Wednesday 26 August 2009

Microsoft Fail

Well they are showing how you can use their IT tools .... to doctor images removing the black guy. D'oh!

But why do this, does Microsoft believe the guy isn't photogenic or do they believe all Polish people are racists but then why leave the asian guy in.

However you have to love the Internet, these kinds of gaffs get picked up almost as soon as they appear. Plus they have a macbook in the shot as well....(facepalm)

Also a comment by Veronica made me chuckle "I think the intention was to make this ad even more PC, since you now have an Asian guy, a woman and a black guys body with a white guys head. When you can't add more people, fuse them together!"
Hat tip Photoshop Disasters

Saturday 22 August 2009

Blizzcon - dropping the Blizzbomb

Well seems the announcements have come thick and fast - Diablo 3 has the Monk class returning (kind of) from the original Diablo expansion Hellfire. Unfortunately it looks like a 2011 release date with SC2 and Cataclysm releasing 2010 for maximum effect.

Speaking of that massive surprise - World of Warcraft Cataclysm is on the way for 2010 and Blizzard announced the following
  • Two New Playable Races: Adventure as one of two new races--the cursed worgen with the Alliance or the resourceful goblins with the Horde.
  • Level Cap Increased to 85: Earn new abilities, tap into new talents, and progress through the path system, a new way for players to improve characters.
  • Classic Zones Remade: Familiar zones across the original continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms have been altered forever and updated with new content, from the devastated Badlands to the broken Barrens, which has been sundered in two.
  • New High-Level Zones: Explore newly opened parts of the world, including Uldum, Grim Batol, and the great Sunken City of Vashj'ir beneath the sea.
  • More Raid Content than Ever Before: Enjoy more high-level raid content than previous expansions, with optional more challenging versions of all encounters.
  • New Race and Class Combinations: Explore Azeroth as a gnome priest, blood elf warrior, or one of the other never-before-available race and class combinations.
  • Guild Advancement: Progress as a guild to earn guild levels and guild achievements.
  • New PvP Zone & Rated Battlegrounds: Take on PvP objectives and daily quests on Tol Barad Island, a new Wintergrasp-like zone, and wage war in all-new rated Battlegrounds.
  • Archaeology: Master a new secondary profession to unearth valuable artifacts and earn unique rewards.
  • Flying Mounts in Azeroth: Explore Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms like never before.
No announcements about Starcraft 2 as i can see, guess maybe something tomorrow. Then again we already know that

"Blizzard Entertainment has moved the anticipated release date of StarCraft II to the first half of 2010 to coincide with the relaunch of its upgraded
® online -gaming service." (hat-tip

Plus quite a bit of info about multiplayer and the single player campaign is already out in a series of videos and preview pieces dotted around gaming sites.

Anyway got to hand it to Blizz they do know how to get players going! Even though i quit WoW quite a while back after 2 burnout years of playing practically nothing else, it still excites me to read all this stuff and may tempt me back. However.....

It will be going head to head with probably the most eagerly anticipated MMO to date - Star Wars The Old Republic. The Hype train is full steam ahead and it has a lot going for it if and if they deliver it could be a real match up for WoW if they release within a few months of each other.

I guess many gamers will play both if SWTOR is as good as many people hope it to be, i confidently predict as long as SWTOR doesn't pull a WAR maneuver and release without being polished to a fine shine of excellent content and gameplay it will be the second most popular MMO easy enough and break a million plus subscribers. If it fails there is no wrath compared to how Starwars fan+the MMO community and the Internet in general will react and Bioware better re-hire Mark Jacobs to have someone to blame for it.

Still good news from Blizzcon so far - have to look into it more as 12.30am in the UK so bed time :)

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Fallout 3 DLC - the way forward or just a money spinner?

The last part of the downloadable content for Fallout 3 seems to be getting relatively good reviews and Bethesda has confirmed this was the last one of the batch they were working on. I assume this means Fallout: New Vegas is well into development and other games based around the Fallout universe are also coming together, perhaps even an MMO if the rights have passed from Interplay to Bethesda.

The first of the DLC was a bit hit and miss, “Operation Anchorage” was nothing more than a prolonged run and gun segment which lasted an evening and the only memorable thing about it is at the end it gives you access to power armour much earlier in the game than usual.

I enjoyed “The Pitt” and it’s imagining of Pittsburgh as an industrial nightmare you must navigate through some profound moral choices about slavery and order in the wastelands, playing through as an evil character after being a goody two shoes when I first completed the game I spent most of it being a complete and utter bastard but still it was complex.

I must admit “Mothership Zeta” is a weird end to the DLC and Fallout 3. I would have thought a climatic ending to the adventures in the capital wastelands would have been in order and requiring a few visits to old haunts rather than spending the entire time away from one of the stars of Fallout 3 – the haunting post nuclear image of Washington DC which was so well done. Still along with Broken Steel and Point Lookout it has certainly kept players occupied over a year after its release.

My real interest outside of the gaming side and the fact it prolongs such a great RPG is the whole idea of DLC, for sports games it normally is nothing more than updating teams and adding more aesthetic things. With First Person Shooters it is multiplayer map packs and Real Time Strategies have extra unit and maps for DLC.

With RPG’s adding in extra storylines is normally reserved for an expansion pack or two, I remember eagerly awaiting expansions to Baldur’s gate and Oblivion to stretch out the experience. DLC also gives developers to go in different directions from the main game, while “Operation Anchorage” was not my cup of tea it did introduce new areas and storylines to Fallout 3.

With DLC becoming more and more common I enjoy the fact that now gamers can receive extra storylines for a small fee. As well as this future DLC has now become a major selling point for gamers, Microsoft seems to have taken the lead on this by securing DLC to games such as GTA IV and Fallout 3 while the PS3 the DLC is only just rolling out for Fallout 3. I must admit if a game is exactly the same on both consoles then things like the option of DLC would swing my purchase. I guess with Microsoft putting a low price and Xbox live/DLC spin on the Xbox 360 the PS3 superior graphics and Blu-Ray is not making the impact Sony expected.

It’s a moot point however for me as I am predominately a PC gamer and we thankfully get most DLC for free or at least at the same time as the consoles.

But what about the dangers, of course it is the problem of what the developers cut out of a game to save for DLC, do they detract from the main game to make sure they have enough to fill a few bits of DLC to make some extra money. I am happy if a DLC fleshes out quests and areas beyond the main storyline or carries it on like an expansion but if I pay £40 for a game I expect it to be enjoyable and not requiring buying another £20+ worth of DLC to make the game what it should have been to begin with. Developers could also be tempted to throw in all the cuts they made to the original game to maximise profit, after all they are businesses and if you have worked on something I guess slapping a price tag on it some people will download it.

On the whole I felt that Bethesda got the number and quality of DLC right in the end, it was a little ropey to begin with and the fact all my old save games got deleted was a major cluster F***up I have enjoyed each one and can see the two RPG’s on my radar - Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age Origins – making good use of DLC to flesh out the experience and I hope not cash in to much.

Monday 17 August 2009

Space Hulk

After some great marketing from Games workshop which got fans on both blogs and forums into a right tizz with their "mystery box" we now know they are re-releasing the classic space hulk. My parents bought this for my cousin back in the 90's and endless hours were spent playing it with him and his friend. When my brother was old enough we bought a second box set and had four a four way game with my cousin and his friend versus us. Certainly really excited to see this old classic reborn and it is already on pre-order, expensive at nearly 60 quid but worth it for the nostalgia factor alone.

From Games Workshops site the blurb sounds interesting...

From the depths of space an ancient vessel drifts slowly towards the Imperium of Mankind - a space hulk. Within its confines, untold thousands of Genestealers slowly emerge from hibernation. The Space Marines must enter the cramped corridors and tomb-like chambers of the ancient ship to defeat this alien menace.

Space Hulk is a board game for two players, recreating the
battles fought between the Space Marines and Genestealers. One player commands
the Space Marines as they carry out deadly missions in the ancient Space Hulk, and the other commands the horde of
Genestealers opposing them. Space Hulk's fast-paced rules simulate the tense atmosphere of a mission deep inside the cramped confines of a derelict space hulk, where split-second decisions are needed for victory.

This boxed game contains: a 23-page Rulebook, a 47-page Mission book and 35 finely-detailed, plastic Citadel miniatures, including: 11 Space Marine Terminators, one Space Marine Terminator Librarian, 22 Genestealers, and one Broodlord.

Also included are: 105 gaming counters, 24 corridors, 10 rooms, eight crossroads, eight T-junctions, six corner sections, four dead ends, four end pieces, 20 doors with plastic stands, one mission status display, and three plastic mission objectives, including: a dead Space Marine on throne, a Blood Angels artefact and a Cyber-Altered Task Unit. Plus a sand timer and five bone-coloured dice unique to this game.

I think the Terminators show some of the new Blood Angel miniatures’ they will be working on next year after Space Wolves are released and those Genestealers look quite nifty. One of the good things about Games Workshop in recent years is the amount of models you get in its starter game sets. Assault on Black Reach had a sizeable number of Orks and space marines which you could build a starter army around. The fantasy equivalent - contains equally a substantial number of Goblins and Dwarves which i have based a good part of my army around.

I might look to make these terminators along with the 5 from Black Reach into the "Deathwing" an elite force of the Dark Angels Chapter who are exclusively in Terminator armour hunting their traitorous former brethren around the galaxy. Might be an idea for a new army....doh!

Friday 14 August 2009

This was something I wrote a few days ago but then got ill and didn’t post it. Still I enjoyed writing it so I thought I might as well put it up.

While having my usual morning peruse of blogs and gaming sites I nearly spat porridge over my computer when I saw on that Worgen and Goblins will be the new races for the next WoW expansion “Cataclysm”.

BlizzCon ticket…..$125
Plane ticket…..£399

Having the new races and expansion revealed by leaks two weeks before you go….Fail!

This news comes apparently from “multiple sources close to the situation” although of course caveats still apply to this as might be a load of crap. However sites like Massively and Gamespy have been running with it so I assume they may have heard similar rumours to not treat the news as mere speculation. Certainly rumours have been floating around for quite a while going back to Burning Crusade that the Worgen would be a playable race. I am surprised by the Goblins, I always assumed it would be some offshoot of ogres but I guess they want to give the horde a diminutive cutsey class and the Alliance a savage class so as to try and rebalance the factions.

The fact Blizzard has its own convention and does not feel the need to attend big gaming events like E3 shows the incredible popularity their games have, companies would kill to even have one franchise with such recognition and sheer money making potential let alone three. Blizzcon is a major part of Blizzards yearly PR and I can’t even imagine how much work goes in to prepare for those two days.

So I do wonder where these rumours have come from and what “multiple sources” would have revealed it. I assume it is someone Activision side who has dropped these hints as Blizzard has always been very media savvy and ran a tight ship, while rumours always surround their games, in the past when they announce they will reveal a new game at a convention most people will have sussed which of their three main franchises it would be. Not to hard to work out Koreans love Starcraft – announce Starcraft 2 in Korea = Mass hype, Blizzard love and mountains of cash come 2010.

However while we may have known what was going to be announced we never knew any details. I was lucky enough to go to the worldwide invitational in Paris where they announced Diablo 3, while everyone I met apart from one insistent German pro gamer who told everyone who would listen that they were announcing World of Starcraft, knew that it would be Diablo 3 we didn’t know what else was being announced. I expected a few screenshots of early work and some artwork but instead we got an onstage demo and an in-depth look at the Barbarian. By the end of the weekend I was sold on Blizzard, bought Diablo 2/Starcraft again and even re-subbed Warcraft for 2 months before getting WoW fatigue.

Just thinking about this news I feel it is pretty big for World of Warcraft and how now Blizzard may need something else on the cards that weekend to blow the fans away; we all knew the name of the expansion when Blizzard did legal fillings for the name. That in itself isn’t much of a big deal but two entirely new races are pretty important to what they will do with WoW. With Aion getting good press, the Star wars Old Republic MMO creating hype tsunamis every time a little bit of information on the game comes out and a few existing MMO’s like Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings and Warhammer looking to siphon off as many bored WoW fans as possible a major announcement at Blizzcon of the expansion coupled with subsequent Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 announcements it would have helped Blizzard start up the hype train and maybe try and steal back the position of most eagerly awaited MMO from Starwars.

Of course this isn’t doom and gloom for Blizzard even if I may have made it out to be, the fans will still lap the convention up and I am sure Blizzard has some great ideas for the new races – if they are actually being introduced. It could very well be a bit of viral advertising to get the fans hyped up and then completely screw with WoW fans minds by showing something else entirely. There also is all the information behind “Cataclysm” which I assume will mean Vanilla WoW content being cluster bombed with new content via some kind of major world event and one or even two new hero classes. I expect a great amount to be revealed and another classy intro movie to be shown.

Then there will be the Starcraft 2 details plus the game will be playable, hopefully with even more screenshots of the campaign along with the next Diablo 3 class and Warcraft the movie getting a few mentions.

Just expect on the main stage at the opening announcement

Mike Morhaime: And now to announce Blizzards newest game…World of Warcraft:Cataclysm

Crowd: …..

Mike Morhaime: With new races…the savage Worgen and the enterprising Goblins

(Crickets Chirp)

Mike Morhaime: AND …..MURLOC

Crowd: Oooohhhhhh….

(I can dream)

Monday 10 August 2009

BlizzCon Sells Out in Eight Minutes

I have been away this weekend so while catching up on gaming news I ran across this Blizzcon story. With 20,000 tickets on sale at $125 a pop the fact it sold out in a mere 8 minutes is pretty impressive. What's more it seems this 8 minutes is just the time it takes to process the payment so in fact the tickets probably sold out within a minute of going on sale. I was luck and went to the worldwide invitational event last year and was impressed by the scale of the event and how loyal a fan base Blizzard has built up that they are willing to pay 125 dollars plus travel/accommodation based upon the love of just three franchises.

As for what is going to be revealed this year - I am pretty sure more information on Starcraft 2 beta/campaign, another class for Diablo 3 and the next World of Warcraft expansion. I would love to know what the new MMO is that Blizzard is working upon but gut feeling is this will be 2010 with Blizzard using the release of Starcraft 2/WoW expansion as a launch pad for their latest endeavour.

Also Ozzy Osbourne is apparently going to perform after his stint as the prince of darkness it isn't to surprising he has been booked, certainly he has a degree of coolness associated with a Rock legend even if his wife wears the trousers and he seems incapable of even making a cheese sandwich because his brain is so addled by drink and drugs. Plus I am sure he will perform with level 80 elite Tauren chieftain - brilliant PR on Blizzards part.

Thursday 6 August 2009

The Launch of a MMO – the most important time?

I was quite sad to see the Matrix online being closed down, while I never played the game it is always a shame to see any MMO get cancelled with its player’s months or even years of input into their characters gone completely when the servers close down.

A friend who played the game chatted to me about this and in his opinion the writing was on the wall for the Matrix MMO from launch – surprising for something that lasted so long.

This got me thinking about other MMO launches, are they the most important part of an MMO life cycle. Is having a bad launch with all the word of mouth it creates across the internet one of the main reasons for an MMO failing and can they come back from such a failure. Or does it make no difference having a great launch or not if the MMO is a dud regardless.

I have been involved in a few MMO’s at launch and talked to people I know who have been involved in others.

World of Warcraft

Well I may as well start with the most well known MMO, now as much part of popular culture like Ipods and the Wii. I sunk nearly two years of my life into Warcraft with levelling, pvp and raiding. General consensus seems to be that the game itself is quite smooth and polished but it was not always like this.

As is common with the launch of most MMO’s, World of Warcraft had its share of problems when released in November 2004. This was due to the huge number of people who bought the game along with server instability. The bane of many players online experience also reared its ugly head, periods where players had to wait in queues before playing, as some realms were at their maximum player limit. I don’t mind waiting 10-15 minutes but after I find I have been in a queue for 20+ minutes that’s when I get a little pissy.

Blizzard chose to stop selling copies of the game for a time after the launch to try and tone down the unexpectedly high demand on the servers. With 250,000 copies sold in one day which was huge for the time. The launch on the whole was a success

Mike Morhaime, president of Blizzard Entertainment summed it up “We were all extremely pleased with the success of World of Warcraft on its first day of launch. Once we saw the numbers for the first day, we knew that we had to immediately increase capacity to accommodate the huge numbers of players joining our game”

Warcraft still had issues, I remember all the free time I was given by Blizzard for those issues not allowing me to play but it was pretty small fry in the end.


Sigil's original Vanguard team was composed of many EverQuest developers, including designer Brad McQuaid. Development began in early 2002 but it was not actually released until 2007.

Brad McQuaid admits that the game was released to early and the launch had not gone to plan “Had I had the financial resources, ability to place the product later, etc. I would have given us about 3 more months to get more polish in, more high level content in, and to distance ourselves from the WoW expansion. That said, we knew the launch date for many months before we released. And we made a promise and we stuck to it. I understand why that date was given and why we had to stick to it and I don't blame anyone”

Complaints at the launch of Vanguard ranged from the large numbers of bugs and performance issues which plagued the game as well as a lot of the planned high level content was not included. Players could go 15 minutes walking through a barren lifeless world until you came across some mobs.

In an interview with massively Vanguard producer Thom Terrazas said “I would say bumpy, rocky, just goes to show you if you have a great launch that great things can happen, but if you have a bumpy launch it holds you back a little bit.”

The launch went so badly Brad McQuaids reputation was in tatters, he removed himself from the MMO limelight and only recently seemed to be prepared to offer his side of the story. Vanguard has gone on with Sonly and has seen a great deal improve to the extent that my Warhammer Online guild was really positive about vanguard to the extent some even went back after a short stint in Warhammer.

Age of Conan

Some people thought Age of Conan would be the World of Warcraft killer, most however did not. This was one of several MMO’s given this misleading title, treated like some shinning knight who would slay the big bad Warcraft dragon and steal the Blizzard golden money egg. Certainly it had potential, an adult themed MMO with a PvP theme along with more interaction and great graphics.

The launch of Age of Conan seemed to go quite well, Funcom scaled its server to cope with 600,000 players on day one and with over 800,000 boxes sold they were aiming for 50% retention of 400,000 players to begin with. Things went well to begin with, Tortage got massive praise from players and the outlook was good.

However Age of Conan became a victim of its own early success when players complained about the problems with the game. Over hyped and being released far too early Age of Conan arrived during a massive summertime lull that took place in Warcraft with player’s bored waiting for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion later that year. They dived into Age of Conan but shortly after launch they found key problems.

Firstly the lack of PvP and endgame which in fact was really just a complete lack of any content outside of the early-game quest zone of Tortage. From level 20 onwards players went from the single/multiplayer area of Tortage with the destiny quests to a complete lack of content. Age of Conan also put great stock in its mature setting and the fact it would be a great looking MMO compared to the cartoony look of Warcraft. Now I actually quite like the look of Warcraft but with a DirectX 10 machine with Vista 64 I was quite keen to see how this looked. What we got was Age of Conan launched without full support for DirectX 10 and major memory leaks which spoiled the experience, when I went back for the free return with gamespy it does look gorgeous now but back then it was a major failure on the developers part.

Age of Conan does seem to have recovered somewhat from its poor launch, to the extent that it has recovered enough that people doe not think it will close down anytime soon and some players are returning. The game has been improved and new content added to flesh out the zones after Tortage, however much good will was lost and Age of Conan probably will never raise itself to join the MMO A list due to its reputation from the launch no matter how much it improves.

Warhammer Online

I am a major Warhammer fan and love the fluff Games workshop has put together over 25 years, which is why I put major hopes on this being the next MMO I took real interest in after Warcraft.

Mythic did a great job with the launch; I never experienced a server crash but I did have some lag spikes that sent you back to the character selection screen. With starting areas full of players, I was able to always get groups for the various Public Quests and scenarios popped up quickly whenever I wanted to play one.

However this popularity led to servers being backlogged with huge queues. This was a no-win situation for Mythic because if they stuck with just the existing servers, people would whine about queues at launch. So Mythic went ahead and opened more servers for the one-month crowd and so then eventually had to deal with empty servers which Mythic was forced to close. Not the greatest of PR when Mark Jacobs before launch said if they had to close servers it would be a failure.

The general consensus however was Warhammer had a fairly good launch; the main issue came up a week or two afterwards when people started to complain about the polish of the game or the lack thereof.

The game just felt rushed, it seemed Mythic were trying to get the game out before Wrath of the Lich King which came two months later rather than playing a long term plan. Maybe if Mythic had delayed the game until after Christmas giving them more time to polish the game as well as allow Wrath of the Lich King fever to die down.

Not including 4 capitol cities and 4 classes (which were added in later but was sold as an update, not adding in originally promised content) and after the first tier it felt that there wasn't enough to do apart from wait for scenarios to pop up. Michael Hartman at Bright Hub has a good article on the issues behind Warhammer Online not fulfilling its potential. Suffice to say the 750,000 subscribers soon dropped off to 300,000 and Warhammer didn’t deliver on its potential or the hype around it.

Signs seem to suggest Warhammer is like Age of Conan massively improved, the Land of the dead content was added and all the cut classes were reintroduced with well run live events. Still with Mythic being merged with Bioware it is obvious that the cream of the Mythic talent who worked on Warhammer online will now be working on the Starwars old republic MMO. Warhammer will continue on but I don't expect any far reaching changes to Warhammer or major content outside of an expansion with EA now putting itself firmly behind Starwars. Just goes to show a great launch does not make up for the game not being finished.

The Matrix

Sadly this MMO has finally closed down; it suffered from a very dodgy launch as well as its association with Matrix Reloaded and Revolution, regardless of their massive budgets, they just killed the hype from the first film and made it hard for the MMO to make any impact. If that was not enough for fans of the movies, a 16-month gap between the final film and the launch of the MMO put many people off.

The Matrix introduced “Bullet Time” to peoples vocabulary and the special effects were way ahead of its time and made up for the silly mumbo jumbo dialogue/plot as well as Keanu Reeves wooden acting - a man might be ever so slightly surprised to find out that the whole world is a lie and is actually a computer simulation designed to keep humans enslaved as big car batteries but oh no not our Keanu with his slightly confused/constipated look for the whole movie.

On paper it seemed a winner being set inside a computer simulation with bullet time and small crews taking on agents. The live events team which were like dungeon masters interacting in game with players as film characters like Morpheus also seemed a great idea. Combined with the fact Warner Bros allowed everything that happened in the game to be canon so it was actual lore for the Matrix universe after the films.

A work colleague was a massive fan of the Matrix and was a long term player of the MMO, in his opinion the games launch was a failure for 3 reasons.

1. The time between the last film and the MMO was far to long for people to retain interest
2. Four months of beta testing for the game was not long enough and beta testers told everyone that it wasn’t ready when it launched.
3. Launch issues damaged the games reputation, again the word of mouth put people off with the usual disconnects and lag causing disruption and anger. Players exploiting also became an issue, especially when the developer’s heavy handed approach of capping experience to combat this hurt all players, not just the exploiters.

Monolith sold the game to Sony within 3 months of launch, who restructured and laid off most of the development team and most importantly the live events team which removed one of the key appeals of the game. It is surprising that the game lasted as long as it did, Sony may not put much money or manpower into the game but the game was always fighting an uphill battle to keep going, mostly due to the poor development and launch crippling the game from the outset and only the efforts of those developers left kept it going as long as it did. In the final stages only one developer was left working upon the game and his efforts I hope have not gone unnoticed.