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6 Nov 2018

Blizzard Engineering – The Nuggets from Blizzcon 2018

If I had to pick a favourite panel from Blizzcon, Blizzard Engineering would be near the top. Hearing how the various programming teams overcome technical challenges to produce games with incredible polish is always interesting, particularly as their passion always comes through in their enthusiasm on-stage.

While there was only the one session this year, the Blizzard Engineering panel at Blizzcon 2018 still had a few interesting tidbits. Compared to last year’s deep tech examination, this year saw more of a focus on engineering culture, quality approach, and delivery methodology. There was a clear demonstration that it’s not just about problem-solving, but collaborating as part of a team that’s becoming increasingly important.

However, if I had to ask for one thing for 2019, it would be to repeat a request for more discussion around architecture. System componentisation came up a few times during the panel, but yet there was never an explanation of why it’s important or what value it provides. Likewise, many of the questions were from hopefuls looking for advice on getting a job at Blizzard, indicating a strong need for a separate careers fair at the event.

Before I get into a summary of the panel, I’d like to give a little attribution to those on-stage:

  • Somer Esat (Panel Chair) – Senior Engineering Manager, Overwatch
  • Rachelle Davis – Senior Software Engineer, New project. Previously an original member of the Hearthstone team, and has been with Blizzard for 7.5 years
  • Bruce Wilkie – Principal Software Engineer, Overwatch. Specialist in game engine and graphics rendering.
  • Diane Cochran – Lead Engineer, New project. Previously lead on Blizzard’s approach to Continuous Integration, lead on battle.net desktop app. Worked on authentication, public API, and has been with Blizzard for 8 years.
  • Collin Murray – Lead Software Engineer on WoW. Has written code for Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft III, and every version of WoW. Been with Blizzard for 23 years.
  • Sarah Doebler – Technical Lead Battle.net. Started as a GM, has worked on Blizzard.com, the Armoury, and Content platform. Now leads tools team on battle.net, and has been with Blizzard for 14 years.

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4 Feb 2018

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – The Latecomer Review

As part of my New Year’s commitment to MMORPG gaming, I promised to finally give Final Fantasy XIV a proper go. And, over the last few weeks, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve raced around Eorzea on a heroic adventure, uncovered sinister plots, and saved the world countless times. Even as an FFXIV latecomer, I’ve had a blast.

But that’s not everything. I’ve also started working on secondary classes, dug into the crafting system, pledged my allegiance to a Grand Company, and even bought an apartment. There’s a heck of a lot to do in FFXIV, and I’ve been desperately trying to sample as much of it as possible.

However, all this got me thinking: just how many people are in a similar boat? There’s a lack of good-quality and story-driven MMOs right now, and FFXIV promises to fill that niche in a major way. But is A Realm Reborn still worth trying some four years and two expansions later? To answer that question, I’ve put together this FFXIV Latecomer Review based on everything pre-Heavensward. I’ve also included some tips on the best ways to get started, should you be tempted to join in.

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19 Jan 2018

The MMO Subscription Cull: 2018 Edition

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a bit of a January ritual. I look at the games coming out and think about what I want to play, and there’s plenty to look forward to in 2018. But I only have so much time to play games, which means something else has to give.

Sometimes it means that a free-to-play game gets shelved for a while, but it also makes sense to cut back on subscriptions. After all, why spend £10 a month for a game that I don’t even have time to log into? That way I get both more time and more money.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s on the chopping block this year. And although some of the titles may be obvious, the reasons why might surprise you.

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15 Jan 2018

FFXIV: Making Good on a Promise

New year, new game. Back in December, I mentioned that I’d be giving Final Fantasy XIV a try, with the Japanese MMO getting three months to win me over. Surprisingly, it’s managed to hold my attention in a magitek grip ever since I created a new character earlier this month. If my Twitter feed is anything to go by, I’m having a whale of a time.

However, if I’m honest, this isn’t my first time in FFXIV. Back in the original beta, rolled a new character and ventured forth, quickly stumbling on a quest to kill ten rats. Only the rats only had three spawn points, and the spawn timer was so low that a growing crowd of players swamped them. I logged out and never looked back, passing on the game until now.

That was almost ten years ago. Time passes and games change, but few have gone through as much upheaval as FFXIV. I interviewed producer/director Yoshida-san back when he was preparing to relaunch the game with the subtitle A Realm Reborn, and I couldn’t help but appreciate the energy and faithful commitment he brought to the job. A few years later, the reboot was a success and his team was already working away on an expansion pack.

I’d always promised that I’d give FFXIV a proper go, and even bought a boxed copy for PlayStation 4. But something else always got in the way, or trashed my plans, or caused a complication. Until this year, it always seemed not to be.

Today, I feel like an idiot for putting it off for so long. After playing for a few weeks, I’ve discovered that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is huge fun.

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13 Jan 2018

The Great PC Rebuild

About 4 or 5 years ago, I built the Angry Caretaker. Contained inside a tiny case was a monster of a PC, pairing a top-grade core i7 processor with NVidia’s latest graphics card. But, while it was fun to construct, the fiddly proportions made it tough to upgrade. If I wanted to replace anything, I usually had to pull several other parts out of the way first. It taught me a lot about working with confined spaces, but it just wasn’t practical.

And so, I decided that my next build would be a step up in size, from mini ITX to micro ATX. The space would give me more room to move, and I’d also get more upgrade flexibility from the larger motherboards. Yes, it meant going for a larger case, but I figured the trade-off was worth it.

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