Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: World of Warcraft

The day WowMatrix died

Of all of the good decisions Blizzard made when they created World of Warcraft, one of the best was providing a robust API for third party developers to write addons for the game. Installing addons is easy, you just download the addon, unzip it, and put it in the Interface/Addons directory.

The problem is keeping track of addons. The last time I looked, I had over 70 addons installed, and that’s not atypical. A number of addon distribution sites sprung up to give developers a place to list their software and a place for players to keep track of updates to their favorites. Curse.com is one popular example, and WoWInterface is another.

Some other approaches became popular as well. A number of addon collections were created — someone would package a number of useful addons, make sure they all work together, and then distribute them together. Users were then freed from the burden of updating each addon individually, they just had to download updates to the collection when they were released.

The next phase was addon updaters, desktop software packages that keep track of the addons you’ve installed and update the ones that are out of date. The most popular of these is WowMatrix. It’s an ugly piece of adware, but it has a comprehensive directory of addons and makes managing those addons really easy.

Unfortunately, WowMatrix, for all its benefit to players, was leeching from the addon distribution web sites. And yesterday, on the day when World of Warcraft released its huge 3.1 patch, those sites started blocking WowMatrix. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

Links from March 23rd

There are a whole ton of links in the backlog today.

Bugs and hacks

I always wonder what goes on behind the scenes on the World of Warcraft team at Blizzard. Aside from being impressed by the scope and quality of the game, I wonder how difficult it must be to build this (very) fat client that has to be kept in sync on the OS X and Windows platforms, integrate new content, and keep all of the game’s internal systems in balance so that users enjoy themselves. Then there’s the challenge of maintaining the infrastructure needed to support over 10 million active accounts.

So I relish any little glimpse behind the curtain we can get. This weekend, players found a really interesting bug in the game. Death Knights, a new class in the game, have an ability called “Death Grip”. It allows the player to pull an enemy toward them through the air. (Here’s a short video.) So here’s the bug: if a Death Knight uses Death Grip while standing on a particular ship, the target is pulled through the world (the flight lasts about 8 minutes, apparently) to a hidden ship in the middle of empty space far away. There are several videos of this in the blog post I linked to above.

As long as MMOs have been around, there have been ships to take users from one place to another. You go to a dock, wait for a ship, climb aboard, and wind up somewhere that would otherwise take you forever to get to by running (or swimming). Here’s the thing — ships have been buggy in every game they’ve been implemented in. For some reason, the folks at Blizzard had to create this hidden ship somewhere to get around some bug they obviously couldn’t fix in any other way, and now this Death Grip bug has in some way exposed the inner workings of the game.

I doubt there’s any advantage to players in finding it nor will there be any way to get to it once this bug is fixed, but I would still love to hear the inside story of how that ship got there in the first place. It reminds me of some ships I’ve built in the past to get around what at first looked like relatively straightforward problems.

Links for March 27

  • Scott Rosenberg: Give us each day our daily campaign call. The Presidential campaigns hold daily conference calls with reporters to try to manage the news cycle. Dave Winer is working to post the audio of those calls so we can all listen in. Great project.
  • Bzip2 mini-HOWTO: Using bzip with grep. Extremely useful shell script if your log rotation software compresses your logs using Bzip2.
  • Scott Jennings: Design Progression in World of Warcraft, An Illustrated Guide. Analysis of an interesting game design challenge. Building content for games is lots of work, so you want it to see lots of use. The hardcore players play mainly so they can achieve things most people can’t. How do you keep the hardcore players happy and still make the content accessible so more players get to enjoy it?

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