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When they write the history of virtual worlds and interactive entertainment, the introduction of the Star Trek’s holodeck that captured the imagination of millions of sci-fi fans will surely be included.

Back in 1987, a new Star Trek TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted which introduced sci-fi fans to the wonders of the holodeck. Created in the fictional future of planet earth, the holodeck was used primarily by the United Federation of Planets as a recreational activity for crew members of their starships. The holodeck was a virtual reality room where computers would accurately simulate people, creatures, objects, climates and places all within a designated world.

Unlike the virtual reality of today that is visual and audio in nature, the virtual reality in the holodeck allowed participants to use all of their senses to experience the fullness of the simulation.

The holodeck was a useful plot contrivance that breathed some fresh air into the Star Trek franchise and allowed the writers to take the crew of the Enterprise to visit locations and scenarios on Planet Earth and on other planets that would be otherwise impossible. Often, the crew of the Enterprise went back in time to visit notable heroes of fiction and non-fiction from Isaac Newton to Sherlock Holmes.

Another thing to note is the holodeck was a fully realized visual representation of a living breathing virtual world. Previously, the idea of a virtual world was in the minds of the participants as manifested in role-playing pen and paper games such as Dungeons & Dragons. In D&D, a gamemaster would create a campaign for players with its own world complete with history, races, religions, classes and more. Unlike the holodeck, the worlds of D&D were all in the minds and imaginations of the gamemaster and the players. Eventually, virtual worlds evolved as manifested on the computer platform with MUDS and their graphical successor MMORPGs.

Although the holodeck could be used to simulate games or sports, unlike the virtual worlds and MMORPGs of today, the Star Trek holodeck was not a game. There were no stats or levels or loot to accumulate. The typical holodeck experience was more of an adventure or a mystery who-done-it.

Where the holodeck truly excelled was in its ability to allow the participants to be completely immersed in the setting. Unlike the crude A.I. of most video games today, every character in the holodeck including the human participants had their own agency, meaning and purpose. Each holodeck character, scenario, location and environment had the potential to act independently and chart its own course and therein lies it’s awesome potential to those that would enter and experience it.

The holodeck was a dynamic simulation in that the environment would react to the actions and inactions of human participants. Contrast this to the virtual worlds and MMORPGs of yesteryear and today where players actions have no lasting effect on the world. The holodeck’s environments were so authentic and real, you could fall in love with a computer-generated human in the holodeck. Try doing that with an NPC in World of Warcraft.

The holodeck had other benefits: it allowed users a risk-free experience as the simulation could be paused at any time. Many video games have a “save game” feature, but virtual worlds do not as they are persistent in nature. Participants also had a safety mechanism that would prevent them from being injured or killed.

Imagine if the holodeck really existed. Imagine the possibilities and things that a person could experience. Imagine going back in time to role-play and experience important historical events or to see how people really lived. Imagine going back to see loved ones that have passed away. The possibilities are endless.

Although books and films allow the user to enter worlds of fiction and non-fiction, the user is a bystander and not a direct participant. Video games are different in that they allow — in varying degrees — the user the ability to participate directly in the world.

How Worlds Took a Backseat to Games

Along with the worlds created by Tolkien and other fantasy writers and of course the dungeon crawls in Dungeons & Dragons role-playing tabletop games and computer MUDs, the holodeck is undoubtedly one of the cardinal inspirations for graphical fantasy virtual worlds which were conceived and created in the mid to late part of the 1990’s with titles like Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call and EverQuest. The fictional contrivance of the holodeck seen by millions of TV viewers in the 1980’s quickly became a part of the cultural zeitgeist. There can be no doubt that its possibilities and potential influenced a generation of creative types that designed the first MUDS and MMORPGs.

In a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz, veteran MMORPG developer (EverQuest, Vanguard, and the upcoming Pantheon MMORPG) Brad McQuaid mentions the importance of Star Trek’s holodeck:

“To me, a proper MMO is more than a game, it’s a world. I want to be immersed, I want to escape into a fantasy or sci-fi world. [MMO developers are] making the very, very early foundations of the Holodeck. Letting people recreate the 1930s or build new virtual worlds – that’s what MMOs are, they’re the genesis of that.”

McQuaid is absolutely right. To this day, the virtual worlds and MMORPGs represent foundations of a holodeck that someday may exist. McQuaid is also right when he says “I want to make worlds, not games.” McQuaid seems like a lone voice in the wilderness in a gaming industry distracted by identity politics and fixated on avaricious monetization schemes like loot boxes.

In recent years, the MMO development community has largely forgotten about the importance of the virtual world in their MMOs and instead focused on making games and using the world as a backdrop. Nothing irks me more when MMO devs talk about “the game” instead of the world when in reality most MMOs today do not require much skill to progress, which barely makes them games if at all.

There is no bigger culprit responsible for this philosophical design dead end of making the game more important than the world than Blizzard Entertainment with their McMMO World of Warcraft. The “world” in WoW was always given short shrift and more marketing talking point than actual substance. The world in WoW was never allowed its own agency or purpose. Their world was much like the Pirates of Carribean ride at Disneyland — essentially a heavily scripted, narrative-based, on-rails experience. The timeline was carefully scripted as each major villain would eventually be defeated before the release of the next expansion.

The worlds of MMOs like WoW exist as an incidental backdrop for the player with a “the customer is always right” ethos of pandering to the lowest common denominator design and an unhealthy lavishing of unearned hero status for every player.

Part of the problem is the mindset and aptitude of most MMORPG developers. Naturally, the typical MMORPG dev is a gamer. Gaming is all most of them know, just look at their resumes for evidence of this. World building is foreign to most of them and this is understandable as video games that are focused on players, enemies, gear and levels don’t really require deep and complex worlds.

Creating a world is an awesome responsibility and few game devs — most in their 20’s — are intellectually and philosophically equipped for the task. Worlds are complex entities that require the careful synthesis of geography, climate, races, creatures, politics, religion, physics, history and culture. It also requires gifted people who possess unparalleled imaginations. The brilliant J.R.R. Tolkien spent a lifetime creating Middle-earth. Understandably, it’s far easier to create a mere game then it is to create a world.

Groundhog Day Again and Again

The current MMO genre has become stagnant and predictable. It’s been treading water for years. Everyone knows this to be true but few have any solutions on how to fix it.

The reason why most MMORPGs have failed is that they are not true virtual worlds, not even close. A true virtual world is one that is living and breathing where all of its component parts has agency, purpose and meaning. Imagine entering into a virtual world where everything has the capability to change on its own and/or with the involvement of players. Old cities can be destroyed, new cities take their place. Civilizations rise and fall.

Go into a typical zone in any MMO today. The NPCs rarely if ever change. Most NPCs mobs wander aimlessly with no purpose other than to be killed by players. Players kill them and a few minutes later they respawn. Within a few months, players have deconstructed every zone, boss fight and NPC spawn time and loot table. NPC vendors stand at their stalls 24 hours a day, without a break, without time off to eat, sleep or spend time with their NPC families.

In the 20 years that MMORPGs have been produced, zones are still being made with this crude and primitive design philosophy. After all these years, most NPCs are little more than storefront mannequins. It’s shameful how little imagination and ambition that MMO devs have today in producing the same drivel year after year. Even worse, it’s disappointing to see how little players expect from MMO devs when they fail to hold them accountable.

The worlds of today’s MMOs are not really worlds at all. Instead they are are real as false front Hollywood movie sets. They have become predictable and boring because they have been enslaved by the limitations of being mere video games.

Over the years we here various developers talk about dynamic content as being the solution to fix the tedium that afflicts most MMORPGs. Dynamic content is just offering a bandage to a terminally ill patient.

One way to move forward is that we need to stop using the term MMORPG or MMO and start using the term virtual world. I am not saying we should remove gaming and character progression mechanics, as many of them are useful and are time-tested ways for players to self-actualize. Making worlds not games has to be more than a bumper sticker slogan, it has to be a real and genuine mindset.

Even if a video game studio doesn’t want to make a virtual world, they can still improve their video games by creating their game world with virtual world authenticity. When you start creating a living and breathing virtual world you end up imparting a sense of plausibility that increases immersion which helps players to suspend their disbelief. This is a literary device called verisimilitude.

Developers Need to Let Go

Over the years, from EverQuest to World of Warcraft, developers have slowly introduced more narratives into MMORPGs. Today developers are obsessed with telling their stories, not yours. MMORPGs have gone from open sandbox experiences to rigid on-rails amusement park rides. They’ve also gone from a mindset of equality of opportunity to equality of outcome. The player is all that matters and the world is just a disposable, fleeting, unimportant stage. I believe these trends have been disastrous for the long-term health of the genre and the MMO industry has painted itself into a corner of formulaic stagnancy.

I beg to differ. I am proposing a new path. Instead of investing heavily into pandering to players by giving them comic book superhero powers, the MMO industry needs to start focusing on the primacy of the virtual world itself. Players should be regarded as just one component of a complex virtual world ecosystem.

I want to be in a virtual world that exhibits immediacy and unpredictability. I want to be in a virtual world that is interesting and dynamic. I want my actions or inactions to matter at least locally and if enough players act locally perhaps global change can result in a virtual world. I want to experience the kind of struggles and challenges that bond players together and create amazing communities. That’s the kind of world that I want to be a part of.

Think of what we could learn from authentic virtual worlds. Think of how we could study human interaction, government, economic models, agriculture, the environment, politics, religion, warfare via virtual world simulations. Virtual worlds could be used as Petri dishes were many real problems could be analyzed and solved via game theory and trial and error.

For virtual worlds to realize their true potential, developers will have to let go the reins of power. They need to find the courage and humility to reduce their addiction to narratives and storylines. If you love something, set it free. Let virtual worlds be virtual worlds. Let them be free to play out and free from meddling devs. We need less of a zoo and more of a wildlife preserve. The reality is that since developers are people and people have egos this will be hard to achieve. The company that can pull this off will need someone with the vision and charisma of a Steve Jobs.

Conclusion

Back in 2005 when I started this blog and I felt that the MMORPG genre was full of promise and unrealized potential. Thirteen years later, as I ponder the future that never was, I feel despondent about virtual worlds. Fewer people are writing about virtual worlds these days and I don’t blame them. You can only hope and dream for so long without eventually becoming utterly discouraged. Some of the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the video game press who seem more concerned about advocating for social justice than championing innovation that could move the genre forward.

However, a large amount of the blame goes directly to the MMO studios. They became lazy and complacent. They stopped caring. They stopped innovating. They stopped dreaming.

Obviously, the industry has been dominated by the success of one MMORPG which has been a blessing and a curse. This success took a vibrant and hopeful industry down into a rabbit hole of predictability and copy-cat formulas. Nobody wants to invest in MMOs anymore because too many companies wanted to make the same profits as Blizzard so they copied World of Warcraft and failed. I can’t think of any other entertainment genre where one company dominates and one style of gameplay — hack and slash achievement on steroids — is promoted to the exclusion of everything else. Of course Hollywood loves to exploit formulas but at least the current film and TV studios offer programming to suit many diverse tastes. The same is not true of the MMO industry.

Every few years a new MMO is proposed that rekindles my hopes and promises to change the landscape. A few years ago, it was EverQuest Next, today it’s Ashes of Creation. Bold promises often result in failure or yet another disappointing WoW clone.

Richard Bartle was right when in 2007 he said the MMORPG genre would be much healthier if WoW was closed down. His words ring truer today. MMO developers need to forget that WoW ever existed and pick up the torch that MUDS, Ultima Online, EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies never passed on. I believe the MMO industry has to unlearn the bad habits it’s learned over the last 14 years and refocus its goal of striving to provide a totally immersive experience that was shown to us by the holodeck from the Star Trek universe. The holodeck should be the destination on the map that the MMO genre should aspire to. The holodeck may never be realized but that should not stop us from trying.

I would like to close with a challenge to the MMO industry. Years ago, Apple’s Steve Jobs challenged then Pepsico chairman John Scully with a question:

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

I would like to ask every major MMO studio a variant of this question:

“Do you want to make games for the rest of your life, or do you want to make worlds?”

The ball is in your court MMO industry.

-Wolfshead

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After years critiquing World of Warcraft, Blizzard’s recent decision to promote ideologies that are incompatible with the values and beliefs I hold dear, is a bridge too far for me to cross. As a result, I can no longer in good conscience continue to write articles about Blizzard Entertainment and their various video games. While I may include references to Blizzard or World of Warcraft in future articles, this will be my last piece that deals with them directly. I will also no longer purchase or play any product made by Blizzard or Activision.

The final straw came for me in August of 2017, when Kotaku reported that a leaked email memo from Blizzard company president Mike Morhaime who described the launching of a “global diversity and inclusion initiative” which seeks to increase the representation of women and other minorities at Blizzard. The article goes on to detail Blizzard’s efforts to achieve this via various methods.

As a person who has both worked in and covered the video game industry for over 12 years, I find this memo disturbing and chilling but sadly predictable given Blizzard’s recent leftist trajectory which I have chronicled over the past few years on this site. Now we have the smoking gun which proves Blizzard is a company run by virtue signaling leftists who seek to indoctrinate the identity politics/diversity/inclusion agenda upon their staff and the people that purchase their video games.

Blizzard has gone from mere publicly virtue signaling about inclusion and diversity to taking action with their introduction of a hiring policy that is based on diversity rather than merit. Blizzard is not alone.

The Misguided Drive to Attract More Female Coders

In recent years, there’s been a push in Silicon Valley, the tech industry and in the video game industry to promote the notion of social justice which is a warm and fuzzy euphemism for cultural Marxism. On the surface, the social justice warriors never fail to mention to everyone about how much they care about the seemingly benign and noble causes of equality, inclusiveness, and diversity. But in their zeal to achieve Utopia those who violate the commandments of this pseudo-religion are labeled as heretics to be shunned and ruined by social justice cultists who see racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia everywhere.

One recent thrust of this agenda is the campaign to motivate women to be coders and for companies to hire them. The proponents of this movement claim that women are underrepresented in the industry and they make it seem like they have been the victims of systemic discrimination by a conspiratorial cabal of misogynists. This is silly and absurd because imbalances are not always the result of discrimination.

One way to illustrate this is to discuss a similar imbalance between men and women: the gender makeup of the prison population. Recent statistics from the U.S. Government show that females in the USA make up 18% of the prison population compared to males who make up 82% of the prison population. Using the same flawed logic employed by the cult of equality, we must come to the conclusion that the American justice system, law enforcement, and the prison system must certainly be run by misandrists who hate men so much that they purposely seek to imprison more men than women. The real explanation is that men commit far more crimes than women.

Using the twisted logic of the social justice warrior, the solution to address the problem of females being under-represented in the American prison population would be to reduce the number of male prisoners incarcerated and increase the number female prisoners incarcerated. Of course, this solution is ludicrous. If this were ever attempted, it would be disastrous for American society but the very same logic is being used by social justice warriors in their campaign promote female coders.

I believe the push for more women in the tech industry is really all about creating a workforce that is more left-leaning in nature. Watch the following video to learn more about how the “women who code” movement is really all about the promotion of leftist ideology.

The dark side of women tech groups - Marlene Jaeckel - YouTube
Merit Matters

My central disagreement with Blizzard’s push for diversity within their company is that I believe that people should only be hired on the basis of merit.  I believe in equal opportunity instead of equal outcomes. These are time-tested and enduring values that successful cultures have adopted. Unsuccessful cultures wallow in poverty and misery and they often result when cronyism, nepotism, and tribal loyalties are the order of the day. While these problems do exist in varying degrees in our culture, America is largely a culture based on the principle of merit.

Nobody should get special privileges because of their minority or alleged victim status. Just as you should not be able to fire someone because of their gender or race, you should not be able to fire them because of their race or gender.

The social justice warriors who have recently invaded the shores of video game world are obsessed with Marxist obsessions of equality. Any imbalance of gender or sexuality is immediately seen as a sin that must be addressed. It is well-known fact that males are predominant consumers of AAA video games and MMOs. Therefore it stands to reason that the industry is staffed by mostly males because a higher percentage of males have expertise as gamers and also because they *want* to be video game designers, engineers, artists, and producers. Despite the stats (skewed by social and mobile games) that women make up the majority of video game consumers, males are the biggest consumers of AAA video games so it is reasonable to assert that the people who actually play video games would be best suited to creating them.

Dirty Jobs

Despite the culture of fun that is portrayed on the careers section of most studio websites, life in the video game industry is not a pleasant walk in the park. As I have noted in a recent article, people who work in the industry can expect to work long hours with little expectation of any semblance of work/life balance. While there may be some woman that may find this abusive environment and drudgery acceptable, most would not and this partly explains why there are so few women working in the industry, not because of alleged sexism and a lack of equality.

For anyone that ever watched Mike Rowe’s popular TV show, Dirty Jobs, it was obvious that men overwhelmingly occupied jobs that no woman in their right mind would ever do. This is as it should be. Men have always taken riskier jobs and occupations than men throughout the history of mankind in order to provide for their wives and their children. The woman’s primary biological role was the carrying and the raising of children and looking after the household when the male was out providing for his family. Survival of the specials is the biological imperative. Any ancient society that would be foolish enough to experiment with the luxury of feminism would soon find itself extinct.

There are other areas where women and minorities dominate yet the left is conveniently silent when their protected groups enjoy over-representation. For example, most primary school teachers and daycare workers are overwhelmingly female. This is because women who have a natural aptitude for raising children are attracted to these types of roles and men aren’t. In the realm of professional sports, American blacks who represent 18% of the population constitute 80% of the player base; blacks in the NFL constitute 68% of the player base. But nobody is complaining that we need more men and white in both of these fields because women and blacks– who are both considered a protected group — dominate in this field. As George Orwell noted: everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.

From the standpoint of biology, men and women are clearly different. From a motivation perspective, both genders have different wants, needs, and expectations. It is utterly foolish and infantile to demand the Marxist requirement that every profession should have equal representation of both genders.

Diversity is Not Our Strength

What Blizzard and other companies who extol the false virtues of diversity is doing is engaging in social engineering. It is not based on merit or science, rather it is a form of cultural Marxism that divides and polarizes people and creates problems where none exist. The left is on a witchhunt to find inequality so they can virtue signal to show the world what wonderful people they are. The problem is inequality is in such a short supply in our culture it must be manufactured and invented as a result bias crimes hoaxes are at an all-time high.

The social justice warrior is taught by their leftist college teachers that the world — especially America — is an evil place where minorities are being oppressed and it is up to them to rid the world of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, insert minority of the day here. The recent unprovoked attack by social justice warriors on the video game industry is clear evidence of their crusade.

New convert to the religion of social justice and Blizzard VP Jeff Kaplan revealed in a recent Polygon interview, that he routinely asks job applicants for advice on how they can make Blizzard more diverse. From the article:

“I interviewed one of our artists, a woman, and I asked about how we can improve diversity. She said that what she most cares about is the level of open-mindedness and how much we build a team that is open to exploring other cultures and being respectful of people, no matter where they’re from.”

So now it’s just not enough to be an exceptional candidate with a set of skills and experience, now you must have the correct ideology in order impress Jeff Kaplan to land that dream job at Blizzard.

When identity trumps merit in the hiring process the quality of your product will inevitably suffer.

Recently it came to my attention that a major MMO studio was so desperate to have female representation on their team that they actively went out looking for a token woman so they could virtue signal to the industry about how inclusive and diverse they are. They finally found a woman with no game design experience but she had a blog. They put her in charge of combat and the result was the combat was universally panned by critics and players.

Seeding Your Organization with Ideologues

There’s an old saying in the computer programming world: garbage in, garbage out. Other variants of maxim are: you are what you eat. I believe this also applies to organizations too. The more radical leftists and feminists you bring into your company, the more likely that the content in the video game will reflect their ideology. Similarly, if you only hired old white, Christian conservative Republicans, the end product would most certainly be more likely to reflect their values.

Tech companies and video game companies — most based in the most leftist state in America, California — have been trying to increase female representation in their studios for the past few years. Qualified white heterosexual males who apply to work at Blizzard will suffer the most from this as they will be bypassed for minority status non-male applicants who will be token employees.

I think Blizzard should lead by example. Every male on the executive team should voluntarily resign and be replaced with a minority female or LGBT person. Let’s see if they really believe in diversity if it actually impacts them and their families personally. The old saying: Do as I say, but not as I do immediately comes to mind.

In the Kotaku article, it was also brought to light that Blizzard has established separate LGBTQ and female advisory councils that meet monthly and gives Blizzard guidance. What is troubling to me is that I believe that these councils will inevitably end up influencing the content of Blizzards video games as they attempt to justify their existence. Blizzard’s recent reveal that Overwatch’s Tracer is a lesbian is a good example of the council’s growing pernicious influence. Expect to see more pandering and virtue signaling from Blizzard as more LGBTQ characters and stories are included in your favorite Blizzard video games in the future.

What was not included in the leaked Blizzard memo was any information about other minority advisory groups that advise Blizzard on Christian and conservative issues in their workplace or their video games. Seemingly, the only minorities that matter to Blizzard are the ones that are the current darlings of the progressive and left-wing tech and media establishment.

BlizzCon 2017 Opening Ceremony Diversity and Inclusion Propaganda

As I was finishing this article, I realized that BlizzCon 2017 was in progress. In predictable fashion, Blizzard opened the event with a cleverly scripted and slick propaganda video montage of gamers with the clear intention of virtue signaling the values of the new and improved Blizzard 2.0. The montage starts off with a sampling of seemingly average Blizzard gamers who exude an aura that they are just like you and me. I believe this was done to show that Blizzard games facilitate a sense of community with the intent of cloaking Blizzard with an aura of moral righteousness.

BlizzCon 2017 Opening Ceremony - YouTube

As someone who has long argued that MMORPGs are essentially about community, I agree with many of the sentiments and some of the stories are touching.

But all the propaganda aside, does Blizzard really care about community?

I don’t believe it for a second as the evidence shows the opposite. Over the years Blizzard has done all they can to reduce player interdependency which erodes community in World of Warcraft in order to broaden their demographics in order to earn more profits. Blizzard games — especially WoW and now Overwatch — are notorious for some of the most toxic communities in the video game world.

While bragging about how global Blizzard is, some of the players also talked about their friends all over the world but the fact that Blizzard’s WoW servers are region specific easily contradicts this.

As the opening video proceeded, you see a lot of geeky, nerdy, body positive and awkward people and some who I suspect are representatives of non-traditional gender expression and lifestyles. Somehow we are supposed to believe that the people in the video represent average Blizzard gamers. I’m not convinced at all. Who selected them? Was the new Blizzard LGBTQ and female advisory board involved in the making of this video? How were they selected? Who actually made this video? Who directed it? Who scripted it?

After watching the video, I got the feeling that Blizzard wants it known that they have provided a safe haven for the “marginalized” gamers of the world. Somehow we are supposed to believe that Blizzard are the white knights for the downtrodden geeks and bullied nerds around the world. This is a 10 on the virtue signaling and moral sanctimony Richter scale.

At one point, one of the gamers in the video says: “Blizzard is an open, inclusive, positive wonderful community.” Finally, we come to the real point of the video: the promotion of the inclusion and diversity agenda. Very clever Blizzard but we are not fooled by your sleight of hand. The devil uses a sea of truth to disguise a drop of poison.

I take great exception to this propaganda video. MMORPGs have always been inclusive and open to everyone. Anyone who’s played MMOs for the past 20 years already knows this. MMOs and virtual worlds have a level playing field designed into them from the start. Everyone starts out as a level 1 character. You are free to forge your own destiny and reputation for better or for worse.

Additionally, one of the great things about MMOs is that anyone can create a character, male or female, choose any race, and leave their real-life identity behind and create an entirely new persona. This is called role-playing and it’s the “RPG” in the MMORPG acronym. Nobody cares what your real-life age, race, gender, religion, sexual proclivities or occupation is. As a player, it’s your duty and responsibility to come to a virtual fantasy world to fit in and be a part of it. Whether it’s the virtual worlds of Azeroth, Norrath or Middle-earth, you do this by leaving your real-life baggage and politics behind you.

We don’t need to be told by Blizzard that MMOs are open to everyone, we players have always known this. Those of us who log every day to our favorite virtual world, we live it. This video comes across as patronizing and insulting. And in reality, it’s just more shameless virtue signaling to pander to the progressive and LGBT communities. And it’s not even original or courageous because Blizzard are cowardly lemmings — doing precisely what every other California tech and entertainment company are doing.

BlizzCon did have some good news in that they finally announced the introduction of classic WoW servers. At this point, it’s too little too late for me.

A Personal Note From a Christian, a Gamer, and a Developer

Many years before our culture was obsessed with politics and the social justice warriors started complaining about video games, I worked with some amazing people in the industry who just happen to be non-white, women and others who were known to have same-sex attraction. They were outstanding artists and designers and valued colleagues. Their sexual proclivities and gender while sometimes obvious and sometimes hidden, were never part of the equation. They were hired because of their merit, their experience and they were well-respected because of their talent and contributions — not because of their gender or who they sleep with or the color of their skin and not because they looked good on our company’s recruitment website.

Back then, the concept of ideological neutrality was an unstated rule in the industry. Our publishers would expect no less from us. We realized that every gamer who purchases the video games we made had their own political and religious beliefs and that should be respected. Back then, before the social justice fad devoured the industry, it was just common sense to operate this way. Our goal as developers was not to lecture or indoctrinate people but to create the best possible video games we could.

In my bio to every post, I state that I am a Christian. Despite that, I have never proselytized my Christian faith in my articles. But now I can no longer keep silent. As a gamer and designer who is also a Christian, Blizzard’s policy to openly promote and normalize lifestyles that are immoral both within their company and in their video games is utterly incompatible with my religious beliefs. As long as this is the case, as stated at the outset,  I will not be purchasing, playing or promoting any Blizzard products. I will not cooperate with evil. My allegiance is to God, not a company like Blizzard Entertainment.

I have received emails from other Christian gamers who are alarmed that they and their beliefs are being marginalized by the recent ideological crusade that has beset the video game industry.

Conclusion

As I take my leave of Blizzard once and for all, I will give them one final tip of the hat for their amazing accomplishments in the MMORPG genre. WoW was the thousand pound gorilla in the room that changed the MMO industry. While Blizzard did many things right but they also did many things wrong. But in the end, as Raph Koster has said so brilliantly, the stratospheric success of Blizzard with WoW destroyed the MMO genre by redefining it to something almost unrecognizable. Even as the crowds cheered Blizzard’s success, I felt compelled to point out the warning signs along the way but Blizzard in their swagger and arrogance refused to listen. They giddily marched onwards toward their goal of increased profits by ensuring that WoW would appeal to the lowest common denominator and as a result, the dumbed down WoW of today is a mere shadow of its former self.

Blizzard was once an amazing company that achieved great things. The highlight of my reverence for them was when I got a chance to speak to Blizzard developers at the Blizzard Burning Crusade pavilion at E3 in Los Angeles in 2006. Back then, Blizzard was the real deal. They broke the rules and had fun doing it. They were a video game company that cared about gamers. You felt that they were on your side. They weren’t promoting any kind of political or social ideology — they just made great games.

Today, studios that promote and seek to indoctrinate progressive ideology into video games making a terrible mistake. They are violating one of the central reasons why people play videos: escapism. Video games are a sacred oasis where players pay their hard earned money to escape the cares and troubles of the world free from the yoke of the 24-hour news cycle of social media outrage, real-world politics, ideology, and religion. The concept of ideological neutrality has been completely discarded by the tech and entertainment complex.

But for now, the titans of the video game industry do not care. As they wallow in their zealotry and self-righteousness, they will continue to shovel their leftist propaganda down your throats anyway. They will follow the well-trodden path of Hollywood who discarded the golden age of films and replaced it with subversive films imbued with leftist propaganda.

Hollywood Wants Your Money...and Your Mind - YouTube

The lords of the new entertainment medium are also alienating half of the population who does not share their leftist ideology. Gamers aren’t as docile as the average American TV watcher and someday it will come back to haunt them.

Blizzard, I can not overstate this: you are making a grave error here. Cultural Marxism is a deadly cancer that will consume your company. Once it gets a foothold, it’s only a matter of time before the workplace will become an unbearable place of fear and the products you create will become riddled with leftist propaganda.

No area of endeavor is safe from these fanatical busybodies. These twisted social justice warriors have infiltrated almost every hobby and pastime in order to spread their cult of equality and identity politics. Even America’s favorite sport of professional football is seeing their viewers and spectators rebel against this madness by their refusal to attend and watch. Nothing is sacred to these virtue signaling fanatics. This will only get worse and eventually, they will drive out most of their fans and impact advertisers and drive the NFL out of business. Marxists and their ilk never build or create, they only destroy and vanquish, then they move on to another target.

Regarding Blizzard’s new diversity hiring practices. Be careful of what you wish for Blizzard. If you don’t already, someday you will have sons. These sons will hard to apply for positions in college and in the workplace. How will you feel when a less qualified minority or a female applicant gets the position over your son? How will you be able to look them in the eye and tell them that you supported a similar policy that discriminated against heterosexual white males? What goes around, comes..

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Everyone loves the David versus Goliath story where the underdog prevails against the powerful bully. Unfortunately, real life isn’t like that. In reality, the small guy usually loses against the big guy. In the world of video games, something similar happened recently.

A couple of weeks ago a private emulated World of Warcraft Burning Crusade server called Felmyst was shut down after the developer Gummy received a letter from Blizzard lawyers threatening legal action. The server took four year to develop and was a labor of love for Gummy who is unemployed due to his battle with muscular dystrophy which is an extremely debilitating uncurable disease. Kyle Orland over at Arstechnica has a comprehensive write up about what happened.

Given the legal issues with creating a legacy server, the creation of Felmyst was always a risky proposition. But Gummy felt he could operate under the radar because normally small private WoW servers do not reach the attention of Blizzard. But the problem is that Felmyst became too popular and because of this Blizzard felt the need to reach out with their massive resources and crush Felmyst with the cudgel of legal action. In an act which will live on in video game infamy, Blizzard squashed the hopes and dreams of a talented WoW fan who dedicated the last four years of his life to recreating WoW the way it used to be.

In recent years, vanilla WoW servers and TBC (The Burning Crusade — the first WoW expansion) servers have become very popular. Why is this? While the original incarnation of WoW was a masterpiece of game design but over the years — as I have chronicled on this blog — Blizzard has put profits before gameplay and community and dumbed down the core WoW experience to the degree that recent iterations of the venerable MMORPG barely resemble the early versions. Therefore players who crave the original and far superior WoW experience, have no choice but to create their own versions of classic WoW with the result that like-minded players in the hundreds of thousands have flocked to these servers. The ill-fated Nostalrious vanilla WoW server — also shut down by threats from Blizzard — being the best example.

Blizzard Refuses to Offer Legacy WoW Servers for their Fans

Despite public outcry, various petitions and public relations campaigns, and despite that no money changes hands and no profit is made, and despite that those who play on legacy servers have no interest in playing the current inferior version of WoW, Blizzard has adamantly refused to offer WoW fans who want to play the original WoW and The Burning Crusade the ability to do so on their own platform. To this day, they continue to come up with hollow rationales and weak excuses to justify their inaction and intransigence.

Additionally, Blizzard is not keen to solicit input from their fans on this issue and refuses to allow anyone that attends their annual BlizzCon events to ask them honest questions about legacy servers in their public Question and Answer panels as all questions are pre-screened and pre-selected. Despite the fact that the Nostalrious server shut was the biggest WoW story in 2016, Blizzard made no mention of legacy servers at BlizzCon 2016.

Blizzard could allow legacy servers to exist either officially as part of Blizzard or officially sanctioned independently run by fans. Instead, they have chosen not to embrace either option and anyone that wants to play a legacy version of WoW is unable to do so on Blizzard servers.

Other venerable MMORPG’s like EverQuest have officially approved fan run legacy servers such as Project 1999 and others. John Smedley the former CEO of Sony Online Entertainment and Daybreak Games who created EverQuest, saw the wisdom of the legacy server movement and actually cared enough about loyal EverQuest fans and the historical and cultural importance of EverQuest and consequently allowed anyone to run an emulated EQ server as long as no money changes hands.

MMOs and Virtual Worlds are Cultural Treasures

Video games are an important part of the cultural mosaic of Western civilization. You can still play the original arcade games from the 1970’s and 1980s on actual coin op machines and console and personal computers. But MMORPGs and virtual worlds are different. By virtue of the fact that they can be updated, altered and even erased by the developers, the original versions of these virtual worlds are lost with no way for a MMO player to go back in time to experience them like they can with video games.

The legacy MMORPG server movement staffed by passionate volunteers solves this problem by recreating these original MMORPGs with great authenticity and painstaking fidelity. Companies like Blizzard should be embracing the legacy server movement because these dedicated fans are saving their abandoned virtual worlds for posterity.

Volunteer WoW developers like Gummy should be applauded by Blizzard for his love of WoW and his tireless dedication to preserving The Burning Crusade WoW expansion.

Here’s a Gummy’s letter to the Felmyst community for posterity:

Felmyst 

I began this project roughly four years ago and last year when Blizzard began taking action more seriously it weighed heavily on me as not only was I already heavily invested into the work but others around me were as well. Because of my health situation I wasn’t in a position to cut losses and start over on something different, at least not something that would take four years to make. Last year’s news of what Blizzard was doing came at the absolute worst time for me, frankly, with so many years already invested. To explain what may appear as an odd series of decisions it seems worthwhile to disclose my condition, muscular dystrophy, which only one other person in the online sphere knew of until now. 

Of course, that is why I’m not able to pick up and move to another country as an alternative means to host the server since I’m not really able to live on my own. That is also the reason I’ve been able to work mostly full time on this project as I’m unemployed, though I have sacrificed much of my well being dedicating everything I have to this. Why am I disclosing this? I’m not really sure, but I feel compelled to. 

So the question instead becomes: why host it yourself? The problem with that is our popularity snowballed way too fast once the release date was set. 

Before the release date was declared, most people expected the server to flounder with a small population, the irony of which quickly became a meme. Therefore, months ago I saw no reason to hand all of our work over to someone I didn’t know when the project had a reasonable chance to stay small enough to avoid the need. Though I have no problem contributing to honest developers, the market to wrongfully profit from this stuff is much too lucrative to hand it out on a whim. Had we time to smooth out the release, this certainly would have been something to explore. The warning signs to expect notice from Blizzard were there but receiving it that quickly was something I don’t think many expected. 

So why did I make this project? I love the game and community, especially the community. The old game was a great way to meet people and see new faces. It makes me happy, and programming makes me happy. Of course, I am sad that things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped but I don’t think I’d change any of the decisions I made. I gambled that we could cap the servers at 3k and enjoy a close community. Sadly, I did not win that gamble, though on some level it was nice to see so many people eager to enjoy something I worked on. This project gave the last four years of my life a sense of purpose that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

So why not tell people of that plan ahead of time to stifle hype? The problem with private servers is that there is no middle ground. If people expect a server to “only” have 3000 (real) players then they just won’t play and you’ll instead end up with 300, which isn’t playable. 

A lot of people are of course asking for the source code. Although it may not be in my best interest to distribute the whole thing in its entirety at this point, I’ll see what I can manage that would be beneficial to other programmers who are still learning. 

Gummy

Conclusion

Gummy’s letter to the fans is heartbreaking. I can only imagine how devastated he must feel after giving up the last four years of his life recreating an era of WoW that he fell in love with only to have his dreams and his purpose for living crushed by the might of a billion dollar corporation. Gummy’s sense of devastation is also felt by thousands of players who were excited about being able to go back in time to experience a pristine version of The Burning Crusade version of WoW which Blizzard refuses to provide.

While Blizzard has every right to protect their intellectual property, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. In their zeal to protect their IP, they have created a public relations disaster for themselves and in the process have come off looking mean-spirited, greedy and inept much like the tone deaf RIAA in 2003 who sued a grandmother and many others for downloading music and faced universal condemnation and ridicule for doing so.

For a company that never misses an opportunity to virtue signal their newly found progressive values, their callous treatment of a disabled WoW fan who had dedicated his life to recreating the magic of The Burning Crusade version of WoW is perplexing and is a revealing insight into their true values and priorities. The tragic thing is all of this could have been easily avoided as Blizzard could have easily made special accommodations and arrangements with private WoW servers to allow them to continue while simultaneously protecting their IP but they have chosen not to.

The story of how Blizzard treated Gummy needs to be spread far and wide. But this story is more than just about how Blizzard threatened legal action against one of their most loyal and dedicated fans who lovingly created a legacy server, it’s about how they’ve continually ignored hundreds of thousands of their fans who don’t want to play the current version of WoW and would prefer to play legacy servers instead.

Surely there must be some official way to harness the talent and skill of dedicated super fans like Gummy in helping Blizzard to preserve the legacy of their WoW franchise? Blizzard/Activision is a massive company with immense financial resources. Don’t believe me? News recently broke that Blizzard will be paying certain gamers $50,000 a year plus benefits to be a part of their esports Overwatch League. Blizzard certainly has the money to bring legacy servers into existence to honor their own impressive legacy of their blockbuster MMO and the memories of the millions of fans that treasure the early versions of WoW. All they need now is the will to make it happen.

-Wolfshead

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Love playing video games? Got lots of original ideas? Think you can make a better video game than what’s out there? Want to get a job as a video game designer, artist or programmer?

That was me about 12 years ago before I started working in the video game industry. A few years later, disillusioned, I left the industry and started working for myself.

Video games are a huge part of our culture and naturally, lots of people want to get involved.

Before you take the plunge, think long and hard before you jump into the glamorous cesspool known as the video game industry. And getting a job isn’t a sure thing, it takes talent, passion, hard work and maybe some connections. Once you land a job, then reality hits you like a ton of bricks.

Video game job listings are full of ridiculous demands because they are always looking for “rockstars.” Pro Tip: rockstars = slaves who are expected to do almost anything to be a part of the industry. The truth is that most video game companies will lie to you and promise you a good healthy work/life balance.

Prepare to have NO life whatsoever outside of your job. Prepare to work 16 hours a day for perpetual crunch because of the incompetence of management and producers. Prepare never to see your loved ones. Get used to sleeping on the floor in your cube. Prepare to see your health decline as you eat bad food and stop exercising. If you don’t like any of that, just realize there’s a line-up of hundreds of naive fools standing right behind you that will gladly replace you and sell their souls to be part of the video game sausage factory.

If all of that isn’t bad enough, then realize you must cheerfully believe and regurgitate all of the politically correct social justice indoctrination that is being propagated at almost every modern video game studio. These hypocrites preach social justice for the world but treat their own employees like scum. Not only does the video game company own your body, they now own your soul.

Don’t take my word for it, take the word of an anonymous ex-game dev who recently posted his experiences on Reddit’s Kotaku In Action forum. I have received permission from the author to reprint what you are about to read.

Of course not every studio is evil and not every job in the video game industry is horrific, but there are enough stories like the following to give any reasonable person cause to pause when considering a career in this highly flawed and competitive industry.

Tales of a retired game dev from KotakuInAction

Conclusion

The video game industry is broken. Look for opportunities elsewhere. Most video game devs are like caged hens that exist in intolerable conditions. But even the free range devs at indie studios are plagued by political correctness, egos, and office politics. Talent is secondary as low skilled groupthink obsessed brown nosing sycophants seem to always rise to the top.

The state of the video game industry is a symptom of our progressive culture and an example of the worst excesses of capitalism.

One way for the industry to change is if the people at the top decide to change them. But they are too busy virtue signaling to care. They care more about fair trade coffee and the condition of workers in a far away country than they do their own employees. They care more about the diversity of fake characters in their video games than they do the people that actually work for them.

Gamers need to start demanding that video game companies start treating their employees with dignity and respect. Better working conditions along with higher wages and fewer hours are needed. Video game companies need to start labeling their video games much like the food industry has done with labels that denote fair wages, healthy work/life balance, a politics free environment, etc. All things being equal, I’d rather support a company that treats its workers fairly than one that doesn’t.

However, I think it will take a big technological change to change the industry in the same way Napster and digital distribution changed the corrupt music industry. In many ways, the music industry is much like the video game industry. It’s an industry that takes advantage of the enthusiasm and hard work of many creative people and rewards only a few at the top. Hopefully, at some point in the future, the technology that is used to create video games will become easier to use much like how digital audio workstations have democratized and revolutionized the recording industry.

Until that day comes, the video game industry is broken and like the author of this Reddit post, I’m not even sure if it’s worth saving.

-Woflshead

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The Blizzard Entertainment we once knew and loved has vanished into the mists of time.

Blizzard was once a shining city on a hill that stood out as a beacon of gamer-centric righteousness in the sleazy wasteland of the video game sausage factory. Blizzard’s extraordinary game development philosophy defied conventional wisdom. Blizzard did things their way. They didn’t care what anyone thought and their fans loved them for it.

Today, the maverick Irvine-based gaming studio once known for its unwavering commitment to quality has been transformed by ambitious leadership that wants to turn Blizzard into the next Disney. But, there is a price to pay. To gain membership into this exclusive club you must be willing to sell your soul and conform to the obligatory leftist worldview that is held by most California-based entertainment and tech companies.

For the last few years, the new Blizzard — Blizzard 2.0 — has proceeded to implement their part of the Faustian bargain. They’ve gone all in with a wholesale capitulation to the cultural group-think that constitutes the social justice and identity politics movements. And now these ideologies are being infused directly into their products and into their marketing. Even Blizzard’s latest promotional video with its hipster multicultural vibe that would be right at home in an iPhone commercial, is a sign of their new ideological direction.

Blizzard almost seems ashamed of its old demographic and in an effort to be more relevant — they are willing to do just about anything. The tried and true Blizzard target audience of rough and tumble alpha male gamers has been unceremoniously replaced by feminized beta male hipsters and pink-coiffed edgy feminists. Times sure have changed at Blizzard’s campus in Irvine, California.

In April of 2017, we saw direct evidence of this as Blizzard Game Director and Vice President Jeff Kaplan gave a speech at D.I.C.E. 2017 entitled: “Overwatch: How Blizzard Created a Hopeful Vision of the Future”. While Kaplan’s presentation contained some interesting game design insights it rapidly morphed into a pretentious sermon replete with the kind of virtue signaling and moral exhibitionism that one sees at a TED talk or a Hollywood awards show.

"Overwatch: How Blizzard Created a Hopeful Vision of the Future" - Jeff Kaplan - YouTube

Like the tech giants and big media companies that never miss an opportunity to promote politically correct values to their customers, Blizzard has finally fallen into line and joined the ranks of this new ideological and spiritual orthodoxy.

Preface

This is a long essay. I originally began it as a response to Jeff Kaplan’s Overwatch speech at D.I.C.E. After analyzing his talk in depth, I found myself exploring other issues that up until recently were tangential to my usual coverage of the MMO industry. So I have decided to include relevant observations and musings about religion, politics, sexuality and most importantly the current culture war that has been mercilessly waged upon Western civilization. What follows is not so much about Overwatch as it is about the ideology and motivations behind it.

The Progressive DNA of the Arts Community

To set the stage, what we must understand about the people who inhabit the arts and entertainment industries and the people who make video games is that most are progressives. In a brilliant article, Dr. Gina Louden plumbs the depths of the complex psyche of the artist and explains why most of them are attracted to progressive causes and left-wing politics. Dr. Louden also shares an insightful quote by John J. Ray who penned an excellent piece where he explains what motivates the leftist mind to seek fame to build their egos:

Most (but not all) Leftists/liberals are motivated by strong ego needs — needs for power, attention, praise and fame. And in the USA and other developed countries they satisfy this need by advocating large changes in the society around them — thus drawing attention to themselves and hopefully causing themselves to be seen as wise, innovative, caring etc. Rightists by contrast have no need either for change or its opposite and may oppose change if they see it as destructive or favour change if they see it as constructive.

If you cover any aspect of the entertainment business, at some point you need to deal with the reality that the arts have always been over-represented by people who lean to the left of the political spectrum. And it naturally follows that those who work in the video game industry are no exception. This inherent ideological bias is problematic and if unchecked, can directly change the content in video games and alienate consumers who don’t subscribe to a left-wing world view.

The Dangerous Game of Choosing an Ideological Side

With any other product or service, the ideology of the people employed in those industries would not be a problem because in most cases products and services are apolitical: a loaf of bread is not a conservative or progressive loaf of bread by virtue of the political bent of the baker — it’s simply a loaf of bread. However, when the left-wing political beliefs and worldview of those that own and create the entertainment are purposely injected into the product then those of us who are in the center and right of the political spectrum are going to have a problem with it.

Today, the political biases of those who create the entertainment we consume and the games we play, are finding their way into the entertainment medium with increasing regularity. Films, TV shows and now video games once created with the goal of amusement and distraction from the rigors of everyday living, entertainment are now being used to disseminate both overt and covert ideological messages that bolster one political ideology. What used to be entertainment for entertainment’s sake is now entertainment for the sake of advocacy.

When an organization chooses one side of the political spectrum, they are playing a dangerous game because those in the center and those on the other side are left out.

The premise of liberty and democracy is that the people get to decide the winners and losers in the marketplace of ideas. But there is no authentic marketplace when all of the permitted ideas are progressive and conservative ideas are ignored, never allowed to be produced or outright canceled despite being successful. Conservative arts and entertainment enjoy tremendous popularity when they are allowed to compete but the gatekeepers of the entertainment complex would rather foist progressive content on the public and lose money.

Video Game History, Gaming Conferences, and Social Justice

Up until recently, the video game industry followed the unstated laws of the marketplace. Video games were designed and produced for the benefit of the consumers who purchased them. If a game was good it sold well. If a game was bad, it sold poorly. Video games did not at least outwardly contain any form of political or ideological bias because the early video game developers instinctively realized that using video games to indoctrinate gamers was unethical and inappropriate.

In the early years of video games, there were no real designers. Game design was done by programmers who were analytical and more apt to be conservative or apolitical. America was more of a conservative center nation compared to its current left-wing tilt. As the video game industry progressed, graphics improved and evolved into heavily scripted narratives the need for creative types such as artists, designers and writers grew. The people who filled these new roles brought with them their inherent left-wing worldview.

Back in the good old days, video games weren’t saddled with the lofty obligation to change the world. The underlying assumption was that video games existed to allow the gamer to briefly escape, have fun and be amused. Unfortunately, as our culture has become increasingly politicized so too have video games.

In the past few years, the D.I.C.E, GDC and other video game conventions have featured presenters that have started to overtly promote political correctness while talking about their craft. This political correctness is the combination of social justice ideology and identity politics.  

What is Social Justice?

Social justice is an amorphous term that means something different to everyone. Classical social justice was mainly concerned with the temporal and material welfare of humanity — especially concern for the poor. It’s worth noting that economic social justice is not without its critics. Eventually, social justice morphed into an obsession for a just world through the prism of equality. The attainment of equality was seen as the answer to every problem.

Today, the social justice advocate has abandoned equality and is in search of special rights and privileges for those they claim are disenfranchised and marginalized. This is what is known as identity politics.

Instead of a color-blind society advocated by civil rights icon like Martin Luther King Jr., the social justice adherent seeks to identify and amplify all differences in humanity. By design, this process is a quest with no attainable end. This has the effect of creating a climate of constant warfare between society at large and an internal struggle between the groups who then compete for the highest magnitude of victimhood.

The most extreme of those that believe in this leftist ideology are called social justice warriors. They believe that all institutions should be destroyed and reforged via the adoption of concepts such as equality, diversity, and inclusion.

Another term for social justice warrior is the newly coined regressive left. Dave Rubin from the Rubin Report has created a video for Praeger University called “Why I left the Left” which explains everything you need to know how the left has devolved into the regressive left.

Why I Left the Left - YouTube

Where does the current iteration of social justice come from? In a way, it’s a kinder and gentler form of Marxism that is more palatable for the masses. The current radicalized version of social justice has been allowed to metastasize unchecked in the enclaves of higher learning. It originated in the humanities — especially gender studies. For many decades, Marxist and 3rd wave feminist professors have been laying the ideological framework for a war against Western civilization that we are just now beginning to see manifest in our culture.

Even the Chinese are Mocking the Regressive Left

The notoriety of the social justice warrriors here in America has even spread to China. Daniel Lang from Shtfplan.com reveals that the Chinese have a term for the American white left: baizuo. He quotes from another article by Chechen Zang:

…baizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.

If the Chinese who are living without internet freedom under the tyranny of their communist government are aware of the scourge of the regressive left in America, you know there’s a serious problem.

Since China has always been a lucrative market for Blizzard video games, one would think that the highly paid suits at Blizzard would have some awareness of negative opinions of the Chinese population with regard to American notions of political correctness and social justice.

The Social Justice Religion and Virtue Signalling

In the past few years, many American colleges have been ravaged by the excesses of social justice ideology. Many are perplexed by the fanaticism of this ideology. One astute observer has an answer. He is Professor Jonathan Haidt. He calls social justice a religion complete with sacred values, saints and sinners.

Jonathan Haidt analyzes Runaway Political Correctness & Social Justice Religion on Campus - YouTube

Virtue signaling —  a relatively new termed coined for those who shamelessly boast of their good deeds to the world — is, in fact, a highly addictive social narcotic that induces a feeling of euphoria in the user. Like narcotics, virtue signaling gives one a temporary high without expending any real effort, actual virtue or tangible sacrifice. One of the main attractions of this slacktivist religion is that virtue signaling instantly imparts the practitioner with a halo of unearned moral superiority.

Even though virtue signaling has little to nothing to do with actual virtue, it’s the main form of worship for this new pseudo-religion. Occasionally this worship is done via sanctimonious speeches, press releases, and public demonstrations but it mostly manifests itself via social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Each week social justice warriors seize upon some sin or blasphemy to proclaim their virtue and show their outrage and like a hive of angry bees, they swarm the hapless offender.

According to moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the social justice religion is all about dividing the world into two camps: victims and oppressors. This worldview takes on religious overtones as it paints victims as good and oppressors as evil. In this new moral matrix, the victims deserve the highest respect and must be emancipated from their oppressors.

As Haidt has noted, every belief system has sacred values. Victims are sacred to the social justice warriors and every year they find new victims that need emancipation from evil oppressors. When no such victims are available they create new ones and manufacture new oppressors and bigots to chastise to justify their outrage. There is both a supply and demand problem for the social justice warrior: not enough victims and not enough bigots. The recent marriage equality and transgender culture wars are two prime examples of this. Witch hunters always need a fresh batch of victims and witches to ply their trade to broadcast their moral purity by rooting out the wicked and blasphemous.

And now this moral panic and ideological hysteria have reached the fictional worlds of video games.

Jonathan Haidt on the cult of the Sacred Victim - YouTube
Culture is Upstream from Politics

While Karl Marx claimed that religion is the opiate of the masses, I believe that entertainment and amusement have become the true opiate of the masses. Whoever controls this narcotic of distraction, can control the hearts and minds of the world. Entertainment is a powerful and persuasive force that shapes our culture far more than we like to believe.

The late conservative and libertarian Andrew Breitbart noted that culture is upstream of politics. The left has known this truth of human condition since the advent of the Frankfurt School’s infiltration of American academia in the 1930’s. When economic Marxism utterly failed, they realized they needed to find a new tactic to spread it. Eventually, they understood that the best way to change a nation’s politics is to first undermine then change the nation’s culture.

It’s working as planned because today most Americans are obsessed with entertainment culture. We have gone from a largely Christian nation to a pagan nation that is obsessed with the unfettered pursuit of pleasure and amusement. Today, entertainment is incredibly efficacious in establishing societal norms and mores as it can change the Overton window — the range of acceptable public opinion — on almost any subject. The normalization of homosexuality in the public consciousness since 1990 to the present day, was the direct result of the purposeful infusion of the gay rights activist agenda into the entertainment bloodstream of America. This campaign was so successful that in a recent survey Americans greatly overestimate the number of LBGT Americans at 23% when in reality it is 3.8% of the adult American population. Mission accomplished.

Emboldened by the success of this strategy, the left is now using similar normalization techniques to implement other aspects of their victimology agenda by planting them in the fertile ground of the popular culture. Combine this with the general erosion of classical liberal arts education, the removal of Christian thought from the zeitgeist, the rise of neo-Marxism, a leftist dominated media and academia, and a generation of coddled and conflict averse, intellectually lazy millennials weaned on technology and video games and you have the perfect conditions for the authoritarian social justice ideology to spread into the compromised immune system of the public consciousness.

The Invasion of Social Justice into Video Games

Each year, video games become more and more culturally ubiquitous with total sales even exceeding that of the Hollywood film industry. So it was just a matter of time before the radical left set their sights on video games as a tool for advocacy, propaganda, and indoctrination.

Not only did the social justice left include millennials who were game designers and artists, they also had the complicity of a progressive video game press who were only too eager to make their mark on an unsuspecting community of video gamers. News and lifestyle websites grew rapidly in the past 10 years and the demand for writers to populate these sites with articles created a situation where these sites would hire just about anyone regardless of talent or experience. They ended up hiring people from college who majored in liberal arts and humanities such as English and women’s studies. Consequently, they brought with them the progressive values (fighting racism and inequality, promoting diversity, etc.) that they absorbed at college.

Combine the progressive bent of designers and artists in the video game industry with the newly arrived progressives in web journalism and you had a dangerous ideological alignment. This subsequent exposure of this collusion between the video game industry and the media was dubbed Gamergate.

So here we are in 2017. Every year at GDC and D.I.C.E. there are more speeches and panels devoted to diversity in gaming where developers and non-developers alike take the stage and indulge in virtue signaling and sanctimonious posturing about what kinds of video games they think the industry should produce. Somehow these self-appointed arbiters of morality purport to know what’s best for me and you. They do not.

Let’s get back to Kaplan’s speech at D.I.C.E. But before I continue, it’s useful to explain what Overwatch is.

Overwatch: Epcot Center meets Sam Peckinpah

Overwatch is a highly successful first-person shooter video game that takes place on planet earth complete with a ragtag cast of unlikely superheroes. Overwatch borrows heavily from Marvel superhero films and the result is a carnival of non-stop violence, comic book buffoonery, and acrobatic ass-kicking. Sam Peckinpah would be proud indeed.

There’s even a back story about the world of Overwatch if you look hard enough.

In the grand tradition of Blizzard, Overwatch is not a realistic version of Earth but a Hollywood/Disney caricature of earth that looks much the Epcot Center — a sanitized, Pollyanna theme parked version of our world complete with a multicultural vibe where all cultures are equal and none are exceptional. This is what we have come to expect from Blizzard as they are the masters of creating heavily stylized theme park video games and with Overwatch, they have done a first-rate job with the environments.

Kaplan’s Brave New World

The theme of this year’s D.I.C.E. was world building. World building refers to both the art, designs, stories, and production techniques that are infused in today’s entertainment media. I believe world building has taken on an expanded meaning: world building now includes creating values and morals for the denizens of these worlds. Progressives see video game worlds as templates and Petri dishes for their aspirations in the real world.

To illustrate my point, Kaplan opened the speech with a quote from Dr. Harold Winston from the Overwatch short Recall. Behind Kaplan was a graphic of Dr. Winston holding the hand of an adopted baby gorilla (also named Winston) which is a homage to the iconic statues of founder Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse’s hand that can be seen at Disneyland and Disneyworld. Here’s the quote:

Never accept the world as it appears to be, dare to see it for what it could be.

This reminded me of United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s oft-quoted plea:

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

Both quotes are somewhat similar and I believe they reveal the ethos of the progressive mind. To them, the world is an imperfect place and could be much better if we would all just agree to change. But remember, it always has to be their change and it has to be constant change. And how does that change come about? Be destroying the status quo. This is the philosophy of nihilism.

Even the change that progressives worked so hard for, soon becomes the status quo and it too must be changed. Revolutions from the French revolution to the Russian revolution demonstrate that the revolution never stops and always eats its own.

Humanity seems to love novelty and change because we are never satisfied. The grass is always greener, isn’t it? It’s hard to resist the seductive temptation of progress. Who can be against that? Yet the fundamental problem with progress is that it has no specific destination or end point. The attainment of progress is an infinite and opened..

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The world has gone mad. Almost every day, there’s another story of lunacy erupting at a college campus somewhere in America. We hear about their safe spaces, trigger warnings and bias response teams. We see violent riots and intolerant protesters preventing the exercise of the basic right of freedom of speech at these campuses. We see anarchist thugs in paramilitary attire destroying property and assaulting people with an opposing viewpoint. We even have coddled college students demanding that their exams be cancelled because they didn’t like the recent U.S. election results.

One thing we do know for sure is that our culture is changing at a dizzying pace. As America moves from a Christian nation to a post-Christian nation, those that believe in traditional values are finding themselves not on terra firma but on a pit of quicksand as our values are being replaced with progressive values. We feel helpless and terrified.

As a Christian and a conservative, let me briefly share with you what it feels like to hold and espouse traditional values in today’s culture.

Every day we are subjected to accusations, labels and slurs that are designed to silence us and make us feel horrible. We are told we are bigots because we believe in traditional marriage. We are told are transphobic if we are worried about grown men in girl’s washrooms. We are told we are Islamophobic if we are concerned about the infiltration of Islamic blasphemy laws in America and Canada. We are told we are racist and have white privilege just because happened to be born white. If we question global warming, we are called climate change deniers and that we are anti-science. All of these beliefs were normal, respectable and mainstream just 10 years ago, but not anymore.

What on earth is going on?

Professor Jonathan Haidt has the answers. He is a social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business.  Haidt is also the author of a book called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. He is also the founder of the Hetrodox Academy which is an organization that rates American institutions of higher learning based on the criteria of viewpoint diversity. Here is the oath that members of the academy take:

“I believe that university life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other. I am concerned that many academic fields and universities currently lack sufficient viewpoint diversity—particularly political diversity. I will support viewpoint diversity in my academic field, my university, my department, and my classroom.”

Recently Professor Haidt has become famous because of his use of the discipline of moral psychology to make sense of all of the division, polarization and unbridled change in our society. There are scores of his lectures and talks popping up on YouTube. His main thesis is that all groups hold values that are sacred to them. This sacredness informs every person’s worldview. He uses the current woeful state of the American university system and its abysmal lack of viewpoint diversity to prove his thesis.

Today, many college students are afraid to speak their minds lest they get reported by other students. Professor Haidt himself was reported by a student and they made his life hell for months. Professors now are afraid of students as well. The entire situation is a mess and does not bode well for the institution of higher learning that were predicated on the notion of free debate and unhindered inquiry.

On October 6, 2016 Professor Haidt was part of a Hayek Lecture at Duke University. The lecture lasted a little over an hour. This lecture is full of hard truths for everyone on the political spectrum. The knowledge contained within will blow your mind and will give you hope that many of the problems of our nation can be solved.

"Two incompatible sacred values in American universities" Jon Haidt, Hayek Lecture Series - YouTube

I urge everyone on the right, the left and anywhere in the middle to please watch this video if you can spare the time.

As a video game critic and commentator, you may think this subject matter is not pertinent but it most certainly is. All the craziness that has been going on in the video game industry in recent years with social justice warriors and Gamergate is very much related to the polarization that has happened here in America. I also believe that what goes on in academia today — especially the humanities — is the origin point for many of the problems that have seeped into our culture.

For additional insight into our divided nation, here’s a TED Talk interview with Jonathan Haidt that he gave after the election of Donald Trump:

Can a divided America heal? | Jonathan Haidt - YouTube

There are undeniable problems in our country and in our world right now. Thanks to brave professors like Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson, we are getting some honest answers about these problems. The only way to fix a problem is to fully understand the problem.

After watching many of Haidt’s lectures I feel that in order address these problems, we all need to take his advice and turn down the volume. We need to find some common ground and then start to really listen to each other with respect. Not tomorrow or next week but right now. We need to stop labelling each other. We need to be more humble, more charitable, more considerate and less selfish. We need to virtue signal less and practice real virtue more. We need to employ tools of reason, rationality to solve problems. Most importantly we need the courage to be honest with ourselves and about what we believe.

One of the hallmarks of Western civilization is that we have inherited a culture that puts a high value on the ability to settle our differences peacefully and civilly. In other words, while we may never fully agree with everyone and it’s okay to agree to disagree and remain amicable. We need to return to that way of thinking lest we devolve into barbarism that holds much of this world in its vice-like grip. Before we can expect others to change, we need to lead by example. Only then can we attempt to help heal this broken world.

-Wolfshead

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Do you believe that time travel is possible? It most certain is in the realm of fantasy virtual worlds. Legacy servers from many early MMORPGs are popping up all over the world.

Recently, I had the privilege to take a time machine and travel back to Azeroth exactly the way it was back in November of 2004 on the Elysium vanilla WoW server. Since then I have been enchanted and captivated yet again by the enthralling World of Warcraft MMORPG. This was all made possible by the hard work and dedication of the Elysium vanilla WoW team.

Why are legacy servers so popular?

It’s very simple. After years of bad design decisions made more out of concern for growing the demographic to increase profits than for the good of the game, the current version of World of Warcraft comes off as a pitiful shadow of its former self.

Like a cheap knockoff of a Rolex watch sold by a street vendor, the WoW of today is WoW in name only. Over the years, WoW has been continually dumbed down and degraded to the point that it’s is practically unplayable. One shotting enemies — which is the experience of players in WoW newbie zones — feels unrewarding and takes about as much skill as shooting fish in a barrel.

On the Elysium vanilla WoW server, one can experience WoW in its most pristine and authentic state.

As I ventured into the lands of Azeroth on Elysium, the sharp contrast between vanilla WoW and the WoW of Legion hit me like a ton of bricks. But before we begin, let me tell you how we got here…

The Cataclysm that Destroyed WoW

Over the years, I have been a fierce critic of Blizzard. I have spent a lot of time analyzing WoW, chronicling its demise and literally begging Blizzard to change their ways. I and others believe that Cataclysm was the beginning of the end for WoW. With this ill-fated expansion, Blizzard in their arrogance and pride, completely gutted the original continents of Azeroth and created new quests and new NPCs and by doing so erased the classic goodness that was vanilla WoW.

Everything that was good and noble about vanilla WoW was destroyed by one expansion. From that point forward WoW lost millions of subscribers at the chickens of reckless design came home to roost.

Over the years, the erosion of WoW continued unabated. After Cataclysm in later expansions, the power of players in relation to NPCs grew larger and created a dangerous imbalance. The world itself became cheapened by this. Today most players out level the zones they are in and even WoW director Ion Hazzikostas admits this is a problem.

Everything from level one and onwards in the current version of WoW is meant to catapult players to the endgame. In vanilla WoW, players had to work for their levels and enjoy the journey. With WoW’s current design philosophy, the destination has become more important than the journey.

The leveling up process has become so banal and unsatisfying that Blizzard now offers boots to level 100. Just think for a moment what Blizzard is admitting here by offering players the chance to bypass content for a $60 fee. It’s really an admission that pre-Legion expansion content and design are sub-standard. Why else would anyone want to pay to skip zones and encounters that cost millions of dollars to create?

Elysium Project — Fresh Realm Official Release Date - YouTube
Vanilla WoW on Elysium: The Past is the Future

So what is it like playing vanilla WoW on Elysium Darrowshire PVE server?

It’s magical.

What struck me from the outset is that I had to think, plan and work in order to progress my characters. As you rise in levels mobs take skill to vanquish. You must keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings at all times. You must know your class and think strategically. Failure to do so means certain death and a long run back to your corpse as a ghost from a distant and inconvenient graveyard. I have created 4 characters and some are in the low 20’s and I have died many times.

Doing the Deadmines dungeon run surprised and shocked me with its unsuspecting difficulty. Our group died 3 times and we had a level 32 paladin tanking for us.

Gear matters. Upgrading your skills at the trainer matters too. Tradeskills matter as well as they can provide you things that will give you a slight edge: bandages to heal, food to eat, liquids to drink and good gear as well.  Beware, only a fool will leave town with no food or drink. All these things matter because the world of Azeroth in 2004 was harsh and unforgiving. The more you play, the more you want to play. This is how a MMO should be!

What is even more unexpected is that players are constantly looking for groups (LFG). Even at level 5 players were banding together in caves to complete quest objectives. Players are talking to each other in general channels and even being polite. This is unheard of in Legion. There is a real sense of community in Elysium!

Elite mobs can be found in many zones and players must group up to defeat them. Danger lurks around every corner and behind every tree in vanilla WoW and that is completely missing from Legion.

The classes are all unique and have distinct roles. This is a big contrast to the “all classes must be equal” design philosophy that seems to end up watering down many MMORPGs. Leveling up a warrior is not easy as I have found out and that is how it should be as the warrior is class made to be a great tank not an all things to all people class.

While vanilla WoW was truly revolutionary in its attention to detail and with its superior polish, there’s also a tangible feeling of restraint and seriousness in vanilla WoW compared to WoW Legion. There are no dungeon finders, no raid finders, no pet battles, no heirloom loot, no motorcycles and no flying mounts.

After years of criticizing the design of WoW, I am astonished at how good it actually was back in 2004-2006. Vanilla WoW achieved near perfection of MMO design because of the synergistic and complementary nature of all the elements of its gameplay.

The Shadow of EverQuest

What has really struck me about vanilla WoW is how remarkably challenging it is across the board. Playing vanilla WoW for even a few minutes makes you realize that the WoW developers were big fans of EverQuest — the hardcore MMORPG that is the inspiration for WoW. Vanilla WoW is infused with a reverence and respect for challenge throughout.

Another realization I would like to share is that in vanilla WoW, the fantastical world of Azeroth really is the star of the show. As a player, you feel small and insignificant. Even the gigantic trees dwarf you. Feeling weak and helpless versus the world gives the player a reason to go forth in the world to remedy that imbalance and start a journey of adventure and discovery. This feeling of smallness and insignificance creates an existential imperative within the virtual world that challenges the player to walk down a path of advancement where they must learn and grow to survive and thrive.

Everyone who falls under the spell of vanilla WoW is on a journey from zero to possible hero. Where you go and how you go is all up to you. This is how a great fantasy MMORPG should be. Everything about vanilla WoW — from the masterful art to the satisfying animations — is designed to immerse and seduce the player into a deeper relationship with the world itself. Hopefully along the way, you’ll meet other players just like yourself.

Giving Props to Meaningful PVP

While I am not a fan of PVP, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the quality of vanilla WoW PVP is a big reason for the popularity of legacy vanilla servers. There are currently 3 PVP servers and one PVE server.

The PVP experience of vanilla WoW is in such demand that there are astronomically long queues just to log in. Recently Elysium devs recently had to create an additional server to satisfy this demand.

A Challenge to the Current WoW Team

I would like to challenge Ion Hazzikostas, Alex Afrasiabi, J. Allen Brack and anyone else on the WoW team that still cares about what made WoW great to spend a just one week playing on the Elysium server. If you work on WoW at Blizzard you really owe it to yourself to do this. No words can adequately express the feelings I have been experiencing these past two weeks.

The first time you enter zones like Elwynn Forest, Tirisfal Glades, Mulgore or Westfall — the list is endless — will leave you breathless. Experiencing a magical world that is full of challenge, danger and wonder at the same time will blow you away. Seeing players bustling about in towns, cities and in the wilds and actually using chat channels to form groups will put a smile on your face if not melt your heart.

Please Blizzard, just do this. If you do, you’ll understand immediately why millions of MMMO players have returned to vanilla WoW.

Conclusion

World of Warcraft in its original state is an unequalled masterpiece of virtual world design. I would go even as far as to say that vanilla WoW is national and international treasure — it’s just that good. What the legacy server movement is doing is equivalent to what the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. is doing: the noble work of preservation of our history and our culture. Virtual worlds that have been abandoned are important parts of our culture too and they need to be preserved and sustained in some way.

What is so remarkable is that it took the dedication of the true fans to finally bring vanilla WoW back to the masses. All along, the diehard fans who volunteered to bring a pristine version of Azeroth back to life have been the true keepers of the flame. They are the real heroes of Azeroth. To them, I and many others are eternally grateful for the great privilege that being able to play vanilla WoW on a legacy server.

The shutdown of Nostalrious by a cease and desist letter from the Blizzard legal department was the biggest story of the MMO world in 2016. It showed to the world that the fans care far more about WoW than the suits at Blizzard. The fate of legacy servers was on everyone’s mind at the recent BlizzCon in 2016 but nobody was allowed to talk about it at Blizzard and the fans were prevented from asking questions about it as the questioners at the Q&A panel were all pre-screened.

The rising popularity of legacy servers shows that millions of players are craving an authentic WoW experience. Today the only place you can truly experience Azeroth the way it was meant to be is by playing on legacy servers such as Elysium.

I believe that Blizzard Entertainment needs to do everything they can to preserve and honor vanilla WoW. If Blizzard has millions of dollars to spend on prizes for e-sports, then surely they have resources to offer vanilla WoW servers to their fans.

WoW has made a cultural impact on the world that goes far beyond anything they could have dreamed of. WoW is so ubiquitous that it has transcended the prison of intellectual property — at least in its pristine form — and belongs to the gamers of the world. Azeroth, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth exists in the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world and fans who create non-profit recreations and variants of such works should be free to do so, unhindered by the law. I really hope that Blizzard have the decency and humility to restrain their legal appetite for protecting their intellectual property and channel that energy into protecting the sanctity of Azeroth instead.

Blizzard, please do the right thing and find some way to officially preserve the integrity and authenticity of the virtual world of Azeroth circa 2004-2006. If not, then at least leave the WoW vanilla server community alone. What they have done be recreating vanilla WoW servers hurts no one and is in fact a respectful tribute and homage to the genius of the talented people at Blizzard who created this phenomenon in the first place.

-Wolfshead

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Is EverQuest and those who worked on the franchise cursed? I’m starting to think so. It seems no matter how hard those in charge of EverQuest try, they just can’t seem to do anything worthwhile with the franchise. Where are all those amazing virtual worlds created by those that have worked on EverQuest over the years? Nowhere to be found.

The notion that the success of EverQuest was a fluke crosses my mind more and more these days.

In 2016 Daybreak Games announced that they had cancelled EverQuest Next. And now the final act in the EverQuest Next long and tortured comedy of errors is about to transpire as Daybreak Games announced last week that Landmark will be closing.

Feldon at EQ2Wire has penned an an exceptionally detailed and well-researched article about the downfall of EQ Next and Landmark that sheds a lot of light into the chronic dysfunction and rampant stupidity that plagued SOE.

While reading his article, it quickly becomes evident that Dave Georgeson was a central figure in the downfall of EQ Next and Landmark — a Minecraft like spin off from EQ Next.

Feldon’s piece is a treasure trove of expert analysis. It reveals many things about what happened behind the scenes at SOE during the pre-production and development of EQ Next. Much of the insight is provided courtesy of ex-SOE employees who posted on the Fires of Heaven forums and the author himself. After reading the article, one cannot deny that SOE was continually plagued by poor leadership and mismanagement.

At the center of SOE and the EverQuest franchise is John Smedley. John Smedley will always earn my respect for having the drive and will to assemble the team at Verant Interactive that created the original EverQuest.  However, you can only survive on past glory for so long. In John’s case, his past glory bank account has been overdrawn for far too many years.

Throughout it all Smedley was in charge and the buck stops with him. He is the one that drove the franchise into the ground. It was he that hired the talent and signed off on the direction of EverQuest Next. It was he that mismanaged and bungled EQ Next and the entire EQ franchise. It was Smedley who hired Georgeson and allowed him to destroy EQNext and turn it into Landmark. As I have noted in a previous article, the EQ franchise could have been as big as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft franchise if it was managed properly but it wasn’t.

One particular nugget of info in the article is that apparently SOE refused to listen to their own employees and instead deferred to outsiders and recent 38 Studios hires. One egregious example of this is the Disneyesque character animations that were hated by most fans:

Feedback from the existing EverQuest and EverQuest II teams was largely ignored. Instead, credence was primarily given to outside feedback from recently laid off 38 Studios staff and other outsiders in the industry. 38 Studios staffers in particular encouraged the exaggerated Disney character style.

Reading this made my blood boil. The people responsible for this outrage should NEVER have anything do with EverQuest ever again or any other MMO for that matter. The 38 Studios debacle is a gift that keeps on giving — more like a deadly plague to be honest. Leave it to ex-38 Studios employees to be partially responsible for another MMO failure.

Conclusion

In 1999, a small video game studio managed to cobble together an amazing MMORPG called EverQuest that inspired Blizzard to create World of Warcraft which revolutionized the MMO genre. But since the solitary success of EQ, SOE has been unable to produce anything else that rivals that success. SOE were so utterly inept and incompetent that they were unable to learn anything from WoW. Subsequent offerings of the EQ IP such as EverQuest 2 never managed to reach the same levels of success as WoW.

The real tragedy about the mismanagement of the EverQuest franchise is how the fans have been let down and had their passion squandered by a reckless, second-rate video game studio that is out of touch with their own fan base. The only thing SOE and now Daybreak are good at are finding new ways break the hearts of their loyal players.

From the beginning all EQ fans really wanted an updated version of the original EQ with updated graphics, animations and environments. The original EverQuest — not the joke it has become now — had all the elements of a deep, challenging and cooperative fantasy virtual world that could have been polished and expanded on for EQ Next but SOE knew better and instead opted for gimmickry over substance.

Work on a new version of EverQuest started as far back as 2009 and in the process SOE wasted at least $62 million in the process on various incarnations of a new EverQuest. That is a disgrace. Give me half of that and I could re-create Norrath in EverQuest 3 and staff a company with talented and passionate people that would do justice to the legacy of EQ and the fans. The growing popularity of MMO legacy servers proves that fans are far more passionate and capable than the companies that control the franchises.

The intellectual property of EverQuest and Norrath is undisputably rich, vast and full of untapped possibilities. One would hope that Daybreak has come to their senses and is working on EverQuest 3 right now but I confess, this is probably just wishful thinking on my part.

If they are not working on EQ 3 then they should have the decency to sell the rights to a new EverQuest to a studio that has the passion and the talent to pull it off. I believe this is the only way to break the curse of EverQuest and offer a pathway of hope for the future reimagined existence of this beloved franchise. Over the years, millions of people have visited Norrath on various platforms and in various incarnations and I think Daybreak Games owes it to their long-suffering fans to pass the torch on to a new studio that will do the franchise the authenticity and respect it deserves.

-Wolfshead

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In September, the world learned that former Blizzard Chief Creative Officer Rob Pardo launched a new video game studio called Bonfire Studios. Pardo’s biggest claim to fame which earned him a spot-on TIME Magazine’s 100 influential people of 2006 was that he was the prime architect of the record shattering MMORPG: World of Warcraft.

Pardo’s success with WoW granted him luminary status in the video game industry. As a frequent speaker in the video game conference circuit, people listen to what he has to say, even the BBC. Recently he told them that he believes that e-sports should be an Olympic sport. It’s now clear that Rob was one of the prime proponents of Blizzard’s initiative in e-sports.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Rob’s journey from mere game designer on Starcraft to entertainment visionary. But this journey is far from over. Rob left Blizzard in 2014. When people leave a video game studio the real reasons for their departure are rarely — if ever — made public.

Perhaps he was fed up with him and Blizzard being relentlessly attacked by social justice warriors who seek to intimidate video game developers in order to advance their progressive political agenda. Maybe he was horrified by Blizzard’s capitulation to those attacks. It could be that he was worried about the general direction of Blizzard. Perhaps it was the failure of Titan. We may never know. For whatever reason, no one can blame Rob for leaving Blizzard — a company that is barely recognizable from their 2004 incarnation.

In an industry where creativity is paramount, the creative spirit must be unhindered and unhampered and I sense Rob wasn’t able to be true to himself by remaining with Blizzard. You don’t hang around for long when you are unhappy, underappreciated or when the culture of the studio goes downhill. Rob’s track record and pedigree affords him the rare freedom to do as he wishes, so the creation of Bonfire Studios seems like a natural move.

I’ve spent many years analyzing Blizzard through the lens of virtual worlds and MMORPGs. The incarnation of Blizzard that made the greatest impression on me was the Blizzard from 2000 up until the Wrath of the Lich King expansion released in 2008. This is the era where Rob Pardo’s influence on WoW reached its apogee.

The Blizzard of today is not the same Blizzard I used to know. Many of the employee reviews on Glassdoor testify to this. I believe Blizzard’s best days are behind them. The company has gradually changed and morphed into another large global corporation. Given these changes, there has been an exodus of talented people departing Blizzard and it’s hard to believe that Rob Pardo didn’t leave earlier.

The Evangelist of the Blizzard Formula

With World of Warcraft and the leadership of Pardo, the Irvine California based Blizzard took an niche online video game genre called massively multiplayer online role playing games and turned it into a blockbuster success with millions of subscribers worldwide. This amazing feat was no accident. It was the result of Pardo’s will and the implementation of the Blizzard formula.

The unparalleled success of WoW shocked everyone. WoW was so breathtaking and polished that made older MMOs like EverQuest look pitiful in comparison. At the time, everyone in the industry desperately wanted to know the secret of Blizzard’s success with WoW.

Eventually, the Blizzard formula was finally revealed by Rob Pardo in 2006 at the Austin Game Conference, It encompasses a myriad of values and philosophies that are too vast to explain for the purposes of this article. However, the main gist of the formula is that they find niche video games, take the best features from them, trim off non-essential features, throw in a lot of refinement and polish with the result being something new and accessible to a wide demographic.

The Blizzard formula also relies heavily on a philosophy of on-boarding newbies and accessibility via refined gameplay that gives appropriate challenges to players who have different skill levels and time commitments.

Lastly, the Blizzard formula is also about execution. Blizzard generally does not release their games until they are perfect — at least that is what they used to do. They could do this because Blizzard was its own publisher which is something that was and still is truly rare in the video game industry. Sadly this is not the case with most video game studios who are contracted by publishers who routinely release games before they are done in order to satisfy the financial bottom line.

Over the years at various design conferences, Rob Pardo has been the main evangelist of the Blizzard formula.

Rob Pardo’s Legacy on the MMO Genre

Once you get beyond the profits, the accolades and the fame, those of us who love MMORPGs need to stare reality in the face: the success of Blizzard’s formula under Rob Pardo’s stewardship has come at a great cost. A cost that the video games media refuses to acknowledge, investigate and discuss lest they lose their precious access to Blizzard at their various trade shows and conventions. With WoW, Blizzard took a niche genre which that had a vibrant in-game community of gamers and created genre that over the years all but eliminated the need for social contact and cooperation within their game.

This was in striking contrast to the cooperative gameplay found in the first 3D virtual world of EverQuest where players would play classes that were purposefully designed to be interdependent and complementary with each other. The genius of EverQuest was that it created a virtual world where players needed each other to survive and thrive. This interdependency created a remarkable synergy of combat effectiveness which created a deep level of social cohesion and bonding that no other video game genre has ever managed to create or replicate since.

With WoW, Blizzard foolishly and recklessly ignored the importance of community in EverQuest and gutted most design mechanics in favor of creating a solo-friendly “everyone is welcome” amusement park MMO.

Today MMORPGs epitomized by WoW, have become anti-social, soulless, single-player video games where players solo to the level cap and complete a series of unending quests all connected by a grand storytelling narrative. Other players that you meet while playing WoW are just more sophisticated NPCs and are essentially fellow theme park visitors you meet while you line up for the attraction — you don’t know them and they’ll never get to know you.

The personal freedom and autonomy of sandbox virtual worlds where players create their own stories and memories has vanished from the MMO genre.

The Decline of the MMO Player

Nobody dares to talk about how the quality of MMO players has deteriorated since the advent of WoW but I will.

The most important and regrettably ignored characteristic of a MMO and a virtual world is not the world itself but the players that inhabit that world. Players are content.

Without players MMOs are lifeless and meaningless. Accomplishments would mean very little without other players to share them with and compare them to. Great schools create great students and future leaders of the world. Great MMOs create great players that enrich the virtual worlds they inhabit. Conversely, bad MMOs create bad players.

After years of MMO devs pandering to players and giving into their every desire and whim, the quality of the MMO player base has also become a casualty of thoughtless, profit driven design. Players have become more uncaring, detached, selfish, self-absorbed, anti-social and narcissistic in the process. It’s all about me instead of we. Who can blame them? Each MMO gets the community they deserve by virtue of how they are designed and also by eliminating barriers to entry that attract people of lower caliber. When players have no need for other players they power and independence they gain makes them arrogant and even mean. Just check out Trade Chat on any WoW server for evidence of this.

Imagine going into a restaurant that has a great ambience and great food only to find that the patrons at the table are rude, loud and obnoxious. Despite the quality of the food and the surroundings you would not want to patronize a restaurant like this. This is a metaphor that explains the current situation with WoW.

The Root of All Evil

The sobering reality of the video game business is that companies make videos games to make money. Many design decisions in WoW were based more on creating accessible game play with the intent of attracting more subscribers than they were for the good of the game, the health of the MMO and the community that plays them.

What happened to WoW was not unintended consequences, rather it was done with full knowledge of what would happen. Their conscious decision to put profits over gameplay is the biggest tragedy of WoW and Blizzard’s biggest failing. The popularity of WoW legacy servers like Nostalrius confirms this because even vanilla WoW featured far more challenge and social interdependence than the current version of WoW.

Ex-Blizzard WoW Design Lead Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street who left Blizzard to work for Riot Games on League of Legends pretty much admits this an interview on Twitter:

Do you ever regret opening the game up to be more casual? Instead of taking the kind of direction you are with league?

Greg Street: Different approaches work for different products, and I don’t want to second guess the WoW team. Let’s just say that after working on Age of Empires and World of Warcraft for a total of 16 years, it’s really refreshing to work on a game where I don’t have to worry whether someone’s grandmother can pick it up or not.

That quote by an ex-WoW developer really says it all about the deep seated-truth about Blizzard’s intentions all along: it’s about money.

Seeing the success of WoW, most if not all of the MMO industry became seduced by the profit potential and followed suit by producing WoW clones with disastrous failure after failure. The utter dominance of Blizzard’s WoW in the genre has stifled competition in that it’s almost impossible to raise funds from investors for new and original MMOs.

The Buck Stops with Blizzard

There can be no doubt that Rob Pardo who lead the WoW dev team bears much of the responsibility for the current state of the MMO genre today. To their credit some WoW devs like Alex Afrasiabi have occasionally acknowledged that the social component of WoW has deteriorated but nothing has changed to remedy the problem.

To my knowledge, Pardo has never apologized for the carnage his Frankenstein monster perpetrated on the MMO genre. At the Unite 2015 Fireside Chat Q&Q — 15 years after WoW was conceived — he is still on record defending the terrible decision to have instanced dungeons in WoW.

Unite 2015 - Fireside Chat and Q&A with Rob Pardo: Making games in an evolving industry - YouTube

I believe the wholesale replacement of community dungeons with instancing was one of the biggest design mistakes ever perpetrated on the MMO genre because among other things, it devalued the social and community component of dungeons where players would hang out together and get to know each other. It also removed important design tenets of competition, scarcity and the drama and conflict that ensues that makes virtual worlds come alive.

Rob’s Embarks on a Journey of Redemption

In the past two years since Rob left Blizzard and embarked on his sabbatical from the industry.  I have to believe that Rob has done a lot of reflection on his legacy.

In 2015 he became an advisor for Unity and is now an evangelist for more multiplayer friendly video games.

Unity’s Rob Pardo describes the future of multiplayer

After all these years does Rob Pardo finally get it?

Perhaps. Bonfire Studios could be a portent that Pardo has taken the first steps on his journey of redemption.

If we look at the mission statement of Pardo’s Bonfire Studios we see perhaps a hint that perhaps he is remorseful for how WoW all but removed social aspect of MMORPGs:

Our purpose is to build friendships by creating legendary game experiences that bring players closer together, united in a sense of adventure, exploration and fellowship.

This slogan is bold and refreshing. It’s almost the inverse of Blizzard’s WoW philosophy where players are secondary to the epic narrative. Finally, we gave a video game studio that understands the transformative capability of video games to bring people together. If only Blizzard had adopted this philosophy when making WoW. What a different world Azeroth would be.

However, these are still just words in an industry rife with hype and talking points, so of course I am skeptical.

While there are many good and talented people in the industry, it also has its share of talent-less hacks, egotistical bastards, shady characters and snake oil salesmen. The video game industry is much like the music business — both seen as glamorous by the public. As Andy Summers guitarist of rock group The Police once remarked: “The music industry has a high asshole quotient”. I believe the same is true of the video game industry.

Every day new studios are formed and dubious Kickstarter campaigns are launched. Most new video game companies fail. Even ones started by ex-Blizzard employees. Caveat emptor.

The Importance of Community

As a long-time observer of Blizzard, I have never seen the importance of the social component of video games mentioned in any of their design presentations. Communities don’t spring up by magic, they are created by purposeful design.

Authentic community never really mattered to Blizzard and it shows. Somehow they just assumed that a great community would just magically appear within their world of Azeroth. Sadly, it did not. Blizzard always talked a good game and payed the notion of “community” lip service at their annual BlizzCon gamer conventions which is the only manifestation of community available to them. But the only community that matters is within the gameworld itself, not the pseudo community of BlizzCon gatherings, message forms, Twitter or Facebook.

We should never trust the video game industry when they indulge in virtue signalling as they exalt the virtues of community and social interaction. The rise and fall of gamification and “social games” fads on Facebook teaches us that the industry cares little for authentic social interaction and community. To them community is a means to an end. Community only matters if can increase their profits.

Video game companies with the budget and resources of Blizzard should be ensuring that more of their design is done because it’s the right thing to do. Design decisions should be made primarily for a better game and a better play experience — and not just because it increases their subscriber base. For once it would be nice to see a video game that puts the integrity of the game over profits.

Reboot Your Mindset

In the past I have given advice to new MMO designers that the only way they will ever make something new and original is to forget everything they know about WoW. WoW has corrupted the hearts and minds of so many designers that the only way to be free of it’s influence is to stop playing it entirely. Leaving WoW is like leaving an abusive relationship or a cult; it’s not easy and takes courage.

My advice to Rob Pardo and every other top Blizzard developer who used to play EverQuest and cared about this genre is this: play Project 1999 for a few months. Yes, you can go back in time and experience the magic of EverQuest on an emulated legacy server. You can go back to your roots and see what a real fantasy virtual world is like and experience the joy of community based gameplay based on class interdependency.

Conclusion

In my eyes, Rob Pardo’s virtual world legacy is a double-edged sword. To me he will be always be part villain and part hero. Part villain for removing the community from the MMO genre and part hero for introducing a high-level of polish and refinement that exposed the MMO genre to new audiences.

Back in 2014 when reflecting on the impact of 10 years of World of Warcraft, veteran MMO developer and author Raph Koster closed his insightful article with this chilling and sobering thought:

Its influence is such that it now defines the genre it refined. It is the best Diku ever made; the best combat MMO ever made; the thing to which everything like it will ever after be compared. World of Warcraft effectively made MMOs perfect, and in the process, it killed them.

This is a serious indictment and Rob Pardo — the mastermind behind WoW — is guilty as charged. Whatever gains were made in MMO production, artistry, combat and technology have been dwarfed by the losses incurred to the genre. Purposely killing off the community in MMOs and indirectly stifling development of other MMOs is nothing to be proud of.

Blizzard with all their untold resources could have easily created another MMO that learned from the mistakes of WoW and once again reintroduced community building design mechanics into the MMO zeitgeist but they chose not to. Blizzard is now obsessed with an unhealthy philosophy that every product they create must be a blockbuster with mass market appeal. Blizzard would rather serve us Big Macs than Wagyu beef.

It is my sincere wish that someday Rob Pardo exhibits the decency to acknowledge the cost of the success that the dominance of World of Warcraft incurred on the virtual world genre. Truth matters. Now that Pardo is no longer with Blizzard he can speak truth to power just as others who have left are starting to come clean. His admission would be a powerful gesture that could lay the groundwork for future MMOs to pick up the torch and build on the legacy of community based virtual worlds like EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies that existed before the WoW juggernaut. Until that day comes and it may never come, Rob’s actions will speak louder than his words.

Even with all my doubts and reservations, I do take Rob Pardo at his word and admire him for spearheading the first video game studio that has a mission statement that strives to value, design and promote of the social aspect of video games. It’s refreshing that Rob and his team understand the importance of small teams and creating a culture that values collaboration and creativity free from the bureaucracy and meddling and of upper level management.

For the creative spirit to thrive it needs to operate without constraints. The very best art is made by the artist to please himself. To me this is what Blizzard used to be all about. So I firmly hope that Bonfire Studios will resist the temptation to capitulate to external forces that seek to change art & entertainment for indoctrination and propaganda purposes. They could actually become revolutionaries by making games for actual gamers again. I wish Rob Pardo and his team at Bonfire Studios the best of luck.

-Wolfshead

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As the month of November approached, I got to reminiscing about BlizzCon. For those of us that loved World of Warcraft and used to play it, the yearly BlizzCon event held by Blizzard was an obligatory annual MMORPG pilgrimage. Even long after I stopped playing, I would pay the $40 for the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket just to see the Blizzard artists and designers talk about their craft and a genre I love.

This year I was seriously contemplating purchasing the BlizzCon 2016 PPV event dubbed by Blizzard as a cerebration of epic games and an epic community. But after reading reports that many of the World of Warcraft panels would not be live-streamed, I declined. After watching the opening ceremony and some of the panels on YouTube I am glad I didn’t waste my money. The BlizzCon that I was hoping would rekindle my passion for WoW wasn’t the BlizzCon I remembered.

In the early days of BlizzCon, the fare was mostly about WoW. But the BlizzCon of today is all about e-sports and the MMO component of the BlizzCon schedule was just too sparse for me to pay the price of admission.

Blizzard: the ESPN of Video Games

For years, Blizzard’s master plan for world domination was to for them to be the ESPN of e-sports with BlizzCon as the showcase. In a way BlizzCon, is an annual Olympiad of e-sports for Blizzard games with millions of dollars in prizes awarded. One wonders if this gambit will pay off as it was recently noted that millennials are watching less televised sports events.

The ESPN vibe was felt throughout as Mike Morhaime’s opening ceremony speech was peppered with video clips of players competing with each other serenaded by the high decibel histrionics of sportscaster-like barking play by play commentary. Even the BlizzCon 2016 logo has a Super Bowl vibe.

As a MMO gamer, writer and video game designer, e-sports is not something I care about and it all very felt foreign to me.

Unfortunate Virtue Signalling

Morhaime closed his speech with corporate virtue signalling about gamers and community. He used the phrase “be good to each other”. The irony of this statement for a company that creates videos games that encourage players to express themselves in-game by committing acts of extreme violence on each other is precious indeed. This phrase is a reference to the latest moral panic called online bullying.

In recent years, a false narrative that gamers are bullying other gamers has been concocted by social justice warriors and propped up by various spineless video game companies who care more about political correctness than they do the actual gamers who buy their games. Frank Pearce who gave a speech about Diablo also used the term.

By continuing to beat the anti-bullying drum, Blizzard is perpetuating an innacurate stereotype about gamers. For a video game company that has done all they can to eliminate social interaction and cooperation between players in WoW to earn more profits, this is the height of hypocrisy.

Instead of uttering shallow platitudes that are simply attempts to immunize themselves from the ire of progressives, Blizzard should be creating game worlds with mechanics that reward cooperation and penalize anti-social behavior. But in the end profits and their e-sports fetish are more important than good design philosophy. Actions speak louder than words Blizzard.

Can Ion Hazzikostas Make Azeroth Great Again?

As I experienced BlizzCon 2016 via YouTube videos, one shining light at BlizzCon was Ion Hazzikostas who took the stage at the first WoW event of day. This was his first BlizzCon at the helm of WoW and he impressed me. For a D.C. lawyer that was the leader of the Elitist Jerks guild in WoW — they hosted a popular theory crafting website — he’s come a long way from being hired as a game designer. In his “World of Warcraft Legion: What’s Next?” speech he talked about MMOs in a way that nobody at Blizzard has ever talked about them before.

Here’s an excerpt from his speech courtesy of BlizzPlanet:

Next, we really want to double down on one of the magical things about the MMORPG genre. The fact that it’s a persistent online world where things are happening when you’re not necessarily around. It’s a world that’s growing. It’s a world that’s evolving and we want to really create this sense and instill this sense of a living world where you don’t necessarily know exactly what’s going to happen when you log in every day.

Obviously, you don’t know exactly what world quests or emissaries are going to be up, but there could also be random holidays, different events, things that are changing not just through patches but through just a scheduled unfurled content that make this a dynamic of all the living world…

Finally, there is someone at Blizzard who understands and values the design concept of persistence. Finally, there is someone at Blizzard who cares about making Azeroth into a dynamic living word where players can expect the unexpected. These are the design ideals that have been missing from WoW for far too long under the helm of Tom Chilton and others. Who would ever have thought that a person who made their bones on theory crafting would have the thoughtfulness and vision to care about bringing these values into the WoW bloodstream?

Hazzikostas showed great depth and understanding of what fantasy virtual world are about and what they should aspire to be about. I will also be watching to see if he implements this philosophy and the lessons learned from the Nostalrious legacy servers. What I saw gave me great hope that under Ion’s leadership Azeroth can be great again.

The WoW Question and Answer Panel Dog and Pony Show

The WoW Question and Answer panel held on Saturday was cringe worthy and disappointing. Blizzard (most likely J. Allan Brack) decided that WoW Trade Chat personality Panser — a bubbly and quirky YouTube e-celeb — would be the host. This was the first year that they’ve had someone host the panel. It soon became clear to why they chose this route: Blizzard loves to control the narrative.

Her purpose was to preside over a dog and pony show as all the questions were pre-screened in advance. It was quite evident that she had the names of the questioners and their questions all printed out in her hands so Blizzard knew exactly what the questions were beforehand. The deception was so obvious that at one point in the panel, a questioner failed to show up and Panser went ahead and read the question anyways.

In previous years, every Q & A session was unscripted but not this time. This was done for two reasons: 1) to avoid any Nostalrius supporters asking Blizzard about legacy servers  2) to prevent social justice warriors from asking questions about the inclusion of gay or transgender characters in WoW.

Executive WoW Produced J. Allen Brack — the Blizzard villain in the Nostalrius saga — was on the stage as a panelist and given the fact that all the questions were pre-screened to ensure that no embarrasing questions would be asked, it’s pretty obvious as to why he look so confident and comfortable: he knew that no embarrassing questions would be forthcoming.

Most of the Blizzard pre-selected questions were silly and inane. Like a uber boss showing up after the trash mobs are cleared, the famous Red Shirt Guy made his annual appearance with a question designed to stump the lore guy Alex Afrasiabi. This time Alex was ready for him and the uber boss went down to defeat with no ensuing YouTube moment to go viral.

The 2016 version of the WoW Q & A was a low point for BlizzCon that left a bad taste in my mouth. It made WoW fans look petty, shallow and ridiculous when many of them are highly intelligent, thoughtful and care about the genre. Of course, those fans weren’t allowed to ask questions. Even the Red Shirt Guy couldn’t save the panel this year.

The Shadow of Nostalrius

There can be no doubt that the shadow of Nostalrious loomed large over BlizzCon 2016. A week before, Blizzard let it be known that there would be no announcement regarding the establishment of official legacy WoW servers. This was a mistake and a cop out. Even if there weren’t quite ready to announce the availability of legacy servers, they could have at least publicly acknowledged the passion of the near million Nostalrious players and numerous supporters in the world.

Many anxious Nostalrious fans were leaving tweets on Twitter asking about legacy servers and they were ignored. So much for community, so much for the fans that Blizzard claims they care about. It seems they are only important when they fit the Blizzard narrative.

Since the shutdown of the Nostalrious server, world-wide outrage and protest prompted Blizzard to invite the members of the Nostalrious team to Blizzard headquarters in Irvine for a conversation. The Nostalrious team worked hard at creating post-mortem documentation that detailed every aspect of the operation. It was impressive. Yet 4 months after the meeting Blizzard had failed to reach out to them and take them seriously. Despite that snub, the Nostalrius team went above and beyond the call of duty and offered to help Blizzard implement solutions that would integrate legacy servers with Battlenet and then some.

After BlizzCon 2016 ended without any gesture of acknowledgement from Blizzard, the admins of Nostalrious finally had enough and made an announcement and explained their situation and future plans in a post:

After the meeting with Blizzard, we continued to reach out regarding the issues they raised in order to help them as much as possible and to speed up the process of an official release. Trust us, we were ready to work like hell on that, even more than before in order to help WoW team. But we never received any response to these questions, even after 4 months. Then, we tried to show our motivation to solve the issues from a different angle by working on mature proposals (studies, cost analysis, schedules, milestones, etc.), including a complete transfer of technology of our existing work, fixing the few remaining issues we had, official Battle.Net integration on Legacy to enhance community driven strategy and other more complex IT topics, all of this on a volunteer basis. Why? Our only goal was to nullify as much as possible the impact of Legacy on the WoW team so that everyone could be pleased with the result. We knew that having even a single person from the current WoW Team working on Legacy might not be seen in a positive light by the Legion community, something we understand. Sadly, we never received any answers to these proposals either….

…So, it’s time for us to release our source code and additional tools to the community in the hope that it will maintain the Legacy community as much as possible until Blizzard announces an official Legacy plan – should they decide to do that.

I support the Nostalrious team 100% with their decision to release the source code to the public.

After years of design malpractice and endless tinkering, the WoW MMO experience has been greatly diminished. Blizzard has only themselves to blame for what has happened here. Their failure to implement legacy servers is a knee to the groin to the millions of WoW fans who loved and cherished the gameplay found in the vanilla WoW. The Nostalrious team and their community have my utmost respect because are the ones that are carrying the torch for the franchise not Blizzard who seem to exude arrogance and contempt.

Conclusion

This year was the first BlizzCon without Chris Metzen who recently departed the hallowed halls at Blizzard. In many ways, the mercurial Metzen was the creative and spiritual force behind so much of Blizzard. Like Steve Jobs was the face of Apple, over time Metzen came to be the face of Blizzard. Without Chris’s presence, BlizzCon 2016 seemed like a shadow of its former self. It’s like Van Halen without David Lee Roth — Van Halen in name only.

As Blizzard seeks to dominate the video game world, BlizzCon 2016 left me with the feeling that they don’t see MMOs as the future anymore. As e-sports gets all their attention, MMOs seem like an afterthought. Their spectacular failure to create a new MMO (project Titan) has permanently scarred them and they are only too happy to distance themselves from the genre and focus on trendier genres that cost less to produce.

With WoW occupying a smaller percentage of BlizzCon content, there seems to be fewer reasons for WoW fans to attend in person and subscribe to the pricey BlizzCon virtual ticket that skews heavily in favor of e-sports content. As a MMO fan, I’m not really interested in their e-sports fare or any other games that Blizzard produces other than WoW. If the current trend persists the lack of coverage for WoW at BlizzCon will only get worse in the future. The e-sports bias is so overwhelming is that all the e-sports segments broadcast at BlizzCon 2016 are free to watch but most panels and interviews are only available if you pay the fee for the virtual ticket. This is just more evidence that Blizzard is pushing their e-sports agenda hard. E-sports or nothing.

For years, both WoW and BlizzCon were symbiotic and synonymous with each other. Those days are gone. Over the years, both have deteriorated to the point that they are unrecognizable to those that played and attended their earlier incarnations. BlizzCon has changed because Blizzard has changed.

The changes started with Activision’s acquisition of Blizzard. The changes continued with the ill-conceived Cataclysm expansion created by the inexperienced Blizzard “B” team while the veteran “A” team was off trying to make Project Titan. These two tragic choices brought us to the Blizzard of today.

To put it all in perspective, we need to acknowledge that the e-sports focused Blizzard of today would never have been possible without WoW and the support of the thousands of dutiful WoW fans that come to Anaheim to pay to celebrate their beloved MMO. Similarly, the unparalleled success of WoW subsidized and financed the Blizzard 2.0 we see today.

I see no reason why World of Warcraft does not deserve its own yearly event hosted by Blizzard; it certainly has enough fans and a large enough community and subscriber base to support it. But this will never happen because on the road to world domination, Blizzard has lost its way. They started caring more about making money then making great games. That is the moral of the Nostalrious story that Blizzard would do well to contemplate.

-Wolfshead

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