Archive for November, 2008

Crunching the Warcraft Numbers

November 26th, 2008 Bartman No comments

After reading a bit of the research behind scientific method application in World of Warcraft, I’m looking at some of the things I (and others) do in a different light. I used to raid a lot in the original Warcraft as well as the Burning Crusade, and have reached the level cap (80) in Wrath of the Lich King and begun gearing up for raids. Of course, I now visit sites like Elitest Jerks and others where people “theorycraft”, or theorize what talent specializations and items provide the maximum benefit to the player.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a link to my character, Boop, in Warcraft.

Notice as you roll your mouse over each item, it provides several statistics. In addition to analyzing and prioritizing gear based on the statistics that best suite my playstyle, there’s also a link to how I’ve specialized my character. A friend of mine who also plays a mage recently created an Excel spreadsheet to help ‘automate’ some of these decisions, calculating each potential piece of gear and how good of an upgrade it is for you.

The main artifact of data crunching I wanted to point out is this breakdown in google code from a 10-man raid of a dungeon called Naxxaramus. Now, if you’ve never played WoW, this will make your head spin. But if you do play WoW, especially at a high level, this is a gold mine of data! I’d be very interested to hear what people think of this that never played WoW (aside from “you guys are crazy!”).

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Records are meant to be broken

November 21st, 2008 Bartman No comments

Between work and the PhD grind, I’ve been rampaging through Northrend, taking in all the sites and sounds of the new Warcraft expansion. I was catching up with RSS feeds today when I read about Blizzard’s sales figures for Wrath of the Lich King over the first 24-hours.

That figure? 2.8 MILLION copies…

…in 24 hours.

I’ve been presenting a lot on Warcraft lately for a few grad classes at PSU, and I try to put some of these numbers into perspective (which is hard to do).

WoW subscribers have surpassed the 11 million mark. If Azeroth were a country, this would place it ~75th largest in the world, between Greece and Chad.

11 million people pay AT LEAST $12 a month to play the game, some paying as much as $15. $12.00 x 11M = $132 million dollars A MONTH for Blizzard.

The Burning crusade, the first WoW expansion, sold 2.4 million copies in the first 24-hours, which set a record. Wrath just broke this record by an additional 400,000 copies.

The Burning crusade also set the record for most copies of a game sold in a single month, 3.5M, and Wrath will likely break that.

The expansion costs $40.00. $40.00 x 2.8M = $112M for blizzard in ONE DAY.

I realize all this money does not go directly to Blizzard, other organizations are in the loop such as publishers…but still, these numbers are hard to grasp.

Categories: Games, Virtual Worlds Tags:

Google dumps lively

November 21st, 2008 Bartman 6 comments

Goolge announced this week that Lively, it’s quasi-virtual world service, is going to be shut down on December 31st. I’m not sure what to make of this, partially because I never had the chance to experience it due to being a windows-only application. I guess a lot of people were underwhelmed, as I was, when this first rolled out.

Kudos to Google for taking a chance. As they stated in their blog post, not all risks succeed. Often times failure provides the best learning experiences. Here’s to hoping Google re-enters this space at a later time, with a better platform.

Categories: Virtual Worlds Tags:

Example of scientific discourse via World of Warcraft

November 19th, 2008 Bartman 2 comments

I posted about some of the research going on regarding scientific discourse and virtual worlds in the past, and an interview with a top raiding guild, Vodka, provided another great example. When asked how they approach a new raid encounter within the game:

When we first approach a new encounter, we typically just throw ourselves at the boss a few times without any real plan just to see what is going on, which may sound silly, but during each of these attempts we are observing as much as we possibly can and recording as much data as possible so that we can begin analyzing it more thoroughly in order to develop a strategy. Once we have collected some information about the encounter, we can then determine what type of damage output we will be dealing with, which will then answer the question of what type of healing we need to counter it, and then we can move on to things such as positioning, what the best type of DPS is going to be, and what tanks will give us the best results. Once we have all of that figured out, we can begin testing different iterations of our strategy to see where the flaws are and then work on resolving them. Eventually we will have a strategy that will work long enough for us to see if there are different phases to the encounter, and determine whether or not there are any types of enrage timers or anything. Once we have that information, we go back to our original strategy and figure out how to adjust it so that we can deal with anything new that is introduced to the encounter in the later phases. Eventually we end up with a well rounded strategy that we are confident will work for us and then we begin doing reps over and over until the boss is dead.

If you simply read the snippets in bold, this could just as easily be someone talking about a design challenge, a production challenge, a supply chain challenge, a management challenge…you name it. This is the scientific method, a systematic approach to problem solving, that apparently our schools are doing a TERRIBLE job teaching these days (Miller 2004; Chinn and Malhotra 2002; National Research Council 2005; too many to list…) This also exemplifies problem-based learning, something the College of Information Sciences and Technology prides itself on. I’m simultaneously embarrassed and excited that our educational system is doing so poorly with this form of discourse, yet games are doing it so well.

Cripes, this PhD stuff must be getting to me if I’m citing academic articles in a blog entry. Apologies!

The Wrath is nearly upon us

November 12th, 2008 Bartman No comments

I can’t help myself with this one…
After watching the third installment of the Warcraft Retrospective at Gametrailers, I can’t wait to see what Blizzard has in store for us tomorrow when I install a copy of the newest expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.

Whether you are a long time WoW player, or someone who has never seen the game before, I highly suggest checking out the retrospective (above video is just the trailer, retrospective here). The entire series is very good, but the third installment outlines all the elements of Warcraft, why it’s so popular, and insight from the designers. One of my favorite lines from Rob Pardo:

We don’t care if people come to our game not knowing the lingo. We’re going to teach them along the way.

It’s an excellent look at how an MMORPG, long known for being a niche genre of hardcore gamers spending 10+ hours a day in an online world, turned into one of the best selling computer games of all time. Interesting facts:

  • The Burning Crusade, the first expansion, sold 2.4 MILLION copies in the first 24-hrs it was available(!)
  • World of Warcraft currently has 11million subscribers. If you charted this on a list of the countries around the world by population, it would be the 75th largest country, between Greece and Chad(!!)


Categories: Virtual Worlds Tags:

YouTube and Instructional Design revisited

November 9th, 2008 Bartman 3 comments

Again, I’m pleasantly surprised with the ability of random people around the world providing me with just-in-time learning. I’m at the office working on a presentation for this week and wanted to create a new theme in keynote. You’d think this would be easy, right? Wrong.

After fumbling around with the menu options trying to do this myself, I became frustrated and used the Keynote Help menu. After searching around for information on custom themes and master slides, I STILL could not make it work. I eventually bounced over to Google, and found a nice blog entry from someone on the same topic. In addition to providing text directions, he also provides a video.

I find a bit of irony in all of the value YouTube provides in terms of tutorials and just-in-time information. My assumption is that Apple (and other organizations) pay people like instructional designers to create good documentation and support materials for end users. The Keynote help was useless today. On the flip side, here is a young guy with a blog on the web that has the exact answer I’m looking for, not only in text but also in video. This reminds me of some of the posts about instructional design being dead that floated around a while back.

Categories: Design, Learning Tags:

Virtual Worlds: where are we going?

November 6th, 2008 Bartman No comments

I had a chance to sit down and talk with colleague Will McGill yesterday regarding a Second Life project for industry dealing with deception. We got talking virtual worlds, and he pointed me to a fantastic chart:

VW Q3 2009 populations and demographics
*click thumbnail to go to original, hosted by K Zero

A picture is worth a thousand words, eh? I have another post on that topic alone, but I’ll save it. A few things to point out in this chart:

  • The numbers are extremely bloated. Several colleagues were shocked that “Habbo Hotel has 100 million users!?!?!” Not really. Simply by visiting the Habbo Hotel website, you’ll see they have just under 6 million active users in the last month. This is still an astounding number, but pales in comparison to the listed 100 million mark. Seems the people behind the graph decided to publish TOTAL accounts created for the virtual worlds vs. active user base (usually tracked similar to website stats: unique visitors per month).
  • Trends with the blue and red dots (worlds in development and current worlds on the market). Particularly, look at the upcoming saturation of worlds aimed at 5-to-11 year olds. Insane. Then there’s a gap with only a few worlds on the market and NO new worlds in development for 11-to-15 year olds. Then you see another spike from about 15-to21 year olds. Then again a dry area from 21 all the way to 30+ years of age.

What does it all mean? Time will tell, but I get the sense that the market for virtual worlds aimed at “tweens” will become saturated quickly, just like what we see now in the MMORPG space. The market can only support a certain number of these worlds, and many are bound to fail. Second, just by looking at the right side of the graph, you can make the assumption that many, MANY kids that are moving into High School and, in a few years, college, will be EXTREMELY versed in these worlds.

The gaming and virtual trends are glaringly obvious, but why then is it so difficult to create educational gaming and virtual world software that students find engaging? I have some of my own reasons, but would like to hear some of yours.

World of Warcraft enhancing scientific discourse

November 5th, 2008 Bartman 3 comments

While waiting in line yesterday to vote, I had a copy of a paper by U. of Wisconsin scholars C. Steinkuehler and S. Duncan titled “Scientific Habits of Mind in Virtual Worlds“. As I continue with my PhD dealing with collaboration in virtual worlds, the work of Steinkuehler is a nice change of pace. It’s academic, but not so academic that it puts you to sleep after the first page. Plus, she has a great ability to succinctly and clearly illustrate the value these virtual worlds bring to education. This article cites several education scholars calling for new educational models (ex: Dewey) and discusses the value of teaching scientific discourse to students. The article argues that our current school systems, especially K-12, is doing a poor job of this.

The article focuses on World of Warcraft discussion forums, particularly the Priest Class forum. Using frameworks from past research, including the American Association of the Advancement of Science, the authors categorize a dataset of posts from the priest forum. For anyone that plays WoW and checks the forums, you’ll immediately notice two things:

  1. There is a LOT of discussion about how to allocate talents points and how to most effectively use your skills in various situations
  2. The official WoW forums draw a lot of Trolls who post nonesense and incite flame wars

What I found interesting is that the majority of the posts (over 80% I believe) dealt with social knowledge construction “meaning, the collective development of understanding, often through joint problems solving argumentation.” In essence, people are leveraging the idea of collective intelligence or wisdom of crowds to make themselves better WoW players through scientific discourse on the forums.

I would be VERY curious to find out what the same study would yield when looking at a different WoW forum, the one found at the Elitest Jerks website.
I know, not the most appealing guild name, but somehow this guild’s forum has turned into THE place to go to have logical, data-driven discussions of various WoW mechanics. People constantly post screenshots of datasets from inside the game, text logs of game-related encounters, spreadsheets to calculate your characters abilities to .01 level. Insane stuff. I’d wager if the authors focused on a site like this, the number of posts that contain some level of scientific discourse would go from ~80% to the 95% area.

Yes, playing world of warcraft can help build skills you’ll use in the real world. Frequently.

Categories: Research, Virtual Worlds Tags: