Blizzard

A New Favorite Data Blog

While navigating the great interwebs of blogs and fansites I came accross this little gem. Simply put, it is a data mining site for WoW. I love data, and in our grand world of MMO secrecy, more data is always good. Since it is straight from the Armory you would have to believe it carries with it some statistical accuracy, and the author typically points out on his various posts where shortcomings may be.

Data makes me drool. More drooling after the break.

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UI Add-ons are bad?

Vacation was nice, thank you for asking. Coming home from vacation is always a bad experience. The plane feels a bit more cramped and the voicemail and email inboxes are a lot more full. I actually tried working through my vacation, dilligently keeping up on my inbox every morning. IHASLAW #1 – for every email you send you get five back. Lesson learned.

Blizzard recently announced a big change to their UI/Addon policy, banning people from making money off off of their hard work created upon Blizzard’s hard work. While hardly a surprise, WoW has a gigantic Mod community. That community, for all intensive purposes, has made and shaped the game – usually for the better. “Must have” community mods become part of the vanilla UI over time. I have long been of the thought that mods shouldn’t exist in an MMO space – players shouldn’t have the ability or the right to change the basic UI (apart from cosmetic). It creates extra work for the typical player who “needs” those mods to be competitive (hello, Arena mods) or even beat unbalanced and rediculous encounters (hello, Decursive pre-Burning Crusade). Simply put – if your game requires players to provide changes to your code to make the game playable – or more enjoyable – then it is a failure of code. More after the break.

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What’s With the BoP?

I hope that image didn’t burn your eyes out. I am wearing sunglasses.

As mentioned I am back playing WoW. My year long hiatus from the game (despite a brief respite to check out the DK starting area) while mucking around in various other MMO’s and SP games wasn’t ended because I missed the game all that much – but because I missed the people. We had (have, as I am quickly re-learning) such a great group of adult folk dedicated to each other and the game in WoW – and that was seriously missing from other ventures I tried. I decided to relevel a shaman (so starting fresh) despite having a mini arsenal of existing level 70’s. The Shaman was the class I ended with, and loved the mechanics, but as mentioned the account wasn’t mine. With my Shaman friend still playing it was time for a fresh start. After being away for so long, I noticed a lot of things. After the break.

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Six Shooter Screenshots are Serious Business

Tagged by good friend Tesh over at Tish Tosh Tesh, us periphery folks are now part of the fun. Like Tesh, I’m not going to follow the format as directly. Unlike Tesh, I don’t keep a lot of my screenshots so finding any was quite the effort. I have two problems with screenshots – I uninstall a lot of games when I am done (despite having enough storage capacity) to keep things tidy and organized on my PC (something I am sure my wife would appreciate me doing in real life org skills, you should see my desk) and usually when I take a screenshot it is quite by accident. This would have made for some great screenshots if only I had saved them. So, after digging through old files, here is what I managed to find.

Pics after the break.

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Image Motivation

I was reading an interesting article called “Doing good or doing well? Image motivation and monetary incentives in behaving prosocially”, which is basically a study by some prominent economists to understand what motivates people to invest time or money in charity work. The basic premise is that people do it to improve their image  – and the hypothesis is that paying someone to do charity work (ie: donating blood for dollars) can actually be a barrier if other people are aware a payment was being made for the gesture. An interesting read, especially if you like economics and how economists think (and always need to understand behavioural economics). The most interesting part of the study for me was that people gave more when they knew people would know the amount donated.

Of course, I have to go take perfectly good economic reasoning and apply it to MMO’s. Shame on me.

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Numbers Can Fool Us

Is WoW really a cultural phenomenon? Many people think so, spurting the “11.5 million subscriber mark“. Where does that number come from? I found it interesting that Blizzard stopped releasing where the subscribers came from in that press release.

When Blizzard announced they hit 10 million, they clearly stated 2M from Europe, 2.5M from North America, and 5.5 Million from Asia. When they announced 11M, they just did the total. Are they hiding the fact that numbers dropped in NA/Europe and picked up in Asia? Who knows. Now, from 10 – 11.5 million let’s extrapolate where that extra million came from, and take the guess it was even accross the board (even though I suspect the numbers are skewed more towards Asia). With the new 11M sub: 6.325M from Asia, 2.875M from NA, and 2.3M from Europe.

Let’s look at North America.

“2.875M” play WoW at top subscriber peaks during 2008.

41 Million Attended a Hockey Game.

Around 20 Million people watch Dancing with the Stars on any given week.

2 Million people eat at McDonald’s everyday in the UK only (I can just imagine what the NA stats are).

Cultural Phenomenon? Hardly. MMO Phenomenon? Absolutely!

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Non-Epic Fail, Content, and RMT – Oh My!

Last post I talked about having a peek at LOTRO again, the current darling of blognation. I was drawn to give it a shot because of the handy dandy free trial after their new expansion, Mines of Moira. I had no delusions of grandeur of seeing the new content, but rather was curious of the trickle down effect to what changes this game has gone through since it’s release. I was especially excited to try out their new Warden class – reminded me very much of the 300 spartans – shield and spear. I dl’ed the trial, signed up, and off I went.

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LOTRO – Worth a Second Look?

I had purchased the game when first released and played up to level 10ish but was immediately sucked back into WoW with the Burning Crusade expansion (I was a GM of a progression guild at the time. No time for two games!). Going through some old emails I found an old buddy key I had – that was never used, so thinking of firing it up for the 10 day trial and seeing how things are. Intersting thought there, Wow:BC coincided with LOTRO, WoW:WOTLK with WAR, so I am going to suppose that the next WoW expansion will be released some time around the Bioware KOTOR MMO launch. Anyway – getting off topic.

I have been bouncing around blogs not in my regular reading rotation and have read a lot of positive reports about how the game is carrying along. Curious if anyone out there (who reads this) is currently playing, and can recommend a server and some LOTRO tips to improve the (no doubt) 10 day solo experience while the rest of you run around the Mines of Moira. If you don’t mind giving me your in game name, so I can bother you with noobish questions along the way (and have someone to chat with in general, you know, MMO and all that) it would be greatly appreciated.

I’ll Take an Effexor Cocktail to Go Please.

Sheesh, where did the week go? It CAN’T be Friday already. I haven’t even started my week yet. I barely gamed all week, dabbling a bit in WoW, spent some good time in L4D, and attempted to workaround my Bioshock/Vista issue. Bioshock 2 – you will not be purchased. There are over 3000 replies on various threads on the 2K forums regarding the same problems I am having. You can blame FMOD, you can blame Vista, but I bought *your* product and it can’t be fixed without a patch. You are still selling the game, still support it. It was my first ever 2K game, and it will be my last if you don’t fix it (hell, at least tell me you are working on a fix instead of leaving my specific thread unanswered on your official Tech support boards for a week.) Just tell me you care. That is what customer support is.

Le Sigh. More depression after the break.

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Monday Mourning – Nov 17, 2008

To be honest I don’t get what most people hate about Monday mornings. I tend to work weekends, so there is definitely no rest for the wicked at ihaspc. My to-do list on Mondays is as long as any other day but I tend to ease into everyone else’s typical work week – check blogs, prioritize tasks (I know, the irony, considering that comes second) and catch up on emails. Usually Multitasked. I decided Mondays will be my little themed post where I ramble off a bunch of randoms. What better way to “start” the week?

RIP – Burning Crusade: Much how mauve is the new pink, Burning Crusade is the new Azeroth. Empty. Of every class except Death Knights. If you play by your tune and have a healer alt in the 60’s now is the optimum time to level that toon up – there are hundreds of Death Knights begging – and paying – for healers to work with them through instances. One group offered 100 gold for a basic Ramparts run. Of course, his name was Chucknorus so you might hold out for 200 gold. With everyone in the mad dash to be the first 80 (most classes/races have already hit that mark on server firsts on Whisperwind) I wonder if destroying old content areas such as Azeroth and BC gives Blizzard cost savings on server loads, etc. – that resources normally held to hold high populations in those zones. Perhaps abandoning that content is as much a business as a stupid move? On a side note, how in the hell is the Wow Armory service STILL in beta?

More after the break.

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Epic Win, Epic Fail.

Alternative title: So close yet so far.

I finally got by the WoW queue on my server and was able to experience the Death Knight class. The hour and a half quest chain in the Death Knight area was without a doubt one of the best Blizzard gaming I have ever enjoyed. The quests were fun, the storyline and lore were well done, heck, I was reading books on the ground in Ebon Hold. So how does Blizzard follow up the best hour and a half of gaming they have produced in a long time? With Epic Fail, of course! More after the break.

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WoW has Two Tier Health Care

You need treatment. You can wait two hours for a doctor to see you, or move to a low population hospital for free, where you were certainly see a doctor and get treated much faster on a more regular basis. 

The free ambulance ride to the other hospital takes 24 hours. If you pay us $25 bucks we will get you there in less than half the time.

Guess it’s true, you really get what you pay for.

Blizzard to get Bailout Package!

Sorry, working on my Fox News type headlines.

With all the fun stuff going on in the markets, it’s nice to see the US banks getting a 700 Billion bailout package while continuing to freeze credit lines and stop lending credit altogether. It’s a good thing these guys didn’t help create their own situation with terrible lending practices, or that would be a kick in the nuts to the average citizen. (I did my major in Economics, so before you call me a complete noob, I do understand how it works. It is the perception that is going to piss off the average person.) The no strings attach approach is very short sighted though. Next up? The big 3! I wonder if the unions will go on strike if they don’t get a pay raise once Ford, GM, and Chrysler get their loans from the US government. (At least they are loans. Hey, it made the US people 300 million when they loaned out to almost bankrupt airlines, so this one has a chance of being sensisble. *chance*.)

In completely unrelated news, Blizzard got their 555 million dollar bailout package today, cleverly codenamed ‘Wrath of the Lich King’. Those financial folks crack me up with their fun little names. Let’s see if the servers hold.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

I am enjoying WAR. It hasn’t quite turned out the way I had supposed originally (or even beta tested) but it has enough good to stick around for a while to see how it all turns out. This little piece is going to comment on where I think WAR went wrong, but not in any micro or specific ways. More of the general attitude and design decisions from the top down which has put the game in a precarious position. A position they put themselves in but am glad to see they are making the move. MMO developers have a giant elephant in the room that they ‘don’t want to compete with’, but rather expand on the space that WoW has made mainstream. The MMO development cycle isn’t much of a mystery – see who is in the market, see what they do, and build from both their successes and mistakes. The mistake that WAR made was confusing what made WoW a success and what makes WoW a failure. They got it all backwards. They developed WAR with the good of WoW for the players, and the good of WoW for the company. These two things are competing resources and a delicate balance is much needed. What is often good for the company isn’t always good for the players – players want change with their new MMO’s. Let me further explain, after the break.

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Scroll of Blasphemous Conundrum

Damn you, YOU, who sent me the Blizzard scroll of Resurrection. Did you do it because you missed me? Did you do it to get phat xp rewards? (they still giving those out?) because I am a cynical blogger now, surely, it must be to taunt me. Taunt me after reading my last near brush with WoW death (erm.. life?) and sure enough in my inbox, sitting right now, is 10 free days waiting for me. No Paypal fiasco, no hobo-sleep-interrupting wallet retrieval, just 10, free, painful/glorious days of WoW return. When I first  received it in my inbox I smiled, then groaned, then smirked, then hrmpf? followwed by a mmmhmmmmm. I wish I had the video of it to share with you. I haven’t cashed in that chip yet but it did remind me of the other few times I tried to “go home again”. I wouldn’t classify them as successful.

When free trials pop up (as they often do) with the promise of all the new and shiny fixes to various titles I had left for various reasons, no matter how skeptical, I typically do them. Ah, to put on my troll costume and roam the EQ lands as Braack Baacarat. To enter my stealthly Emain Macha gate camping with Bleyzn Saddle. The joys. The memories! The dissapointment? Around this time last year (or the year before, it is all a blur in MMO land) I got one for EQ. Password retrieval was simple, and I downloaded the new shiny EQ skins (yes, it has been that long. I loved being a big boxy troll. The new graphics? notsomuch.) I had apparently logged out in the Great Divide Zone. I was still guilded!

[/gu] Erm.. anybody home?

..crickets..

Good thing there are zone channels.

[/1] Hey! Uh, I used to play on this server a couple years ago and just checking to see if anyone I know is still around

Small pause, then a chorus of replies. “HEY BRAACK!”, “Braack! YOU LOSER!”, “Hey B! come find us, we are grinding Giants!”

It was fun for the reception, albeit midly surprising that so many people were still here – this was a couple years after I had left.

So, I met up, and they were grinding giants. To work on something called “AA”. (Wow! they have expanded the game! Aircraft now? and you can grind skills to counteract that? SWEET!). We ground (grinded?) Giants for 4 hours. Yep, the same old EQ. The conversations I had during downtimes were fun, and it was a beautiful night overall. I had one other place to go – the dreaded Tower of Frozen Shadow. I ran my (now) little troll butt to the tower, sat, and just thought about things as the day/night cycle went through a couple times. The TOFS was a pinncle of memory for me. No, it wasn’t that great, but I still to this day remember how I stumbled upon it with my pocket Cleric (Candarie Stryper) and Druid pal (Deidre Whereami) when the expansion first came out. No walkthroughs, no maps. We tackled that place, the three of us, lost a quarter level of XP and had some of the most fun ever in gaming. The unknown is powerful. We ended up going back at a later date with a full group and beat the thing. That tower, for me represented everything good about gaming online at the time – still does to a degree. It is a beacon a hope – an old relic of a place, poorly designed, yet magical nonetheless. I look back at that as the “past” of MMO gaming, and how far we have come, and dare to dream that future iterations of the MMO scape can recapture that magic. I logged out that night from EQ for my last time. Didn’t have the heart to kill ol’ Braack off, but at least I know that if I ever get a free trial to that place again I will have a beautiful sight to behold when I log in. Even if just metaphorically.

So, 10 days, huh? I probably will take it and mess around with specs, and of course, check in on my motley crew of characters lying around do see if any harm/good has come of them. As of right now I have no plans to buy WOTLK, but hey, who knows – maybe 2 years from now when everyone in WoW is running around at level 110 I can login and learn that Shattrath is my new Tower of Frozen Shadow.

How WoW Can Milk My Cow

By “cow”, I mean “wallet”. I know, I know, it was very obvious to you all from the get go but I have at least 2.2 readers that wouldn’t have understood it so clarification was necessary.

I have rambled a lot about WoW lately and what I dislike about it and how I don’t want to give them my money. Like a two bit crack whore I almost broke down yesterday and resubscribed. I mean, my characters have been dormant for months and I had thousands of gold on my bank alt – what if my account was hacked? What alts DID I have when I left? So many important things crossed my mind and I actually went into my account page, hit the gigantic neon flashing “resubscribe NOW! NOW DAMN YOU!! “banner at the top of the page, and as fate would have it – my wallet was outside in my car. (I can leave it there. With my keys in the ignition. And the windows down. I live in Canada). Wow, that was a CLOSE one! OOOH wait, whats this? PAYPAL option? I have a PAYPAL account! Certainly my Paypal account is much easier for me to access RIGHT NOW instead of walking up the stairs out of my basement office, putting on my slippers, walking out to my car, disturbing the poor homeless guy who lives there (nights only, and he pees on my front lawn out of respect instead of the back seat), retrieve my wallet, and walk ALL THE WAY back inside. Wait – then I have to punch in 16 digits AND an expiry date. Pay Pal it is.

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WoW Needs More Revenue Streams

I haven’t written much on WoW here because I don’t play the game anymore. I recently patched it again after chatting with a WoW friend on ghat, who helps me out with this site, and another who is hiding anonymously in gchat from an internet stalker (true story. Yay interwebs.) I broke up with WoW about 6 months ago (hey, its ME, not YOU) and to be honest, I horribly miss the people there. Wait, let me clarify, I miss my guild and my friends there. The rest can go (and are on their way) to hell. I don’t mean that in the literal sense of eternal damnation – I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – but the community is, to put it nicely, garbage – except for the select group of good people we choose to build walls with around our guild (via the guild application process) and make WoW as little of a MMO as possible (which it already is), and more of a SFMO (Select Few Multiplayer Online). I have had these upcoming thoughts for awhile, and when I was directed to this post through a link it all but secured my thinking of yet another revenue stream for Blizzard. One I would happily pay.

Let me rent my own WoW server. Charge me $300 a month, I don’t care. I can collect donations (a la Battlefield 2142 servers) from my clan and group mates. Friends of mine that can’t afford to donate, I’ll cover the $5 a month for you. I would rather game with my friends who are down on their luck than say goodbye to them online until they can find a good job again. Right now, I won’t pay Blizzard $15 a month because of the things I dislike about their game. If I could have my own WoW server, and make it a happy, positive place for those who I care to game with, you can take my money.

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Keeping Levelling on the Level

Please note these are all assumptions on the math based on my experiences.  I am even going to use handout materials.

This is what the leveling curve in WAR seems to be. Each level gets incremently longer. While you breeze through the first 10 levels, the levels as you push higher feel rediculously long. While it might take you 2 hours to get from level 22-23, it takes 4 to get from 23-24, and 7 to get from 24-25. Add to this, the issue that there is not enough content to push through those levels and many hit the leveling brick wall in WAR. I am sure a lot of players love the challenge – maybe I would too if the content kept up.

WAR leveling

This is what the leveling curve felt like in WoW. Yes, it was more hours per each level, but nothing major or as rediculous as in WAR. The increments were manageable and the difference from 20 to 21, and 21 to 22 flowed logically – more time, but not an exorbent amount of more time. It had a natural, fun feel to it. Not the painful, punishing feel from WAR.

This is how I would like to see leveling done. Equal increments for each level. You would definitely have to change the way your character starts (not just with 2 skills, start them with a fair handful of handy tools – picture level 8-10 skillset to start). While this is a major change to the landscape of how we level in MMO’s I believe it would make the leveling game more fun for everyone, and remove the brick wall and seemingly endless grinds we are all forced to deal with.

If MMO company wants a player to spend 8 days played to level their character to max rank, and have designed their game to be meaningful from level 1 to 40, why NOT have 4 hours per level of good old fashioned fun? I would trade that in a heartbeat for the 10 minutes to level the first 5 levels, then 20 hours to level 1 level later on. It rewards consistent play and the player will always know they have a new level waiting for them around the corner, instead of waiting for them around 2143 corners (all left turns too, at that). WoW took away the pain of leveling from EQ, WAR has put it back in – only it is cleverly disguised in the much later levels. In this day and age of MMO’s catering to the casual, why put the grind back in? A level leveling system would keep both camps happy – the hardcore get their levels the same way, but the casual can enjoy the ride as well.

Comparing Apples to Starfish

With Warhammer:Age of Reckoning just around the corner gaming boards accross the world have been flooded with impressions and bold predictions, on how WAR will fail, or WAR will kill WoW. I have beta tested this game for a while, and while I will spare you the 1000th review – I will state that I have preordered the CE and will be playing the title instead of WoW. Back to the article title, the inevitable comparisons between the two drive me nuts. Maybe it should be ‘DRIVE ME NUTS’

Here is a tip people – MMO’s don’t kill each other, they kill themselves. The natural life cycle of any MMO is to grow, then peak, then slowly die. WoW didn’t kill Everquest. A 10-million-avid-gamer-comet couldn’t kill the dinosaur, so why do people even begin to think a new title will have any sort of impact on the king of MMO’s? It won’t. What WAR will do, is create another good option for gamers who have outgrown existing titles to move on to. And move on they shall.

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