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

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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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?

 

Rift Joins the Insta-Level Club with Nighmare Tide Expansion September 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
11 comments

While I haven’t been in Rift for ages, that doesn’t mean Trion Worlds isn’t still out there plugging away.  During that very busy stretch in August… I though people went on vacation in August… they announced a new expansion, the Nightmare Tide.

RiftNighmareTide

This will bring the level cap up to 65, adds new content in the Plane of Water, gives you a new bag slot (woot!), and a host of new and improved features you can read about over on their site.  I just hope it isn’t an all under water expansion.  Too much disorientation for me.

The expansion, set to come out on October 8th of this year, is available for pre-order in three flavors.

Nighmare Tide Editions

Nightmare Tide Editions

Selling new content, expansions, is one of the business models I can really get behind. But, as always, we get into the discussion about what is worth the money.  You can go compare the three editions on their site to see if you would drop an additional $100 to get the Ultimate Nightmare Edition.  I am not sure it would be for me, but I am also not playing Rift currently, so the $25 option isn’t for me either.

The interesting thing for me in all of this is the item available only with the $50 and $150 editions which will boost a character to level 60, currently the level cap in the game.  From the site:

Boost one character to Level 60 with a swig of this powerful draught! It comes complete with gear to begin your quests in the Plane of Water and is even tradable to other characters – but be careful, it only works once!

Where have I heard about something like that before?  Oh yeah, back at BlizzCon last November, when Blizzard announced the Warlords of Draenor expansion, which included a boost to level 90 for a single character.

Not that I am trying to scold them for copying an idea that is starting to spread.  Rift has made its mark by working hard to be a better WoW than WoW,  putting themselves directly up against the big gorilla in the room… or something.

No, not Azeroth!

Remember this?

So if Trion is copying a feature from elsewhere for Rift, it generally means it is a feature worth having.  But I wonder how much of the Blizzard playbook they are going to copy?

As of right now, the insta-60 option… which would let me skip past the Storm Legion content I got mired in, and eventually gave up on… is only available by purchasing the top two versions of the expansion package.  It is not available as its own item in the in-game store.

But will it stay that way?

As Silverangel notes in her look at the whole thing, that the idea of insta-levels staying locked to an expansion purchase seems naive.  And Blizzard itself started with insta-90s being tied to the Warlords of Draenor expansion, but eventually moved to make them a cash shop item.  An expensive cash shop item, for sure, ringing in at $60 a pop.  But if you want more than the one you got with the expansion and three double sawbucks burning a hole in your pocket, Blizzard has the deal for you.

The alleged price of level 90

Yours, if the price is right…

So I suppose that just leaves us with two questions.

The first is, “When Trion will offer insta-levels as a cash shop item?”

My gut says that they will be available after the expansion goes live, but before the end of the year, so you’ll be able to buy yourself or a friend a character boost for the holidays.

And the second is, “How much will a Rift insta-60 cost?”

Blizzard wants $60, but even down to almost half of their peak user base, they are still sitting on such a huge revenue stream that they can afford to stick to their notions of the world, like the idea that people should be encouraged to play through the content.  I think insta-levels are more a utility than revenue stream for them.

Back in the real world, where it isn’t raining cash, SOE priced their level 85 boosts in EverQuest and EverQuest II at about $35.  However, that is taking the strict, default valuation of Station Cash and translating it to coin of the realm.  Theoretically it could be much cheaper if you bought your Station Cash during a sale, got one of those Walmart bonus Station Cash cards, or found some other loophole in the SOE accounting system.

And then there is Lord of the Rings Online and their goofy option, which only boosts you to level 50… 45 levels shy of Helm’s Deep content… and which they are trying to promote through scarcity by only offering it on special occasions.  That has run for 5,000 Turbine points which, due to how Turbine’s valuation of their in-game currency vary depending on how and when you purchase it, could put the real world price somewhere between $38 and $70.  Or less, since you can earn Turbine points in the game, one of the outstanding features of LOTRO, so you could subsidize your purchase with that.

Given all of that, I would guess that Trion would price insta-levels in Rift closer to the SOE price range than the Blizzard.

Then again, Trion isn’t shy about asking for money.  They have a $150 option for their expansion and they were looking for $100 if you wanted to be in the ArcheAge beta.

What do you think?

Sliding Down the Blade’s Edge September 4, 2014

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

Last time around I found my progress towards the Loremaster achievement in World of Warcraft… well… if not thwarted, at least delayed.  While I did a lot of quests in Nagrand, I found myself 12 quests shy of the achievement, and for 11 of those 12 quests I need a group or to be level 70.

Not the end of the world.  It isn’t like I will lose that progress if I run off and do something else.  But I had hit a stride of having racked up at least one more achievement each week as I pressed forward towards my goal, only to have my streak broken.  It was a minor hit to my morale.

But what are you going to do?

I wasn’t going to give up, so the only thing to do was to press on to the next zone.  For Outland, that would be the Blade’s Edge Mountains.

Blade's Edge Mountains Map

Blade’s Edge Mountains Map

I did not have an intro quest for the zone, and I do not think I had actually run a quest in the zone since maybe 2008.  So the first thing I did was head off to Stormwind to turn my experience bar back on.

I had turned the bar off at Nagrand so as to not out-level all of the content into complete triviality.  Now, with Nagrand behind me and the zones ahead pretty much okay for up to level 70, it was time to resume leveling.

Then it was back through the Dark Portal to Outland.

Coming soon: A DARKER Portal

Coming soon: A DARKER Portal to a new Outland!

It was time to find my way to the Blade’s Edge Mountains.

More after the cut.

(more…)

August in Review August 31, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, World of Warcraft.
5 comments

The Site

I took down the MMO Blog RSS feed in the side bar earlier this month.  Bhagpuss had been wondering why he was getting strange ping backs from my blog on his posts a while back.  Then, earlier this month, a couple of other people noted the same thing.  All of them had blogs hosted on Blogger, so there appeared to be some strange interaction going on.  The only thing I could come up with was the RSS feed, so I removed it lest anybody get more upset.

Which is a bummer, because I liked the feature when it worked.  So I am still looking for a WordPress.com compatible solution on that front.  My response to this change was to put a few more blogs into my blog roll.  Welcome to obscurity.  Nobody clicks on that.  I am working on a new feed option.  It is down at the bottom of the side bar.  But it needs some tuning as I am trying to combine multiple feeds that don’t quite follow the same pattern.

Meanwhile WordPress.com, no doubt feeling the sting from my lack of complaints about them recently, decided to implement a new editor for posts.

At first peek it was awful.

It was very slow to load, it was very small and didn’t resize, and it rearranged most of the controls, hiding many in nested menus.  Nested menus may be my least favorite control scheme ever.

Of course, they have billed this as a “better” editor, where better is apparently defined as “better at pissing me off.”  It is a classic example of not understanding the difference between “new” and “better,” as the new editor is objectively worse than the old one in some very important ways.  Fortunately, they do let you revert back to the old editor for now, though they “forget” that preference a couple of times a day, so I am greeted by the 10 second loading graphic.  10 seconds turns out to be exactly the amount of time it takes such a graphic to make me swear aloud.

Waiting for it to load...

Waiting for it to load…

They are working on it.  Every day or two when it comes up, they have tweaked something.  For example, the edit window no long feels as narrow as a 40 column monitor, and the controls have starting to get moved to where they were in the old editor, which makes you wonder what justifies the new one.  But I mostly object to the idea that the whole thing was in any fit state to shove in front of a live audience.  Or did somebody at WordPress.com really think that going with a very narrow editor was the wave of the future? (They probably thought it looked great on their phone and pushed the code.)

And, finally,  I reverted the site theme back to the format that it has been in for nearly 8 years.  I remain in search of a better alternative.  I liked the some of the other themes I tried, but not enough to stick with them.  Life goes on.

One Year Ago

I wrote about the hunter class in WoW, and how things used to work in the old days.

My summer in Lord of the Rings Online found me finishing up the waterworks and arriving on the far side of Moria at last.

We were trying to do something in Neverwinter.

There was the announcements that both The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar would be going with the monthly subscription model.  I tried to tie this all up into one neat conspiracy theory.

We had the big EverQuest Next announcement, which I summarized with two pictures.  A lot of people were blogging about SOE’s big new MMO plan.  Cyanbane even put up a site dedicated to tracking EverQuest Next news. But I wondered, given SOE history, if they could keep the excitement going.  No they could not.

All that talk by SOE about voxels reminded me of NovaLogic’s Delta Force series of shooters.  So I went back and played the original.

And in EVE Online, the war in Fountain petered out a we took TEST’s last system in the region and began deploying to Delve.  We’re always in Delve during the summer.  The CFC changed long standing policy and created the Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere in order to rent space in null sec.  We were also being encouraged to train for dreadnaughts.  And I also wondered who had the longest standing sovereignty claim in null sec, along with other bits of space trivia, including dumb ways to die.

And finally there was the Star Citizen Propaganda Video of Strongly Beating Spirit.  Is Star Citizen a thing yet?

Five Years Ago

The Matrix Online (MxO for those in the know) was shut down by SOE that AugustPlanetside is still around though!  For now.

Bruce Everiss was getting sued for libel by the makers of Envoy.  That was eventually worked though this past March.  Enovy, LLC dropped their suit, but not before causing Mr. Everiss much pain and hamstringing his desire to be as forthright in the future.

Somebody was granted a patent for something that sounded a lot like podcasting.  How did that ever turn out?  Oh, wait, like this.  Turns out podcasting doesn’t make any money, even for Adam Corolla, so trolling with that particular patent is a losing proposition.

That Wii Bowling Ball made another appearance.  Still no know deaths attributed to it.

I was wondering what genre our post apocalyptic future really was.  People assume it is Science Fiction.  Is it?

On the Blizzard front, we learned that we were not going to get StarCraft II for Christmas.  I still don’t own a copy yet.

There was a lot of speculation before BlizzCon about the next WoW expansion.  My guesses were far off the mark.

I also tried to draw parallels between 2004 and 2009.

I subscribed to the BlizzCon Pay-per-view event via DirecTV.  That was a lot of gaming coverage to watch.

Meanwhile in the instance group, we were finally almost all level 80.  It was time to screw around in some old raid instances.

I actually posted the results of that cheating poll I had set up.  I generally mean to post the results of these sorts of things, but somehow I usually don’t get around to it.

And, finally, I was on a re-reading binge last August while making Code Red floats.

New Linking Blogs

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 August

  1. Steam Mistake? Tropico 4 Collectors Bundle for 39 Cents
  2. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  3. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  4. Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor
  5. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  6. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  7. Bloodmyst Isle – The Worst Zone in WoW
  8. Civilization – We Have Met The Enemy, And It Is The Game Itself
  9. Civilization – The Fall of Babylon
  10. Vanguard – All Sagas Must End
  11. Civilization – The Glorious People’s Victory over Imperialist Aggression!
  12. Civilization – The Battle for Yaroslavl

Search Terms of the Month

world of warcraft rolling toaster
[Dude, I want one of those]

eq next vs wod
[Look, you don't even want to start that fight]

wizardry online august 2014
[In Asia, yes. Closed here at the end of July.]

my wow account keeps getting banned even with the authenticator
[I am not sure it will prevent that]

no character names left in everquest
[We all knew this day would come]

is obama autocracy
[The search term I was waiting for]

Civilization V

Our epic game of Civ V finally came to and end.  After fourteen sessions totaling to probably more than 40 hours of play, we might be done with Sid Meier and his games for a while now.  That includes Civilzation: Bey0nd Earth, which I expect will follow in the grand tradition of Civ games and launch in a barely playable state, only to be fixed months down the road.  This will be the first official Civ game I haven’t purchased at the earliest opportunity since the original Civilization.

EVE Online

The Delve deployment has kept going, but after some promising events early in the month, it has devolved to chasing people around like a game of interstellar cops and robbers.  Another bug hunt.  The Battlements Coalition looked like it might gel into something, but hasn’t exactly changed the scenery.  The members of it that were shooting us before, kept shooting us, while those who had not been did not look all that enthusiastic to start.  Meanwhile, the pile of random suggestions for how to “fix” null sec (which ranged from making it more fun to punishing those who have the temerity to organize) seems to have tapered off.  That SomerBlink thing must have distracted everybody.

Pokemon

I have started preparing for a potential run at the National Pokedex when Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire come out in November by tracking down various Pokemon in Pokemon X & Y.   But what I really need to do is finish Pokemon Black and White so I can move some of the hard fought or otherwise rare Pokemon I have collected over the years.  If I could get the bridge from Pokemon White to Pokemon Y going, I could funnel in Pokemon from as far back as Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen or further.

World of Warcraft

The instance group has been on summer hiatus for all of August.  People have been traveling and such, so no further instances have been run in Pandaria.  We still have enough time to finish them out before Warlords of Draenor though.  And with school starting, the days getting shorter, and the weather cooling off, we will likely find ourselves in Azeroth.  Meanwhile, I have been puttering along with my run for the Loremaster achievement in Outland.

Coming Up

You would think that after an SOE Live event I would find some time for some flavor of EverQuest or another, but I am not really feeling it.

I am also not really feeling it in EVE Online lately.  Random roams to try and catch people on gates or what not are not a big draw.

In Azeroth, more zones are waiting for me in my Loremaster quest, while it seems likely that the instance group will return at some point during the month.

With Civilization off the table for the strategy group for now, we move to our next game: Total War – Rome II.  I foresee comedy.

I should probably do some sort of wrap-up about Blaugust, now that we have arrived at its end, at least to congratulate those who managed a post a day in August.

And after so many announcements and such during normally quiet August, I am not sure what is left for September.  Things like Destiny or The Sims 4 just don’t interest me.  What is coming up?

Slammed in Nagrand August 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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1 comment so far

After finishing Terokkar Forest last week I was feeling a bit optimistic about the next zone on my Loremater project checklist.  I was headed to Nagrand.

Nagrand Map

Nagrand Map

I was optimistic for a few reasons.  The first was because Nagrand is a zone that I seem to carry some fondness for in the back of my brain.  I remember doing the Kurenai faction grind, which is pretty easily accomplished if you have a yen for slaughtering ogres and collecting their war beads.  I finished that effort and have all of the talbuk mounts to prove it.  And while Hemet Nesingwary was lurking out there in the zone, what could he possibly do to me that he hadn’t done a dozen or so times before?

Hemet's Camp/Crash Site

Hemet’s Camp/Crash Site

The second reason was because I was already underway in the chase for the 75 quests needed for the Nagrand achievement.  Finishing up Terokkar required me to start in on Nagrand to pick up a quest line that would lead back to Terokkar.  So I was starting 10 quests up.  Go me.

Finally, Nagrand is kind of a pleasant zone, made up of rolling green hill with some rivers surrounded by hills, which keeps you from thinking about the color of the sky.

Flying in Nagrand

Flying in Nagrand

There are only a few ogre mounds and floating rocks and other oddities that mark much of the terrain of Outland.  And even the floating rocks are covered in green turf.

What could go wrong?

(more…)

Are We All in the Draenor Beta Yet? August 23, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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1 comment so far

Congratulations, you’ve been selected to participate in the beta test of World of Warcraft®: Warlords of Draenor™!

So said the email that arrived earlier this week.

Some war chiefs

Some war chiefs squeeze into the picture…

Yes, nearly two months after the beta started (but more than two months before it goes live), the net appears to have been cast wide for testers.  At the same time I got the email, one also came for my daughter’s account and two other people I know also got an invite this past week.  All we have in common is being subscribed, opting in for betas on Battle.net, and having pre-ordered the expansion.

You can download the client now! Be ready to log in to the game from Friday, June 27, at 2:00 PM PDT, when new content will be available to play.

As a beta test participant, you’ll experience the new content and features of Warlords of Draenor before the expansion is released. Over the course of testing, you’ll venture through the Dark Portal, establish your Garrison, and fight back against the Iron Horde!

Install is pretty easy now too.  The new Blizzard Battle.net combined launcher keeps track of your installs for you and will pull new ones down.  So if you have been given beta access, there are no codes or anything, you just select the beta and tell it to install.

Install now... or wait?

Install now… or wait?

My daughter was, of course, dying to install it on her system.  I, on the other hand, am debating my usual pattern of averting my eyes from anything I’ve already decided on.  I’ve pre-purchased the expansion, so I am going to play, there is no doubt.  Do I spoil that first day of discovery in November by running around in the expansion now?

For now I think I am going to stick to my plan.  I have a project under way in Azeroth already, so I am not starving for some new content.  I think it is best to keep things fresh.

I will just have to try not to listen to my daughter too much.  She is very excited about the new character models and she keeps trying to tell me about garrisons.

Better put on my headphones.

Two Shy in Terokkar Forest August 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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The chase for the Loremaster title continues in Outland.  Having decided to go through the unfinished zones the hard way, at level with a character new to each zone, it was time to get started.  My rogue, Trianis, ran through some of Hellfire Peninsula in order to gear up a bit and get to level 62 so that quests would be available, then headed into Terokkar Forest.

Map of Terokkar Forest

Map of Terokkar Forest

I will start off by stipulating that everything I bitched about while doing Bloodmyst Isle is present in Terokkar Forest as well; too many “kill 12 things” quests, the “kill 12 things” quests where there are only 15 things so if two people are trying to do the quest you start to hate each other, horrible drop rates for quests that require drops, having to run back and forth across the zone, being sent to kill minions and running back to the quest giver only to be told you now have to kill the boss behind all the now respawned minions, too many quests available to the player at one so that any story thread gets lost, and at least three escort quests where the NPC seems to actively seek out hostiles.

It is all there in the Blizzard of 2007, “People like quest? Then we will drown them in quests!” vision of how to make an MMO.

As I have said before, I have pretty much bought into Blizzard’s more recent vision of how to do a zone, where they limit you to two or three quests at a time to keep the story clear, pop up the “kill the boss” quest right then and there once you have killed the minions (or at least put the minions in combat with some of your allies so you don’t have to clear the field every time you need to pass through), and do not rely quite so heavily  “go kill a dozen foozles while we figure out where to send you next” mechanics.

And before you ask, no I don’t hate The Burning Crusade.  It has/had some of the best dungeon content in the game.  The instance group had quite a time there.  It is just the solo, overland quest philosophy that aches now even more than it did back then.

Anyway, all of that is there and… at least from this point forward… I will try not to dwell on those aspects of the zone.  They were at least mitigated by having access to a flying mount (though I started to yearn for the faster mounts after a few round trips) and playing through with a rogue who could at least stealth through bad guys at need.

So on to the zone… after the cut.

(more…)

Warlords of Draenor – Expendables Style August 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Humor, World of Warcraft.
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Last Thursday we had the big reveal.  Blizzard had an event where they talked about various aspects of the Warlords of Draenor expansion and gave us the big news that we had all been waiting for, the launch date.

And they also showed us the big cinematic trailer.  This focuses on the change in lore.  This time around the orc chieftains reject Gul’dan and his offer.  It isn’t exactly clear why they do this.  Did somebody come back in time and warn them?  Were they that much on the edge last time around that it could have gone either way?  Did Gul’dan blow it with his choice of stemware?

Whatever it was, there won’t be any fel orcs or like abominations.  But the orcs are still building that protal and they are still coming to Azeroth.

And that’s is all you really need to know, that they are coming… on or about November 13th of this year.

But if you are a bit of a lore noob (Liore noob?) you might be wondering about the cast of characters.  I ran through the quest line in Felwood just about a month back, which included a whole “Previously in Azeroth” quest segment that played out the high points of the story behind The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, but I still can’t name the 47 7 orc chieftain without peeking.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Blizzard is trying to solve this with their own Lords of War video series.  But maybe you want something a little more straight forward.  If so, I offer this:

(Direct link)

Pity about the heavy use of ads at both ends, but it does show you some of the in-game versions of the actual Warlords of Draenor.

And if you want to see all the WoW cinematic trailers, Shintar has them all queued up in a single post.

Quote of the Day – Prescience at GDC 2007 August 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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…because of wow, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail.

-Rob Pardo,  MMOs Past, Present, and Future Panel at GDC 2007

Back in early March of 2007 I wandered up to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  I grabbed an expo pass to go up and meet up with Brent from VirginWorlds and a couple of other people, as well as scouting around to see what I could see on the expo floor.

GDC2007Logo

It wasn’t a great expedition on my part.  I was coming down with a cold or something.  I spoke to a few people, but did not hang around very long.  It wasn’t a GDC where I hung around to have dinner with anybody.

But on the way out I happened by the booth where they were selling what was essentially a pre-purchase of the audio from various panels.  There were a couple of different career tracks that you could order, and one looked particularly interesting, so I put down my credit card and ordered it.

Some time later I received it, ripped it to iTunes, and listed to the whole thing.   And then I forgot about it.  My iTunes library has more than 7,000 various items in it, so things can get lost.

Last weekend I was running through a list of tracks, looking for something interesting when I came across the audio I ordered for 17 panels on the whatever track it was and started listening to bits of it.  There was a panel on Korean MMOs and how they succeed and rant session that really laid open some astounding day one problems with Windows Vista.

And then there was the panel titled MMOs Past, Present, and Future.

Just looking at the list of names on the panel… Raph Koster, Gordon Walton, Mark Jacobs, Rob Pardo, Mark Kern, and Daniel James… and you have to marvel at the breadth of  experience and influence thay have had on the MMO world.  All that was missing is somebody from SOE to represent EverQuest.  And they were there to talk about lessons learned and the future of MMOs at what was something of a transition point in the genre.

Right then, in March 2007, Blizzard had recently launched their first expansion for World of Warcraft and sales were booming.  Star Wars Galaxies had launched a few years back and had done well, but had not eclipsed EverQuest, a crime for which it was then was put through the NGE. Vanguard was faltering, but still wasn’t part of SOE yet.  The Wii was still a big deal.  Lord of the Rings Online had yet to launch and was just in open beta.   It was that age of expectation I wrote about the other day in reference to Vanguard, where we were getting a new top dog every few years.

And this group of heavy hitters who all influenced the genre in their own ways, chose to wade in on the subject, leading to some great quotes.  The Rob Pardo quote at the top seemed the most prescient, though Daniel James seemed to have a good sense of things as well.  There was also a lot of focus on polish, echoing what Rob Pardo said six months before at the Austin Game Conference. (I remembered off the cuff that Brent had transcribed that 8 years back.)  And lest you think Rob Pardo was the only one hitting that note, there is this:

I don’t think big media companies will be able to execute their way out of a paper bag. A lot of people will lose their shirt in this space.

-Daniel James

and:

Here come the mass media, and they’re shouting, omg we wanna be just like World of Warcraft. Here’s a lot of money, make a great game, but there’s only a handful of people who know how to make it really well. I’m predicting disaster.

-Mark Jacobs

Though that one might be a bit mitigated by his statements that there will be another WoW, that an MMO will come along and beat WoW.  And that could still happen, but I get the sense that Mark had a shorter time frame in mind.  At least he said that he didn’t think Warhamer Online would be the game that beat WoW.  And there was Gordon Walton on the panel, listening to all of this, who then went off to Star Wars: The Old Republic which at one point EA said was going to hit 11 million subscriptions. a clear “beat WoW” number financed by a dump truck of money.  SWTOR has been a success in the long term, just not by any metric EA chose in advance.

All and all it was a good panel to listen to, both back then and seven years down the road.  But how to share it with people?

If you are a GDC member, which costs a hefty $500 a year, you can find it in the GDC Vault.  There are some free sessions available, but this one is a members only selection.

So I dug around for transcripts, and found a pretty good one over at Wonderland Blog, which covers most of the key quotes.  It is missing some of the intro and clips Raph’s quote about how people keep just remaking Diku MUD and Lambda MOO, but most of the meat is there.

 

 

Whither Outland? August 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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After finishing up the 1-60 achievements for my Loremaster project, culminating with the Bloodmyst Isle run, I hit a bit of wall in my effort.  I can be a very goal oriented person, but once the goal has been achieved I sometimes drop right off.  So while I had a lot of fun going through all of the zones I had not previously finished after Cataclysm, I was now facing a new goal in the form of another set of zones in Outland.  Five of the seven level 60-70 zones from The Burning Crusade,waited for me.

Outland Map

Outland Map

Those five zones held a total of 434 quests to be done.

  • Terokkar Forest  62-65 – 63 quests
  • Nagrand  64-67 – 75 quests
  • Blade’s Edge Mountains 65-68 – 86 quests
  • Netherstorm 66-70 – 120 quests
  • Shadowmoon Valley  67-70 – 90 quests

After Bloodmyst Isle I was not ready to face that, so I slept for a bit.  My WoW play time pretty much dropped off a cliff.  If it had not been for Darkmoon Faire, it might have dropped to zero.

But this week revived my spirits a bit.  With the release date announcement coming, I knew it would also put a limit on how much time I had to screw around with old stuff before the fresh, new expansion fun began.  So the question had to be answered: How was I going to deal with Outland?

The easiest path was to just dig through some of my higher level characters who had already made it through the expansion and use them to finish up whatever zones they were close to being done with.  I have characters that are within 25 quests of being done for the first three of the zones listed.  That would rush me through some of it, but would leave me two zones I left to run.

The downside of that plan is the fact that running zones with a high level takes a lot of the fun out of things.  One shotting mobs gets old… and annoying when you have a quest that requires you to get them down to 20% health and apply a gizmo to them… and is a sure fire way to turn the whole thing into a numbers game.

The other option was to draw from a set of characters I had ready for Outland… I ended up my 1-60 run with a level 58 Monk, a level 59 Warrior, and a Level 61 Rogue… press through the early bits… I already have Hellfire Peninsula and Zangarmarsh done… and take on the zones at level.

The real upside to this plan, beyond doing the quests at level so as to feel some connection to things, is that it feels like it might be a perfectly timed review of the Outland content before Warlords of Draenor shows up and presents a different view of these zones.

A Better Draenor vs. Outland map

Draenor vs. Outland map

To test this out I brought my level 61 Rogue, Trianis, through the portal… soon to be “the old portal” I suppose, though with time travel it might just be “the other portal” or some such… to see if I was really ready.

On a bombing mission before we had the whole vehicle thing...

On a bombing mission before we had the whole vehicle thing…

Things went okay, though my good feelings were mitigated by a couple of factors.

The first was that Hellfire Peninsula is literally the most familiar place in Outland for me.  As the starting, kick-off zone, I have been through at least the first half of it with every single character over 60, just to gear up some before running instances if nothing else.  So I knew the story, I knew which quests out of the big pile to do in which order to avoid retracing my steps repeatedly, I knew where the named mobs hung out even without the little skull on the mini-map,  and I knew exactly where to find those damn prayer beads for the exorcism.  (Not to mention what to do during the exorcism, which is confusing even if you have read the quest text.)

Plus, having hit level 60, I had the skill and access to a wide selection of flying mounts, so I was able to avoid pounding back and forth through the same mobs.

And, being a rogue helps.  The whole stealth thing lets you bypass trash and get straight to the point.  Plus, at level 60, I got the “I Win!” button… or skill.

Cloak and Dagger...

Cloak and Dagger…

I chose this skill after hitting level 60 because… well… it is yet another reason why people who don’t play rogues hate them.

I just have to stealth myself within 40 yards of my target and activate one of my “Hey, surprise, gotcha!” skill and I am teleported directly behind the mob and get that first attack pretty much for free.  And with at level mobs, my pair of heirloom weapons, and a crit, that can be a one-shot kill.  Even I hate me for having access to that sort of skill.

So I was able to carve a path through the zone, upgrade his gear, and get him to level 62 in fairly short order.  Now I have to find my way to the starting quest for Terokkar Forest, the first zone on the list.  My memories are pretty sparse when it comes to that zone.  There are some blood elves and a big spider, right?

Yeah, that one...

Yeah, that one…

That screen shot was taken back in 2008.

We shall see if I have a pre-WoD tour of Outland in me.  If I can get on that bicycle, there will be a few more zone touring posts.