Raph Koster leaves SOE I Rumors of a new SWG I NCSoft opens new office
When Worlds Collide I WoW Server Outages I Blizzard sued over WoW Guide
Issue #57 Winds of Change March 27, 2006

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I bet you thought I couldn't do it! Yet, here it is! A column that's actually posted on Monday!

It's been a busy week for me. In addition to instructors deciding that this week was a good one to pile on the class-work, I've been working on a special project with the RPGamer Dev team.

I was hoping that the Game Developers Conference would have something MMO related, but it doesn't look like that happened.

 Raph Koster leaves SOE

Sony Online Entertainment It's true. Raph Koster has departed Sony Online Entertainment. When asked why, Raph had this to say.

"Why? Well, I've been here for gosh, almost six years maybe? It's been a good ride, and I think we've gotten to do some really fun and interesting work. But I am getting interested in doing some stuff that is a bit off the beaten path — really, anyone who has been reading the blog can see that! — and while SOE feels it's really cool stuff, it's just not where they are at right now. My contract was up, and it was the right time to poke my head up and look around, that sort of thing. It's all quite friendly, and actually, I hope that I'll work with SOE again in the future, because there's a lot of wonderful talent here and a lot of cool technology, and a lot of friends.

So, sometime soon here I'll be off on my own. Nope, no announcements about plans or anything. I don't have a new studio in my back pocket, I don't have a job lined up, any of that. And… we'll see what comes. I'm thinking sleeping in next week sounds good."

Raph Koster was the lead designer for Origin's Ultima Online, as well as one of the producers of Sony Online Entertainment's Star Wars Galaxies and Everquest II.

Having said that, Raph needs to take into account what the players want. While there are some players that like the idea of a world where the majority of the content is user created, like Star Wars Galaxies, the majority appears to prefer generated content. Don't lose sight of that in your innovation.

 Rumors of a new SWG

Around the same time as Mr. Koster's departure from SOE, a new set of rumors regarding SWG have sprung up. These rumors tell a sordid tale... sorry wrong script. These rumors state that LucasArts has yanked the Star Wars license from SOE and has given it to Bioware's new Austin studio instead.

SOE and LucasArts have denied these rumors. In a surprise twist, Bioware has not confirmed or denied the rumors.

SOE has threatened litigation against the rumor's original poster... which makes one wonder if there really is something going on. Unless SOE has an exclusive license to Star Wars MMOs, it's possible for LucasArts to contract another company to make a second MMO. Only time will tell.

 NCSoft opens new office

NCSoft NCSoft recently opened a new office... in Shanghai, China. The office is the base of operations for NCSoft Sina, a joint venture with a Chinese Internet media corporation. The new company will concentrate on localizing games for the Chinese market.

NCSoft's games include

 When Worlds Collide

Wired Magazine had an interesting article in the April 2006 issue, titled When Virtual Worlds Collide. The gist of the article is that all the different online universes will eventually unite under a single architecture.

I don't think such a thing will ever happen. Corporations tend to be very controlling of their assets. Companies like Sony Online Entertainment and NCSoft, who produce practically nothing other than MMOs, have separate characters for each game. I don't think they will use a common architecture with the companies that compete with them.

Perhaps I'm wrong and there will be a revolution. I wouldn't count on it, though.

 WoW Server Outages

World of Warcraft World of Warcraft has been suffering from a rash of server outages, according to renowned Internet metrics firm Netcraft. Reasons for the outage were not given.

My guild got hit by the outages Friday night during a 20-man Zul'Gurub raid. The symptoms included wide-spread lag, disconnections, and problems logging back on once disconnected. Let me tell you, server outages are so much fun when they happen on your first day playing during the week.

Blizzard is claiming to be testing new server hardware on the Public Test Realms. However, in one of their recent news posts, they revealed that existing servers will not be upgraded to newer hardware, but rather that realm transfers will be available once servers with the new hardware goes live.

In other news, the 1.10 patch goes live tomorrow.

 Blizzard sued over WoW Guide

World of Warcraft 24-year old Florida citizen Brian Kopp has filed suit against Blizzard/Vivendi over his The Ultimate World of Warcraft Leveling & Gold Guide book.

Despite the guide having a page claiming that it is an unofficial guide, Blizzard is claiming that the guide "attempts to trade off the substantial goodwill and recognition that Blizzard has built up in connection with its World of Warcraft product." Blizzard has sent eBay DMCA takedown notifications to prevent the book's sale. Kopp responded by filing DMCA counter-notices, which Blizzard never responded to. eBay restored the auctions, only to close Kopp's account due to the number of DMCA takedown notifications.

Kopp is suing Blizzard/Vivendi for compensation for lost sales, an injunction to prevent Blizzard from filing further DMCA notices against his book, and a judgment as to whether this book is covered under first amendment rights.

Here's my prediction of how things will go.

  1. Kopp sues Blizzard
  2. Kopp wins suit again Blizzard
    • Kopp receives no compensation for lost sales
    • Kopp wins injunction
    • Kopp wins judgment
  3. Kopp files suit against eBay
  4. Kopp loses suit against eBay

Why the lack of compensation? Simple, the guy also has a website that he sells books from. eBay is not his only sales option. While we're on the subject, the text in the book was most likely compiled from information available for no fee over the Internet.

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Finally, a column that's actually up on Monday! See? I told you I could do it!

I may try to finish next week's column a bit early, so don't be surprised to see it posted on the weekend.

Ross "server outages suck" Bemrose

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