Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Work, Play, and Submarines

The vacation is over. And by "vacation", I mean "time not spent at my job".

Since the beginning of January, I've been attending a work-related course at one of the local technical colleges. That meant I was home every night. THAT meant I could get my WoW on with more frequency!

Naturally my wife loved that. She's sweet.

In that time, what did I manage to accomplish?

- Geared my three 80s in various quantities of T9 gear, courtesy of the LFD system.

- Slapped some heirloom items on alts and levelled them up a little.

- Swapped professions on a few characters and powerleveled them up.

- Made and lost (see previous comment) copious amounts of gold.

Not a single character has set foot in a raid. Not yet, probably not ever. Or at least, not in the forseeable future. You see, now that my course is over I must return to the glorious workforce. That means spending most of the week out of town. Back in the fall, I took a laptop with me and in those cold, lonely evenings I would log into World of Warcraft on an Internet connection that felt like the equivalent of strapping the signal on the back of a carrier pigeon.

Seriously. I would get disconnects if I even thought about scanning the Auction House. I would be half through combat before my character started moving. I didn't even think about running the Argent Tournament dailies. It was that bad.

Over the holidays, there was a bit of a computer mishap. As a result, the laptop must now stay in the City while I travel to the Country to work. I am curious to discover how long it takes before I start twitching. Seeing as how I haven't logged on very often over the course of the weekend, I'm not sure I'll miss it very much.

I wouldn't say I've hit the wall. There's still plenty that I can do, and I'm not even on a Raid team. I did try my hand at tanking on my baby Druid. I loaded him up with Heirloom items, read a few blogs so I knew what to do, then queued up as a tank.

As someone who has run LFD's as three separate DPS classes, it's ridiculous how fast tanks get groups. It's also funny to watch baby DPS classes act the total fool. I ran two groups back to back, and in both cases we had wipes because everybody that could do damage, immediately targeted the nearest mob and started unloading on it. They didn't try to pull it, they tried to solo it.

Well and good until they see they've just pulled three mobs each.

By the time I rounded them up, there were usually a few people dead (including myself at times). After that, they had the nerve to ask where the healer was.

Uh, he was doing his job - keeping the tank alive.

Anyway, with that out of the way for the time being, I'm back to the Real Life grind. Maybe during the time away I'll be able to sneak onto a computer somewhere and round up some ideas for blog content. I was going to put something together regarding the Authenticator-protected account getting hacked, but it hasn't generated the widespread chaos I expected. In fact, it's been addressed (at least, as good as it can be).

Until later in the week, here's something for you to chew on - If you thought Bear Tanks with freakin' rockets strapped to their butts was funny, wait until Cataclysm drops and you can go down on... submarines!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Boom De Yada

Don't ask silly questions. Just watch the video.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blizzcon 2010: Coming Soon?

It's getting to be that time again.

Last year, people were questioning if there was going to be another Blizzcon so soon. After all, Blizzcon '09 had just wrapped up and Cataclysm had been announced. The player base was in a tizzy as they left the convention with visions of New Barrens and Grunties dancing in their heads. Would Blizzard have another convention right on the heels of the announcement of WoW's big expansion?

That question appeared to be answered in November when a Las Vegas hotel mistakenly posted that they would be hosting Blizzcon in July of '10. The posting was quickly yanked, but it was enough to get people vibrating. It might have been a mistake, but at least it meant Blizzard had been toying with the idea of another convention.

Fast forward to February. Another posting, this time back in Blizzcon's old stomping grounds of Anaheim. Word of a October 22 Blizzcon emerged, but much like the Las Vegas posting it was quickly taken down. However, the venue still shows that weekend as "open" when every other weekend around it is booked. Seems strange, unless they have something booked and just don't want to tell folks about it.

That, and Jay Mohr tweeted that he was hosting Blizzcon - a tweet that was quickly removed.

I bring this up because it was around this time last year that Blizzcon was announced for 2009. As I said at the beginning of the post, it's getting to be that time again. Will we get a Blizzcon announcement, an official one this time, within the next month or so?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where the Real Money Is

Walk with me while I take you on a journey.

First stop is HERE, where we learn that Upper Deck has lost the license to World of Warcraft - Trading Card Game. Blue Poster Zarhym had this to say about it on the World of Warcraft Forums:

As some of you may already be aware, we will not be renewing the World of Warcraft: The Trading Card Game license with Upper Deck. We want to assure you that we are committed to supporting the TCG, and players can look forward to new content and strong organized play support in the near future. We will share additional details about the game’s transition to a new partner as soon as possible. For those awaiting tournament prizes, we will ensure you receive them.

So Blizzard is leaving Upper Deck. Which is funny, because to hear them tell it Upper Deck dropped Blizzard due to poor sales.

The card game seems popular enough. Listen to anyone who talks about it and they seem to know a guy who knows a guy who plays. A few people will come out and tell you that they have personally tried the game but just didn't get into it. Sounds like Upper Deck's poor sales claim might have some footing after all. Locally I've tried to find packages of cards but they're incredibly hard to come by. I've even looked on eBay and found cards online. Since I don't play, I don't know if the value placed on these pieces of colored cardboard is worth it. But the loot cards that come with the game, well that's another kettle of fish.

Now let's stroll over HERE, where Blizzard gives the Make-a-Wish Foundation a 1.1 Million Dollar donation, raised by the sales of the Pandaren Monk pet found in Blizzard's own Pet Store. For two months, half the money from the sales of the Monk went to the charity. Needless to say, alot of people bought that Kung Fu Panda.

See where I'm going with this? No? Okay, let's make one more stop. Here we are at the Blizzard Pet Store itself. Don't mind the smell, Game Developers tend to kick up almost as much funk as gamers at Blizzcon. Now if you look to your right, you'll see the Blizzard Pet Store FAQ. Scroll all the way down to the bottom where the question is asked about people being able to buy weapons and such.

"As with the pets, mounts, and other items players can obtain through Loot cards from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, Pet Store pets are purely cosmetic and just for fun."

Back to my story about eBay. Look up the TCG cards and see how much they sell for. Now look up TCG Loot cards and see what those sell for. You do the math and figure out where the money can be made with the TCG itself.

I suspect that the TCG will go on, and I suspect that it will be Blizzard itself that will release the game. I also suspect that there won't be any loot cards to be found in any of those packets. All loot codes will go on sale in the Pet Store (or Loot Store), and any money lost on the TCG itself will be reimbursed by the Loot sales.

That's right: within the next year, you too might be able to ride off into the sunset with your very own Spectral Tiger Mount... if the price is right.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Secret MMO - Not So Secret?

Wasn't I just talking about Bobby Kotick? When will I learn to keep my head in the sand, so I avoid digging up more reasons to really dislike this guy?

During the quarterly conference call, The 'Tick dropped some knowledge about a good way to make money using his M.O. of milking people when they like something. He's got a popular franchise, and a good way to generate revenue. Why not put those two together? When asked about Call of Duty, from Kotick's own heart he stabbed at thee -

"If you think about the success we've had in other product categories on subscription, you can get a sense of the direction that we want to take that franchise."

Monthly subscription to play Call of Duty? Is there some what they could turn CoD into the new Mystery MMO, ensuring Bobby's river of blood from the player base to his hungry lips? I'm sure there is. They was talk of making the new Mystery MMO more modern, more futuristic. "Call of Duty: Future Warfare" perhaps?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bobby Kotick Loves You

Bobby Kotick is a bit of an asshole.

He's also a smart businessman.

Activision's latest love-child, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" sold over $1 billion dollars worth of product worldwide. They also have another profitable franchise in Guitar Hero, which is also a strong earner. After all, you don't really need to reinvent the wheel with Guitar Hero expansions. Just add different tracks, reskin the models, and release it as Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, or Guitar Hero: Money Grab.

In an article written in Ars Technica, the author described what hard lessons were gleaned by the success of Modern Warfare 2. I read it over, felt an unfortunate case of deja vu, and immediately felt the grip of Kotick on my stomach.

Clearly his aim was off. The man generally makes his money by grabbing players by the proverbial testicular region.

The Bottom Line: You Will Pay

There was a backlash from the PC gaming community when they were told that the PC version of MW2 was going to cost $60. That's the same price the console version sold for. Traditionally, when a PC version of a console game is released it sells for less. Players were expecting a $50 price tag for their PC copy. They lost their minds when they heard it was not only going to cost as much as the console copy, but it wasn't going to have the dedicated server option that most PC multiplayer games allow.

Activision was well aware of the controversy this was going to create, and they weren't concerned. They claimed their new matchmaking service would more than make up for the anger the PC gamers were feeling, and they sang the praises of the IWNet system. Yet for all their talk, they never addressed why they raised the price. Never tried to justify the increase. They could just as easily have kept the price tag at $50 and introduced the new system. It would have taken the sting out of the inability for players to host and mod their game, and eased them into the new system. Try to maintain a little goodwill with the more hardcore players.

Instead the "hardcore players" were slapped in the mouth with a price hike, then kicked them in the groin by stripping away the hosting options. If you were a PC gamer, you were going to pay what they wanted you to pay, play how they wanted you to play, and damn well like it thank you very much. So why the price hike?

Bobby Kotick knew the players would pay. And they did. If the illustrious Robert K had his way, he would have raised the price even further.

World of Warcraft has this stink all over it.

It started off small at first - server transfers (PVE/PVP to PVE), name changes. Minor types of things. Then came full Character Customizations (including OMG SEX CHANGE), complete Server Transfer service (OMG PVE to PVP), Race Change, and Faction Change. Some were services that had been requested for a long time. Others were things that the player base was told would never happen.

Bobby K: Can I make a buck by offering this service?

Developers: Well, yes but we said -

Bobby K: Peon, make it so. Also, find me more ways to liberate these player-type people from their disposable income.

Pet Store, I'm looking at you. Folks paid $10 for vanity pets that did nothing except make noise and annoy other players in their group or raid. Okay, the Pandaran Monk gets a sliver of a pass because he bowed when you bow to him, and more people need to learn that kind of respect. However, they are completely unnecessary, and don't give me that garbage about using them to buy the non-combat pet Achievements or the fact that the Monk was partially for charity. The charity lasted a couple of months, and the price never went down after it was over. And between getting a Pug for running PUGs and a baby Corehound for owning an authenticator, Blizzard is practically throwing these pets at you. You don't need to spend $20 for two more pets.

But people will. They will shell out that money for a lousy ten Achievement Points. At least they get something out of the deal, other than the pet. Other people will fork over the cash because the pets know Kung Fu, or occasionally zap nearby critters. They are cute, and Blizzard knows there are people who will pay for cute.

To accentuate the fact, they're going to be adding cute Plush Pets to the store. These are real, physical items that you can prop up beside your keyboard or monitor so they can watch players diddle their keys or stroke their mouse. The plan is to release a Wind Rider Cub and a Gryphon Hatchling for purchase, with a code attached to each to get a matching in-game pet. You can bet these things are going to cost more than ten bucks.

You can also bet that people are going to pay whatever it costs. Many will complain, but many more will buy them.

However, none of this directly affects game play. The corporate mouthpieces will tell everyone that these paid items are just extras. You don't need to buy them. They are not important, nor will they ever be. Theoretically, they are correct. The player base is far from what could be called "rational thinkers" when it comes to such matters.

Right now, Blizzard is playing by the rules of engagement. If players stopped buying these extras, Blizzard would stop putting them out. It's like cigarettes. They stain your teeth, make you clothes stink, give you the breath of a bus depot ash tray, have no redeeming qualities at all, and will most likely end up killing you straight to death. If people would just stop buying them the cigarette companies would go out of business.

Yet here's the WoW player base, lighting up again and again, all the while complaining about the people who simply make the cancer-sticks available. As if "we wouldn't buy these things if Blizzard would just stop offering them" is somehow a valid excuse.

Here's the punchline: Bobby Kotick doesn't care what you think.

In fact, Bobby doesn't even play videogames.

The man is in it purely to make a buck, and does so quite well. The key is that he knows the weakness of the player base. He knows that you will pay if he dangles the right carrot in front of you. First, it was vanity pets. On the horizon, a premium service IPhone app that will let you access the Auction House from your IPhone. This won't be the last money-grab to come down the pipe, either. You can bet on that, if you have any cash left over.

Are any of these pets/services/novelty items necessary? Absolutely not.

Can you play World of Warcraft without buying them? Of course you can.

But will you?

Or will you squeeze your authenticator between yellow-stained fingers and light up?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Main Man

I have a problem.

I'm a Main-a-holic.

I know what you're thinking. Most likely, it's something along the lines of "He's done gone crazy. He must mean he's an Altoholic."

I posed the question to the Twitter-verse: If you two-box characters, would you consider both characters to be your Main? Granted, I didn't get a single reply but it's still a good question.

People have "Mains" and they have "Alts." Alts are the toons that get played when the Main gets a little stale, or when they "just need a break." The mistress they court when they tire of the "ball and chain." The Mains are the characters that get first crack at the good gear, have more /played time, and are the characters that the player associates with as "their own".

It turns out I have three characters like that. All of them enjoy killing - a Hunter, a Death Knight, and an Arms/Fury Warrior. Each of them have different tools, different methods to get the job done. Each of them, special in their own way. I have tried to designate one of them as my central focus, my "Main". Hasn't happened yet.

This is not as cool as you might think.

Playtime is tricky, especially with the LFG Tool in full effect. That's three characters that need to run dungeons to get their Frost Emblems. Three characters who need their T9 gear. Just getting that done can take a couple of hours, depending on the queue time to get into the dungeon.

The wait time is not always in vain. One might run their Tournament Dailies, while another fishes to earn gold and round up mats for stat food. Another might take that earned gold and use it to level up professions.

At any one time, one of the three is working on a profession. What a gold sink. When you have three Mains, you want to make sure they have the best gear they can get their hands on. That means buying epics, or mats to make epics. Those are the kinds of purchases that doesn't leave much leftover change to throw at a profession. Is it really that important to max out a profession? You want the best for your Main, right? When you've got two DSP Plate class, those extra sockets help out for gemming. Every little bit helps.

Only the best for the Mains.

My entire evening can be spent jumping between those three. It takes management skills I really don't want to have to use when I'm playing a video game. Each of them needs their Frost Emblems. Two need to work on making gold for the third, who happens to be burning it up with getting his Blacksmithing off the ground. Oh, but he also has to work on his Argent Tournament dailies to get weapon upgrades. Then again, Tournament dailies are good gold so one of the other ones should be working on that as well. But how many times can you joust before you just want to gouge your eyes out?

I've put serious effort into each of the three. I've put in time, gold, research. I get them what they need. I get them the best things I can, with what I have. They're like my kids.

Now I just want my kids to lock themselves in a room and fight until there's only one survivor. He will be my Main.

Since I cannot find a way to make that happen (damn it), my only other hope is that one of them really needs to get my attention. One of them needs to break away from the other two in some form. Maybe a huge weapon upgrade puts one of them head and shoulders above the rest. Something. Anything.

This is how burnout happens. Right now, I can't let my kids down.

... sounds like I've already reached "full scorched" status between my ears.