Well D3 was darn popular

Well it seems Blizzard has more than one cash cow after all, as Diablo 3 made a fair crop of cash for the studio (Polygon article). 20 million sales of the game. The subscribers numbers for WoW have lead some folk to say that WoW is in trouble, and perhaps even the concept of an MMO is in trouble too (MMO’s are dying). I don’t buy into that because frankly I think MMOs are another arrow in the quiver of game styles that gamers like myself enjoy. D3 was popular, as was D1&D2; they’re not the same as WoW, but they represent that games are still able to make a tidy profit and that the audience for games hasn’t evaporated as much as some of the end of the world style blog titles imply. These games don’t signal the end of anything except the short period while one game has it’s pinnacle of popularity. I’ll wait for D4 happily, or a variant clone from another source happily.

The games will transform, might shudder a bit, but multiplayer games have been around for a darn long time, and we’re only seeing better and better graphics and gameplay as the decades roll along. A good game is worth paying for. A great game is worth following, and any studio which can release a solid product often will garner loyalty from wallets. As much as I sometimes dislike small parts of Blizzard’s approach, they do keep creatig things I find fun. I don’t kickstart/crowdfund much at all because I think I could use my money on other things, and the risk is not worth it. That might mean that I’m not on the cutting edge of new games, but I’m also not dropping US$80 every three or four months on the same set of tripe shooter, mmo clone, or games that never get completed.

I would spend something on a single player, turn based, strategy game set either in misc fantasy land or space … if it was a revamped and upgraded Master of Orion 2. MoO3 was awful, and MoO2 hit that sweet spot of fun that I still think about. What happened to the popularity of the turn based games? I guess I’ll wait for them to come back into favor.

d3-angel

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.

It is all about the time sink

The time sink game is all I’m playing at the moment. It has many levels and challenges.

I have three writing mini-projects going at once, a few games to try to play, and a family to look after. The three writing projects have deadlines which are looming so I really should be doing those with all my spare time, but I find them difficult to write them without spending large blocks of time. When I write I need a good 1-2 hours of time to get anything new written. I can review my own work in much smaller time blocks, but there is only so much review that can be done before it is called procrastination. New text needs thinking time.

A pc game however can be 30 minutes to 1 hour if I know what I’m doing (like WoW), or need a heap more (like 2-3 hours) if it is a game which is new to me like Elder Scrolls, EvE, Star Wars. I guess I could go play D3 too if I wanted some hack and slash fun, and D3 is the game I’ll fall back to when all else fails.

The writing is all based around pen and paper role-playing games (for a Deathwatch mini-module and a fan made Ars Magica supplement), and I’m enjoying the process of trying to create something for a critical audience. Writing for your own sake is easy, writing for an audience who will read, review, editorialise, and point out incongruity is much harder. That could be part of my hesitation too. The projects are not commercial things, so I’m not targeting a commercial level quality, but still thinking it has to be better than my typical notepad scrawl.

determined-space-marine

As far as computer games go, WoW is still interesting to me. I have some gripes which will come out below, but as I write this I’m really just mouthing off about an errant kid who I like, but pissed me off recently.

I think it is interesting that WoW Insider has announced cut-backs to their blog staff across all games, and wow is significantly affected. That would not happen if the revenue was flowing well, and that is telling about the users of these games, and the market in general. Even though the subscription rate is ok-ish the players themselves are not putting up with any kind of silly or boring content anymore. I think repetition will be the next thing that MMOs have to have less of to keep their audiences, and that will be a huge problem for almost all the theme park style games. Players want more content, more often, with no drop in quality or they go elsewhere. They might return when the new content drops, but almost all the players I speak to are not willing to wait. They go elsewhere. And they should too.

WoW and Guilds

Well there is a doozy here to tell. Many of our raiders either left for greener pastures, were removed for being painful, or left for life reasons. That then caused another round of departures, as others had to ponder leaving too. Then some of those greener pastures were not as good as advertised, so those people began looking around again. Because I’m fed up with being treated like a revolving door, and fed up with the whinging, a few were told they were not welcome back. I think most people would support a player making the “right” call for themselves, and forgive a lot of how that was communicated or made. We’re all human. I think a Guild has to also make the “right” choices too, and that means sometimes enough is enough.

This was not a great time for our guild, but also not unexpected at this stage in the game. The downtime between expansions is always crappy for guilds, with only the strongest ones staying focused. Add in some continued drama, a few people who think they are special snowflakes, and you’re left with very little to do. There is no lever by which a player can be controlled (such as an employment contract for compensation) so “managing” difficult people is next to impossible for any prolonged period.

That leaves us with a guild of social players and no “serious progression” raids happening. Frankly I’m glad that some of the pains-in-the-arse players are gone. I’m sad that we lost great people too, and even more so that it might lead to others leaving. At this point though it is not something to fight, but something to accept. I want players to be having fun, and that is far more important than rubbish about which guild you belong to, or she-said-he-said malarkey. I am glad it is “over”. I’m glad that the people who are staying will not have to wonder why such stupidity is tolerated. It is not tolerated anymore.

I can now login without having to think about somebody getting shitty about some illusory problem. Finally, no dramas from World of Warcraft. Yeehaw! I do not even understand why in hell some people require the input that they do; it is like they are not adults at all.

I’m even happy that the people who left are getting what they like from their game time. It is good to think that people can go somewhere and be happy, and it is very possible (and even a certainty in one case) that a problem only existed because of the people involved. Dissolve the problem relationship permanently, and the fun comes back. More power to them. I hope they’re all killing digital monsters, and looting wonderful pixels.

I’m really not having a go, just talking through what happened. I’m sure the choices were not perfect, nobody makes perfect choices all the time.

Bygones are bygones. – TyphoonAndrew.

An aside – Wow characters can only belong to a single guild at a time, and therefore changing guilds is also inevitable. Why can’t WoW have more than one formal method to organise players. Cal them battle units, corps, whatever, but allow a way that players can stay in a guild they like, but also advance and be managed in another set of organisations. It might help players who have dual loyalties. We can cross-server raid all sorts of junk, but cannot organise characters in the same way in-game. I think that is a functional gap.

walking-frozen-township

ESO Beta

This weekend I was given a ticket into Elder Scrolls Online Beta (thanks T!) and it looks like a reasonable game. As my friend told me “think of it as a good single player story, not as an MMO” and its a great game. There was an NDA which I briefly skimmed while downloading the game so rather than say anything questionable, I’ll just say that it is similar enough that I knew what to do, but was a little different. Graphically it will challenge some computers. This is not a game which will run well on a low spec machine.

Where is the value?

If I were to think about value for money when playing time sinks I not subscribe to Wow, Eve, ESO, or any other subscription game. I’d get back into Star Wars, or something like it. It’s free and has plenty of content I’ve not played. Or many of the other games out there that are free to play. I do like the idea of not having a wow subscription for a while to save up for something else. Perhaps it is time to pause my membership for a few months.

I’ve also got a 7 day trial of EvE sitting waiting, but I cannot bring myself to login just yet. It looks fantastic, and honestly I’d be playing more just to look at the pretty space pictures than actually want to do space battles. I don’t think that alone is worth a subscription cost. In fact a video of beautiful space scenes rolling in the background would almost be as appealing.

That’s not weird. Is it? Happy killing, TyphoonAndrew

Halo_Wars__shield_world_Matte_by_JJasso2

Panoramas and Banners for fantasy themed blogs

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As a blogger I never seem to have the “right” image, and get tempted to hike images from anywhere. Well, shamefully I do admittedly hike them, but I try to grab my own, or take them from folk who are willing to give freely.

I found that “The Other Tank” Blog has compiled a batch of images which are perfect for bloggers to use for wow-related banners and panoramas. Even better he has supplied a batch of these in zip file shared via DropBox for anyone to grab. Darn fine work sir!

serpents-heart

Happy Killing, TyphoonAndrew.

Piss off Perfect World, your sales spam sucks

Perfect World, the trickster parent company behind a few MMO games that I have looked into (most recently Neverwinter) are offering a 15% discount on a store purchase.

rippoff-zen-perfect-world

Geez thanks. I can spend money to play your essentially free game. In the case of Neverwinter I’ve barely moved beyond the starting beach and you’ve already got offers for my wallet. Sheesh.

Piss off Perfect World. I hate getting “offers” like this in email and I am slightly obsessive about avoiding this junk. My SWToR account email regularly gets special offers from those folks, despite the fact I have not logged on for other six months. Maybe you’re just trying to make a fair dollar, and it is certainly plausible to offer, but it stinks to me. My inbox is not a place I want borderline spam for games that are dead to me.

I intend Free-to-Play to be free. Continue reading

Play for free, Up to level 13

A few weeks ago Blizzard announced that D3 was going to have a free play option for low level characters (FAQ here). I’m not sure why I missed this initially, but perhaps the silly work and wow cycle was as much eye candy as I could take in.

Regardless, this is offering which I think is a benchmark for game distribution in today’s market: give the player an opportunity to see if they like your work. Do not expect that people will pay to test if the game sucks. They won’t. If they trail it, then they can pay for the full thing when it makes them happy, if not then they get caps and limits that might keep them interested periodically. That demo might be a week’s grace, or a level limit, or whatever style is suitable. Either way you get players who wish to play, not players who are angry about getting some of the money’s worth.

A long time ago I played and loved Master of Orion 1 and 2. When MoO3 was released I pre-purchased that game and regretted it straight away. It was a poor imitation of the old game, with bright and shiny graphics which did nothing to distract from the shitty actual play. A total waste. Since then I’ve been a mad and angry purchaser of any game product. Temple of Elemental Evil was a similar experience as while the game was technically playable the crash rate and list of things that when SNAP! was too large.

So now I rant about free to play capped options with furvor and wrath.

For Diablo 3’s free play option they chose a max level number like unlucky 13 for the free players. That is just too much fun. Well done guys, it made me smile.

The demonically-besieged world of Sanctuary needs heroes. Now you can join in the apocalyptic battle for FREE via the all-new Diablo®  III Starter Edition.  Available exclusively via Battle.net®, the Starter Edition allows you to fight your way up to the Skeleton King boss in Act I, and advance all the way to level 13, without having to purchase a copy of Diablo III.

Diablo 3 is enough of a game that I think I would have purchased it away way, especially as it has no ongoing subscription; but I might have avoided it early on if I hadn’t had a Blizzard annual pass. I feel the same way about trialing GuildWars2 – play it if its free to see if its good, but otherwise I’m not interested in paying box price to evaluate software anymore.

I generally assume that most games released are not worth it until I read staggeringly good reviews from multiple sources, and a friend says its good, and it is released. A little while ago I said “I’m planning a short return plunge into WoW briefly before playing Diablo 3, and possibly SWToR. I’ll wait till Panda-randa is released, then decide if I pick it up.” Now that more details are about I’ll probably buy MoP in advance. It is good enough and close enough that it is a low risk.

I still don’t like Pandas though. Perhaps that means I’m looking forward to killing a few.

Prestige for endgame D3 players

paragon ding x100

Ding 60! Grats. And then ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. You get the idea.

D3 is adding 100 extra “paragon” levels of character advancement into the game with a coming patch, to satisfy the endgame players who desire more power and prestige.

Here’s how it works:

– After you hit level 60, any further experience you earn from killing monsters will begin to count toward Paragon levels

– There are 100 Paragon levels
– Every Paragon level will reward you with:

Core stats such as Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Vitality in amounts similar to what you’d gain from a normal level 3% Magic Find and 3% Gold Find

– In addition, a distinctive increasingly-impressive border will surround your character portrait in the in-game party frame to denote your Paragon progression, with a new frame earned after every ten levels. Your Paragon level will also be visible to other players wherever your normal level is shown

Excellent. Players who desire this style of grind and advancement will likely love the idea, and it shows that Blizzard is still very interested in keeping the long tail of players active in D3 as much as they were in D2. It allows the really advanced players better odds of finding good random loot, and feeds that gear through to the Real Money and Gold Auction Houses.

It’s not for me, but hey – everything can’t be. Welcome news, and if generating 75 pages of comments on an announcement is a sign of success, then this is being taken in a mostly positive light by the community too. The negative comment seem to be focused on a dislike of grinding out levels as “endgame” and a dislike of the motivations of driving activity to the AHs. I paused to wonder if the negative players actually played the other Diablo games if this was unexpected or disliked. D1&2 were all about the grind.

Perhaps the new content should include twenty or so new level features as mini-experiences (save the ghost lady, etc), and ten or so new monster models with a variety of new spell colours and effects. Then attach an achievement to getting each and collecting the set, so that the completionists can get their groove on as well. What is even considered endgame for Diablo anyway? Certainly not raid content.

Refs:

Interesting security alert for Blizzard

Logo of Blizzard Entertainment

Not the first, and not the last account security alert for a game company came yesterday from Blizzard. In short – their systems were significantly compromised sometime around Aug 4 2012, and while no credit card information, billing addresses, or real names were exposed, the basic message is that everyone needs to change their passwords and account information. Details here.

Honestly I think that this is a mess, and a mess that demonstrates a few points worth noting for organisations which have either a vocal population or sensitive information (yes, everyone):

  • Anyone is vulnerable to a hack, even the monolithic software devs. Consider that the larger the company, the larger the revenue, and the larger the honeypot of information is that could be obtained. That makes Blizzard an exceedingly juicy target.
  • Good tools and development principals can assist in protecting customers. The authenticator makes a big difference. The password storage mechanism inside the system/DB makes a huge difference.
  • Telling customers the open truth will garner the best reaction. Following up with extra news and responses to questions will save the share price.
  • Telling customers quickly is critical. If a customer finds out late then the vendor is on the hook for every poor experience in the customers mind from that point forward, however illogical they are.
  • Always provide a plan of what to do next, and what is happening next.

It is not that companies need good security (they do), but they also need excellent protocols for security events. A gaff in dealing with a breach in security will hurt a long after the actual systems are restored. The public has a long memory.

This means that while trying to patch the issue Blizzard are also considering the PR damage control. It appears from my first review that Blizzard took the honest path – they spoke clearly about what happened. I think I read elsewhere that they also have involved external consultants to help. Even bloody better. Nothing makes a systems or a dev person stand up like having another techie review how you do things. In spite of the hack, its good to see.

So go update your passwords, I’m not sharing a “password reset” link as I distrust any links like this that I don’t type out myself. Continue reading

Diablo 3 patch … What exploit?

Aside

Aside … Diablo 3 has a mini-patch 1.0.3a to address some small issues, and it reminds me that I’m out of the loop in terms of game exploits (via wowinsider).

Fixed several gold and leveling exploits

Gone are the days of getting out a hex editor to snaffle straight 24 stats in Bard’s Tale 2. I wish I knew more about the exploits they were fixing, just to have cool insight into how it worked. Darn it.

It is no longer possible to create fake achievement links.

Ha! I’m sure there was some comedy gold in there due to that, the odd complaint, and perhaps a dummy spit. Fixing it is a fair thing though.

Witchdoctor – Zombie Bears should no longer become stuck on objects with which they shouldn’t have collision.

But they will still be stuck on items for which they do have collision? Whew! Why do they get stuck, instead of either pathing to the toon?

You know a game is wonderful when the collision mechanics for Zombie Bears is a consideration. This note alone should be a marker for people to try the game. Now if it was Zombie Bear Cavalry then the world would play. Or Feral Zombie Bear Tanks with Guns!

Go read the rest, I’ll stay here and create more silly Zombie Bear notes.

Happy killing, TyphoonAndrew

Quick aside on D3

Aside

Diablo III Act III

Diablo III Act III (Photo credit: JBLivin)

I enjoy that I can play Diablo 3 for a minute at a time, and not be punished. Casual? Yes. The game so far has no respawns that will find you when you if AFK. That makes coffee/wife/kid/phone breaks easier.

A few things I’ve changed in the game settings: Turn off auto join, and Turn on move key. Both are tweaks which make the game more pleasant.

Free Windows Authenticator OS

Warning: This app is not sanctioned by Blizzard, or tested in any manner – use at own risk! Blizzard have stated a stance of accepting that it works, but they prefer customers use the real sanctioned tools.

As the app runs on a pc, that app can be compromised as much as any other.

Wandering through the D3 and Blizzard discussions on security, I found a free Windows app which emulates the authenticators. Basically it is the same app as used on the mobile devices, except it is Windows software. And it is open source, currently v1.7.1314 and appears to be updated regularly.

screnshot of windows authenticator softwareRefs:

Wow, a pretty impressive give away of a useful function!

WinAuth uses the same algorithm as the Mobile Authenticator for Android and iPhone, and so generates the same codes when using the same serial number and secret key. One of the initial reasons to write it was to remove the dependency on having the phone available, but still use the same codes.

Whilst you cannot directly read the Mobile Authenticator’s private keys from an iPhone or non-rooted Android, you can now use the new Restore feature to copy your authenticator over to WinAuth.

Impressive, and now even less excuse not to have an additional line of account security for Blizzard games.

Real$AH WTB Authenticator

Apparently the Real Money Auction House will be up for play tomorrow, and restricted to people who have authenticators. Shucks, I think that is good news.

Why? – Well security, and knowing that the cash transaction is far more likely to be the real people involved, not a hacker exploiting. The only barrier I can see if those people who cannot afford or desire either a dongle authenticator, or a mobile device authenticator, and I seriously think that if you are willing to risk your game account by not using the almost free tools then you are not really invested in the game(s) at all.

Wanted: Account Setting Lockout – I still won’t be using the real money AH though, my real money is far too valuable to see being spent on golden pixels, and I have not interest in selling gear for cash. I would like an account setting in the Battle.Net profile to block all Real Money AH type transactions. This way even if my account is compromised, the hacker needs to make a setting change, and kids and partners cannot buy/sell “by mistake“.

Continue reading

Aside about Subscribers

Aside

So Diablo 3 has 6.3 million subscribers, where two weeks ago there were just Beta testers. WoW continues to add new subscribers, but I cannot believe that the overall numbers are not dropping significantly as time passes. Wow might get a boost when Mists of Cuddle Bear is released, but overall I’d expect WoW’s stable population to reduce slowly in the next few years down to around 6 million. Certainly most of the WoW’ers I know are now playing D3, and look at other games very seriously. As well they should as WoW is great, but many other games need a look too.

We also know that KoA from 38 Studios is not doing brilliantly, but still has some dedicated fans; frankly I hope they survive and prosper as Curt Shilling seems a reasonable chap and he is following a dream. Star Wars ToR is dropping subscribers, and has an even more passionate user base within the subscribers than many other games.They might find a solid base is plenty to retain as viable as well.

Its a poor time to gamble on MMO subscribers, unless you’re the bookie. What is the future? Well imho the future of subscriber games is a very wide range of games which players switch between. The Warcraft golden days where everyone played wow are over, and I doubt they will ever return.

Who can’t love many games with many options? I certainly can.