Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime MMO Ennui Blues

Theoretically, this should be an exciting time for MMOs for me.

Blizzard finally gave us the WoW 6.2 patch, bringing us a new zone and opening up flying in Draenor.  Daybreak has the EverQuest time locked progression server thing running, and it is more popular than ever.  They are also warming up an EverQuest II version of the same, which could be interesting.  There is a new update dropping for EVE Online next week and then the final round of Fozzie Sov changes the following week, which should liven things up.

And yet, I am not really feeling it right now.

The 6.2 patch in WoW, far from bringing me back into the game, seemed to tip the balance the other way.  I had been in something of a garrison and pet battle holding pattern for ages, and then 6.2 hit and I stopped logging in altogether.

There was the momentary shock of the Master Plan addon breaking.  Really, doing garrison missions without that makes the whole thing such a chore that I didn’t bother trying.  And even when the addon was fixed a day later I didn’t bother.  Garrisons kept me going for a bit, but they are also my undoing in the end.  (The death of the easy-money gray trash from the salvage yard didn’t help either.)

I think, perhaps, that the two year straight run with WoW might mean it is time for a break.  Blizz has said that 6.2 is it for the expansion, so the whole game will be in something of a holding pattern until BlizzCon, at which point they will likely announce the next expansion.  We’ll see if Blizz can wait that long.  I suspect that the Q2 2015 results, which ought to be announced in August, will show another sharp decline in subscribers.

On the EverQuest side of things, I am just not feeling it.  For all the nostalgia I feel for the game, I might not be in the right state of mind for another round of bandit camping in West Karana, undead in Unrest, and whatever else.  I am glad it is going on, I am enjoying watching from the sidelines, but I just don’t log in.

I fear the same might be true for the EverQuest II nostalgia servers.  I am not entirely happy with the name choices.

Deathtoll seems just a bit too cute for the PvP server.  And, while Stormhold would have been my first choice for the PvE server had Isle of Refuge not been on the list, I am somewhat shocked that Isle of Refuge didn’t win.  It was the runaway favorite in the nominations.  I don’t want to go all Daybreak vote rigging conspiracy theory on this, but I seriously thought Isle of Refuge winning was pretty much a given.  But, Stormhold it is I guess.

Stormhold, in Antonica

Stormhold, in Antonica

There is the promise of more polls to come for the EverQuest II time locked expansion server, along with a beta promised for next week, though I have to wonder how Daybreak is feeling about polls now given the seeming “ain’t nobody happy” compromise around the Ruins of Kunark unlock vote.

And then there is EVE Online.  I suppose that EVE doesn’t really count, as boredom and finding it difficult to log in is the normal state of affairs for me with the game.  Then something will happen… a war, a deployment, a new fleet doctrine… that will lead to the moments of excitement that make the hours or boredom worthwhile.

All of which has added up to me mostly playing Minecraft every evening when I have some time.  So you can probably expect more “letters from those late to the party” posts about the game going forward.

June in Review

The Site

Well, WordPress.com finally decided to impose their new stats page on us.  I am not a fan, to say the least.  While they did fix the problem where the first three years of my stats were missing, which I complained about previously, the format leaves me cold.  They have added a few more informational tidbits to the mix:

That is 18:00 UTC, probably when Bhagpuss gets home from work

That is 18:00 UTC, probably about when Bhagpuss gets home from work

But they have removed all the summary charts that I really, really like.  Fortunately, for the time being, you can still access the previous version of the stats page at the URL:

https://wordpress.com/my-stats/

You can also find the even older version of the stats page for your WordPress.com blog if you modify this URL to add in your blog’s domain:

https:// <blog name e.g. tagn> .wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.php?page=stats

You do have to log in and have permissions for any given blog, so you cannot modify that URL to see the stats of others.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com and Automattic, its parent company, are coming up on their 10th anniversary in August of letting people in to blog for free.  It seems odd that I have been around and blogging on WordPress.com for almost 9 of those 10 years.

One Year Ago

I toasted the Newbie Blogger Initiative class of 2014.  Long may they post.

WildStar launched… and started its journey to F2P.  Still alive though.

SOE finally broke its ties with the ill-fated and ill-conceived ProSiebenSat.1 deal.

Derek Smart was telling us why to charge for beta.  Lord British was getting serious with virtual real estate.

It was summer and the short lived strategy group was looking to the Steam Summer Sale for a new game.  Meanwhile we were still playing our epic game of Civilization V.

We heard about how CCP handled/mishandled World of Darkness.

CCP launched the last of its expansions with a six month lead-time.  Kronos was the end of the line for twice yearly expansions.  I set off on the training plan to be a wing/fleet booster in EVE Online.

In Azereoth, my attempt at the Loremaster achievement had me in Darkshore and then on to Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains .

Meanwhile the Warlords of Draenor alpha was starting, so I had to avert my eyes.  So I started pondering things like how Blizzard should change the starter edition of WoW.

The instance group, heading towards its regular summer hiatus, was hitting the Mogu-shan Palace.

I took a look at a long history of gear obsession.

And I was wondering if authenticators were still a thing.

Five Years Ago

Warhammer Online, whose game tips I previously mocked, was out soliciting user written game tips with the most boring video game related video ever.  Really, I was embarrassed for them.

Meanwhile, there were comical tips to be found in another game.

CCP was telling people that the steep learning curve in EVE Online was just part of the game, and Hulkageddon III was on the way.

FrontierVille came along, evoking the whole Oregon Trail thing… for which they recently were sued.  And a good thing to, as they are a bunch of lying bastards there at Zynga.  They never sent me my FarmVille magnet.

There was the big news from Turbine with Lord of the Rings Online going Free to Play.  I wondered is Lifetime Subscribers like myself would get the shaft in this transition.  But Turbine made me a perm VIP instead and put out one of those charts that seems to accompany these multi-level subscription scams structures.  But I was winning LOTRO lotteries, so I was happy for the moment.

In Pokemon SoulSilver I had beat all the gym leaders, but we were having Pokewalker problems.

Then there was Blizzard.  Where to start?  They were to the Summer of 2010 what CCP is becoming to the Summer of 2011.

They were selling WoW Gold straight from the main page.  Really.  It just isn’t what you think.

They screwed up the parental controls interface… in my opinion… along with compromising the security of it.

The whole RealID thing was just getting warmed up.

One of the accounts in our guild was compromised and the guild bank was looted.  That has happened a couple times since and is barely news any more.

And during all this, the instance group was working its way through The Burning Crusade content with our Horde alts, but we weren’t really feeling it.

Ennui had set in and our only hope was Cataclysm.  And there were plenty of offers to get us into the beta.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogrolls, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Fine, You Can Fly in Draenor, But Only AFTER You Hit an Arbitrary Content Threshold!
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. The Search for the Summer Game
  4. Introducing Carnyx the Magnificent
  5. Entosis Link Modules in Action in Querious
  6. Travel Advisory – Conflict in Amarr
  7. Quote of the Day – F2P Insight
  8. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  9. What Future for Turbine after Infinite Crisis?
  10. The Revenant Kill in JU-0WQ
  11. A Bit of Ancient History that Still Sticks With Me…
  12. On to 64-Bit Gaming

Search Terms of the Month

civ iii on win 7 64 bi compuer
[That isn’t the hardware info I need to help you]

aggronauts myspace
[I’m pretty sure Belghast gave up on MySpace]

is turbine developing a new mmo?
[If they are, they haven’t shared it with me]

totally free and legit courses online
[Good luck with that]

why does server emulation take so long to do
[It probably takes less time than the original]

Spam Comment of the Month

So, sum up the advantages of belonging to the pre-war, animal husbandry, which is the top 30% inhibition, can play a little more aggressive, make good use of the hammer then fear storm control, and no brain start to play shield + disperse oppressive force play. Danelaw went to the former and Wessex to the latter with each side taking half of Mercia.
* Fast Poison.

EVE Online

After the Reavers left Querious things slowed down a bit for me in New Eden.  We ran a couple of ops to Fountain to assist Brave Newbies, making us the rare exception to the “let’s go to Fountain and farm!” trend.  And there was Burn Amarr.  But the last week or so has been more about settling in and finding a home in Tribute.

EverQuest

I have probably been playing this for some definitions of “playing,” but even so I have not made much progress.  I made a few characters to claim the storage box that was given to those who joined the beta, which gave me a pile of alts to work on.  So now I have a pile of low level alts.  None of them are even level 10 yet.  It is just like 1999 again.

EverQuest II

I have been keeping an eye on EverQuest II because of the plans for their own nostalgia server.  I am interested to see how this will turn out.  I suspect it will be successful for reasons different than the EverQuest side of the house.

Minecraft

Since Father’s Day I have put in quite a few hours in the low-res world of Minecraft.  It certainly has a charm of its own, even if I am a few years late to the party.  But then, that just means that they have fixed all the bugs by now, right?

War Thunder

I have been putting in a bit of time with War Thunder over the last month.  I am still horrendously bad at it.  If I was better I might spend some money on it.  But I have a whole post on that and how the usual trend in F2P is manifesting itself in the game.

World of Warcraft

This has been in something like maintenance mode for most of the month.  I log in to tend my garrison.  I totally fail to show up for group nights.  I don’t do much else.  Then came the 6.2 patch last week.  Well, I am sure I will have a post about that.  I am just not sure what to say at this point.

Coming Up

July is the start of the summer silly season, when news dries up and we all start fixating on things like prognosticating octopi and the like.  Then we’ll head into August, the barren wasteland of new content and game launches, where memes and questionnaires will be all to sustain us as we entertain bizarro world ideas, like turning Pong into an MMO or imagining Star Citizen delivering on all its promises or taking crazy ravings on the internet seriously.  I will no doubt be digging deep into my drafts folder looking for something to write about then.

It is enough to make a body want to just take the summer off.

Still, there are a couple of things on the horizon.  Daybreak will be doing whatever it is they plan to do with EverQuest II and their nostalgia server.  There is supposed to be a beta starting as soon as the week of July 7th.

CCP has another expansion coming up on July 7th, to be followed a week later with the final transition to Fozzie Sov, at which point we’ll get to see first hand just how many loopholes and exploits there are in the plan.  I expect at least two sov holding alliances to fail cascade in simple frustration at dealing with the mechanics.  Could be interesting times, and doubly so since SniggWaffe (Pandemic Legion Junior) and some pals look like they came along and kicked J4LP out of half of Cloud Ring, so we’ll have them on our doorstep.  That should make for some excitement.

What else is coming up in July?

Fine, You Can Fly in Draenor, But Only AFTER You Hit an Arbitrary Content Threshold!

I nearly did a spit-take when I saw this announcement.

Blizzard has responded… or changed its mind… or caved in to the mob… or stuck to its principles… or screwed over one group for another… or completely failed to understand the issue at hand… pick whichever option fits your personal narrative… and announced that players will be allowed to fly in Draenor after all.

This all started a couple weeks back when Blizzard announced that they were not going to enable flying in Draenor.  The top level reasoning was:

Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways

Basically, flying meant that people ended up not playing the game the way Blizzard wanted.

Flying lets you bypass all our hard work! How can you not see that?

Flying lets you bypass all our hard work! How can you not see that? Look at this terrain!

You can put whatever other spin you want on it, but that really seems to me to be the essential point.  They designed all this content assuming you’d be on the ground, but when you can fly, you can bypass it all.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

Sometimes I bypass having a flying mount or flight form altogether and just fly!

For me, the great unanswered question in all of this remains how much control over their game should a developer be allowed, whether or not the dev’s view of how their game should be played should trump the player’s view, whether MMO studios be dictating a “right way” to play and should players accept that or not?  Maybe that should be a question for Blaugust, when we’re all struggling to post for 31 days straight.

Anyway, that aside, Blizzard has come up with what feels to me very much like a “have your cake and eat it” solution to the rage about flying.  Or maybe it is a good compromise.  It is hard for me to tell at this point.  However yeah, you’ll be able to fly in Draenor, but first these things you must achieve, ‘ere the freedom of the sky ye see!

When you have achieved…

…and collected 100 treasures in Draenor, AND raised three Tanaan Jungle (a new area coming with the 6.2 update) reputations to Revered (I bet it was exalted in the first pass), then and only then will you be granted the Draenor Pathfinder meta achievement which will reward the Soaring Skyterror mount and unlock flying in Draenor on your account for all your characters at or above level 90… once they patch that in.

The money quote for this:

We believe this strikes the right balance between ensuring ground-based content lives up to its full potential, while providing players who’ve already fully experienced Draenor’s outdoor world extra freedom to “break the rules.” This also provides a general blueprint going forward for content to come. Players will explore new and undiscovered lands from the ground, and then once they’ve fully mastered those environments—a notion that continues to evolve with each new expansion—they can take to the skies and experience the world from a new vantage point.

And I can guess the results of this now.  A large group will be quietly happy and we’ll never hear from them again.  But they were probably quiet this whole time anyway.

Meanwhile, those who very much oppose flying will feel betrayed because content bypassing and dropping in on mobs from above and all the other complaints will be enabled on alts the moment they hit Draenor.  At least back in Pandaria every character had to hit level cap before getting to fly.

And those who have been demanding the ability to fly… well, it would be hard not get the sense that they want to fly so they can do all the things now required to get flying by… well… just flying.  If you’ve already done all that, flying doesn’t help you out as much.  I cannot imagine that unbridled happiness will ensue as this group expected the Pandaria deal, just get to level cap and part with some gold and let me fly dammit!

But somehow the world will keep spinning and the sun will still come up tomorrow.

At least that is how I see it… and I don’t even have any of those achievements.  That would require me to leave my garrison… or log in, which has been getting harder of late.

But others are talking about the great flying compromise of 2015 as well.

The Search for the Summer Game

My daughter came to me last week and declared that she was bored with World of Warcraft.

This is not an unusual thing.

She is, after all, 13 years old.  Being bored with things is pretty much part of the job description, coming on the list right after being embarrassed by your parents.

An making sweeping declarations about Azeroth being boring are not new.  That comes up from time to time and she finds something else to do with her allotted computer time for a while before heading back to the game.

This time though… this time it was a bit different.  After the usual declarations, she started asking about what other games there are out there.  And she even asked me to turn off her account so we wouldn’t be wasting money paying for something she wasn’t using.

Shit just got serious!

So we talked a little bit about what else was out there… something complicated by the fact that her computer is an iMac.  She has the biggest, best looking screen in the house, but Mac OS doesn’t get anywhere as many games as Windows.

We talked a bit about that, then she went off to go revisit WebKinz, the first online game she ever tried, way back in 2007.  It seems that she gets video game nostalgia too, just like me.  I used to be pretty firmly on the “nurture” side of the whole “nurture vs. nature” thing, and then I became a parent and decided that nature is not to be dismissed lightly.  I’m not saying that The Bad Seed should be classified as a documentary, I just mean that I see my daughter exhibiting the same behaviors as I did as a child at times, but it wasn’t like she was around to pick those behaviors up directly.

Anyway, she went off to WebKinz, got her old account restored (which took a few days) then began complaining about how things had changed.  Again, just like pop.  You need a Deluxe Membership to do a lot of things, while the whole physical pet aspect… it is still there I guess, but it seems to be de-emphasized compared to the new cash shop.  I didn’t check if they had added lock boxes, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Meanwhile, this got me to reflect on my own feelings about World of Warcraft at the moment.

I have been in something of a holding pattern.  I haven’t made instance groups nights for a while now, letting down the team.  I log into the game daily, but I generally just do some garrison tasks and a couple of daily pet battles before I log off again.

Vikund in his garrison

Vikund in his garrison

I have an alt sitting at close to level 92, largely due to pet battles, that I haven’t bothered to bring to Draenor yet, in part because the thought of yet another garrison to tend does not excite me in the least.

So I just tend my garrisons, increase my wealth… I could go buy that Grand Expedition Yak now if I so desired… and not much else.  I haven’t even rushed into Darkmoon Faire this month, and I am usually pretty religions on that every month. Though, on reflection, I mostly did that to collect heirlooms, and you can simply buy those with gold now.  So aside from the pets and mounts… and I have all of those already… and the minimal trade skill boosts, there suddenly isn’t as much to Darkmoon Faire for me as there once was.

So it might be time for a break from WoW for both of us.  We have been back and subscribed and playing WoW for nearly two years straight at this point.  A vacation from Azeroth might be in order.

But where to go?

Yes, things are happening in EVE Online, Fozzie Sov is coming.  But for me EVE is always the game I play along with some other game.  It cannot be relied upon to provide fun and engagement on demand.

In the past, summer destinations have included Lord of the Rings Online and EverQuest II.  There is certainly a lot more of Middle-earth to see on the far side of Moria, or I could continue my climb to somewhere closer to the level cap in post-cataclysm Norrath.

There is also the current progression server thing going on with EverQuest, though I am falling behind on that one, lacking a regular group… or much free time.  And unless Daybreak continues to publicize it the low level areas will dry up soon.

Then there are other MMORPGs I own or which are free… or free-ish.  I’ve been into Guild Wars 2 in the past and took a run a Star Wars: The Old Republic for a bit.  Along with those there is World of Tanks, War Thunder, and World of Warships, all of which I recently installed, though those tend to be short play session titles for me.  I could also add in some MMO-ish games to the list of possibilities, like Diablo III or Elite: Dangerous.

Then there is my Steam library.  Steam Left indicates that I have some play time left in that.

74 days would get me through the summer...

74 days would get me through this summer… and the next

And that number seems unlikely to get smaller given that the annual Steam Summer Sale commences tomorrow.  I know that something will be too cheap to resist… I have more than a couple games that were $3.74… adding on at least a few more hours.

So there I sit, needing a break from WoW but not sure where to head, and my daughter as well.  If I play with her, that complicates things due to the whole Mac OS limitation, though I might not need to account for her as she seems to have piled up some summer reading and has been more focused on art than video games on her computer of late.

May in Review

The Site

Another month, another algorithm change at Google, another drop in page views, both here and at EVE Online Pictures. (Which also turned 7 years old this month.)  It was only supposed to about mobile friendly sites… and my WordPress.com theme has mobile options… but who knows what is really going on at Google?

Anyway, that is just the random search engine traffic.  The demographic that I guess I would call “people who actually come here on purpose” remained about the same, as it has over the last few years.  And that’s what matters, right?  Right?

Meanwhile, I have been wondering how other sites choose what pictures to display when my posts are syndicated.  WordPress.com has options that allow me to syndicate out notifications when I post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr.  But I have yet to figure out the pattern as to how an accompanying graphic, if any, is chosen for a given site.  Some days they are all the same, some days each site picks something different.  And then I do a post with no pictures in it, like this one.

One Year Ago

EA killed off Mythic Entertainment.  They had already handed over Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot to Broadsword, so what was left in any case?

The news about post-Kickstarter Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen continued to be off-putting.

I got another seven day trial in Landmark.

The strategy group started in on our BIG map campaign in Civilization V.

In EVE Online I was wondering about the prospects for a summer war.  Everybody just assumed that there would be one, though in null sec the various empires seemed to be settling in and consolidating.  Sure, there was the trap at Daras… another on the list of reasons we shy away from low sec… the run down to Placid for a kill, and that op down in Syndicate (my post on which stirred up some sour grapes about day one players) but otherwise things were quiet.  That left plenty of time to go find my name on the monument.  Also, I wanted to know if the alleged ‘learning cliff’ was still the biggest issue facing EVE Online.

In World of Warcraft the Timeless Isle was still a thing.  The Warlords of Draenor expansion was still over the horizon and subscriptions were down to 7.6 million under the weight of wait.  The pacing of content delivery was an open topic.  Meanwhile, our group was slowing down a bit even as we started in on dungeons in Pandaria.

In attempt to make plans for another summer hiatus, I gave Star Wars: The Old Republic a try, going through the Sith starting area.

And then there was the kick off of the 2014 Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Five Years Ago

I was unemployed, which you would think would leave me a lot more time for gaming and blogging.  But the anxiety of looking for a job for the first time in 12 years… and the first time in 20 years where there wasn’t just one out there waiting for me… made for a quiet gaming and blogging month.

Yes, I did start to poke my nose back into LOTRO.  A game where I didn’t have to pay a subscription seemed about right. (I have a lifetime subscription.)  That meant getting back into the swing of the game and figuring out what had changed.

We actually got THE DATE for the release of StarCraft II.  How did that turn out for everybody?  I skipped the whole thing.  Maybe when the StarCraft II warchest version comes out with all the expansions I’ll look into it.

The Agency came to Facebook, in the form of The Agency: Covert Ops.  A Mafia Wars-like game, without the multi-level marketing aspect, it had its good and its bad.  I liked the puzzles.  The dogs with guns… and the submarine fight… not so much.  Who knew that would be all of The Agency we would ever get?

Meanwhile SOE was transcending bad taste with their EQII PWNZ marketing campaign.

There was some Pokemon fun going.  I was twinking the Pokewalker while our cats worked against me.  The cats won in the end.

We also went to see the Pokemon Video Game Championships in our area.

And the instance group was wrapping up Dire Maul and Stratholme.  Then, having hit 60, we let the Dungeon Finder guide our way into the Outland.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogrolls, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. WoW Subscriptions Drop to 7 Million on Purpose
  2. EverQuest Ragefire Progression Server is Coming May 20th
  3. The Next EverQuest Progression Server will be Named Ragefire
  4. The Doomed Convoy at KVN-36
  5. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  6. Ragefire First Night Follies – Half-Elf Bards, Level 50s, and the Big Wipe
  7. Fear of Flying
  8. Project 1999 – Now Totally Legit
  9. Progression Server Progress in EverQuest
  10. Traveling Home and the Contraction of Empire
  11. Draenor Tourism Season is Over, WoW Back Down to 7.1 Million Subscribers
  12. EverQuest Ragefire Progression Server Poll Results

Search Terms of the Month

“tnt” + perpetual inventory system
[That sounds like a drastic solution, I like it]

eve leaving game who to give money to
[Me! I pick me!]

terry pratchett on j k rowling
[Rule 34 knows no limits]

hay porn games
[Fun down on the farm?]

5 features of blizzards
[Low res graphics?]

everquest next expansion
[You are the optimist, aren’t you?]

EVE Online

Well, the conquest of Delve ended and most of The Imperium went home.  Reavers, however, remained in the south and spent the month doing un-Reaver-like things… such as defending sov and getting into fights… on purpose.  It has been a fun distraction, since about the only other thing going has been alliances shifting locations up in the north.  I did move a pile of stuff down to our new home in Tribute, but haven’t actually done anything there as yet.

EverQuest

For all the posts I have done about the Ragefire and Lockjaw progression servers, I haven’t actually spent a lot of time playing on them.  Almost none at all really.  It has been a busy month and unlike with Fippy Darkpaw, I didn’t get into a group with anybody else who wanted to play, so I have been soloing my way up to a level where I can get a group, which isn’t all that much fun.

H1Z1

I got on board with the deal between Daybreak, The Imperium, and The Mittani dot com and bought a copy of H1Z1.  I went in and played with the group of Reavers who joined in as well, and exploring the game with a group on voice coms was pretty fun.  I could not see playing the game solo at all, but as a small group game it has potential.  However, since the Reavers had other things going on, by mid-month I had stopped playing.  At some point I will have a summing up post, because there is both good and bad in the game.

World of Warcraft

I have been slacking in WoW.  I haven’t made the instance group all month.  I haven’t leveled anybody up.  All I have been doing is daily garrison stuff and some pet battles.  I am in a routine where I can churn out a 30 slot, hexweave bag about once a week, so I am slowly growing in storage space.  And I have many level 25 pets.  But I haven’t done anything besides that all month.

Coming Up

We have the WoW 6.2 update in the near future.  They have already done some of the pre-download for it.  I am going to guess it won’t be this coming week, but the following week seems likely.

We also have the next EVE Online mini-expansion, this one called Carnyx.  That comes with the first round of entosis link sovereignty capture mechanics.  We shall what that brings.

I managed to get a World of Warships key yesterday, which prompted me to download that, World of Tanks, and War Thunder.  I haven’t played the latter two in a while.  We’ll see if I spend much time there.

And it is June, so time for a Steam Summer sale maybe?

Fear of Flying

In one of those “note the date, something big was said” moments, Blizzard has announced… through a proxy at least, if not via an official press release… that they likely won’t allow flying mounts in Draenor… or maybe in any future expansion.  You can read about it over at Polygon, where the fateful words came as part of an interview.  I think this sums up the justification.

Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways

There is a bit of irony in that, seeing that Outland, an alternate timeline Draenor, was the first place to feature flying mounts, but Draenor will be denied them.  Flying mounts have been a thing in WoW since 2007.  But the interview goes into all the thing people tend to bring up as the downside of flying mounts.

Certainly, flying has been a contentious thing in WoW.  And Blizzard has no doubt been aware of the trade off that flying brings with it since The Burning Crusade.

Back then you only got to spend what seemed like a ton of gold on a skill and a flying mount… back when buying the mount was the expensive bit… when you hit the level cap.  At that point you got to fly and there was some content that required flying to access.

Then came Wrath of the Lich King, and there was much moaning because flying went away the moment you hit Northrend, at least until you got to level… 77? 78? not quite the level cap… at which point you could train Cold Weather Flying and move into some of the content that required a flying mount.  That was a hint at the problems to come, as once somebody has something, it is a hard task to take it away.

Cataclysm gave us flying from the first moment and pretty much proved to me that flying had its problems.  Aside from Vashj’ir, which was under water (though you could make the case that your under water mount was effectively a flying mount), you had access to your flying mounts in all of the new zones, which took much of the effort out of them.  There were a few points where you needed flying, but for the most part flying felt like a pass to flit past any opposition to get to a quest objective.  It basically sped up leveling, something I am not sure WoW really needed.

Blizzard pulled back from that with Mists of Pandaria, going back to the model of allowing flying mounts only at level cap.  There was even a bit of content that required a flying mount, though nothing like the level of content in Outland or Northrend.  But that led us back to the cycle of losing flying with the next expansion again, and Blizzard hemmed and hawed about flying in Warlords of Draenor.  There was a promise to look into flying, an assumption that we would get flying, but no concrete statement that it would be so.

And now we have the word… or perhaps it is just a trial balloon that Blizzard can deny was the official line if the rage grows too strong.

Personally, I get what is being said when it comes flying.  It does make the world feel smaller.  It does trivialize travel.  It does let players bypass all that annoying “content” to go straight their objective.  It does make an already too fast and too convenient game feel even faster and more convenient.  Exploration ceases to be a thing… there being little or no effort in exploring on a flying mount… and some types of adventures just don’t happen when you can fly.

It is just a shame that flying is so much damn fun.  Here is what I wrote back when I got my first flying mount in WoW.

Flying… it is good enough that it feels like cheating.

Yeah it does.  And I never get tired of it, especially when it comes to druid flight form.  I could easily spend an idle hour amusing myself with my druid just jumping off of tall buildings and then going into flight form as I fell.

Patience got me Flight

Druid just floating above the world…

Once you have a druid with flight form, even flying mounts feel a bit awkward.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

I love when I can fly and the flight form hasn’t drawn yet…

And, like any really good, empowering cheat, it is very tough to let go once you have used it once.  I never think, “Oh, I should just ride or walk, flying is too easy.”  I just fly.  It would take a serious effort of will to walk or ride when flying was available.

So I can see why people are upset at the even the suggestion that we might not get to swan about on flying mounts everywhere in Azeroth.  We’ve all had that bit of heroin in our veins by now, and it is a tough habit to break.

But I also can’t help but see something of a parallel between how a few people are responding to this and how some botters responded to their bans recently; petulance and declarations and speaking for the community as a whole along with threats to never give Blizzards another nickel.  The usual stuff.

I just can’t get all that worked up about it myself.  If I could press a button and turn on flying in Draenor, I probably would.  But I also have a bit of a fatalistic outlook when it comes to video games.  I try to look at things like this as obstacles to conquer as opposed to things that I should spend much time pouting/raging about.

And, coming of age with video games when I did, I also seem to give developers a lot of leeway in shaping their game to be played the way they want it to be played, as opposed to the way the players think it should be played.  That is one of the great philosophical questions of our age, the relative importance of developer vision versus player desire, and one that gets deftly avoided time and again when people, including myself, write about games.

That doesn’t mean I don’t bitch and moan about some decisions, or count the cost of a particular change… that’s great fun at times… or occasionally think I am smarter than the devs on a given issue, but you’ll note that I mostly focus on the games I keep playing anyway.  It is more a matter of my wanting to talk about games than any desire to impose my will.  Just last week I took the time to note that the harsh death penalty of TorilMUD was being relaxed.  I had suffered from that harsh penalty more than a few times in the past, but always considered it to be part of the game and altered my play style to accommodate it.  Now that has changed, and likely the game itself will change because of it… though given the low population of TorilMUD these days the range of the impact likely won’t be great.

Anyway, there is a mob howling about flying.  I won’t be upset if Blizzard holds to their current vision for flying mounts.  I think Blizzard has some legitimate points, ones that have been brought up time and again.  But if the heat is too much for Blizzard and they decide that putting the toothpaste back in the tube is beyond their means, I’ll be riding around in the air on my flying mount like everybody else.

Other bloggers looking at the whole flying mount thing:

 

WoW Subscriptions Drop to 7 Million on Purpose

Last week the Activision-Blizzard earnings announcement indicated that World of Warcraft had dropped from over 10 million subscribers, a position held from November 2014 through at least the end of the year, to 7.1 million subscribers, putting its player base back down to where it stood during the 13 month Pandaria content drought.

Blizzard's slide from the deck

Blizzard’s slide from the deck

That is a tough drop to explain away as “expected and consistent” so soon after Warlords of Draenor and given past history.  The much reviled Cataclysm expansion bottomed out at 9.1 million, while Mists of Pandaria took at least 18 months to hit low ebb at 6.8 million subscribers.  (MMO Champion has a nice chart showing this.) Their might be a seed of something in SynCaine’s hyperbole.

So it seemed like an odd moment for Blizzard to turn around and ban more than 100,000 accounts, unless it was an attempt to get all the bad news in at once.  Only, the bans won’t be reflected in the subscription numbers until the next quarterly report, so that doesn’t really fly.

The first I noticed that something might be up was yesterday morning on Twitter when, in amongst the widespread moaning about the Jem and the Holograms trailer I saw a tweet (since deleted) from somebody enraged that Blizzard had banned a friend’s WoW account for NO REASON.

And then, as the day wore on, we found out that there was likely a reason after all.  The official Blizzard announcement was:

We’ve recently taken action against a large number of World of Warcraft accounts that were found to be using third-party programs that automate gameplay, known as “bots.” We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use. Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.

Blizzard is serious about this sort of thing.  It is ingrained in their corporate culture, forged by their experiences with the original StarCraft, which practically became the national sport in South Korea, that cheats are bad and a threat to their long-term success.  And so they are very aggressive in seeking out any hacks, cheats, or exploits, and have been since day one of WoW. Blizzard’s Warden software has been around a long time.

Of course, there are a lot of “but I was only…” sorts of defense comments out there from the banned.  There is a fine collection of them over at the bottom of the latest post over at The Nosy Gamer, who covers botting and RMT topics regularly.

But we all know it was cheating, both those making the lame rationalizations and those of us reading them.  I ran a poll about six years back where I listed out a bunch of behaviors and let people choose what they felt was cheating.  The results stratified into three groups, with the “we all know they’re cheating” items at the top, the uncomfortable ones in the middle, and the pet peeves at the bottom.  And botting, automation of complex tasks, was right there at the top of the list.

But even if we were going to rationalize and try and kid ourselves that maybe botting some things isn’t so bad, that boring game play somehow legitimizes it, or run off and try to whitewash gold farming to frame it as a good thing, it doesn’t really matter because, as I said above, Blizzard’s corporate culture cannot see it as something besides a bad thing that must be fought.

I used to think the term “corporate culture” was a bullshit phrase.  But that was more because describing corporate culture to somebody is often like trying to describe water to a fish.  It is just there, all pervasive, yet just part of the environment, just the way things are.  Even if you change jobs, moving to another company, it can be hard to really see the full embrace of the culture.  One person just assimilates and learns how things are done.  To really see corporate culture you have to go through a merger or an acquisition and see two different cultures clash.  That is one point when you can really identify what the culture is, when it appears in sharp relief.

At my last company we went through a series of such moves over the course of a decade, and I went from my opinion about corporate culture being bullshit to wondering how some companies survive given how immutable corporate culture can be.  Culture is like a tangible substance.  It can be like mold in your attic, where sometimes it is just easier to tear the house down and start over.

At one point we were acquired by a hardware company that desperately wanted to be a software company.  We went from just shipping a disk or a download to a long and convoluted certification and sales process that looked remarkably like what you would do to sell hardware.  I had a 200-page guide covering everything we needed to do to move software from “we’re done, ship it!” to the point when sales could sell it.  And we couldn’t do a thing about it because they bought us, so their culture “won,” so we had to be a software company that worked like a hardware company, right down to refusing just to sell software unless we installed it on the hardware on which it would run before it left our building.

That quickly strangled sales, until we were acquired again.  This time though it was by a company that was a spin off from the phone company, with all the baggage that implies to anybody who has ever worked for/with any of the one-time Baby Bells.  For somebody from Silicon Valley with a background in start ups, it was almost literally like living in a Dilbert cartoon.

So when I see a company like Nintendo clinging to a hardware based business philosophy while pundits shout that they need to get into selling software, I know what I am seeing is corporate culture… or maybe corporate identity is a better term… at play.  Yes, they have recently made some minor moves in the direction of software only business, but for all they have said, it still strikes me as something to appease stock holders rather than a serious effort to change how the company works.  They still see themselves as a hardware company, measure their success by the number of Wii U or 3DS units sold, and see software as a way to move hardware rather than a revenue stream unto itself.  We’re not going to see core Pokemon RPG games or Mario Kart on iOS or Android.  It will take a near-extinction level event to get there, and while the Wii U has been a serious disappointment, that has been off-set by very healthy 3DS sales, which no doubt reinfoces the idea inside Nintendo that the problem with the Wii U was one of execution and not a call to change business models.

All of which is a very round-about way for me to say that it comes as absolutely no surprise to me at all that Blizzard chose to ban more than 100,000 accounts (and remove the corresponding revenue) right on the heels of announcing that they were down nearly 30% when it came to subscriptions.  Corporate culture will dictate.