Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Follow the money

Economic theory uses a model for human behavior which is the homo economicus, "a being who inevitably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labour and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained.” If you look at the general behavior of people playing games, you'll notice that the homo economicus can be found there as well. People try to get maximum fun for minimum cost. So there are always lots of people in free-to-play games, but if a game comes along that costs money, players are nevertheless willing to pay for it, as long as it is more fun to them than what they could have gotten for free.

If you were a game designer looking for a mission statement, something like "providing the maximum fun to the maximum number of players" is a pretty good option. And because of the homo economicus players, this strategy also works quite well for making money, which you need to develop games in the first place. Most players want good-looking graphics, and that means hiring an army of artists and coders to make your game, if you want to go for the maximum fun category.

There has been a lot of criticism towards the game industry, accusing them of being unoriginal. Sequels, sequels, everywhere. Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, GTA 4, Halo 3, The Sims 3, Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, not to mention the annual versions of various sports games. Why can't game companies be more original? Because game companies are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, making the games that players want, and the players don't want original games.

Just look at action RPGs on the PC: There have been dozens of games between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3: Titan Quest, Sacred, Dungeon Siege, and many, many more. None of which sold as well as Diablo 2, and Diablo 3 will again outsell them all. The action RPGs from other developers often were more innovative and added new elements to the genre. But what the players really want is another Diablo.

It isn't the game companies that are to blame, but the players. Players vote with their wallet, and game companies just follow the money. The last game of Madden NFL will be made when players stop buying it. It isn't as if game companies don't release new games as well as sequels, it is just that sequels very often sell better. There are tons of original games out there, but you find them in the bargain bin, or distributed online from some independent company, because there simply aren't all that many people who want to buy such a game. Why would anybody expect Blizzard or EA to make a conscious effort to make a game nobody wants to buy? Why complain about a game like Diablo 3 being developed, if we already know that millions of people will buy it and enjoy it? A few people might have preferred Blizzard to develop a text MUD instead, but we all know that only a handful of people would have played it, even if the idea would certainly be original.

Adam Smith said "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." I can only add that it isn't from the benevolence of the game companies that we expect our fun either. The game that makes the most money is the game people were willing to spend the most money on, because it was the maximum fun for the maximum number of people. What the complainers really want is for big companies to spend millions on making a game that is in the little niche they prefer. Hey, I want Blizzard to make a $50 million turn-based strategy game! Not going to happen, because there aren't enough people like me around; I have to play cheap Russian remakes of King's Bounty. Complaining that the game companies make games for the majority and not just for you is just selfish.
Just a quick comment, it doesn't really cover everything but just wanted to give my view.

Tobold, you said 'players don't want original games.' and for the most part I agree with you but I think it all depends on how you define an original game. Wasn't World of Warcraft considered an original game when it came out?
Most people had never tried anything like WoW before; it was an entirely new experience.

So I think the more accurate thing to say is that players want games that they want to play, which is rather an obvious statement. But people don't pick a game because its original, they pick it because it looks like great game. The reason people like sequels is because they liked the original and/or because it just looks like a great game.
If blizzard made a text-based MUD people wouldn't play it not because it wasn't original but because it doesn't interest them, as the market for those types of games is very small.
In the end I think its personal preference; people will choose whatever looks good, whether its original or not.

Doesn't really cover everything I was going to say, or quite as well as I wanted but just wanted to make a quick comment.
I don't think players are against innovation per se, but innovation is not a big selling point. Players want **good** games above anything else.

The perfect example of this is Portal and its predecessor Narbacular Drop. Both were made by the same people (who developed Narbacular Drop as independent developers, but were then hired by Valve specifically to make Portal). Both use the same innovative game mechanic. Yet Portal is hugely successful while hardly anyone has ever heard of Narbacular Drop.

You write:

> The action RPGs from other developers often were more innovative and added new elements to the genre. But what the players really want is another Diablo.

I think there's a simple explanation. None of those other action RPGs got the gameplay exactly right. Some of them thought that random levels are unnecessary (they're actually pretty hard to do artistically and technically). Or they didn't include random items (which are a real balancing challenge). There are also all sorts of little things about the controls, the animations, the sounds, that make combat in Diablo feel great and that many other games don't get exactly right.

People are excited about Diablo III because they trust in Blizzard to produce the highest quality game possible. Had Blizzard announced a game with a new IP, you'd not have seen any less excitement.
If you want to sell innovation you need to heavily use marketing.

With enough marketing any innovation will sell better than a remake.

Without marketing any remake will sell better.
As I was reading your post Tobold i couldn't but trace a parallelism between the gaming and music industry.

Apart from a few notable exceptions, the biggest selling artists are often unoriginal, uninspired and they rely on marketing and polish to make people buy their record. Word of mouth goes along way and peer pressure might account for something. Nevertheless one could always say that people buy what they want and tastes cannot be argued with. But they can be educated or not.

This is the age old discussion on quality versus commercial success, and very often they don't go hand in hand. Take The DaVinci Code for example. It sold like hotcakes, people talked about it and they even made a movie. But as a piece of Literature is crap and has the depth of a puddle of mud. The writer nailed what the public wanted: a fast paced novel, easy to read, easy to understand and entertaining. Nothing wrong with that but unfortunately it lowers the creativity barriers. There is also The Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. It deals also, to some degree, with the Knights Templar, the Graal and so on, but is a wonderful and deep book that has tons of references and is thought provoking and very well written. Yet it sold a fraction of what The DaVince Code has. And why? It's by no means an easy book. The message that this conveys is that, just feed them what want and screw creativity.

What I'm trying to say is that in the long term, going with the easily markletable option will just contribute to smother creativity and originality because simply it doesn't pay off: people are used to bland entertainment and, often not knowing better, will just play WoW, read Dan Brown, listen to Tokyo Hotel, eat at MacDonalds, watch Big Brother, and so on...

As for the "selfish" accusation it's really the other way around. What will i play if i find that WoW is too bland, unoriginal and uninspired? Suck it up and go with the flow?

Anywway in today's market it doesn't pay off to create something new and original. People will just revolve around the tried and tested formulas for they are safe business wise. In the long term we all lose for the ones that were likely to create something new and ground breaking won't have a chance to do it.

Then, for example, what will Blizzard improve upon? Also, that kind of "open planning" you talked about in a previous post smells more like "let's see if someone implements a cool feature that we can include in the next release/expansion without the risk of failure." Yes, safe business wise. But the downside of it is that we will still be playing WoW with better grafx 10 years from now. But it's ok as long as the cash keeps flowing in.
The action RPGs from other developers often were more innovative and added new elements to the genre. But what the players really want is another Diablo.

I'd think alot of players DO want innovation but what they want more is a properly polished game. Innovations are great and always exciting but when a game comes out with 1 awesome new feature but the rest of the game is sub-par it just can't beat a game where nothing is unique but everything (orgininal or not) meets or exceeds expectations-- and this is what we expect and receive from the big name companies that are making the sequels.
Pardon my ginormous run-on sentence...
I'm sorry.
It didn't looked like a wall of text when i was writing it :S
I played Diablo. I also played Dungeon Siege, Titan Quest and Sacred.
The Difference is: I played Diablo for about one year. All the other games didn't get a third of this time out of me. And that wasn't because they were innovative, I actually like innovation. Its because those games were not as good as Diablo.
Back then I was also pretty excited about Hellgate: London, but the more information leaked out, the less my excitement got. They "improved" this game in things I don't wanted and did some things I liked horribly wrong. I didn't even buy it.
And the same fate awaits Diablo3 if they start doing things I don't like. Sequel or not, I will abandon this game without mercy if I get the feeling that it doesn't develop the way I like it.

I don't care the slightest if a game is part of a serial. It simply has to be fun and if its also inovative thats even better.
I'll probably get struck by lightning or assaulted by fanboy's, but really, what is so compelling about Diablo III?

I enjoyed Diablo I, it was original at its time for what it offered. Sort of a nethack or gauntlet game polished for the day with the MMO element of inventory collecting.

However Diablo II, and now III just aren't that interesting to me in the least. It's just more of the same, but now includes 50% more Blizzard Polish(tm).

Nothing wrong with that, for about any gamers that's still a great value. For me I want and expect more out of a game delayed this long besides better graphics, streamlined combat/controls, and a couple new classes? Am I missing something here?
Players don't want original, they _want better_ than last time. The same old but fresh.

Players don't want "Innovation", they want Innovation that works.
You're on a cleft stick as an artist - this is something I know well (film director by trade). You have, essentially, two options:

1) Develop something new. If you get both the creation and the marketing right, it'll cement your name as one of the greats - look at Valve and Half-Life, Lucas and Star Wars, Joss Whedon and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On the other hand, if you get it wrong, you sink like a stone. Remember Glen Morgan and James Wong? Exactly. It's a very high-risk proposition.

2) Develop a sequel or tie-in. Media licensing for the win. People like something they're familiar with - I know that just by creating a WoW fanmovie rather than something original, I've increased my likely audience 10 times. Of course, you've got rights problems here (one of the problems I have with the current copyright system is it encourages this original/clone dichotomy), but if you have the rights, say from a previously successful game, you KNOW this will make at least some money. And it's the certainty, not the magnitude of expected hit (most sequels don't do as well as their predecessors), that makes this such a solid creative/biz strategy.

On another point:

"The writer nailed what the public wanted: a fast paced novel, easy to read, easy to understand and entertaining. Nothing wrong with that but unfortunately it lowers the creativity barriers."

Aargh. I really dislike this particular meme. "Oh, JK Rowling has no talent; her books are really badly written." Really? Then stop writing blog posts and go make your own millions by writing something as good.

Writing a successful populist novel, like the Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter, is incredibly hard and demands a great deal of storytelling skill. Quite a lot of that skill is knowing what literary fripperies to leave out in order to attract a mass market. I love Philip Pullman and Umberto Eco both, and I personally do prefer Focault's Pendulum, but there's no way I'd try to claim that Dan Simmons is less skillful a storyteller than Eco. Getting that level of raw pull, of smooth, intense storytelling, is a real achievement.
People like what is comfortable to them. With the Diablo series, they *know" they are getting quality product. I saw Titan Quest when it came out but it didn't quite "get" me and I never tried it. I know Diablo3 will have great video to go along with the story and should be a quality product so I'll definatley try it out.

However, I do like new things and I would love a Mechwarrior MMO or Pokemon MMO. I think they would just be fun to play. I've played Toontown, great fun game to hop in and enjoy with the kids. Yes I did like WoW but not a fan of the loot grind at the end. Now I'm looking forward to some single player games and D3 will be one of them.

Some of the larger MMOs just put too much emphasis on making max loot so time consuming that they take the enjoyment out of achieving it. There is a fine line between having fun and having to play 1yr to get decent gear. Bring on the new MMOs though as they get better & better each year. The PQ in WAR sound outstanding. next year maybe some "new" MMO will arise and do oen better. In 5 years, hopefully the choices between quality MMOs will be vast. and maybe my Pokemon MMO will be out by then lol. It is quite fun on the Nintendo DS so don't knock it until you try it.
What is compelling about the Blizzard polish is that the story evolves, same way as MGS, FF, sure the "engine" stays similar, the graphics get upgraded and nothing is truly innovative, but what happens is you want to see the story.

Warcraft III was the same, as a game it was ok, like most RTS, Dawn of War, Command and Conquer, what drives all these games is the story behind them. Innovation in the engine and gameplayer are not the sole draws to the game when it can be considered as an element of fiction and fun. If I want to beat the computer at an RTS I can play skirimish, if I want to see all the units I can turn up the tech level, other players I have multiplayer, but these are simply the game being played, the single player campaign is a story with linked game-play elements, maps designed to show a purpose and quests that explain and evolve.

Diablo III might just be a remake of Diablo II with fancier graphics and a hotkey, but if its story is interesting, then its as much worthwhile playing as reading a good book.
Hmm, I don't think that King's Bounty Legend game is out in any language besides Russian yet. Does Mr. Tobold speak it?

Anyway, the game doesn't look half bad, and the developer's previous project, Space Rangers 2 was an excellent and original game. I think I'll give KBL a try.
This player would like to see more original games.

There's a lot to be said for refining a genre to one end of the spectrum: it's purest form or it's most complex expression. For RTS games, Starcraft represents the pure end of the scale and Supreme Commander the complex.

I like refined games, but when the 'pure' end is hashed and rehashed and sold over and over, it drowns out everything else.

After awhile, some of us get sick of the same thing over and over and we crave something new.

Economics be damned, I hope there's still a trace of craft left in this business. The gleam in a game designer's eye isn't usually dollar signs.
I absolutely reject the idea that "players don't want orginal games". For me, and many others, the entertainement value of a game diminishes with familiarity. This means that we stop enjoying new games if they fail to innvovate.

The trouble is, while players know if a game is fun when they play it, they don't know in advance what it is exactly that they want or if a new design is going to be fun or not. To use an analogy, many people would enjoy cake if they tried it, but it's hard to get them excited about cake if they only had potatoes before and never tasted cake. So, if you asked them what they wanted, they'd probably tell you they just want better potatoes.

This makes it very hard to market innovative games, while it's easy to get customers' attention by telling them your product is "just like the X game you liked, but better".

However, the video games market will stagnate without innovative products, because as people get bored by "the same old stuff", they will reduce their consumption or stop buying games entirely.

So, developing innvoative products are a vital part of the video game business -- ignoring it is a recepie for a financial disaster.
"Then stop writing blog posts and go make your own millions by writing something as good."

This is one of the most stupid sentences one can write in response to bad critics.

So does that mean that since i don't write novels i'm not entitled to an opinion? I'm an Oracle DBA so i'm only allowed to comment on the state of a given database?

I don't like Dan Brown's novel, i read about 4 chapters and put it off because it is written in populist style and filled with clichés. And these 4 chapters are but an adaptation of the Angels and Demons first 4 chapters. And the rest of both books (from people who read it and liked it) follow exactly the same pattern. So yes, it IS hard. So hard that he rewrote the same story until he got what people wanted.

Which is better than Blizzard: they just wait until someone try something new and then they copy it and refined it, without the need for expensive market research or prototype development.

By the way, thanks for reading the wall of text.
I used to play Kings Bounty on the Genesis. I'd buy a new version :)
Yeah, I’ll admit that I really don’t want “original”. WoW is, IMO, just another step in the fantasy genre that I enjoy. It runs well, is polished, I like the story and the setting. But the basic idea - a fantasy adventure game - is really not a lot different than Ultima 3 that I enjoyed 20+ years ago.

Sequels have a built-in buildup and hype and hope for more-and-better of what I enjoyed before.

I mean, let’s face it - there are some games that, to me, would be ‘innovative’ in the sense that I’ve not played a game like it before - Second Life, for example. But I’m not even interested in trying it - even though if I did try it, I might end up liking it.
I don't think I agree with this.
Many people are incrediably excited about Spore. It's not a sequal, and to some maybe not "innovative", most will buy it because they adore Will Wright and the Sim franchise. If you make good products, people buy them. Most games produced have always been awful. If you find one you like, you go back to it.

Me wishing there was more variety, that was as polished and clean as WOW or Diablo, is not being selfish. It's expecting the game industry to step up, and stop sending out bug-filled, awful storylines, and uninspired products time and time again.
To chappo's point, that's the nature of disruptive technology. There is a monopoly by one company or perhaps a handful of companies following the same paradigm, then some innovator will do something different that will at first be laughed at, then suddenly sweep the big dogs out of the market. As many have pointed out, the market leaders cannot innovate - it is too risk for them.

So it's not necessarily inconsistent with Tobold's point. Sometimes an innovation changes the whole marketplace. Of course that might become the new paradigm then that resists change.

As the Cylons say, all of this has happened before and will happen again.

If we really want innovation, instead of eliminating WoW as Bartle postulated, you'd want to break Blizzard up into 3 companies (which would just create a vacuum someone would fill with the same formula, since the paradigm still rules), dividing the WoW servers up among them and letting them all own the license to the code. Then they'd start innovating to compete with each other. Just like you'd break up any monopoly.
bah i need to proofread. I put that parenthetical clause in the wrong place.
I wouldn't group Fallout 3 with the other titles you listed for two reasons. The first is that Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 weren't massive hits. The second is that Fallout 3 has completely different game mechanics from the first two games, including a switch to first person view. In fact, the only things Fallout 1, 2, and 3 seem to share are back story, art style, and attitude.

Which is good enough for me )

And I don't think most gamers blame the publishers for following the money, but we'd like to see some new properties every once in while.
So does that mean that since i don't write novels i'm not entitled to an opinion? I'm an Oracle DBA so i'm only allowed to comment on the state of a given database?

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but it's tough to say that someone who's popular isn't talented. Isn't writing a novel that sells millions a talent in and of itself, even if you think another book regarding the subject was better written? And do you think that just because someone thinks that The Davinci Code was a good book, that makes them uneducated? That's the way it comes across in your earlier statements, and that's a lot of uneducated people. Just to say "I don't like it, I consider it bland, and thus people who buy and consume those products smother creativity and originality" seems like an awfully egotistical argument. Not flaming, just saying you may want to consider your opinions in a different light.

I've also never understood the idea that Blizzard has no originality. I'm not sure who they copied for games like Warcraft and Diablo, pretty sure they came up with them on their own. Speaking of WoW specifically, I don't see a lack of originality. I mean, sure, they used things from the games before them, incorporated those ideas, and improved on some of them. Every MMO does this. By that argument, we'd be saying that Richard Bartle and Roy trubshaw are the only original thinkers in the field. Of course, they were inspired by D&D, which was inspired by Tolkien... hmmm. Guess that depends on how far you want to take it. How much content is required to be considered "original", anyways?

Wow, guess I'm into those walls of text, too...
This is crazy. OF COURSE a text-based MUD will make money now that everyone with SMS messaging and blackberries can play it!! lol
To say gamers don’t want original games is poppycock.

It isn't the game companies that are to blame, but the players. Players vote with their wallet, and game companies just follow the money.

Game publishers play safe in order to look after shareholders and directors. This is a safe bet to maximise an income stream.

Untested formats and genres of games have every chance of flopping. If the game is inherently bad and poorly designed… could you blame the customer for not wanting to buy it? No you couldn’t.

What you are suggesting is that the customer should buy poorly designed terrible games to support them and encourage them.

You would be better off trying to understand modern ‘game theory’ or concepts like ‘prisoners dilemma’ in this situation. All the players are cooperating to churn out safe games to make money. This won’t stop a player defecting at some point and coming up with something novel. It may fail… Equally it may become hugely successful.

Therefore the customer will punish poorly designed games by not buying them… this is good. Games will not evolve otherwise.

Games companies don’t want to be punished so opt to play safe.

Because they don’t want to be punished we can only blame them for not having the balls to publish novel concepts… the player is not at fault here.
Is Britney Spears a great musician?

Does finacial success equals quality?
Can't you think, from the top of your head lots of other writers who are far more talented than Dan Brown but never met his commercial success?

I can only understand your point of view if your measure of quality is based on copies sold. But i was talking about literary talent. Style, depth, originality, you name it.

And yes, i'm sorry if i sound arrogant, but anyone who says that Dan Brown is a great writer probably should read a bit more.
Just a quibble about your terms. I have noted that you favor capitalism and the free market. However, you do your own perspective a disservice when you use the term "selfish" as a pejorative.

You quote Adam Smith's observation about self-interest, and then in the same paragraph accuse others of the "sin" of selfishness.

But in fact, "self interest" and "selfishness" are equivalent. They are synonyms essentially equating to the same concept, defined as "concern with one's own interests".

I agree with your sentiment that wishing game companies to design their software with only yourself in mind is a bad thing, but I don't agree that it is selfish. The selfish attitude is to wish for them to design intelligent, creative games that also have popular appeal. This will serve them and the individual player best in the long run.

(Also, another small quibble, I see *that* as being the truly benevolent perspective because it is truly non-threatening and in fact best for all.)
Don't fotget the fact that new consumers are born every day. They become 'old' enough every day.

To produce the same game 7 years later (just with better graphics) will appeal to most who weren't old enough 7 years before.

I liked Dan Browns Novel.
I usually do not read these kinds of books. I am absolutely not 'educated' when it comes to religions etc.
The fact that I liked it (while not 'believed' it) is an accomplishment of Dan Brown.

Since I played WoW I don't like AoC.
Had I not expirienced WoW I'd probably loved AoC and hated WoW for the silly graphics.
well the problem is different people define innovation in different ways. I was recently blasted on another forum because I couldn't see that DiabloIII was innovative. It's not. There are no new ideas there. That doesn't mean it won't sell well though.

Polish,Playability and fun trump innovative. And chappo. the only innovation in wow was the polish and playability. It stole everything else from EQ.

Innovation by itself is not enough to sell the product. And the innovation has to be something that appeals to people. Something can be innovative and flop. It's the dark side of innovation. many many failures usually precede the successes that wipe our memory and then we all reset our expectations and start blasting any company that doesn't meet them
And i'm sure, Rachel, that the Invisible hand will provide great games for everyone...

...and healthcare. ;)
I suppose it could be argued that WoW and The Da Vinci Code succeeded for similar reasons.

Both are works of fiction that weave a story upon a sketchy foundation that works in the imagination, if one suspends reality and fact and simply participates for entertainment’s sake.

WoW ‘works’ because of the attention to detail (for example, pulling the player along with quests in a well-constructed environment) and minimizing distractions (such as bugs and crashes). Many things about WoW are entirely arbitrary design decisions, but as long as we’re content to leave the details to Blizzard and play along, it works. But if we fail to be entertained anymore for whatever reason - lack of content, PvP imbalance, whatever - then boredom or burnout quickly follow.

The Da Vinci Code ‘worked because Dan Brown took a wide variety things that people knew ‘of’ (like art, religion, history, geography) and weaved them into a fictitious tale, all the while insinuating that the story was fiction but the plot was true. It spawned a whole industry of people who debunked the claims, which I would guess really didn’t matter to Dan Brown in the end, since he made lots and lots of $$$.
Is Britney Spears a great musician? Does financial success equals quality?

Those are two completely different questions, and it's also not what I stated. I said that people who were successful were talented. Let's be honest, Britney Spears has a couple of talents that help her sell records (her dancing and her videos, what were YOU thinking?). That has nothing to do with musicianship or quality.

Also, we have to define "great". No, Britney Spears isn't on the top of my list as a serious musician, but on the other hand, in 50 years, when people look back at this decade in music, they won't be talking about that amazing indie talent who can play the guitar better than any living being, but sold 5000 copies of his record. I'm not sure if that makes her great or not, but doesn't success define greatness? I'm certain there were people playing better music than Elvis in the 50s, but none of them are considered The King, right?
There's a video of a live performance of Britney singing (I think) "Notice me", and IMO she does an amazing job. But just because she knows how to sing doesn't make her a great musician. Britney Spears and Dan Brown, along with hundreds of romance authors, are not necessarily geniuses in their field. What they are good at is creating a marketable product.

Now let's look at Diablo 3. It's by Blizzard. That's a big plus. It's Diablo THREE. It's more of the what made D2, LoD, and Diablo a huge success, but with even better graphics. Another big plus. It will sell. Diablo 3 is very marketable and Blizzard are very, very good at creating games that sell. There may not be a whole lot more innovation with Diablo 3 when compared to D2, LoD, etc, but are you not going to buy the game just because of that?

10-15 years ago I was playing D2 over my family's LAN with my Dad, my brothers-in-law, my sisters...just about anyone who came over with their PC would get hooked up and join in. D2 was a lot of fun and I had some great times playing it with my friends and family. Now I have a family of my own. My 8 y/old son has played D2 with me on our LAN. We watched the D3 videos last night and loved what we saw. When it comes out I'll be jumping on that bandwagon and most likely buying two copies. I want to be able to spend quality time with my son in the manner of Computer Age fathers & sons the world over, by playing video games together. Having two copies of the game and spending quality time with my son will be well worth the price. Plus I'll probably be canceling my WoW sub by then, if I haven't already.

Even if you think D3 won't be worth buying, there are millions of others who do...and will. However, just because it sells a gazillion copies does not mean you're wrong about it's lack of innovation ;)
Still, as the old saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
10-15 years ago you would have been playing Diablo, not D2 (since D2 has only been out about 8 years.)
Not sure if you found out yet, but the pet is tyrael, tobold.

Im jealous, and happen to be playing through diablo 2 again which makes it even worse :P
I don't comment here. I don't read the comments here and haven't read the ones for this post. I don't even play any MMORPGs and havent since Ultima Online (I loved it) except for a short (read: very short) stint in WOW. I rarely play games at all these days due to lack of time.

But I do read this blog each day at work - purely because I have an interest in where the MMORPG world is heading, and through reading here I get a bit of that insight.

But today I had to comment. I had no idea there was a Kings Bounty Re-Make and I f*cking love you for mentioning it. That game was so awesome, I played it to death as a teenager. I cannot wait to find this new version.

Thanks Tobold.
Dillon, you're absolutely right, it must have been Diablo (original). Where did the time go? I know I've been married and living in the States for 10 years now, but I would have sworn I was playing D2 in Australia in the mid 90s.

Doesn't change my mind, I'm still getting Diablo 3 :)

And the Britney song I mentioned is actually called Everytime (not Notice Me), but I can't find the particular video I like. It's not the one where she's playing the piano and singing. She's being accompanied by someone playing, IIRC, a Harp. I think. Then again, if I misremembered Diablo and D2, I'm probably wrong about that as well.
What I honestly wonder: Generally speaking, most people are afraid of the unknown. We buy the car brand / cereals / TV sets / Music we trust or which has been recommended. We follow advice as to which movie is good and which is not. Why should games be any different?

Why should I, lazy homo oeconomicus as I am, trying to max out the most joy in my precious time, live with a badly made, but highly innovative game "project", when I can get a well-known, highly polished, smooth running action game with great graphics and high replay value like Diablo 3?

On the book issue discussed here. I read both Foucault Pendulum & Da Vinci Code. Both books have their audience. I found Da Vinci much more easy to read and understand and much more compelling.

Dan Brown: Great writer for "Mystery for the masses".
Eco: Great writer for "Mystery for historicians".

It's that easy.
I really can't understand the resistance here...
Britney Spears (as hundreds of other musicians) is 100% a product of marketing. She just performs and in most of the live concerts she even playbacks. She doesn't write her own material she doesn't do her choreographies... In fact, she just looks good given the high polish material she is provided with. Aggressive marketing/word of mouth/peer pressure did the rest.

Familiar, uh?

Regarding Dan Brown, please... Read Angels & Demons, the book he wrote before the Code. Go ahead, read it. You'll find it's the same book minus the Jesus thing. He tried it once, it didn't worked that good, he did it again, this time with supposed facts about the life of Jesus Christ. He "copy" his own idea, polished it, refined it, got a polemic subject and then marketing and hype did the rest.

Also familiar, no?

Yes, if it was easy to do that i would be a successful producer for a teenage pop singer or a famous writer. But i refuse the "it sells then it must be very good".

I'm not here saying that Blizzard is crap. Yes, perhaps i will play D3 as I play WoW for more than 2 years now. Yes, i enjoy the game. But that doesn't mean i must void myself out of a critical spirit in all things regarding Blizz.

Besides, when consumers soak up everything from a company without questioning it and blindly buy those products the tendency for the company is to become complacent. And I think that's the main reason why Blizzard never sets release dates for example. Perhaps WotLK will be very good, perhaps not. I believe it will be TBC with 10-men raids, new scenery and some gimmicks. Cool gimmicks, but gimicks nevertheless.

In the medium term, we all lose.
i just can't keep it short, sorry guys.
"Then stop writing blog posts and go make your own millions by writing something as good."

Wyrm - Apologies, I can see how that could read as "SFTU unless you've done it!" It wasn't meant to read like that.

It WAS, however, meant to mean "OK, so you say it's easy to write a book like "Da Vinci Code". You may have noticed that Dan Brown is now rather richer because of it. If it doesn't require any skill to write a book like that, why aren't you making millions off doing it rather than talking to us? Seems like easy cash to me."
Read my post again mate.
I didn't said it was easy, i said it has no literary value.
Barbara Cartland also sells millions, she died a very, very rich woman.
Is it easy to write a cheesy best selling pink romance? No.
Has it any literary quality? No.
It's simple an easy read that appeals to millions of lonely women in the world.
The recipe for success can be debatable, but i think it's a sum of many factors.
In the case of Da Vinci Code it was a: a fast paced novel that appeal to the esoteric (which is now "In") supported by a good marketing strategy, word of mouth and a polemic subject. But not because of it's literary value of the use of clever narrating strategies.
You are, by your words, a film director. Who is the best director: Ingmar Bergman or James Cameron? According to your standard, the latter is a far better director that the former.

In my ignorance, i do disagree. But hey, maybe i'm just aa frasier type pompous ass. ;)

You're basically taking a "high culture" vs "popular culture" point of view in the discussion, it seems.

My question to you: what game hits those high notes for you? What's the game equivalent of "the classics"?

Mate, i often enjoy a big mac with fries and coke. but i know i'm eating crap.

as for games, i do like WoW, but that doesn't blind me to the fact that is a game targeted at the masses with quality that translates into polish and bug free gameplay. WoW is my first MMORPG love and for ages i thought it was the pinnacle of MMO creation.

Until i installed Dungeons & Dragons Online. I would never say that DDO is better than WoW. But i find the quest designs to have much more quality than WoW's and the way that when partying forces you to really use the party members synergies. Also they softened a bit (from what i played so far) the holy trinity. You have different classes that can do multiple things but your party dynamics must adapt according to the dungeon and to the composition.
In WoW, I play a lvl 70 druid healer and every dungeon is the same in a way that there's the trinity set in stone and you heal the tank until someone grabs aggro. In order to pretend having some dynamic, some encounters, more at raid level, are design having this or that specific class in mind. Is it good, yes. But i would rather have the open nature of DDO quests and dungeons on WoW.

I hope i clarify my point. (as if it matters...)

not a native english speaker, no time to proof read.
Thank you, wyrm. It does.

...And your english is better than most of us monolingual native speakers.
The thing I don't understand is Blizzard not developing games for the consoles. That's where the big money is at. They could make 3 times as much money selling Diablo 3 for the 360, or even Diablo DS, than the PC version. Where are all the World of Warcraft spinoff games? I know they've tried console games before, and failed, but it would be so easy to do.

I love that Blizz still supports the PC. I just don't understand why they are passing up such an easy opportunity to make (more) buckets of money.

Maybe with the Activision merger, they will.
The thing I don't understand is Blizzard not developing games for the consoles. That's where the big money is at.

It’s not as lucrative as you are led to believe by revenue sales alone. First, until recently, most of the comparison didn’t include online subscriptions. Second, the rental market cuts into retail sales so if your title isn’t really popular or offer a lot of replay value, it ends up on the rental shelf. Third, the console trend is short development cycles with frequent title releases. For example, a lot of the console market is driven by EA Sports which, as Tobold pointed out, there isn’t much difference between different versions of Madden other than the team roster updates. EA Sports can spit out a title every year while spending a minimal amount of time on development. That’s particularly true now that they hold exclusive rights to the NFL license. For a company like Blizzard, which spends a lot of time working on just a handful of titles, this is just not a market where they would hold any type of competitive advantage.

Now I’m not saying that they couldn’t or can’t compete in the console market, just that it’s different enough that it would require them to conduct business in a much different way. People do things the way they no how to do them. Blizzard is good at what they do (PC Games) and it’s easier to simply stick to what you know rather than take risks by branching out.
[I]Regarding Dan Brown, please... Read Angels & Demons, the book he wrote before the Code. Go ahead, read it. You'll find it's the same book minus the Jesus thing. He tried it once, it didn't worked that good, he did it again, this time with supposed facts about the life of Jesus Christ. He "copy" his own idea, polished it, refined it, got a polemic subject and then marketing and hype did the rest.[/I]

Where's the problem?
He polished the idea.

How often do you think Goethe wrote his poems before he released them to the public?

Getting good ideas for books is easy. It's same with MMOs. Good ideas are easy to obtain. Producing a polished game with good ideas is incredibly hard.
"Blizzard to make a $50 million turn-based strategy game"

That would blow every other game away.
I disagree, as many others did. The excitment for Diablo III is because it's from Blizzard. Yes, it's true what players want is "games from companies that ship completed games not something that needs three patches to even work right." We've found that Blizzard delivers.
[...Tobold, over at the excellent Tobold's MMORPG Blog, has a piece entitled: Follow The Money. Essentially, he argues that the above is true....]


Great piece. I don't know if I agree that players are responsible for dictating innovation, but what you describe is incontrovertibly what is actually happening in the marketplace.
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