Category Archives: World of Warcraft

June in Review

The Site

In the land of WordPress.com, another new feature/annoyance was introduced this month.  There is a little alerts icon at the top right of the browser window when you are logged into WordPress.  It announces when somebody leaves a comment or follows the blog or when your page view stats see a spike.  Generally I see the latter only with my other blog, where more than 30 page views in a single hour is cause for mention.

But WordPress.com added a new notification in June.  This one pops up to tell me that a scheduled post has, in fact, been posted as scheduled.

O'rly...

O’rly?

The problem for me is that every single post that goes up here is scheduled in advance.  While that is only one or two notifications a day, they aren’t something I really need.  I already have a notification scheme in place that doesn’t require me to be sitting in front of a browser and logged into the blog.  Additionally, the notification uses the “somebody left a comment” icon, so inevitably I go to the blog, see that icon, wonder who left a comment, and am rewarded with a reminder I didn’t need.  Not the worst affliction in history, but I am still looking for a way to turn that off. (Actually, they finally changed the icon to something unique, but I’m still annoyed.)

Meanwhile I am getting a little tired of seeing this in my side bar.

FeedDown

My MMO blog feed seems to be down quite often of late.  At first I thought it must be related directly to my Rube Goldberg implementation.  But I have a second feed, for Gaming Company news, down at the bottom of the side bar, that uses the same process, and it is never down.

But that feed gets relatively few new items in it on a daily basis.  The main feed potentially  draws from more than 200 feeds a day.  And given the times it appears to be down most frequently… which tends to correspond with times when most bloggers in my feed seem to post… makes me wonder if it is struggling to keep itself up to date, or just won’t display when an update is pending.  Anyway, I may pare down the list of blogs it draws from to just a few to see if that changes the reliability.  I’d like to have lots of blogs able to appear, but I would also like the list to appear a bit more regularly as well.

One Year Ago

There was a cheer for the NBI class of 2015.

I was wondering what Turbine would do after they cancelled Infinite Crisis.  I was also looking for a summer game to play.

After waffling before a live audience, Blizzard finally caved and said there would be flying in Draenor.

Remember that time we killed a Mordus Angels Revenant?  It seems like everybody has killed one by now.

Also in EVE Online we got the Carnyx expansion, which had some of the initial Fozzie Sov features.  So we were out sov-wanding station services, though Dominion sov quirks still ruled the day in our fight at ED-9LT.  We then headed back north thinking maybe our friends in Querious would come visit us some day… *cough*

The coming of Fozzie Sov also meant further consolidation of holdings to make sure we could defend our space.  TNT got pushed out to Tribute to share space with the Circle of Two.  We saw how well that worked out.

And then there was Burn Amarr.  I took some screen shots.  And I splurged on ship skins.

Over at Daybreak they were talking about special servers for EverQuest II at last.  It looked like we might get some sort of progression server, for which there was a poll.  And then another poll, looking for a name.

Meanwhile, over in EverQuest, they were still working on how to deal with raiding on the Ragefire server, and the Ruins of Kunark unlock vote was upon us.

I was playing Neko Atsume on the iPad… back when it was only in Japanese!  I was also going on about 64-bit OS requirements finally coming to video games and an old grievance of mine.

My daughter suddenly wanted to play The Sims.  That lasted for about three days.  This is why I make her wait a week on any sudden new fad she want to follow.

The Steam Summer sale came and went and I bought nothing.  That turned out to be the last sale with the traditional daily specials format.

I brought up the F2P business model yet again based on a quote over at Massively OP which, if nothing else, got a long comment from Brad McQuaid on the subject.

And, finally, I played Minecraft with my daughter for Father’s Day, which led to a whole new adventure in gaming.

Five Years Ago

I had to get out my Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD.

Team Fortress 2 went free to play.  Begin the hat-based economy!

I was wondering if people were picking on Lord British.  This was before he started talking about his “ultimate RPG” and made it a very entertaining sport.

We were not playing WoW, but guild accounts were being hacked.  And we were not even among those 600K WoW players that supposedly went to Rift.

LOTRO announced the Rise of Isengard expansion and offered up a exp boosting item for pre-orders.

I was wondering what launch conditions would be like for SWTOR.  Of course, I sort of figured it might launch before mid-December.

LEGO Universe announced it was going free to play.  At our house, my daughter enjoyed it for a bit, but eventually dropped it for Animal Jam.

CCP began a slow and deliberate campaign of alternating between shooting itself in the foot and sticking said foot in its mouth, all in the name of the Incarna expansion.  And my sentry drones were still boring.  And then LulzSec brought them down.  At least they had finally made it much easier to find an agent in the game.

SOE announced a new version of Station Access, its “all games for one low monthly price.”  Called SOE All Access, which had a price of $19.95 a month.  This was a welcome drop from the previous $29.99 a month price.

However, by this point, SOE had dropped The Matrix Online and had just announced they were killing Star Wars Galaxies, so there were certainly less games to play.  Of course, that was also back when they had some games that were not free to play.

At least SOE was up and running after the PSN/SOE outage.  A pity they fumbled the marketing opportunities offered by their make good plan.

The instance group had finally gotten out of the damn starter zone in EverQuest II Extended, but the game still wasn’t sitting well.

On the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, the Ruins of Kunark expansion was opened up and then “finished” in short order.

Ten Years Ago

Paul McCarty turned fucking 64 already and could probably afford to buy the entire Isle of Wight at that point, regardless of how dear it was.

Sonic the Hedgehog turned 15, which I guess means it is 25 now.  Maybe I shouldn’t do call backs to birthdays.  But relevant gaming history was a bit light a decade back, so I felt like I needed some filler, which explains the first three items in this section.  Come September it will be better.

Bill Gates announced that he was planning to relinquish his remaining full time positions at Microsoft in order to focus on his foundation.  Though Steve “Uncle Fester” Ballmer had been CEO since 2000, Gates was still Chief Software Architect and Chief Research & Strategy Officer (along with being chairman of the board).  As of today he still retains the position of Technology Advisor to current CEO Satya Nadella.

EverQuest II got the Fallen Dynasty adventure pack, the last such pack until 2015’s Rum Cellar.

Nintendo finally shipped the Nintendo DS Lite in Europe, though $3.2 million worth of them went missing en route from China.

Half-Life 2: Episode One was released as Valve briefly tried to pay attention to the core of their biggest franchise at the time.  Still waiting for Episode Three.

Featured Sites of the Month

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

Rohan has been at it for more than a decade now digging into the nuts and bolts of game mechanics as well as bigger picture issues.  While World of Warcraft has been a prime focus, he has delved into other titles along the way.

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

I am a little bit late in pointing at this, give that the NBI 2016 event ends today.  But I haven’t been able to keep up with the event in any case, it having taken to Discord.  Still, it has weekly summaries of this year’s event, which includes the new bloggers joining in and the blog posts done in support the whole thing.  Hopefully there will be a final event summary post tomorrow so I can crib the list of new blogs for a post of my own.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. WoW and the Case for Subscription Numbers
  2. Remembering Spaceship Warlock
  3. Blizzard Admits that WoW Expansions are Just Going to Take Time
  4. Thrill of the Hunt Not Thrilling Enough, Being Removed from New Eden
  5. RAZOR Leaves The Imperium
  6. One Hundred Million Copies of Minecraft
  7. Scenes from the Saranen Undock
  8. Return to Draenor
  9. Minecraft 1.10 The Frostburn Update
  10. Hurricane Massacre
  11. A Carrier Dies in Deklein
  12. Landmark Goes… Live

My post about the Warcraft movie was in 13th place, but on the Chinese version of the blog it is totally at the top of the list.

Search Terms of the Month

recommended skills to fly a naglfar well
[A tolerance for losing expensive ships?]

hyperion or dominix
[Megathron]

joke european heaven and hell
[Must involved Brexit somewhow]

does anyone play everquest 2 time locked servers
[Yes, yes they do]

jotunheim brass tiamat corpse mud
[Mixing up your Forgotten Realms areas aren’t you?]

Spam Comments of the Month

Labelling the third time inside collection of as the most important improve nevertheless, Jagex documented potential customers will capability to take part in the wow free of necessitating coffee beans or other stopper inches.
[And that is just one sentence out of five long paragraphs of nonsense.]

With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems
of plagorism or copyright violation?
[Posted to my picture blog.]

EVE Online

Just to annoy people with another inapt WWII analogy, so popular with sideline pundits over the course of the war, we seemed to have our Battle of Britain Adlertag in Saranen.  After trying to sit on us and hold us down for weeks in the system, during which we undocked to fight again and again against superior forces, where we were losing the ISK war daily, and were feeding the hostiles many kills, our foes got tired of the whole thing and went away.  Now we just have to liberate Europe… erm, the north.  Maybe the MBC will attack the Russians.  Of course, if we really want to beat this analogy to death, that ends up with them making satellites out of the eastern half of the area and a new cold way or some such.

Anyway, we’re still in Saranen, but with the letup on pressure, we have begun to push back into null sec again.  For us, the war, the same war that has been going on since January, continues.

EverQuest II

I did spend some time pottering about on the Stormhold progression server.  I continued moving along at a leisurely pace.  What I might call my “main” there is just level 25, but I spent some time crafting with him, so his crafting level past 30 now.  And then I used his skill, he is an armor smith, to equip and alt that I ran up to nearly 20 before I set him to crafting as well.  Pretty much usual story in EQII, just at a slower pace.

However, with the return to WoW, I suspect my time here is at and end.

Minecraft

I passed the one year mark for playing the game.  Our world continues to get sporadic attention, though after finishing one grand project, the rail loop, I am looking for another.  Minecraft pretty much took the time slot that used to be filled by a secondary fantasy MMORPG, which is why EQII has fallen off the “games I play” section of the side bar.

World of Warcraft

My daughter and I are back in WoW, though just yesterday she confided with me that maybe we came back a little too early.  She is stuck with one level 100 on the horde side and a level 91 on the alliance side and isn’t keen to do level cap stuff or run through Draenor again.  We’ll see if we can find something while waiting for the pre-Legion 7.0 patch.

As noted, I have made unlocking flying in Draenor my goal, which has given me a series of things to do on a regular basis without it becoming too grindy.  I did warm up a couple of the trade skills so I could get my tailor cranking out hexweave bags again.  Bigger bags are always good.  So I am reasonably content for the moment having a few goals that won’t take huge efforts.

Coming Up

There are a few posts I have planned already, including a salute to NBI Class of 2016, if I can find a definitive list of them somewhere… or even if I cannot… some sort of summary of where I ended up in EQII and what I liked (or did not like) so far with the Stormhold progression server, what I am up to in WoW in some more detail, and some mention of the original PlanetSide, which goes dark tomorrow.

On the WoW front, there is a reasonable chance that the pre-Legion 7.0 patch will drop around the end of this month.  I would not expect it to hit earlier than July 26th.  August 2nd seems more likely, as that would give us four solid weeks with it before WoW Legion goes live.  More than that “feels” like it might be too much, with August 9th being the latest date I think it will hit.  We shall see.

Amazon also delivered my copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  If I can get some time in front of the TV, I will play it and probably end up writing about it.

The Steam Summer Sale is going on right now, and will wrap up this coming Monday.  I haven’t posted about it.  But then I haven’t bought anything either.  I haven’t even been logging into Steam to get my daily trading cards during the sale.  I am bad at Steam.

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

Return to Draenor

My daughter and I have been discussing our return to World of Warcraft for a while now.  That whole reflective nature thing I have about games has rubbed off on my daughter… a bit.  She did agree with my assessment that, in light of historical play trends in our house, it was safe to assume that there would be a limited timeline before either of us decided to stop playing WoW and move onto something else.

The release of the WoW 7.0 patch to the Public Test Realm put the need for a plan onto the front burner, and on Saturday we weighed the merits of a Father’s Day return to the game or pushing it off until the Independence Day holiday.  And then we were sitting around on Father’s Day this past Sunday wondering what daddy/daughter activity we should indulge in and an afternoon of playing WoW was declared.

So we returned to Azeroth and places connected there to.

And, of course, once clients had been updated, accounts activated, and so on, we came to the musical question of the hour, “So what are we going to do?”  Neither of us were keen to return to another stretch of Garrison Crossing: Follower Festival, so there was a bit of running about and checking out dimly recalled characters and what not.  It has been about a year or for both of us, barring that 30 day stint I did with a WoW Token, which was solely focused on running garrison missions to earn back the money I spent on the WoW Token in the first place.  Sure, I came out ahead, but I didn’t want to play another 30 days of that.

Remembering how to play and where to go and shouting at each other across the house from our respective computers until we settled down into our own little voyages of discovery pretty much occupied the balance of play time on Father’s Day.

By the end of the evening though, I had decided on a goal.  A goal is important to me.  I can put up with all sorts of tasks, both fun and tedious, in pursuit of such.  We just covered that in my Minecraft post earlier this week, right?

I announced to my daughter that I was going to try to unlock flying in Draenor.

She thought that sounded good, right up until I told her what it would take, at which point she said, “screw that” and went back to collecting things for transmog after she heard about the new wardrobe stuff coming with WoW Legion.

And she was put off by my vague notion of what was required.  I had written about it before, but I hadn’t really added the task up and then compared it to where I stood currently.  Tanaan Jungle wasn’t even in the game when I wrote that post.  To unlock the Draenor Pathfinder meta achievement, which gives you flying and a mount to go with it, you need:

Five achievements?  How hard could that be?

Then I started looking into how where I stood.  I didn’t have any of them completed yet.

For Tanaan Dilplomat, the reasons were pretty obvious… I stopped playing before Tanaan Jungle showed up.  However, I had at least built the shipyard in my garrison during that WoW Token stint and, in doing so, I had at least set foot in Tanaan and had the first flight point.

At the other end of the spectrum, I was a bit surprised I did not have Loremaster of Draenor on Vikund yet, as I had been pretty diligent about rolling up at least all the main quest lines, and even the bonus quest lines in the early zones.  In fact, I had all the achievements I needed for it save one, the Nagrand achievement.

Getting that meant going out to Nagrand to re-trace my steps and figure out why I hadn’t wrapped that one achievement up. (I also cleaned up my quest log a bit.  I still had Mists of Pandaria quests in there.  With just 25 quest slots, you can’t leave stuff sitting there forever.  EverQuest II and its 75 quest limit has spoiled me.)

After a bit of running about to find which quest was actually the one I needed, I got there and had a dim memory of it being bugged… like a year and a half ago.  Something happened and the item I needed didn’t spawn.  Anyway, I dropped the quest, found my way back to the quest giver, then started it up again and things seemed to proceed.  Whatever was wrong or whatever I missed back then didn’t seem to be an issue and I was on my way.  This all ended up with an assault on a Iron Horde camp with Yrel in order to arrest the trouble maker… again.

Didn't we take him into custody back in Pandaria already?

Always Garrosh…

That turned into a set piece where Thrall stepped in and eventually took him away.  If we have to go capture him again in some other timeline I am going to be annoyed.  This ended with all the big names standing around in a circle, so I took a pic.

The leadership powwow

The leadership powwow… and me

But what mattered at the moment was that I got the achievement I needed to wrap up the first item on the list for flying.

Always Garrosh, always achievements I guess...

Always Garrosh, always achievements I guess…

One down, four to go.

On the Explore Draenor front, I have a few corners of the map to explore.  It would be really easy to get this if I had flying… which I guess is somebody making a point.  Anyway, this is more a matter of just getting out and doing it.

Securing Draenor involves running a dozen missions from the map table in the garrison.  I have four down already, but some of the required missions are group focused, and I am not over-geared enough to handle elites solo or anything.  I demonstrated this to myself when I tried to do The Pit solo.  So some planning required on that.

Master Treasure Hunter requires looting 100 treasures in Draenor, excluding Tanaan Jungle.  I have 25 so far.  I am going to bet there is an addon that will help me with that.

And then there is the Tanaan Diplomat achievement, which requires me to get revered status with three factions in the jungle, the Saberstalkers, the Hand of the Prophet, and the Order of the Awakened.  I haven’t looked into that, but I imagine that will need running some dailies for a couple of weeks.

So that is my goal for now, to get flying in Draenor before the WoW 7.0 patch hits and the pre-Legion events begin.

Warcraft – Watching the Movie

Worst. Cinematic. Ever.

-My Daughter, on leaving the theater

We went to go see the Warcraft movie last weekend.

Coming June 10, 2016

Really, no need to reserve, plenty of seats available

Looking at the movie times I could see that the poor reviews the movie was getting was starting to influence the theater operators.  The movie was showing in almost every single first-run theater in Silicon Valley, the exceptions being a couple venues that tend towards art house sorts of releases.

But the show times were… sparse.  It seemed that the big multi-screen theaters were shuffling their options and cutting back on Warcraft showings.  The big AMC theater near us only had three showings on Saturday for the standard version of the movie.  There were four showings for the 3D version and five for the 3D IMax version, both of which come with a surcharge that boosts the box office take.

Any real summer season blockbuster would have had standard version showings starting every hour and as many 3D running…. which is what Finding Dory has running this weekend.  This weekend Warcraft has two showings each for standard and 3D, but still five for IMax.  I guess if you want to see if, they want to get the most money they can out of you.

And so the movie was a bit of a damp squib on its opening weekend, bringing in $24 million.

That sounds like a lot of money, but lets put this in perspective with other recent opening weekends.

  • Captain America: Civil War – $179 million
  • Finding Dory – $136 million
  • The Jungle Book – $103 million
  • X-Men Apocalypse – $65.7 million
  • The Conjuring 2 – $40.4 million (opened against Warcraft)
  • The Angry Birds Movie – $38.1 million
  • TMNT: Out of the Shadows – $35.3 million
  • Central Intelligence – $35.5 million (opened against Finding Dory)
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass – $26.8 million (opened against X-Men)
  • Warcraft – $24.1 million
  • Now You See Me 2 – $22.3 million (opened against Warcraft)
  • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising – $21.7 million (opened against Angry Birds)

Warcraft isn’t setting any records, and is down more than 70% this weekend, looking to bring in a meager $6.5 million.  It won’t catch The Angry Birds Movie.  There is a metaphor in that I am sure.  So not a big success.

But look how well it did in China!

-Every over-invested fan trying to distract from the US Box office

You tell me what percentage of the Chinese theater revenues the studio gets to repatriate and we’ll talk about that.  A dollar earned in China isn’t the same as a dollar earned in the US.  The China success is an interesting side story, but not much else.

But how was the actual movie?

We went with a mixed group, myself, my wife, my mother, my daughter, and her boyfriend. (Lord help me.)  Of the five of us (out of a total of 10 in the theater, so it wasn’t going to well already), only my wife had never played the game, so she was our disinterested outsider.  The rest of us were in what I would consider the sweet spot target audience, we had all played the game, had a generally positive view of it, and were not immersed enough in the lore to nit pick anything that might come up.

The Good

The film looked good.  Stormwind looked really good.  The brief glimpse we got of Ironforge looked great.  Lorthar’s griffon mount looked very good.  Orcs looked good.  Magic effects looked good.  Even the fel taint looked good.  Visually, I approve.  This is the main argument for seeing it on the big screen.

Lothar’s griffon fought like a badass.  That was awesome.

That murloc we see in a stream early on.  He was the best.

Also, some amusing asides.

The Bad

Don’t see the movie in 3D.  The action includes a lot of camera shake and jumping around that will make you regret your 3D choice, as it just blurs things and will likely give you a bit of motion sickness.

The story they chose to tell is so distant from the current game as to be confusing.  I had one friend comment later about the portal not being in the Blasted Lands, and I had to point out that the portal in the movie was a DIFFERENT portal… we’re up to three portals now I think.  The one in the movie is the one from the Cavern’s of Time mission The Black Morass, which is in the Swamp of Sorrows if I recall right.  They had done that run before, but had forgotten.

The passage of time is not handled well in the film.  I could not tell you if the events in the film took place over a week, a month, or a year.  Travel takes exactly as long as the plot requires it in order to setup the next set piece, and not one second longer.

For a movie that is set in the what is now the distant back story for the current game, it made a lot of jumps and assumptions.  Even the scene with the portal opening for the orcs is pretty much, “Our world is screwed, let’s get another one by burning these unexplained blue people to power a portal.”  I came out of there with more questions than answers.

The story, despite jumping about, still seems to plods along in between the action so I felt every minute of the two hour journey.

Character motivation is pretty scant at times.  Still not sure why Medivh did what he did.

While the story correctly leaves the other races out of the events… it being Orcs and Humans like the box said… the brief glimpses of elves and dwarves were not pretty.  Do not want.

What the hell was Lothar’s griffon doing while he was unconscious?  Did he just give up and go have drinks with the orcs?  He was hanging around, ready to fly him home afterwards.  I expected the orcs to have eaten him at a minimum.

They just had to use the fucking Wilhelm scream.

Summary

Not a good movie.  It deserved the reviews it got.  The viewer ratings are just fan boy backlash.

It isn’t even bad enough to have a hope of being “so bad it’s good” after a while.  It was bland.

There were no real stand-out performances.  Nobody was horrible, but I didn’t come away with a new appreciation for any of the actors.  The plot was muddled and did not do anybody any favors.  Yes, the plots of video games are convoluted to start with, but this just made things worse, not better.  I feel no compulsion to watch it again.

They should have cut this down to a 20 minute cinematic for people to watch before the REAL movie, which should start somewhere between Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, if not later.

Seriously, Warcraft III was considered a huge success because it moved 4.5 million copies back in 2002.  WoW has that many people playing it right now, and has sold many, many more copies, falling only behind Minecraft for best selling PC game ever.  The prime target audience cares about Azeroth in the WoW timeline.

This was highlighted by questions my wife asked about how this related to WoW, wherein I had explain that the green orc baby and the teen mage have to grow into middle and old age respectively before we get to the actual game we started playing in 2004.

The whole enterprise covered production costs, but that doesn’t include marketing and other expenses, as anybody who has every had a “percentage of net profits” deal in such a venture will tell you.  I would guess that any result under half a billion in gross receipts guarantees no sequel, and it would have to somehow climb beyond three quarters of a billion to have a good chance of one.

So if you are a fan, go see it in the theater, if only to take in the scenery.

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:

One Hundred Million Copies of Minecraft

The news popped up yesterday that Minecraft sales had exceeded 100 million copies.

Who buys which version where...

Who buys which version where…

The number, as of June 1st was actually a bit past 100 million.

Complete with delusions of sovereignty

Complete with delusions of sovereignty

Probably more surprising is that the game has sold, on average, 53K copies a day in 2016.  Not bad for a game getting to its fifth birthday.

Over on his blog SynCaine attributes this to the idea that good games simply do well.  That is underselling the achievement by a long shot.  For a cross platform title that puts Minecraft behind only Tetris, which has sold nearly 500 million copies in the last 30 years, appearing on platforms as diverse as programmable calculators, iPods, just about every gaming console ever, and whatever OS you happened to be running back in the day.

SynCaine then proceeds to bait the bear that is World of Warcraft, opining that if only Blizzard hadn’t started to make the game suck after The Burning Crusade the game would still be growing today.

This is a bad argument.  Or, at a minimum, an argument that doesn’t necessarily follow from Minecraft’s success.

To open with, the comparison appears to be subscribers versus total sales.  Total units sold would be more apt.  But we do not know how many copies of World of Warcraft Blizzard has sold.  Furthermore, even if we did, I would argue that for this measure, we should count not just copies of the base game, but also every copy of each expansion as a sale, at which point it isn’t hard to get to a number that surpasses Minecraft, at least on the back of a napkin.  WoW had already passed 100 million accounts created two and a half years ago.  (Complete with required infographic.) All of them may not have bought a copy of the game, but a lot of them bought a copy and an expansion or three.

The orc says, "Look at me!"

The orc says, “Look at me!”

WoW has been growing this whole time, if you just count people who have played as opposed to those currently subscribed.  After all, one item you can derive from that Mojang chart is that 66 million people who bought Minecraft don’t bother playing it on any given month even though it is free.

Then there is the whole pricing aspect, because WoW and every expansion has cost more than a copy of Minecraft, and then there is a subscription on top of that, something that chases some people off.

But there is really one key difference between the two games that will keep WoW from ever having a chance to do what Minecraft has done with such a small team.  You can leave aside things like price, expansions, subscriptions, and all that, because to my mind it comes down to one main item:

Mojang doesn’t make content.

They make the client and an open source version of the server… but all you need is the client… and have left nearly everything else to the community that has formed around the game.  It is all in the hands of the players.

Don’t like the default settings?  Change them!  There aren’t enough settings?  Run a third party version of the server!  Don’t like the looks or want some new feature?  There is probably a mod for that!  Don’t like the current version?  Set the client to run an old version!  Want somebody to host your server?  So many choices!  Play solo?  Check!  Play with friends on a closed server? Check!  Make an open server for anybody?  Check!  PvE?  Check!  PvP?  Check!  Creative mode?  Check!  Hardcore perma-death?  Covered!  Special maps?  All over the place!

And yes, not ALL of those options apply to the three versions of Minecraft.  Again, the PC Master Race gets the greater range of flexibility.  But even on the console version, the most limited of the three, Mojang still doesn’t make content.

Meanwhile Blizz needs to come up with new content every year… though they can only manage to do it every other year… and every new change or expansion alienates somebody from the installed base.  There was no perfect path forward that would please everybody.

And you can’t just set the client to run WoW 1.8.1 or some such because you liked how things were in 2006.  Meanwhile the market closed in as the flip side of everybody making what essentially became niche WoW clones means that the player base has other options when the current batch of content wears out.

Even League of Legends, which SynCaine also brings up, depends on Riot not screwing up balance too much and to make new variations of the game and to stage big events and the like to draw attention to the game.

Mojang has created a sandbox game that has achieved a life of its own.  Even the space-sim-sandbox of my heart, EVE Online, has to provide content for its players.  Minecraft just drops you in a fresh world and tells you to punch a tree.  You want something?  Go build it.  They don’t even care about a player economy.  Design it away?  It’s been done.

And they succeeded!

Furthermore, as far as I can tell, Mojang barely markets the game… and still they are selling 53K copies a day.  And then there is all the revenue from licensed products like shirts and foam picks and LEGO sets.  They have created something special here.  It is beyond being a game, it is practically an ecosystem.

Minecraft is one of those odd exceptions, beyond merely “good game sells well,” one of those games that was in the right time and place for success.  But then again, so was WoW.

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.]