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BlizzCon Blues October 21, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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8 comments

The crowds are gathered in Anaheim.  The presentations are set.  Jay Mohr is probably reviewing his jokes.  The Foo Fighters are wandering around somewhere I am sure.

BlizzCon is coming.  It will be kicking off shortly.


But unlike past years, there is not much I am looking to get out of BlizzCon.  I have subscribed to it on DirecTV previously and watched it nearly end-to-end.  But not this year.

Part of that is because I am not really playing any Blizzard games.

Cataclysm took too much of the fun out of World of Warcraft for me.

The StarCraft II beta convinced me I had really lost my RTS skills.  I am more of a tower defense guy now.

Diablo III has been pushed out to next year.  I guess it would be nice to know the final release date, but since that will be somewhere past the SWTOR event horizon, it isn’t really a big deal to me at the moment.

There are bits of BlizzCon I wouldn’t mind seeing.

There are usually some good interviews and sessions.  I find watching the StarCraft II tournaments to be surprisingly interesting.  48 million Koreans can’t be wrong.  The dance and costume contests are always amusing, though this many years in a row the freshness has certainly worn off.

And the musical act… well, the Foo Fighters spark no interest from me.  But neither did Ozzy Osborne.  Tenacious D was okay last year, but that was more novelty I think.

But none of that really makes it worth paying to watch the event.

So I will watch other people reporting from BlizzCon this year.

And what dare I hope for from BlizzCon 2011?

Maybe they will announce the next WoW expansion.  Though to excite me, they better be able to explain how it will make up for Cataclysm. (And it better not be another 18 months away.)

Then there is the new MMO, the secret project called Titan, where all the real talent at Blizzard is alleged to be focused. (Judging from all the live team smack down comments people make.)  I would like to hear about that, though I doubt they will be able to tell me anything at all that will get me eager to play at this stage.  We know how the Blizzard release timeline goes.  If they are just giving us a glimpse over the next two days, they are at least two years away from launch.

And what else is there?

What news do you want to hear out of BlizzCon, if any?

What would get you amped up about Blizzard?

April Fools at Blizzard – 2011 April 1, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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7 comments

There were April Fools pranks all over the internet this year like every year.  Many were quite amusing, like EVE Online’s announcement of player mounts being included as part of the Incarana expansion.

But nobody goes over the top the way Blizzard does.  Last year they had a number of April Fools jokes and this year they have kept up the tradition.

Last year there were items that only appeared on either the US or EU sites.  This time around it seems like it was a unified effort across the two geographic areas. (Though I did not do a thorough search, so if I missed something, speak up!)

There is Crabby the Dungeon Helper, a send up of the old Microsoft Office Paperclip helper.

You Cybernetic Crabby Pal

And to just rub Crabby in our faces, he is also present on the Tomb of Immortal Darkness page, a preview of the most challenging WoW instance ever.

Crabby will not be deterred

He also hangs out on the WoW community page as well, and keeps talking while you are trying to read the faux Patch 4.1.11 Release Notes, which includes items like the Random Guild Finder and and appearance tab… for non-combat pets.

Then there was the Horadrapp, a Horadric Cube iPhone app that can be used to transmute your current iPhone apps into new and more powerful apps.

Horadric Cube App

On the StarCraft II front, there was the StarCraft Motion Overdrive video, showing StarCraft II being played via the XBox 360 Kinnect as well as the StarCraft II Patch 1.4.11 Patch Notes.

And while all of this is very amusing, it does lead one to wonder what might have been accomplished if the time that went into these things was spent focusing on the actual games involved.

World of Tanks Sets a Record, I Look for the Definition of “Server” February 24, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, World of Tanks.
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8 comments

I received this press release from Wargaming.net, the makers of World of Tanks.

I get a press release of some sort from them about once a week and they vary in quality.  But today’s had me… asking questions.

Here is what they said:

World of Tanks Sets World Record

London (24th February, 2011) - Wargaming.net is glad to announce that its free-to-play action-MMO game World of Tanks has set up a Guinness World Record™ in the category of Most Players Online Simultaneously on One MMO Server.

The record was registered on January 23rd, 2011 when the number of players on the game’s Russian server totaled 91,311.

“We are excited to see so many people playing World of Tanks and the new record is an important achievement for us,” said Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming.net. “However, with the population of the game growing steadily another week or two would let us report a more impressive record as the current PCCU number surpasses 120,000 players”.

Wargaming.net wants to thank all World of Tanks fans that made this record possible.

Join the beta at: http://game.worldoftanks.com/registration/ (NA server)
Join the beta at:
http://game.worldoftanks.eu/registration/ (EU server)

For more information on World of Tanks, visit http://www.worldoftanks.com/.

This confuses me a bit, since I do not understand what they mean by “One MMO Server.”

Not to bash Wargaming.net or anything, but there isn’t a lot of shared space in the game.  At the most you are involved with 31 other players you can see and otherwise you are in your own private garage or in the queue to get into a battle.  So it isn’t exactly like 91,311 people shared an experience together.

Plus, is under 100,000 really the high point for what we define as a server, shard, or realm?

Surely some game like Guild Wars has already been there, done that.

Or a game that plays like World of Tanks… like, say, StarCraft II?  If you can call WoT an MMO at the moment then the door seems open for StarCraft II, doesn’t it?

So unless they can prove that all 91,311 people were logged into the same single server in their data center rack, I’m not sure this record is very well defined.

What do you think?  Record? No Record? Poor definitions?

Blizzard Customer Service Just Giving Away Authenticators January 19, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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1 comment so far

In my further adventures with Twitter and trying to figure out exactly what it is good for, I decided to follow as many MMO company Twitter accounts as I could.

I wanted to see what companies were doing with Twitter.

A lot of the game companies are very quiet most of the time, which I appreciate.  They save their tweets for something special.

SOE, is more verbose and occasionally talks about game status, but has been mostly promoting DC Universe Online of late.  Heck, even John Smedley is suddenly quite active on the DCUO front.

TERA Online talks a lot about… well… TERA Online.  Too much, I think.

LOTRO announces flash lotteries and community related items.

But BlizzardCS seems to be unique in that they give actual customer service status, like the in-game petition queue duration. (Which went from about a 3 day wait to about a a 12 hour wait in the course of a day at one point.  Somebody turned on the steam there.)

But they also give away Blizzard Authenticators by the hundreds.

No, really.  I’ve seen a couple of tweets like this already.

I was curious enough about this that I responded and won a free authenticator on the first try.  And they sent it to me, for free.  No shipping or anything.  I didn’t actually need an authenticator, but I know enough people who play WoW that I’ll find somebody to pass it on to.

But I thought it was interesting that the organization within Blizzard that probably benefits most from people having authenticators actually has budget to send them out to people who know where to find them for free.  It is one of those things that seems logical, but which I hardly ever see.

Enlightened self-interest or some such.

[Addendum: You can read a more clearly worded and detail description of the Blizzard Twitter Authenticator Give Away contest here.]

What Am I Looking For At BlizzCon? October 22, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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3 comments

BlizzCon starts in just a few hours.

The BlizzCon Musical Act

As we did last year, we have ordered the DirecTV Pay-Per-View at our house.

After viewing last year’s event, my daughter wanted us to go to BlizzCon this year.  Unfortunately, I was unemployed about the time the tickets went on sale, so thought we probably had better uses for our money.  Not that I could have gotten tickets.  How quickly did they sell out this year?

Anyway, after a flurry of deletions by my lovely wife, there is space on the (apparently non-upgradeable R15 model) DirecTV DVR for 20 hours of BlizzCon.

But what do I want to see this year?

Sure, watching panels is good.  Hearing from the people who make the games, and who are obviously very passionate about the games they make, is always good for me.

And the light bits are always fun, like the costume and dance contests.  Jay Mohr is supposed to be back again as MC of the contests.  He is a hoot to watch.

Then there is the live Tenacious D concert.  Even my wife might sit down and watch that.

But what else do I expect?  What else would I want?

World of Warcraft

Cataclysm is a little over a month away, so what can they really talk about that we don’t already know?  I mean, if you’re hard core enough to go to BlizzCon, you’re probably in the beta (unless you’re Wolfshead) or at least you’ve immersed yourself in what is coming.   The 4.0.1 patch has already dropped, so we have the new talent trees.  So what else is there.

I Expect:

  • Cataclysm Cheerleading
  • A lot of air time for the Cataclysm trailer
  • More details with few surprises
  • Maybe some new shiny announced for the Blizzard Store
  • Some excuse about why the World of Warcraft Magazine Fall issue isn’t in my hands yet
  • Goblin and Worgen dancers in the dance contest

I Want:

  • Something huge pulled out of the hat, a surprise they’ve kept under raps about Cataclysm
  • A great big hint about the next expansion
  • More bank slots (I always want more bank slots)

StarCraft II

This just released a couple of months back.  I still don’t own it, so my interest is low.  We were moaning at the office about how we could actually play the original StarCraft on machines we had at the office.  With StarCraft II, that just isn’t reality.  No LAN play an heavy system requirements… at least relative to the machines on which we work… which are from about 2004.

I Expect:

  • StarCraft II Cheerleading
  • Talks about upcoming patches
  • Ladder talk
  • Downloadable content for the Blizzard Store

I Want:

  • A date for the next episode
  • Details about the next episode (Zerg, please)
  • A price cut, LAN play, and a pony while I’m wishing

Diablo III

Here is the game about which we know the least, which gives Blizzard the opportunity to tell us something we don’t know.  Don’t blow it Blizz.

I Expect:

  • More game play videos
  • A whole lot of “here’s what we’re doing” panel time
  • Talk about RealID integration, and Facebook, and all that crap
  • The fifth and final class announced and demonstrated – If we get only this, it will be enough

I Want

  • A date, dammit.  I know it will be off by at least 90 days, but give me something
  • Some way to play without logging into Battle.net
  • Talk about how the Diablo III platform will be open to mods, with tools and real support, which they should have spent time doing for Diablo II over the last decade

Other Games

Of course, there is some other huge project going on at Blizzard.  But there has already been a denial from Blizzard that they will have any sort of announcement about this project.  Still, they might just be playing coy, and there isn’t a lot else to get us worked up about this time around that I can see.

I Expect:

  • Nothing

I Want:

  • A hint
  • Several hints
  • Maybe some anagrams
  • A teaser video

We shall see.

Of course, I’ll hear about any big news long before I see it on my recorded copy of BlizzCon.  I’ll be at work, and not in front of the TV, so anything really newsworthy will probably be a Yahoo headline before I see it.

But even when you’ve read the reports, which are always filtered through somebody elses’ perspective, it is nice to see the announcement on your own.

What will we see at BlizzCon?

Are You Buying StarCraft II? July 22, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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31 comments

StarCraft II comes out next Tuesday, and it is almost assured to be a best seller from day one.

I mean, it is a Blizzard product, right?

Or is it really the first Activision-Blizzard product?  Hrmm…

Anyway, it is coming out in a few days and I am trying to decide if I should buy it.

Part of me, the part that really enjoyed StarCraft when it came out in 1999, the part of me that wants to shout, “Jacked up and good to go!,” that part wants to go out and buy it on day one.

But then there is the part of me that is annoyed by the absence of direct LAN play features in the game and the fact that you will have to log into Battle.net even for solo play.  And then there is the whole Facebook integration and the Real ID question, which has been shelved for the moment, but which I am sure will return.

And finally, there is the part of me that played in the beta.  Whee, I got in the beta!  Okay, I got into it roughly 6 weeks before it ended, but I was there.  That experience left me with a few impressions:

  • The game looks really nice
  • The game play and controls are as crisp and as sure as expected
  • They took almost no risks with the game, so if you’ve played StarCraft, you know what you are getting
  • I suck at it

The last came from me getting smoked regularly in matches.  I’ve lost my build order and unit control skills over the years.  And since single player wasn’t available to me in the beta, I have no idea if that is at all worth the price of admission.

So I am on the fence about buying the game.  Nostalgia and the fact that Blizzard does make good games is pressing me forward.  But the Battle.net requirement and the fact that it is the same game most of us have played already makes me want to pass, at least until I hear how the single player campaign play.

How about you?

Battle.net Parental Controls Get Tweaked July 22, 2010

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

This week’s Tuesday WoW/Battle.net maintenance  (which went until almost 5pm Pacific on some servers, compared to the usual noon-ish wrap up) included an update to the parental controls page.

They did not fix many of the issues that came with the move from it being part of World of Warcraft to being part of Battle.net. (see past rant on the subject)  They fixed one, to be exact.  And the whole thing still bypasses the Blizzard authenticator, which annoys me.

But there were a few other minor tweaks.

One was the color.  I guess that midnight blue was too dark for some.

Now in shades of gray

And they also added the ability to clear the schedule for a given day.  Previously you could only clear the whole schedule.  That fixed the “once you have a time slot on a given day, you cannot undo it without clearing everything” issue.

But more interesting in view of the whole Real ID in the forums blow up of two weeks back, is the addition of an option to allow forum posting. (Real ID still lives, btw.  Just not in the forums at the moment.)

One new check box

Previously there was only a check box to enable Real ID.  And, since Real ID was going to be required to post on the forums, the two actions were effectively controlled by a single control.

Now, however, in the wake of the “No Real ID in the forums” outburst, there is the new check box for forum posting access.

But what does it mean?

Was this planned to be there all along?  Is this a reaction to Blizzard having to yank their Real ID in the forums plan?

And what will it mean when StarCraft II comes out in a week?  The press release about Facebook integration with SC II seems to indicate that there will have to be additional factors to consider for parental controls.

I guess we’ll find out about that in a week.

The Biggest Lie About Real ID July 9, 2010

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

Sometimes we get mired into arguing about minutia and miss the real point.  I’ve been going back and forth about the symptoms and ignoring the reality.  What forest, all I see are a bunch of trees.

Blizzard is not imposing Real ID on the WoW forums to clear out trolls or to make us responsible for our posts or to save money on forum moderation.  That is a load of crap. An excuse.  A smoke screen.  The post that set off nearly 2500 pages of responses (so far, including one from me) is just a side show, a distraction.

Seriously, are you telling me that after more than five years, suddenly Blizzard can’t take it any more?  Did Mike Morhaime suddenly crack and shout, “I’ve had it up to here with you damn trolls!  I’m taking you all down!” and start hurling murlocs around his giant office?

Not likely.

A big change like this, which is really a change in the way they do business, a change in the way they want to relate to their customers, always comes with a corporate press release.

So I went looking for one.

There is no corporate Blizzard press release out there about cleaning up the forums.

This is not the purpose of their grand stroke.

These are not the forum trolls you are looking for.

The people at Blizzard know that the forums are unlikely to get more civil.  And they also know that support issues diverted from the forums to email and the phones are likely to cost them more money, not save them any.

No, the only press release out there related to Real ID, and it doesn’t even mention it by name, is the announcement that StarCraft II will be integrated with Facebook.

Real ID is the result of that integration.

Because to integrate with Facebook, you have to use your real name.  So say the terms of service.

So if Blizzard wants to come play with Facebook, or is being told they have to go play with Facebook because somebody mentioned to Bobby Kotick that Facebook is where the money is, they have to go in with their subscribers real names in full view of the world.

Getting in bed with Facebook requires full disclosure.

“But wait!” I hear you say, “That press release only mentions StarCraft II!  We’re talking about the World of Warcraft forums!”

That is merely because we haven’t seen the right press release yet.

Prediction: New Cataclysm feature to be announce, Facebook integration with World of Warcraft.

I’m going to stick with that one until proven wrong.

You’re welcome for that blinding flash of the obvious.

You probably beat me to it by a few days.  I just haven’t made it to a post yet that laid it out quite like that.

What that means to World of Warcraft and the Cataclysm expansion… well… I think I’ll quote Robert Heinlein:

When in danger or in doubt
Run in circles, scream and shout!

You may now begin to panic.

If you wish to defer panic for a few minutes, go read this, laugh, sigh, and smile for a moment.

Then begin to panic.

As Real ID Oozes Forward, More People Lose July 7, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
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17 comments

I must admit, my first gut reaction to Blizzard announcing that their Real ID initiative would be applied to their forums and that everybody would be required to post using their real name was a  Nelson Muntz, “Haw-haw!”

After all, I don’t post to the Blizzard forums.  Why should I care?

And I could see the same point which Darren did, that this whole thing would certainly put a few people on better behavior.  And I am sure there were others who could see some merit in that.  Wasn’t abusive customer behavior one of the reasons that Mark Jacobs opposed having official forums for WAR?

Of course, after that initial flush of schadenfreude, holes began to develop quite quickly in the Utopian forum in my head.

There will always be people who doesn’t care if others know their real name and who will continue to behave like an ass-hats regardless of what sort of information about them is made public.  And then there are those with names common enough that knowing their name tells gives you no information whatsoever, some percentage of whom are jerks. (I wonder if there is a correlation between having a common name and bad forum behavior?  Is somebody name John Smith more likely to mouth off?)

Out of a population of a couple of million subscribers, I am going to guess that there will be enough such people as to make the change in the tenor of the forums smaller than one might hope.

Then, if you add in the people whose accounts do not actually carry their real name (whoops, did you sell your account to a forum troll?), you begin to wonder if this is going to make any real difference in the war for public decency.

After all, this Real ID in the forums plan is likely to stifle the voices of a lot of average users while being unlikely to hinder the two groups I mentioned above.  The signal to noise ratio in the forums will likely stay the same or perhaps even get worse.

So you will be hard pressed to get me to believe that end users will see much benefit from the imposition of real names in the Blizzard forums.

Blizzard will though.  I am sure forum posting will drop dramatically.  That will make community easier and less expensive to manage.

But unless that is going to cut my monthly subscription price, I’m not sure I care.

The cost of Real ID though, that is pretty steep.

After all, the fundamental principal of a game like World of Warcraft is to deliver an escapist fantasy, to be someone or something you are not in the real world of your every day life and to be a part of a community of others who also seek a similar escape.

Only, suddenly, we really can’t be a part of that community unless we’re ready to link our in-game persona to our real life.  Today it is the in-game friends list, tomorrow it will be the forums, what will it be next week.  It could be your Real ID associated with your Armory pages if people do not complain now.

And while some declare worry on the subject to be irrational fear, I think they are living in a fools paradise.  Certainly there are some people for whom Real ID will make no difference.  If you are male and have a reasonably common name and are not, say, looking for a job, then who cares what comes up when people Google your name or look at your Facebook page.

But what happens when your name is a unique search on Google, so all your information is easily obtained once somebody has your name? (That’s me, by the way.)

What happens when you’re a woman and you want to just fit in and enjoy the escapist fantasy without being hit on or treated differently?

What happens when you’re a guy but you play all female characters?  Ready to explain that one to all and sundry?

What happens when you have kids who play and they want to be part of the community?

What happens when your last name happens to come from a region that the politicians and news media have declared “bad guys?” (Historically, that has happened to my family.  And while it is unlikely to happen today (too many Irish in the country, for one thing) it does make you think when it happens to somebody else.)

Are we all that ready to share?

WoW is entertainment.  I’m not sure I’d want a public record available listing out every movie I’ve seen, every television show I’ve watched, or every book I’ve read.  So why would I feel differently about video games I’ve played?

Finally, there is the security aspect.

And this is what kills me.

Blizzard goes on and on about account security.  They want us to buy authenticators to keep our accounts secure.  Fine, I’ll play ball in the name of security.  I bought an authenticator.

But I expect Blizzard to be holding up their end of the bargain as well.

And Blizzard cannot say they are doing their best to protect account security on the one hand while proposing to give out our real names on the other.

They made us change our account IDs to an email address.  Now they want us to use our real names, so you can now get the email address/account ID of a large number of WoW accounts without much effort.  And any hacker can now associate account IDs with all the information about us that is available on the internet.  And since most people make up their passwords based on things like names, birthdays, and such of children and spouses, hacking accounts just got that much easier.

All of this is making me wonder what things are going to look like in StarCraft II when it comes out at the end of this month.  Is it going to be real names, Real ID, up front from day one?  Is everybody I play going to know my real name?  There is no way to play StarCraft II without Battle.net (no LAN play, remember?), so if Blizzard is going to display all our names, I won’t want to go there.

All paranoia?  Maybe.  People who have been victims of loose information tend to be more concerned about it being contained.

But this is light entertainment.  If it is engendering paranoia, then it is doing something wrong.

And other have written more clearly and eloquently about this topic than I have.  You should go run through the posts, and the comments, at Terra Nova and Broken Toys.

Heck, even SynCaine has an unusually calm, logical, direct and to the point poke at Blizzard.

But I just wanted to put my own thoughts down on this.  One of the purposes of this blog is to record what is going on at the time so I can review it later and see how I have changed or not.

And I wanted to complain.  Loudly and quickly.  If we all say, “Whatever, it doesn’t apply to me,” then at some point the changes will apply to you, and you’ll wish somebody had spoken up earlier.

Addendum – Additional reading on the subject: