Archive for the “The future is scary” Category
If you’re like me, you have an addon that lets you know when a rare NPC appears in your vicinity, such as NPCScan. I’m not into killing every rare that appears on my scope, but I’m always on the lookout for special ones such as Time Lost Proto-Drake or Poseidus, both which drop unique mounts.
Achievements add another layer to the activity. There are at least three achievements in Pandaria that require killing all of one or another type of rare NPC … in the case of this one, ALL of them.
Perhaps I’m mistaken, though, but Pandaria is also where we started to see Neutral Rares … in most of these cases they are friendly or neutral humanoids – Pandarens, Jinyu, and Hozen.
Now, it’s one thing to kill a hostile … it’ll attack you given the opportunity. Or if it’s a neutral of a normally hostile race or faction, for example a Tauren as seen by Alliance.
But Pandaren and Jinyu are usually friendly, don’t attack on sight, and are generally just minding their own business when BANG! Some huntard comes along and puts a bullet in its head!
(I’m ignoring any implied commentary on mogging here.)
Now, I ask you: is this the action of a good person? I mean, what if they were random Night Elves, Dwarves, and Worgen scattered over Kaz Modan? Has the act of PK’ing *ever* been considered anything other than evil?
It’s so obvious when you see it: achievements are evil, in that they make us do evil things to get them.
Might as well add one for killing your own faction leaders in a raid, while you’re at it.
I’d be a lot less annoyed at this if there were obvious penalties – such as a loss of rep with the relevant factions. But, just like the undead invasion at the start of WotLK, Blizz has copped out and refused to attach any real consequences to actions that would otherwise be considered immoral or evil. I guess if it’s "cool" it’s okay, right?
To date, I’ve avoided killing any of the relevant rares that are neutral. It’s simply too far out of character; it breaks immersion. None of my toons are the sort of people that would go out and kill a non-hostile for no good reason, and something as meta as an "achievement" is no good reason.
I have a strong suspicion that there will be more of this to come in WoD. I’m pretty sure I won’t like that, either. But I’d love to be wrong.
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Well, the big Reveal has taken place at Blizzcon, and we now know details of the next expansion. Hopefully you followed #TeamFaff at Godmother’s liveblog. I had to bail out right after the reveal because we had our weekly planning meeting at work, and the boss was most unsympathetic to the cause.
Now that the dust has settled, and I’ve had time to breathe, let’s talk about it.
I made some cheeky predictions, so let’s see how I did!
There will be an expansion announcement and it will be called "Warlords of Draenor"
That was a pretty easy one, really. If they didn’t, it would have been ugly. The title this time was given to us by the trademark offices in several countries. +2 for me.
It will involve a new "lost" continent of Draenor
It’s Draenor, Jim, but not as we know it. Instead of a lost continent floating about in the Twisted Nether, we’re going back to the past. Specifically, Garrosh escapes captivity and through means as of yet unrevealed, journeys back in time to prevent the Old Horde from becoming subjugated by the Burning legion. What we, the denizens of Azeroth, then face is the Iron Horde – the united fury of the Orc clans united and at full strength.
My score: –1 (net total 1)
Alleria and Turalyon will return
No, they won’t. Though, to be fair, the new world of Old Draenor doesn’t have them to begin with. Since the First War didn’t happen, they didn’t get trapped when the Portal was closed. But THAT is a whole new can of worms, something I’ll exposit in another post.
Score: –1, for a net of 0.
It will involve the Burning Legion
Not so much. While it’s obvious that the Legion will be involved at SOME point, the net effect is that the Orcs turn their backs on the Legion and the power it offers. But the overall theme of this expansion is All Orc, All the Time.
Score: –1, now netting –1.
Ethereals will be the new player race
There will be no new player races.
-1 for me, for a net of –2. Oh dear.
Outland will not get revamped
Technically true, though they do move the door a bit. Since the history leading to Outland hasn’t happened, Outland becomes an alternate timeline, and thus its entrance is moved to the Caverns of Time. Which I have to admit, is a pretty good way to deal with it.
I’m going to claim a win, netting me back to –1.
The new level cap will be 100
Got that one right. So we’ll see a realm first Level 100 in 2 days, not 1.
+1, back to breaking even.
There are no indications of any new classes
Got that one right, too. This will make WoD the first WoW expansion where neither a new class or race was introduced.
+1, and I’m back in the black.
Release Date: Holidays, 2014
No mention was made of a release date. This is my surprised face. Though I keep hearing rumors of a Q1/Q2 release timeframe, there is nothing official to back that up that I am aware of.
No points either way.
You face Jaraxxus!
I was close, but he appears in Hearthstone, not WoD.
-1 to zero me out again.
I totally didn’t call it, but it’s such a big one that I think I deserve to be dinged for missing it.
And that’s the news: all character races are to get remodels with higher poly counts and a lot of new emotes and expressions. The samples shown – especially for the female Gnome – were amazing.
There IS a tiny bit of drama here, in that it’s stated that there are currently no plans to offer a free appearance change when the changes go into effect. But the door’s been left open just a crack, so let’s wait and see.
-1, putting me back in the red.
Every Blizzcon, Blizz tends to offend someone, and this year was no exception. After the buzz died down, people started noting a highly testosterone-driven theme to this expansion. Female characters, when mentioned at all, were either minor in comparison, or they were told to go home, take care of the baby, and make Thrall a sammich.
I’ll revisit this at some future time. Other than to say, if you throw your keyboard over this, you know what happens? It breaks, dumbass. So I guess you showed them.
So I get a point there, bringing me back to even.
The overall results are
As is usually the case with this sort of thing, if you guess wildly the best you can really hope for is 50/50, which I did achieve. I was wrong as much as I was right. But I’m not displeased with the result.
And now the other stuff
One of the big things for this expansion seems to be "systems", our friend GhostCrawler’s domain.
There’s a big change to bags and inventory – a lot of items are going account-wide similar to how companion pets are handled now. This’ll clear up tons of space in our bags. A lot of materials are going from 20 to 100 per stack, freeing more room. And Tabards are a possibility for this, hooray! Also, quest items, though I’m worried for Archmage Vargoth’s Staff.
Another big "system" change will be "item squish". Basically, the huge numbers we currently have will be reduced by several orders of magnitude, possibly to double or even single digit values, with some sort of hidden scaling system to keep it manageable.
Related to that, itemization is changing drastically, with most secondary stats like Hit and Expertise going away and primary stats possibly varying by spec, effectively ending the spec-change-shuffle.
You will be able to bring one character to 90, or "boost", per account. So if you decide to change to a different raiding main, for example, you won’t have to spend weeks getting up to raiding level. I’ve been pushing for this for a while, because I hate that the lower level zones continue to get gimped in order to make life easier for raiders. Raiding and the leveling game are two different activities, and changes in one should not make life harder or less satisfying for either group. By allowing a character boost, they provide raiders with what they want without punishing those that are not raiding. Right now, it’s one per account, but I suspect that there will be infrastructure in place to make additional boosts possible as a paid service. And I think that’s a good thing.
This is actually an "in"-convenience feature, but another bit of drama – including threatened or actual sub cancellations – is that flight will not be available in Draenor until at least the 6.1 patch. I’m okay with that. In fact, if they want to get rid of flight completely, I’d be completely behind it. But a lot of people are NOT thrilled.
Garrisons were an unexpected new feature, which more or less amount to a cross between player housing and the Tillers farm. Other trade skills in addition to cooking will be involved, you get minions, and they can do things for you even while you’re offline. It’s all rather non-specific right now, and it’s hard to get a read on it, but overall it has been well received.
The big change to raiding is that all levels of raiding will be flex in WoD except the highest form, which will be called Mythic, and serves a step further than Heroic. The raid difficulty is tuned for 20 players, which Blizz claims is important since tuning at that difficulty will be too complex otherwise.
And that’s a wrap. I will be revisiting several of these topics in upcoming posts, but I wanted to first set the stage, as it were, for what is to come. Specifically, I want to discuss the lore, Blizzard’s ongoing PR issues, the game mechanics that are changing, and probably more lore, because, damn
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Note: this post contains spoilers about a fifteen year old science fiction movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I have no pity. This is as close to a warning you will get.
It also contains spoilers about the end of Patch 5.2. If you haven’t completed that yet, you probably won’t anyway. Like me.
If you have done the Legendary quest chain to the point where you have slain the Thunder King and brought his heart to Wrathion, you get this bit of dialog, amongst others.
Wrathion says: WE HAVE FALLEN. WE MUST REBUILD THE FINAL TITAN. DO NOT FORGET.
I had to think about that a bit. Where have I seen this before?
"There is danger. Remember."
"There is danger. Remember."
"There is danger. Remember."
In case this scene isn’t familiar, this is from a Babylon 5 TV movie, Thirdspace. And it kind of relies on you having seen the entire TV series to date, so imma splain.
No. It is too much. Imma summarize.
The B5 universe is inhabited by many races, one which is an ancient and god-like race called the Vorlons. Nobody knows much about them, and few have ever seen their homeworld. One person, the woman in the picture above, has. Her name is Lyta Alexander, and she is a telepath. It was revealed in the TV series that she often telepathically communicated with the Vorlon ambassador, Kosh, and "carried a piece of him around" in her head – for what purpose, it is unknown. But in the past we have seen evidence that certain triggers can activate what is loosely called "programming" left behind by Kosh – for example, she destroyed the Shadow homeworld as it was about to be claimed by the Alliance forces.
So when Lyta sees this "Thirdspace" artifact that is the centerpiece of this movie’s plot, she drops into a trance and starts scribbling those four words on the walls of her quarters, over and over again. An embedded warning, we learn, from the bit of Kosh’s latent programming.
Now, if her warning to herself seems somehow familiar, look again at Wrathon’s babbling at the start of this post and tell me you don’t see some sort of parallel.
Why is this significant? Well, let’s let Lyta explain.
"I tried to tell you. I failed. Now it is too late. The door is opening."
Delenn: "What mistake?"
Lyta: "The first one. The one from which all other mistakes proceed. The error of Pride."
"The saw us as gods. And we, in our pride, began to believe them."
"We were so intent on getting out, that we neglected to think of what we might be letting in. Until it was too late."
"They are a power beyond comprehension. A hunger beyond understanding. They are anti-life itself."
We’re in tinfoil hat territory, folks.
This is not the first parallel between B5 and WoW. Not by a long shot. B5 had a prophet named Valen. We have a prophet named Velen.
Valen was actually a "present-day" human that went back in time to fight in the last Shadow War and transformed into a Minbari (an old, wise, race that did not have horns and hooves, but other parallels are there) named Valen, who then led the Minbari to victory, and who prophesied about the NEXT Shadow War, which, coincidentally started up just before he went back in time.
Velen is a Draenai, former Eredar, of Argus. Or is he? For all I know, he’s Anduin Wrynn, come back from the future.
There are other parallels, but just whetting your appetite there. Are the Orcs equivalent to the Narn? Or maybe the Tauren? Forsaken = Drazi? Does this cast Jaina as Delenn or Ivonova? Oh, there are so many possibilities – and of course, I’m not saying Blizz is drawing its script from J. Michael Strazynski, I’m just saying that there are notes that I hear in both songs, as it were.
And that’s where Wrathion’s babbling comes in. His warning – DO NOT FORGET – really smells a lot like Lyta’s warning to herself. And if that’s a parallel, then what are we saying here – are the Titans cast as the arrogant Vorlons? Some other force – the Legion, for example? – in the role of the Thirdspace aliens?
And what is the equivalent to the Thirdspace Artifact, then? Portal’s done. Sunwell’s closed. The Maelstrom? Could Mad Deathwing’s demise there have caused something to start cooking? Could somebody possibly drop a benny in the Well of Eternity under Nordrassil? Well, there are a few possibilities, assuming they didn’t just do something new. I hear there’s a corner of Stormwind still standing. Let’s open a portal there!
Things to Come
We know from a specific roadmap allegedly from 2003 that the next expansion is likely (by that map) to be "Legion Set", which really ties in well with this. I would not be at all surprised if the next expansion, assuming it’s the Legion Set, opens with Wrathion delivering a dire warning about something that the Dwarves or Goblins or both were tinkering with at the Maelstrom, or maybe the Tauren and Elves at Nordrasil. Or maybe he just flips out and does the deed himself. Either way, the setup seems pretty … convenient.
So there’s that.
The epic struggle at the heart of B5 was the Alliance / Shadow war, or more specifically, the build up to the war, the struggles internal and external, the realization that the Shadow War wasn’t strictly a war against The Shadows, and the discovery that no matter how big you are, there’s always a bigger fish.
While it hasn’t always been front and center, the war between the Legion and the Titans has always been at the heart of things, and unexpectedly, the Pandaria campaign may have just dropped us right back in the middle of it. We have a pretty strong suspicion that it’s coming, anyway, but this and previous things from Wrathion really do seem to point in that direction.
It’s the end of the Plan as we know it
Blizzard’s never been happy with that post on Allakhazam, especially since it seems to be so accurate. I’m sure they’ll be happy to get past the Legion expansion, should it happen, so they can venture into territory that we have even fewer clues on. That’s not to say the Titans won’t figure into it again.
As Lyta concluded: "One mistake. One of many. So many."
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By now, if you’re dedicated enough to read even this blog, you’ve seen this announcement from Activision / Blizzard. To wit: Activision / Blizzard has bought its financial independence from its corporate masters, Vivendi Universal.
I’d like to point out a few things.
First of all, note that it’s still Activision / Blizzard. Not just Blizz. Blizz is still joined to Activision via a cash-transporting umbilical cord. The pernicious influence of Activision and Bobby Kotick is still very much an active part of Blizzard’s future. Vivendi didn’t once enter into things, but Activision, well, that’s a very active threat to Blizzard’s moral well-being, and has been. I have no idea if they’ve managed to hold the line against the darkness over there at Pasadena, but here’s hoping they can continue, if so.
Second of all: I don’t care who they are, if they were valuated at EIGHT BEEEELYUN dollars and have over THREE BEEELYUN in cash reserves after that, they are not an "indie" company, any more than EA is. "Independent" and "indie" really mean two different things, and the people calling the A/B monstrosity "indie" should be hauled through the internet into 4chan by their lower lip and left there to suffer. Independent is fine. Indie is not.
Finally, this should send chills through anyone’s heart:
"The transactions announced today will allow us to take advantage of attractive financing markets while still retaining more than $3 billion cash on hand to preserve financial stability."
– Bobby Kotick
"Attractive financing markets" sounds suspiciously like "we’re going to invest our capital in things other than producing games." There’s an accountant in there somewhere urging little Bobby to put cash on derivatives or something.
Well, I hope not. But anything that is other than a direct investment in the game studios’ health is a misuse of funds, in my opinion.
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
– Mark Twain, who attributed to Benjamin Disraeli
You may have also noticed that in the same conference, they quietly released the subscriber numbers for 2013Q2. Aaaand the numbers are down again, down to 7.7 subs, which haven’t been that low since before BC launched..
These are based off of Blizzard’s reported subscription numbers, and represent roughly the paying player base – though the numbers leading up to MoP are probably artificially inflated by the annual pass numbers – though they seem to be interested in good-faith estimates, so maybe they’re based off of active logins or something.
But the interesting thing is, as you can see, the numbers form a bit of a bell-curve formation. If you fit a trend line to this, you end up somewhere between 2015 and 2017 for the day that the final WoW player logs out of Azeroth, never to return. This is of course not a real date, because this would never happen – Blizz would pull the plug at 100 players, obviously, and they’d all log off at once. Or something like that.
The variation on the curve depends on whether you take the whole data set, or start at 2010Q4 when WoW was peaked. One is an overall dataset, one is just a map of the decreasing trend. Take your pick, but I tend to favor the latter because it takes less of old and obsolete data into account. The fact that it yields the more favorable 2017 date has nothing to do with it.
Something else jumps out if you cook the data in a different manner.
This is a chart explicitly showing gains and losses, rather than just bulk numbers. Here are things about this chart.
- Up through the start of Wrath, the rate of growth was flat; that is to say, the numbers kept growing, but at a more or less steady rate – no glitches that weren’t understood.
- One of those understood glitches was the start of BC, when we got what is now considered the traditional "expansion bump". We see this throughout the game’s history.
- Sub data for most of Wrath is missing. In that gap there IS one quarter reported, and it had zero growth on the previous quarter (11.5 mil).
- From the start of Cataclysm, it’s been more or less a steady down trend, though I caution that the biggest down spikes are outnumbered by lesser down spikes (or one upward).
- But the data do suggest a pretty profound downslope, nonetheless.
It’s also impossible to say when Blizz started to sweat the losses. The huge gaps in the Wrath period reveal nothing. Maybe they saw a down trend at that point and decided to start compensating by nerfing up the game in Cata. Or maybe they thought of nerfing up the game as part of a grand strategy that started to be realized in Cata.
Either way, it’s pretty obvious where the decline really starts to gather momentum. So what are the possible reasons for this? Here are some possibilities.
- Players are getting bored and just come back for the new content. This seems like it would be a more gentle downturn, with sharper uptake and more gentle dropoff in between expansion lines. And we do see some of this, but it’s not the overarching pattern.
- Players don’t like the changes to the game’s difficulty. i.e. "Azeroth has been nerfed!"
- Players hate casuals. This goes with the above. Sure, I’m part of the quested-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways crowd at times, but I don’t begrudge others the less difficult climb. I don’t need others to suffer to feel better about myself. But the haters, the ones that hate "casuals", well, if I hadn’t seen it myself I would say it was impossible for people like that to exist, but they do. WoW has its own virtual Civil Rights movement, in which the haters are played by Archie Bunker and the "casuals" are played by, well, actual people. More on this anon.
- Other games have come online that are clearly as good or better. I don’t know about better, but many have come online that might be as good in many ways. I’ve personally experienced Eve and Neverwinter and feel both hold up well. Where they don’t hold up is the people, in that the people I like to hang with aren’t in those games. I’m such a camp follower. And STWOR came out right in the middle of that big decline, so it’s not so much a "trigger".
- Free to play games! This too is a big one, and probably one of the biggest. Back when WoW came out, you could pay money to Sony or to Blizzard to get your fantasy on; these days, fantasy MMORPGs are all over the place, and free-to-play. Neverwinter, Rift, Aion, GW2, and more are out there just waiting for you to download a free client or buy one and then play for free. Even STOWR made the transition (not very well, I hear.). More on this in a minute, as well.
- WoW is old and crufty. Well, that’s about as subjective as it gets. I’ve played other games that have "better" graphics and I can’t really say there’s a lot going on there. I will say the armor and weapon models are, a lot of times, a lot more interesting to look at. The toons – player and NPC – however often hit that "uncanny valley" of near-realism that just turns off the brain. WoW makes no pretenses about how it chose to depict its characters, and it’s paid off again and again. Just … hurry up with those player model improvements, guys? Thanks.
So there’s two things I want to focus on.
The Nerfing of Azeroth
Over time, Blizzard has done a lot to nerf things in the game. I’ve generally felt it was a bad idea.
This harks to the recent Blog Azeroth shared topic of "is leveling too easy?". A lot of people confused "too easy" with "easier". Can we agree that the two aren’t equivalent? Yes? Good. Let’s proceed.
If you accept that "easier" and "too easy" aren’t the same thing, then you won’t feel locked into asserting that leveling in Azeroth is NOT "too easy" but it IS "easier". I can think of dozens of examples.
- Mor’ladim is a joke compared to his past self, who terrorized the Raven Hill cemetery with an iron fist. You always had to work your questing around his whereabouts or suffer the consequences. And don’t give me any guff about "it’s subjective". He was an elite.
- Stitches‘ epic journey from Raven Hill to Darkshire put terror into the hearts of travelers. Many’s the time I stopped to help someone else bring him down. Also many’s the time I hid to one side of the road until he passed. You needed a group; now the game supplies you with one.
- That horrendous run from Menethil to Ironforge so you could take the tram to Stormwind if you were an Night Elf or Draenai.
- That horrendous run to Booty Bay. Back then there wasn’t a Rebel Camp with a gryphon. And, as I found out on my first outing, even the grass was deadly.
- Even Princess was painful.
- You didn’t just waltz into the area outside of an instance; it was full of elites. People forget how terrifying it was to go into Deadmines the first time to do that quest for the miner’s guild.
These were all painful rites of passage that those of us that leveled up in early WoW remember and understand. They are all gone the way of the dodo, either because of new flight points, or new boats, or nerfed zones, or even nerfed NPCs. There are hundreds more examples like this, things that are absolutely, indisputably easier than they were prior to Cata. Anyone that says it’s just my experience in the game making it SEEM that way isn’t thinking it all the way through. There were real challenges that simply aren’t around anymore.
The question of whether it is too easy is another matter because it addresses Blizzard’s actual decision to make the leveling game go easier at lower levels. Starting as far back as Wrath, maybe sooner, they started taking the starch out of expansion zones as we got near the end of the expansion. A journey that might take you all the way to Storm Peaks at the start of Wrath, for example, might end somewhere in Sholazar – if you got that far, even! Faiella managed to get to 80 in Dragonblight.
Did they go too far? There is a fine line between challenge and chore; did they cross it? That’s at the heart and soul of this issue, I think.
When they redesigned Azeroth for Cataclysm, many zones were reworked completely – quests redone, levels changed, elites nerfed, and so forth. And yet people felt like they were on a conveyor belt; you couldn’t start quests at hub "B" until you finished all the ones at "A" and were directed to "B".
My feelings are that they went too far, and did a poor job on the redesign of Azeroth, and that this legacy has carried forth into other aspects of the game, including MoP.
They’re *trying* to understand user feedback, but I think they’re letting their game designer’s instincts be subverted by management’s insistence that they "make the game more accessible", and it’s backfiring because people don’t want to be spoon-fed stuff. After all, if you just want to look at the assets, there are tools that let you do that without actually playing!
Here’s an example of a designer going against what he knows is right; flying mounts take you out of the world and make you an observer of, rather than a part of, that world. When he speaks elsewhere of the importance of "exploration", he’s referring not to the act of flying all over the place to clear areas of the map – that’s "mapping" – but being down in the world’s nooks and crannies and discovering things about it.
Granted you can’t currently fly in a zone until you hit max level. But even that’s an arbitrary rule imposed to overcome the hinkyness of being able to just fly all over the place. It was a bad idea in BC, it was a hakneyed idea in Wrath, and it was a hideous idea in Cata, so now that we’re in MoP, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to get it one way or another.
When we played one of the old Gold Box or Black Box series, exploration – the peering into corners, the poking at things and the pulling of levers were integral parts of the games. This is part of what made them fun. Games without a few dead ends and red herrings were generally received with a gigantic yawn.
Blizzard game designers know this, but in an attempt to make the game "more accessible", some of this aura of mystery and magic may have been lost.
I think that if they plan to turn things around, they may have to address this. Put back some of the danger. Make a few things not pan out exactly the way the user wants. Require a little bit of effort in some (non-critical) places. Give people a reason to want to explore places like Winterspring, which is otherwise pretty useless since nobody ever sees it.
Answering the Threat
The one-two punch of new and prettier games, along with the F2P model, are another concern, and one which I think Blizz is dealing with.
Improvements to the gaming assets – character models, scenery, and so forth – have been taking places incrementally since Vanilla. But to many, that’s not good enough. They look at the character models presented in Neverwinter, for example, and complain that "all they have to do" is add some polygons.
But overall, I don’t think anything major will happen in WoW concerning the game engine. They’re working hard on "Titan" for the next big thing, but since it’s been set back, don’t look there for help.
For good or ill, we’re going to have to make do with incremental improvements in our game assets until WoW is sunsetted.
The other threat is the F2P model.
Early on, F2P pretty much meant "free to play but don’t expect much in the way of updates". I encountered F2P first in Anarchy Online, which is still going strong on that model – well, as strong as an out of date game can go strong.
The advantages of F2P is that the barrier to entry is pretty low. All you need is a game client and an internet connection. In some cases you have to pay for the client, but that’s a one-time expenditure that few would argue with. Others will even give you the client for free. Some have turned that around and give you the client but charge you to play – we won’t talk about them for now, they’re small and okay with that.
How does a F2P game keep the servers running? Well, there are a few ways, such as ads in-game (I first saw this in AO), and, and … well, there’s the "cash shop".
The "cash shop" is usually an external web site that you go to to purchase items to use in-game. In most cases you buy currency, then use that currency in-game, such as "Zen" in Neverwinter. For the most part you can only purchase cosmetic and non-game-changing items, though in some very poorly implemented instances, that’s not necessarily true.
So what have we seen implemented recently? A cash shop.
I know dozens of bloggers and opinionators have said that Blizzard would never go F2P. I have never heard anyone from Blizzard say that.
WoW is Blizzard’s "cash cow". For those that have never heard of such a thing, a "cash cow" is something that’s not really top of the line, but keeps bringing in money in a reliable stream. So you keep "milking" it until it runs dry. For example, at one place that Grimmtooth Actual worked, he worked on a lot of bleeding edge server systems, but over in a dark corner was a guy named "Dave" that worked on some pretty archaic looking stuff. He explained, while it was far from state of the art, it was being used by thousands of banks across the world, and any time one broke down, they needed a replacement. So he was the guy that farmed our cash cow while we went and burned off that money with our splashy R&D.
So WoW’s kinda like that right now. And Blizz wants to keep that cash cow on the farm for as long as possible. With today’s numbers, that’s over 100 million bucks a month of solid income. At TWO million players it’s 30 million a month, so even that can’t be sneezed at – would it actually cost that much to keep the servers up?
Unfortunately, that’s where I run out of steam, sort of. I have no idea of what kind of numbers a big F2P title brings in. I don’t even know how to guess. SWTOR claims that shifting to F2P "doubled" its income, but given its draconian implementation, let’s hope for better if WoW ever goes that route.
At the moment I think it’s likely they will, especially since the wait for "Titan" is probably going to be well past 2015, and possibly even 2017.
The question becomes, then: will I play an F2P WoW?
It’s going to depend on the implementation. A Neverwinter-like implementation MIGHT work, assuming the restrictions aren’t too annoying. One like SWTOR would see me drop out in a hurry, however.
At the moment we can only hope for the best.
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So, as posted on the EU community website, Cosmetic helms are now for sale in the cash shop Blizzard Store. And if you’re into gaudy, they’re not bad.
First of all: 15 US dollars is not a microtransaction. I don’t care what your favorite omnibus WoW website says, I don’t care what your favorite MMO forum site says. The cost of a month’s game time is not a microtransaction. So don’t call it that, and we’ll get along fine.
Next item: will it affect the game at all? I can’t really see how, other than consuming precious frame rate. Seriously, what would a 25-man raid look like with these on everyone? Will a new Alliance battleground strat involve wearing these and lagging the Horde out? Considering that it’s gotten zero beta time, these are actually kinda relevant questions. But I’m SURE they’ve gotten EXTENSIVE testing in-house.
Item the third: when will this hit the US? Days? Hours? Before this post goes up? Update: I found out at 2 PM (two hours after publish) that they’re now available in the US.
Item the fourth: what next? Will we see matching robes, shoulders, cloaks? And sidebar: will the WoW punditry also insist on calling those other items "microtransactions" if they cost 15 bucks?
The big one: how long until we see pay-to-win items? And does this indeed signal the final death rattle of WoW?
Oops, sorry, accidentally plugged in to a forum.
The personal one: I’d almost buy the Firelord helm for Flora if she was into gaudy baubles. But in general none of this stuff speaks to my nature. I seriously doubt that they’ll ever introduce a mog set that says "I work for a living" rather than "I’d like to think that I raid stuff you can’t even imagine."
The thoughtful one: It’s not just this stuff. So much WoW raiding tier and its predecessor gear looks so hideous to me. It’s covered with horns, and glitter, and flanges, and glitter, and orbs, and glitter, and ropey things, and glitter, and then they add glitter. SOME of the old vanilla tier stuff is okay but for the most part, Blizz is in love with its art department, and its art department all apparently majored in "Ming the Merciless’ Court Trappings".
But the thing is, they wouldn’t keep getting more ridiculous with every tier if it weren’t for the users wanting, or at least encouraging it. Those of us that want a more functional approach to awesomeness are not as vocal or as profitable.
I am very much of the opinion that awesomeness is not a function of frills and special effects. The most iconic weapons are often very much, shall we say, to the point.
Rather than …
Maybe Ming wasn’t at fault after all.
If you can’t please everyone, the best you can do is give them choices, and that’s where mogging came in in the first place. You may recall my own mogging preferences are somewhat more functional than what my armor actually looks like. And there are others that go the other way – well, I can certainly see the attraction of some Ulduar and Icecrown gear.
The Cheap One: What I would love to see with this sort of throwaway mog fodder is for it to (also) be sold for in-game currency of some sort, especially near the end of an expansion when people have piles of tokens and nothing to blow them on. It would be a great JP dump, or Greater Tokens, or Halfhill Tokens, or what have you.
An even better approach would be to (a) make the items purchasable for a new special token type, (b) make it so you could buy that token in the cash shop (e.g.Neverwinter Zen), and (3) then also make that token purchasable for varying amounts of other in-game tokens, such as JP, Darkmoon tokens, etc. That way, if one particular faction grind was "your thang", then you could, oh, I dunno, enjoy yourself while playing a game.
Because here’s the bottom line for me: they could make the perfect Hunter garb of all time available, and I’d not buy it for cash, not ever. I’m paying that much a month already. I’m not even sure I’d pay for it if it was F2P. Virtual items are pretty much gone as soon as you stop playing the game. Game time, for all its ephemeral nature, gives you a month’s worth of enjoyment, whereas a hat isn’t even usable unless you pay more money.
But I might grind for it.
The Final One: The Godmother over at Alt:ernative had an interesting thought (or a dozen) about the cash shop, one which was the sale of armor dyes. I do want armor dyes. I especially want one like the one in Diablo III that makes your shoulder pieces go away. But I categorically do not want them to be part of the cash shop. Special colors? Possible. In general? Not. It might be close to a deal-breaker for me, a last sign of cynical money-grubbing from a company that swore up and down that Activision wouldn’t do that to it. I can only swallow so much hypocrisy, and that would probably mark the high water line.
Doing so would also eliminate one of the potential fun elements in-game: making of dyes. I personally think this would be a great product for Scribes to make since they already have all sorts of dyes in the bank. I think it would be great if they managed to exploit ALL of the herbs from Peacebloom to Golden Lotus to make different armor dyes. They could just keep adding different shades of dye as new herbs came into being. Heck, Ghost Mushrooms would be perfect for making armor invisible!
I kind of doubt that will happen, though. I could be wrong, but they seem to be pushing down hard on the crafting game, and it’s starting to look like there is either a paradigm shift about to happen, or they’re starting to dismantle crafting as an mainstream part of the game. Certainly, it has problems.
It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. At least the potential cash mounts will give us more people to admire as they preen on the bank steps and RP walk around Stormwind.
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In a vaguely worded drive-by comment on the official forums, community manager Zarhym (aka talking head) dropped an incredibly vague hint about something getting leveled. There was somehow a rumor that Theramore was going to get trashed by the Horde in 5.0, people were upset over obvious Horde favoritism, and Zarhym stepped in with this.
So, at BlizzCon we provided a few details about a new expansion and how it’s going to have an ever-growing focus on the fight between the Horde and the Alliance in the wake of dispelling many very powerful threats to all of Azeroth. Then we find out a vague detail that some sort of unrelenting attack by the Horde on Theramore is to come. The Horde, to remind you, is currently a faction with an overzealous ruler and significant turmoil among their faction leaders; while the Alliance has almost never been quite so unified and far removed from the days of imprisoning orcs.
The first pawn on the chess board of what is to be the story for Mists of Pandaria is being moved, and you’re angry at whose turn is first? I only offer that maybe there’s a little more to the Horde and Alliance story lines in Mists than an Alliance town being leveled… like the entire expansion story you don’t know about yet.
This was interpreted, far and wide, as absolute confirmation that Theramore would fall. Let’s dissect a little.
Then we find out a vague detail that some sort of unrelenting attack by the Horde on Theramore is to come.
DID NOT SAY that Theramore was to fall. DID SAY, "unrelenting attack". I’m not gonna look up "unrelenting" for you but I assure you it does not mean "Theramore falls."
The Horde, to remind you, is currently a faction with an overzealous ruler and significant turmoil among their faction leaders; while the Alliance has almost never been quite so unified and far removed from the days of imprisoning orcs.
Really, why did Zarhym put that in? What does that have to do with anything?
Well, since we’re guessing, I’ll guess that it means that Theramore does not stand alone. Why would Zarhym say that? What does it matter unless Theramore does NOT fall? I mean, if it falls, it’s a sure bet that the entire Alliance will stand with Jaina Proudmoore. There is no doubt. So it doesn’t make sense to go out out of the way to say this, unless it means something. I’m gonna guess, Theramore stands, and the Alliance stands with it, and the war front between Theramore and Orgimmar becomes a key part of the next expansion’s PvP game, at the very least.
The first pawn on the chess board of what is to be the story for Mists of Pandaria is being moved, and you’re angry at whose turn is first?
Again, implying Theramore is the first pawn in the game (or Org’s armies are the first pawn, depending on point of view), is not saying that it falls. Theramore might be like Pearl Harbor, or it might be like Lexington and Concord. This is as noncommittal as you can get.
I only offer that maybe there’s a little more to the Horde and Alliance story lines in Mists than an Alliance town being leveled… like the entire expansion story you don’t know about yet.
In other words, this isn’t all there is to see about this situation. And AGAIN, Zarhym went to great pains not to reveal anything or confirm anything with this statement.
I did not come away with conformation of anything. Other than, duh, war. In Warcraft. Holy coincidences, Batman!
Recently, Dave "Fargo" Kosak published a "Dev Water cooler" article about faction favoritism. Besides a clear indication that, yes, Alliance has taken a serious pounding, were a few more interesting things relevant to the above.
Garrosh Hellscream has a vision for the Horde, a vision of a united Kalimdor that can only be realized over the ashes of the Alliance. He’s craftier than any of his foes realize, and his grim determination to win at all costs — even at the expense of his own people — is plunging the world into chaos.
If nothing else, this is clear indication that things are heating up in Kalimdor and confirmation that he’s going to stop at nothing to raze anything in his path to make it happen. All hail the King of Ashes. /spit
I’m not going to try to deny that war is going to happen. I’m just not sure that Lady Jaina’s going to roll over.
Makes no sense from a gameplay perspective, either.
Suffering is the gasoline that drives our story engine.
Remove Theramore, and the only remaining war front for the Horde on Kalimdor is the Night Elf front, and it spreads down the entire length of the western side of Kalimdor. Plenty of room for suffering there. But the thorn in the Orcs’ side, no doubt about it, is, and always will be, the Humans that humiliated them time and again in the East. The game NEEDS this conflict to fuel Garrosh’s hatred. He’s a hater, and he’s gotta have something to hate.
The Taurens are also not likely to allow genocide of the Night Elves given their commonality across the Druidic arts. But they can’t possibly feel as kindly towards Humans that rampaged across their borders and slaughtered entire villages. They won’t stand for all-out war on Elves, perhaps, but I bet they’d at least be willing to tolerate all-out war on the Humans. I’m sure Garrosh, despite his thick skull, will see the advantage of a war on the Humans.
All of this falls apart if Theramore falls, though. There is no war because there is nothing to make war upon. This is the peace of the Orcs, brutal and nasty business, but neither the developers or the players want PEACE. They want war, and war upon Theramore – sustained war, with many opportunities for "honor" (/spit) is the perfect excuse for Garrosh to whine about resource shortages to keep the Warsong offensive going. I can’t imagine a more perfect opportunity to not only keep the fires burning, but to plant the seeds of the next "great" war upon Ashenvale as they grasp for more trees to burn and fluffy woodland beasties to grind into nutritious paste.
Conflict is necessary
Fargo makes quite a few good comments in his post. Fact is, you need conflict of some sort to have a compelling story arc. And expecting the faction balance in one expansion to be completely even is, while *seemingly* realistic, in practice ridiculous. One side winning and one side losing provides inspiration to the former and desperation to the latter, itself a form of inspiration. And holding out the possibility that it could all turn around just further fuels the losing side to fight harder. Again, destroy Theramore and you turn the possibility of defeat into actual defeat, and that’s a lot harder to draw inspiration from – for either side.
I’ve asked around. I’ve asked may times, of people that I am told are pretty solid in lore, what the source for this certainty is. Everyone keeps pointing back to Zarhym’s post on the forums. So, barring a better, more conclusive source, this is all still guesswork.
I’m going to take a no doubt unpopular position here until I see something more concrete from an actual Blizzard source that, yes, Jaina Proudmoore is in the market for a new apartment.
Show me the Monet.
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… “Suddenly, I looked up and this beautiful dancer is leaning down over the stage, and looking right into my eyes. And she said: ‘Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad.’ And then she kissed me [points at forhead] – right here.
Mr. Garibaldi. Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad!
– Ambassador Londo Mollari,
“A Voice in the Wilderness”
Ennui has debuffed most of the blogosphere. It goes from petty grumbling to bitter recriminations, questioning the ability of the Blizzard programming team to do even a calculator program in Visual Basic.
The blogosphere, of course, is populated by drama queens. It lives on drama. Drama is the only nourishment that the blogosphere really has to offer, at times. You have to work very, very hard to get something as useful and worthwhile as a class guide to get the same kind of legs that a petty, whiny rant will get. A petty, whiny rant will get you page views a-plenty, the sycophants (if you have them) will come by to fluff your buff, and two or three will go on to produce similar but totally unique takes on the same subject.
Woe betide you if you call them on it. They will attack your class, your spec, your character, your choice in gear, gems, enchants – anything but defend their words, because they know, as you do, that they are indefensible.
This happens every single time that Blizz makes rule changes. All of the elements are there, same as the last two times. (Three if you count Vanilla’s debut.)
- The tears of << insert class here >> who think they were unjustly nerfed.
- The angry recriminations against Blizzard’s inability to program their way out of a wet paper bag. (Obviously)
- The indignation at Blizzard’s obvious personal agenda against you, your class, your guild, your server, your preferred play style (pvp vs pve, for example)
- The threats to, or outright, /ragequit
- THIS IS A SLAP IN THE FACE
- Personal attacks on one or more forum moderators for no good reason. (I kid not)
… and so forth. I’d go on, but garbage makes me woozy. It’s the smell.
At any rate, this happens as inevitably now as it did then. We will even get it in three doses, this time. 4.0.1 is the first pass. We will get more on 4.0.3. And I guarantee you we will see more QQ yet again when Cata rolls out.
You can’t help it. You can’t stop it. You can’t be the voice of reason, because they aren’t interested in reason.
All you can do is focus on what makes the game fun for you. Let these people have their fun, and mark them for what they are. Note who focuses on weathering the storm, posts on subjects that aid in that effort, and mark them, too. They are the future (or present) superstars that will be worth more than a casual read as the game continues.
It’s a cataclysm out there, folks. Things are supposed to be turned upside down. Your challenge is to re-engage your toons, your class, the game itself – and explore the possibilities. They’re taking us out of our comfort zone. We can do more than survive it. We can flourish.
But only if we stop bawling long enough to catch our breath, and let a little oxygen hit the brainpan.
Now, I go to spread happiness to the rest of the station. It’s a terrible responsibility, but I have learned to live with it.
– Londo Mollari
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What is it with you people?
We take a week – ONE WEEK – off, and the whole metaverse goes to Hell in a handbasket, and I’m left to find my own way. This will not do, internet. It will not do at all.
I mean, remove one tiny little element, and you have a pretty good week.
- The NDA is lifted, and info is flowing.
- 3.3.5 is fully active, and the Ruby Sanctum is live.
- BRK has released several excellent vids of the new Hunter experience.
- They have announced a total makeover of all talent trees for CATA.
- Yours Truly did not get a Beta invite, thus increasing the odds in favor of CATA making its ship date.
- MC Frontalot’s latest vid for “First World Problem” is live!
So what’s missing? If you guessed “RealID Fiasco”, you’d be 100% correct.
My Gods, what a gigantic, epic clusterfrak.
We share with many in the Blogosphere the feeling of betrayal and hurt, the numbness when you realize that that guy or gal you’ve been seeing is a creep after all, and just doing a good job of covering it up around you.
We share the anger of those that feel that they will be excluded from the community because of the new policies invoked.
We share the confusion of those that feel that a solution is as simple as allowing an omnibus alias per account.
We share the fear of those that have real issues, professionally or otherwise, with their real names being associated with forum posts or WoW in general.
We cannot express in words that match those that have come before, so we will point and remind that the Truth Points to Itself.
- Scott Jennings, of the long memory and insider knowledge of how the industry works, has a remarkably tart and tasty post on the whole debacle, including this little gem that really gets at the heart of what’s wrong with the whole thing.
[Zuckerberg] disagrees with the notion that people have different identities. To him, the idea that someone is different at work than at home, than at a rock concert, is dishonest. Says Kirkpatrick, “He believes that he will live a better life personally, and all of us will be more honest, and ultimately it will be better for the world if we dispense with that belief.”
- (In other words, “shut the hells up and let us make these difficult decisions for you, okay?”) His observation that Blizz is repeating Facebook’s mistakes, without having any of Facebook’s options for mitigating them, is right on the money, as far as I’m concerned.
- Hatch covers ground that most people have covered thus far, but I link to him because many of the best commenters on the matter (Zelmaru, Larisa, I’m looking at YOU) are part of that comment thread. It brings a lot of the whole “feeling betrayed and angry” bits under one roof.
- Gnomageddon /ragequits. We’re almost there ourselves. Someone asked me if I was surprised; after thinking of it, I realized that Gnome’s passionate spirit made this move fall right into his idiom. Our first RealID casualty, and a bitter one it is.
- It turns out that you can be your own mum and use Parental Controls to turn off RealID on your account. WoW.com – home of the tireless Blizzard Cheerleading Squad – had the audacity to post a how-to on this very procedure. Hey, Blizz? If you managed to piss off these guys, you’re in the Undiscovered Country for reals.
- Hatch has an excellent and astute observation, but I think he missed the mark by just a smidge. It’s not that we, the player base, are not Blizz’s real customer. And Blizz’s real customer is not advertisers, because that market doesn’t exist as of yet. No, Blizz’s One True Customer is its stockholders. If you look at it that way, everything makes sense. In a twisted, Gevlon-as-CEO sort of way.
- Dwism does a great job of trolling the internet by changing the wording just a wee bit and by doing so, revealing just how gods-be-damned frightening RealID has become.
- Shade makes the most amazing and awesome post of them all, and we let it close out this article for us. We are honored to stand in the presence of such awesomeness as you, Shade.
Forsooth, we’d like to be killing Internet Dragons again. Not having to decide between having fun, and staying safe.
Blizzard. Left side. Many screwups. HANDLE EET.
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