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Posts Tagged ‘World of Warcraft’

“A $25 Million Dollar Mistake” or “Warlords of… Loading”

November 20, 2014 1 comment

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On November 13, 2014, Warloard of Draenor, the fifth expansion pack for the King-Of-The-Hill MMO launched to great anticipation, and then promptly proceeded to fall flat on it’s face. The servers were unstable, the quests were bugged, the mad rush to 100 by millions of players resulted in the great story metamorphose into rabid click-fests, and to top it all off, a DDoS by script-kiddies strained the server infrastructure even further. The servers were population-capped to deal with some of the stress, which resulted in up to 10-hour queues. I myself sat in a queue for 7 hours and 20 minutes. The fault is not entirely Blizzard’s. In fact, network technicians pulled all-nighters to stabilize the situation. But this is not WoW’s first rodeo, launch stress is not exactly unprecedented, and players flocking to starting zones is not news.

On November 19, 2014, Blizzard announced 5 free days of game for one of the most embarrassing expansion launches in the game’s history.

On November 20, 2014, Blizzard announced that subscriptions were at 10 million, a 2.6 million increase since their last reported number, much to the dismay of competitors’ 10-year quest to see the titan dethroned.

But let’s look at those numbers for a second. 10 million subscribers, at an average of $15 a month is $150 million. If 5/30 of those days in the month are free, that is a flat $25 million dollars. 5 days of game time may seem a small concession to some, but the company has lost $25 million dollars in a heartbeat to try and appease its re-surging customer base.

Bravo!

Categories: Bronte

“Is WoW the WoW-killer?” or “Goliath’s Fall”

September 27, 2012 5 comments

In November, World of Warcraft will celebrate its 8th anniversary. It would have been eight years since we walked, awestruck, through the frozen tundra of Dun Morogh, and the bleak terrain of the Barrens. Spawning endless memes, giving birth to a new revolution in the MMO industry, defining and redefining what an MMO could be, WoW continued to climb in both popularity and subscription numbers for nearly seven years.

Shortly after the release of Cataclysm however, there was a decline. Wired magazine’s Game|Life has a very strong argument for why World of Warcraft has lost its cool, and how evidence suggests that the Goliath in the MMO world may be the cause for its own undoing. Many reasons are cited, from aging technology and a subscription model that audiences no longer connect with in a post-F2P world, to a decline in the mental maturity of the general player base.

It is worth a read, take a look.

Personally I think they need to innovate beyond better looking dungeons, world events and pet battles. The new expansion has a lot of cool features, but it seems to me these features were implemented begrudgingly, only after other MMOs beat them to the chase. For example, in WoW, pre-MoP, you would need to loot everything manually, which was a major time-sink for players of the farming persuasion. SW:TOR came out with AoE looting, and weeks later it was announced as a feature for MoP. Lame.

I think WoW needs to make a big, bold change, and soon. Or Goliath won’t need a David to fall.

“Blizzard Bans Iranian Players” or “Here is a Question Blue”

August 30, 2012 2 comments

Via Joystiq, Blizzard confirms that players in Iran have been denied access to Blizzard servers to play any of their games. This is allegedly part of a larger strategy to make the company, based in the US, more compliant with US laws and regulations. The US currently imposes various economic and political sanctions on Iran because of its controversial nuclear program. As such, Blizzard is refraining from engaging in any trade or economic activity with residents of the country.

Can you imagine how many WoW players just put their fists through their monitors?

This is probably  smart move, but there is a part that really annoyed me. Big Blue is unable to provide “refunds, credits, transfers, or other service options to accounts”. For a company that made a hundred billion and stupid thousand dollars from its games, it seems strange to me that it was OK to take money from people when they were buying your games. Was that not engaging in economic trade with Iran and its residents? If that too was wrong, shouldn’t you return said money? Note that I am not trying to support the dickhead regime that believes the holocaust didn’t happen, just saying it isn’t really the players’ fault.

Played Lately: “OpenRaiding” or “Reapers”

March 12, 2012 8 comments

I have been a little sick the last few weeks, and there has been a major regime change at work that has thrown a figurative monkey-wrench into everything work-related. This is not to say I haven’t been playing (or enjoying) video games, it simply means I have been severely pressed for time to write about them.

Mists of Pandaria Blues

World of Warcraft shambles on towards the new expansion. I say shambles not because the subscriptions numbers are struggling, because despite losing millions of subscribers, Blizzard still retains 10 million + players. I say shambles because the expansion blues have set in. Members of the guild have been logging fewer hours each day, and despite fairly decent success with Dragon Soul (1/8 HC for a PuG guild ain’t bad), fewer and fewer show up for raids, rBGs and group-play. I realized that my playtime had rapidly dwindled because aside from the aforementioned two activities, I did little else. So I decided to set a few (un)realistic goals for myself.

  • 1 million gold: I have crossed the 100K gold mark in the game, so the AH profiteering is going well. I don’t think I will hit a cool million before the expansion, but that is largely due to the fact that Agamaggan is a dead server. On reset day, at peak hour, it took a pug nearly two hours to put together a BH-25 from trade chat. That is just sad.
  • 50 Exalted Reputations: I think I will easily hit this benchmark before the expansion. I have been using a great resource to figure out what to do for each rep grind for the various faction spread out across the original game and it’s four expansions. The website is Wow JuJu, and their reputation calculator is phenomenal. I have 31 exalted reputations at the moment, and I should hit exalted with the Netherwing faction tonight. So 18 more shouldn’t be much of an issue. My guess is that we won’t see Mists of Pandaria before the (beginning of the) end of summer.
  • Mountain of Mounts: Getting 100 mounts in the game is a lot easier today than it was 2 expansions ago. I have 68 so far, and with minimal effort, it would seem. Here is a pro-tip for people trying to do this achievement. Go to your official armory page (mine is here). Click on “Companions and Mounts” in the menu on the left-hand side. Click on the mounts tabs up top. Click on Not Collected. On the top-right, beneath the Filter search box, click Show Advanced Filters. You can now sort mounts by vendor, quest, profession, drop etc. You can do the same on the companions tab.
  • Transmorgificate: Transmorgification is great not only in that it allows you to customize your character’s look, but also in that it has made old raids relevant again. Vanilla and The Burning Crusade raids are simple because my current gear vastly overpowers the encounters. However, Wrath of the Lich King (and, obviously, Cataclysm) is a different story altogether. I can’t run that with 1-2 friends in 25-player mode, and I certainly cannot run Tier 11 (Bastion of Twilight, Throne of the Four Winds, Blackwing Descent) or Tier 12 (Firelands) without help. This is where the titular “OpenRaiding” concept comes into play.
  • OpenRaiding: OpenRaid is a relatively new website that allows you to raid via Real ID. You don’t have to bark in trade chat for hours to get a team together (god knows that is a pain in the ass on a low population server), simply log into OpenRaid, post up a raid that you want to run, the time and date, the group composition you want and people sign up for it. Once they are signed up, you are given access to their RealID information. Add them, toss them an in-game invite and go raid! I have run close to 20 raids so far in the last two weeks, and so far it has been a massive help in getting things accomplished that we otherwise wouldn’t. Just two days ago, I joined a team that was hunting the harder achievements in 40-man raids (such as The Alterac Blitz, or Stormpike Perfection), and we got both during our playtime together, in addition to Mine in Isle of Conquest. If you are not on there yet, I highly recommend it. The ONLY thing you can’t raid with it, is Dragon Soul on Normal or Heroic. You can raid Dragon Soul in LFR mode, although I have seen no groups for it (for what some might call obvious reasons). I have one raid coming up tonight if you with to join, it is a rap/transmorg run of all TBC raids. You can find it here.
  • Primary Professions: My main, Jehangir, has Engineering and Blacksmithing maxed out. However, I desperately need a few other professions in order to fully capitalize on the market. I am leveling a Paladin (my first love), with Mining and Jewelcrafting. The mining part is primarily because it is a pain to find a smelter and most ore is half the price of its equivalent number of bars in the AH, which is more than a little ridiculous. I am also leveling a mage with Tailoring and Alchemy. I still need a Leatherworker. Inscription can bite me.

Taking Earth Back

Taking back earth is accomplished in Mass Effect 3, oddly, by spending the least amount of time on Earth. I am only about 5 hours into the story, and if my experience and the rave critic reviews are any indication, I am in for a hell of a ride. My favorite aspect of the game should be the combat, as it is an improved, visceral and brutal affair, but what I am truly impressed by is the music score. Mass Effect 3 has amazing music throughout, and it has an uncanny ability to tug at the emotional strings of my psyche. I have been playing Commander Shepard for (going on) five years now. This story feels personal, it feels real, and the threat palpable.

Of course they can’t get everything right, because today I came across this sad piece of news from an otherwise positive review:

In singleplayer, everything you do accumulates ‘war assets’. When you finish the game, how many of these you have determines how good an ending you get: how well the final fight goes for your side. Success in co-op multiplies your war assets, up to twice their normal value. That means that if you only play singleplayer, or want to finish singleplayer first, you’ll have to grind the living hell out of its most tedious fetch quests to get the best ending. – PC Gamer, Mass Effect 3 Review

Balls.

“Will Torchlight 2 be Out Before Diablo III?” or “Just Let Me Hack-n-Slash Something!”

February 20, 2012 1 comment

There are some new screenshots for Torchlight 2 out. They are at the bottom of this post if that is all you came here for. Click after the jump.

Torchlight was a sleeper hit, and rightly so. It came out of a small studio, it wasn’t a “AAA” title, and no one expected it to be so damn addictive. But at the end of the day, Torchlight was a great hack-n-slash game that presumed very little, and delivered tremendously. When Torchlight 2 was announced, people joked that Torchlight 2 could be out before Diablo III. Given the silence from the Blizzard camp about their dungeon crawler’s release date, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Lately though I am beginning to feel a little trepidation regarding Diablo III. The game is designed to be a grind-fest, where you run dungeons over and over again for better loot, higher levels, and more gold. With the addition of the RMT Auction House, the game actually encourages this gameplay, and from a designer’s perspective, why shouldn’t it? It implies players will spend more time in the game. But consider the fact that Blizzard most popular game of all time is an MMO, and I am beginning to wonder how much of the MMO grind may have permeated into the development mantra for Diablo III.

Look, I understand that the two games have separate development teams and that they are different genres and different universes, but at the end of the day there is an omnipotent authority over at Blue that directs all endeavors of the studio at the macro-level. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to assume that when faced with the question: “How do we keep players coming back to the game?”, someone with over a decade of experience with WoW would (in)advertently suggest an MMO grind concept, which would then would bleed into Diablo III. Because as much as I love MMOs, I hate the quintessential concept that exists in all of them: Everything. Takes. Longer. ™.

I know Diablo is a grind-y game by nature, but I hope elements in the game don’t get as bad as having to run Arathi Basin over three thousand times to get from neutral to exalted. Just sayin’.

“200 Hours of Amalur” or “Amalurning to Not Trust These Numbers”

February 6, 2012 4 comments

Context

There are a few things I want to talk about today. But in order to do that, I need to establish some context. Damn context. Gets me every time!

First and foremost, 38 Studios’ lead designer, Ian Frazier conducted an internal test. He had testers play Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and complete the game in a “speed run”. Since speed run sounds (intentionally) ambiguous, this is how it is defined:

“That means easy difficulty, skip all cut scenes and dialogue, sprint everywhere that’s sprintable, fast travel everywhere you can, don’t do any combat you don’t need to do… that all took around 200 hours, and that was a speed run.”

That is actually an astronomical number. In a day and age where single-player versions in video games take 3-4 hours to complete (hello modern Warfare 3!), a 200 hour video-game is an unprecedented, shocking and welcome event. Of course it is also said that the main storyline should take only 30-40 hours (which is between 15-20% of the 200 hours) to complete. So the 200 hours of gameplay is largely dependent on how much of an overachieving completionist you really are.

The second piece of contextual information you need is that since August 2011, I have invested about 14 days of playtime into my main character, a Night Elf Hunter in World of Warcraft. 14 days is approaching 350 hours of played time in WoW. This implies I spend around two hours daily playing WoW.

Beyond the Context

MMOs, by design, require you to invest a significant amount of time. The meta-game, at every level, is designed around grinding. If you want the best PvP equipment, you must grind points in PvP. These points are further gated by a weekly cap, so you cannot play for a hundred hours in a week and get the best gear in a week. Professions, PvE content, world events, daily quests, transmogrification, and just about every other in-game mechanic is designed around perpetual grind. The reason for this is simple and possibly forgivable. No developer in the world with a finite team and finite resources can create content fast enough to be consumed by the player base. Months of coding, tweaking and planning can be completed in a 20-minute dungeon run. I don’t like the fact that i have to grind everything in an MMO, but as a lifelong fan of the genre, I understand the rationale.

Lately though, it seems that this design decisions seems to be penetrating single-player games, particularly RPGs.

Take Skyrim for example. Prior to the launch, there was a statement by one of the developers that the quest system in the game would technically spit out an infinite number of quests for the player to take on. One example of such behavior was the Thieves Guild, which could send you on a wide variety of jobs across the land. The jobs were randomly created and you could pick from one of several mission types. A second example were jobs made available through barkeeps and innkeepers in towns and cities. These randomly generated quests could send you to go kill <insert antagonist> at <insert location>. Technically, you could have an infinite number of quests in your log. However, I personally found this to be incredibly lame, as it seems to add unnecessary, artificial padding to an otherwise great game.

I enjoy a complex RPG with a deep, compelling storyline and well thought-out lore. Dragon Age took me over 106 hours to complete, and I veered into every nook, cranny and cramped dungeon corridor I could get into. I was elated to find that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’s “speed run” will take you over 200 hours. But after realizing that only 15% or so of that is the main storyline, I can’t help but wonder how much of this game is fluff activity that yields limited to none player satisfaction.

My point is very simple, MMOs should certainly try not to artificially inflate content, but I don’t think that is likely to change any time soon. Single-player games, however, don’t need to pad content with unnecessary grind mechanisms, random quest dispensers, and fluff, unpolished content simply to get more player hour mileage out of the title. 10 times out of 10, I would prefer a tight campaign with side-quests that have meaningful premise, meaningful consequences and meaningful rewards, than “the ability to complete an infinite number of quests”. I am hoping the the later is not the case with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning when I open the box and install the game tonight. But I guess I will let you know in 200 hours of playtime!

“Hump Day Randomness” or “A Central Theme be Damned!”

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment

I had quite a few ideas for a post today. but as I cleared out my Google Reader for the day, things kept popping up that I wanted to talk about. Eventually I decided I should just make a crock-pot, hodge-podge post that is equal parts random and lacking a clear focal point.

RIFT is going F2P

Well, sort of. They are doing essentially what WoW did. RIFT will be free to play up to level 20. You can access the capital cities, several zones and play on any server, and there is no time-limit cap. I played RIFT beta in a limited capacity. I have always been fascinated by what I read about the game from other bloggers, but I never felt an adequate amount of compulsion to go out and purchase the game to figure out if I like it. This simplifies that. I can simply try the game, and it’s various classes, and see if this is something I see myself playing long-term.

Analyst Predicts Elder Scrolls 6

As a journalist IRL, sometimes I can’t help but wonder why people choose to publish such content as “news worthy stories”. The title of the story is all the new information you need. The rest of it is either a backgrounder or a filler. Not to mention the fact that this is stating the obvious. It would be like me predicting that the sun would rise tomorrow over Europe. Or that Peter Molyneux’s next game will be another over-hyped letdown. Or that despite the “WTF Pokemon?” camp, people will return to WoW in droves come patch 5.0. Seriously. Stop that. You are wasting your time, and mine. And I got nothing of any significant worth from the story.

Well actually it did lead to the creation of this section of this post.

But that’s it!

Markco got Banned from D3 Beta

This was ridiculous. Markco has reigned supreme on the gold-making strategy throne for quite some time. He shifted his focus from gold-making in WoW to gold-making in D3, but with disastrous results. His strategies started netting him in the excess of 11,000 gold an hour, while operating perfectly within the confines and mechanics of the game. However, it seems that making too much gold can be labeled “exploitative”. No offense Blue, but if you think making too much gold by using in-game mechanics, that are available to every player, is exploitative, than perhaps you shouldn’t have introduced RMT for digital items in the same title.

Why we Need More Fights Like Ultraxion

I recently started reading posts from The Grumpy Elf, who looks suspiciously like a Worg. He recently put up ten reasons why we need more “pure DPS, less dance” fights like Ultraxion. It is a pleasure to read, and gives you some perspective on why fights like Ultraxion can actually be good for you, your guild and the WoW community at large.

“How I Use My Keyboard in MMOs” or “Too Many Keys, Not Enough Fingers”

January 25, 2012 10 comments

Perhaps it is time to invest in the Razer Naga, because frankly, there are just too many keys to press as a hunter at WoW endgame, the only MMO I am playing with some level of consistency.

But maybe, in the interests of providing some context, I should explain how I use my keyboard.

The Rules

There are a few rules for me when I set up my keyboard to play any particular game.

  1. There should be as few keys as possible
  2. The keys should be in close proximity
  3. I should be able to press Alt to change the function of a key completely.

The Primary Keys

The traditional bar (which I don’t use), allows you 12 keys, ‘1’ all the way to ‘=’. This clearly violates rule # 2, so the most I will work with is six keys. Since the ‘`’ key is not used in the original game, this makes ‘`’ through ‘5’ usable.

I also use the ‘Q’ and ‘E’ keys, while ‘WASD’ are used for strafing and lateral movement.

‘F4’ through ‘F9’ are used for ‘Trap Launcher’ and the five subsequent traps respectively. ‘F5’ has ‘Freeze Trap’ on it. The logic is that in the heat of battle, I can hit ‘F4’ (easy to find), then ‘F5’ (next to it after a dip) without having to look at my keyboard.

‘X’ is used for autorun.

The built-in shortcuts for various WoW menus and interface panels remain largely untouched.

The Alt Key

I also use the Alt key to completely change another key. For example, pressing ‘E’ normally triggers ‘Rapid Fire’. Pressing alt changes ‘E’ to ‘Readiness’. It makes sense two me because these two abilities are used closest together in a raid environment. The same logic applies to several other keys. For example, ‘4’ fires ‘Chimera Shot’. Pressing alt changes this to ‘Serpent Sting’. So you press alt to cast ‘Serpent Sting’ once, and then release alt and over the course of the fight, press ‘4’ to cast ‘Chimera Shot’, which refreshes ‘Serpent Sting’. The following macro makes this work:

#showtooltip [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting
/targetenemy [noharm]
/petattack [@target,exists]
/petfollow [@target,noexists]
/use [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting;

The lines regarding the pet simply directs my pet to attack the target I am attacking. This is rolled into about every ability to ensure they assist me every time. I find the pet bar option to be unreliable.

The Mouse

Left, Right and Middle buttons are a given. I also have two side buttons on my mouse, so both of those buttons ‘B4’ and ‘B5’ also get used. Using the alt and ctrl keys transforms these two buttons into six buttons. For example, my “survival” abilities are ties to ‘Button 5’.

‘Button 5’ = Disengage (used most often)
Alt + ‘Button 5’ = Feign Death
Ctrl + ‘Button 5’ = Deterrance

Clique Mod

In addition to this, I also use Clique mod, and some of my abilities are directly programmed into it, for example, alt-clicking any portrait will cast ‘Mend Pet’ on my current pet. Middle clicking on any portrait will cast ‘Misdirect’ on that person.

Here is a screenshot of my keyboard set-up:

I hope the commentary above now makes sense with this.

The following are some of the problems that I think exist with this setup.

  1. The Clique mod is being used for only two abilities. I think I can intelligently ramp up this number and tie in some keys that can get em out of a pickle in the heat of battle.
  2. The Ctrl key is hard to reach, and only programmed into one of the “survival” groupings. I think I should get rid of this.
  3. The ‘Z’, ‘Shift’, ‘F’ and ‘8’ – ‘=’ keys are not being used. Thought it must be said that aside from ‘F’ most of these are hard to reach, given my set-up.
  4. The keys ‘F1’ – ‘F3’ are not being used. But I don’t know what to put in there.
  5. There are too many buttons. This may be really screwing me up in the grand scheme of things.
  6. Since I use the mouse buttons very extensively, I think I should get a Naga-esque mouse with more than just two extra buttons to play with.

Any suggestions for improvement?

Categories: Bronte, World of Warcraft

“Patch 4.3 is the End for Cataclysm” or “The Monks Must be Meditating”

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment

The Pandaren monks must be meditating for a long time because it seems that they will be the next major content patch in WoW. That’s right kids, 4.3 is the end of the line as far as Cataclysm related content goes. I initially thought they might do something like “Sunwell for Cataclysm” to hold on to their player-base, considering especially that they have lost nearly two million subscribers in the last year. But no, good old Blizzard is sticking to their guns and maintaining Deathwing as the final major encounter in Cataclysm.

This effectively implies a few things for me as a player, roughly divided into two broad categories.

Category A: Quit until Mists of Pandaria

Fairly self-explanatory.

Category B: Prepare for the Expansion, Fluff and PvP

In this category I will certainly not be raiding. I have tried LFR, and the guild does weekly runs with 7/8 of Dragon Soul on farm status. But for me, that is just insufficient. I see little point in my character acquiring the top-tier gear when it will go obsolete next patch when a whole new ball-game begins. Instead, I’d rather focus on the things I have been meaning to wrap up. These include, in no particular order:

  • A proper secondary and tertiary alt
  • Level Archeology to the cap and go after some of the rares in that profession
  • Level my second profession, Blacksmithing.
  • Transfer the mining profession by leveling it through smelting on my secondary character, and pick up Engineering on my main.
  • Expand my companion list. I have 46 so far, with little effort. I wonder how well prepared can I be for Pokemon with any actual effort.
  • Do some of the fun little fluff achievements.
  • Loremaster (*shudder*)
  • Go after some of the rarer mounts, or mounts that take a great deal of effort and/or time
  • PvP my heart out, especially with the guild

At this point I am not sure. Any suggestions?

And no I don’t seem myself switching to another MMO, free or otherwise. Unless they announced when The Secret World was coming out.

“Eitrigg and Bloodhoof” or “Maelstrom and Aggamagan”

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

In all my time playing WoW, I have, oddly enough, played on only four servers. When I was state-side, I first played on Bloodhoof, and the the entire guild made the transfer to Eitrigg. Recently when I joined Goblin’s guild on Aggamagan, I also started a mage on Maelstrom.

Having never played Horde-side (except for the very shiny new mage), I never really knew that Eitrigg was actually a fairly important character for the Orcs. It got me to thinking: “what do the names of the servers I play on mean in the larger lore context of the game?” Here is what I came up with.

Bloodhoof

This one was easy. The Bloodhoofs are one of the noble families of the Tauren Race. The two most significant characters are Craine Bloodhoof, the late High Chieftain of the Taurens, and Baine Bloodhoof. Cairne dueled Garrosh Hellscream but was betrayed by Magatha who secretly poisoned Hellscream’s weapon. The chieftain dying words were:

“And so, I, who have lived my whole life with honor, die betrayed”.

Baine Bloodhoof is Cairne’s son, and the new High Chieftain of the race.

Bloodhoof is also a village in the Mulgore zone.

Eitrigg

Eitrigg is an aging warrior of the Orc clan who fought in both the First and Second Wars and lost two sons in the process.

He sequestered himself to seclusion, but was stumbled upon by Tirion Fordling. The two fought, and the duel ended with Eitrigg rescuing an unconscious Tirion from a collapsing tower. Tirion is forever in Eitrigg’s debt and hold him in high regard.

In Wrath of the lich King, Tirion wrote to High Warchief Thrall, leader of the Orcs and the Horde in general, asking after Eitrigg and requesting that he be sent to Northrend as Tirion “needed a good Orc by his side.”

Eitrigg was one of the the three advisers Thrall recommended to Garrosh Hellscream as he ascended to the Horde leadership. the other two were Vol’jin of the Trolls and Cairne of the Taurens.

Maelstrom

Aside from being the most significant plot-location in Cataclysm, The Maelstrom was originally formed during the Great Sundering, some 10,000 odd years before the events of World of Warcraft (vanilla). Before that, it used to be the Well of Eternity. Here is an excerpt from the Warcraft III manual:

As the aftershocks from the Well of Eternity’s implosion rattled the bones of the world, the seas rushed in to fill the gaping wound left in the earth. Nearly eighty percent of Kalimdor’s landmass had been blasted apart, leaving only a handful of separate continents surrounding the new, raging sea. At the center of the new sea, where the Well of Eternity once stood, was a tumultuous storm of tidal fury and chaotic energies. This terrible scar, known as the Maelstrom, would never cease its furious spinning. It would remain a constant reminder of the terrible catastrophe… and the Utopian era that had been lost forever.

It is implied that the Maelstrom is slowly drawing the Broken Isles towards itself, and will ultimately destroy them for good.

Agamaggan

This one was a little difficult to find. Agamaggan a Giant Boar, one of the many ancients roaming Azeroth in it’s early days. During the War of the Ancients, Cenarius sought the assistance of Agamaggan against the Burning Legion. Agamaggan fought Mannoroth, eventually falling in battle, but his sacrifice was vital for Malfurion and his allies to enter the stronghold of Azshara and reach the Well of Eternity. Some of these events can be witnessed in the new 5-man dungeon,Well of Eternity.

What do the names of the servers you play on mean?

Categories: Lore, World of Warcraft

“Handicap Accessible” or “LFR = Looking for Rez”

January 9, 2012 6 comments

For those of you who played WoW from the very early days, do you remember when:

  • Attuning for Onyxia meant weeks of farming UBRS with 20 people
  • Clearing to Lucifron took a half hour and a wipe or two
  • We used to raid with 40 people
  • Paladins were Alliance-only, and Shamans were Horde-only
  • Since each boss dropped only two tokens, that meant a 40-man raid would get geared from MC (assuming nothing every got DE’ed), at least 20 weeks, or five months
  • Vendorstrike was the longest running joke since you could take out Sulfuron Harbinger

What these factors have in common was that the end-game was designed to be conquered by only the most hardcore of players. It took time, and skill, and effort and energy to coordinate a team of 40 people, and some how avoid any idiocy. Raiding, gearing, attuning took time, effort, energy and patience.There were no 25-mans, no 20-mans, no 10-mans. A raid was 40 people, period.

First the 40-mans were reduced to 25-mans. Then 10-mans were added, but the coordination required for 25-mans was rewarded by putting in gear of a slightly lower ilvl in 10-mans. Then they were balanced out as well, and heroic modes were added. And finally we have LFR. Today you can log in, queue for LFR, and be raiding with the now-largest raid size (25), in a matter of seconds. There is no skill requirement (unless you equate ilvl with skill), there is no filtering mechanism for determining if an individual knows what to do in a fight. The bosses hit like pussies, the loot drops like rain, and WoW’s much-elusive end-game is officially accessible to any and all M&S. Hell, bots could get better results.

My point is that WoW is no longer just accessible. It is now handicap accessible. People that have no propensity for raiding, who actually don’t mind AFK’ing through most of LFR and then rolling need on everything that drops are flourishing, their lives made easier. The world’s largest MMO has all the mechanisms in place to allow an individual to play the game as anti-socially as humanly possible. Skill is no longer a requirement. Decency is no longer a requirement. All you need is a level 85, and a heartbeat.

If this post is too negative, I apologize. I don’t mean to be. But if you join an LFR raid, score consistently in the top three for DPS with your crappy gear, and your group wipes time and again on Ultraxion trash, it tends to strike a nerve.

Image courtesy of The Death Knight Diaries.

(Sidenote: if you are on the EU servers, pop in Aggamagan server, Alliance side. I play on a Night Elf Hunter called “Jehangir”.)

“What do Adam Jensen and Warcraft Rogues Have in Common?” or “Stupid Freaking Boss Fights”

October 20, 2011 1 comment

Inspired by Klepsacovic, I just realized something.

Q: What do Adam Jensen of Deus Ex: Human Revolutions and Rogues from World of Warcraft have in common?

A: They are both sneaky.

They stick to shadows.

They use hit and run tactics.

They put out an incredible amount of damage in short bursts.

And they both get stuck with boss fights where the only way to fight is out in the open, and none of their penchant for sneaky antics gets leveraged in any way!

“Deus Ex: Human Choices” or “Online Gaming Overload”

October 7, 2011 3 comments

Deus Ex: Human Choices

I just finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution after my second time through. My save files were corrupted right after I completed everything in Hengsha the second time around (about 80% of the game completed). As much as that had sucked, that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it turns out I had made some fairly silly augmentation choices.

Loved:

  • The various augmentations. Despite there being some really foolish augmentation choices, the overall system was well-thought out and true to the Deus Ex experience.
  • The stealth aspect was superb. I learned to take out entire groups of enemies using just single takedowns and the cover system (no double take-downs, no noise reduction, no forced distractions, no invisibility). You can upgrade your abilities to further augment the stealth play-style, eventually turning into an invisible killing machine. But I loved the fact that you could use stealth to your advantage from the very beginning.
  • The game offered multiple paths to reach your objective. I think it is a little misleading to say the game offers multiple options to complete an objective, because at the end of the day, you just need to get from point A to point B. The game does offer multiple paths to get there though. You can run and gun. You can use lethal takedowns and stick to the shadows. You can use non-lethal takedowns to pursue the path of being a pacifist. You can bypass most enemies en route to your objective.
  • The moral dilemma upon landing in Hengsha the second time. I had played as a pacifist the entire game, and I had to choose to remain a pacifist or to save a character’s life. I ended up choosing the later. It is moments like these that make great video games, when you are forced to make genuinely tough decisions, where the  option you choose isn’t the easiest or the most moral of the presented outcomes.

Did not Love:

  • The damn boss fights. They sucked. They didn’t offer “choice” in how to handle the boss. Each boss fight was “pump boss full of lead till it keels over”. As a stealth player, I was sorely disappointed.
  • The story, though well-written, can be summarized in about seven sentences.
  • Stealth gameplay adds artificial length to the game. If you shoot your way through and don’t engage in side-quests, I don’t think the main story would take you more than 5-6 hours. Which is a little lame.
  • The choice at the end was to literally press one of four buttons to see a different ending. I felt cheated at the end. I felt like the game had engaged me to make all of these decisions during my adventures, and none of those decisions eventually mattered because in the end I could simply flick the switch for whichever ending I chose, regardless of the logistical or moral choices I had made up to that point. I didn’t like that one bit.

Overall it is a great game, and one I would recommend for any RPG/Stealth lover. It has it’s flaws, but they can be (largely) overlooked. Give it a try if you haven’t yet.

Online Gaming Overload

WoW Leveling

I had slight MMO overload over the last few days. I played WoW almost compulsively, because it was so easy to invest just another half hour into it and get another level for your character. I had a small episode of a burnout, so I decided to purposely stay away for a few days. It worked. It has been three days and I am itching to play it again.

Superhero Simulators

I have been dabbling a little into Champions Online. I am level 11 now, but the I am not quite happy with the Archetype I picked. I also read that this was probably the most balanced of the offered Archetypes, so if this is the best they have to offer without paying, then maybe I ought to focus my attention on City of Heroes, which has recently transitioned into an F2P model as well.

Global Agenda

Good game to start off in, the tutorial levels are very well laid out, and I had a lot of fun with the smaller skirmishes. But I have my hands rather full these days and something’s got to give. That something has turned out to be Global Agenda. Not that it matters, because where I dropped Global Agenda, I picked up…

League of Legends

God damn whoever made this game because it is addictive as hell. I have only played two games so far, but my DOTA flashbacks have effectively ensured I will be screwing around in this title for a while. I am going to try out all the free to play characters for now, just to get a better handle on the game, and I am not touching Dominion yet, simply because I must wrap my head around the basics first. I will also continue to research the paid characters and see which one best suits my play-style. All in all, good game, and I am glad (wroth) that I got coerced into giving it a try. Because now I am hooked. Damn it.

StarCraft II

I am steadily getting better as a Protoss player. I have made it a rule to get at least four to five 1v1 matches in a week so my macro game continues to improve. But my true love in StarCraft II right now is playing with a friend in ranked 2v2. It is a treat to play and I am very happy with everything it has to offer so far.

“Leveling at the Speed of Light” or “Two Toons, Two Servers, Two Factions”

October 5, 2011 8 comments

Leveling at the Speed of Light

As lonomonkey will tell you, and Rohan will corroborate, leveling in the post Cataclysm vanilla WoW areas is … well … speedy. I am playing on a completely new server. So unlike Rohan, I have no heirlooms to boost my XP gain, but I am now in a guild that gives the XP boost. Even without heirlooms, not only am I out-leveling the zones I am questing in faster than finish them, I am also gaining a level about every 20 minutes of play or so. I wonder how much faster I would level if I had all heirloom items.

My hunter is currently level 34.

Last Monday, I was level 5.

My /played is less than 13 hours.

That is ridiculous.

Rohan gives a few reasons why Heirlooms are unnecessary at this point:

  1. The XP gain is vastly increased in Cataclysm. You really don’t need heirloom items, at least not until level 60. I haven’t played much past level 61 yet to know how much of a difference it makes.
  2. Heirlooms take away the joy of the upgrading your equipment micro-game. I completely agree. I look forward to every boss because the beast might have a good upgrade for me.
  3. I will tack on a third reason. You work so hard to get the currency for buying out the heirloom items. You can now use them on something much more useful. Instead of squandering your resources on heirlooms.

Two Toons, Two Servers, Two Factions

My mage is comfortably sitting in Hellfire peninsula at level 61. The mage is Undead, whereas the Hunter is a Night Elf. They are also on different servers.

I started the mage because I wanted to experience the Horde story. I have been quite impressed by what I have come across so far. I chose the server because two of my friends played on it, and they have since quit, having started their university courses in the pursuit of a Master’s degree.

I started the hunter to be in Gevlon’s PuG guild. His guild is on the Alliance side, so I didn’t have a choice of faction there.
Both toons also have their own dedicated bank mules, though it seems to me that the hunter is making a lot more money than the mage did at his level.

I have decided I will level the hunter during the week, and the mage only over the weekends. With the hunter, the levels are still easy to come by. The mage will benefit greatly from a week’s worth of rested XP when I have a go at it this weekend. I think that is a good strategy.

Pro Gold Tip: Linen Cloth sells like hot pancakes. They are bought out faster than I can put then up.

Categories: World of Warcraft

Image of the Day: “The Eastern Plaguelands Experience” or “Fiona’s Folly”

October 2, 2011 4 comments

This is one of my favorite new zones in the revamped vanilla zones. Eastern Plaguelands is tied together by a caravan of simple individuals, led by one Fiona. They travel from tower to tower in the Plaguelands, stopping at each location to attempt to fix the local pest problems, en route to Light’s Hope Chapel. Well done Blizzard!

See? I can say something positive about World of Warcraft!

Categories: World of Warcraft

“I Miss 40-man Raids” or “Vanilla Nostalgia”

September 30, 2011 13 comments

There was a time in World of Warcraft, when things weren’t as easy as they are today for the average player. There was no quest helper feature, areas weren’t marked on your map for quest objectives, you weren’t provided with handy arrows directing you to your next objective, you couldn’t track the quests. There was no option for floating combat text. There were no threat meters. There was no addon that told you which boss will do what and when. PvP was realm only, so an Arathi Basin queue could take up to an hour. You had to figure out everything on your own, and tough as it was, that was magical!

5-Mans: Then

If you were a raider, you needed up to 20 people just to run UBRS (now a 5-man instance). You ran Stratholme and the Blackrock Spire instances until you were blue in the face, just to have enough gear to be able to face off against the first set of Molten Giants in the Molten Core. There was a dungeon set (go go banana shoulders!), an actual matching set of gear that you could acquire for your class from dungeons that gave you enough of an advantage to be able to start raiding.

5-Mans: Now

You don’t need anyone to be able to queue for a 5-man instance any longer. The game will do the work for you in terms of finding four other sufficiently able people to party up with you. Sure there are some ilvl requirements to keep what Gevlon would call M&S out of the system, but that can be circumvented by donning readily available PvP sets of equal or better ilvl. There was a time when you would wait until four of your friends logged on, or ask people in the guild to help, or send messages in the trade or LFG channels to fill the last few spots. Now, all of you have to do is press “i” and join queue.

Raiding: Then

Raiding took a lot of coordination and effort. As a raid leader, you had command of 39 other people, with several others sitting outside the instance, because:

  • over three hours, a few individuals will need to leave for real life commitments or other reasons
  • you would need to switch some players based on what gear they needed
  • you had to switch them out because they were just not performing up to par
  • the raid needed to balance the classes (buffs)

Coordinating a fight with 40 people in the room, all from different backgrounds, countries, viewpoints, skill-levels and IQs was a massive undertaking. As a raid leader you had to be be patient, forgiving, thoughtful, resourceful, yet firm and resolute. You had to nip small quarrels in the bud. You had to keep respawn timers in check (18 minutes for Core Hounds, 22 minutes for Lava Surgers). You had to methodically and carefully explain fights every time, because with 60+ raiders in the guild, there was always someone who had not fought that particular fight before. You had to be strong. You had to be smart. And most of all, you had to be insanely patient.

But the sheer volume of people was not the only reason for why vanilla WoW raiding took so much effort and energy. There were several other factors as well. It was a time:

  • when Paladin blessing lasted 5 minutes, and you had to rebless every 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
  • when the buffs provided were class centric, and could not be provided by any other class.
  • when the only priests that could fear ward you were dwarfs.
  • with no heroic and normal versions. Everything was heroic.
  • when you needed oodles of fire-resistant gear to just survive the temperature in the room.
  • when you constantly needed to tell 39 people to loot the damn dog because the game didn’t tell you which mob was who’s loot!

Raiding: Now

There is a normal mode and a heroic mode, and you can chose the style that best reflects your guild’s willingness to conquer tougher content. You only need 10 people to raid. You can argue with me and say that you need 25 for the larger raids, but unlike Wrath of the Lich King, the same loot drops from both raid sizes, so that argument is now obsolete.

As of today, patch 4.3 will now also let you queue for raids. You don’t have to find 24 other people. The queue is cross-server, and it will put a team together for you with 2 tanks, 6 healers and 17 damage dealers. This will not be a replacement for normal raids though, as the encounters will be tuned to what can only be defined as “below normal” and the loot will be of a lower ilvl than normal mode raiding. Thus we have

  • 10-man (normal)
  • 10 man (heroic)
  • 25-man (pug)
  • 25-man (normal)
  • and 25-man (heroic)

Take your pick, whatever is easiest for you.

The point of this post isn’t to say that vanilla raiding was better, though I miss that era terribly. Nor is it meant to degrade the convenience of the WoW of today. I am just stating facts here. WoW has evolved immensely over the last seven odd years, and most of the changes have been to allow better access for more and more players. The point of this post is simply nostalgia, reminiscing over those initial years when everything took effort and energy and meticulous planning.

What do you think? Do you feel all this convenience is a good thing for MMO evolution, or are we diluting the genre?

Categories: World of Warcraft

“I’ve Got Good News” or “I’ve Also Got Bad News”

September 29, 2011 2 comments

I’ve Got Good News

Via WoW Insider, this is an incredible video of World of Warcraft recreated in MineCraft, and appropriately titled: Mine of WorldCraft. It hits closer to the heart because the player transmorgifies into a T2 Judgement Paladin, and the starting zone is Northshire. Brilliant!

I’ve Also Got Bad News

Blizzard will not announce it’s MMO at Blizzcon, so M2 Research senior analyst Billy Pidgeon, who predicted that this would happen, can suck it.

They will likely announce a Diablo 3 release date though!

“Does Anyone Have Anything Nice to Say About WoW?” or “Are We WoW’s Biggest Problem?”

September 28, 2011 11 comments

11.2 million people still play World of Warcraft. Yet it seems to me lately that no one has anything positive to say about it.

Most MMO bloggers I follow and read have played it at some point or another (a lot of them still do), yet 9 times out of 10, if there is an opinion on something related to WoW, it is seems intrinsically married to some element of negativity, scorn or outright malice. I am not excusing myself from this barrage of endless negativity, I am as guilty of this phenomenon as the next guy. But it does make me think: does no one have anything nice to say about the most successful MMO in the world?

When Ragnaros was hit over the head with the nerf-bat, we all ripped Blizzard a new one. “They need to design content better”, said some (myself included). “The game is become too casual”, said others. “This is the final nail in Blizzard’s rapidly sinking coffin”, was one ambitious claim. Yet everyone continued to play it, and raid, and talk about the next raid. I was able to dig up a few (partially) positive responses to the nerf in Firelands (Variant Avatar and Manalicious), but aside from that, most of the feedback was deeply mired in barely-concealed hostility.

As an example, here are some of the reactions:

  • Kurn felt the “hardest part on Alysrazor was NOT killing her faster”. In all fairness, Kurn’s group seemed to have a lot more fun because the content wasn’t as brutal as it was pre-nerf. That being said, Kurn felt the nerf was a slap in the face this time.
  • Morynne felt that the Firelands bosses, particularly the first few, had started dropping like flies, making the content a little ridiculous.
  • Lonomonkey was upset that in “the end, our efforts were for nothing and no one told us”.
  • Coriel was felt that Blizzard was not tuning the nerfs well enough. For one thing, it seemed rushed, and second, Coriel’s guild was just recovering from a tough raiding summer only to realize content had been made dumber.
  • Ben’s sarcasm was barely masked: “After numerous complaints about fairness, Firelands Elementary is also changing its policy towards grades. Many parents apparently feel that grading children makes the stupid kids feel awkward and embarrassed, and as such, the new grading policy will reward all children with an automatic “A+++”, just for showing up.”
  • Matticus raised an interesting point, that it had been only 10 weeks since players had been in Firelands. The nerf-bat normally didn’t hit the main content for at least six months. He felt it was way too soon.
  • Vixsin echoed Matticus’ concerns, and felt that the nerfs came too soon, and they were too strong.
  • Gevlon, as one would expect, didn’t hold back, opening a scathing post with “…Blizzard practically accepted that their raid design has failed”.
  • Even Tobold was upset, saying he didn’t feel like Blizzard was sticking to their guns, primarily because they couldn’t identify which guns they wanted to stick to.

We complain that Blizzard takes too much time between content, artificially lengthening the life of the expansion. But if they bring out the nerf week in as little as 10 weeks, we still complain that it is too soon. Even Transmorgification, a really cool and rather well-received new feature, was not exempt from the criticism. Some people complained that Blizzard had implemented the system after seven years, and that was too little too late. I must admit I was a little upset. I had held on to the Tier 2 Judgement set for four years, and finally cleaned out my bank a few months prior to the Transmorgification announcement.

Seriously, does anyone have anything nice to say About WoW? And more importantly, is it possible that the problem isn’t Blizzard’s policies or rapidly changing gears in their core systems, but that no matter what they do, we as a group will never be satisfied?

“Will SWTOR Fix the Companions System?” or “My Only Friend in the World is a Moron”

September 27, 2011 11 comments

Companionship

MMOs are supposed to all about companionship, the thrill of being a part of something larger than your self, the adrenaline rush that comes from working together as a team, and overcoming a common obstacle. Companionship, at least for me, is one of the key components of an MMO. You and your friends, out in the world, seeking adventure, defying death, having a blast.

Most MMOs, in their incessant hunt for additional subscription numbers, have allowed for the ultra-casual-model, that allows one to level practically the entire game without ever having to interact with another human being. I don’t get that. Remember when you needed to group for elite mobs in WoW? Yeah, that golden time is long gone. If you are one of those players, perhaps you should stick to single-player games to begin with, but that is not the purpose of this post, just a sidenote.

Companions

One sub-system that exists in MMOs today is companions. MMOs throw all kinds of companions at you, from mounts to pets to vanity pets and temporary, quest-related NPCs. Companions are an essential component of MMOs. Everyone wants them. People will pay ridiculous amounts of money, even for a vanity pet, just so they can say they own it.

But companions are an oddity in MMOs. Despite their apparent function, they suffer from two intrinsic flaws:

  1. They are two-dimensional.
  2. They don’t serve their core function of being a “companion”.

Allow me to elaborate.

Two-dimensional: Companions in MMOs today have no personality. It is almost as if they see the world through this twisted lens that allows them to see only two individuals: you and whatever is attacking you. In the case of vanity pets, it actually boils down to just you. They have no backgrounds, they have no history in the world, their purpose is unclear and their future uncertain. No one else, apart from you, ever interacts with them, they certainly don’t interact with anyone, and most of the time they have nothing to say.

Failing the core function: A companion is someone you can jointly undertake a task with, be it a quest, a dungeon, a battleground, an arena, or just simple daily quests. A companion is someone who should augment your skills and abilities (granted this happens most of the time with fighting pets – if the AI isn’t terrible), share their experience, reply with something meaningful when you try and talk to them (even if it is scripted), provide company in the dark dreary dungeons of your brand of MMO poison, and exist beyond the confines of your character. MMOs today feature mute, obedient, dumb companions that don’t really give you a sense of true companionship.

But maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic is taking steps in the right direction. If their recent companion reveal is to be believed, companions will have backgrounds, complex personalities, and in-depth personal needs and objectives. You can go about ignoring them, only interacting with them as needed in the heat of battle, an option that will cater to the mindless MMO player, trained for years to treat companions as meaningless pixels on a screen. Or you can choose to interact with them, dig a little deeper into what makes them tick, and through the acceptance system (yes, it involves ‘gifts’ *groan*) eventually unlock additional dialogue options, as well as unique quests and rewards.

They will provide commentary, information on the plots of the various missions you undertake, they will also try to influence your decisions. They can become your closest friends, lovers or even enemies. You get your first companion early on, but more will rally to your cause as you progress further into the game.

Maybe, just maybe, Star Wars: The Old republic will succeed in creating a solid, meaningful companion system, where so many others have failed.

Categories: World of Warcraft

“Why I am Glad Diablo 3 is Delayed” or “EA Won’t Let Me Play SW:TOR”

September 25, 2011 6 comments

Why I am Glad Diablo 3 is Delayed

There are a lot of high-profile titles coming in the next few months that will keep me quite occupied. Dead Island and Gears of War 3, two titles that I’d like to play, are already out. I just haven’t had the time to play anything else, so I have not bothered purchasing these titles yet. I am still working through my second run through Deus Ex: Human Revolution, still leveling my scantily clad made in WoW, and tinkering with the stupidly cute Shakes and Fidget browser game.

Game of Thrones: Genesis also comes out in four days. But I am not sure about that one. I am a hardcore fan of the excellent series by George R.R. Martin, and from what I have seen in the trailers, I have a bad feeling about this in my gut. Over the course of time, I have learned to trust my gut.

October will bring id Software’s latest foray into first person shooters in the form of Rage, the much-anticipated and pre-ordered Battlefield 3, and Batman: Arkham City. Rage is exciting because the studio is finally going for a new IP after so long. Battlefield 3 just looks sick, and Batman: Arkham Asylum was too good to pass up City.

In addition, one of the MMOs that I have always wanted to play extensively but the monthly subscription cost kept me away was Fallen Earth. The MMO is going free-to-play on October 12, so I will definitely be checking it out.

November will be hell month. We have Modern Warfare 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will release within the span of about a week. This, coupled with the releases in September and October (along with Champions Online, WoW and Fallen Earth) will keep me quite busy through the holiday season.

Hence, I am glad Diablo 3 has been delayed!

EA Won’t Let Me Play SW:TOR

“Hi EA, would you like my money?”

“No, we don’t like where you live.”

QQ, etc.