Category Archives: Blizzard

Mists of Pandaria – Three Weeks In

On September 25th, something very interesting happened. Mists of Pandaria was released to a horde of fans who were eager to have something different, and hopefully better than what Cataclysm had been. They were chomping at the bit, desperate for something more than running a raid for the past 9 months.

Blizzard Entertainment did an extrordinary thing. They delivered, and then some.

Most people I had spoken to were completely done with Cataclysm. Dragon Soul had been out for about 9 months, they had cleared everything and had all of the mounts and achievements they could get or wanted to get. All of their professions were maxed, they had all the reputations they needed, or whatever their case may have been.

Personally, I wasn’t playing as much as I had before. I would log on a few nights a week to do a couple randoms, maybe a Raid Finder group (if it didn’t blow up). Leveling alts only stays exciting for so long. Not having time to raid took out the only regular thing I had ever relied on in previous expansions. The only thing I was doing was leveling my Alliance Mage on my friends’ server.

When Mists launched, all of a sudden I had so much stuff to do again. True to what I had been expecting, the very first thing I did was do some pet battles. I had only done a little bit of them in beta, and they were just as much fun as I remembered. Memories of playing Pokemon in junior high school came back in a very big way.

For the first time since Burning Crusade, my wife and I decided to level our mains together. I play a Feral Druid and she plays an Enhancement Shaman, so we were able to power through most mobs without much problem (except for some of the rares that we stumbled across). We hit 90 this past weekend, and really enjoyed all of the zones that we quested through.

Overall, the quest design of this expansion is absolutely amazing. There were quests where we laughed – mainly the Hozen quests, especially Riko expressing his undying (see what I did there?) love for Kiryn – some quests that were quite touching, but the most important thing is that pretty much all of them were a lot of fun.

There is one thing that I keep coming back to, something that I find myself saying all the time, which is how absolutely beautiful the new content is. It’s hard to believe that the engine running this is over 8 years old, yet we’re still given these amazing views. Everything from the grand temples and structures, down to the small little tumbleweeds that blow around Kun-Lai Summit. The environment is gorgeous and incredibly immersive.

At the moment, I have yet to find something about this expansion that I don’t like. The closest thing that I could label as a complaint is that there’s just too much to do. Once I hit level 90, I have at least four different factions that I want to raise my reptutation with immediately, and being the completionist that I am, I want to eventually get them all up to exalted.

I still have yet to fully do many dungeons or scenarios – the only ones I’ve done is one run of the new heroic Scholomance, and one instance of the Arena of Annihilation.

All I know is that I’m more excited about this expansion than I have been for any other, possibly having Burning Crusade for the exception (only because at the time, it was the first expansion). One last note: a few friends of mine were extremely critical of the Mists of Pandaria announcement after BlizzCon. They were complaining about how much it looked like a very weak expansion without much content. Now, after talking with them after the release, they have completely changed their stances and are quite happy with the result.

Bring it on!

BlizzCons and such

We now have confirmation that the world truly will not end in December 2012. How, you ask? Because Blizzard has told us that BlizzCon 2013 is going to happen.

This morning, it was made official that there will be no BlizzCon in 2012, predictably giving a lot of people room to complain. After five years in a row, why this year? Why not have such an amazing experience? Bashiok gave us a very good reply, which in essence said: “Well, we’re kinda busy.”

Now remember, there actually was no BlizzCon in 2006 after the first one in 2005. At the time, it was understandable as it was shortly before Burning Crusade was being launched, and there weren’t really any big announcements at the time. Since then, the conventions in 2008 and 2010 could be seen as a bit lackluster since there was no new game announcements at either. In my opinion, that is one of the reasons why they decided to forego this year.

Plus, as Bashiok said, they are busy. This year we have the possibility to see THREE games being released. We know that Diablo III is coming sometime in the early part of the year, and it’s very likely that Mists of Pandaria and Heart of the Swarm will be released later on (the current thoughts are late summer or early fall for Mists and late fall or early winter for Swarm). Because of all the things that are involved, Blizzard can only stretch their resources so thin.

Not only do they have to organize the convention in the first place, but actually setting up, running it, and taking it down takes much more time and effort than the two days that BlizzCon occurs. I’m sure that they have people devoted to events like this, but there will definitely be volunteers from other departments. Every person taken away from their desk is one more project that will take longer to complete.

In the end, I’m definitely disappointed. Once again, like every year since we went to BlizzCon 2008, my wife and I have been looking at our finances and seeing if it was possible to make it out this year. With it not happening this year, we will definitely be trying to make it out next year. After a year off, I can’t imagine how big of a party that it will be.

Meanwhile, there are other events that go on. PAX Prime and East, Nerdtacular, Dragon*Con, and a whole lot more that I don’t know about or have forgotten. Nerds shall unite and party!

Boredem and changes

Over the past while, I have to admit that I haven’t been playing much World of Warcraft. It’s not that there is nothing to do – far from it – but there just really isn’t much that can keep my attention lately. I find that I’m logging on for a random heroic or two, but after that I’m finding that I can’t keep interested.

I’ve come to realize that finally, after over seven years of playing, I’m mostly bored of WoW. There have been times where there have been some gaps where I haven’t had as much fun, but it never has been like this before. Even though there are things coming up with Mists of Pandaria that look really cool, at the very least we’re around 6-7 months away from that. When the time comes, I’ll definitely pick it up and play it, but there’s just the problem about the time from now until then.

Previously, I had a solid raid team that I would work with twice a week and work through the raid content. Not having this sort of anchor has affected me more than I ever thought, as the only person who I spend much time with when I’m playing WoW at all is my wife (not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that I would like to have more acquiantances). Even though I have joined a guild on my Death Knight that has a great number of people, unfortunately I have yet to find a suitable raid team that works with the times that I’m available.

With all of this being said, I’m playing other games and having some fun doing different things. I purchased Terraria and Portal 2 during the Steam Christmas sale last year and have started playing them again, and this year I’ve purchased Skyrim and Bastion, along with being fortunate enough to get into the Diablo III beta. Between these five games, I’m keeping myself quite occupied and not really missing WoW very much.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m a Blizzard fanboy and will continue to be one. I still really enjoy WoW, but as many other people do, I think I’ll just play it less than I have in the past. When the New Spawn comes in February, it’s quite possible that I might be doing some Archaeology at three in the morning while feeding the baby.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and get into a raid team that works for me, because I know that it will re-kindle my interest in the game. The future holds many unknown things, and what I will be doing with my spare time to have fun is most definitely one of them.

The End Begins Now…

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since Cataclysm was first released.  There’s been a lot that has happened – good things, bad things, and things in between that people really aren’t sure about.  The expansion on a whole seems to be controversial in the fact that some believe it’s been a big success, while others believe it’s been a failure.  I personally think that it’s an experiment that was partially successful, but that’s for another time.

As of November 29th, the beginning of the end of Cataclysm is upon is.

Blizzard has said that this will be the last full content patch for the expansion, and that this will basically be the end for updates before Mists of Pandaria comes out.  This could be taken two ways: the optimistic way, thinking that we’ll be seeing MoP sooner rather than later and won’t have to do this content forever; or the pessimistic way, thinking that we’ll be doing the exact same content for a year, as we did with Icecrown Citadel at the end of Wrath of the Lich King (Ruby Sanctum doesn’t count).

Unfortunately I don’t work for Blizzard, and I don’t know when they hope to release MoP.  Like everyone else, I’d rather see it sooner rather than later, but we know that it will be done when it’s done.  However, all that being said, I’d like to take the optimistic view.

The 4.3 content patch has a lot in it.  Not only do we get the new raid on Deathwing, but there are three new 5-man dungeons, a revamped Darkmoon Faire, Transmogrification, Void Storage, the Raid Finder, a bunch of new items from the raids and other content, and a whole bunch of balance changes.  It would take too long to go through each one, so I’ll suggest you check out WoW Insider’s guide to Patch 4.3 to get the details about many of the new features.

Briefly, I’m very happy with Transmogrification.  The interface is incredibly easy to use, and I finally am rewarded for being such a packrat for all these years.  I was able to have one of my favourite looks of the Tier 5 shoulders and Wildfury Greatstaff for my Druid, which really makes me happy and nostalgic.

Void Storage is nice, but unfortunately a bit too restrictive.  I have a lot of stuff in my bank from the many holidays that have come around, and I was hoping to empty a bunch out to free up some room.  The biggest thing is that items labelled “unique” or items not soulbound cannot be deposited to VS.  Many tabards, as well as other holiday things are all unique, and some of the holiday items like the Brewfest and Winter Veil gear are not soulbound, but I wanted to keep them nonetheless.  So I deposited what I could, and at least freed up some room.

The Raid Finder has been one of the things I’ve been looking forward to most.  As I’ve mentioned before, my schedule is very weird for when I can raid, so now I can raid whenever I want – as long as there’s enough other people queuing as well.  I was able to get into a group, and successfully get the four bosses currently available with little drama.  We only wiped twice, and there were people taking charge of the raid to get things done.

We also got Tyrael’s Charger.  It’s pretty.

All in all, there’s some great new content that everyone can enjoy no matter what you do.  Raider, casual player, leveling player, there’s something for everyone.  As I experience more of the new content, I’ll post my thoughts about some of them.  In the meantime, happy exploring!

Mists of Pandaria Talents and Specs – DON’T PANIC

The words “DON’T PANIC” are inscribed in large, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

When something new comes, there’s only a few different ways that people can react. If the new thing looks appealing and pleasing to the person, there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation. If the new thing doesn’t hold any interest to the person, there’s a bunch of apathy and boredem. If the new thing looks not good at all to the person, there’s a sense of doom, dread, and panic.

Something new came this week.

Earlier in the week, Blizzard released an early look at the Mists of Pandaria talent and spec calculator. It shows every class, what their new talent tree will look like, and more importantly what the different specs will look like come patch 5.0 and the release of the new expansion.

If you missed it, at BlizzCon it was revealed that talent specs are changing with MoP. Rather than just adding to a specific arsenal of abilities that every class has, each spec will become even more specialized. As an example, only Fire mages will have Fireball and only Frost mages will have Frostbolt, but every mage will have Frostfire bolt.

Between BlizzCon and now, there has been a bunch of speculation about how much each class would change. With the new calculator, it’s shown that every class will be changing, but each class has differing amount of change. The pure DPS classes seem to be having less change than the hybrids, which seems to give the impression that Blizzard wants the spec to do one thing and one thing only – which is what they spec into.

The big disclaimer that has been stated is that this is a “pre-alpha” build, meaning that the information given can and more than likely will change between now and release. Bashiok said that they are giving this information out because they want to get feedback from the players and see what can be improved or tweaked. If you decide to leave a note for Blizzard, just please remember the most important thing (and Wheaton’s Law): Don’t Be A Dick.

Since my main is a Feral DPS Druid, I thought I’d give my impressions about that class.

One big change to Druids is one that all hybrids who can do any sort of healing are experiencing. If you’re not specced into the healing tree, there will be very limited choice for what healing abilities will be present. Rather than having Healing Touch, Regrowth, Nourish, Rejuvenation, and Lifebloom – it’s down to Nourish and Rejuvenation that are baseline. All of the other spells will be available at certain levels if you spec into Resto.

On the other hand, the times when a Bear could do decent DPS while not tanking are long gone. Druids are having the distinction of being the only class that will now have four specs: Balance (Moonkin), Restoration (Tree), Feral (Cat), and Guardian (Bear). If you want to be a bear, you’re a tank and a tank only. Even though this is definitely a loss for Druids, it is bringing us in line with the other classes that are out there. A Protection Warrior isn’t able to do good DPS while still in spec, why should a Bear be able to shift to Cat and do well?

That was definitely one of the benefits of being a Druid in the first place, and we’ll still have a limited capacity for it with the level 90 talent of Heart of the Wild (there are some bloggers out there who think that it will not be very useful at all – which I’m inclined to agree with). However, Druid specs will most definitely be very specialized.

The biggest news that I’ve seen so far is the new level 87 ability called Symbiosis. The text reads: “Creates a symbiotic link which grants the druid one ability belonging to the target’s class, varying by the druid’s specialization. In exchange, grants the target one druid ability based on their class and combat role. Lasts 1 hour and persists through death.”

On first glance, this looks absolutely amazing. Of course, this likely means that it won’t be as amazing as we hope it will be. Lissanna at Restokin gave a really good writeup about how she thinks it will work, and I think she has the right idea. It will probably take a specific ability from each class, rather than taking a random one, and since it will last an hour and persists through death it shouldn’t be left up to chance. Unfortunately, this won’t be able to be properly tested until the beta comes out, so until then we’ll be left with speculation (unless Blizzard decides to give us details about how it exactly works… /wink).

As with expansions in the past, we just have to get used to the “new normal”.  There are things we may not like, but at the moment they’re not set in stone.  If this is how things look when MoP is launched, then there might be some other words being used at the time.

I think that things are going in the right track, but will definitely need some tweaking.  While we see the specs make the player focus on a specific role, there are then talents which encourage us to do other roles… but we won’t have as many tools to do said roles.  It just doesn’t make much sense to me now.  We’ll see how things go as time progresses – just remember, the game isn’t even close to being out yet.

BlizzCon, a Magical Time…

Once a year, there is a time where there is a sense of peace and calmness in the air.  Enemies have meals with each other and discuss strategy.  Strangers go out of their way to help each other.  Altogether, life is pretty good for two days a year.

I’m not sure what you were thinking about, but I’m talking about BlizzCon.

Blizzard is a company that obviously values their fans, and appreciates the followings they have for their games.  Why else would they spend so much money putting on a two day festival for their games, and likely lose a lot of money in the process?  With all of the stuff that happens at the Anaheim Convention Center that is included in the ticket price, it’s well worth more than what you pay for.

My wife and I were fortunate enough to go to BlizzCon in 2008, and had an amazing time there.  More than likely, I’ll be doing some sort of a post around this time every year to reinforce the fact that it is an awesome trip, and I can just hope that everyone has the chance to go to it at least once.  Multiple times is even better!  However, we must deal with what has just happened.

BlizzCon 2011 – Mists of Pandaria and other stuff

One of the best parts came shortly into the opening ceremonies, which was the annoucement of the World of Warcraft annual pass.  This has a person commit to a one year term with WoW in return for some really great perks.  The number one perk being that you can get Diablo III for free.  Yes, free.  When the game is released, the digital download version will be provided to people who are signed up with this, as well as an in-game mount called Tyrael’s Charger.  Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.

Mists of Pandaria

Obviously, the big deal this year was the new WoW expansion: Mists of Pandaria.  We have a new expansion coming, and for the first time since Vanilla we won’t have any sort of a “main villain”.  There will be a number of enemies that will be there to smash, along with a ton of new features. The biggest things are definitely the new race of Pandarens, the new class of the Monk, and the new continent of Pandaria.  Along with that there will be a new Pet Battle system, PvE scenarios, challenge dungeon modes, a new talent system, among many other things.

When we first heard about Mists of Pandaria being trademarked earlier in the summer, I was very skeptical like many others.  Yet, after seeing all the details come forth in the various panels through the BlizzCon virtual ticket I am very pleasantly surprised at how excited I am about it.  The way that they have the lore fleshed out as well as the gameplay shown has me convinced that this could turn out to be quite good.  Of course, I’m a Blizzard fanboy, but that’s beside the point.

One thing that I think I’m really looking forward to is the Pet Battle system.  In essence, it’s Pokemon inside WoW including having a few different abilities that will be used in a turn-based battle system.  Companion pets will be account-bound for the most part and can be used to battle each other for prestige and rewards.  Basically, it’s a brand new pasttime for people to spend a great amount of time and money with.

The talent and spec system revamp looks very exciting.  Basically, talent trees will be gone and replaced with different choices to make about your abilities at certain levels.  Whereas before we were limited by what spec you were to choose your abilities at higher level, now there will be certain talents that can be taken by any spec.  As an example, Living Bomb will be able to be learned by any spec rather than just those who spec in Fire.  As time goes on and we get to see how the system fleshes out we’ll have a better idea of how it will all work.

Even though the Pandaren were once used as an April Fools’ joke, the new concept art and character models that were shown give a great look at them in-game now. They don’t look as comical as they did in the old joke posts as well as in Warcraft 3.  I’ve always enjoyed Samwise’s drawings that have surfaced over the years, and this makes them really fit in to the Asian theme that has been developed for the new continent.

Plus, the Pandaren starting zone is on the back of a turtle.  How awesome is that?

StarCraft II

I own StarCraft II and enjoy playing it, however I’m not very good at it.  Even so, I really enjoy the game and love the story.  Though more often than not I would not win the matches (PvP, I wasn’t too bad at vs AI), the game itself is very great.

At the end of Day 1 of BlizzCon, they had a match of the Global Starcraft League which is based out of South Korea.  Many people will know that the game is absolutely huge in the country, and there is a massive eSports market built around it.  Out of curiosity, my wife and I decided to tune in to it and see how the games were going… and we found that we were enjoying it much more than we thought we would.

The fight was Terran vs Terran (MMA vs MVP), two amazing players who put on a great fight.  In the end, the underdog (MMA) won the match with 4 wins to 1.  I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to see this, since I was so enthralled by the action.  Because of this, I decided to re-install SC2 and start playing it again.  Good job BlizzCon, you did your job.

Diablo III

Thankfully, Diablo III will be coming out soon (we hope).  The biggest announcement with this game was definitely the WoW Annual Pass giving the game for free, but there was a great lore panel along with some good gameplay footage and overall cool stuff.

Diablo I and II were somewhat lacking in the overall lore, and as Chris Metzen started at the beginning of the D3 lore panel, this was the first year they’ve actually had a panel devoted just to lore of that universe.  The story has been expanded tremendously, and I’m extremely excited to see how the game turns out.

What wasn’t mentioned

We didn’t hear anything about the “Titan” project, which was said a few days before the convention started.  While this isn’t great, this is Blizzard we’re talking about – they don’t give out any details until they’re ready for it.  Personally, I would rather have something polished as opposed to something halfway done.

There are more projects being worked on within the walls of Blizzard.  Through some of the interviews that happened, as well as looking at the job postings on the Blizzard site, we know this.  As with Titan, we just won’t be given any information until they’re ready.

In the end…

As much as I wish I could have made it to Anaheim this year, unfortunately that just didn’t happen.  The virtual ticket was the next best thing that could have happened, and fortunately through that I can watch things happen after the fact.  As I write this post, I’m watching some of the panels that I missed through the days.

I have to say a huge “thank you” to Blizzard Entertainment.  BlizzCon was one of the best experiences that I’ve had, and every year I look forward to it whether or not I can actually be there.  I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into the convention and how much money is spent, but I’d like to say that it’s totally worth it.

Five Things Gaming Can Teach

While browsing through Blog Azeroth not too long ago, a former Shared Topic caught my eye. Titled “What has WoW taught you?”, I realized that there have been a number of things that I’ve learned in my time playing World of Warcraft (as well as other online games). Thinking about it, I’m reminded once again how certain positions in online games warrant being mentioned on resumes.

People Management

If anyone has ever been a guild leader, guild officer, or raid leader, they’ll know that this is very true. Managing people is a very difficult task on any level, and something that may have been thought as small and insubstantial can easily turn out to be the opposite. Raid organizers from Vanilla will probably shudder a little bit, as filling 40 raid slots while maintaining optimal balance was extremely difficult.

As soon as people start voicing their opinions, or certain people want certain things while other people want other things – managing this and keeping cool is an incredibly important skill to have in any situation. Companies can have seminars and courses specifically on people management. Consider your WoW experience as the preliminary stages.

Time Management

So much to do, so little time to do it. I’d say a large majority of people have a set amount of time to play WoW. Whether that time is two hours after the kids are in bed or all day because you have nothing better to do, there is still a limited number of minutes to do what you want. Figuring out what to do in the ideal order can help organize things much more efficiently.

If you have certain daily quests to do, it might be better to start out with certain ones first because you’ll need to use your hearthstone to get out of there. After that, the other areas where you do the next sets of dailies might have a portal to go back to your capital city, so the cooldown on your hearthstone isn’t as big of a deal.

Every job that is out there requires some sort of time management. The average job has an eight-hour day, and there’s certain things that need to be accomplished in those hours. By prioritizing certain things, it can increase productivity and make life a lot easier.

Keyboard Skills

Before I played my first MMORPG, my typing was horrible. I was the typical “hunt-and-peck” person, and I hated the “home row” style that was trying to be forced upon me at school. The game I played at first had a focus on role-playing and required quick responses with good grammar. In not much time I was able to increase my words per minute and the quality and accuracy of what I was typing.

Any data entry or administrative job requires this. There may even be jobs that have a typing test as part of the interview process, and even getting the job could rest on these skills. Fortunately online gaming makes practice enjoyable.

Patience

The person who likes to collect things must possess a lot of patience. Whether you’re a hunter camping a rare spawn to tame or waiting for the Time-Lost Proto-Drake to spawn so you can get the mount, there will be a lot of down time. Learning to be patient is a very important thing, or else it’s very easy to go a little bit crazy.

Anyone who has ever worked in customer service has good experience with this. You’re ringing through their order, and they take forever to count out the change in their wallet while there’s a long lineup behind them, all tapping their feet. There are times where you just have to take a deep breath and go with it.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Crap happens, deal with it. Very few things ever go according to plan, and it’s essential to be flexible and work with what life gives you. The perfect raid composition can still end up being a bad experience because people may not know the fight, people might disconnect, among other things. Just roll with it, keep on keeping on, and all those other phrases.

Life is full of surprises, and there’s nothing we can do about it. If an urgent file is dropped on your desk with 15 minutes to go before you leave, we have to deal with it one way or another. How you deal with it, however, is up to you.

Conclusion

If you’re the leader of a level 25 guild and have been running things for a while, I think that it would be a great thing to put on a resume. Everything that I just mentioned are very real skills that can be transferred over to any life situation. Hopefully one day employers will realize this.

Who says geeks don’t know how life works?

Death Penalties

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.  Check the thread out to see posts from other great blog authors!

There are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Fortunately there isn’t a monthly gold fee to pay to Stormwind or Orgrimmar to pay for the services you get there – that’s why you have to pay for repairs and the auction house fees. However, death is rampant in WoW. There are very few people who can say that they haven’t died at all while leveling, and if doing dungeons or raids is your thing it’s a given fact that you will die at some point.

One big question stands out: how does a game deal with a character death? This question has been mulled over, thought about, and discussed a great many times as everyone has a different approach to it. I’ve played a few games which have all had different ideas about it, which I will explain and then give my own thoughts.

The first MMORPG I played was one called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. Penalties for death included losing half the experience you had (over level 99), as it was used as a currency to purchase better health, mana, and stats. Also there was a “death pile”, which consisted of various items that the character was carrying, and certain items broke upon death. Prior to level 99, the character would lose a portion of their current experience.

After Nexus, I played Final Fantasy XI. Their death system worked similarly, with the exception of the items being dropped in favour of a more steep experience penalty. When a character dies there is a large experience penalty, and the chance that the character can actually level down. I had experienced that many times, when I was in a group killing stuff and recently leveled and then we all died… and I was suddenly the level I was previously.

Full disclosure: I haven’t played either game in a very long time, so their death systems may be different now. What I explained is how they worked when I played them.

As many people know, in World of Warcraft the penalty for death is fairly low. In essence, the taxes that I mentioned in the first paragraph are the penalty for dying in WoW. Equipped items are charged 10% durability loss with every death, in which the repair bills add up quickly after a night of learning a new raid boss.

If it’s decided to use a Spirit Healer, then an additional durability loss is charged to ALL items that are carried – whether they’re equipped or in the inventory. A character who has multiple sets of gear will go through great lengths to avoid using a Spirit Healer. On top of that a debuff called Resurrection Sickness is applied to the character for a period of time, which reduces health, mana, damage, and healing done. Basically, if you don’t go to recover your corpse you can’t do anything but travel for a while.

The death penalty is charged to discourage people from not caring about dying. Blizzard wants us to care about our characters, and try to keep them alive. At the same time, the penalty isn’t so steep that if a death happens we aren’t so discouraged that we throw our computers out the window.

In comparison to the other games, I believe that the penalty is exactly where it should be. It’s not so huge that we are mad beyond all reason, and not so small that we don’t care about dying at all. I can attest to the fact that after a night of learning a new encounter in a dungeon or raid, seeing my repair bill sure makes me want to have less wipes the next time I go.

What is “Premium”?

This post is part of a Shared Topic on Blog Azeroth. Be sure to check out posts from other great blog authors!

After my last post was linked on WoW Insider, I saw a couple of comments on the page that made me think.  Firstly, I realized I didn’t do that great of a job explaining my position on the Premium Dungeon Finder. Secondly, I realized that there’s a lot more to this “premium” thing that should be discussed. Through the ensuing blog posts as well as Twitter conversations, I thought I’d expand my thoughts.

To begin with, it was a new and controversial move when MMOs first started charging a monthly subscription for games. Up until then, you paid your money for the game, and played as much as you want for the initial cost. Games that had vast multiplayer services like other Blizzard games (Warcraft III, StarCraft) or first-person shooter games (Counter-strike, Quake) operated on the one-time payment and provided the rest free of charge. I don’t know the economics behind this all, but I’m pretty sure that these games would have to sell a lot to be able to provide free multiplayer services.

Even to register a domain name for a website, there’s a fee. Heck, in many major cities in Canada and the US, it’s hard to find free parking at times. Behind everything, there is some sort of cost – whether it’s seen or not is the big thing.

Warcraft II: BNE & Warcraft III, Diablo and Diablo II, StarCraft and StarCraft II all offer free multiplayer through Blizzard’s Battle.net service. At any given time there are millions of people playing games on their servers, using the bandwidth they have to pay for, and ultimately costing the company. Someone has to maintain the servers to make sure they are at peak performance. Someone has to administer the people working on said servers, and the data centres that house them. Even though people playing those games only pay up front, there are real costs that Blizzard has to deal with on an ongoing basis.

Thus we have the reasoning for a monthly subscription fee for MMOs, as they are a whole new ball of wax. Rather than being separate instances of a game, they are a persistent world that also has instances within them. They must allow thousands of people to log on to a server and play the game as the company has designed and have fun doing it. If the servers crash repeatedly, nobody is having fun. The monthly fee goes to offset the likely astronomical costs of being able to maintain the server networks.

We already pay a monthly fee, why do we need to pay more for extra services?

I forget who exactly, but someone on Twitter gave this example: “I already pay for my cable, why should I pay more for the HD package?”  Similarly, it’s the same as going to a Starbucks and asking for a coffee with an extra shot of espresso but not wanting to be charged for it.  Both examples are extra services or products that are offered, but not essential.

Currently, the WoW remote package is the only Premium offering that is available.  This gives people the ability to do things outside of the game which can enhance their WoW experience, namely being able to use the Auction Houses and chat with guild members who are in-game.  Both of these services require an extra charge, likely because a lot of work went into them, and I know for a fact that it wasn’t free to create. Blizzard employees put their time and effort into these things that are not even required – not even remotely! (Yes, the pun was intended)

The Premium Dungeon Finder is something that will require Blizzard to change their network infrastructure. The servers right now are physically located at various points around the world in clusters. The Battlegroups are set up as such, and the people who group together in the Random Dungeon Finder (LFD) or battlegrounds are pulled from these server groups. Blizzard is working on making it so eventually it will be region-wide, with no extra cost for the player. By changing the LFD system to be able to pull people from your Real ID friends list specifically from servers around the region, it is a major change that was likely not planned for when things were first set up.

Finally, even though the game has been out for six and a half years, the subscription rates have not changed once. Inflation has brought many prices higher across many different industries, but we pay the exact same to log on to WoW as we did when the game first started. I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of money lost by keeping these rates the same.

In the end, I highly doubt that Blizzard will introduce something that is so game changing that it is a requirement to pay for it. If they did, they would most definitely lose a lot of subscribers, and likely myself included. I believe in getting a fair deal, and I think Blizzard has given us a good one so far.

If you want these extra features, you can pay for them. They are not necessary, but they’re helpful and useful. I personally will not be getting the WoW remote subscription or the Premium Dungeon Finder when it comes out, as both of them are not worth it for me. Everyone can choose for themselves to see if they think it’s worth the extra money for the services received.

Premium Dungeon Finder

Today there was some news released about something Blizzard is working on that will be quite game changing.  No, it’s not the dance studio.  A “premium” service which will allow someone to use the Random Dungeon Finder (LFD) tool to group with friends on Real ID.

At first glance, I think this is an excellent idea.  With WoW being so big across so many servers, there are people who want to group together but don’t want to take the time or money to level an alt on another realm or transfer a character over.  By being able to bypass the tedius or expensive effort that these entail, it will allow friends to do dungeons together and have fun much easier.

The biggest thing that will cause most people to call foul is the fact that it’s a premium service, which is an extra fee on top of the monthly fee we already pay.  To be honest, that was the first thing that caught my attention as well, but I’m going to wait for all the information.  We don’t know any pricing or how exactly it is going to work, apart from the fact that only one person needs to have the service – that being the person initiating the group.

If this feature will be included in the current premium package which allows remote auction house and remote guild chat and keeping the price the same, I can see a fair amout of people using this.  I could even see myself possibly signing up for this feature.

One big question I know a lot of people will have is whether this will support cross-faction groups along with cross-realm.  Many of my friends are not only scattered across different servers, but between the Horde and Alliance.  As much as the Alliance are scum (as far as my characters think), I’d like to group up with the people behind them.  To me, I think this will be the selling point: if I’m able to do cross-faction groups, I’ll pretty much be sold.

Since this is still very early in the cycle of the feature, we’ll definitely be given more information later on.  I’ll be very curious to see what the final version of this product will be.

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