Category Archives: World of Warcraft

A WoW Mount Every Six Months Now?

A new pattern seems to be emerging.  Blizzard has hit on a new idea to keep people subscribed.  And it only requires the art department to churn out a couple new mounts a year.

Back at the end of September last year Blizz announced that if you opted in for a six month term on your subscription, you would get the Dreadwake mount.

Last week, just about nine months down the line from the last offer, Blizzard announced that if you again opted in for a six month subscription you would get the Sylverian Dreamer mount.

Another mount if you’ll just subscribe

Fortunately, if you are already on a recurring six month subscription plan you get the mount for basically carrying on with it.  I went to check the details to see if they were requiring you to commit to an additional six months on top of what you already had lined up.  The 9 month gap made me suspicious that they wanted to get people committed deep into 2020.

But no, if you already have a six month recurring plan setup, you’re covered… though, I did notice that the account management UI will let you buy in another six months of subscription time in advance.  So maybe Blizz is playing the confusion card a bit.

For the rest of us who subscribe in shorter increments, we have to press the button for a six month buy to get the mount.

If you’re somebody who has to have all the mounts, you’ll probably go for it.  Blizz sells mounts like this for $25 in its shop.  In fact, you can buy this exact mount in the shop for $25, if you don’t care to commit.  But there is lots to do in Azeroth for the rest of the year.  The Rise of Azshara update is just out and in under two months WoW Classic will go live.  If you want the mount you might as well subscribe rather than pay for it straight up.  Blizzard wins either way, so you should opt for the best deal for you.

I’ve fallen off the mount collecting idea myself.  Unlike battle pets, where having a deep bench is a requirement to do things like the Celestial Tournament or the pet battle dungeons, you can only ride one mount at a time.  And when I can fly, my main still uses the Silver Covenant Hippogryph which he earned in the Argent Tournament back during Wrath of the Lich King.

June in Review

The Site

I was excited momentarily when I saw another WordPress.com blog had a switch on their side bar that allowed you to turn on and off “night mode” on your blog.  This mode makes your blog dark, which solves the war between those who want black text on a white background and white text on a black background.

The magic switch

On seeing that I immediately started looking up how to add that to TAGN.  And I found out how.  It is a plugin, and to be able to add plugins you need to have a business level account with WP.com, which runs past $300 a year.  Given that is over 10x what I pay today (I have a no longer available “No Ads and CSS editing” plan for $30 a year), night mode won’t be here any time soon.  I just don’t care about you, the reader, that much.  Sorry.

I did also see that WP.com had re-arranged their plans yet again.  I hadn’t gotten a note about that, but the range now includes some more reasonably priced options.

The June 2019 personal plans

The Blogger plan is only slightly more than what I pay now, so I might be tempted by that for the other site, if only to remove ads.  The Premium plan would even be within my means for this site, if I had any use for most of the features.  Therein lies the problem.  I don’t even want a custom domain name.  After more than a dozen years as tagn.wordpress.com, why would I want to mess with that.  All I really want is ads removed and enough storage space for my many screen shots.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com pushed a new version of their mobile app last week that not only shows less information, but insists on showing stats based on the time zone you happen to be in as opposed to the time zone to blog is set to.  My attempts to engage with WP.com have been met with the usual blank looks and unhelpful replies.  This does not make me want to give them more money.

On another front, I got sick of the Blog Roll Feed in the side bar failing to load.  It was always a bit problematic, but of late it seemed to be failing to load almost all the time.  So I dug into my Rube Golberg setup and found a problem that should have prevented it from loading ever.

This comes up more often in software than you might hope in software.

Anyway, I redid how everything connects and it seems to be much more reliable now.  So op success for what is now v.7 of the sidebar feed.  It isn’t bullet proof… it is still a hack… but it shows data now more often than it did previously.

One Year Ago

I was done with DragonVale.

Blizzard picked the version of the game that would become WoW Classic.  Version 1.12 would be the destination for nostalgia.

With Pokemon moving on to other platforms, it was clear that the Nintendo DS/3DS/2DS platform was on its way out.

In New Eden it was time for the CSM13 election.  Surprise!  Null sec candidates won most of the seats yet again. #NoCollusion

Running Abyssal pockets seemed to be all the rage.  The Federation Grand Prix, on the other hand, was something of a disappointment… unless you were selling shuttles I suppose.

I was also time for the great outpost conversion, where all those stations dropped in null sec over the years were converted to faction Fortizars.

We were also wondering what EVE: Project Galaxy was.  I guess we still are, since it hasn’t shipped yet.

Somebody said something dumb about PvP in EVE Online, then went on to get banned.

Star Citizen was roundly trolled for rolling out a ship that looked a lot like an EVE Online ship, and they took that trolling badly.  It happened to be the same ship that we used for a race.

I also went on a main fleet op, which is something I do every so often to remind myself why I do not go on main fleet ops.

And then there was the return of the Mystery Code in EVE Online.  There was a lot of stuff going on at CCP.

And it was a year ago that Steam announced that they weren’t going to judge games, they were just going to let everything onto their service… unless they considered it “trolling,” which sounds like a judgement to me… or if it was on the version of their service in China.  The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China pretty much demands curation of all aspects of life.

But the Steam Summer Sale was on, so who really cared about all that?

I wrote something like a review of the game Vietnam 65.

Daybreak gave us all another free character boost in EverQuest II.

I did a summer reruns post about 80s video games.

Finally I did a Friday Bullet Points post that included Star Citizen, Diablo IV, Apple killing support for OpenGL, the pending Aquatic Update for Minecraft, free video games for Amazon Prime subscribers, and perhaps my last Pokemon download even post ever.

Five Years Ago

I toasted the Newbie Blogger Initiative class of 2014.  Long may they post… those that remain in any case.

WildStar launched… and started its journey to F2P and eventual closure.

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.  Meanwhile, DC Universe Online was doing well on the PlayStation.

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.

I also did a summer reruns post about the Fountain War 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.

Ten Years Ago

People were upset about Blizzard not including LAN play in StarCraft II.  It looks like Blizzard stuck to that plan company-wide, as every game since has been always online.

The NeuroSky MindSet was released, but I still cannot cast fireballs in WoW using only my brain.

Then there was that Wii Bowling Ball controller.  Seemed more like a lawsuit magnet.

There was a new definition of hard core gamers.

I was complaining about the local newspaper being made up of 8 pieces of paper.  I have since stopped getting the daily paper.  We still get the Sunday paper however.

There was an attempt to get Age of Empires II: Age of Kings going while people in the instance group were on vacation.  We did end up getting connected via a service called Game Ranger.  Now you can play it live on Steam.

The in-game map in EVE Online was showing me where I had been and where all my stuff was.  Pretty neat.  CCP added a new map since, but they had to leave the old one in because the replacement still hasn’t achieved feature parity.

And then there was World of Warcraft.  They changed when you got mounts in the game allowing people to (literally and figuratively) fly through The Burning Crusade.  There was that whole WoW/Mountain Dew cross promotion which, if nothing else, got me another in-game pet.  I spent all my gold on the artisan flying skill, and then they lowered the price with the mount changes.  I got the achievement The Explorer, but that didn’t mean I was necessarily an achiever.  And I bought an authenticator.  Viva account security.

And then there was the Midsummer Fire Festival.

The instance group was deep into Wrath of the Lich King.  We did Ahn’kahet: the Old Kingdom and Drak’Tharon Keep when we were all available.  When not we went back to TBC and did some heroics with four of us just for kicks.

And then there was FarmVille, a Facebook game that had our attention for a brief moment.  It went live ten years ago.  It won awards and faced criticism from a range of sources.  Even Martha Stewart was on Zynga’s case for a bit.  And, of course, it set the standard for spammy, cash hungry crap games on social media.

Twenty Years Ago

The Half-Life mod called Counter-Strike had its first public beta release.  Valve hired the two people who developer the mod, acquiring the code and name as well, and it was developed into the stand-alone title Counter-Strike.

Thirty-five Years Ago

The first version of Tetris was released.  It might have made an appearance on more platforms than any other commercial title, and variations on it are still appearing.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  4. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  5. Is New Player Retention Fixable in EVE Online
  6. Drifters Hitting Null Sec Upwell Structures
  7. Three Problems MMORPGs are Never Going to Solve
  8. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  9. That EVE Online Starter Pack Controversy
  10. WoW Classic Stress Test Redux
  11. The Alleged Purity of Leveling
  12. Failed Headshot in Tribute

Search Terms of the Month

best way to raid with mouse/keyboard in eq2
[Can you even do so without mouse/keyboard?]

redeeming starter pack eve online
[There wasn’t much redeeming about it]

wow classic support 32 bit?
[A big negative on that]

Game Time from ManicTime

Overall time was down by 30% this month.  I must have been doing other things, like writing blog posts about everything that happened last week.  WoW also seemed to be down, though I’ll get to why in that section.

  • EVE Online 40.10%
  • WoW 27.47%
  • RimWorld 21.79%
  • Civilization V 6.16%
  • Minecraft 3.99%
  • LOTRO 0.50%

EVE Online

There was quite a lot going on in New Eden in June, what with EVE North, CSM14 elections, selling skill points, and the war in Tribute and Vale, I had lots to write about.  And then the Drifters started hitting our structures, future war plans were suspended, and we all went back to Delve to PvE.  Oh well.  The 64-bit client seems to work though.  I used that all month.

Lord of the Rings Online

I did, in fact, play a bit of LOTRO this month.  I wanted to grab the 64-bit client, which didn’t take too long, relatively speaking.  LOTRO updates always take longer than they should because the patcher is archaic.  But I managed it.  Then I logged in and was in Bree and had to remember how to get back to Moria.  And then Mirkwood opened up a few days later on the Legendary server and my interest waned completely.

Minecraft

I ran out of steam somewhat when it came to the Village and Pillage update.  I found villages, improved them, fought pillagers, did a bunch more exploring, and then came to the usual “now what?” part of the game, at which point I tend to stop logging in so much.  We’ll see if the bug hits again.

Pokemon Go

I had a pretty good month with Pokemon Go.  I didn’t level up, but I got some break throughs, such that there is a blog post in progress on this, that would have gone last week… but last week managed to fill itself up.  So I’ll get to that.  Otherwise, the usual stats:

Level: 36 (+0)
Pokedex status: 425 (+6) caught, 453 (+6) seen
Pokemon I want: Togekiss
Current buddy: Prinplup

RimWorld

As Minecraft faded, RimWorld came back into the picture.  Both are games you can sit and play while listening to podcasts or audio books, which I find relaxing.  Having won the original scenario a couple of times, I wanted to do the next more difficult scenario.  You start with five colonists and almost no technology.  That led to a some restarts as all my colonists died again and again.  But I got past that finally.  There is a blog post in the works as to where that led.

World of Warcraft

What with the war in EVE Online and not much new happening in Azeroth, WoW time slid quite a bit.  The percentage shown even includes the WoW Classic load test, since the final WoW Classic client registers with ManicTime as the same as the live client.

Actually, something big did happen.  We got the 8.2 update and more content and the chance to unlock flying.  Due to EVE Online, I haven’t even started on any of that.

Steam Summer Sale

Despite my guess last  week, the Steam Summer Sale is not the same old thing.  No, they have some new ideas, and some old ones, and they have had odd results.  First, you have to choose a team and nearly everybody decided to go with Team Corgi because corgis are cute.  So Team Corgi wins a lot.  I went with Team Tortise, which won a day after Valve gave us a way to sabotage other teams effectively and everybody hit Team Corgi.

Then there was the chance to win something from your wish list.  They did this years back, and it got people to add games to their wish list.  Now we all have so much crap on our lists that Valve threatening to give us a random game from it for free triggered a mass wish list purge, much to the horror of devs, who get stats on that.  That was amended so that you will now win the first game on your wish list, so you don’t have to banish all the five dollar indy crap from your sight.  I did so anyway, paring my wish list from 71 to 11 games.

Finally, to earn points and such in the event you have to buy games (duh), play some specific games and complete special tasks within them, or play a game that has Steam achievements.  I did the latter, which is how Civilization V made it onto my ManicTime list this month.   I would have just played RimWorld, but it does not have Steam achievements.  Oh well.

Coming Up

We have another week or so to run with the Steam Summer Sale, so we shall see if I end up buying anything.  My daughter is pestering me about a couple of titles.

In World of Warcraft I have the whole Rise of Azshara update to explore.  With almost two months to go before WoW Classic I should have enough time to unlock flying.

With null sec wars in EVE Online called off on account of CCP, there will likely be a return to SIGs and Squads being the place to actually play the game.  We’ll see what CCP has planned for this Drifter invasion, but it isn’t making people in null sec happy.  The Drifters aren’t actually killing structures and don’t even drop loot.  They are just a plague sent to afflict us.  We’ll survive, but there had better be a point to this.

And, otherwise, it is July.  People used to say August was the dead month for video games, but then Blizz started launching things in August, so now July is it I guess.

The Rise of Azshara Update brings Flying to Battle for Azeroth

The long discussed 8.2 update for World of Warcraft, the Rise of Azshara, goes live today in Azeroth.  The servers might even be up by the time this goes live.  There was an extra long downtime scheduled. (Also, too much stuff happened today, so now I have my fourth post of the day here.)

The 8.2 update splash screen

This is a pretty major content drop for Blizzard.  There is a lot of stuff coming, practically enough to qualify as a full on expansion for some other MMORPGs.  The update notes go into things in detail, but we were given a brief summary a while back.

Rise of Azshara Features

That ought to be enough to keep people busy over the summer as we wait for WoW Classic to show up.

Of course, new zones and new raids aside, the big item for me is the second part of the pathfinder achievement which, when unlocked, will grant you the ability to fly on your flying mounts in the Battle for Azeroth expansion.

Flying is Coming

You even get a flying mount for unlocking the ability to fly in BFA… and the bar doesn’t seem so high.  At least not for me.  They tweeted a little video about what you had to do to unlock flying.

Since I have done all of the part one pathfinder tasks, it looks like I just need to get two factions in the new areas to revered standing and I will be there.

In the process there are two new zones to explore and a raft of quests to complete.  Blizz even has a survival guide video for the new content.

 

It is time to set aside my alts, with whom I have been tinkering for the last month, and get back to focusing on my main.  My summer goal for Azeroth is set.

The Alleged Purity of Leveling

More carping about levels and the problems they bring.

Only, this time I think there is some question as to whether or not there is really a problem.  At least in my mind there is a question.

The problem, as laid out, is people leveling up the “wrong” way, be it favoring a specific form of game play or using an exploit in the game or finding special gear.  Sometimes called “twinking,” it makes some people very, very angry.

In this case, as mentioned over at Massively OP, Blizzard has decided to close a loophole in XP gain that allows player to turn off their XP to boost other players with whom they are grouped.  Brought up by Blizzard back in December, a change for this is now in the WoW 8.2 PTR, found by Warcraft Secrets, whose image I am going to use.

Loophole closed, go level up the right way!

Given that we now know that the WoW 8.2 pact drops this coming Tuesday we will probably see an upswing in this behavior over the weekend.  Blizzard Watch even put it on their list of things to get done before the patch drops.

Twinking is as old as online games.  Handing alts gear they couldn’t possibly obtain on their own in order to speed up the leveling process was well established when I stared playing TorilMUD (or Sojourn MUD as it was named at the time) back in 1993.

It carried on in EverQuest, where I can recall low level paladins wandering around with Ghoulbanes to smite undead to hasten their way forward, among other twinks.  It was also popular to get a friendly high level druid or cleric to buff your alt so they could run around and solo mobs that would otherwise be well beyond your capability.

This behavior has always made some people angry, with “fairness” being the general argument.  It isn’t fair that somebody has an advantage in leveling up faster than you.  I remember somebody being angry at me because I leveled up a warrior in TorilMUD from creation to level 40 in just over 8 hours of play time due to twinking him with gear I had collected over time.  They complained about it on the forums.

Over time some things were put in place to stop this sort of thing.  Gear got level requirements and was made bind on equip most places so you couldn’t dump things on your alt for power leveling.

Some games went a little too crazy.  EverQuest II at launch wouldn’t even let you buff people outside of your party and had strict rules about level differentials in a group lest you be trying to help somebody along.  I remember those calculations keeping people out of groups, especially at lower levels where the ratios made the level gaps allowed much smaller.

I have always assumed that this was very much a response to the free and easy twinking available in EverQuest, about which people would howl in the forums.

But should the developers be listening to this sort of thing?  People complain about literally everything in the forums.  Start a thread about people undercutting your sell price on the market and just watch how many people join in on complaining.

Does having some sort of advantage in leveling up hurt anybody else?  Is twinking a problem that needs to be solved?  Should developers be preventing players from leveling up the wrong way?

I am generally of the opinion that the answer to all of that is “no.”

In a game like World of Warcraft where, in the current expansion, the mobs scale with you all the way to level 120, so that one might question why there are levels at all, and where you have things like heirloom gear, it seems debatable that Blizzard should be worried about people leveling up faster than them.  And all the more so when they’re going on about a level squish, though that is another tale altogether.

Sure, there are situations where this might be bad.

I would probably agree that any path that took players out of the visible world is probably bad.  At least if you have something like a world in your game.  In EverQuest II they felt they had to remove exp from the player made dungeons feature largely because the most popular such dungeons were exp generating machines of no obvious merit otherwise.

And any time PvP is involved letting people boost up quickly, or lock levels and build a super-optimum gear set for battlegrounds, is going to end badly.

And, then there was the tale of Warhammer Online, where one theory of the failure of the game lays the blame on battlegrounds, which were the optimum method to level up.  Why would you spend time doing open world PvP content… which was what the game was supposed to be about, and was honestly a lot more fun when it happened… when instanced battleground were ready for you right now?

But that wasn’t really twinking so much as incentivizing the wrong path forward.  But PvP depends on the other side showing up when you’re ready to play, which is the main downfall of open world PvP in every game that hosts it.  Battlegrounds, with their jump in, fight, be done mechanics are not so hampered by that, so they will tend to draw people away from the open world in any case, and when they are replacing the PvP that is supposed to be the core of your game, you have at a minimum incentivized them badly.

However, short some specific situations where the path being used to level up is taking people out of the game, I am not sure that twinking is something to get all that worked up about.  I thought we’re long past the age of draconian responses to people not playing the game correctly.  But that Blizzard has now decreed that if you group with somebody who has XP turned off your own XP gain will now be “vastly reduced,” I guess I am wrong.

WoW Classic Load Test Went So Well More Load Was Added

Blizzard, rather quietly I felt, announced another stress test for WoW Classic, which kicked off yesterday at 2pm Pacific time.

Classic is as classic does

The kick off time meant that I would be at work when it began.  But, given what happened with the first and second tests, I figured I would be home early enough to see the servers straining under the load.

But by the time I logged in there were no queues or technical problems apparent.

I was confused for a minute because the WoW Classic Beta client wasn’t working, but for this run Blizzard had people download the actual WoW Classic client.  I thought that might take some time, but since I had already downloaded an earlier version of it for BlizzCon last year, that went quite quickly.

When I logged in I found there were only two servers to choose from, others appearing to be offline.

WoW Classic third load test realms

I later saw on Twitter that there was a reason for this; Blizzard wanted more load.

MOAR LOAD!!!

But even with that additional load, I was able to log straight in, make a new character, and run around in game without seeing any technical problems.

Practical problems however… there was an incredible crush of people running around the night elf starter area.

Hey, I guess we’re all starting off right now together!

The first quest, which involves slaying boars and night sabres right there was swamped with people trying to be the first to tag any that spawned, since unlike WoW today, only the person who tags it first gets the credit.

However, even this crowd appeared to be for a reason.

Increased populations are all part of the plan

So while competition for mobs was trying, it was all in service of loading the servers to see how they will hold up when the actual launch comes in late August.

I tinkered around for a bit, ran about, and actually got a few quest mobs, but then logged off.  Things seemed to be in good shape.  I hope this bodes well for the actual launch.

If you want to take a look yourself, the stress test runs into Friday and is open to anybody who is currently subscribed to World of Warcraft.  You just need to download the WoW Classic client from the launcher… which is considerably smaller than the current live game… and you can play up to level 15 while the test is up.

Addendum: If you tried to stress test you can give Blizzard feedback here.  Or you can just read what people are complaining about.

Waiting for Flying and Leveling Up

We have slowly been getting bits and pieces of information about the World of Warcraft 8.2 Rise of Azshara patch.  Blizzard has released some info of its own accord while a lot more has been data mined from content on the public test realm.

The 8.2 update splash screen

What hasn’t come out way is an actual date for the patch.  I was hoping we would see it this month, but we’re almost to the mid-point already without a word.  To my mind June works well because we haven’t had a big drop in a while, it coincides with the tail end of the six month period that Blizzard locked a bunch of people into with that special mount offer, and it is far enough out in front of the late August release of WoW Classic that some of us can get in there, get flying, and be ready to swap to the old school.

However, what I think doesn’t necessarily mean anything down in Irvine.  Blizzard will move at its own pace, which is both a luxury it enjoys as well as being a bit of a curse.

While we have been waiting I have finished up all of the prerequisites for unlocking flying.  I am exalted with everybody, the ilevel on my main is high enough that mobs in the world are easy again.  I am well over that hump.  Feeling done there, I am on to some alts.  I think all of my level 110s are at least 111 now due to various activities, but I went all in with my hunter, traditionally my main alt, and got him up to the level cap.

Tistann to level 120

I leveled him up the straightforward way, through the quest content in the expansion.  And, as with my first run through that, there clearly hit a point around level 118 where the mobs out in world were clearly getting a lot tougher relative to my own power.  Up until that point just upgrading with the gear awarded by quests was enough to keep me feeling viable, but then there is that jump for the NPCs and suddenly one add is a disaster and you wonder if something has gone really wrong with your play style.

But it isn’t you, it is the game.  I still don’t know why Blizz thinks this is a good idea, but there it is.

I did start lining up some upgrade gear for level cap as I went along.  As it turns out leather working now yields a ranged weapon, and my hunter does skinning and leather working, so I was ready to go with that.

I made myself useful gear in WoW?!?!

Fortunately the hunter class, at least in beast mastery, is somewhat resilient to bad situations.  You can always sacrifice your pet and run away or feign death.  You do spend a lot of time healing your pets… and I oddly found my tanking pets harder to keep alive than my DPS pets… but you can power through.

Once up to level 120 I was able to start gearing him up via world quests and he is pretty much over the hump and back to feeling a bit more powerful in the world.

Such is not the case with my feral druid.

As I mentioned in a past post, my druid was my first alt to 120, and I did that entirely via pet battles.  That was a mistake.

I decided to see if I could get some world quests done with the druid and, as it turns out, being level 120 with all your 110 gear is not at all viable.  Running around in cat form makes you a bit squishy to start with, but this made even single NPCs a dodgy proposition.

Of course, I figured it could just be me.  I read up on Icy Veins, got an addon to help with my combat rotation, and I still managed to die horrible way too often.  Gear upgrades via my hunter did not tip the balance.  My druid is stuck at the bottom of an ilevel hill and working my way out of it feels like more effort than I want to expend.  It could still just be me being bad, but I have leveled him up normally in the past.

However, he might just be a pet battle character from now on.

I do have a couple of tougher alts, a DK and a warrior, that might be options.  But I am not sure I am feeling it for leveling up again at the moment.  Knowing that hill is waiting for me around level 118 is a disincentive to dig into that again.

Three Problems MMORPGs are Never Going to Solve

Three things that fans of the genre complain about all the time, and even the developers acknowledge as issued now and then, which are just never going to be “solved” in any acceptable way.

Levels

World of Warcraft has been getting some heat for this one of late, both because the level scaling in Battle for Azeroth practically punishes you for leveling up and because they gave us access to a whole bunch of allied races which, if you want to play them, you have to level up. (Or pay for a race change for a current character, or pay for a level boost I guess.)

The moment hits at last

The problem is that levels are an easy solution to issues like gating content and giving characters a sense of progression, the latter being critical for an MMORPG.  The alternatives, like skill based systems, just don’t cover things as well or as obviously.

In fact, levels are so sublime that even systems that ostensibly do not have levels end up effectively having levels.  Take EVE Online, once an outlier with its skill learning system.  Your skills level up, even when you are offline, something viewed as a boon.  Skills gated content, in that you needed the skills to use various ships and equipment.   But skills continued on at the same pace, offline or on, with no way to speed them up, which many people found frustrating.  Flying a titan, for example, was just going to take you a couple of years.

And then skill injectors came along and suddenly the in-game currency, ISK, always something of a success measure, effectively became levels.  With enough ISK you can unlock all the content.  65 skill injectors gets you a titan pilot.  With enough ISK you can “win” EVE Online almost immediately.

They had all the skills… and lots of ISK… before they were banned

Meanwhile, back in level based gamed like WoW and EverQuest, the developers found ways to add another layer of levels.  Item levels gates content in Azeroth and stand as the thing for players to obsess about, while over in Norrath a whole vast and complex Alternate Advancement tree exists to absorb your experience once you’ve hit level cap, if not before.

The main problem with levels is that they reach a point of absurdity if you’re not careful and act as a deterrent to new players.  It doesn’t matter how easy the climb to level cap is… and it is arguably worse if it is too easy… if a new player sees they are level one and the cap is a three digit number.  And once you’ve arrive at that point there is no easy way out.  A level squish is madness, but so is carrying on as before.

But getting to a point where too many levels is a problem is generally a sign that you’ve succeeded so far, so how do you quit them once they’ve built your empire?

Grind

It is fun to listen to somebody complain about grind one day then wax poetically about the good old days of experience groups in EverQuest.  It helps settle in your mind that grind has no realistic definition.

Grind is basically something you don’t like doing at that moment.  The problem is that what is grind for one person is fun for another and the same person may enjoy something one day and feel like it is grind the next.

Some days just reading the quest tracker feels like a grind

I cannot name an MMORPG where things do not eventually feel like a grind if you do them often enough.

In EVE Online missions are one of the basic PvE activities and people complain about them being grindy and boring all the time.  People are always asking CCP to add more missions or to make them more interesting.  However, CCP said at some point last year that there are over 4,000 missions in the game, so it feels like the “adding more” check box has been checked repeatedly.  And when CCP adds missions that are more interesting, like burner missions, people complain that they are too hard if they get blown up or that they are a grind once the player solves the mission and getting blown up is removed as a risk.

So CCP added abyssal deadspace missions, which have a random element to them, which appealed to some people, but which drove the risk averse away.

Somebody… maybe Scott Jennings… wrote once that there is a fine line to making a quest or event interesting.  It cannot be too easy, lest it feel like no gain at all, but it also cannot be too difficult, or it will drive people away who fail at it.  A quest has to be both easy enough to knock off and hard enough to feel like you’ve accomplished something, otherwise it can feel like a grind.  And even a mission or quest that is perfectly tuned for your skill and level can feel like a grind if you’re not in the mood or you’ve done it many times before.

Grind is just the dark side of advancement/progression, and advancement is the reward drip that keeps us going.  Basically, if you want some form of progression you’re probably going to feel like you’re grinding at some point.

Which isn’t to say that some quests… or some game designs… don’t just suck.  But you can find grind in your most favorite game ever if you hang around long enough.

Login Problems at Launch

Unlike the first two, this is one that a game company probably could fix.  They just won’t.

Just last week at the WoW Classic stress test

If you’ve played a popular MMORPG you’ve probably run into login and server queues at launch or when expansions land or when updates hit or when they launch a special server or at some other time.

Just keep waiting, just keep waiting…

You want to log in and play but so do a lot of other people, so the login server is struggling and the game server if full and you’ve been put in a line outside and given a number that may or may not dynamically update as time passes.

Even LOTRO had a queue for Legendary

This makes people angry.  Very angry at times.  You’ve paid to play this game.  You want to play this game.  And here it is, peak game playing time for you and you are being prevented from playing the game.

Back in March, during the 20 year EverQuest anniversary, I saw somebody on Twitter raging about Daybreak having had two decades to fix they game and that it was completely unacceptable that they should have to wait in a queue.  Daybreak had failed completely.

Leaving aside the whole “20 year old game launches a new server and is popular enough to attract a queue,” the team at Daybreak has actually spent quite a bit of time working on its server capacity.  The servers hold more people.  They now have the ability to spawn multiple versions of zones to alleviate crowding.  They even have a server queue, which wasn’t a thing… or even a thing they felt they needed… until a couple of years back.  Daybreak, relative to its size, has actually done considerable work on this front.

Likewise, last week… and the week before… Blizzard held WoW Classic beta stress tests to simulate the loading that the WoW Classic servers will likely see when the launch in August.  Blizzard has a whole new layering system for the launch of WoW Classic that one hopes will keep down the total number of servers… or half the people you know will end up on different servers… while keeping the crowding and queuing problem from getting out of control.

And yet I expect that there will be queues, even horrendous queues, at the launch of WoW Classic.  I expect the first night to be a rush to get in.  People will want to get started, do server firsts, and whatever else.  It will be a spectacle, and people who play the live game will try to log in, even if they don’t plan on playing.

There will be queues, we should expect it, and Blizzard shouldn’t spend a bunch of time or money trying to fix that.

Why?

Because it is a temporary problem.  We have seen it in the past.  LOTRO Legendary, EverQuest progression servers, any give WoW expansion launch, the queues are minimal in a few days and gone in a couple of weeks.  It just isn’t worth the investment for such a transitory issue.

Yes, there are always those few WoW servers that have a queue six months after an expansion launches.  But that is a different problem.  When there is a long list of low population servers available Blizzard should be offering free transfers for people to move.  That is the fix.  Use the capacity that already exists.

I am sure there are other things that won’t get fixed… I had “old content” scratched in my notes for this, but forgot what I was going to say… but these three, we will be complaining about them for years to come because they won’t ever go away.