Blizzard

Arti-fictions

One disappointing thing about Legion for me is that the advanced Artifact model options are gated behind some really crazy accomplishments. When I first saw the preview for them it was exciting to think that we had personal choices on how we were going to look. Turns out those choices are largely illusionary unless you count “you look exactly the same as everyone else who has advanced as far as you have” as a choice.  I didn’t expect it to be gated behind levels or raids for the simple fact that with Transmog in game alive and well the look of weapons is completely meaningless. It was disappointing to think I could  make a laser bear from the get go only to find out that I need to complete a slew of Mythic dungeon achievements that I may never get the chance to. It’s a minor gripe but part of the attraction for me from the outset was that there would be a higher level of personalization available so not all bears would look the same. Turns out we do. I get in the past, having the totally geared out raider standing in the middle of Ironforge in his epic loots was a driver for subscription numbers. Now the focus is on the character’s personal story so that is moot.

Courtesy: WoWhead

Some of these, someday.

That has always been an issue for me with the Druid to begin with too. As a Paladin, the better I get the better I look – you get some incredible armor, weapons and shields. As a bear you get a big ol butt to stare at during fighting. I suppose that has always been the trade off with the only 4 role class in game.  I do like the druid mechanics and I am having fun but I wish I could express myself a bit more through my shape shifting choices like every other character.

Rogue-ish Ways

This is also true with my Rogue and Artifact – when I saw the rapier graphic from the Dreadblades I was instantly excited to level and play that skin. Turns out it is gated by a secret mechanic that no one can find. And by no one, I mean a fully dedicated rogue swat team can’t even find it.

Not sure on the math, but that claims over 25,000 hours searching… (click to enlarge)

It may not even be attainable but they are still trying. This is actually really cool quirk if it is a well kept secret. If it’s not even turned on or find able yet that 25,000 hours seems like quite the sacrifice. With all that in mind I am going back to my rogue for leveling next. It will be a bit longer of a slog since she is only level 90 but I suspect by the time I get to 100 the artifact issue will be sorted. Hopefully it isn’t gated by something that I can’t complete as a mostly (filthy) casual that doesn’t deserve nice things.

MS-DDOS

I have no clue what is going on, but it seems like there is a permanent DDOS attack on Blizzard. It is even hitting their Hearthstone servers as well. I get the “fame” that big hacking groups such as Anonymous get for taking down corporate giants in the name of taking care of the little guy, but have no clue why this DDOS is consistent and ongoing. Is it because they can? They are angry at Blizzard for something?  It hasn’t affected my game play (yet) but it is still confusing for me. Kids will be kids? Or is it: script-kiddies will be script-kiddies?

Mo’ Money No Problems

Legion is proving very easy to earn money in. I did have a goal of getting a “free” month through the token system by playing the AH. I already have two with most of my month to go still. I know Leo’s Life mentioned he has millions of gold in a recent post – I suppose I should have played Warlords of Draenor afterall. This does really make me wonder – with so many players flush with cash, who is actually paying for the tokens with cash? When I buy my next two months with 34k gold each, which player paid $20 cash for each of those to offset the monetary losses? I am very curious.

Token bridge to nowhere?

Couchon, my “main” has an 825 ilvl and hasn’t stepped foot in a heroic dungeon yet (but am able to queue for mythics). There is definitely never a shortage of anything to do. Thankfully World Quests are gated to one faction per day (so it seems) but my quest journal is still overflowing – AND I still have a full zone to explore and experience. I am definitely getting a huge itch to play an alt and I burned my 100 boost on a Hunter because I was convinced I wanted a ranged DPS class. I boosted and got to playing only to realize that I hate the Marksman rotation. That felt like a waste and I definitely should have went with the Warrior after all (or at least, used the free 100 trial character BEFORE boosting). It is really easy to “justify” spending the money on a new boost – since my sub will seem to be free indefinitely with just a tiny effort of running a mod every couple of days there is a part of me that thinks it is worth spending that money instead of that time. Still, at this point, I will invest the time instead of the cash. It isn’t that hard right now. I also have my Paladin at 101 and thematically I always aligned well with that. Warrior of the light and everything, just like real life. The truth is that there is just so much to do on one character that I am having a hard time imagining doing it on another. Curiosity is getting me though as I really want to experience the other class quests.

Tanks Everywhere?

My change from main healing to 5 man tanking revolved around loving 5 mans and hating waiting in line. I find it really fascinating that in this expansion I have not hit a Tank queue yet! I always enter into the group finder as both tank and heal as my role options, and so far it has always been healing. Sure, I have only completed around 15 or so instances but that is quite the streak. I wonder if it is because of how easy people are finding PVE as a tank and the proliferation of the new Demon Hunters with a tanking option. I don’t mind healing now that gear changes with spec (something I hoped they would do 3 expansions ago). It makes it easy to play other roles without much additional effort. I am really curious to see if it is just a string of bad luck or a new trend. I am really looking forward to tanking – if it ever happens.

(note: I somehow published an unedited version. This should be cleaner. Going to take another pass but had to do a fast update because it was really, extra, terrible. =)

It’s a Main’s Main’s Main’s World

But it would be nothing, nothing without a twink or an alt.

Bhagpuss said goodbye to Legion before he started it and in his post he has links to other people who are stepping away from the game or criticizing various mechanics. This is nothing new for World of Warcraft as if you look hard enough {sarcasm] many posts on this blog have also been critical with decisions Blizzard has made over the years on their flagship title. This is all healthy debate and interesting to see the different thresholds various bloggers have for the new things in the game and the tweaks and twists on old mechanics.

In a most simple of viewpoints: when discussing politics I have made the argument that where you are in your life at the time can have a huge impact on how you lean politically. For example, many young people who are optimistic  lean left (life should be fair) as they get older and go to school and start building a resume to enter the workforce they may start to move to the centre (life should be fair, but I have worked hard, and should get benefit) if they own their own business often they lean right (I pay a lot of taxes and create jobs and I should get a return). This is the Canadian spectrum. Of course the person who lost their job to an immigrant may go hard right, and there are various other personal situations to change that including family history – I don’t want to get hung up on the political argument but instead using it to set the table for the far more important one (ahem) about gaming.

When I was young and single and could play 40+ hours per week and idealistic I wanted the ultimate virtual world. As my time became more scarce and my friends left me all behind in those virtual worlds I wanted more convenience. And as it became scarcer still I wanted to consume content at a pace and cost that gave value. Yes, I went from raider and GM of a guild to very casual. As my personal situation has changed so has what I want from and look to gaming for.

Play nice, Legion

Legion is not going to be ALT friendly – at least, definitely not yet. The reason why I want to play my ALTS (and make more of them) is to experience the Class story behind each. The Class story- especially once you hit 110 – is a long, patient quest line. Getting to 110 over the exact same content time and time again isn’t going to be a fun slog either. This is the mountain that has to be climbed for that experience, so here I am again, wanting to change the way a game is to better fit my needs. I didn’t say it was fair or right – just my thoughts and feelings.

What I would like to see in WoW is phasing to the ultimate personal experience. The main story is tied to your account not a specific character.

My Rogue can’t get the second Pillar of Creation because my Warrior already did. How can it be retrieved in the same world twice? Did someone take it back? This breaks consistency for me in such a big way, much like how every other druid in the game is also the “chosen one”. The technology exists, let’s use it to make the world feel more like a world and less like a slot machine that hits every time. I think it would be fascinating to build the world around your stable of characters instead of just one – and the best part about it is that it doesn’t detract the experience from people who prefer to play a single character. Leveling for the secondary, third and fourth characters would be new for their class quests and artifacts (they can still be the chosen rogue, or chosen mage) and as long as the main has unlocked the world portion of things (World Quests, aptly named, this expansion) they can participate in those. Better yet, those things could be unlocked with different characters in the account. This way the loot reward (a big motivator for many) from the big story line quests are less important – there are other ways to level up for both xp and gear. This is far less important now with the zone and loot scaling. The person who focuses on a single character would be further ahead in loot and XP but the ALT player would be equal in terms of story progression. Everyone can have their own pace.

You can build a world story with your different avatars instead of each being forced to live the same one. I see little downside except the effort required in the setup. Does anyone really enjoy running planned obsolescence quests more than once? Didn’t someone already kill ten rats for that NPC?

Eye Candy

I have never been one for screenshots. I really wish I was great at that back in the days when everything was new and exciting in online gaming but those days are long gone. What I have noticed in my Legion play through that I find myself with several OOOOH and AAAAAH moments and find myself cracking on the screenshot key farm more than normal. I never quite realized how pretty the World of Warcraft really is.

Here are a small sample of some of my recent adventures:

Really? Why does Malfurion get flight form this early in the expansion? HAX!

Dragons, Giant Trees and Bears – Oh MY!

I didn’t even notice this until I turned around to grab a herb. Was an amazing discovery. We spend too much time looking down in our virtual worlds

Glitter butt complementary of random alchemy buff

I would play this if it was a racial option. Also, side buzz cuts on women are so trendy right now

Stuck in hell? HEL-YA! (… groan)

OK – I never promised that I was actually good at TAKING screenshots and I definitely don’t take many – but hopefully this is a small reminder of how beautiful Azeroth really is. Do you have a favourite SS?

The Legion App

App-tastic

The launch of the Legion App is not breaking news although the actual launch time is still a mystery. In the past I would have groaned at the prospect of this style of interaction. You can’t MMO on a portable and being always connected definitely doesn’t feel healthy. Then again not much of MMO gaming is.

Surprisingly to me I am really looking forward to it. Truth is the companion missions feel like they shouldn’t really be in game anyway and it is better suited for a small device. Their “necessity” in this expansion is a surprise to me (remember I skipped all of Warlords of Draenor where this style of game play became synonymous with WoW) and I view it as a nice questing break and a new part of my routine.

How I play is pretty simple and ritualistic:

  • I gather materials I come across while questing during my playtime
  • hearth to Dalaran to see if any new quests pop up
  • sell my junk/old equipment
  • use materials I harvested to get skillups
  • mail my sell-able items to my auction house mule
  • dreamweave to class hall
  • check in on missions / followers / quests (etc.)
  • log into my AH mule
  • collect gold, put up new listings
  • logoff

It is a 10 minute or so ritual. The Class Hall missions I am often logging in during the day to keep them flowing. With most of my missions taking two or four hours currently there is a lot of passive content to consume and rewards to be had. This will take out that entire step and allow me to continue progressing offline while at work, with my friends, dinner with my family, at a wedding… wait, did I mention something about health earlier…

Going for Gold

My goal is to not have to pay my subscription when it comes up and I purchased two months to help me get my feet wet. I think at my current play I will be fine. I use Auctioneer (addon) in WoW to scrape the prices on the Auction House and then batch post what I have in my inventory for profits. It automatically undercuts the current lowest price and is very handy. I mailed all of my old ‘crap’ to my AH mule (my Shaman, used to be my main) and she posts and collects. The old things really aren’t selling that well but every once and a while they will. Not a huge surprise since new expansions brings new focus. I am, however, making a killing off of the herbs I have collected while leveling  – 5000 gold last night alone. I am not expecting this to keep up as right now people are racing to level and with alts and secondary specs may not be focused on farming.

Say Fjarnskaggl 5 times fast….

Here I am using the Armory App but only to see if things are selling. Posting is way easier in the addon.

I have made almost $15,000 in gold so far doing this and mostly from the new things that I am finding while leveling – I may not get a free month every month but if I can push it out that I am only subbing every 60 days that isn’t so bad. Truth is I am less worried about it than in the past because I am actually putting in the hours and the time to make it feel like I am getting value from subscribing. The AH money raising is just another fun way to play a game within the game.

I can’t wait for the app to come out to maximize the effectiveness of my Order Hall. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Hook, Line and Legion

WoW, that escalated quickly (see what I did there?)

Legion has sucked me back in. I am loving it. For all my past and present complaints about WoW it does one thing great – provides entertainment. Sure, it’s not really a world, and yes, it’s so dumb that every single person you see is the savior of the planet, and yeah, of course they could do things to try and fix that but they won’t. They don’t need to. It’s still fun. You just need to stick your fingers in your ear and shout ‘lalalalalla’ anytime someone wants to start a discussion about substance or world building. It’s a goddamn slot machine.

The good of this expansion is that you are rewarded for exploring. I went into a cave (for no reason, because it was there! There wasn’t a breadcrumb or a question mark or anything…

Neat place to leave loot

….and in it was a treasure chest, that gave me some Artifact power. On a second instance, in a separate cave, there was a teleporting circle. When I clicked it it moved me to the top of a mountain. There I found a dead horse and some other mean, not so dead horses (which I fixed) and sure enough, another reward for exploration through artifact power.

Teleporting cave in question

Sure, it was a long way down but I didn’t mind. I jump, died, and resurrected. Since I can’t fly that is turning out to be a faster way to travel around the Broken Isles. The only downside here is that there it seems every cave actually has something, so it isn’t much of a surprise. Go into caves, get what was put there for you, and get out.  The ‘rare’ mobs (indicated by a star on your minimap) aren’t rare, and they spawn 30 seconds after they die so don’t sweat it.

Don’t look down…

I am 3/5 story lines in Aszuna, almost 103, I have 2500 Order resources, I am still wearing almost the full 700+ gear from the Invasion events, and my Artifact weapon has a few upgrades. I didn’t even pre-research which way to build out my weapon. One, because I am not raiding or being competitive (so who cares) and Two, because YOLO. I am glad you can tag mobs in WoW and everyone gets their own loot finally. That makes sense and long overdue.

going both ways

The other thing WoW has sucked me into is the logging in more often. There are 2 and 4 hour follower missions – which I feel compelled to log in and check on even at work. I suspect this happened even moreso with the Garrisons in WOD, but I missed all of that. Logging in multiple times per day is new to me here. Is it 2pm EST yet? I have to check on something.

I already received my second Artifact and picked up my third quest for the third one. I am not sure if I can also get the fourth right away – there is mention that it “could be some time before I can get the next one” but they also said that about the second and the third. I am not pushing forward on my feral artifacts because the Restoration one was actually challenging – I haven’t healed in years, and I had to keep up the worst 5 man NPC group for the challenge. They purposely stood in fire, stayed in cleave / cone range, and also did crappy DPS.

It felt like home.

I don’t know the Feral rotation and I am assuming there will be some kind of DPS challenge so I am going to wait on that until I can do some research to sort that part of it out.

I can’t wait to work on my other characters, and I still have a 100 Character Boost waiting for me. I don’t even have time to pace myself. I am glad I bought this expansion.

Make Me the Hero. Or Don’t.

Being a Hero

I am a happy, artifact weapon wielding druid. They look amazing. I feel amazing. The quest was decent to get them. I am on my way in Legion.

High 5 anyone?

… and all of that is ruined by the crowd of other druids in my class hall that look exactly the same. I know Blizzard is stuck in the early 2000’s of “gear envy” – whereas those awesome raiders would stand around in the centre of towns and regular players would gawk at them and only dream of obtaining the same gear, which made them then try harder and stay invested in the game. That is long gone. With Transmog, people are more likely to pick an old favourite set to look like than the new raid gear. With gear being even easier to obtain than ever, there is no gear envy. It’s a silly concept.

Almost as silly as telling me I am the sole person who can wield the Claws of Ursoc. And then have 20 other druids beside me also wielding them.

I actually like the savoir story. it works in WoW, it really does! What would work better is putting that phasing technology to good use. Let the class hall be my personal domain. Or at bare minimum, if other druids are going to be out there, make it so no one I see has the Claws of Ursoc. Much like a toggle to see a helm or cloak, there should be a toggle to show other artifact weapons. As WoW has shown over the years, ignorance is bliss. Let me be the hero. Make me believe it. At least put in some effort to the illusion. Grant the same to every other player, and in visual appearance at least you can feel like a true hero. Not the one being lied to.

Questy McQuesterton

Last night was fun for another reason as well – Couchon hit 1500 quests during the Artifact quest. I had no clue he was even close to that milestone (or even what that represents..) Is 1500 quests a lot on a character that skipped all of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor?

Here is to 1500 more! Wait… let me chew on that.

Maybe. Maybe not. This is a benefit to the Achievement side of things in MMOs when you do something you were not aware of. I have never spent much time Achievement hunting but my new acceptance of Casual is as Casual does may make me pay more attention.

Artifact Checking

My initial plan with Legion was focus on my main, grow and build out his story. Of course, right after getting my Artifact quest I became instantly curious as to what my only other level 100 (My Paladin) would have to experience to get her artifact. And then I started thinking about my next closest two, my level 90’s (Rogue and Hunter) if they were to level to get theirs as well. I could also get to 100 pretty quickly if I rolled a Demon Hunter, and I haven’t even touched my level 100 boost yet! And… here I go again. My alt-itis is already driving me to do things I hadn’t planned on doing. That is OK though – I am in no rush. This is a bad time for me for the sole fact that I want to sustain my sub through the token system and every new expansion resets the AH expectations, which I will need to play heavily. I already started by Rogue in Warlords.

So much content, so much time, so little focus. With no raiding expectations and nowhere to be at any specific time this could be the best expansion yet.

Also, no guild. That is sadface. Having a hard time connecting with old friends since I wasn’t a big fan of the Battle.Net tag thing when I was still playing. Any Blognation communities formed around the expansion?

 

Legion Invasion Wrapup

For me, anyway. This weekend I am with friends and sailing, and Monday / Tuesday at a course, so I finished up my Legion Invasion to-do list: which was getting one more character to cap and geared out. My Paladin.

Fully loaded and ready to open

I didn’t get quite as many chests because I was far more active in the invasions, meaning more XP and less chests. Still, I received a full suit and then some, with a few 710 and 720 ilvl pieces to boot. I was sure to use all three specs to get all three weapons (Tank, Heal, DPS). One huge miss I noticed for my Druid Restoration set that continued even more frustratingly so on the Paladin was the lack of offhands. Like many other players I fired up fast in levels, replacing every single piece of gear – except one ring, one trinket and my offhand. I have an ilvl close to 700 and a shield of 435.

Still, as they say, don’t look a gifthorse in the mouth. Beggars can’t be choosers. All of that stuff.  I still think it was a conscious decision though which makes me wonder why it was important to leave those holes.

With invasions done for me I went and did something I really enjoy – visiting old content. Karazahn is my favourite 10 man instance (of all time, I believe) so I went through it to see how challenging it was(n’t) for a freshly minted level 100 tank. It was a breeze, one shot bosses – but still a joy to visit. I ended up deleting a lot of my old raid gear before Transmog came in and Karazahn is keeper to my favourite set – the T2 Druid Malorne Set. I started gathering it so I can enjoy my nostalgia full blown not only in activity, but in looks too.

This is supposed to be showing you my new old Crown of Malorne. I must not have hit the right screenshot key, so enjoy Magtheridon instead.

One thing I have learned from the invasions and Legion that for a community that doesn’t talk much, it sure has a rhythm. It didn’t take long to have 50 complete strangers all working together and going in the same direction (which usually was the most efficient direction) to take down bosses and maximize XP gains. This is from years of training in WoW I believe. The flow is actually incredible and it doesn’t take long for new people to find the natural pace. The upside is efficiency – the downside is there isn’t any room (or success) for people to go off and do things on their own. I suspect Blizzard would consider that mission accomplished.

Opening Presents in WoW

Couchon, my “main”, finally made it to level 100 after prancing around in both participatory and non participatory ways of Legion invasions.

Couchon before boxes

At the end of it all, there were many gifts to open!During my time in invasions I had the following:

Large Legion Chests x 41

Small Legion Chests x 34

I have no clue why the difference. If I missed out on certain stages, miscounted, or whatnot – but when I added it up at the end those were the two tallies. Clicking on the links above gives the full loot tables, and you can get multiple pieces per open. How did my Druid do in terms of gear?

Item ilvl 700 ilvl 710 % slot
Head 6 1 8.64%
Gloves 6 7.41%
Pants 8 1 11.11%
Boots 13 1 17.28%
Belt 10 2 14.81%
Wrists 2 1 3.70%
Shoulder 8 2 12.35%
Vest 10 1 13.58%
Weapon 9 11.11%
Total 72 9 100.00%
% 88.89% 11.11%

Pretty spread out across the board. I also received 2 Upgrade Fel (it takes 6 to  upgrade your weapon from 700 to 725), a couple thousand in gold from selling the extras, and just under 1500 Nethershards (which you use to buy rings, trinkets, cloak, neck, etc.) I had enough to buy all of them plus the additional upgrade Fel to get both my Tanking and Healing weapons maxed out. Don’t forget to swap your specs to make sure that you can get the other, appropriate weapon. Which, I am guessing, doesn’t really matter with artifact weapons on the way. There is a bug with the Leather chest for Druids that doesn’t show the AGI / INT swap during specs, so I kept changing to see if one would drop. Turns out Google reigns supreme once more with the easy answer with little effort.

Couchon with full gear (and boxes left to open)

The event was/is fun, and undoubtedly the fastest way to level with the bonus of the mini-game of opening chests for loots afterwards. I am trying to decide how much effort I am going to put into this event for my alts – I still need to save the Draenor leveling experience for one, and I will get a free level 100 when/if I buy Legion. Much to do, all the same.

How was your luck with the chests from the events?

Working On/During Invasions

I’m glad I have a flexible IT department. Or lack of internet traffic monitoring. Either / or, I can finally level while doing spreadsheets, with two to five minutes of effort every 30 minutes. Participatory XP is incredible right now during WoW invasion events – you get awesome XP. Thing is, you have to pay attention and put in effort. Work Invasions, as I now fondly call it, I can do my work and check on myself every 10 minutes or so with an ALT-TAB and still get levels – just by being present. This isn’t really a problem in my eyes because I am taking nothing away from other participants – I am doing as much as I would be if I wasn’t there at all, so I am not detracting from their experience. Still, I bet there is a crowd out there mad at my welfare XP. If you can’t tell I am completely fine with it. I paid my taxes (tanked through half a dozen yesterday) so now time to collect my freebies. I just wish they had a better, offline version of it – maybe optimized from my android device – so I don’t have to bother the alt-tab. EVE levels similarly to that, right?

My new leveling experience

Just yesterday I commented that I wanted to see the story of Warlords of Draenor – and I do! Problem is I started at level 94 which meant I kept missing quests (too low level, had to search them out) and that as well as the ridiculously easy challenges meant marginal XP from the quests. I do love a good story but I love me some XP along with that. I have plenty of characters in the 85-90 range so in the short term I am going to use the invasion XP as I can, and save the WoD experience for a better level appropriate character. Best done when the opportunity of free, easy XP is long gone. Right now I am getting close to 1/6 of my required experience to level per Work Invasion (at level 96) AND I am being highly productive at work too. That is a win/win. Tonight I’ll get back on and participate and be a good WoW-citizen. Until then, thank you Blizzard, for streamlining the leveling experience even further.

Back In WoW

I’m back in.

I have often lamented that I will never truly be done with WoW until my main character Couchon (where some of my best gaming experiences have happened) had a proper end to his story. As a druid, fittingly, that would be in the emerald dream. The armchair developers keep sharing rumors and ideations of that eventual expansion. With limited playtime I decided to focus on Couch (nickname – not a typo) as my starting point. If he sticks, that would be great, because I would have both heals and tanking covered and be ready for fast queues in the five mans. Back to Azeroth I go.

As a druid at 87 I don’t have Bhagpuss’ continental travel issues for invasion hopping. Baseline spell: Teleport Moonglade for the class and my hearthstone in Stormwind gets me back and forth. My flight form is more direct and faster than the griffons. My level 90 characters have it even easier if they made it to the Shrine in Pandaria (not all of them did) where you can hearth to an inn near capital city portals. Still, I am focusing on Couchon. Focus. (I have a hard time with avoiding alts….)

A big complaint of mine with WoW has always been that once you start using mods (especially if you are a raider, there are a dozen mandatory ones) you can’t stop. There are a handful that should be default UI by now. Maybe more. I have been afk’ing invasions as I sort out my mods. Sure, its not the most efficient XP but it’s free and better than the non-xp alternative. I received two levels while setting up Weakauras alone. Grid and Status and Indicators will be another level or two. I needed another 3 or 4 hours before I felt even comfortable playing my character.  This was all with one spec (tanking) which isn’t that optimized for the leveling experience, or the non-grouped invasions. I still have to mod out and practice healing. The invasions were good for practicing rotations and mod settings and I still have a few to setup including Tidyplates. All of my favorite mods are still there but I do not know if they are the “right” ones anymore.

Once I became active in invasions they were an incredible source of participatory XP but became really repetitive, and dull. After stashing 50 or 60 loot boxes I decided that with a new expansion coming I should go quest through Warlords to see what I missed. Single player story lines are the new MMO anyway. I already out-level the content but the hard stop is 100 and full of free loot, I might as well enjoy the journey.

Like a comfortable pair of socks the flow and comfort of WoW is undeniable. I have a Garrison that will soon be gone, but I’m curious to see what that experience would have been like if I played when it was new. So I am loaded up with goodies and ready to go. My goal, if possible, is to pay for my sub through the token system but that means putting in time and effort on the Auction House. I should go set up that mod next. Have I mentioned yet I haven’t purchased Legion? This little trip back to Azeroth will guide that decision.

The Sounds of Silence

With Pokemon GO! ruling the airwaves, I haven’t seen much commentating on the news that Blizzard will be putting in a silence penalty to improve the community. Straight from Battle.net:

The first time a player is silenced, their chat will be restricted for 24 hours. This duration will double for each silence penalty received after the first, and there is no maximum. This means that players who receive multiple silence penalties may find themselves unable to chat for a very, very long time.

This leads to some questions:

  1. Does anyone really need to talk in WoW today anymore, anyway?
  2. How long until someone shows a screenshot that they were banned forever (10 bans would equal 2.8 years of cumulative ban time)
  3. Will this have a measurable impact on the tone and style of WoW?
  4. Can we apply this to the Internets as a whole?

Snide comment #1 and joking comment #4 aside, my initial thought is that this is a step in the right direction. There is little incentive for people to be nice in chat since random group queues means you never play with the same person twice. The guy that freaks out on their team and/or is inappropriate is suddenly at a disadvantage. I don’t think you can teach manners with rules, and a better solution would be to not only not let them talk, but also not let them play. Right now you can still be a complete ass to randoms and chat all chummy with your pre-set raid team. I’d like to see it go further. I bet that would really shake things up. Still, it will be a fascinating experiment to behold and hopefully they stick with it through live or add an even tougher version.

My other thought to this is if it really even matters. I think WoW players have grown thick skin and I believe it’s unlikely that this will bring players back. “Oh, people will be nice to me now? Subscribe!”. I am genuinely curious if this feedback came from players who quit – and where this idea was generated from to begin with. It’s a community building tool by subtraction.

Regardless, effort is effort. I give them credit for the attempt and curious for the results.

WoW Prognosticating

I don’t have a bear / cat / owl in the race anymore, but watching WoW from afar I see some interesting changes coming down the pipeline.

I am taking a pretty wild shot in the dark to think about the future of the game but it just came to me like a shining beacon of light, a message from the After-WoW-life. I spent many, many years with multiple accounts in WoW (and multiple sub fees – this is prior to the WoW Token!) but I am long gone, maybe unreachable now. The game is also in a clear decline in terms of numbers (as everyone knows). Also, the classes and game mechanics are being dumbed down simplified and even main weapons are being whittled down to a single type points to some major changes on the horizon. The timeline for when I expect the below to happen is the expansion after the next. (If ever.). Feel the conviction!

  1. WoW will go to consoles. I know this isn’t a shocker, but those PS4 and XO controllers have more buttons than it looks like you will need to play with. The game works better as a lobby style game anyway so this is a very positive move. Everything is already garrisoned out (or class halls, upcoming expansion) while you wait to be teleported to your next instance
  2. Classes will change to “equipped weapons”, FFXIV style. WoW will finally be alt friendly and you can level up every class just by the weapon you wield. This level of alt friendliness is great in casual land. The weapons and weapon upgrades become the new grind. It will be hard to build an entire expansion around a single weapon for your character next expansion and then abandon it in future expansions.
  3. Expansions will come faster in smaller bites. Designing console dungeons and quest areas will allow a smaller team to publish content faster, at smaller costs (that will add up to more in the long run). This will finally allow people to vote with their wallets on what kind of content they want (instead of what kind of expansion they want) and then that content will now be offered more. This supports high level raids and dungeons, and saves development time from planned obsolescence content (leveling) with repeatable, high value content.

While that is a list that changes the fundamental nature of WoW at it’s core you don’t have to look far to see where the inspiration is for such a change in another Activision product. Destiny.

I have been playing a LOT of Destiny lately. It is a great game that is easily played in 30 minute chunks and has so many paths of  advancement. WoW has been working towards this in many ways, and the numbers on Destiny are shattering really. At one point almost a year ago there were 20 million players shooting it up. Then, when the Taken King launched it set records for concurrent players surpassing the first Destiny launch   If you add all of that up in a 12-14 month release schedule they probably did north of a billion dollars on the title. I wonder how that compares to overall WoW revenues today. Plus, Destiny has introduced it’s own micro-transaction system as well.

I know many of you are probably sceptical that Blizzard will change how WoW works, and part of me even feels like a more action oriented WoW could go to consoles as a WoW 2 or some such. One would suspect Activision is paying attention to what revenues are being driven by other camps they publish for and seeing the response to titles such as Destiny (and competitors, such as the Division, $330 Million in sales first 5 days..) it would make sense to leverage more Blizzard IP on consoles. It’s a big market, and Overwatch will be a good test to see if World of Warcraft will end up being the next MMO title on consoles. The fact that FFXIV can do it cross platform, same world, could be the attraction of the new generation of WoW players the game needs to continue to be a massive revenue generator.

I don’t suspect that they will let WoW go the route of EQ with progression servers. Making the game console friendly at some point would introduce new players to the game and could also bring back people like me. I am finding the Destiny experience perfect in terms of what I can give and what I want to get from a streamlined “MMO” experience. Perhaps this prognostication is as much as me projecting what I want – but I don’t believe Blizzard will let WoW go away quietly.

I Met Bile

Bile

One thing I particularly love about MMOs (well, the old experience for sure) is that you made bonds playing them. Those stopped for me when I stopped playing WoW, but I have several people as Facebook friends that I have never met in real life. There are a few that I can’t wait to, despite us not playing for years together. Those are some pretty solid bonds.

I travel for work so when I end up in a city where I have friends I like to see them. Fate would have it that I would meet my fellow Shadowblade from DAOC (circa early 2000’s) named Bile. Since we have been Facebook friends I had the general gist of his life, what he did, his wife, the things he did for fun – but it was special to sit down face to face, hug it out, and drink some solid and delicious beers together. We didn’t talk a ton about video games (both of us play far less) but when we did it was with a certain fondness and twinkle in the eye. Remember that one six hour session where we fought back and forth with the Hibs, nearly winning that first keep back on early testserver days on Pendragon? Yes. We both did. (I wiped on the keep master, but that is another story.)

I wonder if today’s gamer makes those bonds. I’d suggest no, since there is less time and human commitment with LFG’s, etc. But that isn’t fair for me to say since I barely play MMOs anymore – and the ones I do offer fantastic single player experiences.

X-Com 2

I bought it last night, but haven’t fired it up yet. I loved the original (the real original) and even played through the expansions. X-Com circa 2012 was a fantastic, friendly remake and I look forward to all I have read about the good of X-Com 2. Except the fast paced missions. I am such a planner and safe player that that will definitely be out of my element. I’m sure I will grow to appreciate it. Look at me, always on the cutting edge of new games!

Diablo III

I finally hit 70 in Diablo III and now have 15 Paragon levels. It’s been an easy to jump in and grind game with my son, and we have put in an hour a night several times the past week. I own both the PC and Console version but played it on the Console only – 60″ TVs and company is better on the big screen. I am regretting that now because there is no season play on consoles. Also, with all of the poor doom and gloom with Blizzard right now, why aren’t they making an expansion for this game? New class, new scenes, new money. I am sure people would pay for it!

I have a new blog being launched soon, but not about gaming. A new passion I have picked up! I’ll be announcing and releasing soon!

Fallout 4 – The One Big Change

Fallout 4

I feel like a bad Blognation member right now, as I completely forget where this upcoming thought was inspired from. I did read it around the Blogosphere (and even commented on it, and fleshed it out a bit further), so this is driving me a bit nuts. Still, I felt it worth fleshing out just a bit more. (If I can remember, or if that Blogger comes here, please remind me so I can link appropriately!)Fallout 4 is my go to right now. Last night I decided to sit down and finish the main story line. And promptly became distracted, and did four other quests (by accident) before restarting the real, next quest in the storyline arc (and promptly running out of time and going to bed before I even moved the arc along one step). That is the fun (and danger) of Fallout 4. The letdown in that greatness is the travel system.

Like many games Fallout 4 has an instant travel system between points you have visited before. It destroys immersion. Last night (for example) I had a raid on one of my settlements where they called out for help. I was able to transport there instantly. I get that crossing huge swathes of danger infested wasteland is inconvenient. I also understand that I could have walked there if I had chosen to. The latter option also takes away from game play. There needs to be a balance. Even better, if there is a balance that enhances game play instead of taking away from it – and the solution is really easy.

Vehicles.

Vehicles in Fallout 4 would add an entirely new dimension. First off, those carcasses of vehicles all over the roads could now be moved and salvaged, adding a new element of game play (clearing roads between destinations) for faster travel times.  There should also be different levels (wheeled cars, hover vehicles, boats, etc.) that you can now build, maintain and use throughout. As you progress, you can open new and better vehicles (hello, vertibirds!) that either companions can support you with and even more reason to secure your settlements (you need somewhere to store them vehicles! I strongly feel that this type of travel in the game would really add to the game, create a better sense of urgency, and a fun mode of travel that could bridge the difference between hour long walk and instant teleportation.

World of Warcraft

I really have the itch to catch up in World of Warcraft. Not to raid or anything, but partially because I feel like I have unfinished business there – leaving my poor characters behind the leveling curve. Mists of Pandaria was the one expansion I spent the least amount of time in and I figure I could probably hop in Warlords and do the content I want to do in 30 days. All in all that’s not a bad proposition as I bought the expansion for 75% off. I also have a strong desire to catch up on all the raids that I couldn’t do, but can now solo. While I have often been sad about the class homogenization that gutted much of what was interesting in that game, some of Legion Class preview things have me very interested. The Outlaw spec of the rogue and the very clear separation of Hunter Specs (hello, Survival!) have me very interested in WoW for a change. I just struggle with that one, perfect character for me that I want to play. I think if WoW was able to satisfy my desires by providing a class that I loved (more on that in a second) or the ability to be different classes with a weapon switch (which is my now preferred MMO model type, since I do not have time for alts!) then I could still be playing.

My favored play style is 5 man dungeons. This means, to optimize my time in WoW I should tank. This is simple enough. Tanking isn’t always great for questing though, and if I do want to raid, I definitely wouldn’t be prepared as a tank. You need 1 tank for a 5 man and 2 for a 25 man. Main healing for 5 mans is also an option so the offspec is also important. Let’s look at the classes I have:

Paladin (Isee) has been my main 5 man tank the past couple expansions. I hate the healing style on the Paladin, and not a big fan of Ret. (At level 90)

Druid (Couchon) was my first character and my raiding main for most of my WoW life. I liked healing on the Druid but did not like either of the DPS specs. (at level 85). I always hated that new gear didn’t show up on bear form.

Shaman (Isey) became my main during the SSC raids as we were lacking Shaman and particularly the nicely powered Chain Heal. I switched then and quickly fell in love with the totems and style of the character. I also specced Enhance which was helluva lot of fun. My dream in WoW is to have Shaman as tanks, I would resub lifetime. (at level 85)

Rogue (Coosh) – favourite to level, but I hate long DPS queues for dungeons (if those things are still a thing.) I often level the Rogue first to learn the dungeons from a DPS perspective before tanking them. (at level 90)

Those are my high level characters. Currently leaning Druid.

The other interesting option, since I have a free level 90, is to go Warrior. I have a level 72 Warrior LLewella  (thanks Roger Zelazny). Tanking as a warrior is interesting, even moreso with the Gladiator option to do DPS as sword and board.  That is enticing. Unfortunately, that spec is leaving in Legion. I am getting way ahead of myself now.

The fact I am thinking (and reading, and writing) about WoW is a pretty telltale sign I’ll be back there soon. I just need to find the right mindset and class to dive back in.

I Win at RNG

I think most gamers have a love AND hate relationship when it comes to Random Number Generators.  The entire MMO genre is built upon RNG and I remember the old camping structures in EQ where you could spend hours, days, or weeks waiting for a specific mob and/or specific drop. We are largely playing large Casino style games in the background, with invisible dealers. Instead of leisure suits we dress as elves and orcs and wield swords instead of cigars, and beer glasses instead of shields. (Can you tell I was in Las Vegas two weeks ago?)

The Grumpy Elf talks about his recent spat of terrible luck and I agree with him on a lot of points about WoW. When I was playing WoW I most enjoyed it because I was able to advance my character through dungeon runs and grinds, doing activities that I personally enjoyed. Bad luck and RNG is an outcome for him that is causing a lot of frustration in his goal to advance and improve his in game character.

I have spoken the random nature of our games in the past, even talking about the Star Wars PnP game and how they introduced awesome random elements:

SW was played with all d6 – and on your rolls you always had to had an off colored dice. That dice was the “special” dice. We called it the fate dice. It may have officially have been called the ‘Force’ dice. I’m not sure. Its been 15 years. The crux of it? You rolled real bad on that dice, even if you rolled all 6’s on the others, and crazy things would happen. Crazy bad. It also worked in the reverse, where a good roll – on that one dice – would make amazingly incredible things happen. Out of the ordinary. At least, that is how I remember it

I have always been a fan of randomization for the ‘surprise’ effect it can have. Good or bad – when exceptional things happen is when good stories happen. Nothing truly great would happen if the outcome was always measured and expected. This lead to some awesome gaming and story moments in Blood Bowl – here is the outcome of the story (click on it if you want to read the whole thing):

Without going into too much level of detail, with a lot of luck and some well skilled players I won the game 4-1. At the end of the game, I only had 2 players left on the field that weren’t Injured or KO’d (KO’s happen for temporary out of game injuries. After the ball changes hands they get to roll to see if they come back in or stay down for another drive). He had all 11. Goes to show what you can do against a frustrated player who wasn’t used to the Movement and Dodge ability of the Wood Elf team.

With a little lot of luck, some skill, I was able to beat all odds. Try doing that in your Raid team if 3 healers go down.

In that article I was against the predictability of raids in WoW where if someone dies it is gameover. That design makes only predictable outcomes fun and leaves no room for unpredictability. Move X, mash Y buttons on sequence, rinse, repeat, win. Nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary can, or will, occur.

Love it or hate it RNG is here to stay and I believe games can be better built around that fact. If the systems are built to be supportive of RNG (and not make RNG an automatic failure state) it can make for great gaming memories. At the end of it all, those memories and experiences are what keeps us all gaming to begin with, right?

Last week I was at a NHL game and decided to support a charity event by buying  50/50 tickets. When I gave over my $20 (for 20 tickets) I didn’t for one moment actually believe I would win – who actually wins those things? What I believed is that I was supporting a Children’s Hospital and that the money would go to good use.

So yeah, that is me (in the middle) and I won. When I was reading the ticket I didn’t actually believe it at first! The girl (on my left) who sold me the ticket told me that after she sold me the tickets she turned to her friend and told her that “that guy was so nice – I really hope he wins for good karma!” and on my right is David Desharnais, #51 from the Montreal Canadiens. He was a really nice guy and I’m a big fan of the team so that was a nice bonus. So thankfully my credit cards will now be gone along with some other household debt. I will treat myself a little as I need a new set of goalie pads (I still play twice a week) which will cost me a couple thousand.

My point here isn’t to gloat in my good fortune, but to instead point out that I wasn’t playing to win – I was playing to support charity. Winning was just a very lucky, very random, very unexpected side effect of participating. If you focus on why you are playing more than the outcome of playing you may just find some happy surprises along the way.

Our games used to mean much the same way when they felt more like virtual worlds instead of the achievement based experiences we are left with today, but that is for another post.

WoW Doesn’t Need More Revenue Streams

Blizzard loves giving more value to people who have more time. I hate everything about this, from the perspective where I am at as a gamer right now. Yes, this is a bit of a selfish rant (to be up front out of the gate)

Introducing the WoW Token

Coming soon to an Azeroth near you: the WoW Token, a new in-game item that allows players to simply and securely exchange gold and game time between each other.

Players will be able to purchase a WoW Token through the in-game Shop for real money, and then sell it on the Auction House for gold at the current market price. When a player buys a WoW Token from the Auction House for gold, the Token becomes Soulbound, and the player can then redeem it for 30 days of game time.

This rewards players who have a lot of playing time and who can focus on raising gold. In essence, they get to play for free, while the time starved still pay a sub fee. When I call for action on subscription fees to give a fair relative valuation on player’s time, this is the exact opposite. I’ve given WoW thousands of dollars over two accounts and two sub fees for years – and they want to reward people with extra time to spare with free subscription fees.  And in this MMO welfare state it allows Blizzard to double dip. Sure, they are giving up a sub fee but they are gaining a lot of hits on money that goes otherwise to gold sellers (that is the black market to fix the broken WoW economy). Don’t solve the economy issues, profit from them! But all kidding aside, why do this now?

Q: Why are you introducing the WoW Token feature?
A: We’ve heard feedback from players that they’d be interested in a secure, legitimate way to acquire gold that doesn’t involve the use of unauthorized third-party gold-selling services—one of the primary sources of account compromises. We also know players who’ve amassed large amounts of gold through regular play would be interested in the ability to trade some to other players in exchange for game time, helping cover their subscription costs. The WoW Token feature gives players on both sides of the equation a secure and straightforward way to make that exchange. It opens up a new kind of payment option for World of Warcraft players, and we hope that it will also help lead to fewer account compromises and a better game experience overall.

Isn’t this just going to further inflate the economy, with easier access to more gold, and force/encourage more people to buy more tokens, to buy more gold? I’m sure they misread the feedback – it probably went more like “players want the WoW economy to stop getting crazy inflated due to gold sellers and bots”. It makes sense for them to drive more profits, but please don’t try to tell anyone this is from player demand. This is a smart, very profitable initiative. If you really want to give players more payment options and flexibility, try some of these:

  1. Charitable contribution for game time – this could be via humble bundle or any choice. Make a $10 donation to the Red Cross for 30 days game time
  2. Game time for new player mentoring or community lead initiatives – this strengthens the community and makes it more likely new players become long term (and subscribing) players
  3. Limited time / Limited access accounts – players can’t enjoy all WoW has to offer because of busy life and schedules? Here is a WoW-Lite account for half the price. No Mythic raids for you (or other minor access barriers), but still, you can quest, to LFR, talk to friends, etc. If you need access to the top game modes you will have to upgrade though.
  4. A new, rental server model that I talked about in 2008

There are others too if WoW truly wanted to support different payment types and support players with access to the game.

I always make these arguments and then feel silly in some ways because it’s definitely not about the money. It has a lot to do with principles and I know principles don’t pay bills. I just want MMO companies to recognize that their empires were built by people investing time and money into them, and consider rewarding loyal customers. The value / sub / time proposition has been debated to death but I have tried to stay consistent on how I view it. It needs to feel right to me to make a purchase. I haven’t even done my expansion tour of WoD yet (which I was planning on doing). We’ll see how it all pans out. Clearly they don’t care if I do or I don’t. Someone buying gold through Blizzard will replace what my sub fee and box purchase would have represented in the first place.

I have a sneaky suspicion that the open market value of these tokens will be close to a sub. At the very least they will control this tightly and keep aggregate prices higher than what they are giving away in sub fees.  I dislike that WoW is the most successful sub game but that they also add (and continue to add) cash shop elements. Good for them for maximizing the return for shareholder value though. So all of this is pretty funny – the introductory sentence is really misleading because clearly Blizzard values people with more money (than time), they just found another creative way to get more of it from more people, while giving good economy players some free game time.  I suspect this is going to screw up the economy even worse because of price fixing by Blizzard and in order to participate on the AH you’ll have to buy gold at some point. This feels like a Zynga-esque move.

I support giving players alternate methods to fund their subscription time but due to the fixed, Blizzard set cost and way this is setup it is really just a revenue bump for Blizzard – not a true alternate method for players. It should be marketed more honestly – that is what disappointed me. I could end up eating crow here at some point if it launches and even casual players can raise enough monthly gold to cover their subscriptions but do we really trust Blizzard to let anything happen that hurts their eroding revenue base? I don’ t think that is realistic. This is more likely proof that Blizzard needs to increase it’s declining revenues from its subscription base. What’s next, true, individual player housing that can only be bought and designed through a cash shop? Players have provided feedback for years that they want this. Don’t confuse player feedback with another excuse to layer a revenue stream on top of the subscription fee. Most player feedback would sensibly want fixes to the economy and enhancements to the game as PART of their subscription fee. If not, what are they paying that for?

Class Desires

I was reading about Gladiator stance over at Tales of the Aggronaut and immediately fell in love with the idea. How awesome is that – a shield wielding DPS class? That is a great addition to World of Warcraft Warriors. Back in an old post My Favourite Classes I chose the Warden from Lotro partly based on that exact theme. You never see a DPS class with a shield – shields are for defence (tanking) or healing classes. I immediately checked if that stance, or a similar option, was available to the Paladin. No dice. Shucks! I have a 80ish warrior that I started leveling up with but didn’t fall in love with her play style – whereas the Paladin tanking rotation just fits me.

I love tanking in dungeons in MMOs. Part of that is because I like to lead groups, and the other part is because of my time constraints getting into an instance group fast is important for me. In WoW I would run with my Paladin tank as my main the past couple of expansions for that reason, as well as my Druid tank. Even though my druid was my first “main” character (as a healer, back before druids made good tanks) one thing I dislike about druids is the lack of armor options. I keep believing someday WoW will build in shifting armor for druids but I understand that is a lot of work for whatever percentage of the player base druids make up these days. Everything about a heavily armored sword and board class speaks to me. Even when I played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid I always went for the Paladin, or Crusader type. I am getting off topic. Tanking is fun.

Silly as it sounds, if the Paladin had this same option I would be more inclined to resub to World of Warcraft faster if just to see it and experience it. That is a pretty arbitrary thing to say, but the idea is that cool to me. It is one of those design choices that speaks directly to my desires and wishes and when that happens, you tend to support.

I have said for many years that Shaman should be tanks – there is so much you can do to make that fit. Part of this desire is due to the fact that Shaman were my be all, end all favourite class for many years. They had such flexibility and flavour when they came over to Alliance. Blizzard has homogenized that all away now but I was a crazy Shaman raid  healer in TBC and became an Enhancement main with dual specialization.  However, since I love tanking a lot, I had to give up the Shaman in order to do so. I don’t think there is much wrong with the desire of having your favorite flavor class also fill the role you enjoy the most, which is why there are a lot of options. It always seems the “perfect” class is one racial choice away, or one skillset.

This could open up a much broader discussion on how limiting classes can be and some of the solutions that are out there in play solve this issue – but we all know Blizzard isn’t changing to go down those roads. They don’t need to. Still, I am going to dream of the day my Shaman can tank, Druids will get visual armor while transformed, and hope that with enough positive feedback Blizzard will give the Sword and Board DPS option to Paladins.

Sessions

Before last weekend I was pretty sure  I was going to have to give in my gamer card. Life is busy and I have learned to prioritize work/life/gaming balance much better than the past. Family, then work, then gaming. Sadly, the realities of a job that demands a lot and a family that I want to give a lot to leaves gaming as something I wish I could make more time for (but normally can’t). Sometimes it feels as though I spend more time reading about gaming, listening to podcasts about gaming, and blogging about gaming than I actually play games in a week. This has lead me to all sorts of crazy thoughts from stopping blogging (I love it – but is it genuine enough if I am not gaming much?) to allowing myself that hour to two hours a night to enjoy a hobby I am extremely passionate about (when you hit 40, there is so much more in your life you feel like you *should* be doing instead of gaming). We have the NBI, and Blaugust, and Bragtoberfest – do we have gaming blog counselors? Where is our Dr. Phil, I need to talk to him! Good news about all of this is while searching for a “video game character on a couch getting psychiatric advice” I stumbled on a nice new web comic line.

[Click on that to go to the web comic – there are several fantasy/game themed ones and they are beautiful and sobering. Definitely go look at them!]

Then, something miraculously happened on Sunday. My son was going to a movie/play date with a friend, my wife wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go lie in bed for the afternoon and I suddenly found myself with free time on a wet and cold day. I didn’t need to exercise because I had played a hockey game the night before, I could do work (as I always could) but I had a pretty good week the week before and felt good about where I was (I have one of those jobs that I am never “done” work. Finishing work just opens up new work.). The dogs were sleeping in a puddle of sun coming through the window which masked the cold and wet outside. The house was peaceful.

I was free. Free to game.

I fired up the gaming laptop and started updating everything – I wasn’t even sure what I was going to play! GW2? Landmark? I have uber fibre internet so literally updating 5 or 6 games at the same time doesn’t make anything chug. At the end of the day, I got in 6 hours – which is more than what I have been getting in a week (not counting phone games). So, what did I play? What were my sessions?

The Secret World

I bought this on a Steam Sale (duh) and while I had played through all three factions to see which resonated I hadn’t played much of the game itself. I ended up messing around with a bunch of weapons and I didn’t really fall in love with any of them – but I took pistols and off to Kingsmouth I went. The good is what was expected (story), the bad is how silly ranged weapons fit into the game (and MMOs in general). Having to empty 40 bullets into a zombie to kill it isn’t right. I am going to stick with it because I want to see how the story progresses but this is one of those examples where the game play gets in the way of the point of the game. In my initial impressions the mission would be better as a first person shooter style (which I know is silly, but really, 30 second kill times on your first main mission in an MMO is a huge disconnect from sensibility. No surprises here though as I have heard that complaint before. The ability wheel is intimidating but you really don’t have that many choices to begin with. I am glad I got to dig in a bit deeper – the setting and mood are top notch and my initial impressions is that the game play may hurt the style more than vice versa.

Metro 2033

I won this game (among others) from Contains Moderate Peril who runs a monthly contest. I was always interested in the setting and after playing TSW and thinking it should be a FPS, I figured it would be a nice segue into a proper FPS. The setting didn’t disappoint and the game did a good job of pacing between high intensity and breaks in the action. There was a lot of “fluff” in the opening sequences (NPC’s, families, background chatter) that did a good job of setting the tone of a community stuck underground without much hope for change. I am looking forward to this as my single player game that I can pickup and leave off. The strangest part for me is that this is the first THQ game I have blogged about – I tag categories by producers/developers typically, and that is my first THQ. I wonder if the setting is foreshadowing on the future Russia if they don’t stop screwing around in the Ukraine.

Heroes of the Storm

I don’t know if it is now open Alpha or what is going on, but when I was hovering on the “install” button for World of Warcraft I noticed that there was an option to install HOTS. So I did. I was a big League of Legends fan so I was definitely curious what Blizzard’s offering was going to look like. I ended up playing this game the most! True to Blizzard fashion it is well polished (already – in alpha) and pretty big simplification of the genre when using LoL as the comparative. Truth is though, it is less intimidating so far. I stopped playing LoL because they reset every season and I didn’t want to relearn the items and champions that I had become very familiar with. Items are the great equalizer in LoL and allows for a lot of customization as you can select items to change the balance of power in any match. It also meant you needed to understand the match-ups of 100’s of champions and how to fight against certain item kits and champions. It took a lot of effort to be “in the know”. HOTS takes out items altogether but still leaves a lot of choice in the game for talents. I am only level 6, so a long way to go but will be interesting to see if Blizzard can do to MOBA what it did for MMO. That statement is either beautiful or ominous depending on your view on Blizzard.

I still have barely touched my PS4 and haven’t played a round of Destiny in a month. I miss being “sold” on a title. I miss being “all in!”. You know, that realization that when you do have free time you are spending it in one place and one place only. Right now I am so overwhelmed with choice and options that I actually miss the day that I was dedicated to a single title and it received all my spare time an attention. I think there are so may places I want to play in right now that I just can’t focus on one. At the end of it all, I am just really happy I was able to take some time to myself and enjoy some really satisfying and fun gaming hours. It has been long overdue.

7 is (Not) Enough

Warlords of Draenor launching is having a bigger than I expected effect on WoW subs – although as TAGN points out, things aren’t really clear where those subs are coming from. Besides, WoW subscriber numbers are like the old McDonald’s signs from back in the day that used to list how many millions were served. Eventually they switched it to “Billions and Billions” before dropping it all together. Seinfeld said it best – we get it, you have sold a lot of burgers. You kill a lot of cows. In Blizzard’s case, Orcs.

Still, 10 Million is that nice big round number we are all used to hearing from Blizzard before their decline from biggest subscription game in the world to less big but still bigger than anyone can imagine big. Even blognation who are often quick to pounce on Blizzard’s “decline” are checking out what our old friend has in store with this expansion. I wonder if there is a MMO subscription-based equivalent to Stockholm Syndrome. After all, what else is there?

Well, there is WildStar for one. And with millions flocking back to Warlords of Draenor, paying the $60 box price and resubscribing, how do we fight the exodus of the player base back to Blizzard? With a newsletter and 7 days free time! Of course no one is fooled on the timing and really it feels like putting a bandaid on a punctured jugular but truth be told we have no clue what impact this is having on WildStar (if at all). My more cynical side said long ago that the business model would have to change if they wanted to increase the regular playerbase and some of us suspected that it would be before Draenor dropped – but W* is doing the right thing – wait to see the impact 1/3/6 months and then decide how hard you hit your business model. For all we know with the layoffs and team exits they may be running profitable with the playerbase they have, and they may be satisfied with that.

Back to the 7 day trial – I had a couple of free trial posts back in 2009 and I still believe that it isn’t enough time or enough incentive to buy or resub to a game. This player says it best as well on the WildStar forum this morning.

 

To the average player coming back they won’t see the fixes and under the hood stuff – it won’t be that obvious because most have been away from the game. What will be obvious is server population and activity (which should be fixed by the mega servers, no?) even still, to give 7 days during the time where every WoW player is playing WoW (some of which may or may not be W* players) is a weak knee-jerk reaction. 7 days in a MMO is nothing, so expect that kind of result by offering it.

I do want WildStar to succeed and I will give them money (again) soon as they build a business model that I can support – whether that is B2P or F2P or a heavily reduced sub fee (I’d pay and get $5 a month value from the game. If I am paying $15 I’m back in WoW). Still, none of this discussion is anything new to WildStar fans or developers. They have a solid base of a game that needs bug fixes, and they need to decide what kind of game they want to be. The WildStar devs “are listening” to feedback about 40 man raids (hint: everyone but the 2000 people doing them hate them) but everyone who raided 40 mans before knew this would happen.

So my personal suggestion to WildStar is this: figure out who you want to be, and then figure out which business model supports that. While that sounds simple to do it really isn’t and design decisions need to be made with a goal or focus in mind that can’t just be “get more players”. Players are an outcome from the design decisions, not a design decision in itself. This 7 day free trial decision was poor timing, a poor offer, and not really well thought out.

WODding Nistfully

Guess what – Warlords of Draenor has been released! I know this is a shocker to most of you, and my breaking news CNN style segment remains in tact.

The play on the title of this post is to acknowledge yet another failed feature on this blog. I’ve tried a few of them and was good at starting them but not continuing them. That trend is starting to move into my WoW life as well.

Similarly to Pandaria I am not hopping into this one fast. I suspect I will end up playing it at some point but am not entirely enthused about it. Pandaria was the shortest expansion I have played throughout my WoW tenure (and I have played them all). WoW, for all of its shortcomings (explained often here at iHASpc)  is still the game I spent the most time (and money) playing. I have more Facebook friends from WoW than any other MMO I have played. I still have the most memorable experiences from WoW. I suppose it is all relative to my first point (the time/cost investment). I still have my most intense memorable experiences in EQ and DAOC but there is still something to be said about volume. Up until Pandaria, I played expansions all the way through raiding (Pandaria’s must-daily-quest to advance system was not a welcome change from the must-dungeon-grind-in-tabard system of WOTLK). When WoW expands I tend to go back, play through to cap, muddle around until bored, and then exit again. I am not quite sure when (or if) that will happen this time around for me.

I’ve heard news that the last server/guild I moved to to follow friends is now all but dead and my main “crew” is back in the same guild on Whisperwind where I was longest tenured and GM’ed. Is GuildMastered a verb? I am Tempted to pop in and say hi, but I think I only have a bank alt left there. No way I would pay to bring a main or two back to the server and it’s tough to put a cost onto being with your friends. When is WoW introducing lobby technology again? Is there even a point to segregated servers anymore? The prospect of going to an empty guild where my mains are or to a server where I have no high levels isn’t that exciting. Sure, I could use my free 90 there I suppose but for what? I love my 90 Paladin, Rogue, Shaman, Druid – do I really need another 90? Sure, free is good! But of course I would want to level the characters who I have been over the years and known as in my WoW life.

The one size fits all Garrison features I have seen aren’t that exciting to me either, I prefer more personalized housing options. Some of it looks ok though and heaps of convenience for players, which is a good thing. At least they are finally doing housing. Can you have your own AH in your Garrison? Is there any life in capitol cities anymore/again?

All of these musings makes the thought of returning to WoW rather lukewarm for me. I have positive thoughts of levelling and running 5 mans there but is it worth it just for that? I have a hard time imagining having to pay a subscription and box price for a game I have already sunk thousands into. What do I hope to get from it? I suppose its fine in that touristy/vacation kinds of thought and expectation. It’s just not drawing me in right now, there isn’t any feeling of pressure or excitement to pick up the content and run with it.

There is a mild curiosity though. Murf already made the jump and is happy at what he has seen.

Perhaps I am really, truly, done with WoW.

Does that really happen?

(sneaky test)

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways

In the romantic comedy “How to lose a guy in 10 days” A reporter is writing an article with that name – and wants to prove she can lose a guy in 10 days. On the other side, the guy, a big advertising exec takes a bet that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The result is genuinely cute (but mediocre) – no matter what she does that would make most guys afraid he sticks it out. Both are trying to win a bet. It’s not high on my recommended list, but a funny thought. If there are two people with exact opposite intentions, how to they get along? Is that the same opposite forces working between MMO developers who are trying to get as much money as possible for their product, and consumers who want as much bang for their buck?

MMO developer and MMO players look great together!

The truth is in real life that doesn’t work that much. Quick on the heels of WildStar’s decline and some other big launches over the years, lets have a look at 10 ways to ensure you can push those gamers and consumers away from your product.

#10  A flawed vision

I don’t disagree with having a vision – that is critical! What surprised me with WildStar was that I don’t know who created the vision or why. Did they consult with players? Did NCsoft buy into it? I ask these things because I get it – I understand if McDonald’s offers the Super Grease and Cardiac Bacon Burger because they are speaking to their customer base. So Gaffney and targetting the 1% vision was the outcome, but who approved and funded that vision? Why would he no longer be running the company when he achieved what he set out to do? With brands I always believe to be who you are. KFC will never attract a healthy eating segment. Be who you are, and be proud of it. In gaming that means design your game for the audience you want – niche or not. I think you see this improving with recent Kickstarter projects – we’ll see if and when they deliver on those.

#9 : Have key people leave the company near/after launch 

There are a few WildStar examples of this, but also some bigger ones in the past. I get churn, but nothing signals failure more than people leaving/fired who built it or spent years building the community – no matter what reasons are shared.

#8 Gate content in silly ways

Content needs to be gated, we get it. Do it in a way that isn’t insulting to the intelligence of the player base. I would be playing (and paying for) SWTOR if they didn’t make certain quest rewards contingent on subscriber status. I would be more fond of LOTRO if they didn’t make character classes gated by an expansion that isn’t required for them to play in the first place. This goes beyond cash shops though – if you have a subscription, don’t add a cash shop that gates content. If you aren’t a F2P or B2P title, don’t gate content with needless and obvious grinds. I would have played Mists of Pandaria a LOT longer if progression wasn’t gated behind daily quests.

#7 : Lose your most supportive community members

Games like WoW and EQ lived on as much in the fansites as the games themselves. I still read WoWinsider and I haven’t played the game in a year! Allakhazams was pure gold back in the day, and look at sites like MMO-Champion. You need a community to support and hype your game. WildStar lost it’s busiest podcast (among others) and some community news sites. Companies need to celebrate, support, and nurture those sites. When you lose those who are most enthusiastic about your game it sends a bad signal to the community.

#6 Do not reward loyalty to long time customers 

The industry has to mature sooner or later and start treating customers like every other industry – rewarding loyalty, and customers, with things not just to do with who spent the most money the earliest (paid beta, collector editions, etc.) That guy that has paid a subscription to you for 5 years? Give him a title, or perk, or hell – a free month. Do something to recognize the growth that individual has provided you. I know some do this well with early beta access to future titles (etc.) but I strongly believe this is an area developers and publishers can greatly improve on.

#5 Be non-supportive of diversity in gaming

There is a lot of heat on both sides of this argument – I won’t link to the gamer definition discussions, or the Blizzard developer quotes – but it is out there – and companies that aren’t aware, or mindful, of how they represent different views of the gaming community in their games will have a much harder go of it going forward.

#4 : Over market, over hype, under deliver

Warhammer online comes to mind here the most. “We have PVP! PVE! PQs! We have EVERYTHING!” – and they did. Everything except an immersive, reliable, consistent and balanced gaming experience. Too much hype. Less sizzle, more steak. With marketing budgets making up more and more of development costs these days, I am one who firmly believes that money is better spent on development. People will market your game for you if it is actually good.

#3 : Charge a subscription

I know some people like subs. I know some people prefer them and won’t play games without them. The truth is that a large portion won’t even touch a subscription. This is all fine and good (again) if the company doesn’t mind having less users paying more. I believe hybrid solutions are the way to go and that will retain the maximum amount of players. The all or nothing approach of a subscription doesn’t work as well anymore. There need to be stages and varying access levels for it to be accepted by the majority. Yes, it works for EVE and WoW and the jury is still out on ESO – but WildStar will almost be certainly going to F2P – as have everyone else. There is a reason for this.

#2 : Have a bad cash shop

Not ironic behind the previous point and cash shops aren’t inherently bad on their own. #2 and #3 are interchangeable in order. However,  a bad cash shop is as much the kiss of death as a bad subscription. Cash shops should be always available, never annoying. Let players know there is a cash shop, let them know the sales, then leave them alone and let them play. Constant reminders and popups are a great way to lose the community by sheer annoyance. I did spend a LOT of money in League of Legends, who never did anything silly with their cash shop. In hindsight, I spend more money per month in LoL than I did with a subscription in WoW – but didn’t regret it once. I had the choice of when and how much to spend.

#1 : Lack of immersion.

This is the number one problem for me personally, so I listed it as #1 although I am sure other people will have other thoughts on that. While reflecting on WildStar the truth is that while I loved the setting, the style, the characters and so many things they did right – the worst thing they did was constantly drag me OUT of the immersion. They had an announcer for so many things – challenges, dings, etc. It took the world away and constantly reminded me that I was playing a game. Sure, the point may be to play a game, but I play these kinds of games to feel like it is more than just a game. I want to get into it and feel like my character is helping solve the poisoned river that is destroying the town. I don’t need the 4th wall to be broken with an announcer voice telling me “f&*cking awesome job, cupcake” when I do get it done. EQ immersed me by the third person view alone that was standard back then. The game was through my eyes. DAOC through my realm’s reliance on my actions. WoW has it’s easter eggs but it really dug down in the lore overall. You felt like you were in Azeroth. Let’s get back to to immersion.

Do you agree? I admit these are very personal to me but I also feel they have merit to what is going on in the marketplace as well. Some are more obvious than others and the rankings could wildly change depending on who is reading them. Overall I think it is a good barometer of some huge issues in our hobby and I’d love to play a game that avoided these 10.