Tuesday, May 1, 2012

MoP Beta Brief; Diablo III's Rotten Excuse for DRM

One unexpected beta mystery: These two armadas that are taking up space off the coast of Lor'danel in
Dark Shore. There is nobody on board but definitely looks like the Horde and Alliance are having a
naval clash. 
It's a small problem but I realized this week that in the past I have labeled entries "beta." Just "beta." and so people are Googling "WoW Beta" or something similar and being directed to my posts from two years ago, regarding the Cataclysm beta.

To anybody getting so far as to read a new entry when they're disappointed with what they were directed to: I apologize and am probably going to go back and fix this. You might also try "MoP beta" or "pandaria beta" instead. Or something like that.  But hey, there will be more MoP beta here too.

That said, beta is a frustrating place right now. I took my Pandawan Warrior through the remainder of the Wandering Isle. It's OK. Most things work alright. The story is about what you'd expect of it. It is pretty though.  My "cutsieness" detector is at full strength and the presence of what looks like elemental babies who one has to play with, or wake up, or rescue from... I dunno what I rescued that one from, seems like Wowcraft Lite in comparison to Cata's elemental menace.  Remember: franchises die when they start introducing the baby versions of beloved characters. Baby Muppets. Baby Looney Tunes. Just saying. If some Caverns of Time thing happens and suddenly I have to put up with Baby Varian or (/shudder) Baby Thrall, I'm gonna damn well puke and cancel my account.

The Panda warrior left the island, went to Westfall and stopped when the fourth quest into the zone was broken. Of course, there's no sign of any other quests. Great job, linear story-telling! I took her to Dark Shore and we found no quests active there either until about half-way down the zone and then the second quest (Collect some massive elemental's essence) was broken too.

Low-level monks remain boring as all hell. Though some development seems to be happening.  The Drae monk hit 18 and Flying Serpent Kick opened up. They seem to be revising this ability a lot. There are five different versions of the spell in Wowhead and the one I linked just there isn't even the text tip that showed up in beta last night.  Honestly, flying through the air and targeting mobs with this ability seems like it will take a little getting used to. But still, you are flying through the air and targeting mobs and that is pure awesome.

Merinna the 85 Shaman played through some quests around Shang Xi Training Grounds in the Jade Forest on Pandaria. There are a few new quest types in here that go well on a "training" theme.  Some of the Panda NPCs are kinda funny.

The Jade Forest still looks very nice, all in all.

Janelo made her entry into the new world and let me tell you: They have seriously messed around with warlocks.  When they said that warlocks had the most changes, they weren't kidding. Mostly, I'm wondering what happened to my Shadow Bolt which has disappeared entirely from my affliction spellbook. It seems like a bug because on other characters, abilities unlock but do not go active in the spellbook too. But, I found a forum post in which GC specifically says that Shadow Bolt is now for demonology which sort of explains why it's not in the affliction spell book. But still, I have a hard time imagining the warlock class without its primary nuke.

This leads me to a general topic that I read about in a few different places this week. GC wrote in himself at this forum thread. And Matthew Rossi wrote about it as well at WoW Insider. Both reads are asking the question "How much change do you like with your expansion?"

Longtime readers of mine will know that my answer is "Bleah. Change!" Shamans get tweaked every freaking patch so maybe I'm more sensitive than others to this. But yeah, it's disheartening to open a warlock spellbook and not even really know what to do with it anymore.

On a paralell, yet beta topic:

The weekend of April 20-22 saw the Diablo III stress test. The beta was thrown wide open and anybody with a battle.net account could try it out. All things considered, I approve. It's somehow surprising how much it feels like good old Diablo despite all the enhancements and game tweaks and changes, and that is nice.

On the downside, I was really pretty frustrated with the fact that I have to be connected to the server at all times, while I'm in Diablo III.  This is a big issue and it's far reaching and probably deserves a lot more inspection than I'm going to give it here but here are the facts about it as neatly summed up as I can do for the time being:
  1. The stress test was just that, a test in which Blizzard intentionally set out to break the server functions, to see how far they can push their software and set limits that will be effective to control.
  2. As such, the Open Beta Weekend for Diablo III crashed relatively often and for unpredictable amounts of time. 
  3. It is very unlikely that this level of server instability will be seen once the game goes live. Which is to say, players should really not have to worry very much about getting disconnected from the Diablo Servers. 
  4. If there is some sort of connection problem-- your router burps, somebody hits the telephone pole your internet service runs through, or the Blizzard servers crap out-- your Diablo III game will disconnect and/or crash.
  5. That is unacceptable. 
  6. Blizzard says that the always-on Internet connection is a part of that "Blizzard Community!"or something. That the connections to your friends and the battle.net experience is so important that they seem to be unable to imagine anybody not wanting that all the time. 
  7. But you have to be connected to the server even if you are just playing the solo, campaign mode.
  8. Why do I "need" to be connected when I'm just playing solo?
  9. Do I really want somebody whispering me across battle.net to say "Dude, come heal the raid!" when I'm trying to play Diablo?
  10. Diablo II had the choice to connect to Battle.net or not. Why did they have to take that choice away?
  11. And yes, it is kinda frustrating when the solo game crashes because of the server connection. I think that will be amped way up if the live game crashes.
  12. The live game WILL crash one day. I'm not saying that because Blizzard is crappy at maintaining servers. They're not. But there will be a time when you won't be able to reach the servers and you want to play Diablo and you won't be able to.
No matter what anybody is saying, the reason they are requiring this sort of connection is only because they are trying to make it harder for you to peel a copy of Diablo III from a torrent download and actually be able to use it. If everybody has to be connected, then the software has to be registered just so and that's why you have to be connected to the stinking Internet in order to play a solo campaign.

This sort of plan is also intended to quash the resale market for games. Gamestop does not approve. 

All sorts of gaming companies are doing this, but I think Blizzard has taken it to a new level here and I really wish they wouldn't. It all amounts to additional hoops for us, the consumers to have to jump through.

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