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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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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?

 

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

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

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.

Warlords of Draenor to Ship on November 13, 2014 August 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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The age of the whimsical panda is over…

Chris Metzen, Blizzard Senior Vice President, Story and Franchise Development

The moment announcing the moment many of us have been waiting for.  Warlords of Draenor will drop on November 13, 2014, just after BlizzCon, which runs November 7-8 this year.

The Blizzard team showed some previews of the expansion, including zones, dungeons, raids, and garrisons along with the cinematic to a packed house down in LA, with Chris Metzen speaking about the making of the Warcraft franchise over the last 20 years and about old stories coming around again.

Metzen stands up

Metzen stands up

The cinematic focused on the orcs making a different choice, rejecting Gul’dan but seeking to be conquerors all the same, closing with the construction of the dark portal.

Coming soon - A Dark Portal

Coming soon – A Dark Portal

The cinematic was, as expected, all about root lore and reflected nothing about the actual game.

(direct link)

No word on when we will be getting Patch 6.0, the precursor to the expansion, but I would guess that we might see it by some point in mid-October.  It will include pre-expansion events leading towards the big day.

Just three more months to wait.

Warlords of Draenor Launch Date Update Date or Something August 4, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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For future reference, please note today’s date as the date we received a date for the date at which the actual launch date of the expansion would be revealed.

Save the date! Which date?

Save the date! Which date?

Or, as Blizzard put it:

A storm of iron is headed Azeroth’s way—be among the first to witness its fury at the world premiere of the Warlords of Draenor cinematic! Join Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime, Chris Metzen, and World of Warcraft designers Ion Hazzikostas and Brian Holinka for the grand unveiling, streamed live from the Ace Theatre in Los Angeles. But that’s not all—we’ll also host a live interview with the WoW developers, announce the Warlords of Draenor launch date, and debut the first episode of a new animated lore mini-series: Lords of War. You won’t want to miss it!

So, summing up, today (August 4th) it was announced that next week (August 14th) Blizzard will shows us the cinematic for the Warlords of Draenor expansion and tell us the date when they expect it to actually ship. (Presumably Some time by December 20, 2014.)

Unless it slips.

And if you’re in the area, you can show up and see all of this in person and get your hand stamped so you can get into the beta, which to me sounds like the date won’t be as close as some will hope.

Anyway, next Thursday we will see who is cheering and who is moaning about the planned release date for the expansion.  And then we will descend into the usual nitpicking about the cinematic and what it actually says about the expansion, Blizzard, the economy, climate change, and the impending Warcraft movie.

Though, unlike the expansion, we actually have a date for the movie, March 11, 2016.

Addendum: Hey, wait! Isn’t August 14th the start of SOE Live?  Is Blizzard cock blocking again?

Draenor – Avoiding The Oasis During the WoW News Drought June 13, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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The Warlords of Draenor alpha is upon us.

Grom and Thrall talking

Warchief placeholders

Some people are very happy about this, to the point that getting an invite appears to have validated their very existence.  WoW Insider is running posts on every tidbit about the expansion they can lay their hands on and compiling it all into a guide page.  Blizzard itself is starting to put up official dev posts on WoD topics, like the multiplication obfuscation simplification of gear stats for the expansion.

And sitting here, possibly as far a six months from the launch of the expansion (assuming it doesn’t slip further out), with no hope of any additional content patches until the big pre-expansion drop hits, it is tough not to starting reading through those sorts of things just to give ourselves something to talk (or write) about.

On the flip side of that, I have noticed that there is something of an inverse relationship between how much I pay attention to news about upcoming content and how much I end up enjoying that content.  Cataclysm is the red-headed poster child for this phenomena.  There has been no WoW expansion I have paid as much attention to before launch… including playing the beta, along with reading all about it in the short-lived official World of Warcraft Magazine… as I did with Cata.  And, oddly enough, Cata is clearly at the bottom of my list when it comes to WoW expansions.

Now, the counter argument to that might well be, “But Cataclysm WAS horrible, whether you focused on it during beta or not.”  And certainly there was a lot there to dislike, including some uninspired new zones, the wholesale gutting of some beloved old zones,  having flight from day one in all of the new content, and the rush to turn all of the 1-60 instances into 30 minute or less “go go go” runs just to suit Dungeon Finder rather than having a few nice long runs.

But I think the fact that some of the fun or amusing bits of the expansion, like the goblin starting zone, were already old hat by launch probably stole some of the thunder that the expansion could have had.  And that fact that we went straight into the revamped, easy easy mode, old-world content with a fresh group of Worgen (my least favorite race in WoW these days) looking to experience something new and only getting watered down visions of how things used to be hurt a lot as well.

I have softened on Cataclysm since our return to WoW.  We did this year what we should have done back when the expansion launched, which was pick up our old characters sitting at the top of Wrath of the Lich King and carry on from there.  The actual five person content in the high level end of Cata is good, and the 85++ converted raids, Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub, ended up being some of the most fun we have had in a long time as a group.

So I am going to try to follow my general policy of averting my eyes when it comes to Warlords of Draenor.  I want to know as little as possible so as to maximize the impact of it when it launches.  In the end, being the beta and reading up in advance only seems to rob me of fun without much upside.

Still, WoD seems like it is a long way away.  Can I keep myself otherwise occupied with WoW until then?

The Long Road to Draenor April 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Back in September, a few of us returning to World of Warcraft felt like returning home to the comfortable, familiar game we had enjoyed for so long.  It was a happy time and we were happy to be back.  Happy. Happy. Happy.

A little later, after the BlizzCon announcement for Warlords of Draenor, the full instance group jumped back in to the game and picked up where it left off with the main group, way back at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, where we left off back before Cataclysm.  That was back in late 2009.

Victory over King Ymiron

At the throne of King Ymiron

And it was good.  And it remains good.

The instance group has moved along at a leisurely pace, knowing full well that we had to get to at least summer on Cataclysm and Pandaria content.  Not because we thought we might see WoD during the summer… I, rather optimistically in hindsight, figured September would be the drop date for the expansion based on some vague napkin math… but because we tend to go on hiatus during the summer as travel and other real life events take over.

Outside of instance nights, we have all been busy little beavers.  We have been leveling up alts, collecting mounts, going after achievements, running old content, getting the guild up to level 25 (finally there!), and generally immersing ourselves in Azeroth.  Fun, fun!

Or fun for a while.

Now more than six months back, with the guild taken care of, three level 90s at my disposal, having run all the level 90 LFR content at least once, and being exalted with all but two factions in Pandaria, I am starting to feel sympathy for those who really had their hearts set on a much earlier release for WoD.

My enthusiasm for logging in to work on yet another set of dailies or to get another mount towards my goal of 150 (I am at 132) has begun to wane some.

I still log in daily.  I tend my farm at Sunsong Ranch, though mostly for items I can sell at the auction house in order to build up my gold account.  I am working on a couple of low level alts, including a Panda monk with full heirlooms, just to see how ridiculously fast I get levels in a given play session.   He leveled three times doing Shadowfang Keep at one point.

But the fires have faded some.  I have joined the ranks of those who are starting to feel that Azeroth might need a little something to carry us through to the expansion at the end of the rainbow.

That feeling was enhanced this week with the Noblegarden holiday, for which I got all the achievements back in 2009.  I do not have the mount that was added in 2012, but I am not sure I can bring myself to run the holiday events even for that.  We’ll see.  And then next week is Children’s Week, the one holiday event keeping me from the holiday meta achievement because I refuse to do the battleground achievements.  Clearly some bitterness on my part there, and certainly not something that is going to raise my enthusiasm for WoW at the moment.

On top of that, we had what was effectively a narrowing of the gap as to when WoD will ship.

Previously Blizzard had said “Fall 2014,” conspicuously pointing out that “Fall” lasts until December 20th.  But the optimists in the crowd could at least console themselves with the thought that Fall stars in late September, so WoD wouldn’t necessarily have to be a “week before Christmas” launch.

Well, Blizzard has rained on those hopes, at least in my opinion, with the announcement of the dates for BlizzCon.

BlizzCon2014

BlizzCon will be November 7th and 8th of this year.  And, as Liore pointed out the other day, you really have to be a cross your fingers and toes optimist to think that Blizzard is going to launch their big expansion of the season BEFORE BlizzCon.  Who would let their thunder roar before the big convention?

It seems likely that we’ll get the pre-WoD patch before BlizzCon, which will give some people plenty to chew on as they work through the changes in order to be ready for expansion to drop.  But that is still likely to be out in October at the earliest, and that still leaves us with the window for actual new content somewhere between November 7th and December 20th.

Which is probably going to leave a fair number of people in the odd position of having purchased Warlords of Draenor in advance, yet considering unsubscribing until it actually launches.    How strange is that?

I suspect that, unless Blizzard has something up their sleeve, it is going to be a long summer of declining subscriptions.

That whole Azeroth Choppers thing… that isn’t going to be enough.

 

Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor March 26, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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More on the phishing front.  This arrived in my spam folder with the incongruous subject line:

Gift-Boost a character to Level 90 when you pre-purchase Warlords of Draenor!

That sounds like an announcement asking you to buy the expansion, but the graphic inside purports to have a code for a free copy of the expansion.

Congratulations

Congratulations

This looks to be built on the same template as the Reaper of Souls phishing attempt I mentioned back in January.  The game key is likely just as valid, which is to say not valid at all.

Of course, the most egregious part of the whole thing is the statement that the expansion will go live at noon on December 20, 2014.  I am not sure some of us can wait that long.

Warlords of Draenor to be a $50 Expansion? And Something About Insta-90s March 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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And while we were on the topic of insta levels…

Blizzard has finally opened up pre-orders for the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  The price falls between my expectations and my fears.  WoW expansions have been $40 items up until this point, while the EuroGamer article two weeks back said the expansion would be $60. (Though they deleted that without reference when Blizzard objected.)

WoDlogo

The actual price, according to Blizzard’s announcement, is somewhere in between.   The standard edition will be $50, with the usual $20 bump to get the Digital Deluxe edition.  Presumably the physical Collector’s Edition will be an additional $20 on top of that, making it potentially a $90 purchase.  So there is your buy-in price for the next two years of WoW content… once it ships.

There were a couple of items of note in the announcement, starting with that potential ship date.

Pre-order announcement

Pre-order announcement

You probably cannot read it in the thumbnail, but if you expand it by clicking on it, you can see that they have tacked on a line about the expected release being in the Fall of 2014.  My September 9th guess seems even more optimistic at this point.  And, as somebody pointed out, Fall technically goes all the way out to December 20, 2014, though I would imagine that Blizzard would do all it could to get the expansion in the pipe at least a month before Christmas.  Like, maybe at the 10 year anniversary?  We shall see.  (Elsewhere Blizzard says, “Game is expected to release on or before 12/20/2014.”  If this were SOE, that would mean February.  And even with Blizzard, “expected” is a hedge and not a promise.)

Then there are the in-game items you get with the Digital Deluxe and Collector’s Edition.  A mount and a pet are the key items, and you get them as soon as you pre-order.

Dread Raven mount and hatching pet

Dread Raven mount and hatching pet

The other items, StarCraft II portraits and Diablo III banners don’t really thrill me.  Blizzard does insist on these cross-game items though.  Occasionally they are good.

And then there are some details about how the insta-90 process will work, including a 2 minute tutorial on YouTube, and what you will get with your character after you wave the magic level-up wand over it.

  • 150 gold
  • 4 Embersilk (22-slot) bags
  • A stack of 20 food items
  • Full set of spec-appropriate Item Level 483 (blue-quality) gear
  • If a boosted character was already level 60 or above, their existing Primary Professions and First Aid are bumped up to level 600
  • A faction-specific flying mount—a traditional Wind Rider for Horde or Gryphon for Alliance
  • Artisan flying—that’s one rank below max flight speed
  • Northrend, Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms, and Pandaria regional flying skills trained

That isn’t a bad list of items.  I’ll happily take one with the expansion, though I am not sure I will fork over $60 for any more after that.

Four 22 slot bags are more than any but my main have on them.  The gear is a decent start on things in Pandaria.  The flight boost, including opening up all the areas that require specific skills, certainly saves you some gold.  And then there is the boost to your primary professions and first aid.  No cooking, no fishing, and no archaeology I guess.  Have to level those up the old fashioned way.  But that is still enough to keep my Death Knight in the running as I try to decide which class to boost to 90.

So there we go.  This will have to keep us all busy… or not… in Azeroth through the summer.

Will Blizzard be able to keep the subscriptions from ebbing between now and then?

Monday Morning March Musings on WoW March 3, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Here we sit.  It is the first Monday in March.  It is wet and cold, even here in California. (If only briefly. It should be 70 degrees by the end of the week again.)  Still, spring seems a long way off, and in the overcast I started musing about the state of various things in Azeroth.

Warlords of Draenor Progress

No word on beta.  No word on pre-orders.  And certainly no word on a potential launch date.

I know that Blizzard works at the speed of Blizzard… which, admittedly, is still at least 2x the speed of Valve… but we are in a winter of at least some mild discontent here.  People were chanting the dungeon finder group cheer, “Go go go go go!” when Blizzard announced Warlords of Draenor, hoping for a spring launch, pinning their dreams on Ghostcrawler’s “Feels like we are farther along…” statement during BlizzCon.  And there still isn’t much out there to grab onto.

While we are still effectively staring a tea leaves and trying to divine the future here, the only tangible benchmark for the current situation I could find… six months from start of beta to go live that seemed to work out for previous expansion… is starting to make my September 9th prediction seem a bit optimistic.  I am not ready to declare for 2015 yet, but I am starting to tap my fingers on the desk in a sign of impatience.

I know software projects always take longer than expected, but there are a lot of people looking at you right now Blizzard… and, subscriptions.  I suspect that we will see some new “just stick with us and we’ll give you a shiny” plan to show up if the fall starts to look dicey for the expansion.  After all, they still haven’t tied Hearthstone into a plan to shore up WoW subscriptions yet.

Veteran’s reward for insta-90

One attempt to keep people interested in WoW while waiting for Warlords of Draenor involved announcing that players would be given their insta-90 boost as soon as they pre-ordered the expansion (when we get to that), which will lead to some hard choices once that becomes available.  I’ve already started pondering which class to boost.

To help muddy the waters… or maybe it provides clarity… Blizzard has thrown in a hitch.   If you choose to boost up a character that is level 60 or higher, you also get max level professions to go along with it.  That suddenly makes the idea of boosting up a death knight a lot more interesting.  My current DK, sitting at level 69, was in part rolled up with the idea of getting the guild a jewel crafter, that being an under represented skill for us. (Engineering seems to be the thing with us, followed by alchemy.)  Getting a level cap DK AND getting jewel crafting in with the mix is quite tempting.  Then again, I returned to my warrior alt this past weekend, pushing into the 40s, so he could be in contention as well by the time push comes to shove.

Squishing Stats and Abilities

Blizzard put up a post about the upcoming squish which basically said they are doing it because they are afraid all those big numbers scare us.  There was some talk about the squish being required because of raid boss hit point inflation, which is admittedly climbing up there in digits.

Too close to fail this time

Too close to fail this time

That made me wonder how they were handling their data.  A signed 32-bit integer  will get you to two billion, and unsigned will double that.  But who knows how their software is structured and what made sense a decade back.  I once worked on a platform where, 15 years earlier, somebody decided that the magic cap would be 500.  Then processors got better and suddenly, one day, 500 seemed like a serious restriction.  But it was in the foundation of the product, to the point that it became easier just to hack together a method two run two copies of the main process to get around it.

Going along with the “too much for our players” thread, Blizz is also talking about paring down various class skills and racial abilities as well.

The promise is still there about being able to roll through older content as easily after the squish as before.  But I am still bouncing through things like Obsidian Sanctum for big bags now, because my ability to beat each mini-boss timer seems to rest entirely on my putting up huge DPS numbers.  Not sure how that will translate post-squish.

Inscription Recipes

One thing the wait for Warlords of Draenor has allowed me to do is catch up a bit on things left undone from past expansions.  For example, there are innscription recipes from Wrath of the Lich King.  There were something like 80+ recipes I needed to research through Northrend Inscription Research, a once per day recipe, along with Minor Inscription Research and the Pandaria version thereof.  I have been diligently logging on and doing that every day, to the point that there is now light at the end of the tunnel on that front.

A few Northrend recipes left

A few Northrend recipes left

That will leave me with just Pandaria recipes to pick up, most of which are drops within the expansion, so I will have to get out there and actually play the expansion.

Guild Level 21

Our guild made it to level 21 this past weekend.

TCLevel21

This turned out to be a surprisingly important level for many of us because it unlocked the Ride Like The Wind guild perk, which boosts the fight speed between flight points by 25%.  And, as much as it helps to spend less time on the bird crossing great distances, I think the real problem was that a number of us were tired of being passed all the time by people in guilds who had that perk.  We wanted to be fast too!  And now we are.

Factions in Pandaria

Along with the inscription research, I have been pretty good about working on factions in Pandaria.  Blizzard really sank the hook on that front by giving them all mounts you can only buy when you hit exalted.  But it hasn’t been all that much of a grind.  I just can’t do more than one or two at a time.  Some were quick, silly fun, like the Lorewalkers.  Some of the dailies were fun and easy, like the Golden Lotus.  I still do a couple of their dailies if I am in the neighborhood.  Fun is fun, and 20g is 20g.  But I am getting down to the last few factions now.  I am going to finish up The Klaxxi this week, which has gone kind of slow.  (And how many bugs do I need to kill?)

Once The Klaxxi are down, I will be left with the Kirin-Tor Offensive (which I guess is Jaina Proudmoore and Isle of Thunder), The August Celestials (I have no idea where they live), the Shado-pan Assault (which I started on a bit), Emperor Shaohao (which means Timeless Isle), and the Black Prince.

I’ve gotten far enough ahead in trillium production for living steel that I have been doing some of the farming dailies for faction, just to help move things along.  We will see how long I remain motivated for mounts.  Emperor Shaohao might be left behind, as the charm of Timeless Isle wore off rather quickly.

Pseudo Server Merges

Blizzard has been carrying on with their connected realms operation, where servers are joined together in order to boost population numbers.  The linkage is just shy of a server merge, so nobody has to change their character or guild name. (Good news for the 200+ guilds named “Bloodbath and Beyond.”)

This past month our server, Eldre’Thalas, was linked up with the server Korialstrasz.  I wasn’t sure we really needed that.  Eldre’Thalas seemed to be humming along pretty well on its own, though that can be hard to determine.  There was already cross-realm shared zones and all of the various grouping and matching services work across multiple realms, so by this point I think we’re all pretty used to seeing people running around with a different realm appended to their name.

The one place that was still realm exclusive was the auction house.  So that is where I actually could see the change.  I run the Auctioneer addon to scan the auction house and keep track of pricing.  The number of auctions… and thus the time it took to run the scan… pretty much doubled with the change.  That, and the price of some key commodities, living steel for example, dropped in price due to an increase in sellers undercutting each other.

We’ll see what happens when Warlords of Draenor comes out and we get a surge of players logging in more often.