Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sort of, Kind of Playing

I reached level 77 a couple of weeks ago and promptly stopped playing again to pursue other online endeavors. My goal is to simply reach level 80 before Cataclysm drops. If I can do that then at least I'll be able to return to Azeroth and lounge around there. At this point, I am not getting what I am paying for. Being off the game for such long periods of time renders your subscription deal worthless. This month the only thing I will have accomplished is to receive the anniversary whelp (I log in every couple of days but log out after checking the mail box). Essentially, I am paying $15 dollars for an in-game pet since I am doing no actual progression through the content.

It could be argued that I've already paid for the content. If that's the case then I should be able to cancel my account and continue playing through what I've paid for, correct? Unfortunately, we all know that this is not true. So, I'm paying for a pet. Gevlon would call me a moron and he would be correct. I might as well buy the Pet Store pets as well, really, when you consider one pet for a $15 subscription payment versus two pets for $20, at this point the better deal for me (in a virtual context) is to buy the Pet Store pets then cancel my account. I'm not sure when my month ends, I might even be able to log in for the anniversary whelp...three pets for $20! Now maybe Gevlon might take back the moron remark and downgrade it to idiot instead.

Well, back to Farmville!

Running Some Numbers

Let's pretend that the Cataclysm expansion dropped today. Also, you monthly is due today. Oh, and you've decided to buy the pets from the Pet Store.

Expac...$40 (your mileage may very)

This month you've just spent $75 on World of Warcraft.

It's not really that bad of a deal though. Blizzard's WoW expansions are basically full games unto themselves so the expac essentially pays for itself upon purchase. Adding the sub and the Pet Store pets sort of gives you the impression that you've just bought a collector's edition. If you chose to get the Cataclysm collector's edition and also the Pet Store pets, then perhaps you've paid more than it's all worth, but given a few months of subs then it all sort of balances out. It's not a perfect balance, of course. Your sub doesn't pay for new content every single month, but it does pay for the HUGE content patches every 3-4 months.

So, to recap. $75-$100 for expac, one month sub, and two pets.

Now, let's look at the TCG loot.

There are two forms of TCG loot, codes from the physical cards purchased with cash and codes from the Upperdeck website paid with codes found in each card pack. Price per pack is no longer as straight forward as it used to be. The packs started out at about $5 a pop but now I'm seeing 3-packs for only $10. But let's pretend that the average person is still getting the singles at $5 each. The average loot collector (not necessarily an actual card gamer) is going to buy about $100 worth of packs before scoring even the most lowly of jackpots. Some can score on the first purchase while others will spend $1000 or more and get nothing.

This practice allows collectors to acquire a lot of website codes, worth 100 pts each. The average website reward costs 2000 pts (tabards). So, you pay $5 per 100 pts (one per pack) and multiply that by 20 (2000pts/100pts) and you've just paid $100 for your tabard. As with anything concerning economics, your mileage may very depending on where you buy the cards from. The website has game code items for up to 25,000 pts, you do the math.

Also, we should keep in mind that TCG loot goes up on Ebay and can sell for over $1000.

In a recent interview, Blizzard says they are considering adding an in-game item to a possible upcoming plushy toy. Be prepared to pay top dollar for that code (or toy with code) on ebay soon after it is released and sells out in record time.

Then, of course, there are the event (Blizzcon) in-game codes that are given out for $100+ tickets and are soon found on Ebay for over $1000. Or, as in this past summer, you could have ordered the Blizzcon event on a live stream for $40 and received the in-game pet.

Another recap.

Collector's edition expac (with exclusive pet)...$80 (or more)
Pet Store pet...$10
TCG card loot...$5-$1000 (be lucky or Ebay)
Event entrance tickets...$100+
Event stream...$40
Upperdeck codes...$100

With the Pet Store recently going live and even selling out of one of the pets once already and a possible plushy bundled with an in-game pet on the horizon, I would say there is a storm brewing. A storm of Blizzard in-game collectibles that will be found in a variety of formats and outlets and will bring in an astronomical profit.

If you thought getting the rare in-game whelps was tough, wait until you see yourself trying to keep track of all the outlets and actually purchasing them with your hard-earned money.

Have fun!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Zarhym speaks about Lake Wintergrasp on the Warcraft Forums:

Clearly that hasn't been the case, but we've learned how the design and appeal of the zone can lead to performance issues if too many players are crowded into a relatively small space.

Are you kidding me?

There's a reason why past world events have had issues. Especially concerning the invasion when the Dark Portal was opened. One reason why the second invasion (just before the launch of the Lich King expansion) was "spread out" was to lessen the lag caused by too many players in one place.

I've been playing for about three years now and I can't recall a time when players were not aware of what happens when too much activity occurs in one place.

Are we seriously expected to believe that only now does Blizzard realize what happens when too many players are in one zone?

Color me boggled.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Still Not Playing

I am having a very difficult time getting back into the game. I do a lot of complaining. Everything I can't do solo is too hard. Everything I can do solo quickly is too easy. I can't be bothered to learn my class well enough to be comfortable with it. After almost three years of playing I still have to ask other players to tell me if an item is an upgrade or not. I can't be bothered to sit in LFG to do instance runs. I'm not confident enough to seek out a raid spot in a guild although I was competent enough when I was a raider in BC. My main is still only level 72 even after a few months of the Lich King release. Even if I could motivate myself enough to level off, the game is already at a point where getting groups for 5-mans (and the entry-level raid gear) is going to be a rough endeavor, and keeping a group together (or not getting kicked from one) is going to be tough while I relearn my class with all of the new changes between BC and Lich King and now the upcoming 3.1 patch.

I long for the more simpler days of Dungeons and Dragons or the likes of Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. The stats were simple and the gear was obvious.

Is World of Warcraft too hard or too easy for me? I really can't answer that. But right now I'm simply not enjoying myself. It seems that just because I wasn't part of the herd that consumed all the new expansion content in record time, now I get to play catch-up while all of my friends are raiding and epicced out. It depresses me.

So, I'm still not playing. Just reading blogs and World of Raids.

Maybe it's time for me to cancel my account.

3.1 Removes More Game

Current patch notes are a changing thing so I won't bother to link them here, tomorrow the link might be out-dated.

But, a discussion can be had.

First, Blizzard decided to remove ammo, though not happening for 3.1, it is still in the works. Now we are seeing the removal of some of the books that teach skills. The skills will instead be made available at trainers.

You can no longer fail while performing gathering skills.

Inscriptionists will now learn 3 research recipes when researching for the first time.

The time it takes to gather herbs and catch fish has been reduced.

Flint and tinder are no longer needed for campfires.

Do you see the pattern?

Amidst of cries that World of Warcraft is now too easy, Blizzard has decided to make things even easier still. I never considered myself a hardcore gamer, but maybe I some extent at least.

Oddly enough, some of the changes simply do not make sense. For instance, some books required to learn skills are being removed, but they added a book for first aid in Lich King that is a BOP drop. The other first aid books are at trainers/vendors...or something.

On a side note, the decision to allow mineral nodes to produce all of their loot in one attempt isn't fast or efficient enough for some people. Now they are leaving behind unwanted items which must be great fun for other miners who come up to a node only to find some stones. So now Blizzard has adjusted the despawn rate to ensure a new spawn appears sooner. That won't stop people from finding the partially looted nodes, but fewer will do so. I suspect that people often left stone before the strike change, but because mining generaly took longer to complete, it wasn't a big deal since the nodes would despawn before too many people found them. But now that mining is so much faster, more partial nodes began turning up. Whoops!

I do approve of the added graphics options. It's nice to know that World of Warcraft continues to be tweaked to take advantage of new technology.

Still, I can't help but feel the game is becoming less with each attempt to make it faster.

Tobold has pointed out that healing used to be a slow process that allowed time to make decisions, but now the player must mash the biggest and fastest heals that he can and not worry about over-healing or even wasting heals on a target that didn't actually need it. Just keep the green bars as full as possible and don't think about the process.

I'd rather have more micro game added than taken away. I might actually enjoy the new arena though, if it is a solo endeavor as someone pointed out to me. Would be nice to see those rewards spread throughout the game though istead of bunched up together, but then people might have a hard time finding oponents.

Maybe I just don't know what I want from World of Warcraft anymore.

Mount Colors are Serious Business

Just another "Whoopsi!" from the Blizzard crew.

In short: Blizzard decided to equalize the number of mounts for the horde and alliance because the alliance has more. They thought they had enough unused art models to make it work out but realized too late that the only available art for the undead mount was for a level 30, non-epic skin.

They had a choice: Either pull all of the new mounts and wait until there was art available, or at least provide the new QUANTITY of mounts so horde could stop pointing out that the mount achievements are easier to obtain than for horde.

I'm a little disappointed even though it doesn't effect me, it could have easily been a decision made for the alliance.

Someone in the discussion asks how hard is it to change the color in Photoshop? Of course, they forgot to add in the time it takes to test the change. Someone has to add it to the PTR and take notes then report their findings to someone else. At this point, there just isn't time to add more stuff for testing in the 3.1 patch.

Which begs the question, why wait and pack all this stuff into one gigantic patch anyway? Good grief! This patch is going to be HUGE! Yet, the only new playable content will be the arena and Ulduar. No new maps to explore, no new quest hubs, no old world face-lifts...

Honestly, when people are heckling the designers over the speed of a mount, I think it says something about the over-all state of the game. Something negative, that is.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bad PUGs

I can handle a bad PUG, but these days people just won't finish a run for any number of reasons.

I didn't begin playing Lich King right away. But within a month of launch, and still at level 70, I joined a PUG for the first time on my prot warrior and after two wipes before the first boss the entire group bailed.

I have yet to enter another PUG since then. I switched over to DPS and may not ever go prot again. With dual specs in the game, PUGs will expect warriors to have DPS and prot skills on hand. But I think I will choose not to utilize dual spec. I understand why Blizzard thinks they want it in the game, but I fully believe that it will quickly become one more thing expected of players in groups. Maybe Blizzard believe it will help alleviate the lack of tanks and healers in PUGs, but I doubt it will happen that way. If you didn't want to tank or heal a PUG before, would that really change just because it's easier switch specs?

PUGs will continue to go badly.

You can't improve with your new skills and specs without practice but people no longer have a tolerance to put up with anything less than instant success.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gevlon Declares, "I Win!"

Gevlon has changed his tactics for current end game content.

Tobold pointed out some pros and cons of the "achievement".

The following began as a general comment on Tobold's blog but quickly grew into a post for myself.

I think the crux here is that Gevlon played the game his own way. A lot of people have pointed out between blogs that he chose to sit on the auction house while other people strove to experience raid content. Once he got bored with the auction house he showed us that a well-structured pug can clear Naxx (although most of us already knew this) but he did it in a very controlled way. Now he has shown us the fruit of all of his "labors" by warping to some of the best gear in the game. There is no longer an argument that his play style prevents him from experiencing the raid content. Instead, we are now arguing that he is not experiencing the raid content the "right" way.

It has been pointed out time and time again that one person's way of experiencing the game can be different than the next person's. Love him or hate him, Gevlon is now in a position to possibly join the best guilds on his server if he wants to, assuming his recount screenshots are not selective and he really is that skilled. But he does not like deal with guild structures.

Tobold pointed out that Gevlon's method relies on how many people do what he does. The thing is that apparently there are not enough other players interested in auction house gold to stop him. Gevlon has pointed out over and over that anyone could stop him at any time, but nobody did. Even when he announced the next server he wanted to take his challenge to and told everyone exactly what he was buying and selling, nobody bothered to stop him.

I think he has earned the right to say "I win!".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time To Play?

When did the World of Warcraft become a game that must be strictly scheduled with a time frame that must be met at all costs?

I've heard the stories about the people who apparently have no lives and can play the game seemingly 24/7, have all of the best epics and are the first to reach all of the goals within the game. The people who cannot or will not achieve these things are very bitter over the people who can or will.

"They only have that or achieved that because they have no life."

"I don't have time to dance with this group, I'm out of here."

"We have 30 minutes to clear this instance or I'm out."

"One bad pull and I'm jumping ship so you won't waste my time."

"I can't be bothered to help you become better, I don't have the time."

I don't know about you, but I hate being rushed. When I play World of Warcraft, I want to take my time. I want to enjoy the experience. Sometimes I might get caught up in the game and rush through some things, but that's because I can get excited and want to see the ending and get paid. But most of the time, I jump in the game and just want to relax. I'm not a fan of instance runs that take over an hour, but if there is any chance to finish a run, I will stick it out the best I can, though sometimes, I really do have to drop from a group. And you know what? Sometimes I may have to drop from a group just as it gets started, or only a few minutes in. That's called life. Not this stupid idea that I have to schedule this game around my real life needs and expect other players to fall in line with those needs.

See, I believe that sometimes I have a reason to only play for a few minutes while other times I believe I have a reason to play several hours. And sometimes my family gets all of my attention while other times they don't get enough. Some people might call that poor time management and I just don't care. Time management is for your job, or doctor appointments, or bank transactions. If you have to micro manage your entire life then I don't think that you are really experiencing it. The same goes for playing World of Warcraft.

There are people who feel the need to take their laptops with them on trips just so they can try to accomplish time-sensitive achievements. They have to lock themselves away from their family for a set period of time just to play the game. My family does not always need my attention so sometimes I have several hours free to play World of Warcraft or do something else. But they are in the same room with me, watching T.V. or playing on the floor, or reading. If my wife says "Let's go somewhere." I turn off the game and we go. If one of my kids say "Dad, I need help." I may ask them to wait a few mintutes then I give them my full attention. That is what real life is all about. Not this strange need to have a stop watch ticking away around your neck.

If you have time to play, then play. Maybe you get to finish all that you would like, and maybe you don't. I can't count the number of times when my game period has become a glorified chat room because a friend was chatting with me and I got caught up in the discussion and accomplished absolutely nothing for my character. And I don't even care.

Play the game or don't, but don't expect me to care when we wipe on the first boss and you start complaining about how the run is taking too long.

Oh, and remember this little phrase that you've regurgitated over and over?

"You can't have fun because the other 24 people in the raid might be inconvienenced."

Choke on it.

Once you've made your game time a scheduled appointment, you've sucked all the fun out of it already. Sure, it can be annoying when the hunter misdirects to a mage, but if you any sense of humour at all, then you've just been paid in spades for your precious time with a fun story to tell.

Before you sit down to play World of Warcraft, take off the stupid suit and the wrist watch.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

LFG Tank/Healer Then GTG!

Well, here we are again. The World of Warcraft forums and some bloggers are noting a lack of tanks and healers for pugs. Even Gevlon over at The Greedy Goblin noted a long wait for a recent pug run of his due to a lack of healing.

I know at least one warrior who is no longer tanking at all. That would be mine. Maybe someday, but truth be told, I'm happy as DPS now. And beside, most raid guilds are NOT short on tanks, if anything, tanks are having a difficult time trying to find a home...just like in BC.

In my BC guild, I was one of six tanks at one point. But all we could do regularly was Karazhan and the first 3-4 bosses in Zul-Aman. Even Gruuls didn't require more than two pure tanks.

So where are all the tanks?

As for healers, well, they don't have a problem finding a guild. Every guild needs as many healers as they get their grubby little paws on. Some nights raid guilds have to call a raid off because only 4 of the 12 healers bothered to log in and they needed 6 for the run.

So where are all the healers?

Short answer is that most decent players who happen to have tanks or healers as characters just don't run outside of the guild. Really, it's as simple as that.

You see, we get tired of wipe fests, but more importantly, we get tired of greedy, spoiled, and rude players. Most of us would rather just not do any 5-mans or 10-mans if our only option is to run in PUGs. Give us some players who will listen to instructions, work as a team, and not cry if they don't get the loot, and we'll start running PUGs again.

With almost 12 million players (or more if you consider trial accounts), it is more and more difficult to find the right set of players for a PUG. I don't know where these people come from. Somewhere I read that a lot of the new "casual" players are coming form console games. Maybe that's where all the attitude and spoiled hissy fits are comming from. Maybe the players are getting younder.

The point is, most of us only want to run with respectable players. If we wipe, it's just easier to handle if everyone is working together and cooperating with no name-calling or tantrums.

Monday, February 16, 2009

QQ Achievements

When Blizzard activated the achievement system it did not take long for people to begin complaining about the difficulty of completing some of the tasks. Blizzard quickly agreed with the community and made some of the achievements easier.

The World of Warcraft forums have an ongoing complaint over the Valentine's Day achievement. Apparently there is a task based on luck and some people were unable to complete the achievement.


I've written it before. The current crop of MMO players, including myself to some extent, have become completely and utterly spoiled.

The Halloween achievement was made easier by increasing the drop potential of some of the items required. A questing achievement was found to be difficult to complete, so it too was adjusted to be more easily completed.

Granted, I'm sure Blizzard has an idea of how difficult they want the achievements to be and perhaps some of them actually were too difficult upon release. But not every achievement has a title, tabard, pet, or mount as a reward. Some do not even have points attached as a reward. And it just so happens that the only achievements that have proven "too difficult" are those with rewards. In the case of the Valentine's achievement, a 310% flying mount (or so I've heard).

Would people care how difficult the achievement is if the reward was removed?

I think that this is just one more example of the instant gratification tendencies of MMO players. You see, in the ongoing "discussion" linked above, the argument does not just highlight the Valentine's Day achievement, but also the Brew of the Month achievement. Apparently the Brew of the Month Club and its place in the achievement system was announced at a Blizzard convention. So, during Brewfest, only attendees of the convention and those who were keeping a close eye on it knew to participate in the event.

So now, people who did not join the club during last year's brewfest must wait until Brewfest 2009 and then another 12 months for the event to run its course.

All in all, there are multiple ways to miss the mount reward at the end of the holiday achievements tree and players are going to complain about it's difficulty every step of the way.

And of course, Blizzard is going to "look into" the issues to see if they need to make the mount reward easier to claim.

Again, if the reward were removed, would players still complain?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hardcore Levelers

You've heard it or read it before. That strange attitude some people emanate to make themselves feel superior. Cliches such as:

Love it or leave it.

You don't vote, you can't complain.

Put up or shut up.

Or in World of Warcraft, if you don't like leveling, why do you play?

Believe it or not, some people actually enjoy leveling a dozen characters from 0-80 through mostly dead zones in the hardest way possible and through content they've seen a hundred times. And if you don't like leveling they way they do, then you don't deserve to play WoW.

Sound familiar?

Many of the elite hardcore raiders have a similar attitude with regards to people who want more player-friendly raids.

I don't think these are generally the same people. I believe that hardcore raiders and hardcore levelers are generally two different types of players, though I'm also sure that there is some cross-over.

Do you have a suggestion on how to make leveling easier and/or faster? Be prepared for someone to suggest that you should stop playing the game.

I don't know who these people think they are, but they can eat my toe jam. So long as I'm not being inconvenienced, I really don't care how anyone wants to play their game and I fully expect to receive the same courtesy.

I have nine toons on a PVE server at various points of progress with the highest one at 72. On my PVE server I expect to play my game with out people grieving me or stealing my quest mobs after I've cleared an area. Yeah, it happens anyway, but the expectation is there.

I have a level 58 toon with a couple of bank alts on a PVP server. I expect to be ganked, camped, and griefed there. I react accordingly.

I can't stand leveling alts. I absolutely love leveling my first character in any game I've ever played. On some of the old Final Fantasy games I've ground my way to level 99...once. Once I've leveled a toon in World of Warcraft, I consider the game played. From there on I'm just goofing around, maybe doing some raiding, maybe some farming. Once in a while I get a bug up my butt and I decide to play a different character, but I simply don't want to repeat the entire game over to do so.

You play the game your way, I'll play it my way. It just so happens that millions of players agree with me, replaying the entire game is not FUN. It is tedious. It is monotonous.

Why can we raid the same instance a hundred times? Because our friends are there with us. Someone is going to get something useful that they haven't had before.

And further more, Blizzard agrees with us. You don't like the changes to leveling? All I have to say is love it or leave it, baby.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Conjecture on Kaplan's Move

As I'm sure someone predicted, the announcement that Kaplan (Tigole) has moved on to Blizzard's next MMO, "fans" of World of Warcraft are screaming about a tumbling sky for the game.

Nonsense. It is utter nonsense.

I am not speaking from a fan-boy view but rather from message board and fan-site experience. From the first time I ever did research on World of Warcraft, whether it be for upcoming changes or current game play issues, it has constantly been doom and gloom for the game. Yet the game has continued to expand, the quality has continued to improve (with some odd hiccups along the way), and the subscriptions have continued to grow.

Yes, Blizzard has a new MMO in the works.

Yes, Blizzard wants its most experienced man (people) to lead the project.

One of the fears that the fan community has is that a large percentage of the talent on World of Warcraft will be transitioned to the new project, leaving the current game floundering with second-rate talent and a lack of direction, or at least a questionable direction.

Here's the thing though. Blizzard needs an experienced person on board the new project who can put together the best team possible for the game. Yes, he is going to try and recruit from World of Warcraft and if anyone WANTS to move on to the new project, they will. For some of these people it is an opportunity to step outside the box they've been in for the past few years. But guess what? Kaplan also gets to recruit from people who are working on Diablo III and Starcraft II because those games are nearing completion. Obviously people from Starcraft II will be approached first, but Kaplan's new team doesn't have to be fully manned in one fell swoop. He also gets to recruit from outside the company and right now the pickings are cheap and plentiful with all the failed games letting their creative teams go.

How will these personnel changes affect World of Warcraft? It might have some new flavors in the next expansion. We might even see some new flavors in the next content patch after Ulduar is released. New flavor does not a failed game make.

So, get a grip. Stop screeming about a sky that isn't falling.

Besides, Blizzard has been getting more upfront about their future plans for the game and has dropped some subtle hints. For instance, they are looking into an alternative for the next expansion to avoid the "layered" affect of the current game. They are also discussing ideas to expand the game without adding new levels in every expansion.

This of course flies in the face of the "Blizzard does the same thing for every expansion!" crowd. Yes, the ONLY two expansions thus far are quite similar. And yes, it does feel like a safe model to follow. I suspect Blizzard is going to change things up quite a bit with the next expansion and having some new faces in the creative mix will only help.

While the doomsayer crowd continues to wait for the opportunity to flay each other's flesh to be the first to cry "I told you so!", I will sit and patiently wait for Blizzard to continually improve World of Warcraft.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Will the Numbers Continue to Grow?

Player vs. Developer has announced that he is now playing another game. Yet, he will not be canceling his World of Warcraft account. He simply has less solo material in Warcraft to do and now has more time to explore other games.

I wonder how many other players are like this? I am one.

I have seen often on message boards and other blogs that Warcraft loses players in between expansions. Yet, the subscriptions only seem to increase, albeit at a slower pace. Then suddenly, an expansion drops and the servers become overcrowded for weeks. Even after several months have passed and some of the subscribers have gone to other games, Blizzard must still add more servers.

I certainly agree that the realms seem to become less populated, and some people do cancel their accounts, but it might just be that players simply play less while more players continue to come into the game. Then when the expansion drops, or a particularly lucrative patch is released, even more new players jump in for the first time while the dormant players suddenly become far more active.

It seems obvious. Yet the "word on the street" is that World of Warcraft actually loses subscription numbers in between expansions. Well, I'm not buying it.

Quite simply, subscriptions increase faster than cancelations. A lot of people seem to be at the edge of their seats waiting for the moment when World of Warcraft finally experiences its first official decrease in subscriptions. I long for the moment myself, if only to sit back and watch these bottom feeders claw at each other's throats in their attempt to be the first to report the news.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Good-Bye Ammunition

Recent patch notes for 3.1.0 declare:


  • Consumable ammunition has been removed from the game. Arrows and bullets no longer stack, but are not consumed. Ranged attack speed bonus gained from quivers and ammo bags will be preserved in a different capacity.

And so, Blizzard continues its head-long descent into homogenization. I guess I'll enjoy the extra bag space. I'm sure most hunters will cheer this change on. For me, it is just one more of those little things that did not need to be fixed. Filling your quiver and part of your bags with arrows is a character trait. For me, the lost bag space was fair trade for how quickly I can burn down mobs compared to some of the other classes.

I'll get used to it. I'm certain I'll even grow to like it and wonder how I could have ever wanted things to be otherwise. But right now, I just can't help but think that now my hunter will feel even more like all the other classes.

Some time ago there was some discussion about removing the need for warlocks to farm shards that do not stack. I think it would have been fair to let the shards stack at least a little but early on Blizzard said something about how the shards are a central aspect of the class and should not be messed with. Yet, in the same patch notes we have:

  • Drain Soul now has a chance to produce Soul Shards even if the target doesn’t die.
Not a game-breaking change by any means, but it feels like tease to something bigger planned for the future. How long before shards are treated like ammo and simply removed as a consumable?

Another frustrating component of this change is that players have been asking since launch for the ability to craft arrows and gather wood. Instead of implementing new professions, we have simply lost the need for them.

Quivers (ammo bags) are also affected by this change. Hunters have no more need for them. That means leather workers have fewer items to craft.

More bag space is nice, but really, I'd rather have more options, more uniqueness, and more content. All this change does is remove a little bit from all of those.

Blizzard, stop fixing things that are not broken.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pondering the Greedy Goblin

Gevlon from the Greedy Goblin blog utterly fascinates me.

I don't think he is greedy, but rather practical and logical. I have found that logical people often appear to be insensitive and selfish at first glance until you grow to understand their motivation a little better.

Gevlon's business updates are jaw-dropping. The last screenshot I saw showed over 140k gold in his possession...on just ONE toon, he has thousands of gold on multiple characters.

One of his postings that I recently stumbled upon explains to people who are struggling to make ends meet in the game that frivolous in-game items, such as secondary fluff mounts, are a part of the problem. My first reaction to this post was to think, what else are you going to do with all that gold? But, if you keep it all in context, he was only talking to people who are struggling financially in the game. Obviously, someone with as much gold as Gevlon, you can purchase anything you want and hardly feel a dent.

Yet, in another post, Gevlon revealed that he only has the necceasary mounts required to get around in the game at a reasonable speed and no fluff mounts at all. Essentially, Gevlon is making all that gold, and not spending it.

For some people, this is just the way it is. Their task is to produce as much financial stability that they possibly can.

I wonder if Gevlon is as successful in his real life as he is in the game. I suspect that the ability to make the numbers and rules in a game work for you is a little easier that making those numbers work for you in real life, no matter how similiar the models may be.

Maybe Not So Retired?

Last night my hunter was being camped so I jumped on my old warrior main on the PVE server to see if anyone was on to chat with while I waited for the horde to move on.

An old leveling friend was on and while we chatted I suddenly got the urge to respec my prot warrior to fury and nab Titan Grip. I've had some lack-luster dps gear stored away in bank for the odd moments when I wanted to farm in a dps spec but it was poorly gemmed and always had to mix it with my prot gear.

So last night, after I respecced, I pulled out my two hand swords and dps gear, bought some newer gems and also snatched up some dps gear to fill out the "set".

I have no idea how this is going to work out. I am hoping that I'll find new pleasure in my warrior that I haven't had in a long time. I'll still be concentrating my pvp hunter, but maybe I won't completely abandon the warrior.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Good Old Days (Part One)

Something has changed in the World of Warcraft. It is a change that is not for the better.

In my first weeks in World of Warcraft I was running Deadmines and never got booted from a group. I was obviously new. I was obviously bad at my class. In one run I "needed" on everything that dropped. At the end of that run one of the guys asked my to give him some green healing pants that my warrior had "needed". Fortunately I'm curteous and gave them over without question. I didn't even know what they were for. I thought I was just having a really good run with all of my winnings.

In my first Ulduman run I received my first tanking lessons from a priest. I was wielding my high damage two-hander and the priest asked if I had a sword and board. I was like, "Uh, what?"

The healer calmly explained to me that I was the only one in the group capable of tanking and that I needed a sword and shield. I smartly replied, "But I do more damage with my two-hander and can't wear a shield with it."

She calmly explained nuances of tanking.

So I began doing far less damage with the sword and shield, just as I had predicted, and we wiped again. The healer then told me I needed to taunt the boss. "But taunt dosen't do anything but make the boss focus on me, he'll hit me."

I don't know how long that run took, but I didn't get booted and no one left.

My first 5-man run in Utguard Keep was taking too long and we wiped twice on the first boss and everyone left the group. I think I did ok tanking for the first time with all the new character abilities and no one said I sucked. The main complaint was that it was taking too long.

I am all for solo content, but by making solo content so swift and easy, and then aligning the group content to also be swift and easy, Blizzard has created an environment of instant gratification. If players are not rewarded instantly then they drop from group.

Give me a group of people who actually want to play the game please. I'm not asking for things to be hardcore, but the instant gratification is making the player base spoiled. I wish I could be part of the solution but I've proven to myself that I am actually part of the problem and can be as spoiled as the rest of them.

The game just wasn't like this in the past. Sure there have always been ninjas and guild thieves, but the average player was not spoiled.

Retiring a Warrior

About two and a half years. That is how long I have been playing World of Warcraft.

Up until a few weeks ago my main has been my first character, a warrior. That warrior is now unofficially retired. It is too bad that most of my fun BOP items are attached to that character. Rare pets, Goblin Gumbo, Picnic Basket, TCG tabards, Brewfest and Summer garments, Headless Horseman helm...etc, I am going to miss those items for a while.

I have not only chosen a new character, but I am also playing on a new server with some real life friends. Most of us have mains on other servers but decided to get together. At least one of those guys is still raiding on our old server, I sometimes jump on my old main and chat with him when I get bored on the new server.

While I will miss my main's BOP items and some of the friends I've made on the old Day One server, I am happy as a peach with my current main, a Night Elf hunter.

The problem with my warrior is that I never really played her well. I ran across a signature quote on the World of Warcraft forums about a year ago that sums things up very well. I don't remember the exact words but it goes something like this: In all of the RPG games I have ever played, warriors have always been the best fighters and defenders, who knew that Blizzard would fix that?

Granted, Wrath of the Lich King has made warriors far more playable, but I feel that up until now I've been thoroughly abused. For over two years I stood by and tried to survive the onslaught of a single mob while other classes danced around me while burning down scores of mobs. By the time I made it to level 70 I finally realized that a different set of gear would help my dps but by then I had to rely on groups. At that point you only get to roll on your current spec or you get barbequed for ninjaing. I remember trying to get into a group for Shadow Lab once, there was gear in there that I needed. The group invited me and let me run all the way there (not sure why they didn't bother to summon me) and when I got there they dropped me from group because I didn't have enough blue gear.

Eventually I did get geared up and found myself in a raid guild. It was fun but it was a lot of work for me due to the completely different playstyle I had to learn. The jump from solo/5-mans to raid is a long one. Fortunately I'm not afraid to ask noob questions and with time I learned to tank properly. They were a nice bunch of guildies.

I never got over the pain of being a warrior though. Farming was an atrocious chore. I finally got some arena weapons with honor points and farming became much easier. Wrath of the Lich King fixed that by only allowing top rated teams access to arena weapons. And with all of the new changes I had to learn how to tank all over again.

No thank you.

So, I've taken on the bane of Warcraft characters and I don't even care. It's easy to play, easy to level. I can take on 3-4 mobs at my level or single mobs 4-6 levels over me. Why on earth would I WANT to go back to a warrior?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BOP World Drops

Old news, yes. But for those who missed it during the Burning Crusade, or for entirely new players, here is a quick run-down.

From time to time a mob will drop an item that was unexpected. It could be of any quality. The auction house is full of these random world drops. However, in The Burning Crusade, Blizzard decided that some of these random world drops should be Bind on Pickup. A BOP item cannot be traded or sold to auction. If a nice epic two-hand tanking sword drops for a mage, too bad, he is not going to be giving it to his friend, or passing it to an alt.

An additional feature of the BOP world drops that I didn't realize until tonight, is that (at least for the one I found) you can not even sell them to a vendor.

All in all, if you can't use it, you have to delete it from your inventory. A BOP world drop is an item of no worth whatsoever, unless you can use it.

In my case, I found a jewelcrafting pattern. Unfortunately my character is a leather worker and skinner. I thought I might pass it on to a guild member, but it was BOP. Then I thought I could at least sell it to a vendor, but no, wrong again. I was forced to delete it.

I told a guild mate that there is no good reason for Blizzard to implement this feature except to make the players angry.

BOP world drops are an exercise in failure.

Blizzard, please stop fixing things that are not broken.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blizzard Losing Money?

Tobold asks if Blizzard might be tightening its financial belt. He suggests that this may be why Lich King appears to be suffering over population and server crashes and that this could also be the answer to why no real new raids were implemented at the launch of the expansion.

From my limited real world experience, this could actually be the truth. I have experienced the tendency of a profitable company that refuses to invest new money into the projects (or people) that made the company successful. In other words, the more money a company makes, the less it wants to spend.

I am not sure that this is the case with Blizzard, but the evidence does suggest the trend. Advertisements on the company forums, less raid content, long delays on the first "small" bug-fix patch, over-populated servers, over-populated instances...the list goes on.

Regarding the population issues, one would think that more people would be a good thing, yet Blizzard seems to be attacking the issue as though it is a problem for them. When Burning Crusade experienced the same issues at its launch, Blizzard added new hardware to the servers to increase their population loads. They still added new servers later on when the world populations continued to increase. Why Blizzard appears to be dragging their tails this time is a mystery and only adds weight to Tolbold's speculations.

The idea that the company itself might be financially unstable seems rather ridiculous to me, however. Starcraft and Diablo II individualy brought in enough cash over the years to cover the development of new sequals of their own, without the need the World of Warcraft cash cow. Now, whether or not Blizzard properly utilized that cash is another question entirely. Even if those games were unable to support their own sequals, World of Warcraft brings in enough money each month to produce a fully developed AAA MMO.

No, I do not believe for a moment that Blizzard is strapped for cash. Chances are they have simply gotten greedy and are attempting to cut costs to appease the shareholder's demands for ever-increasing salaries. Shareholders are a vicious species of Man. They are more than willing to see people go jobless rather than not see an increase in their profit. And that is the crux of many multi-million dollar entities.

The first two years of World of Warcraft were very glamorous for everybody involved. But once the Shareholders begin to demand 50% increases to profits year-after-year, they will force the managing personel to cut everything in sight in order to make that profit. Shareholders are not satisfied with a steady or flat income, they are always seeking more than the last paycheck.

If there is a financial crisis of any sort at Blizzard, look to the vampiric shareholders.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Aesthetic Values

World of Warcraft is a beautiful game. While most MMOs appear to consist of hues of drab greens, grays, and browns, World of Warcraft is vibrant.

Many MMOs have a specific set of gear for each class for a range of levels. The numbers on each item can change, but the artwork remains the same until a certain level is reached. This provides very limited options for character aesthetics.

World of Warcraft offers a wide variety of artwork in its gear line up. The options compress somewhat at end game level caps, but there is still far more variety to be found than in most MMOs.

However, things could still be better. There could be more aesthetic options within the game.

I have a level 42 hunter. This hunter's pet is a wolf. It is the first pet my hunter chose and I have grown accustomed to it. This wolf is not the best pet in the game. If I wanted to raid with this hunter, I would not be allowed to bring the wolf to the raid with me. This is because there are only a handful of pets that raid guilds consider worthy of a raid. I would have to go out into the game world and tame a beast that I might not otherwise care to bother with. This is a good example of where the aesthetics in World of Warcraft seem to break down. I should be able to choose from a wide variety of pets, all with the same stats, so that I might be able to stand out a little better from other hunters in the end game raids. I am not asking to be able to "carry" more hunter pets, but for there to be more variety of raid worthy pets that raid leaders will actually allow.

Sometimes, I just think it would be nice if the gear and pets in the game were more about aesthetics than stats. There is so much art that is simply vendor trashed.

I understand that the developers have a limited amount of time to design what we have. In order to give players more asthetics options, they would have to give less attention to other content.

Money well spent?

With all of Blizzard's billions of dollars they make every year with World of Warcraft, sometimes I wonder if they are really doing all they can.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Changes to Mining

From the current patch notes:

  • Mining veins and deposits no longer require multiple hits to receive all the ore. Players will receive around the same amount of ore, stone, and gems they would have received from multiple hits.
I am not a fan of this.

At first glance it is just more of Blizzard's current trend of homogenizing everything in the game. I understand that there were some complaints:

"Why do I have to spend 2-10 times as long at a mineral vein than a flower?"

The quick answer would be that mining is a more physical process than picking flowers.

All "reality" issues of this fantasy game aside, I have to point out some things from perspective.

Before I bought my epic flier, it was a chore to mine. It was painful to watch people drop from the sky and tag "my" vein while I was still trying to kill the mine's "body guard(s). I could not fly past them, but at least I was not racing with the thieves either. I was happy to remind myself that his epic flier was taking him far away from me. I would be able to pick up ore that might spawn behind him.

The multiple strikes allowed me a chance to retake "my" vein on occasion. It also slowed the epic flying thieves just a little so that they didn't just swoosh up behind me quite as quickly.

When I finally did get my epic flier, I sometimes found myself racing with other miners. The multiple strikes ensured that we would at least be held up long enough to allow the other miner to get some ore along the same path.

The above change however means that mining will be far more competitive than it already is. Near instant ore gathering will only allow the scrupulous to be more so. Are you fighting the mob guarding the ore? Awesome! Now I can snatch it up in a single strike then scoot on over to the next 2-4 veins while you are still fighting.

Come on, Blizzard. You've already made the game faster than it needs to be for your near 12 million players. You've homogenized far too much. Now you're attempts to speed up the game further are only making things more difficult.

Stop "fixing" things that aren't broken.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A look at WoWJutsu.

In my short career as a raider, my guild cleared Karazhan and downed Gruul and the first three bosses in Zul'aman. We also eventually took down Magtheridon and Void Reaver.

While doing these raids, I was watching WoWJutsu. I saw our guild make our first appearence on the top 50 list and rise up to #34 or so.

Essentially, I considered us a scrub guild, but it was enough to get us in the top 50 on the server. Yet, there are hundreds of "raiding" guilds on each server.

It makes me wonder. If I thought we were bad, just how bad are these other guilds?

My main role was an off-tank. Consider that most guilds have two-four tanks, and my guild made it to #34 or so, then that makes me one of the "better" tanks on our server. Yet I feel as though I'm mediocre at best. Maybe it's just that all the other good tanks are stuck in guilds that are worse than we were. Maybe if I had to go toe-to-toe with most of tanks in those "lower" guilds, I might had my face handed to me. Maybe I was just lucky to be raiding with some nice people willing to put up with me. It's hard to tell. I certainly wasn't much good to them when I started, but did get much better as we pushed.

Just how accurate are the WoWJutsu numbers? Do they really tell the whole story? Maybe it's good enough in spite of some of the missing information.

All I know is that we were placed among the top guilds on our server and we barely progressed past Karazhan. Maybe our server just sucked.

Numbers and complaints.

Here are some numbers to chew on. You've probably seen them before, but here they are anyway.

$15.00 per month
10,000,000 subscriptions
=$150,000,000 per month

$150,000,000 per month
12 months
=$1,800,000,000 per year

That is a nice chunk of change. And it is low. I used the nice round number of 10mil subscribers rather than the current 11.5mil.

Here is an article from 2006 that estimates the average development cost of a platform game is approx. $20mil.

Here is an article that shows Grand Theft Auto 4 cost over $100mil to develop, making it the highest costing game ever.

Here, Tobold shows World of Warcraft may have cost from $25mil to $100 to develop.

So, let's put these numbers into some perspective. World of Warcraft currently makes enough money to develop a block buster MMO every month of the year. Now, I'm not saying that the current team(s) involved with World of Warcraft should be making these other games. There is an overhead cost to keep World of Warcraft running and evolving as it does, those programers and artists are not cheap to keep around. But, World of Warcraft does make enough money, every month, to start a new project, with new teams of artists and programmers and to see the project through to completion.

Every month.

It just boggles the mind.

So, where is all the content?

Currently it feels as though the more people play, the less of a game we get. Consider the recycling of gear and Naxxramas. Sure, we WANT to see the old instances get a facelift, but not at the expense of new content. Sure, we WANT to have more epic items available to us, but not at the expense of uniquness. We now have raid content that anyone can do, and everyone IS doing it. That's great for scrubs like myself whose last guild only downed two bosses outside of Karazhan, but I don't feel like I have anything to really work toward now.

Maybe it's just me, but it feels like we have less new content now than before, but World of Warcraft is making more money than ever.

The future of WoW?

I was doing some reading and came across and old discussion from April 2008 about the future of World of Warcraft after the Lich King. Someone pointed out that there are three Old Gods left and a couple of other characters. He predicted that there would be three more expansions and (assuming an 18 month release cycle) then it would be the year 2013 and World of Warcraft would be nine years old and all of the major story villians would have been killed off.

End of story.

End of World of Warcraft.

I think that this is a very good prediction.

However, I don't believe that World of Warcraft is going to end this way. I believe that the game will only die of old age and not for lack of story or players. There may come a time when huge epic expansions are set aside for more aesthetic things. It is possible that expansions might just stop being produced eventually. Servers might end up being merged as the population decreases. But I don't think the game is going to shut down for at least a decade a more.

Consider that the game is constantly being tweaked so that knew computer systems can take advantage of new technology but also the developers do everything they can to ensure that older computers can run smoothly as well. I imagine that in its current state, World of Warcraft could be played smoothly on my computer for at least another five years. I have room to add a second video card and two more ram sticks. Previously, my computers simply didn't have room for upgrades. For players who have their computer packed with all it can hold, they can only get new stuff, not more. My $300 video card will cost only about $50-$100 in five years. It'll be difficult to find a matching card for my extra slot, but not impossible.

My point is that, the current technology alone is enough to sustain World of Warcraft for at least another five years. By then they will likely have tweaked the game some more for those future expansions.

World of Warcraft has a particular art style that works well with low resolutions. But it also takes advantage of current technology and those "simple" graphics can really shine.

Also, consider the historic record of Blizzard. Diablo II is six years old and still comes up in the top ten most played PC games.

No. The player base may begin to shrink some day, but most games tend to shrink from a tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. World of Warcraft is going to have to shrink from 12 million or more.

This game is here to stay.

On phasing vs. meaningful impact on the environment

Ixobelle and Tobold are discussing epic quest chains and phasing in Wrath of the Lich King.

Phasing appears to have a mixed reaction. In World of Warcraft, phasing allows players to interact more uniquely with the game environment without inconvienencing others. This makes for a fun experience. However, there are noticeable quirks that can leave much to be desired.

One issue is that players who are not at the same point of a phase quest cannot see each other in the game until everyone in the area has completed the quest(s).

The other issue, however, might a bit more troublesome, depending on how seriously you take World of Warcraft. Ixobelle used a tree as a good example. If you were to cut down a tree while phased, no one else can see it happen or the end result of the action. The discussion then moves into something I find very interesting. The world changes around you in real life every day but you generally have nothing to do with it. Someone builds roads and bridges, seasons change, forests burn...

World of Warcraft has a few environmental cycles such as weather (rain, fog) and night/day and a some events such as the fair and holiday activities, but that's about it. I understand that warcraft envrionments are very moody so it might be very difficult for them to implement proper seasons in all of their zones, but it would be very cool if they did. How about trees that "go up in flames" from time to time from lightning strikes in a thunder storm. Mudslides or avalanches. Quakes that bring down city walls and we get to see workers putting them back together.

Some players might say "No, we'd rather the developers put their time into adding more general content such as instances and gear or new battlegrounds and races or classes." Their argument is sound, but I think the world would be much cooler with some more randomized events.

But what does this have to do with phasing?

What if when the lightning strikes the tree, you have the option of putting out the fire? What if you could help put the wall back together after the earthquake? What if you could pick up new skills or minor professions that allow you to repair decaying infrastructure such as fences and lights along roads, or help sick animals in the wild, or clean up environmental hazards in rivers and lakes...these are things that could be seen to evolve into opportunities that players could watch.

Let's say you're running along the road and you see an old rickety fence falling apart (not the entire fence following the road, there would be "spawn points" so other players can do the same). Check your skills to see if you have the right level to fix it. Gather some supplies and get to work. Now you have a brand new fence. Maybe it only lasts for a few hours, or maybe a few days, but other players get to see your handy work.

Rewards might consist of fluff gear such as cover-alls or toolboxes to carry or other tools. Maybe some titles. Certainly achievements would involved.

The point is that having the opportunity to make an impression on the game world is possible without hindering other players and their goals. Yes, the developers might have to take time away from the implementation of new classes and races and other stuff, but it sure would be cool.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New to PVP

So, my buddies and I have decided to role alts and make a PVP guild. For the most part, most of us are PVE only. I was rather nervous about spending a lot of time on a PVP server, having read the horror stories that can result from those realms. I have no desire to be corpse camped. I also don't care to be humuliated at every turn or have my quest mobs ganked. What happens when we are ready for raiding? On PVE servers you set a time and you go. On a PVP server you set a time and plan for the opposing faction to make your entrance into the instance a chore. I just want to play the game, not compete for every aspect of it.

Still, these are my real life freinds so I roled a PVP toon.

Yesterday my PVP hunter dinged level 28. I've been ganked twice but also returned the favor once and also snatched up the Make Love Not Warcraft achievement when I came across a corpse in the road that had not released.

At level 25 I went head-to-head with a 32 warrior on three seperate occasions. All three times I almost took him down. The first round I made him pop retaliation and it made me giggle because that is my panic button in PVE. Now, I consider myself to be a mediocre player at best, so I have to assume that this level 32 warrior wast just bad. If we had been on an equal footing he would have lost every one of those meetings. I've been skimping on my training to save money for a mount at level 30. I have no traps, no disengage, no wing clip...I am completely gimped. My gear at level 25 was made up of level 8-15 green and white items. I say again, this warrior must have simply been bad. Whenever we encountered each other his health fell to below 1/3 before he could kill me. Obviously, he was able to get to me. What if I had my freezing trap and wing clip?

Anyway, I seem to be enjoying my current PVP experience. I hope to continue doing so.

The failure of World of Warcraft.

I have only played World of Warcraft for about 2.5 years. When I purchased my copy, the box had a shiny gold sticker that declared I was about to embark on a journey with 6.5 million other players.

A similar sticker today would read 11.5 million players.

Blizzard has been criticized for abysmally slow expansion releases for the World of Warcraft. Having only released two expansions in the past four years, Blizzard really does not have an argument, but they do argue that the slow releases are to ensure high quality product to keep World of Warcraft on top.

Other well-known (and somewhat tired) criticisms include: too much PVP, too much PVE, too many epics, lack-luster legendary loot experiences, too easy, too gear oriented, corporate greed...etc.

All of these complaints have led to an odd prediction for World of Warcraft.

Doomsayers declare that World of Warcraft is going to fail because of all of those complaints. Subscriptions are going to stop increasing and then the development staff will be cut as the numbers decline. This will lead to the inevitable shut-down of the World of Warcraft. The most popular MMORPG is doomed to failure.

No. World of Warcraft will never be a failure. Yes, it will someday be shut down. The shut-down will not be for lack of accomplishments but rather because the game's technology will one day simply be too old for most gamers to bother with.

Blizzard has already begun the process of creating a more advanced MMO in the form of the company's mysterious fourth project. Job openings seen on the Blizzard pages include next generation technology knowledge. This next-gen MMO is not in response to a failing World of Warcraft. It is in response to the obvious eventual progression of technology. Or maybe Blizzard simply felt like making another MMO since their current one is such a blast. Blizzard has also made assurances that the upcoming MMO will not be a World of Warcraft sequel and in fact, they intend for it to be a completely new product not based on any of their current franchises.

No, World of Warcraft will never be listed among the many failures in the genre. Sure, some dorks will be mad that they didn't get what they wanted out of the game and therefore it was failure enough for them, but in the grand scheme of things, it can never be considered a failure.

World of Warcraft will die of old age before it could ever die of failure. And considering the longevity of Runescape, who can honestly predict the future of World of Warcraft?