Patch 6 around the corner

Aside

Well well, the new “shake it up and see how it flies” patch hits this week – and me still unsubscribed to WoW. Darn if home life isn’t getting in the way of a bit of fun. In previous expansions the pre-patch for the main event has always been fun. New special content for those still hanging around, and all new stats and powers to play with as combinations. I’m in no rush as yet, and even on release I think I’ll stroll rather than run into the world, take my time to have a look. Without the pressure of a raid team every game is entertainment in my preferred time. I like it. Somewhere in my Blizzard subscription is an unplayed D3 expansion too, perhaps I’ll smash a few Templar levels before deciding which character needs to be rushed to level 100.

I am looking forward to it though. A few nights a week of wow really sounds good at the moment.

What to play, what to play, what?

“What class do I play?” It is one of those questions you see on forums a lot. Through-out every game the class choice is important, and in mmo games it determines a lot of what you will do in game. Now that I’m contemplating a return to WoW and have access to a free level 90 character I’m asking myself the same question.

I fear asking in forums without pondering some basic questions, and here goes…

Mortigen, Raze, nagarj, Arkham, Aurac and Yeirah head shots

So, what do I like doing in WoW?

  • Leveling. Sometimes getting distracted by exploring. And I often read quest text and like to understand why what my character is doing is furthering an aspect of the story. I don’t roleplay in game.
  • Collecting Legendary items. Also sometimes collecting rare drops & mounts in a few old 5 mans. I don’t care if leveling takes ages, as I won’t be rushing to raid this time.
  • Often DPS in scenarios, 5 mans, and raids, but I won’t be raiding regularly at all in a “proper” team. Having a viable Dps spec & gear that I know how to play is important.
  • After all the Dps styles I’ve played over the years I think range dps have an overall advantage in fight mechanics, so I’m pondering a range dps capacity more than melee dps. Melee is great fun though, especially two weapon Frost for DKs.
  • Often Tanking in scenarios and 5-mans, more so because I’d prefer to not wait ages for the queue timer.
  • Sometimes Tanking in raids, less so in LFR because the experience is mostly horrible for Tanks.
  • I’ll be doing LFR and Dungeons, and whatever else is needed to gear up and to get the legendary item(s). Please Blizzard do not have a pvp quest in the middle of the quest line, as I think that sucked for everyone involved in those battlegrounds.
  • Never healing.
  • Almost never doing PvP.
  • I’m going to be a casual, and probably time poor. I doubt I’ll have a main and many alts, more likely it will be just one character for a very long time.
  • If a profession gives me a gear boost then I’ll complete it. If it only gives vanity items or quality of life junk, then I’ll do it very slowly.

What classes have I played? What are my options?

  • With a free level 90 anything is possible. I’ve a 90 DK, Warlock, Warrior, and Druid.
  • Death Knights still have some of the best lore and flavor in the game. Along with my Paladin and Warlock they are my three most played classes.
  • Then a Balance Druid and Priest as /played, then down to a Warrior.
  • Elemental Shaman are awesome, but I’ve never raided or end-gamed with one.
  • I have an 85 Hunter, but I only use him to mailbox dance. Great class to level, not sure how I like them at end game.
  • Never played a Rogue or Mage past level 50. I like how the Frost mages get a pet, as that makes leveling easier, but I’m yet to understand Mages enough to understand how they might vary from Warlocks at end game. Mages sure do get some nifty powers.
  • Never played a Monk past 20. I probably should.

What abilities and other odd things appeal?

  • Death Knight’s survivability in Blood spec, same for Prot Paladins, Bear Druids, and Prot Warriors. I like to survive and like to pull a few mobs at a time.
  • I love the aesthetic of a Priest’s Shadow form, but do not want to ever heal. I think this means not playing a Priest regularly.
  • Balance Druid’s Moonkin form appeals to me, but I really hate Cat form. It is the same reason I find combo-points on Rogues to be hellish and frustrating.
  • Warrior’s charge and leap are great.
  • Warlock’s funky flavor all round is appealing.
  • Sometimes I miss classes with an overtly simple rotation, because less thinking is sometimes enjoyable. Back in tBC the Warlock used Shadowbolt almost all the time and I was ok with that.
  • If one of my previously played classes was going to have a special focus in this expansion that might help decide that. I’ve not seen another Rogue dagger quest – kinda thing suggested yet.

What Role and Class combo do you like best?

  • Tank: DK and Warrior.
  • Melee Dps: DK
  • Range Dps: I can’t pick between Elemental Shaman, Balance Druid, Warlock, Shadow Priest. Each is way cool.
  • Healing: Nope (I think I used a wool bandage in Gruul’s Lair on the poor Warrior tank at the time, but didn’t like it).

So the winner is?

Well I’m open to suggestions, but I think a Druid might be the way to go. Bear + Boomkin gives me range Dps and Tanking, plus the option to stealth when I need it. It is a pitty my Druid’s professions are skinning and leatherworking, because as professions they’ve always been a little meh to me. I’ll have to start reading the EJ forums to see how Balance rotation is stacking up in terms of complexity and rotation…

Arrrg, still not sure.

Aside – I found it again recently and while it was a little mean, I don’t regret it. I really hope the beggars are not around as much anymore.

Another idiot named Hartlessq on Nagrand begs for gold. What did he think would happen?

 

WoD’s great cinematic

Aside

The WoD cinematic is really good. As a semi-retired lore nerd I love seeing this stuff, just as much as I love seeing the Mage cast a Sheep spell in the first trailer, or Arthas summon an undead dragon. The MoP trailer did what it had to do (show us the Pandaren) and did it in a way which was fun. It certainly makes me think this is Orcs vs Humans … of Warcraft.

Non-serious aside – It does feel like a story set to make us like killing Orcs, and as an Alliance player I don’t really care if that is the wrong view. Orcs have proven themselves weak willed, power hungry, and generally the bad guys in the lore. Guldan gets his historic plans thrown asunder, but we’re still facing Orcs as the foes. These Warlords just reenforce the point. Thrall was the exception, and only that because some silly human made an effort to civilize him instead of kill him.

Now wonder he liked Jana. I’m happy to kill orcs, wargs, goblins, any sort of green or brown skinned filth.

(edit: truthfully that trailer makes the idea of playing an orc seem very appealing)

Is it as good as the others in terms of placing the players “in the world” and throwing down a challenge? Probably not, but then the excitement from an expansion is only partly attributed to the pretty non-gameplay video. There is not much that would top “you are not prepared“. As a video to continue the hype and announce a release date it was fine; great in fact.

Bring on more cinematic media for players, add more online comics, give us preview pages, lore updates, stat blocks to drool over. Complete the character models (I know, I know) and a few decent armor sets and it’s finished isn’t it? All of it. Build the hype with many strings of your bow Blizzard.

WoW sub stats published – Unsurprisingly Downward

I know reading about World of Warcraft subscriptions is more click bait and flame war material, but I can’t help be interested. The stats show a clear downward trend in subscriptions, and I find that obvious.

Without new content the player base leaves, and it has been a long time since new content has been put into the game. Further the community has been told that it will be a while to go before the Warlords updates, which acts as a negative incentive to keep subscribed during the quiet time. Wrath was the game’s peak, but The Burning Crusade added a huge amount of players to the game.

Graph of subscriber numbers, via MMO Champion

Graph of subscriber numbers, via MMO Champion

At 6.8 million accounts the game is back to subscriber numbers from the Original release. Warlords will be the 5th expansion for WoW, and any gamer or marketer will know that holding interest over ten years and 4 previous expansions is difficult. Continue reading

New Toy for WoD – Haunting Memento

Discussing WoW and other MMOs a few friends were pondering what our favorite items were and how much the might be worth. I love my Legendary items and also love the Haunted Memento.

haunting-momento-wod

The Memento dropped as part of the Scourge Invasion many expansions ago, and allows a strange shadow to follow your player as long as you have it in your inventory. An item of years go which is special within the world.

WoD (listed as patch 6.0.1) will add a new Haunting Momento to the game as a toy, obtainable through the Darkmoon Fair. I like the fact they are adding the toy for those who were not around for the previous expansion, but also hope they make it different somehow, both in the cosmetic effect and also the application. It appears that it can be used on another target, which is already nice – and perhaps the haunting will have a different animation?

The Sha default model would be very suitable as an alternative to the typical specter model used in the original. An odd thought, and odd too that a similar item is being added to the game in WoD.

Expectations are very difficult to manage. Rant.

I was reading about the Blood Elf models not making the WoW – Warlords release, and through the comments people are extrapolating from that (a) Blizzard are rushing, (b) release might be around the corner, (c) the community deserve a little more information, (d) Blizzard have had plenty of time already and they are lazy, (e) the expansion will be terrible.

The variety and breadth of perspectives on the next expansion is telling of two things. The fan-base isn’t sure of many details they consider important, and that Blizzard isn’t actually served (in the short term) by being honest with their fans.

The company who is infamous for releasing when they are ready, and who has already said that the game will be released closer to December than July – I just don’t get it. A feature set was broad brushed a long time ago, and details are being released to keep the fans interested and also to keep WoW’s long tail of blogs, news, etc alive. The release dates cycle is very long (basically impossible to argue against) but it is not significantly longer than other expansions.

I do not think the studio deserve to be derided for communicating about status, delays, and where their thinking is, because the alternative is that they just go silent and do press releases for the blogs to recycle. For pity’s sake fan-base, start being fans.

If the long view is taken, a fan can look back at the 10 years of discussion and banter between the vendor and customer, it demonstrates that talking to fans is a good thing. Many other game devs do not discuss their products in this way, and I think they suffer less bad comments pre-release.

Comments such as this is superficially reasonable, until you start to ponder what answer would actually be satisfactory…

The only thing that worries me is this;  what has to be scrapped to allow extra time to get this in at a later date now?  Meaning, if this was supposed to be done at launch, that allowed for room for other content to be released later on.  Since this is being pushed, what content may get pushed even further or now scrapped because of this?

There is no useful answer to this question. Speaking as a manager of software projects, I see questions similar to this all the time, and the answers cannot be specific without creating another set of clarifying questions. It becomes an endless cycle of q&a…but what if…why can’t we just…why wasn’t I consulted?

As much as it might be hurtful to say the end consumers of the expansion are not stakeholders who should be involved in the timing and planning stages, so releasing information to them is done for customer engagement purposes, not to actually ask which feature should be in or out to meet a flexible deadline. Yes, they are the end paying customer, but your needs and views have been analysed and incorporated into the product strategy already. I’m certain that Blizzard are taking every feature seriously as they’ve released so many good quality products in the past. A flippant approach to features, quality, or deadlines doesn’t match their history.

Express your frustration or opinion without the dramatic rhetoric, and you might even find the vendor listening. Attack the vendor with no constructive feedback and you’ll be muted. We all know that an attack creates more clicks, but at this stage the whining is just tiresome. If you don’t like waiting, then go do something else because you’ll be waiting regardless.

The fact that one of the racial character models won’t be updated isn’t a show stopper. This announcement proves that, and tells us that they are willing to drop some non-core features to meet their target dates. Heck, drop more character models for all I care. The content (worlds, raids, quests, etc) being finished to a high quality and without defects is a showstopper, the upgrade process for the game is critical, the distribution method is critical. Even the comms plan for marketing and the planning a round their own other products and the products of their competitors is important. New character models? Sit down (imho*).

Keep in mind too that the models are not being shelved, but being delayed. This isn’t the dance studio. That is a box feature that is wonderful to drop into a discussion like this to demonstrate why something which was all but pointless to a wide range of players can also create a blather of negative feedback from a loud minority. It should never be anything except a silly nice-to-have feature. By comparison I think the new models are more important, but trivial compared to the actual story and event content for the expansion.

We need to deal with what we get at launch. Not what you wanted? Then don’t buy it.

If the lack of a particular widget ruins the game for you, then wait till it is present and join the game again during that content patch. I’ve unsubscribed during the downtime period and cannot understand the parts of the fan-base who are angry that they don’t have new content in the period where it was well communicated that there would be no new content. Too long between expansions is only true if you’re choosing to not play or not enjoying what you have now.

I’ve previously blogged about the time to expansion release being long, but it was an observation targeting the idea of doings something else with my time and money. If you are choosing to pay for something you don’t like, or sitting in front of a game which we know won’t be changing for months and expecting something new; then I think there are other issues. PEBKAC.

Happy gaming, TyphoonAndrew.

* ok, not humble.

Thoughts through the quiet time

Now that it’s gone a bit quiet around my house, and I’ve been out of game for a while I feel like sharing some short thoughts on gaming, which touch on MMORPGS and WoW.

Gaming wise, a few odd sessions of D3 and Sir, You are Being Hunted is all I’m fitting in, and that was/is mostly months ago. I finally finished the basic story of D3 and watched the lovely cut-scene/movie. Those Blizzard folks still know how to make a reasonable ending. Playing on with D3 without the expansion feels like running on a hamster wheel because the story is over. So now I either pay for the next story segment or do something else. Fair choice too, the game had enough content to make the initial purchase worth while, and its not like I finished it early.

Even if I had more time I’m not sure I would be installing a new MMO either. The banter about WildStar seems to say its pretty and interesting, but is very much the same as what has come before. That is not a bad idea for games as a moderate subscriber base can keep a company profitable for years; but after the zest and spin of the announcements – its kind of a dull outcome. I ran-up an Eve trail account and almost logged in. Almost, but then remembered that the game is slow and takes more time than I’ve got at the moment, and the account has lapsed. I thought about StarWars too as it’s free, and I could play the each of the class quests through to max level and then delete the character/account. Hmm, perhaps.

I miss logging in to something to play. I’d like to run WoW’s UP for the mount once a week, and perhaps a few other mindless farming tasks, but only to be able to say I’ve collected those pixels. Knowing that I’ll likely play WoW in the future means that the heat is drained from the desire to login to farm. I can farm later between other activities.

So now its books, pen and paper games, and catching up on TV shows.