Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Failure Is An Option

Posted by Stropp on February 9, 2013

Tobold’s post today is concerned with the nostalgia aspect of being a MMORPG player. It is a post in which he raises some good points. But he also makes an interesting comment. A comment I have heard a lot regarding MMORPG developers, or just game developers in general. And this highlighted something I’ve been thinking about lately.

while Camelot Unchained will only have the PvP part. Does anybody really believe this is going to be a huge success? Especially since Mark Jacobs previous attempt to make a new DAoC-successor, Warhammer Online, was such a big success…

It seems to be a common theme that when a developer lets down the player audience by producing a flop, then he suddenly falls into the category of “will never create a good game again.”

Whenever such an announcement is posted on a gaming site such as RPS, the comment section is immediately filled with butt-hurt comments stating how he failed on such-and-such a game and “I’ll never buy a game he’s made again.”

So Tobolds point of sarcasm in his post stands out and surprised me a little coming from someone who works as a scientist. After all science is not only built on failure, it depends on failure. And if we really think about it, so is life.

The thing is we sometimes learn more by failure than we do by success. Edison when he was asked about all his failed attempts to create the light-bulb said that he didn’t fail on each attempt, in fact with each failed try he learned a new way not to learn how to make a light-bulb. Could we say the same thing about Warhammer Online?

Does the fact that Jacobs has failed with one attempt to create a successor to DAOC mean that all subsequent attempts will also be failures?

On the contrary, for Mark Jacobs, Warhammer Online was an experience in learning how not to make a successor to Warhammer Online. Doesn’t this increase the chance that the next attempt will be successful assuming he learned the lessons of WO?

I just wonder, if Edison had listened to a gaggle of followers who continually complained about his previous light-bulb attempts and how any light-bulb he created was doomed to failure, then would we all be still living by candlelight?

Will Jacobs succeed or fail this time around? Who knows, but if he listens to the naysayers, then we’ll never know, and who knows we may even be deprived of the greatest game ever made.

Everything we have, all our conveniences and necessities, were built by people who failed but then tried again.

Side Effects

Posted by Stropp on October 8, 2011

If you read Tobold’s blog you would have seen a post a few days ago where he lamented the loss of his Facebook account. It’s in Facebook’s terms of service that the name you use must be ‘real.’ And by real, I guess that means the one on your birth certificate.

(I wonder when Stephen King will have his account banned.)

Today, Tobold posts about one of the consequences of that banning. He used Facebook Connect to add some social functionality to Castle Empires Online (aka The Settlers Online.) This linked the game to his Facebook account via an app, and now he cannot access that game until he removes the app. Of course he cannot remove the app because he can’t log in to that Facebook account.

No Castle Empires Online for you. Catch 22. That’s some catch, that Catch 22. It’s the best there is.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve recently noticed a number of blogs sporting a comment section that is basically a Facebook widget that requires a guest to login to their Facebook account in order to comment.

Aside from the questionable practice of forcing someone who may not want to have a FB account to have one to comment, or to have every comment they make replicated in their FB feed, the bigger issue to me is the loss of control the blog owner is giving to Facebook. No longer does the blog own the comments, they are now Facebook property. And if Facebook decides for one reason or another to ban that blog, well, what happens to all those comments?

This Tobold Facebook banning has brought another issue to mind.

Blizzard now has a policy of linking their various games together in the same account. Your World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, and soon Diablo 3 games will all be linked together, if you use the same Battlenet account.

Now what happens if in one of those games you do something against the terms of service and get yourself an account ban. Do you lose access to every Blizzard game linked to that account?

And hey, it might not even be you doing the dirty deed. Account hacks are not unknown, and folks have been banned temporarily on that basis. So your WoW account is hacked, and Blizzard shuts you down for two weeks while it investigates. And during this time you don’t have access to SG2, or D3 to fill the gaming gap. Nice.

That’s why it’s been my policy for some time to not do things like use Facebook Connect. If a game offers an update service such as tweeting achievements, fine. You can turn those off in game. But a game should never be disabled by the failure of an optional third party service. That is unacceptable.

This is also why I create a separate Battlenet account for each of my Blizzard games. I have used different emails for both WoW and SC2, and I’ll be creating a new email address for Diablo 3 when I buy that.

The world is rushing headlong towards a completely connected state where everything is linked. Don’t get me wrong, this can be very useful and save time by simplifying online life, but the problem here is if one link fails, does it bring down the rest?

Is anyone considering the side effects, or building in redundancy?

The Rubberneck Factor

Posted by Stropp on February 12, 2010

One of the most critical aspects of any story, is that there be conflict. No book about a guy who has a normal, uneventful life would become a bestseller.

For some reason us humans seem to like conflict. We find it entertaining and it draws us in. We love drama and hurt feelings. Just look at how many drivers slow down to gawk at an accident scene.

So it’s no surprise that Tobold in regards to his blogging spat with Syncaine finds that his comment numbers for the drama posts are dramatically increased over his normal game commentary.

I suspect however, that both Tobold and Syncaine are aware of the effects of controversy, and are simply playing to the crowd. Tobold especially over the last few months has been periodically posting about how he manages criticism on his blog, and he’s certainly right to set ground rules for comments on his blog. Tobold’s complaints about Syncaine, and the frequency of their occurence, seem to me to be more about getting visitors to his blog than about hurt feelings. Otherwise Tobold has got some really thin skin, perhaps too thin for a blogger.

But, as I said, controversy gets traffic, and both these bloggers have been around long enough to be aware of that.

EA Layoffs – Piracy Is Not To Blame

Posted by Stropp on November 10, 2009

Tobold has just posted a thought for today: That the EA Layoffs are due to the piracy of their games.

Now first of all, after re-reading, I’m not sure if he’s being serious or just being a tad sarcastic. For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume he’s being serious when he says: “What did people think would happen to a company making bad games and being constantly robbed, in the middle of an economic crisis? If you wanted to save an EA programmer’s job, all you had to do was buy some EA games legitimately” in response to the amount of ‘outrage’ today against EA for laying off 1500 employees.

Now me, I think that piracy-is-a-bad-thing, it is a violation of a long standing set of laws designed to protect those who create those things that we love against the unscrupulous. It’s not theft as such, technically anyway, since no-one is actually deprived of anything, but that can be a hard distinction to make. It seems like theft.

But that’s where I think Tobold is off base. There is no real evidence that the people who pirate software, music, or other media were actually going to buy those things in the first place. So a single act of piracy cannot be logically equated with a lost sale, or a lost amount of revenue or profit. I’m not sure if anyone even has any statistics on what the ratio of pirated goods to lost sales really is. Is it one in a hundred? Or would one pirate in a thousand have bought that copy if a legitimate sale was the only option.

Having said that, I do believe that piracy results in lost income, but I don’t think it is anywhere near as much as publishers are saying.

In fact, I’ve seen in print statements made by the RIAA and MPAA where the figures they are stating for lost revenue seem indicate that their ratio is more than a lost sale per act of piracy.  Does that seem a bit strange to you? How can you lose more than what was pirated?

Secondly, and as Tobold points out in his post, it is an economic crisis. People haven’t just lost jobs and have less disposable income to buy games, a lot of people — a huge number in fact — are turning away strongly from using debt to buy things. This I think is the first key to EA’s financial woes. Less disposable income plus a reluctance to use credit means people are buying less of everything.

Which leads to the second key to EA’s crisis. They do a lot, and I mean a huge amount, of sales of their sports franchise games. They’re the only game in town for the US football games, yet each year they produce what is basically the same game with a few enhancements and a set of roster changes. These games also appeal to the more casual gaming sports fan, a fairly giant demographic.

Less disposable income plus a reluctance to use credit plus casual gamers owning the five previous versions of the same game equals cutting out Madden from the discretionary spending.

The clincher for me is that up until this last year, the game industry reported strong growth year after year. I’m sure you read the reports that said that the computer game industry was going to overtake Hollywood in revenue in just a few short years. This strong growth was all happening at the same time as people were pirating games. Computer game piracy hasn’t jumped by 200 percent in 2009 has it? How much of an increase in piracy would it take to drop revenue by 20 percent, especially considering that those pirates must come from the buying customers. People who would normally buy a game, but have defected across to the pirates.

If nothing else has changed, then EA’s woes must surely be the result of something other than piracy.

Saving that programmers job would have been a little more tricky than buying that sixth version of Madden.

By the way, I agree with Tobold on this; Piracy is a crime. It’s a bad thing to do. If you want to play a game — buy it!