Category Archives: Diablo III

A Vaguely Dissatisfying BlizzCon… For Me

If I were to take at random a set of video game genres and stack rank them from those that interest me most to those that interest me least, it might look a little something like this:

  • MMORPG
  • Action RPG
  • RTS
  • Online CCG
  • MOBA
  • FPS

That sort of defines what I am looking for from one particular company.  I realize that is just me, but that is the perspective I have.

So when one particular company runs their big convention and their priority list is pretty much that list turned upside down, well… what are you going to do?

And such was BlizzCon.

Before it hit, I wrote up my dreams and desires about what might be said.  This was the way it played out viewed through the lens of my own expectations and perceptions.

World of Warcraft

They keynote opened up talking about WoW.  Here we were, 10 years down the road from the launch of Blizzard’s biggest game, and 20 years gone from the launch of the Warcraft franchise with the first of the RTS titles, Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans.

A decade of this

10 Years of Azeroth as MMO

There was lots of cheering and some nostalgia and then they packed that all away in a box and ignored Azeroth for the rest of BlizzCon.

Yes, there were two WoW panels.  One was pretty much an “in case you missed it” refresher course in things already widely discussed about the upcoming expansion and 6.0 patch.  I mean, we’d been playing with 6.0 for a couple weeks at this point, so this was more by way of “yes, you discovered what we changed, and this is why we did it” sort of thing.  And then there was the Q&A panel, which I haven’t watched yet, and I am not sure that I will.  I tend to find audience Q&A painful to watch, though I have to admit that WoW nerds have been some of the more polite, literate, and to the point in their questioners in past years, so I should probably give it a shot, or at least read the transcription.

There was also a panel about the Warcraft movie, which I enjoyed.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for how the story was being presented, 50% human and 50% orc perspective.  In fact, there was a lot of enthusiasm about most things, including the fact that key members of the production team are World of Warcraft fans.  But, being something of a plug for the movie, nobody had any business being anything but enthusiastic on that stage.  And, like so many things Blizzard does, they were talking at BlizzCon about something more than a year out.  Coming to theaters in March of 2016.

There was also the premiere of the Looking for Group documentary about WoW, which I haven’t gotten to yet, but it is up on YouTube when I have the time.

So I guess I got the answer to the big question, which was, “What will Blizzard talk about when it comes to WoW, what with the next expansion less than a week off?”  The answer was that Blizzard decided to talk about WoW as little as possible.  Which, I have to say, if you’re all about WoW relative to their other titles, was a bit of a pill.  There was nothing forward looking about WoW.  There was no vague plan to reassure player that they wouldn’t be treated to another 13 month content drought, nothing to indicate that expansions wouldn’t continue to drop at the current rate of one every couple of years, and certainly no mention whatsoever of what the next expansion might be.  Nothing was said that might distract from this week’s Warlords of Draenor launch, which mostly meant saying nothing at all. I think I WoW got more screen time outside of BlizzCon than in it, as commercials were running on TV and at the movies.  My wife and I saw Interstellar on Saturday and there was a Warlords of Draenor ad in with the trailers.

But fuck it, we get the expansion in a couple days, that ought to be enough, right?  I’ll be happy.  Hell, I was happy still pottering around and cleaning stuff up in preparation for the expansion.

I did get one reminder of the state of things during the keynote.  During the talk about the origins of Warcraft and how it got to where it is today, there was a clear statement about how World of Warcraft was the evolution of the franchise.  Bascially, WoW is Warcraft IV, and we are unlikely to ever see Azeroth done as an RTS again.

Diablo III

On the Diablo franchise front, things were about the same as World of Warcraft, only without a movie or a significant anniversary to talk about, and there had already been an expansion this year.  So basically some “Hey, isn’t Diablo III doing well!” and then off to other topics.  There was nothing new.  So I guess it is a good thing I am more of a WoW fan or I might be feeling really left out.

StarCraft

The one and only remaining RTS franchise at Blizzard finally got some news about the Legacy of the Void expansion.  The whole thing has been held up in an effort to really try to capture the Protoss point of view or some such.  And, honestly, they didn’t give a release date or anything, so we are probably looking at November/December of 2015 at the earliest.

But they said “My life for Aiur!” a lot on stage.

And they mentioned that StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void would be a stand-alone expansion, so you wouldn’t have to purchase StarCraft II and the Heart of the Swarm expansion in order to play it.  They also announced a new cooperative play mode, where two players control the same base.  A friend of mine was excited about this feature, as he and his wife like to play StarCraft II.  However, I do wonder if attempting to control the same set of units and resources will bring them closer or become one of those things, like trying to assemble Ikea furniture together, than can really test a relationship.  We shall see, whenever it ships.

Hearthstone

Blizzard’s collectible card game got plenty of attention.  It will be coming to the Android platform in early 2015 and its first expansion, Gnomes vs. Goblins is also headed our way in December, dropping 120 new cards into the mix and no doubt really kicking off a Magic: The Gathering-like arms race when it comes to cards.  Only buying in will keep you competitive.  Since I have played exactly enough Hearthstone to get the Hearthsteed in WoW, this all sort of washed over me.

Heroes of the Storm

I have to admit that Heroes of the Storm looked good.  My first thought, as they were showing demos, was that you could make a really good Warcraft IV on that engine, forgetting already what I mentioned above on that topic.  Since we’re getting down to the lowest rungs of my hierarchy, it is pretty safe to say that MOBAs are not my thing, for the same reason that battlegrounds aren’t my thing in WoW.  I do not particularly enjoy fighting the same battle over and over again.  I had a League of Legends account, but I found the game tedious after a couple of matches and my user name has long since been recycled and returned to the pool, though I am sure they are still counting me on the roll of total registered users.

Heroes of the Storm, in addition to looking good, has the advantage of pulling heroes I know from Blizzard lore.  But is that enough to make me play it?  Anyway, there is a semi-solid date for closed beta (December) and some hand waving about dates beyond that.  Stay tuned I guess.

Overwatch

This was the new hotness for Blizzard, their first new IP since… StarCraft?  It is a first person shooter.  Everybody stared in amazement for a moment at Overwatch

Look, a new thing!

Look, a new thing!

…and then collectively said, “Team Fortress 2.”

Well, everybody but me.  I was stuck thinking, “Wait, wasn’t “Overwatch” from Half-Life 2?

They run Earth, right?

They run Earth, right?

Still, reductio ad valvium or some such.

And, yes, I think the art style and the fact that Blizzard was piling into the FPS arena in a big way made most people jump straight to the idea that Blizzard is ripping off Valve to flesh out its game lineup.  It was certainly an easy jump to make on the surface.

However, I think Blizzard is going for something a bit different here, at least as far as I could read.  Granted, I am long beyond my FPS days and if you check my Steam profile you will see that I have downloaded Team Fortress 2 but have played less than an hour of it.  Shooters and the quick reactions required to be anything more than a target are in my past.  But TF2 feels like a classic FPS game with its modes and classes.  The whole thing is streamlined, but we’ve seen the types before.

With Overwatch, Blizzard seems to be going less for the classic FPS and more for something like a First Person Shooter MOBA.  FPSMOBA?  With what I heard… six players per team, specific scenarios, more potential heroes to play than slots on a team… it sounds more like a mix-and-match special teams game.  And, as such, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up financing itself in the MOBA style by being free to play but then selling the latest overpowered heroes, so that anybody wishing to stay competitive feels they have to buy in.

Or maybe I mis-read the whole thing.  I have to admit that between the big new game being a shooter and everybody and their brother saying, “TF2 clone!” my eyes began to glaze over and I went back to actually playing video games rather than watching people talk about them.

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

That is a saying from the old days of NASCAR, back when they drove cars that at least started their lives on the same factory floor as the ones sold at the dealer showroom.  Back then, a marquee that won races could look forward to a boost in sales and the various car companies would produce special models just to help them dominate on the track. (See: Galaxie 500, Torino Talladega, or Superbird)

I bring this up because I was a bit taken aback at how much of the BlizzCon coverage was devoted esports.  Three of the BlizzCon video streams were pretty much devoted to nothing else,  and the other two spent some time there as well, to the point that panels felt few and far between relative to watching other people play video games.  That is not my thing at all.  Like real world sports, I can watch for a while, but I tend to want to go and do something else… like actually play video games.  But there are plenty of people who seem to enjoy it and who are selling… or in many cases overselling… how popular it is.

So I started to ask myself if games like League of Legends are popular and thus become esports, or if games become popular because they get pushed as esports.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I think at this point we can divine what Blizzard thinks.  Just about every game they have now has some esports aspect, from the WoW arena to Heroes of the Storm, with Overwatch looking to be focused on the esports thing as well.  Diablo III, with only a seasonal ladder, seems to be the odd man out, so I suppose an early prediction for next BlizzCon is a change to that.  Blizzard seems to be convinced that being an esport, or at least a popular esport, drives sales.  Sell on Monday.

Which I suppose is fine, so long as they don’t leave their WoW players high and dry for another long stretch.  We shall see.

Anyway, BlizzCon has passed, leaving not much of a ripple for me.  I will have to console myself with a brand new expansion come Thursday, and all the last minute tasks I am suddenly feeling compelled to finish before then.  I played little else aside from WoW all weekend, a situation unlikely to change during the near future.

WoW Subscriptions Drop by 800K, But the Money Keeps Rolling In

Activision-Blizzard got out in front of the press today to talk about quarterly results.

ActiBlizz450

In an unsurprising turn of events, World of Warcraft subscriptions dropped from 7.6 million in Q1 to 6.8 million in Q2 of 2014 as the long wait for Warlords of Draenor continued.  The last patch, Siege of Orgrimmar, is going to be celebrating its anniversary soon.

The availability of the WoD pre-purchase and the immediately available insta-90 boost for a single character did not hold the line on subscription front as much as I thought it would.  My working theory was, “Who pre-purchases and expansion then unsubscribes from a game?”

Or maybe the pre-purchase and insta-boost did help.  The company said that most of their subscription losses were in Asia.  Specifically:

As of June 30, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with approximately 6.8 million subscribers. There was a decline in subscribers quarter over quarter, which was disproportionately concentrated in the East and was similar to the seasonal decline experienced during the second quarter of 2012, prior to the launch of the most recent expansion later that year.

But then they always seem to point to Asia when there are losses, to the point that I wonder if there are any customers left there.  But there was no pre-purchase over there.  And Activision-Blizzard did bring in $658 million for the quarter, up $50 million from the same period last year, with a record 73% of those dollars coming in via digital sources.  That is a lot of people buying the Diablo III expansion, digital versions of the latest Call of Duty, and the Warlords of Draenor pre-purchase, which topped the 1.5 million mark.  That is about $75 million in the bank for Blizzard and so far they can only give us a date for when they will tell us the date the expansion will likely release.

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Now the question will be how will the subscriber base fare with Warlords of Draenor still clearly in the fourth quarter of this year.  It has been a long summer and while the beta will no doubt spark some interest, it will likely take something more to hold the line, much less boost numbers.

WoW Subscriptions Dip to 7.6 Million Under the Weight of Wait

Yesterday Activision-Blizzard did their quarterly earnings call.  The recording for it, plus the slide deck, are available here.

ActiBlizz450

The overall message was that revenue was less than last year, but better than projected.  Three of the five “Strong Product Performance” bullet points in the opening were for World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Hearthstone, followed by Skylanders and Call of Duty.  The main future outlook for the Activision side of the house is on Bungie’s Destiny, about which huge dollar numbers are being thrown about, both in terms of sales projections and development costs.  Activision is betting heavily on a Halo-like success here.  It is slated for launch on the 15th anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast launch, so it has that mojo going for it.

The Blizzard slide ran down four of the key products in their portfolio.

Blizzard Q1 2014 Slide

Blizzard Q1 2014 Slide

On the WoW front, subscriptions dipped from 7.8 million to 7.6 million, which is a fairly modest change given some of the past “would kill any other MMO franchise” sized drops.  I was wondering back in February, when the numbers were last announced as going up from 7.6 million to 7.8 million, if Blizzard getting a Warlords of Draenor pre-order out in March might help support subscription numbers.  I guess, maybe, that it might have.  But now a million people have bought the pre-order, have their insta-90s, and… now what?  I expect that we will see a more significant dip for Q2 and Q3 unless Blizzard has a surprise to spark interest in the game.

The forward looking statement about the Warlords of Draenor launch being in the second half of 2014 seems a bit disingenuous after Blizzard has already put the date in the fall, heavily emphasizing that Fall lasts until December 20th.  Still, I am sure somebody out there will read this and think it might mean an earlier launch.  Given that we’re still in the “soon” phase for alpha, I find no reason to think the WoD is being pulled in.

Blizzard itself has been busy telling people about the changes coming for the 6.0 pre-WoD patch… a gating item for the expansion… and how to get tickets for BlizzCon, which will no doubt sell out in the first few minutes of availability.

Otherwise, Diablo III was praised for launching a successful expansion.  Hearthstone was noted as a new launch, but is too new to have had any real financial impact as yet.  And then Heroes of the Storm was pointed out as an upcoming title, currently in limited alpha.  No mention of StarCraft II and the Legacy of the Void expansion, which has no target date right now.  Of course, we just got Heart of the Swarm last year, putting the SC2 expansion cycle on something close to a 3 year clock.  So, it could be worse for WoW players.

And so the world turns.

Friday Morning Blizzard Roundup

It is Friday and Blizzard has announced a bunch of things this week, wisely waiting until after April Fools day. (Unlike CCP, which did a Dev Post on drones and Summer expansion forum posts on mining ships and Nosferatu upgrades on April 1st just to torment us. I am still not convinced they are real.)

Several of the Blizz are worth noting, but I am not sure there is a full blog post in any single one yet, so I figured I would just lump them all together.

Reaper of Souls Sales

Blizz reported that Reaper of Souls, the Diablo III expansion, shipped/sold over 2.7 million copies in the first 24 hours after going on sale.  They sold a bunch as pre-orders, but were only able to ship… well, unlock… and recognize revenue on last week.

I am not sure how to parse that number.

It is surely a big number, and probably makes Reaper of Souls one of the top sellers for March, even adding in all comparable platforms.  Go PC gaming.  That number beats The Burning Crusade, which managed 2.4 million copies on the first day.

But with an installed base of at least 12 million players on the PC for a game that has been out for nearly two years, that sounds a little shy of a “hopes and dreams” number for Blizz.  They will still be pushing a wheelbarrow of money to the bank, but they were probably planning to make a few trips.

Did the rough start or always online kill off interest in the game?  Or are a lot of us still playing fresh characters through the original game to soak in the full “Loot 2.0″ experience?

The press release says that the expansion “breathes new life into Sancturary,” I am just wondering how much life.

Warlords of Draenor Alpha

Nobody out there is still holding out hope for a late spring/early summer release for this expansion, right?  We’ve all moved this to our “things to do over Christmas” list, haven’t we?

Anyway, Blizz said that the expansion is now in Alpha, which is no doubt a poke in the eye for those who were all ready for the beta announcement.  For those hoping for an early Fall release, Eldacar tweeted a graph showing the time from “Friends & Family Alpha” (are we even there yet?) to release for past WoW expansions.

F&F Alpha to Release

F&F Alpha to Release

The average is 6.6 months, which puts us nearly into November… if WoD is average and if we are at the friends & family start point.  So it is possible we’ll being playing on Thanksgiving… maybe even Canadian Thanksgiving… but Halloween will likely be free of such distractions.

And, as always…

Warlords of Draenor Patch Note Fun

Lest you think we’ll be bored waiting for Warlords of Draenor, Blizz has also published the first Alpha Patch Notes for the release, so that the hardcore fans can start panicking and complaining right now.

There is a lot to take in.  Even the TL:DR summary is 17 bullets long.  I have to spend some time digesting that.  But I can already see items in the summary that will make people run around screaming as though their hair is on fire.  This should be fun. (Is it really a return to Vanilla 1.0?)

The random perks thing sounds interesting.

And one key take away appears to be that the promised/threatened stat squish probably isn’t coming until the big pre-expansion patch.

Chat in the Battle.net Launcher

Blizzard also updated the Battle.net launcher this week.  I am not sure how widespread it is yet.  I got it when I downloaded Hearthstone, but not sure if it has been pushed to everybody.

But now, in addition to being able to see all of your online Battle Tag and RealID friends in the launcher, you can now chat with them as well.

So I’ll just add that to Steam, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Skype, Jabber, Microsoft Lync, Raptr, TeamSpeak, Mumble, and RaidCall as another possible way people can try and chat with me while I am AFK.

I think I finally stopped logging into AOL Messenger.  You can no longer chat with me there.  And ICQ.  I think I gave up on that at last.

Did I ever tell you I had a five digit ICQ number?  True story.

April Fools Forever

Blizzard put up a page that lists out all of their major web site April Fools jokes since 1999.  Call The April Fools Archive, you can go back and find some of their best stuff.  I love when a company takes the time to preserve and present things like this.  I wish SOE would take note here, as they seem to toss things down the memory hole on a regular basis.

Still, not everything is on Blizzard’s list.  I though the funniest thing this year was the fake WoW 6.0 Patch Notes.  It is one of those things that is for the community as it pokes straight at contentious items with a laugh.

 

March in Review

The Site

WordPress.com, ever fodder for for this section of the monthly round up, popped up something amusing this month.

Leet?

Leet?

We all love the number 1337 right, being “leet” in “leet speak” and all that.  But the pop-up does make me wonder a bit.  I am close to 3,200 posts here, but only 1,337 were likeable?  Okay, the whole “like” button thing didn’t show up here at WordPress.com until quite a while after I had started blogging, but still.  If it were not for C.T. Murphy, I wouldn’t even have 1,337.

Meanwhile, on my “other” blog, EVE Online Pictures, WordPress.com congratulated me on having 500 posts.

500! It's a round number!

500! It’s a round number!

Which confused me, because I have nearly 800 posts total over there.  However, I started posting under a different nom de plume when I launched the blog.   It was done for dubious reasons.  That whole story is here.  So what this really meant was that I changed over to just posting as me, Wilhelm Arcturus, 500 or so posts ago.

And, finally, I applied for official EVE Online community fan site status for EVE Online Pictures, and it was accepted… which shows you just how low the bar is for that sort of thing. (I decided to give it a shot after reading one of many posts on monetizing blogs.)

Between my Italian pals! Ciao!

Between my Italian pals! Ciao!

While that lead to a very minor boost in traffic, the big thing is that my main account is now a “fan site account” which means it is free so long as I keep the site active and fill out a form every few months.  The main change for me was having to put up a couple of legal disclaimers, which was no big deal.  The impact here is that I will likely remain subscribed to EVE Online for the foreseeable future, as keeping the other blog going doesn’t require a ton of effort. (And I got a pile of pictures for the site this month.)

So you can consider me bought and paid for by CCP, but I doubt it will change what I write here in the slightest.  After all, this isn’t the fan site, the other one is.

One Year Ago

Dave Georgeson of SOE said MMOs should never die. A noble sentiment at the time, it rings a bit hollow a year and five SOE MMO closure announcements later.  Business is business.

I got a seven day pass to Azeroth from Blizzard.  It was nice.  I had some fun, but I wasn’t ready to go back full time yet.

Meanwhile, Blizzard was saying they were blindsided by the popularity of the auction house in Diablo III.  They were nearly a year late on that revelation.

On a similar theme, EA launched a new version of SimCity, pretty much ignoring the obvious expectations the franchise comes with.  I could only wonder if they learned anything from their efforts.

The instance group was doing some Rift content as a four player group.  This was the time of our long hiatus, though we got a full group now and again.  And when it was just the three of us, we ended up playing Neverwinter Nights 2 instead.

In EVE Online we were chasing around Deklein, flying the Tech Fleet doctrine, and bagging a carrier or two.

EON Magazine was closing its doors, marking the end of an era in EVE Online.

EverQuest hit its 14 year anniversary, and there was some talk about the camera view’s influence on the game’s popularity.

I was still playing World of Tanks and had hit the 2,000 battle mark.  I was out there with the KV-3 and the ARL 44.

I finished up all the things in Wayfaerer Foothills, which sort of ended my time in Guild Wars 2.

Then there was the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter campaign, which seemed more marketing tool than funding effort, and which hit its number in 11 days.  Still, Lord British felt the need to stir the pot by declaring most game designers suck… and are lazy… and are not as good as him.  Then he claimed he was taken out of context and not just saying things for cheap publicity.  As the month closed, his Kickstarter was wrapping up, but Camelot Unchained was coming.

It was announced that Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings was getting updated to run on modern machines with better graphics.  That set me on five other older games that I wished would get a similar revamp, which I think was more useful than just declaring that game developers need to innovate.

Finally, I was looking for input on some actual, real world things.

Five Years Ago

In March 2009 we were excited about Pokemon Platinum around our house, although we weren’t really finished with Pokemon Diamond yet.

I spent a day up at GDC in San Francisco.

In WoW we finished up a short hiatus and started back in at the SteamVault.  My daughter was tearing up Warsong Gulch.  Meanwhile, the Lich King seemed to have laid a curse on my new video card.  Nothing I did ever seemed to change this issue, though it did seem to go away eventually.

In EVE Online, Apocrypha came out, and with it the classic graphics were swept away.  Adam though, was making his own adventures in New Eden.  Oh, and I bought a freighter.

Somebody tried to put together a list of the Ten Most Important MMORPGs.  Like all such list, this one started the comments rolling.

It was launch day and I was already complaining about Runes of Magic… well, about the patcher in any case.

I finished up what was the last book of the Wheel of Time series.

The EverQuest 10th anniversary just wasn’t evoking the level of nostalgia in me that I thought it would.

And we had to say goodbye to an old friend and family member.  The picture my daughter drew is still up on the wall.  It still draws the occasional tear later in the evenings when people are tired and a bit more emotionally fragile.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in March

You can tell when I have written nothing exciting all month, some old nuts and bolts post rises to the top thanks to Google.

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  3. Warlords of Draenor to be a $50 Expansion? And Something About Insta-90s
  4. Picking My 15 Most Influential Games
  5. Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor
  6. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  7. Show Me The Planets Contest Results
  8. Report from New Tristram
  9. How Blizzard Got Me to Play Hearthstone
  10. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  11. The Insta-90 Choice is… Death Knight
  12. CCP – Losing Money and Getting Closer to Sony

Search Terms of the Month

that moment when a ex friend still manages to steal your beer
[That pretty much cements the ex-friend status]

is there aplace where some one can get donated plex for eve
[I’m not sure that is how it works.]

how did the lego universe story end
[Quietly]

Age of Kings

Our floating Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings group managed to get in a few matches over the course of the month, including our disastrous encounter with actual, real people.  The question is whether we will carry on.  Player against the computer gets dull fast, playing against each other remains imbalanced, and playing against live people… is a challenge mostly confined to seeing how much we can slow down the inevitable steam roller.  We might need a different game.  Maybe something more in the turn-base strategy genre, playable by four people.  Ideas?

Diablo III

Loot 2.0 and the coming of the Reaper of Souls expansion for Diablo III revived some interest around the game.  I rolled up a new barbarian… can you used the term “rolled up” when your only options at start are name and sex?  Anyway,  went out and played most of the way through Act III and found the game much improved for the effort.  However, I didn’t run out and buy Reaper of Souls, or even finish Act III.  Even at my most engaged, the game never got higher than second place in my mental “what do I want to play?” list, where I barely play the third place entry and fourth is lucky if I launch the game.  Still, maybe at some point.  The expansion sounds exciting.

EVE Online

EVE Online spent most of the month sitting in that fourth place position, as reference above.  There is no real war going on.  We’re back to cloaky campers in the systems I might rat in just to earn some ISK.  I have ships scattered all over the game that I should corral and bring back to staging systems, something that can be an adventure when I am in the mood, but which has just seemed like work of late.  And our corp, which hasn’t kicked me out for idleness yet, has gone through a leadership change.  Gaff is out.  And with that change, the “more POS towers!” faction is running the show.  We had a corp day to mine ice, which I attended.  The op was to gather ice to fuel our towers, and most of the talk was about where to get the rest of the ice we’ll need to fuel our towers.  Because we have a lot of towers.  Because, towers.

I did find out that one of the reasons things have been so quiet is that strat ops are no longer getting rebroadcast from Goon coms to our own.  So if I want strat ops, and that is pretty much all I want, I have to log into their coms, not ours… which is not a big deal, as I am on their coms most of the time anyway.  If I had actually bothered to post something from my SA forum account in the last six years, I’d consider just applying to Goonswarm to cut out the middle man.

World of Warcraft

Azeroth still looms large in my daily gaming, in part because I am on the auction house and daily quest treadmill.  That isn’t a bad thing.  I have a set of goals which keep me coming back.  It is when I have no goals that these sorts of things become drudgery.  The guild remains active over the weekends.  Gaff, no longer worried about running a corp in EVE Online, has joined us and brought along a friend.  So they are diving into Pandaria and doing all the usual alt-a-go-go routine.  The guild is lively enough that we’ll get to level 25 before summer I am sure.  The instance group also has enough content ahead to get to summer and our usual hiatus.  What will happen come the fall if the launch date for Warlords of Draenor is close to the first day of Winter?  I couldn’t tell you.

Coming Up

The Elder Scrolls Online launches this week.  The head start kicked off yesterday, mere mortals to be allowed in by the end of the week.  I am not buying the game as yet, but I will mark the launch date.  Have to get that into the “one year ago” and “five years ago” system.

I have a post coming up this week about new hardware and a new game I have been playing.  We’ll get to that on Wednesday I think.

The instance group carries on, World of Warcraft remains a thing.  EVE Online, likewise, remains on my list.  Diablo III… we shall see.  It has fallen into fourth place for now.  Or maybe lower.  I didn’t play it at all over the past weekend.

And then there is tomorrow, when we get to sort out the obligatory from the inventive.  I have nothing planned, so I will probably just point at others.

Diablo III – Reaper of Souls Goes Live

The day has come, the Diablo III expansion, Reaper of Souls, has launched.  Death is here, or so they tell me.

ReaperDeathIsHere

It had the big midnight launch, like so many past Blizzard games and expansions.  And I am not buying it.

Well, not today at least.

I have been enjoying Diablo III since the 2.0 version dropped.  The changes improved the game for me a great deal.  I am happy with that, and I do not miss the auction house one bit.

I also like a lot of what the expansion has to offer.

Reaper of Souls info

Reaper of Souls info

But I am still playing through the main campaign.  While the prospect of a 100% experience bonus weekend was somewhat enticing… that was there last minute, pre-expansion hook… and I would like to be level 60 just to have all the skills and such unlocked before I hit the expansion… other games came first for most of the last week.  Diablo III isn’t at the top of the list, so I play it when I am done with other things.  World of Warcraft still has the top spot, so I get to Diablo III when I am done playing with my daughter, or the instance group, or Gaff, or doing more of  ‘Operation Mounts & Bags’ with Earl.

I did find some play time… I had a big chunk during our EVE Online corp meeting, though I had to play with the sound off so as not to interrupt tired jokes and whining… and managed to get well into Act III and up to level 46.  I got past Ghom, the Lord of Gluttony, and into the fields before Bastion’s Keep.

Ghom is just gross

Ghom is just gross

Loot drops have also continued to keep the game interesting.  When you get something epic, it is time to stop and consider how you are playing your character.  I have respec’d for a good two handed weapon in the past.  In Act III I got an epic one handed spear that made me go back to spear and shield mode.

Arreat

Arreat’s Law

Not only is it a powerful weapon, but the model for it looks really good and the way my barbarian wields and strikes with it sells it in a big way.  Plus, it has a pulsing enchant effect on it that I would pay a lot of gold to have in WoW.

But I am still in Act III all the same, maybe two thirds of the way through at this point.  And there is still Act IV to face.  Once I am done with that I will probably look into Reaper of Souls.  But for now I am happy with what I have.

Diablo III Auction House, Going Once, Going Twice…

Gone.

Today’s Diablo III patch is set to pull the auction house out of the game.  There is, of course, a FAQ for this.

Look out

Look out

Some are building this up as a really big deal.  And maybe it is.

The combination of the auction house and the questionable itemization of the game led to a situation where the auction house got out of hand, much to Blizzard’s surprise.  Or so they claim.  It seemed to me that the itemization was going to drive people to the auction house almost immediately after launch.  Others were saying it in beta.  But we all came with the outsider’s point of view, and I have been in enough organizations where the prism of focus has distorted our view of the world as to be unable to see the oncoming train.

And the quote in that link above points to what Blizzard’s goal, which was to control/eliminate third party sales of game items and currency.

Diablo II Shop

Maybe the last time I use this graphic

People who use “Legit” in their site names are clearly evil. *cough*

And a noble goal that was, given that such third parties often end up causing problems for the game.  It even appeared to work.  Pity about the hyper-inflation.  When your game is compared to Weimar Germany, it is never a good thing.  That wasn’t helped by a bug that let people create gold out of thin air.

So, after much consideration, Blizzard came up with a plan.  As part of their shipping Diablo III for consoles, they redid the itemization and did not include an auction house.   When that seemed to go well, they moved to roll those changes into the PC version of the game as part of their ramp up to the Reaper of Souls expansion.

At the end of February we got Diablo III version 2.0, which included a number of changes.

Splash Screen of 2.0 Features

2.0 Features

Itemization… or Loot 2.0…  was clearly the most important, and it looks good so far.  I have not been back to the auction house… nor have I felt any need to go there… since we got this.  I am also pleased with the change in difficulty levels.  Being able to go straight to Hard mode was good.

Today we say farewell to the auction house.  Whether you loved it or hated it, it is now in the past.

And in a week we get the Reaper of Souls expansion.  Sales figures on that will be the test for these changes.  When you just sell the box… and Diablo III sold very well… and are not worried about subscriptions of cash shop sales, your work is pretty much done.  You want to support the game, but as sales taper off, there is little financial motive to make big changes.  Unless, of course, you want to sell an expansion.

People have been coming back to Diablo III to check out the 2.0 changes.  And things have looked pretty good.  But sales of the Reaper of Souls expansion will be the referendum on the whole thing.  Diablo III sold 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours (a number which I am guessing counts the million World of Warcraft subscribers who got the game for “free” by committing to a year long subscription) and 12 million copies in the first year. (Which also points out how important the PC platform is to this game.  XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions came out well after the 12 million mark, and the last quarterly report pegged Diablo III sales as reaching 15 million units.)

So this will be something of a referendum on the game and its changes.  If Blizzard cannot move a couple million copies next week… if they don’t have a press release out about sales… that won’t be a good thing.

I am still torn on the expansion.  I was leaning towards getting it, thinking that at my rate of progress I would be ready to jump right into a brand new Act V at about the time it went live.  And then my Diablo III play time got interrupted with one of those “always online” issues again.

Latency - Smaller is Better

Latency – Smaller is Better

Other online games were fine, including WoW.  But Diablo III was unplayable.  So I went and played WoW.

Now I am about a third of the way through Act III.  I could still catch up and be done and ready for Act V if I pressed hard, but that strays into making the game work, and I like to explore every corner of the map as I play.  So I will likely hold off on the expansion until I am ready for the content.  And I probably won’t be there next week.

In the mean time, according to the shut down FAQ, you have until June 24th to claim or clear out anything you have sitting in the auction house.  And it will remain a legend and cautionary tale, as well as proof once again that economic efficiency can transcend fantasy.  Or as Edward Castronova put it:

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

We are what we are.