Monthly Archives: September 2007

Mythic Sends You Boobies

I just got the new Warhammer Online Newsletter. This NSFW lady greets you right at the top. Is there some rule that the dark-skinned elves cannot have any clothing, or is that all female characters in MMORPGs? The dark-skinned elves also do not have nipples, it seems.

It also includes a fan art gallery, with the top picture being from a D&D book. I guess no one in the review process owns Tome of Battle. Come on, guys, get some nerds on the project.

I would link you to the newsletter itself, but it is not in their archives as I type this.

: Zubon

Time Frame

One of those mistakes that people keep making is how long it takes to make a MMO. Schedules get pushed back and the game releases massively bugged anyway. Though I have never made an MMO, my experience with planning tells me how long it will take to make the next one: about as long as it took to make the last comparable one.

All those reasons why your game will be done faster and cheaper than the last one? Lies. If you believe them, you are deluded. Your only hope is to skip some steps by borrowing an existing engine, and even then your new features will make your game take as long as usual.

On average, there is no difference between what people predict as the “realistic” time frame and the “best case scenario” time frame. Think about that one for a moment. Your schedule assumes that nothing will go wrong. Where you left slack, you left it only for problems you know you will face, without slack for the unknown, even when you know there will be unknown problems. It won’t help anyway, since your staff is already planning to use up that margin of error like an o-ring.

The fun part is that the more you know, the worse your schedule will be. More detail makes the problem worse. You know that step A will take 10 man-months, step B will take 15 man-months … and no, your perfect schedule is going to fall apart. You will get far more accurate predictions by looking at the last three similar projects and assuming you will take about that long. I have a highly detailed task list, and I use it only to bludgeon work from co-workers. I would never go so far as to expect us to meet the schedule. I mean, I used to, but then you get your first job or college paper, and reality sets in.

: Zubon

Repaving the Road

Nostalgia is great. There is nothing like the rose-colored glasses of memory to make you feel glad. And, if you’re trying to show off your MMORPG cred, to show off how much you, personally, rock. Any time an instance, event, or even crafting gets changed in an online game, you have people that crawl out from the woodwork to explain that while sure, you can do it now, THEY did it when it was really tough, not this carebear version you have. Nope, uphill both ways, carrying their guild master on their back, blindfolded, wearing their newbie tunic and with only a rusty sword. And they liked it. It’s fun to mock those people, but let’s not talk about them anymore. What I do want to talk about is what was done in EQ1 often enough that I think WoW may want to look into: Revamping Zones.

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Don’t tell me to smell the roses

Probably one of the most used and abused phrases of 2007, that one.

At its best it’s honest advice, and the words chosen by the voice of experience. At its worst, a political statement and dishonest noise. There’s a little world behind this seemingly harmless phrase, and quite a colorful one too. Is this just the latest weapon of choice in the old and tiresome ‘Casual vs. Hardcore’ debate(*)? Or is there something more behind it and its shining rise to forum stardom?

You will read on. You know you want to.

(*) To call the ‘Casual vs. Hardcore’ debacle a ‘debate’ is like saying the guys in charge of the fryer at Micky Dee’s are ‘Chefs’, but you know where I’m coming from.

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Go Stags!

Tim Harford’s comments on a bank run in the UK reminds me that we have an extensive body of research that we can apply to gaming. Appropriately, this is game theory. You have probably noticed that most game developers keep trying to rediscover the wheel when dozens of companies have already made all the relevant mistakes. When Jessica Mulligan stopped writing Biting the Hand, she commented along those lines: no one was making new mistakes, just the same ones over and over again.

Mr. Harford’s example is about group versus solo play. Yes, at British banks. Everyone would prefer to be in a good group, but a bad group is worse than solo play. Yes, there is a large body of academic work that revolves around that one sentence.

MMOs are a more tenuous game than the standard stag hunt. Game theory is usually stated in terms of two players; MMO groups have five or more in a group, and let’s not get to raids. In MMO groups, one weak player may not spoil the hunt but a couple will, and one severe idiot will leave you further from the level cap than where you started. Is it any wonder that so many of us are hunting rabbits?

Do we need an extended treatment of this concept? We could delve into economic theory of the firm and how it applies to guilds.

: Zubon

Only on-topic by name, my undergrad had good news earlier this month and better news this week. That is about $200,000 of good news per student. Kupo!

11 Written Backwards

As a hero, you will change the world. Unfortunately, the world has been changed on you.

Welcome to a City of Heroes where no hero or villain has ever beaten the tutorial, where the villains never seized power, and where the 5th Column need not return because it never left.

Welcome to Issue 11. Coming sometime in a few months, to a server near you.

: Zubon

Update: there is an ouroboros wallpaper for it. Not terribly exciting, perhaps.

Petrov Day

I forgot to mention that today is Petrov Day. This is when we honor Stanislav Petrov for preventing nuclear war by recognizing that computer errors are more likely than underwhelming missile strikes. His tale is recounted across the internet; I saw it in a variety of places. He is one of the few people who can compete with Norman Borlaug for the claim of having saved a billion lives.

If your MMO in development has a chance of causing a nuclear holocaust, please do more beta testing.

: Zubon

Dating for Gamers Part 4: Chat Systems

Men are from Earth, women are from Earth: deal with it. If no one understands you or you have trouble talking to girls, the problem is probably you rather than them. You must learn to communicate with the rest of the species.

Harsh? This is a primary point: men and women tend to communicate in different ways. Come explore the implications of this and other issues with IRL’s lousy chat system in our continuing series of articles on dating for the introverted heterosexual male.

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Recent Searches

I looked through the ways that Google sent us new friends in the last month. As a public service, I will answer some questions and direct people to the pages they were looking for. Also, I will mock some people, but I don’t think they’re ever coming back, so we will not hurt their feelings.

Let’s put it after the break, just in case this goes NSFW. My humble apologies to all the people who came to this site looking for ways to exterminate vermin. We are not that kind of site.

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