Tag Archives: Level Squish

Top Five Rejected WoW Squish Ideas

We know Blizzard isn’t exactly a font of new ideas.  When they find something that works, they like to re-use it, to hone it, and to stick it in completely unexpected and inappropriate situations.  We have had the stats squish twice already, and what essentially adds up to a server squish on retail. (They don’t merge servers like failing games! But suddenly two servers now behave like one.)  At BlizzCon we were told that the level squish is coming coming with the Shadowlands expansion next year.  So squishing is clearly a thing at Blizz.

As it turns out, there was a leak recently that showed some of the other things that Blizzard has been considering squishing as part of an attempt to revitalize the game.  A few of them have made their way to me.

Jeff Kaplan hearing about more leaks…

  • Gold Squish

The economy has been a big concern for Blizzard.  They put in easy gold faucets so that casual players can obtain enough gold to stay afloat, but hardcore players exploit and farm every such faucet.  Even after boosting the cap on gold, more and more players are ending up at the 10 million mark.  The various sinks do not absorb enough gold as most of them tend to be one-time purchases and players with maximum gold tend to distort the auction house.

So the idea of a “gold squish” was floated.  The plan was to simply cut the amount of gold on every character by 50%.  The whole thing was easy to understand and affected everybody equally.

However the idea was scrapped when feedback from focus groups indicated that reinstating Blitzchung’s original year long suspension, taking his prize money away again, and incorporating the flag of the People’s Republic of China into the Blizzard logo would be more popular with fans than taking any of their gold away.

  • Alt Squish

Name usage and database size are big issues when it comes to a game the size of WoW.  People make alts, roll up on multiple servers, and generally use up all the names and hoard stuff in their banks until the database tables runneth over and a new player cannot show up and roll up a new toon without putting special characters in their name.

A management consultant group came up with the idea of “squishing” player alts that had been idle for a specific amount of time into a special “conglomerate” character that would total up all the currency, experience, and inventory into a single meta character.  If a player returned, they could activate that meta character, selecting sex, race, and class and collect all of the combined assets into one new character.  Names would be freed up and the idea of being able to get a new, revitalized character might bring people back to the game.

However, somebody pointed out that this might cut into level boost sales while the database team complained that there wasn’t a lot of benefit to them unless there was also something like an inventory squish as well, so the whole idea was scrapped.

  • Guild Squish

As with alts, there are many idle guilds with inactive membership roles littering Azeroth.  Similar to the alt squish, the plan was to create something like an unnamed meta guild and push together sets of inactive guilds on individual servers into them.  Which ever member of any of the guilds logged on first got the meta guild, could name it, and was named leader, after which they could do with it as they pleased.

After much discussion it was decided that it was easier to just stick to the current plan where the database team would just delete inactive guilds and if anybody called customer support about such a guild, a flag would come up to prompt the agent to tell the caller that it looked like one of the member accounts got hacked, took over the guild, then was deleted for suspicious activity, then lecture them about the importance of account security.

  • Battle Pet Squish

In a little over nine years Blizzard cranked out almost 1,250 battle pets in WoW.  Nintendo and Game Freak have been at Pokemon for more than 20 years and across eight game generations still haven’t crossed into four digits.  Some at Blizz were starting to feel that maybe they had gone too fast and that, perhaps, some of the battle pets were not very… special.

A proposal was made to tighten up the battle pet roles by doing what was at one point called “the bug squish,” largely because the roach and moth battle pet population were two of the main targets.

The idea was to squish down the number of battle pets who share the same model and abilities (and have nearly the same name in many cases) to a more discreet number.  Who needs, for example, a dozen variations on the cockroach?  Roaches, moths, frogs, and a few other common model/ability families were facing the squish.

And then the Shadowlands art team spoke up and said that there was no way they were going to be able to produce 200+ new battle pets for the expansion and meet their schedule if they all had to be unique.  Already pressed for time, the idea was dropped.  Expect some new, yet very familiar, roaches, moths, frogs, and whatnot in the next expansion.

  • Expansion Squish

We heard at BlizzCon that the the company felt the path to level cap was too circuitous and confusing.

Before they decided to go the Chromie route, allowing players the initial plan was to mash the expansions together to make the path through to the current expansion more clear.  However, the whole idea fell apart when the group looking into it could not come to a consensus as to which expansions to mash up.

For example, the group seemed fine with Pandaclysm.  However, the strict orderist faction felt that meant you had to either mash up the base game and the first expansion, giving you something like The Vanilla Crusade, or leave the original game alone (good plan) and end up with Wrath of the Burning Crusade.

More radical suggestions included lumping together the three Draenor/Burning Legion related expansions into Legion of the Burning Crusade Warlords, though there was a strong argument made for just  disappearing Warlords of Draenor altogether.

At one extreme point towards the end of the life of the working group it was being proposed that they mash ALL the expansions together into something like Wrath of the Burning Panda Cataclysmic Vanilla Warlord Legion of Azeroth when one wag at the back of the room suggested that maybe they shouldn’t mash any of the expansions together and just make them all scale across the the same range of levels so the player could decide.

You get to choose

The idea was accepted, the working group was disbanded, and we got the result at BlizzCon.  It was an expansion squish of a different color, but one all the same.

Looking Back at BlizzCon 2019

BlizzCon 2019 was sure a hell of a lot better for Blizzard than BlizzCon  2018.

I watched some of panels I wanted to see, but not all of them yet.  So, while this isn’t quite a hot take on the event, it is my impressions about what was announced in a slightly more detailed fashion than my recap of the big four announcements post I did on Friday.  That post has links to all the cinematics and game play videos that Blizz posted as they announced things, if those interest you.

So, lets dive in by categories that almost line up by franchise.

World of Warcraft

A new expansion.  Pretty much a requirement at BlizzCons that fall on odd numbered years.  So they got that right.  But honestly, I am not sure how I feel about Shadowlands.

Part of that is just what you get when your game gets past maybe three expansions, they start to blur for all but the most hardcore.  There are some cool things in the plan.  The covenants things seems like it could make for interesting choices.  I like the return to a plan to focus on classes rather than specs.  A single narrative arc that drives you through four zones in order is back to the old school, and how alts will be handled seems innovative.

No more re-grinding

Better character customization is good direction.  Everybody can be a death knight now.  But the ideas for a new class… again, perfect chance for a necromancer class to show up… seems to have been bypassed.  And thus in its way it will be more of the same, more zones, more levels, more dungeons, more raids, and so on.  And it feels a bit like they were inspired by Stranger Things, which means we will no doubt run into plenty of references to the show.

It sure looks like the Azeroth Upsidedown to me

Wait, did I say “more levels?”  I meant LESS levels.  The level squish is coming.

Leveling up after Shadowlands

I said Blizz wouldn’t do it, so I have clearly been proven wrong on that front.  And my concerns from that post remain, though there are some updsides.  It sounds like they will rescale… again… all of the old content so you can get to level 50 playing through any previous expansion then head into the Shadowlands.  Still, it will be odd to have max level characters in WoW and WoW Classic at the same level.  There were more details about this in the deep dive, which I watched, and I will probably throw together another post just to look at how leveling is going to change with Shadowlands.  But the level squish is coming.

Overall though, you can color me somewhat interested in the expansion.   I am sure the fact that it was made available for pre-order will get hopes up that it will show up sooner rather than later, but I doubt it will show any time before June of 2020.

There is no doubt another post to be made in Blizz moving to three levels of expansion packages, especially just as Daybreak moved to four levels.  No level 120… eventually level 50… boost with the base package either.

MMO Champion has a good outline of the main presentation.  Or you can look at the pretty pictures on the official expansion page.

WoW Classic

We got the very bare minimum of news about WoW Classic, something I indicated might end up being the case back at the start of October.  There was a bit of “isn’t this great!” and the date for the phase 2 unlock (November 12th), and that was that.  No future plans, no talk about expansions, and nothing even daring to look in the direction of somebody low key hinting that there might be anything like original content for the WoW Classic path.

In fact, WoW Classic was stuck in the “oh, by the way” section of the keynote with StarCraft II and Heroes of  the Storm.  Talk about being put on the bench.  Even at the WoW Q&A session the question about future expansions for WoW Classic was pretty much deflected.

But Blizzard moves slowly, something I have to keep reminding myself.  I am sure they are still trying to figure out what to do with this unexpected success story.  We will likely have to wait until next BlizzCon to hear anything new I guess, but that will put it after the Shadowlands launch, so Blizz will be able to focus on it.

I will say though, at least we got a self deprecating crack from J. Allen Brack about serving vanilla ice cream at the BlizzCon concessions.  He didn’t think we would want it, but it turns out we did.

I don’t find Brack to be a particularly compelling or convincing speaker.  He lacks Metzen’s energy or Morhaime’s air of goofy humility.  And, of course, after the infamous quote, I associate him with a level of smug condescension, which biases my perception even when I agree with what he is saying.  We all see things through our own filters.  But at least he was willing to stand up there and remind everybody how wrong he was.

I previously wrote that if he said something about that quote I’d stop bringing it up every time I mentioned him.  I think I can stick to that now.  I won’t mention it every time, though I reserve the right to bring it up when it fits the situation.

Diablo

Diablo IV was announced, to nobody’s surprise.

It looks interesting.  I like the direction they are going.  Darker.  A more open world.  Mounts even.  No RMT auction house.  I have no doubt I will play it some day.  But that day will be… when?  2022?

I guess I can see why they didn’t want to announce it last year.

Basically, I will be a lot more interested in this when it seems like its launch is imminent.

Overwatch

Again, if even I was predicting something like Overwatch 2 more than a month ago, then having that announced was probably not a huge surprise.

I am not an Overwatch player.  I don’t even eat the cereal.  But I am interested in how they are handling Overwatch 2, which is more like an expansion than a new game.

If you own Overwatch, you can keep playing that and your play will overlap with Overwatch 2 players, which includes all the original content plus all the goodies you may have gotten.  Overwatch 2 players will get their own content as well, including a PvE campaign.

I think the latter, the PvE campaign, might be the key here.  The thing that the original lacked was new stuff to sell players… besides loot boxes.  And if loot boxes are you revenue stream it might be prudent to diversify that a bit.  But additional PvE co-op campaigns, that is something Blizz could sell people on.

It is interesting to see how they have chosen to go.  EA gets you to buy their latest Battlefield game by shutting off the servers to the past ones.  I assume Activision does something similar with their Call of Duty games, along with leaving a year gap between launches and trying to add new gimmicks with each annual generation.  In contrast, Blizz wants to keep people playing together.  I suspect that you won’t be able to buy Overwatch once Overwatch 2 is out.  But if you do have the original, you won’t be left completely out in the cold.

Hearthstone

A new expansion.  What a surprise!  It isn’t like we don’t get a few of those every year in any case.

The real surprise was that Blizz decided to take the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea and integrate it with Hearthstone with their new Battlegrounds play mode.  That demonstrates some oddly un-Blizzard-like thinking, since the obvious route was to copy Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords and build it off of their MOBA.  I didn’t exactly get how this was going to work, in part because the description during the opening ceremony was pretty fast and in part because I have no interest in Hearthstone so I didn’t watch the panel where it would have been explained.

At least I haven’t watched it yet.  It was well down on my list of priorities.  I might still, just to get an idea where Blizz is going with this.

Warcraft III Reforged

The re-release of Warcraft III seems to be getting closer.  No ship date was announced, but they are spreading the beta further afield now.  If you were at BlizzCon or had the Virtual Ticket, you now have access to the beta and can download it from the Battle.net launcher.  I was actually in already, as I saw I was able to install it early last week, though I couldn’t tell you if that was because I was special or because they started opening it up to Virtual Ticket holders early.  Either way, it seems unlikely that I will download it to play before it goes live.

StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm

A new commander and a new AI for the former, and new unit for the latter, all mentioned during what felt like an apologetic side bar in the midst of the opening ceremonies.  I was not expecting much, and so was unsurprised when that was exactly what we got.  Still, being in the same segment where they mentioned the Blizzard Arcade at BlizzCon, where you could go play Rock n Roll Racing and Lost Vikings, does tend to set a tone.

The Heroes of the Storm fans are probably happy for any scraps they get, but the StarCraft II playerbase has to have some mixed feelings since SCII is still one of the Blizz esports titles.

Unmentioned

I did not hear anything about the remaster of Diablo II yet again.  It came up as part of the ideal for Diablo IV, but it was left out otherwise.  I still want this.  I would happily take a GoG.com version updated to run on Windows 10, though I would really like something more akin to the Warcraft III Reforged full remaster for modern screen sizes.  Maybe someday.

Then, maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear anything about Diablo: Immortal.  Did fan reaction really bury that?  My complaint from last year wasn’t that it wouldn’t find an audience, just that it was presented to the wrong audience.  They put some updates on the official site… it was mixed in with the feed on their “all news” page… but they seemed loathe to mention it yet again in front of a live studio audience.

Also, any hope for a completely new game or IP was left in the dust.  Everything was an expansion or a sequel.  There wasn’t even a mobile version of any other Blizzard IPs mentioned.  Hearthstone might have had the only new idea… or, newly stolen idea, this being Blizzard and all… with it picking up the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea.

Virtual Ticket

The Virtual Ticket plan still seems like an acceptable value to me.  There is still a list of panels I want to watch that I could not make time for over the weekend, so I am able to watch them at my leisure.  As I noted previously, this year Blizz has decided that access to the videos will remain up until March 2020.

One feature I noticed was that Blizz also gave Virtual Ticket holders access to the videos from the past two BlizzCons as well.  So you can, if you want, go back and watch the horrible Diablo: Immortal panel or the informative Play Nice, Play Fair panel that was completely bypassed by the gaming media that often rages about how companies like Blizzard do nothing to contain player toxicity.

BlizzCon Overall

This should have been pretty much the ideal BlizzCon for the company, with four big product announcements.  Back at the start of October it looked to be huge.  And then, of course, there was the Hong Kong thing, which necessitated the apology, which I covered in its own post.

After Blizz banned Blitzchung and the outrage was at its peak there were wild predictions that they might even cancel BlizzCon.  Or, if BlizzCon went on, it would be tightly controlled, a mirror image of the repressive Chinese state on stage in Anaheim.  Would Brack even get up in front of the audience live, or would he just appear on the monitor so the engineers could cut out the sounds of the crowd should they get 40,000 people chanting “Free Hong Kong!” or some such?  Would Blizzard be able to contain the outrage of the fan base?

In the end, things went mostly as they usually do.  The vast majority of the fans were there to see Blizz and to revel in the spectacle and be a part of the event.   Cheering was the norm.  And when, during the WoW Q&A panel, a questioner ended his interaction with a message about Hong Kong, he wasn’t cut off or ejected from the event.  People chanted a bit and Blizz let it all pass like the guy in the Winnie the Pooh costume, who showed up on camera at least once.

People will take whatever message they want from that.  You can read into that the promise of better behavior from Brack’s apology, or you can assume it is Blizz throwing a minimal bone to some fans that does not otherwise reflect corporate policy.  It still puts them ahead of the NBA in either case.

In the end though, Blizz clearly won the news cycle.  Every “What about Hong Kong?” story had to contend with a dozen or more “OMG! New Things!” stories out of BlizzCon.  With that and what will likely be a somewhat rosy Q3 2019 earnings report later this week (thanks to WoW Classic) and the 15th Anniversary WoW events coming up, the company seems to be well positioned for the balance of the year.