Thursday, 24 July 2014
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.
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
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
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
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?
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.
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:
- Warchief evades execution for war crimes and atrocious acts of genocide
- Warchief escapes from prison and goes back in time to another planet in an alternative reality
- Warchief and former Warchief meet fathers and heroes from childhood legends
- Somehow evade catastrophic event and move planet from alternative reality to our reality
- Invade Azeroth with people from alternative reality
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
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.
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.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Yesterday's post contains a congratulations of sorts from Navimie, and in an attempt to post a response, I needed to sign in and then the post disappeared, so I started writing a second response, before deciding to just put it into a blog post instead. The idea is that in World of Warcraft we all have done things which we don't like doing but do them anyway.
The reason is always for an end result, even though it might not be so obvious, and it is probably buried deep in your sub-conscious. Without further a-do here is "Bob's 5 things we do in WoW that we would rather not do".
Does anybody like doing Archaeology? We understand why it is in the game and it introduces aspects of Lore, but what purpose does it serve?
Personally I have levelled all the other professions so this was a no-brainer, it was something that needed to be done, because it was there. The bonus when levelling all my characters was that it awards XP, and free XP is good XP in my opinion. MoP did at least implement better sites on flatter ground and more compact, and this was futher enhanced by the Mantid. The search area is no bigger than my back garden, and when you have found one piece the next piece will show as green and is only a few feet away. It is not very exciting, the rewards are not great but we do it anyway.
I used to work with somebody who liked to do flight simulation on his computer. This I could understand for a few times learning to take off and land a plane are important skills, and when that tannoy message comes on the loudspeakers asking if anybody can fly a plane, we want to say that we were up to the task. My friend took this whole exercise to another level and used to do real-time flight simulation. This involved taking-off on a scheduled flight, engaging the Automatic pilot (Otto) and then going to work. He would then go to work and return home at Lunch time to land the Boeing 747 at JFK whilst eating a sandwich.
Fishing is an activity that I would never do in Real Life and the time to level to 600 takes as long as real Fishing but without the dubious pleasure of putting your hands in a bucket of maggots.
The tangible rewards are very obvious in WoW, and besides without fish it was hard to level cooking, until Pandaria handed it to you on a plate so to speak.
Bobflintston is currently perched on 54 Exalted Reputations. The vanilla version of the game made it very difficult to achieve Exalted with any faction, and the Home cities were no exception. Now it is possible to get Exalted with Stormwind simply by levelling and it will occur between level 20-40 without any effort. No more grinding for cloth in an attempt to curry flavour with Stormwind and Ironforge or even worse Exodar a city that has not been visited by most people in about 5 years.
I am sure we have our own memories of that first rep grind, or a particularly difficult rep grind that we continued to do long after it stopped being interesting. My first was probably Timbermaw, a grind that can now be done in about 30 minutes. Not back in the day, this was a grind and a half, but the big daddy of all was the Wintersaber Trainers. I still love that mount for the sweat and tears it represents.
Fighting on Mounts
Did anybody feel a shiver run down their back when they read that. I am referring to the Jousting Tournament setup in Northrend. It was a terrible combination of being on a mount with bad movement, and managing buffs and debuffs, for the Offense and Defence. A whole string of rewards was hidden by the ability to be able joust well. In general I would be winning then let lose all my debuffs and then lose shortly afterwards.
Blizzard tried to repeat this trick with a 5 Man Heroic Oculus, possible the most hated dungeon ever devised. In the end they made it so easy, it was quicker to complete than wait for the Cowardice debuff to end.
Not content with these two abominations, Blizzard present us with Jousting on flightless birds in Cataclysm. These birds would only fly if you managed to time their wings flapping in a rhythm similar to trying to get a noise out of bagpipes.
This is a controversial choice with many people loving the dressing up section of the game, so much that they do old raids and content in the hope of gaining Transmog items. I appreciate that some items are absolutely hideous, (I am looking at whoever designs Shaman Spaulders because you should be ashamed of yourself) and deserve to be changed.
I like the idea that the game is suitably customisable for those that want it, and colours of gear should be changeable. What I don't like is the idea of dressing Ken and Barbie in matching Gold-lame outfits for the purpose of killing Internet dragons. No longer do we have to tolerate bad design or wear Plate Mail bondage gear, but it is the concept of "dressing up" and the time it takes that I dislike.
Monday, 7 July 2014
Many years ago I decided to start playing a Mage. It was as a levelling experiment with 4 people questing and dungeoning together for fun and not as an exercise in speed levelling. The Party was created without any real synergy but I think we still managed to assemble a Tank, a Healer and two Dps. In those days I was pure damage dealer, with a Hunter, Warrior and a shiny new Gnome Mage.
As with anything in WoW we are expected to make some big decisions very early on about the Spec that we are specialise in. With a Hunter, I wanted to make my pet as big butch and mean as possible, so that I chose Beast Master. Marksman made some sense but Survival just appeared all wrong. The result was that I have been Beast Master ever since except a brief flirtation with Marksman during WotLK. Warrior was different in the fact that I know idea what to do except hit things with a large sharp object.
Although it is many years ago, I still remember starting out in Dun Morogh killing Troggs with firebolts. They would run at me and die at my feet without even being able to smell their disgusting breath. Life was simple in those days.
When the levelling group disbanded several levels later, I decided to enter Stranglethorn Vale. In those days STV was one zone and it stretched from around Level 25-30. The Southern Section was very dangerous even if you stayed on the road with Apes trying to stop your trip down to Bounty Bay. It was not quite as bad as the Wetlands run, in which the aggro area of a level 10, would put the entire zone on red alert, looking for fresh Night Elf meat.
The North section contained some lower level Tigers and Panthers and it is here that I cut my teeth with my Mage. Fire mage was a Glass canon spec, with big burst damage and zero survivability, I spent a lot of time running from mobs and sitting down eating for the purpose of refreshing mana and health. I decided that this was not working very well for me, and I decided to change spec. I needed survivability and decided that Frost with it's slowing abilities would stop mobs from getting toe to toe and ripping my cloth garments to shreds. It is hard today to remember how tough levelling could be in those days.
I killed large quantities of Tigers and Panthers, and then Raptors and Crocodiles, all in an attempt to master a basic rotation, slowing, trapping and smacking my opponent into submission. The skills learnt in those hours have been etched into memory muscle and would be honed further during Cataclysm and the Dark Ages when I chose PvP rather than drag myself into another Zul.
Cataclysm was a fantastic time to be a Frost Mage and every Tol Barad would have a large contingent of Frosties running around, it was a cold time for everyone else. At the same time that Frost was the PvP king, Arcane and Fire were rocking the meters in PvE content. Mages have always been at the top of the DPS tree, which caused many to suspect that Ghostcrawler played a Mage.
MoP is the first expansion that I can remember that people have played the spec they want and not the top of tree with the possible exception of BM. Beast Master Hunter and Frost Mages have both enjoyed a moment in the sun but considering the rough ride through every other expansion, I can safely say it was a refreshing change.
At first glance Mages and Warlocks appear to be very similar both being magic based with ranged attacks, but I was reminded by their differences when handling different parts of the Wrathion quest line. It is no surprise to learn that Warlock struggled with the PvP content, so I was very worried when my little Frost Mage approached the same juncture in the game.
Warlord Bloodhilt, the Orc who hits like a wet noodle, can be soloed easier by certain classes. Part of the fight is the need to remain in close proximity to the Warlord, which is fine for Tanks, and classes with pet Tanks (Hunters and Warlocks) but not so good for a squishy with no natural healing capabilities. This resulted in a greasy smear for my Mage and I seem to remember my Shaman had similar issues. I needed backup so called on my Paladin friend Oov, who was enjoying his birthday by playing WoW on a different realm. He complained that he was not feeling totally comfortable playing a character that for vanilla and 3 Expansion had been his main character before switching to a Frost Mage. I said that his job was just to make sure he stayed alive.
Bloodhilt was a fairly slow fight with the Warlord still possessing 11.7 Million hit points and my mage feeling significantly weaker than when she is on the Timeless Isle with all those nice buffs. With the final deathswipe Bloodhilt toppled and so did Oov. "I said you only had to stay alive!".
Now for the PvP challenge. I have got 37K Honor Kills in my time in WoW and a large chunk are on my Frost Mage, so I was quietly confident except for the lack of gear. As usual I started with Temple of Kotmogu and as usual it was an easy win for the Alliance.
|A Pair of Aces|
The random BG was Deepwind Gorge, which having run this one with the posse, I was quite comfortable hanging back and picking off the fleeing Horde from the centre of the battleground. Anyone with half health must have lost the Horde buff that means they take no damage and are immune to any snares. The rest of the fight was based around defending the middle flag. It was here that I remembered what Frost Mages do really well. They are a PITA to kill! They don't stay still with blink, they have invisibility, an ice block, frost armor, polymorph, mirror image, ice barrier, and ring of frost. They have a veritable bag of tricks in their armoury, and occasionally they will bite back.
If I can keep the enemy tied up trying to kill me, then it makes an overlap somewhere on the battlefield. It is the same principle as sending a Tank out to soak up the hits, while the rest of the team picks off the weak from the periphery. I took this philosophy into my next Silvershard Mine, which was a late night effort, after 1 O'clock server time, with the hope that only PvP ers would be playing at this time.
The Alliance started fairly badly but we stayed in contention, and got our act together in the middle section. I took up my role escorting a cart up the middle section. Towards the end I enjoyed a nice piece of play keeping 3 Horde occupied while the Alliance stole a surprise win, with only 30 points in it. The Lion Roars in 3 attempts. I am utterly delighted.