Tag Archive for WoW

2007: Aftermath

As with every year, I really enjoyed Dragon*Con. I actually says a lot about the con when my biggest complaint is that I can’t see everything I want to see because there is so much I want to see.

The new Apocalypse Rising track was very interesting, although, at times I did feel a number of their panels were repetative, but that is the nature of the beast when talking about a topic that is very focused but encompasses so much. However, it was the first time around in the new format, so I’ll cut them some slack and see how they grow for next year.

The Game Programming (with a heavy MMO bent) spinoff of the EFF track was another favorite. The only downside there is that people seemed to want to talk about WoW too much, even when the moderators and panelists tried to veer off to another subject the attendees would drag it back to WoW. I guess that is proof that WoW really is the 800 lbs. gorilla in the market. I think this track can only get better.

In both cases, I’ve finally found tracks that have inspired me to get involved. I’ll be keeping an eye on both and seeing where I can lend a hand.

Other than a few panels here and there, or a couple trips to the short films room, the bulk of my time was spent in the above two panels. I never made it down to the Writer’s Track, which is where I normally spend most of my con time.

With panels and programming out of the way, let’s talk hotels… The Marriott is still under construction, however from seeing the parts that have been completed I have high hopes for the future of the space for Dragon*Con. Seriously folks, you really need to stop defaulting to the Hyatt bar and lobby. I know it has traditionally been the place to be, but even before the renovation the three levels of the lobby area of the Marriott were better. Lots of space for costumers to show their stuff, and even places where distance watchers can view the chaos without getting involved. The only drawback to the Marriott previously was the cruddy location of their only bar, but this year with the opening of Pulse on the atrium level, the Marriott is turning into the new place to be. Next year when they have the other 70,000 square feet of ballrooms and whatnot open, there should simply be no reason to remain in the cramped Hyatt lobby except to get a quiet drink at the little out of the way bar.

The Hilton also blossomed well this year. The halls of rooms for panels (used for gaming last year, which this year moved to the new business center of the Marriott) were fantastic, even if a little small for some of the panels they put in them (*cough*Zombie Squad*cough*). The exhibitor halls were nice, but I do have a small complaint about the dealers’ room… entering into the center of the hall and having to make several circular trips through to see everything was just odd and annoying. Some of this may end up back in the Marriott next year, but the Hilton Halls shouldn’t be left unused…

One thing I’ve always hated about Dragon*Con and still hate is the use of the itty bitty teeny tiny Learning Center in the Hyatt for the Film track. Every single set of short films ends up with a line and they have to turn people away, every one. They need a bigger room, perhaps the Marriott will have something they can use, or maybe if one of those Hilton Ballrooms winds up empty they can utilize one of them. The Learning Center is nice though, for smaller screenings, perhaps for invite only or contest won passes to exclusive screenings of new movies. That would be sweet. Or hey… you know about that Writer’s Workshop they do every year? Maybe they might consider a Film Maker’s Workshop…

The only other real complaint I can come up with about Dragon*Con in general is the lack of signs. Because of the construction in the Marriott, the traditional method of going out the back was blocked off. Thankfully, rather than forcing people to walk around the outside of the building, they opened up four staircases for use. The intent was obviously that two would be for going up and two for going down. They did place a Marriott employee there most of the day telling people how to use the stairs to get to the Hilton, but, across the street inside the Hilton is a Kinko’s, and for probably $20 or less (definitely less than the cost of manning the post all day) they could have printed up 8 very nice signs (4 staircases, 2 ends of each staircase) indicating the direction of travel, UP or DOWN. 90% of the traffic issues would have been solved right there. Other signs around would have been nice, maybe even ones indicating where photos should be taken instead of just a few signs stating when and where they could NOT be taken. They did have some signs around for things, but most of those signs where floor level signs… meaning that you can’t really read them until you are practically on top of them. Head height should be a minimum for signs, six feet, seven would be better.

So, with that I bid adieu to another year at Dragon*Con. 359 days until the next one…

The Unfortunate Truth of Success

Last week, Blizzard announced that they are working on another expansion for World of Warcraft… Wrath of the Lich King.

Needless to say, many people were underwhelmed.

I am too. The new expansion looks like its going to be The Burning Crusade part II. Ten new levels, more raid zones, and another couple of tiers of gear. Sure, there is something about hero classes, but from first glance they are either going to be pointless or they are going to be game breaking. In other words, very few people will bother, or the hero classes will be a requirement to proceed in raiding or participate in PvP.

As many in the blogosphere have pointed out, Blizzard has never really been known for innovation. Blizzard doesn’t invent wheels… or for a better analogy, Blizzard doesn’t design new cars, they take existing cars and trick them out in Fast and the Furious fashion.

And why should they bother to reinvent the wheel when they’ve already got 9 million people paying for the old wheels. If only half of their subscribers buy the expansion, that’s more box sales than some of the most successful games in history. This is the Unfortunate Truth of Success… once you have a stranglehold on the lead, trying to further outdistance your competition is a waste of money compared to coasting, enjoying a downhill ride that will net you more money than other people dream of at their peak.

I doubt I’ll be journeying to Northrend or fighting the Lich King. I canceled my WoW account over a month ago because it was clear to me that they are supporting only two types of play: Raiding and Solo casual. Want to PvP? Sorry, you have to raid (or farm gold, or buy farmed gold) to get the gear needed to compete. 5 man groups? Only if you want to grind cash, pots, faction of ramp up to raiding.

WoW lost me as a player, and they aren’t likely to win me back while they continue down this same worn path.

Money is Time

Most MMOs have a monthly fee. Since Ultima Online, it has pretty much been the rule. Sure, you get the occasional one like Guild Wars that is free or some of the newer ones where you can start for free but the game has a velvet rope you cannot cross without paying (or in the case of Puzzle Pirates, making trades with people who paid). The current threshold for monthly fees is $15.

Tobold asks “How much would you pay per hour of WoW?

It is a valid question, and one I’ve been thinking about recently. See, I just canceled my WoW account. Over the last couple of months, I have played very little. too much work, going to see movies, playing on the 360 and the Wii… it all adds up to not enough time to play WoW. But the problem isn’t just not being able to play WoW, it is that I was also maintaining accounts for City of Heroes/Villains and Lord of the Rings Online, and while paying $15 a month to not play WoW wouldn’t bother me horribly, paying $40 a month to not play 3 games begins to be a bit silly.

The way I see to fix that would be to switch to hourly charges. It would be nice if I didn’t have to pay to not play but could still keep my account active. And that comes from a purely lazy point of view. With my WoW account canceled, if the wife and I feel the urge to log in, we will first have to go reactivate accounts, and the time it takes to go to the web page, verify or enter credit card information, and then get back to the game… if we aren’t playing now because of a lack of interest, jumping through hoops to play isn’t going to help.

I would love to be able to maintain accounts in all the games out there, paying for only the time I play them and not having to actually cancel and reinstate my account every time I lose interest. Without a guaranteed monthly fee I probably would have bought Vanguard after I upgraded my PC. Without a guaranteed monthly fee, I probably would have bought EQ2. Many games have and probably will lose my box sale because I just can’t afford another monthly fee.

Now… on the other side of the coin… I understand why developers like that monthly fee. It is much easier to budget. “X” subscribed players times “Y” monthly fee equals “Z” incoming cash minus “A” service providing costs equals “P” profits, which can either be taken to the bank, or reinvested into the game, or into another game. If they had an hourly charge, you might have “X” players, but only 30% of them might play more than 50 hours a month, and another 30% might play less than 5. The player numbers and revenue wouldn’t be a nice smooth pretty graph, it would be covered in spikes for revenue and it would be a never ending climb to the stars for player accounts. (Hint: the “total residents” in that link does not equal “paying subscriber”.)

I think I would even be willing to settle for a minimal account management fee, of about $1 or $2 per game, with an hourly fee above that for the time that I play. But how much is too much per hour? Without any kind of fixed fee, I think Tobold is pretty close to dead on with 25 cents per hour. If they tacked on a small fixed fee for the account, 10 or 15 cents an hour would be more appropriate.

Either way, I would love to have more active games and more options to play, if only I could afford to keep them all.

The Alliance is Bored

Lately, as I play my new blood elf hunter, I have been frequenting the Tarren Mill and Hammerfall.

Tarren Mill is under attack!

Why yes, yes it is. Tarren Mill is being slaughtered, probably as you read this. A group of well geared level 70’s are sitting on the hill (or worse, sitting in town) killing all the NPCs. The master tailor is dead, so are the quest givers, and the innkeeper… everyone, all gone. You get maybe five minutes to do your thing after respawns before they wade in again.

Hammerfall is under attack!

Look! Epic mounted level 70’s are riding through town again and killing everything! The guards at the entrance to the battleground are dead? You don’t say! Oh look, they’ve accidently attacked the flight path guy, all those spawns should keep them out for twenty minutes.

But why do I say the Alliance is bored? Well, because 95% of the Horde who frequent these areas are level 25 to 35, and most of the NPCs are 40 to 50. Are there no battlegrounds for these people to fight in? Are there no towers for them to siege? Oh… wait… I forgot, the Alliance outnumber the Horde on Durotan… I’d tell you by how much, but despite all the info you can see in the Armory you can’t get simple info like population counts! But wait, players have been running a census for a long time, so while not 100% accurate, it is close… almost 3 to 1.

So far, I’m decent at PvP, but I haven’t been able to win a 3 to 1 fight, especially when I’m level 32 and my opponents are all over 60.

If you read my blog, and you want to play WoW, come to Durotan and play on the Horde side. I’m usually playing Calibre or Wayd. Look me up and maybe I’ll hook you up with a little funds to get you up and running as long as you promise to spit in the eye of any Alliance you run across.

On The Hunt

The Burning Crusade came out to much fanfair. Lots of people have blogged about how it is either totally awesome, more of the same, or a complete waste of time. I’m enjoying it, but probably not for the same reasons that everyone else has.

Most of my friends always wanted to play the Horde. And I must admit, playing on the side that is, in PvP, the perpetual underdog appealed to me. Back when I used to play FPS games exclusively, I always joined the losing side in public games to try to even the score. You can’t be the hero if you win all the time… heroes are supposed to pull victory from the jaws of defeat, not lazily claim another victory from the pile of easy wins. But one thing always kept me from getting in to the Horde: the male-hunchback syndrome.

All the males of all the Horde races have their heads slumped down and look like they should be ringing the bells of Notre Dame. It would be one thing if the women were hunched too, but they weren’t, it was just the men. But with the introduction of the Blood Elves for the Horde in the Burning Crusade, finally there was an upright standing male to play.

So the wife and I rolled up some blood elves, and rather than our usual form of one of us playing damage and the other support, we decided to both play hunters.

It really is kind of silly. Another friend of ours plays a warlock and when we all group, its like we have a six person group, not three. The one thing we lack is reliable healing, but luckily (or is that sadly?) you can pretty well avoid the need for healing with the proper tactics. We kill… everything. Pets and traps, bows and arrows. The animals tank, we slow them and burn them, and we pincushion them. It’s almost not fun unless we push the envelope and work exclusively on Orange and Red quests, fighting stuff three, four and five levels above us.

It is definately a different game than the old priest/paladin game we are used to playing.

Sneaking Seventy: The Beginning

I am sure it has been done before, but I don’t care. I’ve rolled up a new character in the World of Warcraft, he is a rogue, and he shall not fight, and he shall only do quests that can be completed without killing. My goal is to explore, everywhere and everything, hence the title: Sneaking Seventy.

So far, I’ve explored Stormwind, Elwynn Forest and some of Westfall… and then I went to Dun Morogh. The ability of monsters to see me and kill me is astounding… I definately need some money and some gear. I’ll post screenshots later.

One Character

Would you play an MMORPG that only allowed you one charcter?

I’ve been thinking about this alot lately, mostly because I strive for a little “identity” in games. I am Ishiro in the World of Warcraft, and Ishiro is me. So far in games I’ve never run into another Ishiro (but I don’t play asian games), and only one Ishira. That means, more than likely, if you are in WoW and see Ishiro, its a pretty good bet it is me. The problem comes in with if I tire of being an alliance human priest on Durotan, or a horde undead warlock on Eitrigg, or any of the other Ishiros I have out there, I can’t change him without deleting him and starting over.

I think this is why, more and more as I think about fundamental game design, I favor a skill based system of some sort, where everyone starts exactly the same and becomes different through the choices of skills. The advantage, of course, is that if the game allows me to redistribute skill points or simply to focus on new different skills, I can be an all new person but without the crazy item swapping of class based mechanics where I have to delete my character, or the complete identity overhaul of playing a new name.

Now… take that desire to play one identity and take that to a physical limitation of being only allowed to create a single character in the game world. Again, I think I’d be in favor of it as long as my character worked like I’ve described above, where my fate isn’t decided at character creation and the only way to change is to dust off and nuke the site from orbit.

So yeah, that appears to be the direction I’d like to see games go, and the direction I’m going to take my silly Game That Never Was project.

Alliance: I love it when a plan comes together

So, this past weekend I decided to do a little PvP in the Battlegrounds. As usual, I dumped myself into all three BG queues and then headed off to mess around with low level quests I never did.

It took a while, but just as I was finishing up a handful of Darnassus newbie quests (Woohoo! 11 faction per turn in!), I got the call to enter Warsong. If you’ve read some of my ranting before, you’ll know that for the Alliance on Durotan Warsong Gulch runs last about as long as it takes for the Horde to run the flag three times. Non-stop. They just chain us, mostly because the entire Alliance side is out getting honorable kills, wasting time while me and maybe one other guy try to defend the flag. One shadow priest and one other random guy just often are not enough to fight off four or five Horde. We usually down a couple of them, but their shaman/druid/rogue will take off at high speed and that’s all she wrote. (By the way, being able to use speed forms or sprint while carrying the flag should be forbidden. It sucks that I start fighting a guy, he runs off with some speed boost, and I’m in combat so I can’t mount up and chase him. Blizzard, either remove the use of speed abilities while flag carrying, or remove the combat flag in BGs.) All I usually ask is that a hunter or two stay on defense and use their ice traps. I realize that druids switching forms can break free easy, but it help against everyone else.

Anyway… so I go in expecting it to suck. Only, it doesn’t. One guy starts shouting orders and, lo and behold, people listen. We win, 3-0. Yeah!! So, I re-enter the Warsong queue, and twice more I get in, and twice more we win. Awesome! Then I guess people stop joining, or perhaps too many people are in queue, so I head back to lowbie quest fulfillment. A short while later, an Arathi Basin call comes in. Whoosh…

So, Arathi Basin, like Warsong, seems to just suck for Alliance. And it doesn’t fail to disappoint in the first round. After asking to be invited to the raid a few times, I start inviting people. Most of them are in groups already, in the raid. I do invite three people to my group: two priests and a druid. All the healers in Arathi were not in groups. At this point some of the people start bitching about lack of healing, so I explain the situation. They start arguing that you don’t need to be grouped to heal. I explain about group heals, and the fact that Power Word: Shield can only be cast on group or raid members. All the other healers back me up, but some of the melees (rogues mostly) continue to say we don’t need to be grouped. I finally relent, “Hey, you’re right, we don’t NEED to be grouped, it just makes it about 10,000 times easier, especially since most of us have CTRaid_Assist installed and can easily target and heal anyone in range in the raid IF THERE WAS A RAID FORMED AND WE WERE ACTUALLY INVITED INTO IT.” Just then, the pop up for Warsong springs up on my screen. I click it and zip over to Warsong. I’m about to leave my group when I notice that they are all also in Warsong. We stick together and put down the most awesome 4 healer defense ever. Another Warsong victory.

After Warsong, I go back to the queues. Immediately Arathi Basin pops up. I’m hesitant, but I go in anyway. The good leader from the earlier Warsongs is in there. He gives commands, and people actually listen. Its a tough fight (I think the Horde side had more “raid level” players, because by far their outfits were sillier and they were really hard to kill), but we managed to eek out a victory by a mere 50 or so points (2000 to 1940/1950).

Finally, as I’m about to queue up again, the Alterac Valley gong sounds and I zip in quick. Normally I come into Alterac toward the end. All the towers are gone, and its the weakening dregs of an 8 hour zerg fest who remain emboldened by a few new players. But this was a new start. Immediately everyone rushed forward to try to take a new graveyard. The entire half-hour I was there, we fought at this location. We pushed up and down the hillside, getting so close to the flag at times. And then my computer locked up.

Ah well… maybe next time.

Alliance: Good doesn`t mean Nice

Ishiro and Lorilai head to Winterspring to do battle with demons in the south because Ishiro needs some felcloth. Unfortunately, seeing as we have gotten all our gear doing quests and picking stuff up as we go, never in the auction house, we are poorly equiped to handle level 60 elites as a duo. So after getting our spirits crammed back into our bodies, we decide to do something else instead. Quests in Silithus.

Seems some of the guys there want us to kill more of those Twilight Hammer guys, so we are off to do that. Sadly, the pages they drop are a repeatable quest that people farm for faction to be able to complete other quests. First camp we hit, the one in the far southwest, a group of 60’s are pummelling everything in site. Second camp, just west of the town, also camped by a group of 60’s. Third camp, ah-ha! Only one rogue here. Of course the rogue spots a priest and runs up to me and says, “++”. I ignore him, assuming he doesn’t speak English. “zu” he says. “++”. He keeps running over, helping us kill stuff and repeating “zu” and “++”. Now, at this point I assume he wants something, but I have no idea what. Finally I say, “Sorry, I don’t understand you.” He stands silent a while and then says, “hp”. Hmm… I guess he wants a stamina buff. So I relent and give him one. He then proceeds to steal kills from us, and when he gets caster mobs with pets, he continually dumps the pets on us after he killed the casters. An interesting way to say “thank you”.

Lori and I are happily grinding away. We kill the 10 Geolords they wanted us to kill, and we are now collecting pages for the hermit. 77 kills in total and we got 7 pages. A 1 in 11 drop rate for an item that is also used in a repeatable quest that everyone and their brother appears to want to farm. Ugh. However, prior to the end of our evening, a raid force shows up. We are wondering what is going on, they are Alliance which means I can talk to them, so I ask. No reply. Ask a couple more people, ask in general channel. No answers. Without warning they trigger some god awful boss mob that blasts some area affect poison crap that nearly kills us. We scramble to survive our fight (3 mobs at once, that Keeper bitch keeps showing up at the most inopportune times), and then scramble to heal up. Then we get splattered again with the poison ooze and start healing and running.

After they kill the thing, I ask what it was, what it was for… no answers. I mention it would have been nice to give people a warning before spawning a boss like that… no reply. Then the raid group decides that with the boss dead, they all need faction and pages, so the 40 of them descend on our little camp and make everything dead. Nice.

So we pack it in for the night, still needed 3 more pages for Lori to complete the hermit’s quest. I really want to finish this crap so I can get away from Silithus. The place has been good to us, but there are just far too many wackjobs and assholes running around.

Alliance: Sometimes I wish I was Horde

Ishiro loves him some Alterac Valley.

Now, for those who don’t understand, let me explain. In World of Warcraft, if you wish to engage in PvP but do not wish to engage in open PvP out in the wild where you can get ganked, outnumbered 5 to 1, there are Battlegrounds. Warsong Gulch is Capture the Flag: each team has a base that holds a flag and a field between the bases, and your team tries to get the other team’s flag and bring it back home. Arathi Basin is Control Points: there are 5 control point locations on the map you have to assault and hold, while holding them you earn points (10 at a time), and the first team to 2000 wins. Alterac Valley is a Campaign: huge map, with a home base, towers, control points, and other stuff, if you hold a control point that gives you access to a graveyard which allows you to better hold the battle lines, the winner is the one who defeats the other teams general.

I like Alterac Valley for a number of reasons. One, there is lots to do. You can capture rams to equip your NPC ram riders. You can gather minerals from the mine. You can PvP and collect armor fragments to upgrade your NPC guards. And more. Because the war is usually long (5+ hours) people learn to organize and play together and leaders emerge. Two, the Alliance wins fairly often at this. Mostly we win because after 6 hours, the Horde team usually goes for an end run, we defend it, and they start quitting. I’ve heard its different on other servers.

But that doesn’t explain the title… see, in Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch I have never been on the winning team. The Alliance sucks. People spend too much time going for individual kills, no one ever wants to play defence (less honorable kills to be had), and the Horde just rolls right over us. I’ve actually been involved in an Arathi match that ended 2000 to 80. That’s right, we managed to hold one control point for 8 ticks. And most Warsongs end with a 3-0 loss, usually because I, a priest, am the only one on defence no matter how much I ask for help.

Another thing… the Alliance on my server just blow at organization. They don’t form up groups, they don’t listen, and generally they just don’t play well together. We win Alterac because its a long haul campaign, were Arathi and Warsong usually take less than 30 minutes (especially at the rate we allow the Horde to get points). The other team, however, always seems to move together in groups, defend each other, play well… it makes me envious.

I keep trying Arathi and Warsong in hopes I can find people who are good at it… until I do, though, most of my efforts will be in Alterac where more often than not we can win.