Category Archives: Blizzard

Last Minute Garrison Gold Grubbing

The WoW 7.0 pre-Legion patch goes live tomorrow.

WoWLegion_500

The WoW 7.0 patch notes have the following two items about your Draenor garrisons:

  • Many sources of gold from the Garrison has been reduced or removed.
  • Newly obtained salvage from the Salvage Yard no longer contains equippable items. Salvage obtained from before the patch remains unaffected.

Both were expected, but you might not be aware of just how much your gold revenue will be taking a hit.  I knew that follower missions that paid off in gold were done for, but I did not know that follower equipment, which is worth a decent amount of gold today, will be worth just 1 copper after the patch tomorrow.

I’ll be cashing all those in when I get home.

Blizzard Watch has a guide up to help you extract as much last minute gold out of your garrison as possible.  Get it tonight, because tomorrow will be to late.

 

WoW and the Nostalrius Survey Summary

As noted previously, the team running the Nostalrius private/pirate vanilla WoW server, which was effectively shut down by Blizzard back in April, an event which caused a good deal of attention to be focused on the whole nostalgia server question.

Ever mindful of the mob… see flying in Draenor… said they would at least consider the whole alternate server idea, inviting Nostalrius to come speak to the Blizz team in Irvine. (I keep putting Blizz in Anaheim in my head, because that is where BlizzCon happens, rather than in Irvine, which is on the other side of Santa Ana, where their offices actually are.  It’s not that far away… it is all in the OC… but is incorrect.)

Give the opportunity to meed with Blizzard, the Nostalrius wanted to have some data to hand beyond their server stats, so put together a survey to get a sense of their community.

Surveys are misused constantly, so I am always dubious about generalizing too much from results.  But Nostalrius did get 50,000 respondents to their survey.  20,000 responses had to be culled from that batch as they gave what were called “incoherent” responses, where the respondent gave conflicting information.  Examples were indicating that they had played a given expansion on a Blizz server but indicating elsewhere that they had never played on a Blizz server.

That still left 30,000 responses.  And while that is largely from an admittedly self-selecting group, so long as you treat it as such… don’t, for example generalize out to “all WoW players” from the results… you can gain some insight, or at least food for thought.

Of the respondents , the majority of whom are in their 20s, have played retail WoW at some point, and were not playing retail WoW at the time of the survey, money was not a listed as a major factor for most.

Figure 8. Left Retail Because...

Figure 8. Left Retail Because…

Additionally, when asked which expansions they had played on retail, over 60% of respondents indicated that they had played any given expansion.

Figure 6. Players per expansion played on retail

Figure 6. Players per expansion played on retail

So this is not necessarily a batch of freeloaders seeking a cheap time, something players on private/pirate servers have been painted as previously.

One of the side details noted in the survey results was that the age range of respondents indicated that many of them were likely too young to have actually played vanilla WoW back in the day.  For them, seeing vanilla is only an option through such server.

The ranking of the expansions (0 to 10, with 10 being the best) was interesting, but unsurprising for this group.  Basically, Cataclysm is viewed as the breaking point.  Before Cataclysm, vanilla and the two expansions, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, are rated very favorably.  But Cataclysm and beyond are rated much less favorably, with Warlords of Draenor at the bottom of the list.

Figure 9. Four expansion ratings compared

Figure 9. Four expansion ratings compared

Wrath of the Lich King, the worst ranked of the first three phases of the game seems pretty well liked when compared to the Warlords of Draenor.

Figure 10. WotLK ranking vs. WoD

Figure 10. WotLK ranking vs. WoD

I would imagine that WoD gets an extra helping of negative due to it being the current state of the game, but that is still a pretty negative view from this particular group.

Of course, one of the things that this highlights is that there are differing views as to where nostalgia really lies, as I note previously.

And then there is the question as to what, if anything, Blizzard will with any of this.  My bet still rests on, “little to nothing.”

Anyway, the charts I used above are all part of a nine page summary of the survey, available as a PDF file here.  There is more in the summary, I just cherry picked a few items that interested me.  The full report is said to range out to 80 pages and will be made available at some future date.

Hat Tip to Massively OP

Blizzard Admits that WoW Expansions are Just Going to Take Time

I don’t think yearly expansions would be the best things for our players.

-Ion Hazzikostas, Blizzard Dev Q&A Stream, June 16, 2016

My daughter and I were just discussing the possible timing of our inevitable return to Azeroth this week.  WoW Legion is coming at the end of August, the WoW 7.0 patch and pre-expansion events will drop a bit before that (that just went up on the PTR this week), the Warcraft movie just came out, Blizzard is pushing some new player items on their web site, so the time seemed ripe for that discussion.

My daughter thought this coming weekend, which includes Father’s Day here in the US, might be the time.  We could get back on and play together in Azeroth.  I thought that might be a bit too early for us to re-up.

Experience shows that both of us have something of a limited to how long we can play WoW before we wander off to other things.  I am generally good for something between 12 to 18 months before I need a break, while my daughter tends to clock in at about half that.  So I don’t want to start too early.  Waiting a few weeks, maybe for the US Independence Day holiday next month, seemed appropriate.

It was, as I explained to my daughter, about knowing your limitations, an idea brought home early on in yesterday’s Blizzard WoW Legion Live Developer Q&A stream.  You can find the recording of the stream here, though you need to jump ahead to just past the 17 minute mark before anything happens.  The joy of Twitch stream recording.

The stream, which features Assistant Game Director Ion Hazzikostas and Community Manager Josh Allen, delves into all sort of questions from the community.

Ion and Josh live on Twitch

Ion and Josh live on Twitch

If you’re really into the game… well, you’ve probably watched it.  But if you haven’t, there is a lot of decent information about plans and changes and what not.  They can’t tell you when the WoW 7.0 patch will hit… because they don’t know yet… but other details abound.  There will be flying in WoW Legion, for example.

For me though, the stream gets straight to the meat of the elephant in the room, just to screw up a metaphor, with a question about content droughts, which comes in at just about the 23 minute mark.

Seriously, what is the plan?

Seriously, what is the plan?

With this Ion has to come up with a mea culpa as they admit live, on Twitch, that there was such a post-Warlords of Draenor drought because they thought WoW Legion was going to be out a lot sooner.  They admit that, in hindsight, with five expansions worth of experience behind them, that they probably should of known this wasn’t a viable plan.

There is a philosophical moment in there where Ion says that they could do a drop with some new content much sooner, but what distinguishes a WoW expansions, what we have come to expect, are things like to systems, new races, new classes, and things like that which simply take more time to get right.  An expansion every year wouldn’t be what we we expect out of a WoW expansion.

So the plan is to have a lot more post-launch content drops for the WoW Legion expansion.

I have already seen an assumption about this based on the belief that, with the pressure removed to get expansions out more quickly that the cadence of such releases might thus slow down, leading to fewer expansions.

I guess I could see that, but there is still the economic incentive to get expansions out as they still represent a significant pay day for Blizzard.  I doubt they will be letting expansions slip to, say, one every three to four years for that reason alone.

And that payday is multiplied by the fact that expansions tend to be community revival events that bring lapsed subscribers back to the fold.  Expansions need to stay on their current track.

Of course, all of this will mean different things to different people.  I am not sure I have ever stopped playing WoW because I lacked for content, simply because I am pretty sure I have ever lacked for content.  There has always been something else to do in the game.  The limiting factor has generally been my attention span and my desire for a change of scenery now and again.  But that is just me… well, me and my daughter, chip off the old block head that she is.

Anyway, if you are into it, you should probably go watch the video for the same reason I did, which is the reason Ion would like you to as well.

It can be very different hearing somebody actually talk about something in context than reading a summary of that discussion after the fact.  You often end up with trolling, inexplicable quotes like that one I put up at the top of the post just to make this point.

Addendum: We’ll see who else picks up this topic.  Currently there is:

Overwatch Goes Live

Blizzard’s new game, Overwatch, launches today, or yesterday depending on where you live.  May 24, 2016 is listed everywhere on the promotional material, though the worldwide launch schedule was a bit more complicated than that.

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

I think it is live everywhere it is supposed to be on launch day as of the time this post goes up.  There is a press release from Blizz about it and everything.

I had to be educated on this worldwide go-live because, I must admit, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the game.  Not that my not paying attention is in any way indicative of what other people have been up to.  The open beta was such a success that it got an infographic.

So many players in the open beta

So many players in the open beta

The reason I haven’t been paying much attention is… well… I suppose three out of four Google responses can help me out with that:

Back to this game...

Back to this game…

I wonder if people search on “Overwatch is bad” are looking for reasons to dislike the title or searching out people who don’t like the game?  I suppose that at least Overwatch isn’t dead yet.  Give it a few weeks.

Anyway, the game being bad isn’t one of the reasons.  I suspect the game is actually good, given what I have seen people writing about it.

No, it is more of the other three, where it feels something like Team Fortress 2, cast as a MOBA, for which somebody expects me to pay $40/$60/$130, depending on which edition, which adds up to totally not worth it in my book.  But, as noted previously, I am long past my FPS days.  If I don’t care enough to play the free ones, I am not going to pay to play one.

And then there is the fact that it is one of the few Blizzard titles not to appear on Mac OS.  That is a factor in our house because my daughter has a nice iMac.  She has been into TF2 off and on, which is available on Mac OS, so had her eye on Overwatch… right up until Blizzard said support for Mac OS was off the table.  Then she was pissed and will hear no more of this game.  She feels let down by Blizz.

Then there is the MOBA aspect.  Blizz has been making a big deal about playing heroes rather than classes for Overwatch.  So you choose a hero with a special set of skills and abilities, which sounds very MOBA-like.  I think I said something about that back when the game was announced at BlizzCon 2014.

But then there is also the MOBA monetization coming as well.  They haven’t started selling new heroes… yet… but skins are already available for purchase along with my least favorite aspect of free to play, called Loot Boxes this time around, where in you can pay money… and Blizz doesn’t go for that microtransaction currency stuff, they straight up value things in real world currency and bill your credit card directly… for random items.  I didn’t like that system when I was a kid and tried collecting baseball cards and nothing has changed my mind about it ever since.

Ah well, that might just be me.

So I won’t be playing Overwatch.  But it is a major launch from a developer who also happens to run an MMORPG, so seemed worthy of note, and doubly so since bits of Overwatch were salvaged from the wreckage of Titan, the MMO project from Blizzard that was cancelled a while back.  Also, it seems to be dominating the gaming news cycle right about now.

So will you be playing Overwatch today?

[A multiple choice poll appears above this line which gets blocked by some browsers]

The Warcraft Movie Approaches

We are just about three weeks away from the release of the long anticipated Warcraft movie… I mean, I was making silly guesses at possible actors more than six years ago.

It can take a long time for things to go from an idea in progress to an actual production in Hollywood.  But the day is finally coming.  June 10, 2016 is the big day.

And, I must admit, I’m not all that excited.

I will still go see Warcraft.  And, of course, Blizzard is happy to remind me it is coming.  They sent me a note about it.

Coming June 10, 2016

Coming June 10, 2016

It remains to be seen if this will be such a blockbuster that one would need to reserve tickets.  The trailer left me a little flat.  But that might just be my proximity to the franchise.  And Blizz is also putting some incentives out there.  If you go to the right theater chain… which isn’t local to me… you could win tickets to BlizzCon.

I have to drive past a lot of theaters to get to a Regal...

I have to drive past a lot of theaters to get to a Regal…

But if there is a Regal cinema near you, watch the promo to see what you have to do in order to win.

Meanwhile, Blizz is also using the launch of the movie to get more people playing World of Warcraft.  The link between the movie and the game is obvious to us, but perhaps not so to everybody.  So when you go see the movie you will also get a code for a digital copy of the game which includes 30 days of play time… if you go to the right theater chain.  Blizz has a post up about which chains will get you into Azeroth.

That seems like an odd box to include

That seems like odd box art to use

Here in the US the freebie is limited to United Artists Theaters, Edwards Theaters, and the aforementioned Regal Cinemas.  No break for those of us in a sea of CineMark, and AMC outlets, not to mention the local independents.

Blizzard even sweetened the deal for those getting a free digital copy by including Warlords of Draenor as part of the base package, an unprecedented move.  Generally the next expansion has to ship before previous content gets included in the base game.  Of course, that also means you have to call support if you have a copy of Warlords of Draenor you haven’t activated yet, otherwise you won’t get your free level 90 boost.

And for those of us who already have the game, who bought Warlords of Draenor, and who aren’t in range of any of the participating theaters in any case… well… we get some nice transmog items if we log in between May 25 and August 1, 2016.

Shiny movie transmog stuff

Shiny movie transmog stuff

It isn’t clear if you have to be subscribed or can log in your level 20 or under characters to collect.  I suspect that a subscription will be necessary, but I will likely subscribe by August in any case to get in on the build up to WoW Legion.

So the movie is coming.  Will you be going to see it?  Time for a poll I think!

[There is a multiple choice poll above this line, which gets blocked in some browsers.]

What is Vanilla WoW in Any Case?

The whole World of Warcraft vanilla server remains a divisive issue.

Both sides have armed themselves with arguments containing just enough truth that they feel entitled to shout it to the stars, while the opposing side sees the patent false assumptions that underlie these arguments and brush them aside.  There is no convincing anybody with these arguments, so the line remains drawn between the two groups and never the twain shall meet I suppose.

I side with the legacy server idea.  I believe it will serve a segment of the WoW fan base that is more substantial than people might think and will be unlikely to draw resources from the main bottleneck that slows down expansions, which is the development of content.

You no take catch phrase!

You no take dev resources either!

My beliefs are rooted in what I have seen done with EverQuest and EverQuest II, where such servers have proved popular, along with what I have read about Jagex’s experiences with their own old school RuneScape servers, which Bhagpuss has summed up in a post.

I am also thoroughly convinced that 3rd party pirate servers are not an acceptable substitute as, by their very nature, they will only serve a hardcore subset of the potential market.

So I am heartened by Blizzard finally seeming to soften a bit on subject they have for years rejected.  As I pointed out in my previous post on the topic, Blizzard has been shooting down this idea for so long that the company itself has had to bring things forward from the old forums in their responses.

So we have the Nostalrius team invited to come and talk to Blizzard at some point in June.  They will come armed with their own experiences in running a Vanilla focused server as well as the results of a survey that have been running about what people might want.

And then there is Mark Kern, who is trying to elbow his way into this affair in the hope that if he walks in front of the parade people will think he is leading it, to deliver a printed copy of an online petition.  Not an ally I would choose, as I would put the odds of him making things worse at about 50-50. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he just made the whole thing up.)

Still, things are happening.

While the thaw on this topic is nice, the fun has only started.  Those against the whole idea won’t cease to carp about it.  It is known.  Blizzard itself may simply hope that this whole thing will die down and be drowned out by the noise of the Warcraft movie and the impending launch of the WoW Legion expansion. But the real looming holy war will come if Blizzard actually agrees to do some sort of vanilla server.

What is a vanilla server really, and how should it operate?

WoW launched on November 23, 2004.

The Cataclysm expansion, which replaced the original 1-60 content with a new version, went live on December 7, 2010.

A day that will live in infamy...

A day that will live in infamy…

That is a six year gap during which a lot of things changed, even if the landscape remained about the same.  If I were Blizzard, any plan I built up around vanilla would involve something a lot closer to 2010 than 2004.  A lot of fixes and upgrades no doubt went into the code during those six years.

And that would be fine with me.  My own goals for such a server are focused on having the old content back, especially the 5 person dungeon content like the original Deadmines and the full version of Sunken Temple.  But that puts classes into the Wrath of the Lich King era.   While that time is a favorite of mine, even I will admit that the classes were hardly vanilla by then and that power creep in the spec trees made most options at least a bit overpowered down in the 1-60 content.  Blizz would need to tinker with that some to get things balanced for the original content.

That, however, will not be a satisfactory answer.  I suspect that a loud subset of those who want a vanilla server will draw the line at January 14, 2007, the last day before The Burning Crusade went live. (Atheren’s has a link to the final vanilla patch if you are interested.)  And among that group, there will likely be divisions as to how close to November 23, 2004 things have to get in order to be able to claim that things are really vanilla or not.  Somebody is going to call out Maraudon as “that new stuff” and somebody else won’t be satisfied unless Captain Placeholder is back in Menethil Harbor.

And while we are all arguing over what time stamp makes for an authentic vanilla server, there is the follow on question as to how Blizzard should operate such a server.

My own bias is that such servers should progress.  That is because, for me, one of the best parts about the SOE/Daybreak nostalgia servers has been everybody starting off at level 1 together in a giant mass.  To me that is far more important than any purity of content.  And once the bulk of the population has risen to the level cap, the fun wears off until another unlock comes along and another great mass rush begins.

Of course, progression runs into a problem just three expansions in for WoW, as then Cataclysm hits and the old world for which we are currently clamoring goes away.  Dammit Blizzard.  Furthermore, progression means that anybody late to the party misses the fun bit unless another such server is launched.  And launching a new server inevitably draw from the population of the older server, reducing its numbers.

So, for me, the most enticing part of such a server is transitory at best.  (It also explains why I am down with even Blizzard’s half-assed special rules server idea.  That would at least give me something, if not everything, I want.)

But no progression, just a static vanilla forever server, would quickly lose that new world feel as players capped out, did their nostalgia raiding, made an alt or two, and moved on.  A community will develop and remain.  Somebody will always stick around as we saw with EverQuest: Macintosh Edition, which sat with the same content for 9 years.  But a special server with most of the population lingering at level cap starts to feel more like a museum than a game.  But, if you were looking for that vanilla experience on demand, without the new server feel, at least it would be there.

So there we stand.  The only sure thing in all of this is that no matter what Blizzard does, somebody will be pissed off.  I have seen it in the flames.