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Blizzard Answers Your Questions, From Blizzcon 402

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the mmmwwwruurgll dept.
Last week we asked you to submit questions for several Blizzard employees on a wide range of issues. Since we undertook the pilgrimage to Blizzcon in person this year, we decided to use the question ideas as a guide rather than an absolute, so that it could be a little more conversational in tone. Below we have included the responses from Chris Sigaty, lead producer on StarCraft II; Jeffrey Kaplan (aka Tigole), game director for World of Warcraft; Leonard Boyarsky, lead world designer on Diablo III; and Paul Sams, Blizzard's COO. One interesting point: Paul Sams indicated in his interview that, with enough interest, Blizzard would be willing to entertain the idea of open sourcing some of their older games. He suggested that if you are interested in this to contact them directly (please be at least semi-coherent and polite). Update 19:00 by SM: Bob Colayco from Blizzard just contacted us to mention that if users wish to leave feedback about open sourcing games, support for Linux, or anything else you would like to express to them, you should do so in the comments section of this story. They plan on perusing the comments below for user feedback and interest, so don't be shy.

Jeff "Tigole" Kaplan — World of Warcraft Game Director

Slashdot: Could you walk us through how you balance a particular class or ability — especially going into Wrath as you're adding all these new and extra skills, and trying to find a new balance?

Jeff: Definitely. It's really an ongoing, iterative process. Every piece of content we add in terms of PvE — a new raid boss, new abilities that creatures are doing — and every other class ability are going to come into play in whatever original class ability we were trying to tune in the first place. So, as we add more things, we constantly have to go back and look at the things that were previously fine, but now might suddenly be overpowered or underpowered. We also have a lot of philosophy that comes into play. It's very easy to do what we call — it's kind of a Blizzard 'cardinal rule of never-do-this' — balancing to mediocrity, which means that you always notch everything down because you're scared of certain things feeling overpowered and are literally living by the numbers. I think numbers are a great guideline, and you should always understand the math behind what you're doing, but at the core, you need to follow the gut and ask "Hey, does this feel really great?" The best place classes can get, in our mind, is where everybody thinks everybody's overpowered. That's kind of the Starcraft balance at work — I think it's best illustrated in Starcraft — "Oh my god, all three races are wildly overpowered!" Yet, somehow, the matches seem to come out even most of the time. Something that we also try to communicate to players — it's difficult for them to understand, and it's not really their responsibility to even worry about it — if we never touched the classes — let's say we all agreed that the classes were perfectly balanced, and never touched them, and let them go for three months, they will eventually become unbalanced because of different strategies that evolve. The players are really driving how the game goes, and it's our job to play referee at a certain point. But not referee in the sense of "No, no, no, you're breaking the rules," but just asking, "Hey, are you still having fun?" And we have to make sure that you're having fun, but not at the expense of someone else.

Slashdot: Along those lines, how are you trying to balance for the arena at level 80, with the addition of a new class and all the new skills coming into play?

Jeff: The arena is particularly challenging because of the three brackets; a class that might be absolutely godly in 2v2 doesn't even get invited to 5v5. What we've claimed, and what we've stood by, is that we don't balance the classes in PvP in a 1v1 scenario. We have zero expectation that every class will be able to beat every other class. The key, and the real core to our arena tuning is making sure that tuning the classes in the arena doesn't step on the toes of the classes in other parts of the game. It's very important when we look at a class that we say, "Here are the fun things that this class has to do leveling up," and some level-up abilities have very little use in the arena at all. "Here are some uses in a 5-person encounter, and here are uses in a 25-man." So, the arena is just one part of that. It's very important that the arena doesn't become the sole focus of class balance for the game.

Slashdot: Professions in The Burning Crusade — tailoring, for one — the curve wasn't very smooth for progressing into raids. Are you trying to change that this time so it segues into raids better?

Jeff: We totally agreed with that; we felt like a lot of the trade skills had a very odd curve. Either they were way too easy, and you just sort of had everything, and you were instantly done for the expansion, or it felt like you could never get there. There's a new system in place for Jewelcrafting that I think is really interesting, and is a direction we want to swing more towards, which is a Jewelcrafting daily quest that rewards a currency for Jewelcrafters only. Then, there is a trainer that literally has dozens and dozens of Jewelcrafting recipes. Some of them are what we like to call "selfish" recipes — they only benefit the Jewelcrafter — and for others you're being the "outgoing, good guild member" if you get them. So we're really putting the power in the player's choice as far as "Hey, I want to get my guild in good shape for raiding Naxxramas," or, "No one on the auction house has yet purchased this recipe and put these gems up," or, "I really want this powerful item for myself, personally." So, we feel it will let player choose the direction of their tradeskill development while still having access to all the content over time. By the end of the expansion cycle, they'll probably have it all, it just depends how soon you get it, and how you prioritize. It's us putting that control in the players' hand, rather than us trying to anticipate what's going to matter to you, because there are so many different play styles.

Slashdot: As you go into raids, are you still going to be able to get upgrades through your professions?

Jeff: Yeah. You're going to continue to get upgrades. There's also the concept of the Primal Nether in The Burning Crusade. It used to be Bind on Pickup — we switched it to being trade-able. The equivalent to that is already in Wrath of the Lich King, and it's already trade-able. It can be purchased for the equivalent of Badges of Justice. So we feel like we have things that gate the tiers of raiding, and when we add a new raid tier, we can add another one of those items, similar to the progression from Primal Nether to Nether Vortex, and continue to progress those throughout the raid tiers.

Slashdot: Wintergrasp is a bold new direction in terms of creating world PvP that's something in which a lot of people can and want to participate. What's it like to design something like that and commit so many resources to it before seeing the fans' reaction to it?

Jeff: Well, I think it's our job as the WoW development team to try to anticipate fan reaction; anticipate not only what will be cool about things, and hold that vision, preach it through to the team, and make sure we realize the vision, but also to second guess ourselves the entire way. We have to ask all the questions of "What happens if...?" We need to solve a lot of those problems ahead of time and test it as much as possible. We had a test last Monday on the beta realm where we had 350 people fighting at once, which was a tremendous feat for us, because it was, on the server-side, completely lag-free. Player's clients, with 350 people in the area, are not always going to have systems that can handle it. For some people on lower-end systems, the sheer video lag or lack of processing power is going to slow them down. But, on the server side, as far as the network went, things were great, and we were supporting it. Another key component of doing something like Wintergrasp is playing it ourselves. There's no way to watch over an encounter like that and know, "Is that guy having fun?" Is it fun to be the one guy getting hit by four siege engines at one time? So, we need to play it ourselves and form our own opinions of what is fun, what is balance, what is overpowered. Is it too short? Is the reset time too long? For those sorts of things, you're never going to have enough design intuition to have the answer short of playing your own game. That sort of applies to us throughout World of Warcraft. We're very fortunate that our development team.. we have the problem of saying, "Ok guys, let's try to keep the WoW to lunch time or after hours." We're still in the mode where everybody's playing the game.

Slashdot: Speaking of siege engines, are you happy with where they're at, and where do you want to take them from here?

Jeff: I think the vehicle system has turned out to be one of the best things we added to the game. Originally we added it to do the Wintergrasp vehicles and the Strand of the Ancients vehicles, and to use those against destructible buildings. We wanted the Plaguethrower, and the Demolisher, and all these other things we added. What we ended up doing was developing a very robust vehicle system, which our quest designers, who weren't even working on the PvP content were kind of looking over our shoulder saying, "Well.. let me see what I can do with that." And they've ended up writing some of the coolest quest mechanics you've ever seen using that same system. You're on the back of a guy's horse throwing flaming bombs at Worgen as you go; you're flying a frost wyrm; the Malygos encounter — not to spoil any surprises — it ends with a big finale where the entire raid is on what are the equivalent of vehicles. So, that's turned out to be one of the coolest things. Also, just watching in Wintergrasp.. the sounds of the Plaguethrower are just amazing. Our sound team really nailed it. It just feels super-visceral to have that barrel of plague-muck and wing it across the battlefield, and see the destruction that it leaves. It's just fun, visceral, very video-gamey. It's fun to click the buttons; that was the general idea.

Slashdot: Are there any plans for vehicles to come into the arenas.

Jeff: Not into the arenas. We do have bigger battleground plans on the horizon. We have nothing specific to talk about, but siege definitely comes into play in those new battleground plans. The arena, we feel, is a more pure environment. The more we do gimmicks in the arena, the more the arena players complain. Our long-term goal for PvP is to actually shift the focus off of the arena, and get it back onto the Horde/Alliance conflict in the battlegrounds. We think Wintergrasp is really cool, and public PvP is cool, but when we don't have control over the balance — which we really don't, in a thing like Wintergrasp — we can't guarantee a fun play experience for people. But we feel that in the battlegrounds, it really strikes the right number of people, accessibility, less focus on individuals and more on teams, and definitely more focus on Horde vs. Alliance, and big, epic feel, which is really what Warcraft is all about.

Slashdot: Are there any plans to make WoW friendlier to Linux?

Jeff: Friendlier to Linux.. Currently we don't have any plans to release on Linux. WoW is actually extremely Linux-friendly, internally. There are many Linux WoW servers and WoW clients. But, publicly, we haven't released WoW on Linux, and don't currently have any plans to announce that.

Slashdot: Is there any sort of vehicle that might allow the people who have gone through the trials and tribulations of getting it stable on Linux to share their experience?

Jeff: Possibly. It's definitely not out of the realm of probability. But, at this time, we don't have any plans to announce it on any other clients than we currently have.

Slashdot: Are there any plans implement some kind of a spectator mode?

Jeff: Yes. We would love to implement spectator mode. We've had some really great ideas about it. Not only to do it for the arena, but we've had some really good suggestions about doing spectator modes for the 10 and 25-person raiding as well. There's been a desire for people to watch the top end guilds. It's definitely on our list. I can't say that it's coming out any time soon; it's quite a bit of development. Priority-wise, there's not a lot of new gameplay there. But, it is something that we'd like to do. We'd also like to get to replays, too. In a lot of ways, I feel like, for the arena, replay would serve people better than actual spectator mode. In spectator mode, you have to know to be watching the match when it happens, whereas a replay mode would allow, "Oh my god, this turned into the match of the century, you've got to see it." Those are definitely on our list. We think they're super-cool ideas, and it's just a matter of finding the right time in our production schedule to get to it.

Leonard Boyarsky — Lead World Designer, Diablo 3
Leonard was joined by another Blizzard representative.

Slashdot: How do you define the limits of the world and the individual levels?

Leonard: Well, the limits for designing the world and the limits for designing the levels are completely different things. For the world, we've done a lot of design even in areas that you won't be seeing in this game. We really wanted it to feel like a living world. One of the things they really started to scratch the surface on in Diablo 2 was expanding it and talking about some of that stuff. But you really didn't get all of the history. You got the feel for what these places were at the time you were there, but you didn't get a lot of depth. There's never too much you can do. There's too much we can try to shove on the player, but there's never too much for us to do. If we have that intense, deep knowledge, we can just drop tidbits here and there; intriguing things that will hopefully get people to research it further. As far as the levels, it really comes down to play time and what kind of feel we want for the dungeon. The perfect example for that would be the demo. There will probably be no levels as short as the one in the demo, except maybe the very first dungeon you go into. But, we crafted that level specifically for Blizzcon, because we knew people only had 15 minutes. So, that's a perfect example of the way it works. You look at it and you ask, "Ok, what kind of chunk of gameplay do we think this is going to be?" And then you make it how big you think it should be for that gameplay, play through it, fix it because you're generally wrong, and then just keep iterating until you get it. It's an iterative and complete process. It's not like you can look at one level separate from all the other levels. You have to look where it fits in the game.

Slashdot: Is it going to be the same system where there are Acts, and then the Acts are subdivided into different sections?

Leonard: Yes. We're probably going to do a little bit of tweaking. It's not going to be exactly the same as it was in Diablo 2, but we are sticking with the Act structure. We were trying to move away from it at first, but it just kept coming up, so it was obvious that the game needed to be structured that way.

Slashdot: Have you given any thought to having a less linear type of gameplay, where you have a world - similar to the things they're doing to Starcraft 2, where it lets players make more of a choice — or are you going to stick with the linear style for now?

Blizzard: The advantage we have with Diablo is that we can actually tell a story. You have a huge impact on the world with what you're doing.

Leonard: In the previous Diablos, you would get the quests in a linearly doled-out manner. Our main story arc is going to be linearly doled-out, but there are a lot of side quests. There are a lot of random quests that you may or may not get per game. Those are very non-linear in that you can do them earlier or later, depending on when they come up. So there's that form of non-linearity, and there's probably going to be ... other stuff we'll talk about at a later date that'll enhance that as well.

Blizzard: It's like a mix of the two. You have the backbone story structure and then you can decide whether to take some of the quests, and also the game decides whether you can see some of these things, because they're random each time you play through.

Slashdot: By that, are you referring to the scripted events that they mentioned yesterday?

Leonard: Yeah. A lot of those are random. Some of them have to do with the main story arc. Did you play the demo? When you run in and see those guys talking about the crown, that's supposed to be giving you a hint about what you're doing. You're basically summoning his spirit into the physical world so you can fight him. So, that's a way for us to give you guys a little more information. That one would always happen, because you always fight the Skeleton King. Other ones, the escort quest, for example, that's a completely random one. There's another one in the dungeon about bringing this mysterious box and putting it on an altar. There will be random quests in the world which work that way, probably some in the dungeons. So, even with letting you do quests in a different order, there's going to be a ton of varying content.

Slashdot: How does the new checkpoint system work?

Leonard: When you the end of a dungeon level, before you go to the next one, you hit a checkpoint. That's so, number one, you don't get teleported back to town if you die and say "Okay I have to run allllll the way back to the dungeon." The reason that we didn't put it at the beginning of the next level is because half the time you're saying "Oh my god, I'm going to die," and you're running back to the entrance to get away. So, you have this mob of monsters following you to the entrance, and you'd just spawn and die, spawn and die. It's a very simple system; it's just a way of keeping you from having to run from town to wherever you were every time you die.

Blizzard: It's nice for the users because you don't have to work about saving and crawling; it just works. You don't ever worry about saving your character.

Slashdot: Are there any plans to release some sort of map editor?

Leonard: No. The way we put together our maps is very art intensive and artist intensive. We talked about it a lot at the very beginning. First of all, you have the random dungeons, which are very technical. Then you have our out-of-doors, which gets put together in a very specific way. So, there's really not the raw materials for people to make their own stuff. It would take a lot of work for us to build our editor so that it was usable by those on the outside. It just didn't seem to have enough bang for the buck.

Blizzard: One of our key goals for Diablo 3, going back to the world layout and design, was to bring the world of Sanctuary into more focus and have more specifics. This is why Leonard and Chris Metzen are looking at having more back story for the classes you can pick. They're not just faceless archetypes, they have this whole back story. The regions you visit are more defined, and the whole world is becoming more and more real. We're just putting a lot more subtle and outwardly noticeable things in the world design to tell a story. You can come to a city that has this great past, and you can see it in the actual level design.

Slashdot: Along those lines, will we be seeing a similar amount of cinematics as were in Diablo 2?

Leonard: I don't know if there will be more. In Diablo 2, it was almost like a separate story from what was going on in the game. The story we're telling through our cinematics is directly related to what you're going through in the game. So, it is very much going to have an emotional impact on what you're seeing and doing. And we're doing scripted events in-game — you've seen some of the small ones, and there could be spots where we do bigger ones. But, once again, we're really keeping in mind the fact that it is an action game. We're balancing the action and the RPG. We don't want people who want a hardcore action game to feel like they're being bogged down with story, but we want it there for people who want to dig deeper.

Blizzard: It's mostly opt-in. You can decide to stay and listen to that little scripted event, or you can just go on and start cracking more skulls.

Slashdot: As far as the single-player campaign goes, will there be changes in balance as the difficulty scales up, so there are fewer instances of players running into a proverbial brick wall against certain monsters with extreme immunities and resists?

Leonard: You mean between the Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulties? Yeah. You know.. all our sympathy for the player starts being removed brick by brick as you get into those levels. (laughs) In the main game, we say, "We can't do that because players need to be able to get by this," and we don't want them to have to go back and build up their character even further just to handle this one guy. When you get into Nightmare and Hell, we figure that's what you're asking for.

Blizzard: Not that we just make it harder for harder's sake.

Leonard: Yeah, we don't screw you on purpose.

Blizzard: We require you to dig deeper into your kit of abilities to really pull things off. We require you to be smarter, use more tactics, and really dig into what you're able to do to handle some of the challenges.

Slashdot: From what it looks like, there's more of a toolset, or more of an incentive to build up a larger toolset.

Blizzard: Yeah. Say there's a boss that could be in a side-quest or the main quest that has a resistance to frost, and frost is what you've been focusing on. Well, you can go back and learn some new skills — fire skills, or something else — and return to tackle that guy. Those kind of specifics will be more prominent in the higher difficulty levels.

Slashdot: In the demo and the trailer, we saw parts of the environment that seemed to be destructible. Is that something you evolved from busting barrels in Diablo 2?

Leonard: Yes. We started off saying, "You know, it'd be really cool to be able to destroy a wall." At first it didn't do any damage, but we thought, "If you're destroying a wall and it falls down, it should damage whatever's there." So then we put the damage into it. And then everyone said, "That's the most fun in the whole game," so we decided, "Hey, we need to do more of that." So now, there are chandeliers. I didn't see anyone using chandeliers in the demo. If you click on the thing on the wall that holds them up, they'll drop. That's one of the fun things we do in co-op, because it stuns players. We'll wait until our friends get underneath and click it to stun them. (laughs) We are exploring what we can do with destructible environments a lot, because it's a crowd-pleaser.

Blizzard: Our engineering group is amazing. The engine they've created — there's these technical aspects with the random dungeons as well as all the things they've advanced going from Diablo 2 to Diablo 3; the 3-D characters, all the effects, real-time physics, destructible environments. They're just pouring everything they can into making that engine sing and have all these great features.

Slashdot: In one of the panels, they mentioned their goal of making the character animations very visceral and having a big impact. What is your direction for the backgrounds — the levels themselves? What's your inspiration for building them, what are you trying to do with them, and what are you trying to make them look like?

Leonard: We want them to look fantastic. We want them to be very impressive. We look at a lot of real-world stuff, starting with a lot of real-world cultures, and then try to extrapolate from there. We try for the balance between believable — that it can actually be constructed — and fantastic. You don't want it mundane. You don't want it to look like you could go to Europe and see a destroyed 13th century castle and have it look the same. But, at the other end, we're being conscientious to not make it look like a full-on fantasy world. I think one of the reasons Diablo has worked so well in the past is because it feels very grounded in reality. That's our biggest balancing act, right there; trying to get both of those together.

Blizzard: It's kind of different; this is a world of dark fantasy. There are no elves or dwarves or that sort of thing. It has this off-kilter view that's foreboding, and we're trying to have that seep into and drip from all the environments we're creating.

Slashdot: Can you tell us about the multiplayer aspect of the game, in terms of Battle.net and the possibility of LAN play?

Blizzard: We're not supporting LAN play. We're basically focusing on making the best multiplayer experience we can, and that's all through Battle.net. There are tons of features we're going to be supporting both for cooperative play and competitive play. One of the things we can talk about with the new Battle.net is security. Fixing some of the problems we had with the earlier Diablos — item duping, cheating, and griefing — we're going to be addressing all of those things with the new Battle.net, as well as some pretty awesome competitive play ideas we're working with right now. So that's going to be the biggest advance, especially for previous Diablo players, to see all these we're planning. It going to be really awesome.

Chris Sigaty — Lead Producer, Starcraft 2

Slashdot: What is your approach when you look at balancing, not only player versus campaign, but player versus player?

Chris: Really, it all just happens through lots of play. We definitely are looking at numbers, and there are tons of numbers plugged into the game, and a lot of different dials that we can manipulate to try and hit balance. But, a lot of it comes through play, and often times we find things in beta or even after ship. We have patched Starcraft many, many times; we have patched Warcraft III many, many times. We definitely ship out the gates with a good balance, but it evolves. There are things that these really great players come along and figure out that we just aren't able to figure out. These are things that we don't necessarily anticipate, even in beta, so for us I would say the biggest part is lots of play. For example, Starcraft 2 right now is in alpha internally. Our whole company — we have over 3,000 people now, and many of them are playing when they have time between their jobs to give us feedback. The other big balance tool we have is a couple of pro-gamers, who basically spend all day just playing each other, and they try to develop strategies against each other. One of the unique challenges that we face in doing this, because the original was such a huge phenomenon from the e-sport perspective, is balancing those numbers really well, yet making things for the more average player, or new player, that feel really powerful. What happens is, in the hands of an expert, everything is powerful to some degree, and so then you end up balancing the numbers down to mediocrity. One thing we just did to try to combat this is that we just made the Zerg 30% faster on Creep. Many people were like, "You can't do that, that's gonna break it," but I wanted to try it and see what happens. We are trying to work in some things like this, so we would add an ability, balance it out and then explore some bigger things, like what does this mean in the hands of a pro. Those are some of the tools that we use to approach balance.

Slashdot: What types of caps are you looking at?

Chris: We are sticking with the hard population cap. We have had them in all of our games; it's 200 food again, and we will be sticking with that unless something changes significantly. Right now, we're definitely balancing the game in that direction. There isn't anything we have seen that has made us desire to do otherwise. Where we had a bigger reaction was with Warcraft III; we put in a much smaller cap — 90 — and a lot of people felt that was pretty heavy handed. It was a very different game, though, and a very different time. Graphics engines, too, were very different. So, part of it was system requirements, but now that it has opened up, the main reason is that going beyond 200 doesn't seem to mean anything for us. 200 seems like a good, hard cap, and even though hardware has come a long ways, we still see performance issues, especially in some of the 2v2 matches. If all four players have the 200 food cap, and they are running those units against each other, other games may solve that problem by choosing a performance solution. From a visual fidelity standpoint, we wanted to keep the same unit that you have at the beginning of the game that looks a particular way to look the same way when you have 200 units. So, it's partially that, and again, it's partially just management — once you get to 200, what are you really doing at that point? You want to force the guys to actually have action at some point, and 200 is really out there. We think far enough out there that it works.

Slashdot: How constrained are you going to keep players with respect to the UI? Some players have specific questions about the zoom level, and is there any possibility of giving a broader view of the battlefield?

Chris: It's interesting that you bring up UI. UI has been a point of contention since the beginning, for Starcraft 2. There were the biggest arguments about things you would never believe; unlimited selection is a great example of that. People thought unlimited selection would break it, arguing that you have to control groups of twelve units at a time, and that is the strategy and the way you have to play. Each one of those has been a big conversation. As far as zoom level specifically, we made a decision to keep the action pretty close on purpose. We are actually allowing players to see a little more with wider monitors, which is a big decision, but we kept it constrained, really, because that's how we feel is the best way to play the game. We are holding the players to some standards. The user interface that we have isn't going to be some sort of scripted user interface that you can update at will, like World of Warcraft does. It's going to be set, and this is how we envision the game being played. That said, you can go ahead and create all sorts of different visions for what gameplay should be by using the map editor and changing things up.

Slashdot: What are your goals for system requirements? Is there enough attention being paid to both the low and the high end?

Chris: We have definitely done a lot of cutting-edge things on our end, but we are about to (post-Blizzcon) run back through and make sure we are hitting the low end. We have generally done a good job at Blizzard about trying to make sure we support that lower end. I would even say that we have spent a little too much time making sure we have all the bells and whistles and crazy things, like our new cinematics, so now we are going back to re-balance. I'm not sure we are discussing any specifics yet, but we are going to be investigating those questions as soon as we get back from Blizzcon.

Slashdot: What capabilities do you foresee for the map creator, and is there any chance that the map creator could be released early, in a manner similar to Spore?

Chris: There is a possibility; we have actually been talking about releasing our editor in the beta. There are some concerns that if we put it out there for multi-player, we feel like a lot of players will just respond by saying, "Here is how you should balance it," and send back out re-balanced maps. We really don't want to go down that slippery slope and have players just joining in to those types of maps. We want to balance the game we're trying to make. At the same time, we do want to enable people that are doing more extreme games — things like the DOTAs out there that are re-envisioning games. So we are talking about it, and we may or may not include the map editor in the beta, or potentially roll it out halfway through. As far as scope of the editor and how big, I can tell you it's much more powerful than what we had in Warcraft III. We are trying to ensure the things that were done in Warcraft III are still possible. On top of that, we have this actor system now that allows players to do a lot more as far as putting together a series of events to make up abilities. For example, "Make this missile fly using this particular piece of art, play this explosion, make this sound go off." This way, people can now encompass abilities that have their own customized versions of that ability. So, beyond that, all the stuff we are doing with in-game cinematics are possible using the editor. DOTA is awesome. We love phenomenons like that. We want to make sure things like that and beyond are possible.

Slashdot: With Ghost suspended, do you ever see Starcraft evolving beyond a strict RTS setting?

Chris: We don't have any specific plans like that, but I definitely feel that the universe itself is very well loved within the company and other places. I personally think that it would be a fantastic universe to do any of several different genres. An MMO, an FPS, or anything in between. It's always something that is in discussion — "Where is this going to take place?" Always high on the list somewhere is the Starcraft universe.

Slashdot: With the recent controversy surrounding DRM, what is your take on DRM with respect to both Starcraft 2 and Battle.net?

Chris: We don't have specific plans ironed out. We are definitely aware of things that have happened with Spore, and some of the other games that have come out with big uprisings. We want to make sure that we are protected, but at the same time we want to make sure that it feels like the "right way" and not the "wrong way." Our biggest advantage is Battle.net, so I think the solution is that Battle.net is the premiere place to play, and that's where you want to be playing. So, that alone is the best sort of solution. You want to be up there and in contact with your friends, see what's going on, so there is your copy protection, essentially. As far as specifics, we haven't really worked that out. There are definitely some things to discuss still. One of the main things we are talking about is that there has to be a way for people to play offline — on the plane or wherever — but those are discussions that we still have to have.

Slashdot: How would you describe your AI in Starcraft 2, and how does it stack up against earlier AIs?

Chris: Our AI is a very script-driven, home-rolled system. We're going to expose all of that this time, and let people see that. Every time we change significant balance, we have to go back and look at what is going on. We have a pretty strong AI in there right now on hard, and it is just the beginnings of what we want to have in there at ship. There are different tactics and different paths that they can go down, so that you'll be surprised, but we're going to be rewriting all of that again before beta. It's not a learning AI, so we have to do a lot of hand tuning. We have certain algorithms in place that will attempt to analyze data and see what the player is doing. One thing that we are doing this time around that is totally new — our AI cheated in the past. Starcraft and Warcraft III saw the whole map, so the AI could see what the player was building or doing at any given time. The AI in Starcraft 2 now has to scout, and it's much harder to do, but there is a pretty effective AI in there for now.



Paul Sams — COO

Slashdot: What types of challenges do you face on a daily basis?

Paul: I would say that we have such a high level of confidence in our developers that I don't spend a ton of time worry about them, because I feel like they always are going to deliver great content, and they are always going to make sure that they are meeting the quality proposition. We have such an experienced team in that area that we kind of feel that they "got it." What's really new for us — and I guess it's not so new, because we have been doing it for four years now — is the customer service piece of the puzzle. It's really challenging. When you are dealing with 10.9 million subscribers globally and you are trying to provide customer service to them in a way that is consistent with their expectations, it's challenging. You never know what is going to be happening the next day or what challenges there may be with patches, griefing, bugs, or something. You never really know, so the customer service piece is probably the most challenging. Certainly in the earlier days, managing the network was very difficult. We have worked out many of the different challenges that we encountered. We periodically will have a challenge here and there, but for the most part the really nightmarish, difficult times are behind us, thankfully.

Slashdot: What types of measures do you use to ensure quality control?

Paul: One of the things that we have been doing for a while is surveys immediately after you get a ticket closed. It's a short survey that helps us to track the quality of our reps' performance. We also track how quickly they are able to resolve the issues and how long the customer had to wait. We are continually trying to evolve and improve that. I think that our customer service is pretty good. I would say that it is amongst the better customer service solutions in our industry, but it's not someplace where I am comfortable or "happy." We are actually putting forth a ton of focus right now — it's actually one of the big initiatives in our company and our leadership, to try to take our customer service experience from what I think is one of the best in our industry to being amongst the best of class regardless of industry. This is something that people are going to see over the next year. We are putting a huge amount of investment (time, energy, and money) towards really evolving and improving our customer service. It's something that our customers are telling us that they think needs to be better, and we are hearing them. I would envision some significant improvements in the coming months.

Slashdot: Given your position of market dominance, have you ever considered using this position to effect wide, sweeping change? Specifically, and most important to our readers, is with respect to Linux. I know you aren't about to jump in with both feet and support Linux outright, but I know there are people within Blizzard that have clients and tools running on Linux. Is there any sort of vehicle that could be put in place to allow that experience to be communicated to the outside world?

Paul: I know that there are a lot of people at our organization that are big fans of Linux, and I would say that it is something that we have looked at and have an openness to. But, we have built this system, and it is a system that we have gotten to be stable right now, so I wouldn't anticipate that we would do anything to make meaningful changes for right now. For future products it is certainly possible, but for us, there is certainly a comfort level in the way that we are doing it. All of our staff is very comfortable with the way that we are operating and the systems that we are using. So, when you go and shift your focus to something else, you don't necessarily know how to do it as well. I think that whenever you do something like that you have to do so with a lot of caution, so that it doesn't negatively impact your consumers. That being said, I would say that it is possible, but it's not something we are working on with any amount of focus right now.

Slashdot: Given that Blizzard has such a wonderfully rich backlog of games, has there any been any thought to open sourcing some of the older products?

Paul: I don't think we have ever talked about open sourcing our games. We own a few older games, like Lost Vikings, Rock and Roll Racing, and Black Thorn. Those were originally Interplay published products, and they owned those franchises. A number of years ago, we went to them, because those games hold a special place in our heart. So, we wanted to get those back, if for no other reason just because we didn't want anyone to do something different with those franchises and cause them to not have such a fond place in people's hearts. So we acquired those a few years back, which was good timing, since Interplay had a desire to have some revenue coming in, and we released GBA titles of each of those, and that was a fun thing for us to be able to make those available to a newer audience. My kids were both into Gameboy stuff, so they really dug that. That is something we have done with older titles, but open source isn't something that we have ever really talked about, and I don't know what the thought process would be. Certainly, if it is something of interest by your readers, they should let us know that officially so we could talk about it.

Slashdot: What are some of the details that you can give us about the evolution of Battle.net and some of the thought processes behind the decisions being made?

Paul: The things that we have shared thus far as it relates to the new version of Battle.net is, number one, it will ship together with Starcraft 2. There is going to be a real focus on e-sports, and there will also be some strong social networking elements to it as well. As far as it relates to what the business model is — we really haven't gotten there yet. I know that there is a lot of speculation, but I think that part of the speculation is simply because Blizzard isn't answering the question. The simple fact that Blizzard is not answering the question of whether Battle.net is for-pay or not suggests to people that it could have a pay component, and people should not assume that. The reason that we aren't talking about it is because we want to focus on the game, and we want to focus on the game network, and if you look at Blizzard's history, that is how we always do it. We almost never talk about how we are going to distribute it, what the price is going to be — we never talk about that stuff until very, very late in the game. There are multiple reasons for this. One, when you start talking about stuff like those things earlier, you start making decisions and potentially compromise on what the gameplay experience is. We never want to do that. The other thing is that even though we are a very game-first focused type of company, we are still mindful that we have competitors. Those competitors want to know what Blizzard is going to do, and how they are going to charge, and to be candid, I'm not interested in letting anyone else know how we are going to do it until it is too late for them to react. I think a lot of other companies, the way they run their business is they sit down at a table much like we are sitting at right now, they've got marketing and finance people sitting around, and they may ... maybe ... have a developer sitting at the table. They get out reports, and they look at what type of products are selling well, and then they notify the game development team, "Oh, by the way, you are going to be making a game about sailing." Well, no one is necessarily enthusiastic or excited about that. We do it differently. We actually go to the game teams as they are coming off of a game and ask them what is it they would like to play next, what they would like to work on next, and let them decide. Then we tell them to make the game and we decide what type of business model to wrap around it when it's time, but let's not have the business model dictate how good the game is. I think this is something that a lot publishers and developers make the mistake of doing, because they spend so much time thinking about how to get your money and they don't spend the time thinking about the game. We try to build a process such that we focus on the game, and our feeling is that if we make a great game that you and I want to play, that we'll vote with our pocketbooks.

Slashdot: Has Blizzard given any thought to consoles, both for existing and future games?

Paul: This is going to sound strangely similar to my last answer, and here is why. When we are making these games, we make the game for the platform that makes the most sense for the gameplay we're looking at. It's not that we don't like consoles. It's not that we aren't going to be on consoles, because we started on consoles. The games that we developed back with the Lost Vikings, Blackthorne, and Rock and Roll Racing — those, to us, felt better and more appropriate for consoles. Some would argue that it's because PC wasn't as big back then, but that was where those games naturally fit. Games that we have been making since that time have felt better and made more sense to be on PC. But, if our development teams came to us and said, "Listen, we want to make and play the following game next," and if that made sense to be on a console, then we wouldn't hesitate to do that. We're not afraid of consoles and we're not against consoles, it's just an issue of making the right decisions for the game and for the customers.

Slashdot: There has obviously been a lot of DRM fallout recently. What, specifically, is your mindset with respect to DRM?

Paul: Obviously, we want to protect our games. We put a lot of time and energy into building these things, and we feel like we prioritize the right things and make the right sacrifices to create a great game for the gamers. As a result of that, when we have done all of those things, and we think we have done them right, then we do have a desire to see the fruits of those labors. Just like other companies, we are looking at how we can protect those products and how we can ensure that the people who are playing our games have paid for them. How, exactly, are we going to approach that? Certainly Battle.net is a piece of that, and there may be other components there together with that when we launch these future games. World of Warcraft kind of has it built in — you can't play it without an authentic copy, but the other products aren't as easy to protect, so we are trying to come up with creative and clever ways to be able to do that, but it's challenging.
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Blizzard Answers Your Questions, From Blizzcon

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  • by Mr_Reaper (231387) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:04PM (#25386399) Homepage

    we will entertain the idea of open sourcing our old stuff if you can overlook our horde of lawyers that will go after you should you want to run open battle.net or depart from our draconian eulas on all our games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by T.E.D. (34228)

      if you can overlook our horde of lawyers that will go after you

      /cheer

      (raises breifcase high in the air)
      For the Horde!

  • hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by flitty (981864) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:05PM (#25386423)

    The best place classes can get, in our mind, is where everybody thinks everybody's overpowered.

    I ran into Everybody. Level 70 warlock on icecrown.

    • by lupis42 (1048492)
      That was actually my favorite part of Red Alert II: More or less every single unit was unstoppable if used in the right manner and combination.
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:06PM (#25386445)

    What made you take out LAN play? To me, playing with a bunch of friends in the same room is by far the best multi-player experience. No battle-net can touch it.

    I suspect it's their way of implementing DRM. It's still going to cost them a sale. Before, I was excited about D3. Now, it's gonna take a discussion with my buddies to see if we're going to spring for D3. My suspicion is that we're going to go with some hacked version that allows for LAN play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lulfas (1140109)
      Because LAN play doesn't need to exist anymore. If you want to play with a bunch of friends in a room, you all log into battle.net and then join your own game. It's fair to assume everyone has internet at this point, and to make it all run through there.
      • by TriezGamer (861238) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:37PM (#25387007)

        I wouldn't be so sure. I've been to LAN parties with 20-30 people. When there's that many players, requiring everyone to utilize what may be a relatively slow broadband connection could make the gameplay experience miserable. LAN play is a blessing in such a circumstance.

        But what it really comes down to is that I honestly don't NEED LAN play. There's nothing stopping me from playing online with a friend just because we're in the same room. And if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the number of people who legitimately NEED LAN play is quite small, particularly in comparison to the number of sales that would be made up from potential piracy (which isn't a 1:1 ratio, I know).

        I'm all for non-intrusive anti-piracy measures, and if Blizzard simply went the route of using a CD-key, and is choosing to enforce that through Battle.net and stripping out LAN play -- I'll buy it. If anything, because it means I won't have to deal with any cockneyed DRM.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PotatoFarmer (1250696)
        Doesn't Blizzard clear out battle.net accounts that have been inactive? I don't play Diablo 2 nearly as much these days, and it's nice to know that the characters sitting on my hard drive will still be there if I stop playing for 6 months.

        That, to me, would be a pretty compelling reason to keep LAN play.
      • by Machtyn (759119) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @03:34PM (#25389109) Homepage Journal
        Case in point. I have a group of friends I play with. I'm the techie of the group. I understand IP addressing and math. I know how to configure my router, firewall and the routers and firewalls of my remote friends to connect to my computer (as server). I don't need a service like Gamespy to hook us up. In one game (GRAW2)I can setup a game server on my local network and my friends can see it, but I can't because the gamespy IP Address is pointing to my router's external IP address. I can create the server in game, but then I can't increase the "rate" to an acceptable level to avoid lag by the other players (my internet connection can handle the increase).

        In this situation, it really is a pain to have to log in to a server to essentially play an offline game. Particularly in LAN instances. Say I do have a number of friends over... or I go to a friends house (with more space). I'm the techie guy, but I don't necessarily want to run a 100ft ethernet cable from our 8 port switch to whever the router to the Internet is sitting (which may require going up stairs, through rooms, etc.) And I *really* don't want to have to setup a wireless repeater then attach that to the switch.

        Speaking of game servers. Why can't we just go back to the way Quake and Half-Life does it. Allow us to configure our server and assign the IP. We'll create our own pinhole/port-forward to the server. Give us the ability to start it as a service (Windows) and/or create a Linux server component. In any case, give us a command line w/ arguments if needed, to start the server. (Activision's Civilization 4's Pitboss is a serious offender, because it is meant as a leave alone server, but doesn't offer any automation for a crashed/rebooted environment.)

        Requiring Battle.NET, as the community here sees it, is another attempt to reduce piracy, which I agree is a problem, but annoys the legitimate user, while the pirates still get around the issue with cracks and/or bypasses. (See Windows XP Activation for an example.)

        /me anxiously awaits the release of Diablo 3. It will be one of the very few games I purchase close to release. Most games I wait until they drop to the $20 price range, which means I wait a year to purchase. Half-Life 2 and the Orange Box were the most recent games I purchased full price that wasn't $20 or less. Morrowind, Oblivion, Neverwinter Nights, Need For Speed: Underground 2, and many others, I waited the requisite 1-3 years before purchasing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Killjoy_NL (719667)

          Just 1 solution for preventing you using 100 ft/meter ethernet cables. Go for Ethernet over Power, it works perfectly :)
          I've been using/installing that instead of wireless at clients places.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by morari (1080535)

        True, most people do have internet access. However, an absolutely huge amount have no available high speed access. Furthermore, consumer grade broadband is going to be bogged down fairly quickly once you have three or four people logged into Battle.net and playing online from the same router simply because Blizzard wanted to enforce some bullshit DRM and stripped LAN play out of their product.

        If my friends and I are all in the same room playing a videogame, there is absolutely no reason we should have to be

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lupis42 (1048492)
        I've always liked LANing with a couple people in a cabin in upstate NY. Of course, said cabin is over twenty miles from the nearest cell tower, so it would be satellite or dial up over a long distance call. But hey, my copy of Starcraft will work fine, as will Red Alert II, and even Command and Conquer 3 and Supreme Commander. So really, if you like LAN gaming, I guess any RTS that isn't Starcraft II would work for you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Whorhay (1319089)
      I agree. The arguement that it's for security's sake is bogus. People that are concerned about item duping and other cheats and hacks would play on the closed battlenet servers. Because it provides for all of that by keeping the character save files on the server. LAN play is just about having fun, most people who go to a LAN party aren't going to be using cheats and hacks without their friends knowing about it. In Diablo 2 the characters I didn't want to cheat with, I didn't cheat with, those that I did,
    • by thepotoo (829391) <thepotoospam.yahoo@com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:39PM (#25387057)
      I was one of the guys who originally asked about LAN play, and I was interested in knowing why it was removed.

      Instead I got this marketing drivel:

      We're not supporting LAN play.[...fluff which contains no mention of whether or not we'll at least be allowed to play our single player characters in private open Battle.net games...] It going to be really awesome.

      Let me repeat what I said before [slashdot.org], I still have no decent internet connection at home with which to play this game. With all the multiplayer hype D3 is getting, I'm pretty much guaranteed to have a second rate experience.

      I really, really hope a mod that allows LAN play will come along.

    • by khyron664 (311649) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:43PM (#25387093)

      Agreed. If I want to play with my wife or other friends from my place, why should we all have to use an internet connection to play together? LAN play makes much more sense.

      And while we're on the subject of questions I'd like answered, did Blizzard fix their horrible networking code? I'd never played a network game that would lag as bad as Diablo II would on a home network. It was absolutely amazing how bad the lagging would get, and usually when it occurred you learned to run because a lot of something was coming thus causing the lag. Most times you just died because you couldn't see whatever it was that caused the lag before they killed you.

      I haven't played PC games in years, but DIII was sounding interesting and I'm curious to see how the story ends. Without LAN play though, a lot of the replay value is lost for me. Once you play through the story once, the fun comes in playing new classes/building up classes with friends imo.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tholomyes (610627)

        I would guess that running WoW has taught them a few things about getting their networking code incredibly polished. As above:

        "We had a test last Monday on the beta realm where we had 350 people fighting at once, which was a tremendous feat for us, because it was, on the server-side, completely lag-free."

        • by khyron664 (311649)

          That doesn't entirely convince me. When playing via LAN, one of the machines is the "server" and with Diablo II I saw no difference in lag regardless of the power of the machine running as the server. Doesn't do much good if the "server" is lag free if the clients can't handle a hiccup in network transit times (which shouldn't happen on a local lan, but hey who knows). The fact the point out specifically that the server was lag free makes me weary. I'd like to think they fixed the lag problem, but they

    • DRM and that is better then the drm the f* you cdrom, dose not work if it sees pices of software, and does other crap with your system. Maybe they can have a way where the bandwidth stays mostly over the lan.

    • by Anpheus (908711)

      Before I begin, it is important that when I refer to hacking, I meant single player character files used on Open and LAN play. Not hacking as in attempting to degrade the quality of play for people on Blizzard's realms. Us hackers, the 'Open' hackers, only the smallest minority of us cared to interfere with the realms Blizzard so graciously provided.

      In Diablo II there was a 'hacking' culture that I greatly enjoyed. In particular, in Diablo II prior to 1.10, there was an enormous amount of complexity in gett

    • by lupis42 (1048492) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:09PM (#25390975)
      I've never understood this attitude. When Call Of Duty 2 came out, LAN play didn't even require a unique CD key, or disc in the drive. We had ten people installed and playing off of two copies the day it came out. Seven of the eight who were borrowing had purchased the game for the next LAN party a month later. A whole bunch of new people tried it, and most of them went on to buy their own copies. It was almost as if some executive somewhere had thought "If the people who buy it the day it comes out are able to get their friends playing at LAN parties, those friends are more likely to buy copies when they go home." Best. Viral. Marketing. Ever.
  • I'd love to use an open source version of Battle Chess as a client to FICS. Someone get on this!

  • by Spazztastic (814296) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [citsatzzaps]> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:15PM (#25386607)

    Jeff: Friendlier to Linux.. Currently we don't have any plans to release on Linux. WoW is actually extremely Linux-friendly, internally. There are many Linux WoW servers and WoW clients. But, publicly, we haven't released WoW on Linux, and don't currently have any plans to announce that.

    Many linux WoW servers and WoW clients? Is he referencing the ability to use Wine to run WoW? Because that isn't considered WoW on Linux to my standards or probably most of yours. WoW on Linux would entail that you can install it off of the CD on Linux and have it function correctly.

    As for the servers, does he mean the emulated servers such as the MaNGOS project, or the internal servers?

    There is a lot of things that need clarification, but I doubt we'll get it or will you get an answer from their forums before a CM dismisses your thread and locks it.

    PS: I'm also cynical about Blizzard at this point and just about anything they implement related to WoW.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SilentChris (452960)

      As for the servers, does he mean the emulated servers such as the MaNGOS project, or the internal servers?

      It's been known for quite some time that the servers that run World of Warcraft use Oracle on Linux.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You missed the part where it said, "internally."

      By internally I think he meant, "We have a working Linux client. It's a pain in the ass to support, so we're not releasing it. But it is nifty."

      like how Apple had an x86 version of OS X for awhile named Marklar.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by binarylarry (1338699)

        and "It's a pain in the ass to support," meaning we'd have to write new screens for our support techs to read from.

        Linux isn't hard to support, if you define a clear area of support.

        Don't support gentoo and the other crazy distros. Only support Ubuntu and Fedora... that's the where the vast majority of users will be anyway.

      • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

        "We have a working Linux client. It's a pain in the ass to support, so we're not releasing it. But it is nifty."

        I remember the early days of UO. There were native Linux clients to be found on Origin's public FTP servers. They were entirely unofficial - no support. Use at your own risk.

        They worked wonderfully. But they didn't patch / update. So whenever an update came down, you had to visit the FTP site for a new version. That all ended when the devs who were creating that client moved on to greener pastures.

        Would it be possible for Blizz to do the same kind of thing?

    • I think he's talking about live servers - which run on Linux.

      At the software company I work at (I won't reveal who it is, but yeah you've heard of it) we have several Linux versions of a lot of our products, but haven't been released because of support concerns. Its harder and more expensive to test (than Mac/Windows) because of all the variations and its harder to support for the same reason and people get pissed off when it doesn't work on xyz distribution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Markimedes (1292762)
      You might notice that he said WoW is extremely Linux-friendly, internally.
      Internally means not externally, by the way.

      Don't let your cynicism blind you into not reading what they wrote.
    • by erroneus (253617)

      I cannot believe this question was even asked. The question that SHOULD be asked is "Why isn't there a native Linux client?" And before someone suggests that it would be impossible, I have to say balderdash to that! Unreal and Quake3arena and a variety of complex games have been neatly packaged into RPMs and DEBs for very easy installation complete with shortcuts/launchers to start the game once it is installed.

      It can be done. The real question is "why don't they?" I am sure there are many reasons they

  • No LAN? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:29PM (#25386839)

    No LAN play in Diablo 3 = fail.

    Lots of people used it. Not everyone has access to a low-latency connection to the Internet all the time, and frankly the Battle.net servers don't either.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912)
      Will Starcraft have LAN play?
      • Yes, this is an important question for me, too. I currently play Starcraft still, in my home, on my LAN, with about 4 or 5 other people. Sure would be nice to continue this with SC2 for another 10 years or so. :)
    • Re:No LAN? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:56PM (#25387301)

      When I'm at conventions with my friends we usually have a laptop or two. Like Hell I'd try to connect to BNET over our hotels free wifi.

      I *was* pretty excited about Diablo III. I *was* going to buy it on launch day because I had to have it. So were all of my friends who have played Diablo II with me for years. But I, like many people here and elsewhere, are now actually debating whether or not we want to buy the game from Blizzard.

      My money is on this:

      1) D3 comes out with no LAN play.
      2) Genius nerd comes out with a LAN play patch, tool, etc.
      3) Blizzard sues him into oblivion and/or classifies it as a cheat, banning people who have the patch from BNET.

      Even Steam has offline mode (after you activate online) and allows LAN play for all of Valve's games. (Create server, connect to server.)

    • by rotide (1015173)
      I'm going to have to disagree, as well as agree with you here.

      I do agree that back 5 or 10 years ago, Diablo 1 and 2 were fun on a lan. More Diablo 1, however. Now Diablo 2 was about the time I started getting access to high speed net connections and frankly, being restricted to playing and trading with only a couple friends got really old.

      Fast forward to now and honestly, I can barely remember my last "lan party". We had rented a local hall of some sort (can't remember specifics) and had about 40 pe
      • by flitty (981864)
        Me and my wife have been replaying Diablo 2 over lan over the past 2 months because the lag over Battle.net is too noticeable. So i guess if they get networking code as good as sitting in the same room as someone, it won't matter, but skeptical cat is skeptical.
      • We have lan parties at work with about 6 people every couple weeks. There's a net connection available, but it isn't fast enough for all of us to be playing on it lag-free at all.

  • Do I need to buy a widescreen monitor or can I squeeze my screen with software settings.
  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:36PM (#25386999)

    When you get into Nightmare and Hell, we figure that's what you're asking for. ...

    We require you to dig deeper into your kit of abilities to really pull things off. We require you to be smarter, use more tactics, and really dig into what you're able to do to handle some of the challenges.

    I dunno...there's less forgiving, but there's also just downright brutal. I've had to hack my D2 1.10 character saves and drop on unique or rare gear and stats and I'd still get torn to shreads in Hell. I'm sure I'm not the best Paladin ever, but there's lack of tactics and then there's just...well...to lift from Tigole, "four siege engines on you at once."

    I'm sure it's balanced fine for multiplayer, but single player SHOULD be finishable on any class.

    It's not like single player is affecting b.net in any way, there should be a little leniency. Honestly, I don't mind challenges, but it's not a 'challenge' if the mob has 'one hit death' and you're melee or '99% immune to range melee' and you're a bowazon...

    Oh yeah, more nitpicking...increase the drop rate of uniques and rares in single player! We don't have the luxury of millions of other people trying to sell their useless rares!

    • To be fair, hell is the 3rd time through. It's fair to assume that you're fairly hardcore if you're completing the game for the third time. I take your point though - stinkin' physical immune, lightening enchanted beasts.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:38PM (#25387029) Homepage

    Leonard Boyarsky -- Lead World Designer

    Me, I'd be designing fjords all over the place. :-P

    Cheers

  • About time. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:44PM (#25387113) Journal

    The AI in Starcraft 2 now has to scout, and it's much harder to do, but there is a pretty effective AI in there for now

    FINALLY!

  • by molo (94384) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:46PM (#25387151) Journal

    Slashdot interviews are supposed to have commenters asking the questions, relayed by slashdot editors. Here we have an editor asking questions vaguely inspired by our questions. What is with the format change?

    And was it just me, or were these all softball questions compared to the level of questions we had all submitted??

    -molo

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @01:54PM (#25387263)

      It sounds like the questions were asked during a regular Q&A panel at Blizzcon, not a one-on-one sitdown interview like we normally see here where the questions are delivered verbatim. I doubt it signals some sort of paradigm shift or format change in interviews, it's just what the editors had to work with.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RotsiserMho (918539)
      I noticed the format change too, and frankly, I liked it. I think in a lot of previous interviews, the questions could have used some editing. But the best part about the new format in my mind, is that they asked followup questions a couple times -- something the old format didn't really allow for. I liked it. It was much more coherent.
  • by BountyX (1227176) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @02:10PM (#25387487)
    I, a self-proclaimed reverse engineer, will make an updated bnet daemon when D3 comes out. I will base it off of http://bnetd.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] (the existing daemon), then I will release it anonymously on a server in another country that blizzard has no jurisdiction over. Do not fear a lack of lan play!
  • think numbers are a great guideline, and you should always understand the math behind what you're doing, but at the core, you need to follow the gut and ask "Hey, does this feel really great?" The best place classes can get, in our mind, is where everybody thinks everybody's overpowered.

    Drivel. If WOW developers actually believed this then the crap changes they made in yesterday's patch wouldn't have happened. They changed the way Hunter's play so much that I canceled my account in complete and utter disg

    • by flitty (981864)
      You would think they could have predicted that changing "feign death" to "Quadruple your aggro" would have caused problems.
  • by Sparky9292 (320114) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @02:15PM (#25387563)

    What made you take out LAN play? To me, playing with a bunch of friends in the same room is by far the best multi-player experience. No battle-net can touch it.

    I can't think of any reason to leave out pure LAN play other than DRM issues. Thwarting DRM through LAN play is trivial. Simply tell all of your friends to install Hamachi, and kapow.. instant VPN LAN.

    I think LAN play without a central server is gone the way of the dodo. I felt the similar shock when games started leaving out modem to modem play. If all you wanted to do was play 1 vs 1, then a direct 56k modem connection produced less latency without going through the internet.

    I remember reading a developer blog about C&C:Generals. He said that performance wise, there is no difference between LAN and internet play. Once you press the launch button in the chatroom, all internet traffic is sent between you and your opponents -- the chat/match server has nothing to do with it.

    Hmmm, I wonder how many people were angry when Warcaft III didn't support null-modem play? (For you youngsters: That's when you connected the serial ports of two computers together with a little null-modem adapter.... Oh god, now I have to explain what serial ports were.. )

    • I remember reading a developer blog about C&C:Generals. He said that performance wise, there is no difference between LAN and internet play. Once you press the launch button...

      The piece of shit falls apaGAME HAS DETECTED A MISMATCH

      Fucking hell, let's try agaSERIAL IN USE

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yeah, but you *could* still work around that. From memory there is a network device driver for a null-modem cable. But these days every motherboard comes with an ethernet port so supporting null-modem doesn't make a lot of sense.
  • Dear Blizzard (Score:2, Interesting)

    Please support the Linux community, by releasing your games in ways that allow us to use them without having to 'hack' around to get them to work, I.E. wine.

    I don't care if you don't cough up the code. I don't mind paying to play. I mind having to use the virus known as Windows.

    Thank you, that is all.

  • by Krater76 (810350) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @02:21PM (#25387669) Journal

    Slashdot: Wintergrasp is a bold new direction in terms of creating world PvP that's something in which a lot of people can and want to participate. What's it like to design something like that and commit so many resources to it before seeing the fans' reaction to it?

    Jeff: I mean we've been ripping off the Warhammer IP for what, over a decade now? So we really felt that we'd just do the same by watching a few of the developer videos from Warhammer Online and do something similar to what they're doing. Why do something unique when we can just copy someone else?

    I mean we are going to add Blizzard's trademark PvP spin on it by making it fun for like 20 minutes and not have any game-world consequence. Sure, it'll probably be an empty zone a month after everyone hits 80 and the rewards from doing it will be outdone by arena gear or even just gear from level 80 quests and instances. You'll get very little honor for it, just like world PvP elsewhere, because we need to discourage people from playing in there - we really can't handle 300+ people in one location unless they are on our dev team's LAN, 20 feet of Cat5 away from the server. What I'm saying here is that you need to do the same 4 battlegrounds after hitting 80, at least until the next expansion.

    Our world PvP is going to be awesome!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You'll get very little honor for it, just like world PvP elsewhere, because we need to discourage people from playing in there - we really can't handle 300+ people in one location unless they are on our dev team's LAN, 20 feet of Cat5 away from the server.

      No kidding, I don't play WoW anymore, but during one particular Warrior nerf patch there was a push to have a mass protest by having everyone on every server who was a warrior go to Ironforge. Suffice to say a lot of people who participate were warned to l

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:20PM (#25391143)

      Our world PvP is going to be awesome!

      Silly Blizzard, WoW has no PvP, it just has people hiding behind pillars with Druids healing them.

  • "Hey, are you still having fun?"

    I am, but you know what would be even more fun? An official wiki that tells me how combat works. Yeah, I know there's some pretty complicated formulas for combat dealing with stats and attack power and dodge and chance to hit ... but come on, there have been some serious moments in the game where I cannot tell which piece of armor is better! Is there some reason that players have to reverse engineer the formulas for combat instead of you guys hosting official formulas so that avid fans can fool around wi

  • Linux Support (Score:4, Informative)

    by srealm (157581) <prez.goth@net> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @02:33PM (#25387871) Homepage

    Since Blizzard said they'd be looking at this post's comments ;)

    I for one have wanted native Linux support for quite a while. I run WoW on a dual core laptop that, when I had windows on it, was MORE than fast enough to run WoW at reasonably high quality settings.

    I prefer to run Linux though, and removed Windows from my laptop entirely. Both Wine and Cedega do an OK job at getting WoW running, but it is not without it's problems and certainly not as fast as I had things going under Windows. Plus it seems WoW only uses a single core when I play under Wine or Cedega, rather than both.

    Right now, if I use OpenGL mode in cedega or wine, I get about 3-4fps in shattrath, and D3D mode I get about 12fps. Pretty poor for a reasonably fast laptop with a 256mb vid. card! And I have the quality settings ratcheted way low.

    This is besides the fact that I have had all kinds of issues using Wine or Cedega, from crashes, to texture issues, to the screen going black - and even the most basic - not being able to tab out of the game or change to windowed mode! And this is besides the PITA is is to setup the emulation environment (even beyond installing wine or cedega, then you have to make all the appropriate settings adjustment for your vid. card, choose whether to use ALSA or OSS to emulate windows sound, etc).

    The fact that WoW is faster emulating D3d than it is usnig OpenGL is a little ridiculous, but part of that may be the fact that it is ALSO emulating a windows OS - and any emulation layer is going to siphon off raw speed, memory, etc.

    If you have already done the work for a Linux client, or most of the work for it, why not release it as a supported platform? There are several other companies (ID and VMWare being notable) supporting Linux, and it is becoming more and more popular.

    Don't think because the OS is free that people won't pay for software on it. Right now, on top of paying for my WoW software, and WoW subscription, I am also paying for Cedega, just to get my WoW on linux - I think a native client could do a much better job, and would love to see it.

    Plus I suspect some linux-running friends of mine might start playing again if WoW were offered natively on their OS of choice ;)

    • The big question is: Will they sue the snot out of someone developing a WoW LAN server? I'd bet so, as it'd be a violation of their EULA. Anyone?

    • Agree with your points but I might have some practical insight for your situation.

      First (sorry I have to say it) Wine is not an emulator. Really. It doesn't emulate the Windows API, it is an implementation of the Windows API.

      That said, OpenGL should be faster than D3D. I'm pretty sure the implementation of D3D in Wine just doesn't use all the available graphics hardware. That's just a guess but everything else I've read (and my own experience with WoW on Linux) has shown OpenGL is faster. Maybe spend more

  • by db32 (862117)
    Why was noone executed for the termination of Ghost?
  • I don't get this. In the interview, it is made clear that Blizzard has, HAS, [native] linux clients for their games. Why don't they release them? Even if they are buggy, there's absolutely nothing they might lose with such a move. They might however gain more users. If some poor soul in Blizzard has actually spent the time to create a client, why not allow him to release it, close sourced, static, whatever. Just release something.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Just because a lot of people in Blizzard use Linux in the office doesn't mean they have Linux clients for their games (although they may). More likely, they use Linux for IT and some software development.
  • Spectator mode (Score:3, Insightful)

    by srealm (157581) <prez.goth@net> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @02:52PM (#25388241) Homepage

    FINALLY they're talking about spectator modes.

    I've wanted this for ages. Though they way they describe it sounds creepy - letting some anonymous person come view your guild run? not for me.

    I envisioned spectator mode being more like people who missed out on going to a raid (it filled up), or who were just interested could enter spectator mode - and they would basically wander around like ghosts in the instance - not able to actually interact, but still with their own viewpoint and able to move around.

    Then, even have the possibility of, if a raid slot fees up, allowing a spectator to 'corporialize' and then actually be a part of the raid.

    Speaking of ghosts - WHY are ghosts a) so slow, and b) not able to climb infinitely steep inclines? or even fly? That is one of my pet peeves with WoW - having not just to run back to your corpse, but run AROUND everything to get back to your corpse. We should be able to fly as ghosts so we can get back to our bodies faster. As much as you might think otherwise, the being forced to run from whatever arbitrary place the graveyard is back to your body (which can be QUITE a distance), and basically taking several minutes (up to 15 or so!) to get back to your body, and not being able to intact with your environment is *NOT* part of the 'fun' experience. It's incredibly tedious. And it gets worse if you accidentally fall down a ravine or there is some feature (like a cliff) in the way that means you have to detour for ages to get back to your body ... especially in places like Outland, where you would have never had to go around the obstacle in the first place because you would have flown!

    PLEASE fix ghost form!

    • by mmalove (919245)

      If I still played WOW I'd be highly supportive of both of these notions. I think the raiding party should definately have to approve someone spectating them. They should also ensure that there is no performance hit to the raiders being spectated - or top guilds are going to have a pretty firm NO as they attempt to learn a new encounter with 100 drooling wannabes leaning on their precious latency.

      As for corpse runs - I think they are to an extent addressing this issue with checkpoints. Hopefully these wil

  • I want to OWN that game, not Rent it. If I can't play it offline 10 years from now (as I do for ST Armada, Civ 3, and AlphaCentauri) because the DRM servers we're taken offline in 3, then it doesn't sound like I'm buying anything. Copy protection is fair. Server based DRM is not.
    Also Linux ports would be most appreciated. or at least shoot for wine compatibility.
    Just my two bits.
  • I always found blacksmithing was a disappointing profession.

    It costs an arm and a leg to level to 375 - and when you get there, the gear you can make is at most only worth something to someone who JUST hit 70. There is basically no gear you can craft that would be eclipsed by even just doing things like Karazhan .. let alone later raids. So basically its a money pit with no benefit. Sure, there are some pattern drops - but even those are usually only good enough to make gear slightly BELOW the instance w

  • by nbetcher (973062) <nbetcher@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @03:05PM (#25388485)
    I would absolutely LOVE Linux support for WoW! I would pay $30/account/month for a Linux client, even if it isn't supported, and I even have 2 WoW accounts! I'm sure this would be the case for MANY people. I'm getting sick of having to deal with Windows, and the only reason I still use Windows at all is for WoW because it runs 5x faster in Windows than emulated using Cedega/WineHQ on Linux. You have my vote!
  • WoW for Linux? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pathway (2111) <pathway@google.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @03:13PM (#25388637)

    Dear Blizzard,

    Sure, I would love to see an open source client for WoW. There's lot of good technology in the client which would benefit the open source community, even outside of the development of open source games.

    But I'm not here to ask for an open source WoW client. I'm here to ask for a WoW client for Linux (and other Unicies), open source or not. Let me try to convince you...

    From the comments made in this post, it appears that a Wow client already exists for linux. I suspected this for some time, as your team seems quite capable of handling multiple platforms with your code. The very quick transition from PPC Macs to Intel Macs was impressive. Knowing how developers seem to often like linux, I'm sure the work was done in these developer's spare time.

    Now, if there is a client, and you decide to make it available to Linux, you will find that the community has two kinds of users: A) Foaming at the mouth ranting zealots and B) Well informed, opinionated and/or helpful users. Looking at the World of Warcraft forums, It's obvious that you are familiar with the former, and if you read Slashdot, I'm sure that you've experienced the latter. What's important to know about this group of users: We do not expect linux to be a "primary" platform for WoW. We know that your primary audience uses PCs, and a smaller percentage uses Macs. We, the linux users, are (for now, we hope) a tiny percentage of your prospective users. Knowing this, any of us who want to play WoW already either run the client from a Windows/Mac operating system, or use Wine/Codeweavers in order to play in our preferred environment.

    Taking myself as an example: I was running Ubuntu 64-bit, and was happy to run WoW in Wine. but, unfortunetly, the performance hit I was experiancing (vs running it in windows) was so great that I felt that I needed to move to a supported platform. Now I'm running Vista. While I am happy with the performance of WoW in Vista, I miss my linux desktop. If WoW ran nativly on linux, I would have never made the (quite expensive, mind you) switch.

    If Linux was provided a community supported client (no phone support, only one forum for linux issues) I'm sure that linux users around the world would rejoice.

    It's completely up to you, the developer, to decide if you wish to support a platform. And often, these decisions are made based off of profitability. While I'm sure your customer base may grow some, I'm also sure that most linux users who want to play WoW already play it by other means. There would be a small percentage that would come from those who only would play if it was native, but that number is bound to be small. Instead, the reason to do this is for the good of the game, the support of the platform, and for the good will for open source.

    Thank you for taking the time to read our responses. I hope to see you online.

    --Pathway

  • Open Source it! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Seakip18 (1106315) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @03:14PM (#25388661) Journal

    Honestly, I would love to see some of the older code from Blizzard. If not for practical purposes(Rock N Roll Racing XTREME!), it'll let universities use it some classes. I personally know my old CS professor would have loved some really proven game coding, and I can certainly think he would have loved the fact that "Oh, yeah, this was part of Blizz's source code."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RobBebop (947356)

      I'd like to see them release source code for the Original Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans. I played through the first three demo levels of that and then bought Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness because it was the "new thing". But seriously, the original version can't be worth that much to Blizzard right now and giving it to the Open Source community would be a splendid gift.

      The only thing I ask, do it better than the equivalent of FreeCiv and the id Software releases of their game engines. Each of these has the

  • On customer support (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @03:17PM (#25388713)

    I would say that it is amongst the better customer service solutions in our industry, but it's not someplace where I am comfortable or "happy."

    As someone who works in this business (customer support) I would honest say that if you ever are happy - you're probably missing something.

    What I mean by that is there's always room for improvement in customer support because of the nature of the business.

  • I would have loved dearly to hear Jeff Kaplan's answer to the following:

    Does Blizzard have a Quality Assurance department staffed with senior engineering talent that follows industry standard best practices? Do they have a testbed that mirrors the live production environment? and do they actually perform unit level and integration testing? Or is this week's 3.02 patch deployment just another example of "million monkey" testing that most commercial software houses confuse with QA?

    I don't mean to be snide

  • I see that all the Glider questions just didn't seem to be asked or answered. Someone wimped out somewhere.
  • by thepotoo (829391) <thepotoospam.yahoo@com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @03:51PM (#25389435)
    I would like to request that any older games which you are no longer making any direct profit from (Lost Vikings, Warcraft 1&2, perhaps even Diablo 1) be made open source.

    You would gain a considerable amount of fan support/respect for this action.

    These games could be ported to run natively on Linux, and, could be updated for better compatibility with OS X, XP, and Vista; and the core engines behind Warcraft and Diablo would be amazing platforms to develop new and interesting fan-made titles (assuming their engines are easy to understand and create new content for. Without the source code I'm just guessing).

    In particular, Lost Vikings is a prime candidate for open sourcing; it's old but extremely fun, and fan-made levels would really bring new life to a vastly under-appreciated classic.

    Diablo is an amazingly fun game (I'm replaying it just now for the first time in almost 10 years), but it lacks all of the UI features that make D2 so great. It would require trivial amounts of effort to update this game to 2008 playability standards, if we had the source.

    One other point: you don't have to give up any of your existing IP, simply release the source code, and have players take data and sound files off their original CDs. This way you protect your amazing franchises, we get cool new engines to play with, and you get free advertising amongst the tech news sites (a strategic open sourcing of Diablo 1 a couple of weeks before D3 launches would do wonders to raise hype for the game.

    I know you've had your disputes with the Open Source community in the past (Freecraft, bnetd), but I think you'll find we're a forgiving lot, especially if you're willing to give back to your fans.

    Please, at least consider it.
    Sincerely, A hardcore gamer who loves open source and owns ever Blizzard game ever released.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BlitzTech (1386589)
      I agree - please open source some of your old titles, so aspiring game developers can see how their favorite games work. The community will certainly appreciate any contributions you give to it!
  • Bob Colayco from Blizzard just contacted us to mention that if users wish to leave feedback about open sourcing games, support for Linux, or anything else you would like to express to them, you should do so in the comments section of this story. They plan on perusing the comments below for user feedback and interest, so don't be shy.

    Support for Linux, either native or at the very least through testing/working with WINE, is something that I would really like to see. I've played WoW through WINE and manage

  • Linux (Score:2, Interesting)

    by binarylarry (1338699)

    Blizzard Folks:

    Please release for Linux...Even if it's "as is" and officially unsupported.

    Thanks, you'd prove that Blizzard deserves a place with the great game developers of all time!

  • From the interview:

    It's interesting that you bring up UI. UI has been a point of contention since the beginning, for Starcraft 2. There were the biggest arguments about things you would never believe; unlimited selection is a great example of that. People thought unlimited selection would break it, arguing that you have to control groups of twelve units at a time, and that is the strategy and the way you have to play.

    Very interested to hear about the UI, because Blizzard has a habit (or at least it can be perceived that way - intentional or not) of using the UI as a bludgeon to get the player to play the game a certain way.

    I have heard the argument he mentioned above, and it is just absurd. The UI IS NOT A BALANCE TOOL! Or it shouldn't be - and trying to make it one is incredibly frustrating. If a unit/strategy is imbalanced because I can select as many units as I want and tell them to attack or do wh

  • It's very easy to do what we call -- it's kind of a Blizzard 'cardinal rule of never-do-this' -- balancing to mediocrity, which means that you always notch everything down because you're scared of certain things feeling overpowered and are literally living by the numbers. I think numbers are a great guideline, and you should always understand the math behind what you're doing, but at the core, you need to follow the gut and ask "Hey, does this feel really great?"

    This line is something I found to be somethin

  • Looking at my shelf I realise that every game I've purchased is one I first played at a LAN. Somebody bought a copy and we all installed it. The ones I adore (Myth II, for example) made this trivially easy.

    No LAN support for Diablo III is really lame. A LAN is the only setting I really feel comfortable plying multiplayer in. There is no griefing when you can simply walk over to the culprit and whack them upside the head. When somebody does something amazing or we finally lay waste to some boss/level, t

  • by darkvizier (703808) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:55PM (#25391723)
    I believe in the John Carmack approach to open source. When your old games are no longer a significant source of revenue - open source them. Let the community play around with them, and would-be game developers see how the pros do it. Ultimately this feeds the whole industry, and might lead some inspired candidates to apply at your company sometime in the future. If people are still willing to pay $40 for Diablo 2, well then I don't blame you for keeping that one, but I'd say open source Warcraft I and II and Diablo I. They're well past their prime.
  • by Clomer (644284) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:48PM (#25394683)
    I'm all for seeing the open sourcing of older games that are no longer generating revenue for Blizzard. I just started on a Game Design program in college, and it would be awesome to be able to tinker around with how some of those older games work. I'm especially thinking of Warcraft 2, which is still installed on my primary gaming computer (the computer I am typing this from) to this day. I spent many hours in that game. :-)

    I understand holding off on Diablo 2, Warcraft 3, and Starcraft, and especially World of Warcraft, as those games still generate sales. It's one thing I really appreciate about Id software, for example, that they are more than willing to give their old games back to the community. Do what they do and open the code, but keep the art assets closed. Meaning, for someone to be able to take the code and compile a working copy of Warcraft 2, they would need the Warcraft 2 disc with the appropriate data files.

    I do also support the idea of releasing a native Linux WoW client. Not open source (I would actually rather not see it open sourced at this point because of the opportunities for hacking that would introduce to the live servers - I am a WoW player and would like to see the game's integrity preserved), but a functional Linux client. The only support you would need to provide is a single forum for Linux-specific issues and patches on patch days. The fact that WoW runs in Wine and Cedega doesn't really count as Linux support - that's just an indication that an interest for that functionality is there. A native client that can be downloaded or installed off the disc would make a lot of people happy.

    Cheers! (Clomer, 70 Paladin; Teliah, 70 Mage; both on Sisters of Elune)

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