Wake up and smell the future

Hi folks,

Just figured I would take a quick break from NaNoWriMo to throw in my two cents worth on the pet store.

Yep, the same damn thing everyone else is talking about.

I see people screaming about how selling an in game pet for real dollars is game breaking.

I see people complaining about various other account services as well, faction transfers and PvE – PvP realm transfers chief among the complaints.

I have read about how this is a horribly slippery slope. Apparently we will wake up one day and find them selling conquest badges for real money or something.

I have also read a few articles where the authors were extremely unconcerned. essentially saying “they are just pets, and pets have been for sale for a while. Just look on ebay.”

I suppose my take on all this is a little different.

I don’t see it as a way to separate the haves and the have-nots within the game, although to some extent it will. I also don’t see it as some kind of slippery slope that Blizzard might go sliding headlong down at any moment. I see all the changes that have been coming in the last six months or so as a window into where the future of WoW lies.

Since my brain is mush from the whole “Write a novel in 30 days while simultaneously doing everything else life calls on me to do” thing so this might come out a bit disjointed. Sorry about that.

We are all fantasy gamers here right? Well, lets take a walk down fantasy lane. Pretend for a while that you are an executive for a company. We will call them Blizz because I am too damn tired to make up a cutesy name right now.

You have this game, it is literally the cash cow for your business. 

Just like a farmer you will tend to that cash cow as best you can. As a farmer your job would be to milk that cow for as much as you can without causing it to dry up. After all if it goes dry you are hosed, but you don’t want to leave any milk there that you should have taken. 

Now as this executive you know about the next generation MMO, the one you hope will turn out to be the next cash cow. The last one is getting a bit long in the tooth after all. Now you have a few problems.

You don’t want to compete with yourself for subscribers.

You don’t want to just turn off the old game, after all there is money to be made there yet.

You have promised all along that you would never allow out of game purchases to give an in game advantage (a promise artfully broken by the refer-an-alt program, but meh.)

The logical thing to do would be to simply convert you existing game from a subscription model to a microtransaction / free to play model.  If you could pull that off you could run the new one on a subscription model without forcing your customers to choose.

Another advantage would be in having competition in the microtrasaction MMO market, something you sorely lack at the moment. After all, you don’t make games to make friends, it’s a business. The object of business is to make profit, thats simply the way it works.

Ideally you would figure out a way for players of your old game to get a bit of a leg up in the new one. Perhaps by implementing a points system for doing tasks within the game.  This would be a lot easier to implement if we force them to tie all their games together under one login, we should do that as early as possible to work out the bugs.

Let the points earned in the old game be useless there and only spreadable in the new one (selling only vanity stuff or BOA starter gear of course). That way people from your old game would feel like they had money in their pockets for the new one, what better reason to try it out.

Now, knowing that a straight shift would scare some subscribers away you come up with a long-term plan. Start integrating the microtransaction model into the game. Proceed very slowly and cautiosly, until by the time your new game is ready all the infrastructure is in place.

Once the new game is released you can then announce that you are graciously going to make the old game free to play, while leaving the microtrasactions in place to still make a profit. Most of those that prefer the subscription model will move anyway,  so you can always start selling epics later.

Sitting back you think to yourself, Good plan.

Lets do that, we’ll start with pets.

Everyone loves pets.

The same, except completely different

There was a time, not so very long ago, that a young Draeni named Drupadi crawled from the wreckage of the Exodar. She was a cheerful young thing for the most part. She was excited and eager to go leave her mark upon the world.

Through the twisted wreckage of Bloodmyst isle, through the steaming jungles of Stranglethorn, through the burning sands of Tenaris and the frozen wastelands of the north she has fought long and hard to make a name for herself.

She was hoping for something more along the lines of “hero”, but I guess Brewmaster will serve while she works on it.

Besides, it sounds like a good way to have some fun with friends after a hard days adventuring.

After all, why else would one go to the tavern but to hoist a few and laugh with friends?

 

Then there was another.  Diashan, twisted by Arthas, was made into something both more and less than human. Every day she fights her own battles with the voices in her head. The same voices she has heard since her reawakening. 

Some say the Ebon Blade wants to hunt down Arthas to avenge what has happened to them. For some that may even be true.

Diashan just wants him the shut the hell up.

She has only found one way to do that so far. It may not make the voices go away, but they become muffled and indistinct. So do the memories of what she has done.

You can find her at one of the back tables of the Booty Bay inn, drinking alone. On a good night no one will get hurt.

She considers her title more a mark of her weakness than a thing to be celebrated.

It would do you well not to remind her that she has earned it, or why. 

 

Old habits are hard to break

Not so very long ago when Drupadi made it to 70 I made the decision to (within reason) not worry about gear. Her quest blues and greens, supplemented with a few BOE blues and greens, would be more than adequate to get her leveling her way through Northrend. Then came Brewfest, and Corien Direbrew.

I ran the event for the achievement, and to help a friend. I had no intention of getting anything. On the fifth try of the day wouldn’t you know it she ends up with a Brewbale Charm, it dropped all 5 times. I didn’t really think about it much as it replaced a quest blue from Winterspring. Then came The Headless Horseman.

I was just after the Sinister Squashling, honest. In the process I seem to have come into the possion of a Riing of Goulish Delight. Odd that I don’t even remember equipping it, I seem to remember some quest green from Hellfire in that slot. I still was not really looking for upgrades, they just kind of happened.

Then came the invite to Karazhan. I had never actually finished it on my Troll hunter, and I had the evening free. That led to a fast furious run  wherein I received no less than 5 major upgrades. I was counting my lucky stars that I had a few pieces of the gear that I had been wanting for a long time. I hardly had a minute to settle down however before the scourge invasion started.

It all started with wanting the tabard of the Argent Dawn. I always liked the look of it and knew it would be a limited time thing. For the first time I actually set off to grind for gear. I farmed solo for a while, then just before I had the 18 Necrotic Runes I would need to get my tabard a group showed up. I wonder if things would have turned out differently had I just grabbed my 18 and left. Perhaps I would have gone back to leveling my other hunter, I’ll never know.

For about two hours I had great fun running around busting scourge at the circles. I spent it chatting it up with the group joking around and generally having a blast. It did not hurt that a set of Blessed Greaves of Undead Slaying dropped, they were a clear upgrade over my greens. It hurt even less that I was able to pick up both the Blessed Pauldrons of Undead Slaying and the Blessed Handguards of Undead Slaying with all the stones that had dropped.

Three pieces of a four piece limited edition set in two hours of “work”? Not bad at all. It made perfect sense to put everything else on hold to try and get the last piece of the puzzle, the Blessed Hauberk of Undead Slaying. Who wouldn’t after all? It’s a set right? Well four days later I did finally finish the set.

The thing is after I finished the set I did not just go back to leveling and relaxing. I was curious to see what Wow-Heroes thought of my new gear, so I pulled it up and checked. Not bad, not bad at all. But there was one piece sticking out like a sore thumb. My boots are still green. Not bad, not unable to carry me through into Northrend, just green.

That is how a good friend of mine came on to find me yesterday running Eye of the Storm. For those of you who don’t already know I absolutely despise PVP. I actively go out of my way to avoid it and have in fact never gotten a single pvp reward on any of my many toons. What was I doing in a place I hate she asked?

Tokens….. Need tokens for boots.

I had somehow gone from not caring a bit about gear to doing something I hate for what will be vendor trash in 3 weeks or less.

It’s easy to stop hunting epics, honest. You just have to watch out for that first one….

The one that seems nearly free.

 

Casually addicted

An excelent article written by Monique on Girls don’t Game about getting pulled into “hardcore” raiding really got me thinking. This is the kind stuff I come up with when I think, which is why I usually avoid thinking in favor of just drinking more coffee and turning on the history channel. 

 

Casual, it seems to be the buzzword of choice lately. Casuals get free epix! Casuals don’t have the time to raid! Casuals don’t put in the time to be top PVP’rs, Casuals are not hooked.

For what its worth “they” might very well be wrong. Wrong on all four counts.

 

No differently than real life what you get is directly related to what you put into it. Want nicer epics? spend more time, farm more badges, run harder raids. When you are doing this you might want to think about why. Am I just getting better gear so I can go get other even more better gear? Where does it end? Why do I need it? Is there really a reason or am I just chasing shadows? Your answer will be different than mine, and both are equally valid.

 

As far as raiding goes, what defines casual? Depending on who you ask it will run anywhere from “never raiding, ever” to “we only raid 3 times a week for 5 hours or so at a shot”. Both answers work for the people you are asking. I myself have raided as far as Kara with my Horde side hunter and as far as SSC with my alliance priest. I am now just a backup healer for raids (who in 3 or 4 weeks has not been called up), I pug Kara probably 3 out of 4 weeks on a Friday night. Oh and once on a lark I did a Gruuls pug, mostly because I was bored. I think I am very much on the casual end of things.

 

My brother now, I don’t think he has ever seen the inside of Kara. He can however tell you all the strengths and weaknesses of every 3 v 3 match up you can think of. He can talk about all the hidy holes and line of sight blind spots in every arena. He probably knows them better than he knows his own yard. Him and a pair of friends do pvp, both arena and battlegrounds.  couple of hours every night, plus an hour or so of dailies to buy his consumables. Is he casual? He puts more hours into pvp every week than my daughter puts into her part time job, is he casual or is he hooked?

 

Casual, an interesting word. Means many things to many people. I am casual, I said so myself. Does this mean I am not hooked on Wow? Not in the slightest. I am hooked and I know it.

When I took the product specs for wow with me computer shopping but not the specs for the software I use for household finances that gave me a clue.

When I ask how my sons day went at school and he asks about what level my latest alt is because he knows I was playing during the day, that tells me something. 

When I am willing to set my alarm for 3 am on a Saturday so I have about 5 hours to level a toon before the kids get up and I log off in favor of being dad, I know I am hooked.

 

Will I continue to play? Most likely.

 Will I continue to raid? The jury is still out on that one.

Will I continue to blog? Most certainly, even if I chase away my audience.

What are epics worth?

I was planning to write something witty this morning but alas my brain is mush. Last night I popped online to chat with a few friends before I went to bed and got snatched up by the epic bug.

I was on my priest in Shat when the whisper came. “Looking to fill one last healing slot for a fresh Kara clear, are you interested?” With a glance at the clock I knew I should not go. It was already about 9:30 and I had to be up for work at 3 am, but the epics were calling.

For those who don’t know me my priest is relatively well geared considering he hit 70 about 2 months ago. Tier 4 and badge epics mostly with a little bit of crafted gear thrown in. The only things I had never been able to replace were the gloves and trinket I had been using since my first Blood furnace run. Yep, I was healing SSC with a pair of level 60 blues.

Well, I reasoned, I have 22 badges sitting in the bank. A full clear would give me enough to upgrade the trinket at least, and there is always hope for one of the two pair of healing gloves to drop as well. Thus I finished convincing myself and agreed.

The group I ran with was reasonably well coordinated, competent, and smashed through most of Kara with few wipes. It was a good run. Not only did I have an absolute blast and get my badges I picked up the token for my tier 4 gloves as well. I hearthed back to Shat, logged, and headed to bed. As I climbed in to go to sleep I remember looking at the clock, 1:26 am.

At 3am I was back up and getting ready to start my day. I was pondering a bit about people calling Badge rewards “welfare epics” for the casuals. The more I rolled that around in my head the more I thought that there is nothing “free” about the epics I have gathered. Epics in the game, like everything else in life have a price. It’s all about how much you are willing to pay.

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