Thursday, June 2, 2016

4.74. A Series of Unfortunate Events


Preach's LFR experiment, in an attempt to determine how
far he can get by doing absolutely nothing

Picking Cherries

"Q. Why not just let casual players get rewards comparable to those from raids?

A. It would be almost impossible for us to do, and this is a philosophical decision. We need to put a structure in place for players where they feel that if they do more difficult encounters, they'll get rewarded for it. As soon as we give more equal rewards across the board, for a lot of players it will diminish the accomplishment of killing something like Nefarian."
- Former WoW Lead Content Designer Jeff Kaplan, on why raids like Naxxramas aren't intended for a casual audience.
The New York TimesKill The Big, Bad Dragon (Teamwork Required) January 28th, 2006
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"Dungeons too, we wanted them to be a much more hardcore experience, we wanted only groups in there, and so on. The dungeons are there to serve more of the core market. It's something to strive for, a bridge for the casual players to become a little more hardcore."
- Former Blizzard VP of Design Rob Pardo, speaking at the Austin Game Conference on WoW design strategy.
Raph Koster's WebsiteAGC: Rob Pardo's Keynote September 6th, 2006
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"The whole point for a lot of hardcore players is to show off your advancement. So we chose the best gear to be from raids, so we can recognize someone’s achievements based on their gear. The tradeoffs is that you lose everyone looking different and users expressing creativity. And if you try to have both, you'll end up muddled and somewhere in the between."
- Former Blizzard VP of Design Rob Pardo, speaking at the Austin Game Conference on WoW design strategy.
Raph Koster's WebsiteAGC: Rob Pardo's Keynote September 6th, 2006
--- 

"[Game] designers need to understand human psychology, sociology, and philosophy behind design. They need especially to understand how persons and groups behave when anonymous...Balance is in the eyes of the player. It doesn't have to be balanced; the average player just has to feel like it is balanced. Totally balanced PvP means losing half the time. Losing half the time is not necessarily fun....the community is good at identifying problems. The community is bad at designing games and generating workable solutions. The community disagrees tremendously but does not recognize its disagreements. The community, though, is always right."
- Ethan Kennerly, recalling a talk given by Jeff Kaplan at USC's Videogame Production class (ITP 280).
Fine Game DesignWorld of Warcraft Content Design October 10th, 2007
---

"I think it's a great idea...The only caveat for me is that I feel that the highest-tier zone at a given time should start off as a 25-man-only experience and then have the 10-man version unlocked once the zone is defeated on a server, or once a given amount of time passes, whichever comes first...I do feel that 10-man-only players should get to experience the same lore and ultimately see the same content, but I don't think that the easier alternative should be available right away."
- Gurgthock, on the introduction of 10/25 raids in WotLK.
Curse, Interview with the Guild Leader of Elitist Jerks June 27th, 2008
---

"I'm not super interested in compromising LoL design in the name of accessibility. Yes, League is obnoxiously hard to learn if you don't have a friend showing you the ropes. That sucks, but it's not worth stripping away the depth or potential for mastery for our core audience -- you guys -- in order to attract new players. That's not an approach every game can or should take, but it's the right call for League."
- Former WoW Lead Systems Designer Greg Street, addressing the League of Legends community speculation about his charge at Riot Games.
ManaflaskGhostcrawler on WoW's casualization, accessibility, and raiding August 26th, 2014
---

"First and foremost, I learned that you must put game quality and player experience first in everything that you do. Gamers are not driven to buy games because they have a clever business model, they buy games that are fun and immersive that deliver on what was promised. I also learned that being a trend chaser or first mover is not a key to victory...force feeding a development team to chase a business model or game type trend when the team doesn't love it is a likely losing proposition."
- Former Blizzard COO Paul Sams, reflecting on lessons learned.
GamesIndustry.biz, Blizzard's Paul Sams joins Ready at Dawn as new CEO June 8th, 2015
--- 

"We would have been in bad shape had we not done that,"
- Current WoW Game Director Tom Chilton, commenting on what state World of Warcraft would be in had Blizzard not embraced casual-centric features.
PolygonWorld of Warcraft would be 'in bad shape' without embracing the casual revolution August 23rd, 2013
--- 

"How is your gaming experience diminished by it? I can't honestly understand what's the big deal on people that isn't you doing something that you don't want to do...Perhaps we should just tell the devs that we should close all raids until the Top 10 guilds clear them on heroic, so that they can feel superior to everyone else as they are seeing content that you, the raiders not-as-good-as-them aren't seeing."
- Blizzard Community Manager Draztal, responding to community concerns over a lack of staggered endgame content between LFR and traditional raids.
Battle.net Europe Forums, we consume content too fast? March 8th, 2012

The "strategy game of money, power and wealth,"
Capitalism II

Whatever Fits the Narrative

"For a developer to acknowledge that their TWO YEAR OLD game is still one of the best multiplayer games around, to continue to support it through a FREE online system...and STILL patching the damn game? How many games don't get a single patch? For Blizzard delevopers [sic] to still be updating and fine-tuning a game this long after its release, and for people to STILL enjoy playing it is fucking incredible."
- Slashdot user Trillian_1138, commenting Blizzard's dedication to its community.
Slashdot, Diablo II 1.10 Patch Finally Released, October 28, 2003
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"Outside resources don't play into it - no gold buying, etcetera. We take a hard line stance against it. What you get out of micro-transactions is kind of the same thing and I think our player base would feel betrayed by it."
- Former VP of Design Rob Pardo, on Blizzard's philosophy regarding in-game purchases.
Eurogamer, Micro-transactions "betray" players February 21st, 2008
---

"In an industry full of passionate gamers, Kotick stood apart: the guy who never picked up a joystick."
- ForbesGuitar Hero, February 6th, 2009
---

"In the last cycle of videogames you spent $50 on a game, played it and took it back to the shop for credit. Today, we'll (charge) $100 for a guitar. You might add a microphone or drums; you might buy two or three expansions packs, different types of music. Over the life of your ownership you'll probably buy around 25 additional song packs in digital downloads. So, what used to be a $50 sale is a $500 sale today."
- The EscapistActivison's Bobby Kotick hates developers, innovation, cheap games, [and] you, October 23rd, 2009
---

"Bobby, you're not on the fucking Death Star. You're Palpatine...You didn't get there by accident, you got there by the decisions you made."
- Game Lawyer Tom Buscaglia, responding to Bobby Kotick's involvement in the Infinity Ward fiasco.
The Escapist, Game Lawyer Calls Bobby Kotick "Emperor Palpatine", March 17th, 2010
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"Well, he makes a big deal about not liking games, and I just don't think that attitude is good for games in general,"
- Tim Schafer, when asked why he thinks Activision/Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick should care more about how gaming consumers perceive him.
1up.com, Tim Schafer: Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is a 'Total Prick' July 4th, 2010
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"Huge deal. The Chinese claim that they will put up between 1-2[billion dollars]...The boys are meeting with [Warren] Buffett on weds in Omaha. We are the only pe firm. Super confi[dential]"

Ex-Activision director Peter Nolan commenting on the stakes of the then-proposed buyout of Activision/Blizzard from Vivendi Universal.
Bloomberg, Vivendi Considered Firing Activision's Kotick Over Buyout July 16th, 2014
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"Q: Will there be any management changes at Blizzard as a result of this deal?
A: No, there won’t be any management changes at Blizzard as a result of the combination."
Activision / Blizzard FAQ forum post on Battle.net December 2nd, 2007
---

"This is an important change as it will allow me, with Thomas, to become more deeply involved in areas of the business where I believe we can capture great potential and opportunity..."
- Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, in a memo to employees, on his reassignment of Mike Morhaime's boss, Thomas Tippl, to COO.
Los Angeles TimesActivision quietly restructures senior management and internal organization March 30th, 2010
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"In short, he has to either break even or make money to get the stocks, and he has to maintain that for the next four years."
- Ben Gilbert, commenting on the Tippl Amendment that outlines the requirements of his financial reimbursement plan as COO.
Engadget, Activision CFO Thomas Tippl now COO, March 30th, 2010

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"[Franchise fatigue] is something that I have not bought into...I think it's an excuse for lack of innovation. If you have a great franchise and you stop innovating, then yes, you will lose your fan base."
- Activision Blizzard COO Thomas Tippl, on his opinion regarding franchises getting too old to retain consumer interest
Gamasutra, Activision COO Tippl: 'Franchise Fatigue' Is An 'Excuse' June 17th, 2010
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"We're happy to announce that through the wonders of modern gnomish engineering, you are now able to change your characters' names."
- Engadget, Finally Paid Name Changes! October 26th, 2007
---

"Blizzard just announced that StarCraft II's single player campaign would be split into three separate products."
- Kotaku, StarCraft II Single Player Is A Trilogy! October 10th, 2008
---

"In short, for a fee of $15, you can rebuild your character, with some restrictions. You can change your gender, face, skin, hair, and name, but not your race or class."
- Engadget, Character Re-Customization available for a small fee December 10th, 2008
---

"...players wanting to 'switch teams' will only need to shell out [...] $30 USD before applicable taxes."
- Tom's Hardware, Paid Faction Change Now in WoW September 4th, 2009
---

"Purchase queues began forming soon after the virtual item went on sale, with players in the forums reporting upwards of 12,000 folks waiting at the virtual cash register at one time for a chance to purchase the translucent flying mount. Wow.com reported yesterday that at one point the number topped 140,000."
- Kotaku, Blizzard is Selling World of Warcraft Mounts Because Players Demanded Them April 16th, 2010
---

"'They can also claim that by bringing in the secondary market under their umbrella, they will be providing a better quality of experience for their players. And that's true, certainly, but it's also certainly true that if there was no additional money to be made, they wouldn't be interested.'"
- Wired, Sold! Hawk Your Diablo III Loot for Real World Cash August 1st, 2011
---

"On the heels of Hearthstone®: Heroes of Warcraft™ surpassing 50 million registered players, Whispers of the Old Gods™, the third expansion for Blizzard Entertainment's award-winning online strategy card game, is now live."
- Activision Blizzard Press Release,
Whispers of the Old Gods™ Takes Hold of Hearthstone® as Registered Players Top 50 MillionApril 26th, 2016 
--- 

"...there's a lot of distrust out in the community, because I think a lot of players have felt like they've been burned in the past."
- Jeff "Tigole" Kaplan, on his observations regarding pricing skepticism following Blizzard's announcement of Overwatch
GameEspresso, Blizzard Still Debating Microtransactions for Overwatch December 11th, 2015


In-Game Store,
World of Warcraft


In-Game Real Money Auction House,
Diablo III

In-Game Store,
Hearthstone

In-Game Store,
Heroes of the Storm

In-Game Store,
Overwatch

Context is King

"I know that if something is instantly gratifying, it will be repeated."
- Casino Mogul Steve Wynn
---

"Each year [casino] revenues in the US yield more profits than the theatrical movie industry ($US 10.9 billion) and the recorded music industry ($US 7 billion) combined. Even the $US 22.5 billion combined revenue of the four major US sports leagues is dwarfed by earnings from the commercial casinos industry."
- The ConversationLosses Disguised As Wins, The Science Behind Casino Profits November 3rd, 2014
---

"(High-rollers) drive business. They drive revenues. They drive profits."
- Las Vegas SunLV Casino Host Spoils His Big-Time Losers, April 22nd, 2002
--- 

"Of the 4,222 casino customers, just 2.8% -- or 119 big losers -- provided half of the casino's take, and 10.7% provided 80% of the take."
- The Wall Street JournalHow Often Do Gamblers Really Win, October 11th, 2013
---

"In general, [Casinos] need [whales] to stay in business. Atlantic City can no longer survive on a steady stream of casual east-coast gamblers."
- The EconomistMaking the House Beat Itself,  May 5th, 2012
--- 

"I told [Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates] 'The most I can make from you is $10,000 a night -- my guy bets that on his first hand. You can move now or security will be here in an hour.'"
- Steve Cyr, on courting high-rolling 'whales' that become big spenders at his casinos
Sabotage Times, The Las Vegas Whale Hunter, June 26th, 2013 
--- 

"And if you are a whale, we take Facebook stalking to a whole new level. You spend enough money, we will friend you. Not officially, but with a fake account. Maybe it's a hot girl who shows too much cleavage? That's us. We learned as much before friending you, but once you let us in, we have the keys to the kingdom. We will use everything to figure out how to sell to you."
- TouchArcadeWe Own You: Confessions of an Anonymous Free to Play Game Producer September 16th, 2015
---

"It's a weird hybrid of gambling addiction and more traditional video game addiction, neither of which is anything new, but the combination of the two is a relatively novel emerging phenomenon, and one all the mobile games giants are taking advantage of to full effect."
- ForbesWhy It's Scary When 0.15% of Mobile Gamers Bring in 50% of the Revenue, March 1st, 2014
---

"...if you're the CEO of McDonald's, you should not feel good about your job, you should feel ashamed. We don’t have that in the games business -- we don't have that sense, because we feel like they're 'just entertainment.' We don't feel like we can do things we can be ashamed of yet..."
- Jonathan Blow, on the ethics of certain reward systems in video games
Gamasutra, MIGS 2007: Jonathan Blow On The 'WoW Drug', Meaningful Games November 28th, 2007
--- 

"I'd use birthday money, I'd eat cheaper lunches, I'd ask my wife to pay for dinner so I'd have a spare $10-$20 to spend in the store."
- Gamasutra, Chasing the Whale: Examining the Ethics of Free-to-Play Games July 9th, 2013
--- 

"The illusion of control is a crucial element in the maintenance of gambling addiction … [as it] instills a feeling of skill or control...there are a number of in-game features [such as the boosters in Candy Crush] that allow players to believe they are affecting the outcome of the game, and in some cases they are, but those instances are rare."
- The Guardian, This is What Candy Crush Saga Does to Your Brain, April 1st, 2014 
---

"More effective treatment is increasingly necessary because gambling is more acceptable and accessible than ever before...Today you do not even need to leave your house to gamble -- all you need is an Internet connection or a phone."
- Scientific AmericanHow the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling, November 1st, 2013
---

"[World of Warcraft] didn't even account for the majority of sales. For the first time, that honor went to a batch of different titles: Diablo and two new brands, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm."
- Fool.comActivision Blizzard Inc. Doesn't Need "World of Warcraft" Anymore, August 18th, 2015
---

"There are other metrics that are better indicators of the overall Blizzard business performance."
- Activision Blizzard, at the Q4 2015 earnings call, after revealing that World of Warcraft's subscription numbers had dropped to 5.5 million.
Gamespot, Blizzard Will No Longer Report World of Warcraft Subscriber Numbers November 3rd, 2015
---

"These companies were really smart around analytics and monetization and very light in terms of product and content creation. I'm not sure any of those things are particularly sustainable. The future lies in going into the larger part of the market which is people that self-identify as gamers, and where the user acquisition and long-term value creation comes from making great games."
- Paul Thelen, CEO of Big Fish, on the decline of profitability in the casual gaming market,
GameIndustry.biz, Gamers rule: Only 10% of the industry's $50 billion comes from casuals December 12th, 2012
---

"He's like my dad,"
- Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, referring to the influence and impact Steve Wynn, Casino Mogul, has had on him
Kotaku, A Delightful Chat With the Most Hated Man in Video Games June 14th, 2010

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved the video at the beginning of this becuase as a player who initially played during Burning Wrath, what appealed to me was seeing level 60 players around Stormwind in their cool purples and mounts and I had no idea how to get it but I wanted it. It took me three weeks of intense playing just to get to level 20 back then. So for me LFR wasn't a big deal. It was actually a great time filler and fun. However, from a new player's perspective, why would I bother working so hard to complete normal or heroic raids when I can get the same gear from LFR or just buy the mount. Sigh.

Destiny came out in September of 2014 and I believe my last login to WoW was January of 2015. RiP Sarvan of Sen'jin.

Angelo said...

It's interesting to see how a game can change based on who is running it. Pardon and Kaplan are not longer the twin head monster of WoW. And it's a different game. Some pros, some cons. But from what I've seen in 2004, I'd rather be playing 2016 WoW.

Jungard said...

Interesting to use the quote from Gurgthock, considering he is Ion Hazzikostas, who was recently promoted to lead game designer of WoW. I've gotten say that some of the things he posts about seem to be dialing back on some of the mistakes, but only time and actions will show what that means for the game or if it'll have any results.

Regarding the gradual changeover to in-game stores or free to play models (a la Hearthstone), I feel like that is shifting with the climate of gaming in general. Although I'm not a fan of the freemium concept in general, there's a few that pull it off nicely without it insulting me as a gamer. I very much enjoy Hearthstone and a (very) limited amount of mobile things. However, it's undeniable that the everywhere right now.

The philosophy of decades past is certainly not the same as the philosophy of today. Does that necessarily mean it's a contradiction, or at least a contradiction in the betrayal sense? I personally don't think so.

Paul said...

You know what else diminishes the accomplishment of killing something like Nefarian? Not killing him at all.

Anonymous said...

Yeah you're right Paul. Because you couldn't kill Nefarian we're going to change the game and make it a super easy, single player freemium game. All those people that worked together, learned their characters, formed great friendships and truly love the game as it is? Fuck them. Now go buy a mount in the in-game store and make sure you don't interact with anyone in-game.

Fred said...

You know, the thing is this. There will always be games that are more casual friendly and games that are less. You don't see an end game raider from the top 10 guilds asking for King to make Candy Crush harder.

There has to be something that the more dedicated can really push for. If not, you lose out on that segment of the market.

Blizzard gave the casual market plenty to do with 5-mans. They also provided a gateway into more progression. I am great example of the progression. Hanzo and Jungard can testify to this. When I started raiding with DoD, I was bad. I mean really bad. I chose to become better. That meant a lot of research.

I believe that all content is accessible. However, you have to be willing to put the time in to get there.

klocker2003 said...

We're still waiting for that 'become better' part there fred....

<3

Shaedrya/Evelinne said...

I raided from the start of BC, to about the middle of Panda, as a progression raider (mostly hardcore, top or near top of server, but degrees varied). I did run some non-progression stuff for Siege of Orgrimmar, mostly to complete the Legendary (just to say I had, since I'd already finished 90% of it by the time I came back in the months before Warlords). I played for the first part of Warlords, though I mostly just PVP'd, and ran LFR, because frankly, raiding had stopped being any fun.

Why would I do it? The group of friends I was with, the guild, wasn't around. People had slowly bled away, and the stress that remained from increasingly difficult raid encounters, for... what? Rewards that everyone and their idiot brother could get soon after? Gear that I'd soon be vendoring when it became obsolete? I couldn't really even show it off anymore - the server communities of the old days were all but obliterated by that point by cross-realm-everything. PVP was still something, but once I finally hit the ranks I'd always wanted to reach in RBGs, I finally just threw in the towel for good.

Bottom line, there needs to be a sufficient reward for putting forth insane effort. It has to be commensurate. The level of reward they offer has been increasingly less and less each time, and the availability of easy mode ("Everyone gets a legendary even from LFR!") has just gotten ridiculous. It stopped being worth it, I stopped doing it, and after a bit I just stopped playing.

Shaedrya/Evelinne, In Omnia Paratus, Darrowmere (US)

Greg Mastin said...

I quit not long into Cataclysm, mainly because the guild I was in started to crumble just like DoD did, and this was The Syndicate, yes THAT The Syndicate from Ultima Online that had been around for a long, long time. Attendance dwindled, tempers started flaring...the game ceased to be fun. I eventually came back late in the MoP expansion, but it was the first xpac that I was not logged in for at launch. It had its fun spots, but to me it felt the Saturday Morning Cartoon version of WoW. And don't get me started on Warlords. I tried guilding and every one I joined there was crap for leadership, a revolving door, an expectation of immediate perfection and skill or your swapped out for another faceless piece to the puzzle...finding a good guild is rough. But for me the biggest flaw was the Garrisons. I remember fondly the crowds in Orgimmar and Lagforge. Shattrath. Dalaran. Now...you barely have to leave your Garrison! Send out your minions to make money and level up...click LFR and wait for the invite! It is the antithesis of what an MMO should be.

justin hopkins said...

Mr Shawn,

I just trudged my way through every one of these blogs, mind you it took quite a while, but wow. Just wow, I'm floored. The trials and tribulations, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs...sucked me in more than any book has in a few years. I even logged onto Deathwing server just to see if any of you all were still around! I guess trying to be a fanboy or something, who knows. I really enjoyed this, and I'm really happy you were able to take your time out and do this. Each one of you were like a character in a book, I felt for each one of you, I laughed, I felt anger, the whole range of emotions. I wish I knew of your guild in days past, it seems like it would have been the perfect fit for my play-style and personality, only if!

Thanks again Shawn,

Justin (jhop7002#1209 if any of you still play)