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Digital Castration: Blizzard’s Next Gen MMO Details


Originally written by Daeity at Digital Castration.

As promised, here’s what I’ve learned about Blizzard’s new MMO from a couple internal sources. It’s not a lot of info, but I thought it sounded pretty cool the way they were describing it and it’s enough to work out a possible game focus. I did a search this past week and haven’t found anything related to this, so I hope it’s not a repost.

I’ll put this in point form too for easier reading:

* Even though the game was first learned about 2-3 years ago, there really hasn’t been a tremendous amount of progress made. It’s apparently a pretty small team too.
* However, there’s supposed to be a serious kick off in production and development “very soon”. Increased recruiting and an “input of cash” for example.
* They have been primarily working on concept art, drawings, designing content and assets, environments, etc.
* No details on the game engine or what the game is like. It sounds like the developers have just been doing a lot of “trial-and-error” testing and experimentation.
* A lot of ideas/designs are being thrown away – “trying new things”.
* No word on any console work or PS3/XBOX360 programming.

The art and graphics:

* There was art and concept drawings of knight armor, futuristic-looking armor, and modern wear (e.g. “present day” suit and tie.)
* There wasn’t any crazy-looking “fantasy” stuff. Instead, they were a lot more “realistic in appearance” (e.g. imagine 15th century medieval plate armor).
* There was also old looking ripped cloth rags that could have been clothing or an asset for something else.
* There were renders of modern-era guns, an old looking bolt-action rifle, and a futuristic-looking weapon.

The environments:

* There was modern looking architecture with textures (buildings, windows, doors, bricks).
* Medieval era buildings and structures.
* Futuristic looking city with high buildings and roads (no vehicles or people visible).
* A war-torn environment with burned-out buildings, dark colors. Looked like something out of a WW2 game.

One thing noted is that none of the concept art of renders were cartoony at all, they appeared a lot more realistic than Blizzard’s typical art style. The other important note was the “variety of environments”.

Assumptions:

Blizzard wants to keep players addicted, so it will definitely have some RPG elements (”Gotta collect ‘em all”). The rumors say it’s going to be a MMOFPS/RPG hybrid, so I’m inclined to believe that.. it might be like TERA where movement and positioning is important and there will be projectile weapons (shooter part) as well as handheld axes, swords, bats, etc. It’s important that Blizzard branch out of the MMORPG niche (too many smaller companies are still trying to gobble up whatever they can there) and expand into other niches if they intend on increasing subscriptions.

Because of the multiple different types of environments, that opens up many scenarios in regards to gameplay and storyline.

For example, the story/lore could be based around any one of these:

1. Time Travel – exploring or missions in different time periods (e.g. Chrono Trigger)
2. Cyberspace – virtual worlds where there is a variety of themed environments to visit (e.g. Shadowrun, Neuromancer, etc.)
3. Dreamscape – I N C E P T I O N ? (Probably not.)
4. Parallel dimensions – I’m hoping for this one actually, it’s not very often used in games, it opens up the possibility of multiple environments and even alien-looking worlds (versions of earth) with different laws of physics, and the possibilities of expansion packs are endless (new dimensions “discovered” and it explains the existence of server shards.)

In each scenario, the modern day or “real world” could be a centralized hub of sorts for example where users can interact with each other. Or each environment might be so large, that there’s plenty to do and people can focus on the environments they prefer or are comfortable with (e.g. modern day, WW2, ancient battles, futuristic battles, far-end-the-future post-apocalyptic stuff, etc.)

There was another rumor that there are “two lives”, which sort of fits in with what I was told.. it works, except for time travel unless they do a “Quantum Leap” approach.

Other than that, there have already been a lot of changes and probably even more changes before they finally announce something about the game (late October), but I think it’s safe to say that they have a general direction in mind.

I have a little bit more information still trickling in, will update when I can. But, that’s a big chunk of it – I know it’s not a lot or what you may have been hoping for, but it’s still interesting.


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Activison-Blizzard Possibly Threatened And Shut Down A Blogger


There is a blog on Blogspot.com called “Digital Castration” that a friend of mine told me about a couple of weeks ago. Earlier this week he sent me a link to it. I glanced over it, and decided I would read it all later. The author “Daeity” had written a lot of extremely interesting information about Blizzard, including real WoW subscriber numbers, and its new MMO project. It was obvious that “Daeity” had done a extremely good job at researching information, and gaining access to formerly unknown public sources. Today at lunch my friend informed me that the blog had been shut down, except for a single post that implied that Activision-Blizzard had threatened him, or forced him to shut his blog down.

I’ve decided to re-post his blog entries here, before they turn to internet dust, in an effort to preserve his work. The few posts of his that are here, are all I could scavenge from the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine. I’ll title each one with “Digital Castration:” and its original title.

Daeity, if you see this, thank you for all your hard work! If you want, feel free to comment, or even contact me about making blog posts here.

Below is his final blog post in case that also disappears:

A little too much information..
Originall written by Daeity at Digital Castration.

Unfortunately, over the past several months I’ve been flying a little too close to the sun.

It’s still a pretty new blog (I started writing back in July ‘10) and I suppose this was ultimately fated to happen.

It’s fitting, though, that it happened at the 9 month period too: like a newborn baby it was ready to explode from the womb.. but with a huge amount of information as the afterbirth, rather than pieces of placenta.

There was just way too much information collected and researched thoroughly.. and it was scary for some (e.g. the real costs of services and devices, profit margins, real players and subscription figures, extracted sales data, uncanny future predictions, new games and their release dates, the return (or introduction) of a ton of content that everyone believed were gone forever, correcting a ton of misinformation in gaming news, unannounced games, next-gen game details, what things are really like behind the veiled curtain, etc. etc.)

There were two big projects I was working on in the past couple months (one was actual subscription data, the other, well.. it was a huge spoiler). By investigating publicly-available information (very hard to find, but it’s there), I had collected details about an upcoming next-gen MMO and even had concept art. It’s still a few years away, but due to this current situation it’s not anything that I can publish. Even where it came from, it would still be considered “private, confidential, and proprietary” to a certain corporation.

I hope you enjoyed the fun, dramatic entertainment, critical analysis, the information and data, and frequent sarcasm. It was definitely one-of-a-kind, but a machine that accurately predicts the future and reveals future business plans and game details should not be permitted to exist.

They did what they had to do, and I understand completely from a business perspective. I love all of the games I’ve written about, and will continue to support the companies.. but I just can’t research them in such great detail anymore.

On a related note, if you’re in the game development field: get rid of your entire global internet footprint. You shouldn’t have a Twitter account, a blog, a YouTube account, participate in any forums, play online games with people you don’t know, share art or pictures, take pictures within your workplace and post them online, have a Facebook account, share details with OPEN Facebook accounts, or even have a Google account w/out making sure your Docs and Buzz are completely disabled. I don’t even know where to get started.. I know way too much now.

Even when you have your “work” alias, and you create multiple new aliases and fake names across the internet (thinking that they’re safe), it’s still very easy to find out the new names and link them back to one person. Also, you shouldn’t be surfing non-business related webpages from work.

As for me, time to move onto new adventures. There are a lot of options available, and I like to keep busy with fun side projects.

You can’t know the future, though, without it’s stakeholders kicking your ass.

(P.S. My email address was just another throw-away account, like this one. Time to implement “Plan Alpha”.. see you all around.) =]


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Digital Castration: World of Warcraft Operating Costs


Originally written by Daeity at Digital Castration.

There’s a wealth of information out there on Blizzard’s announcements or meetings that describe their cost of development and operating expenditures, however many of them are down-right contradictory.

Note: When I refer to Operating Costs by the way, I’m talking about EVERYTHING related to operating the WoW Servers and Employees (e.g. staffing, customer support, their Avaya phone switches & sets, HP servers, electricity, etc.)

Here are the top 5 common beliefs:

1. WoW cost $100 million for development and total upkeep for 4 years (Source)
2. WoW cost $200 million for development and total upkeep for 4 years (Source)
3. WoW cost $200 million for total upkeep but not development (Source)
4. WoW cost $100 million for development and/or total upkeep (Source)
5. WoW cost $63 million for development that took 4.5 years (Source)

If you read the articles and comments, you can certainly understand that there is a lot of confusion over this number.

Let’s take the most expensive number – that WoW upkeep costs $200 million over 4 years (it’s 47 months actually). On average, that’s $4.25M per month.

That number seems extremely high considering that there are only ~2.5k servers (~730 realms worldwide) utilized. Until that is, you read this:

“That’s $200 million for the total cost of upkeep since the game’s November 2004 release (presumably not including the initial cost to develop the game). This includes payroll for the entire staff, hardware support, and — apparently the biggest infrastructure cost — customer service.”

That makes more sense: the biggest upkeep cost in that $200 million figure is customer service. So, that $4.25M per month figure is probably a lot less now considering that there have been significant numbers of lay-offs in the WoW offices and support teams, and that the server count has pretty much remained the same since the announcement.

Also, some Blizzard employees have stated that they have reduced yearly operating costs by $500,000 and have introduced new policies that have resulted in multi-millions of yearly loss reduction. (Link)

So it’s safe to say that all World of Warcraft operating costs are at max $4.25 million per month. Realistically though, it’s probably half of that amount or less now.

Keep this figure in mind, it’s important for another post that I’ve been preparing. :)


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Digital Castration: Blizzard’s Next Gen MMO – Another Update


It appears that Activision Blizzard’s quarterly earnings report came out yesterday after my post, it actually addresses one of the updates I had provided in regards to Blizzard’s Next-Gen MMO – ie, Activision is investing heavy into the new MMO, which will kick development into high gear “very soon” as previously stated.

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Digital Castration: Serious WoW Gold-Making Strategies – Part 2


Outside of Tailoring & Enchanting (previous post), Inscription is currently the best profession for making gold. However, it can be rather time consuming because there are so many people competing on the Auction House, and you have to monitor your sales every 30 minutes to ensure that no one is undercutting you.

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