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WoW is dead…once again.

So Blizzard released the news that the pre-order for Warlords of Draenor would be available in the digital store. Now for me personally, pre-ordering is only worthwhile for two reasons. First for any bonus items I may get for having pre-ordered; like for instance a mount or pet. Second for the opportunity to pre-download the content so I can log-in & play immediately when the new game is fully released. Now the second reason means you could theoretically pre-order a week ahead of launch and be fine. The former however could be trickier, since some times those benefits could be time sensitive; like “Pre-order on or before next Friday and get the extra knife set free!”

Now, here comes the kerfuffle. Legally if you have someone pre-order an item, you must state by what date they will receive the item they have purchased. So Blizzard has to put something in there…December 20, 2014. Yes, DECEMBER 2014 is what they chose. This could have been a totally arbitrary choice..

Developer Dude: Hey, we need to put some kind of date in here before I hit publish. It says LoremIpsumber 20, 2014. That’s not a month.
Senior Executive Dude: Well, damn, if we pick a month the players will hold us to it.
Developer Dude: True, but if we are launching this year, how about we just pick December?
Senior Executive Dude: Good…I like that…run with it!

I still think the game will launch prior to December 2014, but of course everyone knows how the WoW community reacts…so, clearly: WoW is dead. I’ve seen all sorts of commentary regarding how launching the next XPAC 9 months from now is a huge mistake. Players will have been in SoO the final raid tier of Mists of Pandaria far too long. That other games will take up people’s time and many folks will simply un-sub for these 9 months and maybe come back if Warlords is worth it. There is a distinct issue with all of these perspectives…they only apply IF Warlords doesn’t launch until December 20th!!!

Now, a new pre-order screen states the expected game release is for Fall 2014. Is that really much different than saying “on or before December 20, 2014″?

Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor

Not really. Not as far as I am concerned anyway.

But the masses have begun to decry Blizzard’s mistakes, how WoW is dead, the devs have lost their minds, Blizzard is ruined.

We’ve heard this reaction before….right? My memory isn’t off here is it? Oh yeah! That’s right!!! We HAVE heard these responses before…right after EVERY SINGLE ANNOUNCEMENT BLIZZARD HAS MADE. Yup.

So, in the end its fine. Blizzard can be ruined, Wow can be dead. Cats and dogs living together…its anarchy.

I doubt that any of this is true, at least not in the real world anyway. In the make-believe land that these people all live within, I’m sure WoW is dead. Since I have no idea what color the sky is there…I’ll stick with my real world blue sky and the belief that Warlords will drop well before December 2014, and that WoW is definitely not dead.

Q

hearthstone-titel1

Is Hearthstone Almost Here?

So here we are nearly a year into Hearthstone. That’s right folks, the announcement was March 2013, closed Beta began in August 2013 with open Beta following six months later in January 2014. It’s now March 2014…its been a year. So when will Hearthstone be live? Well, perhaps we have a clue…

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Well, perhaps we don’t have a clue. “Drawing near” is no better than Blizzard telling us “Soon”. Its conjecture at this point still to say Hearthstone is launching on X date, but its fun conjecture! Additionally, with the above info now in our hands, I think we can make some reasonable conclusions.

We know that Blizzard has at least three games slated for launch in 2014: Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. Bear in mind that while Hearthstone will launch initially for desktop only, at some point it will also release for iOS and Android devices which could be viewed as additional game launches, but I won’t at this time. We also know that Warlords Beta will drop at some point, plus we could also be seeing Betas for Heroes of the Storm and potentially the Protoss chapter in the Starcraft 2 line, Legacy of the Void. If those later 2 do come to fruition, my guess is Q4 2014. Lastly and certainly not least…Blizzcon. That is a huge time and energy commitment on the part of Blizzard, and they are not going to skimp…nor should they.

So thinking about the time line its D3 in March definitively. HotS Beta, SC2 Beta, and Blizzcon in Q4 2014. Leaving April – September for Hearthstone launch, Warlords Beta, and Warlords launch. Warcraft has had around 5 months of beta time per XPAC, and I think they will launch Warlords prior to Q4, roughly August/September time frame, Which means the beta for Warlords should start around April/June. If all of these estimations prove to be accurate, that leaves April and May free. Now I originally said Hearthstone was going to launch in May. I could see it going a touch earlier in April, but honestly will stick with May.

Beta closes at the end of March, game goes away for a month as they prep for final patch and launch. Hearthstone live 1st week of May (potentially last week of April). That’s my prediction. What do you think?

Q

bacon

Level 90 = 13 lbs of bacon

Yup. World of Warcraft is dead. As a door nail. Doomed. Toast. Gone. History. Spent.

60bucksfor90

Ok, not really…but when the servers came back up and it was reported out that the boost to 90 feature was indeed available in the in-game store and it cost $60, yeah, minds were lost. The blogosphere, WoWnews sites, Twitter, Facebook, verily the Sochi Olympics were postponed to denounce the horror of Blizzard charging such an obscene amount of real world hard earned dollars for this service!!!

Like I said…WoW is clearly dead.

Alright, I’ll stop. Though you would consider it to be the case based on some of the commentary you see. Now personally, I stated via Twitter that Blizzard is the dealer, and we are the addicts. We’ll take whatever they dish to us and we’ll like it. Of course I was then ridiculed for comparing Blizzard to drug dealers, when in fact that wasn’t exactly my analogy. On Monday mornings many of us state Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts are our dealers, and we the caffeine addicts flock in droves to reap the rewards of the delicious java brewed by some part time barista. No one thinks I’m comparing Starbucks baristas to some seedy alley way meth dealer, so why would you think I felt that way about Blizzard?

I digress from the specifics of that argument, and circle back to my focus…the analogy of Blizzard dealing out delicious digital content and we as addicted gamers to said content. Its true. Argue against whatever shame inducing thoughts or feelings you may have about this, and accept it. Blizz can and in fact does do what they please and we accept it. We always do! Don’t get me wrong, we are the consumers and can help shape what direction they sometimes go. We can do our best to provide criticism and feedback and some times Blizz will heed that advice and alter products and services.

Someone asked on twitter if this was a service that should have been made, my reply: No. The point of the game is to go on an adventure in this expansive world. Instant level 90 negates some of that adventure, potentially all of it. There are a few points and counter points though the essence of this question. Is boost to 90 at a cost of $60 worth it. First lets tackle…

COST…
$60 = 15 Grande lattes at Starbucks (~$4 ea.)
$60 = 7.5 Sweet & Sour Chicken combo w/ pork fried rice and 2 pieces of beef teriyaki (~$8 ea.)
$60 = 1 stick – Kingston 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 Desktop Memory (~$53 ea.)
$60 = 17 gal of regular gasoline (~$3.35 per gal)
$60 = 13lbs of bacon (~$4.5 per lb)
$60 = 12 Imported draft beers (~$5 ea.)

In terms of playing a game, $60 seems like a lot, but compared to some real life costs it really isn’t. To be fair, how much time is involved with leveling to level 90? Does it take a week? A month? well, in WoW terms I think Blizzard may feel it takes 4 months of game time. $60 = 4 months of WoW ($15 ea.)

Now, I am going out on a limb here because I have no real data to suggest what I am about to say is true…but I think its a safe limb. I bet Blizz has data/evidence that shows it DOES take the average player 4 months to level to 90. Why? Because they didn’t pull $60 out of thin air. They chose that price for a reason, and personally I think thats the reason! Give up on getting Kung Pao Chicken take out for a month, get a free level 90 instead.

Second objection to tackle…Most people have leveled to 90 multiple toons, THE ADVENTURE IS DEAD.
Wait, “most” people?! really?! Because I have 2 level 90s. I’ve been playing for 9 years, no interruptions. I have TWO. I do not think MOST people are sick of leveling. Perhaps the most vocal players are sick of leveling. Perhaps the majority of hard core players are sick of leveling. Those are statements I can fathom, but the blanket statement that most of ALL the WoW players are sick of leveling…I do not buy it.

The majority of the game’s content is in leveling. The OVERWHELMING majority of the game’s content is in leveling. I will say this one more time….THE MAJORITY OF THE GAME’S CONTENT IS IN LEVELING. Now, its not by coincidence that this is the case. With each new expansion, previous content is now leveling fodder. It becomes absorbed into the vast chasm of “old content”. Sick of leveling are you? Then really you are sick of the previous expansions. How many players flocked to level Pandarean when MoP came out? If the issue was leveling itself, then newly leveled Pandas would be rare, and Blizz would have usage statistics to show this. Sorry, I don’t buy this as a valid reason for the service, especially given that plenty of new content has been made specifically for leveling purposes. Older content has been revamped for leveling purposes. The design thought here is refresh it for existing players to go back and not be bored with it, but also ensure new players have good challenging content in which to fall in love with the game. New players aren’t jumping in saying “Man…I can’t wait to end game raiding, have to level faster!” Just no.

There are so many fast ways to level a toon now. I mean really fast. I’ve seen folks brag at how they got to 90 within a weekend. Is that true or accurate….I don’t know. I just think if you really want a level 90 Blood Elf Warlock that badly, you could power through whatever leveling process you so choose fairly quickly.

Third item to discuss…Boost to 90 is  pay to win feature.
Well….no. Mainly because the new level cap will be 100, so any player will still have 10 more levels to manually level or themselves. Also it doesn’t mean they come fully geared, so again a player has to go earn their gear through dungeons, raids, etc themselves.

Now there have been some other items thrown about:
Quick leveling negates learning to play your class. Well, what if I am paying to get a second end game Hunter? I already know how to play that class.
Buying a 90 gives you a competitive advantage. But, it doesn’t. You still have 10 levels to go. You still have to earn your gear.

I know there are other points to be made for and against this feature being of any value. Personally, I will use the free single use boost to 90, but will not pay for this feature. I am also someone who doesn’t buy pets, mounts, or other cosmetic items (I have purchased a few of them, but not all. and did so only when they went on sale for relatively little expense). Ultimately I think this service and its cost are really about one thing and one thing only…making money. Blizzard has players willing to pay to skip leveling for a number of reasons. Blizzard will make money on this. So whether its worth it for a player to pay $60 for this isn’t relevant, it will be worthwhile for Blizzard to offer the service.

wow_mugI’m ok with this. I’ve said it before, and Im sure I will again. I want my derive/product providers to make money. The more successful they are, the more likely they funnel that success and profits back into the products and services I enjoy. Blizzard, Apple, Honda, Razer, are all examples of products and services I use that have shown continued improvement based on their success.

So go for it Blizzard. Charge $60 for a level 90 character. Charge $100 for a special transmog outfit so your character looks like Chris Metzen in game. Charge whatever for any service anyone is willing to pay for in game. Just make sure you put those profits back into your products, and I am pretty much willing to take whatever you pour into my coffee cup.

Q

hearthstone02

Hearthstone: Initial thoughts

hearthstone03I’ve had the opportunity to play Hearthstone: Heroes of Azeroth thanks to being sent a beta key from the lovely folks at Blizzard (thank you Zarhym!!!).

So far, its simply fun and addictive. The UI is clean and easy to understand. There are great flourishes all around and nothing in the UI serves zero purposes. Hint: try clicking on the various artwork all around the game board – lots of surprises abound.

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Starting out…

You begin as Jaina Proudmoore (aka the Mage deck) and as you go through each duel the computer pauses momentarily to teach you about the various parts of game play and provide info on the UI.

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The cards themselves contain fairly intuitive instructions and information as to cost, abilities, effects, etc. There are various counter abilities that effect game play outside of your direct control:

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  1. Taunt: forces the enemy and enemy minions to attack it before attacking you or other targets.
  2. Charge: Allows a minion to attack immediately upon being placed on the play mat.
  3. Secret: A Card whose actions are only revealed when activated.
  4. Battlecry: Performs the described action upon placing the card on the play mat.
  5. Stealth: These are untargetable until they first attack.

Cards also come in various rarities, and also can be class specific or class neutral.hearthstone_snaketrap

In addition to the cards themselves you also get a hero ability specific to your class. These abilities are fairly familiar for each class to any experienced WoW player. Example Hunter ability is Arcane Shot. 2 mana cost and causes 2 damage to the enemy Hero.

I find a couple of the cards fairly annoying for which to contend.

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Cards like these are hard to defend against and simply put can destroy your best moves. Its rather annoying when it happens.

The rarest cards which are legendary are quite powerful, and work better with some classes than others. There are many support type cards that help buff common minions and provide additional benefits and abilities.hearthstone_Malygos

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I bet you all can guess which deck is so far been my favorite. In another article I will talk more about actual game play. For now, me and Rexxar have some fun to attend to…

hearthstone_Rexxar

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Do you really want to be THAT guy?

2009_pirate_radio_wallpaper_007One of my favorite movies is Pirate Radio (The Boat that Rocked is the American release title). A quick summary of the plot: Pirate Radio is the high-spirited story of how 8 DJs love affair with Rock n’ Roll changed the world forever. In the 1960s this group of rouge DJs, on a boat in the middle of the Northern Atlantic, played rock records and broke the law all for the love of music.

The primary villain in the film is government tight-wad Sir Alistair Dormandy, played magnificently by Kenneth Branagh. In his bid to rid the world of the “filth and pornography” of Pirate Radio he states the following: “You see, that’s the whole point of being the government. If you don’t like something you simply make up a new law that makes it illegal.”

So, why am I bringing this up? Well, the simple fact is we as a species seem to do this all the time. We simply change the rules to suit us, regardless of the consequences that may come to bear from doing so. I think that is where I see my current situation right now. Am I doing this? No. But I see various WoW friends doing it, and perhaps they don’t even realize it.

Rules are not merely a thing of convenience to be bent or broken when they no longer suit us. They are there to provide order and structure. The rules whatever they may be are to provide a foundation for all to stand upon equally. Everyone knows where they start or begin, where they stand. Is it true that some bend or break the rules for their personal gain? Of course! But then you become THAT guy pictured above. You become Sir Alistair Dormandy. You become the 1%. You become the person who thinks the rules do not apply to them.

Let’s be clear, rules are not always presented as rules. Sometimes they are guidelines, recommendations, perhaps just expectations. dscn3229For example, there are no signs at Starbucks that state no cutting in line. You could walk into Starbucks and merely squeeze yourself right into the front of the line and order your coffee. Bypass that long pesky line and do as you please. When someone complains you can simply state “Hey, there is no rule about no cutting. There is no sign. Its not against the law.” But if someone did it to you, you would be PISSED. To say the least. See, these types of rules are rules of convenience. People tend to use them when they are advantageous and benefit them, but want to ignore them when they no longer suit their situation. Now, I know you are wondering…”Q, how does this pertain to WoW!?” Well, let me tell you…

I am a member of Phalanx of Nod on Dalaran. Its a good guild of good people. I’ve seen some folks come, some folks go. When I joined PoN, I came into it with the understanding that it was a social/casual guild. They put the people first and foremost. Its an inclusive environment that does not exclude anyone for the laundry list of reasons that we all have encountered in WoW: noob, under-geared, not min/maxed, dps too low, hps too low, don’t know your class, can’t play/raid at least x% per week, etc etc. We have all encountered this in game before. We were weighed and measured to someone else’s standards and left wanting, and therefore told that we were not welcome. It sucks. PERIOD END OF STORY. I, you, me, everyone do not pay the same $15 a month to play a video game to have ourselves judged by someone else and left feeling inadequate simply because some DPS meter doesn’t add up right, or because you have kids or work and cannot find the time to log-in 6 days a week.

Now, there are times we voluntarily agree to such things. We walk into the environment and agree to the rules and regulations. You cannot join the Military and expect to have unkempt long hair, or wear whatever uniform you choose, its not G.I. Joe. There are agreed upon standards that you accept when you walk through the door. A WoW guild is no different.

When a guild states that it puts the people first, they are unequivocally stating the social aspect is most important. Ultimately this benefits most if not all people. If you opt to gear up your main when raiding, then decide you want to switch mains to an alt, its accepted. No worries, even if you do it 2 or 3 times over the course of an expansion, it will be allowed. Why? Because we all want you to play a toon you are happy playing. Need a break, want to walk away and not long in for 6 months? No worries. You can log back in and no one will bat an eyelash and all will welcome you back with open arms. “We missed you! Where have you been? Everything good? Need help leveling? Need gear or money?” Can’t log in for raiding each week consistently due to work, family, schedule changes; no worries. Log in when you can and we will gladly fit you in as best as we can. Left out of raid – let’s run LFR or some dungeons together.

The point here is that by putting the people first its an environment of inclusiveness, not exclusivity. No one should be harassed for not min/maxing, not putting out best possible DPS/HPS, essentially: No one is held to YOUR standards and left wanting.

Is this how you run a progression guild? No. Is this the best method for having a world ranked guild? Certainly not. I never joined PoN with that expectation in mind. It was not stated or ever presented that way. In fact, the very opposite. When I needed to take a few weeks off from playing due to home construction, no one ever dropped me from the raiding rank upon returning nearly 6 weeks out of the game. When I get into the competitive soccer season and some times can only make raids once a week, no one has clamored for me to be kicked from the guild. When I choose to not log in one night so I can have a date night with my spouse, I do not find myself being berated for choosing quality time with my wife over the game.

Now, thing is…things can change. Collectively a guild can decide to migrate from a social/casual guild to a progression focused one, and vice-versa. But understand, change is HARD. change-simon-wordle-24it encompasses many aspects that are not so easily calculated, and simply stated: humans do not like change. We are bad at it, especially under short time frames. More importantly if you change those expectations, you may find the rules that benefited you previously, now work against you. No you may NOT switch mains. No you can’t raid with us you haven’t logged in for 6 weeks or 6 months. No you are not welcome in the raid team, your DPS /HPS is too low. You are a noob, learn your class. You constantly stand in the bad, get out of the raid. Why are you not max geared? Is that best in slot? Why aren’t you flasking? Why aren’t you pre-potting?

I could go on, but I trust you get the idea. The very eye of scrutiny, the very measuring stick your used against someone else, could now be turned upon you. What was once an environment where laughing, relaxing, having fun with whomever showed up, changes to one of constant dissection and derision all for the glory of boss kills.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see digital dragons dead at my hunter’s feet too; but never again at the cost of perpetuating an environment of exclusivity. I just don’t want to be “that guy”.

Q