My Lawyer Is Level 8

Turbine sues DDO publisher Atari for $30m

Turbine states the basis of Atari’s failing to promote Stormreach was based on a desire to compete in the same genre, with its own internally-developed D&D MMO. Or as Turbine states in the complaint, Atari sought “to to free itself from its obligations under the contracts in order to clear the way for the launch of its own competing MMO service based on the D&D and Advanced D&D intellectual properties.”

Play Now, My Lawyer!

The scam artists, gold farmers, and IP thieves behind Evony have gone to step 4 in The Path Of Internet Bastardy: sue people on the Internet and newspapers in Britain that you don’t like.

Disgusting. If it DOES go to court I eagerly await how Evony explains that it’s fine for them to use Age of Kings art assets in their game (which they deny), while it’s not fine for horrible mean bloggers to point out that Evony uses spam to advertise (which they deny).

Not that third parties have evidence of this or anything.

The Scourge Of Google

Richard Bartle indulges in understatement on contextual advertising.

When my book first came out, there were ads for gold farmers on its Amazon page and there were also ads for them that popped up for Google searches on my name. My name was being associated with a service of which I disapprove. Was there anything I could do about it? No, there wasn’t. Well, I guess I could have retaliated by buying ads for their names, but there wasn’t enough room to write BUY GOLD AND DECREASE YOUR SENSE OF SELF WORTH YOU LOSER LOSER LOSER in them.

He goes on to condemn the practice of contextual ad placement in general. It is fairly blipverty and the MMO community in particular has long struggled with the inability to filter advertising for things that their members violently disapprove of (yet still manage to stay in business anyway). Much of that is due to Google’s effective monopoly of affordable Internet advertising. There’s no alternative “MMO friendly” advertising network, simply because there’s not enough money in it. Not many really want to buy advertising on your guild’s web site… unless they want to sell you gold, that is. And the amount of money that changes hands is so ridiculously low that most reputable sites simply don’t bother selling advertising any more.

Ironically, it’s quite easy to ensure that Google Ads meet community standards. Your community merely has to be an authoritarian dictatorship! Failing that, you have to reach Google Ads’ bar for Things They Don’t Like. Their policy, which they apparently inherited from Youtube, is somewhat arbitrary. Cheating on your schoolwork reaches that bar, but cheating on your online game does not. Google Ads DOES explicity prohibit “e-gold”, but that’s not online RMT, but more direct money laundering. And, of course, nothing to prevent someone from advertising on a Miley Cyrus video with a “Buy the clothes Miley likes!” tag line. In fact, that sort of “targeted advertising” is what Google explicitly sells. And in such volume that, of course, they can’t be expected to police that, can they?

This wouldn’t be an issue if you (yes, you) would actually pay for content on the Internet. But all evidence empirically states that you (yes, you) won’t, so Google teaches us that we can’t have nice things.

“Don’t be evil.”
— Google’s mission statement

You Can, Actually, Go Home Again

Kind of busy so no thumb-sucking analysis like I kind of have an urge to do, but a trend seems to be emerging I think is worth looking at: going back and fixing your old stuff instead of/in addition to adding new stuff.

Cases in point: the big one of course being World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm which presumably will be announced this weekend and has been leaked *every*where. The highlight of this, and what anecdotally has everyone I know that plays WoW all aflutter: revamping old world zones with the design sensibility and polish that Blizzard has picked up on since they launched the original game. Or, if you’re more cynical, that since all the top tier people are working on Mysterious Unannounced Project, the B Team is in charge. (Which I find somewhat amusing, if only because for good or for ill, more WoW players know who Ghostcrawler is than who Tigole was.)

Blizzard isn’t the only one to do this: Funcom also just announced their new Age of Conan expansion yesterday, and one of its stated goals is to address the drop in quality seen between the early 1-20 levels of Tortage and the rest of the game instead of just moving the level cap up 10 levels. This caps a year-long effort by the live team to, uh, fix the game. Which, surprisingly (or not), is more popular with players (and former players) than just adding more shiny on a broken base.

Damion Schubert took a contrarian view (to be fair, before the new blizzard (har) of news was released). I know personally I never want to set foot in Molten Core ever, ever again. But really, that’s only because Molten Core was… really bad. I didn’t mind redoing Naxxramas when, after the latest expansion was released, became the new Karazhan (aka the default raiding dungeon for people just starting to raid) because I never really saw Naxxramas the first time. Some content recycling can be good, especially if the majority of your player base never saw it in the first place. It’ll piss off your hard core (for making their achievements less achievey), but so will many other things. Such as, say, your continuing to breath oxygen.

Anyway, it’ll be ironic if after this weekend we find out from Blizzard that the new expansion is really “World of Warcraft: PAINFUL RAID EDITION” which has nothing but 80 man raids, pants that you have to level up to unlock resilience, and a new level cap of 256. But given the general reaction from what’s already been leaked, I don’t think so.

CCP Comes Out Of Left Field, Shoots Everyone In Head

CCP announces new first-person shooter console MMO that expands Eve Online

The announcement, with the trailer tagline of “one universe, one war”, came at the end of a talk about the history of CCP. It left many GDC Europe keynote attendees — perhaps expecting an announcement for World Of Darkness, CCP’s other rumored project — significantly surprised.

The trailer, with slick in-game graphics, showcased a space station and then impressive first-person shooter gameplay. Petursson said that Dust 514 is “our take on a console MMO”, and was made after the company “looked hard at what people wanted to do on consoles”.

In fact, when Dust 514 launches, the map of EVE, currently divined only by player structures owned in the PC game, will also take into account infantry successes and failures within the console game. Players in the PC MMO can “fund mercenaries and give them goals” in the console title.

CCP’s Petursson hope that “these communities will meld over time”, expecting specific Dust 514 corporations to start with, but eventually social structures that bridge across the two. He quipped of the new game and the relationship between the two titles: “While the fleet does the flying, the infantry does the dying.”

The Dear Leader Will Save Us In Raids

Apparently NCsoft, according to this well-written and fact checked piece in, is blazing a trail in opening new markets to MMOs.

Sales in North Korea accounted for the largest chunk of sales profit – 57 per cent in total.

North Korea’s highly militaristic “army first” state ideology should work well in a full-PvP environment. It’s less clear how well they would be able to handle crafting.

“Let There Be Gnomes.” And There Were Gnomes.

Eurogamer has an interesting piece interviewing Blizzard on the making of World of Warcraft.

Blizzard would soon learn that playing and talking about EverQuest was a world away from actually building its own MMO.

“We knew that it was a mammoth undertaking, but I think, at the time, we had no clue just how big and complex something like this would be,” Metzen says now. “Perhaps it was a little bit of naiveté – ‘oh yeah, we can bang out one of those, no big deal’ – and certainly as we got into it, we would learn that these things are just… very, very complex in their scope.”

Oh, and this bit from Tom Chilton:

“If we wanted to have a PvP game, we would want it to be team-based – in a lot of ways, it was like Dark Age of Camelot had done. I was on board with the idea, because I felt like that was one of the advantages that DAOC had over Ultima Online, which I’d worked on.

“DAOC had pre-determined teams, you were either Albion or Hibernia or, er, the other one.”