Monday, November 9, 2009

Microtransactions Yay or Nay

Well the big hullabaloo has been passed and here I sit, still thinking about the in game pets on sale for $10 by Blizzard. After seeing some other blog entries and comments, a couple points stand out.

1. This is really no different than offering Blizzcon TV coverage and a murloc Halo pet for $35. You still are paying money for an in game pet, no matter that you are also paying for television coverage of an event so well covered by the internet already. If you are OK with that pet in the game, there's really not a huge difference now.

2. Blizzard is pumping out as much money as they can get from the game. Players demand cool status symbol pets, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Players demand faction changes, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Players demand haircuts, Blizzard delivers (for fee in gold). Players demand race changes, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Players demand server transfers, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Blizzard is giving you all the play options and customization you want, but if you do not get it right in the beginning character selection page, you will pay for it. This is just more customization in my opinion.

3. Pets are a far cry from gear. Maybe I'm completely wrong and someday Blizzard will be so desperate that they will offer epics or even legendaries for real cold hard cash, but I just don't see it right now. They want more people accessing endgame content and have made the game very easy for a casual like me to at least see the endgame when we want to. This probably is not so good for hardcores, but it is a change that has not made the masses demand epics for real cash. With little or no demand, Blizzard will not be jumping on the bandwagon of risking subscriptions to sell gear.

So yeah it looks like a slippery slope to the end of WoW, but we've heard this all before. Then Patch 3.3 will drop and nobody will remember the fight as we all turn our attention to game content again. Then Cataclysm will drop and we will squeal like fanboys and fangirls, at least for a little while.

Oh and one quick fire...Patch 3.3 notes updated tonight and Oculus is being heavily nerfed to cater to the fact that there's rewards for doing a random heroic dungeon daily each day. Oculus was by far the hardest of the heroics, even probably topping ToC. So while it's not a huge deal, I'm kind of sad that things like Glory of the Hero will be much much easier considering about 1/3 of the really difficult achievements were in Oculus.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Appearances May Be Deceiving

(note that I did write a full-fledged WoW entry below this one, so if you have no interest in personal rumblings then pass on through to the other side and we'll all move on together)

So back in July I went on vacation, and during vacation I discovered that my wife and my grandmother were emailing each other in not such a nice way. Now there's a long bit of history which is not worth going into here, but let's just sum it up by saying my mother and my wife do not get along. They each have made their mistakes and while it sucks for me personally, I've just learned to live with it because some things time may not be able to heal. But anyways, my grandmother started butting in and sending nasty emails to Kelley about the failed relationship. So once Kelley told me about the emails, I confronted my grandmother about it. Obviously not a good phone call to make.

Well I make the phone call and we start off with pleasantries. She told me my grandfather, who was a big father figure in my early life before my mother remarried because my Dad was always 12 hours away, was doing better and was getting in the best shape of his life according to his doctors thanks to bike riding and other activities. She also caught me up on the goings about in my old hometown, and I told her about her great granddaughter. Then I finally had to plunge into the topic at hand. It was at that point that I realized that appearances may be very deceiving. While we were exchanging pleasantries, it was all just a cover on a deep-seeded level of hurt feelings.

You see, my grandparents were upset because I did not call them very often. Now I admit I'm bad at calling family, including my parents who have gotten on me about it over the years of law school especially. Grandparents...hardly ever get contact and that includes both sets of grandparents. Yet the grandparents in Iowa always show unconditional love when I do finally get a chance to catch them up. Maybe it's the distance, I don't know. But anyways, apparently my lack of lots of contact ruined my relationship with my grandparents, as my grandmother tells me "we have no relationship." So while I wanted to just make sure the emails stopped, she plays on her own terms and says if I cannot contact your wife I will not contact you. And she hangs up on me...huge pet peeve. Anyways, I bounced these problems off my best friend and just let it go. What can you do? When appearances are so deceiving even in the same phone call, it's hard to overcome the problem.

Well one month later I'm being Knighted in our one-year anniversary event for The Illuminati and I get a few frantic phone calls from my mother. My grandfather was in the hospital with breathing problems. After 3 weeks of tests and a couple hospital visits on my part, we found out it was pancreatic cancer. This is inoperable but you can always try chemo. So they tried what they could, but 2 months later it was clear his body could not handle the chemo. Last night the struggle ended and my grandfather went on to heaven or whatever you believe is waiting for us in the afterlife. I got another call from my mother last night on my way home from work, telling me that he had a blood clot and that his leg was slowly turning purple, which is a sure sign that the last hours are upon you.

She then asked if I could speak with my grandmother to try and lift her spirits a bit. So I agreed although the wounds from the summer never had healed. On comes my grandmother and she tears into me for not being there with the family in the last hours. She tells me I'm not welcome at the funeral if I don't think he's important enough for a visit now. I simply respond by telling her to be with her husband and that this is not the time to fight. I also tell her I will come if I choose to. Not three hours later, he was gone. As it turns out, I wouldn't have made it in time if I tried. But this nasty conversation with my grandmother brought me back to the summer conversation.

You see, that conversation started as I laid out above, with her reporting that my grandfather was in the best shape of his life according to his doctors. Riding his bike and doing all kinds of activities, my grandfather was in peak health for his age. But just like the emotional relationship with my grandparents, appearances were deceiving on that day as the cancer was already wreaking havoc with his body. However there was just no way it could be detected. So appearances were deceiving on every level of that fateful phone call.

Now while I believe you show your true character at your weakest moment, I do understand that the stress of losing a parent/child/spouse is something that is unimaginable for those of us who have not gone through it. So I'm torn on this latest incident. It really makes me wonder how it will be at the funeral, as I don't know which side of my two-faced grandmother I will see. I do not believe the relationship is salvagable, and for that I am sad because it did not seem anything like this was possible 4 months ago. I want to be there to support my family, but I also don't want to just hang my head and take a beating that I don't deserve.

So I will go to the funeral in a few days and we'll just see how it goes. While I feel bad that my beloved grandfather will not have a meaningful relationship with Paige, I realize that maybe that was not meant to be anyways. It's a sobering thought knowing that some kind of cancer has claimed two of my grandparents on opposite sides of the family, but perhaps that will simply make me more vigilant in checking on my health now and beyond. Who knows where medicine will be in 30-40-50 years but I just hope when my time comes, it doesn't end up like this was. My mother was wrecked for 3 months basically living with her parents and knowing the inevitable was coming, only a few weeks from "the best health of his life." So disappointing and so sad, but I guess that's the way things go.

So I bring you this story partially to vent it all out, but also partially so that maybe you learn something. don't assume everything is OK, as appearances can definitely be deceiving. Cherish every moment you have with your loved ones. I was able to spend some hours with my grandfather in the hospital and we talked about the law (he was a voracious reader and knew more law than probably even me), painting in my new house (he painted as a career for many years), and I showed him pictures of the new house and Paige, knowing he would probably never see them again. I think I brightened his days in that hospital and I know he changed my life for the better as a young child.

We did have the foresight to grab 5-generations pictures last fall when Paige was born with Kelley's great-grandparents (who both passed shortly thereafter) and with my grandfather and his mother. So I do have a picture of my last remaining great-grandmother, my now passed grandfather, my mother, myself, and my daughter all together last year. It's not often you get to have 5 generations together, and it is a picture I will keep close to my heart especially now that there will be no more pictures of 5 generations unless I'm the great-grandparent or great-great grandparent. Take those opportunities when they come as you never know when life will get busy and someone will disappear from your life forever.

The Updated LFG System and a New Passion

Well I believe the ranks of the AE Team may have to add an honorary new member. He is not technically a "healer," but he does have some wicked good self-healing via a little ability called Death Strike (+10% health every few seconds). He is also not a female toon, which is probably a plus as far as my metrosexuality goes. But nevertheless, he is a member of The Illuminati and he proudly wears the pink regalia of the AE Team. His name is Navarionae, my night elf death knight. There were a few factors that contributed to his shelving a few months ago. First, the Outland grind and being so overpowered bored me. Second, the tanking experience did not go well for me on a first try. Third, the new focus on the healer-based AE Team set my sights on goals that did not involve him.

Well a few factors also led to his revival in my sphere of interest. First, in the glow of hitting my long-term goal and getting the Violet Proto Drake on Ekaterinae, I decided it was useless for me to have over 12k gold on the team and nothing to spend it on. My DK was dual specced already, so I took the quick plunge and trained his flying. Yes I mean expert and artisan (epic). Second, I started trick or treating with the epic flight in Outland and was racking up the free experience. Then after dinging 72 on candy, I went back to the Tundra and started questing. Questing in Northrend with epic flight is absolutely amazing. So long story short, I ended up dinging 73 in short 1 day after dinging 72. Now I'm committed financially and emotionally in this character again, and it's nice to have an ongoing concern higher than level 31. So welcome Navarionae to the team.

Between Navarionae becoming a new leveling concern and the heirlooms going BoA across factions down the road (covered a coupe entries ago), Biancae and Navarionae need heirlooms anyways. So I've started doing Champion's dailies again. I must say now that you can get 10 seals per day with all the new quests, the process is a lot more enjoyable than when it was citadel, jousting, and chillmaw all the time. So kudos to Blizzard for making that process easier for those of us who really hated it after a while.

So to the main topic of the day: The Patch 3.3 LFG system. The long-awaited cross realm Looking For Group is going into effect in a few weeks. You can earn extra gold just by utilizing the system, and hopefully the LFG will become like battlegrounds in that you will spend less time waiting to do what you want to do in the game. Here's the basics: you can join LFG with 1-4 people, but the more people you have grouped with you going in (the less random the group as a whole will be), the less bonus money you will get. So there's clearly some incentive to use the system. Furthermore, grouping via LFG will allow you to automatically teleport group members from anywhere in the world to the instance and back to where they left off afterwards. Therefore you can quest while you wait for a group and not miss a beat due to travel times. But if this is designed to lessen the time it takes to find a group for something, why do we need paid to use it? Well that's because there is a downside.

First downside is the grouping function. Now it will supposedly try to group you with other people around your gear level, which is fair. But the system will also put people more experienced with this particular dungeon with others who have less experience. Now while this is a good way to spread knowledge, it also prevents quick zerg runs of the daily where everyone knows what they are doing without any explanation. You also will have the opportunity to vote someone off the group if necessary. Sadly given the ninja possibilities, you may not have to vote the real problems out of the group before they cause the problems. Hopefully people will respect other players from other realms, but I'll believe it when I see it. So this improved risk of bad group experiences and less zerg possibilities will make the system less desirable than it could be. Hence paying us off.

On the whole, I like the new LFG system. Everything that goes cross-realm seems to be a decent idea, as it cleaned up the wait for battlegrounds and also cleared up the instance servers cannot be loaded problem. So perhaps good player conduct will be the rule of the day and everyone will profit from this system. One can hope. If nothing else, you should be waiting less to find people doing what you want to do. Less wasted time in game means more time for what you want to do in and out of game.