Archive for the “Broken promises and shattered dreams” Category

Summary: Flying was a mistake. It was a design flaw in TBC.  Blizzard lacked the vision to realize the game would last beyond one expansion1 and so they painted themselves into a corner at the end of TBC by giving everyone the ability to fly, and it went from neat end of game feature to automatic entitlement in the next.

When WotLK came along, the "reason" we couldn’t fly in Northrend at first was so thin, so lame, that we actually mocked them, and for good reason.  And thus has it ever been for the following expansions, as they continue to come up with lame, stupid "reasoning"2 to "justify"3 keeping us on the ground until we’ve narfled the Garthok4, just because they don’t want us ignoring all that beautiful artwork and masterful questlining they’ve done.

A further unintended side-effect is that they’ve never learned how to create a zone with flying in it.  You may have noticed, Blizz uses the landscape to push you where it wants you to go. Impassable mountain ranges, big tree trunks, bloodthirsty troll guards, etc.  You avoid that which is impassable or inconvenient, and end up in an area that they want you to be. Flying mounts negate all that, you violate every control they put in place, children are left unattended, dogs and cats cohabitate, and other terrible things happen as an effect.

I don’t know if they’ve even tried, but I have yet to see a zone where flying was properly factored in to the flow of the zone’s "experience", and, as such, it looks to anyone that’s looking as if they don’t have a clue how to design a zone, period. Twilight Highlands – who remembers how unpleasant it was to slog through the first time versus the second time, when you got flying for the whole tribe and your alts just skidded around in the sky without a care in the world?  That’s the difference in how the zone comes across with and without flying.

So flying’s broken the game, and they won’t or can’t adjust the game to make flying work out as a part of the game5, therefore all we get is "U No Fly Heer" zones and collective years of wasted effort on their parts as entire zones turn into flat, two-dimensional tabletop adventures that have a scattering of completely avoidable mobs.

Clearly, flying must die.

There are three possible paths, as I see it.

  • They can remove flying from the game completely, admit it was a mistake, soak up the abuse6, and move on.
  • They can remove flying from the current content, allowing it in all previous expansion areas, but controlling it in the current.
  • They can bloody well learn how to put together a zone with flying taken fully into account.

As a gaming purist, I am in favor of the "nuke it from orbit" approach, mostly (a) because I have seen no evidence that option #3 is even possible. I’d rather they spent scarce resources on something that they have a reasonable chance to accomplish, meaning (b) I also have my doubts as to whether they can pick up all the loose ends in the case of option 2.

I’m not in favor of removing flying simply because I have the blackest of evil hearts and enjoy seeing others suffer7, I’m in favor of it because it makes for a better game.

  • They spend less time trying to account for8 people flying around whatever feature they’re working on.
  • They spend less time trying to negotiate the precise moment in the expansion or player’s life that the ban gets lifted.
  • They spend less time tracking down bugs that might crop up because someone found a niche where they CAN fly in9.
  • Players play the game, rather than ignore it on the way to whatever corner-cased endgame feature they need to twink on10.
  • The designers put more thought and interest into game features because they realize that there are far fewer ways for players to blow them off.
  • You actually "accomplish" something yourself.

It amazes me that people can’t keep things civil on this.  A friend of mine has been getting abuse over her opinion on this.  Listen here, cheeto-breath.  When all you have to fall back to is abuse, you lose. You’ve already lost.  Everyone can see it, you have added nothing relevant to the argument.  You’re nothing but a hater, and we all know about haters.

haters

That’s right, J. D. 11 

You’d know better than most.

And the only way to deal with the haters is to let them go hate on the only person that loves them – themselves.  So, any person they unfollow is, really, better off for it – though blocking the haters is better, since that whey they can’t sleaze back into your life later without your permission.

I’ve not said much about this before, because others have done a much better job of getting the point across. But it seems as if some people don’t do "points." 

Or something.


  1. I’m really not making that up, they didn’t expect it to be so popular. []
  2. Hint: no actual reasoning to be found. []
  3. To them, not us. []
  4. Def. #2 slays me. []
  5. Well, every now and then they try flying mobs that will knock you out of the sky, but as soon as the expansion moves far enough along, they remove that. Say hello to the birdies over Halfhill for me.  If they pay you any attention. []
  6. For the kind of money they’re getting, they can manage to soak up a LOT of abuse and be just fine. []
  7. I might, but it’s not germane to the situation. []
  8. And failing, and giving up on. []
  9. A feature not implemented won’t cause bugs in its own right. []
  10. And maybe players leave the game over this. I’m not concerned over the quality of people that lets something like this put them over the top. I just aren’t. []
  11. Doing selfies Old Skool. []

Comments 9 Comments »

Today, while I was up to my neck in the gubbins of an uncooperative database server, the pre-purchase program for WoD went live. A few things of note:

  1. The cost of the pre-purchase1 will be $70.00
  2. We have context for a release date, and this is unprecedented this far out from the actual release – Blizz tends to play close to the vest. To wit: "Before 12/20/2014", or, "Fall 2012", which frames it as Sep-Dec 2014.
  3. The cost of a level 90 boost is, indeed, $60.00.  I am not surprise.

I am also not surprised at the release date itself – somebody once asked me if I expected everyone to wait several months for new content, and my answer was that basically I’m just saying that that’s when I think it’s going to be. New expansions have traditionally been released in the 4Q time frame, with one exception2 .

I realize that Blizz have said that they "want" to iterate more frequently, but "want" isn’t "can do", and they have a lousy record for being able to accomplish what they "want" to do unless it brings money to the table.  Hiss invective at me all you want, but it’s an observation that’s pretty well bankable at this point. It just is.

I’m sure3 that Blizz knows that this will probably mark a pretty drastic bleed-off of subs for the summer months.  Too many people are bored with with SoO content already, and even more are fed up with Timeless Isle4. There are too many opportunities for enjoyment out there that do NOT require endless grinding on old content.  I hate to say it, but I’m pretty sure they’re about to take a hit, and I’m pretty sure they’re not deluded enough to not expect it.

(I also have a very strong suspicion that they weren’t planning on it being this long when they announced WoD, but they’ve revised deadlines.)

I know a lot of people that are going to be very disheartened by this announcement’s implications. I’m not too happy about it myself, but at least I have the familiar embrace of low expectations to fall back on. Sadly, I think I have to fall back into that a bit too much. A premier software company can afford the resources to eliminate this kind of recurring disappointment. But it has to have the will to do so.

"Want" isn’t will.


  1. Digital Deluxe, AKA Collector’s Edition []
  2. And that one was late because of Blizz’s famed "It’s done when it’s done" tradition. []
  3. Well, maybe not sure, but I’d like to think! []
  4. The darling of patch 5.4.2 has lost its luster, apparently. []

Comments No Comments »

This quote from Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas infuriates me.

"In terms of the pricing, honestly a big part of that is not wanting to devalue the accomplishment of levelling."

Source

I hate to take one line out of a conversation like this, but this highlights the disingenuous approach that Blizz has taken on the topic of "leveling" zones since they started nerfing everything that wasn’t current content with gay abandon1.

Somewhere near the end of Wrath, they started doing this; reducing the amount of XP required to level; boosting the amount of XP you get from each kill, each quest, each turnin.   Giving huge amounts of XP for digging up ore or picking flowers or skinning beasties. Granting bonus XP from certain holiday items and buffs. Offering items that you could use to bypass entire swathes of leveling zones. Making zones provide so much XP and requiring so little XP to get to the next level that you routinely ran out of green-or-better quests and leave huge bits of the lore untold unless you deliberately chose to stop leveling for a while. You can’t even level in current content and see all the zones without loitering.

All these things have been done to the leveling game, but Blizzard "doesn’t want to devalue the accomplishment of leveling".

/spit

Forgive me for being vulgar, but how does a company that has spent the better part of a decade devaluing the accomplishment of leveling get off saying things like this?  The devaluation has already occurred. Leveling, in our current state of affairs, serves one purpose: it gets you to max level. Only people that deliberately want to soak in the lore, or get Achievements, will spend any more time leveling than they have to – and most of those throwbacks aren’t actually leveling per se, but going back and picking up the remaining quests they need for the achievement, completely over-leveling it.

There is no value left to lose.

The only way this gets less annoying for me is if we hear in later press events that what they meant to say was that they were re-valuing the leveling game and didn’t want to cheapen it with cheap L90s.  But somehow, I get the strong feeling that that is not what they meant and that they’re going to blithely continue on as if they have no responsibility for the state of the leveling game now, and that anything that they do with the Boost feature in any way changes that (it doesn’t).

================

The other little disingenuous nugget of fail in that interview was the assertion that they didn’t want people to have to buy a second game just to get that second boost.  But they’re quite happy to charge you as much as buying the second game would cost you!  More, if WoD isn’t a requirement for the boost – in which case five bucks will get a second game and another free boost. AND it gets worse when you realize that even WoD will deflate in value after the first quarter of release. Aside from the aisles of Wal-Mart, you’ll be able to get the game for probably $40 or less after the first quarter, and that’s a $20 saving on every boost.

Maybe Ghostcrawler left because he saw the writing on the wall.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into this.  But I’m not liking what I’m seeing.


  1. Last I looked, it was still legal to use that word in that context, no matter what Rance Priebus tells us. []

Comments 4 Comments »

If you were awake this past weekend, you probably saw the news that in WoD, there are a few design changes that will ultimately culminate in the requirement of a silver medal in the Proving Grounds before you can randomly queue for a Heroic 5-man instance.

That is an outstanding solution for a problem that we don’t actually have.

Let me quantify this with a pie chart. 

Japan

I think I’m turning Japanese

 

Let’s let the blue part of that chart represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was incapable of playing his or her class. Let the red part represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was an asshole.

I think you’re starting to get the picture.

Now, I immediately point out that data is not the plural of anecdote, so my personal experience is not by definition the experience others have. But I will also point out that no man is an island1, and we all share an experience here, so what I hear from other players can be used as a guide to help determine if I’m whistling in the dark here2.

Well, the majority of what I see people complaining about online – other than the forums3 is assholes.  Or, rather, if they’re complaining about the person not performing, it’s because that person is being an asshole. Or otherwise coupled with the person being an asshole, in some way.

Well, assume Blizz is starting small. Let’s have a look at how the poor performers break down.

Japan

Domo Arigato

The red part is people that are complaining about poor performers as an excuse for their groups’ failures.  The blue part is those people which would see improvement in their Heroic5 experience if only a silver medal was required for entry into a random Heroic5.

Okay, I’m full of shit and making those numbers up out of whole cloth, because I really don’t need a formal survey of the forums to form an opinion on this.

Of all the people having problems with randoms of any sort now, performance is rarely given as the cause of the failure. More times than not I’m reading about the seven healers that are left after all the DPS prima donnas left because they felt like effort was something they would like to avoid, and the tanks left out of disgust at that, and the healers are busy discussing who gets to be the biggest martyr this time4.  It wasn’t performance. It was personality.

I really don’t care at the meta level. I’m not running random Heroic 5s, not because I don’t think people know how to play, but because I’m fed up with assholes.  And nothing Blizz is doing here is going to change an asshole’s opportunity to make LFD an unholy shithole of gaming society5.

When Blizz comes up with social controls on trollish behavior, I’ll be more interested. 

Meanwhile, Blizz is wasting time and resources on something that won’t make any difference.  They could have done that on the dance studio and at least made people genuinely happy.


  1. Also, no man is a woman. Whatever either of those mean. []
  2. To continue the folksy idioms – I got a case of ‘em on sale! []
  3. Don’t’ read the forums if you wish to retain your soul. []
  4. I play all three roles, so I don’t wanna hear any sass. []
  5. Still better than forums. []

Comments 12 Comments »

An article on WoW Insider takes one of my points about the character boost to 90 issue and expands it way the hells out to a mathematically precise word count of "large".  Anne states far more effectively than I have about one of the unpleasant side effects of the leveling "squish" – the way that the "story" of the game loses its cohesiveness due to the way that people are rushed through levels most expeditiously.

Anne provides a lot of good suggestions to address this self-inflicted wound, though the possible solution that Anne’s article leaves out is this: stop messing with the older levels. Stop messing with the XP scaling, stop messing with XP returns, stop dropping level requirements.

In short, don’t compress the leveling process at lower levels. Anyone that wants to rush through the 1-90 (or whatever) experience can go buy a boost.  This is my primary reason for wanting the boost in the first place. I really don’t give two damns about anything else, I just want to see the lore of the game coupled back with the leveling experience.

Unfortunately, that’ll never happen. The first reason is that Blizz just doesn’t have the PR capacity to handle the negative feedback without making a mess of things. They can’t even announcing an expansion without offending 1/2 the population of the gaming world, so let’s assume they just won’t be able to manage the awareness and deft touch required to make an unpopular decision and then weather the storm.

The other reason is that resources would be required in order to reset the leveling experience back to that which it was in the first place. In the case of the 1-60 process, they don’t even have an "original" setting to go back to, since they were redesigned in the first place to provide an accelerated leveling experience.  The old 1-60 leveling process was eliminated in toto when they were redesigned more or less completely from the ground up.

And those resources are just not going to be provided. They’re already pushing things with something as fundamental as introducing new character models with an expansion based on previously established lore (rewrit). They don’t have the bandwidth to also re-adjust and re-write all the old leveling content. There is no big red lever marked "reset to previous status", and, even so, they’d still need to test it, and they probably don’t have time or resources for that, either.

But Anne’s article truly does illustrate the folly of trying to mask a defect in design with workarounds. Eventually they pile up to the point where you can’t help but notice the flaws, no matter what your skill or perception level is. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that you can get from 1-60 without seeing but 3/4 of a single continent (rather than all of two continents).

Maybe somebody’s watching that will be implementing the next generation MMO that we all go to play, and they’ll not make the same fundamental mistakes that Blizzard has made.  Maybe they’ll offer level boosts to the "threshold" at the very first expansion, rather than five in.

Or, if it’s Blizzard and "Titan", maybe they’ll make all the same mistakes all over again.

Won’t that be fun.

Comments 2 Comments »

As I write this, Blizzard is now claiming that they will no longer require real names in the fora.  I want to make a few observations.

  • As Scott Jennings pointed out1, Blizzard has promised to “fix” something like this before, and then didn’t do squat, possibly under the theory that a slow bleed saps the will, or something.

[L]ook at this response from another privacy hullaballoo – Blizzard’s refusal to allow people to opt out of having their character data displayed online – for a clue.

(checks)

Oh. There’s no[t] any mention of opting out at all. OK. Well, there’s that time they made fun of people who wanted to. I suppose that’s a response. Wait, here’s a post from 2007!

Can I “opt-out” of the Armory?

No; this particular option is currently unavailable. While we do not possess any present intention to allow our players to opt-out of basic Armory features (character display, talent build, arena teams, and reputation), we do plan to introduce more complex functionalities; these upcoming functionalities will be “opt-in”/”opt-out,” thus granting our players the opportunity to display or omit correlated information as desired.

Clearly, they got right on that.

  • So don’t get excited until you what they actually do.
  • Also, the forums are just the thin edge of the wedge. While having your private ID searchable on the web is, in fact, a bad thing, the biggest problem with this whole thing is that they told us one thing about RealID at first, then they went and did something else with it after that.  So what’s to say they won’t do that again? Nothing, that’s what. Until we have a permanent way to mask our real names in RealID, it’s still broken.

I have this image of Mike Morhaime in his office, typing into his LiveJournal tonight.

This was a triumph.
I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.
Plying the bullshit.
We do what we must
because we can.
For the good of all of us.
Except the ones who /ragequit.

But there’s no sense crying over every mistake.
You just keep on trying with the finest trollbait.
And the money comes in.
And we all wear a grin.
For the people who are still subscribed.

Remember, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

And reloads close at hand.


  1. Oh, look, I got his name right this time! []

Comments No Comments »