Category Archives: World of Warcraft

The Warcraft Movie Approaches

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

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

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

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

Coming June 10, 2016

Coming June 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

That seems like an odd box to include

That seems like odd box art to use

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

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

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

Shiny movie transmog stuff

Shiny movie transmog stuff

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

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

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

What is Vanilla WoW in Any Case?

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

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

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

You no take catch phrase!

You no take dev resources either!

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

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

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

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

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

Still, things are happening.

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

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

WoW launched on November 23, 2004.

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

A day that will live in infamy...

A day that will live in infamy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Bullet Points are Lucky Even Today

Here it is, Friday the 13th, a date synonymous bad luck and a series of horror movies that, oddly enough, capped out at an even dozen.  How could they not make a 13th one?

Fortunately my wife’s family embraces the number 13 as their lucky number, so that cancels things out… right?  I’m still working from home today all the same.

Meanwhile, here are some items I feel like mentioning but which didn’t quite make the cut for a full post.  If there aren’t 13 of them, well… that’s just bad luck.

They Are So Cute When They Are Young

Nintendo is starting the slow drip of information on the official site about the upcoming Pokemon Sun & Moon games, and so this week Nintendo gave us the date for the launch, November 18, 2016.

Sun and Moon coming in November

Sun and Moon coming in November

We also got a look at the starter Pokemon for the game.

Which one will you choose?

Which one will you choose?

They are Rowlet, Litten, and Popplio, filling the traditional grass, fire, and water starter roles.  Starter Pokemon can be an emotional topic and people get quite invested in their choices.  Currently Popplio seemed to be losing the popularity race on Twitter.

The poll results

The poll results

I traditionally go with the water Pokemon, so Popplio is likely going to be my choice regardless of what people say about him.  Also he’s a seal, how is that not cute?  Meanwhile, is Rowlet wearing a bra or what?  Just asking!

Of course, Nintendo has a track record of turning cute into ugly with evolutions while punishing you by withholding key moves if you opt not to let your starter evolve.  Can’t they stay young and cute forever?  It is a complex issue.

Civilization Goes Cartoony

Firaxis announced the coming of Civilization VI, the next installment in the grand Civilization franchise…. and all anything people seemed to want to talk about was the new art style.  We are so shallow.

A first glimpse of Civ VI

A first glimpse of Civ VI

Alright, alright, I hear you saying that other details were somewhat sparse, so what else were we going to talk about.  I myself welcome a lighter look for the aging game series.  Anything to cut down on the resource demands of a Civ game is probably good.

The game itself is set to ship on October 12, 2016 and will be the industry standard $59.99 for the basic version, and $79.99 for the deluxe edition which will include the obviously planned in advance DLC.  It will probably be four more civilizations that they will end up throwing in with the first expansion in any case.

The question isn’t if I will buy Civ VI, but when.  Given the screw jobs that have happened with Steam sales showing up just weeks after Civ releases or expansions go live, the fact that Civ games are inevitably resource hogging, bug filled, crashing messes at launch… they put in auto-save after every turn for a reason…, and the fact that their last release, Civilization: Beyond Earth was as dull as dishwater and an insult as a successor to Alpha Centauri, and I am thinking I might pass on a day one purchase.  I’ll see what things look like at the Steam Holiday Sale… or maybe the next Steam Summer Sale.

WoW Legion to Beta

I don’t suppose the timing really matters all that much now.  We already have a launch date, so the usual metrics around things like beta-to-launch calculations will be purely academic.  So the important bit is that the WoW Legion beta is now live, having gone up last night.

Beta for those who care...

Beta for those who care…

Blizzard has the initial release notes along with a detailed intro into the features of the expansion.

I do not do beta any more, going so far as trying to avoid information about the release, as I find it spoils my enjoyment when a release goes live.  I feel like I’ve already played it and my enthusiasm quickly wains.

Still, I look forward to hearing some general reactions to Blizzard’s plan for the expansion.  And, of course, the big question is when will the 7.0 pre-expansion update drop?  My bet is on August 9, 2016.

EverQuest II Prestige Servers

The Norrath dev team at Daybreak… we can call the EQ/EQII team that now, since there are no other Norrathian projects now… is looking into what other special sorts of servers players would like.  And so there is a poll waiting in your mailbox in EverQuest II about prestige servers.

Just three options...

Just three options…

As with things in Azeroth, special servers at Daybreak have their proponents and detractors.  Foes of the idea are annoyed that there is no “none of the above” option so they can directly express their displeasure at dev resources being used on projects they don’t care about.  (As the poll notes, they can do so indirectly by not voting, since I am sure that Daybreak will notice if only a few people respond.)

I’m not sure I would play on either server option myself, though that is because I am still pottering around on the Stormhold nostalgia server.  The thing is, the long poll for expansions is content creation, and these sorts of servers just use content that has already been created, so the hand wringing about delaying new stuff isn’t all that valid.

Not That Wild, No Longer a Star

The NCsoft Q1 2016 financials are out and, while things look good for the company as a whole, and most of its properties, WildStar is the noticeable exception.

Q1 2016 results

Q1 2016 results

After an initial boost in revenue with the free-to-play transition, sales have already slumped to below where they were when the game was subscription only.  Of course, this shouldn’t have been a huge surprise given the moves NCsoft was making with Carbine back in March.  This is more the confirmation of what many suspected.

Oculus Rift Retail Rage

So for a brief stretch of time last Friday you could go to a store or Amazon and buy an Oculus Rift unit.  They sold out quickly and you can probably find more than a few re-listed for a well beyond their $599 list price on eBay.  I see one on Amazon for $1,099.  But if you were at the right place at the right time, you could have spent your weekend playing EVE Valkyrie.

But if you pre-ordered a unit back in January, you’re probably still waiting for it to show up.

And so there is a bit of righteous anger out there about the company snubbing the people willing to buy in early in favor of those who waited.  I didn’t buy in either way, but I would have been pissed were I still waiting around for my pre-order to ship.

As Jerry Seinfeld might have put it, taking pre-orders isn’t the important part.  Anybody can take pre-orders.  It is the delivery that matters.  Also, the comments on that linked video are hilarious AND on topic for this post.

CSM XI By the Numbers

I am sure others will dive into the details on this, but CCP just posted the Dev Blog with the details of the CSM XI election.  Charts and explanations and raw data are all available there.

CSM11_logo

It is interesting to see how the two winning blocks stuck fairly well to their suggested ballots.  You can see the top three Imperium candidates, Aryth, Innominate, and Xenuria, getting elected in rounds one, two, and three.  Other tidbits include the fact that players from the US and UK cast half the votes, that most votes came in during the first two days of the election, and that the more recent your account, the more likely it seems you are to vote.  Accounts created back in 2006, when I started, made up only 4% of the voting pool, while those from 2015, 2014, and 2013 represented 14%, 15%, and 16% of the vote respectively.

Episode 18 of the Asher Hour

Asher Elias, head of the Reavers and the 23rd 15th best fleet commander in The Imperium has a new podcast out after a long stretch of silence.  This time around it is just Asher talking about the war, fleets, and what it is like on The Imperium side of the fight.  Not party-line propaganda, but Asher is still enthusiastic and positive about what we can do in the war and where we may end up.

So that is what I had kicking around.  Of course, now that I have all those items cleared out I am starting to wonder what I will write about next week.

Oh, wait, I have 57 unfinished items in my drafts folder.  Maybe that isn’t such a big deal.

Blizzard and the MAU Reality

MAU! MAU! DIDI MAU!

-Bobby Kotick, leaked internal communication

Last week Activision Blizzard had their quarterly earnings announcement.

ActiBlizz450

At one point this sort of announcement used to be a headline generating event in the MMO world, because among the numbers announced would be the total World of Warcraft subscribers.

It was kind of a big deal.  In a world where other MMO companies had pretty much given up on the idea, choosing to play up other, often dubious metrics, like registered users of beta applications, Blizzard actually coming out and straight up giving us a subscriber number was pretty cool.

That number wasn’t perfect.  There was always the question about how many of those subscribers were in China, plus the usual conspiracy theories about how Blizzard was padding those numbers by including something that should actually count… despite the fact that the statement regarding numbers was pretty clear about what constituted a subscriber.  But it was a number, a solid metric that carried over quarter after quarter and charted the financial fate of Azeroth.

And then those subscription reports dropped down to numbers not seen since late 2005 and suddenly the joke wasn’t funny any more.  Blizzard gave us one more set of numbers then declared that they would no longer be publishing subscription numbers.

The quarterly report done in February, which summed up the year 2015, lacked, as promised, any mention of subscription numbers for World of Warcraft.  I speculated that even poor subscription numbers were better than none at all, but it was going to be the dubious metric, divorced as it was from any revenue number when compared to subscribers, of “monthly average users” or MAUs.   Nobody is going to write a headline about MAUs.

But still, aside from the lack of subscription numbers, things looked to be following the pattern it had for the last few years, with the team in Anaheim an independent unit with its own slide in the presentation that focused on just the Blizzard properties.

And then there was last weeks announcement… and the pattern of the presentation set over the last few years changed.  Here are slides 4 through 8 of the presentation deck available at the investor relations site:

Blizzard got lumped into the mix this time around.

I don’t want to read too much into that.  Part of it was no doubt because King is now part of the club, having been purchased for $5.9 billion back in 2015.  There are now three distinct players in the mix and the company has to both make sure everybody knows King is on the team and justify spending that much money on a horrible company that stole every good idea it ever saw… um… by which I still mean King.

But to get there the emphasis is very much on how much time players spend with the company’s games, which gets us back to MAUs.

And when it comes to MAUs, King is… well… King, with 463 million.  Activision comes in a distant second, with 55 million, while Blizzard can’t even get halfway to that number, bringing up the rear with 26 million.

Not that hours played is the worst metric, and the company seems very proud that, in the last year, people spent nearly as much time playing its games as they spent watching Netflix.

But it is a measure that only has a correlation with revenue, as opposed to subscriptions, which have direct relationship with revenue.  To illustrate, there are the numbers from the financial statement:

Q1 2016 non-GAAP revenue – Total $908 million

  • Activision – $360 million (40%)
  • Blizzard – $294 million (32%)
  • King – $207 million (23%)
  • Other – $47 million (5%)

So the “King” of the MAUs at the company isn’t the actual king when it comes to bringing in cash.

King does a bit better when it comes to income.

Q1 2016 non-GAAP Operating Income – Total $252 million

  • Activision – $99 million (39%)
  • Blizzard – $86 million (34%)
  • King – $67 million ( 27%)

Which means that when it comes to operating margin, King is actually out in front.

Q1 2016 non-GAAP Operating Margin

  • Activision – 27.5%
  • Blizzard – 29.3%
  • King – 32.4%

But Blizzard is no slouch, bringing in more money than King and operates at a better margin than Activision despite being at the bottom of the MAU list.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell how much World of Warcraft is contributing to that mix.  There used to be a “Subscriptions” line item in the financial statement that was pretty much just WoW.  However, that has now been lumped into the “Digital online channels” line item, which includes subscriptions plus any other online purchases.  So if you buy the latest Hearthstone expansion, or something to help you beat a hard level in Candy Crush Saga, it goes there as well.

So, while I do not doubt that WoW contributes a decent chunk of the revenue to that $797 million line item, we cannot know exactly how much because that category is 88% of the revenue for the quarter.  WoW has been effectively disappeared.

Sure, there is a mention of it on one slide.  The upcoming expansion is still a thing.  But if you were gauging simply by the amount of attention a title got, you might easily assume that Hearthstone is the leading product out of Anaheim.

And such is the way of thing today.

April in Review

The Site

Well, the MMO Bloggers Feed in my side bar got a last minute reprieve when IFTTT decided not to cut off Pinboard support on April 4th.

FeedlyPinboard

Pretty much the synopsis…

That was probably a good thing as my experiments with Delicious created RSS feeds have been a complete flop.  Not only do they have ads injected into the feed… which I get, they have to make money somehow… but something between Delicious and WordPress.com isn’t picking up the feed as it updates.  So while I look at the raw RSS and see new things being added, the feed just sits with the first couple of items.  Bleh.

Meanwhile, nobody has suggested anything about the Google+ syndication issue I mentioned last month, which I am going to take as a sign that either nobody really cares about Google+ syndication or nobody noticed that my posts stopped appearing there.  Probably the latter.

In addition, because I have a Google login that I use to comment on Blogger sites, I made a blog over there to point to this one since my Google profile only likes blogs they host.  But as I was tinkering with various RSS and feed options, I thought I figured out how to get anything that posted here to also post straight to that site as well.  I put that in place but never actually tested it.

Imagine my surprise when I passed by the blog half way into the month and found that it worked.  So I renamed the site The Redundant Ancient Gaming Noob.  The only problem is that it takes the post as published and never picks up any revisions, so all my original typos are there. (And I am too lazy to go fix them… though it takes a while to poll, so if I fix them right after I hit the “Publish” button… which, due to some lesser known physical property of the universe,  is the only time I can actually see my own typos… then I can catch them in time.)  Still, it seems to work.  Not sure it is much use and I figured the whole thing our about nine and a half years too late for me to jump ship to the Blogger platform.

And, finally, I thought I might not have anything to complain about when it came to WordPress.com this month, and then they decided to change the interface for doing inline links in such a way that they are more annoying AND you can easily delete them by accident.  Since that is a feature I use constantly… just look at them all in this post… that bit of nonsense has had me fuming for days.  It is like they never think things through.

One Year Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right?

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  They also had a beta for the Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot longer than just a year ago.

Five Years Ago

Of course, there was some April foolery both here and at Blizzard.

I also wrote something about magic quadrants.

Sanya Weathers had one of the best quotes about MMO gamers ever, made all the more amusing by its truth.

Battlefront.com released a completely new version of their original WWII Combat Mission series.

Wargaming.net released World of Tanks.

SOE’s spy themed MMO, The Agency, was officially cancelled.

We got a PlayStation 3.  And then the PlayStation Network got hacked.  At least I could still play Blu-Ray disks and stream Netflix.

The instance group got together and decided to try out EverQuest II Extended, the one-time separate free to play version of EverQuest II.  However, the game immediately began to kick us in the teeth for daring to do solo content as a group.

Being there in EQIIx also meant looking at what the cash store had to offer.  Some of this stuff is gone now in the post merger era of EQIIFlying mounts are still around.  And some idea, like selling max-level characters, would have to wait a while to come back.

And Potshot and I were still playing EverQuest.  We moved on from Unrest to Lake Rathetear and spent an evening there.  Then it was on to Kerra Island and finally we made it to Runnyeye, at which point SOE also went down due to the PSN hacking.  That pretty much ended our EverQuest adventures for 2011.

I did have to explain EverQuest to my daughter.  Her foundation in MMOs is World of Warcraft.

Ten Years Ago

ANet releases its first post-launch Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars: Factions. It only took them a year, too.  Right, Blizzard?  See?

Auto Assault went live, perhaps the first “troubled at launch” MMO I am personally aware of that fails to get past its issues.  The game ends up being shuttered by NCsoft 19 months down the road.  It is, for a while, the poster child for MMO launch failures.

Nintendo announced the name of their new console, slated to replace the GameCube.  Known up to that point only by its code name “Revolution,” Nintendo said it was going to call it the “Wii.”

Viacom spent $102 million to purchase Xfire.  According to Viacom: “Xfire and its users fit squarely into the Company’s multiplatform strategy to build an engaging universe of music, gaming, entertainment, news, networking and interactivity for focused audiences.”  They also thought NeoPets were worth splurging on as well.

Featured Sites of the Month

For this month’s featured MMO Blog I want to bring your attention to:

Kirith Kodachi has been plugging away for more than a decade at his blog.  While not initially about MMOs, he fell into EVE Online at about the same time I did (I beat him by 10 days), at which point it began to take over his blog, a situation that persists through to today.  EVE is just a crazy game that is fun to write about, and it has been interesting to watch our parallel, yet very different, trajectories through New Eden.

Then of the “other” site of the month, I want to point you at is:

While zKillboard now gives you something of a battle report with its related kills option, I much prefer the output from the Battle Report Tool.  It draws data from zKillboard to piece together the raw details about who shot whom and which ships got blown up and how much ISK it was all worth.  While I am not all about the kill mails, I do like looking at battle reports this site generates in order to understand what happened.  I often have a sense in a battle if we’re doing well or not, but this helps quantify what just happened.

Most Viewed Posts in April

Well, I can write every day of the week about EVE Online, but nothing brings in traffic like a World of Warcraft post.

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2016
  2. Blizzard, Nostalrius, and the Classic Server Question
  3. Will Nostalrius Drama Shift the Sleeping WoW Giant?
  4. War Footing, War Fever
  5. FCON Leaves The Imperium
  6. SMA Leaves The Imperium
  7. World War Bee – What’s in a Name?
  8. WoW and the Case for Subscription Numbers
  9. Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead
  10. The Russian Complication
  11. FCON Shows Up in Immensea
  12. CSM 11 Announced – Xenuria Wins at Last

Search Terms of the Month

Claude Ring
[Once I saw that, I made an alt with that name]

origin unifies your gaming life
[The way your mom organizes your trading cards]

legion gonna suck
[And haters gonna hate]

if you change world of warcraft payment plan do you get a refund
[no]

lotro level store
[I don’t think the cash shop is quite there yet]

what do you get after you complete the national pokedex
[Your life back?]

Diablo III

I haven’t really played much Diablo III this past month, except to go in once Season 5 ended to clean up my storage situation.  It is nice to have everything combined into the common storage, but the fact that the game mails you all of your seasonal stuff was kind of a pain.  Okay, maybe I should have recycled some of those legendary items I held onto, because it took a while to collect all the items and then sort them out into different boxes.

EVE Online

The war goes on.  On the down side, we’ve lost almost all our sovereignty.  On the up side, we don’t have to go very far to find fun.  There has been an almost continuous supply of fleet ops from Saranen for the last few weeks.  I am starting to think the war effort depends mostly on Boat holding out.  He has been running fleets every day for hours at a stretch.  Best fleets to be on though.

Oh, and there was the Citadel expansion that has the potential to change everything in New Eden.

EverQuest II

I have pottered around on the Stormhold nostalgia server off and on this month.  EQII is less of a solo game for me than others.  I don’t think I have ever played for more than a week or so without ending up in a guild with at least a few people I know.  But it is fun.  The pace is slow and it is relaxing if I have a couple of free hours.  My shadow knight is level 22 and fumbling around between Nek forest and Butcherblock.

Minecraft

I swear I meant to do a Minecraft post this month.  Actually I have a few.  But I never quite got there.  News of the moment from the war in New Eden and Blizzard managed to preempt tales of building.  Still, if I look at Raptr, I spent more time in Minecraft than any other game in April… though that might be because Raptr stopped tracking EVE Online when I upgraded to the new launcher.  Doh!  I have to remember to manually enter that time, and I forget more often than I remember.

Pokemon

I have been carrying on with Pokemon Blue.  Another gym badge down.  Progress has been slow in part because it remains the fourth item on my list of things to play of late, and because it is a game I don’t play sitting at my desk in front of my computer.  As such, I never launch Pokemon by default, I have to actively want to play it.  Still, I have time to finish.  Pokemon Sun & Moon are not due until winter.

World of Warcraft

I did not actually PLAY WoW in April, aside from logging in to check something out on a level 20 character.  But I did write about it.  I didn’t even write that much, but if you look at the top posts for the month, WoW was definitely a big topic.  The whole vanilla/classic/special server thing opened up a lot of emotions and I am sure we are not done with it yet.  I know I am not.

Coming Up

Summer is coming, and May is its harbinger… at least out here in Silicon Valley where despite what the calendar says it can feel like Summer from some point in April through until November.  Not sure that means much for the blog, aside from the fact that I might write more with the window open in the evenings.

The war in New Eden will carry on and we shall see who has the greater endurance.  CCP though, I am going to bet we are going to see a lot of post-Citadel patches in May.

The Warcraft movie is just a month and ten days away, so I expect to see Blizzard ramping up on that pretty strongly while trying to go back to ignoring the whole vanilla server drama it stirred up by shutting down Nostalrius.

Speaking of Blizzard, their latest title, Overwatch, will go live this month.  I am not really interested in playing myself… and my daughter, who wants to play, is fuming about the lack of MacOS support… but another game from Anaheim means that much less focus on WoW.  It isn’t a zero sum thing, but a company can only put out so much PR before it is trying to talk over itself.

Also, isn’t Daybreak supposed to ship Landmark this spring?  May is the last full month of spring left this year… well, that and 20 days of June.  That will be a thing.

I will write something… or finish writing something… about Minecraft.

And… what else is coming up in May?

Will Nostalrius Drama Shift the Sleeping WoW Giant?

The developers however prefer to see the game continuously evolve and progress, and as such we have no plans to open classic realms or limited expansion content realms.

February 2011 repost of an earlier Blizzard response

People have been asking for a Vanilla server for a long time now.  That quote is from the old forums, which are no longer available.  When Tom Chilton stands up and loudly declares a vanilla server can’t be done and, even if it could be, that nobody would really want it, I believe his real motivation is encapsulated above. That has always been the sense of things that I have taken from the company and its statements.  They want to move forward, that today is always better than yesterday, and that tomorrow will be better still.

That quote at the top was posted less than three months after the Cataclysm expansion removed the original 1-60 game content of Azeroth.  But it was brought forward from the old forums, so it certainly pre-dates Cataclysm.  The whole vanilla server idea isn’t new.  It didn’t just come up this month.  Customers asking for it isn’t new.  Blizzard saying “no” isn’t new.  Even this reminder that Blizzard knew people wanted the old world back when it was still current and available, yet decided to do nothing with it until enough time passed to allow Tom Chilton to say it is too hard isn’t even that new.

A day that will live in infamy...

A day that will live in infamy…

What is new, what has sparked this constant smoldering hum of people asking for some sort of classic server… probably since The Burning Crusade launched… into an actual conflagration was Blizzard going after a private/pirate vanilla server that was an outlet for 150K players looking for that old school experience.

Serving the Nostalrius server with a cease and desist notice got people stirred up and brought the question of classic servers, long simmering, to a full boil.  We got a few choice blog posts in our corner of the internet when this kicked off:

Blizzard immediately tried to dismiss the whole thing in the way they always have.  However, the tide was already rushing in and, in a world where 5 million subscriptions, down from 10 million a little over a year ago, is the new normal somebody, and the game missed bringing in a billion dollars in revenue for the first time in a long stretch, somebody at Blizzard apparently decided that they might want to listen to that increasingly loud segment of the World of Warcraft fan base.

And so there was a blue post in the forums this morning, which I will quote in full at the end of the post.

It starts out with a statement that Blizzard’s silence on the subject shouldn’t be taken as a lack of attention on their part.  After years of silence, punctuated by terse and glib dismissals of the idea, that seems a bit disingenuous.  I mean, I have your pre-Cataclysm quotes handy if you want them.  So I will take it as read that there has suddenly been enough noise of late that they are actually taking the idea seriously for the first time.

That is followed up by a statement that Blizzard has to protect its IP and doesn’t know how to grant Nostalrius any sort of license to operate that would also protect the World of Warcraft brand.  I might suggest they check out what SOE did with Project 1999, but Blizzard hasn’t been interested in copying EverQuest since 2005 or so.  So Nostalrius will likely remain dead.

Then there is the return to why Blizzard won’t do a classic server; because it is hard.  If it were easy, of course they would do it, but it isn’t, so they won’t.  Pre-Cataclysm Azeroth is forever gone from Blizzard servers.

The post then offers up the idea of some sort of special, fresh start server that sounds remarkably like something I outlined in a comment over at SynCaine’s blog and what Rohan wrote about at Blessing of Kings. (And refined in a follow up post.) My own statement from about two weeks back:

Blizz has never been a company to take a step in a direction that hasn’t been well trod or to take big steps when little steps would do. So them jumping to a Vanilla server, even if they could get past the mental block and do it without too much cost, seems unlikely.

I think they would first venture into an alternate rules server test, something like a “hard mode” server. Crank up MOB damage and hit points, tone down exp gain, normal mode dungeons tuned up to not be face rolls, no transfers or insta-level characters, no heirlooms, flying restricted to only in Outland after 60 70 and Northrend after 68, 78 and some bits and pieces like that. Throw in some special achievements… or maybe just a gold border on current achievements that you get when you do them in hard mode, and I bet that would be a draw.

That is, after all, pretty much all SOE is doing with their nostalgia servers.

I think there is some merit in that option.  A fresh server experience with some differences and greater difficulty with everybody starting off at level 1 would be a draw for some.  Bhagpuss has said in the past that he wouldn’t want to play what would be simply a more difficult version of the same content available on live servers.  And that is a legitimate point of view, certainly.  But some people would.  I bet a lot of people would.

Yes, I know, that isn’t vanilla.  While I actually like some of the 1-60 Cataclysm content myself, having run through every zone now for my attempt at the Loremaster achievement, it still isn’t the same.  It isn’t old Westfall, old Deadmines, old Stranglethorn Vale with its myriad of pages to collect, or old Sunken Temple with its long series of challenges.

But it might be a start, a step in the right direction, an admission by Blizzard that their same old routine of the last eleven years of an expansion every two years with a one year content drought can’t just go on indefinitely.  Maybe they are finally feeling the need to do something different, to offer up a server that isn’t PvE, PvP, PvE-RP, or PvP-RP.

World of Warcraft is still the cash cow at Blizzard.  It still has a big team.  It still could make a billion dollars a year in revenue if it could attract back some of the lapsed player base with something a little different.  Maybe this is the first step to vanilla.

I doubt it.  I think that so long as Tom Chilton is calling the shots, Blizzard will continue down its standard path. (He is becoming the Blizzard version of Smed when it comes to quotes, especially after calling Garrisons the WoW version of housing.)  But it could happen.

Is today’s post a sign of a shift at Blizzard, or an attempt to calm people down and hope the whole issue goes away once the Warcraft movie premiers and the WoW Legion expansion launches?

Others writing on the topic, updated as they pop up:

Today’s blue post quoted in full after the cut:

Continue reading

Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead

There is a game you can play with Google… well, there are probably many, but this is one of them… where you enter the name of something, followed by “is” to see what pre-filled search suggestions come up.  These results are driven by what people have searched for previously.

As I was playing this game the other night instead of doing something important, I began to notice a trend in my searches.  It seemed like Google was declaring most everything dead.

Sure, sometimes that was apt.

GSAbeVigodais

Abe Vigoda, after being reported dead by mistake on multiple occasions over the years, does indeed now sleep with the fishes, having passed earlier this year.

And sometimes the result wasn’t so spot on:

GSObamais

I’m pretty sure somebody would have mentioned if he was dead… or a mack daddy.

I decided to see if that trend held for video games on my side bar.  First on the list was, of course, EVE Online:

GSEVEis

Given that “EVE is dying…” is practically an meme at this point, that wasn’t too surprising.

Likewise, EverQuest, at 17 years of age got a similar result:

GSEQis

At least it wasn’t both “dead” and “dying” I suppose.  Of course, that last item lead me to World of Warcraft:

GSWoWis

Three of those aren’t so good, “dead,” “dying,” and “boring.”  Even EVE Online didn’t get “boring” as a top result.  That lead to a series of other titles, all of which at least got dead as a result:

GSGW2is

GSLOTROis

GSRiftis

GSWildStaris

I had a whole run there where “dead” wasn’t just a result, but the top result.  Then I started branching out from MMOs:

GSSCis

GSTF2is

I finally hit a game where “dead” wasn’t the top result, though I am not sure that was a good thing:

GSStarCis

Even Minecraft got “dead” as a result, though at least it was in fourth position, which was practically an endorsement at this point:

GSMinecraftIs

Hey, “awesome” came before “dead!”

Landmark was odd, but I think it suffers from having a generic name:

GSLandmarkis

Still, I think “dead” might be in there just for it.

Then, finally, I hit a game that wasn’t dead:

GSLOLis

League of Legends is only “dying,” not “dead.”  Also, it is “gay,” which I think says more about the demographic that is searching for things about it.  Still, it is doing better than Heroes of the Storm:

GSHotSis

“Dead,” “dying,” “bad,” and “free!”

Then at last, I hit a search where “dead” wasn’t even a result:

GSHearthis

I’m not sure Hearthstone was really winning with that draw.  I mean sure, “dead” wasn’t on the list, but the rest was hardly an endorsement.