Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Grand Prix


I was reading the late edition of Grumpy's Monday Ramblings (on a Tuesday), and I am now starting to get very worried.

"Basically, beta is just in seriously bad shape. No non raid or dungeon content at max level.
 Raid and dungeon content is tuned way to high. There is no incentive to do raid or dungeon content. Yeah, I do not see this turning out well for blizzard. Not at all.

I guess there is still time for blizzard to add content, but they better get off their ass and add it because time is running out. I've been a part of many betas for many different game and I have never seen one so incomplete this close to release as warlords is.

And if this is complete, with nothing to do, I really have to ask blizzard, what are you thinking."


I have not seen the beta but I was worried that this is the case. In my many years of dealing with Blizzard the opposite is normally the case. We will have a polished game ready for release and then Blizzard will spend 2 months adding extra sparkle, giving it a rinse and set and then only delivering when the product is ready.

I am guessing the DVD's have been burned for a few weeks and almost ready for the shops, so thankfully for Blizzard it is essentially a license in a box that they are buying from the shop. The big download will come in the weeks before launch. Right now Blizzard look like they have no expansion to launch with. I am anticipating content to come in patches and a bare expansion with 10 more levels, a new land (sort of) and Garrisons.

A quick browse of the Internet and you would think that there is no problem. 13th November 2014 is set in stone, but is it? Did a major Software House ever miss a launch date? Does Blizzard intend to give us a turd and polish it over time?

The Anniversary celebrations and Blizzcon are both going to take a chunk out of developers time, and unless they are holding back several updates I am starting to get worried that Blizzard can actually provide on time. After several months of "no content" a lot of goodwill will have gone out the window, and Blizzard will stand to lose big time at a time when they should be courting returning players and new players.

Does anybody else feel that Blizzard are letting this one slip? or is this already in the can and could be released in a month if they really wanted?

Monday, 1 September 2014

Let There Be Rock


Recently, I have wanted to write but with nothing going on in game, and not being invited to join in with the popular kids on Beta, I am been left to twiddle my thumbs on my own.

Last weeks break news (in my house) was that my wife is taking tentative steps to playing again. Her Panda Hunter nestled in the Alliance fold on a different realm to myself is struggling for bag space and money. My wife was never the best with WoW Gold, so I have been playing a big daddy role on my son's Night Elf Death Knight in an attempt to make money for my wife to smooth the levelling process.

The Realm is Kilrogg-EU and it is already connected to what appears like 3 other servers. I am used to a low population server so seeing such a flurry of activity everywhere I go is quite an eye opener. I choose to use a Death Knight to make money because it is the highest level character on that Realm.  The high the level more options for money making there are. On my low population nobody needs Peacebloom, Earth Root and Silverleaf, so they tend to sell for coppers or vendor trash. Once the herbs are of a level to be milled for the Inscription inks, they start to acquire a value. On Kilrogg everything sells, There is high demand and high supply but every sells and at good prices.

My other profession for money making is Mining. On every server there is always a demand for Copper Ore and upward, and on Kilrogg there is money to be made. The problem with 2 gathering professions is trying to keep them synchronised. There are more plants to be gathered, but mining gets a boost from smelting. Blizzard have not always kept the ores and plants together at the appropriate levels, which means that you are mining in areas where you cannot herb yet and vice versa. The trick is to find the zone that best suits both gathering professions. In the Hinterland I found at least two herbs that should not have been in that zone, with the zone being designed for level 30-35 it should not have herbs that require 275 Herbing skill. It is probably a throwback to the old zone or at least it contains some rogue code.

Bind-on-Account as proved to be an absolute godsend with all characters sharing Mounts and Pets as well as the Heirloom gear that is now available via mail. If like me you have never done this, simply open a mail, write the name of the character add a hyphen and the realm name, and it should look like this "Bob - Bob's New Server".

My original target was quite modest, to raise around 50 Gold so that I could buy 5x Netherweave Bags. This 16 slot wonders are still brilliant sellers many expansions after they should be. The combination of size and price, guarantee the perfect sweet spot. From my experience the price fluctuates between 7-15 Gold, so I was delighted to sell my copper bars for a huge mark-up and to buy my bags for 6 Gold.

I made around 100 Gold in the first session, and this was to be settling in period. I next decide that I could make more money and be more efficient if I could fly around Azeroth. This meant 30 minutes doing Outlands quests to get to level 60 (from 58) and then discovered that Flying was 250 Gold. A few more quests to gather the money and I was able to fly around Honor Hold. After going back through the portal I was disappointed to find that I still could not fly in Azeroth. I headed back to Stormwind, completed a quest with the Mount Trainer in Stormwind and wrongly assumed that I was now able to fly. I jumped off the Gryphon nest and plummeted downwards towards the Stormwind moat.

It transpires that I need to cross a palm with 250 gold to gain another licence to fly. Azeroth seems to require more paperwork than a French Bureaucrat. It might seem odd, that in order to make money I am spending money, but it transpires that 500 Gold to level my professions is money very well spent. Even on a slow flying mount the results are very tangible. I am now able to mount, fly up the side of mountain, dismount and then get my pick out of my bag and work the node until it is completely empty. I am not at a position where accidentally bumping into mobs is a problem, but it is nice to avoid any kind of drama, when I am only interested in the loot and not the mob guarding it.

I have found it completely compelling game play, to maximise the resource gathering in zones that are as comfortable as a pair of old slippers. I have need to research mount trainers, and consult with profession guides, and from my perspective, Blizzard still needs to go along way to help new starters through a fragmented series of expansions, and it now seems like giving out max level characters is one way to avoid this problem.

One thing I can take away from the weekend experience is that I am looking forward to Connected Realms on my main server. However with the extra players comes an increase in the number of jerks and fun suckers that you will encounter. It is interesting that twice my wife was subjected to Ganking, and Corpse sitting on a PvE server (why was this ever a thing on PvE servers?), and the other Horde favourite of find a bunch of low level Alliance players and then kill all the quest givers. If Blizzard is genuine about stopping the fun suckers, then making the NPC's into Steven Segal (Just a lowly cook), would be a nice twist.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Back On The Chain Gang


Last week I had a moan about the increased use of different media to tell the WoW story. My main argument is that the story of the game should be told in the game. I still believe this to be the case, but I rather enjoyed the Hellscream short story by Robert Brooks.

My only issue is that, the story for me reads as Garrosh is subjugated, imprisoned and then by an act unknown finds himself in Draenor with Kairoz. The huge gaping hole in the story appears, one presumes in the Christie Golden book War Crimes, but that is just a guess, there maybe something in between. It is not my job to pull the disparate strands together to make a story, it is Blizzard's job to provide a game that makes sense. This last statement however, seems like I am asking too much, because if Alternative Chat is right, we are potentially in for a Time Travelling Franchise that can lurch any way it wants and visit any point in history. After that happens the Lore changes forever and we are left just a ball of Timey Wimey stuff in the middle.

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Four Years Ago, The Cataclysm took my wife away from me. Deathwing and Blizzard's policy of harder content knocked the stuffing out of her and she cancelled the subscription and never looked back.

This last week she has been ramping up her playtime from not playing to making sure I have something to watch on TV so she can sneak onto my computer. I am making sure not to stand in her way just in case this turns out to be more than just a little flirting.

My Wife is playing a Panda Hunter and it is very funny watching her struggle along. Everything is familiar and everything is different. She knows what she wants to do but not how to do it any more. All the 1-60 zones have changed, professions have changed, Class trainers are still there but they have limited abilities left.

What is quite funny is that I told my wife about the MoP free copy for returning players about 9 days ago, and she scoffed at the idea. I am guessing that I merely planted a little seed that I am hoping will eventually germinate, but we will have to wait and see (Oov and anybody that knows my wife, keep those scrolls of resurrection to yourself).

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In my own game time, I am rapidly running out of content. I have 3 Legendary cloaks and 3 in the process. Every time you complete another Legendary it feels like the process is getting easier due to the Gaze of the Black Prince, and then you hit another wall in the form of the PvP content.

I hit "The Lion Roars" and as usual a quick win in Temple of Kotmogu and then 10 days to win a Silvershard Mines by a margin of less than 30. What surprised me more than anything was the mentality of the Alliance. "I hate Blizzard for making me PvP", "The Horde are picking on me", "Why do I need PvP gear just to get one win?"

The last comment in particular got my hackles up. I have found a weird correlation in battlegrounds, and the more PvP gear I have the more the Alliance seem to win. One less person demanding to be boosted through content. My second Hunter sporting 10% PvP power can now scratch an opponent but not much more. The ability to survive a little longer does however make a difference in a payload battleground.

I encountered some people with less than 500 iLevel and all of their gear is PvE, and they are expecting to win against organised teams of Russian Mafia who appear to swarm all over the battleground in unison.

If you want to obtain a Legendary item you should put some effort into the process. I have re-specced and re-glyphed, I have done Tol Borad and Wintergrasp, and anything with Honor Points. It took 10 days to complete, but it is worthwhile and rewarding, because I put the effort in.

Blizzard have indicated that a Legendary questline for a Ring, will be in place for Warlords of Draenor. It is going to be interesting to see which aspects are removed and what aspects that we will see more of. It is obviously not going to keep a 6 week hiatus in place while we hunt out 6000 Valor points. The main reason is that Valor is no more, and the fact that it was an extremely frustrating hurdle might have something to do with it.

Friday, 22 August 2014

(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone


I can safely say that I am not as well immersed in all things Blizzard, as Alternative Chat, and not being in the Beta I am taking her word as gospel because quite frankly I trust her opinion. The issue at stake is multi-platform franchise story telling. Whilst I do not know exactly what Blizzard have got up their sleeves they do at least have previous from the last expansion.

Once upon a time Warcraft was a RTS (Real Time Strategy) game in the Command and Conquer, and Age of Empires style. After 3 such iterations of the game they took the franchise to new heights and created a MMORPG using the storyline from the 3 RTS games embellished with additional storyline from 60 Levels of questing and there was the game.

Alternative Chat in her 10 Years 10 Questions blog post asked the following question:

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

To which the common consensus seems to be 'No'. This does not mean that we do not understand the Lore, we learn and assimilate through the act of playing, this is after all a computer game. My understanding of Mannoroth, Kil'jaeden, Medivh et al, can be fairly sketchy but I know enough for the game to still make some kind of sense. I have killed Hundreds of Bosses but the only ones that I really knew anything about where the Lich King and Deathwing. Garrosh Hellscream is a Horde leader and as such I have little knowledge other than he is completely unhinged.

The first faux pas Blizzard made in the story telling department was the gap between Cataclysm and Pandaria, which is incidentally were they chose not include a pre-expansion launch event. Instead Blizzard offered us a Book - "Tides of War" and the scenario "Theramore's Fall" which is a euphemism for dropping a Nuke on your enemies head. All this was covered in my post "Letter From America", which includes links to Grumpy, Alternative Chat and Blessing of Kings.

In summary Blizzard told a large chunk of the story in "Tides of War" by Christie Golden, apparently she is a far better writer than Richard A Knaak, (who is a less talented writer than my 9 year son) and spoiled the fiction side of Warcraft for me years ago. The result was several major characters disappeared, died, turned to Crystal/Stone without any explanation in game.

World of Warcraft is still played by 6.8 Million people and the best guess for the book franchise figures is about 100,000 copies. Now you don't need to be Will Hunting to work out that leaves a lot of people unaware as to what happened to King Magni Bronzebeard? Why is Blaine Bloodhoof in charge of the Tauren? and who died at Theramore Isle?

Already "War Crimes" by Christie Golden covers the trial of Garrosh Hellscream, and no doubt another book will cover the Time bending Multi-verse that Warlords of Draenor is going to become.

I read Blogs and Newsites for gossip about WoW but there are many thousands of people playing this game that logon at the weekend for a nice relaxing leisure pursuit. We should not have to be trawling through forums, twitter, facebook, books, comics, youtube and any other media you can think off just to play a game and not to feel that there are huge gaps in the storyline.

Marvel might be branching out into multimedia but at the end of the day, it is a comic with a movie franchise attached. World of Warcraft is a computer game, with a possibly movie franchise at a fledgling stage and well establish book and comic following, but the core business should always be about the computer game. Use other media, if it helps your revenue stream but don't forget the 6.8 Million that still pay a subscription every month.

I want to know why they did not string Garrosh up by his testicles? I want to know who helps him escape? why they go to Draenor? and why 35 Years ago? but please tell me in game. Run through the cinematics, give me some quests, just do not pretend it didn't happen.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

London Calling


I have recently returned from my summer holidays after a trip to London. The main reason was to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tours situated in Leavesden, North London. The rest of the trip was to soak up the sights and the museum at the most busy time in the year.





Harry Potter World London, so as not to be confused with the one in Florida (as if that was possible), is a wonderfully immersive experience. After reading all the books, watching all the films it is time to get down and get dirty with the props, the scenes and the special effects.

 

Looking through the mass of photographs taken it occurred to me how similar WoW and Harry Potter are. Both contain, magic, dragons, giants, gnomes, golems all contained in an epic tale of good triumphing over evil (ok, scratch the last bit).


The above model is housed in a room that is several times the size of my house. I was so taken with its size and beauty that I stopped taking photographs because there is no way I could do it justice. It is amazing how far special effects and modelling have moved on since the cheap models used in the Star Wars IV attack on the Deathstar.


Whilst I was away I think there might have been an announcement of some description. The timing of the release seems to have caught people on the hop, and with the difficulty of squeezing in Blizzcon, a 10th Anniversary and a new expansion all in a 4 month period was causing headaches for a lot of people.

I was fully expecting a December release with Blizzcon coming on 7th-8th November, and 10th Anniversay also appearing in November. A pre-launch expansion in October and all this when there is no PTR version of the game. The Beta version sounds buggy as hell and appears without large amount of content.

I listened to Tom Chilton at Gamescom and was surprised to find that more staff working on development causes more delay. It is certainly a very interesting concept, that more staff does not necessary equate to more output, or maybe it is just a problem that more output needs more quality checks because we all know that computer code is like chaos theory and butterflies flapping wings in the Amazon rainforest can cause Orcs to be the best Hunter class by a mile.

Anyway, I currently have the Holiday Blues so you will need to wait to see if I can add anything sensible to the debate.

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I am still shocked that English is only the second most common language. I witnessed an Eastern European street vendor giving directions to a Japanese tourist in English.
 
It is a reminder that when playing WoW, especially in Europe, that we are a playerbase made up of hundreds of different languages, all communicating using "Gamer English" made up predominately of American English, with added Leet speak and Gamer code.
 
Hats off to all you players who are not native English speakers, I admire you all.

Friday, 8 August 2014

5 Years (x2)




Thank you Alternative Chat. I have been racking my brain looking for a topic a little more upbeat so that Alternative Chat does not have cause to tell me to "Nick Off" again. The link from Alternative Chat is part of  a collection of peoples thoughts and experiences as we approach the 10 year Anniversary of the game. So without further ado and not wanting to spoil Alternative's gathering abilities here goes:



1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?



Having played Warcraft I, II and III, I was well versed in the lore. A friend at work was playing and he talked a group of us into trying the game. Unfortunately we were a tight arsed bunch of IT staff so instead of going to the shop, we created a Private Server. It lasted about 2 weeks and when they took the server down without telling me, I was forced to go to the nearest PC World to buy a copy. Unfortunately I ended up on a different realm to the rest of my colleagues. That Realm choosing moment is definitely a Parallel world creating opportunity, what would have happened if I had chosen Darkspear instead of Kilrogg? Space for some fan fiction one day maybe.



2. What was the first ever character you rolled?



As an established Computer Gamer, Board Gamer, Role Player and Wargamer, I was well versed in the principle of melee classes are simple to learn whilst I assimilate the rest of the game. I was expecting a Sword and Board experience from the Warrior class and got something that just damp and squidgy. I read my copy of Bradygames WoW Guide and picked a Hunter with it's pet, for my wife to try. In the process of showing her the game I discovered that Hunter was the class that I was looking for and in that moment Bobflintston Dwarven Hunter was born. It is a joke name based on Blackadder and the way Rowan Atkinson rolls the consonants when saying Bob. Flintstone was supposed to be a typical Dwarven name, because they are all based on rocks, ores and mining. Not for the last time in game I had to shorten the name because of the 11 digit restriction.



3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?


As a Teenager I read copious amounts of Fantasy books. As with everybody I started off with The Hobbit moved onto Lord of the Rings before spending a lifetime searching for a book that would match those early days. David Eddings, Stephen Donaldson, Dragonlance. My tastes changed over time and I like many people settled on the comic genius of Terry Pratchett. With a literary background it was no surprise that I wanted to play the so called "good guys".



4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?


It is not so much a moment, but a period in the game, when my wife played and we would sit together  in the study and spend all night chatting to friends on Skype and Raiding Karazhan. There is something very special about a Raid that was designed for 10 people only and was seemed so very well attuned at the start of the expansion. Of course the attunement was an absolute joke but once they removed it, this became the place to be. I miss the people, and I miss the best raid ever.


5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?


I like the never ending nature of MMO, I was never one to complete a game and then say "Lets try it on advanced mode".  I will never have one character that is wearing the ultimate gear from the Highest tier of Raiding. I can achieve a couple rungs down from that but I prefer to receive regular upgrades, and that is why I play Alts.


Alts allow me to play a solo game with all the professions covered, and I have no need to rely on others. I enjoy levelling which is just as well with a alt fixation.


6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?


No, area in the game is really special, but I hate to see Ironforge absolutely devoid of players. It was a big mistake to make Stormwind the only Alliance city worth being in. This was based around the transportation to Northrend and later the portal area for Cataclysm.


7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?


I have played without any breaks, I am unsure exactly how long but I believe it is around 9 years. I never managed to get to max level in Vanilla and missed the rush to the Outlands by about 2-3 weeks. Total played time is 532 Days, I don't know too many with such a high number, or maybe they are all lying. Maybe I am the odd one out.


8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?


No of course not.


9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?


"Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way"


10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?


My Children are 11 and 9 years old. I would like to think that my gaming did not impact them in a negative way, but then again I think I would be lying.


They have turned out to be lovely children in spite of my heavy gaming addiction.


***EDIT***
Apologies for the formatting, it has all gone a bit Pete Tong.


Note to Alternative Chat - I would be more than happy to speak, record, write a song, not too good with poetry or singing, but anything else I am onboard.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

... But Seriously


Yesterday Blizzard announced it's plans for the 10th Anniversary Celebrations. This seems to come in 3 sections with World PvP (Battleground style), a rehash of Molten Core and a fiery Molten Corgi.

The following is a quick review of the 3 offerings being provided by Blizzard:

The Rematch: Tarren Mill v's Southshore

I miss this area since it was stolen from the Alliance during the Cataclysm. The one thing I don't miss from the area was the Horde Guards that patrolled Tarren Mill. Not quite as eagle-eyed as the Crocolisks of Wetlands fame, but suitably endowed with super powers to smell Alliance at 100 paces. The Alliance equivalent at Southshore might as well been replaced by the daily cows that roamed the area. I think that Tarren Mill was protected by Level 60 Guards and Southshore by Level 40 Guards.

Questing in the area was always a lottery due to Flight Master, and other NPC's being massacred on a regular basis, and all this used to occur on a PvE server.

I never PvPed in Vanilla and to be honest I only turned level 60 a few weeks after the Burning Crusade was released, so I have no recollection of the World PvP fights in the Hilllsbrad Foothills. I do miss the large scale battles of Tol Barad or Wintergrasp, even if they were flawed in there execution, which is the part that has me a little concerned. I am sensing the Deathmatch, will be on the lines of Alterac Valley and the 500 death countdown, or even worse would be no rezzing allowed, and the team with the early lead will accelerate quickly towards a crushing victory.

Molten Core

From the age of resistance gear, attunement and waiting for 40 people to turn up. For those that are pinning for the old days of proper raiding, there is a reason why the new Raid size is 20 and Flex raiding will be the standard.

I have only done the Molten Core as an OP tourist so I have no great memories of the place. The one thing that people are forgetting is the small percentage of people that used to Raid. If you exclude LFR the numbers are still fairly minuscule, so the only things in it's favour are the vastly improved methods for assembling 40 people across realms, and the fact that is time limited (at least I think it is, according to the Grumpy Elf).

Molten Corgi

For those that want to know what happens to a Battle Pet that everybody owns, then I would like to present Exhibit , the Baby Blizzard Bear, probably last seen about 6 years ago.

Yes he is cute and cuddly but they are like assholes, every has one. With over 600 pets in the game, it almost guaranteed that Fiery Corgis will be around for 2 weeks and then never seen again, unless they have some amazing battle abilities.

The reasons for rehashing content are two fold, the first it is an anniversary and secondary is the need to use  resources for the Warlords of Draenor which still seems to be months away even if we are all expecting an announcement next week.

Since Blizzcon, Blizzard have tried numerous attempts to distract the player base from the real issue that there is no product  ready. We have had Azeroth Choppers, Drunken animated shorts, Gaze of the Black Prince, and Heart of the Valorous which is making another short return this weekend. Even the big announcement on 14th August, just looks like a deflection of the fact that the Expansion is not even close to release. If Blizzard made bosses with inbuilt, distraction and deflection abilities we might all still be playing.

On the subject of falling numbers, is anybody actually surprised that the subscription numbers are still so high, considering the 2nd quarter was at the end of an expansion cycle. We are all waiting for the upturn in figures but without a product that is not going to happen any time soon.

By the way I apologise to everybody for using Phil Collins as the title of todays post.

***EDIT***

Is it just me having issues with spam software and other nasties from WoW Insider? Pro Tip always check the address of the update site, keep your AV software up-to-date and run your updates yourself. If you love your game, then keep your computer clean.