internal writers for Titan who have been around for a really long time (the ones who have written lore and stories for Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft.)
  • Your mind will not be blown. It will have cool new graphics though, and it will be fun to play.
It Won't Be A "Fallout" MMO

  • Although there are a lot of indications that this will be a post-apocalyptic title, it's not going to be. Titan will include many post-apocalyptic environments, but it will never be strictly a post-apocalyptic game. It's the same reason why there will never be a Fallout MMO. Future Fallout installments will probably have multiplayer features, but it can never work successfully as a MMORPG due to the issues of content consumption.
  • Players constantly need new environments and new colorful stimuli to remain interested in a game. The Fallout series works very well as a single player game, but MMOs require frequent injection of brand new content to prevent players from growing bored. In Fallout, the environment, players, and buildings are pretty much the same wherever you go and it can grow repetitive and tiring. So, they introduced virtual environments, alien space craft, national parks, canyons, and underwater locations to keep things fresh.
  • SWTOR has many different planets to explore with wide varieties of environments. How successful would SWTOR be if the entire game were to take place only on Tatooine? It would be a huge planet to explore, but it would only consist of desert environments and repetitive buildings. This is what a Fallout MMO would be like. An Elder Scrolls MMO would be much more sustainable and longer lasting than a Fallout MMO would. Blizzard knows this very well, and have learned quite a bit from World of Warcraft player behavior.
It Will Have Lots of Unusual Environments

  • Because of the constant need for novel content and new stimulation, Titan will be a lot like World of Warcraft in that there will be a very large variety of environments (as well as other activities, like crafting and minigames, to keep players busy.)
  • Since Blizzard is planning on In-Game advertising within Titan, that can give you an idea of the type of environmentals as well where the most emphasis will be. And yes, Blizzard said In-Game ads within the world (not in chat channels) that enhance gameplay. For example, Blizzard was originally planning on putting in-game ads into Starcraft, but they can't do it for Diablo or World of Warcraft. And because in-game ads are so important, it means that this world will have a modern or near-future look. So, your main character's home environment will be modern or "real world", and from there they can travel (somehow) to all of the other environments.
  • Jeff Kaplan said that the Next Gen MMO would be "sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, and historical" combined. Cameron Dayton hinted that Titan would include Atlantis and Teotihuacan, and that Stan Sakai (16th and 17th century Japan) would be involved in some lore aspects of Titan.
  • These are strong indications that Titan will take place on Earth (or a version of Earth), with a real world setting, and players are able to travel to historical or ancient civilizations. That leaves open possibilities for time travel, parallel dimensions, or a telepresence (Surrogates / Avatar) based storyline. Or possibly, it's a dystopian future with several events taking place worldwide and you can explore ancient and buried civilizations, but it all takes place during the same time.
  • It won't be a strictly sci-fi game, though, and it won't compete with Starcraft. There may be a lot of environments or assets borrowed from the Starcraft Ghost game though.
It Will And Won't Be A WoW Clone

  • It will have a lot of similarities to World of Warcraft, including Blizzard's artistic style, but they need to make the game distinct from WoW to maintain long term interest.
  • Many of the first employees working on Titan were part of the Console Development Team (ie, the SAS group.) Titan will be a lot like WoW in some aspects, but because the game is also being developed for consoles, and they're bringing in game ideas from Ghost (and other iterations), you can expect the gameplay to be quite different. The issues of content consumption also apply to gameplay after all.. it's not just content that needs to be new and exciting, but also the gameplay. You can expect gameplay to be much more faster, "in your face", and action oriented.
  • Although players could adapt to a new WoW style game quite easily, it also become boring and repetitive too quickly. Plus, with consoles, gameplay needs to be different to adapt to the new controls.
  • The User Interface, for one, will be drastically different than World of Warcraft. It will most likely be closer to Diablo 3 in comparison; designed to work well on both PCs and consoles, streamlined, more simplified, smaller in size, not as many options or keys that are typically expected on a PC, etc. The interface, combat nor movement will need to be mouse driven (think Skyrim UI) either, so combat will be much faster than WoW.
  • This also limits the number of skills, abilities, or "spells" within Titan. There will be a much shorter list of skills and talents within the game, with more emphasis probably placed on loot or collecting "something". Loot could easily be replaced by pets, creatures, or anything else for example. Since a lot of skills will be cut out of the game, many of them will be saved up for future expansion packs.
It Will Be Colorful and Target WoW Demographics

  • Blizzard's merchandising plans for Titan include Comic Books, Books/Novels, Action Figures, Short Movies, and Apparel. This can be hard to do with a brand new franchise, unless the characters are quite memorable and colorful. Cameron Dayton has also confirmed that the game will have major Heroes and Villains.
  • If the game was targeting children or older moms, it would have been more reflected in their merchandising options. The merchandise they selected for Titan are the same that they have for World of Warcraft player demographics. The more "general appeal" most likely refers to accessibility on consoles, but they are still targeting the same demographics as WoW players but with possibly a slightly younger age in mind (so they are expanding their targeted market by just a little bit). This won't necessarily cannibalize WoW players, for example, since they're targeting the demographics but not the specific players.. they want the same age groups, but not the ones who only play fantasy RPGs.
  • It won't be a casual game, but it will have casual mini-games within the world. It will have Blizzard's artistic style, and they want the game to run on older machines. Titan will probably be a lot more dumbed down and easy compared to WoW, with combat being much faster and more engaging. Because the combat is slightly faster, you might define some elements of the game as FPS, but, it will still be a looting, collecting, and achievement based MMORPG and it won't be a MMOFPS. A MMOFPS is currently unproven, and Blizzard won't risk the chance of releasing one. Plus, it's too limited in scope, and Blizzard needs several addictive gameplay elements that exist within familiar RPGs.
It Will Compete With X Company

  • Blizzard won't compete with their own games, but they do intend on stealing market from their competitors. They will take a successful franchise, but then improve upon it using proven and successful gameplay methodologies. They won't branch out into every game genre, of course, they'll stick with something they're familiar with. For example, they won't try to compete with sports or racing titles, but they will try to compete with Fallout, Mass Effect, Halo, Pokemon, and possibly The Sims. I can understand a big push into Pokemon territory, for example, like what Activision has been doing with Spyro and the pet changes to WoW. They also hired employees from Ensemble Studios (who were working on the Halo MMO also nicknamed "Titan"). So, many of the ideas or designs from the Halo MMO will probably be carried through to Blizzard's Titan. (The Halo MMO rumor has already been talked about to death, so there's no point in speculating on that.)
  • There's no way they can steal all of their competitor's markets. So, they'll use pieces from each successful franchise to build something new, to attract as many people as possible, improve upon it, and use proven systems to create an addictive game (like loot-centric gambling gameplay).
  • Since Blizzard won't compete with any Activision Blizzard titles, you can also know what Titan won't be. For example, it won't be a modern shooter like COD, but there might be fast paced combat in historical or other unusual locations. Activision already has Spyro, so it won't be a MMO targeting children. It won't be a horror title like Doom 3. It will have scifi RPG elements, though, because that won't compete with Starcraft's RTS style gameplay.
There Will Be PVP and Expansion Packs

  • The game is going to have various interfaces for both single player and multiplayer combat and participation. The UI Artist's responsibility also includes creating a "world class UI system that is movie quality (but still highly usable)."
  • You might assume that because the career page I linked above includes "various interfaces in single player, in multiplayer, and on our websites for our current, and future products and expansions" that the game is going to be single player.. but remember, this is a MMO. You will always be connected, and they basically mean your primary interface when you're playing with yourself versus interfaces when you're grouped with other individuals. For example, World of Warcraft has a "single player" interface that's customizable. When you're in a Raid or Party, you also get a special "multiplayer interface" for easier group management and communication.
  • A faster combat system within the game also opens up Titan to possible e-Sports options with small or large scale battles.
  • Much like WoW, Titan will also have "icons, stats, inventory screens, in-game HUD elements", and expansion packs.
  • Regarding future expansion packs, I wanted to point out something interesting in the Next-Gen MMO careers page: "Blizzard Entertainment is looking for an outstanding professional to build and manage a world-class art outsourcing program for a team focused on next-generation massively multiplayer online (MMO) games."

    This is the standard introductory paragraph in many of their hiring posts. You'll see that they wrote "next-generation MMO games." Plural, not singular, and not a typo.

    This means that the Next-Gen MMO team will be working on more than one game. This could either mean follow up expansion packs (which really shouldn't be called "a game"), or it means that they're developing a Next-Gen MMO engine for future (other franchise) games. Having an in-house engine with modular design and graphics expandability would be quite awesome for cutting down development time on future games. This could be where that "Titan As A Development Platform" opinion came from. But, Blizzard wouldn't be making this available to third parties, it would be for their own internal games.
It Will Have A Fixed World

  • Cameron has already confirmed that the lore, philosophy, world, heroes and villains have been created. Since they also have merchandising planned for the game, you can assume that this is a fixed world. It won't be a craftable world or created by players like in Second Life. The world and environments have already been created, just like WoW.
  • However, the Blizzard team has learned many lessons from World of Warcraft and Diablo 3, especially in the areas of content consumption. There's a very strong possibility that Titan will have randomly generated content. Not so much in the "overworld" but rather within dungeons. To a lesser extent, Titan might also take a different approach to loot and adopt a "global loot table" approach like what Diablo 3 has done. Automatically creating new content within Dungeons, having random encounters, and randomized loot ensures fresh adventures for players and significantly reduces future development time. It also plays an excellent role in internal security protection and discouraging server emulation.
And Other Uncategorized Stuff

  • I think a lot of the systems within Titan will depend a lot on the success of Diablo 3. Read this post for more information. For example, it's really hard to determine if Blizzard will be making this a subscription based game, or if they intend on using a Real Money Auction House. Things are looking very likely, though, for a non-subscription (free to play) based game because they're planning on in-game advertisements for revenue and their finance team is focused on the business analysis and visioning for the D3 Auction House. It's highly probable that it will be a F2P game using multiple revenue models, including paid services, RMAH, a player or crafting marketplace, microtransactions, DLC, and/or in-game advertising.
  • What Blizzard originally intended for World of Warcraft, they might do instead with Titan: smaller expansion packs, shorter development and delivery time, and DLC packs that expand the game.
  • Very unlikely, but I thought I would throw it out there. Next Gen MMO as an on-demand streaming game service? The problem with streaming video games is that it's currently unproven and not very reliable. If the game could be streamed, it would certainly open up the game to many platforms without the porting development time needed. Unfortunately, the Next Gen MMO positions are looking for artists to convert high poly graphics to low poly, and this wouldn't be an issue for streaming gameplay. If Blizzard starts testing out streaming gameplay at Blizzcon 2012 or 2013, though, it might be a possibility for future games.

Titan's Possible Past and Future -- Part 2

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Team 3"

Most gamers believe that "Team 3" was the group working on Diablo 3 back in 2007. But D3 was still being worked on dating back to 2005 (and from 2000 by Blizzard North) and there was never any official statement linking D3 to "Team 3". Most users, including myself, believed it was called "Team 3" because of Diablo "3" and the timing of "Team 3" and the Diablo 3 announcement.

When speaking to Gamasutra in 2007, Frank Pearce had this to say:

"Our global headcount is 2,700," said Pearce, "And most of that is customer service for World of Warcraft! In terms of development staff it’s probably around 350. World of Warcraft is about 135 people, 40 for Starcraft II, 40 for team 3, our cinematics team is about 85 guys. Then there’s sound and Q/A and that sort of thing."

When pressed for details regarding the new project, Pearce was cagey. "Team 3 is working on something really awesome. I can’t give you any hints, but it’s totally awesome."

Gamasutra was able to confirm that, in spite of Rob Pardo's comments at Hollywood and Games that they weren't giving up on StarCraft Ghost, this Blizzard project remains something different.
Diablo 3 wasn't a new project though, it was just an old unannounced on-and-off project. Swingin' Ape Studios was the third division of Blizzard and later renamed to Blizzard Console. Blizzard North was the old team responsible for Diablo 1 and 2, and they were the team working on Diablo 3 from 2000-2005.

The phrase "Team 3" was not revealed publicly until just a few months before the Next Gen MMO was revealed too. Also, coincidentally, "Team 3" had 40 employees which was also the number of SAS employees that remained with Blizzard. SAS had become a separate team, they had 40 employees, and they were Blizzard's 3rd division.. "Team 3" maybe?

They were specifically working on Next Gen Console games too, and were in a state of flux at this time (2007) trying out new things. Rob Pardo did confirm, after all, that they had not given up on Starcraft Ghost and there were about 40 employees working on it.

Now, there's very strong evidence to support that "Team 3" was also the Project Hydra team, but there are also hints that "Team 3" could have been the group from SAS and they were continuing work on something "totally awesome" that might have evolved from Ghost. At the time, there was never any official confirmation of who "Team 3" really was, but today it just refers to the Diablo 3 team. I thought I would mention this, because their team and project names have been known to change when they take different directions. For example, Cataclysm was rumored to be called "Project South Seas", then it was changed to "Project Worldbreaker", and then finally "Project Cerberus". SC2 was rumored as "Project Alpha" and then "Project Medusa".

Kaplan Connects Titan with SAS

In 2008, during Kaplan's infamous "Blizzard's new MMO is going to be sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic or historical? All of those combined!" speech, Kaplan talked about the SAS crew while on the subject of the Next Gen MMO, broader audiences, and Consoles:
"So I don't think 'World of Warcraft' would really work that well on the console, but that's not to say that other MMOs couldn't. And we have a pretty savvy group of console developers -- a lot of the guys we inherited from Swingin' Ape really know what they're doing on next-gen consoles. So we might have a few tricks up our sleeves in that regard."
A History Of Blizzard Repeating History

Have you ever noticed that Blizzard tends to repeat the past, or bring things back from the past?

They're bringing back in-game advertising (planned for Titan, but they had originally wanted it in SC2 because they didn't have any games that could support it.) They're getting back into Next-Gen Console gaming. They're reintroducing Real ID, but in a different non-offensive flavor. They frequently reuse assets from older or abandoned games (e.g. WOW or SC Ghost assets used in SC2). They reintroduce classes or races previously planned for older WOW expansion packs (e.g. Pandaren planned for TBC instead of Draenei.)

I had always wondered why they bought Swingin' Ape Studios so quickly, especially when the SC Ghost project wasn't doing too well, Metal Arms didn't sell very well, and SAS only had the console game Metal Arms under their belts. There must have been something else about the company that impressed them.

Diablo, for example, was being developed by Condor Games. Blizzard was so impressed by their game and creativity that half way through the development of the game, Davidson acquire Condor Games and they renamed it to Blizzard North. They were still very new to project management during this time, but they recognized just how valuable Diablo was going to be.

In SAS's case, Blizzard outsourced the SC: Ghost Console project to them. Perhaps there was something more within the company that Blizzard wanted, like other video games or ideas they were working on, much like they had done with Condor Games. :)

It's possible that a very early version of Titan was around at one point, but it was put on the back shelf due to the immense popularity and new resource requirements of World of Warcraft. It would have been an early prototype but with very ambitious plans. It's possible that Titan isn't a very new idea, and it's something that has been sitting on a shelf for a lot longer than people might think.

In order to know more about Titan or predict it's future, it's important to understand it's past.

Nomad and Guerrilla

Swingin' Ape Studios was secretly working on a next-gen console game called Guerrilla. The demo was a post-apocalyptic themed game, which eventually evolved into something more military ("FarCry") themed. This game was demonstrated to Blizzard before they were contracted for the SC Ghost project. I wonder if they showed the post-apocalyptic version along with their ideas for the future of the game, or they were showed the FarCry version that EA had wanted? :)

Whichever the case, the engine was adapted for the SC Ghost game. In a way, SC Ghost could be a precursor to Titan. (I won't be surprised if Titan contains scifi assets from the old Ghost project.)

Right after StarCraft, Blizzard also started working on their own post-apocalyptic scifi (squad based) RPG entitled Nomad. Blizzard had put a lot of work into the game, but they decided to work on WOW instead because they just weren't ready for Nomad at the time.

Nomad was mentioned again in 2008 (along with other cancelled projects). The cancelled Shattered Nations was also a post-apocalyptic scifi themed game by Blizzard, and some people have suspected that Nomad might have mutated into MMO form.



SAS's Metal Arms

If Titan has a past history with Guerrilla and SAS, there might also be a connection to Metal Arms. For example, since many of the current employees working on Titan came from SAS and they worked on MA, they might have adopted some of the ideas from MA or what was planned for Metal Arms 2. (If you read the SAS post, Metal Arms was originally the story of a bounty hunter traveling to many different planets, with one inhabited entirely with various types of robots.)

For example, a lot of robots or a "Control Tether" feature borrowed from MA. Glitch was able to "possess" other robots, gain their abilities and control them. (Sort of like an Avatar-like or mind control game, something that's missing from a lot of games these days.)

I haven't been able to find too much online, but here are some examples where Steve Ranck commented on future work:
SAS_Steve [Source]

We (the developers) would love to work on a sequel. Glitch on next-gen would be really fun to work on. Vivendi owns the property, though.
SAS_Steve [Source]

BinfordKid, we're sitting on a huge amount of AMAZING story that's just waiting for a sequel.
I often wonder if "Project Titan" name was chosen as an internal joke to the Next Gen MMO team's previous work on Metal Arms. There were infamous Titans in Metal Arms (dangerous robots), and Project Titan might have originated some MA after all (e.g. MA -> Guerrilla -> SC Ghost -> Titan).

Heck, for all we know, it could have been borrowed from Blizzard's scrapped "Path of the Titans" too. In Path of the Titans, the player could join various cults and investigate history. :)

If there is a connection between SAS, their old IP, and Titan, we might see a lot of their ideas or innovations being inherited. This is why I'm interested in old game ideas or early game concepts. So, if you discover any old sources or mentions about "SAS/Blizzard games in development" from really old magazines, for example, let me know.