Thursday, 31 July 2014

It's A Beautiful Day


Bugger! I did have a post ready and willing but Blogger seems only to have saved a copy from 2 days ago. I have used Blogger for 2 and a half years now and written 330 posts without any major problems until now. I have had glitches before, with not being able to add pictures but nothing major to worry about. That is until yesterday when it decided to lose a couple of hours work. I was too annoyed to rewrite the post yesterday so I wrote about a the concept of a single player MMO.

I am now ready to tackle the missing article from yesterday, but I am slightly worried it will not be as vitriolic as the original. Writing can be cathartic and I no longer have the bile left in me to express my disappointment in Blizzard. Sometimes when you write, you can recall the gist of your narrative but now I can't remember a word of what I wrote, so big apologies and I will try to piece together my thoughts

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Thanks Blizzard, Thanks a bleedin bunch. As an Alliance only player I believe this is utterly beneath contempt, I was angry at the time and now I am absolutely seething. If I had any backbone I would rage quit wave the Bird at Blizzard HQ. This is what I wrote then

"Now here is where everything gets a little murky and if anything Blizzard have deliberately muddied the waters. Is the vote on the best looking Chopper, or is it this contest between Horde and Alliance? Does everybody get the Chopper, or just characters of the winning faction?"

We have some of the answers now, and it appears that the Horde will get an extra mount and Alliance can whistle Dixie. No long is it "For the Horde" it is "Up yours Alliance" No need to answer the question, we have the result of the North Korean Election and it is no surprise to most players, "Blizzard loves Horde".


The competition is flawed, it is as stupid as if  Metzen and Morhaime had said which is the sexiest race, Female Blood Elf or Male Undead and then after a crushing victory for Female Blood Elves, all Female players are awarded 3 months free game time. As if these two things were associated.

In a straight vote between Horde and Alliance, the Alliance win hands down. According to the Blizzard figures the breakdown of characters is 52% Alliance and 47% Horde, with 1% Pandas still stuck on Turtle Island. With 7.5 Million subscribers that leaves the Horde short by 37,500 votes. Make the vote purely about the aesthetics of 2 choppers one which looks fairly cool and contrast it against an ugly looking metallic insect then the vote is a foregone conclusion.

Azeroth Choppers was headed up by two senior Blizzard employees both of whom have strong links with the Horde, then it is no surprise when the Horde wins the competition by what looks like a mile, but lets be honest we have never seen the figures just some crap piece of graphics indicating a crushing win for the Horde.

Even after this whole debacle Blizzard could have still changed the rules, but instead they chose to humiliate and upset more than half of their subscribers, it sends a powerful message that they don't care if they upset customers on the way, because all is fair in love and war.

I always believed the Horde was the underdog in Warcraft, but now I feel like the aggrieved, it was funny that things in the game where not always balanced, that Alterac Valley is not symetrical, or that the Fishing Quest had most of the pools next door to Horde Flightpoints. Blizzard loves Horde was a battle chant that the Alliance could unite behind, but Blizzard hates Alliance is not a nice twist on the same story.

Every expansion appears to be a Horde storyline with a few breadcrumbs for the Alliance to pick up, certainly Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor are 90% Horde centric. The Alliance complained that during Mists of Pandaria, an expansion about War and the consequences of War, that it is a story told from the perspective of the Horde and not the Victors. Maybe Blizzard are incapable of writing from an Alliance perspective, because it seems too easy to write from the perspective of the world aggressors.

Blizzard seems to have an issue with balance, and it is something that needs to be looked at sooner rather than later. Horde v's Alliance, Horde wins, Male v's Female character stories, Males win by a massive amount.

It is obviously a harder sell for the Horde than Alliance, and I believe historically the numbers used to be skewed heavily in favour of the Alliance, but rumours of the Horde being the PvP kings, and Achievements needing max level characters on both sides and the introduction of a Horde "pretty race" in the shape of the Blood Elves have helped to balance the numbers so that 52-47 looks like a good balance, but do we need to keep pandering to the underdogs?

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On a much lighter note, I was following some You Tube links when I came across "Hottest Celeb Chicks Who Play WoW". Assuming this was the work of some spotty adolescent who is fantasising they can get off with a Famous Girl Gamer, purely because they share an interest in the same game. I was shocked to find it was the work of Panser no doubt pandering to her male fan club. You understand that I was only viewing the You Tube video in the interests of research, and after watching I noticed the section on the right had the music video "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar" by Felicia Day. I ended up watching the 1st Season of the Guild, and of course I have now watched them all.

If for some reason you have been living in a cave for the last few years, obviously the one next door to mine then I can heartily recommend watching them all. It might be an imaginary MMO but we all know which one is the basis for most of the material.


I have been aware of the Guild for a long time, since some friends likened my wife to Clara, saying that she would leave the kids to their own devices whilst she gorged on mammoth gaming sessions. All of this is of course lies and my wife will take you to court if you suggest otherwise. It was worth the wait and I think that I might even watch the episodes without playing at the same time, so that I can concentrate on the annotation that comes with each episode.



Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wicked Game


I am just contemplating a post from Alternative Chat, pondering the mixed messages from Blizzard. I could go off on a tangent about Blizzard and mixed messages, but I would rather concentrate on the idea of a single player MMO.

I sometimes see people in groups and raids who are dressed head to foot in LFR gear, and wonder why they would put themselves through that kind of agony, when you can go to Timeless Isle and grind for Burden of Eternity. On the whole this is better gear than LFR (it is in terms of iLevel) and it needs no interaction with the proletariat.

The question is could WoW become the new Baldur's Gate? A solo MMO with minions running quests in the Garrison, how long before we can do group or raid content on our own?



When we say that we only stay in game for the online social interaction? or are we deluding ourselves and that we prefer to spend time in a fantasy world acting like a hero than taking out the trash. I prefer Gaming to Television, but I particularly like to play when nobody else is online. No waiting for mobs to appear, everything is like a swimming pool before somebody dives in and causes ripples in the water. No need to check the chat log simply switch on Arnie mode and Terminate Azeroth.

I used to love doing dungeon crawls in Baldur's Gate with four other AI characters. Not totally depending on AI, but being able to position characters to best kill the boss. As long as you can tun off the speech of the the companions that drove me to distraction in Diablo III.

We can keep the MMO aspect for Auction House, but ultimately I think that a solo MMO is actually quite tempting. Blizzard could introduce a 4th type of Server with PvE, PvP, RP, and Solo. We play with other people but on our own, we could even have a sub class with a Diogenes server, where no chatting is allowed. No Barrens or Trade Chat, tell me that is not appealing.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Blitzkrieg Bop


Last night I was struggling for time and the last thing that I needed was an Asshat to spoil my fun (I will get to this later). Blizzard often talk about spoiling the fun aspect, not letting real issues spoil the fun, reporting players for spoiling the fun. I am curious is WoW fun any more? do we play out of a sense of duty?

Since my post on the PvP Posse riding through Hordeville on a steamroller, I am getting occasional shouts to do some Battlegrounds. Having brushed off several of these shouts, it felt like I really should give something back to these guys. I usually dust of my Resto Shaman for such occasions, but back in the day, I was quite handy with my Hunter, a real PitA if not a wreaking ball. After the first win I was really getting into the swing of things, I am still without gear but with the other guys around it was not a problem. Beo and Stormy were awesome as usual but the teaming up with an old guild mate Grizlyadams the "Singing Jock" that really put the icing on the cake.

Warsong Gulch is a traditional Horde stronghold, 3-0 to the Alliance with the Alliance camping the Graveyard. How many times have I been on the receiving end of such torture? Eye of the Storm, another strategic battle that for some reason favours the more organised Horde, not that day. It was an unstoppable Juggernaut of a team. For some reason it was mostly Russian Horde players that were getting a whooping, which considering what is going on in the world gives me additional pleasure.

As in game and real life the most enjoyment comes from doing something that you had really low expectations of, and really did not want to do, and then having a good time. The opposite is also true about something that you really want to do, turns into a turgid piece of crap. Expectations and the management of expectations are the key to having a good stable life. Is it any wonder that musicians take drugs, having played to thousands of baying fans, sitting down with a mineral water for a game of chess is not going to cut it.

Back to my opening statement and the Asshat, we have all seen them before, they do exist in WoW in what appears to be large numbers and they mostly like to live in LFR, so we can at least choose to avoid them. This new Asshat and I have no issue giving him (lets face it a female gamer has better things to do than cause distress to others) some publicity. Huntyoutohel from Magtheridon-EU, I name you Dickhead of the week.

What is the hideous crime? Simply ninja pulling Ordos every two minutes.
Pull>Die>Spirit Run>Rez>Pull
What possible benefit to you get from this activity? It was not even a faction suicide, kill yourself to get 15-20 Horde, I can almost see some benefit to that, pulling a World Boss onto your own faction is just boredom on a new scale.

I was curious to find out what Blizzard's official stance on this kind of behaviour, because forgive I don't think Blizzard have a good reputation when they talk about breaking the ToS and then don't bother to act upon it. The rules are in place, but we don't want to upset paying customers.

I have an idea if you don't want to give out 1 or 2 week bans, simply give a realm transfer to a Bad Boys PvP realm for Juvenile offenders. A Borstal for gamers who do not know how to play nicely with the other kids. You can even let the GM's grief the players as part of the punishment, it is better than any executive stress busting toys. How about keep them in the game and create an area in Capital Cities, were we can slap them in stocks and chuck rotten fruit at the characters. The characters even remain online after the offender logs off.

It is about time that Blizzard gives the paying customer some of the fun they keep promising and punish those that want to spoil the experience for everybody else.

Monday, 21 July 2014

I Wanna Be Sedated


According to the official sources, the current WoW player base for the 1st Quarter 2014 was 7.6 Million. A figure that puts it way above it's nearest rivals but a considerable drop from the heady days of WotLK and the 1st Quarter of Cataclysm. As a player do we want WoW to be as successful as in the past? Stay at the current levels with consolidated Realms? or for Blizzard to need to actively seek new players?


The Blizzard book of Stats unveiled some spectacular figures for us to digest. Only 7% are still playing the game, so even if you start stripping out the free accounts and the Gold seller accounts it is a large number of people who are familiar with the game.

What happened to these people? Did they...
  • play and hate the game
  • play and hate MMO's
  • play and like the game, but stop because of lifestyle changes
  • play and like the game, but hate the community
  • play and like the game, but hate a particular expansion
  • play the game and then move onto another game
  • play the game and then move onto another MMO
Not all these scenarios are good for Blizzard, and their target audience is only a small percentage of the 90 Million that have tried it and no longer play. The target audience is made up of people who come back for a new expansion and people who have never played it.

These two very different audiences have very different needs, and it can be argued that the more expansions the larger the barrier to entry for new players might be. My boss at work who is a serial gamer, but who has never played WoW. He has however played the big franchise MMO's like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings. His teenage son is striking out and started playing WoW and dragging his father with him. Perfect target demographic, an old gamer and a teenager, but what is there in a 10 year old game for these two individuals?

The electronic starter pack is a level 20 character free demo. My boss skipped this and bought a combined expansion pack including Vanilla, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm all for the princely sum of £5. This will lead the new player up to Level 85 and will need to purchase Mists of Pandaria and Warlords or Draenor. By my reckoning that is going to be £20 for MoP and £45 for WoD.

For £5 you get a lot of game but the rest is a large chunk of change in one go, that would probably put off a large percentage of players. I would guess that they need to drop MoP to around £5-£10 or else they can expect another large tail off of numbers.

The World of Warcraft is empty. There is one capital city for Horde and Alliance a few hangouts in MoP or Timeless Isle. The rest of the world is just so empty, and that is not a good experience for and MMO. Teach people to play in a solo vacuum then feed them to the lions at max level. I can see the need for boosted max level but why not boost for 60-90 rather than 1-90. Get some extra value from the Cataclysm revamp.

Apparently fresh eyes are telling me that the requirement for addons for a new player is on the heavy side. Who today would even attempt to play without addons like we used to after every patch. Blizzard need to adapt more core addons and make them optional, immortalise the writers in game and use the code.

Movement is just too damn slow, I can live without flying mounts but walking at low level is painful. It is bad enough getting around Stormwind never mind some of the zones.

My boss complained about minimap directions, stating that points of interest should be highlighted by mouse over, and the general guidance for skills and professions is very poor. The starter zone is not just a small area, it should include a city tour and professions. It is like passing your driving test and then letting you drive on your own on a motorway/freeway without tuition.

In some respects it would be nice to see the game through fresh eyes but unless I meet someone from MiB armed with a memory eraser, then that is not going happen.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Living For The Weekend


This weekend sees the return of the Heart of Valorous buff, so now is a good time to collect the weeks worth of valor as I am in no doubt those supplies of Timeless Coins are at an all time low. I have chewed my way through 400,000 timeless coins in the 3,000 coins for 100 valor bonanza.

I would normally be quite happy to see this buff, but my realm had this buff all last weekend  as well. Was last week a glitch? Have I exploited Blizzard? Was it a test for this week? Did they simply forget to tell anyone about it? These Time Sensitive Buffs become an integral part of your game plan, then they disappear unexpectedly or appear after you collect the weeks valor. I assumed last week was a 4th July Brucie Bonus, but I was still expecting it to be there on Monday.

Any chance Blizzard might share it's master plan with us and allow us to plan around their mood swings?

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On a separate topic completely, I have now claimed my 2nd Legendary cloak for my Shaman, but I am not sure I ordered the right one.

I am essentially Restoration, but it was so hard to keep 2 sets up-to-date in MoP. I am so very pleased that only Trinkets will be spec specific.

I chose the Elemental version because I am unlikely to do too much more raiding on this character, but I can enjoy another 10 levels of hurling lightning bolts in this cloak.

I really hope I did the right thing, and besides, it is quite awhile since I ran out mana, so Spirit would be wasted.
Finishing of the Legendary Quest line I opted for Healing against the Celestials and really enjoyed it. I just wish it was easier to add Wrathion to my Healbot bar rather than try to use the default UI.

Hint to Blizzard, if you are tweaking the UI, think about introducing a Healing interface, it might help on your Healer recruitment drive.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word


Some days it is hard to find something to write about, and others you need to beat them off with a stick. Today is a day of plenty.

I have been meaning to write a follow up to the post on Blizzard's policy around naming policy. In this post I touched on some topics that are more important than a computer game, like misogyny, sexual orientation, and though not directly stated racism and nationalism.

A couple of stories have collided together to make it a good time to revisit the topic. The story to which I refer is Rob Pardo leaving Blizzard, and the subsequent retraction or additional clarification made by Mike Morhaime and a lack of diversity in Blizzard Games. Am I really the only person who sees a connection between these two events. Rob Pardo made a stupid statement about not letting equality and real life issues spoil the fun aspect of gameplay and 2 months later Rob Pardo leaves Blizzard and a few days after that Mike Morhaime is apologising, and talking up the need to be more inclusive.

I think Rob Pardo has paid the price for spouting out-dated white male gamer philosophies from another time period. Mike Morhaime is nobody's fool and will have been shocked by the storm that was whipped up Rob Pardo's comments. Morhaime's comments have been carefully chosen and set the right tone, but will he ultimately be able to change the corporate culture of one of the most influential Computer Gaming Companies. For now Blizzard appear to be listening, nobody could have foreseen the power of social networking to be able to change the policy of a large corporation.

The company needs some more diversity in terms of storyline and characters, and I don't mean just doing things by numbers. By this I mean do not apply quotas, There are 7 (according to the artwork) Warlords of Draenor, who are all Orc Males, so get rid of three of them and replace with three or four females, or maybe one of the Warlords is gay. It is about implementing natural diversity, Warlords are historically male blood thirsty bastards, but in the real world, empire building in Great Britain came during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. Women are not men in dresses, they are far more complex than that. Writing a storyline about males is easy, they are far more predictable, and this probably lead to accusations that Rob Pardo uses only 4 main storylines and they are covered with a liberal sprinkling of cheese.

Maybe a new team can create a more convincing story than:

  1. Warchief evades execution for war crimes and atrocious acts of genocide
  2. Warchief escapes from prison and goes back in time to another planet in an alternative reality
  3. Warchief and former Warchief meet fathers and heroes from childhood legends
  4. Somehow evade catastrophic event and move planet from alternative reality to our reality
  5. Invade Azeroth with people from alternative reality
I am waiting to be convinced by the storyline, and I am waiting to see the impact of Morhaime's cultural revolution. I am guessing at this stage we are stuck with the main storyline and we will get a few female characters to flesh out the storylines.

Come on Blizzard give us a real 3 dimensional woman, with a storyline we can almost believe in, because Jaina Proudmore, and the Windrunners do not cut it for me.



Thursday, 10 July 2014

Touch Too Much


Having been swamped with responses to Tuesdays post, I was forced to re-assess the parts of the game I would rather not do. One aspect was the Reputation Grind which as Grumpy pointed out they used to be quite epic but are now just a little bit meh. Difficult, long and time consuming somehow transpire to be rewarding. What is obvious is that it is a developers trick that cannot be used too often.

Collecting 20,000 eggs for one reputation and killing 40,000 Worg pups for another are both time consuming activities and sometimes the epicness is in beating the boredom threshold like the Bloodsail Buccaneers, which is mindless killing of innocent civilians and was then usual made up of spending weeks atoning for your massacring the local populace. This of course reminds everyone of the Mists of Pandaria experiment to scatter gear amongst all the reputation factions and then hide one faction behind other factions. Then slow the whole process down by only being able to gain reputation through dailies.

Dailies

I would rather not be doing dailies, but if it is a toss up between making your own entertainment like on Timeless Isle or doing structured dailies, then dailies wins hands down. Looking for Rares is great when you get a kill with the rare on 5%, but invariably you are always in the wrong place.

Dailies are great for knocking out when waiting in a queue for LFR or PvP, maybe even before the Raid starts. What they are bad at doing is being a requirement to knock out 25-50 of them on each of your characters every day for 3 weeks. Dailies are being withdrawn by Blizzard when they should have used them more sparingly. Typical Blizzard they think the scale is Loads or Nothing without any middle ground in between.

Operation: Shieldwall and Kirin Tor Assault showed that reputation grind with dailies, stories and scenarios can work if integrated right. The bad part was that we had already done 5,000 dailies by this part of the expansion. Bring them back but not as the only content for end game.

Player v's Player

This is an odd choice for someone who devoted several blog inches on the Silvershard Mines. PvP can be fun to do if you didn't have to spend huge amounts of time just to be vaguely competitive. I could spend a few weeks to get Honor gear and then a few months to get Conquest gear. Obviously this process is quicker if I am Horde and queue constantly for Silvershard Mines, so that you can clock up 99 wins out of 100.

PvP Power seems to have done nothing to reduce the issues of PvP resilience and now we are going to have chameleonic gear that changes with our spec, it is time we had a blurring of the PvE/PvP gear. PvP gear in MoP was made with no loss of stats. I believe the team are working on a better balance but as usual expect some changes before we settle into a proper solution. You would hope that it would take less than 10 years to find a solution that works.

I might have mentioned it before, but it is time to keep PvE and PvP realms apart. Open raid always seems to be the default location with PvE wimps being dragged into a Gankers paradise just to have a pop at Ordos. If PvP realms do not have enough people to play with on PvP realms, there might just be a reason for it.

Looking For Raid

I spend a reasonable amount of time in LFR each week and lets face it is not as bad as many people would have us believe. Unfortunately when it is bad it is absolutely terrible. I have recently done some Lei Shen, mostly for the guaranteed drops, mostly it is straight in there  give him a smack and steal his loot. Occasionally some groups wants to do the Raid as originally intended. I know it is going to be a long night when they spend several minutes assigning people into groups for the Intermission. Most groups will simply just divide into 4 without too much difficult, but when they assign a group to a colour we are doing the Raid by numbers.

At this stage in the expansion I just want to get in and get out, mission accomplished. The only random aspect should be if the Secrets or Titan Runestones drop. For me it might well be alt number 4,5,7 or 11 but I still know what to do and what time. I don't get angry if we fail once, but I don't expect multiple failures, slanging matches and huge waiting times for another Tank or Healer to join the happy team.

The gear in LFR pitched for SoO at iLevel 522 means that I have no need for any of the gear with the exception of Trinkets. The only reason why anybody is in LFR is for Legendary quest, and so if this tourism raiding, then we really need a whistle stop tour experience, not the long drawn out experience that Blizzard have served up. It could be argued that LFR should have been ineligible for the Legendary quests, but I am guessing that nobody would be using that Tier of raiding for the last 4-6 months.

Flexible Raiding will probably be the final nail in the LFR coffin, and raiding with the guild will be an easier option, providing you have a modicum of talent. Nobody will want to bring Bob just because he is nice, if he stands in shit and can't hit a cows arse with a banjo.

If your Guild does not raid at a suitable time then open PuG raids will be able to assemble as any number, making them easier to form.

Waiting For A New Expansion

This is a monumental cock up on Blizzard's behalf. Speeding up expansion patches when they were not needed and then taking a very long time to make a new expansion.

During Cataclysm it seemed like a good idea to reboot Azeroth with Flying and new quests, and going to town on some zones and not touching others. Blizzard did not know where to stop in this development process and they are repeating the same problems again with the Character remodelling. The initial reaction was very positive but more and more complaints are being aired about the lack of continuity, the lack of a one off Nip and Tuck to choose the new face for our saggy heroes. Anyone remember the barbershop? As anybody been in since they got the Achievement?

The game time and development time do not stack up. Most of the time, it is the back of my characters head that I see, and several of them have Helm showing. I have no time for beautifying my characters or dressing them up like dolls, it just distracts from the job of killing internet Dragons.

The Turpster on the The Instance Podcast, several weeks ago excitedly declared that Warlords of Draenor was like World of Warcraft v2 with the new look and feel. Right now I would rather not be playing WoW the Original, when there is a whiff of something new and hopefully better waiting in the future.