WoW subscriptions and resubscription

After a day of chatting about WoW to the nefarious gamer who first recruited me to World of Warcraft; I’ve resubscribed. It took a day to break my will, which means one of my favourite sayings by Oscar Wilde applies totally, “I can resist everything except temptation”.

Last night I ran Karazhan’s first boss five times to try to get the mount, UP once, and solved the archaeology Horn which makes your character bigger. It was great.

Related old news says WoW subs have increased again too as players return for Warlords (MMO Champ 14 Oct). We’ve seen this increase occur once before with the pre-Mists subscribers. It isn’t news in itself, but I think we will see a slightly different result from the Mists pre-sub drop off. My hunch (based upon only my gut feel) is that this time the subs will take significantly longer to drop away. They will drop away, but I’d not be surprised to see them climb upward again before doing so, and certainly expect the initial downward drop to take longer than it did in MoP.

Why? Part of my hunch is that the simplification from the item changed and the squish will remove a gearing attitude, and thus make it easier to maintain multiple sets, and therefore grant flexibility. There is also the appeal of WoD as something new, which is also a return to something that was popular back in the day. The Burning Crusade really built the WoW player-base, and many of us look fondly on Draenor.

Lastly I think they know how to make reasonable content, and many players and companies know that this formula works well. Yes, it is grindy, and a themepark, and often unbalanced, and also affected by a vocal minority … but everything is, especially in computer games. If Blizzard deliver quality the players will play. So far it looks promising.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Has SWToR Tanked? Is that even a balanced question?

Star Wars: The Old Republic

MMO Melting Pot article took a somewhat imprudent view on SWToR’s longevity since the recent server merges – and asked “how’s the SWTOR server transfer experience treating you and your friends?

Responses from comments and community are mixed, although while the fan base is obviously diminished, there is certainly hope.

A view on longevity really depends on how far the owning company wants to stretch, and what is considered a profitable player base. As a market commodity there is probably value in keeping The Old Republic going for as long as possible, as an extension of the franchise. Much of the Star Wars brand strength comes from the many sources of direct connection it has from the fans, and there is a value to having an active MMO, especially if the costs can be curtailed to a moderate profit.

The server merges come along with some seriously large redundancies in the dev staff too. Large sections of the team have been let go, and while that too is initially a worry it actually is to be expected. The dev team size needed for a game once it a few months post-launch are far less than when it is being built. Devs, testers, managers, and all others should expect to either move to new projects, or move on. That is the reality in software development.

It depends on what you consider a failure too. It is fair to say that Conan did not survive, but Rift continues regardless of the fact that a very large number of people have “tanked” the game. Perhaps a few hundred thousand people paying the equivalent of five coffee breaks a month is enough to continue a game franchise. In Jan 2012 the Rift publishers declared that they’d made over $100 Million from the game. Tanked? Not really, and they’re now letting folks play to level 20 for free. That’s the best demo around, and other game creators should take note.

I have friends who were fanatics about the Star Wars game, quit all other gaming aspects, and then have now relinquished their fanaticism. Others still play regularly, and some never even started but still love the brand.

I played while the free weekends were in session, but didn’t subscribe as Blizzard has locked me into the annual pass for a while longer. Nice strategy there by Blizzard, although many forum posts now tell me that their time in the sun has faded too. If they fade like Rift tanked then World of Warcraft will be around for a long time to come.

What is a tanked game anyway? Eve is another game that plays well still, after so many years and expansions; and so many declarations of death by corners of the gaming community. A player-base far smaller that the megalithic World of Warcraft, but still  successful.

The Star Wars dev have started talking about SW-ToR going free to play upto level 15, akin to the free pass for WoW/Rift. I like this idea a lot as I’ll get to play more of the story lore, but it may not be enough to get me to subscribe every month. More likely is that I’ll play each class till level 15 and then stop. Is that really a good idea – well it is if you consider playing the game is the best ad a game can have.

So we won’t know really the game has tanked until the servers shut-off and the podcasts fade. The Old Republic might slowly fade from the MMO market over time. I hope it stays around long enough to add a few more features which get absorbed into the “standard” mmo feature set. It’s focus on story was certainly controversial, and bloody enjoyable.

I’ll leave you with this cartoon by Scott Johnson, on ExtraLife. No Comment. Kek.

Sign-up for double the games you play now

The Annual Subscription is a solid offering: WoW for a year which I’d be playing a moderate proportion of anyway, Diablo 3 for free, and a few in game trinkets – clever bundle. I don’t understand the hate over this offer, as it is an option you can really ignore, and the only slight advantage is the extra mount, which is just a cheesy option anyway.

I think its too early to say that Mists will be poor, or if it will be excellent. It will be very different to what WoW is now, that’s all I know. With that in mind, and my odd game time constraints, Diablo 3 is looking like a great option. Once I decided to give D3 a good solid play the choice of how I got it was easy too. I can play on my own schedule, and be a solo player, just like when I played D1 and D2.

So the annual sub suckered me in, I took it. I’ll play Warcraft for at least another 3 months, probably more like another 6 on and off. Then D3 will be worth a look, and it now that I’ve paid for it, I get the opportunity to play both Diablo and WoW as I choose.

My only reservation is GuildWars 2 and Star Wars TOR – both of which are an unknown quantity, but I’ll take a look if they have a free demo. Out of the two TOR looks to be very solid, and frankly I’m not afraid to come into another game a few months late if it happens to be brilliant. A good game will have a life of at least a year, and playing after they fix the initial bugs is better anyway.

If you’re going to play wow for a while longer, and will buy D3 – you should get this. If you’re not going to play D3 and don’t care about silly mounts, then don’t do it. Save your money for another game, a good bottle of wine, or whatever you happen to like that week.

Happy Gaming