Wurming Again – Sklotopolis Version

Life has been crazy lately. Between selling our old house, building a new one, and living in a hotel the past four months, distractions have been hard to come by. The hotel has terrible internet that cuts in and out if I try to play a regular MMO, so I thought I’d give the lower-resource-intensive Wurm a try again. However I really didn’t want to pay for premium on Xanadu, and I just wasn’t feeling it there. So I thought I’d head back to a Wurm Unlimited server that I played on a while back – Sklotopolis.

Sklotopolis is probably the best WU private server that I’ve seen. Its the perfect size (medium size like Independence), the action and skill timers have been sped up but not so much to be trivial, and starter deeds are free with no upkeep. The catch is that you have to log in every 90 days or else it will be disbanded (to keep the server clean for newer players). You can also expand the deed with in-game currency, which you can get by building highways, guard towers, selling goods, or just playing the game. 

Another thing that I really like is that the server is run by long-time Wurm veterans that understand how the game works and how to modify the experience so that its more fun but doesn’t lose that classic Wurm feeling. Lots of vets play on sklotopolis these days, and the community has been excellent so far.

When I first logged in I was on my old deed, which had long been disbanded and had been deeded over. I fully expected that, so I took what I had on my person and set out to find new lands. Of course, a hell hound ensured that I didn’t get very far. I had the choice of respawning at the original spawn point (New Town) in the NW or the new spawn point (Haven) in the NE. I picked Haven and before you could say I love Wurm! I was in Haven. 

They’ve changed things a bit since I last played. New players can get a free horse to help them get around, and that horse along with their tent provides newbies with a nice portable survival kit. Haven is a beautiful sea-side starter town with everything you need including a nice little market. I went exploring, getting to know the lay of the land, talking to folks, and looking for a new spot nearby to claim as my own. I found it, by the way, and tomorrow I’ll show you that very place!

Fare Thee Well, Turbine

Yesterday our minds were blown with the news that LotRO and DDO, along with their development staff, were spinning off into a newly formed independent studio called Standing Stone Games. Daybreak Games will be partnering with SSG to handle the distribution and publishing of LotRO and DDO as part of this change. For a MMO studio that’s been around as long as Turbine has, and whose identity has been tied so closely to LotRO and DDO for years, this was a shock and surprise. In some ways for folks that have been around since the beginning, it feels like the end of an era. Pardon me while I put on my grey-hair wig and get my walker out. Back in my day…

Back in 2007 or so when LotRO first came out, there was so much hype regarding LotRO and Turbine. Turbine at the time stood behind their “Powered by our Fans” motto. Their community managers were the best around (who here remembers Meghan “Patience” Jenks?) and the community was diverse and overwhelmingly polite, no matter if you were hardcore, casual, or somewhere in between. News was posted fast and frequently. LotRO had a MySpace page, and the old LotRO Lorebook was a cutting-edge feature that allowed players to update a knowledgebase for the game. Every player also had a MyLotRO page – sort of an online social hub profile where they could friend other players, create blog posts, list their characters, and enter lotteries. LotRO did a really nice job of supporting multiple styles of play – hardcore raiders, casual social members, hardcore admirers of Tolkien, and even had a small but dedicated PvMP crowd. There were players EVERYWHERE: some brand new to MMOs and playing because it was Lord of the Rings, some whose first MMO was World of Warcraft and who were checking out the competition, some who were old-school EverQuest/Ultima/DAoC/AC players checking out the latest non-Blizzard title.

LotRO’s fortune over the years has been death by a thousand cuts. The Mines of Moria expansion in 2008, from what I remember, was very well received, although it was going head-to-head with World of Warcraft’s Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which didn’t do it any favors. Most might point to the Warner Brothers’ acquisition of Turbine in 2010 and the conversion to being a F2P game as the turning point, and while the buy-out made sense on paper due to licensing and movie tie-ins, it also felt like the old “Powered by our Fans” mantra started to fall by the wayside, especially with the introduction of microtransactions. I felt a bit of an odd wind when I found out that Patience left the Community Management team in 2011. After Mines of Moria, it felt like subsequent expansions were getting smaller and smaller, leading some players to speculate that money made from LotRO was helping subsidize Infinite Crisis and other Turbine games. Features like the Lorebook and MyLotRO were cut, destroying a large amount of community-created LotRO-related content. They stopped developing raids and traditional instanced content in favor of big battles, which didn’t go over as well as hoped. During the Helms Deep expansion beta, there was overwhelmingly negative player feedback regarding changes to classes, builds, and features – yet the changes all made it to live anyway.

All I can say is that it’s a darn shame. Turbine circa 2007-2008 was so hopeful, a shining beacon of a game company that knew how to make great games and how to manage their community. Unfortunately, they were going right up against World of Warcraft when it was at it’s peak – trying to grow a smaller MMO during the Wrath of the Lich King period was probably more than they (or anyone) could chew. The developers tried taking risks to set themselves apart with new features (big battles anyone?), and sometimes those features fell flat in the worst ways. The introduction of F2P helped rejuvenate the playerbase in some ways, but it also turned a good portion of the existing fanbase off with the prominence of the LotRO Store and the microtransaction buttons all over the UI. Server mergers & closures probably didn’t help the perception of the game, although I would argue that at this point it was necessary and that they handled it well.

So where does LotRO go from here? I choose to stay cautiously optimistic about the spin-off. If this means that the remaining LotRO developers can get back to the old-school Turbine mindset and to what made LotRO truly great back in the day, then I am all for it. LotRO, at it’s core, is an excellent game. It’s showing it’s age now and definitely is part of the older style of MMO gaming, but for many long-time players (myself included) that’s a good thing. Create more raids and instances, good challenging ones that keep players chasing that carrot. Stay true to the LotR source and lore, and write amazing storylines and engaging quests. Keep developing beautiful landscapes. For the love of all that is holy, please update the character models and hairstyles. Be more transparent with your players and listen to the community (everyone, even including some of the more vehement naysayers, who in many cases DO want what is best for the game). As you make these changes, go out and try to bring former players back with incentives and nostalgia feels and show them what you can do now.

Will Standing Stone ever be able to bring LotRO back to the old glory days? It’s very doubtful at this point. But they certainly have an opportunity to correct mistakes, blast development wide open, play to their known strengths, and try to re-build their playerbase to a stable volume and steady income. This is best case scenario and what I really and truly hope happens. Middle-Earth deserves no less.

BlizzCon Post-Mortem

*tap tap tap* This thing on?

In my conference planning days, during the week or so following one of our conferences we would have a big 2-3 hour post-mortem meeting to discuss the good and the bad and make improvements for the next conference. So BlizzCon was weird for me in that while I was there as a first-time attendee, I also couldn’t help but look at it from a planner’s perspective. BlizzCon itself is… well, intense is the only word that even comes close to describing it. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Pros:

First Impressions. Walking into the main floor of the conference center for the first time, with lights and screens everywhere and as the MASSIVENESS of the convention hits you is phenomenal. The showmanship and “fun” factor is off the charts, to the point of being overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. But that’s a good thing. Also, big kudos to the IT team and whomever set up all the gameplay stations and the systems that run the show. Seriously, that was impressive.

The content. There was so much that it got really difficult to decide what to do at any one time. This is excellent, although they’re reaching critical mass now with all of the e-Sports and they really should consider a third day at this point. I would have loved to have seen a Legion music panel.

Pre-Parties. Not directly Blizzard-related, but the Con Before the Storm pre-party was fantastic. It was laid-back, chill, you could move around and see people, meet up, chat, and so on with no problems. The WowHead party had a completely different feel and felt targeted to a different crowd. Options are good!

Food. Options in and outside of the convention center were excellent, if a little overpriced, but I expected that.

Shopping. The blink shopping worked nicely, although I’m not sure if it really made the shopping lines any shorter on Thursday during ticket pickup, when a lot of people hit up the store. Since this is my first BlizzCon, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but we stood in line for about an hour with blink shopping. If you’ve been to BlizzCon before, what say you? Better? Worse?

Smells – or lack thereof. It really didn’t smell bad that I noticed. For all the talk about “smelly nerds”, I didn’t smell anything offensive. Good job on the deodorant & toothpaste, guys! 😉

Kristian Nairn at the 25th Anniversary Party. Seriously he was fantastic. Would love to see him again!!

Weird Al as the closing performance. HE ABSOLUTELY KILLED IT. The guy knows how to rock and play to the audience. And at the very end, hearing almost all of BlizzCon singing the Star Wars song and Yoda at the end along with him was the most beautiful marriage of three different nerdy fandoms that I’ve ever seen.

Cons:

The StaffPro people. These are contractors hired by either Blizzard or the convention center to help keep things moving, and to be honest, they were terrible and the source of much frustration for attendees. They get their own bullet points:

  • The Staff/Media exit from the main stage area to the hallway needs to be marked clearly as such, with a large banner ABOVE the doors. After the Opening ceremony, people were pushing towards those doors because they were open but not marked, and StaffPro people were there turning people away with a rather bad attitude. There may have been banner stands, but if there were, they weren’t visible. People were crammed up against each other in a crowd surge towards those doors so you couldn’t easily flow in the direction the staff were waving you to, tempers flared between the staff and the attendees, and it was a definite safety concern.
  • I heard several StaffPro people talking trash about attendees on the show floor. Not appropriate. I get that people have to vent, but they should do so in a staff area.
  • StaffPro people were yelling at attendees when they tried to “Enter” through an “Exit” door. Of course they need to do such things for safety reasons, but yelling with a bad attitude is not acceptable.
  • For the 2nd floor/staff floor, I would recommend setting up large free standing graphic banners to create a dual hallway area & encourage attendees to keep moving between the 1st & 3rd floors. Again, the interactions with StaffPro people were not positive here because they acted like they were herding cattle instead of hosting an event, and attendees were not allowed to stop on the 2nd floor for any reason.
  • I really can’t emphasize enough how frustrating the StaffPro people were – it was so bad that first day that my husband considered not going back the second day. We did go back and we ended up having a great time anyway, but that initial experience was not positive.

Moving between floors. All elevators/escalators should be open immediately following the opening ceremonies. Too many people leaving at once and too many bottlenecks that first day.

The contest host debacle. All I will say about this is that the host wasn’t to my taste, but the bullying from some of our community was uncalled for. Comedy is a funny thing (no pun intended). Obviously if a comedian comes in and tries to make jokes without knowing the audience, he’s going to bomb big-time. But I don’t blame him entirely as I felt that he had not been properly prepped for this job. The contests are about the participants, not the host, but he hadn’t been prepped on how to pronounce names of the characters or the players that participated in the contests. That’s Blizzard’s responsibility to facilitate. My big question is WHY DO WE NEED A COMEDIAN AT ALL for this? I would much rather see a Blizzard staff person or community personality that knows and loves the Blizzard properties host the contests. Or, the pipe dream scenario: ask Chris Metzen if he’ll come back to host the contests. Hey, a girl can dream, right? 😉

Finally:

There really needs to be a “relax & chill” area for attendees that need to get away from the hyped-up crowds for a bit, or for attendees that have physical limitations. The Hearthstone Tavern would have been PERFECT for this. Maybe expand it next year and have signage so that people know its not just for Hearthstone.

I want to talk about this a bit, especially as it relates to BlizzCon first-timers. I’m both claustrophobic and slightly agoraphobic, and anxiety is a very real thing that I struggle with. I don’t think this is all that uncommon among BlizzCon attendees. My husband has back problems and while he isn’t physically handicapped and looks perfectly normal, standing/walking for long periods of time will cause him major issues to the point of being unable to walk at all, and there were very few places to sit and take a load off for a while. There really should be a place in the convention center to relax and cool off away from the huge crowds and the California sun. Somewhere that people can gather and sit and chat and trade pins or play Hearthstone/MtG or whatever without having StaffPro people yelling at them to “keep moving” or feeling like they are at a rave. I really liked the Hearthstone Tavern because of the chill tavern music and the general calmer feeling, it’s just a shame that we didn’t find it until the second day since Hearthstone isn’t high on our priority list.

If you haven’t been to BlizzCon before and you want to go, I most definitely recommend it. It’s an unforgettable experience and despite some bumps in the road, it was still so incredibly worth it in the end. The most important thing is don’t feel like you have to do everything.

  • Pick 2-3 things each day you really want to do, and concentrate on those.
  • The major panels and e-sports are on the virtual ticket, so try to prioritize things that aren’t on the virtual ticket, like the art & voiceover panels, autograph sessions, etc.
  • Build in time for retreating to your hotel for physical/mental rest and getting food.
  • Don’t take Twitter or social media too seriously. It’s a great way to connect with other people at BlizzCon, but don’t compare your experience to that of other attendees. It’s so chaotic that it’s going to be unique for everyone, which is not a reflection on you personally.
  • Give yourself and your friends a break. If you want to do different things, split up and do them. Give each other that flexibility, no strings attached.
  • Bring 2 pairs of really comfy shoes. If you’re cold-natured & want to watch panels or eSports, bring a light jacket.
  • And please, if you go to the Hilton bar or the evening parties, keep an eye on your drink and the drinks of your friends. Be safe. Be smart. Take care of each other.

 

 

Warcraft Movie: Critical Strike

So. The Warcraft movie. I have to be honest here and say that I’ve been waiting for this for YEARS, ever since it was originally announced. We’ve lived through periods of no news, then the excitement that Sam Raimi was interested, the ultimate letdown when that didn’t work out, the excitement then that Duncan Jones was taking over and salivating over every teeny tiny snippet of news or teasers. I watched the gryphon 3D piece on the Legendary app. I was skeptical when I saw the first pieces of footage and elated when I saw the more recent footage with the CGI complete. I’ve seen the walkthroughs of prop sets, watched interviews with the director and cast, and have marveled at how somehow this all came together during a time of personal turmoil for Mr. Jones.

Bottom line, I’m excited for the movie. My friends are excited for the movie. And from what I’ve seen, it has captured the essence of Warcraft and has made real this beautiful and zany world of Azeroth that I’ve loved for 12 years. The initial reviews that we’re seeing from critics however, are not so positive, and while I don’t expect Warcraft to be a Citizen Kane-esque piece of film art, I think the critics are proving that they just don’t get it.

I’m also just going to put this here – the embargo on reviews is officially until May 30, so any professional movie critic releasing their review now is breaking the embargo. Consider that as you consider the source.

Hold on to your butts people. This might be a long one.

Let’s start with this review from Variety:

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Okay, point in case. Warcraft IS A STORY BY NERDS, FOR NERDS. Yes, it cribs from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and pretty much any other sci-fi/fantasy/geeky franchise. Of course the storyline draws from those influences. It’s a loving tribute to those franchises, a little *wink wink, nudge nudge* to geek and pop culture. The Warcraft franchise actually has developed a deep lore over the years, with tons of different factions and intertwining minor storylines that feed into the main narrative. Between the games, the novels, the comics, and the short stories, it would take an insane number of films to tell the story of Azeroth in its entirety. We’re talking a number similar to Star Wars or the Marvel Universe movies here. This first movie is simply the beginning of the heart of the story and the story told in the very first Warcraft RTS game from 1995. It was a simple story, but it started the entire Warcraft canon.

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Now I know that this critic has never played the Warcraft games and isn’t familiar with the franchise. Part of what makes Warcraft unique is its ability to tell serious, dark stories (and they do get VERY dark, if you doubt me, read the novel Illidan by William King) while still retaining an almost tongue-in-cheek silliness. I liken it a bit to Deadpool – he likes to break the 4th wall on a regular basis and while it gets bloody and violent, it’s also over the top silly. Blizzard doesn’t often blatantly break that 4th wall, but they do give nods to popular films, viral videos, social media, and even player behavior itself. Even some of the characters within the World of Warcraft are named after popular players and developers. It serves as a way to connect fans into the universe, to give it heart, and insert a bit of levity. My point is that any decent Warcraft movie, in order to be uniquely Warcraft and not a generic piece of fantasy, has to include both the serious and the silly in just the right amount and sometimes at the same time. This isn’t exactly Tolkien, but it’s not exactly Monty Python either.

Moving on to The Wrap, which was a pretty scathing review overall:

wrap1

Again, this person has never played the games. Warcraft is notorious for having big, visually impactful and unproportional gear and weapons on characters. It’s part of the Warcraft style, a visual orgasm of sorts that makes it easier to track fellow players and enemies during in-game encounters. The colors are bright, vibrant, and sometimes clashy. The materials are slick, shiny, and overly tactile. From a distance you can tell the difference between a staff-wielding cloth-wearing mage and a sword-and-board, plate-wearing warrior, and this is completely intentional. From the clips that I’ve seen, they have tried to keep that aesthetic alive. It was always going to look a bit tacky when making the transition to the big screen – if you want drab and realistic, go see Lord of the Rings (much love to that franchise, by the way). As for the music? From what I’ve heard so far (the Warcraft main theme), the music is exactly what it should be – a fresh take on the game themes, equally tribal and regal with a heavy percussive theme. That’s Warcraft as much as the Imperial March is Star Wars.

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This is the thing that I will wait to give my opinion on until after I see the entire movie. I am already impressed with the orcs and the amount of emotion that the actors and the CGI convey. The human acting I am a bit concerned about, to be honest, but I’m withholding judgement until I can see it on the big screen.

And finally, this lovely comment by The Guardian:

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Really? REALLY? So you’re telling me that a movie based on a story written in the 1990s is about today’s immigration issues? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize Tupac wrote this screenplay. It reeks of cheap click-bait and making issues where there are none intended. Warcraft’s writers, developers and fanbase are incredibly diverse, spanning all races, nationalities, genders, and ages. This was, quite frankly, insulting.

So, dear movie critics, criticize if you like. The actual viewer feedback from movie-goers in Europe has been overwhelmingly positive. Warcraft fans (and there are millions) are going to love it, that much I’m sure of. I’ll leave you with this little tidbit of a Guardian review of a teeny-tiny little movie from 2001 y’all might know:

guardian2

Nerdgasm, OUT.

 

Race to the Finish

Even though Legion is still 2.5 months away, I’m starting to feel a bit like we’re in a race to the finish of WoD. The availability of character boosting, along with the changes to professions in Legion, has me re-thinking my entire roster of alts, making some last-minute changes, and trying to finish up a few reps and grinds before the Legion pre-patch (which I BET that we’ll see around the first of August, calling it now!).

So, I present to you, my to-do list, sorted by character.

Bhaelie – Paladin:
She’s pretty much done and ready to roll. Her professions are maxed out and I’m not going to bother gearing her more. Right now she’s running old raids for transmog gear and gold.

Betsie – Priest:
With reports of shadow priests being back to their old selves come Legion, Betsie has gone from a long-time-main-turned-backburner-alt to a possible main or main alt, so I have a little work to do on her. Her gear isn’t the best, but rather than focus on something that will be replaced during the first hour of quests, I’m focusing on professions. She’s an Alchemist, but had zero Archaeology, so I’m grinding that up so that maaaaaybe she can make Vial of the Sands some day. I’m also leving Herbalism at the same time, grabbing whatever herbs I can while surveying sites. After that – the Insane and Netherwing rep grinds! 🙂
– Archaelogy
– Herbalism
– Insane Rep Grind
– Netherwing Rep Grind

Chixlet – Mage:
She’s good to go. Again, not really geared but her main function is bag-making at the moment.

Staesia – Druid:
One-half of my designated farming team, her Herbalism is good but I need to finish her Inscription out. I think she’s at 611/700. Shouldn’t be too bad to finish. I’m not a huge fan of Inscription anyway.
– Inscription

Teaghen – Hunter: 
The other half of the farm team needs to finish leveling her Mining and Skinning. She had Leatherworking, but for a farm alt I’d rather see her have two gathering professions.
– Mining
– Skinning

Qhaelia – Rogue:
She’s a newly boosted character that I boosted explicitly for the purpose of lockboxes for the Insane rep. Her professions are going to be Skinning and Leatherworking, but I’ll only really work on those IF I get time after all the other characters are done.
– Skinning
– Leatherworking

Haijinx – Warlock:
She runs Thunderbrew Distillery, my bank guild, and right now I’m working on leveling Enchanting (for DEing) and Blacksmithing on her.
– Enchanting
– Blacksmithing

Legion Prep

These days my main goal in Warcraft is hoarding gold or items that I think will sell for gold in Legion. Here’s the thing: my server, Dalaran, is a fantastic server. I love my guild and the folks on the server and the atmosphere. But as far as the Auction House goes, it’s definitely a buyer’s market. Prices on most things are low low low compared to other servers, which is good and bad. It’s good for new players – up until a few months ago, Dalaran was the biggest New Player server, and it’s still full of a lot of new players and altoholics, and not a very large raiding scene. It’s perfect for my playstyle – usually.

But for those of us that are goblin wannabes, it’s not exactly easy to flip goods on the AH.A few weeks ago, I set aside 5,000 gold, installed TradeSkillMaster, setup some custom groups for transmog and crafting items, and off I went. Bought up all of the transmog that was selling for way less than the TSM prices and still looked cool/unique, plus a good amount of crafting items, and started posting them on the AH. What a flop. 3 weeks later I had sold maybe 5 things, and had made maybe 1000 gold. I ended up either vendoring or disenchanting most of it. So that’s a no-go, at least for right now. Meh.

Another option is farming, which takes more time, but hey, what else am I going to do right now? I ran Firelands trash, Ulduar, and Bastion of Twilight on 25-man heroic just for the drops, and vendored almost all of it. That netted me about 15k gold altogether in a week. Not bad!

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My Super-Secret Bank Vault!

Finally there’s crafting. Right now I’m only really doing the Jewelcrafting daily each day on all of my alts, plus creating Hexweave each day for my Tailor. I’m making as many Hexweave Bags as possible at the moment and stowing them all away for the Legion launch. People will be coming back, buying bags for new characters, and the like so I think that market might be pretty decent.

I’m also working on realigning my character/profession matrix for Legion. Professions will no longer be artificially gated like in Legion, so having multiple Tailors, Alchemists, or Jewelcrafters won’t provide a big advantage. Instead I’m leveling Enchanting and Blacksmithing on my bank alt, leveling Leatherworking on a new (boosted) Rogue, and making sure that I have at least two characters covering each gathering profession. This is how I prefer to work anyway, so I really hope that Blizzard decides to cool it with the major profession changes going forward. No need to reinvent the wheel every expansion – just stick with what worked for years.

So far, between garrison missions, JC dailies, farming, and crafting, I’m up to 350k gold as of last night. That’s not a lot compared to most pro goblins, but considering that I’m sinking my teeth back into the game for the first time in years, that’s not half bad.

Warcraft Marketing 101

I’m constantly fascinated watching how game development companies market their products. Be it through Kickstarters, word of mouth, Twitter, Facebook, or good old-fashioned advertisements, it’s interesting to see what decisions companies make with their marketing. It’s even more interesting when a monster company like Blizzard is trying to market multiple games at once. There was a little bit of kerfuffling yesterday on Twitter because of one little miniscule and inconsequential tweet:

Couple of things to discuss here. First, the date itself honestly isn’t that big of a surprise. I was telling a friend yesterday morning that I thought it would be out around August/September, and then a couple of hours later, BOOM! Called it. My theory is that the date is a purely marketing decision and has nothing to do with “when it’s ready”. Marketing teams live and die by their calendars, so I think their thought process went something like this:

Warcraft Movie: June 10. Influx of new/returning players due to hype and any free game/gametime with purchase. Allow a month and a half for those new and returning players to play, level, boost, find guilds, get through WoD content, etc. They are betting on a good spike in subs here.

August 2: Drop the Legion Pre-Patch. Allow four weeks for pre-patch events to build up to a climax. This will grab that movie spike and push it up even more.

August 30: Legion is live! Open the gates and storm the portals! And they’ll get yet ANOTHER spike on top of the movie and pre-patch numbers.

This all opposed to dropping the movie and pre-patch or launch at once… why go for one big spike when you can draw it out and possibly build on your numbers? Blizzard said that they are no longer releasing sub numbers, but make no mistake, they are definitely looking at sub numbers internally and trying to make the most of this event. So while this seems like so far away, and yes it’s a really long time for raiders to spend in Hellfire Citadel, there is a method to the madness.

Secondly, the method in which they released the information: a tweet as opposed to a big announcement as they did for Warlords of Draenor. Again, this has far less to do with the state of Warcraft and more to do with a Marketing Calendar. The thing here is to remember that Blizzard is now managing a portfolio of games and events, as opposed to having 1-2 heavy hitters. Overwatch is launching on May 24 so at this point in the calendar, they want all the major communications and hype to be about Overwatch. Once Overwatch is out, attention will quickly turn to the Warcraft franchise and we’ll all have the summer of Warcraft hype to enjoy. No need to fret, our time is coming very soon. 🙂

Flipping Tables

Garrisons & Mission Tables. Such a polarizing topic among WoW players these days.

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WoW developer Watcher posted a long response to some of the concerns about the Mission Table v. 2.0 in Legion.  A few things I want to address here.

But at the same time, there are people who do enjoy the mission minigame, and there are some positive elements, such as a bit of offline progression, and the fun of looking forward to a reward waiting for you when you get home and log in. Not all aspects of the game are intended to appeal to all players – that’s part of the challenge of creating a single game that is played by such a diverse audience with different preferences and playstyles. But while garrison followers and missions were a substantial portion of the content in Warlords, Order Hall missions are probably more like 3% of Legion.

Let’s back up for a moment. Does anybody REALLY enjoy the mission mini-game? I have no doubt that when Blizzard pulls their reports on what players are doing when they log in, they see a whole lot of players running missions, likely on multiple characters every single day. But running missions does not equal enjoyment. Personally, I run missions on 6 characters every single day. It’s NOT fun. It’s NOT enjoyable. It’s NOT something that I think about while I’m at work and it’s definitely not something that I look forward to. I run missions for one reason: gold. It’s similar to running dailies in previous expansions, I’m not doing it because I enjoy the activity, I’m doing it because I want the gold and I feel like I’m missing out on gold if I miss a day.

I understand that there is a fair amount of cynicism, and there are some who are probably reading this right now and thinking that it’s just a bunch of nice-sounding words trying to cover up our sinister plan of mission-table supremacy. But even if we wanted to, we know that we can’t hide anything here. Well before Legion is in anyone’s hands, people will be experiencing the system in its entirety in beta, and we’ll be judged on that basis.

Cynicism is an understatement, and it isn’t undeserved. People have serious mission fatigue right now.

The core of the class Order campaigns is epic quest content that is custom to your class. If you’re a Death Knight, you might be working to raise a new set of Four Horsemen who are powerful enough to stand against the Legion; as a Mage, you may be investigating a plot that threatens to undo Dalaran from within; and so forth. That’s what the Order campaigns are. We start you on these chains during the level-up experience, but they’re intended to be a story that unfolds over time, complementing the game’s level-up and endgame progression.

Could this not be done with traditional quests? I get it, I really do. I love the idea of Order campaigns, class fantasy, and so on. But mission tables are not the right way to do it. The best way I can describe it, with no disrespect intended, is that the playerbase currently has mission table PTSD. The mere sight of a mission table is causing dizziness, nausea, flashbacks, and panic. Maybe the best thing to do would be to cut the losses, move the missions to traditional quest experiences, and just move on.

 

Nostalrius & Blizzcon Living Together, Mass Hysteria

First off: Yes, I am planning on going to BlizzCon! Mr. Moxie and I normally go to the beach or something for vacation (if we take one), but we wanted to do something different this year. We were debating about various locations, but I realized that BlizzCon is something that I’ve always wanted to go to, plus it’s close to Disneyland, AND I’ve never been to the west coast or a game convention. So BlizzCon it is! We don’t have any guildies that are planning on going at the moment, so it’ll just be the two of us. That’s okay in my book – we’ll have freedom to come and go and hit just the sessions that we’re interested in. Still, if you’re reading this and planning on going, let me know! I’d love to meet folks!

On to the main topic… private servers and Nostalrius’ imminent demise. Honestly, I totally understand why people play on private servers. It still breaks my heart when I go to old favorite zones like Darkshore and Ashenvale and they’ve been ripped apart by the Cataclysm updates. They don’t feel the same, and I don’t like the new versions at all, so much so that I no longer level alts through that content. The fact of the matter is that if I want to go back to those places to level alts and experience the nostalgia, I can’t unless I go to a private (vanilla) server. I don’t play on private servers for ethical reasons, but I understand why some people do.

On one hand, I feel that Nostalrius wasn’t competing directly with Blizzard for a couple of reasons. First, the experience on Nostalrius is not offered by Blizzard at this time. Until Blizz opens vanilla servers, there is no real competition. Second, the majority of people that play on Nostalrius are not going to sub to retail just because the private server isn’t available. They aren’t interested in the current version of WoW. Third, Nostalrius wasn’t actually making a profit… people could play for free and could provide optional donations. They were barely making enough to keep the server going.

On the other hand, I used to work in the intellectual property industry. One of the unspoken rules of IP is that if you want to protect your IP, you have to defend it, at least some of the time. If you have registered intellectual property but never actually defend it, it may as well not be yours. Most companies pick and choose their battles. Fan art, homemade crafts, and the like is usually skimmed over, but blatant usage of intellectual property to provide services similar to the owner, or to give the impression that they are the owner or an affiliated company, are typically pursued swiftly and aggressively. From that point of view, I can totally see why Blizzard works to shut down private servers.

In all honesty, the answer is for Blizzard to open a vanilla server. One vanilla server. Set it up with the last update before TBC launched, and then let it ride, no further updates. I think demand would be huge to start with, but over time population would stabilize and it would be a home for a small hardcore vanilla fanbase and a revolving group of tourists that just want to pop in for the occasional nostalgia. It would also be a historical point as well, so that gamers that started in Cataclysm or later can experience the game’s roots. Blizzard has of course said no to this in the past, but to be honest, they’ve said no on a lot of other things before that have since come into fruition. It make take a while, but I would be willing to bet money that this will happen at some point in the future.

 

Starcrack Valley

I don’t often play single-player games. I enjoy the social aspect of MMOs, so for me most single-player games just don’t cut it. There is one notable exception however – Animal Crossing. I’ve played every game in the franchise since the original came out for the Game Cube years ago, but even that you could say is a quasi-social experience, since a very large part of the game is socializing with the NPCs and basically creating a village experience with them. Otherwise, I largely ignore most single-player games.

That is, until Stardew Valley came out. I hadn’t even heard of the game until after it had released and a friend mentioned it to me. It looked like Harvest Moon, and crazy as it sounds, I’ve not really been a fan of Harvest Moon games either. The Day/Night cycle always seemed to move too fast, like there were way too many things to do within each day, and it felt more like a time management game – I have enough time management issues in real life, thank you very much, and really don’t need to deal with it in my game time. So I was skeptical – but as I looked at it, it seemed to also have blended in aspects of Minecraft, Terraria, and – joy of JOYS – Animal Crossing. And the price was right at $14.99. So I gave it a whirl.

AND OH MY WORD THIS GAME IS CRACK. I love it. As long as my plants get watered, I can do whatever else each day, so the day/night cycle doesn’t bother me too much. Mostly it only bothers me when I’m mining and trying to dig down through the levels to hit another elevator. The game itself is charming, with the SNES-era sprites that make me feel like a kid again, vibrant color palettes, and a wonderful soundtrack. The NPCs all have character and it does feel like a social experience even as a single-player game. My favorite character is currently Linus, the homeless NPC that hangs out at his tent by the river, dishes out philosophical wisdom and is more than happy to be given food. Most of the NPCs are rote social stereotypes – the athletic guy, the emo guy, the Fabio guy, the alternative girl, the good girl, the nerdy girl, etc – but they are done fairly well and they all have a backstory with some twists and turns.

So far I’m just trying to build up cash by farming, mining, and selling everything that isn’t nailed down. I haven’t even really started on trying to woo any villagers or build up friendships via gifting, I figure that will happen in year 2. It’s the little things in game that give the game heart – such as the train that rolls by dropping items off that you can grab, or the little fairy that stops by some nights to make your crops mature faster.

It blows my mind that one guy developed the entire game, including composing the soundtrack, and that he is committed to continuing to push out updates. That is a major accomplishment, and I’m happy to support indie designers that have taken something like this on. It’s a great complimentary game to play alongside World of Warcraft, and in this case, I actually like that time stops when I’m not playing, because there’s no pressure to play and I can fit it into my schedule any time.