Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: June 2008

Meanwhile, In “What If” Land…

What if World of Warcraft had been a free-to-play ad-based game?

Interestingly, Pardo commented on this subject: “When were first going to make World of Warcraft, we wanted to make it free and advertising supported.”

However, the Blizzard exec noted: “We didn’t want to charge a subscription, but as we researched market conditions, we realized that wouldn’t support us.”

Conan Applies the Brakes

In regards to their twice-a-week patch schedules, the Conan team is already slowing things down. A recent disastrous patch may be the reason.


MMOs on the Decline

Over at Elder Game, Eric wrote an excellent post on the decline of MMO populations.

To which I’ll add three quick points.

  • When the best part of your game (raiding in WoW, sieging in Shadowbane) can’t be played on some servers because you can’t get a team together, this should be terrifying people.  This is, in my experience, when the cascade starts.
  • When players realize that they are playing a “massively multiplayer” game, and they are isolated and alone, the irony is inescapable.
  • Blizzard, please merge my server with another.  We need more healers on our server, stat.


Original comments thread is here.

Patch Time

Conan is currently on quite an insane patch cycle – twice, sometimes three times a week.  Which can be seen a couple of ways – either they’re really devoted to the game and really want it to work, or the game is a broken pile of hooey that needs to fix Assassins now or player X is quitting and taking his whole guild with him.  As it was in MMO patchdom, so it ever shall be.

Some people on various boards have commented that Conan’s patch cycle, as insane as it is, is vastly superior to WoW’s current model, which is roughly ‘do a patch every 2 months, and then follow it up with a really little patch that fixes all the things we broke and can’t wait 2 months to fix’.  To which I can only counter with two quick and dirty points. Continue reading

Unholy Alliance

The Next Sims 2 expansion pack is IKEA themed.

As in overtly IKEA-themed, instead of merely a clever homage.

Requiem for a Day Off

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a completely different film with Lux Aeterna as its soundtrack.

Requiem For A Day Off by benjifilms

Bling Gnome

Pure gold.

Patch Drought

The last major patch for WoW was the introduction of the Sunwell Plateau on March 25th. While this patch was packed full of content, there are no further major patches planned for World of Warcraft until the release of the next expansion pack, which is currently slated for release probably near Christmas (ebWorld’s date is just a guess). Assuming even as early as an October release, this could mean 7 months without a major content infusion.

Last night, they released patch notes for an interim patch for WoW, and as my wife pointed out, most of it is a grab bag of small data tweaks and long-standing bugs. Clearly, a skeleton crew is manning the boat while most of the WoW’s teams efforts are focused elsewhere, probably on WotLK. Continue reading

Borrowing a Term from Jeff Freeman

It’s been a while since we added a term to the Zen Lexicon (see sidebar). However, with the recent release of Spore’s Creature Creator, it seems only right to add a term by Jeff Freeman (who once wrote insightful game design posts before he started posting about random japanese social networking stuff).

The term is ‘Time to Cock’, which is, of course shorthand for the central problem making games (or, well, anything) that centers on player-created content. Congrats, Jeff, on being immortalized in the urban dictionary.

That being said, if you haven’t played with the Spore Creature Creator yet, why the hell not?

Call It A Remix

Developer spends 10 years taking publisher money for a game. Developer spends said money on something else, perhaps hookers and blow. Publisher comes calling. Developer throws together art from half a dozen of highly recognizable games and shovels it out the door.

You must read this amazing thread. This is a good summary here. Finding art for Limbo of the Lost is now its own bizarre metagame, fueled by geek outrage everywhere. Continue reading

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