Category Archives: Blizzard

Reflecting on Diablo II at Twenty

Despite my writing what might be accurately called a video game oriented blog, I can be remarkably narrow in focus when it comes to the breadth of video games out there… except maybe when I am complaining about how much crap there is on Steam.

But there are some games that I am just into, that mean something to me, and that I will carry a torch for long past when said games have faded from the mainstream.  Diablo II is definitely on that list, and the 20 year anniversary is this past Monday, which means it is time to reflect.

Blizzard has their own set of celebrations to commemorate the anniversary, but we’re still missing the Diablo II remaster.  It could still be coming.  Some news has leaked, but the problems facing such a remaster loom still as well.

The last time I checked Diablo II still ran on current machines.  That was a while ago, but there is still a good chance I could install it and play.  The problem is that 20 years back monitor sizes were much smaller.  The game shipped with 640×480 as its maximum resolution, though that was bumped up to e 800 x 600 with the Lord of Destruction expansion.

My current main monitor runs as 1,920 x 1200, which means I could fit four screens of Diablo II on it, with some space left over.  And if I go full screen , the graphics get almost Minecraft blocky and the image is distorted as we’ve gone from 4:3 as the standard screen ratio to 16:9 or 16:10.

So Diablo II today does not deliver the best experience.

And why am I so interested in Diablo II?  As noted above, it is one of those games that I was just really into back in the day.

The original Diablo set the stage.  That was amazing in its time, and I enjoyed player the GoG.com remaster when that came out last year.

So when Blizzard announced Diablo II back in the late 90s, I was all over that.  It was one of the few games I paid attention to before it shipped.  I remember staring at their web site.  I recall the original specs, which included the requirement to have a 3dfx Interactive video card if you wanted the full graphical effects.

That was later dropped as a requirement, but it caused some serious discussions with my friends.  Were we going to have to get a Voodoo 2 card just for this game? (One friend got himself setup with dual Voodoo 2 cards… early SLI… which worked out well when EverQuest hit, though hardware was changing so much back then that I am sure we were all running GeForce TNT cards not long after that. It was a crazy market for video cards back then with several competing brands rather than the two we have now.)

The wait was long… at least it felt long at the time… and there were delays… but when it did ship, it lived up to our expectations.  Rare for me is a sequel that outshines an original I really enjoyed.  My attempt at an objective measure on that front is, once the sequel shipped, did I ever feel like going back and playing the original?

For example, when Civilization II shipped, I never played Civilization again.

And when it came to Diablo II, I never had the urge to go back to the original until GoG.com released their version last year in conjunction with Blizzard.  And by that point Diablo II wasn’t all that interesting, it being in such need of a rework itself.

But back in 2000 we played a lot of it.  People dropped out of EverQuest and TorilMUD to devote time to the game.  I ended up owning two copies because we would play it at the office after hours together and you only have to forget your disk and miss a game night once to feel the need to have a second copy.  It was, for its time, so engaging.  I still marvel at the use of lighting, something that the games successors have really never matched.

In the end, I have enjoyed Diablo III, it official successor, and have played pretty much every other claimants to its ARPG mantle, from Titan Quest to the recent Minecraft Dungeons, but I have never enjoyed or been as into any of them as much as I did Diablo II at its peak.

There are a lot of nit-picky reasons why that might be the case, related to game play, graphics, story, and that always online thing.

But I wonder if Diablo II just happened along at the right moment for me.

I still want a remaster though.  I’ll buy it.  I might not end up liking it as much as I did back in the day, but there is enough memories there to make it a must have.

Blizzard Goes After WoW Classic Bots and Warms up for AQ

This week saw some WoW Classic news related to bots and cheating as well as a stress test on the public test realm.

Classic is as classic does

The big announcement was that Blizzard had banned 74K accounts for EULA violations.

We’ve recently completed a round of actions against players who were found to be cheating in World of Warcraft.

We rarely communicate publicly about this, because we’ve found that describing our sources and methods can make it easier for malicious actors to work around them, but we feel that it’s worthwhile to expand on the subject today, as many players have recently asked us for more details.

Including today’s actions, over the last month in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe regions, we’ve closed or suspended over 74,000 WoW accounts that were found to be in violation of our End-User License Agreement 68. The majority of these were found to be using gameplay automation tools, typically to farm resources or kill enemies much more efficiently than legitimate players can.

While today’s suspensions were applied in a batch (often referred to as a “banwave”), it is a top priority for us to identify accounts that are botting and remove them. Our team works around the clock, every day of the week, and many of the suspensions and account closures over the last few months have gone out in the middle of the night, or on weekends.

Like you, we play World of Warcraft. We understand what it’s like to spot a player in-game who appears to be botting. We always want to eliminate the botting player, if it can be proved that they are indeed cheating. And that raises a big difficulty in addressing this issue – we have to prove to ourselves that the accused player is not a person who’s actually controlling a character with their hands on a keyboard.

We use powerful systems to determine if the suspected player is using an identifiable cheat, and our heuristics (which we do not outline publicly) are constantly improving and evolving. But when we examine a suspect and these measurements aren’t out of line, we have to manually gather evidence against the accused player, which can be very time consuming and complex. It’s worthwhile though, because we never want to take action against a legitimate player.

Yes, there have been cases where a legitimate player appeared (to another player) to be botting. In those cases, where a legitimate player is reported and then cleared of wrongdoing, it can be very frustrating to the reporting player to again see what they think is a bot. We’ve also seen examples where the reported player was caught exploiting the game, and was removed from the game, and then quickly returned to doing the same thing on a new account with the same character name. That’s an infuriating sight for the players who initially reported it. We greatly appreciate your reports, and we understand how you feel about this.

We’re ultimately working to unravel a challenging circumstance. Real money trading drives third parties to put an enormous amount of effort into circumventing our detection systems. As much as this is a very high priority for us, it is the only priority for profit-driven botting organizations. The bans we issue are simply a cost of doing business for them.

We’re working on further improvements to every part of the game that might address cheating issues more swiftly and completely, and we’ll continue to let you know as those next steps are taken.

Thank you very much for your feedback on these issues, and thank you for your reports!

Ars Technica even did a story about the “bot mafias” that were present in WoW Classic. and how they have messed with the economy, all no doubt in furtherance of illicit gold sales.

I know I have seen a bunch of gold seller spam email messages showing up on my characters lately.

I have multiple screen shots of similar messages

I have been using the “Report Player” button to respond to these, so hopefully I helped target a few bad actors.

In addition, Blizzard made a change to the number of instances a player can access during a single day.

As part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate exploitative and automated gameplay, with scheduled weekly maintenance in each region, we’re implementing the following change to our settings on all WoW Classic realms:

  • You may now enter a maximum of 30 unique instances (dungeon and raid) per day, per realm.

This restriction complements the current limit of 5 instances per hour. Now, when a player enters a dungeon or a raid, the game checks to see if they have entered 5 instances in the last hour or 30 instances in the last 24 hours, and if they have, they cannot enter the instance until enough time has elapsed. This check is across all of your characters on your realm.

These limits only apply to dungeon and raid instances, and do not apply to PvP battlegrounds.

I had run into the old “five instances per hour” limit while trying to get the Hydrocane to drop in Gnomeregan, but the overall cap will now close that out a bit more thoroughly I suppose.  (I didn’t need nearly that many instances to get the drop on multiple characters.)

And then, in a note about things to come, Blizzard also did a stress test on the PTR on Thursday to test Silithus and the Ahn’Qiraj (AQ) opening event.  They have already posted a summary of how that went.  We shall see if they do anything with the information they collected.

Finally, layering, which Blizzard had to turn on again for a few realms recently due to queues, has been worked on to make sure that it will function correctly when these events hit the live servers.

WoW Classic Gets Summer Bowl and Future Hints on the Test Server

Another look at what is up in WoW Classic, with this past week seeing Blizzard bringing something new to the mix in the for of the WoW Classic Summer Bowl.

Sign ups start soon

This is a 10 v 10 Warsong Gulch double elimination tournament that will take place on the WoW Classic live servers using the “war game” feature that was recently added.  There will be North American and European versions of the tournament.

Warsong Gulch is the capture the flag battleground loved and loathed by many, scene of many an epic run or heinous stalemate.

You can sign up your NA team here, or your EU team here.  EU signs ups close on June 18th, while NA sign ups close on June 25th.  In addition, there is a full set of rules for both NA and EU players.

Meanwhile, the Public Test Realm patch notes from last week give us a hint as to what is coming up for WoW Classic.  That includes:

  • The 20-player raid zone, Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj, will be available, but the the 40-player raid zone, Temple of Ahn’Qiraj will only be available on live realms when unlocked
  • Tier 0.5 dungeon questline, items, and vendor are now available
  • WoW patch 1.10 Dungeon loot table adjustments, increasing the drop chance of epic items, and many new caster DPS items
  • Alterac Valley fixes
  • Authenticator Bag Slots

That last one, with Blizzard giving players four extra slots on their default bag if they have the authenticator hooked up to their account, is clearly something that came in well past classic, having shown up in January of 2018 with the 7.3.5 patch for the Legion expansion.

Four more slots

My guess is that Blizzard is trying to incentivize people who came back for just WoW Classic to secure their accounts.  My hunter won’t complain about getting four more bag slots, that is for sure.

Since these updates are just landing on the WoW Classic PTR, it isn’t clear when they will be coming to the live servers, but I would guess that some time after the Summer Bowl would be likely.

Layering Returns to WoW Classic

With the boost in popularity of online games that came with the pandemic and everybody staying home more, queues for some WoW Classic servers have become a reality again.

Classic is as classic does

After riding this out for a bit, Blizzard decided to take some action.  Four US servers, Herod, Whitemane, Arugal, and Faerlina, have had layering reactivated in order to allow more players to log in.

Layering was the tech that Blizzard introduced to meet the expected initial surge of players hitting WoW Classic when it launched. (Explained in detail in this post.)

Blizzard viewed layering as a temporary solution and removing it was a gating item for the company to unlock Phase 2 of the WoW Classic plan.  But now it is back.

In addition, Blizzard has also disable realm transfers to a list of EU servers in order to keep people from changing to servers where login queues are an issue.

Tough Act to Follow

We are in the waning days of the Battle for Azeroth expansion in World of Warcraft.  This expansion seems destined to rank down the list in the annals of the game.  It is a bit hard for me to even judge it as an expansion, as I did about as little as you could do and still be able to claim to have played.

Battle for Azeroth

But even with my low commitment to the expansion… I made it to level cap with two characters and unlocked flying, but did little else besides the main overland quest lines… I felt the pain of the expansion.  The whole idea that mobs ramped up in difficulty so that equipping better gear made the game harder… a problem that Blizzard acknowledged but said they didn’t care about… was just the main issue I had to deal with.  But it seemed like everything from the story to the raids was making somebody angry over the course of the expansion.

However, some of my lack of enthusiasm is no doubt related to the fact that the previous expansion, Legion, was one I did enjoy.  I played that through pretty thoroughly… for me at least, no raiding, but I ran the instances via LFG… and came away feeling pretty satisfied.  I liked the story, the zones, the mechanics of the classes I played, and I honestly felt a bit robbed when my legendary weapon abilities went away.

So I wonder how much of my disappointment… or at least my lack of enthusiasm… lays in the fact that I enjoyed Legion more.

I have, in the past, tried to articulate the problems with expansions.  They must, by necessity, reset the game in some way, undo what has gone before, in order to give you new things to accomplish.  They also stand as waypoints where  a company can assess features, add new ones, and adjust things that players were complaining about.  For WoW, the latter always involves an update to classes because there has literally never been a time in WoW when somebody wasn’t loudly and repeatedly complaining about their favorite class being bad on some other class being too good.

That means there is almost always a shake up to the status quo, something that will make some slice of the player base pack up and walk away.

And yet some expansions are recalled fondly.  Maybe not by everybody, but there is often something of a consensus about what was a good expansion and what was not.  The good ones mentioned are often:

  • Wrath of the Lich King
  • Mists of Pandaria
  • Legion

While the bad list tends to be:

  • Cataclysm
  • Warlords of Draenor
  • Battle for Azeroth

But there is clearly a pattern to that, and a regular “every other expansion sucks” seems a bit too convenient.  So I wonder how much the quality or popularity of a specific expansion influences that of the expansion after it and how much the expansion before it does the same.

As I noted above, my enjoyment of Legion might very well have shaded my reception of BFA.  Maybe.

More certainly, my time spent with Wrath of the Lich King, where I played from the last few months of The Burning Crusade and straight through the whole time it was live, made me less receptive to Cataclysm.

I have softened a bit on Cataclysm over time.  Destroying the old world still seems like a mistake… unless you think somebody was playing the long game and that Blizz meant to do WoW Classic the whole time.  And giving people flying out of the box was problematic.  But there was still some quality content there, including possible the prettiest zone in Azeroth, Vashj’ir.  And when we went back and did the instances, especially the 5 person heroic versions of Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman, those were a good time.

And it is quite arguable that my enjoyment of Mists of Pandaria… I skipped the first year of it, but then played it through until Warlords of Draenor hit…  was colored by my dislike at the time of Cataclysm and the fact that I stayed away from WoW for at least 18 months before getting into it.

Which, of course, brings me into another cycle with WoD, and the story continues.

Are the ups and downs of my relationship with World of Warcraft because of the expansions and their merit (or lack thereof) or due to my own expectations being set or mis-set by over exposure or hype?  Should we be thus optimistic about the coming Shadowlands expansion, it having followed one of the down expansions?

Every expansion is its own time in the WoW continuum, and yet none of them exists in a vacuum either.  Each one builds on the past and sets expectations for the future.

BlizzCon Cancelled for 2020

Blizzard has put out an update to say that there will not be a BlizzCon down in Anaheim this year.  Not an unexpected turn of events given the state of the pandemic, the uncertainty surrounding when things like this will be safe again, and the past statement from Blizz.

BlizzCon in Blue

The statement was short enough to quote here:

Hello Blizzard community,

Several weeks ago, I shared an update about our uncertainty around holding BlizzCon this year. Since then, a lot has changed . . . and a lot also hasn’t changed. During this time, we’ve had many discussions about what holding a convention could look like in light of all the health and safety considerations we’d want to make. We’ve also talked about different paths we could take, and how each one could be complicated by fluctuations in national and local health guidelines in the months ahead. Ultimately, after considering our options, we’ve come to the very difficult decision to not have BlizzCon this year.

We’re feeling deeply disappointed about this decision, and imagine many of you will feel the same. I truly love BlizzCon, and I know that’s a sentiment shared by everyone at Blizzard. We will sorely miss connecting with so many of you at the convention and “recharging our geek batteries” this fall.

But we will meet again!

We’re talking about how we might be able to channel the BlizzCon spirit and connect with you in some way online, far less impacted by the state of health and safety protocols for mass in-person gatherings. We’d want to do this as soon as we could, but given that this is new-ish territory and the different factors involved, it will most likely be sometime early next year. BlizzCon is also a stage for big esports events in Blizzard games each year, so we’re also looking into alternatives for supporting some of the high-level competition that would normally take place at the show.

We’ll tell you more about our plans as they develop—but in the meantime, we hope to see you exploring the Shadowlands, hanging out in the Tavern, pushing the payload (do it!), and wherever else in the Blizzard universes you may roam.

Stay safe and stay well,

Saralyn Smith
Whirlwind Barbarian, Executive Producer of BlizzCon

This does hold out the possibility of some sort of virtual or online event… no doubt Blizzard will have some announcements coming that they will want to highlight… but the press of the big crowd in the Anaheim Convention Center and all that goes with it won’t be happening in 2020.

As for the “early next year” suggestion, I suspect that won’t come to pass unless things take a significant turn for the better and stay that way through the end of the year.

Hints of a Diablo II Remaster

So are we finally getting a remake of Diablo II?

The only Diablo II screen shot I had handy…

It is coming up on five years since Blizzard first gave us a hint that they were planning to remaster some of their older titles.  And they have managed to deliver, though not always with unambiguous success.

The StarCraft remaster seemed to go okay.

About damn time indeed

The price was right, so I bought a copy.  It was really a strict remastering of assets rather than an expansion of the game in any way, but they didn’t promise us anything else.  And they did add in the option for some customization, so we got the StarCraft Cartooned pack out of it.

The Warcraft III remaster however… Blizzard botched that out of the gate.

The promise unfulfilled

My pet theory is that somebody felt they had to kick it out the door when they did as it had been over a year since they had told people it was coming.  So we got something that was less of a game than the original.  The feature list seemed quite pared down.

And if that wasn’t enough, Blizz seemed really sensitive to the idea that somebody might make another DOTA from the scenario editor, so claimed ownership of all work anybody did there in the way that tone deaf corporate lawyers tend to do, which always manages to alienate fans.

I had pre-ordered it but asked for my money back once the situation became clear, though I will give Blizzard credit for being easy to get a refund from.

Which leads us to Diablo II.  Long rumored, some of the team from Blizzard North, which created the game, have derided the idea, pointing out that they, through their own incompetence, lost some of the source code to the game and had to recreate it from local builds on dev machines and compiled binaries.

That sounds bad, though for me that message is tainted by the fact the same few former members of the Blizzard North team seem bitter at how things turned out and have been up front and ready to crap all over everything Diablo related that Blizzard has done since they left.

Still, that was definitely cold water on the embers of Diablo II nostalgia.

Then earlier this week some news appeared on a French gaming site about the possibility of a remaster titled Diablo II Resurrected, which seems on point given the asset loss story.  This was quickly picked up by English language sites and the word spread.

Apparently the Activision studio Vicarious Visions is working with Blizzard on the remaster and the news has raised hopes that maybe the long awaited return of the game may come as soon as late 2020.

And, of course, I am torn on this.

I would very much like a remastered version of Diablo II that played at modern screen resolutions without looking like something from 1977.  I will no doubt buy it if it becomes available.

But after the Warcraft III debacle a lot of people will be giving Blizzard a hard look rather than trusting what they (over)promise, myself included.  The French site says that Blizzard may have learned its lesson on that front, but everybody says that after a mistake and many go on to make the same mistakes over and over.

And this all might be very premature.  Speculation about getting a remaster this year could be blue sky estimates.  We shall see.

But I will be keeping my eye open for news on that front.  I want it to happen, and I want it to be… I’d settle for adequate.   I was good with the Diablo remake Blizzard did in conjunction with GoG.com.  If they could just manage that maybe?  We shall see if I get what I want this time.

It would at least keep a few people satisfied until Diablo IV comes along in… did I guess 2022 back when they announced it?  That sounds about right.

Other coverage:

The Restoration of Blizzard Margins and the Resurgence of WoW

What a difference a year can make.  Back in May 2019 I was writing about the sorry state of margins for the Blizzard portion of the Activision-Blizzard-King combo.

The numbers for Q1 2019 were somewhat grim for Blizzard.  While they brought in $344 million in revenue, the operating income… the profit… was only $55 million, giving them a 16% margin, which is horrible for a software/service company.  They were lagging behind King, which made more money and had a higher margin, and Activision, which made less money but still ended up with a higher operating income and thus a higher margin.

What was going on at Blizzard?  We had the meager offerings of the 2018 BlizzCon still fresh, with Diablo: Immortal being the centerpiece announcement.  StarCraft and Heroes of the Storm were on the outs.  Overwatch was slipping.  And the jewel in the Blizzard crown, World of Warcraft, was having a tough time holding on to people due to the myriad annoyance of the Battle for Azeroth expansion.  It was a bad time for the company.

Things began to turn around for Blizzard when WoW Classic hit late in 2019.  But it took the events of Q1 2020 to really boost Blizzard’s fortunes.

I feel like I should quote an exchange early in the movie Schindler’s List, where he talks about this missing ingredient that had kept him from business success in the past.  For him it was war, for Blizzard it was COVID-19.  Winter was keeping some people at home already, but worries about the virus and stay at home orders in many parts of the world helped fuel Blizzard’s quarter.

It was visible on the WoW servers, where things felt more crowded, and on the WoW Classic servers, where login queues and free server transfers appeared again.  As they laid it out on slide 8 of the presentation:

  • After doubling in the second half of 2019, World of Warcraft’s active player community increased further in Q1, as the team continued to deliver more content between expansions than ever before
  • Reach and engagement were particularly strong as regions introduced shelter-at-home measures through the quarter, with momentum increasing further in April
  • Increased engagement in modern WoW drove accelerating pre-sales for the upcoming Shadowlandsexpansion, slated for the second half of this year

While they had some modest praise for Hearthstone and Overwatch,

  • Hearthstone engagement improved sequentially, driven by the new Battlegrounds mode launched in November, and strong execution in live operations
  • Overwatch engagement increased meaningfully in March as its latest seasonal event coincided with stay-at-home effects

The words “sequentially” and “meaningfully” are pretty soft.  And then there was a mention of Diablo: Immortal, which may ship some day.

  • Diablo Immortal , developed for mobile in partnership with NetEase, remains on track to begin regional testing in the middle of the year

Given that, WoW was clearly the shining star this quarter, which led to the following revenue numbers.

Activision Blizzard Q1 2020 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 10

Blizzard is actually in third place for overall revenue out of the three company units, but that revenue was up by $108 million over last year and the increase was all profit, so that on the actual income line Blizzard was ahead of its two stable mates with a huge jump in operating margin.

Of particular note to me was the measure of Monthly Active Users, MAUs, between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020.  They were both the same, ringing in at 32 million active users.

For me, that seals the deal on my assertion that MAUs are a bullshit metric… or would have sealed the deal if I wasn’t already of that mind.  Any metric that stays flat as when revenue is up nearly 25% and margins have nearly tripled clearly isn’t measuring anything worthwhile in the case of a company like Blizzard.  The company ought to be embarrassed by the need to explain how detached their favored metric is.

And the future seems fairly bright for Blizzard in Q2.  As they noted, momentum was increasing in April, with people still at home and Blizz keeping some incentives, like the 100% xp boost, like to tempt people to work on just one more alt.

And beyond that… well, the Shadowlands expansion is coming, and any WoW expansion delivers a boost to revenue no matter how bad it is viewed after the fact.  They did say on the call that the target for Shadowlands is currently Q4 2020, so no August/September release this time around.  (Quote here) But unless they totally drop the ball with the expansion, Blizz looks like they are pretty well positioned for 2020 and into 2021.

The information, financial reports, presentation, and recording of the investors call can all be found over on the Activision Blizzard investor relations page if you wish to scope it out yourself.

WoW Tokens Five Years Later

The WoW Token turned five years old earlier this month.

The WoW Token highway has no exit

You can tell when I have started doing my month in review post as I am suddenly all about things that happened five or ten years ago, and such is the case now.

Way back on April 7, 2015 I posted about the launch of the WoW Token.

The purpose of the WoW Token, and other like items such as EVE Online’s PLEX or Daybreak’s Krono or Anarchy Online’s GRACE, is to fight illicit RMT, which has all sorts of fraud and theft issues associated with it, by giving players a legitimate way to buy in-game currency that both gives the developer a cut of the money and doesn’t dump currency into the economy.  The company is merely the agent between players trading the in-game currency for subscription time.  It is RMT, but “good” RMT so far as the developer is concerned.

That Blizzard and CCP and other companies have done this, and kept up with it over time, must mean that it is working for them somehow.  If nothing else, it is another revenue stream in a world where a monthly subscription is often a barrier for players.  Whether it has made a serious dent in illicit RMT I cannot tell, though it was interesting that some gold sellers seemed to revive with the coming of WoW Classic, where you cannot sell a token for gold.

And, of course, it isn’t any sort of panacea that will save a game.  WildStar built its plan initial business plan on their CREDD idea and that didn’t save it from going free to play then shutting down.

In WoW the idea itself took a while to grab players, at least in North America.

North American Prices – Apr 2015 to Apr 2020

When it launched at a starting price of 30,000 gold per token there were some people who declared that now was the time to jump in, that there was nowhere to go but up!

And then the price dropped immediately, landing below 20,000 gold in the first month.  It revived eventually, getting back over 30,000 in September, then starting to really climb come 2017 and peaking in 2018.  But there was an initial stretch there where it wasn’t all that attractive relative to illicit RMT.  Over the five years:

  • Avg Price – 109,057
  • Median Price – 117,552
  • Max Price – 238,572 on Jan 31, 2018
  • Min Price – 18,296 on May 3, 2015
  • Current Price – ~120,000 as I write this

The NA start was in some small contrast to the EU token prices, which started at 35,000 two weeks later and only went down a bit before beginning a fairly steady rise.  I am sure that says something about the two markets, though I am not sure what.

European Prices – Apr 2015 to Apr 2020

  • Avg Price – 173,225
  • Median Price – 180,158
  • Max Price – 401,827 on May 17, 2018
  • Min Price – 30,352 on Apr 25, 2015
  • Current Price – ~180,000 as I write this

Still, even though the token prices vary, the pattern of the prices over time looks remarkably similar when charted.  And no doubt they probably ought to in reaction to outside events, like when you were able to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 with WoW Tokens, which accounts for that peak price in 2018.

I am curious as to how people feel the advent of WoW Tokens have affected the game over the last half decade.

I, personally, have been only somewhat attached to the game over the last five years, playing it to see the game but not getting that deeply invested in it.  I have been a casual WoW player during that time for certain, and it was only the advent of WoW Classic that got me really back to Blizzard.

I have purchased two WoW Tokens.  My daughter pleaded for one so she could buy some RP gear for her RP guild when the price was around 100,000 gold and I bought one for myself one day when I was logged in and saw the price was around 220,000 gold and thought I might never see that price again.  But then the game sort of rains gold on you these days… going back to get flying in Battle for Azeroth I was shocked at how much gold I was given for random things when in WoW Classic I am grubbing for silver coins still… so I have earned more gold since just playing than I bought. (Mostly during Legion.)

My closest experience with something like WoW Tokens has been PLEX in EVE Online.

There I don’t buy it to activate game time but just to get a ship SKIN now and then.  But I’ve seen people who get pretty caught up in the idea of “PLEXing” their accounts every month, which becomes a mania with some people.  People who “crab” a lot… mine or run anomalies for ISK… are often suspected of being in it for RMT purposes.  And they often are, but not for illicit RMT and supplying ISK sellers and such.  They need to make the ISK to buy the PLEX in order to pay for their subscription.

The big nerf that hit last week with the Surgical Strike update will break the game for some people because they are invested in super carrier ratting… super carriers were pretty much invulnerable up until last week as they could kill small groups of subcaps and could survive to be rescued from larger groups… and with the changes they won’t be able to PLEX their accounts.

Azeroth is a lot different than New Eden however.   I know people who obsess about earning gold in WoW, but I am not aware if it has reached that level.

So how do you feel about WoW Tokens five years in?  I’m okay with them, but I am also out of the loop enough to not see or care much about the impact they might be having.  I’ll even put in a poll here.

If you cannot see the poll above this line… well, your web browser and ad block settings are keeping you secure.  I cannot argue with that, but you don’t get to vote unless you use the browser on your phone or something.

Data for this post cam from WoWToken.info and WoW Token Prices.

The latter has nice charts on their front page, while the former wouldn’t let me see any of their charts even with ad block off and security down.

Seriously, I am looking at the ads but they still won’t show the charts

The latter site pointedly makes reference to this if you have ad block on.  But the former has all the historical data available as a .csv file, which I was able to download, so I have to give them credit for that.

There is also data for the WoW Token markets in Taiwan, Korea, and China, but I did not dive into those as there are different dynamics in play there that I am even less aware of.

Friday Bullet Points about WoW Classic Again

I’ve done this topic before, but WoW Classic is the gift that keeps on giving in so many ways and there are a few items I felt deserved a mention but maybe not a whole post.

Classic is as classic does

So on with the list.

  • Holly in Azeroth

For me the big news of the week here was the announcement that Holly “Windstalker” Longdale has moved to Blizzard as a “Principle Game Producer” to work on WoW Classic.  Per her LinkedIn profile:

Recently joined Blizzard to focus on World of Warcraft Classic!

We got the news in early March that she was leaving Daybreak/Darkpaw in order to pursue a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”  Well, it is hard to argue with her choice now, or Blizzard’s.

The optimist in me… and I am by nature very optimistic, at least until the facts land on me… see this as a possible huge win for both.

On the one side we have Holly, who has experience running classic/nostalgia servers, successfully leveraging them to grown EverQuest‘s player base over the last five years now able to work with a company that has the budget and staff and technical capability to make shit happen.  No more layoffs looming every year, making do with a team stretched too thin, and whatever shenanigans Daybreak gets up to running the show.

On the other side we have Blizzard, which has finally learned that nostalgia sells… WoW Classic arguably having saved their bacon as Battle for Azeroth faded quickly… but which is clearly struggling with what to do with this new found success.  They need somebody who has made the mistakes and learned from them.

What will come of this match up?  Who knows.  It might be magical and unlock a wide range of possibilities, or it might be “Because SOE” meets “New Blizzard.”  But at least it is a sign that Blizzard is serious in this area and it may be the height of Holly’s career so far.  I wouldn’t have said “No” to Blizzard had I been in her position.

  • Phase Four Fully Functional

The fourth phase of the WoW Classic unlocks finished opening up this week.  Arathi Basin was unlocked early, but now there is the Zul’Gurub raid available as well as the Green Dragonflight Dragons for your raid group entertainment.

Also now available is the Stranglethorn Vale fishing tournament.

And the precursor actions to the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj event have started up in Silithus.

I will say that, while Zul’Gurub as a raid is way beyond anything the instance group will end up doing, one of the highlights of the Cataclysm expansion was getting 5 person heroic instance version of the raid.

And there was already a world first event as part of the raid in WoW Classic as the final boss, Hakkar the Soulflayer, was slain without killing the five high priest bosses.  Each priest left alive give Hakkar a special ability, ratcheting up the difficulty of the fight.  Are we all better 15 years down the road or does modern equipment and connections enhance our abilities?

  • Population Pressures

The surge in online gaming that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on the WoW Classic servers again, with full realms and queues showing up.  Because of this Blizz has put a couple things in place currently. First, they have restricted new character creation on three US servers:

  • Arugal
  • Faerlina
  • Whitemane

You can only create new characters there if you already have a character on those servers.

In addition, some free character transfers are available from three servers that have been seeing queues recently:

  • Incendius (Alliance Only)
  • Faerlina
  • Whitemane

The free character moves are likely available only so long as the queues last, so if you want one do it sooner rather than later.

  • Burning Crusade Poll

This one is a bit old at this point, but I meant to bring it up previously… and may bring it up again… but Blizzard sent our a survey to some players asking what option they might prefer if The Burning Crusade were to become a practical reality as a classic server option.  The choices were:

  1. Continue playing my current Classic character on my existing server as it progresses to the Burning Crusade expansion, with the option to transfer to a Classic server that will never progress past level 60.
  2. Start a brand new character from level 58 on a new Burning Crusade server.
  3. Start a brand new character from Level 1 on a new Burning Crusade server.
  4. Continue playing my current Classic character on my existing server that will never progress past level 60, with the option to transfer to a Burning Crusade server.

Polls like this might be familiar to some who saw them as part of EverQuest and EverQuest II retro server development over the past few years.  I’m not saying that Holly was already at work for this… a poll is a pretty easy go to idea… but it could be.

As for which I would choose, I would rank them 1, 4, 2, 3, though I am not really fond of either of the last two, with three being a bit of a non-starter for me.  For a server focused on The Burning Crusade, slogging through those 60 levels again would seem more of a barrier than anything.  I’m enjoying it now, but I am not sure I want to start over again right away.  TBC was deep enough as an expansion already.