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Posts Tagged ‘Blizzard’

Going through Final Fantasy XII again via this spiffy video reminded me how much I really love the worldbuilding and look of Ivalice. It’s a world that spans multiple games as well, in different RPG subgenres. It has a great sense of place and history. It’s interesting to see a game studio do that sort of thing over the course of several years.
Blizzard has done some similar things with Azeroth, and I think it serves both companies well. A big part of making these games interesting to me is making them believable. Not realistic, not really, but believable as Other Places that are more than just Potemkin Villages.  That’s what I find most unique and appealing about video games; the ability to explore a different world and tinker about within it.  It’s always nice to see thought and craftsmanship involved in the setting rather than just the splashy things like polycount, soft body physics, battle engines, progression schemes and stunt voice casting.
I do have my quibbles with Azeroth and Ivalice, like the character design of Fran and her kin (she’s actually a great character with excellent, memorable voice work, but making her race be literal bunny girls with little modesty is dumb), or the strained two-faction lore of World of Warcraft (OK, maybe I just want a neutral Tauren to play).  FFXII owes a lot to Star Wars, Azeroth leans heavily on Dungeons and Dragons and is unnecessarily goofy at times (pop culture references don’t age well).  They both have somewhat lazy writing at times and weird choices in protagonists (Thrall and Jaina are overplayed, Vaan is a much weaker character than Balthier or Basch), but are endearingly earnest in their devotion to their story.
The thing is, neither game is in my top 10 list of games, but the worlds of Ivalice and Azeroth are high on my list of game worlds that I love to investigate.
I also find that the rather slow, political, story of FFXII is easier for me to follow when it’s all together like this, rather than in cutscenes between hours of grinding in a barely-interactive combat system, all over the space of a year, a few hours here, a few there.  Call it a personal failing, but I found the story much, much more entertaining when I was allowed to get on with it instead of plodding through the game, looking for the next story crumb.  I did actually like the game sometimes, like when I just wanted to zone out and look around, but the story got lost sometimes.

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I’ve written about finishing World of Warcraft before, and I’ve written about business models more than a few times.

Alternative Chat has a good blog post up ruminating a bit on the potential that Blizzard has to take the existing World of Warcraft and blow it up, starting over with all the bits they want and jettisoning the cruft of the last decade.  They did a version of this with the Cataclysm expansion, which I’ve also written about a few times.

So, I just wanted to put my finger in the stream again and post pretty much the same thing I noted in a comment over at Alt’s place, and something I’ve written here before…

If Blizzard really wants to shake things up and leave the old WoW behind for a brave new world, they should branch the game.  Cut everything that’s presently in the game off from the dev teams (save for bug fixing), package it up as a “buy to play” subscriptionless game in the vein of Guild Wars, and bravely stride off into WoW 2.0 as their premiere flagship subscription game.

It’ll never happen, just like Vanilla servers won’t happen and Pre-Cataclysm servers won’t happen, but hey, I can dream.

Edited to add:  This amuses me.  As Jay over at The Rampant Coyote points out, “Buy Once and Play” is making a minor comeback.  As if it’s something radical.  This industry is weird.  Even Forbes just can’t resist the satire.

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So… Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is back in Draenor.  I liked the first visit, with the weirdly shattered, floating-in-space landscape, but hey, if they could Cataclysm the geewhillikers out of Azeroth (a pox on them for flooding Thousand Spires!), they can go fix Draenor with some superglue and spackle.

I have something of a love/disgruntled relationship with World of Warcraft.  There are elements of it that I don’t care for, but it’s a lovely world and I love flying around in it.  I did finally get a character to the level cap in Pandaria, and do a little shuffling around in the endgame dungeons and Timeless Isle.  Since I hit level 90, I can fly around Pandaria, too, and that meant I spent a few days’ worth of game time just flying around, taking screenshots.  I still have fun with the game, warts and all.  That last binge used up my last game credit from the now-defunct WoW Visa, though, which is unfortunate.

Lately I’ve been wondering if I can’t kill two birds with one stone, though.  Y’see, I’ve been supremely busy of late trying to find a job after circumstance effectively “retired” me from the game industry.  I’ve worked as a Technical Artist in games for almost a decade, but with a crummy economy and young, enthusiastic grads always ready to be fed to the beast, I was over the hill anyway, and fell out of the industry due to a company downsizing.

So it goes.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be grand to have a fairy godpatron step up and offer me a full time job, being a tourist and photographer in the revised Draenor?  Take screenshots, write guides, opine about… everything.  I know, I know, that’s the dream of millions of devoted Blizzard devotees, and I’m just as likely to point out problems as I am to praise the finer points.  Who would pay for that?

I’m sure I’ll play around in Draenor once the expansion goes on sale and I can free up some time and justify the cost.  (The cost isn’t just the $15, it’s the time spent since I have to get what I want to done before the timer runs out.)  I’ll take some screenshots, mess around in a few dungeons, have some fun.

In the meantime, it’s good to see people having fun in the game.  It’s not a perfect game, but it’s hanging in there, and though I don’t have a hand in its creation, it is nice to see a game appreciated by its patrons.  Sometimes the simple joy of playing is lost in the periodic waves of griping, and the early days of a WoW expansion tend to hit higher points of optimism in the expansion life cycle waveform.

So… have fun, everyone!  I’ll be along later.

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I “tweeted” last week that I was going to take advantage of an offer from Blizzard (seven whole days of free game time, woot!) to go and take a look at Karazhan.  The venerable Big Bear Butt offered to show me around the joint.  So, I finally saw Karazhan.  And took almost 250 screenshots of the place.

…it’s way bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  Oh, and in BBB’s son’s continuing quest to Control All the Things, he managed to grab control of one of Moroes‘ beefy melee henchmen.  That would have made a nice difference if we were running the place at level.  Also, Tinhead is creepy, but the Opera Event is pretty cool, and the Chess Event is awesome.  Yes, it’s not real chess, but it’s good fun anyway (and, like in real chess, knights are nicely useful).

Some highlights (in no particular order, because I’m short on time):

…and then, just because Blizzard finally got with the program and decided to allow anyone, even trial accounts, to play any race, I fired up a Pandaran Rogue.  The Pandaran starting area is really nice… even if I can’t fly around in it.  It’s the new shiny, and I like it, but I still like Gilneas and Mulgore about as much.  The Pandarans themselves are very well done.  I like the “Red Panda” look the females can access, even if the real world red pandas aren’t actually pandas.

So I guess I’m a Tauren/Worgen/Panda kinda guy.  Though I still say Blizzard missed a trick in not letting Pandarans be Druids.  Still, their starter area is open to pretty much anyone, so have at it!  There are plenty of photo opportunities and some fun character animations.

Google+ collection of Karazhan shots

Google+ collection of Pandaria shots

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OK, I caved and jumped back into World of Warcraft thanks to that absurd Scroll of Resurrection thing.  It’s kind of a big deal.  Sorta.  If the conspiracies are to be believed.  (I still say they should sell level capped characters.)

Me?  I just used it to make an insta-80 Shaman, a Dwarf I’m calling Rumblethump, so I could use Far Sight to take more esoteric screenshots.  We’ll see what I come up with.

…that’s probably not what Blizzard intended, but hey, I finally used one of my 30-day time codes from the VISA rewards card, so that’s less of a chance of me losing out on that value in the eventual shift to a glorious subscription-free WoW.  Anyone for buying my retail 60-day card?

In the meantime, I might get my “main” past level 78 and poke into Icecrown, then finally tame myself a Venomhide Raptor mount.  Yeah, tourist priorities.  Then I’ll take a lot of pictures.

So there.

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First the links:

MMO Melting Pot’s roundup (which includes a lot of other excellent articles, the following are just what caught my eye)

Elder Game on perfecting game design (instead of expanding it)

Panda reactions in the TAGN household (and an interesting generational divide)

Wolfshead called it?

The Grumpy Elf is… happy?

…and then there’s my reaction:

Pandaren don’t bother me any more than the other silly anthropomorphic races in the game.  I think there are more furries than human-like humanoids.  So, sure, why not more?  Beyond that, the game has never been all that serious.  Haris Pilton and Wowpo can coexist.

Monks?  Sure, why not.  I won’t play one.  I played without auto-attack in Allods Online, and I just didn’t like it.  I do like that Monks are full hybrids, though, able to fill any trinity role.  I’m not surprised they went that way.

Pokemon-ish minipet battles?  Seems like a silly thing to dev spend time on, but maybe it will work out for them.  I did love Pokemon back in the day when I had tons of free time, so it’s not like I’m opposed to it.  I’m just not in that “time rich” bracket any more, so it won’t do much for me.

Talent tree amputation is a little strange, but hey, if it results in a system where players can respec talents on the fly for free, that’s a step closer to what I’d like anyway (full respec on the fly, all the way down to class choice), so I’ll call that a cup half full.

No, all the big controversial stuff doesn’t matter much to me.  The part that bugs me far more than I expected is a little throwaway line:

“No flying until max level”

Yeah… I’m hoping that’s only in Pandaren territory.  If it’s worldwide, well… color me displeased.  Really displeased.  Flight is a marvelous tool for exploration, and I don’t want to have to buy the latest expansion to access flight.  I know, I know, some have argued that flight trivializes ground-based content, and there’s some truth to that.  Thing is, flight is freedom, flight is exploration.  Losing those don’t sit well with me.

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Ratcheted Subscription

Considering the little ways that Blizzard is content to ratchet up the pricing of their flagship World of Warcraft, perhaps it’s time again to float my Five Dollar Vanilla article, or a new variant: the Ratcheted Subscription model.  (Note, expansions will still need to be bought separately from the main game, and all other optional services for a charge will continue to operate as at present.  I might add a new Battle Chest SKU, though, where the original game and the now-three expansions are sold in one box for $50.)

Baseline  Perpetual Free Trials.  Take the existing ten day trial and extend it to an indefinite time.  Keep the restrictions on level, chat and money if you must, but know that other games do it better, and that free players are more of an asset than a liability.

$5/month  Choose one: PvE, PvP or raiding.

$10/month  Choose two: PvE, PvP or raiding.

$15/month  PvE, PvP and raiding.

$20/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding

$25/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding, free quarterly server move or character race/gender/class change

$30/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding, free quarterly server move or character race/gender/class change, guild housing

$35/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding, free quarterly server move or character race/gender/class change, guild housing, player filter (automatically mutes and hides players who pay less than $20/month)

$40/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding, free quarterly server move or character race/gender/class change, guild housing, player filter (automatically mutes and hides players who pay less than $20/month), epic purple poster name on forums

$45/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding, free quarterly server move or character race/gender/class change, guild housing, player filter (automatically mutes and hides players who pay less than $20/month), epic purple poster name on forums, exclusive emote (“Heroic Hero” pose; all other players within 15 yards immediately bow toward player and grovel)

$50/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding, free quarterly server move or character race/gender/class change, guild housing, player filter (automatically mutes and hides players who pay less than $20/month), epic purple poster name on forums, exclusive emote (“Heroic Hero” pose; all other players within 15 yards immediately bow toward player and grovel), gold-plated WoW-specific keyboard, mouse and authenticator (will be reclaimed by Blizzard enforcers in the case of a change to a lower subscription rate)

$70/month  PvE, PvP and raiding, free minipet per quarter, remote Auction House access, cross-server raiding, free quarterly server move or character race/gender/class change, guild housing, player filter (automatically mutes and hides players who pay less than $20/month), epic purple poster name on forums, exclusive emote (“Heroic Hero” pose; all other players within 15 yards immediately bow toward player and grovel), gold-plated WoW-specific keyboard, mouse and authenticator (will be reclaimed by Blizzard enforcers in the case of a change to a lower subscription rate), RealID immunity

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