Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WOW is Dying?

My apologies for not hitting my usual one entry per weekend routine, but as I said last week Origins was going on and I got my game on for four days in real life. It was a fantastic break from work and well needed. I thought about writing an entry yesterday for the benefit of my server called "what to do with 24 hours of WoW downtime" but I figure if you need to be told to go outside, maybe you should stop playing the Wii.

Larisa brings up a good topic today: WoW is dying. To summarize:

"Is there any existing game that has received as many death sentences as WoW? I doubt it. WoW has been "dying" almost since it was launched, if you would listen to the community."

Unlike her conclusion that WoW is not dying, I actually think it is. Now this is not the doom and gloom that the posters on their way out with a ragequit on the forums allude to, but World of Warcraft is back on the decline. I suspect with Cataclysm that Activision-Blizzard will be able to get a slight bump in subscription numbers again for a while, but WoW 2.0 is basically a pretty rehash of a game many have been playing for 4-5 years at this point. While it is true that many players like me who came in late to the party will be sticking around for the foreseeable future, on the whole I almost guarantee blizzard will have trouble ever reaching their peak subscription numbers again.

Every two years this topic becomes in vogue because players run out of things to do and walk away because it is summertime at the end of an expansion. The sheer fact of the matter is many people will go away to Starcraft II and Diablo III, but Blizzard is keeping our community aspect of their games together by enacting Real ID chat across realms and games. That is the real reason most of us pay $15 a month: the community of friends. Last night I tried out Real ID chat while I was on a horde character speaking to an alliance character. This is a fantastic addition to the game and will bring together our group of four real life friends again. Plus if there's any more deep relationships I end up with on the horde side, I can talk to them while spending most of my time alliance side.

So Blizzard is essentially acknowledging that people are drifting away as they must after this long in a game. There's only so many hours you can do the same thing, even if you are doing different raid bosses or different battlegrounds. Console game developers would give their souls to hold a player's interest for one-tenth the amount of time the average wow players spends in Azeroth. The players will slowly move out of the game and the subscriber numbers will decline, but very slowly over the next 2-3 expansions of the game. Then I suspect the game will be replaced and support will disappear. But to Blizzard it will not matter as their profit machine will shift to the next MMO, and so will the playerbase (even if it is not to the legendary extent of World of Warcraft).

The real reason WoW will die is that Blizzard wants it to die. They may not want it to die anytime soon, but eventually they will want to support their new IP. If Blizzard maintained the same level of support and advertising for the game as they have now, the game would probably stabilize around 3-4 million subscribers just like Magic the Gathering stabilized in the CCG market by being consistently the best product out there. MTG does not have peak numbers, but they have a steady playerbase and that works for a game that does not need replaced with card sets moving in and out every few months. But while cards stay at the same level of coolness over 20 years, computer games age quickly and need to be wholesale replaced. Cataclysm is a stopgap, and WoW will die.

Nevertheless, that should not stop us from enjoying the game at its peak or near its peak. This is a beautiful game that will only get better in the coming year, and we are blessed to see Blizzard resetting the deck and not letting things go stagnant at this point. While Larisa is wrong, so are all the ragequitters on the forums that think everyone should follow them like little lambs. No sir. People come and go, but the community will stay as long as Blizzard wants them to. There may just be a few more barseats available at the Legerdemain Lounge next year, and anybody who lags in Dalaran can agree that's OK.

Sidenote - no word on the officer decision, but it sounds like a tough one. I suspect I'm out of the real running because of my real life obligations keeping me away from game some nights, but you never know. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Well I think I had one of the better father's days I will ever have today. It all started with waking up and sitting at the computer for a bit of WoW time. Now it was nothing special, just leveling my horde paladin in Stranglethorn Vale some more, but it's like my weekend coffee. So I'm already off to a good start when my daughter comes in wearing a shirt that says...

Big Sister

We only have one child, so this was our long awaited word that my wife is pregnant again. So I'll be a dad once again here in about 8 months. My daughter helps me bang on the keyboard in STV for a few minutes, just hanging with dad. Then we finally got out to King's Island with my in-laws and Kelley and my father in law head off to the waterpark with the little ones while my mother in law, brother in law, and his girlfriend all went on some rides for the morning. Now last summer I let myself get mighty down about not fitting on a couple of rides including the new Diamondback supercoaster (the walk of shame out of the coaster car is sad, for sure). But I have been working out since February and I know I'm seeing some minor results in the health department.

So we get to the first of the rides I could not fit on last year and while the thing has the most awkward seats you'll ever sit in, I had little issue. Then we grabbed lunch and spent some time in the waterpark, hanging out with my daughter in the wave pool. After that it was time for a couple kiddy rides and we capped the night with Diamondback. It's definitely a close fit as I cannot have anything in my pockets thanks to the contoured seats, but I can get on! And the supercoaster is definitely a good one even if it doesn't live up to the super-hype it gets. However, it is definitely one of the best rides in the park (I also tried another unique coaster where you hang belly down and face first like Superman). But all in all, as silly as it may seem, this is the first time I know I'm seeing results with the gym. Getting healthy means I can enjoy many more father's days.

So finding out we're having another baby, spending time with the daughter without giving a hoot about work for a day, and seeing some results on my health regime. What a great day. I hope all the fathers out there had just as prosperous of a father's day. Cheers!

By the way, don't know if I'll have much to say next week wow related as I am headed to Origins Game Fair again. This will be my 8th Origins in 9 years, missing one for my wedding. Looking forward to seeing my favorite kind of games and their latest developments. Also will be shaking down my Goblin Charbelcher deck in MTG Legacy in preparation for the Grand Prix pro-level tournament coming through Ohio next month. So lots of good times, even if they are not in Azeroth. I applied for a leadership position in my alliance guild, so perhaps I'll have good news in game regarding that next week (and even if not, I'm sure we'll find someone great to fill the officer opening).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Fall of Archaeology

A very interesting Cataclysm Press Release came out to the public this week and there are some huge changes to the next expansion. Instead of a full ten levels with new talents at the end and such, a new secondary profession archaeology was supposed to be linked with Path of the Titans, a new way to customize and improve your characters. The whole gist, if you did not know about it beforehand, was that you go dig up some lore artifacts and such all over Azeroth and benefit by getting additional skills to customize your character. But Path of the Titans has been nixed for Cataclysm, which means archaeology is completely optional (Blizzard said so themselves).

And just like that, one of the nifty selling points of Cataclysm is gone. While I appreciate that the new secondary profession will be a nifty way to learn some more lore, it basically comes into the game as the new fishing, which is to say, completely useless. At least cooking and first aid have uses from time to time (cooking moreso than anything). I like fishing as a timewaster, and without any motivation to take on another secondary profession, I'll maybe just ignore it completely. Which is bad because not only did Blizzard plan big things for it, they spent countless hours of development dollars on this profession which will immediately be useless.

To "make up" for this cutting off the new profession at the knees, the announcement also said Inscription will be getting a makeover to some extent because it did not work out as well as planned. It's hard to match the success of Jewelcrafting, it really is. So now there will be medium level glyphs, which sounds profitable for scribes. But then they also announced that once you know a glyph, it will go into a list like a spell list and be reusable after every respec. Just like that, the profitability of Inscription just died a painful death. Sure, new glyphs will be marketable for a couple weeks, but it's just not going to matter anymore if you buy them once and forget about them. As a non-scribe, I'm OK with these changes but feel bad for those who expected more out of the profession and leveled it.

The other major news is also not good, as the guild leveling process stays in the game but without guild talents and guild currency. While this could have caused some serious issues for both my guilds as the largest guilds on each faction of Earthen Ring, I thought it was a brilliant move to add a way to really customize yourself for PvP or raiding or whatever it is you do. It appears between starcraft II and the beginning of diablo III, Azeroth just could not get enough development time for Blizzard to keep all their expectations.

This will certainly worry the Chicken Little mentalities out there who think the sky is falling because Blizzard is moving in more and more ways to monetize WoW (highlighted recently by the $3/month remote auction house going live). However, people must realize that Cataclysm is not dead and the game is not dead because of these changes. It would have been nice to have archaeology better, but you have to focus on the important things and that's developing good PvP and raiding content as well as really sparkling new zones and changes to the base world of Azeroth. That's a massive undertaking, and I hope by cutting these admittedly fringe benefits out of Cataclysm, it means what blizzard does deliver will be outstanding. The game is on the downslide, but that does not mean that blizzard is looking to ruin their reputation with bad product.

So all in all, I'm a bit disappointed in the news, but life goes on. The fanatics over the stupid dance studio are still bickering, but there's more important things in the game than professions and more important things in life than features in a video game. So complain today, but look ahead to tomorrow, when the content hopefully is as good as we've come to expect.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

LFG Report - The Burning Crusade

So in the continuing escapades of Azeroth, I've been spending a fair bit of time on Arielae the tree. The one thing I'm doing on my main is hunting Baron Rivendare's mount, while also getting Argent Dawn reputation. I'm up to about 17k through revered, so it will not be long before I have a snazzy new title for getting Argent Dawn and Argent Crusade each to exalted. I've basically decided that if I don't get the mount in the next 3 runs or so, I'm probably not going to go crazy trying to get it when there's no more Argent Dawn rep to worry about. I like knocking out two birds with one stone, but I'm also not terribly attached to mounts other than carpets. Although I would hunt Ashes of Alar for no other reason, but that's such a pain instance to get people to grind correctly.

The money vault is up to about 13.5k gold again after spending 2k powerleveling Alchemy the second Ariel hit 65 to 450. She's now turning an epic zircon or ruby every day with her daily transmute and Navar is cutting the gems every weekend, which according to my friend who also does this business, turns about 1000 gold per week for very minimal effort. I do not know how much money you need for Cataclysm, but I do know I'm not concerned with building up gold with just 3 minutes a day. Which leaves the focus on leveling, and right now, particularly the druid.

LFG in The Burning Crusade is very interesting. It turns out that healers are almost always insta-queue into an instance, which is very nice for those of us who love healing. However, like all LFG, there's ups and downs. For the first few runs through the Hellfire instances, there was not too much trouble getting through the instances with a couple exceptions. My theory is that death knight tanks are still a little hesitant to jump in at this point as I did not see many DK tanks, and most people have some experience with the Hellfire instances as they are so easily incorporated into Hellfire Peninsula questing.

However, I've recently moved into 3 levels of mostly coilfang reservoir instances and the failures rose to a level that forced me into cat form and nagrand to kill some mobs for a while for Nesingwary. It's always fun to release some tension by whacking on some mobs in melee, so I might have done it anyway, but it doesn't look good for LFG in the middle of Burning Crusade content. I think there's a couple of factors which contribute to the much higher fail rate. First is that the instances are quite a bit longer than their Hellfire counterparts, which gives groups more opportunity to fail. On top of that, it is exceedingly difficult and annoying to rez run back through the lake and the pipe back to the instance, assuming the group members are even aware of how to do this (and many are not, which is a group killer).

Second is the rise of DK tanks at this level. Perhaps they get some good tank gear in their Hellfire runs and they decide to jump in the pool, literally, in this set of instances. However, I've seen everything from tanking in blood presence and unholy spec to a complete failure to understand that Death and Decay is a good aggro-building ability. And it's 2/3 of runs with DK tanks, so their usual failures rip up groups on a regular basis. Considering the hassle of running back, one wipe generally breaks the group. It had been nearly a week since I finished underbog until this morning, when I had a paladin tank once again. I don't know that I'll get too upset with DK tanks learning how to play in The Burning Crusade, but it can be very frustrating when the blame runs around a group and you have to requeue.

The one time I got into an Auchenai instance, I lasted one pull as the tank pulled two packs of mobs and I could not quite keep up. The tank moaned about what a terrible healer, and I told him have fun waiting for another one in the queue and dropped group. I don't play the game to be berated for your lack of pulling skill, even if I did contribute to the wipe in that occasion. I'll report more on Auchenai once I get in there again, but I really only have a negative impression of coilfang and a positive impression of hellfire at this point.

So is this experience unique to me, or is this how LFG works for leveling toons in Outland? I'm only a little over 2 levels away from Utgarde Keep, and to be honest, I'm looking forward to knowing every pull inside and out again. It helps you plan and know how much damage you will need to handle. I've also learned very well how to mix the druid healing spells, which are very interesting at this level. The levels and the dings keep coming on, and I can feel the paladin getting excited as she's next to garner heavy attention once Ariel hits 80.

One final point: profitability of Baron runs increases substantially when I disenchant all the blues and greens that drop. I've also grabbed three random epic weapons off trash in the last three runs, which have sold for a pretty penny. Nifty to make profit off level 60 achievement content.