Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend minipost: What is worse than a Molten Core farmraid?

For the 10 years anniversary of WoW, Blizzard renewed the first raid instance Molten Core. While nostalgia fixed lot of things, MC is still remembered for its looooong farmraids.

But there is worse: farming MC with LFR people. But luckily we can't farm it, as it has one loot that is given at the first run. And doing it once was actually fun.


... despite it took 5 wipes before people finally learned why old players use the meme "pull it back to Garr's room" for all kind of raids.

Weekend minipost: damage control and good business

After I pointed out that their earlier post is actually a confession that the monument vandals were Goons, they went into damage control.

On a different note: a minion of evil had pleasure doing business with me. He bought my trained Nyx pilot. His billions will feed the SRP of MoA and the wardec costs of Marmite.

Oh, and please kill the Nyx!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The players consume content faster than the designers make it

The title is a well-known problem in MMO design: to keep the players busy, the developers must feed them content. But players eat faster than content is produced. Part of the problem is that players feel forced to rush and play extensively to "remain ahead of the curve" and "catch up with their friends". This is best seen on topguilds that play 10+ hours a day when content is published, finish it in a few days or weeks, then stop playing until the next content patch. While normal players are less extreme (by definition), the queues and the server crashes in WoW shows that they also play much more after content is released than later. They likely focus their leisure time on the game instead of other hobbies, maybe cut down some family time, some sleep, maybe get some days off work.

I believe we look at the problem upside down. It's not the developers who produce content too slow. Imagine that they were capable of producing an expansion every month. Then the topguilds would play 10+ hours a day constantly and the normal players would stop having other hobbies and spending time with their families. Or they would fall behind and couldn't catch up. This is impossible, people would simply burn out on the game.

The solution is the opposite: slow the players down. Imagine a gated WoW release:
  1. Only the first zone would be available and the level cap is 92
  2. Gorgond opens up and level cap is risen to 94.
  3. Talador, 96
  4. Arakk, 98
  5. Nagrand, 100
  6. Heroics
  7. First raid boss
  8. Second raid boss
  9. ...
My point is that the same content sould be published over the same time, but in an evenly distributed wayk. So players would play at a constant speed, instead of going nolifer at the start and being bored at the end. They would have time to look around the world and find hidden places:


As a bonus: if there are bugs, crashes, queues, players can do something else, instead of spamming login or jumping up and down in the garrison space hoping to get in because "they get behind". They can be sure that they can catch up and complete the weekly content before the end of the week.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lack of failsafes in game design

I've been playing Warlords of Draenor recently (EVE ISK comes in the background anyway), and I like it:
  • Not even the leveling content is trivial. It's not hard, of course, but it's no longer "press any key" and loot drops. Yes, the "you are the greatest hero for killing that 5 sporebats" is still annoying.
  • Group play is supported. You no longer fight over eggs or whatever items on the floor with people in the area, so you can team up. I haven't played together with my girlfriend for two years, so it's a big plus.
  • I really like the bag sorting option.
  • The garrison follower missions are a great gameplay and gearing addition. Thinking and planning is rewarded. Important advice: build both lumber mill and trading post or you run out of resources. You can replace the lumber mill later.
However these garrisons became a major source of annoyance of millions of players who got stuck, disconnected, watched the 4-hours long maintenance sessions or other way couldn't play the game. The problem is somewhere in the garrison/instance code that makes players who try to enter lost or the whole server dead.

Now, I'm not blaming Blizzard for being unable to deliver a bug-free code at launch. This is a huge code. Also it's probably not a straight bug "do X, crash happens", but a "do X, slight performance decrease happens" multiplied by insane amount of players. On the other hand I do blame Blizzard for not having any failsafes to prevent a probably minor bug turning into a complete service outage.

What do I mean? They went in with the "garrison code is great or we go down" approach instead of the more sensible "whatever can break will break" thinking that put two independent break fluid circles plus handbrake into the cars to make the car stoppable in case of break malfunction. The proper action would be having a method to circumvent the whole garrison code in case of malfunction. I mean a server-side switch that stops players from using garrisons but allow questing and dungeoning instead of nothing. But the best is yet to come:

This is a command table, the most important element of your garrison, allowing you to manage followers. But it's not in the Garrison, it's in the inn (called "Trading Post" for some reason) in Telaar, Nagrand. It's not instanced, it's usually surrounded by players. So the code to place garrison elements outside of the garrison was there. All they had to do to prevent the disasters is placing them in every zones, allowing the players to access them without entering their garrison, removing the server load it creates and enable limited "garrison gameplay" when garrisons are inaccessible/turned off. Also, as a final - and not to hard - emergency feature could save lot of players: a "teleport to Stormwind/Orgrimmar button" on the login screen to solve "loading screen stuck" problems.

I hope that game developers learn from this mess and write their games fail resistant, preventing one buggy game feature bringing the whole thing down.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mad goons and the monument

On the Goon propaganda site, there is a post about how CCP the handling of bans. I have little comment on the main issue, CCP has an infamously lousy customer support. I have a two months old open ticket that received no GM answer of any kind.

But there is a very interesting piece of information in the post. It's about how the bans were handled about the monument defacement case. If you don't follow the EVE community: CCP built a monument for EVE, near their headquarters in Iceland for the last Fanfest. Some players attending vandalized it, got caught, and were forced to pay for the damage and were banned from EVE.

In the linked article, every person mentioned in the post (perpetrators and investigators) are either a CCP employee or a GSF member. The post openly discusses how GSF internal forum names were used. Unless the post is a purposeful troll, the official "news site" ran by Goons openly claims that the monument vandals were Goons!.

So far, not anyone is shocked. My grandma would have told that Goons did it, despite he never heard of EVE Online. The interesting part is that the vandals created a twitter account "The_Real_Gevlon", to frame it on me, hopefully to get me banned by the less-than-perfect CCP community management. Not "The_Real_Grath", "The_Real_PGL", "The_Real_Elo_Knight" or even "The_Real_Gen_Eve". The one they wanted to get rid of by performing a real world crime is me.

Now, I know that these are not directors or FCs, but random dumbasses who thought it's a good idea to perform a crime and frame it on someone using a 1-post twitter account. However it means that the average Goon is really mad at me. The directors and good players might ignore me or consider me harmless "content". But the line ones are getting really frustrated that a "highsec publord" who supposed to fear them is attacking them.

"Irrelevant", right?.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Meritocracy

I've been holding an article for some time. It's against meritocracy, the only fair and non-evil idea. It says "In a meritocracy, all that counts for your success or failure is your biological merits. If you are beautiful. clever, healthy, good-tempered and naturally hard-working, you will (and you ought to) succeed, and if you are ugly, stupid, unhealthy, bad-tempered and naturally lazy you will fail, and no one is allowed to help you. In a world of equal opportunity, all the usual systems and social bonds that help the less biologically advantaged to get ahead – family connections, church, charitable patronage, pity, brute good fortune – are stripped away and called wicked."

I held it for long, because it's not easy to argue against something absurd. Trying to un-absurd it isn't really a compelling argument. I mean it's absurd to count behavior and laziness as genetic traits. If they were, parenting would be a total waste of time. But such counter-argument would lead to the swamp of nature/nurture and arguing over what percentage of "temper" is the responsibility of the person.

The other absurd is that helping others would be stripped away. No one, ever, claimed that people shouldn't help others from their own wallet. However this would lead to the other nasty area of giving successful people the right to not help someone and then argue over if it is a right or they should be forcibly taxed to make sure that everyone helped and so on.

What took so long is to formulate an answer that accept the bizarro world of the socialist who wrote it (and many socialists who agree it). So let's assume that success is totally out of the control of the person and depend on genetics and family background.

Funnily, if we assume this nonsense, meritocracy becomes even more necessary. Why? Because both genetics and family background are inherited. So the kids of a successful person will unavoidably be successful, while the kids of the unsuccessful will be unsuccessful and no one can help it. Being unsuccessful, poor, ugly, unlikeable and ill is suffering. So all the kids of the unsuccessful people are condemned to eternal suffering. With external help their suffering can be decreased - at the cost of making someone else bear part of their burden. The obvious question is what wicked person would condemn children to suffering?! Wouldn't it be much better if we'd prevent the unsuccessful from having them? Of course it would be.

So we must be meritocratic to quarantine the suffering. Those who hold the "genes of suffering" must be identified by their lack of success and stopped from spreading these "genes" and creating suffering children.

Or, we can leave the bizarro world, realize that people are in control of their lives and their suffering is a well-earned, self-inflicted punishment for being lazy and dumb, which should motivate them to ... stop being lazy and dumb.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Highsec IS Concord

- What would be highsec without Concord?
- A crappy version of lowsec.

I mean you could do worse missions, mine worse ore, do worse complexes without any benefit. It would be like the nullsec system with crappy truesec. If Concord would be removed from the game, no one would live in highsec. Most current highsec dwellers would quit the game, the rest would move to lowsec, nullsec or wormhole space for higher rewards and similar risk.

Why is it important? Because any kind of highsec PvP problem must be considered with Concord. A PvP solution in highsec without Concord is unavoidably wrong. For example telling a miner "watch local for known gankers" is wrong, not because watching local is too much to ask, but because if someone is ready to watch local, he can do it in lowsec/nullsec while mining more valuable ore. Why would anyone mine Veldspar when he could mine Mercoxit for the same effort?

What are the valid highsec PvP mechanics then?
  • Replacement tank: expecting the target to fly something worthless, like an insured, cheap fit retriever with an empty pod.
  • Red Killboard tank: expecting the target to put enough tank to his ship to avoid profitable ganking. For example a freighter with less than 1B cargo.
  • Anti-gank escort: expecting the target to have a small escort fleet with no DPS, operating under the assumption that the DPS will come from Concord. Typically ECM and logi ships.
Now let's get to the elephant in highsec: wardecs. Wardecs remove Concord protection from a corporation, therefore teleporting it into a crappy version of lowsec. Most of the targets docks up, which is equal to quiting the game until Concord returns. Some players fight, they find that it's a good way to live and then move to lowsec/nullsec, recognizing that it's more lucrative for the same fighting risks. The result: there are no other highsec corps than the wardeccers. Every other corp stops activity or disbands on wardec.

I'm not saying that wardecs need to be removed completely from highsec. After all, there are wars in lowsec too, adjusting station gun mechanics. But they need to be optional for corps that live exclusively in highsec and own no structures. I'd like to repeat, this isn't about "dumbing down the game", but removing an inconsistency. Actually two, if you consider that NPC corps can't be wardecced. Highsec is the place where Concord protects you, unless you willfully engage in PvP.

There is another consistent solution: "there is no highsec". But if you prefer that, say that, with all that implies: 1 day old newbies attackable one jump from the newbie systems. Because wardecs (and awoxes) mean exactly that, if a 1 day old newbie is dumb enough to join a "guild", he will be popped one jump from the newbie system.

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