Raph on WoW, WoW players on WoW

November 21, 2014

Solid read all around right here.

In basically all respects Raph is right, especially at the end with “World of Warcraft effectively made MMOs perfect, and in the process, it killed them.” It’s sad to imagine what the genre could have been had WoW not happened. Sure, budgets overall would have been smaller, but bigger budgets gave us SW:TOR, so it’s not like we would be losing anything of value with that. WAR probably would have been more like DAoC, LotRO might have been less by-the-numbers, and all those countless dev hours spent creating the endless WoW-clones that we got might have resulted in a least a few worthwhile titles. It’s not like WoW being successful prevent a ton of others to fail, and I’d rather they fail trying to do something different than just trying to be WoW.

That aside, I am infinity amused right now by WoW players saying how much fun the latest expansion is thanks to things like housing (garrisons), an ‘old school’ feel to the zones and dungeons, and having to actually travel across a zone rather than just fly from point A to point B. WoW got way too cute even for itself during the WotLK/Cata/MoP down years, and the stagnation and ultimate loss of almost 40% of the playerbase reflected that. If, and its a very big if, this latest expansion reverses things for WoW, it will at least be a small victory for the genre. Vanilla WoW certainly wasn’t as ‘MMO’ as UO, but at least back then it was something far closer than what WoW has been since WotLK. Baby steps are better than nothing at this point, right?

 


WoW: Still kinda bitter over those spacegoats

November 19, 2014

Random little thing; Stu has produced a table of characters from WoW, styled after the periodic table of elements. Honestly I don’t recognize half the names, but I did get a chuckle out of characters being alive, deceased, or undead.

Question; Why is Onyxia undead? Was her lore updated to acknowledge being killed a billion times during vanilla raiding, but coming back anyway? And if so, why aren’t all of the other dragons from raids in a similar status? Like Ysera is listed as alive, but I’ve killed that dragon personally.


Hearthstone: New Blizzard vs Old Blizzard

November 13, 2014

TL:DR – Hearthstone is the perfect example of New Blizzard, and the perfect example of why I miss Old Blizzard so much.

It’s still Blizzard, so they still have the whole polish thing going. For a great example of this, open up Trion’s Glyph, then open up Blizzard’s Battle.net. They both do the same thing (try to be Steam), but it’s immediately obvious that one is well-crafted while the other is a clownshow.

Hearthstone has that polish. As a mobile game its well done and ‘works’ as you would expect a game to work. It has a ton of nice touches like bringing back classic Warcraft sound bites and themes, and there is just well-executed detail all over the place. The PC port of Hearthstone isn’t bad, but it’s bare-bones and very minimal; it’s very clear Hearthstone is intended to be a mobile game that also happens to run on your PC.

Hearthstone also has Blizzard’s easy of entry design. It gets you in and playing quickly, and ramps you up well. This again is critical in the mobile space given the amount of competition, and the expected patience/time the average player will have.

Where New Blizzard steps in is the depth and longevity aspects. Hearthstone is a very, very dumbed down version of Magic the Gathering. The number of difficult decisions you need to make in an average game is rather minimal (a scary number of games don’t even require one), and even deck building is heavily neutered compared to MtG.

For example, in MtG you have colors, which Hearthstone replaces with classes. Only classes lock you into one set of cards. No mixing. You then fill out the rest of your deck from a ‘open to everyone’ stack. This alone cuts heavily into deck building, and ultimately deck variety and strategy.

Another example; deck size is 30 cards with a max of two of the same card (one for legendary super-power cards). MtG (perhaps back in the day, its been a while) had a deck limit of 60, with a max of four of the same card (max 2 for certain cards in tourney format). On the surface this might look like it comes out to the same thing, yet it’s not. Plenty of decks benefited by having just one copy of a card, but still using that max of 60 as an advantage. All of those decisions are gone in Hearthstone.

The fact that you can’t trade cards in Hearthstone is a giant removal of ‘gameplay’, and it’s replacement (crafting) is a math-tax test of idiocy.

There are likely hundreds of other examples, but at the end of the day Hearthstone is just a much simpler, much easier card game, and that poor and short-sighted design kills its longevity as mastery comes rather quickly.

Now some might argue that because Hearthstone is a mobile game, it has to be simple and shallow. “That’s what works in mobile SynCaine!”. Except that’s not actually true. The most popular and profitable mobile game out (for years now) is Clash of Clans. CoC has Blizzard-level polish and easy of entry, but it also has Old Blizzard design in terms of depth. If you want to just pick the game up and derp around, you can do that. If you want to dive into the deep end, the game has one. Hearthstone doesn’t, as was made embarrassingly clear at the world championships.

If we move past Hearthstone and look big-picture, since when is Blizzard the studio that produces middle-of-the-road titles? Because that’s exactly what Hearthstone is; it’s a good-enough mobile game, but it looks like an SOE product compared to top mobile games like CoC. Heroes of the Storm, the upcoming MOBA title, sounds like a good-enough game that again won’t really compare/compete with League of Legends (another game with Old Blizzard levels of quality/design). Overwatch turnout out to be a good-enough TF2 clone won’t be a surprise. WoW going from vanilla/TBC to Cata/MoP? Old Blizzard vs New, and the sub numbers reflect that.

For whatever reason (talent drain, resting on past success, the Activision merger) Blizzard isn’t the company putting out instant classics like Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo 1-2 anymore. Instead we have been getting decent/meh titles and WoW updates, which is what’s most disappointing. I miss Old Blizzard.


WoW: They don’t make em like this anymore

November 13, 2014
Original model

Original model

Hello good looking

New model


I’ve officially quit WoW again

November 12, 2014

Title of the post is just to continue things for folks who apparently only read titles and go directly to comment.

There was a lot of nostalgia when my old raiding character, an orc warrior in full T2 wielding the original Quel-Serrar, first loaded in near the bank in Ogrimmar. That nostalgia was pushed further when, about 5 minutes in, I had a few people whisper me about my gear. Some things never change.

Looking over his bank content was like viewing a trophy room of past accomplishments. Items from MC, BWL, AQ40, Nax40, PvP tiers, and others. In his bags I still had the server-first Spinal Reaper that I crafted, though sadly it no longer has the text of who crafted it (thanks Blizzard). I got a chuckle out of all the flasks in his inventory, and the two full bank bags of gems and other crafting materials. Even little Diablo, the original collector box pet, came out to say hello.

Nostalgia aside however, WoW does nothing for me at this point. The game looks beyond dated now, with the graphics long since having move from ‘stylized’ to just plain ugly. In 2014 EVE looks like a 2014 game. In 2014 WoW looks like a 2004 game. Then there was everyone else around me; the dozen or so ridiculous mounts that would make the most asian of MMOs blush, the drab yet at the same time silly looking gear, the stupid-even-by-WoW-standards pets. While even in vanilla WoW had some ‘immersion breaking’ stuff, today it’s just full-on clowncar nonsense.

The UI is also something that looks like it has a few (dozen) too many mods going for it. Just stuff all over the place, which I’m sure once you get use to makes sense, but is EVE-level of shocking when first glanced at. I’m almost tempted to get my wife to give returning a shot, only to see how she would react to the UI, especially as we are playing FFXIV (which, now more so than ever, I fully believe is just a better version of what made WoW great in 2004, brought up to 2014 standards)

And so SynCaine the orc warrior went back into retirement in the same spot he did so many years ago. The world around him has changed, but he won’t be tarnished by it.


I’m officially back in WoW!

November 10, 2014

Little note: If you are going to smash your face into the keyboard over and over again in blind rage, at some point you need to move past believing in clickbait and actually answer why financial numbers submitted to regulatory authorities don’t line up with what you want to believe. The conversation is cute in that ‘debate on the internet’ kind of way, but once it reaches “because that’s god’s will” logic, I’m out.

Speaking of Blizzard, and recent surprises from customer service following my Comcast interaction, over the weekend I reached out to them to get my ancient Battle.net account back (rolling my face across Hearthstone as we speak, and we seriously need a new term than dumbed down, because yikes!). The account is so old WoW was never linked to it, and I went into the whole thing 50/50, part of me thinking the account with the associated email was lost forever.

My first attempt was through email, but that ticket was rather quickly closed with the advice to do this over the phone. Bad start, but on some level it made sense, plus filling out a form with your phone number isn’t all that painful; it’s not like you are sitting on hold waiting.

In the 15-20 minute estimate that was given, someone called me. They spoke English and sounded human, so we were already off to a very promising start. After some basic info was provided, the agent found my old Battle.net account. Success. He then tracked down my long-since hacked WoW account to link together. The funny thing about that? Even though the account was hacked and linked to some random Battle.net account, it wasn’t looted since I didn’t have enough ‘stuff’ for the hacker to bother adding time to loot it. WoW inflation helping me out, who knew. As a final nice (I think?) gesture, my old WoW account has 15 days on it, so I can check out all the recent (since TBC) changes. I guess I should?

By contrast, my ticket with SquareEnix for my FFXIV account still sitting in limbo days later. (I recently reformatted, tried to reinstall FFXIV, used the Steam key, and the game says the Steam key has already been used (by me, duh) Any ideas?).


Why we all need AA to be successful

September 24, 2014

I should have a “specific to me” post about my ArcheAge experience when I’m around level 30 (currently 23), but today I want to talk more ‘big picture’ about the game and the genre, because I think a lot of interesting things are happening.

Trion hinted that they have well over 2 million active players right now, which is double the number they had signed up for beta. As both beta and release are ‘free’, that’s pretty interesting. What caused a million+ people to get into AA now rather than show interest when it was in beta? Positive word-of-mouth, just general release hype, or something else?

The 2 million number is also interesting, as that’s also the number of subscribed accounts FFXIV has last we heard. With WoW down to 5 million or so and dropping, are we really that far away from the day WoW is no longer the biggest MMO out in the West (I think MMOs in the East have already surpassed it, but the East isn’t a place I keep an eye on for such things.)? One can only hope, as it will mean the genre is out of the shadow of that once-great, now-bleh title.

Another funny bit about AA and FFXIV; they both beat WoW, but in different ways. FFXIV is vanilla WoW done right for 2014; its focused, and what it focuses on it does very, very well. AA is a 2014 version of what WoW could/should be; it has a bit of EVERYTHING, but that everything fits together to form a virtual world rather than a collection of lobby activities, all without insulting the ability of the player.

Moving to AA specifically, what does this mean for the genre if the game is able to retain players like FFXIV has? What if AA has 2 million+ subs after 6 months? For one I think it would drive home the fact that launching the game as F2P was a mistake by Trion, especially because of how poorly the F2P crap has been layered over the otherwise solid foundation of the game (remember AA was developed and launched as a sub MMO initially). That said, if AA is successful, might it become the first MMO to move OUT of the F2P minor leagues? One can hope.

And if AA is successful, along with some of the other upcoming virtual world titles, does this mean the genre has finally turned the corner and will return to what it should be? That part still seems a little too good to be true, but at least there is some hope, unlike what we had in prior years. Cautious optimism everyone!


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