Category Archives: Blizzard

Today We Are Legion

The day has finally arrived.  After months of waiting it is here, later than it probably should have been, but sooner that it likely could have been.  The sixth World of Warcraft expansion, Legion, went live at midnight Pacific time today.

WoW Legion coming to a server near you

The time has come to head to the Broken Isles

I didn’t stay up to play, mostly because I do not have a copy of the expansion yet.  Amazon says I should have my copy… actually, two copies, one for me and one for my daughter… some time this afternoon.

Which doesn’t mean I didn’t spend last night playing.  I went out and got one last character to level 100, an Alliance warrior.  He had to run the Westfall invasion a few times to get there, but made it through.

One more recruit for the Broken Isles

One more recruit for the Broken Isles

I did hedge a bit to get him there.  I upgraded a couple of the plate heirloom pieces and my daughter reminded me about that 20% exp boost potion available from the garrison vendor.  Good thing I ran him through the Draenor intro and he had some garrison resources handy.

20% more on top of it all

20% more on top of it all

I actually enjoyed the last few weeks of invasion events.  As I said over on a comment on Bhagpuss’s blog, it did get a lot of people out and playing and probably helped people come to grips with the class changes.

Stacked up to land at Sentinel Hill

Stacked up to land at Sentinel Hill

The gear drops were a bonus and the whole thing gave people some random boss training.  And, of course, the levels were good.  I know Blizz was trying to poo-poo this as a way to level up all your alts, but people seemed to want that and eventually Blizz tuned it about right, so that active players could level up pretty handily, which made it a popular success.  It proved once again that Edward Castronova quote that irks Bhagpuss;

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

Essentially, levels were on deep discount and a lot of people rushed in to get some.  If I recall correctly, I picked up 100 levels across the four characters I played the most.

Along with some random alts I played, I used the invasions to push a new warrior from level 12 to 60, a druid from 94 to 100, and another warrior, the final one from last night, from 74 to 100.  I was tempted to try for another level 100… I had already moved a mage from 35 to 55… but I wasn’t quite up to it.  I liked the invasions as an event, but I could only run so many before I had to go off and do something else.

At the end of all of that, I am left with the final big character question; which one should hit the Broken Isles first?  I have eight immediate choices:

The lineup against the Legion

The lineup against the Legion

  • Vikund – Human Paladin (retribution)
  • Alioto – Night Elf Druid (feral)
  • Tokarev – Draenei Death Knight (spec TBD)
  • Tistann – Dwarf Hunter (beast)
  • Trianis – Night Elf Rogue (outlaw)
  • Makarov – Human Warrior (arms)
  • Hurmoo – Tauren Druid (feral)
  • Haakron – Tauren Warrior (fury)

That is seven level 100s, plus a level 60 warrior who is likely to be my level 100 boost.  Plus, I will also be able to roll up a Demon Hunter as well, once I get the expansion, giving me nine options to choose from.  In thinking about that I haven’t even bothered to consider where I might head first in the Broken Isles.

Hrmmm... shaped kinda like Outland when you look at it...

Hrmmm… shaped kinda like Outland when you look at it…

Actually, I haven’t thought about the actual content at all.  I have tried to follow my usual plan of averting my gaze when it comes to new content, absorbing just enough to get me there but not so much that any surprises are spoiled.

Anyway, all that awaits me tonight when the new adventure begins.

If WoW Expansion Were Done Pokemon Style

Ideas that come unbidden in the night when you’ve been thinking about Pokemon and World of Warcraft too much.

What if Blizzard did World of Warcraft expansions the way Nintendo and Game Freak do new Pokemon titles or was simply influenced more by Pokemon than EverQuest?

This is where this ends up...

This is where this ends up…

  • Each expansion would be a complete 1-100 experience, but would require you to start at back as a new player each time.
  • You get to create exactly one avatar per expansion copy.
  • There would be two versions of each expansion, each with rewards not in the other, and the only way to obtain them would be through trading across expansions.
  • Occasionally there would be a single expansion that was just the previous two merged together, slightly altered, and with a few more rewards.
  • Every once in a while the two different versions would have completely different groups to fight, though the story and quest line would be essentially the same.
  • Interaction with quest givers initiated solely by making eye contact.
  • It would be a solo experience, where you created parties for dungeons and raids from the NPCs you captured while battling along the way.
  • Party size is now six.
  • You don’t level up, only the followers in your party do as they fight for you.
  • Your followers can be different classes, which have a rock/paper/scissors dynamic to them.  There is no holy trinity.
  • Draenor garrison-like need to collect all possible followers emphasized in the game.
  • Only mounts: Roller skates and a bicycle.
  • Flight points unlocked only after defeating a dungeon half way into the game.
  • Dance contests!
  • Geography of each expansion loosely based on a real world location.
  • Blizzard offices cleverly hidden in each expansion, allowing you do rage at the devs through your avatar.
  • At some point each expansion would require you to wake up a sleeping ogre that is blocking your progress.
  • Defeating the story antagonists just lets you move on to your real goal; Defeating the final four and then the Azeroth League Champion.
  • We still end up waiting at least two years between expansions

What other Pokemon tropes would likely infect Blizzard were this true?

And would any of this necessarily be a bad thing?

I Bet Blizzard Really Wants to Mention Subscription Numbers About Now…

World of Warcraft remains the No. 1 subscription‐based MMORPG in the
world.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2016 Financial Results

It is easy to justify dumping a metric when it isn’t portraying you well.  But once you’ve publicly vowed never to bring that metric up again, and suddenly it might show you in a good light, what do you do?

Apparently you beat around the bush hinting about it.

Yesterday was the Activision Blizzard call for the Q2 2016 financial results.  All the data and slides are over at the investor relations site.

ActiBlizz450

The company had plenty of good news to report.  Revenue was strong, their monthly active user (MAU) metric was up, and they had a hot new title to brag about in Overwatch, which has sales in the $500 million range to date.

They also highlighted Blizzard in general, which had strong growth, and World of Warcraft in particular.  Along with the quote at the top of the post, they say:

…strong pre-expansion momentum for World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft MAUs double digit growth quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year

[Legion] per-purchases tracking in-line with the last expansion.

Strong momentum in China following the Warcraft film…

That all sounds great, but they are just words.  What does “momentum” really mean here?  If you don’t publish per-game MAUs, which are a bullshit metric anyway, is double really that good?  Why aren’t they ten times better?  And if you make the claim that your game is the #1 subscription based MMORPG, I think it is incumbent on you to back that claim up.

Yes, the categories on the balance sheet where WoW fits in are up quite a bit, a sign that something is going on.  And if you’re playing WoW right now, it likely “feels” like the so-called “momentum” is building, that more players are back in the game.  I doubt anybody would seriously argue, with the WoW Legion expansion this close, that numbers are not up.

But you know what would seal the deal?  A nice little statement about how, at the end of Q2 2016, back on June 30th, after a year long content drought, subscriptions were already trending up on anticipation of the expansion with a hard number.  Anything higher that 5.5 million would do, though I think if they could have said 7 million it would have been a massive validation that the game is still strong and still has its own legion of loyal fans.

But instead, last November, when things were down, Blizz said they were not going to talk about subscription numbers any more.

I made what I felt was the case for continuing to report them every quarter.  Saying you’re number one is fine, but it isn’t news.  Trotting out a 7 digit subscription number though, that guarantees some headlines, be it up, down, or stable.  That gets your game in the eye of the press and being talked about.

I wonder, if WoW Legion does well, really well, and subscriptions are up into 8 digit figures again, if Blizzard will be content to just claim they are number one still, or will they roll out a special press release for that?

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: