Friday, January 20, 2012

Shameless Fangirling!

I <3 Frostheim. His site at the WHU and his Hunter Awesomness on WoW Insider have been responsible for keeping me sane whilst playing the best class in game being a Hunter for quite some time. I am eternally grateful this week, for instance, for the 'How to Play Survival' post he provided just when I decided to, well, play Survival.

I'm also loving his series of Hunter Motivational Posters, but this week I feel he might have forgotten that not all of his readership are Male Dwarves, just most of them. As a result, I feel obliged to redress the balance.

There. All sorted now :D

Rewarding Loyalty.

Yes, we KNOW. You've been playing since before they invented the Internets... ^^

You may remember last year I had some hassle with my (old) ISP. We'd been with them a LONG time, right back to the 1990's when they were formed in the basement of a local cinema. We went from modems to ISDN and finally to a Router as the communications revolution gained momentum. There was never any hassle with them until the day that they started routing their traffic through one of the problematic European ISP's, who believed that restricting traffic at peak times was a good idea, and who didn't understand that throttling performance meant the end of usefulness as a supplier to a family of Gamers. Needless to say, we knew then it was time to move on.

Loyalty today, in the ever changing world of MMO's, is a strange concept. With the average attention span it's hard to believe that anyone can grind away at anything for an extended period of time. However, I know I'm not alone in the Warcraft 'World of Dedication'. I see the same people every day online: I could give you half a dozen names, the 'regulars' who log in the morning the same time I do, who are at the Auction House or advertising their wares in Trade. I am part of a distinct subset, and with our chat yesterday concerning the statistical data that Blizzard has concerning our habits and actions, I find myself thinking that the Devs know this too. That's why the 12 Month Pass was introduced, after all. Sign up for a year and we'll give you a free gift, but most importantly we'll let you play with the game before anyone else can.

For me, it's the ultimate reason to keep playing: I've coveted Beta Access since it was offered. I've put on a brave face when it's not come but yes, deep down, I've wished I had it. By tapping into this basic desire I am, like it or not, here until the Pandas are officially a playable race. After that... how do Blizzard intend to reward loyalty once Pandaland goes live?

Looking into the future is always a dangerous game to play, after all I could never have predicted I'd still be here six years ago (coming up for seven, I know) Blizzard's ability to reinvent the Wheel will be remembered historically as the ultimate game-changer: it's also clear that if an idea won't work, they'll change their plans (real names on forums eh?) Is there a cubicle at Blizzard HQ where a woman sits and analyses statistical data, looking for new avenues to exploit? [*] I'm betting it's bigger than a cubicle, or else we wouldn't have a free copy of Diablo 3 tacked onto our 12 Month Pass. We'd not have the ability to sell virtual items from D3 for real world cash. We'd not be seeing a service like Balance to make it easier to purchase any Blizzard product. Question is, what happens after the next Expansion?

Blizzard's new MMO, that's what.

People already want to play it, and it doesn't exist. If the day comes when Blizzard finally pulls the plug on Azeroth, there will be MANY PEOPLE who's time and investment in the game will be as sizeable as mine, if not more so. What better way to reward those who have stuck with them since the start than not simply a free copy of The New MMO, and some free gifts, but a stack of free play time? Look at those days /played and translate them into new days earnt in your new endeavour. What a great way to get a bunch of people back into your old game in it's final days to boot, sending you out with a last massive bang.

Hell, you don't even need to wait until then. Why not award all those longevity players with a special title (sadly, can't use Veteran or Elder. 'Been here since Vanilla' might work but is gonna break the 4th wall for the RP-ers...) Perhaps Blizzard could put up a Special Forum where Veterans could congregate. They could be used to arrange 'introductory' events on Servers, offering to 'mentor' younger players... to help to try and reintroduce a sense of Community which (it has been said) might have begun to wane on certain servers.

There is a lot of time and effort wrapped up in the 'Veteran' Community, and Blizzard is at least beginning to acknowledge that such loyalty does deserve to be rewarded. What might be beneficial for both players and developers would be if the relationship was more actively developed in the run up to the new expansion: not just the Hardcore raiders, but the Solo Players too. There are a lot of voices that are already heard via the data they generate, perhaps it is time to put some additional context to the numbers.

[*] Who am I kidding, it's a secret floor that no-one can see in Blizzard's HQ, and it's run exclusively by Etherials. They know a good deal better than any Goblin... ^^

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Believe it or not there are actually guilds and raiding groups that are attempting to progress through Normal and Heroic raids, but are hitting a wall, and have been hitting a wall. We have actually statistical data we base our changes on, we know exactly how many people are clearing these raids each week, we know exactly how many people are able to down just a few bosses, and how many were only able to down a few bosses every week for weeks on end and then stopped raiding altogether.
So, about this game taking a lightsaber to the knee... ^^

The Daily Blink knows. When we get to February 1st, let's see Bioware's subscription numbers. If they're up, the Naysayers can have a pint of entrails on me. If my server is any indicator, it's the Horde that's gone to the Dark Side in the larger numbers, and good luck to them, because frankly when the weather's this dire outside you want something to play that cheers you up, not that leaves you wanting to tear your hair out. The fact remains, that without definitive statistical data regarding the player reduction it's all speculation. Talking of statistics...

The timing of the 'Power of the Aspect' raid buff might be considered by some as ironic. What's more significant (for me at least) is what Bashiok (for those are his words above) notes about progression in general, based clearly on ACTUAL NUMBERS. The 'wall' is Ultraxion, if our Guild is going to play the part of Your Average Raiding 10 Man in this scenario. Bosses 1-4 in DS are easy mode, even with the changes from LFR. In your sleep, with your eyes closed. Ultraxion has a distinct set of parameters to acknowledge and exceed. He's Patchwork on Crack (allegedly) and if you can't bring the dps to the party, it's time to go home alone. +5% on Jan 31st might well be enough to crack it, if I spec into Survival and everyone else who's playing the Spec they Enjoy as opposed to The One With The Most DPS does the same. This is not about the Tanks and the Healers, they get the buffs and they know what to do. The decision to progress lies with the masses.

After that I assume the next hurdle is the Spine, then Deathchin himself, but getting past Ultraxion is fairly significant. We have two weeks (effectively) to try it before all the main Progression Sites stop recording achievement based on original difficulty. The question then becomes whether it matters that you do the content as it's intended anyway.

If they don't have to be like us, why do they have to have nerfs to get to our position in HM Raiding?

Because they want to and they pay the same amount for the game? I don't know, man. How is it good for the game to have 1% of players parading around for months and months and a 99% sitting around with nothing to do because they're sick and tired of wiping?

Your solution is "Well then they should get better or quit." and that's just not reasonable for a video game comprised of millions of people looking to just have some fun. It's still a computer game.

Most of the time, it's not about Blizzard's attitude. People like to make it that way, because it helps them feel as if they're aggrieved when their class gets nerfed or a change happens they don't like. At the end of the day these guys have remained the #1 MMO on the planet for a reason: they listen to their player base, even when they're not talking. The amount of raw statistical data at the company's disposal must be huge by now, and it is abundantly apparent they are capable of acting on trends that appear within it. Raiding is in decline, so what does Blizzard to to change that? It makes it easier. Although I have a measure of empathy with the 'you should get better' argument, when it comes down to the wire, you play a game to enjoy it, and you come back to a game because it makes you happy. The developer reasoning is spot on.

I'm hearing increasing numbers of people commenting on how one of TOR's strengths is the fact you can do far more solo during levelling than is currently achievable in Warcraft: it's more fun to play alone when you don't know the storylines as you level. Star Wars gives you a whole new bunch of characters to play out, the Bioware 'Mass Effect' questing approach. There is no End Game to obsess about and get frustrated at when everything is new and sparkly, now is there? If I were Blizzard, and I needed to remind people at the end of their 30 day SW billing period that there's still some fun to be had without paying money to EA, I know what I'd do, quite apart from the fact there ARE STILL PEOPLE PLAYING.

People will make decisions they don't like become metaphors for any number of things. This decision has precedent, it's not like it should be a surprise to anyone. What is different this time around I think is the realisation that, for the first time in many years, Blizzard has a point to prove. They have already admitted their shortcomings with Cataclysm, and the manner in which they now deal with transition to the new expansion is being watched perhaps more keenly than at any point in the game's history. To see a Dev being so candid over why things are done the way they are is a decent start.

Now, more than ever, it is actions that will define the course of the game's future. Let's hope lots of people are digesting those numbers and are ready to act on them in all the problematic areas in the months to follow, not simply the End Game.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WTB [More Achievements] PST.

I know. Hear me out though... ^^

I cannot believe I am alone in the thought that it's time to take a look at the Achievement System.

P has been a Serial Overachiever since the shebang was introduced. Like many people who read here (waves at Mr G. Elf) I'm pretty much a solo player for a lot of the time I'm online, which is adequately borne out by the disappointing 62% showing in the Dungeons and Raids section. Professions, Exploration and Reputation are, unsurprisingly, right up there and close to completion. The fact I also posses FIFTY FOUR Feats Of Strength shows what a sad muppet I really am just how long I've been at this game. I am fairly confident, considering the current state of Achievements in Guild that I'm not alone in thinking we could really do with some new stuff to do quite soon. The question is, however, what form will/should those take?

Blizzard is, unsurprisingly, one step ahead of me already: Pandaland is coming with the Challenge Dungeon, which I suspect will introduce a whole new Category for my list above. However, I'll need four mates for that to happen and although I applaud Blizzard's attempts to get more people into instances, it's not really going to help my efforts as a single player (what do you mean this isn't a single player game? SHUSH YOU!). There's inevitably going to be additions to General, Quests, Exploration AND Professions with a whole new continent in the offing, but is that enough? I understand why there are no major upgrades to the World Events category as well (especially for those who *gasp* might be new to the game *DOES NOT COMPUTE/REBOOT* )  but I sense that, if Blizzard are looking back to reintroducing more fun to the game, we might need something a little extra.

Let's not make this mean just more achievements per se either... time to put my 'Imaginary Dev' Hat on and think how I'd do it. I have a few ideas for this, too: would you like to hear them?

Pitch #1: The Veteran Achiever's 'Over 9000' VIP Lounge.

Remember the day when the Champion's Lounge in Stormwind was a separate instance? Remember how so many people have petitioned for Player Housing in game (and most of those were playing in Vanilla?) I have a way to make Achievements more interesting, and you won't need to add a single new one: the Achiever's VIP Lounge.

There'll have to be a stage there (a la the Darkmoon Faire) where every hour you'll see the latest top achievers being celebrated, perhaps with an 'avatar' of their character doing a /flex or a /bow (this happens in Toontown I know, with names only). There'll be exclusive vendors, who sell items you can only buy with your special Achievement Tokens. For ever 10 Achievement points you earn you'll get 1 Achievement Token, which as well as being exchanged for in-game gifts can be used to get free play time. Yes, you read me right: let me have the chance to exchange all those hours of playing for the chance to have at least the opportunity to play some of this MMO for nowt. I could use it in other Blizzard games too, perhaps saving for a couple of free months in the new game that's being developed. Oh, that would be peachy... :D

On a related note, I think they should make areas in every major capital city where people can go to sit on the latest mount they've won /achieved or to show off their latest Legendary win, to make it easier for everyone else to get on with their business...

Pitch #2: The 'Create your Perfect Achievement' Competition

Have to say, this one is my favourite. Blizzard give us all the chance to come up with an achievement that's not currently available, and as a reward they make it happen and name it after our character in-game. You are granted immortality. We get a chance to show Blizzard what we'd like to see them concentrating on, and it's cheap content. What could possibly go wrong?

Yes, I know. I'm sorry ^^

Pitch #3: Divide and Conquer, the Multiple Variation Achievement Gambit.

There's already a large number of Achievements in game that could quite easily be further subdivided: as an example, earning 50,000 gold is a commitment, but it could be even more. Let's sub-divide it even further (assuming the maths of the game will allow us) to other categories:

  • 50,000g from simply Daily Quests
  • 50,000g from selling to vendors
  • 50,000g from lockboxes
    etc, etc... let's face it, this could go on indefinitely...
This would effectively rejuvenate the entire system and give us sad puppies the committed Achiever a whole new slew of things to go chase after. I think the potential to emote at things has not yet been fully explored, on that front (quite apart from my potential achievement above) and there has to be lists of things across the World we can find, in a Scavenger Hunt stylee. I think we need more massive time sinks worthwhile use of time like Well Red and Higher Learning. They can be immensely annoying but I think I'd be right in saying that they really do feel like... well, an Achievement. Turning up at the Darkmoon Faire and getting 10 points doesn't seem worth congratulating, if I'm honest. Maybe that's the overriding issue with many of the things that 'pretend' to be Achievements but are, simply put, a pat on the back for just staying online.

You got any more ideas?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Bullet Point Post!

Points, baby! All about the V's and the J's... ^^
  • After today, P will be Revered *again* with the Oracles, thus opening up Possible Pettage every three days. I am always happy when additional revenue streams appear. However this is unlikely to stop me randomly farming Leather with a Treasure Potion chaser in TB whether the Alliance have it or not. It's depressingly quiet regardless in that zone, so if you're on in the daytime on my server and want guaranteed mining/herbing rights, you could do a lot worse...
  • I should do some more work on Darkmoon Artifact farmage. I'm up to 8/9 for next month, with the Treatice (again) singularly failing to drop anywhere. I'd like to thank my Druid friend whose DK hit 85 on Friday for the opportunity to run pre-378 dungeons with Valors tacked on, because his gear isn't good enough. Having seen every piece of plate /strength gear drop from both SFK and DM last night it might not be long before we get the new 5 mans by default.
  • Talking of Points, I'm getting to the stage where the only thing JP are good for is buying enchanting mats for AH sale. This is no bad thing however, and it would be great if Blizzard would do the same thing for all those other bloody useless currencies cluttering up my (Virtual) bags. Chef's Awards, I'm looking at YOU.
  • A depressing number of alts do not have current access to a) an Earthen Ring tabard or b) Therazane shoulder enchants. I think the latter's probably more pressing in terms of non-shallow altage. I predict a great deal of questing in Deepholm in my future.
  • Bankalt got to 84 yesterday. Currently am planning to drop skinning and make her a Potion Specialist Alchemist, so that I have one of each variety. Also: THREE TRANSMUTES. That is all.
  • Talking of bankalts, please someone talk me out of levelling my L26 Hunter bankalt to 85 for the Hell of it.. ^^
  • Am beginning to pile up considerable numbers of volatiles, especially via herbing. I should probably do something with them rather than bank the lot. Dreamcloth's a possibility, perhaps I should investigate some recipes... :D
  • Is it time for the Beta yet? ^^