Thursday, 14 April 2016

F*!#in' Up

What does World of Warcraft have in common with Microsoft? A general inability to do good expansions/OS releases one after the other. Using my rough calculation starting at Windows 95:

Windows 95 - The Burning Crusade
Windows 98 - Wrath of the Lich King
Windows ME - Cataclysm
Windows XP - Mists of Pandaria
Windows Vista - Warlords of Draenor
Windows 7 - Legion ???
Windows 8 - ???
Windows 10 - ???

Before you all complain about my computing timeline, it is the general gist that Warlords of Draenor is the Windows Vista of expansions. I still fix PC's with XP installed, but nobody in their right mind would use Vista.

Part of the problem is Blizzard's in ability to fix a problem with a moderate solution.
  1. 5 Man dungeons are too easy - lets make them really tough - then make them irrelevant
  2. Reputation too easy - lets hide the goodies behind another rep grind that will slow them down - make reputation about vanity items not raiding progression
  3. Raiding sizes vary from raid to another - lets introduce two tiers 10 and 25 man - use variable sizes between 10 and 25 man
  4. Badges multiple levels for each patch - lets slide it down with each patch - get rid of entire system introduce several new currencies before returning back to Valor
  5. Bag sizes too small, increases incrementally - lets  fill those bags by having hundreds of different ingredients for cooking, give them a huge refrigerator for storing food - allow crafting materials to be used from a massive storage structure held in the bank, and then fill it with 3 tiers of fish small, normal and enormous.
This of course is the tip of the Iceberg. I have not even dared to mention ***Flying***. These decisions are evolved over relatively long periods of time if you consider that the average expansion is around 2 years. The assumption is that Devs make these decisions by committee and they like to swing from one extreme to another. Cataclysm was a complete Flyingfest and Warlords of Draenor was a no fly zone. It is easy to see that we will return to a 3rd way with something in between for the Legion expansion.

Warlords of Draenor, as predicted was "An Orc Too Far". Too much of the same thing is never a good thing. Ask yourself how many Dragon bosses have you killed on the way up to Level 100? Blizzard have used many different techniques over the years, but how many more times can they come up with new and improved Dragon abilities? If the only mobs you ever killed were Murlocs and Naga, I would have been out of here years ago. To be honest I had more than enough of killing Orcs in Pandaria, without another entire expansion devoted to them and with a storyline written on the back of a cigarette packet.

The launch of Warlords of Draenor was an utter disaster in my opinion. I know that many of you have long since forgotten, but just remember there is another launch around the corner. I wonder sometimes how Blizzard did not know how many expansions it had sold, a large percentage would have been conducted electronically, it is not like Game stores were withholding the information. Blizzard pride themselves on their metrics and the ability to analyse how the game is being played.

If Millions of returning players was a shock to the system, it must have been utterly galling for them to discover that they had lost the ability to retain it's player base. The issue is such an unmitigated disaster that Blizzard have since stopped telling us how many people are currently playing. None of us know because we don't actually see anybody's avatar roaming the streets, because we are all cocooned in our little Garrisons, too afraid to venture out, or more likely nothing to venture out for. One by one our cities have fallen silent, with only the metronomic conversation from the Trade Chat alerting us to the fact, that we are not totally alone.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Leader Of The Pack

Playing the current WoW expansion, has left me with plenty time on my hands, the current content (Thanks for the content patch Blizzard). I have filled this void by utilising the Roster slots created by the merging of my Realm (Anachronos) with 2 others (Alonsus and KulTiras). This allows for 22 more slots and Death Knights, with the added advantage I can stay in the same Guild (they are used to my little foibles by now).

I have now maxed a Horde character and the one class that was missing off my Roster, which was a Shadow Priest. With 16 max level characters and 5 of them being Hunters, it was time to revisit some of the other classes.

My latest creation is the very odd looking Ronron.

A Male Dwarf Mage, with fiery red hair, beard and eyes, and a rather fetching purple dress, showing off those bulging biceps. Some of you might have guessed that I don't much go in for Transmog, but it almost very tempting with this particular clown suit. Most of the ensemble is courtesy of Heirloom items.

I know that some people hate the idea of Heirlooms giving an additional 50% experience boost, but in my experience the levelling process was broken a long time ago, and in reality who wants to spend weeks getting to 100.

Gathering professions will shower you with experience, with Archaeology being particularly generous. I am still unsure what it is that skinning did to upset the Devs at Blizzard, so my tip is stick with Mining and Herbing.

Getting around Azeroth as a young pup is always a chore, but it is noticeable that everybody has the Chauffeured Chopper, the irony is that it is a reward for collecting Heirlooms. To be honest I had no idea that I even had one. This will ease the pain of the 1-20 levels, having to run for 5 minutes to get from the Dwarven Quarter to the Mage Quarter in Stormwind.

The quickest way to level is to Dungeon Hop. Be prepared for a relatively rough ride if you are a caster. The Tank and any melee class will gather everything in the dungeon and run away with them. If you are lucky enough not to have any AoE at the lower levels or instant cast spells, you can be sure to witness the joy of your 3 second cast being rewarded by your target going round a corner or dying before you can even make a scorch mark on their armour.

Oddly enough I am happy that nobody speaks or at best notices that the 4th spot on the Damage table is always mine. It is not for want of trying, it just to be hoped that you can catch up with the Tank long enough to almost make it through your rotation on the boss.

2 to 3 levels can fly by in the short time you are underground. It is almost guaranteed that you need to change zones after the experience.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

River Deep Mountain High

I have written many posts since the day that Warlords of Draenor went live. Unfortunately I never published any of them. The reasons are many and varied and one day in the near future, I hope to share my deepest darkest thoughts on the current status of the game. Today I wanted to discuss the subject of the WoW Token.

The WoW Token

"What is a WoW Token? The WoW Token is an item in World of Warcraft.
  • What do I do with it? There are only two things you can do with a WoW Token:

    1. Buy one with money from the in-game Shop, then sell it in the Auction House for gold.
    2. Buy one with gold from the Auction House, then use it to add 30 days of game time to your World of Warcraft subscription."

    Ok, simple and straight forward, buy Gold with real money, or buy game time with Gold from the game.

    Economics 101 - Supply and Demand, the buying and selling of the WoW Token. You can buy one from Blizzard for $20, €20, £15, CN¥30, NT$500, or ₩22,000 and sell it in the AH. So for the sake of argument and the ever fluctuating Exchange Market if $1 = €1 why is the Token worth double the amount in Europe than in America? (At time of writing Europe = 86,116 and America = 39,764)

    How can this be possible for such disparity between two economies, in what is considered in Economic terms as the Developed Nations? If you want a sensible answer then don't Google it. Below are a sample of answers:

    " WoW rule 101, If US and Eu share something, US will always take the bigger half."

    "Do Europeans have more real money than Americans or do they see in game currency as worth more?"

    "People playing on European servers come from a much broader range of economic backgrounds than those playing in the US (keep in mind that African players use these servers too). "

    "It's more than possible that Blizzard set the price themselves. Not based on supply demand.
    They keep it intentionally high."

    The reality is of course much simpler. Americans are more likely to pay hard cash for in game Gold. The argument for spending real money is that I can earn $20 in an hour but it would take many hours of in game farming to earn 40,000 Gold, so it is worth buying the Token.

    For myself I am Gold rich and Cash poor, and even though the cost of my game time goes up each month , it is still nowhere near the amount of Gold that the game is spewing out every month.

    The equation is simple in that you get what your region wants, but Americans will look at the Europeans enviously thinking they get more Gold for their money, and the Europeans are thinking that the Americans get off lightly for their Game time.

    It appears the Americans are far more likely to accept the Pay-to-Win mentality that is driving the computer games industry. Every free game that comes on to the market has a cash incentive to progress, and from the Blizzard experiment it appears that the Europeans are generally unwilling to go along with this model.

    World of Warcraft is currently in a huge rut after what most people are saying is the worst expansion in the history of the game. At the moment I have to question if I would still be playing if I wasn't able to fund the subscription through in game time activities.

    The Garrison generates large amounts of Gold, for those willing to put the effort in, but in the future (next expansion) this income stream will dry up. At what point does the WoW token take too much effort to generate the required Gold and that we switch back to a subscription model. If we do that are we in effect Gold buyers?

    One Forum writer even suggested:

    "I'm not in any way suggesting you should do this, but I just find it funny that it's cheaper to buy gold from a website currently and purchase a wow token than it is to do it the legit way. Wasn't the whole point of wow token to combat gold sellers?"

    With the benefit of hindsight it is quite obvious that the WoW token had nothing to do with defeating the Gold sellers. The WoW token appeared on introduction to be an additional revenue stream for Blizzard, but it now appears to be merely giving people an option of, how to pay for their game time, money or Gold.

    None of this stops me each month looking enviously at the cost of US play time in Gold. If I was American I would be like Smaug, sleeping on a pile of Gold.

    Monday, 9 March 2015

    Children Of The Revolution

    A big apology to all, I have been AWOL for the whole of Warlords of Draenor. I have been working on an explanation, but in the interim my lovely wife who returned to the game at the back end of Mists of Pandaria, was suitably animated to write a post. Not being one to stand in the way of progress or wanting to upset the better half, here we are:

    "I am stealing Bobs Blog just for a little bit. I want to stand up for Garrisons, have a quick look at what is currently going on this week and why we need to stop moaning about them. Thursday 5th March was World Book Day and has seen an 11 year old boy excluded from the celebrations because he dressed up as Mr Grey. Does this mean we have lost the significance of World Book Day? It is supposed to be about celebrating the art of reading and the books we love. Children are encouraged to dress up as a character from their own personal, favourite book. Are we saying 11 year olds are a) being allowed to read these books and b) classing this pulp fiction as their favourite books. If this boy has not read the books then he will most certainly have seen the posters, you couldn’t miss them in January, on ever bus stop in every town. But more importantly if the posters HADN’T been up and there HADN’T been all the media hype over the film, would this child have still gone as Mr Grey?
    The second issue is, are James Bond and Dexter any better role models? One is a heartless serial killer, granted he is killing killers but this surely does not excuse what he does and the other, well is still a serial killer, let’s face it if you should have the misfortune to sleep with Mr Bond you are unlikely to last the next 48 hours. Both have been portrayed as suitable people to be dressing up as on World Book Day…….seriously?
    For many years now computer games and certain music genres have been blamed for violence amongst teens and even younger children. Perhaps we should give this another look. I absolutely agree that my 10 year old should not be anywhere near Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto and have no intention of letting him on a PEGI game above his age. He plays Plants vs Zombies though, and that is a bit of fun, we all know Plants can’t shoot and Zombies don’t exist….don’t we? By the reverse logic we make sure that Bob does not watch Walking Dead at a time when the children might catch a glimpse of a zombie being beheaded by a Katana (Samurai Sword).
    Defined as Mummy Porn, the 50 Shades books have been marketed to a voracious female audience, personally I prefer the Lakeside Baking catalogue, but I have found something far more satisfying lately. My Garrison. It is mine, you can’t come in unless I invite you and you most certainly cannot kill me when I accidently fly over the PVP zone. I can even now decide what music is played. There are quests to do without having to stand around for hours whilst the some Horde Trolls continually kills the Questgiver. No level 100 can swoop in and nick your node just as you run up to mine it, no 14 year old screams at you to DISMISS YOUR &*^%ing PET in an instance, when in fact it was the Warlock that pulled the entire place. I haven’t been called a NOOB in all the time I have been playing again, basically it is bliss. I stopped playing for a long time after Cataclysm came out as it all got too much, but this enabled me to fall in love with the game all over again, and I have been playing since Level 60 was the highest you could go. In those days quests were hard and my kids were babies and slept a lot. It is not all about raiding and gear and stats, it is an escape. I have possibly 40 minutes now and again to myself, waiting for the washing machine to finish, kids are at school, dinner is in the oven I make a cup of tea and drop in to my garrison. Maybe this is how we should introduce our precious offspring to the world of computer games. If they are even interested, and of course, making sure it is not for more than an hour or so at a time. They are quite safe, you can turn the chat off and leave them to it, even your followers are polite when they greet you in your garrison.
    My son was recently called a retard by some random player on the Xbox and I just thought, you know what, people moan about WOW and the impact blah de blah but really, it is a much more controlled way of playing. You cannot accidently buy in game purchases and rack up £100s of debt on your parents account, you never have to enter an instance if you don’t want to, and if you do want to they are over quite quickly. Ok I miss the marking and the trapping but really they are quite easy. The new Garrison quests are great too, finding Harrison Jones or Starlord in my Town Hall or Inn is inspired. I know hardened gamers find it boring, not enough quests and please hurry up with Tanaan Jungle! But overall I love my Garrison, it gives us mere mortals with less time and patience for raiding something fun to do. I even bought some gear on the AH and need to see on the Transmogrifier if my bum looks big in it."


    Tuesday, 18 November 2014

    Man On The Moon

    Yesterday, I waffled about the state of play of a AAA games company, unable to do the groundwork for an eagerly awaited expansion. This is not the first expansion, it is in fact the fifth and Blizzard should really know better.

    Since Sunday everybody has been patting themselves on the back saying "job well done" (or if you are a Peon "Job Done"). The fact is that the game is still not stable last night I gave up with constantly getting "World Server is Down"

    This seems to occur when unable to open an instance, and is still happening with sufficient frequency to suggest that Blizzard are still a long way from having a stable platform. Warlords of Draenor is based on the concept of Garrisons, and Garrisons need instances, and the instances do not have enough resources.
    Interestingly enough I noticed a little message in my chat window last night that many people might not have noticed, but it will be familiar to anyone who used to chain through dungeons until they hit their maximum for the hour.
    Apparently we are limited to 10 instances an hour, and that raises more questions than answers for me. My intend way of playing was going to be based around logging in on all available characters and setting the Followers on their course to complete their next mission. At the moment that is 12 characters and in the future could quite feasibly be higher.
    If I dip into 10 Garrisons, in the first 10 minutes...
    Are scenarios and dungeons no longer available for 50 minutes?
    Can I revisit a Garrison that was opened already in the allotted time frame?
    It could result in people being far more careful about leaving the confines of the Garrison unless they have a clear plan of the activity for next hour. Of course Blizzard have not communicated this information, and it was only 8 months ago that the limit was increased from 5 to 10 to accommodate additional dungeon crawling during the Great Pandaria Content Famine.
    I may be a unique player with multiple characters and a new found adoration of Garrisons Followers and Missions, but maybe I am part of a large population. Either way it is unlikely that more resources will be ploughed into the Server farm just so that I can play the way I want to.

    Monday, 17 November 2014

    That Smell

    It is two weeks since I last wrote, and so much has happened in the interim, like the small matter of Blizzcon and the launch of a new WoW expansion in the shape of Warlords of Draenor.

    I like many was excluded from the Beta testing so the last four days have consisted of me and 7+ Million people all wanting to occupy the same small space. I am writing today about the expansion as I have so far found it and please forgive me if I ramble and meander on a myriad (not a Vindicator or an NPC on Draenor) of different topics. So without further ado here is my list of 9 normal days for Blizzard and a world of pain for the rest of us.


    It might come as a shock to many, but I actually like Blizzard, but I am not a fan boy and I don't play every game that Blizzard wafts under our noses. I have admittedly played all of their current games but I only play one game and have done for the last decade.

    This was a Blizzcon decidedly short on WoW news and with a new expansion so shortly after the Blizzcon. Who cared anyway, you can keep Overwatch and the Manga styled shoot 'em up, where you can leap around like a PvP rogue all you want, because I am old and have the reactions of an oil tanker which is heading in the wrong direction. Thanks Blizzard, but no thanks.

    Launch Night

    For the second expansion in a row I was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Having not been in the beta, I might know where I am going, but I have no idea how I am supposed to get there.

    As usual I chose badly and opted for the portal from the mages tower. I then wasted precious time at the site of the pre-expansion instead of being in the thick of it outside the Portal. Needless to say I was far from alone. That mistake would cost me dear and by the time I arrived at the right spot it looked like a Mardi Gras (without the oversized dragon mounts and Tundra wide load vehicles).

    The result of this chaos was that I took another player for a spin around the Timeless Isle on my own and did some dailies for XP and then went to bed

    Launch Day Carnage

    I managed to sneak home for a crafty play at lunch time, having been forced to go to work by my darling wife. The numbers playing was heavily reduced from the evening before and I was able to sail through Tanaan Jungle before grinding to a halt where garrisons should be.

    Part of the problem for the player is knowing when something is a Realm issue or in this case is a game issue. We have endured logon queues, no instances, horrendous lag, random reboots, scheduled maintenance, unscheduled maintenance and in general a very poor release.


    A holiday from work for the sole purpose of playing WoW. If I had known in advance I would have left the expansion for a week and sailed through without any issues. The game was actually relatively stable during the day, as long as you exclude Garrisons. What am I saying Garrisons is the expansion, everything else is the same fluff we have had for a decade only with nicer decoration.

    Of course as soon as the European school kids came home, everything went South again and the evening was totally unplayable.


    More of the same, everything was busy all day as people tried to put long stretches of play together between the disconnects and reboots.


    At last we finally had a game worth playing. It is still not perfect but it would have been acceptable to have this level of performance on Launch day. It is obvious the Blizzard team have worked tirelessly to fix these problems, but it also true that this expansion was not ready and not tested to the required standard.

    I have not kept up with many blog posts during the last few days but the following was a gem from Alternative Chat.

    "The use of the area as an Instance is beginning to cause more than a few issues: add to that the obviously phased content that exists in the World and... well, this is the issue I never saw coming, because I assumed Blizzard would understand the interest in the feature, and have learnt the obvious and well-reported complaints from Beta. I find it rather dismaying therefore that no-one does seem to have grasped just how many people would want to play this on release, and that the same issues that crippled the Beta servers still exist on Live, but in greatly increased levels."

    This is very interesting because I don't remember reading about big problems of phasing on Beta, and if this is correct (I have no reason to doubt Alternative Chat) then Blizzard have been exceptionally negligent. If it didn't work with a few thousand playing how the hell did you expect it to work with 7 Million people all wanting the same content at approximately the same time.

    Smart arsed comments about Blizzard not being able to nip out to the nearest computer hardware shop and purchase a few more Blade servers does not cut it. They knew it was coming and chose to buy their collective heads in the sand and hope that the live servers would be more stable than the Beta realms.

    Alternative Ways of Playing

    Being able to only play for 30-45 minutes up to the establishment of Garrisons forced me to play with my entire cast of characters. Priority always goes to my Hunter main, but why keep trying to flog a dead horse when I can be in a position to have 12 Garrisons creating resources and sending the Followers out on extra missions. Right now I would be happy to be able to scroll through all the Garrisons assign the followers missions, then logout. Rinse and repeat every hour or so.

    I know it is all shiny and new and in 6 months time I will not be doing Missions, but right now it is the game. Levelling, Dungeons and Raiding can all wait until I am in need of a change of pace. The Sunsong Ranch was exciting to start with but this takes the meta game to a new level. It reminds me of a very early version of Football Manager, in which you would setup your team taking hours to prepare for a match and then the computer would go off and generate a summary of the game. Somehow Real Madrid would manage to lose to Accrington Stanley 4 - 6, even when the real score is more likely to be 10-1 to Real Madrid.

    It is ironic that non of my Alliance are Epic, but the second follower on my solitary Horde character is Purple. I am honestly surprised that it is not Legendary (I am guessing there is no such thing) just to rub more salt into the wound..

    Blizzard Loves Horde

    What I have seen of the game and to be honest it is not much is that the Horde Garrison is far nicer than the Alliance base. The snowy environment the undulating surface, the whole zone seems better. Is it not bad enough that Blizzard writes Horde centric storylines without giving them a better landscape, better quests and infinitely better heroes.

    The Horde have Duratan for godsake, who is so much cooler than Maraad, who is a little sad and a little mad. Duratan wears a Wolf on his head and back, and if I am not mistaken has a zone named after him.

    No Flying

    It is normal behaviour for Blizzard to restrict Flying, but in this case I can totally understand. On the other hand the landscape is mountainous with rocky cliff faces and caves and ridges with small pathways. The result is huge amounts of wasted time plotting the best route around an obstacle. I ended up in the sea for 10 minutes trying to find a way to get back on the shoreline and I have done huge detours when the only way across is to find the rock that acts like bridge. There is Fortress Anquish which is a nightmare to traverse. I appreciate the No fly zone, but I would appreciate less confusing maps.

    Realms, Instances and Connected Realms

    As a regular player it became obvious a long time ago that various continents and Instances are not on the same server as the Azeroth Realm that you provisionally sit on. During The Burning Crusade it was not uncommon for Outlands to be unavailable but if you had a character in Stormwind or Ironforge you could quite happily play. With Connected Realms I have that Anachronos can have World Server is down and Alonsus is working fine. My advice is to not have all your eggs in one basket and keep some of your characters on different servers for times like this.

    I assume that the problem with Garrisons is connected to the message, "Unable to find Instance" I assume this to be like running an application in Citrix and when the Citrix server is full the performance becomes unstable for those in it, and non existent for those without a session. The only solution is to add more resources and extra servers to the Citrix farm. This is exactly what Bashiok was saying on Saturday.

    What is most perplexing is that the problem occurred on Beta and the demand forecasting on Blizzards behalf appears to be very poor. They should know exactly how many copies of the expansion have been sold and of course they have regular feedback on subscription numbers.


    As I understand it was only an attack on North America, and in some respects Blizzard should be well versed in dealing with these internet bandits, and especially should have expected an attack on a launch day, for the extra publicity.

    Unfortunately with all the issues that have come with this launch, it makes you wonder what effect it had. I am guessing it was nothing more than an additional nuisance factor.

    Wednesday, 29 October 2014


    "Game Over", with two weeks left until World of Warcraft soars again, I am now finished for this expansion. No tasks to perform, no reputation to gain, no vegetables to grow, no herbs to pick, no ore to mine, no animals to skin.

    The bucket list that I never had is now empty and I am left without a need to logon. It is strange that at the end of an expansion I have been playing more than I have for a long time. I am tempted to take a WoW vacation for 14 days and come back refreshed for the marathon sessions that we will all take part in. Staying up into the small hours on release day, taking days off work to level up to the new maximum. Whatever my intentions are, and however hard I try, everybody else seems to be ahead of me. Only at the end of an expansion can I feel smug that I have achieved as much as possible and can enjoy watching everybody else scurrying along whilst I am able to put my feet and enjoy a long cool drink.

    It is possible for me to collect some Heirloom weapons or even get unbelievably lucky and gain the last Ordos gear that I could use on my alts, but it really does not matter any more and I can no more stop the next expansion, than King Canute could stop the tide.

    My new level 90 Orc Hunter, the gift from Blizzard, last night gained four new pieces of equipment, and I am surprised how quickly and well I have been able to gear up in a three week period. I am now sitting on an average iLevel of 546, and the chance of borrowing the Heirloom Warbow when the time come round.

    My haul of Four new pieces of gear came at a cost, and that cost was sitting through the worst LFR group of all time. I am now utterly proud that the Horde can be that bad at PvE. I have sat through some inept Alliance LFR performances, but this was an utter disgrace. The Siege of Orgrimmar, Vale of Eternal Sorrows was the site of this disaster. Immerseus was one of the quickest cleanest kills, but the Fallen Protectors got up to 25% determination bonus. Norushen also wiped the party on four occasions, some which only lasted less than a minute.

    My favourite part of the whole experience was the lack of understanding of the fights and in particular the four phases of Sha of Pride. The Manifestation of Pride that appears behind the party would be dealt with by one or on some occasions two people. Thankfully they were both Hunters, expelling the myth that Hunters are the Noob class of choice.

    The only explanation I have for this whole debacle is that there are a lot of returning players or else new players with level 90's that they as yet do not understand. The only reason for the eventual success is that most people are overpowered, and it is raw power that eventually ran roughshod over the content.

    I am utterly embarrassed to have witnessed such a performance but kind of delighted to know the Horde are as bad as the Alliance.