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Should Guilds Have Levels? October 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Rift, World of Warcraft.
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According to Blizzard the answer to that question is no, guilds should not have levels.

We got guild levels as part of the Cataclysm expansion, 25 of them, along with perks to go with those levels.  Those levels were not easy to acquire back then.  During Cataclysm our guild only managed to get to level 2.  Granted, we left not very far into the expansion, but we were there long enough to see that progress was going to be slow.

10% Exp Boost! Just what you need in WoW!

And it was work to get that far!

Earl, who actually kept playing WoW while we were away got us to level 3 pretty much on his own over the course of 18 months.

Blizzard revamped leveling with Mists of Pandaria, turning the dial probably too far in the other direction, as getting a guild to level 25 went from something you needed an active raiding guild to accomplish to something I probably could have done solo between the launch of the Siege of Orgrimmar and the coming of the Iron Horde.

We got the guild back together just after Siege of Orgrimmar went live and popped up from level 3 to level 25 relatively swiftly.

It was enjoyable.  It was nice to see those levels show up and get those perks unlocked.

TCLevel21

It was something to celebrate, something that we could all help out with even if we were just doing quests with an alt.  I thought it was great stuff and some of the perks were quite worthwhile.  As a guild we were especially big on the perk that added some coin to the guild bank every time a quest was completed.  It didn’t raise a ton of money, but it made for a nice guild repair fund.

But, with the coming of the Warlords of Draenor expansion and the 6.0 pre-expansion patch, Blizzard has removed guild levels.  We still have a few of the perks.

Twilight Cadre 6.0 perks

Twilight Cadre 6.0 perks

Some of the missing perks have just been made part of the game.  The speed between flight points perk got generally applied if I recall right and among the stats squished was the amount of experience you need to get to level cap, so the exp boost effectively went there.  Others, like our little guild bank filler perk, disappeared completely.  It seems that people were spam inviting new players to exploit them for this perk.

Blizzard took a while to make guilds something more than a name floating over your head and a chat channel.  We didn’t get guild banks until… was it with Wrath of the Lich King?  And then with Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor Blizzard fleshed guilds out more with levels, turned it to easy mode, then threw it all away.  Bascially, over the course of four year, we went from no levels, to level 25 being a sign that a group worked hard, to level 25 being a sign that you had people playing, to no levels again.  Boom, gone, we’re done with that idea.

Which is odd, because guilds having levels isn’t exactly a rare thing.

EverQuest II, for example, went live (before WoW) with guild levels in place.

Our day one guild on Crushbone

Our day two guild on Crushbone

Yes, the whole thing was convoluted in that way that only SOE can manage on a first try.  You earned guild experience by acquiring status, but only designated “patrons” in your guild could earn experience for the guild, and the more people (or patrons) you had in your guild, the less of their status went towards guild experience. (Alts were thus not allowed in the guild, but when we made an alts guild, our guild leader got mad at us.)  And if one of the partons left the guild, they took their applied guild experience with them.  I remember our guild leader Wooflin being incensed when Oteb the Traitor, who we had vouched for because he was in our TorilMUD guild, left the Knights of the Cataclysm just after we had hit level 15, which at the time was the level where we got a status mount.  Whoops, no mounts for us until we earned back that guild exp.

Eventually SOE fixed some of the crazier bits and the whole thing settled down.  Earning guild exp got easier, but the fact that they kept piling on levels so that the guild level cap was always somewhere around the character level cap, meant that only the larger, more active guilds could expect to be at level cap and indulge themselves in all of the perks.  Gaff and I managed to ramrod the guild we created on the Freeport server as part of our ill-fated EQII instance group adventure to level 30 mostly on our own so we could have a guild hall, but after that the level curve continued to ramp up and we capped out at 42.

But even at lower levels guilds got identifying marks, like guild cloaks.  Small guilds can still have some nice things.

Shades of Twilight guild cloak

Shades of Twilight guild cloak

And as much of a pain as the guild levels were during the early days, I also remember them fondly (now).  They represented a point where the guild was working together to accomplish a goal.

While I would readily agree that a guild should be more than just what the game mechanics dictate… a guild is a social organization and if you feel yourself constrained by just having a chat channel then maybe you aren’t doing it right… having game mechanics like guild levels that a guild can work on together and which reward the guild can help build the social bonds without which you are just a bunch of avatars with the same guild tag floating above your head.

And it isn’t just EverQuest II.  While EverQuest never went the guild level route, other games have guild levels.  Some of them are similar, as with Rift, where you get perks and guild tasks you can work on together.

Tell me of these perks!

Our perks page early on

Others are of… more dubious value.  In Lord of the Rings Online kinships (guilds) have levels, but they are based on the age of the guild rather than anything anybody has done.  So at this point, having not really played LOTRO in over a year, all of the kinshipss I am in on various servers are at max level, more due to neglect than activity. (See my guild review for details.)

And then there is EVE Online, which turns the whole thing on its head.  In Soviet New Eden, guild levels you!  Sort of.  There are skills around running a corp, the EVE version of a guild, as there are skills for everything.  So while corps do not have levels, as your corp grows the CEO must level up the appropriate leadership skills in order to accommodate the change.  So The Mittani, CEO of Goonwaffe, which has 2,500+ members, might have had to train into Sovereignty, one of the Corporation Management skills, which takes more than 50 days to train to level I.

And I don’t even begin to know how alliances… groupings of corporations… work in New Eden.  But that is straying off the point.

Guilds having levels and such is a reasonably established thing in the MMO market.  And, in my experience, having levels that people can contribute to helps bring a guild closer together.  So I am somewhat disapp0inted that Blizzard has decided to dispense with the guild level thing.  Yes, we still have guild achievements, and those do actually unlock things.  But those are also somewhat focused.  You have to go do a specific thing in a limited group.  There aren’t a lot of them you can help out with by leveling an alt… a couple, but not a lot.  Killing a damn tauren rogue in a battleground, for example, would get us another achievement.  Do people even roll tauren rogues?

Anyway, I wish Blizzard would revisit the guild levels idea again in a future release.  And, Blizzard being Blizzard, if they do I am sure they will model it on an implementation that is already out there and working.  So the question is, who does guild levels best?  Who is totally winning on the guild levels front out there in the world?

First Glance at WoW 6.0 October 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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It was a happenin’ time in Stormwind last night.  The place was overrun with people… at least the bank was… enough to make you believe that World of Warcraft subscriptions are up 600K users from their second quarter dip down to 6.8 million.

Actually, I have no doubt that the subscription numbers are up to 7.4 million, I just have to admire Blizzard’s preemptive end-run around potentially depressing news regarding subscription numbers for the third quarter of this year, which ended just a couple weeks back.  We may eventually know what that number was back on September 30th (or maybe we do, totally missed that in the footnotes) when the third quarter results come out in about a month or so, but it doesn’t really matter because the number today is 7.4 million.  Basically WoW subs jumped by about one and a half EVE Onlines.

Anyway, it was happenin’ because the long awaited WoW 6.0 patch was successfully deployed yesterday.

W6NowLive

And with that came a pile of changes.  The patch notes are long.

Of course, the first thing I saw was the new character models.

I am not in love with the new human models.

The design philosophy seemed to be “make these guys look a bit lost and not quite up to their tasks” or some such.  Of course, I thought the originals were just fine, and they were a bit more ruggedly handsome to boot.  So my pally went from looking like a hero to some guy who looked like he just got off the Google bus from SF.  Fortunately, the barber shop lets you change hair style and color as well as which of the faces your character has.  I was able to tinker that into something more acceptable for about 50 gold.  At least he looks a little less like a hipster waiter in a themed restaurant. (Belghast’s post has pictures and describes a similar need to change up.)

The new Vikund in Azeroth

The new Vikund in Azeroth

The new male dwarf models are hideously ugly… so are pretty much unchanged.  Basically they have a more high def texture so you can, by changing faces, dial in exactly how weather worn and craggy you want to be.  The range seems to go from “worn hard and put away wet” to “one step from Dark Iron,” your choice.  Dwarves live a hard life.

The male night elf models, on the other hand, do look like an upgrade.  They seem more lithe and and smooth and generally more like the high born.  A pity about the way they now run.  Rather than a feral grace, the male night elf runs like a guy who has pebbles in his shoes or who is trying to run barefoot over a hot beach.  Not sure who felt that captured the essence of the night elves, but I am not on board.

So I am not a big fan of the model change.  It doesn’t hurt the game to my mind, so it isn’t a huge deal, but I wonder if the time could have been better spent… or better directed.  Certainly the goal of retaining your character’s essence through the upgraded models failed for me. (Though there is an out, but now I’ve change my look for the new models. Bleh.)

Of course, the character model malaise faded into the background when I found that two of my characters had lost levels as part of the patch.  Color me confused, but I didn’t see anything in the patch notes about changing experience.  One of them, Alioto, my instance group character, who had been 88 for months, was suddenly back to level 87.  Granted, he was just ONE experience point shy of level 88, but he was no longer that level.

One point shy...

One point shy…

So I figure this might be akin to what happens in LOTRO when they tinker with exp, that I will just have to get a kill and I will be bumped back up to where I was, which was a third of the way into 88.  But no, I went and killed something, leveled up, and was only into 88 as far as the experience from that one kill would take me.

I could not figure out a pattern as to what might have caused this.  I first noticed it on my rogue, the character I had been using for the Outland quest achievements, who was past the halfway point into level 71 out in Shadowmoon Valley when I last left him.  Now he was one experience point shy of 71.  But he had just gotten that level over the weekend, so I thought maybe it was newly leveled characters.  But then there was Alioto, who had leveled up back in June.  Plus I had another character who leveled up on Friday at Darkmoon Faire, and he was just fine.

So I have no idea what happened and I have not seen anything mentioned about this anywhere, certainly not in today’s “whoops” patch notes for the first post-6.0.2 hotfix.  Anybody?

That was the low point of the evening, not being thrilled with the new look and having lost experience on a couple of characters where it matters. (Maybe THAT was the link! Hah!)  But after that it was mostly upside.

The stat squish seems to be working from what I can see.  Vikund, once over 500K hit points (with buffs) during Siege of Orgrimmar LFR groups, now sits at a much more modest 57K hit points, and his mighty two handed sword checks in at mere 98 dps.

Big sword, small dps

Big sword, small dps

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a screen shot of the “before” stats, though I know I have one tucked away somewhere, but for comparison my now level 70 rogue was dual wielding heirloom weapons at level 71 that were each flagged as doing 133 dps.  Those now show damage at just 32.68 dps.  I am going to have to go check how that level 20 hunter I have is faring.

But eventually we got to the high point of the night, when I started in on the inventory changes.

The new button to organize your bags… well, I probably shouldn’t have touched that until I had tinkered with some of the settings, because it moved everything.   That said, my only real objection is that I have to have my hearthstone in slot 1 of bag 1, as I have had it since the end of time.  Then I went to the bank and made the best 100 gold investment ever.  The new reagent tab in the bank is not free.

This bank is not a charity

This bank is not a charity

But once I paid the 100 gold and pressed the big button at the bottom, I was a very happy person.

All the reagents I had on me...

All the reagents I had on me…

There it is.  On one character this change basically opened up 89 inventory slots on my character and in my bank.  That was maybe the most extreme example, but I am not sure any character had less than 50 slots freed up by this action.  Best 100 gold spent ever, Totally worth it.

I was a little less thrilled by the toy box.  It works and it looks okay (if maybe a bit too widely spaced), but because it lists out all possible toys, I am now daunted by how many I am missing.  I have less toys than I thought, though perhaps I was applying toy more widely than Blizz was.  Also, there was the perennial Blizzard problem with what to do about dupes.  On various characters I had toys that were flagged as “already known,” but I am never sure what to do about them.  I am paranoid about deleting them, but I don’t want to keep them around cluttering up my bank. (Though that is certainly less of an issue at the moment.)  I have old pet tokens in the same situation, can’t redeem them, afraid to delete them, nothing to do but store them.

That out of the way, I went out to see the first bit of new content.  There is a set of lead-in quests that the game tells you about the moment you log in, at least if you are level 90.

Hey, did you hear? New quest!

Hey, did you hear? New quest!

You can click right on that to get the quest which sends you out to the Blasted Lands which is changed (or phased) to reflect the Iron Horde coming through their shiny new strawberry flavored dark portal.

The new dark portal

The new dark portal

There is a quest chain to run down which is primarily there to lay down the lore for you.  This is one of those times when you really should slow down and read the quest text.  There are not that many quests and the whole thing should take less than an hour if you digest everything, unless quest mobs are completely hunted out, (Though I was there when the zone was packed and that wasn’t much of a problem), or maybe 20 minutes if you blitz through like a crazed Munchkin.

This allowed me to play a bit with some of the changes.

As it turns out, retribution paladins are even easier now.  My rotation used to include a build-up to trigger a damage enhancing buff before I could really start in on the high damage attacks.  However, that buff seems to be gone now, so it is just build up for a big hit and let it fly.

The new quest log… well… I will have to play with it a bit.  Basically, the quest log and the map have been joined into a single window.  It seems to be well done… and it flags all of the quests by their type, which is new and useful… but I am going to have to use it for a while longer before I am settled on it.

The quest tracking in the mini-map is… changed.  Quest objectives are little yellow dots, but not the same little yellow dots they have used forever.  We have new little yellow dots, and they mark more things.  I was also able to turn off the new comic book outline effect when mousing over things right away thanks to a tip on twitter.  I was not big on that at all, but I am somebody who plays WoW with floating names off as well.

Questing itself seems to follow on in the Mists of Pandaria style, where it is meant to tell a story or involve you in an activity that changes things as opposed to old format which often seemed more interested in having you slaughter 12-30 things.  If you didn’t like the Pandaria style, you probably won’t like it in Draenor.  I actually liked the Pandaria philosophy, so it looks good to me.

The quest line itself shows you around the zone, has a cinematic, and then sends you off to the king in Stormwind where you get an achievement for completing this limited time event, plus a new title and the special Iron Starlette pet. (Oh, and now there is a gear reward, which wasn’t there last night. Erf.)

The big turn-in

The big turn-in

The pet looks like a barbed metal ball.  It is visible in the picture of Vikund up at the top.

As for the old kiwi-lime portal to the old Outland, that is gone from Azeroth.  You now have to take a special portal in the tower of magic to get there.

A vision of past portals

A vision of past portals

In general I am pretty happy with the state of things.  I still have to try out my other classes to see how they play now.  The healing thing has me a bit nervous, as I was a pretty marginal healer with my druid to start with, depending a lot on insta-heals to get me out of jams.  And I still have to queue up for the special, limited time Upper Blackrock Spire dungeon, which is only available through the Dungeon Finder currently.  I also wish I could manage the Garrosh heirloom smash and grab, but that is for real raiders and not LFR scum like me.

Overall though I am keen to see how things will play out when the expansion finally drops in a little less than a month.

Others looking at the new patch:

WoW 6.0 Drops Today – 30 Day Countdown to Draenor Begins October 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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6 comments

At 1am this morning Blizzard was planning to take down all of its servers to start applying the big pre-Warlords of Draenor 6.0 patch.  I did not stay up to see if that went off exactly on time, but the big transition has begun, and Azeroth will be a slightly different place when we are all able to log back in at some point today.  The target time for completion is 11am today, but I will be happy if the game is up some time after dinner this evening.

Here come the changes

Here come the changes

All sorts of new things will be arriving in game.  There will be new character models, a new map interface, a new way to organize gear in your bags, changes to gear, stats, classes, and all sorts of things that were talked about 11 months ago at BlizzCon when Blizzard announced the expansion.  And this is all before we get to the actual Warlords of Draenor content.

Of course, some things will be going away.  There is a whole host of pets, mounts, gear, and achievements that will no longer be obtainable now that the patch is being applied.  This is, I guess, how Blizzard protects the value of things that were difficult to obtain.  Nobody will be able to hit level 100 and go back and twink that achievement you had to do the hard way at level 90 back in the day.

Then there is the stat squish.  And the removal of guild levels.  The patch notes are just overflowing with stuff.

Now it is time to see if the instance group can be roused from its lazy summer slumber.  We have about enough time to hit 90 and finish off the normal mode dungeons before the expansion goes live next month, if we can just all get logged on together again.  I’d like to be able to do the limited time special Upper Blackrock Spire. We shall see.

I think the biggest change I am looking forward to is the ones that will free up some bag space.  The toy box… and I have collected and held on to a lot of such items over the years… and the additional 98 slots of bank storage for crafting materials will be great.  I will probably spend the first night after the patch just getting all those things stored away so I will once again have space in my bags and bank.   And then it will be off to the Blasted Lands to see the precursor of the Iron Horde.

Is there anything you are looking forward to (or dreading) in the patch?

Addendum: And there it is…

 

The View from the Last Pre-Draenor Darkmoon Faire October 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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I only just realized last night that it was Darkmoon Faire this week.  I asked my daughter why she did not remind me of this, to which she replied, “That’s not my job.”

Teenagers.

But it is true that I am usually the one reminding people that it is time once again for Darkmoon Faire.

I became quite the fan of Darkmoon Faire at some point around Cataclysm, when the fair settled down to a regular monthly schedule and location and beefed up its offerings.

Looking at Darkmoon Faire

Looking at Darkmoon Faire

Specifically, the profession quests hooked me.  Since the dark days of ennui after the Cataclysm launch, I have pushed a wide selection of my characters through those quests month in and month out.  This actually got me past some of the flat spots in leveling up some of those skills.  You only advance your profession by five points every month, but sometimes that is enough.  I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have a 600 skill leatherworker today if it were not for Darkmoon Faire.  Oh the pain.

So month in and month out a gaggle of my characters wander through the fair, skilling up their professions just a notch, getting a bit of experience and a wee bit of faction.  My main, Vikund, finally hid exalted with Darkmoon Faire just last month.  Given how long that took, I was a bit disappointed that there was no achievement for it.  Ah well.  And, of course, there are those Darkmoon Faire prize tickets slowly accumulating on all those characters.

But this month… well… October is turning into an odd month.

I’ve gone into something of a cool down in Azeroth, not wanting feel worn out on WoW in any way when the Warlords of Draenor expansion drops.  The instance group is still on its summer hiatus.  I got that last set of mounts I wanted out of The Burning Crusade content.  And I have put my Loremaster achievement ambitions aside in the Blade’s Edge Mountains for now.  But Darkmoon Faire, I could not let that pass.

Because by November I expect the world to be different.  We won’t get the Warlords of Draenor expansion until November 13, but I strongly suspect that we will get the WoW 6.0 patch by the end of this month.  And that patch contains all the underpinnings, all the changes and updates and evolutions, that are required for the expansion.  The great stat squish will be here soon.  Even Darkmoon Fair is getting some changes, though those sound like upgrades, unlike some of the things Blizzard is taking away.

And so I started logging in my list of characters last of night for their regular run through the faire.  I even remembered to buy the flour for the cooking quest with each character before going through the portal.  I have some more to log in before the fair wraps up on Saturday night, which is plenty of time.

After that though, the month will likely remain quiet for me in Azeroth, at least until the big pre-expansion patch drops.  Then it will be time to start figuring out the game yet again as we head towards Draenor.  November looms.

Addendum:  And the pre-expansion patch got a date, October 14.

Here come the changes

Here come the changes

(In contrast to WoW I have been playing a lot more EVE Online this month, and EVE has a “big changes” expansion set to drop in November as well.  That, however, is mostly due to what looks like a last minute hurrah by some of our traditional foes looking to get in some action before Phoebe reduces their ability to roam New Eden at will.  Have you seen how far Nulli Secunda lives from us?)

Nether Ray Mounts Obtained October 1, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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I think I started working on Burning Crusade factions at some point after we had mostly wrapped up Wrath of the Lich King but before I had beaten the Argent Tournament to death.  It was a transitional age, where achievements were still somewhat new, mounts no longer took up bag slots, and collecting one of each seemed to be encouraged.  The hunt for mounts began.

The first stop for me was Nagrand.  I do not really remember why at this point… it might have been to harvest netherweave for Ula… but I wanted to get the Talbuk mounts that the Kurenai will sell you when you hit exalted.  The Kurenai faction grind is pretty manageable, something I was reminded of with my latest look into Nagrand.  Slaughtering ogres for netherweave also gets you war beads that you can turn in for a faction bump, plus every ogre is worth a few points of faction with the Kureani.  I was on a talbuk mount in no time… just about five years back. (See, this is why I blog, because I’d never remember when I did this otherwise.)

Talbuk in the Snow

Talbuk in the Snow

That also got me to the 10 mount achievement and made me think about getting more mounts.

From there I went on to the Argent Tournament.  That was the easiest way to get to exalted with the alliance city factions and there were a number of special mounts to be had, including my long time favorite, the Silver Covenant Hippogryph.  I spend a lot of time on dailies at the Argent Tournament and in other parts of Northrend.  I even made the chopper.  Eventually Northrend began to peter out and I looked back to Outland for more mounts.  I even made a start with the Netherwing and the Sha’tari Skyguard, but by the time I was working on those Cataclysm was just around the corner.

And after Cataclysm, well… there was the long break from World of Warcraft.

My daughter an I returned to Azeroth last summer, and with the Warlords of Draenor announcement, the full instance group team was back in the game and working our way through the content by basically picking up where we left off with our group in Wrath of the Lich King.  A return to form and good times.

And I got myself invested back in the game and started doing all the little side activities, including hunting for mounts again.  That got me back to Outland again where, after some fumbling about, I was finally able to pick up where I left off and finish the Netherwing faction and pick up the netherdrake mounts.

Down at Crazy Barthamus' Netherdrake Dealership

Down at Crazy Barthamus’ Netherdrake Dealership

And once I finished that I turned my eye to the Sha’tari Skyguard and their nether ray mounts.  I started in on that and then… stopped.  I went looking for other things to do.  I started on the quest for the Loremaster achievement.  It wasn’t that the faction grind for the Skyguard was difficult.  It is actually pretty doable, as you are not as dependent on daily quests as with the Netherwing and if you can buckle down and just hang around Skettis for a day, you can plow through it.  (Earl did that.  He is an iron man on grinds.)  I just had other things I wanted to do.

Eventually though, as the summer passed, I started looking at where I stood and what I wanted to get done before Warlords of Draenor launched… or even before the 6.0 patch dropped… and saw the Sha’tari Skyguard sitting at revered on my faction list and said, “Time to wrap this up!”  So I headed out to Skettis in the corner of Terokkar Forest and buckled down to work through the 10K faction I was shy of exalted.

Skettis, where the bird people are

Skettis, where the bird people are

And while progress seemed like it should be slow… you get a big 12 faction points for popping Arakoaa… but with the little quests and the drops you can turn in adding up, it ended up going by pretty quickly.  And it is a pretty good low attention task, so you can listen to a podcast or an audio book while you work through it.  So, before long I hit the mark, made it to exalted, and the achievement was mine.

NetherRayAchievement

Two achievements down with that, as it was also my 35th exalted, which is about 34 more than I would have told you I expected to get back in vanilla WoW.  And then, of course, I had to go buy the five nether ray mounts (bumping my mount total to 138), the nether ray fry pet, and the tabard that are all unlocked with exalted status.  I think the red nether ray is my favorite.  It stands out amongst pack.

Red Nether Ray

Red Nether Ray

Another item to check off my list.  And this might even count as a Bragtoberfest item as well… I think.  It is an achievement and all.

And now, with the 6.0 patch looming, I am wondering what I should work on next.  At some point I want to get a set of battle pets up to level 25 so I can finish up catching all the ones in the wild.  I am past the 250 mark for pets caught, but my top three pets are only level 21 at this point and I haven’t even started on Northrend, Cataclysm, or Pandaria, and it might be nice to wrap up there before all the new zones roll in with Warlords of Draenor.

 

September in Review September 30, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, War Thunder, World of Warcraft.
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The Site

What to complain about this month?  Yes, with the coming of a new game, the spam turns to follow.  And so there was an outbreak of ArcheAge spam caught in the filter this month.

ArcheAge Gold Spam

ArcheAge Gold Spam

But there is a host of spam caught in the filter every month.  Sometimes SynCaine is caught in there too.  However, that isn’t really much of a complaint.  Besides, if you bought ArcheAge gold, could you even log on to spend it?  So I will have to find something else.

How about stats?

The other day I was looking at the referrer stats on this blog and saw that my other blog, EVE Online Pictures, was sending me a bit of traffic.

In the morning 17 can seem like a lot

In the morning 17 can seem like a lot

I thought this was interesting as, since I own both blogs, I can match up the stats!  Because accounting!  So I looked over at the outbound stats for EVE Online Pictures and saw this.

That would be less than 17

That would be less than 17

The flip side shows just two clicks.  I am not sure if they are counted differently or just counted incorrectly, but something definitely seems amiss.  Stats are an illusion.

One Year Ago

We heard that Warhammer Online was slated to shut down in December.

We also got the official word that Blizzard would be killing the auction house in Diablo III.

SOE was getting over some of their Station Cash screw ups.

In general I wasn’t too excited about the expansion outlook on the MMO scene.

In EVE Online the Rubicon expansion went live.  Our corp had a little drama as Gaff plotted to overthrow our CEO and created a new corp, Black Sheep Down.  As is usual, he was good for the intrigue, but once he became El Supremo, he got bored and stopped playing.  Happens after every coup… and there have been a few.  We went from being literally the worst corp in TNT to… erm… well, that didn’t change I guess.  We did run out to null sec for a fight and I put my alt in the corp to bolster our numbers because there is a minimum height requirement or some such.

In general we were finishing up our deployment in Delve cleaning up after the TEST collapse and I hit 110 million skill points.  Also, there was the war between evebloggers.com and evebloggers.net.

The instance group, in a hint as to where we were headed, ran a series of WoW dungeon knock-offs in Neverwinter.

And it was time for the usual bout of autumnal nostalgia.  This time I returned to Azeroth, which made me ask the question, when is it nostalgia anyway?  My daughter and I and a friend had a plan to roll up some new characters on a new server.  Whatever it was, it felt like home.

And, finally, I covered the great resurrection exploit in TorilMUD.

Five Years Ago

I described some really old-school gaming… pre-computer… which involved hunting each other in cars.

There was a brief moment of nostalgia for Infocom games… or at least for the ads.  Honestly, I think the ads were better than some of the games.

I was still talking about my days of playing MUDs, with a description of getting to Kobold Village and the great bronze armplate smuggling get rich quick scheme.

And Turbine announced the Siege of Mirkwood expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, which brought out a little guilt in me, since I hadn’t even gotten to Moria.  I still haven’t, for that matter.

Then there was WoW.  We were really on a WoW binge that September.  I put up a poll about what instance we didn’t want to see made into an heroic, and the results were… unsurprising.

There were pirates and Brewfest and I managed to get my chef’s hat and all the sundry cooking achievements.  There was corpse spam and phasing and we ran through Ulduar and the Oculus. and trial of the champion.

And, finally, there was the three year anniversary of the blog, with the usual round of stats and trivia… oh, and the Nine Circles of MMO Hell.

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 September

  1. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  2. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor
  5. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  6. Eight Years of Link Rot
  7. Nostalgia, Name Wipes, and the Next Expansion in Azeroth
  8. Rome – A Shameful Display
  9. When Does an MMO Become a Foreign Country?
  10. ArcheAge Went Live and Everybody Went Crazy or Something
  11. Extra Credits – Free to Play Is Currently Broken
  12. Rift Joins the Insta-Level Club with Nighmare Tide Expansion

Search Terms of the Month

what time will servers unlock warlords of draenor on november…
[Doesn't matter, the queue will keep you from playing anyway]

why is war lord of draenor $50
[Because Blizzard owns you, and me too]

firiona rift destroy
[I am pretty sure Norrath is her current target]

when does pokemon alfah safire and omega ruby come out
[I actually prefer your spelling]

Defense Grid 2

Long awaited, since the Kickstarter funded but not as fully as expected, I am happy to be able to play it now.  And with how Hidden Path Entertainment has put together the game, we can look forward to plenty of official and fan made updates.  It isn’t perfect.  They have some work to do on their administrative interface and I have found at least one serious “you shipped with that?” bug.  But actual game play is solid, so  I am a bit bemused at some of the rage about the game in certain quarters.  Basically, a few people seem upset that the game is… well… different.  The towers were changed and rebalanced and given new options, with certain go-to defaults being much less effective. (Cannon towers are no longer “I win!”)  On the whole it seems good to me, but some people just wanted more of the old game… which I can understand.  I played the hell out of that too.

EVE Online

Given that my previous three posts this month were about EVE Online, I guess I did actually play the game this month.  Or paid attention to it a bit.  I managed to get a couple more ships out of Delve and back up to our new staging system in Deklein.  There was also a bit of cleaning up the neighborhood in the north, as it had gone to seed a bit while we were away.  And then things got pretty quiet.  Even the regional intel channel has been quiet while I have been logged in.  What is Gevlon paying Mordus Angels for, if not to shit up our space?  Anyway, we’ve had to travel further afield, out to low sec to find fun of late.  And low sec is weird.  Security status means something there.  There are no warp disruption bubbles.  People don’t always shoot strangers in the face the moment they show up.  Gate guns shoot at you.  It is most queer and disturbing after three years in null.

Rome II

The strategy group has pressed forward with Total War: Rome II.  We seem to be doing okay as long as we fight against each other.  I think we are still mostly learning how to get the game to do what we want, or at least understand the limitations of what we can do.  The fights are interesting, but the fact that we, as a group of four, are pretty much limited to a variety of different skirmishes, which I can see getting old sooner rather than later… which is what happened with Age of Empires II: Age of Kings over time.  But I am not sure where we would head next.  Maybe Endless Legend or something from the list I made earlier this year?

War Thunder

I actually got out War Thunder and patched up to play for a bit.  I went out and dropped some bombs and then tried the whole tank side of the game.  The beginning level tanks are not the silly level of joy that they are in World of Tanks, but they also seem… more realistic maybe?  I’ve never driven a tank, so how would I know?  But there is a higher level of difficulty in just shooting stuff, your crew dies very easily if you take a solid hit, and the whole thing seems less arcade-like than WoT.  Is that a good thing?  I am not sure.

World of Warcraft

After the summer of working on the Loremaster achievement, I think I may have fallen off of that horse.  All the groundwork of the 1-60 achievements has been laid, so I can go back to it at some point, but my idea of doing all the zones in Outland at level became less fun and more chore as I moved through the zones.  I keep asking myself, “How did we do all of this with no flying mounts and effectively less power?”  So my WoW time has tapered off quite a bit.  That might not be a bad thing, as Warlords of Draenor is just about a month and a half away.  A rest from Azeroth might be appropriate, so as to be fresh when the expansion drops.

Coming Up

There is a blogging event called Bragtoberfest coming up.  I am not sure I understand it.

The Oceanus expansion for EVE Online is dropping today, so that will make some waves. (Ha ha!) I am not sure many doctrine fits will be affected by the first round of module revamps, though light missile launchers are on the list, which means that somebody might have to look at our Hawk or Crow fits I suppose.  Also, EVE Vegas is coming up in the middle of the month, which is about as close as an EVE Online event ever gets to me.  Unfortunately, I just wrote a big check for braces for my daughter, so that will have to wait for another year.

The ongoing ArcheAge: Tales from the Queue drama should no doubt subside at some point and people will start getting into the meat of the game… which should lead to some fresh new drama.  SynCaine is already hinting at some possibilities there. (As well as some of the promise.)

And, speaking of drama, maybe the whole “gamer gate” thing will subside soon.  One can only hope.  It seems to have devolved into two camps talking past each other, trying to score points more to impress their own team than to convince anybody of anything, and painting the other side as being in lock step with, or automatically condoning all actions of, the worst person on their respective “side.”  Bleh.

Finally, I have to think that we will see the big WoW 6.0 patch drop before the middle of the month, likely next week.  Blizzard has been talking about it, it has been on the public test realm for a while, and the launcher started letting people pre-download the files for the patch.  So it is a comin’!  And that will give us a few weeks to adjust to a lot of change before November strikes and we have BlizzCon, the Warlords of Draenor launch, and then the World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary.

Oh, and log on to WoW today if you haven’t recently.  Last day to get the Horde chopper for free.  I am not particularly enthusiastic about that whole Azeroth Choppers thing but, hey, free mount.

The Power of Being Able to Say No September 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , ,
22 comments

The big news in the cycle yesterday was Blizzard canceling the Titan project, their work-in-progress next generation MMO.  We don’t know what it was, only that it was delayed at one point and now it has been cancelled.

It probably wasn't this

It probably wasn’t this

(Picture from the iOS game Giant Realms and the breeding guide site)

This has led to any number of people to say, “Ha ha! Blizzard sucks!” or other equally inane things.

Let me tell you about what really sucks in the real world.

What really sucks is being in a company where you have to ship your product, whether it good or not, because otherwise the place will go out of business.  When you have to release work you know isn’t quite ready or needed another design pass or just should have been shelved at some point, that sucks.  Or when your product hits the market after a year of crunch only to find that the customers interested in it only want some small feature that got tacked on because it was easy… and they aren’t willing to wait for version 2.0, much less pay for it… that sucks.

But being in a company with enough financial independence to be able to say, “No, that’s not good enough,  we’re not going to ship that,” that totally does not suck.

It is not easy.  Every project gets a life of its own, and if the company has invested in the project and talk about it outside the company, turning things off can be, as Chris Metzen said, “excruciating.”  And you have to be willing to ignore the whole sunk costs thing, because money has been spent. I have worked at a couple of companies that should have said no to bad projects, that would have been better off if they had, but couldn’t bring themselves to do it.

So seeing a company that is both secure enough in its market and knows what it is about enough to drop projects, that makes me envious more than anything.  That is what I was told “real” companies do back in college.

So Blizzard will just have to carry on with its streak of best-selling, money making games by not shipping something they didn’t feel worked.

I am hoping to see something deeper on the subject once people get past mocking the market leader for an alleged failure.

For example, what does it mean for the MMO market that Blizzard doesn’t necessarily want to make another MMO?  Is this opportunity for others, or just something that will scare off more investors?

And, of course, what does that mean for World of Warcraft in the long term?  The billion dollar a year cash cow that is WoW is part of the reason that Blizzard has the flexibility to say no at this time.  I expect that we will see even more focus on Azeroth to keep that revenue stream active.  Let it go?  How about never?  Is never good for you?

When Does an MMO Become a Foreign Country? September 22, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft.
15 comments

One of the tenets of the MMORPG industry these days is that players will come and go.  After a certain point in the life cycle of an MMO the installed base, those who have played the game at one time but who are not currently playing, is the most fertile ground for marketing.  Somebody who has enjoyed your game once may come back to try it again.

And a lot of us do come and go from various MMOs.  There are many posts on this blog about my poking my nose back into this game or that for a summer vacation or autumnal nostalgia tour.

Unfortunately, this sort of revolving door view of MMOs does tend to be at odds with another constant of MMOs: Change.

Change, big and small, is part and parcel of the genre it seems.  Think of how many blog posts and comments have included something akin to, “I liked this game back when…”

Changes can be small, confined to a single class or a single ability, or huge, changing how every class works or even how we look as classes in a game.  Blizzard likes to revamp classes, stats, and combat with every expansion, something we can look forward to yet again with the 6.0 patch before Warlords of Draenor.  And Turbine did a giant turn on Lord of the Rings Online classes shortly after my last time playing the game, remaking classes in the image of the talent tree god.

specs and talents

specs and talents

Change is meant to be good.  These revamps are meant to improve the game, to make it more playable, to balance out the classes, and to make sure there isn’t just a single “I win” skill for a given class.

And if you are playing a game actively and such change occurs, you pick up and work your way through the change with everybody else.  There is a lot of sharing when it comes to adapting.

But if you were away when the change hit, if you were taking a break, on hiatus, or just getting the hell away from a game that was starting to feel more like work than fun for a bit, coming back can be a very different experience.

It can be like a foreign country.

Sure, things look about the same as home at first glance.  But as you look closer, differences start to become apparent.  They call french fries something else on the menu and when they serve them up they have a side of mayonnaise or are bathed in gravy.  The money is all different, so you can’t tell what is expensive and what is a bargain without a bit of math.  And the customs are all different, so people are rolling their eyes or giving you angry glances as you wander about trying to figure out what is going on.

Now, in a foreign country, you have to grow up there in order to really fit in.  MMOs are not so complex.  If you have friends or a regular guild or group, they can help you assimilate to the new state of affairs.  And, when all else fails, you can go back, roll up a new character and, in essence, “grow up” again in the game.

I have used the new character method quite a bit, especially with LOTRO, which seems to change quite a bit between my visits.  But even that has its flaws.  In LOTRO, for example, I have now played through the 1 to 40 content with so many characters that, even though I enjoy it, I do want to see something else.  And in EverQuest there is so much content and so much has changed over the years (and there are so many out of date guides and such on the web), that somewhere between the tutorial zone and some level… somewhere between 20 and 50… I inevitably fall off the rails.  I have not played the game seriously in so long that the game is almost completely foreign to me, to the point that even “growing up” through it again isn’t possible.

It seems like I have simply been away too long to ever really return to EverQuest.  It isn’t what it once was, I do not understand what it has become, and I have no base of friends or other support group to help out.  And I feel that way when I wander into EverQuest II these days as well.  The old guilds are all deserted and the skills on my hot bar are like a foreign language.

This is why the various insta-level schemes haven’t really thrilled me.  If I am lost where I left off in the midst of the game, boosting me further along, and thus removing even the bits of context I remember, isn’t going to help me much.

It all makes me wonder if there is a quantifiable gap in time after which returning to an MMO becomes difficult, a point after which the inevitable divergence between what you remember and the state of the game starts to turn the game into a foreign place.

Or maybe it is just me.  I swap classes in a game and it takes me a while to come up to speed.

The Great Brewfest Kodo Arrives September 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
3 comments

Brewfest rolled around again in World of Warcraft, which generated a moment of excitement until I remembered that I had already done all the achievements and events in past years.

Getting wild at Brewfest

Oh, I did all the things…

I sagged a little at that.  As with last year, I felt my momentary enthusiasm gutted by the reality of nothing changing in the world.

But, wanting to do something in WoW, but still not quite ready to resume the Blade’s Edge Mountains, I figured I could queue up for Coren Direbrew.  He is quick and maybe he has some better drops this year.  Plus, I never got that Great Brewfest Kodo.

So I queued up, got into a group in about five minutes (or about one thirtieth of an Arche Age login queue) and wham, bam, he was down.

And what did he have for me?  A Great Brewfest Kodo!

BFKodoDrop

That drop, on the first run, rounded out my Brewfest mount collection, as I already had the Swift Brewfest Ram.

BFMounts

That was pretty exciting, considering how many runs we took at Coren Direbrew during past Brestfests.  I can now ride around Brewfest in style… when I am not flying.  I’ll probably have it out for Warlords of Draenor a lot.

Brewfest Kodo

Brewfest Kodo

Of course, now I have the one last thing I was missing from Brewfest, so I am back to where I started.  Such is life in the land of MMOs.

(On the flip side, that did get my mother and daughter to run Coren Direbrew as well in hopes of a mount drop.)

 

Nostalgia, Name Wipes, and the Next Expansion in Azeroth September 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
11 comments

Various World of Warcraft topics combined into a single post.

Timeline to Draenor

We are getting there.  There is now less than two months to go until until November 13, when Warlords of Draenor launches. (I’m still wondering if this was all foretold in the hint we got back in January)  And the reality of the situation means that some things have to start happening much sooner.

Well, at least one thing has to happen.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Coming Soon

At some point Blizzard is going to have to drop the 6.0 patch on the game, which will roll up all the Warlords of Draenor changes as they apply to the rest of the world.  The expansion is going to affect you even if you don’t but the expansion right away.  There will be lots of changes.  Some will happy or handy.  I am for anything that gets a few more things out of my bag, so the Toy Box will be welcome.

I am still a bit worried about the stat squish however, mostly because people have been in beta and 6.0.x is up on the public text realm and yet I haven’t seen a story out of WoW Insider with something like one of the following headlines:

  • Stat Squish Apocalypse – No More Solo Raids for You!
  • Stat Squish – Everything is Wonderful!

And I realize that people in the beta are interested in the new content, as opposed to checking to see if their level 90 can still solo Onyxia, but I would be interested to know if it worked out as Blizzard promised before the 6.0 patch drops.

Anyway, given how things have gone in the past, I would expect the 6.0 patch to drop 4-6 weeks before the expansion, so we are probably a month or less away from seeing what 6.0 really brings to the live realms.

Are They Serious About Nostalgia?

One of the big things coming up this November… in addition to the WoD launch and BlizzCon… is the World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary.  That is a pretty big deal, and it seems like Blizzard, after dropping more subscriptions (~5.2 million) than probably the next couple subscription games on the list ever had at their combined peaks, has decided to play the nostalgia card.

That can be a powerful play.  SOE has shown that even half-hearted, doomed to neglect nostalgia plans like their progression servers can get a couple servers worth of players back and paying for the game.  And even if nostalgia wears thin more quickly than you might imagine, because the reality of going back is almost always just a shadow of the past, as neither we nor the game are the same (that whole “everything flows” thing), such events do get people interested in your game.  Handled correctly, the nostalgia card can get some old players back into the game.

I’m just a little nonplussed about what Blizzard has chosen to emphasize.

There is the Molten Core raid.  This is a re-work of the original that you and 39 of your closest level 100 friends can take on for a limited time.  It goes away with the new year.  This one doesn’t grab me for obvious reasons.  I never raided.  I only once peeked into Molten Core.  And, to be honest, I am not sure I can commit to being level 100 by January 6th.

But I have no doubt that this will be a draw for some, at least until the reality… or the deadline… sets in.  Or until the special prizes are secured.

And then there is the Tarren Mill vs. Southshore battleground.  I suppose another battleground isn’t a bad thing.  And at least it will be available for levels 90 and up.  But as for re-creating the chaotic and often lopsided open world battles of the old days, I am not so sure.  Once you level constrain, set up equal teams, and put down clear victory conditions, the spontaneity of the original conflicts kind of melts away.  But I am sure there will be a set of special achievements for the whole thing, which will go away with the turn of the year, so it will no doubt be popular.  But is it nostalgia?

I suppose you could argue that the expansion itself, in returning to Outland and the Iron Horde and the various Orc war chiefs is a nostalgia move in and of itself.  It certainly does get straight back to the heart of the Warcraft franchise.  But the other bits… not sure they are grabbing me.

Of course, I am open to criticism on my WoW nostalgia credentials, as going through the oldest content in the game.. Outland… has driven me to play a lot more Pokemon.

Name Wipes

Yesterday Blizzard announced that they were doing a wipe to free up the pool of available names, and they took an interesting approach to this.

Over the years various publishers have hinted or even said straight up that if you unsubscribe your characters might get deleted.  That turned out to be a bluff in the long term, as those same developers eventually realized that players in a subscription MMO will come and go.  It turns out a decent number of people are like me and don’t like to pay when they are not playing.  $15 a month in isolation is cheap.  $15 a month when you might be interested in half a dozen games or have multiple accounts or have family members playing adds up to real money fast.

And so companies have attempted to tread softly on the whole character deletion thing.

Once in a while somebody will go purge characters that are under a certain level and beyond a certain age.  But for the most part, MMO companies live in hope of our return.

Blizzard won’t be deleting characters.  They want us all to come home to Azeroth at some point and are not too worried about the size of their database.

But they do appear worried about new players being able to pick a name.  Problems in that regard have become a punchline to some jokes.  So they are doing a name purge.

If you have not logged a character in since November 13, 2008, it will have its name wiped when the pending 6.0 patch goes live.  Whenever that is.  But it will be reasonably soon.

I probably have characters on some server somewhere that meet that criteria.  I don’t know how to check, but I suppose I should just log them all on.  Or maybe I won’t, just to see what happens.  I suspect that, should your name get wiped, you’ll just have to pick a new one when logging that character in again.

But I was curious about the date they chose.  Okay, November of 2008 was… the Wrath of the Lich King launch.  But it also happened to be the peak subscription point for non-China WoW players.

MMOG Charts 1 million Subs and above

MMOG Charts 1 million Subs and above

The total WoW subs went on to peak right after Cataclysm, but November 2008 looks like the last big spike in the west, though we lack the data to pin that down.  The fact that Blizzard chose that as the cut off though seems to be a hint that November 2008 is some sort of tipping date, at which point characters no longer being logged in started to add up to significant numbers.

Or maybe somebody in the office said, “If they haven’t logged in for six years, screw ‘em!  Take their name away!”

Why Should I  Watch BlizzCon?

Finally, BlizzCon is coming up (November 7-8), awkwardly shoved in between the 6.0 update and the Warlords of Draenor launch, a position that makes you wonder what they are going to talk about when it comes to Azeroth.

I am not one to say Blizzard shouldn’t have BlizzCon unless they have a big announcement.  I am sure that everybody who goes has a great time.  It is a fan event and that can be enough.

But if Blizzard wants me to spend $40 for the Virtual Ticket so I can watch along from home, I need a bit more enticement than an in-game pet and another StarCraft II forum avatar.

Available Now!

But why?

Last year was totally worth it, as the big Warlords of Draenor announcement was a highlight along with a bunch of good panels going into the gory details.  But now, a year later, with the Warlords of Draenor expansion showing up literally a week after BlizzCon, anything they have to say about that lands between “I’ll see it soon enough” and spoilers.  I’ve already bought the expansion, I’m a sure thing.

So what is in it for me?  Why should I want to watch BlizzCon?  What would tempt me?

I am not big on StarCraft II, their MOBA… well… I cannot even remember what it is called so that should tell you something,… isn’t a draw, and while I would be mildly interested in some Diablo III news, it isn’t that big of a deal.  I could wait for the day after press for any of that.

But there has been a bit of background noise about Blizzard getting itself in gear and not letting the game sit for more than a year without any sort of content again.  It has been a long, hot summer for Blizzard, and they have had to pull out some tricks to support subscription numbers, like insta-90s with pre-orders and “log in soon to get a corgi later” calls.  I am sure they would like to avoid that again and keep us all subscribed for longer stretches going forward.  So I am going to guess that we will hear about one of two things at BlizzCon.

The first option would be an updated and more aggressive post-expansion content schedule.  Basically, with their Mists of Panderia experience behind them, they should have better refined what works and what does not.  Arguing against that is the current state of affairs where it doesn’t sound like there will be a lot of post-expansion raids and such being added.  But that could change.  Maybe they are holding back just to have something to announce.

The second option would be Blizzard totally breaks with tradition and announces the next WoW expansion along with plans to get it out the door in something less than two years this time.  This would be a big win in the whole “sell more boxes and keep people subscribed” column.

Of course, Tom Chilton, who was hinting about content getting out faster, is also on record saying:

By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back.

WoW isn’t in the horror show of ~2005 EverQuest and the confusion of too may expansions to keep track of, but pumping out more expansions isn’t going to reduce that barrier or solve the “I haven’t played since Burning Crusade, what do I need to play now?” questions.  Yeah, I know the answer to that one, and you probably do to, but it likely isn’t obvious to somebody returning cold.

Of course, in that same article he also says that the insta-90 thing solves the barrier problem.  So does that mean we’re going to get a new flavor of insta-levels with each expansion?  Because I am not sure Blizzard is ready to do a WoW expansion with no increase in the level cap yet.

And there is a third option for BlizzCon, which is just the status quo.  We’ll get a few hints but there will be no WoW news for another year, until another BlizzCon rolls around, while Blizzard plays on our hopes of something new to get us to grab the Virtual Ticket this year.

So, aside from an all new property, what would make watching BlizzCon worthwhile?