Monday, December 15, 2008

Microtransactions in WoW, because players say they want it.

Just to keep up with current topics across the web, I decided to jot down my own opinion on microstransactions in WoW.

First and foremost I have to ask why?

Why does Blizzard need to have additional cash services along side player's subscriptions? I can actually understand why other games have a need for this. But Blizzard?

World of Warcraft has been live for over four years and is still growing. From year one it was the most-played MMO on the market in spite of it's higher monthly cost than average.

You know what is coming.

Special character features that are not included during character creation, vanity gear that is not included in the game, and other assorted fun stuff.

It is coming. There is not stopping it. The players have spoken and they said they would pay for these things.

What? When? I didn't see a survey or questionnaire!

Players have been speaking with their dollars ever since the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game hit the scene. When people are willing to shell out over $1,000 for a mount, rest assured Blizzard pays attention. The average in-game loot card sells for over $30.

And it does not stop there. People have paid insane amounts of money for convention codes that scalpers sell on Ebay.

Upperdeck, the company that produces the WoW trading cards, offers other in-game items that are purchased via points that are found on code-cards in each pack of cards. The purchase of the items are only the shipping costs, but the accumulation of points requires one to purchase the cards. The Upperdeck tabards have cost you more than you might have thought about.

At $4 or more per pack, with 100 points per pack, and one tabard that requires 2000 points, you will spend approx. $80 for that tabard. Consider that some items cost over 20,000 points.

Yes, Blizzard is paying attention.

Blizzard does not need to do a survey or ask the players what they want. We have already spoken with our money.

I have four Upperdeck tabards, a Picnic Basket, a Gumbo Stew Pot, and a Hyppogryph Hatchling. It seems I've been speaking with my money as well.

Rare vanity pets

This is just a general discussion on the pets I have obtained.

Red, blue, green, and nether whelps are on my main.

My main also has a Phoenix and a Gryphon hatchling. Also, a Firefly.

My main has many, many more pets including the Clockwork holiday bot and an alt picked up the Sinister Squashling, but these are the most notable.

After spending months to get the red and green whelps, the blue one dropped for me on day of release after three and a half hours of farming for it. The Outland Firefly dropped after my third farm kill. The Phoenix Hatchling dropped on my second run through the instance. The Gryphon was rather expensive, but seeing the card in my hand was well worth the effort. The Nether Whelp, again, was expensive, but worth it.

I am sad to report that I have not yet obtained a Wrath collector's edition, and now that I am already playing the expansion, I might not bother. Ebay is an expensive desperation and I am not currently feeling desperate. And I'm not certain I even like frost whelp, it is much larger than the traditional whelps. The proto-drake is ugly. I do not have a burning desire to obtain a penguin and the skunk will eventually be mine, but I do not care about a skunk.

Are my pet collecting days behind me?

I'd love to have one of the chinese dragons, but who knows when another oppurtunity will avail itself?

I have the two BC reputation pets on my main. I am not certain I like the idea of pets rewarded through reputation. If you thought farming for a vanilla whelp was a headache, imagine farming reputation that is no longer current. Maybe that is just my experience, but I would much rather head to a zone for as long as I can stomach rather than force myself into an area just to do some old daily quests. At least while farming I know that any kill could result in success, but a reputation grind that is dependant on a daily quest...ugh.

At least I like most of the pets I have, I wish the squashling was on my main, but I guess you can't have everything.

Gearing up the game.

World of Warcraft has the potential to never end. Even now, the game's developers have dozens of ideas they could include in an endless series of expansions. But how does each expansion affect the game?

Vanilla WoW required several years to develop before it went live. Let us compare a few things from vanilla to it's expansions.

First, every race and sex in the game has a unique model to it. Armor is designed around the form of the races and sexes.

I do not know how long it would have taken to release The Burning Crusade if it had no new character races/sexes added to the game, but I do know that every new piece of gear in the game was designed around all of the original races.

This is the kind of thing that takes time and manpower to test and implement.

Yet, the Burning Crusade added two new races and their sexes. That is four new forms to design all of the new gear around, as well as every piece of gear that is already in the game.

Granted, not every piece needs to be modified, but consider that the same boots worn by a human female hunter do not look the same when worn by a male dreanai hunter. Those little tweaks must be reproduced for every set of boots. It is possible that some armor does not require such tweaks, but I think you see the point.

The more models in the game the more effort must be put into the next expansion.

Vanilla WoW: eight races + sexes = 16 models.
Burning Crusade: ten races + sexes = 20 models.

Then, there are the classes. In Vanilla WoW there are nine classes, each with it's own style of armor. There may have been some cross class gear, but I did not play Vanilla long enough to know the details. Wrath gives us a new class.

So, now if we consider armor models.
Vanilla WoW: eight races x nine classes x two sexes = 144 potential gear variations.
BC: (10r)(9c)(2s)=180
Wrath: (10r)(10c)(2s)=200

If the next expansion included not new battle ground gear, no new arena gear, no new badge gear, no new level cap, and no new teir gear...if there was only one new set of gear for every character, Blizzard would have to develop at least 200 model sets. Add one new set for a new 10-level cap at each level (obtainable through world drops) per model and you suddenly have 2000 gear models.

This is just the basics. Once you add arenas, BGs, badges, crafting, instances, tiers...the numbers just keep getting more crazy.

These things take time. Blizzard might be concerned about money (though they make so much of it just a small percentage could almost double their manpower), but I would like to think they are more concerned about quality. There is a medium to be found between the number of people working on the project and the amount of work to be done and the space/resources with which to do that work. Sure, they could have an army of people on hand just to design the gear, but would it all have the correct personality? How many people can do the testing of the gear and reliably say what can stay and what should go? I suspect that my art style would not be suitable for World of Warcraft, but hey, at least I could help them with a few dozen sets of gear or so!

The next expansion has those 200 basic gear models, plus whatever new races or classes are added to the game.

Have you been complaining about why Blizzard has been recoloring gear for use across multiple aspects of the game? This could be your answer.


After staring at this empty blog for a few weeks, I had to ask myself WHY I made it.

The simple answer is that I have opinions I would like to share and potentially discuss with other people.

But then, what would my theme be? There must be hundreds of World of Warcraft blogs/websites/forums on the internet, why clog the tubes with yet another? I decided that I do not have a singular theme outside of the general discussion of World of Warcraft. I have no clever topic to tie into my discussions. This blog will be handeled as more of an online game journal.

Not hardly original, I know.

I just wanted to make sure I said something about what this blog is about.

I hope someone other than my own friends enjoy it.

Feel free to leave comments, I like discussion.


World of Warcraft is not the only MMO that I play. It is, however, the first one I played.

I never wanted to play an online game. I was convinced that only lonely people and perverts actually bothered. Granted, I have since then found this often to be true, but not always. Regardless, a friend of mine spent months trying to convince me to play World of Warcraft.

I do not remember what finally convinced me, maybe it was simply his own excitement over the game that eventually infected me.

One defining factor, however, was something that I had been desperately searching for in games for years. I had always lamented when a game ended. Especially fantasy games. I would become attached to my characters and it was sad to see their stories come to an end after only a few days or couple weeks of playing. Furthermore, the games never seemed large enough.

The Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale PC games were close to what I wanted in my games. They just had the unfortunate tendancy to come to an abrupt end. Their expansions were great, just far too few were produced.

I told my friend what I was looking for: a game that would offer an expandable world that would grow with dozens of expansions. The expansions could be anything from gear and monsters, to cities and zones. A player should be able to use his first character in every expansion and that character should continue to grow.

My friend assured me that World of Warcraft most definately was the game I had been looking for.

When I finally purchased World of Warcraft and spent the next nine months or so playing on my dial-up connection (oh the horror!) I had no problem telling my friend that he had been right.

I began playing World of Warcraft right around the time Naxxramas went live. I managed to snag a collector's edition of The Burning Crusade at midnight of its release day. And now, I am slowly exploring Northrend. I've played a dozen or more online games since then.

I have no regrets.