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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!

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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.