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Ghetto Transfer + Twitter

Has it occurred to anyone else that the free level 90 character Blizzard is handing out in Warlords of Draenor can be used as a ghetto faction/server transfer? If not, well, consider it. My old crew transferred away from Auchindoun to a PvE server during the half-off sale, so the possibility of server mergers “Connected Realms” bringing us back together is nil. I mean, we could still do some cross-realm things, but it’s not quite the same.

But I was thinking the other day about what would stop me from just straight-up rolling a new level 90 paladin on their server come expansion release. Other than the monk, all my other alts are level 85 at a minimum, so boosting any of them would be a waste. Achievements, mounts, pets, most titles, and even heirlooms are account-wide now or will soon be. About the only thing I “lose” is the ability to transfer 50,000g and my old-world mats. And, I guess, my transmog gear. Since I ran Black Temple long enough to get the Bulwark of Azzinoth (and a hopeless dream), that would suck to lose.

For other people though, the level 90 thing could provide value in all sorts of surprising ways.

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Also! After the frustration of not being able to relate my awesomeness in Hearthstone the moment it occurs (e.g. all the goddamn time), I have dusted off my Twitter account:

Azuriel
@InAnAge

I’ll keep it over in the sidebar, but I make no promises as to its updating schedule or value of its contents. So… basically it’ll be like every Twitter account ever. But if you want to know how #AllSkill it felt dropping an Alexstraza against a Druid at full HP and then killing him next turn when I gave her Windfury, well, you just might be prepared.

The Next Xbox May Have Always-Online Requirement

The rumormill is a-churning away on this piece of news:

“Unless something has changed recently,” one of the sources told us over email, “Durango consumer units must have an active internet connection to be used.”

Durango is the codename for the next-gen Xbox.

“If there isn’t a connection, no games or apps can be started,” the source continued. “If the connection is interrupted then after a period of time–currently three minutes, if I remember correctly–the game/app is suspended and the network troubleshooter started.”

Lending a sort of credence to the entire affair, and once again proving that people become drooling morons on Twitter, is this series of Tweets from the Microsoft Creative Director, Adam Orth. I will go ahead and transcribe them here instead of just posting pictures of tweets like the dozen lazy websites I checked before realizing that no one else was going to do it:

Sorry, I don’t get the drama around having an “always on” console. Every device now is “always on”. That’s the world we live in. #dealwithit

I want every device to be “always on”.

Alex Wells: Off the top of my head I know 5 people who own 360′s who current have no access to the internet. They would be screwed.

@TheonlyAlexW Those people should definitely get with the time and get the internet. It’s awesome.

Manveerheir: Did you learn nothing from Diablo III or SimCity? You know some people’s internet goes out right? Deal with it is a shitty reason.

@manveerheir Electricity goes out too.

Sometimes the electricity goes out. I will not purchase a vacuum cleaner.

The mobile reception in the area I live in is spotty and unreliable. I will not buy a mobile phone.

Microsoft apologized for the tweets by someone “not a spokesman for Microsoft” a day later.

Personally, I feel this is one of those rumors stupid enough to be true. Microsoft is already requiring the Kinect to be running the entire time the Xbox 720 is on, because somehow it’s important to Microsoft for there to be a camera trained on your living room the entire time you are playing Halo 5. Besides, this is not even the first time we have heard about this – here is an article back in February from an insider saying that Xbox games will require an online activation code and installation to the HD, thereby making the disc worthless to anyone else. It is not much of a leap to go from online activation keys to always-online.

Lost in all of this, of course, is what possible benefit there is to the consumer. Always-Online is not a feature, no matter how hard EA’s COO spins it, it’s a restriction. You have to be online to pay an MMO, or PlanetSide 2, or whatever other multiplayer game, yes, but that is because those individuals are not in your house. The single-player campaign or indie game or whatever is in your house and doesn’t require outside intervention except arbitrarily. Remember the SimCity fiasco? There were zero server-side calculations, or at least calculations that needed to be sent out to EA’s bank of super-computers (…lol) to process. Even if you could argue that Leaderboards or cloud saving were worthwhile features, no rational arguments were given as to why they could not simply have been optional.

Adam Orth’s analogy with cell phones is particularly instructive in regards to these corporate drones’ idiotic thought processes. Does your smartphone simply shut down and become unusable the moment you lose coverage? Or can you continue playing Angry Birds or taking photos or listening to music you saved to the device? Whether I am always-online already or not, there is no benefit to the requirement.

In any case, I cannot possibly imagine a better advertisement for the PS4 than the next Xbox coming out with an always-online requirement. Will it sway a majority of people away from the Xbox? Probably not. But as the margins in the console business continue getting slimmer, perhaps there will be enough losses that these anti-consumer practices will stop making their way out of the fevered wet dreams of CFOs everywhere.

And if not, well, there is always the $99 Ouya, right?

Entrenchment

I have been collecting some of the Ghostcrawler tweets in regards to MoP alt-unfriendliness and the overall Blizzard pivot away from alts and back to mains, e.g. entrenchment of old subs vs new ones.

Q: Is the plan in Mists to have raiders go through each raid and let the new ones pile up or use LFR to leapfrog tiers?
A: Want to err on the side of the former. If you want to do 5.2 raid, you can gear up in 5.0 LFR. (source)

Q: Upgradeable gear is okay for honor gear, but it shouldn’t be for Conquest, as it’ll take months to catch up. Thoughts?
A: Problem with catch up (PvE or PvP) is it encourages everyone to play less. We like playing more to feel like it’s worth it. (source)

Q. is there any point in forcing people to be revered with golden lotus to do shado pan dailies?
A. Didn’t want fresh 90s to have to do GL and K and AC and SP and go crazy, then finish in a month and have nothing to do. (source)

Q. Do you want people to be entertained or do you want people to grind? For many the two are mutually exclusive.
A. Big challenge to MMO dev: players say they want quality but may also unsubscribe if they don’t have enough quantity. (source)

Q: How do you feel about the players getting to 90 just now and not being able to play arena competitively due to being behind
A: We want to reward players who keep playing. Too often in the past catch up was so easy that it trivialized accomplishments. (source)

Q. But you brought this trivialization of content yourselves starting with patch 3.2 >.> … what have you learned since then?
A. We learned not to let players catch up so trivially that it negates everyone else’s accomplishments. (source)

Q. Greg, you need to stop blaming the wrong things for cataclysm failures. Catch up mechanics dont hurt the game
A. We just disagree on that. I understand you have very strong feelings about how things should work. (source)

Q. efficiency is more fun than non-efficiency. non-efficiency = time wasting = frustration.
A. I don’t buy it. Some of the most fun things in life are stupidly inefficient. I think being inefficient in an MMO is a social thing. (source)
A. We call it the Mechanar syndrome. Players didn’t farm Mechanar because it was our crowning achievement in dungeon design. (source)

Q: linear progression was the worst idea you ever could return to.. you leave behind lots of alt-players and returners.
A. We understand that. But the alternative is that other players feel their accomplishments have no meaning if rapid catch up exists. (source)

I am having a difficult time trying to comprehend at which station Ghostcrawler’s logic train got derailed. “Catch-up” mechanics do not invalidate accomplishments; new raiding tiers do. Nobody cares about your Tier N achievements when Tier N+1 comes out, because why would they? Progression and envy are ever-moving targets, so “catch-up” is irrelevant to those desiring one or the other (or both). So we are left with… who? The people disappointed that their hard, planned obsolescent work was rendered meaningless by the next patch but “oh wait, at least I can try the next tier right away so it was worth something“?

No, it just doesn’t fit. What fits is that in the very nervous design meeting that took place two years ago when Cata was hemorrhaging players, it was decided that every goddamn trick in the book to extend playing time was tossed up on the Mists whiteboard. Burning Crusade slideshows were dusted off and replayed. “Things for Player to Do at Cap” was underlined, twice. Removing catch-up mechanisms does, in fact, “generate” several additional raid playthroughs that would not have existed otherwise. But in that TBC playbook, Blizzard glossed over the postmortem section that warned “You can never go home again.”

Raids (etc) have shelf-lives independent of their necessity for linear progression; old raids become mentally reduced to roadblocks, just something you have to endure on your way to where you actually want to be, i.e. with everyone else. It’s tough being proud of accomplishments nearly everyone else achieved months ago, nevermind how the first boss of the next tier has drops that blows your endgame gear out of the water. And this is besides the fact that the longer the raid has aged, the smaller the pool of people willing/available to run it. Queues go up. Mistakes are less tolerated. It becomes a vicious, decaying spiral… which is precisely why the “Current Tier” model of Wrath and Cata was the better design.

I get that people are sad that raids like Ulduar become irrelevant in mere months. But that happens even in linear progression models! Ulduar ceases to be Ulduar when the people zoning in are just there to get a high enough ilevel to unlock ToC. The magic of these places is not wholly contained in the encounters themselves, but in the Time as well. Being there when the whole server was struggling to defeat the same bosses, congratulating each other on loot, and knowing that each gear drop was the best in the game (at that time). That was when Ulduar was Ulduar.

You can’t go home again.

So, yeah. I don’t buy it, Ghostcrawler. Even if the devs truly believe they are going back to linear progression out of deference to the high school quarterbacks of the moot accomplishment world, they are going about it in the wrong way. iLevel gating was a huge improvement over attunements precisely because it was more flexible. Removing or reducing the catch-up mechanisms is simply bringing back the Keys, complete with all its (alt-unfriendly) baggage. If Mists does not lose players over this – relegating the new player or recently returned to the back of the bus under mountains of required, outdated content – it will be because other areas of the game improved enough to compensate.

Of Station Cash and Shift Codes

If you were not already aware, SoE is running a Triple Station Cash day this Friday, the 21st of December. The normal exchange rate is basically 500 SC = $5, so this is a pretty outstanding deal… provided you are into SoE games like, I dunno, PlanetSide 2. I already picked up two $15 prepaid cards at Walmart, which comes with a bonus 500 SC on top of the book value of 1500 SC. On Triple Station Cash days, each $15 card gives 6000 SC. With 23 hours already invested in the game, I figure $30 to unlock (nearly) ALL the things is fair play. If I hold out until another weapon promotion (e.g. they bundle 4-6 weapons together at a discount), those dollars stretch even farther.

In other news, if you have been playing Borderlands 2 lately (or stopped and plan on picking it back up), you should know that they dropped a Shift Code on their Twitter feed that awards 5 Golden Keys. Additionally, there is another Shift code as part of their Claptrap video promotion, bringing the total Golden Key haul to 6. If you have Borderlands 2 on PC, I’ll go ahead and save you some clicks:

  • 5 Keys: WT5TB-XC5ZC-CX3T3-BBT3B-B35WB
  • 1 Key: KJ5BT-FBKSK-KXJ3T-3BTJT-FJX5C

I haven’t played Borderlands 2 in a few weeks, but plan on booting it back up when the next DLC rolls around (I have the Season Pass); this amount of free uber-gear was enough to get me to log back in to at least redeem the codes. To be honest, I have been increasingly amazed that Gearbox hasn’t been selling Golden Keys for $1 apiece or whatever, as there was definitely a time period in which I would have bought some. On the other hand, I sort through their Twitter feed on a daily basis on the hunt for Shift Codes, so I guess that comes out as a bigger win for them.

Misleading Product Titles

Out of all the possible game launch issues, I find this one especially embarrassing:

Burn Level: Well-done

By the way, having to scan a Twitter feed for bug updates to a problem acknowledged on Facebook is perhaps the least responsible use of social media technology ever. I am talking 1998 Geocities auto-playing MIDIs level of ridiculousness.

Some people have said they can get in/make guilds. Good for you. It has not worked for my small band of players as of this posting, and it is still listed as a bug on the Guild Wars 2 webpage. The good news is that ArenaNet has a workaround!

Sounds eerily similar to how I got my CompSci 150 final project to compile.

I would almost be tempted to try that if WvW for my server had not been in a permanent queue since the pre-launch happened.

On a final note, I take back every good thing I said about one-server games. See, I enjoy(ed) the fact that you can have a name with spaces in Guild Wars 2; it gives you more options, allows for some creativity, naming-schemes, and so on. But the more I think about it, the more asinine it feels to require unique names across the entirety of the playerbase on every server everywhere. We already have the equivalent of “Battletags” for use on the forums and our accounts (e.g. Bob.4375), so why require unique names? The more successful the game is, the more annoying this problem becomes. And it is not as though this is some kind of technological problem: Blizzard has been doing this cross-realm shit for years, nevermind whoever did it before them.

This name thing is especially an annoyance to me in terms of guilds. I liked the name Invictus, in spite of it being a fairly common guild name and yet another “Ominous Latin Noun” (which is itself an ironically standard name). But, no. Some random guy in Wisconsin six servers away claimed ownership first, now and forever, leaving me with choices like The Invictus, XxInvictusxX, Invictus 2: First Blood, and a cavalcade of increasingly poor choices. Is it entitlement to simply desire the ability to title the group of friends you are hanging out with? Maybe.

Then again, the name of the goddamn game is Guild Wars 2, so you would assume that… well, nevermind.

P.S. While I was researching whether guild names are indeed unique across all servers, I came across this interview that I must have missed. It is somewhat topical given the raised eyebrows surrounding the news that some guy hit level 80 in GW2 before the official launch date:

Post: Guild Wars 2 has a maximum level cap of 80 — which is pretty damn high. And with high level caps, there’s always a feeling that players need to grind their butts off. Is there anything in place to prevent that urge or need to grind?

Eric Flannum: We regard leveling as a good measure of progress and not as the ultimate goal of the game. There is an amount of time at which a single level becomes useless as a measure of progress because you can’t make significant gains in a single play session. We are continuing to tweak and tune just how long we think that is but we currently put it at around 90 minutes. Since we aren’t interested in leveling as an end goal this allows us to cap our leveling time at around the 90 minute mark. This means that our leveling curve flattens out relatively early in the game. For example it currently takes about the same amount of time to progress from 79 to 80 as it does to go from 49 to 5o. This allows us to avoid the grind often associated with the later levels in an MMO. (source)

The flat leveling curve is not news, but I was not aware ArenaNet specifically put a 90-minute target down. That is about 120 hours until 80, or roughly 1.5 months if you play ~20 hours/week. Dunno if they revised those numbers since that interview, but it certainly feels a little bit faster than that. And that “we’re not interested in leveling as an end goal” certainly strikes me as a bit amusing since Diablo 3 very publicly turned an aboutface on that very issue just last week.