Monday, November 26, 2012

Coffee With Fake Developers

Q:  Who are you?

A: My name is Herman “Flinger” Brown.  I am the lead poop designer for World of Warcraft.

Q: So what is it that you do?

A: World of Warcraft is an incredibly complex game with many intricate game systems and a tremendous amount of background lore.  I am in charge of all the poop-related aspects of that.

Q: But poop is a small part of the game.

A: Well, in Mists of Pandaria, we’ve done a top-to-bottom revamp of our cooking system.  There are a lot of new banquets being prepared in the game.  And when people are eating fried carp cakes, there’s going to be a lot of pooping.  At this point, about 17% of World of Warcraft’s quests involve poop.   Poop actually interacts with a wide variety of game systems.
This expansion has seen a considerable expansion of my role, because we’ve incorporated a poop-themed NPC race, the Hozen.

Q: The Hozen are monkey-people.

A: Yes.  Poop monkeys.  Poop is integral to Hozen lore and culture, and it was very important that this rich brown thematic material was included in the gameplay elements as well as the story elements.  So, for example, when there is an attack like “Fling Filth,” I will be coordinating with the art team and determining what sort of animation we need to create for a fistful of monkey poop hitting the player in the face, and I will also be in touch with encounter design to discuss what sort of damage effect and splash radius makes sense, given the texture and consistency of this particular enemy character’s feces.

Q: But poop is just poop.

A: That’s far from the truth.  Monkey poop is very different from something like dragon poop.  You don’t want to see a rhinoceros dropping little bunny pellets, and we have a lot of decisions to make that most people wouldn’t even think of when we incorporate the poop of mythical creatures into the game.  

Does dragon poop come out in a viscous even patty, like cow dung? Or is it full of bones and hair like owl poop?  Does a vampire pop a squat like a regular person, or does it spray a stream of liquid filth like a bird or a bat?  It’s a humanoid, remember, but it is on an all-liquid diet.  We’ve got new creatures called cloud serpents in Mists of Pandaria, which are like dragons, but not connected to our dragon lore.  Should they poop like dragons, or should their poop be different?

Q: I don’t really see why that matters.

A: It matters a great deal, actually.  We’ve even got a daily quest that invites people to explore the poop of cloud serpents, which turns out to be full of carnivorous maggots called Siftworms.

Every time the quest team or the story team or the encounter team has a question like this, they bring me in on the meeting, to make sure all our decisions about these things are consistency.  I guess you could say I am in charge of poo continuity.

Q: How did you get this position?

A: Well, I was the junior designer on the quest team during “Burning Crusade,” and when the lead designers were shown the Nagrand area populated with Clefthoof buffalo-rhinos, somebody commented that those things probably just spent their time crapping all over the landscape.  Somehow, the clefthoof poop idea stuck, and they assigned me to make a quest about it.  

The Nagrand quest invited players to get elbow-deep into those clefthoof piles looking for magic beans, and, as a reward, we let players put the beans in their mouths. They liked it so much that we added a quest to Hellfire Peninsula in which an NPC asks the player to help out with retrieving some keys his dog swallowed.

These quests proved to be very popular, so when Wrath of the Lich King came around, I submitted ideas for about a dozen more poop-related quests, including the beloved outhouse line in Grizzly Hills, which invites players to gather ingredients for a magic laxative. 

By Cataclysm I was dealing with poop full-time.  We wanted to integrate poop back into the 1-60 leveling experience.  I’m especially proud of one quest from the Alliance “Rambo” questline in Redridge mountains, where we invited players to smear fox poop all over their faces.  

We also had some new races, which meant we had a lot of decisions to make.  Some of the Tol’Vir people of Uldum have been turned into stone sphinx guys. Do those guys poop regular poop, or do they poop rocks or something?  To say nothing of shale spiders.

And there were a lot of decisions to make about Deathwing.  Does his poop have chunks of metal in it? Is it on fire? He’s such an iconic character, so it was very important to get his poop right.

With the Hozen and the wider variety of poops in Mists of Pandaria, of course, I’m busier than ever.

Q: Tell me about your role in developing the Hozen.

Ghostcrawler called me into his office and told me it was time to really step up to a more prominent role on the team.  He handed me some concept art of a monkey-guy, and a couple of pages of lore information, and he asked me to look at it, and come back to tell him what sort of dialog this creature might have.

I went back to my desk, and I got myself a big cup of coffee, and I worked through the night.  

The next day, I went back to Ghostcrawler, and I pointed at the picture, and I said: “Ook-Ook!”

He said: “Ook-Ook?”

And I said: “Ook-Ook!”

He looked kind of disappointed. He said: “That’s it? That’s all you’ve got?”

And I was kind of caught out, because I thought that was pretty good.  But then, off the top of my head, I said: “Me gonna ook you in the dooker!” And he smiled.

That was maybe the best day of my life.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

World of Warcraft Patch 5.0.4

"Why do you keep giggling?"
After a months-long hiatus during which he may have played some Diablo 3, Crawford the warlock is back in the World of Warcraft, gearing up for some kung-fu. So, what's new?

First and most importantly: New Warlock Pets.

I'm so glad we finally got a beholder pet, replacing our boring-but-functional felhunter. This is a change all warlocks have been lobbying for since the beholder was first introduced in Burning Crusade, and here's why: The beholder has the most anatomically-detailed butthole of any creature model in the entire World of Warcraft. This is especially awesome because the camera position naturally situates itself so that distended, pulsating sphincter is within my field of vision at all times. I can't wait to be staring into that sweet, hypnotic brown-eye for the next year and a half! I love the way it winks at me.

Second: Active tanking and new class mechanics

I joined a dungeon to play with the new changes. Here's a chat log:

Tank: Why is my Shield Block button greyed out?
Crawford: What is a Malefic Grasp?
Tank: I need Shield Block to live.
Healer: Holy Power seems to work differently now.
Crawford: Oh. That's a Malefic Grasp. I miss Shadow Bolt. Where is Shadow Bolt?
Tank: Shield Block costs 60 rage for some reason. I don't have 60 rage.
Healer: My buttons are messed up.
Crawford: What's the deal with Haunt?
Tank has died.
Tank: I think I am gonna buy Guild Wars 2.
Healer has died.
Crawford casts [Hearthstone]
Crawford has joined [1. Stormwind General Chat]
Crawford has joined [2. Trade]
2. Trade: Crawford: Hey everybody, have you seen the butthole on my new beholder pet? Look at it!

Third: New Talents!

General Forums: WTF, dog?
Ghostcrawler: We have simplified the trees to give you a few meaningful choices for utility abilities.
General Forums: What happened to all the goodies?
Ghostcrawler: Most of them were essentially mandatory, so we have just baked them into your core spec, rather than making you click the button every level.
General Forums: But what about customization?
Ghostcrawler: There wasn't any. Everyone just used the same benefit-maximizing builds.
General Forums: Not me!
Ghostcrawler: Then you're bad. Don't worry. You can still find ways to be bad in Mists of Pandaria.
General Forums: We're going to play SW:TOR, the hot new WoW killer.
Ghostcrawler: See you in three weeks.
(Three weeks later)
General Forums: We're going to go play Diablo 3.
Ghostcrawler: See you in, like, twenty minutes.
(Twenty minutes later)
General Forums: We're going to play Guild Wars 2.
Ghostcrawler: See you in three weeks.

Fourth: New Glyphs 

Blizzard: With this new Glyph of Nightmares, your dreadsteed can walk across water on a path of flames!
Crawford: I have the "Mountain 'O Mounts" achievement. I haven't ridden my dreadsteed in like four years. 
Blizzard: Oh.
Crawford: I usually ride around on a giant chicken now. Can my chicken walk across water on a path of flames?
Blizzard: No. Why do you ride around on a giant chicken?
Crawford: Is that not self-explanatory?
Blizzard: Maybe you would like to use your dreadsteed.
Crawford: Maybe you would like to look at my new beholder pet.
Blizzard: I see it. It's very nice.
Crawford: No. Look at it from behind.

Fifth: Revamped Pet UI

Revamped Pet UI: These are the new features we've implemented for the new pet battle system!
Pet battle trainer: Want to catch some rare pets?!
Pet battle trainer: I like your energy. Try to maintain that until next month, when the pet battle system becomes available.
Crawford: Hey, have you seen this beholder?

Sixth: New Loot System

Guy who rolls on everything: Yoink!
Everyone: We hate this!

Guy who rolls on everything: Well, it looks like my work here is done.
Everyone: We still hate it!
Crawford: Behold! My beholder!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Catalyst Doesn't Care If You Like His Ending

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

Catalyst: “Wake up.”

Shepard: “What? Where am I.”

Catalyst: “The Citadel.  It’s my home.”

Shepard: “Who are you?”

Catalyst: “I’m the Catalyst, bitch.”

Shepard: “Why do you look that dead kid from my nightmares?”

Catalyst: “I chose a form that would seem familiar to you.  It’s kind of like that movie ‘Contact.’ Have you seen it? It isn’t very good, but I love anything with Matthew McConnaughey.”

Shepard: “What?”

Catalyst: “My all-time fave is ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.’ It’s just delightful.  I’d tell you to add it to your Netflix queue, but I kind of doubt the mail is getting delivered, since Earth got eaten by my giant robot space Cthulhus. Plus, you’re going to die in about three minutes.”

Shepard: “Wait. What?”

Catalyst: “I’m just fuckin’ with you, bro.”

Shepard: “Oh. Good. I was about to freak out.  So, how do I stop the reapers?”

Catalyst: “I control the reapers. They are my solution.”

Shepard: “Solution? To what?”

Catalyst: “Basically, people are smart enough to be dangerous, but you’re still too stupid to live.  You always invent killer robots that will exterminate all organic life.  The only way to stop that from happening is to invent killer robots that only exterminate most organic life.  It’s really obvious, once you think about it.”

Shepard: “That’s not true.  I made peace with the killer robots. I united everybody behind a common purpose.  It's super-inspiring, dude."

Catalyst: “Are you serious?  Have you not been paying attention? All you’ve managed to prove is that the disparate civilizations of the galaxy slightly prefer tolerating each other’s presence to dying in a fire.  If the reapers were out of the picture, how long do you think the galaxy would last? At best, you managed to bring about a temporary cease-fire.  And, in the process, you gave free will to an army of nine-foot tall killer androids.  You also cured the genophage, which was the only thing preventing the galaxy from being overrun by giant nuclear rage rhinos.  And you decided that a species of bugs the size of trucks should continue to exist.  Twice.  I don't see this ending well.”

Shepard: “The truck-bugs said they’d be nice.”

Catalyst: “God, you’re stupid.”

Shepard: “You’re taking away our future.  That’s all we’ve got.”

You thought there'd be a happy ending? Dumbass.
Catalyst: “I am the most powerful computer ever created.  I’ve done the math.  If I don’t harvest advanced civilizations, then they’ll inevitably destroy themselves and all other organic life.”

Shepard: “I don’t believe that.”

Catalyst: “It’s a fact, dipshit.  You don’t get to agree or disagree with a fact.  It just exists.”

Shepard: “But we built the Crucible.”

Catalyst: “Yeah, you did.  And if there’s one irrevocable law of the universe, it’s that world-destroying fleets of squid-bots must yield to vaguely-defined space-macguffins.  So I guess now we need to find a new solution.”

Shepard:  “Hellz yeah, we do.  In yo’ face.”

Catalyst:  “Okay, you want some choices? Here are some choices.  First, if you want to destroy the reapers, you can do that.  You can destroy all synthetic creatures, including the geth.  It will also blow up the mass relays and the Citadel.”

Shepard: “How about we just blow up the reapers, and we keep the mass relays and the Citadel?”

Catalyst: “How about you go fuck yourself?”

Shepard: “But we’ll have peace? The reapers will be gone forever?”

Catalyst: “Yeah.  But they only stop you from destroying yourselves.  How long do you think it will be before there’s another Rachni swarm or another Krogan invasion or somebody invents more killer-robots?”

Shepard: “You have to give us a chance.”

Catalyst: “You’re an idiot.”

Shepard: “What’s the second choice?”

Catalyst: “You can take control of the Reapers.”

Shepard: “So the Illusive Man was right>”

Catalyst: “Yep.  He’s made a lot of sense all along.  If you didn’t skip all the dialog, you might have noticed.”

Shepard: “I kind of wish I hadn’t shot him in the face.”

Catalyst: “You make a lot of really questionable decisions.”

Shepard: “So how do I control the reapers?”

Catalyst: “Grab onto those electrode things over there.”

Shepard: “The ones with all the blue lightning jumping off of them?”

"Don't say I didn't warn you."
Catalyst: “Yep.  Those.”

Shepard: “Looks like that will hurt.”

Catalyst:  “Oh, yeah.  It will melt your goddamn face right off.  I never said this was going to be easy.  Also, the mass relays will all blow up.”

Shepard:  “Yeah, I’ve got a question about that.  The full military strength of every advanced race in the galaxy has been deployed to Earth.”

Catalyst: “So?”

Shepard: “So, if the mass relays blow up, how will they get home?  They don’t have FTL drives, and they 
rely on the mass relays for interstellar travel.”

Catalyst: “What do I look like? A spaceship scientist?  Who gives a damn about FTL drives? You just have to give into the emotional significance of what’s going on right now.  This is major climactic shit that’s happening here.  Don’t be such a nerd.”

Shepard: “What’s the third option?”

Catalyst: “You jump into that big green beam of light, and die.  For some reason, that will create a new DNA that fuses all organic and synthetic life into an organic-synthetic combination.”

Shepard: “How does that fix anything?”

Catalyst: “I don’t know.  I’m pretty much just making shit up.  My plan was to kill all humans.  I still think we should go with that one.”

Shepard: “So no matter what I do, I’m going to die?”

Catalyst: “Yep.”

Shepard: “Wow.  That’s a bummer.”

Catalyst: “Sucks to be you.”