Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Cataclysm Couldn't Top the Lich King

Nice try, DW, but no cigar.
I think Blizzard made a mistake trying to "top" The Wrath of the Lich King.

One of the problems that I have sensed in the past several months is that many players aren't as invested in the story Cataclysm has brought us. In one regard, we could probably look and say that players may be getting jaded, and there is probably some truth in that. But on the other hand, there are some principles of story-telling that didn't line up well in this tale of the Black Dragon that destroys the world.

The company line is that "This Cataclysm is like... the most dangerous thing that has ever happened in the world! Everything's all broken! Fire! Fire!" But, the structure of the video game doesn't support such histrionics. The day that Patch 4.0 hit, we all logged on and all the worst destruction had already occurred and the world was still there. Our immediate reactions were not "Oh noes! Must... fix... world...!" For most of us, it was just curious amusement and the knowledge that the world was going to persist, because if it didn't... what were we going to play in?

And, for the lore student, it's easy to see the Cataclysm isn't the most horrible thing that ever happened to the world. The Sundering, 10,000 years before, that split the Pangea-like super-continent into the major landmasses we have now (as well as the full-fledged demon invasion immediately preceding it) clearly altered the face of the world more than Deathwing did.

Another of the key storytelling problems this expansion is just simply that The Lich King was a tough act to follow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Patch 4.3 - Two Days Later: A "Huge" Patch

It doesn't work like this.
Blizzard spilled the beans in German, no less, about the plans for Patch 4.3  And all the sudden, every web site in the game industry had notes to add to that.  Let's get to the revealed details and then look to overall analysis.

The Deathwing Raid
It's time for DW to meet his maker, apparently. There's nothing else really going on, I suppose. So why not?

MMO Champ suggests that the appearance of this raid makes it very likely that 4.3 will be the last patch before the next expansion. I beg to differ, and point squarely at The Ruby Sanctum as a precedent. Furthermore, it's really well-documented at this point that DW has a boss he is answering to and that boss is an Old God. We don't necessarily need to scrap with him this expansion, but to say we are simply not going to see him this time would be short-sighted until Blizzard announces otherwise.

There is no word on how many bosses there will be or where it will happen. A separate report suggests that at least part of the Deathwing fight will take place with the entire raid up on his back as he cruises through the stratosphere.  This is cool enough. I have long pictured that DW is just too much monster to corner in his lair and that the fight would take place out in some instanced version of the world.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Patch 4.3

Patch 4.3 should surely have a rock elemental rave party.
From MSNBC report about the recent Activision Blizzard financial reports:
"The 'World of Warcraft' development team is also working on the next content update, which will include major new raid and dungeon content," he said. "We believe that this new end-game content will keep the game fresh for current players and provide compelling reasons for lapsed players to come back."
Morhaime added that it would be the "largest content update since 'Cataclysm'" and said it would arrive "later this year."
Prepare to be underwhelmed, WoW fans. Patches 4.1 and 4.2 have been miniscule in comparison to what we saw in both Wrath of the Lich King and in The Burning Crusade.  The largest content update "since Cataclysm" is still likely to be smaller than than any patch from before this expansion.

Blizzard needs to get busy and reveal some of the things they are plotting, since they haven't said even one word about it. And it's been many many weeks since 4.2 appeared.  Some guidelines they should consider:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Hints Have Begun

Who are these Ethereals? And what are they doing here?

Blizzard CM Nethaera posted this picture Thursday morning on the official forums.

  • These characters are not listed in WoWhead.
  • They look very much like they are fulfilling some faction functions.
  • They are in a pretty standard human-constructed building
  • The "Arcane Reforger" is interesting. Thus far, reforgers have only appeared in major faction cities in the form of one of the player races.

Conclusion: This is some sort of new material.

Could this be... for the expansion? Nethaera posted this on the forums under the heading "Curiouser,"  which is very teasing, I think. And Blizzard doesn't usually tease over coming patch content. They just issue a patch preview. Which makes me think that we might be looking at "The Mists of Pandarea" or whatever here.

That's all I'm going to say about it right now. I can think of several other ways to extrapolate into this information, as I'm sure people all over the world are already doing. But I want to see more first.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How's Blizzard Doing At the Bank?

Pork bellies and Activision Blizzard are on the rise
Activision Blizzard held it's 2nd Quarter earnings call the other day and announced that they lost another 300,000 subscribers between April and June of this year. Add that to the 600,000 lost in the first quarter, and that's around a 7% subscriber loss this year.

Before continuing forth, we should review Blizzard's Parent Company structure, just so that the rest of this article maintains context.  The company that makes and develops WoW is called "Blizzard Entertainment."  The company that publishes WoW is called Activision Blizzard. The company that owns Activision Blizzard is a French super-conglomerate called Vivendi. Vivendi is traded on one public stock exchange or another.

Is Blizzard in trouble?  Emphatically: No.

At the same time subscribers are down, the revenues from "properties such as WoW" hit a new record, showing a 27% increase from the same quarter a year ago.  Opening up Cataclysm in China this year has certainly been a part of that growth. Next quarter, we can look forward to hearing about WoW's recent expansion into Portuguese in Brazil has upped the bottom line as well.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects

Since when did orcs get noserings?
I finished reading Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects the other night. It was a good enough read. First, I'll share some proper thoughts that might be called a "review" with the meat of the post, that might be called "spoilers" appearing after the break.

Warcraft stories in general are paced much more like action movies than real books, and I routinely wish, when reading them, that they would slow down and say a bit more about relationships. They rarely delve much past the most glaringly obvious of "feelings."

Yah, yah, Thrall is totally in love with Aggra(vation). Who cares. Tell me something I didn't know, like how Farseer Nobundo can stand to be in the same room as the leader of the creatures who decimated his people and severed his personal connection with The Light with their fel corruption. In this book, all we get is Nobundo patting Thrall on the back and being glad to see him, and are left to imagine the intense conversations that should have happened before such a thing could be possible. Stuff like that would tell us so much more about Thrall then reading about him getting all gloopy over the chick he's fallen for.

Twilight of the Aspects is a moderately decent chunk of plot for Warcraft, taking place between the start of Cataclysm and the launch of Patch 4.2. The real meat of the story has to do with Deathwing's attempts to remove the Dragonflights from his quest to destroy the world.  Deathwing has a minion called The Twilight Father attack Wyrmrest Temple and for some reason, they are all coming after Thrall as well. Ysera has had visions in which Thrall is important to the future of the dragons, though I'm not sure how Deathwing or the Hammer would be privy to such information.

Thrall has a good romp through time, trying to locate the Golden Aspect Nozdormu. The Twilight Hammer also goes about trying to revive Nefarion's plan from Blackwing Lair to make a Chromatic Dragonflight.

There is a subplot in which the Leader of the Infinite Dragonflight siccs an Adelus Blackmoore from an alternate timeline on Thrall which is completely pointless other than to have Thrall get sidetracked with an arch-enemy who he must eventually kill (again). I really wanted Adelus to yell out: "Durnholde Keep was merely a setback!" Really, why not make... a new enemy for Thrall to face, rather than recycle an old one again?

I'm actually not the biggest fan of Christine Golden. I think her characters move more like paper dolls through the familiar scenery we know as Azeroth than they should and what amounts to Deep Insight (TM) in her stories are fundamentals of eastern religion that I learned the first time somebody taught me about meditation. I wish she'd give us something that we haven't really seen before. Her heroes are mighty, her villains craven. The stories go from point A to point B to point C without much else going on in between.

Anyway. It's a lot of plot and a relatively upbeat ending that suggests the Doom of the Aspects may be averted. I'm not a slobbering Thrall fanboy like some (cough, Chris Metzen, cough), but I do basically like the guy and it is good to see him in the world. I just think it'd be more interesting to see him really challenged. Aggra(vation) seems to have been inserted into his story just to push his buttons, but she's in love with the guy and still ranks with all the rest of the backslappers that surround Thrall.

Follow the jump only if you are not offended by spoilers and analysis as to what these plot points bring to our Azeroth.

Coming to an AH Near You...

Ormus' Robes going once! Going twice ...!
Monday, August 1, Blizzard took the opportunity to announce that Diablo III will have an Auction House

Instead of selling off all the stuff you accumulate while Diablo-ing, you'll be able to put it on the AH and let somebody, somewhere else buy it off you. Woot

But the freaky thang is that there will be two variants of this thing, one of which will use ACTUAL REAL LIVE MONEY from your account.   I'm going to say that again:  ACTUAL REAL LIVE MONEY. I think the business model here is that your barbarian may find a helmet or something deep in the bowels of the earth and instead of sticking it on your head, you can put it in the Auction House. And instead of asking 500 gold for the thing, you could ask for $5. And then some guy will see that, and use funds he has transferred into his account to pay for it.  That guy could then use the $5 he has just earned (minus a percentage taken by Blizzard) to pay for subscription fees to one Blizzard game or another. or to buy a Sparkle Pony from the Blizzard Pet Store.

And now, we pause, to offer a link to all this info. There's a buttload of it and I don't feel like I need to repost it here. Go ahead and read and come back to some highlights and analysis.

Monday, August 1, 2011

This is SoOOoo Not Safe For Work

Earlier this year, a friend of mine suggested I look up a song by Jonathan Coulton, and when I went You-Tubing, instead of the usual song playing with a picture of the album cover, I was delighted to find WoW machinima instead. Since then, I have struggled, nay... fought with my desire to post about it. The video and the song are perfect together, though I can rightly imagine a significant number of people getting horribly upset at it as well.

So, with that struggle now behind me, I first issue this opinion: This song and video are about as funny as they come. The song is cheerful and pleasant and the video is mischievous, clever and though lacking in some production quality is not lacking in imagination and love for WoW.

Second, I issue this warning:  People offended by any variation of sexuality that one could possibly imagine should not watch this video. Children should not watch this video. People at work should not watch this video.  If adult topics could prove troubling to you, do not follow this link

And so, finally, I present  "The First of May" by Jonathan Coulton.