Sunday, July 28, 2013

WoW Weddngs are Alive and Well

I've known people who play MMOs together who are married, and even some of those who met in game (WoW or some other MMO) and married before I met them.  But in-game weddings?  I've not known any myself.

However, Navimie of The Daily Frostwolf is a bit luckier than I, and last Wednesday attended an in-game wedding up in the Grizzly Hills.  Her adventures of getting there as an L1 alt are worth the read alone, but the picspam of the ceremony itself are really cool.

If my wife and I were to get married now, we'd not go for an MMO ceremony --she doesn't play-- but we most likely would have something like this at the reception hall:

Yes, that's a Settlers of Catan wedding cake.

Or maybe this:

Of course, I usually lose at Scrabble.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Who Needs Coffee on a Friday?

I had pretty much written off this week's post because of work and the Summer blahs, but then Blizz drops this little nugget:

Activision Blizzard to be Bought from Vivendi

Looks like current CEO Bobby Kotick has decided to buy out Vivendi's share of the company, which means they'll be out from the massive conglomerate's thumb.  Not sure what that means as far as Blizzard's games, since it's far likely that the Activision bean counters would be more involved with decisions than Vivendi ever was, but it could mean that they'll look into monetizing WoW more.  (Read:  more cash shop stuff.)

However, the big stir has been in the MMO community that --according to Blizz estimates and the link above-- WoW is now down to 7.7 million subs.  As much as people would like to spin this, that can't be good.

World of Warcraft is now down 36% from it's peak number of subs in early Cataclysm.

It also highlights the driving force behind Blizz's push for a cash store in the game.


I also wanted to use this news to point out one item from the current patch.

I've taken to flying across Kalimdor and the Northern Barrens while I wait for a BG to proc, and let's just say that the Northern Barrens seem just as empty as before the patch dropped.  Wagons needing escorts are empty, just as the Grummies in Kun-lai Summit go unprotected.  Back in Wrath --and even in Cata with the Firelands-- you could find toons scampering about even when the content wasn't the most current.  Now, however, it's crickets.

A symptom of the overall problem, I suppose.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Various and Sundry in July

The summer doldrums are in full swing.

Outside, the heat has climbed into the oppressive levels, with the humidity to match.  Con season is in high gear, with SD Comic Con this week and less than a month until Gen Con, with PAX Prime at the end of August.

And right on cue, an update on the Pathfinder Online sandbox MMO surfaced:

Not a lot to find interesting; there's background and there's some buildings, but only a few seconds worth of actual figures.  The concept of a sandbox fantasy MMO is interesting, so I'm wondering about the details that weren't shown in the video clip.


Another thing I've wondered is whether the next gen consoles will push MMOs away from PCs and into the console format.  Blizzard could be getting some valuable development time in that regard with porting D3 to the XBox360 and PS3, but the major stumbling blocks are XBLive and PSN.  Without the cross platform connectivity, that seems to ensure that MMOs' major selling point (the massively multi part) will be balkanized.  However, I would never bet against Blizzard being able to figure something out in this regard.


Heard around MMOs:

In Age of Conan:

[In Eiglophian Mountains, a female toon wearing almost nothing runs by up the mountain path]

Female Toon (in Gen Chat):  Wooo!  I'm invisible!
Me:  Is this Order of the Stick or something?
Third Toon:  Is [toon name] naked again?
Me: Yeah, just ran right by me.  Because, you know, a frigid mountain climb goes better without clothing.

In World of Warcraft:

[In Alterac Valley]

Warrior:  We need a tank here by Drek!
Mage:  WTF, man.  You're marked AS a tank.
Warrior:  Oh.  Whoops.


[On Taris in Gen Chat]

First Toon:  Where is it?
Second Toon:  What?
First Toon:  That wonderful Tarisian beachfront property that the Black Sun sold me!  They said the view was breathtaking!
Second Toon:  Can I have what you're smoking?  I can sure use some.

EtA:  "is"..  "are"...   I are a writer, right?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

WoW Cash Shop Opening in Asian Realms

Yeah, you heard that right.

WoW will be taking another step toward having a cash shop like (just about) every other MMO out there by opening up an In-Game Store for Asian realms in patch 5.4.

Considering that the majority of their subscription loss has been in Asia, I'm sure this was a move to directly counter it.  However, unlike other MMOs out there with a cash store, Blizzard will not drop subscriptions.  Instead, they're going to offer XP buffs via the store.

Given that Blizzard has shown a) no desire to destroy their cash cow and eliminate subscriptions and b) this is at present only implemented in Asia, this sounds like a non-starter.  It seems that Blizzard is hoping that people will open up their wallets a whole lot wider and not only maintain a sub but pay for items out of the cash store.

I do have to wonder about the primary reason subs are dropping in Asia, however.  If it's strictly an economic issue (cost of internet time vs. time to play), I can understand giving a new player a boost to get to L90.  A new player won't have access to heirloom gear, and believe me, I lamented that way back when in 2009 when I was struggling to get to L80 in Wrath.  There is also the issue of trying to level a lot of alts, when most heirloom gear doesn't work in the Pandaria range of L86-L90.

Still, I wonder whether Blizzard is reading the tea leaves right.  This entire focus on XP buffs enforces the notion that the important part of WoW is raiding at Endgame, when WoW has thousands of quest between L1 and L90.

Even then, I don't see how an XP boost is going to help a player that much.  I got to L90 in the middle of Kun-Lai Summit, and I still had 3.5 zones to go.  My gear wasn't even close to being able to get into LFR (if I wanted to), so I would have to grind dailies to get raid ready.  There's not much around that, unless they provide a buff for dailies.  (And I don't see that happening, either.)

My last concern is whether Blizzard didn't get the various Asian cultures well enough in Mists.  Every time I was impressed about something they stuck in --some of the tales echo stories about the Monkey King, for example-- they'd have a quest name that made a joke using the differences in Asian pronunciation (substituting Pei-Back in place of Payback, for example).  If you turn off players because they feel you're making a joke about their culture, they're not going to be coming back.  Before you ask, no, I don't have any data.  But when I read that it was Asia --where Mists was marketed heavily-- that had the largest drop in subs, this was the first thing that popped into my head.  If Blizzard is fighting this problem, then putting in a cash store isn't going to help.

A Short Bump

I don't often read Kotaku, so I missed this.  There's a Gamers Against Bigotry pledge making the rounds.  (I had it pointed out to me by a friend who is a non-gamer blogger.)  It's pretty much tantamount to the D.A.R.E. pledge to avoid drugs for those of you who went through that sort of thing*.  It's also a no-brainer if you don't do that sort of thing in-game anyway, but still they're struggling to get 10k pledges by August 1st.

Perhaps it is a small victory if they can get even as few as 10,000 gamers to sign up.  I'm also under no illusions that it's going to suddenly make Trade Chat a happy-happy place to hang out, but the more people that stand up and say that this sort of behavior is NOT okay, so much the better.

*I didn't, but when I was in high school we had Nancy Reagan's Just Say No week long campaign, which D.A.R.E. evolved out of.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Some Brief Monday Thoughts

I was up late working last night, so if you saw me on WoW, that was me trying to stay awake while waiting for the "all clear" signal.  (Flying mounts are great for temporary parking.)  Regardless, my brain is in a bit of a fog, so I'm keeping this post low key.


For those people who are interested in that sort of thing, the new Dragon Age 3 trailer was released the other week.

It's for mature audiences only, kids.

No, I've not played the Dragon Age games (I know, I'm a baaaad CRPG player), but I do have the Dragon Age RPG box sets from Green Ronin Publishing, and I do enjoy the setting a lot.  In fact, if you're into pencil and paper role playing games as well as computer games, you might want to check the Dragon Age RPG out.  Wil Wheaton even did a play through of a Dragon Age RPG adventure on his Tabletop YouTube series:

Part 1...

...and Part 2.


When slogging through yet another teleported area of Belsavis, Elara expressed her frustration by pointing out that this prison complex keeps going on and on.

(You and me both, Dorne.  You and me both.)

But at least the ending to Belsavis is in sight, for which I'm eternally grateful.

I know I'm in the minority, but I still think that Taris is my favorite Republic zone, with Nar Shadda as my favorite Imp zone.  Taris just has that mysterious "what the hell are we doing here anyway" and "OMG we're all going to die!" feel to it --plus TOR Undead-- and Nar Shadda has the sort of double crosses that you'd expect out of the Hutts.


You can tell that Star Trek Online and Neverwinter are both Cryptic games, because the cash store design is similar.  The difference is that Neverwinter was designed from the beginning to be F2P, whereas STO endured the switchover from subscription to F2P.  However, the "success" of STO's store definitely influenced Neverwinter's design; people complain --often rightly-- about the invasiveness of the STO online store, but if it weren't for people lining up to buy items from the store Cryptic wouldn't have copied that design into Neverwinter.

Likewise, it's not a surprise that TOR's cash store has evolved the way it has.  Bioware is merely responding to what sells so they can keep the game afloat, and if people had bought different items, the TOR cash store would look quite a bit different than what it does now.

I was thinking about this when I logged into WoW and saw the latest pet for sale in the Blizzard cash store.  Sure, Blizz doesn't call it that, but that's what the store is:  a store to maximize Blizzard's profit by selling in-game items.  They don't need it like the F2P games do, but it serves a similar purpose.