Friday 24 June 2011

Eve: Free Helicity Boson

One of the wonderful things about Eve is that it is a sandbox where anything can happen. Most of what makes the game remarkable is down to the imaginative and innovative players this game often attracts.

One of the more controversial events is Hulkageddon a regular festival of suicide ganking when honest miners avoid undocking and bots die in droves.

The organiser until now has been Helicity Boson; the event also has sparked a carebear response called Griefergeddon organised by Mechanoid Kryten. She was interviewed on No Prisoners No Mercy recently .

Regardless of which side you take in these bun fights they are a perfect example of emergent player conflict and add depth colour and complexity to Eve. Helicity is also a member of the Python Cartel, a number of whom have added their own take on Eve to the blogosphere.

Helicity was permabanned today after he was involved in the leak of a CCP internal newsletter to the public and was rude to CCP staff on the forums. His take on it is here.

Eve is a game played by an adult community with intense and aggressive gameplay. It's a pvp game. Emotions run high. It also has a culture of strong language - the Bozocast podcast was on the extreme far end of NSFW but it's funny and lively. Scrapheap/Failheap Challenge, the Goons they all believe in explicit language. That's the culture, that's the community.

Banning Helicity for expressing anger in the language of gamers is just not right. People should be able to use moderately strong language. There was clearly no real life danger to the member of staff and I would be astonished if he or she felt genuinely unsafe. Please post on the Eve Official boards in support of Helicity and ask for the ban to be rescinded. Then we can go back to hiding from him :-)

Eve: the rag trade

There's been a lot of controversy over the high price of the cosmetic clothing items introduced into Eve this week.

This is simply a look at the market at Jita so far. Notional values are based on one plex to 400 million isk. This isn't the case right now as in the wake of the cash shop fiasco plexes have spiked down. Cheapest sell order is currently 378m, highest buy order 373.2 million. But I'm guessing that plex will move back up to 400 million because the only downward pressure Incarna introduced was a loss of market confidence over the cash shop and it did introduce upwards pressures (the loss of the ability to be unscannable means less income from pveing in dangerous space).

Looking glass ocular implant (Right/Gold)
12000 Aurum, notional isk value 1 371 432

3 have sold so far at Jita, one per day for 1.4 billion, 1.25 billion and 901 thousand isk. The cheapest Jita sell order is 1.2b the top buy order is 901.5 thousand. I estimate they're worth 1.37 billion so it looks like people are selling them under cost. At a guess the first two sold on sell order, the third was sold to a buy order in response to the failure of this market to take off. The outrage from the player community has meant this item has not sold the way speculators expected.

I have a horse in this race - mine is sitting at 1.645 billion, a 20% markup over the nominal value against the plex. I don't expect it to sell soon but I do expect it to sell eventually. There may be some risk that CCP lowers the price in response to player rage in which case I'll take a hit.

Men's 'Sterling' Dress Shirt (olive)
3600 Aurum, notional isk value 411 430

One sold on the first day for 600m, one on the second day for 117m. Sell orders are currently a few isk under 600m, buy orders are 119.99m.

This is very overpriced. Someone can't do maths and 4 other people blindly followed him, There are 5 orders within 30 isk of each other all at around 600m, almost 150% of the notional value. As with monocles one speculator has panicked and cut his losses.

Women's 'Sterling' Dress Blouse (dust)
3200 Aurum, notional isk value 365 715

4 have sold. Day one: 100m and 385m, Day two: 275m and 357m. So generally this is selling under value. The reason may be that this is the most expensive thing you can buy with a single plex. So people may be testing the market then cashing out.

Men's 'Commando Pants' (black wax) 
3000 Aurum, notional isk value  342 858

6 have sold. Day one: 46m, 46m, 400m; Day two: 69m; Day three: 100m, 400m. Sell orders are around 400m with 8 of them on the market. Buy orders are at 69m. Again this looks like people went in then got cold feet. 3 people panicked and sold to sell orders at a huge loss.

Women's Impress' Skirt (gray)
3600 Aurum, notional isk value 411 430

5 have sold. Day one 400m and 500m. Day two 300m and 454m. Day three 456m. Cheapest sell order is 445m, highest buy order is 12m. 12 mill eh? Just a sec..... Highest buy order is 12 million and one isk.

This has mainly sold in line with what speculators would have wanted. There's one low one but it's not massively low. Maybe women's clothing is a better risk than men's.

Women's 'Sterling' Dress Blouse (platinum)
4400 Aurum, notional isk value 502 858

3 have sold. One per day for 500m, 500m, 603.4m. The last one was mine, a 20% profit over the notional value. There are no sell orders, highest buy order is... wait a sec.... 18.912m and 1 isk.

I was quite relieved this sold. The cash shop has been a flop but now all I need is for my monocle to sell and I'm substantially in profit, even if my boots never sell. I think this item is doing well because it's an awkward aurum price. It's not worth cashing in 2 aurums for but it's too dear for one aurum. It doesn't hurt that it's for female characters.

Men's 'Precision' Boots
1000 Aurum, notional isk value 114 286 

12 have sold making it the second most popular item on the Jita market. 9 sold on the first day for 60m-105.5m at an average of 91.2m; Day two 80m and 113m; Day three 50m. Lowest sell order is 112.997m, highest buy order is 40.1m. There are 19 available from sell orders.

This bodes quite well for the market. It's the cheapest item and it's been selling reasonably well. I thought this one would tank because if you speculate and have less than 2000 Aurum left this is the only thing you can do with your Aurum other than sit on them. But it looks like quite a lot of people want to goosestep in stations wearing jackboots. I shouldn't mock - if mine doesn't sell for the inflated price to which I feel entitled I may become one of them.

Women's 'Greave' Knee-Boots
2400 Aurum, notional isk value 274 286

The most popular item on the market with 15 sold. 13 sold on day one for 233m to 269.5m at an average of 235.5m. 2 sold on day two for 240m and 298m. Cheapest current sell order is 300m, highest buy order is... wait a sec... 19.6m.

People love boots. Especially women. This item is going the way speculators anticipated with a lot of interest and the market outstripping supply. It helps it that it's at a slightly awkward aurum price, not much over half an aurum. If you're buying an aurum you want to spend it all, not 69% of it. It also helps that it's women's clothing and possibly slightly kinky.

So there you go - the most popular item can never be seen by anyone else, is presumably selling to men who like dressing up in women's clothes online (as most Eve players are men) and has a hint of the dominatrix about it. People must be having more fun in their Captain's cubbyholes than I thought was possible.


Wednesday 22 June 2011

Eve: a new order in New Eden

Walking in stations

Eve Online expansion Incarna is here, the long-awaited walking in stations content patch. And you can, actually, walk in stations. Not terribly far and as yet there's no point to it. You are on your own, you by default stand before a table with various machines on that open up all the menus Eve players are used to including a ship tool. You can leave your table walk back into the hangar look around and find - a ship tool! It's the same as the one on your desk but it's in your hangar.

Movement is WASD and feels rather clunky. I guess I'll have to get used to keyboard turning again.

Action Man is here!

Most Eve players I imagine spent a couple of minutes looking around and then turned their attention elsewhere. Where, you ask? To the new wardrobe feature, a cash shop that allows you to buy very expensive cosmetic clothing. There's already been a certain amount of uproar about the prices but oddly enough not about the look. The reason I find it odd no one's mentioned the look is because it is a very Nazi look.

Goose-stepping in stations

You can have a monacle reminiscent of the Prussian Officer Corp. You can have a shirt that describes itself as olive but is very dark, reminiscent of Black Shirts. And you can set the whole thing off with a pair of jackboots.

They've been rather naughty too with some of the descriptions. The monacle strongly implies in-game advantage:

A common implant found throughout New Eden, the Looking Glass ocular implant offers vision enhancement or replacement beyond the capabilities of low-profile prosthetics. Filters, lenses, NeoCom interface, and blackbox video recorders are all standard issue with this implant.

Naturally I felt I must make my own quiet protest about this trend so I did it in a time-honoured Eve fashion - exploiting the customers.

I did this buy buying plex which are sky-rocketing on Jita but still just under 400m in more remote regions. I bought 5 and cashed them in for Aurum.

So if  400m isk buys 3500A = 114286 isk per A

Monacle (12000A) = 1 371 429 isk

Platinum Blouse (4400A) = 502 857 isk

Jackboots (1000A) = 114 286 isk

I added 20% for my trouble and listed them at Jita. The monacles are already being offered much cheaper as a wave of similar profiteers all strive to undercut each other. I'm not too worried about not being lowest, I think these will sell out later in the week.

The blouse market was empty, I'm the only seller there.

The boots have shot downwards in a vicious fury of undercutting. They are now going for less than the plex value. No doubt it will sort itself out in time and mine will eventually shift. Not much else I could have done with 1100 points.

Like all fashions this market will be heavily influenced by what players see of other players. The monacle's good because it shows up in Local, as does the blouse. But people won't really start buying them until they see other people wearing this stuff. There may be a buying frenzy soon or it may wait until walking in stations has a bit more point to it. When you can walk past other people in stations this market will spike.

Probing - just when you thought you were safe!

Another interesting little feature of this patch is that previously unscannable ships are now scannable. This has been done by introducing a cap just above unscannability. Unscannability used to be achieved by getting your sensor strength very high relative to your signature radius, in other words taking a low sig radius ship and putting ECCMs on it.

As well as the cap you can now analyse points from more probes - up to 8 with Astrometrics 5. Essentially this just makes scanning easier.

It's still going to be very difficult to scan down ECCM fit T3 cruisers but the days of afk running guristas missions with local full of hostiles are likely to end.

The effect of this cap will for the most part be more psychological than actual. I don't think many previously unscannable ships will be in all that much danger. However players will think they can't mission or rat safely and so change their patterns.

In terms of the market this means more expensive pirate ships as there will be less loyalty points generated. If you've a few bill hanging around you don't know what to do with you could do worse than turning it into Machariels.

Saturday 18 June 2011

EQ2X: Quote of the day

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of bronze and silver subs cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Fwister, 1-9 chat channel

Thanks SOE for the Gold access, it's certainly been popular.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Copyright and MMO communities

With CCP's announcement that they intend to licence apps and websites related to their product Eve Online there has been a lot of concern about who will have to pay them $99 a year to continue to operate. Other MMOs may follow of course, this is an industry where everyone watches the competition obsessively.

Let's look at some of the legal background.

1) News is not copyright. If I report here that in Eve Online Goons got blown up by some rivals that's news not a copyright violation.

2) You are allowed under fair dealing to excerpt short portions of a work for criticism or review. You are allowed to do this even if you are commercial. This is why publishers are allowed to publish books of literary or musical criticism. So if you want to talk about Eve's nullsec system you are allowed to do so. Criticism does not have to be balanced fair or objectively right. If I say Eve sucks and everyone who plays it is a massive doodoohead that's possibly defamation but certainly not copyright infringement.

3) You acquire copyright in works you create. This is legally quite fascinating. If you make up an original story set in someone else's IP who has copyright? It's a legal grey area, in other words you wouldn't know until someone goes to court over this. I wrote some derivative fiction recently and was careful to pick something public domain. In the Eve community the contents of people's blogs and software utilities are quite possibly intellectual property both of the creator and of the owner of the game. It's worth noting that MMO companies don't seem to have realised this, WoW for instance has always cheerfully stolen the best ideas of its addon community and co-opted them into the standard game.

4) There's no copyright in ideas. So if WoW took the idea of instant quest text from an addon creator they can't be sued. There can be copyright in method. If Blizzard looked at the lua script for an addon and stole the method of programming for use in WoW that's probably copyright theft. There is a defence if it's the only or the logical way to program it. So for instance if the addon were programmed in a highly idiosyncratic way, perhaps it has spelling mistakes, and Blizzard's software added later also showed the same idiosyncracies and mistakes it's fairly obviously plagiarised. If however the programming language supports one obvious way to program a particular function and an addon maker used it first then Blizzard used it, it's not plagiarism, it's just what anyone using the language would do.

5) Certain things are not normally enforced. If Eve asked for $99 from anyone who has ever mentioned them on the internet it would simply not be practical. Enforcement requires a legal process which is fairly expensive. For Blizzard to cease and desist people they've generally done so when they've been fairly sure the person is making significant income.

6) As far as I'm aware a EULA is not enforceable for actions outside the game. Although I've accepted a EULA when I play Eve I don't think it's binding on me when I'm not playing Eve.

7) Isk isn't money. You don't pay tax on isk income. For CCP to argue that sites that receive isk are commercial they would have to prove that isk is real world money which opens up a world of pain for them (for a start the Icelandic government might take it amiss that someone is operating a private mint). Performing real world services for isk is non-commercial gameplay.

8) The law around addons and apps is very sketchy. Eve for instance could be considered an addon for Windows. You have your basic Windows it's a bit dull, but by installing this software your Windows program is modified into a space game that's marginally less dull. You're still in Windows. Yet Eve doesn't need to pay a licence to Microsoft for permission to operate in Windows. So why should Evemon pay a licence to CCP for permission to operate in Eve? Very little of this has been tested in court.

9) Declaratory judgments in US law are held in the jurisdiction of whoever files the suit first. (I don't know how they work in Icelandic law). In other words if CCP sends a US citizen a Cease & Desist and he decides to fight it he can file a case in his locality and they will have to find a US legal firm to represent them and fight it near where he lives. The US also suffers from the peculiar practice of each side paying its own costs so even if they won they may have incurred more expense winning than they are able to reclaim from the defendant. (In most of the world loser pays both costs). They can outflank that by always filing a case before each c&d letter but in practice that's too expensive. People rarely fight Cease & Desist letters. It is a problem for them and a possible workaround for the players. If I don't fancy fighting a court case against them in the UK where they'd probably win I can ask my guildie who lives in a remote Chinese village to host my opinions on his blog for me. Good luck finding a law firm in Tibet, CCP!

10) Most law falls under one of two types: civil and criminal. Criminal law deals with that which is morally wrong. Civil law which would apply to most of the situations here usually looks only at monetary gain and loss. So if I make an addon that is adjudged a violation of CCP's intellectual property the court would look at how much money I made. If I made something like £2.50 the judge would be really pissed off that he had to spend an afternoon sorting this out and could refuse to award costs to CCP. So they might spend £10,000 to claim £2.50 from me. If I made more but offered a reasonable settlement then the judge would also take a dim view of them forcing a court case when there could have been a settlement. Say I made £250. They sue me. I offer to settle for £150 and they tell me to get stuffed, they want their day in court. The judge would feel they should have accepted, it costs a lot of taxpayer money to run a court service and it's not for egomaniacs to prance about in. So effectively because this is civil law you can generally buy your way out. "Sorry, have some money" isn't acceptable in murder cases any more but it should still be good for commercial copyright infringements.

Patent infringements are even worse from an operational point of view. The alleged infringer can choose the jurisdiction and venue.

Conclusion: This is what I think will happen.

- most likely of all is that CCP will to some extent back down in the face of player outrage.

- if they don't several prominent apps and fansites will simply close well before getting any cease & desist letter. They won't want the hassle and stress of possibly getting sued.

- nothing will ever reach a court. If it does CCP would probably lose unless they tackled the most blatantly commercial of sites. I would have loved to have seen more of the Blizzard cases go to court as I think they would have lost several of them. The two most famous court cases involved absolutely blatant abuse and even then Blizzard are only clear winners in one of them. They won against Scapegaming who were charging for a private WoW server (well duh). They lost the copyright part of their appeal against Glider, a bot program, but were saved by the DCMA (a catchall Act that makes almost everything online illegal). In both cases there is a common sense moral case for the game developer, one was clear piracy, the other cheating. It's much less clear that something like Evemon violates the public good which is an aspect judges consider. You see courts don't really work like games, nor even like TV court dramas. The judge applies his sense and wisdom to the law. You get occasional situations where the judge has to allow an injustice because the law clearly supports the wrong side but that's incredibly rare. So if something did get to court put it somewhere central and get dozens of Eve fans to come and support you. Call them all as witnesses. Can you see why CCP would not want this to occur in front of an eighty year old judge in some random foreign country?

- we will probably see some game advantage addons being aggressively marketed. Eve could really use a Fleet Commander addon. Or a Deadly Boss Mods style fleet pvp addon with WARP OUT NOW! plastered in big letters across the screen at appropriate moments. There are some very rich players in Eve and there's potential for people to spend lots of money. We will see some quite game-breaking addons and have to decide whether to pay for them or whether to just buy new ships after losing to people who use them.

- we will see much fewer addons. People will worry that CCP may ban their accounts. Eve being Eve some players will Give Money to an innocent addon maker then report them for secretly charging for their addons to get them banned (lulz!). It's simply less of a headache to just not contribute.

- if I owned a popular Eve addon what I personally would do would be to continue to make it available (even if I thought I was in the wrong) until I received a cease and desist letter and then immediately take it down (even if I thought I was in the right). I would also keep meticulous records of any revenue received.

- I'm still going to blog about Eve. Even if I write for a site that pays me. So neer!

(Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, this is just opinion and if you get into a legal mess after reading this it's not my fault. No course of action is recommended here, text that may seem to indicate such is mere literary hyberbole).

Monday 13 June 2011

Raiding - the bad and the ugly

In my last post in this series on end game raiding I talked about the positive sides of raiding. Now I'd like to look at the other side of the coin - the problems with the current raid structure.

It's divisive. It's divisive in a number of different ways and all of these are negative.

It divides people simply by being a different game style. Many players who are perfectly competent to raid simply choose not to - it's a playstyle not to everyone's taste. When raiding gets introduced at end game not everyone wishes to switch game styles.

It's exclusionary. The game design parts friends. This can be truly appalling as when Larisa of the Pink Pigtail Inn felt she couldn't continue with her guild. Her account of it made uncomfortable reading even though the rift was healed. And even though the rift with her guild was healed she ceased blogging not long after, these things take a toll. It's important to note that in this case it was not raiders being elitist jerks, the natural way to progress in the game is to pressurise players in your raid guild to improve and Larisa's story will be widely repeated because it is an inevitable result of the way the raid game is designed.

The other side of that is that sometimes someone who could get a strong guild stays with an underperforming guild because of real life attachments. This is a subtle way of poisoning people's real lives outside of gaming - "not only do you never do the washing up but you also stopped me from raiding with the server firsters!"

It's a team game where you "win" by succeeding on an individual level. While raiding is clearly a team activity for most raiders real success is measured personally, particularly by the acquisition of loot but also for some players by topping damage meters. This contradiction means that raids often feed on themselves. For someone to get loot everyone else has to miss out. One of the earliest player modifications of the game design was to introduce DKP systems in an attempt to smooth out a deeply flawed mechanism but it doesn't go far enough. There will always be times in a raider's life when he or she feels bitterly disappointed that a coveted item went to someone else in the raid instead of his or herself. Built-in disappointments are a bad game mechanic. It's become unusual for players to support their team over their character - would you rather your guild killed two bosses and you got nothing or that they killed one boss and you got an epic? Most raiders would pick the second choice. This is a trend that has markedly increased over the years, guild shopping and server transfers are becoming routine. From a certain perspective if your guild is stuck at 5 out of 13 bosses guild-hopping to a 9 out of 13 raid guild is progression for you. And that's becoming quite common in WoW.

It's judgmental. Not only do we get judged but we also get judged on partial or faulty information. A healer who pads his meter score by healing other healers' assignments may beat them on the meter while letting his tank die. Who gets blamed? The schmuck who came bottom of course!

It's attendance-based. Raiding requires a commitment that doesn't exist in other parts of the game or in most other competing entertainment. This is a real downside. No one thinks that TV on a broadcaster's schedule is better than TV on demand or TV you record and watch at a time that suits you. What are you doing next Sunday at 7pm? If you collect minipets in MMOs you don't need to worry but if you're a raider you may need to arrange that.

It's deeply vulnerable to churn. Losing players can be devastating to a raid guild. Many raiders actually spend their game time in a succession of canceled raid nights and getting stuck on old content because recruits aren't as good or as geared as the people who left.

It's afk-unfriendly. It's considered very antisocial to afk and leave 19 other people waiting for you, bored. For many people though they may play for 4 hours but that will include time spent cooking or minding children, they don't want to be utterly shackled to the PC when playing.

It multiplies failure. In most of the game if I screw up I'm the only witness and the only one to suffer. If I fail a task and wipe a raid everyone suffers for my incompetence. Is it fair on 19 people that they wipe if I make a mistake? And is it fair on me to put me under that spotlight?

It encourages players to bully other players. For many players driving underperforming players away by being horrible to them is a perfectly valid method of game play. It's no surprise that the most visited raid theorycraft site is called Elitist Jerks. The irony of Elitist Jerks is that their name is utterly unironic.

It encourages mudflation. It's become an industry standard that each raid must have gear miles better than found anywhere else to attract people to the new content. The only thing this is good for is the egos of the Live team. Imagine a WoW where the content that gets released didn't supercede the old content. So you could go anywhere to any instance for roughly comparable loot. Would you prefer to upgrade your gear in UBRS or Karazhan? Outdating old content is an abomination of game design that only crept in because of terrible project management. It's downright ridiculous that a game such as WoW which has created so many great raids over the years has only 3 viable raids which most players are rather bored of. Mudflation also creates other problems such as the breaking of the mana system in WotLK and the subsequent failed attempt to fix it in Cataclysm. Another downside of mudflation is that gear stops mattering when you know it will get outdated soon.

It's gimmicky. Each boss has a different gimmick to wipe you and some of them are lame. One may have an enrage phase where the tank has to run away because the boss does too much damage. Then mudflation happens and people tank it through the enrage and get called face-rollers. A lot of the gimmicks are silly or too similar. There are many variations of "don't stand in fire" and most of them simply change the colour - it's brown and the gimmick instead of "don't stand in fire" is "don't stand in sludge." These gimmicks are annoying to some players - Tobold refers to raiding as Mario.

It's too much to learn. When we tried Kael'thas in Tempest Keep our raid leader gave a pre-fight lecture that lasted 40 minutes. I had to take notes and refer to them during the fight. It was a 5 phase fight and each phase was highly complex. This boss was arguably the most difficult in WoW's history - he's the only boss that no one killed before the next Tier went live. One of the worst experiences as a raider is to join a more progressed guild. I remember joining one such guild and we did Blackwing Lair. I knew the first 3 bosses. We galloped through the raid on what was a farm raid to everyone else but a nightmare to me as I made my first impression on my new team by dying on every boss (even the ones I knew). Every single one. I did better afterwards but that was a truly horrible evening. Now it's even worse because the new content comes so fast. In Rift I'm just about clear on Greenscale's Blight and Gilded Sanctum in that I know my job but would like more practice to feel comfortable; I'm still somewhat at sea in Ros in that I've killed a few bosses but some I haven't seen and I'm not 100% confident of knowing what to do on the ones I've killed and we're about to get Hammerknell too. It's too much too fast, it's hard to remember them all and I feel like there's no farm content I can relax on and just have fun while gearing up.

It relies on third party amateur work. Now that's worked ok for WoW with EJ, Tankspot and the addon community but as more games come out designers need to realise they are dependent on getting lucky here. Also this type of effort is only likely to be done for the top game. In Rift even though it's current number two there's a lot of bosses no one's done a guide for yet. If part of your raiding player base is guide-dependent then they're boned without Ciderhelm or someone like him. Another problem is that anyone who doesn't use the right third party sites may not measure up to the raid's standards.

Conclusion: there's a lot wrong with the modern raid game. So much that this area is simply crying out for a creative re-think. I do like raiding but it could become so much better than it currently is.

Friday 10 June 2011

Codemasters hacked

I'm sorry to report I had this email today, it speaks for itself:

Dear valued Codemasters customer,

On Friday 3rd June, unauthorised entry was gained to our
website. As soon as the intrusion was detected, we immediately took and associated web services offline in order to prevent
any further intrusion.

During the days since the attack we have conducted a thorough
investigation in order to ascertain the extent and scope of the breach
and have regrettably discovered that the intruder was able to gain
access to the following: website

Access to the Codemasters corporate website and sub-domains.

DiRT 3 VIP code redemption page

Access to the DiRT 3 VIP code redemption page.

The Codemasters EStore

We believe the following have been compromised: Customer names and
addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, encrypted passwords and
order history. Please note that no personal payment information was
stored with Codemasters as we use external payment providers, meaning
your payment details were not at risk from this intrusion.

Codemasters CodeM database

Members' names, usernames, screen names, email addresses, date of birth,
encrypted passwords, newsletter preferences, any biographies entered by
users, details of last site activity, IP addresses and Xbox Live
Gamertags are all believed to have been compromised.

Whilst we do not have confirmation that any of this data was actually
downloaded onto an external device, we have to assume that, as access
was gained, all of these details were compromised and/or stolen.

The website will remain offline for the foreseeable
future with all traffic re-directed to the Codemasters
Facebook page instead. A new website will launch later in the year.


For your security, in the first instance we advise you to change any
passwords you have associated with other Codemasters accounts. If you
use the same login information for other sites, you should change that
information too. Furthermore, be extra cautious of potential scams, via
email, phone, or post that ask you for personal or sensitive
information. Please note that Codemasters will never ask you for any
payment data such as credit card numbers or bank account details, nor
will Codemasters ask you for passwords or other personal identifying
data. Be aware too of fraudulent emails that may outwardly appear to be
from Codemasters with links inviting you to visit websites. The safest
way to visit your favourite websites is always by typing in the address
manually into the address bar of your browser.

Unfortunately, Codemasters is the latest victim in on-going targeted
attacks against numerous game companies. We assure you that we are doing
everything within our legal means to track down the perpetrators and
take action to the full extent of the law.

We apologise for this incident and regret any inconvenience caused.

We are contacting all customers who may have been affected directly.

Should you have any concerns or wish to speak to a member of our
Customer Services team, please email them at

You have been sent this email as part of your Codemasters Code M
membership. If you have any questions or queries about this email or
your CodeM account, please email The Codemasters
Software Company Limited, registered in England (Company No. 2044132)
whose registered office is at Codemasters Campus, Southam, Warwickshire,
CV47 2DL, England. For more Privacy information, please read the
Codemasters Privacy Policy :

Tuesday 7 June 2011

The fun of raiding

It seems to me that in the debate over raiding one very important point gets obscured: that raiding is fun. It's a deep rich game that applies all the things you've explored and discovered on your character in a more testing and more rewarding environment.

Consider play. Wolf cubs play so that they might become more effective wolves later in life. Children play hide and seek and shoot each other with water pistols so that those who grow up to be soldiers will be able to survive battlefields. Play is a fundamental part of who we are, of how our species is made. Play tends to be progressive, competitive and educational. It satisfies us deeply.

Raiding is a natural development on from the general gameplay that precedes it. You'll have learned leveling up how to kill things. You'll have discovered in 5 man groups who to hold aggro if you're tanking or not rip aggro if you're not tanking. Things learned while soloing apply, especially if you were soloing and something went wrong and you had to be resourceful to cope.

Raiding rewards a deep knowledge and understanding of how to play. Tanks need to understand how to best hold aggro, dps need to understand their class well enough to be able to play different builds of it to maximum potential (as the best build changes over time), healers need to understand which of their spells is best used when. In addition there is a general requirement of situational awareness and specific requirements for each fight to understand what is going on and what your role in the fight will be.

Raiding rewards players by giving raiders better loot than anyone else has. In particular sometime you get different colour loot - which players are very excited by. Going from blue gear to purple gear is fun but going from purple to orange? Wow!

Raiding rewards players socially. Raid groups tend to form tight teams that know each other well. Some raiding guilds have lasted many years with most of the original core players intact. Raiders also attract interest from strangers with people asking where did you get your staff? and where did you get your mount?

Raiding is often the culmination of the lore. In Rift at the end of River of Souls you fight Alsbeth who's been a nemesis since the early game. In Wrath of the Lich King you got to fight the Lich King as the last boss of the last raid. You will experience a lot of story and complete your own personal hero's journey that began when you killed ten rats for a farmer at level 1 and now you're saving the world.

Raiding is very much about learning. Generally speaking each raid boss is different and playing a raid competently is a matter of learning and adapting your role in the fight. Let's take Duke Letareus, first boss in Greenscale's Blight as an example. His main mechanic is that 4 times per fight he will enrage and become untankable. While enraged he can only be dealt with by kiting and there is a mechanism for slowing him down to make this manageable. 4 frogs are in the corners of the room and release a purple cloud of gas when killed which slows Letareus. The trick is to line up the frogs, a little distance apart, and then kill them just as he reaches them so there are 3 or 4 gas clouds for him to run through. You will need to reduce him by about 10% of his health to take him out of enrage so the frog clouds are a kind of timer, a dps check. It's a fight of some finesse. Additionally there are three types of adds that spawn each of which has to be dealt with. He's a very satisfying boss to kill because killing him means a lot of people did a lot of tasks correctly and well.

And he's typical of a modern raid boss. Each raider has a considerable amount of personal responsibility it's much harder in the modern raid game to "carry" people.

So to sum up the rewards of raiding are as follows:
- great, testing, gameplay
- learning through play
- great loot
- social status and inclusion in a group of select players
- lore
- a series of interesting challenges

Later this week I'll look at ways in which the game designers and communities are failing to deliver this fun to the majority of players.

Friday 3 June 2011

Ignorant players or bad game design?

My Rift guild Serenity is no longer a raid guild. We managed to kill Duke Letareus, the first boss in Greenscale, but after that attendance went down, our best raiders started talking about leaving, one of them did leave and the people gearing up and leveling up were doing those things very slowly. I've seen this stage before in a casual raid guild and it's usually a slow drawn-out painful death. So I called it, sent the raiders to a more progressed raid guild and told everyone else that Serenity will continue as a social, expert-running and pvp guild but that we wouldn't raid again.

We had at our peak about 80 level 50 players so why were we not able to field 20 for our progression raids?

The simple answer is that most people in the guild simply didn't play the game as raiders in the sense of researching their characters, optimising, using consumables to boost performance and so on. And because they are almost all veteran MMO players who get what the raid scene is about they preferred not to raid rather than to turn up and raid poorly. What's frustrating for me is that we could have beaten these bosses had people shown up, the bar is lower than people think it is. You don't need 1000 dps to beat bosses in Greenscale, the Rift entry raid, you need people to turn up, to learn as they play and to pay attention.

I think I know why so many MMO players make such bad raiders and the roots of it are in psychology.

Harvard Prof Robert Cialdini told a story in his excellent book Influence about a woman acquaintance who was selling gems. She left a note for an assistant to half the price of a slow selling stock of Jade. He mis-read the note and doubled the price. Suddenly these gems that no one wanted sold out. She asked Cialdini why?

Most people have no clue about what makes a good piece of jade. Actually we have no clue about lots of things but our brains have evolved a mechanism to cope. What we do is we take mental shortcuts. In the case of jade we look at the price.

Jewelry is a very personal present. We tend to buy it for someone close to us - a wife, a daughter, a mother. A $25 piece of jade is a bit too cheap for most people to buy as a present. A $50 piece of jade is just right. It doesn't matter that it's the same piece of jade in both cases, we equate quality with price a method that works 99% of the time.

Raiding is considered something the hardcore do. People who are not hardcore avoid the trappings of raiding. I had an experience recently with my raid team just as baffling as Cialdini's jade-selling acquaintance. One of my guildies, having played every evening while leveling and doing experts told me rather indignantly on the night of our second raid that she puts her family before the game and wasn't going to apologise for that. I was left thinking "what?". We had two optional raids per week and I'd stressed that people didn't need to come if they didn't want to. How had this person got so flustered? Why did she go from playing every night to never logging in once we started raiding?

The very notion of raiding threatens a lot of people, so much so that they see an enormous baggage of mandatory attendance, intensive theorycraft and high pressure gaming right from the start.

Raiding has become a closed club. I know of no raiders in Rift who weren't serious raiders in WoW and other games. And Rift isn't unique, I think most MMOs are getting raiding wrong. It has become a closed club.

It's just too hard for people who aren't used to raiding to adjust. In my guild I saw massive non-attendance and drop-out for fear of having to play a high pressure game. Ferrel writes from the other side, about the frustration raid leaders feel with "wilfully ignorant" players.

What's wrong is that too much changes at once for players. They go from a comfort zone of running 5 mans to a blame game of screwing up in front of 19 other people. This leads to several undesirable outcomes:

- non-attendance. The best move if you can't raid competently is not to play.

- "willful ignorance". People who are suddenly out of their depth in a game will generally become more conservative. This is especially troubling because the correct solution is to adapt. However new raiders aren't adapting and the reason they aren't adapting is that they're out of their depth. When you're out of your depth you stick to what you know.

- anger. People who "get it" get increasingly annoyed at new people who are lost in the complexities of raiding, seeing them as freeloaders.

- deception. New raiders sometimes try to bluff their way in, claiming experience they don't have, agreeing to things like flasking for every boss they aren't going to honour.

- division. Is it any wonder with all this going on that players start to despise each other? And of course if your non raiders start to see raiders as no life nerds as a defence mechanism then they shut down their ability to receive guidance from them even as the game steers them into hardcore raiding when they run out of other things to do.

I'll continue this with a look at design solutions and player solutions. For now I'll leave it here with the conclusion: almost everyone is reasonably smart and is behaving in a way that makes sense from their point of view. Of course even the smartest human approaches life by means of a self-devised system of shortcuts and abbreviations, the guy who doesn't pay attention on Teamspeak is using a system that worked fine in every piece of pre-raid content and hasn't managed to adapt when paying attention is suddenly vital.