Daily Archives: August 5, 2015

In Which I Predict The Next Big World of Warcraft Feature

I felt compelled to write a post making some sort of prediction about what the next World of Warcraft expansion might bring us, a bit of comedy more or less, in before we get real information about what is coming.  A bit of fluff to be laughed at before it is swept away in the storm that follows.

WoWLogoBut to write a post like that you have to start somewhere, and I usually start with what I might want from the game.  And I can certainly pull a few out of where ever it is I store these sorts of things on my person.  My list might include:

  • Real Housing… no, REAL Housing Blizzard!
  • Guild Garrisons
  • Special Rules Servers
  • A New Race
  • A New Class
  • Dual Classing
  • Mounted Combat… no, REAL Mounted Combat Blizzard!
  • Alternate Advancement
  • New Trainable Skills for Battle Pets
  • A Level Cap Squish
  • A Viable Crafting System… no, a REAL Viable Crafting System Blizzard!
  • Mentoring/De-leveling
  • More Freakin’ Storage
  • More Freakin’ Five Person Dungeons
  • Player Made Dungeons
  • Player Made Zeppelins
  • Rip Off Minecraft Somehow

And I could discuss the merits of each and why Blizzard won’t be giving us any of them, because I can come up with damn good reasons why each of those don’t align with Blizzard’s own goals.

Because that is always what it comes down to with Blizzard.  They make slick, best-selling games, and they have succeeded largely by focusing more on works for their goals than for ours.  Sometimes that has worked out fabulously, sometimes less so. (Diablo III Auction House, I’m looking at you.)  But in the long term it has been a good plan.

So rather than asking myself what *I* want from the game, I decided to ask myself what Blizzard wants from the game?

And for me, the big clue came already this week.  The game, having peaked at 12 million subscribers back in the day, has been viewed as “in decline” ever since Cataclysm shipped about five years ago.

What I believe Blizzard thinks it needs is to be freed from that comparison.  It is a millstone around their neck, something that the analysts are going to peck at during every single earnings call.

So I am going to go way, way out on a limb here and predict that the big expansion announcement will include a business model transition.

World of Warcraft will be going free to play.

In one fell swoop they can wave bye-bye to subscription numbers and, as we all know, free to play transitions always see big initial success.  They remove the stigma of decline and revenue soars.

There will still be subscribers in some form.  There always are.  They will get some special benefits and some sort of stipend for the new cash shop currency that will be introduced.  They already have a cash shop in the game, it just uses your credit card currently.  How tough could it be to change that to a new currency they control?

And Blizzard, having seen how all of these other games… and the list is pretty long with Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, The Elder Scrolls Online, and so on and so forth… have done it and fared, might be able to steal this idea and make it their own, imbuing it with that special Anaheim magic (which I am sure they are siphoning off from Disney illicitly) as they have done so often in the past.

Tomorrow we might see the dawn of a shining new free to play utopia, the business model done right, and we will be able to look forward to full servers and special perks and sparkle ponies as far as the eye can see.

Or we’re getting more fucking orcs.

That’s my call, either free to play or more fucking orcs.

We shall see.

Minecraft and the Gift of Fire

This started when, amongst his pile of advice, my pal Xyd mentioned that I should not venture back into the nether without flint and steel to hand.

I wasn’t even sure what flint and steel was, how I would make it, or if I would even be heading back to the nether again in any case.

But, as I have mentioned previously, lighting is a big deal and Xyd had also alluded to alternate lighting options beyond putting torches on every surface in sight.  I had seen glowstones in his world, so decided I should look into those.  Of course, those appear to source from the nether, so clearly I needed to figure out the whole flint and steel thing.

That was quickly done thanks to the web and soon I had combined a piece of flint with an iron bar to somehow create a flint and steel.  But I wasn’t quite sure what it did or why I would need it in the nether.

Of course, I figured fire would have something to do with flint and steel.  I have something similar at home for starting a fire when you lack matches.  My minimalist nod to survivalism, I’ll be able to make sparks as the world burns.

So after making flint and steel, I decided to see what sort of sparks it would make and managed to immediately set myself on fire.  It turns out that it is more like “flint and steel and some lighter fluid” when it comes to how it actually behaves.  I could point it at stone and cause a flame to appear and persist for a bit.  So I decided to take my new toy outside to see how it worked on things more flammable than stone… besides me, that is.

So I went outside a lit a tree on fire… and it burned!

Tree on fire!

Tree on fire!

In fact, it burned so well I started to be a bit afraid that maybe I had started a major forest fire just outside of my castle.

The fire seems to be spreading

The fire seems to be spreading

Sure, that would clear out some landscape and deny the skeletons a place to hide during the day, but I didn’t want to have to go out and start cutting fire breaks to control this blaze.  So I monitored the burn.

Still burning that night

Still burning that night

And while it burned along merrily, it did eventually go out.

Satisfied that I wasn’t going to wipe out the landscape… I started setting fire to more trees.  Trees that were hanging over my mine cart line, the remains of trees after I had cut down the trunk, and the occasional tree that just looked at me cross-eyed.

Finally cleared that bit above our house out

Finally cleared that bit above our house out

I rolled back and forth tossing flame out of my mine cart like a heavy smoker on a country road.

How dare you grow near my rail line!

How dare you grow near my rail line!

Soon a satellite view of the square mile where I live in Minecraft would have shown many little fires dotting the land.

Eventually I tired of setting random trees alight and went back to what I had planned to do, which was head to the nether in order to find glowstones.  But I had already moved my operations to my new encampment, so decided to build a portal to the nether there in order to begin my exploration.

Not that I completely stopped burning trees, but I slowed down some

Not that I completely stopped burning trees, but I slowed down some

Fortunately we had enough of the materials left from when my daughter built our first portal, so I was able to haul the ten blocks out and assemble a new portal in what I hoped was an appropriate portal containment unit.

Authorized personnel only

Authorized personnel only

I put it all together and then was just staring at a frame of blocks.  Clearly I needed to do something.  Then I recalled that Xyd had later told me that the reason I never wanted to be without flint and steel in the nether was that sometimes mobs can essentially turn your portal off, and flint and steel is how you reactivate it if it is down.  So I clicked my fire throwing device at the portal and it went live!

Off I went to the nether.

And I caught fire again as soon as I entered.  There was some burning netherrack right there at the portal.  I put some cobblestone down on top of that to put it out so as not to repeat that performance.  Then I smoothed out the area around the portal, just because that is the way I am, and put some torches around it for good measure.  Then I remember somebody mentioning that netherrack burns… after all, I had just seen it burning right there in front of me… so I gave that a try with my flint and steel.  Sure enough, that starts a merry blaze.  So I collected some netherrack to bring back with me, but then went back to my glowstone idea.

Glowstones look to form on what I might call the ceiling of the nether, for lack of a better term.  And the ceiling was a long way up from where I stood.  So I started looking for a way to get up there.

I could have, theoretically, just built some stairs.  However, I was a little nervous going up that high just on some stairs I was building as I went, and doubly so over the ocean of lava.  Don’t want to fall in!  And all the more so since I realized later I still had 20 diamonds in my inventory.  Note to self: Check inventory before you go places like this.

I ended up digging my way up to the top of a high point on the terrain, from which I managed to build myself a platform to try and get at the glowstones.

Getting closer to glowstones

Getting closer to glowstones

As I got within range, I smacked one with my pick… and it shattered like glass.  Uh oh!

However, it left some glowstone dust behind which, a little research showed, could be used to create new glowstones.  Once I completed my harvesting I made my way back to the portal and stepped through… only to find myself at our original portal.  Somehow the new portal I made was linked to the old one.  I could step into either surface portal and end up in the same location in the nether, but from the nether portal I would only land at the original.

I gather, from some quick searching, that the two portals might be too close together.  But for now I have essentially instant travel back to our original base.  I just have to make sure I keep a mine cart with me for the trip back.  (Which takes just under two minutes, leading me to believe that mine carts travel at about 17.75 MPH.)

So I got to drop off some flaming netherrack to brighten up the front yard of the castle.

Netherrack enhanced lighting

Netherrack enhanced lighting

Then I rode on over to the new camp and put together a glowstone… and was unimpressed.  Sure, it glows, but it isn’t as bright as all that.  Flaming netherrack though, that puts out some light, and it is dynamic too.  I just have to remember not to put it next to a wooden structure or in a building under a wooden ceiling or near a tree.  Also, if you just put a block of netherrack on the ground and light it, it will set fire to passing wildlife… and possibly yourself.  Put it on top of another block.

All that was left of the sheep was a fading "baa," some wool, and a bit of cooked mutton

All that was left of the sheep was a fading “baa,” some wool, and a bit of cooked mutton

Now I have another… if somewhat hazardous… light source to play with.  And glowstones.  I think I must be doing something wrong with the glowstones.  I’ll have to work on that.  I came back with 120+ glowstone dust, so I can make a few to experiment with.

Also, one final oddity.  I noticed later that places where I had set fires and then left while the fire was still burning… which included several spots along my rail line… seemed to retain the glow of the fire after the fire had burned out.

The magic glowing birch tree

The magic glowing birch tree

I am not sure if this is a bug or a feature… well, okay, it sure feels like a bug… but it makes my mine cart trip between bases much brighter at night.