Freakin' it
Dec 06, 2007 18:24:31

Wil Smith(based on the song "Freakin' it" by Will Smith)

"I'm 'bout to freak this full out the king of the hill
Big Blizzard keepin' it real, knees to the grill
The industry set on lock down, making you flock down,
To where I'm at to hear my rap,
I be that cat that set trends
Where y'all at?
In the indy with your friends
Heard you screamin' about cream in your game sales kid
Yo my last check for Warcraft came on a flat bed
Once and for all lets get this straight
How you measure a developer, what make a good game great?
Is it the sales? - 9.3 mill
Is it the graphics? - least they don't freeze
Is it the money? - please
My games are done when I feel like it, yet the fact remain
Got girls that don't speak english screamin' the Starcraft name"
- by Will Smith ...well sort of...

What makes a good game great? Is it the sales? The graphics? Will Smith's song "Freakin' it" is about doing things the way you want, the way you like them, whether someone else thinks they are right or not. Eventually someone will like them. So to paraphrase a line from his song "how you measure a developer, what make a good game great?"

Is it the sales? 9.3 mill...

Blizzard publishes the number of its subscribers like McDonalds used to tout the number of hamburgers they served on their signs. Remember the days when every McDonalds said over "so many million served?" Consider the following quote by Scott Hartsman:
"We're not talking even grow to beat up the 800-lbs gorilla, we're just talking survival. We've all seen now what happens to MMOs when either they launch and don't meet the quality bar or they think they can't meet that quality bar: they don't survive." - Scott Hartsman," Face the Nation: Talking Kunark with Scotts Hartsman" (

How did the industry reach the point where the buzz word of the day is merely surviving rather than innovating? If there is anything that the MMO industry needs right now it is innovation. When before did a game (God's and Heroes) ever get cancelled when it was in beta, about ready to hit the shelves? 9.3 million subscribers doesn't mean that Blizzard always does things right. It has reached the point where the success of Blizzard has begun to hurt the industry. Gandhi once said "even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth." He was right. But being right doesn't get things changed. How many times have we each continued to renew subscriptions to a game we no longer liked? How often do we continue to play a game, even when it is broken?

Is it the graphics that makes a good game great?

The down side of anyone, be it Blizzard or no, trying to set the bar on quality occurs when a developer continually tries to raise that bar.

It has reached the point in computer gaming where I sincerely believe that there are some developers that are getting kickbacks from manufactures of personal computers. By continually raising the bar on graphics, game developers have created a race to the next generation of computers that would put the Kentucky Derby to shame. Anyone who has ever loaded Vanguard on to their computer has seen a perfect example of this. In an attempt to create a game with ground breaking graphics Brad McQuaid created a game that just about takes a supercomputer to run smoothly.

Is it the game play that makes a good game great?

A reader recently posed a question - "at this point should we be calling it end game?" I think the question is dead on point. Most games these days can be divided into two parts. The part of the game meant to draw us in (leveling and questing) and the part that is an attempt to keep us there. The problem is, the very game structure that companies try and shove down our throats called "raid progression" - the process of making it necessary to get "gear" from one instance before it is possible to run the next - has caused more than a few problems. This is one of the factors that Richard Garriott called a "harbinger of failure." Using raid progression to keep players interested turns the game into what Mr. Garriott called "inventory management." In attempt to continue to suck down our monthly dollars, most game developers appeal to the baser nature of human beings - greed. In the pursuit of better gear, players that might be nice people in the real world, turn into players that would sell their mother into slavery for a nickel. Self described demagogues, who are otherwise the people who give you your change at Wal-Mart, give out grief galore along with a small minority of players in any game who ever get to see the parts of the game at the top of the raid progression.

Trying to suck down player dollars with raid progression also creates the circumstances that caused one of the newer buzz words (it actually started with EQ1) in MMOs...


"Mudflation" is sometimes as the result of runaway virtual inflation. The meaning at hand, however, occurs when a more recently introduced bit of gear makes an existing item lose any value. Such was the case when my epic weapon won in Molten Core was exceeded by an item dropped from a level 63 mob in World of Warcraft.

Yet, virtual inflation in video games is nothing new. A quick look at Ultima Online will show the perfect example of what RMT (Real Money Trading for virtual goods) can do to a game. It created the virtual equivalent of the 600 dollar toilet seat and the 500 dollar hammer. What we are talking about here, in the case of mudflation, goes beyond that. Intentional or not, the result of "raid progression" is planned obsolescence. What amazes me most about mudflation is not the condition itself but rather the cause. Developers like those at Blizzard pride themselves on accessibility to players, yet when the endgame is reached they toss that same accessibility out the window like yesterdays garbage. When Jeff Kaplan, Blizzard Designer, said in a recent Warcry interview that Blizzard wanted to "see more people experiencing the end-game PVE content" my initial thought was "Blizzard has a damn funny way of showing it." The designers at Blizzard don't seem to mind spending endless hours creating content for just a handful of players that don't mind spending endless hours pursing better gear. In the end, however, those who scream about mudflation the loudest and how unfair it is, aren't the ones paying the bulk of the bills. The bulk of the dollars from those 9.3 million subscriptions come from casual players who just want to enjoy gaming and have a bit of fun.

Raid progression, as a concept for leading players around by the nose so they keep shoveling subscription dollars in the developers coffer is one of the dumbest ideas to come down the pike in a long time. Richard Garriott was right on point when he said it creates a game that becomes little more than inventory management. This is also one of the times when being the biggest does not equal being the best at something - in fact where this one concept of game development is concerned, being the biggest is the worst.

But it doesn't have to be this way...

...and this, in my mind, is what determines what makes a good game great.

What makes a good game great is a game that is fun to play even when the level cap has been reached - or even better a game that doesn't have a level cap, like Eve-Online. What makes a good game great is a game where I can see the content whether I am by myself or with 50 friends - kind of like Eve-Online where you can venture to the farthest reaches of the Virtual World (or worlds in this case) no matter who you are or are not with. What would make a game truly great is a game that continues to be a challenge to play at all levels; where I can have fun with other players no matter how little time I have spent in game, or how long they have spent in game. A game that was this great would never make the efforts of players obsolete, no matter what expansion was released. I have heard of a game developer that makes a game like this - that developer is CCP, and Icelandic Company. You may have heard of them, they make Eve-Online. So why don't I play Eve-Online instead of WoW. Well I used to play Eve-Online, but lately I prefer a game in a fantasy. Now if CCP were to merge with another company...oh, say someone like White Wolf Publishing...and make a game in a fantasy setting.

Oh wait.

They have.

Do you hear that Blizzard? That sound you hear just might be the sound of a small white Icelandic wolf nipping at your heels. Hear that sound Jeff Kaplan and Rob Pardo? Better make sure that the Wrath of the Lich king delivers.

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Dec 06, 2007 18:24:31 CST (comments: 2)


'That Pretty Much Covers It.' by Cameron
Submitted on 2007-12-06 22:19:59 CST
Yep. That's pretty much the essence of it.

'Sketchy' by Solok
Submitted on 2007-12-07 15:57:40 CST
What do you base your claim that Blizzard's success has started to hurt the industry on? In this post you basically say because other MMO's were canceled after WoW's success? What I've witnessed in this space in the last 6 years is a large number of MMOs that made it to release before they should have been released or that should have been canceled (Horizons, Auto Assault, Matrix Online, Vanguard, EQoA). Each of these had different issues that needed to be fixed but the point is, in my opinion they should never had been shipped in the form they were. However for some of those, and there are more in that group, players at the time accepted major issues. What Blizzard from my perspective is to raise the bar in terms of initial and sustained quality.

WoW isn't perfect and never will be, but Blizzard had increased the level of quality players came to expect from an MMO. So today we see MMO's being canceled - the question is why are they being canceled. Are they being canceled because projections are being compared to WoW'ish numbers? Or are they being canceled because the market has voted in the form of lack of interest or have there been major quality or technical problems?

In my mind Blizzard has helped raise the quality we gamers can expect to see in an MMO. Hopefully that level will continue to increase. Specifically in the endgame issues you mentioned above - one of the major reasons I don't play WoW anymore.

What makes a game great? To me a game is great when it gives you the feeling some people get when they are in love. Those people tend to be able to describe certain aspects of their relationship with the person they love however an outsider may not completely understand because the package is more than a sum of its parts. When I feel that way about a game, I think it's great. I thought WoW from 1-60 was great.

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From the desk of Julie Whitefeather


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