Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ahune, go home!

The Frost Lord brought us bogus treats this year.

I have always had a fairly soft spot in my heart for The Midsummer Fire Festival.

I think, in part, it was one of the first holiday events that was seriously overhauled in the past few years, to become a real powerhouse event rather than the anemic excuses for holidays Azeroth celebrated before.

I think the whole "Tour the world and honor some fires while desecrating some others" routine has been a favorite thing. It's always been a good excuse to go tour all the places I've been and see how they are doing. I always imagine that "desecrating" a Horde fire is more akin to "Peeing on it" rather than just "Putting it out." And that appeals to something pretty immature in me as well.

And then there's Ahune. He was, I think, the first holiday boss in all WoW. And he dropped capes that were enviable and worth the time to go and collect if you character wasn't on the burning edge of raid progression. Ooooh, and The Frostscythe of Ahune. Coolest. Looking. Staff. Ever. It always has been and the specialty of that drop has been unadulterated since it's model has not been re-used for any other steps.

But this year... Ahune brought his capes and scythe, but um... maybe he didn't need to.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Developer Q& No A

My favorite incarnation of the Mighty Ghostcrawler
 Who read all the Developer Q&A sessions?  Did anybody like them?

Bashiok announced this week that the series was going to be scrapped and I mostly say, "Good riddance."

The whole thing kicked off in January with a Lore Q&A. The system was announced, that players should use the forum vote up/down system to show support for questions before writing one of their own, but since the thread spread to 40+ pages in less than an hour, I don't think anybody really managed to get through the lot of it.  Ultimate insult was added to this Q&A when the developers failed to answer anything.

Since that time, there have been a slew of different topics with more or less satisfaction in each case. But it culminated this week with the antagonizing set of answers provided for the Tank Q&A.  I think Allison Roberts, the Drood Guru at WoW Insider provided an excellent analysis of all that was wrong about that particular feature.

But I have to stop briefly and look at this one foul question and answer in the midst of the tank questions:
Q: Have you ever considered adjusting DPS HP? Seems that while their large pools of health help them on "accidental" situations, a fair portion of the time they can take aggro and tank adds without consequence. – Jainel (LA)

A: We're generally happy with how well DPS are able to tank (which is to say, not very well). We like that they can take a hit or two (depending upon content) before dying, and that the penalty for that happening is a huge drain on healer mana.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Here's my Real Prediction: Azshara

Azshara, twisted queen of the Naga: Our next big challenge
Haha. I'm almost sorry to keep coming back to this issue, but I keep giving it more and more thought.

I think I'm ready to put down my bet: The major antagonist of the next expansion is going to be Azshara. I'm not sure that makes the whole thing and "undersea" expansion per se. There are plenty of creative ways to introduce different settings to a story. But that's what it will be: Time to finish the Naga threat.

The thought that occurred to me about an Azshara-based expansion: Blizzard originally planned two raids for tier 12 raiding, the Firelands and an Abyssal Maw raid. The undersea raid was tabled, since the devs were allegedly more "excited" about the Firelands. 

Abyssal Maw had been announced and it's cut from patch 4.2 was one of the things that has been a major, major letdown. But, reading between the lines, if Blizzard were actively contemplating a significant undersea expansion, it would make a lot of sense to save the ocean raid material when they know it will thematically fit into the story they have coming up. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Future I Would Rather See

Here's a good basis for an expansion: Let's kill this guy!
I wrote my last article speculating about the next expansion and a day or two later Anne Stickney did the same thing on WoW Insider, and somewhere in the midst of reading her piece it dawned on me that I had written my article about the likely possibilities and had left out some of the options that I would really really like to see (though I think they are less than likely).

I don't really take back anything that was written in the previous article, however, but let me add these ideas that would likely be even more compelling, in my opinion:

The Horde Civil War
I see two possibilities for how these things could go, either of which would be immensely satisfying.

Scenario 1:  Somebody in the Horde comes to their senses and goes, "Garrosh F$%&ing Hellscream is Warchief? Oh, no! What were we thinking?"  But Garrosh won't go quietly and the forces loyal to him and the forces loyal to Thrall have to throw down. Thrall can even turn to the Alliance for help, since apparently he and Malfurion Stormrage are best buddies now. My favorite variant of this has Orgrimmar being seized by the Garrosh people and becomes a raid instance, in which the last boss is Hellscream himself.  Pure awesome. Horde players can totally get behind Thrall in this scenario, no matter what race they are and an invasion of one of the well-established WoW cities would be exciting beyond belief.  On the other hand, this would be a fairly radical use of game resources. I can imagine some players being upset about loosing the Big Apple of the Orcish eye.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I can see ... THE FUTURE! (Not Really)

And the future is a hazy green? Gosh, I hope not.

Ah me, amidst Blizzcon tickets selling out at a new record pace, the Interwebs start to whisper of the possibility of a new WoW expansion to be announced in October.

I think it's going to be a busy Blizzcon. I suspect Diablo will be front and center stage at that event. Unless I'm mistaken, there may be only a few months left before its release by the time Blizzcon rolls around.  There are clearly developments in Starcraft as well, even though I don't expect to get any mega-announcement about Heart of the Swarm at all in 2011.  But, in all likelihood, I think we will hear the first beams of news about World of Warcraft, Expansion IV.

What shall be in this expansion? Let's consider a few possibilities:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quality Content Control

I remember reading an article by a former GM who described the amount of WoW douchebaggery rising significantly when players get bored of the content and instead of playing "the game," they decide to mess with people instead. Generally, this was a problem in the months before a new expansion. Yet here we are, early in Cata, and the problem is clearly going out of control again now.
 - Me, in February

World of Warcraft's subscriber base has reached pre-Cataclysm levels, according to Mike Morhaime, CEO of Blizzard Entertainment. He then later stated an actual number, with subscriptions at the end of March clocking in at right around 11.4 million.

That's down by about 5% from the announced 12 million mark late last year. Interestingly enough, that was right before Cataclysm released. In fact, it's actually lower than the milestone reached in 2008 with the release of Wrath of the Lich King.

Another point, Mr. Morhaime touched on as well is that World of Warcraft's subscriber base does not change linearly. It fluctuates based on content consumption, which players seem to be doing a whole lot of -- at a more rapid pace -- with Cataclysm. "Subscriber levels have decreased faster than previous expansions," he said.
-, early May
This is not going to be a very positive post. Let's just put that at the top here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sins of Buying Gold

I've got ninety thousand pounds in my pajamas. I've got forty thousand French francs in
my fridge. I've got lots of lovely lira, now the Deutschmark's getting dearer. And my dollar
bills could buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

There was a news item printed recently that guards at Chinese work camps forced prisoners to farm gold in World of Warcraft which were then sold to players all over the world.

Here, I attempt to be as objective as I possibly can in pointing out a few things:

The Guardian newspaper of Britain reported on the story told by exactly one former prisoner in China.  Let's be honest and acknowledge lousy journalism when we see it. There is a cardinal rule in journalism, that it's not news until you have two sources confirming the same story. This doesn't mean that the events did not take place, it just means that the Guardian sloppily ran out an unconfirmed story because it's "astonishing."

There are human rights violations alleged by the name-changed subject of the Guardian article. I don't mean to lessen the importance of these things, but, they do not influence the conditions of gold-selling in WoW. Human Rights' abuse is to be deplored, but they should not cloud our view of how this relates to our game. Better organizations than the Guardian (or this blog) are already hard at work on this.

The story states that the "forced gold farming" took place between 2004-2007. In game terms, this is a lifetime ago. Blizzard has changed the dynamics of gold acquisition to such an extent that the majority of purchased gold now comes from hacked accounts.  Gold-farming, while probably still existent, is largely defunct. Old stories like the Guardian's report have little sway on the current dynamics of the problem.

Finally, it should be pointed out that labor camps, the making of products, and the exporting of said products are all quite legal in China, so ostensibly, I don't see that putting prisoners to work in this manner is all that surprising or unusual. (And it might make us stop to consider who exactly made all that other "made in China" crap we already have.)  Many states in the U.S. have variations on this same policy as well. So, let's not cast stones about that.