Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Old Resume Site

While writing the previous post I did some searching to see if I had any pictures of Dune 2 still saved in some dark, dusty folder on the site and I found part of my old resume demo site that I put up in 2002-2003.

It is missing the top and sidebars that went with it and the Earth and Beyond link is blank for reasons I don’t care enough about to look into, but it has a number of pictures from some of my much earlier games.

Oh and if you’re asking yourself what’s this about Earth and Beyond Mr. “massively-now canceled-loads of crap that flopped under the weight of all their poorly thought out, over intellectualized, stupidity”?

The answer is “Electronic Arts.” The E&B that hit the shelves was nothing like the E&B we started out designing. My contribution to the design was working on “planet mode” which was cut about a year and a half before the game shipped. The only thing that was left in that game that I had anything to do with is the window’s icon. So there you go Mr. “If you had read my history link over on the left you would have known that already”!

Yet Another Soapbox

For the last week or so I have had to force myself not to write about a Gamasutra soapbox article about World of Warcraft. It is just another piece of mindless drivel written by somebody in the industry with one whole game credit (at least that I could find in my whole 30 seconds of looking) who seems to have just wanted the attention for his blog or something. He just comes across as completely clueless idiot with thing likes slamming the terms of service because he thinks they can just code around all anti-social and exploitive behavior players can come up with. He really should get back to his day job of herding cats.

Anyway, I’m breaking my silence because Gamasutra has posted a soapbox response article which prints some response letters from game professionals and other respondents. Personally I don’t think any of them give him the smacking around he really deserves, but what do I know?

The thing that gets me about these types of spouting off isn’t that this game may not just be his cup of tea, but rather the tendency for people to point at the latest, greatest, best-selling, immensely popular game and say how they have got it all wrong. These are the same yahoos who are responsible for all the other massively-now canceled-loads of crap that flopped under the weight of all their poorly thought out, over intellectualized, stupidity.

And if you think I’m reacting as a fan boy remember that I worked at the late Westwood Studios and was part of the team that invented the Real-Time Strategy genre with the creation of the game Dune 2.

Play Westwood's Dune 2 and then play Blizzard's Warcraft, notice anything similar? Easier question would be, “notice anything different?” (Correct answer is: “the trees” and that’s about all)

Next play Blizzard’s Warcraft 2’s pre-release press demo, then Westwood’s Command & Conquer, and then the actual released version of Warcarft 2. Did you see that brilliant interface change? The one that wasn’t in Warcraft 2’s press demo, but was in Command & Conquer which shipped about a week or two later and then somehow wound up in Warcraft 2 when it hit the shelves?

Quickly for those of you who didn’t just rush out and play all those games; Dune 2 and the first Warcraft had you selected a unit, then pressed a button like “move” or “attack” and then clicked where you wanted him to go or what unit you wanted it to attack. While working on the mouse cursor art for Command & Conquer it occurred to me that the game should be smart enough to know that after selecting on a unit if you clicked on regular terrain you probably wanted that unit to go there as opposed to clicking on an enemy unit which you probably wanted to attack. Blizzard saw that inovation and reworked it into Warcraft 2!

Whew! I have wanted to rant about that for a long time. I feel so much better, so light... so free...

But seriously, I hold no hard feelings. It was a brilliant "well duh" idea and they would have been stupid for not using it. Blizzard is very good at taking an existing game type or what have you and polishing it up very very very well. In my opinion sometimes improvement can be just as good as innovation when it comes to progress. It keeps things moving forward which is always a good thing… the bastards.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Absolute Fabrication

The following peice of made up crap is reported to be an 'inside source' into the up coming Hero Classes in the World of Warcraft expansion.

Sources inside Blizz have revealed their plans for hero classes. Blizzard does plan to release hero classes with the expansion, but they haven’t explicitly stated it because they want to announce it close to the release date, insuring a huge amount of hype. I haven’t been told much more than the basics, but I’ll try to explain the system as best as I can:

At any given level there is a certain amount of content; at level 60, the amount of content is very disproportionate with the available content for other levels. The reason is obvious: it is the current endgame, and players need something to enjoy. However, with the level cap raised players would be able to blow through and skip a lot of the content that has been developed over the past year, and allowing players to do so would be a poor use of the developers’ time. This is where hero classes come in.

You will be stuck at level 60, just like you are now, even when the expansion comes out. An epic quest (of REALLY epic proportions) for each hero class will be made available to level 60 players. The only way to break the level 60 barrier will be to go on one of these quests to become a hero class. The quest will require the player to do a lot of solo content as well as a variety of group and raid content. Upon completion of the quest, the player will become a level 61 hero class . They can then once again begin their normal level progression. A hero class is not innately more powerful than a normal class (but the level differentiation makes them more powerful of course). Hero classes will be available to everyone and although the hardcore players will naturally get their hero classes first, it is designed so that players of all play styles will be able to become a hero class in a reasonable amount of time. Blizzard’s implementation of hero classes will accomplish a lot of things. It will create a natural barrier at level 60 that will insure that the average player will experience more of the content Blizz has developed, it gives players a way of further differentiating themselves, and it adds a huge amount of new dynamics between different classes.

Each race/class combination will have 2 hero classes available to them (with several overlapping). This presents a monumental balance job (there are about 50 hero classes), which is probably another reason why Blizzard is delaying the information release. Choosing your hero class will be irreversible, much like the tradeskill masteries. Some hero classes are an extension of the “father” class, some have tweaked mechanics, while others are radically different. The easiest example I can think of is a Night Elf priest, for which the 2 hero classes are a Priest(ess) of the Moon (a continuation of the priest’s current form) and Demon Hunter (an agility-based combat hero with a variety of discipline-esque abilities). So without further ado, here is a brief overview of some of the hero classes:

---Night Elf Druid:
Arch Druid: This will be a hybrid class in the same vein as its “father” class, and Storm Crow form may make a reappearance.

Keeper of the Grove: The druid will sacrifice some of his shapeshifting abilities in exchange for improved healing and casting, and will even be able to command treants on occasion.

---Tauren Druid:
Arch Druid: see above

Elder: This is essentially a druid that has lost some shapeshifting abilities and gained some beast-like abilities similar to the hunter. The casting and healing abilities are also amped up, but not nearly as much as the Keeper of the Grove. The Elder also has a bit of the Diablo II druid mixed in for good measure.

---Night Elf Hunter:
Ranger: The Ranger is sort of a hunter/rogue mix. The Ranger will use the energy bar, will have a few stealthy abilities (but not of the same caliber as the rogue), and will no longer have a pet.

Beastmaster: The Beastmaster focuses more on the beast aspect than the ranged aspect of the hunter. He gains new beast abilities, such as switching pets in battle, and is a bit meaner in melee combat in exchange for a lot of his ranged hitting power.

---Dwarf Hunter:
Mountaineer: The Mountaineer is similar to the ranger (no pet, energy bar), but without the stealth aspects. The Mountaineer is hardier in melee combat than the hunter and and also has more extensive tracking and detection abilities.

Beastmaster: see above

---Orc Hunter:
Outrider: The Outrider is very similar to the wolfrider from Warcraft III, focusing on swift maneuvers and incapacitating enemies. He uses the energy bar.

Beastmaster: see above

---Tauren Hunter:
Tracker: The Tracker uses the energy bar like the Mountaineer, but still retains the hunter pet, and as a result is not as tough as the Mountaineer.

Beastmaster: see above

---Troll Hunter:
Shadowhunter: This is essentially a hunter that drops some of it’s beast and survival abilities for some shadow spells (think Hex). The Shadowhunter still uses mana.

---Headhunter: The Headhunter still has the ranged emphasis of the hunter, but it focuses on throwing weapons (a massive revamp for throwing weapons is planned). The Headhunter uses energy, has more combat abilities, and drops the pet.

---Human Mage:
Archmage: The Archmage is an exact extension of the mage class, with arcane, fire, and frost spells. Apparently one of the abilities being toyed around with is Summon Water Elemental. The planned incarnation of the spell will be a long-cooldown summon that will not function like a normal pet, and will instead function more along the lines of the Mechanical Yeti (no player control).

Necromancer: The only similarity between the Necromancer and the mage is the emphasis on magical damage. The necromancer uses shadow damage and has a major focus on pets, similar to the warlock. However, unlike other pet classes, the majority of the Necromancer’s damage will come from the pet instead of the Necromancer. I do not know if the Necromancer will be able to have multiple pets out at once.

---Gnome Mage:
Archmage: see above

Arcanist: The Arcanist is similar to the mage, with a focus on arcane magic. The Arcanist does slightly less damage than the Archmage, but gains added utility and new support spells.

---Undead Mage:
Archmage: see above

Necromancer: see above

---Troll Mage:
Hydromancer: The Hydromancer is similar to the Arcanist, but with a focus on the frost tree. The Hydromancer may also receive the Summon Water Elemental spell. In addition to added utility and support spells, the Hydromancer will also get some limited healing abilities.

Shadowcaster: The Shadowcaster is essentially a mage that uses shadow magic instead of fire and frost.

---Human Paladin:
Templar: The Templar is the holy warrior that so many paladins wanted their class to be. The Templar has limited healing, but receives a slew of new combat abilities, making the Templar much better at tanking and melee damage than the paladin.

Cleric: The Cleric is the other side of the paladin spectrum. Instead gaining new combat abilities, the Cleric gains improved healing, more utility and support, and some holy damage spells.

---Dwarf Paladin:
Templar: see above

Cleric: see above

---Human Priest:
High Priest: The High Priest is essentially a priest that drops the shadow tree, but gains new damage spells from holy and discipline. The High Priest will be the most powerful healer in the game.

Spellbreaker: The Spellbreaker wears mail, has several combat abilities and diminished healing, and has several anti-caster abilities.

---Dwarf Priest:
Thane: The Thane is basically a priest in mail, with a slight hit to healing abilities but a few new combat abilities.

The Runelord is similar to the High Priest, although not as healing heavy.

---Night Elf Priest:
Priest of the Moon: The Priest of the Moon is similar to the High Priest as well, but has some extra damage and utility spells coming from arcane and nature magics.

Demon Hunter: The Demon Hunter is radically different in playstyle from the priest. The Demon Hunter is a mana-using melee damage hero class. The Demon Hunter has a mix of discipline spells and combat abilities with some shadow spells mixed in.

---Undead Priest:
High Priest: see above

Shadow Priest: The name is pretty self-explanatory. The Shadow Priest does not have all the healing abilities of the High Priest, but makes several gains in the damage, utility, and crowd control departments.

---Troll Priest:
Shadow Priest: see above


---Gnome Rogue:
Assassin: The Assassin is an extension of the rogue with damage, stealth, poisons, and martial arts.

Scout: The Scout has slightly less damage than the Assassin, but is tougher in combat, and has the ability to use traps among other new utilities.

---Human Rogue:
Assassin: see above

Scout: see above

---Dwarf Rogue:
Assassin: see above

Pitfighter: The Pitfighter is a rogue without stealth, but with improved combat and defensive abilities.

---Night Elf Rogue:
Assassin: see above

Scout: see above

---Orc Rogue:
Assassin: see above

Pitfighter: see above

---Undead Rogue:
Assassin: see above

Scout: see above

Troll Rogue:
Assassin: see above

Scout: see above

---Orc Shaman:
Farseer: The Farseer has more emphasis on healing and casting than the shaman, and as a result has less combat ability. The Farseer doesn’t use totems but gains it utility from other abilities. Feral Spirit might make an appearance using a system similar to the Water Elemental.

Spirit Walker: The Spirit Walker is a more direct extension of the shaman than the Farseer, maintaining a rough balance of combat, casting, and healing ability.

---Tauren Shaman:
Farseer: see above

Spirit Walker: see above

---Troll Shaman:
Witch Doctor: The Witch Doctor is similar to the Farseer, but has a heavy emphasis on totems. In addition to the elemental magics the Witch Doctor also uses some shadow magic.

Spirit Walker: see above

---Human Warlock:
Master Warlock: The Master Warlock is an extension of the warlock class, keeping the pet and the vast majority of the warlock mechanics.

Shadowguard: The Shadowguard has more melee emphasis than the warlock, and loses the demonic pet. The Shadowguard on his own is weaker than other melee classes, but is aided by demonic-type abilities (such as burning blood and fiery breath) to power himself up.

---Gnome Warlock:
Master Warlock: see above

Shadowguard: see above

---Orc Warlock:
Master Warlock: see above

Shadowguard: see above

---Undead Warlock:
Master Warlock: see above

Shadowguard: see above

Blizz hasn’t fleshed out warrior hero classes as much as the others, so I wasn’t able to get much on them. However, it has been confirmed that Orc warriors do have the option to become a Blademaster!

Question marks (?) denote a hero class that hasn’t been decided on by the developers yet. I don’t know the Blood Elf hero classes. I don’t know the new Alliance race (although I hear they’re going to reveal it soon). I have no idea how talent/abilities are going to work, I don’t know what will happen to armor requirements and class specific sets, etc. Everything I know I’ve posted here, and it is subject to change as it is still in fairly early development stages.


I believe this is fabrication for two big reasons:

1. It implies that after level 60 you aren’t the same class anymore. "You liked being a Hunter? Well too bad because now you’re a Ranger or a Beast Master. Please drive through." Nobody would be happy with this.

2. Making the hero classes race dependent means they would piss off everybody even more than reason 1. "You wanted to be the best healer in the game? Too bad you picked the wrong race way back when we hadn’t told you about the hero race-class combinations."

There are also a number of smaller points that lead me to believe he made this up.

He mentions wasted content at level 60. Where does he think people will go to earn the experience needed to get from 60 onward? There will be a host of new content with the expansion, but not enough to feed the entire player base. Sure it will make existing content easier but once they raise the level cap you will just see more 5-man groups running through the instances doing the related quests instead of 10 man raids just there for boss loot.

Notice the way every race and class has a detailed new hero class at the beginning of his post which quickly pitters out into “see above” as he runs out off steam and finally nothing for warriors when he is completely spent.

Honestly though, I don't understand what drives people to make up crap and post it on the forums. What kind of pathetic little ego must you have to so need to be the center of attention, the ‘inside guy’, that you would be driven to make up such a poorly thought out load of dribble?

What do I think is going to be in the expansion? Player housing is my number on prediction. What proof do I have? Just a little and the knowledge that it would go a long way to feed the social gamers that are complaining about too much high end raid content. Anybody want to put money against me?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dr. Tran!

I am fairly confident that you will soon be hearing people quoting Dr. Tran in all your favorite online habitats in the Leroy Jenkings, Chuck Norris, “Go Go Good Team!”, “All your base are belong to us” fad type manner.

So this just leaves me with two questions. Who would win in a fight between Chuck Norris and Dr. Tran? And what was the name of the level 1 troll some guild brought with them on a Trakanon raid in Everquest? I was trying to remember because it was a fad for awhile to yell "do it for so-and-so!" on raids.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentines Day

When I was born and my mother suggested naming me after my father, he said no. He said there had already been enough Joseph Benjamin Hewitt’s. So my mother suggested naming me Valentino since I was born on Valentines Day. My father’s response was something along the lines of “You’re not bringing any kid into my house named Valentino.” So Joseph Benjamin Hewitt IV it was.

At first it might seem kind of cool to be born on Valentines Day. You get to be all suave with women, “Hey baby, I was born on Valentines Day” as if that implies something special. But what it really means is that you can’t really ever expect to have a birthday party for yourself. Well at least for a guy anyway. The logic works like this: if you have a significant other you have to take her out to dinner, buy her flowers and such. If you don’t have a significant other you can just forget about any of your friends being able to do something for your birthday because they are all out with their significant others.

There were a few times when I didn’t have a significant other on my birthday when my mother took me out for a birthday dinner, and let me just tell you that being in a restaurant, on Valentines Day, with your mother… I was never sure if people were feeling sorry for having Valentines Day dinner with my mother or thought I was some sort of Gigolo. I’m not actually sure which I would prefer either, I’d rather just not think about it.

Most of times if I do something for my birthday, it’s usually the on weekend before or after. This time however we did have a few people over for dinner. It was pretty cool.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We Go Again

Second post in one night, amazing you say. Well I’ll be honest; the World of Warcraft servers have gone down for weekly maintenance. But I wanted to do a separate post regarding just what I am doing here on this blog. It was meant to be something that would force me to write a bit more, but as I put it up I almost instantly tried to make it into a copy of the blogs of other game designers. But I’ve never really been able to pull that off. It wasn’t for lack of things to write about. I have game ideas I would like to talk about but I don’t want to just give them away. I have some stuff I would like to vent about but most of these vents have some tie to work and I don’t really want to drag work into these things because that’s just not right for a number of reasons. So what I am left with is just random comments about semi-industry related things that catch my eye. There is nothing really wrong with that; it just isn’t the same thing.

So I am going to officially let myself off the hook. I am just going to write about whatever I damn well feel like.

So you are probably going to see a lot of post about WoW. It’s the game that I am currently playing the most.

I am very frustrated that I can’t raid with my guild because of the big time zone difference in Australia. I leveled up a Priest to 60 because I figured it would be easier to get groups which it is, but there is so much more pressure on a Priest. If I screw up as a Rogue I die, if I screw up as the Priest another character dies. I’ve never liked playing the healer character for that very reason, but I never really gave it a serious go before. Dymion (the Priest) is now much better equipped than Sentris (the Rogue) I got to go on a real raid with the guild a few weeks ago, 3 of the outdoor dragons, Onyxia, and a full Molten Core run. I got 4 epic items if you include the quest piece that eventually led to me getting Benediction, an epic Priest staff. I hated it because I was woefully unprepared and just not up to speed with the game mechanics and dynamics as I was with Everquest. I also loved it because I was getting to raid again. Being part of that well oiled Afterlife machine where any failure is meet with our motto: “We go again.”

I have also been doing a lot of the PvP battlegrounds trying to rank up as another way to get good gear. I have never really been that into PvP, and as an under equipped Priest I tended to get killed rather fast as soon as I attracted the attention of the enemy. But I am starting to get the hang of it and now I got some better gear so it isn’t so bad anymore.

Well I have to go back to trying to teach Ventrillo to say Dymion correctly. It is pronounced “Dim-ee-un” not “Dime-ion”. It’s basically Endymion without the “En”. It is more of a Dan Simmons reference rather than the Keats or Greek mythological reference. Though I guess it could be “En-dime-ion” for all I know, next time I see the moon goddess I'll ask her.

Two Years

So I’ve gotten a few people get on my case for not updating my blog. So I am trying to think of something to write about that I won’t wind up spending hours looking up reference material and such.

We are crunching pretty hard at work getting a solid, polished demo ready for the Game Developers Conference in San Jose. If you want to see what I’ve been working on for the last… oh my… TWO YEARS!... come to GDC next month. I might even be there myself!

I have been holding off redeeming some Amazon.com gift certificates I got for Christmas while waiting to see if I actually do go back to the States for GDC. I’ll be able to hit the book and video stores while I am there and can bring stuff back in my suitcase. Then I can spend the gift certificates on the harder to find items. Books and such are just too expensive here.

In case you didn’t know I did get back to the States over Christmas for work related stuff and managed to squeeze in a whole week in Vegas with family. I brought 2 half empty suitcases with me and wound up taking 3 full ones back filled with DVDs, what’s left of my Books on Tape/CD collection and 3 Logitech G15 Keyboards. I think the airline luggage guys stole my CD audio version of Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, Anansi Boys. I remember seeing it sitting in my open suitcase before leaving the States and I have no memory of unpacking it. I had my mother search her house to see if I left it there, but no luck.

So anyway TWO YEARS! I just realized that it has been exactly two years since I moved to Australia. Well Sunday was the actual two year anniversary. I feel I should have done more with that… been prepared with a special two year anniversary blog theme or something… maybe even a graphic. Oh well, maybe next year.