Archive for June, 2008


Syp: The Interviewed

June 30, 2008

Because you don’t have 130 or so posts to sort through when it comes to getting to know the short and twitchy person that I am, Warhammer Alliance interviewed me as part of their ongoing series of WAR blogger interviews. Second to getting the nod from Larry King, I think this is the biggest brush with fame, fortune and free cookies that I’ll ever have.

So. Yeah. You can read it here.

(Thanks WHA!)


Make Mine Mythic

June 30, 2008

I just finished reading an Elder Game article called “Taming the Forum Tiger” by Asheron’s Call dev and/or mod Eric, and I’m just blown away how completely he pulls apart the MMO forum landscape and lays it all bare. He calls it “the forum game”, where fans of a MMO can’t let go of the game when they’re not playing, so they’re always reading and posting and getting caught up in all manner of snobby little drama. The goal of the game is to elicit a dev response or influence game-making decisions or (in many cases) just trolling.

And this is key — very rarely are official MMO forums used for well-reasoned, informative posts. Those of us who have survived other MMO forums like World of Warcraft’s know how there’s about a 1:1000 ratio of great posts to “Why doesn’t God just wipe the Earth clean with another flood already?” posts of monumental idiocy. Forums take up gobs of time and resources and often sanity from the parent company, who most likely has more important things to be doing — like, I don’t know, making and running the game.

Please give this article a read, and then ask yourself if Mythic wasn’t brilliant for skipping the whole “official forums” minefield altogether.

P.S. – To those unofficial Warhammer Online forum mods out there, who do often annoying work for little thanks and appreciation from the community, THANK YOU. You guys are our heroes.


We Are Winner! Ha Ha Ha!

June 30, 2008

Chrono Chaos really is the best guild ever, as evidenced by how easily they went all ninja-commenting on The Greenskin over the past 24 hours. And lo! And behold! Our assignment is complete:


Who would have thought that a meek, unassuming guild full of internet psychopaths and time traveling loonies could forge the future by shaping the past? Who, indeed! You guys rock!


For Bloggers

June 30, 2008

Hey! Blog-buddies! Want to know how to create a successful, widely-read blog? Well, yeah, me too. Let me know if you find the secret!

But I think I’ve found a way. It’s dirty and a little underhanded, but I think it’ll work. Simply cast any logical, well-reasoned, balanced articles to the wayside. Instead, pepper your blog with highly inflammatory, short posts designed to rile up people to the point where they’ll link to you, if only to say “look at THIS nutcase!” A link is a link is a link, right?

After all, we’ve proven that people are naturally drawn to news stories on the “extreme” ends of the spectrum — hence, why news channels have gone completely bonkers (“this just in: soup will kill you if you slurp!”). Sane folk have no business reporting in a medium that gets its biggest audience when apocalyptic comments are spewed from the lips of a raving madman, who then brings in big sponsor dollars.

So why are blogs any different? Why should we pour hours of time writing out thoughtful essays on the minutia of MMO development and gameplay when a semi-literate whacko could triple our readership just by writing a poorly-worded 300 essay on the moral deficiencies of Rob Pardo and his risqué relationship with manatees? Or to pronounce vague speculation about Duke Nukem Online as straight-up fact?

After all, two of my most widely-read posts were stories I snapped off the cuff and ended up being circulated like nobody’s business, instead of just taken as they were designed to be — mild musings of a brain parasite-ridden Italian. What incentive do I have for doing anything else but these? And my brain parasite asks, could you ship him a pizza?

So, in that spirit, here are the topics for the next 10 posts at WAAAGH!:

  1. Paul Barnett is Beelzebub: The Second Cousin of Lies!
  2. Sixteen Japanese Schoolchildren Reenact Waaagh In Park, 100 Dead.
  3. Blizzard is Purchasing Mythic From EA, Plans To Cancel WAR And Feast On The Tears Of The Fans.
  4. Forget Chuck Norris, Josh Drescher’s Facial Hair Cures Cancer.
  5. WAR’s In Game Currency Will Be Shrunken Heads Of Your Opponent’s Kids.
  6. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Sues Age of Conan For Egregious Use Of The Phrase “Age Of”.
  7. EA Sends A Cease And Desist Letters To All WAR Bloggers Unless They End Every Post With A Plug For Madden Online.
  8. What’s The Deal With High Gas Prices Anyway? And Iraq? And Same-Sex Marriage? And Celebrity Babies? And ANWAR Drilling? And Obama? And WALL*E?
  9. Internet forum users have no life — proven!
  10. WAR will be, like, y’know, the best game EVAH!

Now, to sit right back and reap all the benefits of stupidity. Ahhhh.


Chrono Chaos: Your First Assignment

June 29, 2008

As we seek to perfect the fuel mix to our flux capacitor, it’s not the time for Chrono Chaos — the most awesomeist pretend time traveling WAR guild — to rest on their laurels (laurels means “buttocks”). Nay! We must move out as a horde, striking forth in a bold attempt to alleviate our boredom.

So, Chrono Chaos, as your guild leader, I have a mission for you, which will be worth 20 Elf Ears* for any who succeed in it. It’s been long, far, far too long, since Snafzg has posted a new comic strip up over at The Greenskin. Since our Time Car is currently out of juice, we lack the ability to go back to when he was a tyke and put the proper fear of God into him so that he’d draw these on a regular basis. So we’re going to do the next best thing: pester him until he gives in.

20 Elf Ears for each and every post that you make on his most current blog thread, begging him (or threatening, we’re not picky) to get a new comic strip done. We will not relent, Chrono Chaos, until our will is made known!

Sally forth, and do the bidding of the time lords!

(* Elf Ears are Chrono Chaos currency, redeemable in the future for special prizes. Which I will make up in the past. And then send back to the future.)

Chrono Chaos Guild Roster [Est. 2008 A.D. – “Anywhere, Anywhen”]:


  • Brotik: Founding Father (20 elf ears)


  • Syp: Fearful Leader
  • Darkgobbo: Orc Translator
  • BMR: Lazy Cousin of BMX
  • Matt: Time Machine Hog
  • CunningB: Lunch Herder (20 elf ears)
  • DexterDouglas: Party On, Dudes!
  • Moxie: Yes, Ma’am (20 elf ears)
  • The Hammered: Making Awkward Comments Since 2008
  • Vagrant: Touched In The Head (20 elf ears)
  • Werit: Time Dwarf
  • Khaos: Momma-In-Law’s Boy
  • Lske: Guild Plumber
  • roXet: eXtreme eXcitement
  • Mekoia: Pimple Patrol
  • Qatol: Impossible To Spell In Scrabble
  • Din A3: AAA Quality
  • Regis: And Kelly Ripa
  • Johnny Walker Black: Uwe Boll’s Batboy (40 elf ears)
  • Medrin: Captain Fun-un-un (20 elf ears)
  • Scarybooster: Selfesteembooster
  • Kattz: Dr. Kattz
  • Paul: Oriel Oreos
  • Ramathorne: Day Dreamer (30 elf ears – 10 extra for the comic!)
  • Vort: He’s Got The Black Lung, Pop (20 elf ears)
  • James Taylor: First Names For Last Names
  • Dr. Worm: Not A Doctor, But A Worm
  • Crimetank: Treads Lightly (20 elf ears)
  • Smashydoom: Preemptive Strike
  • Across: Down
  • Slymie: Cutest Gross Name Ever
  • Arbitrary: Book ‘Em, Danno
  • Artean: Tonight We’re Sending You Back To The Future (20 elf ears)
  • Alex: Duct Tape Master (20 elf ears)
  • Sorain: Afraid of Only Kittens
  • Curien: He’s Got Our Back
  • Ran: He Also Walks (20 elf ears)
  • Tigaj: Jagit Backwards
  • DMNYO: Dynamo!
  • Betadan: Still In Closed Betadan
  • Stigus: Double Agent
  • Wingo: Bus Driver
  • JayDizzle: Fo Sho (20 elf ears)
  • Clash: Fashion Police
  • Trooper: He’s Super
  • Rombur: Death-Dealing Robot From 1815
  • Alanti – The Lost City of Alanti

To apply to the pretend time traveling guild known as Chrono Chaos, just post a comment to this article saying something like “I’m in!” or “Word up, g-dawg!”. We’ll know what you mean.


Your MMO, My Content

June 29, 2008

Go back a few years, and you’d see that the major MMORPG debate at the time between developers was whether it was better to provide a “sandbox” or “theme park” experience for players. Let me explain: “sandbox” MMOs (Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online) would create a world and give players tools to experience the world as they wanted — free-form gameplay, you see, without a lot of underlying structure. “Theme park” MMOs, like World of Warcraft, theorized that players wanted to be guided through the game like rides — going from zone to zone on a set course, experiencing the world the way the devs intended.

In theory, it looks as if the sandbox concept offered far more potential for vast, shifting, unlimited content. In practice, players felt like they were dumped into a world with little or no guidance, and had to stumble around feeling foolish trying to find things to do. Eve Online made the sandbox approach work, to be sure, but even after more hand-holding was programmed in, it remains a very hardcore, obscure game to this day — with massive amounts of user-created content that makes the game universe a dynamic place to explore.

WoW was the effective trump card for the theme park system. It proved that players didn’t mind having their hands held, to be guided as long as they had plenty of choices as to what “ride” they’d want to go on that day. Most MMOs post-2004 came around to this way of thinking — even SWG with its notorious NGE switch. The biggest downside of a theme park MMO is that once you’ve gone on all the rides dozens of times, there’s very little left. You can make the rides longer or harder to get on, of course. You can try to pump in some more dev-created rides, but those take a long time and are consumed incredibly fast by players. Hence, sooner or later, people arrive at the end of their theme park experience, burned out and lacking a reason to do anything else.

So both schools of thought have pretty big pros and cons associated with them. The question is, how do we move forward in this industry? The semi-obvious answer is: let’s marry the best of the sandbox system with the best of the theme park system. Players love to be included in the creative process, love unlimited content, and love being led through an experience without feeling lost.

I’ve been holding off mentioning this for fear that you’d think I’m a little crazy (but at this point, post-manatee, you already know that) — every night when I go to sleep, a little trick I use to help me fall asleep quick is to “design” something in my head. Usually it’s a game, and the fun is trying to think up game mechanics I haven’t seen before but would love to play, or to take old mechanics and use them in a fun twist. An idea I’ve always been fond of is for a MMO to provide a structured environment where players would receive tools to create their own content within the boundaries of the MMO. For instance, giving players their own dungeon, which the player can deck out with “loot” (monsters, treasures, traps) they find in the game world as they play. Then other players can come in and try to beat their dungeon.

I know it’s not an original idea, but the more I think about it, the more I take a shine to the topic. After reading a piece on Word of Shadow about user-created content, it prompted me to get my thoughts out on the subject. I sincerely believe that MMO devs who adhere to the theme park model — and yes, this includes WAR to a huge degree — have to be moving in a direction where they hand tools to the player to let them create their own content within the boundaries of that world.

WAR’s primary answer to that is to provide the broadest and most structured PvP system in the MMO landscape. PvP is user-created content — it’s always shifting, never the same, and lets the players “write the stories” instead of the devs. WAR is banking on the RvR/PvP system being the primary motivator for players to stick around long after they’ve exhausted the PvE content. It remains to be seen how compelling this content will be — and a lot of the onus is on the players for how much they participate in it.

Taking a different tack, the mostly-PvE City of Heroes/Villains has announced that they’re working on user-created missions (dungeons), a la their user-created base system, for other players to explore and conquer. As a current CoX player, this is probably one of the best pieces of news that game world ever received, and it frees the limited dev team up from making new PvE missions to working on other content.

Even World of Warcraft is slooooooowly cranking around to the idea of incorporating sandbox elements in its rigidly-structured game, with the new PvP outdoor zone. And there are probably tons of other, smaller theme park MMOs I’m not mentioning that provide a lot of user-created content as well.

I think it’s a very exciting time to be a MMO player — the games just keep on getting better!


Breathing Room?

June 28, 2008

Just something that caught my eye… Tobold interviewed J. Allen Brack, lead producer on WoW, who was quoted to say in regards to expansion rollout:

“It’s been more than a year than The Burning Crusade came out, and we are not exactly yet happy with where [WotlK] is. The most important thing for Blizzard is that you have the best experience possible when you install it. And whenever Wrath of the Lich King gets to that point, that we feel you will have a great experience, we will release it.”

I’m not going to go all super-analytic on this quote, but I thought I’d toss it out there for those whose greatest worry is Lich King going head-to-head with WAR — this might be a sign that WAR has a bit more breathing room than we once thought.


Fear, Itself

June 28, 2008

If we were burdened with the homework assignment of listing the greatest fears of the Warhammer Online community right now, “another delay” would be tied with “not living up to expectations” and “getting the stuffing beat out of it by WoW”, but just behind “spiders and spider-related superheroes”.

It’s the big invisible elephant in the WAR room: what if WAR’s going to be delayed again? It’s not outside of the realm of possibility, after all. Mythic has made the call twice to postpone WAR for futher testing and polish, and EA has stuck by them both times. Mythic’s also been adamant that WAR doesn’t ship until it meets their expectations, first and foremost. “It won’t ship until it’s done,” they’ve said, “And done right.”

Delays cause considerable conflicting emotions to well up in the hearts of fans (note, that’s not fans of Heart, which are a great group of people you should get to know today). On one hand, we’ve witnessed enough lackluster and faulty launches in the MMO genre to choke a sea cow (yes! another manatee graphic!), and the thought of WAR stumbling and falling flat right out of the gate is a truly cringe-worthy image. On the other hand, fans aren’t noted for their long-lasting patience, and two delays have tested what little credit there is already.

There comes a point where a game must be launched, or must be canceled/indefinitely postponed, due to the costs of development. Right now, WAR is purely in the red for EA. Every day, every month they work on the game is an outflow of money without a single dollar coming back in. EA can afford to be patient — after all, they need a big MMO hit and not another screw-up — but it’s not infinite. Sooner or later, WAR has to get out the door to bring the books back to the black.

So imagine this scenario: August or September rolls around, we’ve been in guild beta and perhaps NDA-drop land, but open beta’s yet to begin. After taking a hard look at beta numbers and surveying the closed beta crowd, Mythic feels that they need to push it back again — to Q1 or Q2 2009 — in order to really make everything click. Open beta gets pushed back as well, to October/November/December.

What would happen? Well, I think this time around fans might have more ground to be justifiably upset. Devs at this point have verbally committed to the “Fall 2008” ship date so many times it’s just as much of a mantra as is “War is Everywhere”. Top that with sales of the Collector’s Edition, which fans have been paying for as early as April 2008, and you’re going to have more angry players demanding to see the game they’ve already shelled out the big bucks for. And don’t forget, another delay would possibly let Lich King slip in the door first and draw in scores of WAR-wannabes who might be fed up with the delay and starving for new content that they’d return to WoW. Top that all with the public perception that a thrice-delayed game must be extremely faulty at the core, and WAR could become the butt of a lot of jokes.

It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not worst-case scenario, but it’s getting there. And yes, you’d still have a strong contingent of fans who would back up Mythic’s call and wait it out until WAR’s release. But if WAR doesn’t ship this fall, there’s going to be hell to pay — and hell doesn’t pay very well.


June Newsletter Part 2

June 27, 2008

Aaaaand right after I wrote that previous article, the newsletter plopped down in my inbox with some stuff I hadn’t yet covered.

The Guild Beta is officially announced to begin in July. This is, of course, a great sign — Guild Beta is the last major “closed beta” phase before the NDA drops and open beta begins. For those not in a super awesome time traveling guild such as Chrono Chaos, with access to the guild beta, you might be wondering why GB is such a big deal. Other than being a stepping stone to release, guilds are one of the keystones of WAR, and the wholesale inclusion of numerous established guilds to test the current guild tools is vital to seeing if this puppy will have legs. When the NDA drops, all testers will have voices, but a big-name guild will have a louder voice than most. If they come out as a group saying, “Heck YES we’re playing WAR come release!”, then it’s a huge PR coup for Mythic.

Another dungeon name is announced: Gunbad. Unofficial abbreviation: “Gun”. I love it. “Want to shoot the Gun?”

This item from the upcoming round of beta peaks my interest: “Real Time Website Updates with Character Profiles and RvR Stats.” I can speculate, but… I’d just rather find out more on this later.

We found out a month ago that the Magus would have temporary pet summons, a la the Engineer’s turrets. The newsletter expands on these a bit — Magi can summon one of three varieties of short-range daemons: pink, blue or flame.

The Archmage and Disciple of Khaine get career mastery explanations, but I’ll go into those at a later point, as I will the scenarios.

I actually started out thinking this was a poor man’s copy of earlier newsletters, but once I looked at the whole package, I’m actually quite impressed. I appreciate the glimpse into the guild leveling system, the BS dungeon (I know a lot of people were asking about dungeons, so good for Mythic to get that stuff out), and beta tester testimonies, as always.


June Newsletter: Where Are The Tribbles, Darn It?

June 27, 2008

Okay, let’s get the biggest announcement out of the way first: you just KNOW that the Bastion Stairs dungeon is going to be abbreviated “BS” in in-game chat. “4 more for BS,” they’ll say, and then warrior-poets with a thesaurus and a heart full of lies will show up.

The Bastion Stairs is the big surprise of this newsletter — our first-ever peek into a full-fledged WAR dungeon (first ever at least to my eyes and knowledge). And it looks pretty darn awesome. The video flies through the entire place, which looks fairly expansive, if not hugely packed with dense swarms of mobs. Lots of red, high walls, flames and such. It made me wonder how fast we’re going to be able to go through these dungeons — will WAR be like WoW, where each pull is a carefully orchestrated maneuver of trapping, crowd control and tanking, or will we be able to wade into the fight without spending 15 minutes setting each battle up?

Questions, questions.

You might’ve noticed in Jeff Hickman’s video podcast that he briefly shows a screen with guild ranks and rewards. I haven’t posted on this stuff yet due to NDA, but since it’s right there, the ranks/rewards that you can see are as follows:

  1. Guild Vault
  2. Taxes and Tithes
  3. Guild Calendar
  4. Entry to Sigmar’s Hammer, Access Alliances
  5. Crafting Components
  6. 2 Standard Bearer Titles, Recruit’s Battle Standard, Tactic Slot 1, Tactic Point
  7. Guild Auctions
  8. Objective Claiming, Tactic Point
  9. Heraldry Reservation, Base Pattern, Base Color
  10. Recruit’s Standard Tactics Slot 2

The heraldry creation screen that Jeff shows has the options for 2 shapes, 45 base colors (and yes, pink is one of them), 3 patterns, 45 pattern colors, and 276 emblems (!). Jeff says that’s about 30,000 unique banner choices. Unique’s a key word here — no other guild on your server will have an identical banner, apparently.

He then goes into a lot about the standards guilds can carry into battle — with heraldry, trophies and tactic slots on them. Heraldry can go on people’s cloaks, too. The standards are a very cool battle feature that does reinforce guild unity, as well as make it feel more medieval war-like. Standards can be used to claim keeps, providing bonuses to the area, and giving the guild a constant stream of XP (another motivation for guilds to keep the keep, eh?). Standards can also be captured for rewards and tome unlocks, which gives another PvP objective.

Very nice video, as always. I sort of wish the entire newsletter would be done like this, they do such a great job that the rest of the newsletter is anti-climactic compared to it.

Moving on to the White Lion grab bag… again, might just be me, but really nothing new is being said here, only possibilities limited. White Lions come in one variety, two genders, don’t live on after master’s death, match the level of the master, are affected by masteries not your gear, don’t know yet if we can ride them as mounts, and can be healed by its master. There. That’s the whole grab bag. Whee.

There’s a pretty funny video about Guild Mongbat that “captured” the Mythic offices, a la keeps. Of course, this idea was — or soon will be — first thought up by Chrono Chaos, once we get H.G. Wells to stop monkeying around and fix the time machine.

Paul’s Video Blogs were a toss-up, as they often are. “Character Customization” gives us a tantalizing glance at the many character head options. “Orc Teeth” shows how Orcs have a variety of lower jaw teethies to pick from. “Win the Loot” shows the treasure box graphic that plops down on the playing field after you beat a PQ.

I like how much Paul cheerfully bashes marketing. “Evil marketing!”

That might not be the full newsletter as published next week, but that’ll be the meat of it — if you want to check out any of these articles or videos, stay tuned to this thread on WHA.