Goodbye Warcraft! Hello Warcraft?

Long time, no see.  Sorry, been transitioning into a new job out in Arizona.  I left my hometown to embark on a new mission.  No, I’m not stalking our favorite bleggar, either.  Something’s been on my mind a long time, and it was confirmed today.

I chose to name my blog and officially place it on it’s own domain at a time when WoD sorta looked like it had promise.  It was a short time after that I found myself finally throwing in the towel and playing content from 10 years ago…  and loving it.  So outside of relocating halfway across the country, beginning a new job, and messing with a game that was dead I made a big choice to quit Warcraft (even though I’m part of the subs thanks to tokens) and then start playing Warcraft.  Just in a different time.

Since today’s numbers demonstrate that I’m not alone in leaving the game, with 1.5 million people (mind you, this would be considered a major city in the USA) telling Blizz where to stick their content.  And even more humorous to me was this gem:

They were more fucked than 5.6 million prior to the release?  How low?  One can only speculate, but I don’t even want to think about it.  They’ve officially arrived at December 2005 numbers.  The game had 5.6 million players a year after the official release of Classic.  Why?  Because players were joining in droves and telling their friends to get in on the phenomenon or get left behind.  Today’s community is telling their friends to gtfo while the getting is good.  Sad, no?

While I’m playing in a completely non-TOU way to enjoy my favorite MMO my way, that’s also sad.  I’m forced to seek out my favorite content because the manufacturer is busy retconning and hyping their official game, while ignoring that they have players that would like to take in the sights and sounds from years past, even though the toxic community of assholes they’ve developed are busy telling me “nostalgia”.  I dunno, I have a 60 and am about 2 months out from 3 more.  I am taking in the lore of the game and dealing with the bugs like a hardcore, and I get talent trees that actually are somewhat interesting.  I’m not playing nostalgia, I’m playing a game with evolving content by hardcore fans of the game.  Further, my server is packed with between 3500 and 8000 players at any given time.  People are halfway decent to one another because you have to be to get things done, and being a jackhole will land you on a blacklist.  Further, cheating is aggressively sanctioned.  You, on the other hand, get forced into more and more solo gameplay and told “no” more than “yes”, content gets burned through in days rather than months, and your announcements are peppered with new store microtransactions.

I don’t want to slam the game for those that are enjoying it, because I simply don’t enjoy your content.  I enjoy my favorite content.  If we went to an ice cream store and you ordered a banana split and I ordered a fudge sundae, I think we can both agree that we got what we wanted because we had the options.  There are officially 5 expansions and classic content.  How do you make 6 generations of Warcraft players happy and benefit your bottomline at the same time?  Gee, I dunno.  Burn those previous tiers of content and tell your players to adapt or die?  You’re telling a story?  Like it or not, this is a game, a business, and entertainment for millions.  There’s a reason why reruns are shown on TV.  There’s a reason why you change your business paradigm when things aren’t working.

With an announcement of another expansion just hours away from this post, it just makes me wince.  We got royally fucked with this expansion in terms of almost everything.  Price?  Higher than the previous expansions while being told “free 90”.  Content?  3 patches with 2 raid tiers.  Developers outright telling us how to think.  PvP content receiving change after change to very cold reception with the lead developer exiting Twitter.  The gold game was practically destroyed and everyone shoveled into the same funnels.  And now, after years of precedent, the next expansion is being announced at Gamescom, and the rest of us will miss out on seeing it except in YouTube videos and streams.  Woohoo.  Pinky swirl.  And /golfclap.

Blow by Blow

Straight from MMOC’s comments…

  • More developers are working on World of Warcraft than ever before

If I was involved with Warcraft at Blizzard, I’d be pulling a Ghostcrawler/Bashiok.  Bashiok is now a Senior Content Manager over at NCSoft.  Smart move, they keep releasing new IPs and building on them and he was just a CM at Blizz.

I would expect that with the loss of about 1.5 million subs, which at most would be a hit of around 22.4 million bucks per month, there’s going to be some massive adjustments incoming.  You don’t go from 10 million to HALF your income without rethinking the office cubicle layout.  Someone’s got to pay, and it won’t be any of those bloated officer/VP/Executive Director checks.  In these situations, the little guys in the trenches feel the penalties, not the guys at the top.  All those GMs and CMs you like to abuse, they get to pack their desks.  Raises don’t happen.  Careers go stagnant.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, maybe an adjustment is just what they need?  New ideas, new blood, beheaded managers who were stopping innovation get replaced by people who come up with better ideas and paradigms.  When you stare into the abyss, you figure out what’s really important.

  • The Warcraft movie is a chance to expose Warcraft’s lore to new audiences and increase interest in World of Warcraft overall.

This is a year away.  They won’t even show us the trailer unless we attend SDCC, and YouTube accounts showing it get instantly hammered.  So you’re going to show a movie demonstrating lore that was followed up with game content that was destroyed by Cataclysm and the company refuses to re-release.  I’m telling you, if they don’t open legacy servers with this next expansion (and I know how popular they really are), you can count on the same graph as you see right now. If this is acceptable, then the executive management has officially lost their fucking minds and need to go back to business school.

Show me lore from 15 years ago and then put me into a game that doesn’t have anything to do with the demonstrated lore.  That’ll be a nice introduction for those people.  Other issue:  New players coming in?  What will happen to the game as a result?  You guessed it.

  • The subscriber count was down in the east, in part due to Diablo 3 release.

Ah yes, because people often quit Warcraft when Diablo 3 is released.  I assume they are talking about the season that was released shortly after 6.1, because 6.1 was a pile of dogshit and I for one was happy to pay attention to Diablo 3 instead of Warcraft.  Eastern players recognize what’s best, and Diablo 3 kicks ass now – and the game has come light years from the 7 year development period that resulted in another pile of dogshit.  The thing I fear is that they may cut devs from Warcraft and put them on D3 and one of them may be Jay Wilson.  /shudder

  • Patch 6.2 helped to stabilize the subscriber count in the last few weeks of the quarter.

Again.  They were LOWER than 5.6 million?  Third quarter is going to be an A-Bomb.  This explains their actions the past month in three letters…  S.O.S.

  • Blizzard has been listening to players experiences during Warlords of Draenor and thinks players will be excited by the announcement this week

Fanboys will be excited.  Fan sites will promote the news.  Twitter will go nuts with screenshots.  The hype machine cometh.  That’s the biggest no-shit statement I’ve heard all day.

  • Tokens are included in this timeframe, as they launched in Q2.

/Raises Hand.  Yes, I have tokens out the wazzoo. Will I play? No. The account can rot.  I have zero desire to play live Warcraft today.  I log into Classic and I’m excited to see if anything sold for a few silver.  Log into WoD?  Blow CDs, look at mission table.  Check friend list for who’s on?  Noone?  Ok, log out.

  • Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Destiny combined now have more than 70 million registered players.

The future of Blizzard and Blizzcon, gang.  Learn it, live it, and love it.  Once Overwatch releases and with all those micros, they’ll have one forum at Blizzcon for the Warcraft people, and then we can all scuttle off and enjoy the rest of our weekend.

  • Blizzard Entertainment had the largest online player community in its history, with Q2 MAUsB up 50% year-over

I believe this, given the new games.  Thanks for making me feel like a Blizzosaurus.  Maybe in two years we can all check into a gamers museum where people can sit and speculate what we died of.

  • Hearthstone engagement metrics nearly doubled year over year, largely on account of the new content and new platforms

See above.  Yikes.  Get me my cane and lawnchair.

  • Diablo III has now sold-through over 30 million units life-to-date globally.

And this was the good news for the day, because Diablo will always be my favorite game universe.  I wish I had a Tyrael hood for my “fun” photo up at the office.

Conclusion

I think it’s great that lots of people still enjoy the game as it is.  5.6 million people?  No other game has that player base, unless you count all the Asian-market-only MMOs.  Or the playerbase of some of these non-MMOs.  It supports a rather large group of people’s lifestyles, which I’m sure they’re thankful for.  Nothing is worse than wondering where your next meal is coming from, so hopefully the bleeding won’t be too bad.  Of course, it will be more challenging for people to get into Blizz, with a looming freeze coming since they have more candidates internally than you can shake a stick at.

Here’s hoping that the next expansion has nothing to do with Draenor, and possibly has content for those of us that like the old stuff (Say it with me… Legacy… servers…).  But this would require lots of resources, and unfortunately it looks like they’re going to be playing that old card moreso in the future.

Thanks for stopping in!

What If?

Nobody reads my articles.  Oh wait, records show nearly a thousand views this last week while there’s a nearly three week old article last posted.  That means I’m read by 0.014% of the Warcraft population.  That would mean you’re one of the elites, and I thank you for your readership. I don’t write too often because I really only like posting when there’s something to say.  If you’re getting fed my drivel on a daily or even weekly basis, I feel it just becomes like everyone else.  I’m not a journalist or anything in search of a daily story, I’m a gamer in search of himself and his sanity.

Today I’m going to test your moxy – can you read over 10,000 words in one sitting?  I’ve warned my Twitter followers for the past few weeks that this was going to be long, so grab a coffee and prepare to be nostalgia-tized. I’m going to go over what has become of this game and why I’ve chosen to do something else, why there should be legacy content released, and ultimately a host of reasons WHY it can never be released.  Just to whatever headings interest you the most, I know this is a lot of text.

I’ll start by saying right up front…

Warcraft has become a travesty of it’s former self.  And by travesty I mean a game that was in production for about 4 years, released over 10 years ago, and only took 10 years to tear itself up by appealing to a new playerbase that likes Warcraft for the social media functions rather than the original lore and the game it was supposed to be.  They’ve successfully removed the “RPG” in “MMO-RPG”.  You are now playing a game that has very little role playing, not much gaming except for the meta games inside raids and garrisonville, and people can now buy their way to 90 without knowing a damned thing about the game.  There’s no real exploration, the original lore of the game has been removed to the point that nobody knows why we even fight anymore, and the fanboys have taken over the asylum.  It’s more of an altered state, whereby you log in and there’s not much threat of failure, new players are not required to really learn their classes through leveling anymore, and the development is in a direction of more removal of features and more additions of features that are essentially mini-games of other online social media productions.  It’s everything BUT Warcraft.

In the beginning, the artwork was toned down to the iconic “cartoonish” style.  This was for several reported reasons – 1) It insured those with 5 year old machines would be able to play the game and 2) the fanbase that came into the game was from original RTS Warcraft.  I personally bought Guild Wars prior to playing WoW, and after playing through that game and looking at WoW the first time, my reaction was … “What the hell is up with the cartoon graphics?”  I had a new machine with dual graphics cards at the time, which thankfully lasted for 5 years because the graphics requirements eventually did me in.  At least the one thing that’s not changed is the style of the graphics in all that time, because we still get to play cartoonish style in a 10+ year old world, which is almost the game’s homage to the way things were.  To change those to life-like models today would no doubt cause an enormous disturbance in the playerbase, moreso than anything they’ve done to date.

If you know me, and you probably don’t, one of my favorite memories in World of Warcraft history was sometime between the time I joined the game during Classic and when I downed Illidan during The Burning Crusade.  Borelords of Draenor, the latest money grab and non-canon expansion, is already doing a terrific job of plunging subscriptions to below end of Classic numbers.  Like I said, they’ve replaced a game of exploration, social skills, and good gaming with a near Facebook and smartphone app.  And just like George Banks (Steve Martin’s character from “Father of the Bride”), I’ve had enough of it and so I am saying NO.  Throw me in jail.  But hear me out, the latest expansion was fun in the beginning because it put things in place for Burning Crusade, you jumped into Doc Brown’s time machine and got to see a world that could have been.  I had a great time for the first 3 months of the game.  This wore off for me after I figured out that the game was really headed towards “more of the same” after 6.1’s release and development that rivaled even the worst ideas in MMO history.  There’s too much resting on their laurels.  And for distinctive and refined pallets, more of the same equates to McDonalds menus and boredom for all, catering to insure grandma and her 5 year old grandson can both enjoy the same accessibility, as we all get fat and happy as what we liked best gets removed and things become much easier to retain.

Of course, Mythic raiding is insanely challenging, but that’s just one piece of the game that’s also a problem.  The same content for everyone used to be the rule for years, but today our characters are not separated by content but by difficulties of the same content.  Since Wrath there are no more MC, BWL, Naxx, Mag/Gruul, SSC/TK, BT/MH, SWP guilds.  You’re now all the same, the only difference is not in the actual bosses you’ve downed, but only what version of the boss.  Everyone in 6.1 was immediately a BRF guild, and if you started in normal your content was Normal to Heroic to Mythic.  The same game.  While bleeding edge guilds have been gearing alts in Mythic for weeks now, many haven’t finished Blackhand in Heroic.  Super characters for the top 2%, for everyone else you get to repeat the same content in different difficulties.  You know, Diablo 3 on release had this exact same system.  How’d that work out?  You used to invest your time working with your guild outside of raids to insure everyone had their consumables, proper resistance gear and materials to make them, and even running previous tiers to insure you had the best possible gear between lockouts.  Guilds tended to stick together and be a lot more social than today’s “log in for raid” culture.  With the removal of incentives, those days are gone.

After months of sitting around doing CDs, missions, and making sure work orders were always replenished, I realized that they took the Tiller’s model and amplified it by 1000x.  Then they took the “we’d rather be doing something else” model and inserted it everywhere else.  I’m sorry gang, but again I’m voting with my wallet.  I have 3 years of gametime prepaid through tokens, and I’m going to just say screw it and wait out until the final patch, and let’s all pray that there isn’t one and it goes straight into the next expansion along with the announcement of a bunch of people exiting.  I played the PTR, and Patch 6.2 is nothing more than a snooze-fest, and no matter WHAT the people over at ZAM (Wowhead) keep promoting, or the nice fellows at MMOC keep posting on a daily basis, ultimately their jobs depend on your interest in bullshit minutia, dealing with ignored requests, and enhancing the mini-game of garrisons even further.  Bloggers who make revenue off of information are dropping like flies or reaching for content.  This game has dropped 30% of subscribers since release of the expansion, and with the recent botter banwave it’s probably going to drop another million before it’s all said and done by July’s numbers.  (Cool fact, if they hit 6 million they’ll achieve a new low not seen since Classic’s days, and I congratulate them on royally fucking up another franchise like they did with Diablo. If quarterly meetings were live shareholder meetings these guys would be burned at the stake and their heads placed on pikes at the company entrance by the stockholders.)  No matter what they do, per my last post, they won’t get anyone back.  And given Ian Hasikostas’ recent interview (and I’ll predict for his upcoming interview) they don’t care.  It’s a given that you’ll lose interest and that’s fine. They’re perfectly fine with loss of subs mid-expansion.  Hey, they don’t have to try, because all those people will be back at expansion time, right?  Well, it’s time to make it hurt so they’ll listen because businesses don’t fund themselves through apathy.

I’ve decided to dedicate my playtime to two things.  Number one being Diablo 3, because Diablo is my title with Blizzard.  I’ve been a fan of the franchise for going on 15 years.  But number two, if I’m playing Warcraft, I’m playing it on private servers.  And more specifically, I’m playing the original Classic Warcraft frozen in time at Patch 1.12.1.  That’s right, Naxx was out, the GM/HW grind was in swing, and there wasn’t any damned flying available and nobody asked for it or demanded it.  Trade chat was littered with groups looking for tanks and healers for dungeons instead of raids, people were in love with the game and it wasn’t a toxic atmosphere like today.  We liked the game like it was.  Sure, you can count my sub as subbed, but I’m not playing, and that’ll screw up the forecast for a new expansion.  The private server method of playing has been around for years, and the people PLAYING on private servers aren’t really doing it because they’re cheap and don’t want to pay a sub.

They’re playing on them because they love the game more than ANY fanboy streamer who raises money for Blizzcon on streams you can name.  When you’re talking to a believer or a real fanatic, you do not mess with their religion, their politics, or how they like to play Warcraft.

Regular people buy the current game and accept it and play it for what it is.  They keep subbed because it means they get to play with “friends”.  But a person who is willing to play the game in a previous version of it has selected something they like.  And they also play with friends, those that are more passionate about the game that they play and respect it for what it was.  Almost like a connoisseur of fine wines and art, they’ve said “screw the rest, this is best”.  But you can’t tell that to today’s Blizzard. They know all about private servers, and they’ve chosen do nothing about it (thankfully).  What IS a private server?  It’s a server that’s completely dedicated to playing a game without subscription, with dedicated personnel monitoring it.  People have retained copies of server side software to organize a playing field for those that want to play their way for the various points in time that were most relevant to players.  That means those that liked Classic, TBC, or Wrath can play the game in all it’s glory until there is no more electricity or internet.

J. Allen Brack, your Vice President of World of Warcraft, has officially proclaimed that Blizzard will never support legacy servers at Blizzcon.  Just take a look at how he shot down a fan at Blizzcon in 2013.  Mind you, Blizzard completely skipped 2012 because of “release dates” and this is the first WoW Q&A since 2011.

Go to exactly 30:00 on this video, and you’ll see Mr. Brack give a shit-eating grin while he talks down to some poor fellow who was probably about 10 years old when the game was released that he doesn’t know what he wants.  This is possibly the worst case of brow beating in a video game I’ve ever seen, and I read trade chat.  He could have said, “You don’t want to do that, you’re not a real gamer and you’re used to the easy tools we’ve given you.  If we were to ask you to become a real gamer and be social with others in order to succeed or progress, you’d bring pitchforks and torches to the forums and we’d rather not.”  Christ, the guy should have started that whole tirade (against a fucking customer mind you) with “look into my eyes” like Chili Palmer from Get Shorty.  But you can’t argue with Mr. Brack, the guy is a martial arts master and can probably kick your ass.

All I heard in his statement was, “Fuck you, I’ll tell you what you want, do you know who I am?”  Of course, most people asking questions wouldn’t know who he was, because he’s the hidden barricade behind the scenes.  There’s customer focused, and then there’s sales focused.  Mr. Brack is sales focused, and is akin to the assholes you see when you go shopping for a car or a life insurance policy.  Those people are 100% about themselves, don’t let anyone tell you different, because in real life I’m sales focused in my profession.  And seriously, when you’re title is also Head of God Damned World of Warcraft and Keeping Blizzard Afloat, I’m positive it goes to your head, because I guarantee you I would have a size 10 hat size if I was in charge.  His job is to keep the game relevant and sell 10 million copies every two years, and after that the job is mostly cashing paychecks and buying sports cars for family members and telling the wife they’re going on some exotic vacation.  I know that situation, and I can tell you the worst thing in the world you can do is interrupt it.  So what do we do with salesmen when they take this attitude?  We walk off the lot.  We hang up on them.  We call their boss.  We take them down a notch.  I’ve had to get my boss on a number of occasions, and once it got me actually fired (years ago).

Unfortunately, J. Allen Brack is the Vice President of Warcraft, which means the seat he moistens everyday is nearly at the top when it comes to making decisions within Blizzard.  There’s zero chance of the game coming out in re-release format from the manufacturer with this attitude, unless they send him packing or the brass has a heart to heart about it.  And corporations are cool in this respect, they don’t respect anyone’s tenure.  If you’re stupid opinions stand in the way of the share value, then they come up with a nice severance and a nice group of guys who will pack your shit and courier it to your house.  Ask my friend, he was nearly 20 years with my old company, and his ideas weren’t very good.  Everyone liked him, but they liked their stock options better, so he was sent to the unemployment lines.  Cold truth of life – your value is only as good as the value you are returning for the company.  Lucky for us we have Activision on our side.  Can you believe that’s actually the case?

Mr. Brack came into Warcraft as a producer shortly after the game’s release in 2005.  Prior to this he worked for various other titles, with the most notable producing Star Wars Galaxies.  Given that Blizzard borrowed an assload of content while developing the game for that game, this is a good fit, so just borrow a producer of a game you copied.  Since then, he replaced Mike Morhaime as the Executive Producer of the game.  He wasn’t involved in the original game’s development in the least, but he has been directly involved with the escalation of the games popularity through Warth and cratering of the game’s popularity through today.  The original developers were probably pretty freaking passionate about the game, treating it almost as their child.  Just from watching this character at various Blizzcons, he seems to have an extreme elitist attitude towards the serfs who write his check.  And by serfs, I mean the customer base.  But enough about this celebrity within the Warcraft universe, I just don’t like his attitude because he scares away the innovation.

Everquest, when it reached 10 years, released legacy content for the playerbase.  This gave everyone the chance to go back and experience the game as it was at release, regardless of all the content patches.  I wouldn’t say it was a precedent so much as a way to increase market share.  When you have an aged intellectual property (IP) like Blizzard has on their hands, you pretty much want to exploit all avenues in order to keep people both interested and shoveling cash your way.  And Blizzard has a real situation on their hands.

Blizzard today has THREE properties in production today.  They own Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft.  That’s it.  And in the past few years, you’ve seen spin-offs of these franchises more-so than you’ve seen any new IPs.  World of Warcraft was a spin-off for crying out loud, but it was also the game that really put the company on the map as not only a creative studio, but a gold tier publisher.  Overwatch may be coming, but that’s essentially Team Fortress, and for fucks sake they really reached on that one in the panels in 2014 explaining that they didn’t rip anything off.  Of course they did.  With the cancellation of Titan, they’ve reached the bottom of the exploitation hole and they can’t dig further.  All that creative talent (Chris Metzen, who was in charge of that shit at one point) cannot come up with anything better than a reboot of Team Fortress, being produced by one of the former lead developers of the original Warcraft, Jeff Kaplan.  Seriously, you can’t make this up.  Kaplan was awesome at designing Warcraft, he got his real notoriety in the gaming universe leading a world ranked guild in Everquest.  The guy got his job by actually being a hardcore MMORPG gamer, knowing what hardcore MMORPG gamers want, and designing like a hardcore MMORPG gamer.

Passion for gaming and love for their genre is what built the different IPs.  The Diablo franchise was masterfully fucked up with a 7 year development cycle and caused near Armageddon level hatred towards the developers.  The game’s predecessor, was able to proclaim 7 million copies sold 2 years after release, and this was at a time when computer gaming was not exactly a big deal.  This was a game that was originally released by a subsidiary of Blizzard (known as Blizzard North) who all self terminated by 2004 because they didn’t like the direction of Blizzard back then.  So what this should tell you is simple – Blizzard never developed the franchise originally, they were just the publisher.  That worked well and resulted in memes and a black mark for Blizzard.  Today the current inception of the game is liked by thousands of players around the world who told Blizzard in the beginning that they released the biggest piece of shit since ever and to change their ways.  Hey, the game was only in development for seven years.  They patched the hell out of the game over the next year just to turn it more into Diablo 2, even though they hemmed and hawed for seven flipping years developing it.  Today, Blizzard loyalists pray Jay Wilson doesn’t come within a cubicle conversation of anything they’ll be playing.  The fact he’s still there and even remotely close to any of the IPs makes fans wince today.  I don’t fault Mr. Wilson for much however, he overpromised and underdelivered.  In the lead up to the game’s release, we started to see that there were probably going to be issues.

Starcraft is probably the most steady of their IPs, with the Asian market dominating the circuit, and nobody in the US or EU really pays attention except a marginal group of fans, yet it becomes a prime topic during Blizzcons for some reason as we see the top teams only from one region of the world dominating. Of course it would make sense, these parts of the world also have MMOs with 3-4 times the subscribers that Warcraft has ever had.  Economies of population scale.  If you want to dominate in gaming, make something the Chinese love, because they are 1/5 of the world’s population afterall.

I mentioned Overwatch.  Since Blizzard’s loyalist fanbase of several million would probably eat a pile of cowshit on command if it meant they could get a new legendary item, there’s no telling if this will be a hot IP for the company.  Diablo 3 had the same problem…  if Blizzard had shipped a jewel case with a real, honest to goodness turd enclosed, some Diablo fans probably would have bought it and rated it 5 stars.  It’s no joke, there is a real cottage industry developed around Blizzard fandom and appealing to them.  Social media marketing and merchandising is a really hot paradigm, so the future is to insure you get THEIR message to your friends, and keep buying new titles, expansions, plushies, and mircotransactions so you won’t be left out.  Social media is nothing more than appealing to the herd and steering it in a direction so everyone in the herd follows suit.  Think for yourself, and if you like something, stand up for it.

So Which Direction For WoW?

This leaves the IP of World of Warcraft, or sub IP as I mentioned earlier.  This is Blizzard’s biggest cash cow to date and the reason Morhaime lives in a big house rather than just a regular house.  No doubt, he’s worked hard for it, taken the risks, and deserves all your pennies.  The idea behind ANY IP is to maximize the profitability of it, regardless of personal bias.  If there’s a market for people to buy it and you can produce it at a profit, you owe it to your stockholders and to the customers to exploit it to the absolute fullest.  Take for example the following titles:

  • Diablo: Single player game, still probably played by people who hated Diablo 2
  • Diablo 2: Still supported by Blizzard, playable online through Battle.net
  • Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction – Still supported by Blizzard, playable online through Battle.net
  • Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos – Still playable online via Battle.net.  You can buy the game today.
  • Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne – Still playable online via Battle.net.  You can buy the game today.
  • Starcraft – The original is still supported on Battle.net.
  • Starcraft 2 – Obviously playable today.
  • World of Warcraft – No longer playable.  Replaced by The Burning Crusade.
  • World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade – No longer playable. Replaced by Wrath of the Lich King.
  • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King – No longer playable. Replaced by Cataclysm.
  • World of Warcraft: Cataclysm – No longer playable.  Replaced by Mists of Pandaria.
  • World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria – No longer playable.  Replaced by Warlords of Draenor.
  • World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor – Awaiting replacement

The whole World of Warcraft issue is troubling.  Basically, every two years the company tells us that they’re pulling the plug on the content, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine.  You can deal with the game changes with the next expansion, or don’t buy the expansion and be left behind.  “We’re telling a story” is the common excuse for not allowing others to remain behind under the previous rules, but that’s pretty weak.  The stories they release is valid for about a week after they launch a new expansion or a patch.

Oh no, what will happen to Thrall?  What about the love child between Proudmoore and Wrynn?  Did it happen?  They killed yet another major lore figure and it ruins the entire game!  With WOD we’re going back in time, so everything you see from the point Gul’dan got pimp slapped no longer applies.  Who gives a fuck?  This is about killing people online and sending them to the graveyard.  Or whatever you make it to be for yourself because THIS is entertainment.  It’s not reality.  What matters is the game and the decision you made to become invested in it.

The World You Don’t Remember or Never Played

I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble with my statements here today, but I am going to ask that before you develop an opinion on anything that you at least look at the alternatives.  With that being said, let me expose you to the other side of Warcraft.

What IS most important to gamers is the way their game is played.  The original Warcraft was extremely well thought out for a rough draft of four years in the making.  This was the Warcraft that I, your humble writer, discovered after much prodding from friends.  It was unforgiving, it required you to spend insane amounts of time leveling by today’s standards, it was unclear as to how to get from A to B, and most important it was fun because it appealed to actual gamers who wanted to solve the puzzle.  In other words it was Role Playing Game.  Today’s Warcraft would drive yesteryear’s Warcraft players to quitting immediately, which it has in droves, and they don’t care.  Just look for someone running around with actual GM/HW transmogs, the person who opened AQ on your server, or someone who isn’t 22 today telling you they lead their guild to MC/BWL/AQ40/Naxx glory.  I have 1-2 friends on my friends list today from back then still playing, down from about 80.

And that’s not a bad thing, it’s good that Warcraft evolved to meet a new generation of players, even if they are merely players and not gamers.  Watch Twitch, the people playing are, for the most part, players and not gamers.  Very few of them are gamers.  Gamers think things through, they make decisions, are highly competitive and you can put them in a situation and they work it out.  They execute critical thinking, whereas the majority of people playing today require flashing ore nodes, highlighted NPCs, or definitive “!” marks to let them know where quests are available.  They demand this type of play.  Curiosity is no longer a part of Warcraft.  Warcraft was built on the carrot and the stick model, which is definitely missing today.  The carrot is now in the raid level gear, as opposed to completing that next quest, solving that long and drawn out chain nobody else wanted to do, and having a sense of real personal accomplishment.

How to find out what the differences are for yourself:  Go to www.wow-one.com (you may need a proxy to access this website in the United States, but this one has far fewer bugs) or www.vanillagaming.com and download Classic Warcraft, install it, and play it.  A standard 1-60 leveling trek should take you about 14 days played if you’re doing it correctly.  That’s 336 hours of gameplay.  Unless you opt for the turbo cheats, and then you can call yourself just a player.  My first 60 in Warcraft was started in a late July, and I finished 60 by early October with time to level between my evenings home from work and weekends.  My second took less than two months, and my third took me just over a month because TBC hit (of course, I had the free time at that point and I was also on a hunter).  Now if you’re a person who stopped at 1 day played, you’re not a gamer.  You’re a hamster.  You like getting rewards quickly and you don’t care about the journey or the fun along the way.  This is what original Warcraft offered – a journey that allowed you the time to meet new friends, join several guilds, and meet others on your server that would possibly lead to lasting relationships in the game.  In some cases – it led to marriages and kids.  I know, I had a former GM that happened to PUG his future wife.  You learned how to play the game through leveling and you identified what your class was about and how to play it properly.

If you didn’t play the original, you’re a person who would have missed out on 3 hour Sunken Temple or Maraudon runs.  You missed out on braving your way through other faction zones just to run Deadmines, Wailing Caverns, Scarlet Monastery, or Shadowfang Keep without summons or queues.  You missed out on having to designate crowd control responsibilities, personal responsibilities, and even communicate in game so you could succeed.  You see, when you spend 3 hours with people in runs like that, you tend to bond even if the run went to hell.  You make new friends and others can see you are a gamer that wants to go places or just another player for the ignore list.  That’s the social aspect of the game that was taken away with the introduction of Icecrown Citadel and the “button” that Mr. Brack alluded to in his response above.  Back in the wayback years, we used to have to find others to party with and possibly make in-game friends.  We couldn’t succeed unless we could count on friends we had made.  And that’s something J. Allen Brack is against for whatever reason.  This is now a game about getting loot, gold, and other prizes quickly and who cares who gets offended and turned off along the way!  I’m not into instant gratification, or phony recognition, I’m a Gen-Xer which means my father probably walked downhill in the snow but still didn’t have shoes on.

As a proud member of the Gen-X generation (1960s to early 1980s) my generation tends to be nostalgic.  We grew up in a time where video games were just being introduced, and we were taught a punishing lesson – 3 lives is all you get, otherwise you get to insert more quarters and start over again.  My generation’s movies were things like Revenge of the Nerds, Back to the Future, Rambo, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (along with most everything else written by John Hughes).  With me being more in the middle of that generation, I was exposed to computers at an early time, and I was part of the original geek culture when it was just labeled “geek”.  Computer club, math and science being my favorite subjects, and D&D/Bard’s Tale/Ultima in my free time.  I was also a jock, but that also meant I got made fun of for being smart, into computers and hanging out with kids who wore horizontal stripes on a daily basis.  Still, we got yelled at about homework, participation trophies weren’t handed out, and our parents didn’t follow us along for job interviews or final exams.  But, like I said, we’re nostalgic.  We put away our childish things as adults, but we all have memories, boxes, scrapbooks or closets that hold things very dear to us, because we have a hard time letting anything go.

Today the game is almost a single player paradise, almost driven that direction by greed for subscriptions and shut-in wants and needs.  Blizzard has gone through (based on previous interviews) over 30 million subscribers to the game over the years.  That’s horrific, considering only about 7 million today still bother to subscribe.  In the sales world we call than churning and burning.  Find new customers, take as much money as you can, and replace them as soon as possible.  Pretty soon you run out of prospects.  Today you don’t need friends to succeed, you need the LFR and LFD button to just be satisfied.  You won’t make friends that way when half the group can’t speak your language, are shut-ins anyhow, and are just there for quick runs and loot.  At one point guilds used to recruit for raid positions looking for a 5th dungeon slot in chat (they would bring you hoping you were at least capable), while today replying to trade chat spam is the norm.  Absolutely, the game is too old.

There are literally thousands of players today who used to play Warcraft in previous incarnations.  No doubt, many have moved on into new lives, made families, or have discovered new diversions.  I get that, prior to D2 and Warcraft, I was a really good golfer.  Think “Person you want in your foursome when money is on the line” level.  But being a Gen-Xer, it’s really hard to surrender your past.  Gaming for me became my chief escape, and I found I liked using my mind to entertain myself rather than my body years ago.  And this is where I propose Blizzard finds their solution in their past as well.

With millions of former players, the answer is not to replace the current playerbase, but to appeal to those that came before and left.  You’ve had your time in the sun, your average player today is a Millennial, who is more in touch with social media and short attention spans than they are in solving anything important.  When the game was released, Gen-Xers were the playerbase, who also happen to be the majority of the Blizzard development team even today.  My old guilds were filled with people my age, and I imagine at Blizz the offices with doors are filled with receding hairlines and guys wearing earrings with gray hair.  Even Mike Morhaime is a Gen-Xer.  It’s surprising to me that nobody has slapped their forehead and said, “We really need to appeal to those that have played the game before and would enjoy coming back for another hurrah.”

You won’t do it with new storyline.  Gen-Xers are now at an age where change sucks.  We’ve dealt with it all our life, and humans have that one characteristic that requires new generations to kill; new change.  As you get older, a fantastic thing happens.  You reach a comfort zone, you get used to doing things, and you develop a routine.  In our daily lives at work we are asked to make changes all the time because the world is ever evolving.  It’s considered a weakness to be resistant to change.  Warcraft has asked it’s playerbase to deal with it every 2 years for 8 years now.  Some kept up with it, others not so much.  If you want to appeal to a new customer base, appeal to your former customer base.  Nothing says warm and inviting like a familiar place, which is why Warcrafters historically have always been able to say they will never be able to go home again – the freaking place changes far too often.

Classic and Burning Crusade offered a spectacular thing you don’t see today.  You were a part of a community just by joining a server.  You had some say over your dominion, the people you ran dungeons and raids with, the types of people who infested your server’s trade chat.  Do you know at one point GMs could ban people for bad behavior (cursing, berating others)?  Along the way the game became super popular thanks to millions of dollars in advertising, but that was short lived.  But prior to this, the advertising went like this:  My friends need to play, I’ll tell them.  I have kids that want to play, time to buy 6 copies, with one for the wife!  I’ve moved on from that old game, you should really try Warcraft.

You could hold Blizzcons every month of the year, with live streams and Twitter feeds, but there is no more powerful an interaction that leads to continued streams of revenues as a trusted friend telling another – this is the golden ticket, you should join, too.  All of that marketing has already been bought and paid for, there is a giant market of players aching to play their favorite and possibly last game again with one another.  I would dare say that if it ever happens the first day of a Blizzard sponsored legacy server’s trade chat would be filled with people trying to reconnect with one another.  People seeking out that which they once knew as home, and building on that.

But Blizzard destroyed all of that goodwill.  The game we knew and loved was replaced every two years while we were left with shrinking friends lists, only to be cast aside to be told we had to find new friends. If you’re lucky enough to have been in a guild for the past decade, then count yourself one of the few.  For the vast majority of people, they’ve found themselves in an ever changing universe that required them to constantly look for new people to play with.  The features that they proclaimed would strengthen us only caused people to flee.

Change is good, when taken in moderation.  With each new expansion since Wrath, the game has thrown the puzzle into the air and told the players – figure it out.  When people don’t want to figure it out, they simply say, “I’m done”.

Today, as with expansion that have gone past expiration dates in the past, there’s a lot of talk about “Vanilla Servers!?”  This happens every so often to coincide with the content becoming consumed.  If you are one of the curious, I would encourage you to seek them out, and the two links I’ve provided will give you a safe environment with which to play, just don’t give them anything personal about yourself.  By far Feenix is my favorite, since I can either take a sight seeing tour or level to 60 almost like the old days.  They aren’t perfect, but they are definitely close.  You’ll encounter lots of bugs, many of which existed even with the retail version of the game.  The worst bugs I’ve encountered are quest issues, whereby questgivers have been either removed or completing a quest is not possible.  But like any true gamer following their passion, I work around the problem, I don’t spend my time complaining.  I’m happiest just being back in the world I knew before it went and got itself blown up!

I’ll close this argument like any geek would, I’ll go into Star Wars.  Almost 40 years ago, the original Star Wars was released.  I, like many kids my age, remember buying empty cardboard boxes in place of Star Wars figures because the marketing was ahead of production – we had to mail away for our figures.  I had a C-3PO, which some jerk kid stole from me because I was dumb enough to take it to Kindergarten with me for show and tell.  I got it back though, thanks to a teacher’s aid.  Anyhow, these movies were awesome, and became a real part of the culture.  Until George Lucas re-released them in 1997 with all the revisions and computer graphics.  And then released 3 more stinkers after that that most people of my generation wished they had never seen.  Mr. Lucas has refused to release the original movies (New Hope through Jedi) in their original format, finding every reason under the sun not to do it.  So because the new releases before the release of DVD players, I have to own a VCR today just to be able to watch them.  I can jump up and down, but I don’t like seeing Greedo firing first or that old clip between Han and Jabba, that’s not how I remembered it.  Mr. Lucas is an artist telling a story, and he’s telling you the story his way, and the only way to see the story the way you remembered it 30+ years ago is to retain copies of those old video tapes, or go online and get it through other methods (they do exist).

Do we see any similarities here?  Since J. Allen Brack is a massive Star Wars fan himself, I doubt we’ll ever see Classic Warcraft being actually re-released.  But alternatively, Classic is New Hope, Wrath was Jedi, Cataclysm was Phantom Menace, and you can see where we’re going from there.  Hopefully JJ Abrams does a solid job rebooting it, but change of authority is often needed to get what the fans want.

Valid Reasons NOT to Do It

Source: MMO-Champion put together a nice compilation on this issue

Let’s address this one, shall we?  Because it is the 800 pound gorilla in the room and we have to give rational thought to all sides of the issue.  Blizzard, as I’ve always preached, is a company.  While we would like to believe it’s a magic funhouse where people are sprinkled with fairy dust on the way in to work and the Oompa Loompas handle most everything, they are like all companies, they have the following:

1) A budget that has to be watched over and allocated annually and each department is responsible for keeping their costs under it.  Putting this together is one of the hardest parts of running a company of any size because you have limited means (or resources as Blizz likes to say).  That brings up a funny point – when they say “we haven’t the resources”, that’s a nice way of saying “it’s not in the budget right now”.

2) Someone in charge of PR that has the job of not telling you a damned thing about what their intentions are.  We call these community managers with gaming.  In many companies, those in R&D aren’t allowed to so much as speak to the press much less go on Facebook and Twitter and say anything about their current roles, responsibilities, and opinions.  This is where Blizzard ultimately gets it’s tit in a wringer, the Devs say something or misspeak, and pretty soon it’s an expected patch note or feature.  See The Current Flying in Azeroth Snafu.

3) A finite amount of desk space, computers, and software licenses.  I’m talking about employees here.  Hiring personnel has amazing hidden costs, and Blizzard is subject to them just like anyone else.  You have training and ramp-up, benefits, unemployment insurance, matching governmental taxes, etc.  A person that is paid $50,000 a year can easily be a $75,000 expense and more.  This is your most important investment as a business, and it’s easily the trickiest.

4) A better direction for their cash.  We all believe when we buy something the company goes right back and reinvests those costs and profits back into the product.  That’s not the case in the least.  Most of the time you’re wondering what new product you’re going to produce, when it will be delivered, and what kind of overruns you’re going to run into along the way.  Titan’s failure had to be devastating and I wonder who actually pulled the plug on that alligator.

5) Crusty old managers that are fine with the status quo.  These are the people there to mind the store, and in Blizzard’s case they answer to titles like Vice President.  Come to them with a million dollar idea, they’ll focus group it to death and kill it if they aren’t on board with adding more chores to their daily punch list.  Usually these guys can be found in meetings, planning meetings to schedule future meetings.  Bad thing?  Sometimes, they can strangle innovation.

5) Everything else and every other headache that you have to deal with on a daily basis.  Avoiding those speed bumps is very difficult when operating a business, so the less crap you can throw on the fan, the better.

While Lore confirms that it’s talked about internally, we know who’s in charge up there.  J. Allen Brack, as I mentioned.  And if you watched his answer in the video – the answer was clearly “NO” when it came to people discussing legacy content on his team.  So Lore’s contradicted his boss.  Obviously the guys at Warcraft would love to see it, but Lore and his people are missing the paygrade to make the decisions.  And if there’s one thing I know about big companies, when you settle in and get used to the 1st and the 15th, you get a mortgage, a house payment, and 2 kids with one on the way, your job specialty becomes “Don’t Rock The Boat”.

Would Classic (I hate the word Vanilla) Warcraft have a market?  Would there be the desire to actually play it?  Would it just be a server of 100,000 level 5 alts running around the world just to see the old content and have no desire to log in after?  This is impossible to know.

Starting a retail server that has to be maintained, programmed, and repaired is an expensive proposition.  And remember that Blizzard maintains multiple server locations, they aren’t just housed in Irvine.  If it was as easy as wiring a server up, loading the software, and resetting it every week, I assure you that the servers would be in service immediately.  But you can’t simply do this.  You have to hire the employees who would service this stuff, and the last time I checked IT personnel were some of the highest paying middle income jobs in the USA.  You’re looking at several hundred thousand dollars in annual maintenance just in people who have a job to maintain the game’s operation.  This is a specialized ask, not a bulk effort like maintaining the current server farms all working on the exact same content.

Customer Support would have to be very specialized.  Back then, if you made a looting mistake in a raid, you had to file a ticket.  Workarounds for CS workers today are not the same as they were back then, so you would need either specialized people dedicated to answering tickets, or people that were dual trained.  Look, CS GMs are just entry level workers at Blizzard trying to get a toehold in the gaming industry.  They aren’t exactly people engineering the next level of space exploration, they have stresses in their lives as well and for the most part get no respect from players.  Given you would need many of them to handle the issues, then you’re looking at a rather sizable investment.

The code for each patch is probably sitting around on some thumb drive in accounts payable, but it’s going to have to be fixed.  There were bugs, exploits, and other devious issues that were fixed in Patch 2.0 and later, so many of those things will have to be reworked.  Does anyone from back then still work on the programming of the game?  Were copious notes maintained so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel?  Could you imagine an undertaking like that? You’re probably looking at one to two years of recoding at the very least.

The playerbase will make even more demands on Blizzard.  Remember the days when you couldn’t transfer from PvE to PvP servers?  How about 90 day cooldowns between server transfer transactions?  This would add a whole new level of microtransactions as people would retain various pieces (Full GM/HW gear, Full Tier 3) and start demanding transfers from Classic to Live Retail so they can do transmogs.  While full GM/HW gear would definitely piss off a small minority, it’s a reality that would be asked for.  Since we now have the ability to do most of these things in-game and don’t have to go to the website to do them anymore, they would have to rebuild the infrastructure to allow these things because we all know Blizzard loves microtransactions.  So go ahead and add website development and possible game recoding to the mix.

So in order for something like this to even make dollar one, they would need to have a server population that probably rivals today’s high population servers.  People think money grows on trees and you can just throw something together and ship it, but this is Blizzard maintaining their own game, not a private server that’s run more as a hobby. Private servers fix bugs to the best of their ability, but they aren’t 100% and never will be.  They specialize in giving you an experience, not THE experience.

The game was made for a generation that was familiar with difficulties in gaming, not today’s crowd which demands outright perfection.  We used workarounds to get things to work back then, and I assure you the minute people found the first bugs the forums would be littered with trash screaming about their experience being ruined, slaps in the face, all that.  A virtual PR nightmare in the waiting.  Today’s WoW gaming crowd is pissed off about flying not being available and lack of content.  While I agree flying should have been introduced at some point (given they sold how many store mounts that fly?) but it shouldn’t be the reason you cancel a sub.  But to each their own.

Over the years, gamers have morphed from a beat-the-game mentality to a content whore mentality.  Classic had several distinct content releases during the 2+ years it was active.  Molten Core was released shortly after going live, BWL and Onyxia, the AQ40 opening event along with all of the 20 man catchup raids, and finally the Scourge invasion.  How the hell would you stay true to the game?  One private server (Feenix) has reconstructed those events over the years, but they aren’t held every day.  Further, between all of this content they fixed massive bugs – one most notable being the Hakkar plague which shut down entire servers because gamers being the gamers they are ran around infecting everyone.  You got to see a version of it at the close of TBC, and the results ranged from insanely funny to truly sad, with people outright in love with the idea to people unsubbing from the game because they didn’t have a sense of humor or love for the game’s design.  I digress, but the point is people would land into the world, and either all of the content would have to be open or they would have to spend a ton of money to roll the various events out.  Could you imagine the former and hearing the reaction from the public when they hear the AQ event would never happen because of lack of resources?  Talk about slaps in the face, Blizzard would destroy everyone’s experience!  This is actually a real consideration, and goes right at the heart of the costs.

While they could institute a one-sub-for-all-content model, what effect would having a Classic server parked right in the middle of your current content have on the overall playerbase?  Given that Classic made demands on progression raiders that by today’s standards would be considered criminal, should people opt to actually play on Classic servers they would be making a commitment and a choice.  Gold didn’t magically rain from the sky in the form of dailies, and players were expected to farm up their own mats for flasks and guilds would make multiple runs to Scholo for a 60 minute grind to the Alchemy lab next to Raz.  This was coordination by guilds on a totally different level by today’s standards.  If you couldn’t handle the moose mount, what chance do you think you would have being tied up farming materials in between a 5-6 night raid schedule.  Remember, you cleared Molten Core AND Blackwing Lair in the same week because you were gearing 40 raiders and people needed those sets, reps, and trinkets just to progress.  You collected materials specifically for crafting resistance pieces so you could down just ONE raid boss.  You didn’t just wait on the vendors to offer you items at a discount, there were no crafts to replace set bonuses, you got your gear the old fashioned way through DKP.

This would also have a drastic effect on PvP.  In the final patch prior to The Burning Crusade, the Grand Marshal/High Warlord grinds were STILL in effect.  If you wanted Rank 14, you played everyday, 14-18 hours a day, with teams of others and shared the title week to week so everyone could get the prestige and their weapon.  People quit their jobs, people abandoned their lives, all to run around for a week sporting the title you can now pick up with a few hours of running Rated Battlegrounds.  Given that it would probably end up being one or two servers per region, you would have immense competition.  I knew people that scored GM/HW titles purely because they were on small servers, but what if you had 10,000 people crammed into a server all vying for the same thing?  Like I said, people gave up on life to get that title and Blizzard scored some really piss-poor press over the results of it.  If you offered Classic, you would have to offer this again or else the release would be sub-par.  Private servers today offer this grind and for many people it’s the only reason they play private.

For many people, playing would definitely only be a trip down nostalgia lane.  If you’re my age, you remember the world as it was, so flying over parts of it you weep for what was.  They’d create characters just to run through the world and take a sight seeing tour, aggroing everything within 60 yards away because they made some nice changes to that issue in later expansions.  After that, the server would be littered with characters that never got played again.  I can see a workaround for that one, instituting a 6 month requirement that if the account isn’t logged into that the names become forfeit.  But the question stands – who would actually play this way?  Well, I would, I’m doing it right now as I take a break from the WoD grind.  I know that many others would return to the game for it, since you have over 10 years of accounts and tens of millions of players that have played the game over the years and left on their own due to whatever circumstances, but I’m positive a strong dislike for the content was a leading reason.

We’re into the unknown here with this reason.  Add a marketing study to the mix, to determine if the project is even worth doing.  Would the server have a population that stays and plays or would the server have a population of selfie spammers?  Have you seen the average player today?  WoD was a nod to the TBC fans and they came back in droves, if only for a few months.  Blizzard’s researched the project for certain and I will say that unless the lights were about to go out on World of Warcraft and they were shutting the doors and turning off the lights, we’ll never see Classic servers.  That is, unless there’s something else on the horizon.  What if they were to call it concluded on this path of World of Warcraft, and the future holds a sequel and not an expansion?  Guild Wars did it, and people love that title.  Diablo 2 became Diablo 3, and people STILL play Diablo 2 like fiends 15 years later and Blizzard still supports it.  What if World of Warcraft II was the hold-up?  It’s plausible, I know when Diablo 3 was announced back in 2008 it was a banner day for me and completely unexpected.  If this was the case, you would have all the infrastructure almost immediately in place, just fill in the seats.  Yes, we can dream, it’s what we do.

One really interesting fact about the game that people forget, and this isn’t for or against the issue but just an aside.  Blizzard developed World of Warcraft over several years not knowing what the market demand would be.  They expected to hit about a million subscribers and call it a success.  They hit that within the first few weeks of the release and skyrocketed to 8 million accounts over the next 24 months.  This is why certain original servers (my server being one of them) were hammered to the point that they were nearly unplayable and resulted in Blizzard having to put new infrastructure in place and begin splitting servers.  This is why you have over 250 servers in the US, up from less than 10 originally.  So whenever they talk about not being able to tell what the demand would be, they don’t have the best in forecasting ability.

Conclusion

Private servers run the content really freaking well so there’s no real compelling reason for Blizzard to compete.  While Blizzard definitely frowns on them, they’ve picked up the ball and done the job for free and given the real diehard fans of the game a place to play the game they love their way and for no fee.  I have absolutely no idea how they get the server side content to run these things, I can only guess reverse engineering or having a source inside at one of the various farms/distributors.  Either way, they are your time machine if you want to play on a legacy server.  There are thousands of others doing it right now, and if you have the mentality, then these servers are definitely for you.  But rest assured, if they ever re-release the original, I’d gladly fork over the money to play the game I originally fell in love with and not what it’s become.  Into the shadows for us.

Thanks for stopping in!

 

BONUS

I spent some time brainstorming prior to writing the “Not to do it” portion, here’s my list.  Just for some humor.

Reasons not to do it:

1) Players will want not one but 3 server types – One for PvP, One for PvE, and one for RPing in Goldshire.  Get bent RPers.

2) Endless whining about QOL  things.  Like lack of dailies.  No flying in Azeroth.  And talent trees are too complex, no glyphs, no gems, flight points, lack of AOE looting, hell nothing you know today.  And Blizzard will be within their rights to tell players to get stuffed.

3) J. Allen Brack was right, there are bugs.  And players simply can’t resist complaining about them.  But this guy is also in charge of producing the game, so he doesn’t want the extra headache.  And looking bad.  Well, worse than he does already.

4) Owning a full Naxx character will become the new metric of being good at the game.  With no LFR, this gear will be out of reach for most players today.

5) Sun, Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat are now Legacy raid days.  Tues, Wed current content raids.

6) Recruiting for a 40 man raid will prove difficult because most of the guild has never played under a DKP system.

7) Curse will have to sponsor addons for EVERY flipping version, and people might run out of disk space.

8) The whole “$60 90” is lost on people wanting to level to 60/70/80/85

9) A Cataclysm and Mists server will probably suck.  Yeah, I said it.  Gamekiller servers.

10) There is no TSM, there is only Auctioneer.  And we all know people can’t live without TSM.  And Auctioneer back then was no click-a-button-get-rich system.

11) Before you know it, people will demand the ability to transfer to current content with their characters, faction changes, and transfers from PvP to PvE servers.  More revenue streams for Blizzard in bleaker times would be a bad thing, just fire people.

12) There’s a story being told here, people!  One that holds people’s interest for 7 days every 2 years, but a story none the less!  Certain people have worked hard here, and you will abide and stroke their egos when told!

13) Given the graphic engine changes over 10 years, and people’s required upgrades, they might get to see Classic in max settings and realize how much their computers sucked back then.

14) 22 year olds today who tell you they were leading raids in Molten Core will have to possibly prove they aren’t full of shit.

15) There’s no transmog.  And given the original Naxx set was probably one of the most awesome looking sets for every class and would be available again, we just can’t have that.  Not to mention the guild drama when people hit 8 piece and ask for transfers to current content.

16) Asking today’s gamer to endure 2 weeks of played time to hit max level in a high quality-well developed game environment would be too much to ask.

17) People will immediately see that the quality of the game has regressed and put more pressure on today’s B-Team developers.  They already get enough crap on Twitter.

18) Showing Millennials how Gen-Xers liked to play their games would only prove we’re headed towards an idiocracy.  For the good of mankind, this cannot happen.

19) Blizzard copied every single successful MMO to make the original World of Warcraft.  Everything since has been mostly their own design.  Do you want people to get fired?

20) World of Roguecraft-like videos would resurface because world PvP would be noticed again and naked undead rogues would be everywhere.  Do you want that?  Well, do you?

21) Blizzcons would have to dedicate an extra day to panels discussing no changes to legacy servers and people asking for Quality of Life improvements to things like Classic, TBC, and Wrath.  Of course we could shoot everyone asking for them, but that would get people in trouble and be bad press.

22) If they did release legacy content that people had to pay the same sub as everyone else for, then you would see demands for more content when there was no more content.  Hey, fanboys, they can be demanding.

23) Knowing Blizzard, they couldn’t just release it as a “moment in time” or “appealing to the nostalgia of the game”, they would have to “fuck it all up” with improvements and finishing touches.  Blizzard – just can’t keep well enough alone.

24) A re-release of Classic’s GM/HW grind would probably end up on the front pages as 2-3 Asians die at their computers per week and someone gets stalked and killed in real life because of a Dishonorable Kill while partied in Crossroads.

25) Once people realize that it takes about 20-25 hours played to hit level 20 with no mount waiting for them, they’ll probably hold naked gnome protests in Ironforge crashing the servers.

26) Without guild banks, people won’t understand that you really do have to mail mats to that guy named “Guildbank”.

27) All hope of a legacy vanilla server was destroyed during the remake of Level 100 Molten Core, as mages/priests/shamans/druids couldn’t perform the simple act of decursing/cleansing raid members.

28) While private servers have successfully executed the Opening of the Gates at AQ without massive server crashes and lag, a full reset of this event would cause too much drama as people would open the gates in the middle of the night and Blizz would have to deal with thousands of irate customers demanding a reset.

29) No microtransactions were available at that time.

If you have a reason, humorous or otherwise, please feel free to add below.

Thanks again for stopping in!

Blizz Finally Used the Nuclear Option

Yesterday reminded me of this classic movie scene:

War’s over, man.  Wormer dropped the big one.  More prophetic words have never been spoken.  I harken back to my post from 2 months ago.  Most important, I reference my cartoon:

Still no word about dupers, I hate being right

Blizzard took action against the largest number of EULA infractions than I’ve seen since Diablo 2.  Kotaku happened to post a conversation from a GM claiming over 100,000 accounts were suspended. That’s a ton of business they just flushed.  $1,495,000 bucks in revenue per month.  Everytime they post losses, they have historically pulled out the pink slips and sent their customer service division packing.  We should all feel more sorry for those that actually need to eat and put a roof over their heads than the guilds that just lost their main tank at 8/10 Mythic.

And Bossland posted an “official” statement on their website, I’ll post it here to protect your virgin eyes:

I’m more amazed Blizzard ran a sting operation and kept it all internal.

Internet lawyers started chasing internet ambulances all over the official forums, in search of someone to believe their half-assed non-Harvardish explanation between what Blizzard can legally do and the rights of the consumer.  Eventually they made their way over to the Bossland forums talking about class actions, the legality of the EULA, and how they were going to get their $15 back for this last month of subscription without taking Blizzard to the Supreme Court.  But in the end the majority of those caught seemed happy, almost relieved that their long addiction was forcibly at an end, with very few even caring about appealing their suspensions which, as luck would have it, were supposedly on a 100% decline status by order of the Blizzard Gestapo.

It was a choice between Paul Blart and Colonel Klink

Make no bones about it, Bossland will come back, the bot will be updated, because this is nothing but an arms race, a game of cat and mouse, and cops and robbers.  I think the next massive actual ban will be sometime next year, because all of these accounts are now on the final leg of Blizzard’s famous volcano, so one more infraction out of them and they’re history.  For those that are sitting in the corner thinking about what you’ve done, take heed.  Blizz Security is not going to take any prisoners next time.

How many of us knew that Blizzard lost a good portion of their legal case against Bossland last week in Germany?  I didn’t until recently, but it seems relevant.  Basically, for years now, Blizzard has been suing Bossland (the creators of Honorbuddy and other bot packages) in their home country of Germany.  This is what they’ve been doing to counter the bot wars in Warcraft, giving the money to the lawyers!  Apparently Bossland was ordered to not run a competing exchange for Diablo 3 gold, and as of May 7, this was overturned with Blizz being ordered to pay restitution for legal expenses.  Well, since the RMAH has been dead since March 2014, and everything has been account bound since in Diablo 3, better late than never, right?  So if Diablo 3 ever makes gold trading available again, at least the people of Germany are covered.

But this is significant because Bossland was essentially created by members the old Glider team, who developed and maintained what was largely considered the Go-To bot for Warcraft during Vanilla and Burning Crusade days.  The company lost it’s ass in legal battles with Blizzard in the US courts, over copyright infringement of all things.  Eventually that was overturned and Glider was simply removed from the market.  Given that the software sold over 100,000 copies in the time it was active and Warcraft hadn’t even really hit it’s stride yet, one can only BEGIN to speculate how many copies of Honorbuddy and it’s sister software packages for other games have sold and made their way into professional bot farms since.

And you were worried about that guy ninjaing your Felweed?

Upon losing their battle in the US, they did what any good entrepreneur did.  They consulted lawyers, told them what they were up to, and found the proper venue from which to distribute.  Sort of like the Chinese DVD copy farms that are parked off the West Coast of the United States.  There isn’t shit anyone can do about it unless they touch US soil.  Or all those gray area casinos that popped up years ago – the IRS had standing orders to arrest on sight, but nobody could touch them unless they were within US jurisdiction.  Almost the same thing here, Germany obviously provided certain intellectual property protections that Bossland was aware of prior to opening for business.  And Blizzard would have to go through the hassle of building a civil legal battle against them, while being an alien company having to locate patent attorneys in Germany that could understand what they were talking about – with language barriers and such, and I mean getting attorneys to understand “nerd-ese”.

I can’t imagine how much all this has cost both parties, because Bossland and Blizzard are still in the courts over everything else.  One thing’s for certain – Bossland has had to sell a shitload of licenses to fend this off, while Blizzard has had to spend millions themselves.  Resources anyone?  Why does WoD suck?  Because the lawyers got there first.  Har har har, I made a funny.

So why is this loss in the courts over gold for a game that doesn’t even trade it anymore mean anything?  Well the optics of it are horrible.  Sources within Blizzard have said that they’ve spent the past 30 days collecting account information of those within Warcraft using specifically Honorbuddy software.  May 13th was D-Day, when a rolling blackout worldwide suspended all those accounts for 6 months to indefinite time periods.  That’s 6 days after losing the court case.  Understand when I say “optics”, that means “How It Looks”.  Ok?  The optics say that Blizzard was anticipating this court case’s findings, and regardless of the outcome they intended to send a message to all of Bossland’s customers – “We see you”.

You see, Bossland has long said (see the memo above) that they have been beating Blizzard’s detection.  Ever wonder why after a patch certain raiders in your guild suddenly sucked or went MIA for a week?  Ever wonder why Azeroth felt bot-free for about a week after a patch?  It’s because with every patch, Bossland has had to reprogram their software to make it blind to Blizzard’s detection methods (Warden).  I have no freaking clue how they go about doing that, but it sounds like they essentially take Warden out back after every patch and cut his ratty little eyes out.  This gave the customers of Bossland a false sense of security, and the hubris was obviously too great, being unbeatable since 2010.  Or did Blizzard just stop giving a shit after Glider got closed?  I can’t say, but I would say that Blizzard has been in an incredible balancing act since the close of Wrath, when their IP began to wane in terms of sales and cash flow.  Let me back that up, shall we?

Here’s a graph demonstrating the Product Life Cycle stages, for those of you who’ve never taken any sort of college level business classes.

It’s like looking into a mirror! (Source: MMO-Champion)

That’s right, the game hit the point of decline about 3-4 years ago, and there’s NOTHING you can do to get it back.  This game is over 10 years old today, and while it has a major following, it’s entered the realm of Cheerios, a 12-pack of Coca-Cola, and a box of macaroni and cheese.  Of course there will always be those brief introductions of each expansion, but notice how fast they hit decline status… within months of introduction.  Not even the content patches between expansions give the game any sort of short term growth, the content between expansions is practically nothing but cost for them because it doesn’t do one thing to help in the quantity of subs.  Blizzard knows that the future of this game is going to be in releasing new content in the form of expansions and storyline, and it has been for a very long time.  Don’t expect anything revolutionary, because that would just be unreasonable for a game of this age and history.  But do expect them to release the content in the form of expansions quicker over time as the interest in the game continues to wane.  This is their cash cow – those one time purchases in the millions that result in 2-3 months of subscription time.  Beyond that, the 2-3 tiers of content between expansions are merely keeping the bills paid and developing new microtransactions and expansions.

What Was the Logic of This?

This brings up the next topic – what was the actual reason for the ban?  I’ve shown you that it ultimately wasn’t about revenge or retribution.  Blizzard has a long history of destroying botware, just not very quickly.  During Diablo 2, the chase was on to destroy Pindlebots and D2JSP, which it ultimately did.  Today the game is absolutely overrun with knockoffs of each as Blizzard has apparently decided that 15 years is too long to support a dead game.  With Warcraft, they’ve wiped out Glider through legal action and Honorbuddy through massive suspensions.  So they merely kept up their promise of eliminating cheats and hacks, if only partially.  Wait, partially?

Absolutely.  Look at the timing of this.  We are at the close of the first tier of WoD content.  The results are in – Blizzard isn’t able to keep the sub base and the verdict on Garrisons is in.  30% of the playerbase has said:  Eat a bag of dicks, Blizzard, your content is horrible and not worth paying for.  In fact, so awful, that they’ve returned to numbers that were below their worst point in MoP.  If this was a sales force, heads would be rolling and locks would be changed.  Personally, I can’t stand logging into Warcraft anymore, and 6.2 information tells me I’d be wasting my time bothering.  I’ve retained everything I can stand from GDKP runs, and will probably just wait for the next expansion.  I get no feeling of having fun, and for a longtime veteran player, that’s bad news for Blizzard.  By me logging in I’m doing it almost entirely out of habit.  While I’ve paid for the gametime via gold, I really don’t care to even log in.  So I won’t.  (More on this another time, I’m working on a deal right now that’ll probably end my hardcore gaming career.)

I’ve taken the liberty of reading dozens and dozens of ban reports, so I can say the following with extreme confidence.  With this content being so stale, most of the gathering bots aren’t even working.  Blizzard’s suspensions apparently didn’t hit anyone “wrecking your economy”.  Reason?  Not economically viable at this time since most people aren’t doing anything craft wise.  These are the botters I depend on to make my money, and I can say that lately they haven’t been posting many materials for sale at the normally very reasonable prices.

The people they DID ban in massive quantities were those using the bot for rotation assistance.  This reminds me of the ban from last winter, where people from Ownedcore lost their accounts overnight for using the same thing.  And many of these accounts in this wave proclaimed to be long time players of 6-10 years.  I’m sure Blizzard noticed this as well, and the best course of action was to realize that longtime accounts were cheating, maybe it wouldn’t be a smoking idea to give a permanent ban as a parting gift.  Afterall there are other titles they want them to buy, and press coverage was bad enough during the GM/HW grind.

The evidence of PvE use that evening was readily apparent, as Mythic guilds were missing several players and were busy recruiting for new people to join.  I even read reports of entire PvP guilds getting smacked down.  Now, these are “players” of the game, even if we use the word player with some literal license.  These aren’t people out farming thousands of stacks of ores and herbs, these are people who’ve apparently decided the game is at such a point that even being asked to do their rotations in raids has become too big of an ask.

But the PvPers are different.  For years and years, you couldn’t join a legitimate random battleground without realizing 2-3 minutes into the game that you were one of two people in the place who were actually controlling your character.  For a very long time Arenas have been dominated by people running scripts and getting an insanely competitive advantage in the form of interrupts.  These bots are able to randomize when they kick, and with surprising accuracy they could hit a healer within milliseconds of completing a cast.  That’s flat out the wrong application for a bot, and the people using this should have been struck dead by the hammer a long time ago.  But Blizzard never really bothered to investigate with any vigilance, they chose to just eliminate everyone in one fell swoop.  Even the makers of Honorbuddy seem to acknowledge that the bot is not meant to be used in Arenas, which is probably why it’s not named “Conquestbuddy”.  But like all things, players wanted that extra advantage to own and pwn, and now they get to pay the price.

If anyone has forgotten, Blizzard has only one IP that’s associated with E-Sports, and that’s Starcraft.  However, World of Warcraft was tossed out of MLG on it’s unbalanced ass a long, long time ago.  The hallmark of an E-Sport?  Well balanced and reasonable expectation of performance by a player actor.  Warcraft offers absolutely none of that, so they aren’t invited to any reindeer games and have to throw their own parties.  Warcraft is often the punchline of jokes in the E-Sport community, and it isn’t even regarded as an E-Sport.  “Warcraft an E-Sport?  Yeah, right!  And monkeys might fly out of my butt!”  If you want to get any respect in the E-Sport community, you have to take appropriate steps.

And closing accounts of cheats in PvP situations is critical, so this was one step in their direction towards gaining some respect back in the E-Sport community.

It’s demoralizing for those that want to learn how to do it, it’s frustrating for pros that are competing, and sponsors aren’t going to give money to any gaming company that treats the complaints of their PvP class of players like Marie Antoinette.  PvP is an arms race, and if everyone is doing it, then you can be assured that they’ll take every step however legit or illegit to get to what they want – total pwnage.

The memes for Marie were hideous

Arena PvP content really never goes away.  It’s been about the same thing since patch 2.0, with 0.5% being awarded Gladiator, and god comps, and people rolling the flavor of the patch classes.  It’s essentially stale as crap content, but of ALL the people that play this game, PvPers ask for the least content.  And I don’t count public PvPers as PvPers, I’m talking those that play for actual rating like PvEers play for progression.  So if you ignore people who are anxiously trying to get a sponsor and treat this like an E-Sport, whereas you the manufacturer regard it as an E-Sport but ignore everything that would make it an E-Sport, pretty soon you have to realize that you should be listening to your customer base because believing your own press is bad for business.

Frustrated consumers then take it out on the manufacturer in public.  Imagine being Lore or Bashiok?  Both are professional spin doctors for Blizzard.  They aren’t in community management, their actual job description is more public relations than anything else.  And given the heaps of shit that the PvP playing public has been throwing at Holinka, something had to be done.  Holinka doesn’t even go on Twitter anymore because the playerbase treats him like a bastard red-headed step-child with a death warrant.  I can’t say he doesn’t deserve it, he is the face of PvP content after all and his normal course of action is to run and hide under his bed.  Own it, you made it.  Nobody likes a loser that ducks the issues.

Conclusion

While this was an interesting step in the right direction, I question why gold sellers and dupers were going absolutely nuts after the ban and still allowed to run roughshod.  They haven’t touched them yet, and don’t give me that line that “it’s coming”.  I’ve reported dupers for years, but Blizzard doesn’t care about the economy in their games, they never have.  They provide the means, but rarely test it’s effects.  This is why I don’t believe a single utterance that this ban was for in-game economic reasons, hell those of us in the gold game made our millions off the botters.

So given what I’ve seen, the reasons for these suspensions were more of a lesson than anything else.  Blizzard isn’t interested at this point in shedding more subscriptions, because that’s just silly.  I think their ultimate intention was to send a message to Bossland’s customer base that the jig is up, there will be no more of this business, and everyone suspended is welcome to come back in 6 months and play again.  Sort of like the parent sending the kid to timeout in their room.  They might yell and scream, but they still love and feed the kid.

In my professional life, I’ve never told people who I do business with that “you’re an asshole, take your money somewhere else”.  But I have removed problem clients from my account list and let them know I was no longer working with them.  Those being people who cost too much time, don’t listen to my instructions, or tend to not treat me with the respect I deserve.  I’m under no obligation to do business or help anyone, I believe in reciprocal business relationships, not symbiotic or parasitic.  I always give people a second chance however, which I think was just smart business on their part.

I think Blizzard does believe in second chances as well.  Even though I don’t really respect the decisions they’ve made the past few years, I still like their titles, but I still don’t like having to pay for bad content.  Maybe I’ll fire up that private Vanilla server account again until the next expansion, I can get no flying zones there as well!  But realistically, I just don’t see the need to be another hamster on the wheel playing just because I like the gold game.  If I poured that energy into this next situation, I’d probably look at Warcraft as just another fond memory.

As always, I welcome your comments, provided they are well thought out and not part of the pitchfork and spoon crowd.

Thanks for stopping in!

Time to Jump In the Wayback Machine!

Not Nostalgia.  More explanation.

Upon WoD’s launch, we heard from Blizzard that part of the problem with the overpopulation during launch was that they were seeing people return to the game who had not been seen since TBC or Wrath.  Today, we learned that all of those people have left the building since returning.  Let’s explore what a person who left the game at these points would remember having returned to the game after not seeing it since 2007 or 2010.

Beep Boop Bop Time Set: June 1, 2007

Holy crap! June 2007!? Did they even have flying then?

If you left at this time, your last image of the game was Karazhan being the introductory raid tier and being insanely tuned.  It required lots of solid gear to clear through Prince, and you got to see 2.1 released that Spring.  Since that time, Burning Crusade has long been regarded as the best expansion roll-out in the history of the game.  More than likely you were just a casual player, and the game demanded the following of you at this point in time in order to progress:

  • Upon hitting 70, you did normal dungeons for individual reputations.  This allowed you to unlock the Heroic dungeons and retain entry level epics.  Certain Heroic dungeons were avoided like the plague and required some class balance buffs, crowd control, threat management, and being stupid resulted in one shot hits against the dps.
  • If you didn’t have a solid collection of Tier 3 epics at 70, you had to retain your class dungeon set out of the Heroic dungeons.  You had to build groups yourself either in guild or in trade.
  • Heroic dungeons dropped badges.  Everyone raiding needed badges to get better epics so they could take on Karazhan.
  • In order to get into Karazhan, you had to collect the key to enter the place.  These were called attunements and wouldn’t be removed until Wrath of the Lich King.
  • If you were raiding Karazhan, you began to work on attunement for Serpentshrine Caverns (SSC) and Tempest Keep (TK).  This required Magtheridon and Gruul raiding, with each raid requiring crowd control to reach the boss and a good understanding of raid mechanics and how to click portals.
  • Once you reached SSC and TK, tanks required resistance gear to get past the first boss.  This required guild efforts to retain those pieces so guild farming nights were not uncommon.
  • If you were a progression raider, you were more than likely raiding 5 nights a week.
  • Progression was tiered, with catchup gear being your level of raid tier.  There was no skipping of entire tiers through dailies or content patches
  • The expansion was shipped with 2 tiers of content baked in.  Tier 6 (Mount Hyjal and Black Temple) was released 4 months after the ship date of TBC.
  • If you wanted to craft epics, you were a top tier raider with DKP.  Raid materials were found in the raid and preserved within the guild until everyone had what they needed.  It was rare to see epic gems offered in the auction house, much less raid only drops.
  • If you wanted top tier crafting patterns, you had to get lucky with drops and either win the rolls or have the standing within your guild to deserve the patterns.
  • Karazhan was nerfed in almost every patch after release of the game, which allowed most people to gear alts via raid instances.  The other raids did not see a nerf until patch 3.0 when all bosses were hit with a 30% hitpoint reduction – which was about one year and ten months after release.
  • If you were a PvPer, you saw the introduction of resilience and Arena matches.  Resto Druids were considered the most overpowered class.
  • In order to progress your character, you may have needed to earn Arena points to retain a weapon.  For many classes this was simply the easiest way to get one since bosses rarely dropped what you needed.  For many this was the answer to getting a next-tier weapon because they were stuck in Tier 4 or 5.
  • PvP zones were mini-games that happened either on a schedule or at-will.  Most of them were simply “Hold the Objective” style.
  • Dailies were introduced at this point, but you could only complete 10 per day.  You were probably working on Ogri’la or Netherdrake repution.
  • You saw flying.  Regular flying at 60% flying speed with 280% flying costing a whopping 5,000g.
  • You were probably sitting on 1-2 max level characters at this point.  There was no such thing as heirloom gear, experience pots, or RAF boosts.
  • An original player of Warcraft would have come from the dungeon crawl era.  More than likely they had experienced either Dungeons and Dragons, Ultima, Everquest, Dark Age, or Star Wars.
  • The game took no mercy on guilds that were not progressing.  There was no such thing as “hardmode” at this point, all players encountered bosses at the same level of difficulty.  Guilds were progressing each tier of content at different rates.  Being in a BT guild at this point would have put you in the top 0.5% of raiders.  Applying to a guild included both the furthest tier you had seen AND which boss.  If you took time away from the game, you more than likely never recovered to your previous position unless you had a guild that would help you.
  • During this time you would have had to seek out people collecting primal orbs from Heroic dungeons to craft pieces for you.
  • You collected a metric ton of tokens, coins, badges, “toys” and reagents.  Your bags were filled with mount and pet trinkets.  The largest bag available was 20 slots.  Eventually you could buy 22 slotters, but that was almost another year away.
  • If you were a Druid, you were anxiously trying to retain epic flight form and get people to help you along with it.
  • Herbalists at this point were nuts about killing trees.  These were the giants patrolling around the lake in Skettis and were heavily camped for easy herbs, Primal Life, and Fel Lotus.
  • Shattrath was probably where the majority spent their idle time in-game.  The sanctuary city offered banks, portals, vendors, several places to hang out, but no auction house.
  • In order to get into a dungeon or guild, you were dealing entirely with people from your own server.  At this time in the game good social behavior and understanding how to play your class was demanded of you since blacklisting was very common.  It was commonplace to friend people you had played with for future dungeon groups.
  • Nagrand was the farming capital of Azeroth.  It was common to see people fighting about nodes in chat and druids became known for being node ninjas.  Engineers made fortunes here in Primal Air.  Elemental Plateau was a ganking hub while people tried to collect mats “easily”.
  • If you were fishing, you had to level fishing in order to fish!  You could not even cast otherwise.
  • Gold was a real issue for players.  Until the introduction of dailies at this point, players retained their gold by completing old quests, grinding mobs for coin and vendorables, or farming resources.  Auction house barons were not as common as they are today.
  • Burning Crusade offered 16 different reputations, with one more concluding the expansion.  In order to retain status with all of them you have to perform various tasks, dailies, raids and turn-ins.  Your Shattrath reputation was often considered a critical choice, because the shoulder inscriptions were rather focused.
  • The last new Battleground you saw was The Eye of the Storm.

There’s probably a bunch of different things that I missed, but consider what you saw when you returned.  If this was Warcraft for you in 2007, Warcraft in 2014 would have probably felt a little foreign.

Returning Back to the Future:

  • Raids are tiered for randoms, normal mode, heroic, and mythic.  None of them require any attunement but the more difficult tiers require prior raid experience that you do not have at this point and will have to struggle to retain.
  • Garrisons are where you spend most of your time.  Your only real interaction with other players is either in chat or going to Ashran which feels compacted and unfriendly.
  • Gaining reputations are simple grinds.  There’s very little in the way of quest hubs or turn-ins.
  • Collecting resources feels almost the same as it did during Classic WoW.
  • The social aspect of the game has become nearly anonymous.  One can now play the game in most every aspect (dungeons, arenas, raids) without ever having to say anything to other players.
  • The changes over the past 8 years can feel overwhelming to many players.  Prior to the Wrath expansion, the design team was not made up of the people who are on it today.
  • Gold is extremely important.  You can’t build without it and your reserves from 2007 are probably not going to amount to much.  It’s not like Auction House barons left the game, these people were probably sporting a thousand gold on their return.
  • Your past accomplishments do not matter.  Nobody cares that you were in an SSC guild when you left.  If you happen to have scored the Hand of A’dal title prior to leaving, some may sit up and take notice.
  • Most importantly, the game’s playerbase today is rather toxic compared to years ago.  While some were set out to ruin your experience back then, asking a question today will directly result in insults and name calling.  Not like this didn’t happen years ago, but these same people were usually not liked by anyone and there was retribution for it.  Remember blacklists.
  • The game would definitely feel more user friendly and easier to someone coming in from way back then.

The Time Has Come For Fingerpointing

If you want to blame something, I would definitely blame not just the developers but the demographic that plays Warcraft today and enjoys it.  The game is a direct reflection of gamer expectations, very vocal demands and biases. Ever see a business make a fortune while force feeding bad product on their customers?  In game development, you either appeal to people’s wants or you turn out the lights.  See: Any other game besides WoW that couldn’t survive the subscription model.

Blizzard did not develop the #1 MMO of all time simply appealing to yesteryear’s gamers (of which I am a member), they developed it by changing with the times and lowering the barrier to entry.  In order for me to continue playing the game, I’ve had to accept the things I cannot change, even though I still get extreme pleasure complaining about them.  I’ve had to adapt to things I dislike, and redirect my way of thinking in order to still enjoy playing.  I would run out of fingers in 10 seconds counting the things I don’t like about the game, however I’ve yet to unsubscribe from the game.

It’s funny that I’m willing to try things I may not like, and find the things I can tolerate and go nuts with in this game still.  Several years back I proclaimed my dislike for pet battles, only to become ranked in the Top 300 World on Warcraftpets.com a few months later.  Nostalgia is fun, but you always have to realize that you can never go back, time travel doesn’t exist, people’s tastes and desires change, and that you either get with the times or get off the train.

The people that left 7 years ago only to return to this expansion were probably looking for something that flat out wasn’t there, and they left again because they’ll never find it.  You can’t appeal to everyone, but keeping 70% of the playerbase continuing to pay to play is no small feat.  And this seems to happen after every release anymore so it’s really hard to nail down.  I say good riddance to the leavers, but I also still demand top notch design decisions…  it is my time and money after all.

Note: I was going to include Wrath differences as well, but it felt redundant.  There’s really not a heck of a lot of difference between what you would have seen when leaving in 2010 vs coming back today.

Thanks for stopping in!

Thank Goodness for Small Miracles

It looks like the token system for gametime is real, and from my post at the end of last year, it looks like they’re going to do it right!  Not tradeable, BOP after the first sale, and the system doesn’t seem to look like it will be exploitable.  Further, a separate part of the AH will be dedicated to it.  It sounds like I was in the development meeting for it.  The only thing I didn’t get was notification that there is an economist in place to insure that those buying the gold are getting a good deal.

Now if they’ll just release it in a timely manner before I bankrupt myself in GDKP runs.

Oh yeah, the complaints from those with the gold have already begun.  Lots of worries for no reason.  And I can’t believe what I’m reading.  It’s either for one of several reasons:

1) People are concerned that others will have a means to access gold they didn’t earn, just fill out the merchant services information and go get your unearned gold.

2) They’re ultra legit and this is an affront to everything good and decent about their favorite game, even though gold sellers have been in the game since day one and their precious little world is about to be tarnished by the real world!

3) They’re very concerned that people will finally wake up and realize that grinding gold is worth it!  And that spending time grinding it means they will have more competition.  Oh no! Or that Blizzard will not slack off on their aggressive anti-bot stance, and the fellows over at Honorbuddy will get away with something even more because of some imaginary concocted reason.

4) People are actually pissed because they currently sell their gold for more cash than the lousy subscription cost, and this is going to interfere with business.  Getting a job is hardly in the cards, because that would interfere with sitting on their asses.

Pay to win (P2W) isn’t even an argument here, because gold is pointless unless you need it for something gamebreaking.  Nothing has even come close to that outside of the BMAH, and I’m fairly certain that world ranked guilds already have their subs paid.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and let people know now that grinding gold for your sub is not worth it.  Unless you’re me, and you pull in over half a million and over in sales a week.  And I can guarantee you that the vast, vast majority of players in the game are not me, because I only play on one server and only I have access to my account.  In fact, I’m 1 in 10 million according to the current stats.  I’d like to meet the person who’s making more than me, I’m pretty sure they’re not dealing in legitimate Blizzard intended markets or they’re running a dupe technique.

But let’s discuss my reason behind #4.  I know point of fact that many of the people out there grinding gold right now are doing it for nefarious reasons.  Maybe nefarious is too strong a word, maybe the money pays for their beer and good times.  Maybe it’s how they subsidize their income.  People, for whatever reason, are people.  They’re going to try to get ahead with the least amount of effort.  People bring coffee machines to work because they can’t get off their asses to get a cup in the break room.  Anyone who claims to have made over 5 or 10 million gold in this game and isn’t able to show you the gold on their characters at this point is probably selling gold or has contacts over at Ownedcore or in-game that are buying from them, wholesale or retail.

I say all that and I can’t show you my gold results from expansion to expansion.  Why?  Because I love to piss it all away at the close of each expansion.  It’s just what I do.  Gold is meant to be spent, and to acquire millions without a use is the ultimate in useless life spent.  When I started WoD I had under 400,000g between my characters.  I was broke by my standards.  What happened to all of it?  Well I did some BMAH, but I also did GDKP across 5 different characters with the top 3 guilds on Illidan.  I went through millions just doing that because I like treating other “rich” people like they’re shit and their tears are more delicious.  In the last GDKP I ran in SoO I detected a hint of lemon.

Besides all this, the efforts by Blizz to crack down on bot users is going to probably escalate to Def Con 1.  Harmless bot fishing?  Bye.  Gathering herbs and ores because you’re 15 and you pwn everyone?  Probably should stay in school.  Running a posting bot because you’re asleep at 2am and you just can’t fathom that sales are being made while you’re sleeping?  Hasta la vista, bitch.  I have a feeling Blizz is going to be monitoring AH activity with this change even moreso.

How?  Well money silly.  Goldselling in games is a multibillion dollar business.  In some MMOs, selling the currecy is more profitable than the game itself.  This service is going to cost the people buying that gametime.  I am expecting to see a price tag of $20-$25 US for each token purchase.  This is going to be a gigantic windfall for Blizzard, and they’ll probably have the extra resources afterwards to boost many QOL and security issues within the game itself.  That premium is definitely deserved.  Funny story.

In my first job out of college I was talking with my boss (who owned the company) about the future of phones.  He believed we would always have landlines, and I believed that one day we would all be talking online for free and that phones as he knew them would go away.  I argued (I was a young and clueless fresh college grad of 23 and an idealist at one point) that the phone companies deserved to take that hit, after decades of overcharging for services that they didn’t deserve any premium for because they already laid the lines and that bill was paid years ago and if anything the prices should go down on landlines.  His argument was I had a long way to go to learn about business.  They laid the lines, they deserve to be paid for that service.  Well, he was wrong about several parts and right on one.  I definitely learned about how business works (took about another year of getting my teeth getting kicked in), and I really learned that the business that makes the exclusive offering dictates the price that the market will bear, so he was right.

Blizzard deserves whatever price they get for this offering.  They make the game, they make the rules.  Everything they do has been focus grouped and test marketed, it’s not done on a whim.  The results are pretty clear – they retained 10 million subs this last expansion again.  Don’t like it, play something else and vote with your wallet.  Of course, we all know you can’t.

By the way, we’re not all talking on landlines today, are we?

Thanks for stopping in!

 

6.1 Dailies and You, and Me, and Why?

One of my favorite features of Warlords of Draenor is that it has a ton of straight forward gameplay that appeals to longtime WoW players, but mostly veterans who haven’t been back since TBC/Wrath.

* Quest your way to 100
* Enhance your Garrison and your Followers for high level missions
* No flying.  Unless you’re an engineer jumping off a cliff.
* Profession materials and patterns are straight forward and available via CDs
* No required dailies

That last one is important to me.

Dailies were introduced in The Burning Crusade as a means of adding a way for the broke population to somehow collect some extra gold by means of performing an activity.  Initially, they had a cap of 10 per day.  They offered reputation, vanity items, and a decision element that tasked you with picking only 10.  This cap was great because it governed how much gold input we saw into the game.  Mind you, at this time, raiding was also a 4-5 day per week affair, so doing them was interesting on your days off.

Somewhere along the way the lines got crossed and it went from a simple means of collecting extra gold and vanity items to unlimited dailies and the actual game itself.  Witness MoP if you will – several BIS items became available via dailies for the average raider and if you wanted access to your profession’s patterns, you were performing them for several weeks.  In reality, if you were a casual player with no access to anything beyond LFR, this was your “content”.  What a horrible design decision and it was one that I heavily disagreed with.  And before you cry “Zero, you just don’t like content!” I will tell you to shut up, sit down, and understand that I was one of those that actually did the stupid grinds across all profession alts (in some cases several times) just so I could make your little 28 slot bags, leg enchants, and throw down Dancing Steel and Jade Spirit in the AH for exorbitant prices.  How you think I got rich?  Wishing?

Bashiok assures us dailies are not the devil incarnate, and essentially THIS time they’ll get it right.  I’ve been hearing from Blizzard apologists saying that they are sorely missed.  Additionally, you can group with friends to do them!  /happyhappyjoyjoy  I have friends that quit the game in MoP over the daily situation, should I partner with them?  I bet they’re just waiting on me to ask.

People absolutely miss repeating the same low-end, bottom of the barrel content that gives them a reason for waking up everyday.  Sounds like a job, right?  Go to it and do the same thing everyday.  I already have a job, this is Warcraft and I pay to be entertained.

No.

Here’s how to get it right and leave the people busy with Garrison CDs, Missions, and maintaining raid schedules alone.

1) No gear item awarded from dailies should exceed the quality of item available in the Normal raids.  This means, everything offered from a daily should be the same quality as that you would receive raiding in Normal.  Additionally, the items offered should NEVER, EVER be a trinket with a proc that benefits some classes.  Mandatory casual play content is trash content.

2) No recipes or profession materials can be accessed with them.  I’m sick to death of performing dailies because I need something to sell to the people that should be doing these dailies to give me their gold in the first place.  I end up doing the dailies and the broke players don’t do them anyhow.

3) If you include a reputation with the rewards, the reputation should be available via other methods besides completing quests.  Tabard time.  Give me a choice, too.  Either Daily Dungeon for all my rep or complete the dailies.  Forcing me to log in or miss out on my 1500 rep for the day is crap.

4) In fact, I don’t want to see any gear rewards at all.  LFR is your gear reward, dailies should offer nothing beyond tabards, pets, mounts, and titles.

5) Dailies should be another blue ! on my screen that I get to ignore if I want.  I should never, ever feel compelled to have to do them.

Timeless Isle was the perfect example of how daily hubs should work.  Content that appeals to both raiders and casual players alike.  No recipes gated behind 3-4 week grinds.  Oh, let’s play example time:

Isle of (QQ) Conquest – Missing a JC recipe that didn’t drop in Mount Hyjal?  No problem, grind to exalted and you can have them all.

Molten (Farse) Front – Only 28 days and you can craft these scopes or bags.  Absolute trash that a BIS craftable was gated this far back.

MoP – Pick a faction here outside of Anglers.  Yeah, that one.

Hey, what’s missing here?  Wrath of the Lich King!  They actually had it right with the Tournament Dailies.  Zero beneficial items and lots of flavor items.  The other factions were completed via tabards, which was absolutely fair.

I would prefer they didn’t even introduce the recipes rather than gate them behind dailies. Grinds for recipe items outside of dailies are welcomed.  Make me work for it via turn-ins.  Make me have to buy things to boost my way with the rep.  Make me mindlessly run around an island or zone competing for kills?  Screw that.

Now if you’re a person that loves dailies, the quest hubs, and grinding the same quests over and over for weeks, I pity you.  But please, comment below and let me know the reason this is the best content 15 bucks a month can provide!  As always, defend your position articulately, especially if you’re an apologist.

By the way, dungeon dailies are great, they focus on playing the actual progression game.  I also ignore these.

Thanks for stopping in!

Zerohour is currently rolling around in gold, having completed 11 100s and their garrisons/followers.  He can usually be seen on Tuesdays dancing around with glee.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 Gold Barons

I hope you’re making gold hand over fist, I know I am.  What am I doing?  Well I’ll tell you sometime later.

Reading today’s notes for 2015 from Blizzard was boring, up until I got to the part about being able to trade those with soon to be implemented gametime tokens for gold.  Then I started reading official forums about this topic, and I found example after example of idiocy.

“Didn’t you learn from RMAH!?”
“Pay to win!”
“Game’s going free to play!”
“I’m a poor player, this is unfair!”

Outside of the people that are poor (and probably playing from their crappy run-down apartments, basements, or burned out double-wides) the others are morons.

In case you have NEVER heard of this system before, this is very much like Plex in Eve.  Never played Eve and WoW is your first video game?  Ok, it’s simple.

Eve has a subscription system not unlike other MMOs, and hey you’re playing one right now if you play WoW.  Long time players (Player A) are pretty well off in that game, and they have so much currency that they have nothing to really spend it on.  So they get to keep playing by trading their ISK (awarding Plex, thanks StupidGameTweet for factchecking) off to broke players (Player B) in exchange for gametime.  That gametime is paid from someone because CCP (Big Evil Corporate Capitalists) isn’t about to take a loss, and all parties are happy.

Player A is happy because they get to keep playing.
Player B is happy because they get in-game currency.
Big Evil Corporate Capitalists are happy because they get cash from Player B

The business cycle works, Eve is one of the longest running MMOs in history and they cater to players just like Blizzard.  Except Blizzard’s player base is generally filled with more entitled little assholes that can’t tie their shoes without mommy’s help, and elitist scumbags who cannot believe they are still playing.

Ok, so I fail to see any play to win here.  Or anything even remotely similar to the D3 RMAH.  Hell, it’s hardly Free to Play for even the people trading the gold, because gold acquisition is hardly free – you invest your time in the chase of pixels.

If you’re a broke player, I guess I could understand your plight.  You spend all your time at work, and then get home and want to raid and do other things in the game.  Rich or lucky assholes always price those items in the AH you want for far too much gold that you don’t have.  Further, you have little to no understanding of how capitalism or free markets work because your head’s been stuck in the classic works of Karl Marx.  Ok, so let’s bridge the problem here.  You have a paying job, you want some quick game gold, then trade for something people with gold want – gametime.  Unless of course you’re some stay at home loser who’s still telling us you won’t trade your pride in so you can’t find a job anywhere, or you won’t get a job because you play WoW all the time and you still haven’t got any gold.  Fat, lazy, and broke is no way to go through WoW, son.  But if you have a job, welcome to the future of gaming.

Like Ebay is to Paypal, so is Goldselling to China

People have been doing this for ages in game.  They released RAF and Gametime cards, and guess what?  Gold sellers took advantage of the system.  For tens of thousands of gold, you could pickup gametime for almost any length of time.  People spam these services in game, and they spam them in the illegit forums everywhere.

Some of the sellers are incredibly reputable.  They hail from countries like China where they acquire things like Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, government secrets, and even gametime cards for pennies on the dollar.  Their only mission in life is to eat, so they do it by selling to cheap ass Westerners who have lots of gold and can’t fork out $15 for a monthly subscription.  At last check, it took about 4 hours of work to get the gold they ask for a 60 day game card, but 2 hours at a minimum wage job to pay the sub outright.  But I digress.

The issue is, the Chinese really are getting bargains on both RAF and gametime subscriptions, so when they sell you something they are getting an incredible deal.  This was the loophole in Blizzard’s entire free gametime system.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the people who are outright scamming players.  They spam trade looking for a buyer, and advertise too good to be true prices for 30 days of gametime.  The halfwits that buy from these people then find the code to be useless, and getting their gold back to be even more fruitless.  Or worse, they would buy “gifted” game time, getting screwed.  Blizzard won’t help you here, and you’re breaking the Terms of Service in all respects.  So both of you are bad people in need of a ban.

We’ve been down this road once before

Blizzard did once before implement an item in-game that could be traded, remember the guardian cub?  This was a fantastic idea, but unfortunately too many appeared and the item’s value crashed.  Once a pet is learned, you don’t need another, so it was an evaporating market from the outset.

Gametime doesn’t have this issue.  Everyone playing right now needs it, and once a month everyone’s time runs out.  In other words, the demand will never go away as long as the game remains Pay to Play.  So the argument that we’re on our way to F2P is completely nullified.  If anything, they’re exploring more ways to increase revenue streams, and I congratulate them on this.

There are only a few ways that this system will be tripped up, and I’ll be brief.

1) Blizzard does not vigorously explore the potential loopholes, and they do not monitor the activities in game.

Gold sellers will always figure out how to convert gold into cash and vice versa.  Like I mentioned, the Chinese sellers exploited the hell out of the RAF loophole back in Cataclysm.  In this situation, they could easily buy cheap tokens and convert them into gold, and then sell that gold on the black market at a huge markup.  This would probably push down the value of these tokens, which Blizzard will need to watch.

Further, if they are tradeable, they should not be auctionable.  Resetting them sounds so tempting to me right now.
2) Duping the tokens becomes possible.  They have to absolutely make them unique and not stackable.  

You say duping does not exist?  Ok. Fine, put your head back in the sand.  Much like 99% of TCG Spectral Tiger mounts today, if they are able to make unlimited copies, then Blizzard will lose their asses on this one.  Because each token is backed with real cash, I don’t think we’ll have much to worry about.  

Unlike TCG items, which have zero cash value to Blizzard in-game or outside of licensing fees, you let the hackers come in and make 1000 copies of these things you just lost $15,000 bucks.  Do that across multiple servers and the stockholders will wonder why there was a dip in profits this last month.


How would Zerohour roll this out?

Simple.  

1) Make them unique items to the account.  One player cannot carry more than a certain number at a time.  They will have to use them or trade them off.  Be it one token at a crack or up to 3.  There’s no reason for anyone to be able to carry 100 of these things on their person.

2) Make a clearinghouse to trade these.  Just like you saw with the RMAH, the pet store, etc.  It’s available via the shop, and at a set price in gold.  If you let these go up on the AH, these same people who are terrible at making gold are also probably unfamiliar with how to use the AH UI.  How many customer service tickets will be filed saying they misposted at 1g?  If you do not fix the value, then the buyers will feel cheated when their tokens go for less gold than they expected.

This idea is brilliant because it reduces trade chat spam, errors at the AH, and utilizes a private system that’s already in place.  A person opens the shop, clicks “Buy”, validates the transaction, and a BOP item is sent to the account just like a mount or pet.  The person then uses the item.  Only tokens available for sale will appear, so if noone has bought gametime and gotten gold, then the token does not exist.  The seller does not receive their gold and the gametime is not charged until the transaction occurs, so a queue is in place for this commodity.  If the seller has cancelled payment or they hit insufficient funds at the time the transaction is made, the next person in line sells there item.  Neither party loses nor gains until a transaction is made.  Further, both parties are anonymous.  You won’t have hacking goldsellers jumping in and selling a million gold worth of the things only to see them disappear in 24 hours.

This brings me to number 3, which is…

3) Do NOT let them be freely tradeable.  Tradeable items get exploited.  I’ve worked in big data before, and when you’re talking millions of players and accounts, you cannot possibly monitor them all for illicit activity, especially short term exploiters using a throwaway account.  A person buying gametime with gold will either NEED the time at that point, or they’re stockpiling them.  Stockpiling will be wrong and the WORST thing for this mechanic.

Example?  Let’s say I have 5 million gold laying around.  I decide that all the tokens on the AH need to be raised in price, much like a TCG mount.  You probably see where this is going.  The tokens become atrociously priced and then the idea behind the concept is killed and then nobody wins.  I know people out there who love to boost and reset are waiting to get their jollies off on this, but hopefully they smarten up with it’s release.

Thanks for stopping in!

Zerohour has leveled more alts this expansion than any other, and each with garrisons.  World domination will occur in the new year.






.