Category Archives: WoW
One of the more interesting facts, personally, was the resolution to the possible Vivendi fiasco. You know, the whole situation in which Vivendi was in the process of raiding Activision Blizzard’s big piles of cash, potentially bringing a company with several billion-dollar franchises to its knees for no game-related reason? Oh, didn’t hear about that before MMO-Champ casually talked about the stock buy-back with no context? I might suggest expanding your blogroll with the illustrious Nosy Gamer (or NoizyGamer, apparently), who has been following this particular series of power-plays since at least July 10th. Things could have turned out incredibly bad for Blizzard, and I imagine that the vast majority of even blog-aware people would have not known about it until the fan hit the shit.
Incidentally, NoizyGamer has been keeping up The Digital Dozen feature – tracking the top 12 MMOs based on XFire numbers – every week since the start of 2012. XFire is XFire, but it’s pretty much all we have left at this point, inbetween quarterly reports. There is also a bunch of EVE posts and talk about EVE bots, but nobody is perfect ¹.
Anyway, there it is. Kinda interesting (and scary) to read about all the Machiavellian schemes going on inside the gaming industry, and realizing that good game companies fail all the damn time despite producing legitimately good titles. Say what you want about WoW’s current direction, but I don’t think anyone wants Blizzard to fold because some stock-holder in Europe has a bad credit rating; we want it to fail for real reasons, like raiding is too hard/easy, LFD exists, or because Ghostcrawler was mean to somebody on Twitter.
¹ Just kidding, the stuff about bots is pretty cool.
There is a saying that goes “Never let comfort interfere with fashion.” Perhaps it’s less of a saying and more an ironic reminder of how absurd human beings can get in the pursuit of arbitrary, ephemeral trends. Why anyone thinks high heels should be a thing, for example, I have no idea. Sure, some jiggly-bits are at a higher incline than normal, but my eyes are always drawn down to the barely-recognizable compressed foot nodules at the end of the legs. Can’t we have the fashion and the comfort? Let’s just make it fashionable to wear comfortable sneakers and call it a day already.
All these thoughts came to mind when I spied the following WoW PTR Patch 5.4 notes:
Way back in November of 2011, I mentioned the ridiculousness that is/was warrior gameplay. Obviously the ridiculousness extended all the way back to Day 1 of WoW’s release, but in 2011 there were a number of changes going on that made it feel like Blizzard was finally turning a corner. Most every warrior ability was tied to a specific Stance up to that point, but suddenly those restrictions were evaporating. “You can cast Spell Reflection in Arms stance!” And we cheered. And then realized you still needed a shield, and we sullenly took one line out of our macros before continuing browsing mice on Amazon with 12+ buttons on the side.
I am 100% convinced that, up to this point, Blizzard has required a shield for Spell Reflection (and Shield Wall for that matter) simply out of “fashion,” e.g. no legitimate gameplay reason. I mean, it’s one thing to include abilities/functionality that requires a high skill cap, or even an honest desire for certain skills to not be usable outside of certain scenarios. It is quite another when there is basically no possible way to utilize a button on your hotbar without having to support it with in-game scripts. No, seriously, just walk yourself through the steps necessary to cast Spell Reflection, and then compare that duration with the typical window in which the ability is useful… while keeping in mind that every PvP warrior is expressly balanced around judicious use of said ability.
I can understand their likely thought process here. “How are you reflecting the spell if not with a shield? And don’t even try to tell me you don’t need a shield for Shield Wall – it’s in the name!” Okay, yeah, it is. But the whole thing is one big, convoluted mess that creates an enormous gulf between even so-so warriors and their macro’d peers. You can make one button that handles the whole gear-swap/ability use process in a way that the default game never could. While “anyone” can copy/paste the macro, at some point you need to ask yourself why its necessary in the first place. Tradition? Fashion? Because it sure as hell isn’t for gameplay reasons.
Alright, maybe Virtual Realms were the unannounced feature of 5.4. Or the tutorial zone, aka Proving Grounds. But, no, probably Virtual Realms:
New Feature: Virtual Realms
- Virtual Realms are sets of realms that are fused together, and will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm. Players on the same Virtual Realm will be able to join guilds, access a single Auction House, join arena teams and raids, as well run dungeons or group up to complete quests.
- Players belonging to the same Virtual Realm will have a (#) symbol next to their name.
I guess they finally solved that otherwise insurmountable naming problem, amirite?
Anyway, there are two (other) reasons this announcement is the height of cynicism:
1) Server Merges by any other name.
I get it, you get it, we all get it. Actually saying “server merges” is a sign of the apocalypse and bad PR besides. Grouping several low-pop servers together “virtually” is putting lipstick on the pig of 1.3+ million subscriber losses in the last quarter. At some point though, it’s just sad. You aren’t fooling anyone with that ridiculous comb-over. Just shave your head and get it over with.
2) Aren’t you glad you just spent $12.50+ server transferring?
I read the comments on my earlier post, regarding how things “usually go on sale before they are obsoleted.” For as jaded and dour as I can be under normal circumstances, I generally have some minimum level of faith in humanity. Obvious displays of naked greed are actions that can still genuinely surprise me, even if I distrust the “altruism” of corporations as a rule.
But, Jesus Christ, did Blizzard just take a huge shit on their playerbase.
There was a running joke in the PlanetSide 2 community regarding something similar: Item of the Day. Usually, the deals are 50% off the Station Cash (i.e. RMT) price of some garbage item or another, including items that are way cheaper to purchase with Certs. Every now and then though, some recently-released gun or something will pop up, prompting a lot of sales. People always joked that whenever something good snuck its way into the rotation, that meant it was getting nerfed by next week. And the shitty thing? It usually did.
The assumption got so pervasive and accurate that Higby, one of the PlanetSide 2 devs, actually stepped in and rolled back a planned nerf to one of the vehicle weapons that had just went on sale. He assured the community that these sales are planned out 30 days in advance, that the sale/nerf cycle was just coincidence, but who can you really believe when it comes to capitalistic incentives?
That question is not so rhetorical anymore. It was not an accident that Blizzard put server transfers on sale for the first time in their 8+ year history a mere week before announcing (free) server merges. Maybe they see some distinction insofar as players can choose where they go versus leaving it up to random chance. It’s still absolute bullshit though, because how many people would have bought a server transfer if the sale was this week, or next week? QED.
I mean, this is a new low that even EA hasn’t achieved, not for lack of trying.
Coming in 5.4: Flexible Raid sizes.
While it’s impossible to fit every player into a neat, tidy archetype, we recognize that we could be providing a better experience to one broad category of raider: social groups comprised predominantly of friends and family, and smaller guilds that do their best to include as many members in their Raid outings possible. [...]
To fill this void, we’re in the process of developing a new Flexible Raid system, which includes a new difficulty that sits between Raid Finder and Normal difficulty, while still allowing friends, family, or pick-up groups to play together. This difficulty will be available for premade groups of 10–25 players, including any number in between. That means whether you have 11, 14, or 23 friends available for a Raid, they’ll all be able to participate.
The Flexible Raid system is designed so that the challenge level will scale depending on how many players you have in the Raid. So if you switch between 14 players one week and 22 the next, the difficulty will adjust automatically.
Technically, this isn’t confirmed as the “unannounced new feature,” but I have a hard time believing that there could be something else to top this game-changer.
…or does this change much at all?
I mean, yes, I have little doubt that this will improve the quality of life for a lot of friends & family guilds out there. Back in Wrath, my guild constantly had the inevitably poisonous problem of having 11-12 people show up on raid nights, and having to pick who sits out. Something like this feature would have made the issue moot, as we could grab everyone who showed up and did something fun as a guild. Even better, the difficulty is supposed to be pegged between LFR and Normal, which would perhaps mean taking that charming guildie who improves the general social atmosphere – albeit at a DPS loss – is no longer such a vexing decision.
On the other hand, this would do nothing to guilds like mine that were unable to field even a full 10m by the end. Maybe this could have incentivised our (failed) raiding partnership with a sister guild, but I don’t find that particularly likely.
You know what though? My mind is actually racing about this feature. Part of the reason why our raiding partnership failed was because the people we were bringing weren’t quite matching up to the skill level the content required. With this feature, if your guild found 10m Normal raids too difficult, you could down-shift to Flexible and still bring 10 people.
On top of that, this could be a massive coup for the Trade chat pugs of the world. I am sure there will still be stubborn raid leaders out there spamming “LF6M 25m” for hours, but as long as they had the basic roles covered, they could have everyone zone in with just the 19 they had. And on top of that, there is the news that Flexible mode has its own, separate lockout. That is huge. Go raid with your hardcore guild on Thursday, and then kick back with your friends/family on Friday, all while still getting (off-spec, perhaps) gear.
In another life, I might have been more concerned with how popular the feature would be, given the ilevel rewards would be lower than Normal mode. But looking at how LFR turned out, it is pretty clear that that sort of nonsense rarely matters except in the minds of a few. In fact, I’d almost be more worried that Flexible mode will further erode the entire raiding model, doing to 10m what LFR did to 25m.
In any event, it looks like we’re seeing the fruits of those minds diverted from the Titan project already. Now if only they could focus their efforts on, say, actual server merges instead of this 50% off highway robbery bullshit, I might actually reach for the resubscribe button again.
Well, probably not this expansion, but they are damn closer than they were yesterday.
The prices break down as follows:
- Server Transfer = $12.50
- Faction Transfer = $15.00
- Server + Faction Transfer = $27.50
- Name/Appearance Change = $7.50
- Race Change = $12.50
If there is not a clearer sign that Blizzard believes WoW still exists as luxury entertainment on a level all to its own, I don’t know what it is. Well, you know, beyond the fact that as absurd as these prices appear to be, given the proper distance from the game, they are normally 50% higher.
I mean… Christ. Is this the same MMO that lost 1.3 million subscribers last quarter? That’s a rhetorical question because of course it is. Otherwise Blizzard would have no cause to not still charge people $25/$55 to move off dead realms Blizzard kills with extreme negligence.
In other news, I just bought EVE Online for $4.98 on Steam. You know, for a rainy day.
In the off-chance you haven’t already read thirteen hundred blogs talking about it, VentureBeat broke the news about Blizzard’s new MMO “Titan” being sent back to the drawing board. Depending on how you slice it, that is between 2-7 years of game development being flushed, with 70 of 100 developers being redistributed to other games while the core 30 presumably get called to the carpet.
First thoughts? Well, maybe now Ghostcrawler will have enough staff on hand so that patches can have both raid and dungeon content instead of these unquestionably artificial “dilemmas.” ¿Por qué no los dos?
The normally sanguine Syp thinks Blizzard should scrap Titan altogether due to the risk:
Blizzard cares deeply about its reputation and position as an industry leader. That’s another obstacle, because any stumble, no matter how small, will be taken and used as a weapon against it by capricious gamers. For example, while Diablo III has sold quite well and boasts a healthy population of players, the error 37 and auction house debacles have damaged the game’s reputation while slapping some egg on the face of the studio. Blizzard has had to learn humility over the past couple of years, and it is odd and unnerving to see this formerly arrogant company stuttering out apologies.
His point about holding Blizzard to higher standards is absolutely true, and the Diablo 3 point is especially apt.
Indeed, I am starting to think this Titan decision makes more sense coming from the other direction. What if it was not so much that Titan’s design was terrible or out-dated (having ostensively been drafted pre-mobile, pre-F2P), but rather it was not good enough to justify the loss of 70 top-quality developers for years?
One of the more frustrating realities of game design from the consumer perspective is that current success pays for future projects instead of being reinvested. While it isn’t that big a deal when it comes to single-player games, it’s huge when it comes to MMOs. Just think about the following:
We first reported on Titan back in 2011. Blizzard chief operating officer Paul Sams told us in an interview that “we have taken some of our most experienced developers and put them on [Titan]. We believe we have a dream team. These are the people who made World of Warcraft a success. We are going to blow people’s minds.” [emphasis added]
They had the very designers that crafted WoW into the 8+ million subscription engine it was back in 2004 tied to an unreleased (and now scrapped) game for the last X years. People joked about Ghostcrawler being a part of the B Team for a long time, of course, although I honestly do not have much against the guy. But regardless of where you fall on the WoW line, really think about that alternate universe where the original team was never split. What kind of game would WoW have been? What could we be playing today? Would it still be shedding over a million subs in a quarter?
So that’s my wild, out-of-my-ass idle speculation of the day: the old version of Titan might have been perfectly serviceable, but not crazy-good enough to justify keeping 70 people tied up when the rest of the boat(s) are taking on water. This is Activision Blizzard, after all, home of the billion dollar franchises. The Blizzard half cannot simply expect investors to be patient with Call of Duty and Skylanders propping up an ailing WoW to buy time for a Titan-ic (har har) gamble.
In spite of its age, WoW could be doing just fine as a money-printing machine. It just needs more and better things. And more agile developers. And server merges. Hopefully this transfusion of developers will be enough juice to keep the engine pumping.
Right after yesterday’s complaints, the following notes go up:
- Experience needed to increase from level 85 to level 90 has been reduced by 33%.
- Reduced the number of Lesser Charms of Good Fortune needed for the Mogu Runes of Fate weekly quest to 50, down from 90.
- Players no longer need to have defeated Grand Empress Shek’zeer to enter the Terrace of Endless Spring in Normal difficulty.
- Shado-Pan and The August Celestials daily quests no longer have a faction prerequisite to be Revered with the Golden Lotus.
Technically, the last one has been in there a while, if you haven’t noticed before.
Anyway, nice try, Ghostcrawler, but it’s too little, too late for me. Maybe when the next expansion is 50% off, I’ll dip my toe in again like I did this last time. Then again, maybe not.
I may have reached the end of my second run of WoW.
As was the case last time, there was no clear death knell, no final straw, no slap in the proverbial face. Forensic evidence would probably suggest that my decline in activity can be traced back to the 5.2 announcement. At that point, I stopped bothering with LFR, knowing that I could endure the same long queues for 20+ better ilevel gear in a few weeks. I was also pretty much geared in all 483s anyway, much to the chagrin of my less fortunate guild survivors.
5.2 reinvigorated several things for me, including reaching some of the reputation milestones on alts that I would have dismissed out of hand as ridiculous previously. There were some underlying truths about myself I started to realize however:
- A healthy variety of dailies is 100% meaningless. Blizzard seems to think that 15 dailies out of a pool of 90 is somehow more palatable than the same 15 over and over. But… dailies are dailies. Unless a certain daily quest is particularly odious, such as having to kill a hard elite solo (the Pyrestar Demolisher), all daily quests blur together into a gray slurry of virtual obligation.
- Between the lack of interesting Black Market Auction House wares (which has admittedly improved in 5.2) and the BoP-crafting material economy, it is difficult to maintain interest in even lucrative AH shenanigans. As I continued canceling and re-listing cut gems and other goods day in and day out, I asked myself what exactly I imagine myself doing with this almost 400k gold. Buy something… but buy what? The lack of 476+ BoE weapons particularly was annoying. Yes, I could run LFR a bunch of times or even Honor farm, but all this gold was supposed to save me time, at least theoretically. If time = money, then money = time, does it not?
- I continued playing long after I no longer experienced any fun because of the possibility that things might change in the future. Which is quite a bizarre feat of circular reasoning, if you think about it. I have 76 pieces of Imperial Silk, for example, because if I suddenly developed a resurgence in interest, my future self would have more fun with all these accumulated mats (which you cannot really get any other way). It reminded me of how I behaved in my Middle School history course: the teacher handed out a week’s worth of worksheets on Monday, and I always completed them that very evening so I could slack off the rest of the week.
- The Legendary quest backfired big time, at least for me. By the time 5.2 came out, I had 2 Sigils of Power and 14 Sigils of Wisdom. With an average ilevel of 491, I was faced with the prospect of slogging through half a dozen or more DPS queues for the starter LFR raids, getting 476 vendor trash… if I was lucky! And then what? 6000 Valor? The questline might not have been “required” for anything I was doing, but it certainly felt more in-your-face “you are falling behind” than I ever felt before about, say, a raid-only reputation or heroic valor gear, by the very virtue of its accessibility.
- Once I got over the initial trepidation of skipping a day’s worth of cooldowns and AH re-listings, it actually became more difficult to convince myself to log back on at all. I had already “lost a day” that I would never get back. So… why bother? I skipped logging in one Saturday, and suddenly half the week is gone with nary a fuck given.
As with the last time I unsubscribed, I do not begrudge Blizzard and crew anything in particular. Well, maybe for the shit-hole of a no-pop server that they continue to allow to exist, to the detriment of all the lost souls trapped in Auchindoun-US’s hellish purgatory. But beyond that, most everything else I see as an improvement over prior design. Heroic scenarios sound like a great feature, and would have been custom-made for the 2-3 of my friends that actually managed to log on these past few weeks. Similarly, I am/was looking forward to being able to choose which spec to gear up in LFR, regardless of current role.
But… well. I could quite literally be playing any one of a hundred other videogames right now; games already purchased and with no subscription fee. More than the money though, I am looking forward to having the mental space back. It’s… liberating, in a way that cannot be described to someone whom has not had that same sort of mental real estate spoken for and suddenly vacated.
Patch 5.3 is up on the PTR. You can look at the notes here. Nothing too crazy… just the removal of Resilience from PvP gear, gear scaling in BGs and Arenas (!!!), and LFR off-spec rolls (plus increasing chance of bonus loot based on bad luck). You know, the usual.
- Players can now choose to receive loot for a specialization that’s different from their current class role. This feature could be accessed by right-clicking on the character portrait and selecting the option from the drop-down list. Loot specialization is available for bonus rolls, Raid Finder, and Pandarian quest rewards.
- Protection for bad luck streaks have been added to bonus rolls. Each bonus roll that does not provide loot has a progressively better chance to award loot to the player.
- Additional information and explanation for the reasoning behind PvP changes will be available very soon.
- All characters now have a base Resilience of 65%.
- Resilience has been removed from most PvP gear.
- Season 13 Tyrannical gear had their item levels increased to ilevel 496, up from ilevel 493.
- Season 13 Tyrannical Elite gear had their item levels decreased to ilevel 496, down from ilevel 512.
- Battlegrounds, Rated Battlegrounds, and Arenas now have an ilevel cap. All gear will be scaled down to ilevel 496.
Feels like the 5.2 PTR was just three weeks ago, doesn’t it? I suppose Blizzard wasn’t kidding around (finally) about accelerated release schedules.
I first heard about Blizzard’s decision to not release any new 5-man dungeons this expansion from The Grumpy Elf, and confirmed from this post on MMO-Champion. The interview itself is written in Foreigner, so I will just have to take the translation at face value.
On many levels, Blizzard’s decision makes sense. The revamped ZA and ZG heroics in Cataclysm were (true to title) a disaster, reducing entire tiers of content down to all trolls, all the time. New 5-mans were handled a bit better back in Wrath when integrated into the normal rotation, but even then you could experience wild swings in difficulty depending on whether you got Gundrak or Halls of Reflection (shudder).
Had Blizzard released new 5-mans in Mists, it could have shaken out in only two ways. One: the dungeon(s) still dropped 463 gear, at which point it would be largely irrelevant to everyone. Or, two: it released 476 or higher gear, and now nobody wants to run the obsoleted dungeons again (assuming they wanted to in the first place). And besides, in a world with LFR, there is little reason to double-down on raid catch-up mechanisms, right?
On the other hand… does this not strike anyone as profoundly lazy?
Let it sink in. There will be no new dungeons in 5.3, nor 5.4, nor a potential 5.5. There will be hundreds more garbage daily quests in which the writers don’t even bother papering over the naked time-sinking, of course. Will anyone still be doing Shieldwall dailies in 5.3? Or even in this patch, for that matter? Is all that “content” being obsoleted worse than a 5-man? There are a lot of in-game cinematics and lore going on in Krasarang Wilds, after all. It strikes me as odd that your dailies change from patch to patch, but the daily dungeons never will.
Then, I start thinking about the existence of 5-man dungeons to begin with. Why have them at all? Scenarios offer 50 Valor now (compared to 80 from LFG). And, most importantly, offer DPS players an instant queue. If LFR has replaced heroic dungeons as a raid catch-up mechanism, have Scenarios not usurped dungeons by the same token? The only thing holding Scenarios back is the asinine reward mechanism in the form of a random-stat blue item from the box (when it isn’t empty). Seriously, I got a 2H agility axe yesterday. Neither druids nor monks can use axes, so it amounts to wand with strength on it.
Simply migrate all heroic dungeon gear to the random Scenario box, bump the Valor a bit, and now you never have to fashion another 5-man again.
Indeed, from the same interview I referenced before, this paraphrasing emerged:
More scenarios are coming in future patches. We may see very challenging three player scenarios with pretty good rewards.
Speaking of Strength wands, my thoughts then drifted to tank gear. Why should it exist? Blizzard came oh so very close to obsoleting all tanking gear this expansion, probably by accident. Indeed, up until the 5.2 changes, Dodge and Parry were the two worst stats for a Protection paladin. The two worst! For a tank! Since it seems “active mitigation” is here to stay, why not simply go all the way? Critical Strike rating is the only thing that marks something as being “for DPS only,” and it is a simple enough thing to add a passive to tanks where critical hits procs a Dodge buff or something. While there might be an increased competition for gear between tanks and DPS… oh wait, individual loot. Problem solved. And if necessary, Blizzard could keep the gem/enchanting situation the same, so that a tank in full DPS gear could gem for Stamina or whatever to differentiate himself/herself.
I am not trying to craft a reductio ad absurdum here. I am just asking what the actual point of 5-man content is supposed to be under this new “build some once and done” paradigm. Are they necessary for anything anymore? “Practice for raiding?” I don’t know if anyone would agree that they have such an effect, if they ever did. Group content is handled by Scenarios or daily island hellholes stuffed with overlapping elite mobs. Dungeons are almost quaint these days, vestigial relics propped up only by their rewards. If Scenarios offed 80 Valor, would anyone run dungeons? What if the box at the end dropped spec-appropriate gear from the dungeons?
This is how close we are: mere inches. The slightest of nudges, and we could be upon unknown soil. And, perhaps, not even notice a difference.