Monday Morning March Musings on WoW March 3, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Warlords of Draenor
1 comment so far
Here we sit. It is the first Monday in March. It is wet and cold, even here in California. (If only briefly. It should be 70 degrees by the end of the week again.) Still, spring seems a long way off, and in the overcast I started musing about the state of various things in Azeroth.
Warlords of Draenor Progress
No word on beta. No word on pre-orders. And certainly no word on a potential launch date.
I know that Blizzard works at the speed of Blizzard… which, admittedly, is still at least 2x the speed of Valve… but we are in a winter of at least some mild discontent here. People were chanting the dungeon finder group cheer, “Go go go go go!” when Blizzard announced Warlords of Draenor, hoping for a spring launch, pinning their dreams on Ghostcrawler’s “Feels like we are farther along…” statement during BlizzCon. And there still isn’t much out there to grab onto.
While we are still effectively staring a tea leaves and trying to divine the future here, the only tangible benchmark for the current situation I could find… six months from start of beta to go live that seemed to work out for previous expansion… is starting to make my September 9th prediction seem a bit optimistic. I am not ready to declare for 2015 yet, but I am starting to tap my fingers on the desk in a sign of impatience.
I know software projects always take longer than expected, but there are a lot of people looking at you right now Blizzard… and, subscriptions. I suspect that we will see some new “just stick with us and we’ll give you a shiny” plan to show up if the fall starts to look dicey for the expansion. After all, they still haven’t tied Hearthstone into a plan to shore up WoW subscriptions yet.
Veteran’s reward for insta-90
One attempt to keep people interested in WoW while waiting for Warlords of Draenor involved announcing that players would be given their insta-90 boost as soon as they pre-ordered the expansion (when we get to that), which will lead to some hard choices once that becomes available. I’ve already started pondering which class to boost.
To help muddy the waters… or maybe it provides clarity… Blizzard has thrown in a hitch. If you choose to boost up a character that is level 60 or higher, you also get max level professions to go along with it. That suddenly makes the idea of boosting up a death knight a lot more interesting. My current DK, sitting at level 69, was in part rolled up with the idea of getting the guild a jewel crafter, that being an under represented skill for us. (Engineering seems to be the thing with us, followed by alchemy.) Getting a level cap DK AND getting jewel crafting in with the mix is quite tempting. Then again, I returned to my warrior alt this past weekend, pushing into the 40s, so he could be in contention as well by the time push comes to shove.
Squishing Stats and Abilities
Blizzard put up a post about the upcoming squish which basically said they are doing it because they are afraid all those big numbers scare us. There was some talk about the squish being required because of raid boss hit point inflation, which is admittedly climbing up there in digits.
That made me wonder how they were handling their data. A signed 32-bit integer will get you to two billion, and unsigned will double that. But who knows how their software is structured and what made sense a decade back. I once worked on a platform where, 15 years earlier, somebody decided that the magic cap would be 500. Then processors got better and suddenly, one day, 500 seemed like a serious restriction. But it was in the foundation of the product, to the point that it became easier just to hack together a method two run two copies of the main process to get around it.
Going along with the “too much for our players” thread, Blizz is also talking about paring down various class skills and racial abilities as well.
The promise is still there about being able to roll through older content as easily after the squish as before. But I am still bouncing through things like Obsidian Sanctum for big bags now, because my ability to beat each mini-boss timer seems to rest entirely on my putting up huge DPS numbers. Not sure how that will translate post-squish.
One thing the wait for Warlords of Draenor has allowed me to do is catch up a bit on things left undone from past expansions. For example, there are innscription recipes from Wrath of the Lich King. There were something like 80+ recipes I needed to research through Northrend Inscription Research, a once per day recipe, along with Minor Inscription Research and the Pandaria version thereof. I have been diligently logging on and doing that every day, to the point that there is now light at the end of the tunnel on that front.
That will leave me with just Pandaria recipes to pick up, most of which are drops within the expansion, so I will have to get out there and actually play the expansion.
Guild Level 21
Our guild made it to level 21 this past weekend.
This turned out to be a surprisingly important level for many of us because it unlocked the Ride Like The Wind guild perk, which boosts the fight speed between flight points by 25%. And, as much as it helps to spend less time on the bird crossing great distances, I think the real problem was that a number of us were tired of being passed all the time by people in guilds who had that perk. We wanted to be fast too! And now we are.
Factions in Pandaria
Along with the inscription research, I have been pretty good about working on factions in Pandaria. Blizzard really sank the hook on that front by giving them all mounts you can only buy when you hit exalted. But it hasn’t been all that much of a grind. I just can’t do more than one or two at a time. Some were quick, silly fun, like the Lorewalkers. Some of the dailies were fun and easy, like the Golden Lotus. I still do a couple of their dailies if I am in the neighborhood. Fun is fun, and 20g is 20g. But I am getting down to the last few factions now. I am going to finish up The Klaxxi this week, which has gone kind of slow. (And how many bugs do I need to kill?)
Once The Klaxxi are down, I will be left with the Kirin-Tor Offensive (which I guess is Jaina Proudmoore and Isle of Thunder), The August Celestials (I have no idea where they live), the Shado-pan Assault (which I started on a bit), Emperor Shaohao (which means Timeless Isle), and the Black Prince.
I’ve gotten far enough ahead in trillium production for living steel that I have been doing some of the farming dailies for faction, just to help move things along. We will see how long I remain motivated for mounts. Emperor Shaohao might be left behind, as the charm of Timeless Isle wore off rather quickly.
Pseudo Server Merges
Blizzard has been carrying on with their connected realms operation, where servers are joined together in order to boost population numbers. The linkage is just shy of a server merge, so nobody has to change their character or guild name. (Good news for the 200+ guilds named “Bloodbath and Beyond.”)
This past month our server, Eldre’Thalas, was linked up with the server Korialstrasz. I wasn’t sure we really needed that. Eldre’Thalas seemed to be humming along pretty well on its own, though that can be hard to determine. There was already cross-realm shared zones and all of the various grouping and matching services work across multiple realms, so by this point I think we’re all pretty used to seeing people running around with a different realm appended to their name.
The one place that was still realm exclusive was the auction house. So that is where I actually could see the change. I run the Auctioneer addon to scan the auction house and keep track of pricing. The number of auctions… and thus the time it took to run the scan… pretty much doubled with the change. That, and the price of some key commodities, living steel for example, dropped in price due to an increase in sellers undercutting each other.
We’ll see what happens when Warlords of Draenor comes out and we get a surge of players logging in more often.
Diablo III Version 2.0 February 26, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment.
Tags: Reaper of Souls
Blizzard dropped… after a fashion… the 2.0 patch for Diablo III yesterday.
That was the first of the three events planned for the next month or so for Diablo III. There is the patch, the removal of the Auction House on March 18th, and the release of the (first?) expansion for the game, Reaper of Souls, on March 25th.
I am completely in favor of the removal of the auction house which, even by Blizzard’s own admission, hasn’t worked as planned. I feel I know why they put the auction house in, but the way they coded loot drops for the game seemed designed specifically to drive people to it, so I remain a bit skeptical at their protestations that they were surprised by its popularity.
But it is going away, so water under the bridge. It won’t be a problem soon.
And then there is the expansion. More content and a new class, the crusader, that sounds interesting. I am not willing to buy it quite yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out eventually. It depends on the 2.0 patch.
Because the patch, the 2.0 version of Diablo III, is where the meat of the changes are coming. This was the reason I wanted to patch Diablo III last night. And once I was able to log in, Blizzard was keen to let me know what was new. (Patch notes here.)
Of all of that, I think Loot 2.0 is the most important. If they are going to dump the Auction House, they need to make the loot you do get much more viable. Some of it sounds like it came from the loot lessons they implemented in Mists of Pandaria and what they have planned for Warlords of Draenor. “Smart Loot” includes more drops appropriate to your class and no class items with stats that are not important for that class any more.
Of course, they have also made higher quality items bound to your account. No trading, because Blizzard still wants to keep the real money market down. The whole point of the Auction House, to my view, was to eliminate that market by controlling it. With the Auction House gone, other methods were required.
There are a host of other changes. There were changes to classes, to monsters, to difficulty scaling, to bosses, to the paragon system, along with the addition of community items like guilds. I am actually quite happy about that last bit. While I am kind of past having to be in a guild in every game, we had to create our own ad hoc guilds back in Diablo and Diablo II. Nice to see that Blizzard has finally acknowledged that this is a thing.
And, of course, Blizzard also had a splash screen in the game about the wonders of the new expansion as well. Always be closing.
With all of this, I thought it might be time to return to the game and see how these changes feel. I rolled up a new character… best to start from scratch I think, with all the changes… to try it out. I did not actually get very far, but I want to try to find some time this weekend to at least get through the first act to see how it goes.
How about you? Does the 2.0 version of the game have any appeal?
Warlords of Draenor to be a $60 Expansion? And Something About Insta-90s February 25, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: EuroGamer, Warlords of Draenor
A controversial bit of information slipped out last week when Blizzard accidentally let the “boost to level 90″ option show up in the in-game store at one point during patch day. The error was quickly fixed, but the word was out. WoW Insider had a screen shot indicating that Blizzard was not only officially on-board with insta-levels as a paid character service, but that the price to get to level 90 appeared to be $60.
There were discussions on various sites as to whether that price was right or not and whether it was too much or not enough. Lots of theories were put up that seemed most based on who the assumed audience was for such a service really was.
My gut feeling on the price previously was that it had to be more than any current individual character service… so greater than $25… but less than the cost of the Warlords of Draenor expansion. After all, if you made it more than the price of the expansion, which comes with an insta-90 character boost, why wouldn’t I just buy multiple copies of the expansion to boost multiple characters if the expansion costs less? Since I assumed that the expansion would be the usual $40, I pegged the level boost at $35.
Over in the comment thread at Herding Cats I added in two additional thoughts:
Conspiracy theory: It will be $60 for exactly that reason, to push more WoD boxes to set an expansion sales record.
Fear: This is actually a signal that the expansion will be $60.
Today however, Blizzard has been over talking to EuroGamer about the price point, defending $60 for the insta-level 90 in terms of maintaining the value of leveling up yourself, and one of the first items put out there in the article is that the expansion itself will be $60. [Addendum: As noted in the comments below, EuroGamer has since deleted that from the article without any notice of a correction. Because EuroGamer.]
And my initial response was, “Really? We’re going $60… the defacto price of a new AAA game… for an expansion now?”
The sad part is that I will pay the price anyway. Heck, I was already toying with the idea of the collector’s edition and I never buy the collector’s edition. But with past CE’s being double the price of the standard ($40/$80) I have to wonder if Blizzard is now going to go all the way to $120 for the CE, or just cap it at $99.99 to stay within the realm of sanity. (Said the guy who bought the EVE Online Second Decade Collector’s Edition.)
$60 for an expansion.
On the one hand, you can always argue that I will get at least as much entertainment value out of the expansion as I will from any new AAA game you care mention. On the other hand, I am also paying that subscription fee every month to play, so it isn’t like I am not supporting Blizzard enough as it is.
You charge what you think the market will bear. Of course, into the mix is the fact that expansions aren’t holding their price point nearly as long. Burning Crusade was still $40 a year after it shipped. Mists of Pandaria was on sale at half price a few months after it launched. As I have been trained by Steam sales on this sort of thing, I now have to ask myself if I need the expansion on day one, or if I can wait… as I did with MoP… until the price comes down.
I don’t actually need a level 90. I will easily have three by the time the expansion hits. Maybe they will throw something else in with the pre-order to sweeten the deal a bit. Or maybe I can just think of it as buying the expansion and getting two-thirds off of my first insta-90. ($40 + $20)
What do you think? $60 for an expansion? Even with a level 90 boost?
As for selling the insta-level 90 for $60, I am somewhat indifferent. It isn’t a service I expect to use… I cannot even decide what to do with the one I will get with WoD… and I find any argument about it being too expensive to be more foot stomping than anything else. How much should a level 90 character cost? It is a luxury item after all. And anybody returning to the game who wants a level 90 will likely buy WoD to get one along with the new content.
And what happens when the price of the expansion comes down, as it inevitably will? Eventually Warlords of Draenor will be $40 or $20 on sale and then will end up as part of the World of Warcraft Battle Chest. What happens to insta-90s then? Will Blizz remove the option from the expansion at some point?
I suppose we shall see how this plays out.
Addendum: I like where Ars Technica says “Only 67 cents a level” in their Economic Reality post.
Quote of the Day – Hearthstone, SOE, and Historical Inevitability January 29, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Battle.net Desktop App, Because SOE, Hearthstone, John Smedley, Legends of Norrath, Quote of the Day, Station Launcher, Unfair Characterizations
Actually after seeing what Blizzard did with Hearthstone it’s given us some other ideas…. LoN is an awesome card game. We can take that to the next level.
John Smedley, Reddit AMA on plans for Legends of Norrath
Okay, that is actually a quote from a few days back, but the Reddit Ask Me Anything that John Smedley did last Friday is a gold mine of quotes. I have to salute Feldon at EQ2 Wire for picking out some of the prime samples for his post.
And I have to hand it to Smed for not flinching from some tough question and answering things the way he did. He laid out a lot things there, and not all of them were flattering to SOE. He also left a lot of meat on the table to discuss, from SOE operating Vanguard at a loss for “a long time” to consolidation of IPs plan (again, is DC Universe Online safe with that going on?) to EverQuest Next being headed for the PlayStation 4 (not good news in my book, at least when it comes to a ship date… or user interface choices). You could get a month’s worth of blog posts out of that AMA. I am sure bloggers will be feeding on this all week.
But the item quoted at the top… I think speaks volumes in just two sentences.
The online collectible card game Legends of Norrath was launched back in late 2007, when it was integrated with EverQuest and EverQuest II, giving players a game to play within a game. No mixed message in that. Later it got its own stand-alone client, but the integration with the EverQuest games was still prime. Legends of Norrath borrowed the stories and metaphors of the EverQuest games for theme and mechanics, and offered up in-game goodies for players of the two MMOs along with throwing out the occasional reward to the community by including somebody on a card.
And, as far as I know, the game has been a success. It survived the great purge of the Denver and Tuscon studios that seemed to spell the end of online card games being anything like a focus at SOE. (There are some good historical Smed quotes on the old SOE Blog, and some interesting posts from others about company plans. I am surprised it hasn’t all been sent down the memory hole yet.) Legends of Norrath survived along with Magic The Gathering: Tactics, though the latter is slated to be shut down at the end of March. Another aspect of the recent blood bath I guess.
And then along came Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
Actually, it hasn’t really come along yet. It just got out of closed beta and is now downloadable by anybody who wants to be in the open beta (Europe too now) and who has a Battle.net account.
Hearthstone compares directly to Legends of Norrath. It is an online collectable card game based on the lore of a popular MMO, it is free to play with its own client, you can buy cards, play against other online, and so on.
However, unlike Legends of Norrath, Hearthstone isn’t integrated into World of Warcraft. For now the linkage is only in lore and sharing a Battle.net login with WoW and your other current Blizzard games. Also unlike Legends of Norrath, Hearthstone has gotten a lot of praise from both inside and out of the MMO player community.
Not that I have heard people slam Legends of Norrath, but it never seemed like a big deal either, not the way Hearthstone has been hailed. Part of that is no doubt the fact that Blizzard games are much more visible, popular, and highly rated than games from SOE. A lot of people will try anything Blizzard ships. Simple truth: Blizzard has a lot more fans than SOE.
And part of that is no doubt the application of Blizzard magic to the Legends of Norrath idea, which made Hearthstone shinier, easier to get into, and more appealing to players for whom collectible card games were never really a thing to do. Plus there is the promise of an iOS and Android version of the game. The iPad will likely be the Hearthstone platform for me.
This is, of course, pretty much a parallel to EverQuest and World of Warcraft. SOE got out there first and succeeded, but then Blizzard took what they saw SOE doing and created something an order of magnitude more successful. And so I suspect will be the case with Hearthstone.
Of course, not everybody loves Hearthstone. As the hardcore early EverQuest players derided World of Warcraft (even as EverQuest tried to become more and more like WoW ), so some serious CCG players have declared that Hearthstone is a shallow game only fit for casual scrubs, bitter that people are not playing “more deserving” games. And so it goes.
But the generally favorable reviews of the game got even me to download the Hearthstone open beta, and I am well into the “CCGs are not for me” camp. (I tried the Pokemon CCG a few times, but never enjoyed it.) I haven’t actually played it yet… or even launched the app… but I have it downloaded. And that brings me to yet another SOE vs. Blizzard parallel.
In downloading and installing Hearthstone, I found out that to use it required the still-in-beta Battle.net launcher… erm, excuse me… the Battle.net Desktop App. Oh, and that replaced the launcher for all of the current Blizzard games, including World of Warcraft and Diablo III.
The Hearthstone install did not warn me about that and I was PISSED!
I was pissed because I have been through the single, unified launcher/updater wringer before. Of course, that was with SOE which was trying to push their version of that sort of thing quite a while back.
The fact that Station Launcher never quite worked right was compounded by the fact that the SOE website kept telling people to use it after they had stopped supporting and it had ceased to function. I had to open a support ticket to get the response of “don’t use that” from SOE. So my anger was entirely based on having problems with this sort of thing before. I would have avoided downloading Hearthstone had I known what it meant.
Only, in the ongoing parallel between SOE and Blizzard, the new Battle.net launcher… Desktop App… just works. I log into Battle.net through it and can kick off World of Warcraft just fine. It shows me all the news tidbits that the WoW launcher did and, in addition, shows which of my Battle Tag friends are online and in which game. No problems at all.
My anger was thus short lived, which brings me back around to the quote at the top of this post. SOE deciding to copy Blizzard, who copied SOE in the first place seems to be the natural order of things. I am sure somebody can make quite a list of the things that SOE copied back from Blizzard. So it is no surprise to me that, upon seeing what Blizzard has done with Hearthstone, that SOE has been moved to action. Because, when left to their own devices, SOE can come up with some clunkers. (Not to mention being a bit tone deaf at times.)
I suppose the only thing wrong with Station Launcher was that SOE didn’t leaving hanging around long enough for the Blizzard version to appear so that they would know what to do.
Did Blizzard Just Hint at the Warlords of Draenor Ship Date? January 17, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Warlords of Draenor
It’s the New Year, and 2014 is going to be a big one for World of Warcraft. This November marks the game’s 10-year anniversary and the 20-year anniversary of the entire Warcraft series. We’re looking forward to celebrating these milestones with everyone, but in the meantime, we’ve got a few Warlords of Draenor–related updates to share.
-Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor Scouting Report Post
Okay, it is a stretch, but kicking off a Warlords of Draenor post with references to events coming up in November? It is enough to make you go, “Hrmm…”
Plus, when you add in the fact that the post goes on to say that now would be a good time to opt-in for the closed beta, which means that it is probably at least weeks, if not a month or more away, and the timeline for the Warlords of Draenor expansion starts to look more and more like something we’ll see when summer has faded and autumn is upon us.
My 2014 prediction for the expansion release is September 9th. Am I looking warmer now?
And, while we’re on the subject of predictions, Blizzard is talking about finding a way to sell players additional insta-level 90 boosts. That is another on my list. (And it sounds like Blizz is going to give you your insta-90 as soon as you pre-order… once pre-orders are available. No waiting for the expansion to launch.)
In the mean time, I still have plenty to catch up on in the game.
SOE All Access Changes… yet again… And the Future January 7, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Because SOE, SOE All Access, Station Access
Last Friday SOE announced changes for SOE All Access and Gold subscribers. Come February SOE was going to take away the 500 Station Cash stipend for those accounts, replacing it with the ability to purchase a single Station Cash Store item with a value up to 2,000 SC per month.
This did not get a lot of positive response. The loudest group of people appear to like to accrue Station Cash, not be given a single “use it or lose it” purchase. And there was the usual concern that nobody would buy anything small with the 2,000 SC single buy because that would “waste” SC.
Smed went on Reddit and talked about why they did this and what else they might do. The most interesting among the reasons for me was this:
Second – it helps us deal with some internal issues regarding accrual of balances of SC for people who aren’t playing or spending. There are a lot of people who play and have SC in their wallets and don’t spend it ever.. this accrues over time and it’s a problem.
Now, he said that was not the most important reason, but it was a driving factor for this move. However, the fact that the first reason he gave, that people feel that 500 SC a month isn’t enough to buy anything, turned out to be largely incorrect based on feedback might be seen to move the second reason up to first place.
You might reasonably think that, especially since SOE has been working hard to dig themselves out of their Station Cash monetary problems. They weren’t exactly Greece-like in scale, but SOE certainly wasn’t anywhere as sound as Germany either, to push a metaphor.
He also mentioned that they were thinking of making SOE All Access, formerly Station Access, available for just $14.99 a month. At least the All Access Subscribers would be happy.
Then, late yesterday, the latest revision broke. It is described as “not baked yet” but where SOE’s “head is at” on the subject. Full details over at EQ2Wire, but the basics are:
- SOE All Access is $14.99, gives you access to all SOE games. All subscriptions will be converted to SOE All Access
- The 500 SC monthly stipend is back, though you have to log in to collect
- Something vague about European players and PS3/PS4 titles
So that is where we stand today.
This is one of those things where, if SOE had started with this deal, they would have been heroes. But now, a couple of iterations in… and with things still not set in stone… I sort of want to say “SOE WTF?” Being a responsive company is good… but tossing out plans that appear not to have been thought through fully and then changing your mind in public after your user base complains loudly? That seems to be just a way to train players to complain early and often. As we saw in EVE Online after Incarna, every dolt with a gripe against CCP now goes straight to “shoot the monument in Jita!” because that worked once. Loudly complaining about SOE has worked… how many times now? (Note the graphic Feldon chose to use for the EQ2 Wire post linked above.)
Clearly SOE’s stated primary premise for the change was wrong for at least the loudest portion of their audience. I know I would rather accrue 500 SC a month than be given a “use it or lose it” monthly purchase, which came with its own set of terms and restrictions. (No Player Studio items at one point.) This strikes me as the sort of option that seems like a good idea after a couple of hours in a conference room; what I call the “sensory deprivation chamber” decision. Seems fine until you show it to the first person who wasn’t in the room, who should immediately point out the state of the emperor’s casual wear.
Their so-called secondary reason, that people accruing Station Cash is a problem for SOE, still strikes me as the only business reason for this move, and thus more important than Smed made out. And I guess making people log in to collect once a month will slow down some people who just leave their accounts active but don’t play. It won’t stop obsessives like me… I log into LOTRO once a month when not active just to get my 500 Turbine Points… but it will serve to punish a class of people who give SOE money for nothing.
And it is interesting to see where SOE All Access has landed in pricing. It started out as Station Access, a $21.99 option, way back in 2004, jumping to $24.99 as time went on. Station Access peaked in price in 2007 when the price was jacked up to $29.99 a month. That made it a penny more expensive than just having subscriptions to two SOE games on the face of it, and you could widen that gap considerably with the 3, 6, or 12 month subscription options, which were discounted for individual games but not for Station Access. Complaints about the price change then didn’t seem to register with SOE.
Then, about two and a half years back, SOE renamed the package to SOE All Access and dropped the price to $19.99 a month, making it a good deal again for people who play multiple SOE games. Of course, in the age of Free to Play, $30 a month was not a tenable position to hold.
And now here we are, about to say farewell to individual subscriptions to SOE games as SOE All Access drops in price to $14.99 a month.
In the end, I think this could be SOE stepping into the future of PC online gaming. As Micosoft has their Xbox Live and PlayStation has… whatever it has… I own a PS3 and couldn’t tell you… so the PC online gaming market seems likely to move towards similar deals, where a monthly fee will give players access to bundles of games and benefits.
Actually, SOE lead on that, with Station Access back in 2004, then lost their way for a bit.
And I suspect we will see other companies that focus on online games follow suit. Blizzard already offers benefits across games when you pre-order or go for the collector’s edition of one of their titles. And one of my predictions for 2014 is that Blizz will give WoW subscribers some tangible benefit in Hearthstone. That could lead the way to a Blizzard-wide subscription plan that gave you access and benefits across their Battle.net titles.
How about you? SOE’s stumbles aside, do you think XBox-live like cross-catalog subscriptions are a coming thing in the PC online gaming world?
Addendum: This looks like it might be the topic of the day, so I’ll link out to others commenting on it.
Quote of the Day – WoW, Legacy Raids, and The Squish January 4, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Quote of the Day
There’s nothing at all wrong with going back and doing legacy raids and other content. The achievement system, cosmetic rewards and titles, and most recently transmogrification all serve to reward that playstyle. There’s also a lot to be said for just being able to revisit old locations, for the sake of nostalgia or getting to experience them for the first time, without needing to find a like-minded group. As Rygarius noted, we’re committed to making sure that we don’t disrupt players’ ability to engage in that gameplay.
Without getting into the math, our goal is to make sure that if Kael’thas’s Pyroblast does damage equal to 10% of your maximum health today, it will take off no more than 10% of your health post-squish. And if you kill Onyxia in 30 seconds today, you’ll be able to kill Onyxia in 30 seconds post-squish.
Watcher, on a forum question about soloing legacy content
I am not sure where I stand on this. On the one hand, it can feel a bit cheesy to go back and slam-dunk level 60 raids with your purple equipped level 90 character.
On the other hand, that cheesy feeling never stopped me!
Or our group. Roll on with the status quo I guess!
Looking Back at 2013 – Highs and Lows December 20, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, War Thunder, World of Warcraft.
Tags: EA, Rambling Friday, Turbine
This has become a regular end of the year feature here I guess, now that it is in its fourth year. Past entries, should you be bored and looking for something else to read, are here:
This list isn’t meant to be definitive in any way. Highs and lows are relative. My lows are certainly highs to somebody, and vise versa . This is more of a wash of impressions that I find myself left with at the end of the year. I am sure I will miss something important, even for more own narrow definition. Feel free to add or question in the comments or use what I say as fodder for your own blog posts.
The wall of bullet points beings.
Payment Model Wars
- F2P vs. Subscription gave us plenty of things to post and/or argue about.
- We are starting to get Western MMORPGs that were designed from the start to be F2P, which ought to give a better experience than conversions.
- The “free” part of F2P MMORPGs seem, in general, to be edging further into the “substantially free” zone.
- World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and… the one people seem to forget… Final Fantasy XIV still holding the fort for the subscription model. Not dead yet.
- WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online are determined to test if the subscription model is still valid for new games in this day and age.
- A lot of people think WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online are headed for a trouble by going the subscription route. F2P by fall.
- SWTOR failing at the subscription model still casts a long shadow, which plays into the line above.
- When somebody says an MMO is “free to play” that doesn’t tell me anything yet, beyond the idea that it probably doesn’t require a monthly subscription.
- The dichotomy of the two models still exists for me. I hate when a game brings up money almost constantly… nothing brings me “out” of the game like a financial calculation… but I won’t stay subscribed to a game for a day longer than I have to if I am not playing it. Or, to flip it the other way, I like not having a subscription, but I hate that the hand is always out for money even when I do opt for the “yes there is still a subscription” option in a F2P title. Or something.
- Subscription to F2P conversions still dominate the Western MMO F2P landscape. Even if you don’t think they carry the stink of failure, it is still tough to escape the before/after comparison, especially if the F2P model looks like a thinly veiled attempt to make you subscribe.
- Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn is probably the most interesting sounding MMO I am never going to play. Not buying a box and paying another monthly subscription.
- Asian MMOs no longer have an automatic “in” to the market by virtue of being free to play. Remember when Runes of Magic was a big deal? Remember when a $10 horse caused outrage? Dime a dozen complaint these days. The market is crowded enough that even their tiny cost structures cannot be sustained. Early entrants are still around… how Silk Road Online survives is one of the mysteries of the universe… but new titles seem to come and go quickly. I am not sure that is good for the industry overall. Or maybe it is.
- Every conversion from subscription to F2P includes an immediate press release about huge success… and then we never hear another word on the subject. I don’t expect weekly updates, but when you never mention something ever again, it sure seems like the peak came early on.
- The F2P store balance seems to be a tightrope walk… and some companies are working without a net.
- Woo hoo, Lord of the Rings Online moves a step closer to Mordor with the Helm’s Deep expansion!
- Middle-earth still has that Middle-earth charm.
- I made it THROUGH Moria during my latest vacation in Middle-earth. Now just two more expansions to get through and I will be caught up with all I have paid for.
- The change up of classes into a more role specific model seems to be a good thing.
- No repeat of the hobby horse idea.
- Yay… other Turbine games. Dungeons & Dragons Online and all calls routed through to Asheron’s number.
- Oh, hey, they have Macintosh versions of DDO and LOTRO. My daughter even tried DDO.
- As much as I love Middle-earth, LOTRO is starting to show its age. Moving to WoW after a summer of LOTRO was like realizing you’ve been driving with your parking brake on.
- Being just out of Moria, it doesn’t matter how nice the next LOTRO expansion is, I don’t need to buy it.
- Turbine seems to be rethinking the whole big expansion thing, with no such beast expected for 2014. How we get to Mordor… or even Gondor at this point… is unclear.
- Every time I come back to LOTRO, it feels like they have installed another “insert coin here” adjunct to the UI.
- Insta-level to the mid-game seems like a half baked idea, unless you think Moria is the best content in the game… and you already own Moria.
- Just waiting for Turbine to give in to the “lifetime subscribers are the problem” mob.
- DDO reminds you that it pre-dates LOTRO in look and feel. My daughter said it was confusing and ugly and went back to Minecraft.
- The return of Asheron’s Call 2 was the big Turbine announcement last year at this time… and not much else has been mentioned since.
- Infinite Crisis, Turbine’s run at the MOBA genre, sounds more like their financial situation pre-Warner. And it looks like a no show for 2013 at this point. Plus, really? Another MOBA? I am not sure what Turbine brings to the table on this.
Sony Online Entertainment
- Finally announced EverQuest Next as an MMO that might bring something new to the genre. The word “sandbox” has been thrown about liberally. There has been much excitement. This is perhaps the only new MMO I am looking forward to at this point.
- EverQuest Next Landmark, a subset of the tools being used to create EverQuest Next, will be available to players as a F2P title.
- SOE eased up on the restrictions on free players in EQII. One notch back on the “really, you should just subscribe to play” focus.
- EverQuest is still a live an going concern. It even got an expansion.
- SOE has actually made some progress getting themselves out of the discount Station Cash hole they dug for themselves with huge discounts up through last year.
- EverQuest Mac gets powered down. Its days were numbered, but it is still sad to see it go.
- EverQuest Next is way out in the future, and I am not convinced the “design by committee” thing that SOE is doing via the round table… even if is is all illusory… is the best of all possible options. Still, it beats their past practice of announcing something then going silent for a year.
- EverQuest Next… how is a F2P sandbox going to work? SOE has a horrible track record at pricing things in a way that puts the “micro” in “microtransaction.” If your minimum price is going to be $5.00, you might as well just take VISA up front.
- EverQuest Next Landmark is closer, but I have no desire to try it for free at this point, much less pay $100 to do so.
- PlanetSide 2 had so many problems this year. Aimbots, stability, performance… I stopped playing pretty quickly, but people I follow seem to be bemused about SOE’s progress with the game.
- I have grown so apart from EverQuest II that all I do when I log in is pay the rent on my house.
- EverQuest abides in its own form, but SOE seems to be really pushing it to the back burner, and you wouldn’t know there was a Progression Server thing still going the way it has been handled. I doubt we will see another such special server.
- Just waiting for SOE to “expire” Station Cash on unused accounts.
- EVE Online, still hanging in there on the subscription model, growing ever so slightly, and unique in so many ways. Ten years old and as strong as it has ever been.
- Two decent expansions this year, Odyssey and Rubicon, with some solid features and improvements in each.
- Giant space battles deciding the colors on the map!
- Does any gaming company running a live game do Dev blogs that approach what CCP produces?
- Hints at plans for brand new space frontiers in New Eden.
- Managed to stay away from controversy when it came to the direction the game is going. No more “greed is good” talk or other things that caused the Incarna revolt.
- Gave me a free copy of the collector’s edition.
- EVE Valkyrie for Occulus Rift sounds very exciting.
- Growth is oh so slow, and the question always arises about how many new accounts are just alts?
- It wouldn’t be CCP without some scandals! So we had SOMERBlink and Ishokune Scorpions, SOMERBlink at EVE Vegas, SOMERBlink and RMT loopholes, preferential treatment by CCP in general (which included SOMERBlink) and who gets what for free (which included some real crybaby attitudes at various points), Terms of Services hair splitting by CCP (which did NOT involve SOMERBlink!), and the usual CCP summer season of foot shooting. Really, the only thing we were missing was Mintchip accepting an Ishukone Scorpion from SOMERBlink, selling it for a PLEX in EVE, and then using that PLEX to pay some capsuleer to mow her parent’s lawn… while topless, wearing a monocle, and speaking entirely in quotes from Atlas Shrugged.
- PLEX continues to amaze and horrify people by turns. It remains a comically divisive aspect of the game.
- The defining issue for CSM8 seems to be the CSM minutes at this point. Those minutes had better be worth it. Still better than CSM7 though.
- Epic space battles have turned into epic node crashes lately. Does anybody think the drone assignment feature is a good thing at this point?
- A good portion of the interesting things that happen in EVE… and 100% of the CCP run events… happen while I am at work. I read about them online just like anybody not playing the game.
- After the war in Fountain, the deployment(s) to Curse have felt a little dry. I have spent more time moving to and fro than in actual fleets.
- I am still trying to click on the lower left corner of the screen to undock six months later. Old habits.
- The future “huge effort to build a jump gate” in order to open up new areas of space idea sounds vaguely like “huge effort to build a titan” from times gone by. Efforts will thus be limited to large entities and the huge effort will become manageable for those entities over time. Expect jump gate proliferation.
- DUST 514? Hello, is anybody there? *distant occasional gunshot*
- World of Dakrness? Lay offs at CCP Atlanta make that an even more distant possibility.
- WoW revenues: still laughing all the way to the bank.
- Returning to WoW this fall was like getting into my own bed made up with flannel sheets fresh out of the dryer on a cold winter’s night.
- The instance group returning to Azeroth has also revived our spirits and our time spent playing together.
- Blizz’s work on softening the walls between servers has actually done some good. The game feels alive still and I have been able to group cross realms with people I haven’t been able to play with since server splits ages ago.
- I am reasonably sure there are no NSA/CIA/FBI infiltrators in our guild.
- Warlods of Draenor and the return to the 10 level expansion. Sounds good to me so far.
- Mists of Pandaria, meanwhile, is pretty good. I find it fulfilling in a way that Cataclysm was not.
- Blizz actually seems primed for a very strong 2014. The money machine will continue to print.
- Hearthstone looks good enough to even interest me slightly, and the only card game I ever play is Gin Rummy.
- Diablo III Reaper of Souls expansion looks promising.
- The death of the Diablo III auction house is a winner in my book.
- StarCraft II has Legacy of the Void lined up as the third expansion.
- Heroes of the Storm sounds like it might be a viable thing. It is Blizzard’s chance to apply their refinement magic to the MOBA genre. If only they can find a name and stick with it.
- WoW Subscribers down from the peak of “over 12 million” in the quarter after Cataclysm shipped to 7.6 million at last report. Blizz can still say “more than you ever had” to most everybody, but that is a lot of subscribers gone. There are whole industries that would disappear if that many people walked away. And where is that subscriber number headed next?
- Long term profitability seems to have stifled innovation on the subscription model options front, even considering how slow Blizz is about change in general. Blizz just rolls along.
- Coming back to WoW reminds me that there still a number of things that Blizz hasn’t quite fixed over the years, stuff that almost every competitor has worked out by this point. Fodder for a blog post, coming soon-ish.
- All that cross-realm and combined server stuff isn’t going to stave off server merges forever unless they stem the subscriber bleed.
- A cash shop in-game? Here we go again. As a developer though, I think I am most offended by problems with the implementation.
- There isn’t a lot between now and Warlords of Draenor to keep long time WoW players going if they have finished up Mists of Pandaria. I am happy enough with WoD probably being 9 months out, but I am sure a lot of people are restless.
- Also on the “Blizzard remains slow front,” even removing a feature they freely admit was a mistake and ruined their game for a lot of people is taking a while to happen. The Diablo III auction house lives on into 2014.
- Is the Reaper of Souls expansion, reitemization, and removal of the auction house going to be enough to goose sales and play time for Diablo III? I cannot see myself going back to play, much less buying the expansion.
- I doubt we’ll see Heroes of the Storm go live next year, and I wouldn’t bet against at least one more revision of the name.
- Titan, the “next big thing” from Blizz post-WoW, remains a tiny dot on the horizon. Or is that just a mirage?
Other MMO Developers
- Arena Net has to have set some sort of record for content delivery in GuildWars 2, serving up some sort of new variation every two weeks for… how long now? Somebody tell the SWTOR team “that’s how it’s done.”
- Trion manages a pretty sharp F2P transition with Rift. They went all-in on it and their commitment to the model shows. The store is clean, bright, and filled to the brim with things to buy. Once the F2P launch settled down, Trion relauched Rift on Steam with new starter packs and such. The game remains the definitive alternate to WoW, polished and with plenty of content, even as F2P.
- Trion also pulled Trove out of nowhere.
- Cryptic and PWE entertainment seem pretty solid on F2P, delivering Neverwinter as a substantially free game that is both very well put together and provides a content generation system, the Foundry, that yields some excellent content. Easy to get into, low commitment, looks good, what is not to love?
- Path of Exile really scratched the Diablo II itch. Official heir to the Diablo II crown in my book.
- War Thunder, a title I set out to ignore, turns out to be decent and has low skill roles I can actually fulfill… and lots of cool planes to fly.
- Wargaming.net joined up accounts across their games, so your World of Tanks account is also your World of Warplanes account and shares currency and so on.
- SWTOR seems to have struck out on a new path with the Galactic Starfight update. But what does it portend?
- Shroud of the Avatar is a thing.
- There is a minor possibility that I might be interested in the idea of playing The Elder Scrolls Online.
- I am unable to understand how any but the most dedicated gamers can adequately handle and play through new content every two weeks in GuildWars 2. I get physically tired just reading about it. It feels like a lot of content just melting away, never to be seen again.
- Storm Legion remains uninspired for me. I want to like it a lot more than I actually do.
- The Rift F2P model feels too weak to me, like they gave away too much. I could see no reason to ever give them money again. I know, I complain when people ask for money, now I complain when people don’t ask for money. See my entry in the first section about a tight rope walk.
- Trove seems a little me-to at this stage of the game, with Minecraft already established and EverQuest Landmark showing up soon. Plus, if you don’t care about that kind of thing, another option isn’t really a big deal.
- Speaking of me-to, ArcheAge? Haven’t we seen the “Asian MMO comes West and flops” tale enough times already? Trion had better have some secret sauce for this one.
- Neverwinter never really clicked with me. There is lots of interesting stuff to see, but it never felt like I was in a world. It was more like an arcade where you lined up to run the Cloak Tower machine, then ran off to play the Dreadmines machine, and then maybe played orc hockey in the open area for a while.
- Path of Exile has “always online” problems similar to Diablo III. When you depend on the internet…
- War Thunder didn’t last all that long on my list. I managed to tourist up to level 5 for all nations, then wandered off.
- Wargaming.net still keeps regions separate, so I cannot play with my EVE corp mates without having another client/account just for Europe.
- World of Warplanes, a title I was determined to play… well… we shall speak no more of that one.
- Shroud of the Avatar is a thing in the sense that it ought to be worth looking at again in about a year.
- Seeing what is potentially on offer for 2014, as like as not I probably won’t play a new MMO next year. If it is just going to be the same game with different art, I might as well play the one I am most invested in.
- Pirates of the Burning Sea, cut loose from SOE, seems to be more adrift than ever.
- Warhammer Online goes to its inevitable fate.
Other Gaming and Vaguely Related Items
- Sony pledges a long life, new games, and ongoing support for those of us who own PS3s. And their track record with the PS2 seems to back up their statements.
- Pokemon X and Y actually looked interesting enough to get some interest in our household.
- I remain quite fond of my iPad.
- The used game scene remains, not that I participate. Good news for Game Stop, but also probably good news for the big publishers, since they have pretty much fessed up that the ability to trade in a game for store credit is probably boosting sales numbers beyond any perceived lost revenue from third party sales.
- Some interesting projects on Kickstarter in 2013.
- High speed internet is finally available in our home. Buying a game on Steam doesn’t mean waiting a day or two to play it.
- When 60 Minutes can run an NSA propaganda piece and call it news, it makes me think that game journalism isn’t all that bad. At least motivations are clear; everybody has to earn a living.
- Games? I only use the PS3 to watch Blu-Ray movies and stream Netflix at this point.
- Nintendo basically doesn’t support any of the platforms that I own any more. There will be nothing new under the sun for Wii or DS owners ever again, and I have no interest in buying a Wii U or a 3Ds. But I don’t plan to buy an Xbox One or a PS4 either. Good thing about the used market.
- The screens on my Nintendo DS Lite have gone all blurry, so I can’t even go back and finish up Pokemon Black. Oh, wait, let me put on my glasses. Damn tiny screens!
- I remain somewhat less enthusiastic about gaming on the iPad. Ticket to Ride remains my all time favorite, and board game translations seem like an excellent opportunity for the platform, yet I haven’t found many games I really like otherwise. And then there is pricing. EA has the most odious practice in that they will sell you a game and will then insist on running game interrupting ads when you try to play. Has made me swear to never give EA another nickel again ever. I find Candy Crush Saga to be a rare gem, a paragon of virtue and restraint compared to anything EA has to offer.
- I’ve been stuck on level 125 of Candy Crush Saga for like six weeks now. Still not giving them any money either, but for different reasons.
- Kickstarter remains a “pay and pray” option. You toss somebody some money and hope that it turns into something some day. I can see why some people shun the idea.
- Buy something on Steam? I have too many unplayed or underplayed titles already in my Steam library. Even Steam sales are a bit “meh” now.
- I still do not see the appeal of streaming. Except for a few rare cases where something special is happening, I’d rather play the game than watch somebody else play. And then I saw somebody live blogging somebody else live streaming and my head just about exploded. Stop the inanity.
- Runic Games appears to have burnt out creating Torchlight II and has punted on the Mac OS version, the MMORPG version, and hasn’t bothered to get dressed to leave the house for much of 2013 so far as I can tell.
- Microsoft, determined that there be a single version of Windows and that it run on all devices (q.v. Ballmer remains loyal to Mordor), gives people a tablet button interface for their desktop machines. When people won’t stop complaining about the missing “Start” menu, which MS trained people for years to depend on, they add it back in to Windows 8… only it just brings up the tablet button interface. Why Fucking Bother?
- Hey, I still post something nearly every damn day, don’t I?
- A lot more people visit the site, even after my purge from Google search returns, than I ever expected.
- I have a pretty decent account of my online gaming since 2006. I am particularly happy with the ongoing tales of the instance group.
- I have lots of pretty pictures on the site, which helps out when I lose stuff on my hard drive. I have no idea where all my Warhammer Online screen shots went.
- Quantity is not quality, and a lot of what I write is just for me. Plus, there are times when it is tough not to write “And we did another instance. Thousands of people have done it before. There were no surprises. Consider this milestone marked.” This has lead to what I might describe as an over-dependence on screen shots.
- The name of the blog becomes ever more accurate. I now write mostly about a 9 year old game and a 10 year old game, with an occasional look back at a 20 year old game.
- It is sometimes tough to find the old post I am looking for. The search option is primitive in the extreme.
- Really feel like the blog needs a new look after seven years, yet I am not fond of any of the WP.com options.
- WP.com has taken it upon themselves to break something about once a month by rolling new (and I would guess untested) code out to their customers without any announcement. Just this week the “more after the cut” option was broken for several hours.
- Self hosting seems slightly more attractive at this point, except for the hours of extra work, the need for a domain name, and the fear that I will find out just how many readers visit out of habit as they fall off the moment something changes.
And that is about all that oozed from my brain when pressed to come up with what happened in 2013. What else should be on the list?
LOTRO and the Latest Insta-Level Scheme December 13, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Cash Shop
As level focused MMORPGs age and expand and boost the level cap again and again, the gulf between the new player starting out and the old hands clustered at the level cap begins to seem like an insurmountable barrier. The levels problem. Many a new player has no doubt been lost, never to be seen again, in the attempt to cross the often lonely mid-game, which can be something like levels 20 through 80 and beyond these days, in order to reach an oasis of friends.
Various methods have been tried in order to… well, not to “fix” it, because that there is something wrong with most of the game when often some of the best bits are along the way to the level cap… but to alleviate the pain of somebody trying to catch up.
Companies have eased up on the experience slope so that you level up faster. They have tinkered with various sorts of mentoring, which generally bestows some sort of experience boost on the lower level player. Free to play games nearly always stock their cash shop with experience accelerators of various sorts in order to let those in search of higher levels move right along. Refer-a-friend programs can include some sort of leveling boost. EverQuest has featured that, as has World of Warcraft. Blizzard even added in the ability for the higher level player to “gift” levels to the person they referred… with some limitations… as part of their referral program.
And, after years of tinkering around with all that and more, several companies have finally come around and decided just to sell you a high level character.
This is, of course, controversial, and the game companies know it.
First out of the gate in the games I watch was EverQuest II, with its offer to sell you a boost to level 85. I thought that this was the most interesting case of moving to this sort of thing because you could argue that SOE has done as much as, if not more than, any other MMORPG in trying to bridge the gap between the pool of vets and new players. That was not enough though, and now you can buy a token in the cash shop for approximately $35… the general rate is a penny per Station Cash point, but if you bought some during one of the now departed 3x sales, your real world expenditure will be less… that will put you within 10 levels of the level 95 cap, which is close enough to group with anybody above you in level and still gain experience.
This actually sort-of works out okay with EQII. There is still the “too many damn skills” problem with going straight to 85, which isn’t handled very well in my opinion. And anybody who joins up and jumps to level 85 will, again in my opinion, miss a lot of the best content (biased as I am towards some of the original locations) while being dumped into one of the most awful, boring looking adventure areas in the game. Snow zones just don’t work for me in EQII. But overall, with mentoring and the chrono-whatcha-call-it thing that lets you play older content at level, the vast sea of content is still yours to explore if you so desire. In the end, it gives players an option and gives SOE something new to sell in the cash shop.
Then at BlizzCon Blizzard announced that, with the purchase of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, players would be given the option to boost one character up to level 90. Oddly, most of the enthusiasm I have heard for this has been from people who already have multiple level 90 characters. The idea of one more level 90 alt for somebody who has run the content multiple times seems to be a winner. And while this got a frosty response from some, it does solve a problem for Blizzard. We are now at a point where there are certainly far more former WoW players than there are current WoW player, probably several fold more.
Those former players represent a pretty big market opportunity. But how do you get them to come back when your lure is shiny new content that might be many levels above them? “Come back and play the stuff that made you quit, you’ll eventually get to some new stuff!” isn’t a very good approach. So now anybody who purchases Warlords of Draenor can play that content right away.
The solution is, as I said, not without detractors, but you can at least see the logic and how it solves a problem for Blizzard. I am not sure how they solve the “I don’t own Mists of Pandaria or some other expansion” issue. I suspect everybody who buys Draenor will end up getting all of that. But it puts a mass of potential players right on the starting line for next year’s expansion. (No sign of this being an item in the new cash shop yet, but you never know.)
Finally, this week, Turbine, after kicking the idea around for months, finally bit the bullet and announced their insta-level plan for Lord of the Rings Online. It is a limited time offer at the moment as Turbine tests the waters on this.
And time is not the only aspect of this that is limited. For 4,995 Turbine Points… which could be anywhere from $38 to $70 depending on how you purchased your points… gives you the following:
- Character boosted to level 50
- A set of level 50 gear
- 1 Gold piece
- An LIXP rune, worth enough XP to bring one LI to level 10
- 4 ranks of each virtue
- The Riding skill
- A Dusky Nimblefoot Goat
- A 25-stack of food that scales with your level
- A 25-stack of Morale and Power potions that scale with your level
- 5 +100% XP Boosts
- A single-use map to Rivendell
- 25 Mithril Coins
That is not an insubstantial pile of stuff. The issue for me, when I look at this, is I am not sure what problem it solves. Leaving aside my bias about some of the 1 to 50 content… I could (and have) run the Lone Lands and Evendim over and over again and be a happy person… the level cap with the latest expansion, Helm’s Deep, is 95. So, basically, this level boost puts you where?
Well, right into the first expansion, Mines of Moria, which you will note is NOT part of the insta-level package. So, aside from the troubles of figuring out how to play a character that has been boosted deep into its skill arc… now with archaic skill trees (my opinion of them anyway) to figure out as well… you have to put down more money just to continue advancing your character towards the latest content, which is still 40 levels away.
So SOE put you within reach of the latest content, Blizzard will put you on the doorstep of the latest content, and Turbine is planning to leave you adrift in the mid-game in what seems like the combination of all the complaints about level based character progression. Players will be too far in to learn their character class skill by skill yet still many levels (and several expansions to buy) away from any friends in the latest content.
What problem does this solve? I won’t trivialize the 1-50 game, it will take some work to get through it, but the work doesn’t stop when you pass into Moria. And who is the target audience for this boost? People who hate the first 300 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring?
And I realize that Turbine’s business model, which includes selling content like Mines of Moria, stands in the way here. I am just not sure that Moria is the optimal destination. If you were going to drop a friend into the middle of the game, is that were you would put them?
Anyway, this looks to be a test run for Turbine, with the limited duration. And I am sure they will sell a few to people who want an alt and who have, perhaps, seen too much of the Lone Lands… as if that were possible. Pengail escort quest forever!
There have been other reactions to this around the blogesphere, none of which have been particularly positive on the plan. Further reading if you are interested:
What do you think about Turbine’s plan, or the idea of insta-levels in general?
Tags: Prophecies of a Great Plague, RMT, WoW Shop
Well, that is a corner turned. Blizzard has followed the rest of the industry and put a cash shop directly in the game.
While they have sold special mounts and pets for World of Warcraft for some time, there was always an out-of-game aspect to them. You might see them advertised on the launcher, but if you wanted to buy one you had to wander over to the Blizzard store. You certainly didn’t see ads or pricing or a store front actually in the game.
It is there now.
Sure, it is just a tiny little button down there between the dungeon journal and the game menu/connection status buttons.
But it opens up a store front.
And there it is, real world money in Azeroth.
I suppose it is something that they did not also introduce an RMT currency as well. Baby steps down that path I guess, because I hardly think they are done on the in-store shopping front. I doubt Blizzard would intend for the store only to sell pets and mounts and then leave a line item like “consumables” in the screen shots for the official store announcement.
Now, the sky isn’t falling, the end of the world is not at hand, and World of Warcraft isn’t going to go free-to-play with the next patch. But you can hardly see something like this happen without wondering where it is going. So I am marking the date when the boundary was crossed, when you could buy things in World of Warcraft for real world cash.
And where do you think this will end up?
Addendum: After a bit of experimentation, I will add the following:
You can turn off the store interface if your account has parental controls applied to it. By default the store appears to be off with parental controls. I happened to have parental controls turned on with my account to ensure that RealID was, and remained, off. When off, the button (which is tiny to start with) is grayed out and informs you that it has been turned off via parental controls.
The store check-out interface makes you enter your password, but then uses what it considers to be the default credit card for your account. For my account, that happened to be an expired card that I probably ought to remove, but never got around to killing off. The transaction stopped there, as there is no way to select an alternate payment method.
The store failing to check out seems capable of messing up the game client. A friend of mine was also trying out the store and reported that she had to eventually exit the client and log back in after a failed transaction. In-game assets… NPCs, critters, and her own mount… started disappearing from the game.