World! Of! Warcraft!

Feb 15, 2005 half past eight am

I am not a big player of MMORPMMGOMMGS, the last one I spent any time on being Ultima Online when it first came out, plus a few hours on EverQuest, so I might be impressed by things that are old-hat...

In the interest of brevity and for all the executives and marketing people that read the Grumpy Gamer, I figured I'd just bullet point my feedback.

  • I am awestruck by the scope of the world.  It is huge and feels huge.  The world is so visually tasty and really seems to be designed as a real world, not just a vehicle for quests.  After several days of questing, I made it to the coast, the sun was setting and I just stared out into the sea, letting my mind wonder, just like I do at the real Ocean.  Several other players were doing the same.  That is a real achievement.
  • I find it amusing that when you loot a corpse while grouped, a "roll a dice" interface comes up to see who gets the booty.  It's an interesting holdover from the D&D days.  Why dice?  Why not paper-scissor-rock.  That's why I would do.  Of course, one of my dreams has been to make the worlds first Massively Multiplayer Paper Scissor Rocks game (MMPSRG).  I actually wrote a whole design for it.
  • I really enjoy (and am impressed by) the art style and art direction.  I've always like the Warcraft world because it has a nice hint of cartoomieness (not a real word).   They translated this into a pure 3D environment perfectly.
  • Why aren't other players more friendly?  It's not that people are rude, it's just that nobody is very chatty.  I've tried to strike up conversations with several other people and am ignored or greeted with a simple "hi", follow by a dash down the road.   Other than the people in my group, everyone else might as well be NPC's.
  • I would like to see an option for "word balloons" above peoples heads when they speak.  I don't pay much attention to the chat area in the lower left.  This might help with the social aspect of chatting.
  • The in-game maps stink.  The close-up ones are OK, but when you zoom out, there is no context.  You are really forced to hunt down better maps on the internet.
  • I'd like to be able to mouse over buildings to see what they are.  I hate wandering into town and having to hunt down the right building.  I know you can mouse over the signs, but they often aren't visible.
  • One of my favorite activities is what I call "drive-by-cowing".  Once you get up in levels, you can take out a cow in a single swing.  Start about 100 feet way and run towards the cow, as you pass, swing and take it out.  Keep running and see how many cows you can take out.  It's twice as fun with someone following you taking screen shots.
  • Nobody seems to mind that I go around killing livestock, which I assume the locals use for meat, milk and possibly companionship on a lonely night.  Maybe if I keep doing it, people will slowly start to starve and I'll feel bad.  I'd like to see the guards come over and give me a little sword-smack for killing cows and sheep.
  • Why can bears and boars resist my magic?  Come on, they're animals, and not wicked-cool magic animals, just plain old animals.  Makes no sense.  Suspension of disbelief alert.
  • It's pretty funny to see someone being chased by a "train" of monsters.  We were exploring this old mine the other day, and while standing in a tunnel some guys runs by the entrance being chanced by 5 Tunnel Rats.  Do I help out?  No, I just "/point-n-laugh".
  • All the vendors seem to sell the same stuff.  It's like they all have the same distributor.  I'd like to find more interesting items at different places.  I started out looking for some better Maces, but soon gave up when I realized it's just a chain store.
  • I'm currently at Level 15, and I've been in the weapon, armor and magic doldrums for quite a few levels now.  Nothing really new and interesting.  I'm starting to tire of my mace and the same 3 magic spells.  I'm a product of the MTV generation, I need new spells every 15 minutes.
  • Needs more Pirates!
  • You should get extra XP for killing a new creatures for the first time.  It was really disappointing to discover the Mechanical Golems, excitingly enter battle and discover that I got the same XP as I did for the Bear down the road.  I realize that it's all numbers under the veneer of a texture-map, but it was new for me, and I wanted to be rewarded.
  • Can you move a character to another server?  I didn't see a way to do this, and I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to.  It was very frustrating to run into someone (in the real world...stay with me) and find out they are playing, but we're on different server.  I can see how they wouldn't want people jumping servers on a whim, but having it take a few days, or give a character a limited number of jumps would be nice.  
  • I am always annoyed by games that they to make inventory management a game-play mechanism.  Why can I only carry 12 things?  Why does a huge two hand rock-hammer take as much space as 10 drops of spider spuge?  Seems like I should be able to carry as much spider spuge as I want.
  • The city of Stormwind is simple amazing.  It real feels like you're in the midsts of a real husseling and busseling city.  I am constantly amazed and impressed with the layout and architecture of the world.  We have come to call this place "Mall of America".  All it needs is a Roller-coaster in the middle.
  • The fact that the Tram and the Gryphon rides that place in the 3D world is great.  They could have cheaped out and made them canned sequences, but they didn't.  It's fun to see other people battling for XP below you, or see someone fly-by on a Gryphon as you track over the mountains.
  • I would really like to see some sort of story.  Oh sure, there is a story in the opening cut-scene about something or another, fact is I watched about 7 seconds of it before hitting ESC.   I'm not sure why I'm running around killing everything that I see, getting XP, getting money and repeating the cycle.  I'd like to think there was some greater goal we were all reaching for, and one that really mattered to my character and my day-to-day actions.  I know some other MMG's has tried to do this sort of thing with limited success.
  • I like the game play mechanism of dying and being taken to the closest cemetery, then trekking as a ghost to recover your body.  It feels right in terms of risky actions verses the penalty.  Last night we discovered a cave system under a building.  As we walked though the deserted tunnels, my heart was beating and I was genuinely worried about running into a group of Bandits and dying.  In a single player game, I would have just saved and all the tension would have been gone.  We did end up dying, but 3 minutes later we we back in our bodies running like hell to get out.  Perfect experience.
  • I really dislike the class system found in most D&D inspired RPG's.  It make little sense to me that just because I am a Paladin I can't use a gun.  Seems like I should be able to use what ever I train for and get good at.  There could be certain skills that counter each other, like getting good at magic could demising your sword-play.  I want to pick up a gun and try to blast things.  I'm not asking to be very good at it, but at least let me try it.  
  • There were a lot of people playing on Valentines Day...just saying.
  • I am curious to know the story behind the simultaneous release of the Mac and Windows versions.  The only reason I own this game is because there is a Mac version.  What was the decision making process?  Are there any lessons for other publishers to learn?
  • And finally, why the hell can't they remember my username and password.  Just a little checkbox that says "Remember Username and Password" would be great.  I am the only person that uses my machine, and if it was compromised, the last thing I would be worrying about the 129 pieces of copper being held by my character.

I realize the preceding bullet points contain a lot of nitpicking criticism, but they are just that, nitpicking.  Over all, this is one incredibly impressive game.  I can only imagine the amount of work that went into the designing and construction of the worlds, towns and buildings.  While I've sure there is to some degree, I can't detect any cookie cutter places.

The game is strangely (for me anyway) addictive.  I play for a few hours every day.  Afterwards, I feel like I wasted my evening or weekend, only to be anxious to get back to it the next day.  It is quickly becoming the game I've played the most.

I do wonder why I play the game so much.  For me, it is really a two player LAN game.  The fact that 600,000 other people are also playing is irrelevant, or is it?  I don't interact with anyone else, for all I care those other players are NPC's, but there is something enticing about being with other people, even if you ignore each other.  Maybe that's why I enjoy going to the movies and sitting in the dark with a bunch of strangers.

Good news is, no ones cell phone as rung during combat.  "Hello?"  "Hey!  Guess what I'm doing?  Yeah, Killing a Trogg, it's awesome dude."

Now for the obligatory screen shots:

Other people's comments:

Posted by Malekh on Feb 15, 2005 twenty past nine am

Quote: "There were a lot of people playing on Valentines Day...just saying."

Apparantly you were playing as well? :P

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Feb 15, 2005 half past nine am

I was playing with my girlfriend.  We had a nice dinner at the Lakeshire Inn.

Posted by Malekh on Feb 15, 2005 ten past noon

You got off that easy on valentine's day? No flowers? Restaurants? (besides the virtual ones...) Jewelry? shakes jealous fist

Posted by Edmundo on Feb 15, 2005 quarter past one pm

How nerdy romantic.

Posted by on Dec 29, 2005 nine am

What!!! A game developer has a GIRLFRIEND? What is the world coming to...

Posted by Rastis on Feb 15, 2005 twenty five past nine am

Damn that WoW has this pay each month and play system :/
Of course that system keeps the true idiots away, but still...
I must get a credit card :)

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Feb 15, 2005 half past nine am

True, but I can't imagine I'll still be playing when my free period ends.  The trick is to remember to cancel.

Posted by Edmundo on Feb 15, 2005 twenty past one pm

I personally played for 10 days, because my friend bought the "ghetto-boy" boxset special edition which came with a trial, oh, they did give me like 4 more days because the server was having problems, but I kind of had finals around that time.

Posted by paul on Aug 2, 2005 five past six am

can some give me a world of warcraft account cause i got hacked and i cant get my pasword or anything sent to me everything has been changed some 1 give me and account please

Posted by Auz on Feb 15, 2005 twenty five to ten am

I really dislike the class system found in most D&D inspired RPG?s.  It make little sense to me that just because I am a Paladin I can?t use a gun.  Seems like I should be able to use what ever I train for and get good at.  There could be certain skills that counter each other, like getting good at magic could demising your sword-play.  I want to pick up a gun and try to blast things.  I?m not asking to be very good at it, but at least let me try it.  

Asheron's Call did that. It has an entirely different set of drawbacks than classes do though.

Posted by Someone on Feb 15, 2005 twenty to eleven am

how?

Posted by Auz on Feb 17, 2005 half past one pm

Every weapon type (ie axe, sword, bow n arrow, magic) took it's basic level of ability from one or two of your fundamental stats even if you weren't trained in it (if you were trained in it you could advance it in addition to raising the fundamental stats). You could pick up and use any weapon, albeit at a much lower level than a specialist in that weapon.

There were issues - I recall once, to catch up with a friend on another server, having my sword character be given a bow, then being buffed to gehenna and back and plinking arrows at very high level liches who couldn't reach me.

Posted by wrgrey on Feb 19, 2005 four am

I'll mostly address AC's system in the first couple years of creation, since some things changed even before I stopped playing and I don't know what's going on there now.  It is entirely skill-based, with no real classes.  Sure, it had some standard character templates it offered at creation, but they were just a set of defaults for the creation system that let you set attributes and choose skills.

You gained levels as your XP hit certain points, but that didn't in itself make you stronger.  Improvement was achieved by spending XP to increase attributes or skills.  As Auz mentions, most attributes increased certain skills, while a couple of them determined the size of your health, stamina, and mana pools.  However, in order to increase a skill so you can be halfway competent, you needed to invest skill credits.  You got 50 at creation and an extra one every few levels after that (one way in which levels did matter).  Furthermore, you could raise a skill much more easily if it was specialized by spending extra credits on it at creation.  (This could not be done later.)

Combat interactions in AC succeeded or failed on a check based on skill level comparison.  Your axe skill vs. the opponent's melee defense or your life or war magic vs. their magic defense would determine hit or miss, resist or successful cast.  Because specialized skills were so much easier to pump, you really had to have your key combat skills specialized in order to be effective.

Players ended up gravitating toward specialized melee, specialized archery, or magery.  There were a few variations around, such as choosing melee defense or spec magic for an archer, but gradually certain most effective builds grew ever more popular.  The four magic skills were so expensive that in order to have them all at start you could only get them trained, but specialization was so important that most of the early all-trained mages rerolled new characters with a couple specialized schools.  As certain skills were found particularly useful, particularly specialized life magic, so many people got the most spec for the skill credit with narrowly focused melee, archer, and mage builds.  Many characters were near-clones with highly similar attribute and skill choices for high level effectiveness.

Aside from homogenization, that "high level effectiveness" bit was another hassle.  Although it later became possible to untrain or to specialize skills after creation with an allowed real-time frequency of several weeks, for years you could only spend skill credits to train new skills, never get a refund on skills or specialize in a trained skill after creation.  Therefore new characters, for long-run effectiveness, tended to be created with focused attribute and skill choices that were a serious pain until some advanced level after which they totally outclasssed generalists.

One example was the war/life spec mage with extreme attributes who was totally crippled at level 1, compared to a generalist all-trained mage with well-rounded stats.  The war/life only started with 2 of the 4 schools of magic and was at a significant disadvantage up to level 50, at which point the war/life mage had all the skills a mage needs.  With the saved XP from spec skills, the war/life then utterly blew away things the trained mage couldn't touch and could even surpass the generalist in non-spec skills using the XP saved from the specialization discount.

Now, all this changed when untraining, specialization, and base attribute changes could be done post-creation, but this didn't happen for several years after release.  Again, I don't know what's happened to AC since a couple years ago, but even after you could respec any time you'd still probably just switch which highly-focused template you were playing and, if the change were a big one, the time restriction would mean it'd take months before you were decent in your new schtick.  At least it did make it easier to create a generalist and then slowly hone into the few effective archetypes, rather than being hosed without an extreme start.  Anyway, if you're looking for a system that lets you develop your character flexibly without seeing your effectiveness plummet, AC was not it.

I'm very glad indeed that, in World of Warcraft, the worst I can do to my character is to make poor talent choices and, perhaps, choose suboptimal (read: non-engineering) professions.  I can be a gimp who's substantially less effective than others, but I'm not going to be in the position of being utterly unable to touch a mob that someone with the same level, the same gear, and a better start will absolutely blow away.  I like being able to make most of my character design choices as I progress, through talent and equipment selection, rather than having to make vital choices before I understand the consequences.

Posted by Stimor on Feb 15, 2005 twenty to ten am

My brother has it, i dont. im planning on strangeling him with my gamecube controller

Posted by Marek on Feb 15, 2005 ten to ten am

Nice post! I have avoided WoW so far for fear of it completely consuming my life.

A Massively Multiplayer Paper Scissor Rocks Game (MMPSRG) already exists, by the way. At least, it's done in real-life form quite a lot whenever Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman give a lecture at game conferences.

Posted by A. Jacobson on Feb 15, 2005 twenty five past ten am

Well, it was bound to happen.  Even the grumpiest of gamers falls prey to the inexplicably appealing WoW. :)

This truly is a great game, easy to play, almost endlessly enjoyable.  Check this out:  I have a L20 rogue I wanted to move to another server so I could join up w/a guild for a website I write for.  As you've noted, this isn't possible (some have commented that this is to prevent item farmer types from looting low pop servers, selling off at hi pop ones, I don't know of this is true or not).  Anyway, I loved the rogue Undead character and as curious as I am about other races and classes, I wanted him to be a part of the guild on the other server.  So I basically recreated and leveled up the character on the new server, from scratch.  I skipped some of the less useful quests, but for the most part just replayed the same game, same character, all the way up to L20.

I don't know, maybe this makes me an idiot.  But the point is: I had as much fun the second time around with the same quests.   Of course, it didn't hurt now that I knew the maps, quests, etc, and had guild help so I was able to get to L20 in about 1/2 the time.

I've found that most other players are pretty friendly.  It seems like the L 0-15 players aren't as sociable, maybe because they're new.  Once you're 15+ you've got a lot more quest/instance options where you can survive w/a group, plus you're running all over Azeroth picking up quests you can share w/others.  A lot of the 50+ characters, in comparison to me, are in their own worlds, doing their own things, zooming around on flame-hoofed skeletal horses and such.  

Being in a good guild has really enhanced the game.  It's been huge.  Nowadays the first thing I check upon logging in is who else is online, and what they're doing.  It's amazing the stuff I learn from more experienced players, in groups or just through chat.  Plus always having a bunch of players to hook up with / get help from is great.

I almost cancelled my account prior to creating the second character.  I'm glad I didn't.  Since I started playing WoW, it's become my fall-back game.  It's always there, but I don't feel like I have to play it is there's something more interesting out there.  Alternatively, I  can play nothing but WoW for hours on end without getting bored.  I've decided it's worth the $15 a month.

Find me on Blackhand, L21 Undead Rogue, GWJ Horde guild, name: Asch.
(blogging games at http://rendergaming.blogspot.com)

Posted by Jake on Feb 15, 2005 half past ten am

All (or at least almost all) Blizzard games are Mac and Windows on the same CD. I don't know how many Mac-specific people they have (I suspect its fewer than one might think), but at least last time I checked one of them (maybe the only one?) was John Stiles, who was hired after porting a huge handful of console emulators to the Mac (his site is www.emulation.net though he doesn't contribute to it that often anymore).

It's always baffled me at least a little bit why more companies (especially big ones with lots of money who are making guaranteed hits like, say, Valve) don't bother to hire a couple guys on to do Mac ports. Open source games seem to manage portability without giving it a second thought, but commercial game developers act as if its the hugest heaping task in the world. Is it a directx thing? A mental roadblock? Probalby something slightly more formidable than that, but sometimes I wonder.

Posted by Doppelganger Rex on Feb 15, 2005 quarter past noon

Kwitcherbitchin, numbnuts! Everybody knows that nobody in his or her right mind plays games on Macs. Macs are for painfully hip people and painfully hip people are above that whole dorky thing called games.

Also Macs suck.

And so do you.

Posted by jean-christophe on Feb 15, 2005 twenty to eleven am

Last time i checked matrix-online was using a paper/scisor variant to emulate fights.

Posted by Rabidbunnylover on Feb 15, 2005 quarter to one pm

A couple of things:

Booty Bay has pirates, although you'll be higher level before you can easily get there. They also sell little pet parrots there that fly around after you. The Deadmines in Westfall also has pirate enemies (it's mid-20sish).

Although there isn't an XP boost for killing new enemies, the quest system does reward you for moving around since you get new quests in each new zone your level, which increases your xp overall.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Feb 16, 2005 five to three pm

I never said there weren't pirates in WoW...I said there needs to be more pirates!  I should be tripping over pirates.  Get rid of the damn Boars and replace them with pirates!  Inn Keepers?  No! Pirates!  Weapon trainers become pirates!  Little Timmy the alterboy...that's right...a pirate!  I think you're catching on.  Embossed Plate Armor...now a pirate!  Everyones name should start with "The Pirate..."

Posted by Dave on Feb 18, 2005 half past three pm

Then they can call it World of Monkey Island, err, -Craft.  That way you could collect royalties and it would be full of your beloved pirates; since it's set in the Carribean of course.

Posted by wrgrey on Feb 19, 2005 ten past four am

That's why I so nearly went for Puzzle Pirates.  Everyone was a pirate.  Even the shopkeepers were probably retired pirates or just on their pirating sabbatical and, of course, running shops owned by pirates in pirate colonies with pirate governors.  (That and a meritocratic system where my ingame ability to perform tasks depended on how well I could solve puzzles rather than how long I've been mindlessly grinding for XP.)

Posted by Rodi on Feb 15, 2005 quarter to one pm

Since Blizzard has a name for being Mac-friendly, I estimate they have a HUGE force of goodwill behind them from that direction. Seeing as they are virtually the only ones developing AAA+-titles for them, I think they all buy them. But that's just a rough estimate that I've pulled out of the air.

As for the obligatory fanboyisms: yeah, World of Warcraft pretty much rocks. The European version is online since friday and I've been playing non-stop. So far, the early game seems very addictive, but I'm interested to see how it goes when I've reached a higher level and I expect more than petty quests and leveling up, when I've seen every farscape and been to every site. Will it stay addictive then, and will it make good on the promise of truly epic adventures?

Posted by Alan on Feb 15, 2005 ten to two pm

I think you were pretty much right on with a lot of those critiques, except maybe for a few.

First, there is a bit of a storyline and much more of one than I've seen in most MMOGs. The quests do carry some certain semblance of story, like the bandit one you are describing. However, I definitely would like to see it expanded some more. I just have to point out that it's a hell of a lot better than stories from MMOGs in the past.

As for the players not being friendly/chatty, I've found that sometimes I like to play just by myself and I'm very impressed that WoW was designed in a way that can completely accomodate that play style. I got to level 22 so far and I've almost completely played solo, except for the few cases where I joined a team to do elite missions or help out a weaker player. However, I made sure to join one of the roleplaying servers, so that when I do interact with players there's a good chance of them staying in character. So far, I've yet to run into a player that doesn't roleplay with me when I start right out with the rude, crude dwarf routine.

If roleplaying is something you're big on, you may want to check out Avlis:
http://www.avlis.org/

Completely free MMOG, except for buying all the Neverwinter Nights stuff. I played for a while as a pacifistic Ogre warrior that only spoke in rhyme. It was a good time.

WoW has been a time leech in my life. My friends and I are starting to play it together so that we can limit our play time to once a week, for 3-4 hours. It's kind of like the oppositte of a running partner. However, I don't think this plan will work.

Posted by Damion Schubert on Feb 15, 2005 ten to four pm

As another MMO dev, thought I'd respond to this:

And finally, why the hell can?t they remember my username and password.  Just a little checkbox that says ?Remember Username and Password? would be great.  I am the only person that uses my machine, and if it was compromised, the last thing I would be worrying about the 129 pieces of copper being held by my character.

1. Social engineering hacks.  Many, many people with hacked accounts end up hacked at their own machines by malicious friends, spurned ex's, etc.

2. Trojans and other hacks.  Players can be uncanny about getting programs on other player's machines which will somehow access the stored data.

Yeah, making you enter it is inconvenient, but it really does reduce CS calls considerably, and it's entirely worth it.

Posted by eloj on Feb 15, 2005 eight pm

As for #2, a middle-way could possibly be to allow "temporary" sessions by accepting a client-generated (and subsequently server-stored) hash as the "password" as long as it's from the same client IP (external, as determined by the server).

When the server detects an IP change, require the user to re-enter the plaintext password as normal.

If a trojan snatches the hash, it can't be used without also spoofing the client IP, which I suggest
isn't exactly trivial in a TCP session.

This way, if you've "persistently" logged on from a "friends" computer by mistake, all you have to do is go home (or somewhere else) and log on with the password that still only you know, and the "friends" IP and login credentials will be invalidated.

</top-of-my-head>

Posted by hey srupid on Feb 27, 2006 twenty five to three pm

your a dubass they do have a remember box

Posted by Stephen Hosmer on Feb 15, 2005 half past six pm

I would like to see an option for ?word balloons? above people?s heads when they speak.  I don?t pay much attention to the chat area in the lower left.  This might help with the social aspect of chatting.
City of Heroes has "word balloons" because it is a comic book MMO, so of course it has them, and I think they're great.

Other than bugs, server issues, and the whole feeling of unfinishedness (it?s a feeling, feelings aren?t restrained to real words), these are the reasons I am not playing WoW:

1.  I do like the world and the art and I wish I could just walk around barefoot with a stick and just look at stuff, but I get forced into this whole leveling thing where I do all these quests that go and tell me to kill X of something or kill a bunch of something until I collect X of something.  I got to level 20 and by then I was starting to get tired of killing 50 bears so I could get 10 bear spleens for some guy.  It was especially terrible when I was in the starting area and I had to kill something that a bunch of other people were trying to kill and every time one spawned it would get slaughtered immediately.  And if I got a quest to kill a named monster then I would have to sit there and camp his spawn because everyone else was waiting for him and I would have to hit him before anyone else did.  And why is this Bandit leader, or whatever it may be, being brought back from the dead every five minutes anyway?  Didn't I just kill him and save the town?  Were all my actions just useless and the bandits never go away, and that alchemist needs more bear spleens no matter how many he gets?  Blah!

2.  It didn't seem like the designers thought about where the people were going to gather and why.  They put these trade channels in the major cities for people to sell stuff but it didn't seem like a lot of people were in the cities.  Therefore all those people were outside spamming the general chat trying to sell stuff.  People were hanging out at the small villages and towns because that?s where all the quests were; people would only go into the city if a quest instructed them to or they were getting a flying mount.  The cities should be where everyone is hanging out, they were set up to be like that, but they seemed like ghost cities to me.  Sure they look nice and the architecture is great, but they were completely empty.  It might be possible that people have learned better by now and are selling things in the auction houses and hanging out in the cities, but nothing in the game ever pointed anyone to the auction houses.  Why aren?t there any quests where an NPC gives you a special item to sell and the game buys that item from the auction house?   Maybe the manual tells you how, but who reads that?  I don't think you should expect anyone to read the manual.

3.  Everyone says it's great that you can solo for most of the game, but when I was playing it seemed like everyone was just soloing and no one needed a team.  The only reason that someone would team was because they needed help with a hard or elite mission and after that everyone just went on their own merry way.  I thought the point of MMOs was the whole online community of people interacting and competing in the world.  It just seems to be that they made it so easy to solo that, as you said; everyone else might as well be an NPC.  All of my friends are gamers and none of them are playing it so that just added to the problem.  There wasn?t anyone around I could talk to about my epic adventures or about the cool place or item I found the other night; that?s the fun part for me, sharing the experience.

They may have fixed all the issues I have with the game but I don?t have time to wait for things to get better.  It shouldn?t have been broke in the first place.

Posted by St. John on Feb 15, 2005 nine pm

These things weren't "broken" you just don't seem to like MMORPGs.

1. There are these odd little creatures called other humans who need to play too. So, unfortunately, they need to have things in MMORPGs (every MMO in history, too, dating back to the MUDS) respawn. Also, I don't think Magmadar and Lucifron would really take too kindly to you wandering into their oozing, fiery lair unclothed.

2. There is a major auction town for each faction. People gather there, it's the laggiest place in game at any given time.

3. You can solo, you can also group up and do things faster. There are plenty of things in game that require groups. Just because people choose to go on their merry way after doing something in a group doesn't invalidate the notion that they could have stayed in your group.

I'm in a guild with hundreds of people, we do things together: some people in the guild are artisans who specifically only play with other guildmates in groups.

Posted by Stephen Hosmer on Feb 16, 2005 ten to three am

Maybe it is that I don't like MMORPGs, maybe I just think they could be so much better.

1.  Just because everyone does it, is that the best or only way to do it?  Spawn camping has been a problem in every MMORPG I've played.  Do you like to spawn camp, do you find it fun waiting for something to appear out of thin air at some designated spot?  If I'm a humble barefoot man with only a walking stick, I shouldn't pose much of a threat to Magmadar or Lucifron, so why should they care if I pass through?

2.  That is what I figured would happen, but is that really a good thing?  Aren't you glad whenever you want to sell something you get to go into the laggiest place in the world?  What about all those other cities?  On the horde side the auction house is in Ogrimmar, so when you go to Thunder Bluffs and the Undercity are they completely empty?  Doesn't it seem like a good idea to add auction houses to those cities in order to more evenly distribute the lag?  If you made the three auction houses seperate entities, then the smart players could even make some extra cash through arbitrage.  But that's another story of course.

3.  From what I played, people only ever wanted to group if they had a quest that was too hard.  Otherwise I couldn't find any actual benefit for grouping, I never found it to be faster.  If there was a group of 3 people and each one needed 10 bear spleens, then you might be able to kill the bears 3 times faster but you had to find 3 times as many bear spleens, and you have to share the loot.  You could just do it by yourself in 1/3rd the time and keep all the loot.  Most people I met shared this exact same idea.

It seems to me like they created this massive world that looks great but it feels like it's just completely frozen.  If I help cull the number of beast men, save the guy from the tower, and find the missing silver, why are the beast men still there, why is the guy still in the tower and why is silver still missing?  If the peasents are chopping away at trees, why do they never fall?  I just want something dynamic, something where I have purpose, something in which I do something and it has a lasting effect on the world, and the changes I make can be seen by those who come after me.  Is that so much to ask?  I guess it is.  If you like it then they've done they're job, sold you a copy and if you're enjoying yourself that's all that matters right?

P.S.  Guild Wars doesn't respawn, sort of.

Posted by Joe Gester on Feb 21, 2005 ten past eleven am

1. The designers of WoW seem to realize that this is a problem and have tried to address it with instances and randomized locations of goals.  Instances do a great deal to adress this issue.  In Everquest you hear stories of guilds organizing to camp the spawn for days waiting in line for some of the end-level quests.

2. Yeah, the non-auction cities are kinda lame and empty.  Sometimes I /yell ECHO! just to see if anyone answers.

3. The "collect X items" quests don't really benefit from groups but the "kill X monsters" quests totally do.  Everyone in the group gets credit for each kill.  I kind of like how for some quests being in a group is beneficial and for some its not.  Mix things up a bit, you know?

Posted by eloj on Feb 15, 2005 twenty past seven pm

> Are there any lessons for other publishers to learn?

A basic lesson might be to have people on staff who understands that cross-platform development is an asset, not a liability. Sam Lantinga, lead of the SDL project, is a Blizzard Software Engineer. So at least we know they employ one such person (if I may be so bold).

Not a strong believer in "porting" myself. Sound engineering practices ought to automatically lead to a development process where the code is developed for and tested all platforms simultaneously. This will increase code quality by exposing it to different compilers, system libraries and APIs.

"Porting" for me feels like "Now we're done. Here, you have four months to go over it and fix all the things we did wrong for no good reason the first time around", which usually turns out to be a whole lot of things, meaning it can't be done on time which gives us a typical port; half-assed and buggy.

</naive remark>

Posted by Per Vognsen on Feb 15, 2005 twenty five past seven pm

I find it amusing that when you loot a corpse while grouped, a ?roll a dice? interface comes up to see who gets the booty.  It?s an interesting holdover from the D&D days.  Why dice?  Why not paper-scissor-rock.  That?s why I would do.

I can think of a couple of reasons. The most important one is that the roll-the-dice interface has essentially infinite scaleability (in particular, it scales to raids of 50 players) whereas rock-paper-scissors does not scale beyond two players in its original form; modulo a tiny amount of player psychology, it is also no different than rolling a three-sided die. Even if it scaled, it might also complicate the user interface needlessly.

Why can bears and boars resist my magic?  Come on, they?re animals, and not wicked-cool magic animals, just plain old animals.  Makes no sense.  Suspension of disbelief alert.

This reminds me of a very cheap game mechanic WoW and other MMORPGs employ. I like to call it the "three level brickwall". When fighting monsters up to two levels higher than you, you essentially never miss with your weapons, and your spells are almost never resisted. Once you go beyond two levels, you hit a proverbial brickwall. Fighting a monster three levels higher than you is doable but you'll start to notice a dramatic increase in the miss/resistance frequency. It's almost impossible to fight a monster four or more levels higher than you--you'd probably miss 7 out of 8 times against a monster four levels higher.

As a game developer (read: idealist), I absolutely hate this kind of mechanic that has a first-order dependence on your character's level. I realize the need to maintain game balance but it can be accomplished through second-order effects although it is, admittedly, much harder to achieve. As a player, though, I'm not sure I care that much.

I am always annoyed by games that they to make inventory management a game-play mechanism.  Why can I only carry 12 things?  Why does a huge two hand rock-hammer take as much space as 10 drops of spider spuge?  Seems like I should be able to carry as much spider spuge as I want.

You can acquire bags by having tailoring as your profession, or buying them from player tailors through the auction hall (located in Iron Forge or Orgrimmar, depending on your faction). I think providing limited inventory space forces the player to make a trade-off. For instance, if you stock up on a crap load of food and drink, you won't be able to carry as much loot. And there's always the bank for longer term storage.

I am currently at level 49 with my warlock character and I'm still enjoying the game. There is still much of the "sensawundah" feel when doing some of the instanced dungeons. For instance, I completed Uldaman this weekend and some of the boss encounters blew me away, completely. Just amazing.

Oh, I guess I'll mention a minor petpeeve of my own. The fact that the day-and-night cycle is perfectly synchronized to the real world is a great source of frustration to me. Because of my work hours, I usually don't have time to play the game until after midnight. This means that I never see any sunlight in-game. It's actually kind of depressing. For the longest time, I thought Westfall was perpetually in darkness (kind of like Duskwood is)!

Posted by master on Feb 15, 2005 ten past nine pm

WoW works the way you suggest. It's not so much level based as weapon-skill based for melee. For spells it is "level of the spell" based, that is, as you level you get higher level versions of the same spell as a given.

For melee, if you use daggers the entire game, then decide to switch to maces, you will miss/low damage monsters based on what your skill is. The skill is capped by level.

Now, there are other modifiers like if the monsters are more or less susceptible to melee/certain spells.

There are PVP reasons for this too, but it's not impossible for a level 30 mage to turn a level 60 creature or player into a sheep, it just wears off quickly or has a high resist chance.

Level is by far not the 1st order of distinction in WoW...

... as a priest I've killed certain monsters 7 levels above me, it's interesting in wow because you have to find the monsters that you will be able to damage.

Posted by Per Vognsen on Feb 15, 2005 twenty to eleven pm

WoW works the way you suggest. It's not so much level based as weapon-skill based for melee. For spells it is "level of the spell" based, that is, as you level you get higher level versions of the same spell as a given.

You are right about the first part and wrong about the second part (concerning spells). The first part is however irrelevant because your character level dictates the maximum weapon skill and your advancement rate in a weapon is a function of your current weapon skill vs the maximum weapon skill. Thus, even though I didn't start practicing my wand skill until level 25, I quickly got from 0 to within 10 points of the maximum (which I think was about 130 at the time). Achieving the last 10 points takes maybe twice the time it takes to gain the first n-10 points--it's almost an asymptotic advancement curve. So my point is that your weapon skill is tied so transparently to your character level that the association is first-order for all intents and purposes. And you are definitely mistaken on the spell rank having an effect on whether a spell is resisted or not. Two pieces of evidence: I still use my rank 1 Curse of Weakness without a problem. Also, there is a dramatic decrease in how often a spell is effected when I fight a monster who is three levels above me vs the same monster one level later.

(By the way, I have had the existence of these mechanics confirmed by friends of mine who work at Blizzard.)

Level is by far not the 1st order of distinction in WoW...

Until you reach level 60, pretty much everyone who wants to can achieve near-optimal equipment, talent builds, and can buy every skill and spell available. Thus the only axes of distinction are class, level, player skill (i.e. how good you are as the player controlling your character) and (to a lesser degree) your race. For PvE, your class, race and player skill are not that important. (In PvP, playing undead is a huge advantage as they are immune to a large class of crowd control effects, such as the warlock fear spell.)

There are PVP reasons for this too

Miss/resistance rate is handled completely differently in PvP as compared to PvE. Again, this is easily observed just from playing the game--there is no "three level brickwall" against other players. Try to do some experiments if you don't believe me. :)

Posted by pumpy jack on Feb 15, 2005 nine pm

Funny to read this tonight, as I just cancelled my account.

Having played most of the biggies from UO on, I have to say that this MMO was the best, by far, and yet here I am cancelling after only a few months.  In my old age, I find myself turning more and more into a game "dabbler" and MMOs are not meant for dabbling.  Too many games, not enough time.  I haven't finished a game in years, or leveled a max-level toon in an MMO ever.

Plus I can never commit to a single character.  I've got 3 toons in their 20s and 4 in their 10s.  Add them all up and I could maybe have had one with a horsey.  Whee.  

Speaking of which, I leveled my hunter up to 20 eagerly anticipating my Cheetah speed buff.  What a let down.  Running fast is fun, and I felt, well, cheated by the cheetah.

My friends at monolith will be sucking some of my time next month with the Matrix Online.  If you give that one a shot, Ron, let me know.

Posted by Don Alsafi on Feb 16, 2005 twenty to noon

Needs more Pirates!

I assume you're familiar with this?

Posted by uman on Feb 16, 2005 ten past two pm

Hey, I'm the one who wrote the anti-1337 manifesto. I wanted to say "thanks" for posting a link to it, as you are my top referrer!

Posted by steve on Feb 16, 2005 quarter to three pm

The Bloodsail Buccaneers in Stranglethorn are very pirate-y; in fact, when you attack them, they go, "Yaaarrrr."

Posted by Simes on Feb 16, 2005 twenty past three pm

If you want to use a gun, go and find the weapon trainer in Ironforge and learn how.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Feb 16, 2005 twenty to seven pm

Unless I'm missing something, you can't do that as a Paladin, and I've never found a weapons trainer that will offer it to me.

Posted by Simes on Feb 17, 2005 twenty to three am

No, I rechecked. You're right. My mistake. Paladins can't do ranged weapons.

I suppose it either boils down to "flavour" or "balance" or some combination of the two.

I'd be more inclined to think it was balance-related, to be honest - paladins can tank their way through tougher mobs than most classes, mine regularly soloing against mobs two levels higher than he is. He usually has very little health left at the end of it, but a couple of Holy Lights later and he's right back in the game. He can usually take on two same-level mobs as well, which most classes would find very difficult indeed, because once he's downed one he can throw up a shield, Holy Light twice, and finish off the second guy.

Allowing paladins to hit stuff at range would make them even more powerful than they already are.

Although it would be very useful for pulling...

I suppose it's about diversity in the game world, as well - if everyone could do everything, then everyone would be more or less the same. And from a pure profit motive, different ways to play the game means people are more likely to keep paying month after month. I'm playing both a rogue and a paladin at the moment, and the radical difference in play styles means that both are very interesting to play with.

Anyway, the class system is a reasonable, if massively simplified, analog of the real world - how many people in reality can do everything? :)

Posted by Andrej K on Feb 17, 2005 six am

I'll just stay on my roleplaying UO shard. No one's destroying ambience with annoying language there, nice story and it's free :)

Posted by Gabez on Feb 18, 2005 quarter past three am

This is the only MMO I actually want to play. I've just finished Warcraft III and the expansion The Frozen Throne (which are amazing) and I want more from Warcraft...

I have great respect for Blizzard as a developer - their games are always fun, always look great, never have bugs, have a great sense of humour (try clicking on characters in Warcraft III repeatedly) and have great gameplay balancing.

Posted by vort on Feb 18, 2005 five to one pm

ive had enough of these semi voluptuous babes in rpgs...i want my ACSii characters dernit...

Posted by Julian on Feb 20, 2005 five to three am

Hi there,
i really enjoyed reading your comment. Your descriptionof killing livestock reminded me of finding this house with a woman and all their cats in the woods of Elwynn, unfortunately I just learned to use guns...

Posted by Eobet on Feb 22, 2005 ten past two am

I've been reading this blog for a while now, because I am a fan of your games, but so far never posted anything, but I'm currently hooked on the virtual crack that is WoW as well.

Though there actually is A LOT of story (just play a Night Elf hunter and see for yourself), most is apparently inside the Warcraft 1, 2 and 3 games.

I also were very, very disappointed by the shops. Some shopkeepers also seem to just stand around, not displaying evidence of any shop inventory at all.

"Word balloons" is actually a standard in most Asian MMORPG games. And with that, I'd like to strike a blow for Dark Ages by Nexon. That game NEVER takes away the feeling of being there, because every game mechanic has an "in character" word for it. AFK is daydreaming, for example and the word "lol" is filtered to an emote (which is heaven sent, because god, I loathe those three letters).

Dark Ages also forces player interaction. You can't choose a profession without having another player to teach it to you, for example. There are lots of activites involving players as well, like mass in temples, libraries with lectures (yes, you get experience for it), and market fair days, where people can set up their own stalls to sell things. This also sprawled player activites the developers never thought of, like sumo wrestling, goblin football, and lately a theatre company (who the developers liked so much that they gave them their own scene in the game).

Unfortunately, though the game is over 3 years old, and still has more innovative features than all western MMORPG games put together, it's toally ruined by the non-paying/very long term players, who do everything to get around the word filters and ignore the roleplaying rules. Last I heard was that all the player guards (another innovation) were to vote upon knighting some people who would get the power to banish other players, I think, but I don't know how that worked out (yes, there's even lawyers and a player driven, game supported legal system in the game).

Posted by eobet on Feb 23, 2005 quarter to three pm

Have to reply to my own post here, because I just made it to Stormwind and found the library. If you read the books in there you'll have background story pouring out of your ears (there's apparently even more of this stuff hidden throughout the game, I've heard).

Posted by John Smith on Feb 27, 2005 ten past six pm

You're in luck, word balloons (text bubbles) have just been added to World of Warcraft.

http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/underdev/images/bubbles.jpg

Posted by wrgrey on Mar 3, 2005 five past ten am

No, they're not in yet.  That's just one of the upcoming interface changes in the "Coming Soon" page at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/underdev/

Posted by Gavan Woolery on Mar 6, 2005 two am

How very ironic you should mention a massively multiplayer rock scissors paper game... It turns out an employee at Blizzard made one (well, at least a multiplayer one...but very strange coincidence nonetheless).
http://www.planetcerulean.com/candle/

And on a completely unrelated note...
I have been watching this blog for a while.  It was the first game developer's blog I had ever read, and now I read them by the thousands.  Most kids had normal heros growing up in my generation, like Michael Jordan, Mister Rogers, and Rambo.  In my disfunctional excuse for a childhood, my heros were people like Richard Gariott, Paul Reich III/Fred Ford (who for all intents and purposes I view as one cognitive whole), and you.  So its really interesting to see their thoughts and yours (among those of ye legends who tote blogs now).  Just thought I'd throw that in.  Keep being funny.

And on a last note...
I remember you mentioning a while ago that some day an independent game developer would come along and blow the commercial industry away.  I don't want to sound cocky, but...just give me a few more months. :)

Posted by SilentBen on Mar 24, 2005 twenty five past four am

"I would like to see an option for "word balloons" above peoples heads when they speak.  I don't pay much attention to the chat area in the lower left.  This might help with the social aspect of chatting."

Damn good call, and I'm pleased to see they are actually doing it. My first online RPG was Phantasy Stay Online for the Dreamcast, they had speech bubbles and all was good (not because of the speech bubbles, but they were one of the little things that helped). Then I moved on to MMOGS and couldn't understand all the text had to be in a horrible little window at the bottom along side dice rolls and system generated messages.

Posted by Ninjaguy on Mar 24, 2005 ten past four pm

Mostly because when you're in major chat sessions with your guild guys and whatnot it's nice to be able to have minimal screen clutter.
You can always make new chat windows for specific types of text if you want :)

I never caught on to the chat bubble thing they did in starwars galaxies. It just murdered whatever suspension of disbelief i had. Turned that off on day 2.

Posted by SilentBen on Mar 27, 2005 five to six pm

I suppose one of the big differences with PSO is that it was all instanced iff into lobbys (with 25 players max) and game sessions (with 4 players max), it played more like a japanese take on Diablo 2 (with pretty 3d visuals) rather than a MMO like Everquest. So the screen only tended to get busy at the times of day when the schoolies would be on spamming.
I'd still like to see that kind of thing for local range chat and maybe keep the chat window for broadcast type channels and guild chat. Although again to counter my own argument, it did also work in PSO because it looked right for an anime style game where it would look stupid in say DAoC.

Posted by guardian on Apr 7, 2005 nine am

The animals you kill will respawn anyway however there are unconfirmed rumors all over that killing them has a very slight negative effect on you repution to the npcs(reputation gives u better haggling with npcs and things like that) and also the animals are resisting your magic because either A) it may be a monster with the elite status making it far more powerful than an ordinary monster of same lvl or B) the animals are just regular animals however they are higher level than you are and higher level enemies always have a good chance to resist your spells.

One more thing, interesting idea about the chat bubbles, currently chat bubbles do  exist however they only work when you use the basic chat channel or the say channel.  Most ppl speak in general channels so u wont see their bubbles which is just as well to avoid seeing hundreds of ppl advertising for something theyre selling

Posted by yavvar on May 21, 2005 twenty to midnight

how do you create your own unit in warcraft 3 frozen throne scenario map making ive tried visiting everywhere bur no one answers ur my only chance plz email me back with a good answer

Posted by Aster Azul on Jul 11, 2005 ten past six pm

O_O
Ron Gilbert plays Warcraft. My day is made.

Posted by josh on Aug 5, 2005 quarter past nine am

how do we find this game do u play it on this website?

Posted by jmonty on Oct 19, 2005 twenty five to one am

are you the same 'grumpy' from swg's eclipse server??

Posted by Joe on Jul 19, 2006 twenty five to one pm

Your expecting too much story at low levels, basically at that point you are a nobody.  You witness more story at higher levels, plus if you played the other Warcraft games you'd have more of a grip on the story.

Posted by Bob on Aug 1, 2006 twenty to ten pm

Alright. Since I never actually bothered trying and I don't want to wreck my computer (it seems whenever I try to do something I have no past knowledge of doing I screw something up)

How do I access my screenshots? XD stupid question, I know. But I should know.

Posted by mondaen on Aug 2, 2006 ten past four am

demina has died, you feel normal.


love your sense of humour


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