September 2008

“With Warhammer, We Bring You Public Quests, Living Guilds, And My Rendition Of Ruby Tuesday. Who COULD Hang A Name On You.”

Mark Jacobs of Mythic, as seen on G4, remembering the little people:

As spotted by J. J. thinks he’s going for a Frank Black look:

But I’m thinking it’s more of a 80’s super producer thing.

I guess we’ll know if when you sack the Inevitable City, that creepy girl from the “Close to the Edit” video comes out and yells “HEY!“.

“Drama” Being The Key Word

Well, what do you know, the execs of NCsoft do apparently know how to make connecting flights.

“The Austin office has been the subject of some speculation which is erroneous,” [David] Reid told Edge in a Wednesday phone interview. “Austin continues to be a critically important space for NCsoft. The Tabula Rasa team is still there, along with customer service and QA.”

He continued, “We do expect this office to grow, particularly as we think about launching Aion next year and some efforts we have not announced on behalf of some of our other franchises.

“We really do believe that Austin is going to grow at a fairly dramatic pace over the next few years to support those products.”

That whiplash you may be feeling is from having to run to make that connection in Dallas.

DPS Killed The RPG Star

Interesting read on the hype machine behind “the Rockstars of WAR“.

But more importantly to Mythic, when people were talking about the verbal fast jabbing Carrie Gouskos, or the laid-back Josh Drescher and comparing them to the dynamic zealotry of Paul Barnett or the strong leader vibe of Jeff Hickman, they were promoting the product that all of these people were working day and night to produce. They were really talking about WAR.

Flying Is Hard

Why is NCsoft Austin moving to Seattle?

Although some of the restructuring is philosophical, with the company now focusing more intently on “AAA list” titles like Guild Wars and Lineage II, some of the motivation for the decision to move the publishing headquarters from Austin to Seattle was strictly practical.

“On the basic level, it is very difficult, and in fact now impossible, to get a nonstop flight from Austin to Seattle,” explained Reid.

…yeah. I think I’ll refrain from comment. And stuff.

Threat Condition VASHJ

No, I did not make this up. Someone in our fine, perfectly normal intelligence community was actually retarded enough to try to diagram how uberguilds can plan terror attacks through MMO STRATEGERY.

I can totally see where they are coming from. However, I think, as usual, our fine, perfectly competent intelligence community are being somewhat hung up by the WoW-centric coverage the media pays to our MMO industry. As a PATRIOT and an AMERICAN and someone who thinks Sarah Palin is SOMEWHAT ATTRACTIVE in a kind of TINA FEY way, let me explain how our entire industry can be subverted by the forces of darkness and Islam.

No word on how our completely not silly at all intelligence establishment plans to stop the clear and present danger of terrorists using Myspace, Facebook, AOL IM, Gmail, carrier pigeons, or other less intricate and mind-blastingly retarded ways of exchanging information with one another.

Al’Qaeda luckily has not yet taken advantage of World of Warcraft’s jaw-droppingly unlimited tools for the planning of global terror, since the group was riven with guild drama shortly after arguments about DKP.

Crunchy Bits O’ News

Something for everyone today (well, unless you don’t play MMOs with levels and classes…)

World of Warcraft:

* It’s official: Wrath of the Lich King ships November 13. Well, that gives everyone else two more months!
* During a stockholder/analyst call, Blizzard disclosed some large numbers: 11 million subscribers, $500 million in profit last year, and a total of $200 million spent on WoW’s expenses to date. Possibly WoW might bail out AIG.
* Speaking of AIG, probably the most clueless comment ever on the interwebs had someone gleefully pointing out that Blizzard’s stock dropped 4% this week because Warhammer shipped. Not explained: EA’s stock also drops 4%, entire stock market also drops 4%. Note to Internet: the financial markets are a bit busy, they’ll get to your “fix my hunter” rants later.

Age of Conan:

* Hey, look, PVP!
* Hey, look, producer walks out the door and trashes his own game!

Warhammer: Age Of War’s Reckoning At War: The Final Conflict:

* LAUNCH!!!! fshhhhhhhhh Looks to be going great, if you play Order. Like Destruction? Hope you like half-hour login queues! Thus proving once again that gamers are suckers for Cockney orcs, barely dressed dark elves, and hopefully not some combination of the two.
* Newsflash: Paul Barnett is not always 100% serious, especially when trashing his own company. Note to Paul: we colonials are still working on that “humor” thing. For example, he’s probably joking when he spends half an interview talking smack about his game’s competitor:

You know, I quite like the fact that we’ve don’t have item damage, and you won’t have to keep spending money to make your sword sharp. That’s cool, that is. I like the fact that you don’t have to run miles from the graveyard to get back into the action. I like the fact that you don’t have to go to someone with a stupid celebrity name to buy a bag to put stuff in.

Well, hey, at least we know now he’s played WoW! Oh, wait:

Surprisingly, he noted that he does not play other MMOs, including the ubiquitous World of Warcraft…. “I can’t tell what is flaw and what is genius in WoW, so I don’t want to get sucked into copying things in case I get the wrong one,” the amusing Barnett continued. “‘No one’s going to play our game unless it also had elephants!’ No. Don’t be swayed. And stop playing World Of Warcraft.”

OK…. so at least he’s seen a screenshot of Haris Pilton on the web somewhere. That is progress!

I’m a WOW player, Lich King’s around the corner and I’m excited about it. Convince me to play your game instead.

I really like Blackpool, it’s marvellous. Got a tower, you know. They sell fish and chips and it’s got a golden mile, a whole mile of things to do. But you know what, I went on holiday to Blackpool 17 years in a row. Sometimes you just want to go to Vegas.

Yeeeah, metaphors like that always go over well.

Legal Gets Their Waaugh On

Dislike the latest trend in EULAs that ‘force you to read them’ by checking to see if you scroll ALLLLLL the way to the bottom before clicking “Yes, I agree to everything you put in this tiny dialog box, including having no virtual property rights, you can ban me at will, installing this game means you actually own my computer now, I’m now forbidden to have children until I unlock a tier 5 dungeon YES YES YES LET ME PLAY”?

Irked that World of Warcraft makes you do that every patch, even though the turgid legalese that actual humans are discouraged from reading hasn’t changed since 2005?

Well, Warhammer Online makes you do it EVERY TIME YOU CONNECT.

Get knocked off the server for whatever reason? You get to read the EULA again!

Oh, and there’s two. A EULA *AND* a Code of Conduct. So the installing this game means you actually own my computer is in the first dialog, and the forbidding you to have children until you get realm rank 17 is in the second dialog. And you have to scroll down, then click accept *every time you log in*.

No, really. This is a feature!

This is intentional for legal reasons. Each time you play WAR, you’re actively using a service and must therefore agree to the terms of that service. Adhering to the EULA and COC is not a once-off flare; it is a continuous commitment. So why not make the procedure of accepting these terms more user-friendly, such as having the ‘agree’ box checked by default? One answer to this is that the less effort required to agree to something, the less is its juridical weight.


Whereas being annoyed about this feature is understandable, it may be useful to put things into perspective. It takes me some two seconds to scroll down, check the box and press the button. Repeating this for both the EULA and COC is a five second procedure. Repeating this a couple of times a day and even crashing a few times still only adds up to half a minute of your day. A small price for hours and hours of glorious WAR I’d say.

Personally, I thought my subscription fee was a small price to pay for hours and hours of glorious WAR.


In most enterprises open to the public, since the public contains Bad Actors by definition, there is a constant war between security and usability. Password security is a good example of this. If you have no password policy set, your accountant upstairs will keep using “sexy” as his password, never change it, and then three years and five unamused secretaries later, someone will clean out your bank accounts. If you have the Bastard Operator From Hell managing your servers, you have a password security policy that requires it to be at least 16 characters long, contains mixed-case letters, at least three numbers, and at least two punctuation characters, thus ensuring that the only way you can actually get a valid password is using BOfH’s secure password generator keyfob that he ordered from ThinkGeek along with the Darth Maul nerf light saber, and also neatly insuring that no one ever logs into the servers (thus saving the BOfH a lot of time better used playing with his new light saber).

The point being that when you institute a policy clearly concieved and approved by lawyers, you forget that the purpose of your product isn’t to make your company safe for lawyers, but to actually deliver a fun experience for your customers. Forcing 100% of your customers to suffer continued poke-in-the-eye level inconveniences like wrestling with a ha-ha-made-you-scroll EULA boxes every time they connect to your servers on the off chance that when the one pinhead who thinks he can unleash his brother the patent lawyer to litigate back your Cloudsong from that ninja looter comes calling, you’ll have 23% more chance to quash his frivolous lawsuit? That’s just bad math. And bad service.

Although not as bad as EA’s current poke-me-in-the-eye annoyance of sticking ad banners in games without even bothering to disclose it any more. Mercenaries 2, I’m looking at you. I’m pretty sure Venezuela does NOT have a cult of personality revolving around the latest Al Pacino flick, but you wouldn’t know it from turning a corner in Caracas and seeing 5 billboards for the same identical movie. Luckily, in Mercenaries 2 I can blow up those billboards with my tank. To date, I have not been able to burn Warhammer’s EULA with my Bright Wizard.

Update: “Hey, let’s only poke the customer in the eye ONCE.”

First, let’s start with a change to our Code of Conduct. After reviewing the CoC, we’ve decided that it is not necessary to have you click through it every time you enter the game. However, you will need to continue to scroll through the EUALA for the foreseeable future. While we are making it easier to do that it will remain as it is. I’m truly sorry that it is necessary but for now, due to legal reasons, it will still need to be scrolled through and accepted when you enter the game.

Emphasis in the original. Clearly, the law treats EA Mythic MMOs different from Blizzard MMOs, and due to those very real legal reasons, you will continue to have to pretend to read the EUALALALA every time you pretend to kill orcs.


Also, apparently I am a whinybutt.


Half of the Austin Conference Center houses AGDC this week.

The other half houses refugees from Hurricane Ike.

Extra Special Bonus Commentary On The Human Condition:

Watching people meander on 6th Street (Austin’s pub crawl) wearing official Red Cross issued survival supplies backpacks.

A Programming Note

If your comment is “held for moderation”, that means the spam filter thinks it is spam. Most likely I will never see it, so if you want it to be seen drop me an email (sjennings (a) and I’ll bump it back into rotation.

As a general rule comments are never moderated for content. There are very few exceptions:

– obscenity (and it has to be really obscene)
– beating a dead horse (as in, a forum invasion flooding a months-old post)
– spam (“Hi, I run this consulting company and would like to link to it 30 times in this comment”)
– thinly disguised gold-farming ads (personal perogative)
– virulent ad-hominem personal attacks (and again, it has to be pretty bad for me to bother)

If any of this happens, I mark your comment as spam. Which means that anyone using Akismet’s spam filter will block you. Enjoy your stay on the rest of the internet. (Note: this is a joke.) (Further note: maybe.)


How about some Warhammer news not involving Mark Jacobs’ blog? Leave the man alone, he is allowed to blog just like the rest of us! Instead we have Tobold’s blog. Tobold is a guy who blogs about MMOs, in a fairly drama-free fashion. (This last bit differentiates him from… well… the rest of us.) Recently he made a fairly innocuous post:

In the interest of full disclosure I’d like to tell you that I accepted a free subscription for the US version of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Yeah, I know, it smells like a bribe, but my reporting on WAR is not going to be influenced.

This isn’t particularly news, save that someone at Mythic (or most likely Goa, Tobold being European) was clueful enough to toss Tobold a media account. “Media” is an account type – people who write about games for a living generally aren’t expected to pay for them. Web sites have had a history of kind of fudging that standard a bit – the gold standard of course being the web site that exists solely to gain its writers E3 passes – but in general if someone has a published byline, and more to the point, can get the game company in question some publicity, they get tossed a comped account.


This is, if not a secret, not really talked about that much. Writers don’t like to talk about it because it makes other people jealous and, of course, seems like a bribe. Which is funny, since game companies have a history of offering MUCH BETTER bribes. MMO companies don’t like to talk about it because, well, if you have a not very successful game, a significant portion of your subscriber base may well be media accounts!

And after this week, bloggers aren’t going to talk about it, because, well, it takes away your street cred from raging at the man or something.

We are simply gamers here, not press. There is no reason for anyone to give us free stuff. We aren’t trying to get gigs in the game industry, so we don’t care if we piss them off either.

Given the layoff news from the gaming industry of late, you might want to keep that writing gig anyway! And then you have some folks that are just plain jealous that someone is saving $15 a month:

Looking for 1.8 million more visitors and 1800 more subscribers. Apparently this might qualify me for a free Warhammer Online subscription…

From this insider’s perspective, Belgiumgate is kind of silly, and not just because I like typing the word “Belgium”. If you think a blog author is going to be bought off by a comped account worth a bit more than what I paid for a bowl of pho this afternoon… that must be damned good pho. And it wasn’t. I’d want AT least some Pad Kee Maw before I give up all my principles.


Full disclosure, since apparently this is something really important in the blogging community: I do not have a comped account for Warhammer Online. I do have a comped account for Dark Age of Camelot. You know, because I like, worked on it and stuff. I used to have a comped account for City of Heroes, too, but that got turned off. Sad face! I’m now going to write mean things about their next patch. That’ll show ’em.