(am still pretty much in work mode, cobbling together vital but unexciting systems. why am i so bad at organizing collections of files? i don't know, but i know that i am)
I'm basically just reading Terra Nova for Tim Burke these days--his recent invocation of Minecraft against the 'virtual worlds' purists (in comments) was pretty sweet--but I ran into this Terra Nova article made me chuckle. Guest poster Mark Chen asks, "Even more uncomfortable is the thought that maybe the reason why no one seems to be able to compete with WoW is because they don't focus on number crunching as much... Is that true?"
People talking about why WoW is successful is, as much as anything I've seen in the world of games, the parable of the blind men and the elephant. After reading Abalieno's claim that the reason for WoW's success is the quality of its ground textures, I no longer buy any single-factor explanation. The game's too big, and each part resonates strongly with someone different. Perhaps that, and that alone, is the reason for its success! (For my part, it was the other way around: the bigness and the pacing of World of Warcraft gave me a reason to care about the numbers; I actually enjoy thinking about the math, but it takes a little motivation to really dig into it. You could put that much effort into analyzing and increasing Cloud's damage output, but what's the point?)
In other Blizzard-related news, there's a neat article about how the Berkeley team won the 2010 Starcraft AI competition. It's interesting stuff: they started with hand-designed strategies and abandoned them for general strategies tweaked by machine; a tactical layer (involving recontouring the AI's picture of the map based on objectives and perceived threat, a technique I find particularly appealing) and a strategic layer; and, most importantly, choosing a metastrategy--all Mutalisks, all the time--that plays most nicely with the chosen AI techniques. They go into considerable detail in the article, which is neat.