You cannot ignore the casuals

I’m not going to tell you not to be an elitist. If you want to, go for it; it’s your prerogative. What I am going to tell you is its all about the casuals, yes those people. those filthy, dirty, casual players who are in your game, messing with your stuff, taking your phat lootz.

So, why is it about them? Well, first off change your perspective. Do not look at things as the player (whether you are casual or hardcore)…put on the developer hat. Come at this from the game maker’s perspective. Actually, lets even change it from being a game…its bacon. You are a butcher selling bacon. You have awesome bacon too. Its farm raised local pig, organic and the recipe/process is a family tradition.  Everyone comes from near and far for your bacon. Its that good. But here is the thing…its rather pricey: $15 a pound for this here bacon. Worth every penny!

You have all kinds of customers, some LOVE bacon, they come in and buy 5 pounds a week! Some really like it, but its a splurge for them, they come in once a month and buy a couple pounds to last. Some are just testing the waters, they’ve heard how good it is, but aren’t sure so they buy a half pound and you may never see them again. Others still just cant afford to buy much, so they stop in and buy 2 or 3 slices at a time every couple weeks. You are getting the idea here, all sorts of bacon-buyers, many levels of commitment and purchasing power. BUT…there are 2 things to note.

They all get the same bacon, and they all pay the same price.

I already hear the question, how does this even relate to WoW and thanks jackass, now I want some bacon. Well, first off you should always want some bacon, unless you are a vegetarian; in which case you probably still want bacon but its a dirty secret you keep from your vegetarian friends who also secretly want bacon. Second off, WoW is the bacon. Oh, you guessed that part eh? Well, but you didn’t get the point, because you are still waiting for me to explain it to you. 🙂 Ok, I’ll lessen the snark…

Look, a retailer cannot provide an inequitable offering for a product and service within the marketplace. Its discriminatory. Its illegal. Its a problem. Especially if people realize its discriminatory and choose to do something about it. You as the butcher have to offer the same product for the same price to anyone who walks in…now, you can have your regulars or favorite customers and perhaps you give them a few extra slices for free. Maybe you dont even charge them every so often “Ceraphus, you’ve bought 152 pounds of bacon in the last month…here, have a pound on me!” Or honestly…maybe this mom comes in and you’ve seen her, you know she doesn’t have a lot of money, so you double her order, charge her half, and say “Happy Mother’s Day” as she replies, “But its August?!”, “So it is” 🙂

And that is exactly what Blizzard does with their game currently. The same gear/rewards regardless of the level you complete the challenge on. A conversation on twitter this AM sparked my thoughts about this. Its not a new topic or discussion, and I’ve discussed it before. At the end of the day Blizzard has to be equitable in what products and services it offers, at what level, and to whom. They have 2 roads ahead of them as all retailers do: Offer differing levels of service for differing prices (silver, gold, platinum membership for example); or offer the same of everything to everyone and vary the value of it based on how hard it is to attain. So in regards to raid gear we have LFR, Flex, Normal, Heroic levels of raiding content. Same content, just harder as you climb the difficulty ladder. Accordingly, the gear/rewards are also the same just better as it gets more difficult…LFR=bronze, Flex=silver, normal=gold, heroic=platinum. There are 2 sides to this equation.

First: as the consumer of this service model its equitable. If all I want to put my time and energy into is running LFR, then I can do so and get the same look and feel someone who runs the Heroic mode content. Is their gear better in terms of stats, yes. But honestly the stats only matter to the heroic mode player. If I already had the ability to down my level of content, having more powerful gear doesn’t matter. I had what I needed.

Second: as the developer I do not need to code multiple loot tables with all kinds of different gear. I can make it the same table of items, but make it scalable. Altering the stat amounts with a formula so that everyone gets the same item, just slightly more powerful based on the challenge. MUCH easier for maintenance. Everyone is happy, and more importantly I cannot be accused of discriminating against the more “casual” player and that I favor the elitists.

Well, not everyone is of course happy…because its WoW, and its Twitter, and its the internet. So, if you are peeved…if you are asking “Why should Blizzard care about the casuals?!” Well, first off don’t be an elitist douche. Second off, Blizzard cares about the casual player because there are A LOT MORE OF THEM. A FREAKING WHOLE LOT MORE!!!! Additionally, casual players from a marketing profile traditionally have more disposable income than non-casual players. Blizzard wants them happy, they are the bulk of their user base. Also, they cost less to maintain the relationship, but pay the same price as everyone else. They make more profit off casual players per head!!! OF COURSE Blizzard and any developer for that matter wants them happy.

If you got the whole point here, then good. You are looking at this issue holistically when it comes to the health of the game. If you don’t get the point or are still in your head trying to argue against it, then congratulations you are an elitist. I’m not judging you, you can be an elitist all you like. Just understand the rabbit hole that leads down.

Personally, I want everyone to have this good delicious bacon right here. Buy what you can afford, come as often or as infrequently as you like. There is always plenty of it. Its always the same price for everyone who walks in the door. And in my world, we pay it forward. I remember when a customer pays for their bacon, plus the person behind them. I notice when one customer allows another one to jump the front of the line because they are in a hurry.


Wherein Ceraphus was right.

I whearthstone_release-335x256as wrong. I never have had a problem admitting my mistakes, ever. I make mistakes all the time…doozies too. Yes, its a bit of a punch to the pride to admit when you were wrong, but there’s no shame in it. Hey, I’m not perfect, I’m not always right. No one is always right!!! So, yeah…I was wrong.

Tuesday March 11, 2014 saw the final patch from Blizzard for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft; and boom…live. I thought they would bring down beta for a short time, just a few weeks. Then they would allow D3:RoS to launch and give a few weeks breather until dropping Hearthstone. I figured last week of April, 1st of May. Nope. wrong. Its live, now; and you can get a nice shiny new mount in World of Warcraft too! Just win three matches in play or arena mode with a single class.

Actually, its a very nice mount.
Now, new players understand that you may be playing against seasoned players who have all of their available cards including legendaries that may make it tough to win your three matches. Just keep plugging away, and learn the cards you have and how where the synergy lies within your deck. There are many resources available online to help you build a deck that will work (HearthPwn comes to mind). As always, mileage may vary simply based on RNG/Card Draw. FYI: Card Draw is the ultimate elevator boss in hearthstone….just saying.

So, the game is live. Play away. Get a new mount. Plus alternative card backs, golden hero plates, and generally have a lot of fun playing a great game. I was wrong, I admit it.

What I have to admit…What I hate to admit…Ceraphus was right. His claim was they would patch it and go straight to live…he was right. Its like fire on my tongue. Its more than a bitter pill, its like castor oil. Nasty. Disgusting. Ceraphus was right.

I’m never going to live this down. ugh. Enjoy Hearthstone everyone…I’ll be sobbing in the corner.



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…

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?


Level 90 = 13 lbs of bacon

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


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…

$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.


What exactly is a PUG?

So I have been working alongside my spouse to level her Draenei Disc Priest & my Worgen SV Hunter. We hit level 25 and I suggested, “How about a PUG?” She inquired as to what this meant and I explained:

A PUG (pick-up group) is a dungeon run with 5 players being pulled from anywhere and dropped into a level appropriate instance for them to complete. The advantage is that you would most likely get a fair amount of experience for each kill made, a large bucket of experience from completing the dungeon itself, along with additional XP from completing any quests specific to that dungeon. I also said you will get some nice gear to continue leveling with from the boss kills and the bonus satchel you get on completing the random itself.

She concurred, “Sounds like it’s a lot of fun, what are we waiting for?!” I agreed and said let’s go…and then the “fun” began.

Now, to be honest, she is still learning. She is learning the fundamentals of the game here: moving using the mouse, controlling your camera angle, using spells and abilities on the go, key and mouse binds, identifying party members, setting focus, who to heal and when, even that sure-fired aggravating simple move of jumping over an expanse (I tried to tell her we all fell a hundred times trying to jump past the expanse of rocks in BFD). All of this is then coupled with the pressures of: playing with new people whom she does not know, failing the group as a whole (specifically letting the tank die), learning the dungeons themselves!! We as seasoned players forget what it was like to truly be new!

Now I have insisted on mentioning to a party upon zoning in, “Hey, the healer is new to the game and still learning, let’s please take it nice and easy.” You’d think folks would understand what this was like and say something like “Okies! No problem we’ve all been there. Just follow the tank and keep them alive. Stay close to the hunter. If you have any issues or questions, just ask in p-chat!”

“OMG! NOOB! Keep up with the tank dammit! You run at MY pace! HEALER what are you doing, why did I die. Rez me! NAO! Why did I have to run with bads. She isn’t new, you just suck.” /sigh. Well…what a great taste of PUGs for her to get right off the bat eh?

So here’s the funny part to me. Blizzard wants to push their product more. They want more players. Well guys…here is your issue. The PLAYERS are standing in your way! She had me sitting by her side at the table. I was able to explain where to go. Who was doing what. What to focus on. I was able to help her. Coach her through the first few dungeons. Now she caught on quickly and soon needed far less direction or instructions even in a dungeon she had not been in yet. She was learning, but I can tell she gets somewhat frustrated still. I also see her running through some of these dungeons at break neck speeds: which means she is not learning any of the lore that goes along with these places, appreciating the art and design involved with creating them, and while learning her specific role of healing a tank – not fully understanding the party roles and how various classes fill those roles! The other players are not interested nor inclined to take the time to do this! We had tanks running off not allowing for a few moments for people to collect quest items, loot corpses, skin/mine/gather using their profession skills. I was in one group where 4 players ran back to turn something in, the tank ran forward to continue on…while the norm might have been to keep moving the group as a whole clearly chose to do something else. The tank freaked to say the least.

Players like him are rolling in full bind on account Heirloom gear. They have all their slots pretty much filled with no real need to compare any items. Players like her need to stop and look at drops and determine if they are even appropriate for their class/spec, let alone if the item is an upgrade or not. She has rolled a couple of times on strength items not realizing it and has been screamed at for being a noob and an idiot!

This same fool had the benefit of “learning” the game and now affords no such understanding of her “learning” the game. They are arrogant, snotty, impatient, immature, aggravating, dehumanizing, insolent, mean, cruel, rapacious, aloof, pretentious, brash, vain.

I don’t know anyone who would WANT to play alongside these types of people, and kudos to her for lasting this long and not giving up, even getting better.

PUGs are awful. We all knew this already. So, why do we have them? Are they really helping the game? From where I am standing…I don’t see how.

Up next: Recap of all the Blizzcon goodness from around the blog-sphere.