08
Aug
15

Stick it, haters

I just want to point out that there are easily over a half million people who tuned in to the live announcement on Thursday through Twitch and YouTube.  That’s in the middle of a work day in America.

Regardless of the doomsayers and haters, there are still plenty of people enjoying the game.  More than enough to keep it alive for years to come.

07
Aug
15

World of Warcraft: Legion

So Blizzard took a lot of things that people had been asking for and threw it all at us in one announcement.

  • No more orcs?  check
  • South Seas?  check
  • Burning legion?  check
  • Emerald dream?  check
  • Reworked PvP that can be balanced without affecting PvE?  check
  • Azshara?  check
  • Garrison-style common building that is NOT instanced?  check

The only things missing are true player housing, naval combat, and trolls.

The legendary artifact weapons are a neat idea.  However, someone brought up a good point about those.  These weapons are the pinnacle of their type.  There is no greater hammer than Doomhammer, no greater sword than Frostmourne, etc…  What does that leave for weapons in the next expansion?

In the preview they didn’t show the rogue weapons.  If Illidan wasn’t showing up in the expansion, I would have assumed it would be his warglaives.  With him making an appearance, and Garona as a follower in our garrison, I’m not sure what else rogues might get.  Van Cleef’s weapons?  Valeera Sanguinar?  Moroes?

Since I’m still enjoying the game, I don’t need to be convinced to come back.  I am excited that they are still trying to improve the game.  I just hope that the expansion brings back some of my friends that have unsubscribed.

24
Jul
15

Gamescom… will they or won’t they?

I think that the WoW community is on edge.  We’ve been told the disappointing news that there will be no more raid tiers in this expansion.  So we’re mostly done with content after only eight months.

The hope is that this is part of Blizzard’s intended change to a faster expansion release schedule.  Those who haven’t already quit in a huff are expecting a quick turnaround.

I think Gamescom has to be it.

Everyone is expecting Blizzard to announce the next expansion at Blizzcon in November, as usual.  Knowing that the expansion timeline has to go Announcement -> Beta -> Release, if they announce it in November then we’d be looking at a summer 2016 release, which means we would be stuck with our current meager content for a year or more.  This could be disastrous for the game.

A move that could save the game would be to announce the expansion at Gamescom in early August.  If they do that, then we could see a release as early as March or so.  Then we’d be playing current content for 8-ish months.  We’d have only 16 months between expansion releases.  That’s a little more tolerable.  Still not ideal, but a step in the right direction.

So pay close attention at Gamescom in two weeks.  If there’s no announcement from Blizzard, then I think we’re in for a long, tough wait.

19
Jul
15

Timewalking is kinda fun

I missed the BC Timewalking weekend.  This weekend I made sure to do the Wrath Timewalking dungeons for the weekend event.  My impressions.

(1) Nostalgia.  Having played through all of this, it was a fun memory trip.  Unfortunately in five runs I only got to see three different dungeons – Nexus once, Halls of Lightning twice, and Ahn’kahet the Old Kingdom twice.  And I’ve always disliked Ahn’kahet.

(2) Not too hard.  It was certainly easier than when it was current content.  In five PUG dungeon runs we haven’t had a single player death.  I did come into a group recovering from a wipe, but I missed the bad part.

(3) Friendly groups.  The people have been social and cordial.  There has only been one hyper-critical jerk.  When I joined a group recovering from a wipe, he was all frothing at everyone and screaming that no one knew Wrath dungeons.  Then everyone linked their wrath achievements.  So he dropped group.  Other than that guy, its been smooth sailing.

(4) Good reward (for now).  Since I am only doing LFR raiding right now, this is the first chance I’ve had to get normal-mode raid loot.  I know that this reward will not be useful for long.  I figure I have one more Timewalking event left to get an upgrade.  In two months I either won’t need that loot or I’ll have given up trying for it.

(5) Getting dressed up!  Since all gear is scaled down to iLvL 160, that means that you can wear ANY gear over iLvL 160 and it will be the same when it is scaled down.  There is no benefit to wearing a LvL690 piece over a LvL 200 piece.

That means that gear-hoarders like me get to flip through our bank tabs and Void Storage looking for something nice to wear.  This could be purely cosmetic or trying to min/max the system.  The word on the webs is that gems and procs are advantageous in the scaling process.  So if you’re trying to really kill the damage meters (5000 dps! Gasp!) then you’ll want lots of gem sockets and good procs.  I pulled out my old Fangs of the Father legendary daggers from Cata and my legendary cloak from Mists.  Later I’ll put more thought into customizing an outfit.

I’m already looking at the calendar to see when the next Timewalking weekend is.  This was a nice move, Blizzard.

03
Jul
15

All the Blizzard hate

It seems like the “in” thing to do these days is to hate on Blizzard.  If you read such active sites as the official forums, the /r/wow subreddit, or the forums on MMO-Champion they all make it seem like Blizzard is the epitome of all that is evil.

Depending on which parts you read, you would find the general opinion is that

  • Blizzard hates PvP
  • Blizzard ruins PvE by trying to balance it with PvP
  • Garrisons suck
  • The Shipyard sucks
  • Blizzard went with time travel in Draenor to avoid writing new content
  • Expansions are too far apart
  • This expansion is too short
  • Tanaan Jungle is awful
  • Archimonde is a terrible final boss

and on and on…

First of all – I’m not going to claim that Blizzard has done everything right.  However, the internet has a habit of making everything black/white with no position in between.  The game isn’t everything you hoped?  It can’t possibly be just some innocent misses in game design or decisions that look bad in hindsight.  No, clearly this is the work of money-grubbing greedy bastards at Activision who are conspiring to milk WoW subscribers for every penny and not offer any value in return.  MUA-HA-HA-HA!

Here’s how I see it:

  • Garrisons are a logical extension of the farm from MoP which was very popular.  It was VERY popular at first, but didn’t age well and was old within a month or two.  It was a very sensible design choice on the surface, but there was not enough vision to see the long-term effects.  Probably a bad design decision, but seemed good at the time.
  • People have been asking for a faster expansion cycle for years.  Blizzard has acted on this, but not in the way people hoped.  Rather than lots of content compressed into less time, they’ve gone with less content for a faster turnaround.  This bothers people, as we all hate getting less than we expected.  But the go-to argument is that WoD is not worth the $60 box price.  I don’t agree with that.  Did we get less for our $60 this time than we got in WotLK or Cata?  Yes.  But most got a lot more gameplay from WoD than they got from $60 Destiny or $60 Skyrim or $60 Assassin’s Creed.  Yes, there’s the subscription price but that hasn’t changed in 10 years and so is a non-factor in the argument.
  • Archimonde is an epic foe, but maybe wasn’t the ideal end boss only because he hadn’t appeared in the story all through WoD.  People compare him to WotLK when Arthas was everywhere, or Cataclysm when Deathwing was all around.  I agree with this.  HOWEVER… when Grommash was initially announced as the end boss of the expansion, it was met with all kinds of disappointment at the prospect of another orc-centered expac.  Blizzard responded by replacing him with an even bigger baddie.  This was the player’s getting what they wanted!  However, it comes off as slapped-in since we don’t see any build up to Archimonde in the story.
  • Two raid tiers in WoD is low since we’ve had so much more in past expansions.  I want to give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt here.  IF they have already assigned a lot of their personnel to work on the next expansion, then the current expansion clearly must suffer.  That’s a big “IF” and time will tell.  IF we get a new expansion by early 2016, then we can look back and perhaps understand their choices.  There will be those who whine that Blizzard should have enough staff to do both current content AND the next expansion.  That’s wishful thinking.  That’s like wanting your favorite restaurant to hire more staff so that you don’t have to wait for your food.  Sounds nice, but its not going to happen.

Personally, I blame a lot of what we are seeing on just a falling-out-of-love with MMOs.  I think that the current MMO model has played itself out, and really there is nothing Blizzard can do that will make people happy.  MMO numbers are declining across the board in all MMO games.  There has never been a “perfect” MMO.  Many have tried (ESO, Wildstar, Amalur, many others…) but all have failed in some way or another.  WoW is equally imperfect, but years ago we were more forgiving.

Analogy – Lets say that you have a girlfriend who is awesome (I’m going with girlfriend since I’m a guy.  Flip the genders in the analogy if you like).  She’s funny, smart, and has similar interests to yours.  But she has an annoying laugh.  At first, you are so enamored with her that the laugh is irrelevant.  As you reach your 5th, 8th, and 10th years together, you’ve come to take her good features for granted.  But that laugh still grates on you.  After all those years you’re less likely to overlook the laugh.  One day you get into a fight, and with all the anger your annoyance with her laugh just seems magnified.  Its like the last straw.  You don’t break up because of the annoying laugh, but it was in your thoughts the whole time.

This is how I see our relationship with Blizzard.  In its early days we overlooked or forgave its misses.  We still reflect fondly on vanilla even though it was mostly a grindfest with unimaginative raids that had some great moments in between.  This love affair peaked in Wrath when the new features made us mostly forget the bad stuff.  As time went on, the game was just more of the same with different skins.  Now the good stuff is taken for granted and we focus more on the problems.

I really don’t think there is anything that Blizzard can do now to make the players happy.  I think that 10 years (or more if you played Everquest) of formulaic MMO gameplay has made us cynical.  Unless Blizzard somehow surprises everyone and re-invents the genre, the subscriptions will continue to decline and the complaints will persist.  I also think that Blizzard knows this, and perhaps it is why they seem so deaf to the complaints.  Maybe they know that there is nothing they can do and so are just going to ride it out as long as they can.

01
Jul
15

The slow decline of a guild

I know that some people guild-hop, and to many their guild is simply a means to an end – a way of getting into weekly raids at their chosen difficulty level.

My guild is the social structure around which my whole WoW experience was built.  I’ve been in this guild since I dinged level 55 in vanilla WoW, and I’ve been the guild leader since the Karazhan days of Burning Crusade.  I can’t even imagine playing the game without it.

Sure, we’ve gone through ups and downs.  We’ve seen slow periods when few players logged in.  We’ve gone through entire raid tiers when we couldn’t field a raid team.  This time feels different.

Patch 6.2 came out, and there was no spike in player logins.  The same handful of people are logging in sporadically.  There is no guild chat.  No “grats” at achievements.  No guild chat about Tanaan Jungle or guild groups being formed.  Even our long-term most dedicated players have not come back with the new patch.

A bunch of our players who were at least logging in occasionally have left the guild.  They went to another social guild. I’ve checked, and that guild doesn’t have significantly more activity.  I think that social guilds are generally falling apart right now.

I’ve considered the idea of taking some of my alts out and going to a different guild to try and raid.  At the moment, I don’t have the heart for it.  I think I’d sooner quit WoW than leave my guild, even when it’s empty.  Besides, that’s not necessary since the Group Finder has given me the ability to play without a guild structure.

I can’t see anything improving in the near future.  I think the rest of this expansion will play out along this pattern.  By the end I may be the only one (out of hundred of guildie account) who is logging in.  Maybe Blizzcon will have some amazing announcement that will bring people back.  Maybe not.  Time will tell.

It’s unusual to feel lonely in an MMORPG with seven million players.  But I do.

26
May
15

I just realized… I’m the target demographic!

I read blogs.  I read the WoW subreddit on Reddit.  I look at my guild roster at all the inactive accounts.  I see all the gnashing of teeth and the wringing of hands.

So why am I still logging on 3-5 nights a week?

1) I decided early on in the expansion that I was going to pace myself.

I remember in the first few weeks after the expansion was released that I was completely overwhelmed with all the stuff to do.  At the time, I was super busy in real life, so I couldn’t throw myself into the game and inhale all the varied activities.  So I decided then to pace myself – tackle one thing, then move onto the next.

So I leveled my two raiding toons and geared them up.  When raiding dried up, I moved on to making gold.  When that stabilized, I went to pet battles.  Now that I’m reaching my pet battling goals, I’m going to start working on filling up my Toybox.  Because of this measured bit-by-bit approach, I have not run out of things to do.

2) I can only play for 1-1.5 hours at a time.

I never have a chance to get bored.  My Garrison routine on 5 characters takes me about 40 minutes.  Then I only have 20-40 minutes left to fill up.  Its easy to do that without getting bored.  I can go catch some wild pets, run an LFR heroic, do a Garrison Campaign mission, etc…  This pretty much makes me the target demographic for the current expansion.

3) I’m now playing for free

With three max-level Garrisons and an enchanter, my passive gold-making is about 8-10k per week with zero effort on my part.  That more than pays for a monthly WoW Token.  With no actual money at stake, why not keep playing?

4) I don’t miss raiding

Don’t get me wrong, I love raiding.  But it is only one of the myriad of available activities, and I’m content to busy myself with other things while I patiently wait for raiding opportunities to happen again.

5) I’ve been through this before

In late Burning Crusade, my guild went through a dead period.  People stopped logging in.  People left the guild.  On many evenings I was the only one online.  I was patient, and it eventually turned around.  As the saying goes – this, too, shall pass.




Armory

Dinaer - 100 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 92 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 91 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 100 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 100 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
September 2015
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