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.

WoD release dates…yup. Told you.

Multiple sources tell me that WoD will be released for WoW on or before 20 December 2014, or “fall” in the USA. So anytime from late September (doubtful) through to Christmas (hopefully not that late). Sheesh, I was thinking about July. Ah well, many other games to distract me.

We can now also pre-purchase from Blizzard, and get a “free” level 90 boost. What the hell?

I can pre-purchase a digital version…why is that even a bloody option worth doing? It is digital. It gets “shipped” to you when you click the payment button. Oh, right, the level 90 character which can’t level past 90 till the new expansion launches at least 6 months later; probably more like 8-9 months later. I’d suggest that a 6-9 month window is plenty of time to level a character, and as we are going to get a gear squish most items will be of little benefit.

I guess you might farm the heirlooms in Siege, to help you level? But you can farm them on a 90 now – you don’t need the boost.

You could level to 60 and get some free professions later with the bump? Not really 6 months of game time there.

So some time in the next 6+ months I might pre-purchase, but for now I’d rather have that money in my wallet. This really has a funny kick-starter feel to it; cash now, game much later.

Oh, and I just have to say this because I’m a bit snarky about all the drama it caused – to those folks who were “building up” to raiding in WoD… go hard. Go soft, go whatever way you can because you’re in for a long wait. You’ve got 6-9 months more to get those kills. Months ago I said it was a bloody waste of energy to try and recruit players “for Warlords” as it would be too far away. With the news today I’m almost certain nobody has a roster of players that will be certain to be playing and at level 100 in 9 months.

Happy waiting, TyphoonAndrew

wod-when-ffs

What will be remembered about the Pandaren in the next expansion for WoW?

I expect that the Pandaren will become a side thought in the next expansion; as a race they do not have much to do with Draenor. Sure they will be present as adventurers at level 100, but I think they won’t dominate our screens at all. Orcs and Draenei will probably be the order of the day, with all sorts of new goodies for each race. I hope we see hooks for at least a few others races as well, as having a single race as the focus on each side of the faction war is thinner than I’d like. Lets see some lore based events.

Perhaps Sylvanas will emerge as an arm of the Horde with powerful and undesirable solutions to the fight against Garrosh’s “true horde”. She has provided a rather brutal solution to problems of her faction’s dwindling numbers and as a leader she has a lot of presence to draw from. The trolls must be pleased that they now have a strong presence in VolJin.

The humans get to watch our leading lady Mage rant and rave with the King, all the while the other Alliance races twiddle their thumbs and do very little in the main story. Where are the Gnomes, Dwarves, and Night Elves in all this? Did anyone even invite the Worgen to the party? The Tauren and Trolls had the guts to speak up and then usurp their leader after he made a screamingly evil set of choices, but the sub-races in the alliance just coast along.

Another thought I had was that the Pandaren might not keep to their faction choice. They’ve now seen far more about both the Alliance and the Horde than they did initially when their first choices were made, there could be stories about Pandaren soldiers switching between both sides based upon the outcome of the last expansion. The Vale was left in ruins and their culture has been shaken at it’s foundation, and a great leader lost. It has to leave some scars.

We (as the second class heroes in WoW) will need to deal with which ever agent allowed Garrosh to slip into time in the first place. And I’m not buying that the Black Prince is a good guy at all, and hopefully we get to see that little black whelp spread his wings. He’s made it really clear that he wanted one or other faction totally destroyed and we didn’t do his bidding well enough.

I also cannot imagine the Half Hill farm will be visited again by a level 100 player. The garrison is replacement and expansion on that concept. Good, there needs to be a more visceral hook from our characters into the game world. Traveling back in time is already enough of a step sideways in immersion, and anything which makes the character feel like it as a presence in the game world is a great addition.

a pandaren brewmaster holding the Keg

Fun and games to come.

Quick Impressions on Warlords of Draenor

Aside

Quick little re-post of my thoughts when asked on the Guild’s forums. Overall there is a lot of material in WoW Warlords of Draenor which could be wonderful (WoD is about as great as MoP for an expansion abbreviation).

Likes:

  • I’m pleased with the item stat squish, and the associated HP value changes, etc.
  • separate raid lockouts
  • added flex style to normal mode
  • stat / gear use simplification. Pally Plate’s often DE needs to stop, this addresses that issue.
  • reduced gear-sets. The gear model means that one item may serve multiple roles. Brilliant. The negative on this system is not as large as the negatives we already have in game with the current system.
  • removal of reforge, etc. It was a way to “fix” shitty complex itemisation, or the wrong stats on gear. It was also a gold sink. I won’t miss it at all. i.e. I think I reforged manually about three times in the expansion, otherwise I used a mod. If I am seeking to automate a function then why bloody have it. Just fix the itemisation.
  • free level 90 toon. Cool, more powerful bank alts.

Too soon to tell:

  • How much sense does Garrosh escaping into the time machine really make?
  • Garrisons might be cool, or might be the “farm” of MoP. Great at first, a grind, and then pointless.
  • 20 man Epic mode. Might cause issues. Might be the same problem we have now but a different number as the target. Moot.
  • character models. Increased polygon complexity is fine and good, hopefully we see more. What about a thin human male model which has actual fingers?
  • followers akin to Star Wars. Good system.
  • craft from your bank mats. Great.

Not fussed:

  • +10 levels vs 5
  • Orc vs ?? Lore. Frankly the lore is never going to be cohesive and congruent to what came before.
  • no flying. It was ok when we could, it was ok when we couldn’t.
  • time travel stories

Dislike:

  • the renaming of the raid types is confusing at the moment because of the re-use of the same words. It’ll be fine later.
  • why scrap “the blood” corruption of the orcs totally? It was a cool lore.
  • the trailer was meh, but I’m thinking we’ll get a better one when the launch the actual expansion.

I want:

  • more/better Archy information, & Profession changes to suit actual raid benefits

5 or 10 levels in the next expansion?

It is seriously weird that it might be a contentious discussion about
how many levels are in the next expansion.

  • If its 5 levels then apparently that feels slower. More of a grind.
  • If its 10 levels then that feels like you’re getting more reward or making better progress.

Dah, what? Logically it’s about the time spent not the numerical
values. 20 hours of game-play split 10 or 5 ways should not really make
a huge deal.

The talents, rewards, items, quest difficulty should not be so
lopsided that it could be breaking if either choice was made.

If you’re in the 5s camp then perhaps we need a mod that fakes the
Ding and Grats animation to allow the trained reward response to feel
more like the 10s.

Perhaps even a mini-Ding per 10 quests completed, each which
reiterates a power you’ve recently learnt just in case you’re ignoring
that recent new talent or power up.

Ding. Whoosh. Ding. Grats. Wheeee.

But perhaps there is a point or two to be made…

Scaling between different level characters had tended to rely on
levels are a lever for advantage. So if there are more breakpoint a
between current and future max level then the impact of that gap can
be spread across more points.

Your level 91 in a 100 max has less of the gap built in to it than a
91 in a 95 max.

It also may affect the gear scaling as the levels build up. 10 levels
allows for a more granular range of item levels. I’m not sure if that
is desired or not. Might be that another item level crunch helps
smooth the curve of itemisation.

Lastly it might affect the quest Gray effect. A normal challenge at
level 99 is probably yellow, where a level 90 or 91 is gray or green
at best.

I’ve seen the new heirlooms used as the basis for the expansion having 10 levels. That ignores the fact that the heirlooms are on PTR and that they might not last two expansions. I have a huge number of heirlooms which cover base game plus many expansions already, why not more.

Happy Killing, TyphoonAndrew

Mists does well in the market place

Approx 2.7 units of Mists sold early, plus the sales just at/post launch, plus China coming on boards soon – WoW is back to 10+ million players and may get to a higher mark.

Mike Morhaime – “It’s been gratifying to see the results of all of the work we put into this expansion and to hear all of the positive feedback from players so far.”

I’m pleased, as it reflects how good I think this expansion is. Congratulations. There were initial reports that sales were less than Cata and less than expected, and however true they were they were slanted toward the retail sales of boxes which ignored the digital sales. I purchased a digital version, and think it is the logical way to pay. Sorry stores, you do not have a compelling offering. I guess there is Blizzard spin there too. The 3 month figure will be telling, and the 6 month stats will be definitive. As a player we generally know how it is going  in a broad sense anyway by who is online and what they are saying.

I’ve seen some players return to try out the game, but not a massive amount of the really “old” players who left with significant burn-out in place. Some folks have had enough of the game, and feel that the flavour of wow’s treadmill is not for them anymore – fair call. I respect that, just as I respect that a player can return and get a new lease on life too. We have to do what we enjoy above all else.

There are also some bloggers returning too, so we should see an increase in the general wow chatter through the internet. It is exciting.

It’s odd to think that games will cycle in this manner on first impression, but it really is logical. Something is new and entertaining, then it becomes old – the manufacturers make a cal of how long to keep content out there, and how fast they can release it. 1 year with an end boss is too long, and the anti-subs reflected that.

Anyone else like to roll a Mogu character?

What happened second? I looked at how I’m leveling

Here are a few thing I’ve noticed about how I level; apart of slowly.

Mists is doing a great job to present the lore of the situation into the player’s eyeballs. Some quests give blunt information, others are more subtle. At times this means that the task we are asked to do is not to the style of my character, but that is totally forgivable when the context it gives is useful. The lore as it stands now is very engaging and I am loving the new content.

I tend to read the quest text, but sometimes skim read if the task is obviously to kill X of Y and come back for more. Those quests might have a context of “create a potion”, “deliver this rare”, or whatever. The nature of WoW’s quests have not changed, and honestly I cannot see how it could in a theme-park style mmo. In fact it is a good thing, and something which mean of the community enjoy as well. There is always the question of how re-playable the content is, but I see that as moot for now.

Despite being in the first zone and still level 85 I have already maxed out Mining to 600 by chasing nodes over doing quests. It’s slower but the mats are too valuable to ignore, and I do not want to return to an area to back fill the skill, or find a node later that I cannot grab. The nodes also grant xp so its not a total waste.

I’m trying to stretch away from a totally linear quest series, as having a small degree of choice is empowering (have a read of Tobold’s post below for a view on linear quests). Essentially though the content must have some sort of pathway, and linked hubs make sense for 80% of players. Completing a quest hub is a must as while the gear is not an upgrade yet, often the next hub is unlocked by the last stage in the previous hub.

Silly aside – Why do we Fight? Why do the leaves fall?

I fight because I have to to get to the mining nodes and all the monsters get in the way. Sometimes other players too. The leaves fall because I keep bumping into the trees, monsters, rocks, and all the other terrain artwork and widgets. I abuse auto-run.

Theramore’s Fall available early

Update: Community feedback seems to dislike the scenario, I’m waiting to play it (obviously) but I thought this was interesting:

By a player: Theramore scenario completely underwhelming compared to other pre expansion events. It’s Meh.
Blue Post: Was never meant to be a world event. It’s the first Scenario of the game. Tons more content coming next week!

So expect content in the launch, no real “expansion special event”.

I thought I had an extra few hours after the Tuesday maintenance, but Theramore’s Scenario is being released quickly. Go grab two mates and get smashing folks, as the first scenario it will be interesting to see just how these play and what they might indicate for regular activity for characters at level 90. It’s good that it is early as more folks will get to see it. You’ll need ilevel 353 to queue up.

I’m expecting a few “what a piss poor expac launch” comments – and it really remains to be seen. We also do not know what will “hit” when the expansion actually launches too. There is an argument to say that the expansion itself might not need a launch event if the content and play style is good enough in the quest zones. Interesting times.

Bashiok – For US servers it will be unlocked today in the afternoon.

I was also creating a quick guide for it too and had the darn thing half written, but by the time I get to play and then write I guess so many other walk throughs will be released.

Cheeky Upgrade option in Character Screen

Aside

Those cheeky fellows working in Blizzard have plonked an ad for Mists of Pandaria in the character screen you see after login.

It is not subtle or unreasonable, and after my initial reaction of “what the f?” I considered using that to purchase my upgrade.

It makes me ponder if we will see character customisation, race change, name change and such in that screen too. Heck it would even be handy to be able to buy month-by-month time as well. The user is logged in, so might benefit from it. All the special offers for pets and such could be there too.

Are you pondering that already Activision?

One alt down, four to go

I’m on a leveling mission: Get each of my toons to the highest level possible before the expansion.

I recently ding’ed 85 on my Warlock – Arkham, which is the second character I ever rolled in World of Warcraft. Now I move onto the remaining four: Priest, Mage, Rogue, and Shaman. For leveling I am using only dps style, and only infrequently doing the 5-man dungeons. As while I know the Dungeons are fantastic for gear and XP, I cannot commit to playing very long due to kiddlet interruptions. I don’t want to be that guy, who goes AFK for ages and needs to be kicked from the team.

As far as the Warlock goes the updates for the class in Mists of Pandaria look very appealing from a cosmetic perspective. It is tempting to fusk around and see if they still play as ruthlessly as they did in The Burning Crusade.

Next highest character is the Shadow Priest at level 81, which I created toward the end of TBC and has almost (a brief journey into Ulduar) always been an alt for Alchemy and Herbalism. Yeirah, you’re up. Get to the face-melting.