Monday, May 23, 2011

All That Controversial Goodness

We continue our slow march towards patch 4.2. Seriously, when is this thing coming out? I've got a green thumb, and I need to grow me a tree in the middle of a fiery wasteland. That's the best place to plant it when you think about it, because it's the last place they'd suspect. Rag is looking outside like "where the hell are they putting that tree?" and it's right under his nose, but Rag doesn't have a nose. Now there's something to think about. Anyways, I thought I'd talk about all the controversial changes Blizzard has been announcing of late. I'm starting to think they're just trolling. Next they're going to announce all tier sets will be sold on the online store, just to see the community implode so they can watch from atop their citadel like a modern day Nero. Hey, I would pay for some Tier 2. Yea, I'm that lazy.

The Encounter Journal

As I was writing this post I realized that I reference the Encounter Journal quite a few times, and readers may or may not know what that is, so I thought I'd add a section to explain. Actually, you probably know what it is, but I just want an excuse to talk about it.

The Encounter Journal basically contains information on every boss encounter in Cataclysm. Even the raid bosses, and, to my knowledge, even the heroic modes of said raid bosses. The extent of this information is still undetermined, but early screenshots make it look quite thorough. Some are saying that this is kills the discovery aspect of raiding. Blue poster Nathera tackles the issue quite deftly (I would post it here but it is a wall of text), and it's a stance I agree with. The "discovery of raiding" is only for a few top-end guilds. In all my time raiding I've rarely, if ever, deviated from the strategies these Olympian heros have graciously bestowed upon us from on high. For the most part people don't care about discovery, they care about killing bosses and getting epic loot. There is no discovery in raiding anymore, not when the community is this steeped in information.

I do kind of feel for the masochistic folks in the bleeding edge raiding guilds. They like to feel special, and part of that is wiping, and wiping, and wiping while trying to figure out exactly why Onyxia Deep Breathes and racking up a huge repair bill to be paid by their adoring fans. I think Blizzard could mask the details of the heroic modes, and then only release them a week or two after the first kill. They would eat that up, as it's just another way they can lord over their peers. "We did it without the journal" will become a common saying, and-

Actually, you know what? Screw that. Just put all the information in the journal. Jeez, what kind of distopian future am I trying to create here?

Cross-Realm Dungeon Finder and Premium Features

Blizzard has recently announced new cross-realm functionality will be added to the dungeon finder at a yet-to-be-specified date. Unfortunately this feature is gunna cost.

With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We'll have more details to share with you as development progresses -- in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.

This seems to be opening the door to in-game "premium" features. When you think about it premium features have already existed for a while now in the form of the mobile auction house and the new mobile guild chat feature, but you can still do those things without those services, they just make portable, and thus more convenient. This, however, is the first time that you're being barred from doing something in-game because you haven't paid for a "premium service".

I know I'm joining in with the unwashed masses who hate this idea (because, really, they hate every idea), and I'd love to argue for it, but I just can't think of a good reason why this should be premium-based. It's a part of the dungeon finder, and the dungeon finder is free (well, not so much "free" but you know what I mean), so why isn't this piece of it free? It's like if they released the Encounter Journal, then turned around and said "you can have all the boss info, except the heroic encounters. That's premium-based."

I did notice that they stressed this as "a fairly complex service to develop". Perhaps their reasoning is that this feature will only affect a relatively small subset of people, yet is going to take a ton of time and energy to create. So the only way they can justify spending all that time/energy/money on implementing the feature is to charge a small fee. It makes sense from a business standpoint, except the business we're talking about here is Blizzard, and they probably have enough money to buy the moon. A company that makes as much money as they do shouldn't feel the need to nickel and dime its player base for every little feature they implement that falls under the broad covering of "convenience- and connectivity-oriented features".

Finally, I gotta say something to those who think this is somehow dividing the player base. It's not. Not at all. Think before you speak (or, in this case, type). The "baddies" can have friends on other realms too. This isn't putting the "pros" and "socialites" into one camp, and the "bads" and "anti-socials" into another. If you're really so social and well-mannered then you shouldn't need to pull from other realms to fill out a five man should already have your guild and a well-stocked friends list. The whole argument is just stupid. There's probably a total of three people popping open a bottle of champagne and yelling "hallelujah, I never have to pug again!" because of this change.

Keyring Nerf!?

Blizzard is removing the keyring in 4.2. Here's their explanation:

World of Warcraft has evolved quite a bit since the day the Keyring bag slot was added in patch 1.11. When implemented, this Keyring provided players with a convenient way of storing dungeon, quest, and other keys automatically. Back when the largest bag was a mind bottling 18 slots - rumoured to be bottomless - the Keyring helped save precious bag space. But as things tend to do, time went on, bags got bigger, and designs for gating content (literally and figuratively) evolved through the years.

In today’s Azeroth, keys don’t really serve much of a purpose except to take up physical storage space from the game (which could be used for other awesome stuff), and visual interface space on yours. Because of this, we’ve decided to get rid of the Keyring in order to free up some user interface space for exciting new features. This change could also potentially allow us to play around with the amount of default storage space you’re allotted down the road. So, what does this mean for you and the keys you might not have looked at in the last couple expansions or so?

We’re currently working on the implementation of a system in patch 4.2 which will handle the removal of the Keyring, while causing you as little hassle with keys as possible. Some keys which no longer serve a purpose in the game will automatically be removed from your inventory. In return, you’ll be compensated for them with their respective vendor sell prices in gold. You might also have random leftover quest keys from outdated quests, or quests which were removed in Cataclysm. Keys that fall into this category have no use and no sell price, as they are labelled as quest items, and will be automatically removed from your inventory. Any remaining keys that might still potentially serve some use in the game will be transferred into your regular inventory. If there is not enough space in your inventory to hold any leftover keys once patch 4.2 hits live realms, the keys will be placed in a backlogged storage system. Once space is made for a backlogged key, the key will take that space after you log out or switch to a new zone (i.e. changing continents, entering a dungeon or Battleground, etc.).

We are continuing to work on new ways of allowing you to better manage the storage of various items in the game, and it is our goal to make sure the removal of the Keyring causes as little inconvenience to you as possible.

Does anyone else think that the "exciting new features" is just the Encounter Journal? That's honestly what I think the reason is...they removed the keyring so they'd have space for the Encounter Journal. I'm not saying that's the entire reason, they've probably been wanting to nix the keyring for some time now, but judging by their hazy allusions I'm going to say they have yet to decide what the extra space left by the keyring is going to be used for.  Some people have said this will open the door to an upgradable backpack, but I doubt it. Whatever the backpack's problem is, removing the keyring is most likely not going to fix it.

What I'm interested in is what's going to happen to the BC heroic keys. I have all of them, and I wouldn't  be very happy if they suddenly jumped into my bags and started eating up precious space. I'm hoping Blizz will use this opportunity to do away with those keys. It's an archaic design which should have been removed as soon as WotLK went live. If people want to go back and run old content then Blizzard shouldn't stand in their way. They've done a good job for the most part (you no longer have to be attuned to enter Karazhan, BWL, etc.), but they've been ignoring the situation with the heroic keys for quite some time now, and I hope they finally rectify it in 4.2.

We Can Rebuild it...Smaller and Faster

Recently Activision Blizzard had an earnings call which the Lawbringer describes as "a time immediately before or after a company files its earnings statement for the year, quarter, reporting period, etc." The Lawbringer goes on to say "Some companies choose to use this time to discuss debts or oddities in their reported numbers or, as in Morhaime's case, use the time to relay information about what is upcoming for World of Warcraft as a business."

During this earnings call some startling information was revealed. WoW's subscriber number has dropped from 12 million to 11.4 million: a loss of 600k subscribers. That's 5% of the player base and returns the subscriber number to prelaunch levels. I think this goes hand in hand with an interview of J. Allen Brack in which he said that Blizzard plans on releasing "smaller, faster patches." Morhaime said players "eagerly consumed the new content", which to me means "well, we'd better make more content, and fast!"

Unfortunately, I haven't really seen the faster, smaller patches idea come to light. Rise of the Zandalari took a long time to come out, and it doesn't even include a raid. That means raiders are still slogging through the same raids they were six months ago. Granted, Blizzard has done a better job of making raids more difficult to get into so although we've been into the expansion for six months it's not like that's six months of solid raiding a la ICC, but still...that's a long time.

I think it sucks that Blizzard released these numbers. Normally they've kept the subscriber number close to their chest only releasing it when they see fit. Honestly, the subscriber number has probably swung like this in the past, maybe even worse than this, but we never knew it. Now it seems that they were forced to give up the number at this earnings call thingie and it isn't as pretty as it could be. WoW is still much, much, MUCH bigger than any other MMO out there, but now I'm seeing statements like: "well they're doing X because WoW is dying." As if losing 5% of the subscriber base is enough to make WoW go into survival mode. It's rubbish. It's not that I give any credence to these kinds of ignorant statements, I just hate that they were given an excuse to exist. 


So that's it. A lot of...stuff. Long post, this one. I do wish Blizzard would stop messing around with all these other features and give us some more class balance. Rogues have received two changes thus far, and one of them is a bug fix for heavens sake! When I QQ, it's just background noise. In fact I think some Blizzard devs might use it to ease them into a deep slumber, for, to them, it is as the gentle hum of the dryer or the cresting of waves upon a tropical beach, but you know it's bad when the normally stalwart Chase Christian calls for a buff. I like the idea of letting poisons crit based on melee crit instead of spell crit. Moar crit! Lets hope Blizzard isn't done balancing this patch, and lets hope smaller, faster patches doesn't mean smaller, faster, half-finished patches.

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