Bill Roper interview

http://www.ugo.com/channels/games/features/warcraft3/interview.asp

Great interview. Covers WC3 and WOW, and some other minor topics. He touches on many topics we’ve discussed here. Bill Roper really gets it. It’s easy to see why Blizzard has been so successful with a guy like this at the helm.

Interface is such a big part of it, and I think that is also an area where we can make some big leaps and bounds in the massively multiplayer market. We’re just trying to make a really easy interface for people to use, because at times it can be pretty complicated. My personal gripe is that I can’t believe in the year 2002, I’m still having to use slash commands. Now if I’m a power user and I want to do that, that’s fine, and there are a lot of people who like to do that, but I don’t. I like to have buttons I can click. We’re in the era of the graphic user interface, and I like that. I think that when you start looking at how you draw the market, not having the level of success with 200,000 players, but 2 million players in the game, how you get that jump. It has to be really easy. You can’t require people to do a /who 30 to find all the people who are level 30 in that area. Anytime you are making people type something to get information, you should try to find a different way to do it.

We are trying to find ways to not grind, which is such a horrible term that has come up in massively multiplayer games. When the whole concept of the game is based on this concept of grinding. It’s like, “I know what I do every day. I’m in the office, I’m grinding. Then I come home, and grind at the game.” I think that it is an unfortunate by-product of the way that the games are built, so we are trying to find some interesting ways to have that happen. But when you are done with that process, I really think the big challenge is trying to find something compelling for people who don’t have to do that anymore. But we’ll certainly have things like levels. It is an RPG and that is kind of the standard.

The thing that’s helping turn that around is our generation are now the ones coming home after work, as opposed to going to movies or watching television. We are just as likely to go online and play a game or surf the Internet. As Generation X keeps taking over, and the Baby Boomers are getting older, what their sensibilities are shapes less of the mass media sees, to some extent. We see a lot more of that now, as becoming a more acceptable form of entertainment. In a way, its OK to spend your time playing games now, which is silly because we all grow up playing games all the time. Then, for some reason, we get older and lose that in our lives.

Take that, Bruce Geryk!

We are trying to find ways to not grind, which is such a horrible term that has come up in massively multiplayer games.

I wish they could figure out how to get rid of the grind in RTS games.

we did three different, midnight events at Fry’s [Electronics] up in Northern California, the rest of the guys did one down in Southern California. It’s very humbling to go into a store where you’ve like three or four hundred people lined up to buy the game, and they’re like waiting in line. But it was fun and I think it was great for the team to get to meet the people and sign copies of the game and stuff. But it’s a big relief, and especially since people seem to like it.

I think it’s funny that game design allows fat, beardy blokes to get treated like rock stars.

What, you don’t like ZZ Top? :)

I wish they could figure out how to get rid of the grind in RTS games.

Hey, at least you start every multiplayer game of WC3 with peons and a town hall. That’s an improvement over WC2. I dunno if Starcraft did this for you or not.

You could arguably include a hero altar, barracks, and two “farms”, but beyond that… everyone’s build order is different enough to preclude standardization. And some people build the hero altar before the barracks, I guess, though that doesn’t seem enough to cross those two off the list.

I do agree with the sentiment though. If you are doing the exact same build order over and over, it’s just extra nonsense work.

If build orders really do vary enough to preclude standardized starting material, why not provide some optional “build order” tutorials so that us mere mortals could learn how to execute them without having to get crushed several times over in the first place? I dunno, make them timed challenges or something. It’s more of a confidence builder than anything else.

Heck, I’d settle for an option to forgo starting resources to have my peasants execute one of several pre-planned build-orders for me. That way, purists could have extra resources by doing it themselves, and the rest of us could sit back and not worry about it.

  • Alan

It’s not really the snappy build order that wins it, it’s being able to continually build troops while building a second town while leveling your hero that’s the tricky part.

Take what? I miss your point.

I think what wumpus meant to say is, “Take that and put that in your pipe and smoke it, Bruce Geryk!”

[quote=“Tyjenks”]

I think what wumpus meant to say is, “Take that and put that in your pipe and smoke it, Bruce Geryk!”[/quote]

No, I get that part. I just don’t understand which point of mine this is supposed to refute. In fact, Roper’s whole point about not wanting to do work while playing a game is something that I believe so strongly that I’ve put it in reviews. I hope this isn’t about Atwood wanting to be a pro race car driver or something.

I wasn’t really sure which that he was talking.

No, I get that part. I just don’t understand which point of mine this is supposed to refute. In fact, Roper’s whole point about not wanting to do work while playing a game is something that I believe so strongly that I’ve put it in reviews. I hope this isn’t about Atwood wanting to be a pro race car driver or something.

Remember the whole “you can’t duplicate Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s gameplay via a text based interface” argument? Well, you can duplicate DAOC and EQ’s gameplay with a text based interface. A game that is, at its core, a thinly veiled GUI wrapper around a text MUD can never achieve 2 million users. Eg, doing “/who 30” is unacceptable. This has other implications for gameplay, such as physics and so forth.

The other point is about gaming as intellectual stimulation suitable for adults. Particularly compared to passive forms of entertainment such as television and movies. And yeah, in a perfect world we’d all be working at ramming speed toward a cure for cancer and that work would be our “game”.

No, although that’s a genius statement. You can’t go to the Moon with just rubber bands and masking tape, either! You win! Seriously, any problems you have with multi-whatever online stuff is your own business. I don’t care. You gotta have physics, and reflexes, and other things, fine. It’s like that guy who posts about role-playing the epic fisherman. Great stuff. I’ll be the guy over here.

Again, crazy nutso talk. Who said that computer games weren’t appropriate for adults? Who the Hell am I to tell you what game to play? I’ve maintained this all along: if you want to play the game with the elves, and talk to the other elves, then knock yourself out. I might make fun of it, in a “hey you kids get out of my yard” kind of way, but in the end, it’s all the same to me. Read the teeny-tiny text boxes, or save the eight-year-olds in their flying minivan. I applaud you. Just don’t, under any circumstances, claim that it makes you smarter than the people who watch TV, or that it prepares you to go to Mars, just as soon as you can solve the jumping puzzle and then go to the gym and get in shape and then become an astronaut and then go to Mars. You know what the logical extension of this is? People who claim to be smarter than other people because THEY play turn-based, historical wargames, while YOU just play twitch-based shooters for kids. They’re games. That’s all. Let people watch TV. For God’s sake.

Again, a funny-house distortion. If all you think of when you go to work is leaving on the dot of 5pm so you can get home and play a computer game, then yes, you don’t need a new computer game: you need a new job. I do assert, also, that a lot of people never achieve their potential, and end up doing something because they “fell into it,” and it pays the bills, but spend the rest of their time trying to escape the job that they have no interest in. If your one love in life is skiing, and you get a job as a ski instructor at Sugar Loaf because that will let you ski powder all the time, then go for it. You obviously know what you want, and should absolutely do it. But don’t give me some crap afterward that you are so smart because unlike all the other ski instructors who watch TV, you play that fucking Zelda game.

The only reason I ever piped up on that topic was that I heard some really, really stupid nonsense about how playing so-and-so console game made you a better person than those idiots who watch TV. If you want to make a contribution, then make it. Or at least fucking try. There are ways to make a difference, if you want to. I’m not even going to assert that designing some unbelievable new computer game that does everything and gives you a blowjob in the process isn’t “making a contribution.” Bill Roper is fine by me. But please, get a grip. Computer games are an excellent escape, and there is no reason to ghetto-ize them as forms of entertainment. But building them up in some crazy-ass philosophy where they make you smarter than someone else, when neither person has done anything of global importance, is wacky. And trying to prove that you could be a better racecar driver than Mr. Pro Driver Man because you are good at Grand Prix Legends is just sad. That’s what I get from all your reflexes talk. Drive a race car, if it’s so important to you. Or talk to the elf. I’m sure he has many smart things to say.

Edit: I fixed one letter of a typo because computer games made me smart!

Bill Roper’s arguments… to make games ‘dumber’ because its made for the sorry proles who want to escape from there dull daily lives?!?

I dont buy it.

All they have to do is make a game thats good. Overweening about the conventions of the mmrpg genre is the worst thing they can do. WoW is still far from mainstream (pay to play is still not accepted), but it doesnt mean it can’t be succesful. I particualrly think they homogenized Warcraft 3 to the point of mediocrity. Did they have to? No. They would have sold alot of copies regardless.

Why do they always have to worry constantly about the big piece of the ‘casual gamer’ pie? Its not like the public is looking for games to save themselves. With a game like WoW they should worry more about making a good game instead of worrying about the ‘/who 30’ command being way too complex. Gimme a break.

To add, I’m just saying game developers shouldn’t consider too much about an audience that might not be there. Instead focus on the people who play the genre, past fans of the genre and what they themselves think is fun. I’m not against tidying up a game to be more accesible and less of a ‘grind’. I just dont want a possibly good game to be trimmed because they think the game is too hard or complex for the casual fan.

etc

No, although that’s a genius statement. You can’t go to the Moon with just rubber bands and masking tape, either! You win! Seriously, any problems you have with multi-whatever online stuff is your own business. I don’t care. You gotta have physics, and reflexes, and other things, fine. It’s like that guy who posts about role-playing the epic fisherman. Great stuff. I’ll be the guy over here.

This is a total non-response.

The whole audience thing is not going to happen with the “cheesy GUI on top of ancient text based gameplay mechanics” design philosophy. As evidence of that, you need look no further than the slope of the players/time graph for current MMORPGS. Now, that’s not to say that WOW couldn’t end up being just a really good GUI over essentially the same stuff. But I hope not. Actually, I don’t even care, but Mr. Roper does seem to have a better sense of the market direction than most.

Shouldn’t the goal of any MMORPG be to gain as large an audience as possible? It’s the network effect-- a multiplayer game with 500 active players is kinda fun, but a multiplayer game with 50,000 players is, er, massively more fun. As Mark Asher mentioned, try getting a multiplayer game of Warlords Battlecry going. Zero players? Zero fun. And the nobel-worthy automatic Battle.net matching feature, which effortlessly matches players based on preferences, availability, and skill, would be pretty damn meaningless in the context of 500 players.

People who claim to be smarter than other people because THEY play turn-based, historical wargames, while YOU just play twitch-based shooters for kids. They’re games. That’s all. Let people watch TV. For God’s sake.

Well, there are two different topics here, Bruce. The one Bill was addressing was the stigma of gaming. How many times has Tom covered this in shoot club? Or, just ask Steve what he tells the ladies when they politely inquire what he does for a living. I’m not asking for people to recognize my 1337-ness, I’m asking people to view it as a worthwhile use of time. Yes, I do think active forms of entertainment are more stimulating, but it’s not something I’d actually argue with someone about. People in glass houses and all that. Entertainment is entertainment, and cures for cancer are cures for cancer.

If your one love in life is skiing, and you get a job as a ski instructor at Sugar Loaf because that will let you ski powder all the time, then go for it. You obviously know what you want, and should absolutely do it.

I don’t understand this fixation you have with the topic of work. If I didn’t know better, I’d say someone is feeling a little guilty about doing what he enjoys instead of working. I’m not going to name names, but it’s Bruce Geryk. What people enjoy and what they can make a living at can be (and in fact, usually are) two vastly different things. What if I love mopping floors? Am I going to be the world’s happiest janitor?

If all you think of when you go to work is leaving on the dot of 5pm so you can get home and play a computer game, then yes, you don’t need a new computer game: you need a new job.

Another odd statement. So if I really enjoy work, I should… never want to go home? Someone’s a closet overachiever. People who work all the time drive me nuts. Most of the time, people who do this don’t do it because they love work but because they have no balance in their lives-- they can’t figure out anything else to do. Certainly that’s true of many people in Betsy’s lab. Working all the time is great, and everything, but so is being a fucking normal human being, with a social life, and interests outside work. And oh, I never see this in the computer field. Computer geeks who spend 8+ hours in front of a computer at work, then go home and spend 8+ hours in front of a computer at home? Yeah. That’s rare. Not. Admirable? Only if your goal is to get to level 50 in DAOC, I guess.

I’m not even going to assert that designing some unbelievable new computer game that does everything and gives you a blowjob in the process isn’t “making a contribution.”

Again the fixation with work. And the obvious hubris of maintaining that anything any of us do will really “contribute”, in the macro sense, to the betterment of the world. Do you really worry about this stuff? Because it sounds like fantastic source material to mine for those game reviews. After all, without suffering, there cannot be great art.

trying to prove that you could be a better racecar driver than Mr. Pro Driver Man because you are good at Grand Prix Legends is just sad. That’s what I get from all your reflexes talk. Drive a race car, if it’s so important to you.

That’s like telling high school basketball players they should just go pro, if being good at basketball is so goddamn important to them. Only a tiny minority of people will ever have the opportunity to drive a real race car. Or be a real elf.

“Shouldn’t the goal of any MMORPG be to gain as large an audience as possible? It’s the network effect-- a multiplayer game with 500 active players is kinda fun, but a multiplayer game with 50,000 players is, er, massively more fun.”

MMOGs aren’t really set up like that from the player’s perspective. You never play in a gameworld with 50,000 other players – the games can’t take that. Identical iterations of the gameworld are maintained on separate servers. Most of the MMOG game worlds seem to be able to hold 2000-3000 players at a time. And of course of that subset, you only see a hundred or so at any given time. From a business standpoint, sure, the more the merrier. To a player 50,000 subscribers or 500,000 doesn’t make much difference.

Anyway, your argument seems to imply that games like EverQuest would be even more popular with a better interface? I’ll buy that. You can say that about most games. Are you also trying to revive your action-vs.-dice-rolling argument, though? I won’t buy that because there’s no evidence that action-oriented games would sell better than the current crop of MMOGs.

Again, I think you’re arguing from ignorance. You don’t really know these games. From a player’s perspective, games like EQ and DAoC are full of action.

I’d like to know how you take this quote from Bill Roper:

The thing that’s helping turn that around is our generation are now the ones coming home after work, as opposed to going to movies or watching television. We are just as likely to go online and play a game or surf the Internet. As Generation X keeps taking over, and the Baby Boomers are getting older, what their sensibilities are shapes less of the mass media sees, to some extent. We see a lot more of that now, as becoming a more acceptable form of entertainment. In a way, its OK to spend your time playing games now, which is silly because we all grow up playing games all the time. Then, for some reason, we get older and lose that in our lives.

And transform it into this:

The other point is about gaming as intellectual stimulation suitable for adults. Particularly compared to passive forms of entertainment such as television and movies.

All Roper said is that gaming is becoming more accepted. I don’t see him making claims for it being “intellectual stimulation” or where he compares it to TV.

I have to agree with this. I hate the MMORPGs, but obviously they turn the crank for lots of people. My grandparents used to play Cribbage for blood, which I thought was stupid until I spent several months in college playing Hearts for blood. Shooting the Moon against three good players was very exciting and - dare I say it - action-packed.

I thought the article was about the ‘/who 30’ being terrible game design for the masees… actually I didnt read the article. Sorry!

And I’d game til I was an old geezer locked up in an old folks home and wearing diapers having fun with OFP. Whats the big deal with feeling guilt playing games? so anal… not anyone in particular… just a generalization.

BTW people who like OFP and SS2 are smarter and more intelligent and become really rich next year! :lol:

etc

Good god, why?
Look, unless they’re game fans themselves (or some Killologist looking for attention), they’ll never care. Just like all those pesky non-hunters think my uncle is wasting his time with that whole “shooting deer in the Kill Zone PERFECT-EVERY-TIME and then making lovely venison steaks” thing my uncle does yearly.

You’d be better off asking people to just leave you alone and mind they’re fucking business. It’s a more reasonable request than begging the world to respect videogaming just because you like it.