Friday, June 30, 2006

Blizzard Introduces PTS

Blizzard has introduced their highly anticipated PTS - Paid Transfer Service. As expected, it has some strings attached, though they could have been considerably more draconian.

1. You can't transfer TO a server that is less than 90 days old.
2. You can't transfer FROM a PvE server TO a PvP server.
3. You can't cause a faction violation when transfering between PvP servers.

The cost is $25USD and can take up to 5 days.

To qualify, your 'toon must meet all of the following criteria:

1. Must be above level 10.
2. Must NOT be a guild leader.
3. Must NOT have mail in the Mailbox.
4. Must NOT have active auctions in the Auction House.
5. Cannot have over the following amounts of gold:
* Level 10-30: 300 gold
* Level 31-50: 1000 gold
* Level 51+: 5000 gold

That's a pretty easy set of restrictions. However, Blizzard is not putting all realms up for grabs all at once. They are opening up a limited number of realms for transfers - wisely, I might add - so that they can slowly stress test the whole system.

Also, not every server will always have transfers avaliable, depending on realm population and peak-time logins. Don't expect to be able to transfer to Mannoroth or Frostmourne any time soon.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Someone Else's Balrog

What do you do when you want to make a game about a subject that has spawned multitudes of doctoral theses? You're designing up a hill and it has got to be more than a bit unsettling. For every decision you make, there's someone out there who knows more than you'll ever know about the subject. Worse, that person is likely to be passionate about the subject, especially when that subject is J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. You also have the estate of the man to worry about too. So, you've got legions of knowledgable fans on one hand, the owners of the intellectual property looking over your shoulder on the other hand. Then, on the gripping hand you have your financeers, the guys giving you money to make them even more money! Yikes! Yet, that's exactly what Turbine is planning on doing with their upcomming MMO Lord of the Rings Online.

What do you do? You have no less than three very different groups of people demanding that you tailor the game in different - sometimes mutually exclusive - ways.

The Finance guys want you to make the game FUN, so that people will play and play and bring their friends into it and have everyone pay nice little subscription fees.

The Tolkien Estate wants you to make sure that their intellectual property isn't damaged and is actually increased in value, something entirely different than making the game FUN.

The highly educated in Tolkien lore set is going to expect you to keep Middle Earth's cannon straight and not introduce any plot holes or inconsitencies. Worse, they're going to expect you to re-create the feeling that they got when reading the books for the first time.

All of these things can be seen Here, where the seemingly simple question is asked "Should players be able to defeat a Balrog?" There's investigative journalism, personal opinion, invective, scholarly research and consultation with the 'powers that be', all contained within that thread. Sounds like a good soap opera if you ask me. Furthermore, one can almost feel the forces of the Tolkien Estate and the Financeers working in the background, in the way Turbine has carefully formulated answers to the various questions prospective players of LotRO have asked of them.

The obvious answer to the question "Should players be able to kill a Balrog" is no. On the surface it seems simple enough. The Balrog that people are most familiar with is the one in the Mines of Moria, the one Gandalf sacrifices his life (later returned to him) to to give the Fellowship a chance at escaping. If it takes the death of an Istari to kill a Balrog, what chance mere mortals?

What are the more complex answers? I'll leave that as an exersize for the reader...