GAAAAAAAAAAH

June 30, 2009

Emergency move to a new web host since apparently my last web host decided to lock me out of everything with no notice. Hopefully at some point I gain enough access to reimport everything in the interim.


Um… This Is Kinda A Big Deal

June 29, 2009

The People’s Republic of China bans real money trading.

No. REALLY.

“The virtual currency, which is converted into real money at a certain exchange rate, will only be allowed to trade in virtual goods and services provided by its issuer, not real goods and services.” it said.

China has the world’s largest population of Internet users, with 298 million people online as of the end of last year.

According to media reports, the virtual money trade topped several billion yuan last year after rising around 20 percent annually.

China being the largest MMO market in the world, and many Chinese MMOs being dependent on RMT for their income — this will have some ripples.


Hyperbole In Game Theory Part 117

June 29, 2009

In today’s episode of “Hyperbole in Game Theory”, Gevlon the Goblin comes to a horrifying realization!

The success of the completely unfair, M&S [Gevlonese for “morons and idiots”, aka everyone not Gevlon] catering, always-nerfed WoW over Starcraft, EVE, Darkfall is the ultimate proof that most people are just too stupid for a free-market system.

Well, there you have it. But wait, the explanation? It’s better.

Commenters use to write “you must give welfare to the real world poor or they revolt”. I found it silly and used to handle it with “make sure the cops have enough ammo”. I meant it literally. My guess was that the RL M&S who are too skilless to do any jobs, are a little minority, like 10%. Let the cops handle them, they won’t be missed.

Not anymore.

The problem is not that the useless M&S would starve. They wouldn’t be missed.

The problem is that in the current level of education and the cultural value of learning, the useful/useless boundary is simply too high. You cannot discard 20-30% of the population and you cannot let other 40-50% live in low wages. They won’t accept it and they are just too many to handle by cops.

Yes, there’s so many casuals in World of Warcraft that we just can’t shoot them all.

And God knows, I’ve wanted to.

Tune in next week for “Hyperbole in Game Theory”, when Blizzard’s nerfing Death Knight tanking is held responsible for the collapse of Latvia’s currency.


Taking Theorycrafting To An Entirely New Level Of Nerdosity

June 26, 2009

Like Elitist Jerks? Now you can use their web browser!

(Hat tip: Wow.com)


Honesty From The Mmogoblogosphere

June 25, 2009

From a comment on Brad McQuaid’s being excited about the new Dream Theater album:

Talk bout Vanguard, or what you’ll be doing next.

Save this ‘New Dream Theater’ stuff for people who care about you as human. To us you are just a thing that will deliver us a game.

Well, that’s that, then!


Australia To Protect Us All From Us All

June 25, 2009

According to Tateru Nino on Massively, Australia is set to filter out online gaming that their government disapproves of at the network level.

While Senator Conroy refers to ‘games’, this appears to just be the spoonful of sugar to make it easier to swallow. Does anyone think that virtual environments like Second Life will be exempt from the proposed network-blocking? We don’t. Some sources are reporting that environments like Second Life and games like Age of Conan or World of Warcraft are confirmed as being banned outright, but at this stage, nobody official has actually said that.

Except that, well, they have, in so many words.

Senator Conroy’s spokesman said the filter would cover “computer games such as web-based flash games and downloadable games, if a complaint is received and the content is determined by ACMA to be Refused Classification”. All games that exceed MA15+ are deemed to be RC.

The filtering could also block “the importation of physical copies of computer games sold over the internet which have been classified RC”, the spokesman said.

Note that MMOs are by their very user-generated nature (no one can really stop you from saying improper things on an online game, as anyone knows who’s played one for more than 40 seconds) difficult to submit for content rating. In the US, initially, games such as Ultima Online were rated “M” for Mature due to this; eventually a compromise was found where the game content supplied by the manufacturer was rated (almost always “T” for Teen) and a “Content may change in online play” qualifier clearly added. However, the rating system in Australia is different; among other problems they don’t even *have* an “M” rating; things that would be rated “M” just don’t get sold.

Mark Newton, an ISP engineer and internet filtering critic, said the move to extend the filtering to computer games would place a cloud over online-only games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, which aren’t classified in Australia due to their online nature.

He said the online distribution of such games has historically been exempt from customs controls on RC material because they have only ever covered physical articles.

“That exemption is the only reason why multi-player games with user-generated environments are possible in this country; without it, it’d only take one game user anywhere in the world to produce objectionable content in the game environment to make the Australian Government ban the game for everyone,” said Newton.

It’s good to see the Pacific Rim working together on how to be mindlessly paternalistic.


Outsized Personalities

June 24, 2009

So now that I’m home and can look up from wikis and playtests, some reflection on part of today’s news.

It’s probably no secret that Mark Jacobs and I have had our differences in the past – in particular, after some of my more critical writings about Mythic and Warhammer, it’s safe to say I’m not on his holiday card list. After a day of following various commentary on Mark’s departure around the darker corners of the Intarwebs, though, I think some things need to be noted publicly.

To say that Mark was an outsized personality does an injustice to outsized personalities. When I started at Mythic, I got an inkling of what I was in for when Mark grilled me over the phone – for three hours – before I started over an intemperate forum posting on my old site in a post about gay rights, to make sure that the newest addition to the Mythic family wasn’t an intolerant gay-basher. (Mythic was heads and tails above the gaming industry in hiring diversity, something I never appreciated enough until I left.)

In case I hadn’t gotten the message, it was reinforced when a week later, after I spent a night in a DAOC IRC channel enjoying the ego boost of being ‘a developah’, he showed up at my desk with a detailed, annotated chat log of the multitude of mistakes made, with the unspoken message that the new guy who was third tools programmer from the left probably didn’t have a lot of business doing community relations, no matter how much of an Internet badass he thought he was.

One of the most irritating mistakes the media makes when covering games is treating games as the personal project of their most visible namesake – World of Warcraft coming from Rob Pardo or Jeff Kaplan, Assassin’s Creed coming from Jade Raymond, or, in this entirely too risible snippet Old Man Murray found on IGN once upon a time:

“There’s a tendency among the press to attribute the creation of a game to a single person,” says Warren Spector, creator of Thief and Deus Ex.

Except that in Mythic’s early days, it wouldn’t have been too far off. Mark wasn’t just a visible figurehead – in many ways Mythic was his. Mark wasn’t intimately involved in DAOC’s design or production (although I do remember him whiteboarding crafting systems a lot) but for him, Mythic was his family. He was immensely proud of how none of the original Mythic staffers had left for years. When Dark Age of Camelot shipped and was a commercial success, the ensuing bonuses (which I had just made it under the wire to qualify for) were generous – in my case a significant portion of my salary, and carried over long after DAOC was no longer as profitable. Because he saw them as his family.

It was a family he was very protective of, as I found out when I joined the merry band, and that aspect changed little over the years. Unfortunately, Mythic rapidly grew beyond the 25 or so that shipped DAOC, and as that family atmosphere changed, it was easy to see that Mark wasn’t happy about it. He would occasionally drop into my office and others as the years passed, either to trade insights on the industry or on entertainment in general (and for him, a Joss Whedon MMO would probably have been the perfect storm).

Then there was Imperator. Imperator was very much Mark’s project – he came up with the backstory, was deeply involved with the design, and was far more hands on in its production than I had seen him in years. Unfortunately, it didn’t work (something I later came to be very sympathetic with) and as the company smoothly shifted gears from Imperator to Warhammer, he took great pride in how almost everyone was able to keep their jobs in the process. Mythic was still his family, even if it was too large for him to actually know them all any more.

By that time, though, it was a family I didn’t want a part of any more. When I posted my initial farewell, I noted that my motivation for leaving was to move to Texas from northern Virginia. That was certainly true – I’m currently typing this from the living room of my house, and making that statement true in NoVA would have cost me about a half a million more than it did here. But it wasn’t the entire truth – Mythic had, by that time, grown to the point where it was no longer a family, but a company, and a company with the usual office politics, mismanagement, and frustrated career paths. In retrospect, if I worked for me, I would have fired me; as it was, Mythic was good enough to let me find my way out the door (even after, in one memorable Homer Simpsonesque moment, I arrived back to work from a job interview to find out someone at the company I interviewed at IMed a producer to ask what I was doing there. Whoops.)

And on my last day, after I was ordered to leave the building early – by Mark – I was asked to come back to talk – by Mark. He wanted to know why a family member was leaving. And so I told him, and mentioned in passing, given the then in-progress EA buyout to watch his back, that there were people there who did not have his best interests at heart.

Those people are still there. Mark isn’t. And while I wouldn’t work with them again – and most likely would have significant issues working with the lead designer of Warhammer and Imperator – the Mark of the DAOC launch team, I would have taken a bullet for. I’m pretty sure everyone involved feels the same.

But given the outsized personality that Mark is, I’m 100% sure that we have not heard the last of him, either in the near term (he does have a blog he seems to have forgotten about – and he certainly has more qualifications for drive-by pontification than nearly anyone else, including myself) or in the long term.

And I would hazard a guess that the Mark of Dragon’s Gate will be a far happier guy then the Mark of EA Mythic. And that’s what counts among family members.