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Verdict

It was a bad stick of RAM.

No, seriously.

In retrospect, a kinda “duh” moment. I mean, I had never before knew that bad RAM could make your PC just hard shutdown and (presumably) burn a graphics card. At the same time, I did get Furmark and a CPU tester to run for 15+ minutes using my 560ti card without a crash for a while there, with all temps being normal. Plus, I replaced the PSU and the PC booted up (before crashing later). All that was really left was a RAM issue.

I declined the $30 labor costs to install new RAM, but went ahead and spent $60ish to get the Microcenter guys to remove my liquid cooler on the CPU and install a mid-line fan. I’m a parsimonious miser for most things, but even I have my limits – possibly squirting liquid coolant all over my machine or having to disassemble my own rig to prevent that, is one of the lines.

As mentioned though, the 970 card is definitely still dead. I just submitted an RMA request and we’ll see what they say. It’s within the 2-year warranty period, but I’m a “worst-case scenario” kind of guy when it comes to corporations. I’m guessing this will be a 2-3 week process, at best.

In the meantime… well, WoW works perfectly fine with the 560ti. And isn’t crashing anymore. Which has allowed me to convert all but 100k or so of my in-game gold into $180 Blizzard credit.

So yeah. There’s that.

WoW Tokens = Blizzard Cash

Blizzard finally did it. You can turn WoW Tokens into Battle.net Balance:

wowtoken

The end and the beginning.

I actually resubbed to WoW (using a token) just for the ability to quickly capitalize on the process. I say “quickly” for two reasons. First, because I almost couldn’t believe that Blizzard went with a $15 per token rate. Considering that 30 days of game time is already $15, there isn’t actually any reason not to just convert them all straight away.

The second reason is because the gold price of these tokens would skyrocket. And they have:

wowtokenprice

Up and down.

In fact, there were no tokens available for purchase last night; I kept getting an error message each time I tried. Which makes sense, considering that all of the goblins of the world finally have an outlet for their millions of gold. Blizzard has enough fingers in genre pies these days to cover most of the bases – DotA, ARPG, MMO, FPS, CCG, etc – so there is probably something for everyone.

Luckily (or unluckily depending on when you bought some), the price has since dropped down. Not all the way back down, but nearly 30k gold. The fun part of that graph from WoWtoken.info is how it exposes Blizzard’s pricing algorithm. As demand skyrocketed, the price of a token never exceeded +3.04% per hour. Conversely, as more tokens entered the market, the price never decreased faster than -2.98% per hour. At least, that’s what the graph shows.

As for me, my $120+ balance is likely to be spent transferring characters from the dead server of Auchindoun-US over to the high-pop server my “main” is on. At current rates, I could move… four. Out of ten. Considering that it costs Blizzard nothing to do this automated process, they are essentially capitalizing on the removal of future financial obligations (e.g. game time) for free.

Hmm. Perhaps I shall wait until another one of those 50% off sales on character transfers…

Cyber Black Fronday

This past Thanksgiving break was actually the busiest I’ve had in years, so I have not had much time for anything other than commutes and carbs.

The Haul

Pretty much the only thing I’ve bought during the various sales was Battlefield 1 for about $30. It was the physical edition, because retailers collude with the game industry to keep digital sales nonexistent, so I won’t actually receive it until sometime this week.

Time will tell whether BF1 will keep my attention for as long as BF2/3/4 did. A lot of people talk about how much better it is when there aren’t 37 people with lock-on rocket launchers running around, but I liked being one of those guys with the niche loadouts to harass the pros who otherwise get 70-1 scores with the goddamn attack helicopters. So we’ll see where I fall in the BF1 department.

Perhaps more than what I bought, it’s interesting as to what I didn’t purchase. For example: Titanfall 2 for $28. One, I thought it a bit silly to buy both Titanfall 2 and BF1 at the same time. Two, I’ve kinda already learned my lesson from last time. It’s not so much the prognostication regarding the PC population as it is concerns about matchmaking in general, the fact that some game modes already struggle to pop, and the wirehead nature of the gameplay. I dunno. Perhaps the bottom line is that my breakpoint on this game is not $28. Maybe $20.

There were some particularly good deals on things like the PS4 (an Uncharted bundle for $212), but I passed for the same reason I always pass on consoles: I don’t end up playing them. I still have a backlog on the PS3, let alone getting a new console. I feel like if I get back into couch gaming, I’ll have to upgrade the TV to make it the same equivalent size to my current monitor, or bust out the projector again, but that’s way too much work. Much easier to do nothing.

WoW Projects

I officially unlocked Draenor flying.

WoW_DraenorFlying.jpg

Whew.

So, what now? Well… I dunno. I have been logging on, doing some of the more lucrative dailies, and most recently running some old raids for transmog gear. I’m pretty sure WoW is going to fall to the wayside once Battlefield 1 arrives, and then we’ll see. I mean, I can’t really level any other characters, and I want to see where this WoW Token Battle.net balance thing goes besides.

ItsHappening.gif

From the latest 7.1.5 build:

  • TOKEN_CONSUMABLE_DESCRIPTION_30_DAYS_BALANCE (New) – Use: Adds 30 days of game time to your World of Warcraft account or %s to your Battle.net Balance.

Time will tell how much the WoW Tokens convert into. Many seem to think it will convert into a standard $15 amount, same as a normal subscription. That makes a sort of elegant sense. I was kinda hoping that it converts into enough to cover an entire Server Transfer (currently the outrageous $25), as that means moving two toons would require four Tokens with some remainder, or perhaps three and a $5 bill thrown in. Of course, that’s not going to happen given they went the Battle.net balance route, unless Server Transfer costs go down.

Anyway, when I got wind of the WoW Token update, I quickly bought up as many Tokens as I could:

WoW_Token1.jpg

Pictured: Blizzard cutting me off.

I have five WoW Tokens on the druid now, and presumably five more somewhere. Current prices?

wow_token2

Nearly a 6000g discount.

Of course, it’s always possible that Blizzard doesn’t make current WoW Tokens “backwards compatible” with their new functions. In which case… shit. I guess I have 10 months of free WoW time? That said, I’m pretty sure Blizzard isn’t going to confuse the issue by having very similar but different functioning Tokens. I imagine the Fiscal department over in Irvine would prefer getting WoW Tokens out of players’ bags via Account Services rather than needing to defer possible months’ worth of subscriptions anyway.

So, we’ll see how it shakes out.

Arbitrary Projects

Have you ever just sort of watched yourself play games, Ouija Board-style? That is sort of where I am with WoW at the moment. I log in, and… just see what transpires. I have no express goal anymore, stuck as I am in a holding pattern for either the WoW Token –> Server Transfer change, or some other solo questing content that doesn’t require 80 quest items from heroic dungeons.

The results have been interesting. For example, I am apparently unlocking flying in Draenor.

Believe me, I don’t know either. But it’s a nice, relatively straight-forward project with discrete checkboxes and otherwise tangible progress towards a goal. The Reputation part would technically be the most annoying, but I have been checking the AH periodically for those Medallions of the Legion, and have accumulated quite a few. So, for now, I am focusing on one zone per play session, knocking it out, and then following up with 1-2 of the “Securing Draenor” areas. Depending on my mood and the arc of the stars, this should be completed in around a week or two.

The Draenor flying project occurred after I power-leveled my warlock alt through Draenor proper, and got stuck in the abject hell that is Legion on an imbalanced PvP server. The power-leveling part was actually fun setting up. With a Potion of the Rapid Mind, full heirlooms, Potion of Accelerated Learning, and Darkmoon Faire buff… each Bonus Objective in Gorgrond gave approximately half a level. If you complete them all aside from 1-2 required mobs, then complete all the quests in the area (without turning them in), you can snag the maximum amount of XP possible in Gorgrond within that 15-minute Rapid Mind window, which is basically enough to go from 93-100 in one go.

Provided, of course, you don’t get ganked along the way.

I have been somewhat lucky in the avoiding-the-gank department thus far. Almost all the pointless attempts on my life have been while on my paladin. Just yesterday, I was attacked by a 110 Balance druid in Spires of Arak at a quest hub on my 102 namesake paladin. I bubbled and hit a hearth button… which ended up being the extra hearth you get for having an Inn in Spires, so I was really just teleported 200 yards south. The druid knew this somehow, as it was 30 seconds later when I heard the guards starting to aggro. I tried to log off, but apparently the Inn doesn’t actually count as an Inn, so I had the long, 20-second log-off timer. Not sure what the base looks like from a Horde perspective, but the druid clipped through the wall, trailing 30+ guards, and was trying to take me out with Moonfire spam as my low health warning sirens blaring.

I logged into an alt for a few minutes, then back onto the paladin. I was alive with a 15-second Sunfire DoT still on me. Never have I felt more satisfaction logging into a character.

Well, other than on any of my characters on Sargeras, who have practically zero concern over whether there are Horde in the area.

So yeah, let’s hope that WoW Token thing comes sooner rather than later. Or, you know, perhaps Blizzard could merge more servers together with the focus on actually balancing them instead of letting shit get so lopsided.

More BlizzCon Impressions

I neither went nor watched the BlizzCon festivities, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express read MMO-Champ. So here are all the tidbits from the coverage that I was interested in:

Patch 7.1.5 is coming

The first thing that I found amusing about the Patch 7.1.5 news is that it was described as a “small” patch. If you want to see a small patch, check out 6.1, eh?

In any case, the Panderia Time-Walking dungeons might be good for some people, but the bigger news is that the Brawler’s Guild is returning. I kinda missed the feature entirely when it was released, and only recently got interested after they took it back away. It’s goofy side content from what I understand, but hey, I have two quests for it already, so let’s bring it back.

The other intriguing change in 7.1.5 is that Artifact Knowledge will be “purchasable” at least up to level 10, if not higher. This is huge news for alts, whom have otherwise been hosed this entire expansion. Time will tell what form this “purchase” takes – Order Resources, Blood of Sargeras, gold? – but whatever it is should be relatively easy to overcome with a main running WQs.

Finally, Blizzard mentioned that 7.1.5 will be going on the PTR immediately after BlizzCon, then Live soon after. How soon is Soon(tm)? I want to say “not soon enough,” but honestly Nighthold is not even active yet, and that’s in the current patch. Will all these changes be rolling out before LFR even gets the last Nighthold boss unlocked? It certainly sounds that way. Which is kinda weird.

Patch 7.2 is coming

Biggest news is, of course, that Flying is getting unlocked in 7.2. I have already jumped through the Legion Pathfinder, Part 1 hoops, so I should be in good shape for whatever nonsense is required in Part 2. Word from Blizzard is that it won’t require any group content, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be tedious.

The Tomb of Sargeras raid will open up, with Kil’Jaeden being the confirmed last boss. Which is interesting for all sorts of reasons, which I will touch on later.

What is definitely interesting to me is the introduction of “PvP Brawls.” The concept was first introduced in Hearthstone and then Overwatch later, and now we see it migrating to WoW. In short, Blizzard is finally letting its hair down and introducing more free-form experiments in game modes. 15×15 Arenas? Tarren Mill vs Southshore? Bring them on.

This is a fairly big deal because it allows Blizzard to essentially playtest these game concepts without their typical perfectionist straight-jacket. Things not work out? Oh well, it’ll rotated out next week. Blizzard has used this test bed to good effect in Hearthstone, as it resulted in Discover – by far the best card effect introduced since the game’s release. Perhaps we’ll eventually see that Arathi Basin bridge deathmatch mode that we have all wanted for years.

Patch 7.2.5 is coming

We haven’t heard much about 7.2.5 other than it will exist. Which is nice to know. Especially since it appears that we have another bombshell waiting in the wings:

Patch 7.3 is coming?

MMO-Champion just sort of teased the news, but Legion will legitimately have a patch 7.3 and we will legitimately be heading to Argus, according to a Polygon interview with Ion Hazzikostas. And then he had this to say:

“It felt like the right time,” Hazzikostas said. “I don’t know if Argus would hold up as an expansion in and of itself. We could make up a whole lot of ecologies and things there, but at the end of the day, it would feel like a very one-note, alien expansion.”

Instead, he explained, the developer decided to make Argus the climax to the current expansion. Players will head to the demon world to try to push back this massive force once and for all. He compared it to the ending of one of his favorite games of all time.

“It’s kind of like the end of Mass Effect 2,” said Hazzikostas. “We’ve been fighting on our end. Now we’re going on our suicide mission, because this is the only way to save ourselves.”

That… is pretty fucking cool. I haven’t been this excited about the WoW plot since Wrath.

For those that might not be up on the lore, Argus is the original homeworld of the Draenei, and the Velen, Kil’Jaeden, and Archimonde triad. It is, in fact, considered the “beating heart” of the Burning Legion and its de facto capital. Going there is Big News, and has been speculated for a while to be the location of WoW’s “final” expansion, insofar as it is the most likely place one would encounter Sargeras himself.

The interesting thing is the fact that we are facing Kil’Jaeden in the Tomb of Sargeras in patch 7.2. Argus is supposed to be ruled by Kil’Jaeden personally, which leads to two interesting scenarios. First, perhaps we are invading Argus specifically because it temporarily loses its leader in the 7.2. raid. No sense attacking Kil’Jaeden at the seat of his power, right?

But there is another possibility. Remember how demons, elementals, etc, don’t actually die unless they are killed in the plane they are from? What if part of the reason we head to Argus is to kill Kil’Jaeden again, this time permanently?

Technically, I think Archimonde was sent back to the Twisting Nether after Mount Hyjal, and the jury might still be out regarding what happened to him at the end of Draenor (was he in the Twisting Nether during the final phase?). But still, I find it odd that we’re heading to Argus after Kil’Jaedon’s (presumed) defeat in the Tomb if we aren’t finishing the job. There aren’t any Old Gods on Argus and I find it unlikely that we’ll be facing Sargeras himself – at most, I expect us to sacrifice all our artifacts to keep Sargeras from showing up. So… if not Kil’Jaedon/Archimonde, and not Sargeras, who are we fighting? A bunch of no-name demons?

I was skeptical along with the rest of the universe when it came to Blizzard promising that Legion would actually get supported content through the entire life of the expansion. And honestly, it still might be the case that there is a long content drought after 7.3 and before the next expansion. But, I gotta give credit where it is due: Blizzard is busting some ass. The bar is embarrassingly low for a billion dollar franchise, granted.

But I could get used to this. And certainly am, four WoW Tokens later.

Biggest News from BlizzCon

Let me just lay it on you:

  • They’re looking into making the WoW Token be able to be used for other services as well like Character Transfer, Faction Change, or Battle.net Balance. (source)

You can watch the specific part on Youtube, but the bottom line is that this is coming in the “very near future,” there won’t be different Tokens, e.g. the ones you currently have will work, and this entire thing was what they had planned from the start but wanted to start slow to make sure the system worked.

This news is both incredibly good and probably bad for me. Good because I have a lot of toons trapped on Auchindoun. Bad because I don’t know when this system will be implemented. But because it is, that means I shall leave them trapped until it is implemented. Definitely don’t want to be a chump spending $25 two weeks before I could buy a dozen moves with in-game currency.

More BlizzCon impressions to follow.

Dilemmas, Part 1

Time will tell whether or not that one remaining New Years prediction will come true, but…

WoW_Reactivate

…yeah.

What pushed me over the edge were all the reports about the Legion pre-expansion event XP. I haven’t actually experienced a good expansion event since the lead up to Wrath, so it’s actually surprising that Blizzard hasn’t tried the ole “easy XP” route before. Then again, perhaps they really needed the scaling level tech in place before they were able to. Regardless, since I only ever got one character up to 100 in Warlords, this provided a nice opportunity to boost some of the alts.

Then came the dilemmas.

My primary dilemma is this: I’m still stuck on the low-pop wasteland of Auchindoun-US. The one remaining friend I have who has been playing WoW all this time has server hopped a few times until landing on Sargeras-US in a Mythic-level raiding guild. So… what do I do?

  • A) Choose a new main, pay $25 blood price to transfer, use level 90 & 100 boosts for alts.
  • B) Choose new main, but use level 90 & 100 boosts to create one and an alt.
  • C) Do nothing.

A) is annoying and I don’t want to do it; $25 is absurd, and has always been absurd. Of course, I have 335k gold locked on Auchindoun, so I’d have to start from scratch otherwise. Or take up my friend’s offer of some seed money on Sargeras – he apparently accumulated 1.7 million gold via Garrison farming over the course of the expansion. While I am relatively confident in my ability to pay him back via AH shenanigans, I disliking owing people anything.

B) makes for an interesting situation. Getting an instant 90 and then farming Invasions will quickly get me fully geared and ready for Legion, probably with time to spare to level professions. Or create a level 58 Death Knight, and get that guy boosted via Invasions. The instant 90 will also unlock the ability to get a Demon Hunter, which of course starts at level 98. So between the level boosts and Invasions, it’s entirely possible to get four new max-level characters on an entirely different server with minimum fuss. Minus the gold situation.

C) is actually what I am leaning towards at the moment. Cross-realm tech means I can technically group/dungeon/raid with my friend no matter what server we are on. Mythic raiding is still disabled from what I recall, but the chances I buckle down for the hardcore raiding I swore off of three expansions ago are between zero and Nope. Of course, this means I can’t be in their guild, meaning I miss the chatter and social aspects that (usually) make MMOs worth playing in the first place.

The one wrinkle that bears examining is that Sargareas-US is one of the largest servers in WoW, and it is PvP too. Auchindoun is also PvP, but even with cross-realm activated, the place is generally sparse. In both a A) and B) scenario, I would likely have to contend with queue times near launch and potential ganking 24/7. Something I am not exactly looking forward to.

Hmm. I shall have to ponder some more.

Home is Where My PC Is

And that’s moving today. Around three miles away, but still.

It’s a relatively inconvenient time though, with all the discounts and pre-expansion patches and such.

I was very, very tempted to pop the first of my nine WoW Tokens (purchased over a year ago) on Monday to ensure I wasn’t holding onto goods that would be deprecated. Then I thought through it rationally. “Okay… so I’d be spending a Token worth X amount to save… what? More than X amount?” A year of “lost” Garrison revenue has led me to believe price inflation would have rendered me non-competitive anyway, assuming I even had the time to spend dicking around the AH at the moment. Which I don’t.

Still, I will be in Legion. I haven’t decided if it will be right at the start, or later on like with Draenor.

Meanwhile, the Guild Wars 2 expansion is currently selling for $25 for another week or so. Although my attempts to get back into GW2 earlier this year didn’t go particularly well, I feel that part of that was due to the lack of buy-in. Not necessarily in forcing the feeling of investment per se, but knowing that next to none of the content I had access to would be new. Want to try the Revenant? Nope. See new zone? Denied. Living Story? Sorry, that’ll be a few thousand gems.

On the other hand, half off something I don’t ultimately end up using is 100% wasted. So we’ll see.

The last deal I wanted to mention was that current Humble Bundle in which they are selling Battleborn for basically $15. That’s gotta sting, yeah? From $60 to $15 in 2.5 months. I was tempted to pick it up… for Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel, not for Battleborn. On the other hand, I’ve mainlined Borderlands 2 to the degree that I’m not even sure I want to play that type of game anymore.

Hmm. Perhaps this move hasn’t impacted my purchasing decisions as much as I thought it has.

Next Expansion Surprise

In a rather surprising twist, Blizzard announced it’s expansion announcement will be announced during Gamescon on August 6th. That’s a full three months ahead of Blizzcon, which has been the traditional venue for such news. Speculation abounds for the reasoning behind the early reveal, but I feel Wilhelm is on point with this observation:

[…] the date seems set to come in just after we get the Activision-Blizzard quarterly results for the second quarter of 2015 and, most importantly, the WoW subscription numbers that will come with it.  That hits on August 4th according to the investor relations site.

For the first quarter of 2015 the subscription numbers were down to 7.1 million.  Now there is a rush to get the next expansion announced early in August, a slow news month, well before BlizzCon, and just after the quarterly report?

WHAT A COINCIDENCE.

As mentioned in the MMO-Champ comments, what is also amusing is the hypothetical future in which the next expansion is released by the end of the year. Amusing because the “flying patch” still hasn’t came out yet, and thus we might have (inadvertently?) been put into the “unlock flying in Draenor when the expansion launches” scenario.

But how likely is a December 2015 release really? Blizzard has promised quicker launches for ages now, and I don’t think anyone thinks they are capable of doing so. Even if the August reveal is a fully playable beta… would Blizzard only run an expansion beta for 3-4 months? Maybe. I believe Warlords was 5 months from alpha to beta to release. If we see an expansion announcement in August followed by a beta test after Blizzcon in November, that would set them up for a mid-summer expansion release around the time of the WoW movie. That makes more sense to me… and puts the 6.2 raid tier at 10-12 months long. Just like the good ole’ days.

As for predictions over subscriber numbers? I honestly have no idea. I obviously suspect a large subscriber loss in the last quarter, but I have no idea how the numbers will be finessed by the WoW Token. I have eight such tokens sitting in my inventory right now, for example. Am I counted as a subscriber? Will they continue counting me for eight months despite my not redeeming said tokens? Tough to say.

Just to throw out a number though: 6.5 million.