Budgie Week Fiasco

Another Friday, Moar Fodder

Well another week has passed and it is once again time for Friday Forum Fodder.  I have admittedly not been following the discussion around the interwebs as closely as I usually do during the week.  I have a massive backlog of unread blog posts in my reader as spending the first half of the week sick and the second half desperately trying to play catch-up has left me with less lollygagging time.  I did stumble across a couple of things that I found interesting so the topics are primed and ready to go.

WoW Up to 7.8 Million Subscribers


Apparently yesterday Blizzard had their Q4 2013 earnings call, and announced that they were currently sitting at 7.8 Million subscribers, which surprisingly is a 200k subscriber bump over the 7.6 announced in the Q3 2013 earnings call.  Of course we all know that Blizzcon happened between those two calls, and that we had the announcement of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  However 200,000 players seems like an awful lot to simply account for the “Blizzcon Bump”.  On Argent Dawn I have said before that we have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance with a large number of players coming back that I have not seen since Wrath, and some of them not even since Burning Crusade.  This feels like something more substantial than just interest in the new and shiny bauble called Warlords.

With the release of Rift, something happened in the populace, a fracturing of sorts.  That was the very first time I saw people leave WoW in a semi-permanent fashion.  Always before when a new product released, players would drift away from the game only to return a month or two later.  Something was different with the release of Cataclysm that broke the inertia of players to stay in one place.  I myself was gone for a little over two years, and during most of that time I never saw myself seriously returning.  For whatever reason I think a lot of us are resigned to the fact that the “wow-killer” simply will never exist.  All of this effort spent trying to find a better experience than World of Warcraft just wound up leading us right back to the original.

I personally have come to realize that what WoW provides just does not exist in the same quantity or quality elsewhere.  Sure various games do various components of the total WoW experience better, but no one game hits as many high points as Blizzard does.  I have reached a point where I am mostly okay with the games flaws… and while I wish that it did certain things better, I can accept the fact that what it does is for the benefit of the many not the few.  There are niche games out there that will scratch the various itches I have that WoW simply cannot.  So while I am back in WoW I am also still very much playing Rift, TSW, Everquest Next Landmark and will be adding Elder Scrolls Online to that lineup.  I have reached a point where I am okay with playing multiple games at the same time.

The beauty of World of Warcraft is that it is the game of consensus.  It is that game that everyone plays when they can’t get anyone to agree on any other game.  People play WoW because people play WoW.  More than anything the large community that comes part and parcel with playing the game was the thing I had been missing since leaving it.  When you play wow, you are instantly a member of something larger than yourself, and that is just an experience that is lacking with any of the other games.  Don’t get me wrong, the other game communities are great, especially the fledgling Everquest Next community bolstered by SOE’s new sense of transparency.  However it is still lacking in sheer size and volume of players.  The Blizzard gaming community is big enough to support everyone, and that is a really rare and special thing.

Budgie Week Fiasco


Firstly I want to say, this is less about the specific thread but more about the Budgie Week event.  I latched onto the guide threat by Seatin mostly because it was the only really active thread out there that coalesced all of the viewpoints in one place, whether or not he actually intended that to happen.  Seatin does a great job of supporting the community with his guides and videos, so nothing I say should be held as a reflection on that.  Additionally I love the folks at Trion, especially the team that is presently working on Trove.  That is such a great game and the open process is so refreshing, including the use of Reddit as their primary forums.  Additionally when Rift went free to play, I considered it to be one of the more just and equitable models.  However some of the things they have been doing with the cash shop are feeling more than a little shifty.

Awhile back some of my friends were frustrated over the Squirrel mount that was released, in that they missed the ridiculously short window it was available for purchase outright in the game.  This was really the beginning of a new trend, offering a cool mount for a very short time, and then putting a similar mount in a cash shop lootbox as the primary means of obtaining it.  This was the case for the Squirrel mount, the Mech mount, and now looks to be the same basic thing going on with the Budgie mount.  The shifty part this time is that they introduced a world event to make it seem as though you can actually acquire the mount that way. Problem is… with this being only a 7 day event it is simply impossible to gain enough of the “bird seed” currency doing these quests alone.

According to Seatin’s guide, if you got in on the first day of the event there is a maximum of 210 bird seed that you can obtain.  The mount costs 850 bird seed on the vendor, meaning there is simply no way to obtain it without somehow augmenting your seed count.  It turns out right now they are offering a limited time cash box that has a chance of dropping a different colored budgie mount, and you are guaranteed between 6 and 10 birdseed per box.  The average seems to be 8 per trove, so in theory you need roughly 80 of these cash shop boxes to be able to purchase the bird.  Granted you have a chance from each to get the OTHER budgie mount, but we aren’t even taking this into account.  Essentially even doing your quests religiously every day, you would have to spend roughly $300 on the cash shop to be certain you get this mount while it is available.

Now Daglar has posted on the forums that this is a promo event, and they intend to run it several times a year, and by participating in all of them you should be able to get the mount.  Even saying that… it still feels extremely bad seeing this unfold.  This is the same kind of crap that I see over in SWTOR with making most of the truly unique looking mounts only available through the random chance of a cash shop box.  The difference there is that you can actually post the items once you have gotten them on the auction house… whereas the cash shop loot in Rift is either soul bound or bound to your account.  This whole event just leaves me feeling a little dirty for having supported their shirt to free to play so actively.  I still think Rift is a great game, and I still think more or less it is a good value… they are just doing a few unsavory things that make me a little sad inside.

Bel Goes to Nasa

This mornings factoid digs pretty deep into the annals of time.  Once upon a time I wanted to grow up to be a Scientist.  I am not really sure what happened along the way to change that life ambition.  If I had to guess it was probably the fact that AP Chemistry ate my lunch, but I managed to get out of it with a B, which seemed pretty damned good at the time.  All that aside, I did really and truly want to be a Scientist, so I took the yearly ritual of the science fair extremely seriously.  Through boy scouts I had gotten into model rocketry, so when it came time to pick a project I thought it would be interesting to do something related to that.  With copious help from my father, we constructed a wind tunnel that ran on a shop vac, and proceeded to test the effects of airflow based on various model rocket fin shapes.

I think the key to winning a science fair is to have something cool to look at in your booth.  I am sure there were many students that had more scientifically sound studies than I did, but I had cool photos of the pattern each of the fins had made.  We tied string to each of the fins so that we could watch the pattern the thread made based on the airflow.  The contrails that were created gave a clear picture of how each shape varied and was something nice and concrete that the judges to latch onto.  I won the local level science fair and managed to move up to regional’s, but this was not something really new to me, because my pantograph had done the same my six grade year.  In all honesty repeating a victory at the local level would have been more than enough for me.

When I got to regional’s however I was shocked at just how excited the judges seemed to be about my exhibit.  So when it came down to time to present the awards, I don’t really remember what place I got in the main competition, because it was quickly overshadowed by the “special” award that I won.  I got a trip for me, my family and my science teacher to NASA’s Johnson Space center.  I have to say it was one of the cooler things I have experienced.  A lot of the trip is a haze at this point, but I remember walking through a prototype of what would eventually become the international space station.  I also remember getting to play around in the shuttle flight simulator, and meeting actual astronauts.  All of which were pretty heady things for my little wannabe scientist seventh grader mind.  But of course, High School happened… and I discovered computers and programming… and I jettisoned the thoughts of being a scientist out the airlock and moved on.

Friday Forum Fodder

Bring on the Fodder

For awhile now I have had a forum segment kicking around in my head.  The idea is that I use Fridays as a day to reflect on things that have been brewing out on the various games forums.  My friends have thought this was madness, as it would likely devolve into flame based insanity.  I however think that I can make it work, since so many topics start on the forums anyways.  However based on recent events, especially relating to one of the topics I have chosen this morning… it still very much can get out of hand.  Anyways…. if I don’t start this thing I won’t get it done in time.



Yup that’s right… I have opted to leave the original forum post title intact for most of these unless it is offensive.  Abusive use of ellipses aside there is nothing terribly offensive so here goes.  This thread spawned a really interesting response from Bashiok stating hinting that in Warlords of Draenor a more permanent PVP toggle would be on it’s way.  Now this has already been discussed by @AlternativeChat and @Qelric but I don’t really want to respond on what they have said… since the whole idea behind this is for me to respond to the subject matter contained within the forum post.  I know this involves a bunch of semantics and blinders and whatnot… but it is a thing I am striving to do.

I have to admit my first reaction was “It’s about damned time”, as well as my second and third and fourth reaction.  I have a love/hate relationship with PVP in general, in that I tend to love to hate on it.  I am a massive Carebear at heart and get really excited about collaboration and community in online games and not so much about conflict and competitiveness.  Please understand that this is coming from someone who tanked my servers first alliance Reins of the Black War Bear raid.  Additionally I was a proud supporter of the South Shore vs Tarren Mill madness from vanilla and got to meet most of my servers hardcore PVPers during that time.  However that is the root of it… I want to PVP when I want to PVP, and no other time.  The problem lies that there are so many ways that you can get accidentally flagged without ever really intending it.

One of the things I do semi regularly is run around the Timeless Isle farming the named mobs.  Generally speaking be it on the Timeless Isle or Darkmoon Faire I am a pretty welcome commodity since there never seems to be any tanks out there willing to tank the mini-bosses.  The problem is as a Deathknight sometimes my diseases end up getting on flagged players and in turn flag me.  Honestly I don’t know what it is, but I assumed it was the disease/bloodboil that I am constantly doing because I will end up flagged pretty much every time I do this public service.  Granted the horde generally have the self preservation to wait until I have tanked the boss for them before killing me…  but moments after downing the boss I am generally laying dead on the floor.

You might be thinking this means I rally support and start an epic land war?  Nope… this means I do one of two things.  Either I walk away for a bit and wait for my flag to clear before resurrecting, or I simply log out of the game and play something else for awhile.  I seriously want zero part in PVP on a day to day basis and see it as an imposition on my play time.  Ultimately that is what it is about for me, PVP is a gross inconvenience upon my time and forces me to somehow direct my attention to something other than my current goals.  It is very much not a welcome distraction, and since I tend to play tanks… very few of the pvp skills have any meaning within the game I tend to play.  PVP tanking was a thing I loved, but sadly that only really existed in a functional way in Warhammer Online.

Rift has had this PVP toggle for awhile now and it works extremely well.  They brought it in during the much larger “faction as fiction” patch which is something I would love to see Blizzard do as well.  Factions are meaningless things to me, and ultimately boil down as red vs blue in my eyes.  I generally do not have much faction pride one way or the other… just like I have no sports team alignments.  In an MMO the only “faction” I generally care about is my guild and its members.  I tend to see the “Faction walls” as un-needed barriers that keep me from playing with half of the other players on the server.  I started playing MMOs before these things really existed in Everquest, and have never really seen the benefit of them on the whole.  Faction should be something that is character specific, that may limit where you can go in the world…. but not limit who you can associate with.

To summarize…  “hell yeah” to the prospect of a more permanent PVP toggle.  There have been a lot of people speculating how this might work, with faction cities etc.  They can honestly take a pretty good queue from Rift in that when you are flagged as “No PVP” you can still be attacked by NPCs of that opposing faction.  Thing is… you just cannot attack them back without turning off your anti-pvp flag.  So this means that NPCs are more than willing to beat you into a pulp for being the pacifist you are.  Players however… cannot.  Running around in anti-war mode should have its limits, and this seems to be a pretty good way of handling them.

Why reforging removal is a mistake


There are many versions of this thread out on the Battle.net forums, but this was one of the longest running sitting presently at three pages.  Generally speaking I think a lot of these devolve into flames and get deleted before becoming truly “epic” threads.  To summarize the original posters point…  the believes that reforging was put in place to balance the classes and break the tyranny of having over powered classes.  This opinion to me only seems to reinforce why reforging needs to go to be honest.  I watched the blizzcon coverage the year they announced Reforging, and it was generally sold to the player base as a way of having MORE choice not having less.  The problem is, like everything we the players have ruined it.  I truly believe the intent, just like the intent of the current talent situation… was to allow us to have a bit more flavor in our characters.  So that we could put our own spin on on the current spec and tweak the gear to perform the way we wanted it to perform.

The reality however is that we have systemized this and anyone who does not use Ask Mr Robot to reforge their gear to an “optimal” state is immediately “ doing it wrong”.  Essentially… this is why we can’t have nice things.  I personally ignore Mr Robot in favor of my own flavor on my spec, but I am sure I am a horrible person for doing this.  Essentially just like the way the previous talent system was… we have an “illusion of choice” in that everyone is expected to change their gear stats towards the same ultimate ideal scenario.  If this is a thing that every single player is doing, it means to me that the design of the system was inherently flawed in the first place.  I applaud Blizzard for taking chances on building new systems, and I also applaud them for reversing that decision when it looks like it simply is another “non choice”.

If you have not gotten the impression already, I applaud them for deciding to remove reforging.  While it was a really cool idea, it never quite worked out as well as I would have personally liked.  The way it worked always seemed extremely limiting.  I think we all envisioned a system where we could throw away useless stats from our gear in favor of the one that we really wanted in the first place.  However the reality was dictated by some pretty rigid rules and only actually allowed us to change the secondary and tertiary stats, instead of getting more of the thing we generally want… our primary class stat.  Additionally there is the issue of… if you are constantly reforging away a specific stat then the gear is simply itemized poorly.

Again I feel like this is another case where World of Warcraft can take a queue from Rift.  Generally speaking the stats that I find myself personally reforging away are hit and expertise.  This is because these stats can appear on every single piece of gear…  however they are only useful in limited quantities until you hit the soft cap for every class.  As a result you are lining up to remove them once you reach the higher tiers of raiding.  How Rift has “fixed” this problem is certain stats only appear on certain pieces of gear.  So you have a limited number of ways to gain that stat, so each and every piece them becomes important.  Granted the hit/expertise issue is no longer going to be an issue at all… since they decided to simply remove the stat entirely.

Ultimately those are two completely different game design approaches.  In the case of Rift they decided to make it work, by rationing the stats that players didn’t need as often.  In the case of wow they kind just applied a general mallet to the approach and are now designing around the need for those stats in the first place.  Both are completely valid approaches, and as always Blizzard seems to line up on the side of simplification rather than intricacy.  If Blizzard were a toy it would likely be something made by Fischer Price and not some intricate model kit imported from Japan.  There are places for both kinds of games and ultimately why I play more than just WoW.  Currently it seems like the decisions they are making for Warlords of Draenor are really good ones, given the present state of the game….  however I am sure 2 years from launch we will be applauding them for undoing various things they did.  World of Warcraft is a constantly evolving game, and I think as a whole this is a really good thing.

More Fodder Next Week

Mostly I am curious if this concept worked for you and if you actually enjoyed it?  I am still evolving in my head what I want this to be.  Generally speaking when I blog, I respond based on what I have heard said in the blogosphere without really going back to the original forum source… if a forum did in fact spawn the discussion.  With this I am trying to essentially write what I would have written as a forum response… but instead in very long form blog format.  Let me know if this works, or if it doesn’t how you would like to see it changed.   Also remember tomorrow begins another experiment of mine…  Factoid February.  I still am not 100% certain what I will write… but I expect to devote one section a day to whatever the current “Fact” is.