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Farewell, Azeroth

It’s been a wild ride, Azeroth. I’ve come and gone, seen your sights many a time, ridden off into the sunset only to stroll into your lush lands once more on a sunny morning.

You promise great things with new lands and a reimagining of your world, soon. And perhaps I will return again to explore your paradise of conflict and beauty, to do battle with the dragon aspect and enjoy the cameraderie of my peers. But, right now, I can’t be certain that I shall. This world, the re real one, has so much beauty of it’s own to explore. And time, we have so little of it. And while I love you, Azeroth, and everything you stand for, and everyone who resides within your virtual walls… I can no longer dedicate so much of my soul to you.

Perhaps a future awaits where I tire of this world once more and choose to wile my time within your world. Perhaps. None can see what the future holds.

Farewell for now, Azeroth, and to you who remain, may your travels be wondrous and filled with joy, discovery and excitement.

p.p.s Skurm will continue to blog at his ‘real life’ blog, skurmish.wordpress.com

So, like probably everyone else, I’m playing Starcraft 2.

And, like probably every other WoW guild out there, people are drying up at a phenomenal rate.

I’m left to wonder, is the only thing that can steal playtime away from WoW, another Blizzard game? Well, to be fair you see this quite often when a new, quality triple A game on the PC is released. Usually it’s a Bioware game stealing some of the thunder – Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age… this time, it’s a Blizzard game, and Starcraft 2 is, with little doubt in my mind, going to cause a pretty sharp drop in WoW players online concurrently for quite some time. Depending how many of them embrace online play, the drop may be more permanent and significant.

The biggest threat, then, to World of Warcraft seems to me won’t necessarily be another MMO, but simply another quality multiplayer PC game. And very specifically, Diablo 3. D3 will offer much of the simple pick up and play co-operative gameplay that WoW offers in it’s current badge-farming heroic intancing, which I’d guess makes up a good bulk of what people do in the game at the level cap. Sure raiding happens too, but is it the real focus of WoW gamers? Most of us spend more time gearing for raids than actually raiding. And, sure, PVP is a fun enough distraction, but BG’s are something to do in short bursts, and arenas are the domain of a very small minority of WoW’s subscriber base.

Personally I think Starcraft 2 might offer superior PVP multiplayer gameplay within a ‘massive’ environment, and Diablo3 will scratch the itch that the other half has, in co-operative dungeon crawling. As much as Blizzard mentions it doesn’t see SC2 and D3 as competition to WoW… I really think they are.

How does starcraft 2 itself play, I might hear you ask. My initial impressions are highly favourable. This game exudes polish in a quantity I don’t think I have seen before. The closest would be to liken it to Mass Effect 2 in terms of sheer quality of design. The engine itself is spectacular, the gameplay is classic Starcraft, and the higher focus on exposition and storyline between missions is superb. Hard to say if this is the best game ever, I don’t think it’s perfect, but it’s damn near. If you have a PC, this is simply a must buy, whether you’re an RTS fan or not so much.

Let’s face it. Wrath of the Lich King, as an expansion, is limping along and gasping it’s last. Progression, now, doesn’t matter. Raiding isn’t really a big deal, relegated to a few slacker casual guilds out there trying to finish up the last of the available content before the Cataclysm arrives. There will be no going out with a big bang ala Isle of Quel’Danas and the Sunwell. Ruby Sanctum was a flash in the pan. The only things left to do in this expac are to tie up any loose ends left for your individual character. Perhaps it’s a title, perhaps it’s a mount but the gear-grind is basically over, the drive to push on through to the end has all but evaporated.  Even the epeen is vanishing as people realise their fat purples today aren’t going to be worth spit a few days after the new expansion arrives. Apathy has become so apparent within my guild that 25man raiding has all but ceased and of the 2 or 3 10man teams we had going are dead and gone, now we barely scrape together  a single group one or two nights a week to attempt Lich King in 10man.

And so it is that I put down my blogging pen, too, in anticipation of something new.

WoW-specific blogging will resume it’s regular programming soon enough. Till then, enjoy the twilight days of the Lich King’s last stand, and I’ll keep on inking my idle thoughts on the genre and gaming in general. Personally, I think I’ll be more or less leaving Azeroth itself in it’s current incarnation to the die-hards and focus on some much needed Real Life.

‘Till we meet again,

Adieu

31 point trees are win

I’d been working on some ideas for Blood tank trees for Cataclysm, but after last weeks other bit of news, no not the RealID fiasco, the bit about talent trees being severely pruned, it’s a bit pointless. The Beta talents right now are going to be nothing alike what they’ll be at launch.

First off, each tree is being pruned down to 31 points deep rather than 51. It’s basically 2 tiers less. Second, we’re getting about half as many talent points total, so where we get 71 right now, we’ll probably only have points in the 30’s to play with by the time we ding 85.

At first this sounds like a massive nerf and simplification, but the reasoning behind it is that we spend so many talent points on must-have junk-talents like +1 to hit here and +1 to crit there, that most of those 71 talent points are being spent on boring talents. This makes a hell of a lot of sense. I know I drop otherwise awesome, fun and flavourful talents like Lichborne to instead pick up something dreary like one percent to dodge. Ho hum.

It will be farm more fun to be able to focus on grabbing ‘unnecessary’ talents like Mark of Blood or Blood Worms than minmaxing cookiecutter builds focused purely on stats. Especially the DK class, which loses out on a lot of versatility in the way cookiecutter builds spec in order to maximize dps or eh/threat. And it’s versatility that was supposed to be this class’s strong point. Something we had to sacrifice in trying to keep up with all the other classes. We lose out on so many ‘toys’ that are baked into other classes, and it’ll be refreshing to be able to haul out something super cool like Hungering Cold in a dungeon or raid instead of sinking that 1 point into getting 5/5 Black Ice.

And so, once more, all is right with the world.

http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25968987278&sid=1

Hello everyone,

I’d like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as conversation threading, the ability to rate posts up or down, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

I want to make sure it’s clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make Battle.net a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you’ll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on Battle.net to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/about/mission.html ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard’s success from the beginning.

Mike Morhaime
CEO & Cofounder
Blizzard Entertainment

Facebookfail

In a related anecdote : New Facebook Signups Plummets

Thinking back the privacy brouhaha around Facebook earlier last month, is this merely coincidence?

Facebook have gone from being kinda cool and open, to being thought of as scumbags and criminals.

Do you think you can survive the same, ActiBlizzard? Do you really think you’re bigger than your community, your customers?

RealDumb

The big deal right now within the WoWosphere (that’s totally a new word I just invented) is your RealID being attached to any forum posts you make on the official forums. This isn’t live yet, but it will be in a few weeks time for Starcraft 2, and it will be in place for the launch of Cataclysm.

Like about 95% of the rest of the WoW populace who’ve commented about this, I think it’s a really, really bad idea.

For one, I think ActivisionBlizzard have allowed themselves to become a victim of their own hubris. Sure, WoW is the most popular MMO in the world. But is it really the game that everyone plays? The game for the masses? I’m not quite so sure really. I still think the bulk of the WoW playing populace are, well, seasoned gamers. There may be a lot of people for whom WoW is there first ever game but I think that number is pretty slim, and always will be. WoW is astill a pretty hardcore experience. There’s a lot fo grinding, and raiding is still severely complicated. This isn’t Farmville, Kotick. No matter how much you want it to be.

And that means that most of WoW’s populace are probably at least somewhat tech savvy internet veterans, and they value their privacy. Furthermore, consider the people who use your forums. Chances are they do so right now exactly because these forums allow them a modicum of anonymity. And while this can be used for nefarious purposes – trolling, flamewars, etc – anonymity is also great at getting valuable, intelligent people to come out of their shells. To stick their neck out.

Will they be sticking theirs out after this change goes through? Odds are, no. Will flaming and trolling still happen? Odds are, yes. Anonymity may turn otherwise normal people into trolls, but here’s the thing : Real trolls don’t care. Real trolls troll because, well, they have shitty personalities. That’s just baked in. Casting aside the veil of internet secrecy isn’t going to change that.

I haven’t come this close to cancelling my ‘subsrciption (ie not buying any more game cards) in a while. It’s not even so much about the forums, since I rarely post there, and could probably get by never visiting them ever again. The problem is, it highlights a disregard for the wishes of it’s clientele that appears to have been growing within Blizzard, suspiciously ever since the Activision merger.

So I won’t lie. I would quit right now if it weren’t for the contacts I’ve built up within the game. And Blizzard knows that. Hence RealID in the first place. But here’s the thing – you can’t copyright someone else’s name. And once I have my cadre, my crew, its’ actually quite easy to walk away, and take them with me.

Especially if they feel the same way I do.

And I’m betting right now that most of them are.

You’ve just crossed a terrible threshold, Blizzard. Like Arthas, in your blind zeal pursuing one single goal, you’ve lost sight of what really mattered in the first place. And you have, in the process, become the enemy.
What hubris. What irony.

There’s no coming back from that.