Gaming Massively

Monday, September 8, 2008

big releases

Lots of exciting stuff in gaming, the biggest of course being the WAR Open Beta. I tried to get in a couple of times but so far, no luck - I don't know where my invite went - maybe my email ate it. At one point had 300K beta keys, then 7K then 10K. If they aren't making stuff up that means 317K people at least are playing the beta. Not counting the pre-order people. That's a whole lot of people. You can check here to see if they've opened more keys.

While the US launch seems to be doing ok, the european launch appears to have failed mightily. They even had to roll out the CEO for an apology. I quite enjoyed the Greenskin's reaction to the european fail, in which he quotes in full the wikipedia definition of anger.

Spore is also out the door, which is... amazing. I mean the fact that it was released, not the game - I haven't played the game, so can't comment. But given that I had decided it was going to be the next Duke Nukem, I'm really pleased it's out. People seem pleased so far. I may actually have to pick it up, as I think my wife might enjoy it.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

beta tests 1

I was thinking about beta tests over the weekend. I've been in quite a number, several big name ones, which is vaguely surprising to me - I hadn't expected to find myself able to get into them, and yet it's worked out fairly well.

Obviously, the beta test is a necessary part of any software development project, and massive games are no different. It's the NDA, and the various aspects of communicating with the community that I find so interesting. I've been in betas where nothing worked, and that is clearly a mistake - if you know it's broken, you don't need a beta tester to tell you (that game closed less than six months after opening). But what's interesting is the betas where things mostly work, because those are the games where the beta testers feel like they have an idea of what the game will be like.

Of course, if you have an NDA, people aren't supposed to say what's happening, though at some point the NDA will be lifted, and you will have people talking about a game they played while it wasn't finished. On the other hand, they will also often be the most enthusiastic gamers.

I will confess - the people who hang out on the public boards before a game is released weird me out a little. The ones who beta test at least have a reason to be there, but the ones who have no idea what's going on, but are there anyway? Yeah. Yikes.

So I guess I have too many thoughts about beta testing, because this post is wandering all over the place, and I haven't even got to the part where the most prodigious posters on the boards will often not help the game in the slightest.

I'll post this, now, and maybe revisit the topic when I can break it into smaller chunks.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Second Life for Linux

I'm pretty excited about this one, even if I don't currently have a linux box (or use Second Life): Massively is reporting that Second Life has released a beta of their viewer for linux. Even more interesting is the note that it seems to be faster than the windows version.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

the weekend

Hooray for beta testing. Obviously I can't say what I did, but I can say that the weekend was interesting. I also managed to get attuned to Molten Core in an impromptu session Friday evening, which was fun - I love blasting through content. We headed in to MC once we were attuned and promptly wiped. Well, wiped or ran out.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bug reporting

The forum for Stargate Worlds has an interesting thread about best practices for reporting bugs in a game beta. References are made to other tools people have seen, different ways of entering data, etc. One point that comes up repeatedly is that the beta testers really want to give the best possible reports, but they also want to know they are being heard. It's crazy how much free labor MMOs get from their fan base, in exchange for very little in return. But in the end a good beta makes a good game, and that makes everyone happy.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Metaplace beta test

Tobold pointed out that Metaplace will be doing a beta test to see how robust their servers are. In reading through their blog posts it occurs to me that I may not have been thinking through the game architecture they have proposed as well as I should have. It looks like, in addition to some form of web-based MMO platform, they're also planning on implementing APIs - functions that you can call from other applications.

Now, I don't know that their strategy works this way, but it suddenly occurred to me that the ability to call APIs from multiple servers means never having to instance, and never having issues of concurrent users.

Here's the deal - we need to track the location of everyone in our game, their current health, what they are doing, whether they have aggro'd monsters, etc. etc. That's a whole lot of computing power.

But rather than having each area chew up a giant server, we could allow certain functions to live on one server, certain on another. For example, hand off combat to a combat server, that only knows you, your weapons and spells, and the beasty you are fighting. Let another server track positions (use a mobile phone tower model, where position just gets handed off). Another just for chat. Etc.

Now that I've said it, it's so obvious I can't imagine people aren't doing it. What am I missing?

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Monday, February 11, 2008


Well, I thought I was going to get to beta a new game over the weekend, but I totally failed in my conversion of time zones, so no soup for me. It was sad too, because the client was (as they all are) giant, and I hate to have wasted that much energy for nothing. Oh well - maybe there will be an open beta I can do.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

not dead

I'm not dead! Merely on holiday to London (not hellgate, just plain old). I've just gained access to some more game that I can't talk about, so obviously that won't be providing content.

On my end, a break from WoW has been nice, but I'm not sure how thrilled I am to go back in - I'm not sure I'll make it to 70 without some serious raid help from my guild. On the other hand, PvP is still appealing, so perhaps that's the direction I'll be going.

Anyhow, keep watching this space. And in the meantime, chew on Tobold's what an MMO will look like in 2020.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pirates beta take 2

Oh boy - another stress test for Pirates of the Burning Sea. You can head over to fileplanet to register. I'm hoping my key from the first one will work. We'll see what happens.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

PotBS stress test notes

The folks over at PotBS have an article up on their stress test from last weekend. It's a pretty interesting run down the fun they had over the 72 hours or so the stress test ran. If you ever needed a reminder of how much more fun playing games is than running the servers that run the games, this is it. From a technical standpoint, it tells you a lot about how they've designed the game to operate.

One thing you'll notice is the discussion of the zone servers. Based on the fact that players wait for these to start, it must be a form of instancing, which is one of the big MMO debates. The trick is, instancing is easy - you can easily load balance servers that are running instances, whereas it's much more difficult to keep things up and running when everyone is in the same place.

I'm kind of of the opinion this represents a failure of the developers to properly leverage the hardware, but that's not really fair of me - there's nothing worse than an armchair programmer. In my head, I imagine massive clusters powering a single, crazy large instance of a game. This is tough if you're going to be located in various sites around the world, though you can speculate that if you could get fiber between your sites you could run the whole thing as one global mass. But that'd be quite a network setup.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

more on WAR

Keen and Graev have more info on the Warhammer beta shutdown. One of the people with the game made a long post. Me? I'm all for a shutdown - that's why it's called beta!

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this could be good... or bad...

MMORPGdot linked to a Warhammer Herald note that the WAR beta will be closing for a while, to revamp the game. This is probably good news - do some major rehauling, and not have to worry about the beta people while you do it. At the same time, there is some concern in my mind about how messed up things must be to need to shut the system down altogether - it seems like, in a beta, you can jerk almost anything around. It could be a community management thing - you could build up a lot of ill will during an overhaul if you keep screwing with core elements. In the note, they say they close the beta periodically, and perhaps this really is just SOP.

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Friday, October 5, 2007

weekend beta

The beta stress test of Pirates of the Burning Sea has opened to all, so I went and downloaded a copy yesterday. More accurately, I tried to download a copy. FilePlanet is now fairly far down on my list of likes, after I discovered they don't support downloading to a Mac. As we use a Mac mini for our home server, it makes sense to download files to it, then pop them over to the game machine (which sucks approximately ten times the electricity when it's turned on). But no soup - their ActiveX downloader doesn't work on Mac, and the link to bypass it was broken. So I used the gaming box to download the client, which finished just before I left for work today. So hopefully there will be piratical action this weekend. I understand I'll be subject to some sort of NDA, so details may be thin.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Tabula Rasa

So Tabula Rasa, the new sci-fi shooter MMO, went to open beta last weekend, which basically means anyone who wants to can download it and try it out. So I did. Other people have written reviews, some of which have been positive, more of which have been negative. I only made it through the first few quests so far (I think I have ten days to try it out), so I can't give a comprehensive opinion, but from what I saw so far my thoughts are 'meh'. Not because I don't think it's a good game for a certain type of player - merely because that player isn't me. It's very first person shooter-esque. And army game-esque. I did like some things - you can apparently lead teams of NPCs, which I think is a really good idea that all games should incorporate - as your character becomes epically powerful, give 'em an army. Sack a town. Etc. But for the most part it just didn't speak to me. I'll try it some more and see if it grows on me, but for the most part I think it's not my bag, baby.

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