Activision CEO talks about in-game advertising… is WoW next?

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2008 by wowtemp
When Vivendi acquired Activision — or was it Activision acquiring Vivendi? these business deals confuse me — to form what the soon-to-be Activision-Blizzard late last year, many players were concerned about how this would affect our beloved MMO. Blizzard assured its players with an FAQ on the forums about the merger stating, in no uncertain terms, that it would not affect Blizzard’s games in any way (except to improve them, presumably). Activision CEO Bobby Kotick recently spoke with Next Generation, however, and talked very much like the businessman, discussing possible revenue models for their stable of games. He mentions how Activision-Blizzard must figure out StarCraft’s business model for the future, “with in-game advertising and sponsorship” which he says “presents a tremendous opportunity for the future.”

He illustrates how StarCraft can actually be “the model for in-game advertising and tournament play”, spooking at least one World of Warcraft player, who asks on the forums if WoW could be next. Fortunately, Karune chimes in the same thread assuring StarCraft fans (and by extension, WoW players) that Blizzard has “no plans to have in-game advertising in StarCraft II.” He explains that “Bobby (Kotick) was actually referring to Battle.net, which has always included ads.” It’s very reassuring, but perhaps such speculation would be avoided if Activision-Blizzard’s CEO actually words things a little better.

Blood Pact: Why people hate warlocks

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2008 by wowtemp

Between Arenas, V’Ming spends his time as a lock laughing ominously in AV, tanking Olm with his own minions and pondering troll fashion from Zul’Aman. He’s recently started to plumb the depths of SSC with his 0/21/40 build and bragging about 8k shadow bolts.

This progressive patch is a roller coaster ride; is Blizzard toying with our emotions? I can imagine the folks at Irvine playing WoW as a grand social experiment: “Let’s put in this class-changing nerf and see how they respond, muahahahaha!” The Warlock community certainly responded, and the mood is somewhat settled, now that the Life Tap change has been rolled back and Kalgan has confirmed that “No other Warlock nerfs are planned for 2.4.”

I do not see this as a “victory” for warlocks, as the change was uncalled for to start off with. A PvP-driven change to a class-defining mechanic that affects PvE more than PvP simply defies logic – although some insisted that it was a storm in a teacup. Without arguing (again) how BIG this Life Tap change was really going to be, this episode brought one aspect of the WoW community into clear relief for me.

We are very passionate about the classes we play, and react strongly to all changes – good AND bad. While many non-warlock players saw the implications of the Life Tap change, others simply gloated and cheered that their most hated PvP opponents were nerfed. Understandably, players engage in different aspects of the game, and even PvE players have varying degrees of experience playing with warlocks. However, there’s been a plethora of rational discussion, from warlocks and non-warlocks alike, on why the LT nerf was uncalled for. There shouldn’t really any grounds for hating (the class, hopefully not the players) out of sheer ignorance.

So why does the class trigger such a negative emotional response with some players?

PvP dominance?

The problem here might not be warlocks winning in PvP, but how they win. Fear is one of the most hated mechanics in game, because players simply do not like control taken away from them. Fear removes control, AND can possibly place the victim in a bad place: out of healing range and LoS, for example. Mind Control has the same effect, and would probably be the most hated mechanic if it wasn’t channeled.

Without a cooldown, fear can be constantly re-applied and this becomes a deadly combination with DoTs. The victim – other than breaking out of fear or relying on his or her teammates – has no means of retaliation. This seemingly absolute control from a Warlock is a significant source of frustration for classes that have no reliable way of breaking fear.

To quote Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate …” It’s amazing how accurate the little green guy is, considering that it was 1999 when he first uttered this line on the silver screen, five years before WoW and warlocks.

If Arena representation has any bearing on the perceived “OP-ness” of warlocks, that perception should be well into decline.

Back in November last year, the class representation looked like this:

My most recent chart:

While warlocks are still strongly represented in the Arenas, our numbers have settled to a “competitive” level relative to the other classes. For the long-term success of WoW – specifically the Arena PvP aspect – I believe that no single class or combination of classes should dominate.

I took the liberty to graphically represent Kalgan’s numbers for the top teams:

In Kalgan’s numbers, a value of 100% means that the class is represented as Blizzard expects. While the metrics are different, my recent chart shows the same general distribution as Kalgan’s, except for Warrior representation which seems to be less significant than what anecdotal evidence would suggest. Daniel noted this lower-than-expected numbers for warriors as well.

Blizzard is obviously looking at Arena representation as closely as we are. If their aim is to tweak the classes based on Arena performance, Blizzard should really respond with quicker changes to classes that are grossly under-represented in the 3v3 bracket: paladins, hunters and shamans. If perfect balance is impossible, perhaps a constantly shifting balance is not too much to ask.

Easy-mode?

The concept of an “easy” class is hard to nail down. For the longest time, hunters were deemed the “easy-mode” class – it appears that warlocks are included in the same breath now. Notice anything similar about these two classes? Pets! (here’s a cookie)

The popular myth that players can let their pets do all the work is a difficult one to debunk, unless you have played these pet classes in various aspects of the game. I consider leveling as just one aspect of WoW, and as far as this aspect is concerned, I will not deny that hunters and warlocks DO have an easier time soloing.

It is really a different story when you delve deeper into PvP or raids, and I cringe when people state the number of 70s they have as if it’s “proof” of their knowledge or skill. How many “bad” hunters or warlocks, who don’t know the full range of their abilities, have you encountered at level 70?

From a business perspective, Blizzard has shrewdly made the 1-70 game accessible to everyone. Even instances, where players can learn their roles in a group, are entirely optional. That said, forming strong opinions on classes based on just the leveling aspect of the game is hasty, to say the least.

Warlocks don’t provide goodies?

In terms of utility, warlocks don’t have many obvious ones to offer. It’s true that we provide healthstones, soulstones and the occasional summon, but these are really “good-to-haves” that aren’t really important to a group’s survival and success. (Yes, there will be “healthstone saved my life!” moments, but warlocks are generally not seen as benevolent, heals or otherwise.)

Ask a mana-using class what’s most important in terms of utility, the answer will generally be food and drinks from the Mage. Ask a tank what’s most important and he or she will probably mention the Fortitude buff, HoTs and DPSers who don’t pull aggro. In other words, other than raw DPS, the utility and buffs that warlocks bring to a group is dispensable, unless it’s a specific Warlock ability that is required in an encounter, like Banish.

In this respect, rogues are similar to warlocks. It is no surprise that we’re perceived as “selfish” or “evil” classes that are generally tolerated, instead of welcomed – especially if you don’t know the player behind the toon. Could this have contributed to the Warlock hate? Human perception is a funny thing, and Blizzard has certainly done well to typecast warlocks as dangerous allies.

Warlocks are evil?

We may launch into bouts of maniacal laughter, but I’d like to say for the record here that “We’re not evil, we’re just designed that way.” Looking through the unsavory names of our talents and abilities, one can’t help but feel that warlocks are really bad: Curses! Agony! Corruption! Devastation! Ruin!

Contrast this with the Priest, generally regarded to be a “good” class: Inspiration, Blessed Recovery, Renew. Even their offensive abilities sound less, um, offensive – Shadow Word: Pain (just pain, not agony!), Mind Blast, Darkness.

Has Blizzard done so well in terms of flavor to influence the emotional responses of players towards certain classes? Or is it just the Warlock’s abilities and mechanics that annoy players? I’d be curious to see if the new death and decay class – Death Knight – will be as despised as the warlocks.

New alchemist stone stats transmuted

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , on March 8, 2008 by wowtemp
A couple of the new Alchemist Stones in Patch 2.4 have had their stats changed in the past few days. I assume this change was made to make them more friendly to a wider variety of classes and specs, but you can never say for sure!

The Assassin’s Alchemist Stone originally came packing +54 Critical Strike Rating, but now carries +108 Attack Power instead. The caster version, the Sorcerer’s Alchemist Stone, has shifted over to +63 Damage/Healing from its original +54 Spell Hit Rating.

I can’t speak for everyone, but those seem to be pretty good changes to me. Of course, my main is one of the classes/specs that don’t need much Spell Hit, so I’m probably rather biased in that area. If you’d like to take a look at a screenshot of the updated stats for the Alchemist Stones, just hop on past the jump.

Screenshots are courtesy of World of Raids.


The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Where are the warriors?

Posted in 1 with tags , , , on March 8, 2008 by wowtemp

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is the column for warriors. And apparently this week at least one warrior, ol Matthew Rossi, has a burr up his saddle and is going to rant about it. We try and let him have these little episodes from time to time so that when we point him at Tidewalker’s crotch he obligingly whacks it with a sword.

It’s interesting playing a warrior in these times. When people aren’t demanding we tank their PuG for them, they’re demanding we be nerfed in PvP because we dominate it. Except we don’t. According to Blizzard’s internal numbers, Warriors are under-represented in every single bracket except 2×2, and then only in ratings about 2200. In other words, there are less warriors in every single bracket of Arena play than one would expect by the number of warrior players save for the higest ranked level of the 2×2 arena game. In every single other possible arena combination at either 2200 or 1850 rating, warriors are far from dominant.

I’ll say that again. Warriors are not dominant in arenas. They are in fact under-represented. Blizzard would expect to see more of them in Arenas than there actually are playing. So the myth of the arms warrior owning all in his path in arenas is at least partially that, just a myth. Even in the one bracket (2×2 at 2200 rating) that warriors can be claimed to be overrepresented in, they still come in under rogues, warlocks and druids. There is not a single bracket wherein warriors are the most dominant class, not one single bracket at either rating.

So what’s going on? If warriors are the most played class in the game, where are they? If you can’t find one to tank, and they’re not out there ruling PvP the way warlocks tell us they are (you’ll notice warlocks are more highly represented in every single bracket at both 2200 and 1850 ratings, keep that in mind the next time a warlock calls for warriors to be nerfed due to their over-representation in arenas) then what’s going on with warriors?

Is it possible that not all those level 70 warriors are doing anything at all? Have some of them, maybe a lot of them, been shelved? Is the warrior actually a class in decline?

Maybe, and maybe not. Let’s discuss.

Partially this may be actually due to the fact that warriors are the most played class in the game. I’ve always had my suspicion that a lot of these warriors are alts, made by people who believe warriors to be EZ mode, and who don’t really see a lot of play once it turns out that warriors are in fact pretty hard to play well compared to mana classes, who can stop and drink after a fight and be ready to go at full power unlike a warrior, who usually has to wait until at least a few seconds into a fight to be able to use any abilities. Tanking on a warrior is harder for some, because it requires patience from the group you’re tanking for unlike a paladin who can start dumping consecrate as soon as the fight starts. Running a heroic with groups used to that kind of instant aggro is sheer torture, and it only gets worse if your warrior tank is actually well geared: the better a warriors’ tanking gets, the harder tanking for five man groups who won’t wait for aggro to be established is, because you simply won’t have the rage to get anything done. I’ve taken to tanking heroics in my DPS gear just go hope to get enough rage to hold aggro with people throwing wrath, fireball and so on before I’ve even gotten a chance to use a single devastate. And to be honest, that’s in groups with good players that I know.

I won’t run PuG’s. There’s no reason to. First off, most PuG groups have no idea what it takes to hold aggro on more than one mob and won’t let a warrior do his or her job. Holding back for a few seconds seems to be like stabbing yourself in the hand with a red hot butcher knife based on some of the PuG groups I’ve run with, if each DPSer isn’t immediately hitting a different mob within two seconds of a pull, something’s wrong with the world. In order to get a pick up group that has good players in it that are willing to do what is necessary for a warrior tank to hold aggro, you have to beat it into their heads. Frankly, I don’t like yelling at my groups. That’s why I like raiding so much more: if someone does something stupid to pull aggro off of me or breaks CC, then the raid leader will yell at them, leaving me blissfully unburdened with the responsibility of being aggro mommy.

Secondly, there are apparently a lot of really bad warriors out there. I mean, not just DPS warriors who can’t watch their aggro, but a lot of warriors who show up to tank Shadow Labyrinth in ‘of the beast’ gear and a level 63 green sword with 2.6 speed and who don’t know where the Shield Block key is on their keyboard. And so, a lot of DPS are trained to believe that all warriors are mouth breathing, drooling idiots who couldn’t hold aggro if they had dirty pictures of Hellmaw’s mother taped to their foreheads and it’s best to just nuke wildly since you’re going to die anyway.

This may sound harsh. You may be thinking “I’ve run hundreds of PuGs and I never do any of that.” And you probably are entirely right. But for every player who knows how to target the skull and not hit the square, there’s players who break sheeps early, keep DPSing square even through it’s the secondary tank target and then wonder why it ran over to hit them in the face (usually with a “Hey tank, learn to hold aggro” comment afterward) or what have you. This means that for most five mans and heroics, AoE tanking is just the only possible option. It doesn’t require complicated CC at all. I honestly won’t run a five man anymore, I try and make the guild paladins do it. Sure, I could tank Shattered Halls. Hell, with my gear, I could probably tank it in my sleep. But a paladin could tank it faster and without having to set marks or explain kill order. Paladin tanking for these instances requires a lot more work from the healer, of course, probably more healing than you’d need if you brought two warriors for an offtank, but at least it’s single target healing.

As for Arenas and PvP… well, quite frankly, unless you’re geared ridiculously well, warriors are in fact not the murder gods of PvP, destroying battlegrounds with ease and crushing all faces that stand in their path. Undergeared warriors (that is to say, most of them) in PvP are easy caster fodder, and don’t really do much better against melee. They get stunlocked, rooted, frozen in place, Death Coiled and then dead. Dead to dots, dead to poisons, dead to raw damage. Casually kited around, and stunned if they try and use intercept to close the gap. The life of a warrior in PvP is to be easily, casually crushed over and over and over again until you finally have decent enough gear to be able to come back and say “Remember me” to those that used to kill you with the kind of contempt you or I might swat a mosquito with. And when you finally get that gear, and can put up a fight?

Well, you can see what happens. People complain about warrior ‘dominance’ because a warrior managed to kill them once. Even though the warrior had full season 3 and a Vengeful Gladiator’s Bonegrinder, and the caster in question had a few pieces of season 1 gear and still managed to burn off half of the warrior’s life, it’s somehow unfair that the warrior killed him. The very idea that a warrior might manage to close the gap long enough to actually hit a caster seems almost viscerally horrifying to the same people who think nothing of standing at a distance and killing one before he can even get a hit off.

I love playing a warrior. I love tanking. I even love getting on the tauren and running a few BG’s or spending the day in a few arena matches. But I do these things with the full knowledge that other players don’t understand them from the perspective of a warrior. There are those that do, yes, and I love those people. I’ll tank even the most ridiculously conceived bad PuG consisting of three ret pallies and a moonkin healer if one of them is my friend in game, even if I know in my bones it’s not going to go well. But I don’t blame other warriors for not wanting to deal with it. A lot of warriors get into guilds and never run a PuG again, and only PvP with a couple of friends when they have a day off to respec for it. And there are a lot of warrior alts out there gathering dust while their players revel in the freedom another class offers. As much as I love my warrior, who has a very nice collection of epic tanking and epic DPS gear, I hate farming on him. I’ll sooner get on my enhancement shaman to do it, he farms at about five times the speed due to his greater… much, much greater… damage output. And I’m simply not willing to eat the respec costs to gain actual DPS for an afternoon only to go back to tanking that night, it’s just not feasible to spend 100g for a day’s farming. I mainly do dailies on him to get prep money for the night’s raids and then log him off.

Long term, in it for the duration tanks and DPS warriors and PvPers, we’re not going anywhere. But we’re not everywhere. The reason you can’t find one is because there’s less of us than you think, and those of us that are here, we’re already out there doing the stuff you want from us for someone else.

More bad news from Skettis

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , on March 8, 2008 by wowtemp

If I only have time to do one daily quest, I do the one for the battlegrounds. If I only have time to do two daily quests, I do the battleground quest, Escape from Skettis, and Fires of Skettis. Yes, that’s three quests, but the Skettis quests have been a source of quick and easy cash. I really consider them to be two steps to the same quest. Blizzard seems to be trying to make those quests less appealing in patch 2.4.

First they tell us that the Monstrous Kaliri that hinder us while doing our daily bombing quest, Fires over Skettis, have grown smarter. For now, the trick to getting away from those blasted birds is to fly straight up in the air until you’re out of range. Apparently the next generation of Kaliri have gotten wise to that trick and have adapted to three dimensional combat.

Now Blizzard has informed us that the Skettis daily escort quest, Escape from Skettis, will have its reward turned down. I panicked a little bit at first, and I had to go check it out. It’s really not that bad, at least on the Public Test Realm. The quest currently gives 9 gold, 10 silver, and your choice of either three Volatile Healing Potions or two Unstable Mana Potions. On the PTR the quest reward is 9 gold and 10 silver, with no fabulous potion prize.

These daily quests have been a reliable source of exceptionally easy money. The hardest aspects of the escort quest have been finding the Skyguard Prisoner and fighting over who gets to rescue him next. Once patch 2.4 goes live, the Skettis daily quests will be tougher and slightly less profitable.

Blizzard named 3rd of 50 top developers

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , on March 8, 2008 by wowtemp
Game Developer magazine has done a study naming the top 50 videogame developers in the world, based on “sales and reputation data,” and our favorite folks at Blizzard have been named number three on the list, just under Nintendo Kyoto (responsible for Brain Age and Wii Play) and Infinity Ward (most notable lately for Call of Duty 4), and ahead of EA, Valve, Harmonix, and Square Enix.

I tend to think this chart is weighed a little bit towards recent sales more than reputation — as far as I know, Infinity Ward doesn’t have a big enough following to actually hold a convention based on their games, and while there’s no question that Nintendo has a huge fan following, I’m not sure that it’s quite right to include a first party console maker on a list of developers (yes, I know Nintendo Kyoto is a studio, not the company itself, but would the average Nintendo fan on the street know the difference?). Still, lists are lists, and there’s no question that all of these developers, Blizzard included, are held in the highest regard by fans of their games

Who’s in for the arena battle?

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , on March 8, 2008 by wowtemp

So I’m stoked about the upcoming arena tournament. I will be involved in the stress testing worldwide arena event on Sunday. It’s a chance to play with World of Warcraft PvP enthusiasts from around the world. The event will take place on the tournament test realm from 12pm to 3pm PST Sunday, March 9. For our worldwide readers that’s GMT – 8.

If you’re planning on being involved in this epic event, you’ll need to plan ahead. If you haven’t been on the test realms, you will have to download several patches. Even though the gear is free of charge, but getting it takes some time and patience. The battle will take place on Sunday, but you should get your character ready today or Saturday if you want to be ready.

I don’t expect everything to go perfectly. My experience with the TTR has been that it is laggy, but manageable. I’ll be there. Who will I be seeing on Sunday