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Posts Tagged ‘Cataclysm’

I’ve suggested it in a few comments recently on other blogs, and I’ve argued it for a while in one form or another, but I wanted to put a fine point on it for posterity.  Let’s not call this a prediction, since I don’t think Blizzard will do this (it’s potentially a lot of work and has a few wrinkles to iron out), but I’d recommend it.

The Cataclysm expansion is a perfect time for Blizzard to jump into the wider MMO market by diversifying their business model.  The recent trend of formerly subscription-only MMOs converting to item shop microtransaction business models isn’t a surprise, nor is it a move of desperation.  It’s realization that the MMO market is diversifying and maturing, and that the old ways of doing business aren’t going to work forever.

World of Warcraft is a bastion of subscription gaming, a behemoth that operates by its own rules, seemingly independant of the overall market.  Be that as it may, ignoring customers served by the so-called “free to play” or F2P games is effectively conceding strategic ground in the larger market.  It’s often suggested that converting WoW to one of these F2P critters may well not be more profitable for Blizzard, so it’s not likely.  I’m not convinced of that, but even conceding that as a given, as someone recently noted (Bhagpuss, I think, but please forgive me for remembering incorrectly if not), companies don’t always make moves for immediate profit.  Sometimes it’s about claiming market share or positioning themselves for future projects. *

* This is one counterpoint to my recommendation, actually.  Blizzard might be angling for the wider market with their next big MMO project.  Since that’s likely not imminent, though, I’m setting that aside, because the market is changing now, and Blizzard is oddly reticent to keep pace.

With that in mind, the release of Cataclysm provides a perfect excuse both in lore and in business to make a significant change to the WoW business plan.  What better time to break up the world than when a dragon is doing it for you?

Specifically, I would recommend that they take the Old World of Warcraft (the content from level 1 to 60, sometimes called “vanilla” WoW) and break it off into its own product, literally breaking the game into pieces.  They should then sell this like Guild Wars, as a single purchase that can then be played in perpetuity.  They should then keep the “live” Cataclysm-era world going for subscribers.  Players can upgrade from the Old World to the Live World, but not migrate backwards (maybe with some restrictions to keep gold sellers down, like no money migration).

This could neatly corner the F2P market by outflanking the other big movers in the field, including EQ2X, LOTRO, DDO and even GW and GW2, while still providing the subscriber experience that current users are accustomed to.

There are problems, to be sure.  There’s the possible need for two dev teams and consequent potential for divergent evolution.  There’s the need for new servers and the potential to confuse customers (who apparently don’t know how to spend their own money, the filthy proletariats).  There’s the likelihood of subbers just playing around in the Single Purchase Old World and losing some part of the WoW money pump.  There’s the banshee chorus of haters and fanboys who would proclaim the doom of Blizzard for deigning to let those people play the game.  There’s the work necessary to make things actually work.  There’s the question of what to let current players do.  (I’d suggest that anyone wanting to go to the Old World can do so, but it would be a complete reboot; everyone starts from scratch.  Current subbers who want to sidegrade can start new characters on the Old World servers like anyone else, without needing to purchase the game again.  They would have to pay a sub to play in the CAT era on CAT servers, but could play in the Old World without a hiccup, just starting over on the new servers.)  There is risk involved, as even WoW may not be able to function in its own shadow.  (But that’s a concern for their new MMO, too.)

Still, the timing is right for such a move, a grab at owning the best of both worlds.  In retrospect, perhaps, this will be obviously wrong, depending on whatever they do with their next MMO, but for now, looking at the market and the state of WoW, I’d say it’s an obvious move, and a smart one.  (This is, of course, totally ignoring the larger question of whether or not more WoW domination of the market is good for the players.  I think that could be argued either way, though, so maybe I’ll save that for an exercise later.)  There’s even room for more mutations, like true “classic” servers and private, gated communities for discerning customers, but one step at a time…

Of course details would need to be ironed out, and suits would need to be convinced.  Kotick would need to be bribed or something.  I’m convinced it’s not an intractible problem, though, and this may be the best time for such an earth-shattering, industry-shaking… cataclysmic business move.

…though I must admit, if it didn’t prove to sell well, just like if Blizzard’s new MMO doesn’t do well, leaving WoW as the clear aberration that I think it is, well… I’d laugh.

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I want to see the Cataclysm.

Yes, it’s WoW, not my favorite game, and I still detest the sub model… but I want to see what an old game world does to revitalize itself, especially since I called for a revitalization of the “old world” way back before it was announced.  I want to see whether it works out or not, especially since CAT has the potential to splinter the playerbase in new and interesting ways.  TBC and Wrath split people off into the expansions, but CAT is touching nearly everything, so I’m curious to see what it winds up doing.

Note that I’m not saying “I want to jump on the WoW bandwagon” so much as “I want to understand CAT’s ramifications and take a look around at the shiny new world”.  Because, well… those guys really do make pretty worlds.

At any rate, I find myself approaching that exploration in a way eerily similar to the way I approached BattleTech ages ago.  Y’see, back then, I read up on ‘Mech specs and all sorts of tech, then built myself the perfect ‘Mech that would allow me to tinker with as much of the game as possible.  Yes, it was a Mad Cat.  Imagine that.  I also dabbled a bit with Lance design (five-unit battle squad) so I could play around with different combat roles and see what the different weight classes had to offer in a group setting.  (Mad Cat, Firemoth, Vulture and Raven looking for Kodiak, PST…)  It was my ideal BattleTech party, an A-Team of hardened mercenaries, geared to handle any mission.  Of course, this was all on paper, since I didn’t have anyone to play with.  I was just digging into the game mechanics and exploring possibilities in my mind.  And, y’know… I liked it.

So now I find myself in a curious position of trying the same thing with WoW characters.  I’m pontificating the best race/class matrix to see as much of the game as I can.  I already have the Tauren Druid covered with Padgi (my only highish level character at 52), but who to pick for the Priest?  Who should be the Shaman?  Do I care about role-playing potential or my traditional counterculture trend of choosing the underrepresented combos?  (Dwarven Rogue?  Whee!)  How many cool sounding unique names can I come up with?  How can I see as many starting areas as possible, and tinker with as many class mechanics as possible in the one month I’ve allotted myself to play?  (And yes, it would be awesome if I could run with a self-driven posse like I can in GW, just me and my Heroes, er, Alts, under script control, prowling the world with me, myself and I.)  How can I distribute professions to make my little team as self-sufficient as possible?  How will I ever survive without Heirloom gear?  (Gasp!)

Of course it’s dorky to plan ahead that way, but when I’m not free to just go tinker in the game (thanks to the subscription model… *spit*), I tinker with possibilities beforehand so I can hit the ground running.  I’m even considering that WoWPro leveling addon (tut, tut) to maximize my ability to go places, since darn near everything is level-gated to one degree or another.  (Now, if I could have a flying mount at level 1, that would solve a LOT of problems.)

And then I stop and wonder… wait, whut?  Why?

Why should I overplot my potential experience and potentially even follow a glowing yellow arrow once I actually am playing?  I love to go off the rails, and I believe that offers the best game experience.  Sure, I’m plotting all this to facilitate exploring, but it’s like a vacation that is planned to the minute.  There’s no room for spontaneity, for discovery off the beaten track.  I always hated those sort of vacations as a kid.  If I wanted a schedule, I’d go back to school, thanks.

Answering myself, I came up with the following:  “Self, you’re plotting and planning, exploring the potential because that’s all you can do at present.  Your’e deriving fun from one of the only exploration avenues open to you without actually playing the game. You’re also trying to maximize the value you’ll get out of the limited time you know you’ll have.”

That Self, he’s a pretty hard-headed guy, but even he saw the wisdom in that supposition.  He admitted to spending more time exploring the WoW wiki than actually playing the game over the last five years.  He admitted to spending time trying to help BBB plan his latest Raid event and doing promo art for it, even though he’s not likely to actually be in-game for the thing (again, sub model *spit*… let me pony up $2 or something for the single day event and I’d do it, and maybe sneak in a bit of Gnome and Troll events).  He admitted to spending more time than is probably warranted thinking about WoW’s game design and how to make it better.

And then he reminded me that:  “If the flibberdygibbit thing didn’t have a blubberblinkin’ subscription, I’d already be playing and experimenting in-game, and this would all be academic.”

At that point, sensing something of a mildly hostile stalemate, my real life alt stepped in to remind us all that there are other games to play that don’t have subs (holding Wizard 101 up as a fine example, quietly shuffling that game’s alts to the side), and other things that really should be done before any sort of gaming in the first place.  Everyone grumbled a bit, but ultimately agreed.

And so, my alt puzzle settled… for now… I’m painting illustrations for a children’s book my mother wrote.  I’m as yet undecided whether it’s a good thing I’m using the computer to paint since it keeps the thing busy and therefore not-gaming, or whether it’s a bad thing to be using the computer since games are only an Alt-Tab away, and Recettear is on my thumb drive…

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I’ve written a few times now about Allods Online, and even posted a handful of screenshots.  It’s a beautiful game, full of interesting sights.  The lore of a world split into chunks, floating on the magic Astral (aetheric space with pretty blue cloudy strands of… stuff), populated by survivors of the world-shattering cataclysm, provides for some fun visual elements.  The verticality of the sights can be a bit… dizzying, though.  (So Ysharros, consider yourself warned…)

(As before, I’m hiding all the pretty pictures behind a More link to keep from killing anyone visiting the front page with a dialup internet connection.  If you’re direct linking to this, well… sorry, but it may take a little while to load.  As before, each picture is actually a link to a bigger version, if you’re looking for a closer look.)

(more…)

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Some Guild Wars players like Pre-Searing Ascalon.  So much so, in fact, that there is an entire subculture in the game built around staying in that idyllic time period forever, rather than leaving the digital womb and letting the Charr take over.  See, the Cataclysm, er, Searing changes the face of the world, and there’s no going back.  For some, that’s perfectly fine, and they stay in the part of the game they like, fully embracing the limitations.

As no surprise to anyone, the WoW Cataclysm has some players logging back in to play the Old Azeroth before it’s gone forever.  (Or at least until Blizzard caves in and allows classic servers.)  Dusty over at Of Course I’ll Play It is taking a whirlwind tour of the game as a fresh Human Mage.  (Thus saving me the trouble, incidentally.)  Tobold is off the wagon again, soliciting opinions, and Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires is looking to try a new experience (to him, anyway).  Of course, as night follows day, Syncaine upholds his honor and calls everyone “failbears” for embracing nostalgia (or maybe just for playing WoW, since his internet persona is built around hating the game).

Call it what you want, but there are players who want the “good old days” in these games, and are willing to spend their time and money on them.  I’m idly curious as to how many players actually have “permapre” Guild Wars characters (permanently in the Pre-Searing world), and how that might track with the number of players who have called for “classic” servers in WoW.  Blizzard is certainly loving the attention of tourists, er, former players playing fresh alts (“going, going, gone!” works for hucksters the world over), but it’s a one-time deal for them, as opposed to ArenaNet’s Pre-Searing Ascalon.  As Scott noted a while ago, the parallels are significant (and thus underwhelming on Blizzard’s part).

It will be interesting to see what Blizzard does with this.  Despite apparent protestations that Blizzard will never make “classic” servers, I suspect it’s only a matter of time.  (They never change their policies, right?)  We’ll almost certainly see private servers catering to the nostalgia crowd and running a healthy clientele.

As much as I think Blizzard is right to push the world forward with some potentially radical world shifts, I think they may bet making a bad move omitting their own Pre-Searing crowd.  They have embraced the static Azeroth for too long to not see some backlash from the Old Azeroth lovers.  Time will tell, but I do suspect that Cataclysm isn’t the cure to all that ails Blizzard’s flagship.  It’s a good idea, and I think it will wind up being a good move in the balance, but we’ll see what unintended circumstances are afoot.

Modern MMO design is all about static worlds.  I’ve lamented that more than once.  The Cataclysm is a step toward a more dynamic world (inasmuch as it changes over time, anyway), so I like the idea behind it… but it’s really just swapping one static world for another.  It’s almost the worst of both worlds; it’s still too static to be really interesting as a place to keep playing, but the radical changes to the game world may well annoy those who liked the old world.  (Remember the fuss over the Zombie event?  A lot of people like WoW to stay the way it is, so they can maintain their habitual behaviors.  Changes are exit points.)

I don’t want to be a vulture, another shrill harpy calling for the demise of the Blizzard flagship (which I’m not doing, by the way, cynicism aside)… but I will be keeping an interested eye on the fallout of these changes, if only to learn how to make the most of them in one way or another.  Of course, I’ll be paying keener attention to Guild Wars 2 and Dust 514.  WoW is a big gorilla, but not the only horse in the race, and certainly not the most interesting one.

Edited to add:

What if they did something really weird?  Say, make it so the ten day trials, in addition to their other limitations, were stuck in the Old Azeroth?  To move time forward, players have to buy in.  I could see Blizzard doing that in a hamfisted effort to exclude gold sellers from the New World, and to incentivize upgrading.

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The prince formerly known as Arthas obviously has issues.  Even as the Big Bad Lich King, he’s playing second fiddle to Deathwing in the recent WoW buzz about Cataclysm.  (I mean, really, which is cooler, a dragon the size of a skyscraper who can crack the earth itself, or a fallen undeadish prince with identity issues and virtual feuds with Ozzy Osbourne?)  Is it any wonder why he might be feeling a little lonely and ignored?

Arthas needs some TLC.

As you might remember, I got my grubby little hands on a copy of his biography, Arthas, Rise of the Lich King, which wound up bring a pretty good read, even though the titular character isn’t my cup of tea.  So, it’s far past time I pass it along to someone else who might want to give it a whirl.  I’m sure the prince himself would approve of spreading his message of death, doom and destruction, at any rate.

So, in the fine tradition of bloggish contests established by none other than the one and only Big Bear, I’m going to try a little something other than drawing a name out of a hat to find a new home for this lovely, er, brooding hardbound novel.

If you’re interested in getting your hands on this very lightly used book (I read it once and have taken very good care of it), all you have to do is engage in a little exercise and cross your fingers.

I want you to convert me.

Show me what class and race I should play World of Warcraft with.

With a hundred words or less and at least one screenshot (and up to three), or concept art, as the case may be, make your case about what I should be playing when Cataclysm comes knocking.  Whether it’s a Worgen Druid, a Blood Elf Warrior or plain old Gnome Warlock, anything goes.  What do you think I should play as?  (Assume I’d be starting it from scratch, with no fairy godmother twinking me.)

Pretty much anything goes, from snarky “you should be a Human Mage because you’re a bloviating windbag” to thoughtful “you like X so you should play as Y”.  A caveat, though:  sex doesn’t sell around here, and neither does profanity.

Please send your text and graphics to my bloggish email, silverwings.art at gmail.  I’ll take entries for the next, oh… two weeks or so, so if you get your entries in before 11:59 PM (Blizzard standard time) on September 8th, you’re set.  I’ll run things through my Judging Grinder of Doom and post a winner hopefully by the end of that week.  (I’ll contact the lucky one for mailing information at that time, so don’t sweat sending any of that sort of thing with your entry.)

I reserve the right to do something nice for any entry that I find particularly notable.  (Which usually means doing some sort of art, as might be noted in my Mini Portfolio.)  It’s not guaranteed, and it may take a lower priority after other art projects I have going, but I do enjoy crafting the occasional bit of WoW fan art.

I also reserve the right to post the winners and notable entries, but if you object to public display of your brilliance, just let me know in your entry and I’ll keep your work under wraps.  (It won’t affect the judging.)

Tally ho, then, and good luck!

Oh, and if nobody enters, well… I’ll find a way to break the news to Arthas.  (And in fact, if you don’t want the book, feel free to send along a consolation note to the prince.  I’m sure it’ll brighten his day.)

Edited to add:

Mama Druid asked a good question down there in the comments:

Would you play if the winning argument, well, wins you over?

To which I answered:

To answer the question, well… how about a solid “maybe”. I would *like* to, but finances might get in the way. If I have to buy the original WoW, TBC, Wrath *and* Cataclysm to get to play the winner’s suggestion, well, that’s an uphill battle. If I can just buy the base game and go to town, well, maybe $20 is worth playing WoW for a month to get a couple of articles and loads of screenshots out of it, right?

That said, whether or not I will actually wind up playing the winner’s suggestion is completely irrelevant for the judging. It might make for some fun articles, to be sure, watching me struggle with something I’m unfamiliar with, but for the sake of getting this Arthas novel a new home, let’s just leave it at “that would be a fun follow up”.

So don’t sweat it; this contest is all about the entries.  Make your case for what I should play, and that will be enough.  Though, if I do wind up playing it later, I’ll be sure to credit you and write some articles on it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve stopped by. Would you play if the winning argument, well, wins you over? :)

Since I haven’t the time to compose an appropriate entry, I’ll quickly suggest to you a male Troll Druid.

• Trolls are the least played race. Why, I do not know. Their lore is fascinating. Don’t let them become extinct!

• Male trolls are very entertaining. Their laugh, their dance, their myriad of hair/face paint/tusk combos… the male troll is just a fun loving guy. Besides, something’s gone wrong with the creation process for female trolls. Somehow 95% of them end up with the same face! I would stay away from that voodoo if I were you.

• Druid. I might be a bit biased, but with the druid class you can experience any component of the holy trinity with a mere respec and gear change. An added bonus is you have options with the dps third: melee or spellcaster. No other class can make the same claim.

I think I just talked myself into making a male Troll Druid of my own!

Tesh
tae6h@hotmail.com
166.70.188.25

Wait, the Mama Druid? The one who had such awesome naming articles, but whose blog fell off the ‘net? If so, good to see you! If not, well… hello!

To answer the question, well… how about a solid “maybe”. I would *like* to, but finances might get in the way. If I have to buy the original WoW, TBC, Wrath *and* Cataclysm to get to play the winner’s suggestion, well, that’s an uphill battle. If I can just buy the base game and go to town, well, maybe $20 is worth playing WoW for a month to get a couple of articles and loads of screenshots out of it, right?

That said, whether or not I will actually wind up playing the winner’s suggestion is completely irrelevant for the judging. It might make for some fun articles, to be sure, watching me struggle with something I’m unfamiliar with, but for the sake of getting this Arthas novel a new home, let’s just leave it at “that would be a fun follow up”

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