Friday, July 04, 2014

BETA: Sign o' The Times


In a move that frankly should be a surprise to no-one at all, Blizzard stuck up a post last night suggesting everyone should go farm the Black Temple this weekend. I found myself chuckling (probably unintentionally) at the opening paragraph:

Rather than be predictable and move straight on to Blackwing Lair, we thought it would be more fun to briefly alight on raids from different eras, slay the inhabitants, and move on -- like an especially bloodthirsty butterfly. So let us flutter to Black Temple, storied raid from the Burning Crusade era and stronghold of one of the most recognizable and iconic characters in all of Warcraft lore: Illidan Stormrage. 

I think it's also quite sound Expansion Tie In sense at this point to go to the place that people are currently visiting in Beta, a reminder that the Temple of Karabor is what the Black Temple became, before the Orcs overran it and the Burning Legion moved in, because as we have established at some length, context is everything. This also explains why, for a short period a few months ago, Black Temple mobs were dropping no trash items. Planning is *also* significant, and it is probably time to keep your eyes open in Northrend in the next few weeks to see anything changes in the ICC Raids. It is interesting (and for me still a bit strange) to see Blizzard dedicating an entire Blog post to what is essentially a suggestion to go run old raids for Transmog items. However, when I look at the upcoming Tier 17 raid sets, I can understand why.


I admitted yesterday on Twitter that T17 gear leaves me cold, and it does. I'm also mildly concerned at the number of 'flavours' of gear there appears to be for each class, and find myself wondering why it is still important that Blizzard churn out new sets like this when frankly, it doesn't matter what the Hell we wear any more. However, of course, to some people it absolutely does, and having a full set of T17 is clearly an aspirational status symbol to which they continue to ascribe, because nothing says 'I love this game' more than owning a top of the line set of gear and the Meta mount when current. I still remember the amount of grief I got, back in the early days of this Blog, when I suggested it was wrong to encourage people to clog up mailboxes in prominent places with mounts and gear that screamed 'look at me, I've done more content than you, and I'm going to show off that I own this now.' It becomes one of those odd moments when Real Life meets Gaming and people get the hump because Achievement comes in myriad forms and for many, consumption is the most significant.

Ironically, this even happens in places where owning certain items is but a temporary occurrence.

I see one ordinary mount ^^

I find it quite amusing the number of rare mounts that always pop up on testing servers, especially those that require a serious amount of effort to farm or receive. However, I'm one of those people, and if I had the hours in the day and the lack of RL commitments I'd be absolutely grinding my fingers off to grab these items. I get the significance of the Tier for raiders, but in the end the artwork is now irrelevant, except to add to the increasing pile of items you can mix and match to make new outfits. I'd have more respect for a player who's wearing a decent Transmog than I ever would for the iLevel of their gear, but I know on that score I am very much in the minority. What is of more concern right now is the manpower resources required to design these items, that could (presumably) have been directed to far more pressing issues for the Art Department. However, while items are still being quite deliberately designed to press the right desire buttons in players, nothing is going to change.

Case in Point #216.

I can't blame Blizzard for the way they operate, because the key in all of this becomes tapping into the subconscious desires of the player-base and satisfying them in a manner that is conducive to the continued lifespan of the game. Take our newest Battle Pet addition, for instance, the Molten Corgi. Blizzard-Specific Internet Meme + proven popularity of look = WIN. The irony of this, of course, is the 'joke' that sits outside the Alliance Garrison on the Beta. Whatever you produce in game has a 'cost'. To make any item requires X number of designer hours and if Designer/Artist A is working on one thing they can't be engaged on another. So, then we find ourselves looking at the choices being made as to what Blizzard consider important in the Artwork Department, and again it is out of our control, because these stop being aesthetic decisions and they become business ones, and I'm not sure I really want to go there again.

In the end, Blizzard are only making something they know from judicious market research and player feedback is what the subscribers want. People will buy Corgis by the palace-load, of that I can be absolutely certain. This is all the game ever is, when push comes to shove, the most attractive set of pixels the Designers can manage to ensure they get the maximum return for the hours that are worked. When you grasp this is how the Game World is built, everything looks a little bit different. Then you have to make the choice of whether you continue to buy into the idea or you walk away.

As long as I can play with my friends, transmute the horrible gear, live with the Corgi reasoning and make my own way in the world, I'm quite happy just to stick with the programme.


dobablo said...

The definition off pressing issue is very personal and emotive issue.

Considering the number of new mobs they are creating, adding one more for the corgi is probably relatively minor) especially if it is a reskin of another animal).
Same applies to all the different tiers. Multiple colourations are quite quick relative to creating the actual model.

Having said all that, at the end of the day, I don't think it is lack of art assets that has causing the big delays.

Grimmtooth said...

"[I] find myself wondering why it is still important that Blizzard churn out new sets like this when frankly, it doesn't matter what the Hell we wear any more."

Granted, and for sure, we all plan on forever wearing things from past content in mog form, and have no desire to wear that newfangled stuff, but I suspect the art department would like to think they can woo you with new designs, so I'll give 'em a pass on that.

Mind you, the new stuff does NOT qualify, and I personally prefer the simplicity of low-level gear design to the stained-glass-window effect of the T17 bits. BUT. Just sayin'.

@dobablo - Having said all that, at the end of the day, I don't think it is lack of art assets that has causing the big delays. - he says, the day after the Creative Director of that expansion resigns. Hmmm.