Category Archives: Blizzard

Friday Bullet Points from a Leading Smoke Exporter

Fires have begun burning on the west coast of the US as predicted, thanks to droughts, record heat, and dry lighting strikes.  But the smoke from the fires, which in past years has settled in on top of the SF Bay Area where I live, has decided that it too wants to travel this summer and has been hazing up sunsets back east.  So while we’re sending out smoke I thought I would cover another set of things that I didn’t want to work up a full post around.

  • Blizzard Blows Up

Already foundering for being unable to bring home a win with retail WoW and the 9.1 update, causing many players to head for Final Fantasy XIV, the company took another body blow this week when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the Activision Blizzard for creating a hostile work environment.  While Activision got most of the headlines, the complaint is full of examples of how Blizzard specifically let a wide range of egregious behavior go unchecked and failed to respond to complaints.

Singled out in the complaint was Senior Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi, who had been with the company since 2004 and who had left quietly last summer.  He is referenced in WoW in a number of places, including as Field Marshal Afrasiabi out in front of Stormwind.

Welcome to Stormwind baby!

The disturbing nature of the issues detailed in the complaint was topped by the company’s response to the suit.  With the Blitzchung affair they didn’t seem to know what to say, but this time around they lashed out immediately (text at the end of this post) at the state agency, decrying government overreach and complaining about unaccountable State bureaucrats driving companies from the state, very much politically motivated talking points.

Otherwise the company statement claimed that while some of the things detailed may have been true in the past, the company is all better now, everything is fine, and nobody needs to be held accountable for anything.  They want to have it both ways, saying both that the state is wrong and that they’ve fixed everything in any case.  It is usually better if your statements don’t tend to contradict each other.

Any adult that has worked for a big company knows that corporate culture doesn’t change quickly.  It takes a lot of effort, and the word is that the company hasn’t gone there yet.  That references to Afrasiabi remain in the game is a testament to the lack of progress they have made.  And the internet is compiling testimonials about the company’s problems.

Anyway, the Q3 2021 Activision Blizzard financial report ought to be a real charmer after this.  Massively OP, in their coverage, rehashed the litany of problems the company has been facing in recent years.  It ain’t pretty.

  • A New World Beta

Amazon’s MMO New World went into what is supposed to be a final, pre-launch beta this week.  I don’t think they’ll yank the game back from the precipice this time around, but you never know.  I have been interested in the game and was in one of the big early NDA protected test runs a couple of years back

Just how new is it at this point?

I liked what I saw back then… it seemed like what H1Z1 ought to have been before they went all-in on battle royale, but I guess John Smedley being at Amazon Games now might explain that.  I did not pre-order, so no beta invite for me, but Bhagpuss seemed happy with how things looked.

The one thing that seems to be dominating the press coverage is a problem where high end video cards seem to be failing in the beta.  We’ll see how that works out.

  • EverQuest and the Ghost Collector’s Editions Past

EverQuest pretty much lives on nostalgia, with their retro and special servers keeping a good portion of their players invested in a $15 a month subscription.  But they have to farm the live servers as well, so they get an expansion every year an a cash shop that is always looking for something new to sell.  Now they are trying to farm a bit of nostalgia from the live server players by offering a pack that features items from the collector’s editions of no longer available expansions.

Missed out? Fear not!  But act fast or you WILL MISS OUT!  AGAIN!

For just 7,999 in Daybreak Cash, which is about $80 in real world cash depending on your purchase quantities, a selection of no longer available items can be made available to you.  It is like nostalgia for fear of missing out!

  • Path of Exile Expedition

I have something of a checkered past with Path of Exile.  On paper I should enjoy it, and I am always into it when I start out.  But something… network performance, bugs, no knowing what to do next… always seems to stymie me.  But I think about it every time the offer up a new expansion, and one if launching today.

Play the Expedition Expansion Today

This one is interesting in that Grinding Gears Games has decided to try and roll back player gear and power in an attempt to revitalize the feel of the game and to give it an overall more satisfying experience.  But it is always a risky move, taking power away from players.  Destructiod’s headline about the expansion is an illustration of that risk:

Path of Exile is nerfing everything, and players are unhappy

We shall see how it plays out I suppose, but a power reset might be a good time to jump back in.  Maybe? I took a look at the patch notes, which are a freaking book, but can’t tell either way.

Diablo II Resurrected is coming September 23

Blizzard announced at E3 this past weekend that Diablo II Resurrected will launch on September 23, 2021.

Just a few months away

I have been a little concerned that the only two new titles… both of which are remakes/remasters… that I am interested in so far this year, Diablo II Resurrected and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl were both looking to collide somewhere in Q4 when it came to release dates.

We heard at the end of May that Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl had launch date of November 19th.

Now we have the Diablo II Resurrected date, which is almost two months earlier.  That seems like a pretty decent gap.  And, if you pre-order, you can get in a few weeks early with the late beta… so, of course I pre-ordered like an idiot.  They are singing my song here, or promising me I can relive my relative youth, or something.  Just take my money already!  Yes, I know I already own two copies of the old game, give me the remaster!

I am clearly still pretty excited about this title four months down the line since it was announced at BlizzConline.  I would have been happy for old graphics that just scaled up to modern monitor sizes, but to get a full graphical remaster… with the ability to toggle to the old graphics… plus a lot of nice quality of life changes like a shard stash, that is killing it.

There is, of course, a new trailer up that shows some of the new graphics (and a bit of the old as well).

The launch date is also far enough out that it might be time for a break from Burning Crusade Classic.

So mark me down for this come September.

Where Does WoW Classic End?

Just last week we launched into The Burning Crusade in Blizzard’s WoW Classic experiment.  We will likely spend close to two years playing that.  Maybe less.  The thing about doing a retro server is that everybody who doesn’t already know the dance steps can find them online, so a lot of people move at a much quicker pace.  I’ve already gone from “Hey, that’s the first level 70 I’ve seen!” to seeing them all over.

Still only level 60 still as I head to Hellfire Peninsula

After Outland I fully expect that we will move into Wrath of the Lich King Classic, just to finish off what I will call The Classic Trilogy.  That probably gets us out into 2024.

But then what?

I would argue that “classic” ends with WotLK and that Cataclysm, though it is more than a decade in the past at this point, marks the “modern” era of World of Warcraft.  And while there are descisions to be made about WotLK… it was during that era we got Dungeon Finder and achievements, both of which remain of debated value… Cataclysm really represents a leap.

Which isn’t to necessarily say that Blizzard couldn’t or shouldn’t roll the classic train on into Cataclysm, but it does represent some issues.

First off, unlike EverQuest, which is ever the model for these sorts of plans, and all the more so since Holly Longdale is driving the WoW Classic team at Blizz, Cataclysm went back and changed old content.  This differs from the EverQuest model where they just piled on new content by adding zones and maybe adding an NPC here or a teleporter there to the past world.  Cataclysm represents the destruction of vanilla WoW yet again and a lot of the push behind the whole WoW Classic experience was from people, myself included, who were somewhere between annoyed and filled with white hot rage that Blizz did this.

Does Blizzard want to re-ignite those memories of betrayal?  And, probably more importantly, is there demand for a fresh start for Cataclysm?  If there is enough money on the table, I have no doubt that Blizzard will try to claim it.

And I have softened a bit on Cataclysm over the years.  Some of the content was good.  The instances were all interesting.  But none of that has changed over the years and when Blizz already has the post-level squish, fully scaling, parallel paths experience available, do they bother rolling to Cata?

The Shadowlands level squish parallel experience

I suspect there would be demand for a fresh start for any expansion with a rush of people all together and all the content to re-explore.  But the hitch for Blizz is that it isn’t as easy as it is for EverQuest.  Over at Daybreak these sorts of things are done on one or maybe two servers at a time.  It is easy to handle and contain.  WoW Classic went live with more than 150 servers.  And then they had to add some more when Burning Crusade Classic hit and they had to split out the people who wanted to stay in the land of vanilla.

So it isn’t a trivial exercise moving forward.  And they have to make the decision about whether or not to move everybody forward.  I suspect that there is a faction at Blizz that believes you progress or you die off, that this classic ride ends with a whole bunch of people at whatever post-Shadowlands expansion they’re at  when and if they catch up.

I expect, however, there will be a loud group in the community that won’t want to go past WotLK.  Will Blizz off another era split?  Will they offer one for Burning Crusade Classic as well?  Will the classic experiment require Blizz to create a whole pantheon of expansion locked, never to progress, special snowflake servers?

I know that seems ideal to some, but I suspect that it won’t be as nice as it sounds, that some expansions will be more favored than others, that the overhead will be large and confusing, and that Blizz will need to make transfer/clone forward options available all the way along at a price lower than even $15. (Also, how many versions of WoWHead and Icy Veins will we need?  One for each expansion?)

But the flip side of all of that is what do they do if they just stop at WotLK, that “classic” really is just the first three seasons of the game and everything after Cataclysm is ignored?  I suspect that Blizz just re-rolls WoW Classic again and launches into that hype again.  It will have been at least five years since the first rush to old Azeroth, and the EverQuest team has demonstrated that nostalgia is an evergreen source of money.

Will it be another 150+ server event that has a big impact on the company financials?  I don’t know.  I suspect that it won’t be that popular, but the draw of WoW is not to be discounted.  And what happens with the previous classic servers if this hits?

Those are a few options and I am sure I could come up with more.  Blizzard has time to think about this.  As I noted above, I expect that WotLK Classic is a given and that we’re at least 18 months away from that being a thing.  But at some point they’re going to have to make a call on direction and plans.  I am already curious as to where they will go.

Where do you think the classic experience is heading?

No BlizzCon for 2021

Blizzard announced today that they will not be hosting the annual BlizzCon event again this year.  Instead they will have another BlizzConline with additional events early in 2022.

BlizzCon in Blue

As with last year, uncertainty around the pandemic at the long lead time for planning such an event has been given as the reasons for not holding the huge, in person affair.  I suspect the cost of such an event and the relative success of the online (and completely free) BlizzConline back in February also played into this decision.

Personally, I am fine with the online only event, especially since all the panels were just put up on YouTube to be viewed at your leisure, but I know that many, both fans and people at Blizzard, enjoy the big get together at the Anaheim Convention Center.  Speaking before thousands of cheering fans… and being in that crowd… is not something that can be reproduced with an online experience.

The message from Blizzard:

Greetings Blizzard community,

I hope you’re all staying safe and well. As guidelines in California around in-person gatherings continue to evolve and the status of the pandemic fluctuates around the globe, the teams across Blizzard have been discussing what this means for one of the events we miss the most: BlizzCon. We know some of you might be wondering about your own plans to potentially cross the country—not to mention oceans—and meet your friends, family, and fellow community members in California, so today, we wanted to give you a heads-up that we’ve decided we will not be holding BlizzCon this year.

Building an in-person BlizzCon is an epic and complex affair that takes many months of preparation—not just for us, but also for the many talented production partners, esports pros, hosts, entertainers, artists, and other collaborators we team up with locally and globally to put all of the pieces together. The ongoing complexities and uncertainties of the pandemic have impacted our ability to properly move forward on many of these fronts, and ultimately we’re now past the point where we’d be able to develop the kind of event we’d want to create for you in November.

But we don’t want to let too long go by before we connect with everyone again. So in the meantime, we’re planning a global event for the early part of next year, combining an online show along the lines of our recent BlizzConline with smaller in-person gatherings, and we’ll share more as our plans come together.

We very much look forward to celebrating with you all again. Until then, we’ll see you in Azeroth, Outland, Sanctuary, and all the other worlds we call home.

–Saralyn Smith, Executive Producer of BlizzCon

The Burning Crusade Classic Pre-Patch Arrives

At some point in the wee hours yesterday Blizzard finished up the database migration to split WoW Classic from Burning Crusade Classic, with the final downtime estimates running until 1am Pacific, 10 hours past the 3pm Pacific initially projected.  I was a bit bummed I couldn’t play that night, but things happen.  By the time I was able to take a look yesterday though, the servers were up and and ready.  It was go time for the pre-patch.

Through the Dark Portal… soon

The launcher now has a split between WoW Classic and Burning Crusade Classic.

Mu current options

In an odd twist… or an indication of where Blizz thinks people are likely to head… Burning Crusade Classic takes over the directory in your WoW directory while WoW Classic requires an install if you want to play or carry on there.

Again you mean?

That’s okay, since I plan to proceed directly to Outland when available, though I am also a bit nervous about clicking that install button since right now everything is still in the “classic” directory, though I am sure Blizz thought that one through and will do the right thing if I do install.  I’ll just let somebody else try it first.

Once in, all of my characters were on the list with “Choose Expansion” legend under their names.

My main characters

Clicking on one of them brought up an alert… it was time to make the big choice.

Will you choose wisely?

I was destined for Burning Crusade, so chose that.  But if I had wanted to stick with vanilla I would have had to quit, install WoW Classic, log in, and make my selection there.  That makes sense, but I bet somebody will get messed up and do the wrong thing.  It can’t be helped.

And, after that, I was in the game.

I got a warning about my addons, which I ignored, but Auctioneer specifically refused to load as it is keyed to the version number, and 2.5.1 isn’t a version it recognizes.

Auctioneer Balks

I am kind of wondering how CurseForge is going to handle the addon updates.  Since everything is still in the “classic” directory, it might thing everything is fine.  I suppose they’ll catch up at some point, but my few addons will likely all need some sort of update.

Once in the game I was greeted by the need to apply my talent points to the new specs.  I’ll have to go read up on them… I have long since forgotten everything about them… but both my hunter and pally look to have benefited from the new expansion.

Blizzard also put the new services up on the store site.

Transfers and clones

And then there are the extras, the Dark Portal Pass and the Deluxe edition.

For those who want extra

The Dark Portal Pass gets you a boost to level 58, some gear, some skills already skilled up, bags, the basic riding skill, a mount, and a bit of gold.

The Deluxe edition adds two special mounts, one for the classic era and one for your retail character, a pet, and a few other goodies, on top of everything the Dark Portal Pass offers.

I cannot see myself being tempted by either.  I have a few characters ready for Outland and, even if I wanted one of the new races, the level boost cannot be used on them.  So it goes.

And the countdown to the opening of the Dark Portal begins.  Since we, as a group, were only around level 40 when The Burning Crusade launched initially, we missed out on the events that build up to the opening.  It might be time to give that a look and add something to our ongoing classic experience.

The Second Burning Crusade Classic Load Test and Through the Dark Portal

Round two of the load test saw me at least a bit more prepared for the event based on the first try.  I copied over my level 60 hunter again and this time remembered to use his talent points to spec him up on the flight down to the Blasted Lands.

Arriving at Nethergarde Keep I found a bunch of people hanging around the gates.  They too were no doubt working from their previous experience.  The server was, once again, set to PvP so hanging around the dark portal was an invitation to get yourself ganked.

Those waiting for the word

I followed their lead for a bit, but found myself getting antsy to do something, so I followed the stream of brave souls who were riding out to the dark portal.  I set myself up within sight of it.

The dark portal once more

That image illustrates one of my frustrations with WoW Classic.  It looks like nobody is there at the portal.  In reality there were a a lot of people running around fighting or avoiding fighting around the valley.  The draw distance, which has been really wonky throughout WoW Classic, even in scenarios where it is just our group in an instance, just stubbornly refuses to fill things in until it is damn good and ready.

And, yes, there were a bunch of characters to draw, which might explain it taking its sweet time, but I was down and dead before the client could be bothered to draw the warlock who was dotting me up.

I probably should have stayed back at the keep.

I ran back to my corpse and decided to make a run for the portal.  Information as to what was actually going on was sparse and I was again eager to do something.  I jumped into the portal and once again banged into the rocks behind it.  The portal was not yet open for business.

Dying once more in the scrum at the portal, I managed to revive and retreat to one of the groups of alliance players off to the side of the portal.  I guess I could wait for a bit.

Waiting off to the side

Server performance at that point was about on par with the previous test.  Down there in the valley it took a good ten count for some things to respond and people moving in anything outside of a path that the client draw could predict tended to look like they were blinking about the terrain.  This was not promising.

As I hung about I noticed that the alliance quest giver was up on the main path, so I worked my way around to him and grabbed the quest “Through the Dark Portal.”  But before I could test whether or not this would let me through, a server announcement finally showed up telling everybody to go through the port.

Quest accepted then the server message… many of us were with Crustina

With some clear direction at last, we all rushed the portal.

Everybody to the portal!

That, or course, was the signal for everybody within range of the portal to start dropping as much AOE damage as they could.  I was among the casualties.

Then, as I was running back they pulled the plug on everybody to test the re-log routine again.  I dropped, then logged back in, got through the queue, back into the game, back to my corpse, and then, finally, through the portal… though I did have to drink a health potion to get past the gauntlet of damage being thrown about.

And once through the portal… everything was fine.

Through the portal to the stair of destiny

The far side of the portal is a sanctuary area, so there was no more fighting.  Server performance seemed fine from that point forward.  I got to Honor Hold, picked up a couple of quests, ran off and did them.

Avoided the Fel Reaver for once…

I also joined in on taking one of the conquest points, helped secure that, then got ganked by a pack of Horde, which is how PvP generally goes for me.

Over all, once through the portal, things seemed fine.  The draw distance thing is still there, but it most seemed okay.  I am not sure how to interpret the performance difference in Azeroth versus Outland.  Perhaps they didn’t bother with shards on the Azeroth side… there did seem to be a LOT of characters there… but had the shard tech running on the Outland side of things.

So there we go.

Come next Tuesday the 18th the pre-patch will be in place with the events and what not.  We will have to pick the destinations for our characters.  There is a whole support article up about the cloning process and what your options are what can be undone and what cannot. (Don’t make the wrong choice or you’ll have to pay the $35 to unlock the clone of your character.)

Also, the auction house will be shutting down today and remain closed until after the pre-patch is available.  The character cloning will pick up items you have in your mailbox, but things at the auction house must add a level of complication that Blizz wants to avoid.

WoW Classic Character Clone Unlocks will now be $15

I guess people were furious or rioting or something, because it isn’t often that you get to see Blizzard change course in front of a live studio audience.  They aren’t SOE/Daybreak after all. (Though there is the Holly Longdale connection, so maybe a link?  The Norrath team was prone to making changes based on community feedback.)

Through the Dark Portal

Earlier this week I was on about how the price of a character clone unlock as part of the WoW Classic / Burning Crusade Classic seemed kind of pricey at $35.  It felt, to me at least, like an item that would have price elasticity, meaning a lower price might actually sell enough more that it would end up in greater profit overall for Blizz.

Blizzard seems to have taken to that idea, or responded to customer complaints, or something, because earlier today they announced a reduction in the price in the forums:

Salutations, WoW Classic players! We’d like to inform you about a course correction we’re making.

When you log in to WoW Classic after the patch next week, each of your Classic characters will choose between staying in Classic Era (version 1.13) and progressing to Burning Crusade Classic (version 2.5). For those who want to play a character in both versions, we’re offering a service to purchase a character clone in the other version of the game.

This service – providing a player with a second copy of a character in a different game – is new for us. Our original concept of the value of this service was largely based on how we price other optional items and services. We want players who choose Classic Era realms to feel as though their choice comes with the possibility that they’ll be able to build relationships and guilds with other players they can count on.

However, over the last week or so, we’ve gotten a very large amount of feedback from the community, and we’ve decided to lower the price. A lower price will likely still accomplish our goals with the new service, while allowing many more players to explore the option of playing characters on both Classic Era and Burning Crusade Classic realms.

After careful consideration, we’ve decided to lower the price of a cloned character in WoW Classic to $15.00 USD ($20.00 CAD, $20.00 AUD, $24.00 NZD). You’ll see the lower price in-game when the service becomes available next week.

As always, we deeply appreciate the passion and thoughtfulness of the WoW community. We play WoW alongside you, and we can’t wait to join you next week on Classic Era realms, in the Burning Crusade Classic pre-patch, and as we step through the Dark Portal with you in June.

Thank you very much,

– The World of Warcraft Development Team

A course correction indeed!

That still doesn’t mean I will use the service.  I plan to move forward into The Burning Crusade and there are only so many hours in the day.  But it is now far much more likely that I could, as the price isn’t quite the barrier it once was.  I thought the $10-20 range was a better plan, and they landed right in the middle of that range.

Burning Crusade Launch Load Test Round One

As I mentioned in the previous post, Blizzard was planning a server launch load test for Burning Crusade Classic to go along with the flood of beta invites they sent out.  The idea was to roll up a fresh server and get everybody to log in and try to get through the dark portal.

When the hour hit, 11:00 Pacific / 14:00 Eastern / 19:00 UTC, I logged in and picked the new server, it being the only one available, copied over my level 60 hunter again, and logged in.  I was back in Ironforge, where he sits in live WoW Classic, so had to fly on down to the Blasted Lands and the Dark Portal.

Landing there, I rode with a pack of others towards the portal.  The server was setup as a PvP server, so I was determined to ride on through the inevitable crowd at the portal looking to gank.  But when I hit the portal it was apparently out of order, so I ended up in the scrum forming around it.

Traffic control at the gate

Everything was very laggy at that point too.  It was a good ten count to get anything to respond.  And it was only when I was in the thick of that when I realized I had not set my spec, so I opened that up to try and pick… but like everything else, it was 20 clicks behind on anything you wanted to do.  Even dying was slow.  I saw I had zero health for about a minute before I actually got the notification asking if I wanted to release… and it took even longer for me to actually fall over and the screen to go to the dead gray.

Eventually I was back at the graveyard and running to the portal again with the other victims of the fight.

Corpse run time

I got back into my body and tried to rush the portal, but it wasn’t letting anybody pass, so it was just that run through to hit the wall routine.  Comedy gold, except for the fact that I died again.

Corpse pile at the portal

Then, as I was running back they put out a server message saying they were going to disconnect everybody so we could load up the system with a mass login hit.

The dread mass-loing

So offline things went.  I logged back in, got in a short queue… maybe 85 deep when I landed, which amounted to less than a minute of waiting, which made it the most responsive aspect of the test… and then was foundering about trying to get back to my corpse and healed up.  I spotted a bunch of alliance players trying to gather around the edge of the portal, out of line of sight and joined them.

Another line? This reminds me of the WoW Classic launch

However the Horde was wise to this and there were a few players off to the side of the portal on the hill picking people off, myself included.  Again, it was a long wait to die, fall over, and actually be dead.

Then we got another message indicating that the test was over.

All done here

Further announcements went up about the beta servers being up again and the test was pretty much over.  The whole thing ran about 30 minutes.

I must admit that I didn’t go through the dark portal on the day it went live back in 2007.  The instance group, which only kicked off in September of 2006, was around level 40 and still doing Razorfen Downs.  So while I was able to log into WoW on launch day with only a modest queue, I have no feel for how things at the portal were.  Certainly being on a PvP server made the test more chaotic, but the whole thing made me wonder if Blizz is up to a launch like this again.

The battle of the portal

I’ll give tomorrow’s test another try to see how they’re doing, but the laggy behavior in the regular beta and the way things played out at the portal is not inspiring me with a lot of day one confidence.  But at least I will be on a PvE-RP server.  We’ll probably all queue up for the portal for real when the time comes, just like we did before.

The Price of a WoW Classic Clone

With the coming of Burning Crusade Classic we get to make a choice.  Anybody logging into WoW Classic after the expansion pre-patch hits on May 18th will have to decide between keeping their character in vanilla WoW or advancing it to the world of The Burning Crusade expansion.

Through the Dark Portal

While I plan to move forward, I am sure that others will want to hold back and stay in vanilla.  As with EverQuest, there is a faction who just wants to live in the early game forever.

Moving forward… or staying behind… is free, at least for specific definitions of the word.  I bought a copy of The Burning Crusade back in 2007 and I pay a subscription fee in order to play the game, but I am not being asked to pay anything additional in order to advance through the dark portal.

Likewise, staying behind in vanilla WoW incurs no additional cost.

But for people who want to do both, that is another story.

As we were told back at BlizzConline, when the expansion pre-patch hits and the choice of paths needs to be made, there will be two copies of your character, one in vanilla and one in Burning Crusade, and you get to choose which one you want to play.  However, like some sort of Star Trek teleporter malfunction, the clone that remains behind sits in suspended animation, waiting for you, waiting for all of us.

The choice is coming

If you want to release that clone and have that second Riker or whoever running around free in the timeline you did not initially choose, it is going to cost you $35.

This has made some people angry.  PC Gamer says players are furious about the price.  Massively OP says players have begun to “riot,” though can’t be bothered to do more than link to an Icy Veins thread.  Seriously, it seems a pretty considerable breach of the five Ws of journalism to not even mention the price that is responsible for these alleged riots.  An extremely lazy piece of work there.

Extreme hyperbole aside, $35 does seem a bit steep.  It is certainly enough to prove a barrier to me, though having to play characters on a third version of WoW, after retail and Outland, was already a pretty big barrier for me.  Like I have time for that.

However, when a character transfer on a live or classic server is $25, activating and already created clone… Holly said that when the split happened there would be two versions of your character… doesn’t seem like something that justifies a $35 price tag.

But that is always the problem with these sorts of services.  In the end, the actual operation to get you want you want is generally a trivial exercise.  Back in the early EverQuest days, when SOE was charging $50 for a server transfer, the price was there to be a deterrent as much anything else, because the process wasn’t automated and a dev had to go in and move your character manually.  It was still only a database operation, but somebody had to devote time to actually getting it done and the bandwidth for transfer operations was limited.

Once SOE automated the process, the price went down.  It is still not valued relative to the cost of doing the operation because there has to be a support mechanism around the whole thing.  People make mistakes.  They pick the wrong character, they pick the wrong server, they change their minds, they could have sworn they had this or that piece of gear when they hit the button.  It can be a tech support nightmare, and all the more so when people are paying the monthly subscription fee that often makes them feel the company owes them. (A subscription fee that hasn’t gone up in fifteen years by the way.)

I’ve been in guilds where people have abused the support line, calling up to undelete characters or items or whatever.  And support has generally been very accommodating to those requests.  The company would like you to stay subscribed.

So at some level the price of these services is also to fund support and limit their use.  They seem likely to be price elastic, so if you change the price from $25 to $5, use would go up, and if you raised the price use would go down.  So, it is possible that $25 for a character transfer represents an analysis of the cost to support and the number of people likely to use it.  Or somebody just thought that sounded like a good number or seemed to be the market price based on what a competitor was charging.

None of which explains why Blizz thinks $35 is the right price for activating a clone.  It seems like the support cost would be lower and that usage might be higher if the price was in the $10-20 range.  I don’t see a downside to greater usage, as the clone has already been made, so the “work” has been done.  But I am also not exactly bent out of shape at the cost.  It makes my staying behind with a main character much less likely, but the likelihood was pretty low already.

If enough people are worked up about this perhaps Blizz will tinker with the price and make it more reasonable.  I suspect, however, that the stay behind crowd was already planning to do just that and are not all that interested in going through the dark portal to Outland, while those like me looking to progress are happy enough to leave vanilla WoW behind.  I enjoyed the stay, but it is time to go.  Those left in between… those who want to do both… well, we’ll see if they make up a big enough crowd I guess.

Addendum: The price has been reduced to $15 since I wrote this.

Blizzard Confirms June 1st for Burning Crusade Classic, May 18th for Pre-Expansion Patch

Of course I’m away from home for the first time in months when the news hits.

Blizzard let slip the June first date for Burning Crusade Classic by accident on Tuesday, but covered it back up again rapidly.

But earlier today they finally let the cat out of the bag, officially confirming both the date for the expansion launch and the rumored May 18th date for the pre-expansion patch.

The Announcement at Last

They even provided the now standard global launch time map.

The World Wide Launch Plan

Come the pre-patch on May 18th we will all have a choice to make, whether or not to go forward into the era of the dark portal or to stay behind and continue on in the classic era.

Choose your path forward

Blizzard has a post up about how to make the choice you want… as well as how to have it both ways should you desire and be willing to part with some real world cash… but it boils down to this set of bullets.

  • On patch day, you’ll be able to open the desktop app and choose which game you want to play—Burning Crusade Classic or WoW Classic.
  • Your existing characters will show on both game types under your old realm name/s.
  • Once you’ve chosen a game to play, you’ll select a character to play and confirm your choice.
  • If you decide you’d like to play your character in both game types, you’ll be able to use an optional paid service to gain access to the cloned character in both game types.
  • Then all you need to do is log in as you normally would and play.

So you have until the 18th to consider your path. For me, the dark portal beckons, and Outland will be the next destination.