Yes, I wrote that correctly…
In the wake of the Warlords of Draenor announcement at Blizzcon 2013, I wrote a few posts about my desire to approach the leveling process differently. One of them described my desire to self-nerf: to gear down, as opposed to “gearing up” for the expansion.
There was some discussion about the subject here at the time, and then I put it on the back burner. My preparation for Warlords over the past year – gear-wise – has basically consisted of keeping a reserve of Timeless Isle tokens on an alt so that, at the least, I could slap that gear on and be done with it.
At the time, Quelys suggested going in with T14 gear, but I got rid of those pieces as I replaced them, for the most part (basically, I kept Fang Kung, Tao’ren, and the DMC). I was thinking I would probably just go with Timeless Isle gear, as I didn’t see myself putting too much effort into it. However, with Patch 6.0 drawing near, over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself soloing MoP heroics, painstakingly assembling a dungeon set. Of course, being the behavior-driven nerd that I am, I found myself upgrading that gear once I discovered that I was Justice-capped. This, in turn, set up a nice cycle for me, where I drove myself to get both the gear that I wanted and the JP to upgrade it.
^^Possibly my last screenshot of the old Mushan?
As you can see, as of today, my mission is almost complete. I’m having no luck to-date with respect to pants and helm, but I do have some time before leveling begins. And if worse comes to worse, I’m going with the Golden Lotus JP pants and the 476 PvP crafted helm. The goal is to get down to an overall ilevel of 471 (463 plus upgrades, on average), and I think I can get there with that combination if I can’t come up with those last two pieces.
- In this set, I’m doing roughly 60k DPS single-target (casually, un-buffed) on a raid dummy. It’s interesting how many times-over the damage multiplies from the beginning heroic dungeons to the end of the expansion. Additionally, I’m sitting at about 55% of my SoO health level.
- I’m unclear about how my health level will translate with the stat squish, particularly with respect to mobs on Draenor. However, I’m still confident in my ability to handle them, even though…
- I’m planning on leveling as Survival. While part of me wants to try leveling as Marksmanship (and that was my plan previously, because I’d love to try “one-shotting” stuff), it seems to be the new (and only) hotness as far as hunter specs go (thanks
ObamaBlizz). On the positive side: as gutted as it is, leveling as SV could present me with some challenges, which is something I am definitely interested in. I’m looking for an epic experience, and playing hunter with no Kill Shot and no Multi-Strike… will most likely make killing mobs more challenging, if not epic.
- I’m planning on carrying my raid gear with me for dungeon purposes, particularly at the lower levels. I don’t necessarily know that I will run dungeons along the way, but the possibility is definitely there. And if I do run dungeons on occasion while I level, I will not be causing my group any extra anguish brought on by my self-nerfing activities.
- I’m still going to level like I have in the past in new expansions with respect to buffs, enchants, gems, etc. I’ll be appropriately specced out, have consumables with me, use drums, etc. I just won’t be starting out grossly overpowered like I used to.
* * *
I mean no offense by this, but I get a chuckle whenever I read about people specifically “gearing up for WoD”… and doing so by raiding. Needing that cloak, needing that heirloom, needing that 4-piece. I fully understand the players who are looking for those items because they’re great to have, but I’ve seen many, many people who are frantically chasing after those pieces for their alts… “for Warlords.” On Twitter. Blogs. WoW Insider.
More power to them, but to me it seems unnecessary.
Think about it this way: I am very, very far from being among the best players in the world… But when I level a new toon, I don’t stop at level 80, get a bunch of raid gear, and then proceed to 85, get some more raid gear, and then proceed to the next endgame; I simply go to the new zone and start tearing it apart. All of my level-90 alts that are between ilvl 510 and 550 are very prepared, gear-wise, to romp through the opening levels of WoD before they start to get some gear… and none of them have either heirloom weapons or legendary cloaks.
It just seems like when we do that, we’re actually “over-preparing to overpower”… like we’re trying to get the biggest hammer possible in order to smash a sandwich with it.
* * *
I’m looking to stretch myself a bit as a player – perhaps for the last time in this game.
I may have mentioned this on Twitter briefly a few weeks back, but I got another promotion in September – my second in the last five months – and, where my free time was limited over the summer, it’s downright precious now. I’ll be very surprised if I raid at all in Warlords, and once I get done playing through Draenor, I don’t know that I will keep going. However, that’s a decision to be made sometime down the road.
As such, I’m looking to have an experience on Draenor. Discovery, story, taking my time and enjoying the scenery. Testing my skills as a hunter. Talking with my friends about it all, here and on Twitter, as time and energy permit. I’m looking forward to it!
* * *
All of them.
Ok, well not really – that’s just my own predilection for hunters shining through!
Today, The Grumpy Elf wrote about his three favorite raid encounters as a hunter in MoP, and Delirium followed with his top five. As I read each of those great posts, I got to thinking about some of the fights I particularly enjoyed because I was playing a hunter, even if I wasn’t in love with the fights themselves. Here then, in no particular order, are some favorite moments/mechanics:
Imperial Vizier Zor’lok
- Disengage to the furthest shield during Force and Verve on Platform 1? Check.
- Continue rotation uninterrupted – by casting on the move – while avoiding discs during Attenuation on Platform 2? Check.
- Quickly change targets to burst down Converted players on Platform 3? Check
- Combine all three on the floor in Phase 2? Good fun.
- Jump-Disengage from platforms –> Deterrence to avoid Pheromones of Zeal damage when transitioning between platforms? Check.
T14 was a butt for my raid team. We struggled to get past certain bosses like Stone Guard, Elegon, Blade-Lord, Garalon… yeah. It was rough. But I had fun on Zor’lok.
I used to try to Disengage directly into my assigned shield during Force and Verve. The first time I did it, I called it a ‘three-pointer,’ although it was more like a hole-in-one. It’s the simple things, right? Not an amazing feat, but fun nonetheless. But while Zor’lok wasn’t necessarily a ‘use all the tools in your toolbox’-type of fight, I really appreciated being a hunter on that fight.
Let’s see here… how about I start with running while casting during Get Away! ? Yeah, that was great. I enjoyed that benefit while playing my hunter, but my appreciation for cast-on-the-move grew when I took my frost mage and resto druid into ToES. What a difference.
I also got to use Wyvern Sting to CC Animated Protectors during Protect, because it was instant / more reliable than Freezing Trap.
On the other hand, one of the more annoying things was having virtually nothing to do during Hide. Watching mages and warlocks rain down ice and fire made me nostalgic for good ol’ Volley in that case. And, in general, that fight was a pain with all of the phase changes and so on, so I didn’t necessarily enjoy it. However, being a hunter certainly served me well against Lei Shi.
Thok has “hunter fight” written all over it. Both Grumpy Elf and Delirium wrote about how great that fight is for hunters, and with more detail and expertise than I could. Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned here. Casting not interrupted? Jump-Disengaging with Posthaste when Fixated, while still damaging Thok on the move? Tranq Shot if necessary on the adds? The fight is a lot of fun for hunters. I’ve only ever done the fight on one other toon – my resto druid – and it’s a complete pain in the ass. But for hunters, Thok is definitely a good time.
* * *
I could continue with my list, but most of it would just rehash the posts that inspired it. I have to agree with Grumpy Elf that Sha of Pride was great for hunters. Additionally, I absolutely love his ‘welcome’ speech:
“Come, face me. Give in to your pride. Show me your ‘Greatness’.”
So, so condescending. I love it.
So many other fights were good for hunters. Gara’jal, Tsulong, and Immerseus come to mind immediately when I think about taking out adds in something akin to a turret-style manner. There are many abilities one can use during Will of the Emperor for add-control. Disengage is handy in so many fights, from Feng to Sha of Fear, Jin’rokh to Lei Shen, and throughout SoO. I’ve used Deterrence a lot on Stone Guard, H Jin’rokh, Dark Shaman, Lei Shen, and so on; Concussive Shot on Tortos, Will, Immerseus…
It’s been great to be able to interrupt/silence, slow, root, and otherwise impede mobs in raids – while almost continuously dealing sweet, sweet damage – throughout this expansion. It’ll be interesting to see how that kind of thing pans out in Warlords with a less diverse toolbox. In the meantime, it’s fun to look back and remember how, in spite of variable class balance *cough*, Mists has been a pretty fun expansion in which to play a hunter.
Thanks to The Grumpy Elf and Delirium for the inspiration for this post, and for sparking some good memories!
* * *
Upon logging in on Friday, I was surprised to see a new buff amongst the normal ones on one of my characters: Heart of the Valorous.
This, after I logged in on Tuesday on my Resto druid and promptly spent 30,000 Timeless Coins to get my other toons (who are somewhat more “Offense-ive” or “DPS-ish” characters than my healer) the Valor of the Ancients buff.
It’s all good. It’s all good. Friday was a
good fine whatever time to plop that buff down…
Seriously, though, it’s a crazy good buff. It’s even better when you add it to the Valor of the Ancients buff. The first toon that I finished the Empowering The Hourglass weekly with, Mushan, on Saturday got 500 Valor Points from it!
Here’s how that works:
Heart of the Valorous = +100% X (Normal Valor Reward 200 VP): you get twice as much Valor;
Valor of the Ancients = +50% X (Normal Valor Reward 200VP): you get 50% more than base Valor.
The (probably unnecessary) ‘equation’ looks something like this (where x = 200 VP in this case):
2x + x/2 =
500 Valor Points for turning in a quest.
It was awesome!
Think about it: it’s kind of un-frickin’-believable. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve never seen this (a potentially 500 VP turn-in) before in WoW. I remember when the Barrens weekly was active; I posted something on Twitter about how I VP-capped my hunter, which allowed me to get 300 points per turn-in on my alts; someone replied that I was a genius… (You could also do something similar with the weekly Champions of the Thunder King on Isle of Thunder for 225 points with the buff.) But this is different. This stacks, so any Valor you earn once you have both buffs is 150% more than usual.
With this buff, along with the initial use of Deeds of Valor to cap my druid on Tuesday, I managed to cap five toons this week without too much effort. I killed one raid boss with my hunter on Friday, finished single LFR wings on my mage and DK, and otherwise earned the bulk of my VP by doing the Shaohao daily (leading up to Empowering The Hourglass, of course) on Timeless Isle. With the mage and hunter, this is a piece of cake, and with the warrior and DK tanks, it’s still not much trouble. It was nice, considering the current incentive provided by the extra eight ilvl upgrade points available on 5.4 gear.
* * *
I should qualify the apparent noobishness of this post by saying that I’m reading WoW news about once every week or two. I can’t hang daily on Blizzard’s every tweet/reveal… I just can’t: I don’t have it in me to do so when there are so many months left before Warlords becomes a reality, and there isn’t even a beta yet. So when the Heart of The Valorous buff arrived in my interface, I had little more than a vague recollection of reading about it somewhere, whereas it turns out that most people I follow were expecting it with 5.4.8, or any day now…
Oh well. I guess that’s part of what comes from being willfully ignorant in the face of nothing new being playable, for all intents and purposes. It was certainly a nice surprise.
A couple of days later, I learned that this buff was temporary; apparently it ends during maintenance on June 10th. So this week is the second and final week that I will cap five toons with very little effort. Once the buff drops off, I’ll resume cherry picking which toons I want to focus on, which will likely vary since I don’t have clear outcomes in mind for any but Mushan (cap upgrades, start killing some heroic bosses when/if possible). My alts are gravy, so at that point I will probably go back to spending more time with my new hunter on the different server.
In the meantime, this week is about capping those five toons. One will be via Coins. The others will be via those two Timeless Isle quests, for the most part. I’m glad I happened to be back during the time that this was happening, since it’s like I can ‘make hay while the sun shines’ with respect to the upgrades without burning myself out again.
* * *
This past weekend, we were treated to some new models – including several beasts, ancients, pets, mounts, and some faction leaders – from the Warlords of Draenor alpha, courtesy of Datamining. One of these is a new Thrall model.
My first impression was that, in general, I liked him. Upon reflection, however, there are definitely aspects of this new model that irritate me, and cause me to have questions that will probably never be answered to my satisfaction.
Much has been made (correctly) of the male-centric-ness of this brutish new expansion that we’re awaiting. The announcement page at Battle.net has a header with seven male orc legends on it, and further down there is a “meet the big bad (or good) dudes” section, which features ten males: the seven orcs, plus Prophet Velen, Vindicator Maraad, and Khadgar. It’s like the ‘The Stone Age meets the Steroid Era in pro baseball’ expansion, with a couple of good guys thrown in. Oh, and there’s ONE (1) female Draenei paladin Champion that we don’t know much of anything about. Things are very male and barbaric and stuff, at any rate. Hopefully that imbalance will be alleviated somewhat once we get involved, but I’m not holding my breath.
Anyway, with that in mind, here’s a picture of Thrall’s new model (via MMO-Champion):
For comparison purposes, here’s a model from April 2011, from Blizzard’s 4.2 ‘Elemental Bonds’ preview:
This second model is the one we saw for a good portion of Cataclysm’s life cycle. He appears in basically this form in the Elemental Bonds questline, the Hour of Twilight dungeon, Dragon Soul, his wedding to Aggra, and at the Maelstrom, striving to hold the world together.
Finally, for the sake of further comparison, here is a picture of (the old) Thrall at the Argent Tournament (screenshot taken by Jocelyn at DK Diaries):
In between this time and the second shot above, Thrall went to Outland and met Aggra and began his growth/ascent into less-Warchief/more-uberShaman-ness, and ended up holding the world together at the Maelstrom while we found the pieces to the pillar in Deepholm, and so on. He emerged at the beginning of Cataclysm in his new shaman garb, with upright posture and some long braids. This is the Thrall the vast majority of us have known since he ceded his position to Garrosh and went on to address the bigger, more urgent problems that Deathwing caused.
At the time, the old model was fairly impressive, although artist renderings were more impressive than his in-game model, which was a very common Orc model with unique Thrall trappings. The Thrall of the past two expansions has been more reflective of his new position in society – a hero to all in the world (rather than just Orcs/Horde) regardless of faction, a shaman of great power, the substitute Earth Warder – as well as his visibility and importance in the game.
As for this new Thrall, I can only speculate.
I can tell you one thing: I miss the long hair/braids. This new shaved-head-with-top-knot look does nothing for me. In fact, if we look at the WoD Orc faction leaders that I mentioned in the beginning, three of the seven – Kilrogg Deadeye, Ner’zhul, and Grommash Hellscream – also have top knots. This leaves me to wonder if there is some explanation for this.
Does Thrall travel to the old Draenor and decide that he wants to look more brutal? He seems to have dropped some, but not all, of his shaman garb and slapped on some, but not all, of his plate armor. Perhaps he anticipates more hand-to-hand combat, and wants to be prepared… or, perhaps he thinks he looks more intimidating this way, with plate armor, a weirdly-hemmed cloak, and his top knot.
Honestly, if that’s the case, I would have left the hair the way it was before WoD, ditched the cloak, and definitely equipped the ol’ black pauldrons, because that would have looked way more badass than this does. But if he (or someone advising him) thinks this is both more impressive-looking and more statesmanlike, then so be it. I don’t personally know any old-world Orc leaders, so I’m not sure what impresses/intimidates them.
* * *
@gloriaboboria wrote a post this weekend called Thrall – What Happened, Man? over at Corgi Island, lamenting Thrall’s descent into Human-ness. In it, she describes Thrall’s new WoD alpha model, and compares it, side-by-side, with the new Orc model and the regular human male model. (Her post is a great read, by the way – check it out!)
And she has this to say about it (with visual comparison below):
“The model is of a vaguely orc-like looking guy in a trenchcoat…robe…thing. The outfit is interesting, but now Thrall stands completely erect. Shoulders back, neck held high. The main thing that marks Thrall as an orc at this point is his green skin. He actually looks more like a human than an orc. If you don’t believe me, here’s a side-by-side image comparison of the new male orc model, Thrall’s new model, and Gilbert the improverished (. . .) human warrior.”
The picture illustrates how well Thrall stands apart from other Orcs, while looking more like a human (in the general male, He-Man-ish way that males tend to look in WoW anyway).
However, while @Gloriaboboria and others express dismay at the new model and its Human-ness – and while I see her/their point – I would argue two Things:
1a) The new model is structurally almost identical to the old model – the one we’ve seen for the past three years. His straight back, high neck, slender-er torso, etc., are evident all over Cataclysm in the places I mentioned in the beginning of this post, and in the picture from April 2011. It can also be seen in this rather recent video (WARNING: Siege of Orgrimmar spoilers…):
1b) As such, his “Human-ness” looks exaggerated in the new model because the old “new” model was already so human. Rather than having the Roid-lats and hulking shoulders that the common Orc model has, Thrall circa Cata and MoP has a very Human body as well. Add all that thick plate armor – sans shoulder plates – and that hulking appearance is lessened even more. Take a look at (Human) King Varian Wrynn, another faction leader and warrior (via WoWWiki):
This isn’t the best pic for this illustration, but I’m currently on break from paying for WoW, so I grabbed this one for convenience’s sake. It shows something that I’ve noticed about Varian for a while, which is that the combination of his belt and chestplate serve to somewhat smooth out the tapered-torso/huge lats/big shoulders (Varian’s huge shoulder plates notwithstanding) look that many of the male races sport in WoW. His torso also seems to stick out in the front a bit more than I think it should, but I’ve always chalked that up to the cartoony-ness of the game.
In a similar way, on top of Thrall’s established (Cata-forward) model, Blizz took away his hood, gave him a trench-cloak, slapped his plate back on him, and gave him (something of) a midlife-crisis hairstyle. Upon putting that armor on, Thrall’s silhouette evolves even closer to a cylindrical shape, and less orc-like. Here’s that new-model picture again; in particular, you can see what I mean in the image on the left:
(I personally think it makes him look short…)
(I also think his huge boots make him look like the Hero of Oakvale in the first Fable game… but I digress.)
So, I would argue that, other than refined textures and new armor/hair/cloak, Thrall’s basic model is actually the same as it has been for the past three years. Of the in-game models, I personally like the current in-game shaman look best.
* * *
I like Thrall. He’s a fairly polarizing character… and his wedding annoyed me because I was thinking “Why isn’t other, more interesting lore about Thrall in the game instead?” And also because it basically marked the beginning of the end of players interacting with Aggra, who I think could be written as a prominent, enduring, strong female character. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will see that for a while, from what I’m reading…
But despite Thrall’s many critics (and critiques), I still enjoy learning about his life experiences and seeing what he will do next in the game. That holds true for Warlords, in spite of all of the likely social justice-related mis-steps in the expansion that are bound to stick out like awkward boners. I still like Thrall. But I think his WoD alpha model looks a little stupid, and that’s in part* because Blizzard’s artists didn’t flex his figure (OR his armor) to make his wearing of plate look more proportionally appropriate. (To me, humans and Thrall and others sometimes look like they’re wearing huge shields on their bodies instead of custom-fit chest armor.) In this instance, not doing so diminishes the silhouette and the general figure of Thrall as we go forward.
But who knows? Perhaps the design will change between now and Warlords. There’s always a chance…
*And in part because of his hair. Did I mention his hair?? :P
* * *
Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
Yesterday’s post got a ton of views and sparked some good conversation both in the comments and on Twitter. It was an unusual amount of activity for this blog. I kept up during the initial flurry of conversation, but eventually I had to leave for work. During that time, I was away from my blog and social media, and when I got home, there were a couple of questions on Twitter that I didn’t feel that I could answer there.
I do enjoy talking with people on Twitter, but sometimes I don’t feel that using it for multi-tweet answers to questions is good for me, format-wise. I like to be able to see what I’m writing in full, and Twitter’s character limit makes that difficult. As such, the rare follow-up post is in order.
The first tweet that I saw – because it was in reverse chronological order, per the browser version of Twitter – was from WoWWiki.com, which posed the following question:[tweet 448191254371647488 align=’center’]
It was nice of them to MT me, but I don’t know if anyone answered the question with thoughts of their own; the tweet itself has no direct responses so it’s hard to say.
To answer WoWWiki’s question:
Personally, I wasn’t writing with the intent to call out Blizzard. I did address Blizzard directly toward the end, but what drove me to write the post as a whole was a desire to try to put into words some logical explanation as to why players’ frustrations are legitimate.
If we look at Mists of Pandaria’s doldrums (thanks, Ambermist!) on a more “big picture” development level, we can see that they are unfolding similarly to those of the last couple of expansions: the cycle is about two years, this is normal, etc. However, the rapid roll-out of successive patches in the first year, followed by Nothing (except another PvP season and a free 90 carrot to attempt to interest players) in the second, has players confused. Is it “faster content” or is it not? And so we wonder aloud, and some of us take our cash elsewhere, to different new content.
I think my post got that across. The section at the end where – I suppose – I “call(ed) Blizz out” was written in order to reinforce the logic behind the thoughts and feelings of players like myself. There was nothing more behind it; to otherwise think that my post would be read by someone at Blizzard would be to delude myself, and I have a very pragmatic sense of where I fall in that order. This was not a “blow off steam at Blizz”-post.
Earlier in the day, before I left for work, I had tweeted the following:
“One thing that’s important to remember is that people like me WANT to spend money for some new content! That’s where my post comes from. :)”
The reason I said that is because the vibe that I was getting from most people was in step with my own feelings: that we do, indeed, want to spend money on new content. We are not simply “whining” to be “whiners.” However, I worried that some would mistake my meaning from the post. The truth is, I love the game, and am looking forward to coming back eventually and checking out all that is new.
Back on Twitter, Alsoria responded to my sentiment:[tweet 448153662192627712 align=’center’]
And my response to that question is this: No. No, I do not want to spend money on content that isn’t up to Blizzard’s usual standard of quality and readiness. I’m well aware of how much it sucks to suffer through bugginess in WoW, and I am not advocating that Blizzard release lesser-quality expansions with higher frequency. Let me pull a quote from yesterday’s post:
“…it is in the company’s best interest to actually put out faster, full-sized expansions.”
“Full-sized expansions” refers to the same breadth and quality of expansion that we are accustomed to: a ready-to-launch Wrath/Cata/MoP/WoD. I think that’s what we all expect. I apologize for not making that clear.
My post was not about more/faster/now, without regard for quality. Yes, we know what Blizzard can do, but they showed us for a year that they were doing it faster and with quality. That’s what players who consumed content as it was current got accustomed to before Blizzard announced Warlords, gave interviews where they re-stated a collective intention to reduce time between expansions, and then effectively told us that “less time between expansions” wasn’t actually going to happen this time.
* * *
Yesterday’s post seemed to touch a nerve; for the first two hours after I tweeted out the post, my page views were about 20 times the usual rate, and I was privileged to converse with several others on the subject both here and on Twitter. Hopefully, if it did nothing else, it resonated with the feelings of other players.
As I’ve alluded to before, that post serves as criticism, but such criticism does not diminish my respect for WoW’s creators, or my love and desire for the game and its potential. On the contrary, I pine for more good times and great content, as do many of us. Ultimately, we’ll get it when it’s done, and then many of us will reconvene in-game as well as on Twitter, blogs, etc. to share our thoughts and revel in the goodness. I’m looking forward to those days.
* * *
Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
On Saturday, MMO-Champion highlighted a recent exchange on Reddit involving Bashiok (Blizzard CM), along with some graphs* he had found on Twitter, regarding the length of MoP in comparison to those of other expansions. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to post a screenshot of MMO-C’s page here (click the screenshot if it’s too small to read):
*[Edit: the graphs were created by Sivation, who has more graphical goodness on the topic on Twitter – check it out!]
Darkbrew took these graphs and did some amazing analysis over at The Brewhall on Sunday. It’s a post that I would highly recommend checking out. His post was the catalyst for this post, because it drove me to look at Bashiok’s words again, and although my post might not relate to his very much, he deserves some credit for inspiring me.
* * *
The intention to make content faster is not new. Blizzard-folk have been talking about it on and off since at least the beginning of Cataclysm: it’s supposedly the reason we got the troll dungeons in 4.1, and was a much talked-about topic as Blizzard rolled out the first few numbered patches of Mists of Pandaria. In fact, we were given all of MoP’s raid content over the course of less than a year.
The concept of “faster content” is not a myth. Shortly after Blizzcon, the man himself, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime, told Polygon:
“It’s going to be on us and our development team to continually look at ways to evolve the game and keep it relevant, and look for new ways of maintaining engagement within the game. We view expansions as a huge opportunity to do that.
“We recognize that we need to release them on a faster cadence than we have in the past. So we’re investing in the team and our resources to enable us to do that.”
Still, it’s not technically a promise. But this is just a recent example of Morhaime’s stated intentions to release content more frequently. For instance, during an earnings call in May 2011, during which Blizzard announced the loss of 600,000 subscribers, he said:
“We need to be faster at delivering content to players. And so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in between expansions.
“What we have seen so far is that people have been consuming this content very quickly, and so the subscriber levels have decreased [following the release of Cataclysm] faster than in previous expansions.”
And look at this, from Greg Street to Digital Spy, shortly after Blizzcon (and before his revelation that he was leaving Blizzard):
“We find that expansions are what bring players back to World of Warcraft. Really good patches will keep them, but they aren’t as good at bringing players back to the game.
“We really want to get to a cadence where we can release expansions more quickly. Once a year I think would be a good rate. I think the best thing we can do for new players is to keep coming out with regular content updates.”
Regardless of the fact that Street left Blizzard shortly thereafter, his words echo those of Morhaime from around the same time. Look at what Morhaime said: “We recognize that we need to release [expansions] on a faster cadence than we have in the past.” These statements are collectively indicative of an actual company vision – more than they constitute rhetoric put in place to placate concerned investors – especially given similar comments in the past.
Players have looked at words like these from Morhaime, as well as similar ones from devs like Street, and taken them to mean that this will happen. Where Blizzard is (and has been) clever is that these are only statements of vision and intention. Goals. Not promises or official deadlines.
Semantics and implied meanings. Yes, we like the idea of faster content, and that is our intention. But if we fail to provide that, we never actually said that we would definitely provide that, so you can’t hold it against us.
However, their ability to stand on such statements of good intentions in times like this, where a patch is seemingly interminably long, is weakened in the wake of what happened in 2013, when they started to show that that vision is producing results. In this case, Blizzard released content faster during MoP, which belied an actuality: that “intention to produce faster content” was becoming “actual faster content” – that, in a manner of speaking, the train was picking up speed, that things were finally moving toward making that stated goal a reality.
In fact, as we see now, this was not the case. Despite Blizzard’s best intentions as stated, if the company does have a goal – once again, not a promise, but a goal or an intention – then they are failing at that goal.
With the recent release window (fall 2014) announcement, players are staring at five-to-eight more months of nothing new as it stands today (eventual beta notwithstanding; many people consider beta to be at least something new, but I’m looking at “new content” as content that is guaranteed to be available to everyone, like the expansion’s pre-patch and release). At the very best, unless the beta is extremely short due to arriving in a much more fully-formed state than past betas have (and Blizzard beats their window by quite a margin) we’re basically looking at the same thing we’ve always experienced.
They’re failing to reach the goal.
So here’s why players are irritated with Blizzard, and why people have reacted negatively to Bashiok’s recent comments, and so on: because from all points of view – player happiness, subscription retention, shareholder satisfaction – it is in the company’s best interest to actually put out faster, full-sized expansions.
- During times of Nothing New, you lose subscribers. You know this. People don’t want to pay for Nothing New as much as they want to pay for Something New. These are basic economic principles, particularly as they relate to subscription-based content.
- You’ve stated several times that you want to fix this subscriber-retention problem by releasing faster content – specifically, faster expansions. It’s right out there on the internet for people to see.
- You haven’t managed to release faster expansions: at this point, every expansion has taken roughly two years to release after the previous release. As we now know, the MoP-to-WoD transition will be the same.
- Regardless of the fact that you didn’t explicitly “promise” faster content, you consistently fail to meet your stated intention. Players know that this is your intention, and they wonder why nothing has changed in spite of it.
- MoP was flawed in part because new content was jammed down players’ throats over the course of a year, and now the players who consumed that content in real-time have nothing but the Same Ol’ Same Old for a year.
And that brings us back to the first point: people don’t want to pay for Nothing New as much as they want to pay for Something New. So don’t be surprised if people ask why content isn’t coming out faster, or express dissatisfaction that it isn’t. They are paying customers until the content runs out and they get bored. And if you know this, and don’t fix it – and lose subscribers as a consequence of that, and are questioned by a portion of the player base – then that’s on you as a company. Getting defensive doesn’t help things.
When you fall back on technicalities and semantics, like ‘we didn’t actually promise, we only intended,’ you’re refusing to acknowledge the point, which is that you’re actually failing to retain subscribers by giving them what they want most: faster content, including faster expansions.
* * *
Bashiok’s a good dude, and deserves respect. However, the players are right, and they also deserve respect, as do their points of view. If Blizzard as a company can’t actually make faster expansions, its representatives (and its customers) would be better served if they would simply be up front about it as standard procedure.
And players like me vote with our dollars. Now obviously, if you (the player) are still playing and enjoying current content of any stripe, then by all means, keep playing and enjoying yourselves! But at this time, for those of us who are bored and tired of Blizzard’s carrot-on-a-stick way of attempting to lure people back to / keep people playing WoW during a time like this, some of us vote Nay. Because in spite of the fact that there was no promise, Blizz is still trying to lead us on. And that gets old.
* * *
Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
It’s been a month since I announced on these humble pages that I am taking a break from World of Warcraft.
My time away – an admittedly short one, at this early point – has been good. Things have been busy at work; the new blog has been fun to work on; I’ve gotten plenty of Fable-playing time logged; and I’m just getting started on a virtual stack of books that need reading. Because I had become thoroughly exhausted with the game in the months before my break started, my playing time had been steadily withering, so making the transition from “very little WoW” to “no WoW” has been fairly pain-free.
One thing has not changed throughout all of this: I still love the flippin’ game, and there have been times when I’ve missed it and wished for a moment that I could log in. But I quickly realized that what I’m missing is not the game as it stands today, but rather as it was in the past, and how it will be again later this year. Specifically: expansion time. Leveling time. The time when everything is new again.
As part of my effort to not completely lose touch during these next few months, I’ve determined to read the WoW section of my blog feed once per week, and to periodically check up on the news. Usually, this happens on a Sunday.
This week, I decided to make an exception, because of speculation that the beta – the arrival of which is already late in the minds of many – could be happening. I’m curious about the beta start date, because it has been written about so intensely since Blizzcon, and because it was expected as early as December, then January, then February…
In catching up on last week’s blog posts this past Sunday, I noticed that anticipation for a beta was particularly high. It was this excitement that I remembered as I casually opened up MMO-Champion this morning, and swiftly found myself in a fierce battle to keep the orange juice in my mouth from destroying my keyboard and monitor when I read the following:
- Warlords of Draenor is expected to release on or before 12/20/2014, with a fall release expected. This is not a release date.
Once I had managed to get said orange juice flowing safely in the correct direction, I read on. There was little other information of interest to me, since the level 90 boost has little appeal for me at this point, and I will “only” be purchasing the regular edition of WoD. There was also no mention of a beta launch, which was the information that I came to the site for in the first place.
At any rate, given that the xpac will likely see a fall release, that puts the earliest launch date at September 23rd (if we take “fall release” literally). September 23rd is a hair short of two years since the launch of MoP, while September 30th is just a hair longer. Of course, “fall” is probably an approximation, so it’s possible that if everything goes awesomely in Irvine, CA, we could see a release on the 9th or 16th. However, if we get much later into the fall – October 21st or later, to be specific – Warlords will have both A) taken the longest time-after-previous-expansion to release of any expansion in the game’s history and B) given players the greatest amount of down-time after the previous expansion’s final content patch in the game’s history.
And if we do get into December before it’s released? Well, then we’re talking about what I would already categorize as a giant misstep on the part of Blizzard.
It turns out that I picked a good time to take a significant break from the game. When a company provides fairly regular content updates for a game – some would say they came too fast, and I have to agree with that sentiment – and then gives players little more than a new PvP season in an extended final patch, there is little to keep my interest. Late 2012 and the first three quarters of 2013 consisted of “content content content.” 2014 is doomed to consist of “waiting waiting waiting” for much of the year, until this thing (WoD) happens.
So… what happened? Over the past couple of years, we’ve gotten a lot of talk from Blizz-folk about faster content, and we saw some evidence that that was a priority. Mists arrived chock-full of things to do at 90 – repetitive, grindy-as-hell things, to be sure – and with “move the story forward” patches in between raid patches, there certainly was plenty of content for about a year…
And now we have this Nothing. We’ve been told that there are different teams that work on expansions… so did the Mists team significantly outpace the Warlords team? Did the Warlords team bite off more than it could chew, like they supposedly did when they remade the world for Cataclysm?
Somewhere – dev team to dev team, or Blizzard to players, or whatever – the message went off the path. And I think that, at this point, Blizzard does itself and its players a disservice when it says that it would like to release expansions on a yearly basis, because then players believe that the company – this great company, which has made such a great game and done so many wonderful things – was actually working hard toward making that actually happen. All evidence at this juncture shows that it either is not doing so, or is just wildly failing to make that happen.
I was skeptical at the time, because those comments at and around the time of Blizzcon were comments that many players took and ran with, in spite of Blizzard’s history and lack of actual promise. Those stated best intentions were believed by many to be modus operandi, and they are proving not to be so. I, like everyone else, wanted Blizzard to be what they said they intended to be. I was skeptical, but if they had dropped a beta on December 10th or January 8th, I would have been happy. If they had announced that WoD was arriving on May 20th or June 17th, I would have been happy. I also would have been surprised.
This doesn’t surprise me. At this point in the history of WoW, this has become the norm, and it seems that Blizzard – as much as they purportedly intend to change for the faster – has become entrenched in this two-year cycle.
As such, I believe that they should just stop talking about it. They should just stick with “It’ll be Soon(TM),” and “It’ll be out when it’s finished,” and stop talking up what has become a pipe dream for everyone. I’ll be finished playing WoW for a while before yearly expansions become a thing.
I was skeptical, but that does not mean that I’m not disappointed by this news. What do I want? I want to play through some new content. Of course. I find myself daydreaming about past new-xpac leveling experiences from time to time, and that is what I want to be doing again, sooner than later.
It looks like it will be later.
I’m already mentally extending my break. Originally, I was thinking about taking three months or so. However, with this news – and barring extremely unlikely “let’s get the band (raid team) back together” overtures from my absent friends – four-to-six months or more is looking more likely. There are good things about this: no WoW means more time for other adventures elsewhere, both in and out of gaming worlds. But ultimately, I am disappointed… although I’m glad that Blizzard finally came out and confirmed that my skepticism wasn’t unfounded.
Yes, I could still be playing. But right now, Blizzard has no new product for me. I’m not paying $15 per month to wait for half a year or more. I can do that for free.
* * *
Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!