Premium WoW services

Yes its ANOTHER comment post on the furore.  Its my blog.  And I always feel the need to comment when the WoW trolls cry louder than my 5 month old child.

So far there are three ‘premium’ services that Blizzard will/does provide:

  • Mobile Auction House
  • Mobile Guild Chat
  • Cross-Realm invites

Now its not clear right now if the last of these will be part of the same premium fee that you pay for the mobile services or a separate fee.  If its a separate fee I expect the same fee will cover an increasing range of services.  Either way I think we can expect to see more of these kinds of premium services, the same way we have seen more and more pets and mounts added.

Non-essential extras
All of these services have one thing in common: they improve your experience of the game but don’t really improve your success in the game.  Now I could find arguments that they can improve your success for each one (the ability to watch for rare items on the auction house, the ability to do dungeon achievements with friends, etc,) but the benefits are marginal and could certainly be achieved without the premium extra.  They are not essential – in some cases they are not even desirable for everyone.

This is similar to realm transfers, faction transfers, etc.  They are paid for because Blizzard did not factor them into its original plan, but players asked for them.

If you do not want these services, if you did not ask for these services, you don’t need to pay for them.  You are in no way disadvantaged by this.  I can’t believe that all of the trolls people complaining about the latest premium addition all asked for this service to be added.

If you are one of the small group of people who particularly wants this service and can’t afford it … well then you have my sympathy.  I can’t afford an Alienware gaming laptop and mobile internet connection so I can play WoW wherever I am either, but thems the breaks.

Yes I know you already pay $15 a month … nearly 7 years on
I’m not the first to say this, but Blizzard has not raised the cost of its subscription in all this time.  However inflation has not only existed, it has risen.  Blizzard will be paying more for wages, more for its facilities and hardware.  The cost of everything has gone up in 7 years, but WoW has not.  Blizzard has chosen to absorb the cost of inflation AND to engage in development outside of its original plan.  So for that development, it wants to charge.

If I support premium services do I pay for them?
Yes and no.  I do buy pets.  I have most of the pets (I think I lack Lil’ Ragnaros).  I don’t have the sparkle pony mount because I despise it.  Its the most stupid looking mount in the game.  In fact, you could create a Frankenstein mount from parts of other mounts in the game and it would still look better than the sparkle pony.

I have realm transferred three characters since the service became available, all Horde to join a real life friends guild.  The most recent of these took the Heirloom cloaks and helms with her to a guild where I don’t have access to these.

I don’t pay for any of the premium subscription services.  I don’t want mobile Auction House access because I couldn’t imagine auctioning without an addon to show me average prices.  I don’t want mobile guild chat enough to consider paying for it at the moment.  When I go back to work I might consider it.  I wouldn’t pay for the cross-realm dungeon invite either because all my cross-realm friends are on a different faction to my main characters and therefore I wouldn’t be able to use the service for the one group of people I would want to play with.

Morrighan’s conspiracy theory #138: Blizzard are using this premium dungeon invite service to pay for the technology that will allow BoA’s to be sent cross server.  I have NO evidence for this AT ALL.  But thats my guess.  Whether cross-realm BoAs will be premium or not … who knows!

Interesting …. ramblings on the Twitter Developer Chat

My favourite/most interesting points from the Twitter Developer Chat.  I would like to point out that this is a great feature from Blizzard.  Its normally full of tantalising hints.  Its also good because its quite a positive event.  So many forum posts from Blizzard are in response to whining.  Quite depressing really.

This is a bit rambling, just my thoughts about the comments.

Q. Are there any plans to implement cross-faction/cross-realm mail(for BoA gear and such)?
A. We have cross-faction mail for BoA items now; cross-realm is a work in progress, but we hope to have it done “soon.”

Gotta love that.  I think the cross-faction BoA mail is great.  Its motivated me to start a Horde on my realm.  But I only have 10 slots and ultimately I will run out.  The ability to send Heirlooms cross-realm would fix that.  Of course they could just give us more slots!

Q. What have you learned from this expansions emblem system?
A. Having that many different kind of emblems is overwhelming. In hindsight, we wish we had done maybe 2 emblems: the current tier and the previous tier (Frost and Triumph at the moment). They also felt a tad too grindy when 3.3 first came out before all of the sources of emblems were available.

One of a couple of mentions of Emblems.  Basically Blizzard doesn’t like how complex the system has become.  And it has become complex – changing Emblems down for some purchases is extremely irritating.  I would rather they just migrated the drops up.  So you had Heroism and Valor.  When a third level becomes available you stick with those and change where they drop.  You can simply change what is available with them.  Basically like the old Badges of Justice.  We managed just fine there with only one type of badge.

Also, there was a mention in the chat of not liking the idea that people had to log on every single day.  The weekly raids have been a nice idea there.  I think perhaps there is a balance to be found between the dailies and the weekly raids.  As puggable as they are, the weekly raids still require you to raid.  For some people thats much harder than others.  Coming from a raiding guild, I know many people find it hard to understand why people can’t pug raids.  But as it happens I know players for whom even the idea of pugging a raid is immense.  Theres a large variety of players in WoW and for those who raid they maybe don’t come across the other group.

Perhaps theres some kind of balance – maybe you could get weekly heroic quests, that require you do to maybe five different things?  That way you can choose to do them in whatever time frame is best for you.

Q. You talk a lot about changing how we heal tanks, but will aggro ever come back as a challenging part of the game?
A. Not sure. This is something we discuss a lot. I even had a meeting on it this week! On the one hand, some tanks really felt like the way to distinguish themselves was to generate maximum threat per second. On the other hand, threat is a pretty invisibile part of the game (it’s limited to the UI at best), and I know when I tank that I always feel pretty emasculated when someone actually pulls off of me. It’s challenging, but is it really fun? This is the kind of thing we’d love to get more feedback on.  Please include your feedback on large banners to be shown in the background during the Olympics. Failing that, the forums would work too.

I thought this was quite interesting, because aggro management, were it still a major feature of the game the way it was in TBC, would be a major consideration for retribution.  At the moment 99% of the time I can just hit my buttons in the optimum order and not worry about it.  Having come from my priest, I use Salvation the way I used to use Fade.  Something hitting you? Salv.  Hearing the aggro warning? Salv. Managing your aggro again would mean considering whether you could use that Divine Storm or that Judgement.  That would make game play more interesting, true.  But it would also hurt us a lot in terms of dps.  I would be worried that some classes would have more aggro issues than others.  By virtue of the overaggro mechanic, melee would get hit harder by it in some fights (since melee aggro at 110% instead of 130% for ranged) whilst ranged would in others (where they can stand and dps while the melee run like hell).  Also, ranged can push their limit more by virtue of being further away.  If I get aggro I’m dead before I can blink.  And normally so are some of my fellow melee.

I would have to say, on balance, I prefer it this way.

I’m afraid I can’t get to the Olympics to do banners 😦  If someone wants to send me out there I’ll do one.  Any volunteers?

Q. How do you feel about the limited attempts mechanic that has been use in Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel?
A. We’re not crazy about how they worked out. They were designed in essence to save players from themselves. In the past, some people would make 400+ attempts on new bosses. That’s not healthy and at some point you’re not measuring skill but tenacity. Yet, that’s not what happened. Guilds just made alts to get around the limitations, and things like disconnects and accidents make losing an attempt really frustrating. We like gating because if nothing else it lets the community focus on more than just the final boss in the zone. If we do limited attempts again it would probably be limited to optional bosses like Algalon.

Q. In Cataclysm, do you plan on releasing two raid instances at a time (like Serpentshrine Cavern/Tempest Keep), or are we only getting one at a time (i.e. Naxxramas followed by Ulduar)?
A. We like the idea of having more smaller raids rather than one large one. In other words, we will have more than one at Cataclysm launch.

Limited attempts is interesting.  I definitely prefer the limit to be ‘attempts’ rather than ‘time’ based.  I get what Blizzard were trying to do.  Wiping on that one boss your stuck on endlessly can get really stressful.  However, I do feel a bit like the limited attempts was just a tool to try and slow progression a bit.  It seems a cheap way of doing that.  I also definitely did not like the four raid lockout model.  Too much pressure to do too many repetitive raids, especially on 25 man guilds.

I do like the progression model in ICC.  A hard end boss gates access to heroic modes.  Now if both ICC and Ulduar had been split into two raids, each with that same gate, I would be happy with the progression model overall.  I don’t like how inflexible the single raid lockout is.  I much preferred the old SSC/TK and MH/BT model.  Theres a second quote here because I think these two are closely linked.  I would like to see, at each tier, two raids of 6 to 10 bosses one with a single raid boss.  You could either balance the larger raids equally or have one be faster and smaller compared to a slightly longer raid elsewhere.  Alternatively, single raids could be divided into a couple of lockouts.  Ulduar could have been two – one for the Seige and Antechamber, one for the Keepers and Descent.

Q. If you could go back and redo or remove some feature that were added with WoTLK, what would it be and why?
A. I think the emblem system could be less clunky.
Limited Attempts didn’t really work out.
We always had some tension about what 10 player heroic should really be.
I’m only talking new features here. There were plenty of other things I’d change about this expansion in hindsight. We’re pretty critical of our own design.

The final comment made about raid design was about 1o player heroics.  These have been very contraversial.  Mainly because 10 player heroics serve two purposes – they become a second gear farm for 25 man raiding guilds and they are the challenging encounters for 10 man guilds.   I’m not really sure what the solution was here.  I do think that having each raid available at 10 and 25 man level allows increased participation.  However, it also put a lot more pressure on players.  If you’re in a 10 man guild theres a pressure to try and run some 25 mans to improve your gear.  If you’re in a 25 man guild theres a pressure to raid 10 mans as well as 25 to get more gear.  Those are a lot easier for 25 man guilds with 25 man gear.

I can think of a couple of solutions, but none are great.  Option A: have only one lockout so guilds have to pick 10 or 25 man.  That solves quite a few issues, but does cause particular issues for a 25 man guild which lacks attendance at times.  Players no longer have the alternative to go to 10 man instead when people don’t show.  I still think this option is a reasonable one, however.  Option B: make gear scale in 10/25 mans to remove the advantage 25 man gear gives.  This is probably technically quite difficult.  It also removes the motivation for 10 man guilds to grow so they can access some 25 man gear.  Dreamstate has done this and its created a good community.

Q. Will existing races have their starting areas reworked to provide a more “epic” experience similar to the Goblin/Worgen starts?
A. Not quite at the Goblin / Worgen level, but we are looking at all the original start zones, especially for two races who feel a little disenfranchised at the moment.
A#2. We have big plans in store for both the trolls and the gnomes in regards to their starting experience but you probably already know that.  We are also planning to spice up the starting zones for all of the other races as well. You can expect gameplay changes to the actual zones, as well as improved quest flows and all new items to match.

Gnome love incoming. In combination with cross-server BoA mail, this suggests to me yet more alts!

Q. The 3.3.3 PTR included some unreleased ‘event’ details (no spoilers). Should we expect to see that event in the lifetime of 3.3.3?
A. Something leaked in the patch? That never happens! The plan is for these events to go live sometime before Cataclysm ships. We don’t have an exact time yet, but we would like players to have a good month or two to play through these events to help build the back story for what is going to happen in Cataclysm.

I like the sound of this.  Blizzard has touched on these kinds of events before and they’ve been successful to varying degrees.  The major flaws have been the event becoming too repetitive, or too annoying.  I’d love to see one of these events taken to the next level and the destruction of Azeroth should allow that.   I’ve seen the spoilers.  More gnome love!  Next thing you know paladins will get a pony!

Q. I’d like to see a new Isle of Quel’Danas-like daily quest hub in Cataclsym. One place, no travelling quick gold daily (: please?
A. We are planning to do exactly this for Tol Barad. When the battle is not taking place, players will be able to use the island as a daily quest hub. This will of course be very fun on PVP servers. =)

Now anyone on Darksorrow who remembers the Isle of Quel’Danas will tell you it was a PvP zone!  I was playing a Holy priest back then.  I don’t even want to know how many times I was ganked.  So mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, it should make the area lively between battles, which is something Wintergrasp lacks.  On the other, Darksorrow has a lot of people on it who spend their entire game making other peoples lives a misery because that is ‘fun’.  I do also remember, though, that in Quel’Danas I tended to do my dailies in a group with other people.This might motivate me to do that again.

Cataclysm: the end of WoW as we know it?

See what I did there.  That was a joke.  Sorry.

Lodur posted about What Cataclysm is Doing Right on World of Matticus.  He asked us:

So what do you think? What was the best and worst of Burning Crusade? What was the best and worst of Wrath? How do you feel about cataclysm so far? Excited, sad, angry? What are you looking forward to the most?

The Burning Crusade
I didn’t play a lot pre-TBC.  I was busy with that pesky Real Life and I never raided.  I barely made it to 60 when TBC arrived.  TBC was six months in before I reallyt started playing.  So I can’t make the comparison so well.  I liked the Drenai and Blood Elf starter areas, and how much better they were.  I liked Shattrath as a central hub for everyone.  I liked flying definitely.  I loved raiding.  I went as far as the beginnings of Black Temple and Mount Hyjal before the nerf and there were few bosses I didn’t enjoy (despite constructs in the raid).  Kara is still my favourite raid – and the Big Bad Wolf (Opera) the best boss for sheer comedy value.  I didn’t like the elite raider superiority thing (and still don’t).  I was not really a fan of Shattered Halls and I despised Auchenai Crypts.  It was definitely a bit grindy, but already better than in vanilla.

Enter Wrath of the Lich King
WotLK fixed a lot of things.  Raiding is more accessible, which is a good thing.  There are times when I wish there was more of a challenge in some normal content – Trial of the Crusader on normal is particularly easy.  I love Northrend.  Its beautiful, musical, enchanting.  Especially Dragonblight.  There are a few problems.  Wintergrasp lag hell anyone?  But that has been fixed.  The heroics are all too easy.  Every last one of them.  Theres only one boss tactic – tank and spank.  I’m not a fan of the hard mode mechanic.  I’m not sure I have a solution to the problem they solve, but I’m not a fan.  I think most retribution paladins like WotLK though because (in 3.0 and 3.2 at least) we are competative dps.

Cataclysm
Firstly, if you want to read all about Cataclysm then you really want to hop on over to WoW.com.  You’ll find a complete list of information there, kept far more up to date than I could manage!

What I like

  • The storyline – Deathwing returning, breaking up Azeroth, trying to access the elemental planes, sounds like fun!  I’m hoping for a big, fat, world event to start this off.
  • Reworking the old world – it’s the right time to do this.  The old world feels its age, its clunky and inefficient.  This should take us back to old places we loved, or never got to see.
  • Heroic Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep – looking forward to these.  I have done both, but not often so they will be fairly fresh to me.
  • Paths of the Titans/Rethinking talents – I’m hoping this will add a bit of spice to a dull ret pala tree and I think the Paths sound fun.
  • Jazzing up the professions with archaeology and reforging – sounds good to me.  I like my profession choices (miner-JC on Morrighan, tailor-enchanter on Akandra and herbalist-alchemist on Enalla with a transmute mastery), but I’ll be glad to see anything that makes them more exciting.
  • Guild leveling and achievements – I’m all for these despite the drama llama that I am sure will follow them.
  • Rated battlegrounds – not a fan of arena and these would give me an incentive to do BGs again. I’ve skipped these largely since TBC when PvP gear was desirable for PvE.
  • More raid content – see they do listen!
  • Flying in Azeroth – fabulous.
  • New dungeons – Abyssal Maw will be a water dungeon which sounds fun.  Uldum: Halls of Origination will be non-linear with 7 bosses which sounds like what they have proposed for the Icecrown dungeon is a new type of design.  I hope these will be more of a challenge on heroic than the current round of dungeons.
  • New raids – not many details, but a promise there will be more content.
  • New zones – these all sound interesting and there will be a new hub (Deepholm) with links to key places.

Whats a bit ‘meh’

  • New races – not really needed.
  • Simplification of stats – I like maths!
  • No new hero class – its good in that it won’t mean a complete rebalancing again, but bad in that I was really hoping for that healer/hunter hybrid.

What I don’t like

  • Healing gnomes – this is just WRONG. I guess I should be thankful there are no gnome paladins.  *Shudder*
  • The name – too short to be abbreviated, too long to type in full so often.
  • The level cap – while I get all the arguments for it being 85, it offends my sense of symmetry.
  • The Plane of Fire – guess what the raid tactic is going to be?

10 ideas for posts

Posts I’m working on at the moment (in no particular order):

  1. I’m going to post a quick summary of a couple of useful books I’m reading at the moment.
  2. Another project I have in mind is doing some guide posts – the idea is to make them useful to new players, existing players and researchers so these are taking a while to write – I’m currently working on one about Factions that should be up soon.  I’ll follow this with one about Gender and one about Race.
  3. I’d also like to do some simple player guides – I’ve got some new friends who’ve just started WoW and I think they’d be useful.  I’m trying to figure out how to break these down at the moment as they keep getting really really long!
  4. I’m expanding my Google Reader a LOT and I’d like to direct readers to some good blogs out there.
  5. I’d like to write a little guide to setting up a guild based on the experience I’ve had and the things I would and wouldn’t do again.
  6. I’m trying to put together some lore posts that give some background to my own research – particularly about female figures in the lore.
  7. One of the things I’ve not done in WoW but I’d like to work on is getting into RP and I’ll definitely keep a kind of journal of that.  I’ve decided to go with a Night Elf Priest, as I feel best able to RP that.
  8. This site needs a bibliography – books, articles, blog posts, websites, etc.
  9. This site needs a phrase book.
  10. There was a great post by Larisa at the Prink Pigtail Inn about talking to other people about WoW which I am going to respond to.

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