Brief Goldrush

briefgoldrush
briefgoldrush
Screen Grab from WoWToken.info

Yesterday was kind of a shit day.  I got to work around 7 am, ran around like a chicken with my head cut off and didn’t get home until after 6:30 pm.  To make matters worse I wound up skipping breakfast with the idea of just grabbing something from the cafeteria in the basement…  but apparently they changed hands and are no longer open at a reasonable hour for breakfast eating.  When I got home I ate some left overs and planned on largely chilling out on the sofa with my laptop, however within minutes I was falling asleep at the keyboard.  Instead of opting to consume caffeine to forcibly prop my eyelids open like I do so many nights…  I simply went with it and crashed hard.  I know I woke up a few times, one of which I vaguely remember going to the kitchen to get a drink…  but for the most part I was completely dead to the world not really becoming aware of my surroundings until about five minutes before the alarm was set to go off this morning.  Bel is still a very sick Bel, and while I am taking some stuff whatever respiratory hell that I picked up at PAX South seems to be lingering.  Unfortunately work is absolutely madness right now and we are pushing towards a hard deadline…  one that honestly made me think if going to PAX was a good idea at all in the first place.  So I am suffering through it, and largely just collapsing into my desk chair and trying to think clear thoughts…  that is until yesterday when a firestorm erupted not even vaguely related to said deadline.  All of the sudden I am back in the same meetings I attended six months ago… and being told to develop the same solution I suggested six months ago but was largely told wasn’t needed.  Suffice to say… it was a miserable day to be a Bel.

As a result I don’t have much that is exciting to talk about other than the fact that something strange happened.  We had essentially a virtual run on the banks in the form of the WoW Token going from 60,000 gold to 115,000 gold and back down to around 66,000 gold all within a 36 hour period.  So what caused this?  Well quite simply the law of supply and demand, but more importantly the release of the ability to fund “Battle.net Balance” from consuming a WoW token instead of simply trading it in for subscription time.  If you will indulge me in a quick side bar here…  didn’t Blizzard say that as far as branding goes “Battle.net” was going away?  I find it bizarre that they are rolling out a new feature with this same branding instead of simply calling it “Blizzard Balance” or something super generic like that.  Essentially all of those folks with pent up desires for products on the Blizzard store, suddenly had the ability to cash in their bankroll and buy those things pushing the demand for tokens way higher than the demand for actual gold.  In truth this should have been foreseen given that there will always be a constant need for things on the store that previously cost cash, but there is a constantly dwindling number of aspirational gold needs in the game.  Sure you could really drop a silly amount of money and buy outright that 2 million gold spider mount…  but at the end of the day it does nothing but sit there as a supposed status symbol.  Whereas in the past with the Tundra Mammoth and Yak… those greatly improved game-play especially when it came to leveling alts.  However I won’t lie that the thought of being able to sell a token and purchase the Alliance motorcycle did cross my mind as something I might be willing to do.

What I want to talk about more than anything else is the absolute windfall that this means for Blizzard.  When you purchase a token for $20 it can be then traded for goods valuing $15…  be it in the form of a monthly subscription or now in $15 of Battle.net balance that can then be spent on anything from physical merchandise to the digital services they provide.  Every time a token changes hands Blizzard makes $5 off the top, regardless of what it is spent on.  My theory is that a lot of the tokens over the last two days were spent purchasing digital services… like character moves or renames… things that folks had been wanting to do for a long period of time but just been unwilling to cough up hard currency to make it happen.  If that is the case then every single one of these token purchases also essentially amounted to pure profit.  I have been a long time critic of the prices that Blizzard charges for character moves or renames… when essentially they are charging for access to what is now a completely automated and scripted interaction.  Once upon a time there was a labor cost associated with these services, because someone manually kicked off a SQL script to make it happen…  however that has not been the case for over a decade and the price never actually went down.  If folks spent their tokens on digital game purchases, or in game items for Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch… then again that is mostly pure profit.  The only time there are serious physical expenses factoring in is if someone purchase tangible items on the store like a Murloc plush or an Overwatch hoodie.  Even then…  they are still making a decent profit on that item or they would not be selling it.  Basically the Token system allows Blizzard to double dip and make a profit on the front end and the back end of every purchase… and at the same time ensures that the folks that are grinding out the gold are actively playing their properties.

In truth I think we can expect one of these “runs on the bank” each time something new is released from Blizzard.  A new champion in Heroes of the Storm… bam the token price inflates as folks scurry to purchase it.  The Diablo 3 expansion pack that adds Necromancers releases…  same thing… a rush to sell off some gold to purchase the thing that folks want.  I think of this much like the lottery system, in that once the reward gets to a certain point… it brings people out of the woodwork that would never normally buy tickets.  Personally that price point is somewhere around 300 million dollars for a lottery, because that prompts me to start buying the occasional one off ticket here and there on the vague chance that I will actually win.  For WoW players that price point seems to be 100,000 gold for the US economy and 200,000 gold for the EU economy.  The bizarre part of this is that I don’t think the balance feature is even available on the EU realms yet, and it absolutely had no effect on China, Taiwan, or South Korea yet… but in truth those three markets are madness anyways. Regardless… the fact that players can now cash in their gold for tangible goods… that they could then in theory sell on secondary markets like Ebay tells me that we are going to change the dynamic considerably.  You have just essentially let players start turning game time in to real dollars, which is a strange paradigm and one that is not entirely dissimilar to the traditional third party gold markets.  Granted this is going to be a SUPER lossy process, but one that will exist nonetheless.  One that more than likely only the most sage of gold making wizards will ever figure out how to tap.  Things are going to be really strange from this point out.

[Edit] I just heard from my friend Nyn that you cannot apparently use Battle.net balance to fund physical items… so that at least negates some of my commentary.  However that does mean that tokens going to Battle.net balance are essentially going to be largely pure profit for Blizzard.

Universal Patronage

Account Social Systems

BattleNetInterface

One of the things I have been spoiled on by playing quite a few Blizzard games is the existence of Battle.net as a common backbone.  When RealID was originally released, I have to admit it bothered me quite a bit.  I don’t actually use my real name very much online, and it isn’t necessarily because I am trying to obfuscate who I am… but more that I come from an era in the internet when everyone was their “handle”.  Someones handle is more distinct and meaningful for me… than telling me their real name and oddly enough I have a much easier time remembering it.  For example… I know several dozen folks with the last name of Smith…  but I only know one Scopique.  As Blizz took a step back they created the Battle Tag system and since then I have been happily known as Belghast#1752 making it significantly easier to meet up with people regardless of what Blizzard game they happen to be playing.  This has been the case with most modern game releases, that they have some underlying account based system that allows me to quickly meet up with my friends by giving them a single idea that relates to all of my characters.

The problem is… when this system is missing I really notice it.  It has been a recent struggle while playing Star Wars the Old Republic and the various Trion Worlds games.  Sure it is nice to have disconnected alts that you can go hide on… but I have been willing to give up this for the convenience of being easily available.  The thing that I find confusing with both SWTOR and Trion is that in both cases they have an underlying system that they could rely on for communication purposes.  For SWTOR you have Origin chat… which is pretty horrible, but could at least serve as some common connective tissue.  In the same of Trion Worlds though you have a shared account structure that through the use of the Glyph client gives you access to all of the games on your account.  All that really seems to be missing is a single “Glyph ID” and a chat infrastructure built around it.  The best feature of Blizzard games right now is that you can take your friend list with you into any game you go.  So while I am not playing World of Warcraft, I can still keep touch with my WoW playing friends while I am in Diablo or Heroes of the Storm.  It would be so nice if I could do this same thing while playing  Trove, Rift, ArcheAge or eventually Devilian.  Please make this a thing Trion Worlds!

Universal Patronage

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-18 11-13-03-53

While I am asking things of Trion Worlds this morning… I thought I would go ahead and throw in another thing.  One of the features of the old Sony Online Entertainment games that I really enjoyed was the concept of the “All Access Pass”.  Where you could pay one premium account price and get subscription level access to all of their games.  I think back in the day it was something like $25 per month for an All Access account, instead of the individual $15 a month for each game.  I loved this concept because it allowed me to pop back and forth freely between their games when I was in the mood to actively play them.  The problem there is that for SOE and now Daybreak games… they are all titles that I play in spurts.  However since the launch of Rift there has never been a time when I was not at least sometimes playing this game.  While I may not play it seriously most of the time, I still keep poking my head in it.  Similarly I am really enjoying the current state of ArcheAge, and I love poking my head into Trove.  With the addition of Devilian to their lineup… it seems that I am ending up with a situation much like that of SOE where there are lots of different games that I wouldn’t mind playing.

The problem being that I simply cannot justify Patron access to ALL of them.  So I have to pick and choose which game I want to activate at a given time.  However if there was some sort of universal patron account that allowed me to pay one fee and gain patron access to all of their games… I would absolutely do it in a heartbeat.  In the long run I think it would be a net win, since I doubt there are many people out there who are actively maintaining multiple patron subscriptions.  You get a little bit per month out of the folks who were already subbing, to give them access to your entire library of games.  This also allows you to do cross promotions between them, allowing the achievements in one game to maybe grant you something nifty in another game.  This is again one of the strengths of Blizzards stable of games is that they are all interconnected at least to some extent.  I feel the same sort of loyalty towards Trion Worlds as others do towards Blizzard, and I just think it would be awesome for something of this sort to happen.  I realize Trion is a weird case in the fact that ArcheAge and Devilian for example are not developed in house…  but my hope is that there is enough control on the back end systems to be able to implement a sort of universal patronage account.

Gigantic Codes

07ab4a9c-ff73-473b-b3c0-2c186825bbae

I have been sitting on an email that I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with it.  Gigantic is finally leaving its Alpha process and entering Closed Beta, and with it they are loosening the restrictions a bit and handing out friend codes to a lot of the folks who have been in the closed process for awhile now.  There are some constraints on these however and I think it is important to mention that.  Right now Gigantic is exclusive to Windows 10 and Xbox One, which I find mildly frustrating since it ran perfectly fine on Windows 8 up until this latest push.  This however is a listed requirement, and since I have not been actively testing of late…  I have to assume it is probably a legitimate requirement.  If you are interested in checking the game out you have to hit the link below and redeem one of the codes I am posting.  This is of course a first come first served sort of deal, but I figured the best option was to share them with my readers.

https://www.gogigantic.com/redeem

  • Key 1: 4GB2KE5-I5FBYD-G433KKI-KN723Q
  • Key 2: BSKA5FG-SOFHUL-CCVNKBD-WLBRHQ
  • Key 3: ZIBOYHQ-ZQVHHX-FC3JL5T-6CMMKQ
  • Key 4: 3ML4C2H-RXJD5N-DRCJX3T-I5PAVU

Good luck! Hope to see you in game in the near future!

[Edit] and those went WAY faster than I expected them to.  Hopefully you all enjoy closed beta!

WoW Xmas Wishlist

Warlords of Faff

WoWScrnShot_120614_102145 The one thing I have to give this expansion credit for is that they really have embraced the gospel of faff.  There are more widgets and thing-a-ma-bobs for me to fiddle with in this expansion than any in any mmo to date.  It seems like I can lose entire mornings with all of the little goals that I seem to have.  Garrisons are a big portion of this, requiring just enough effort to make it worth doing… but requiring just enough time to eat up large blocks of your time.  They are this glorious black hole for people who are like me and are huge fans of short term goals.  On the other side of the equation there are folks who absolutely hate them, because they represent an end to the way certain portions of this game worked.  For the folks that loved farming resources and then using those resources to play the auction house…  unfortunately that time is over.  To a lesser extent you can do this with savage blood because on my server that is going for 2000g each.  However it takes 50 primal spirits to get a single blood, so the amount of farming to the reward is pretty minimal.

I like the way you gradually level your tradeskills and gathering skills through the use of the Garrison.  I was never one who enjoyed grinding either of these things, and being able to know that through doing daily snippets of mining and crafting I can eventually max out makes me a happy person.  I realize there will be a point where I run out of things that I want to do… but it is going to be a long time down the road.  For example I am already plotting removing either my inn or my lumber mill once I have gained all that I can get from them and I figure there will be other buildings that I do the same with.  In other faffy news you notice I am riding an Onyxia mount in the above picture.  As part of this mornings faff while waiting on a cat to decide she was done laying on my arms…  I took my mage over to onyxia.   For some time I have been killing her on every single level 90 character that I thought could reasonably do it each week.  Finally the mount dropped this morning and I can stop that extremely time consuming process.  However I am sure there will be a new target of my mount farming obsession.

WoW Xmas Wishlist

BattleNetLauncher One of the best parts of playing any Blizzard game is the integration with Battle.net so that you can communicate with your friends regardless of what game they happen to be playing.  This was awesome in that even when I was not playing World of Warcraft, I still had access to my friends playing the game through the ease of the battle.net launcher chat.  The system is extremely awesome for what it does, and the wow implementation is great as it works fairly well cross server allowing you to group up with your friends even if you don’t happen to be on the same server.  The problem is however it is still very limiting in that you have a fixed maximum number of friends.  You are allowed to have a maximum number of battle.net based friends be it through the Real ID system or the newer Battle Tag system.

Folks look at me like I am crazy but after being a guild leader for well over a decade you end up with a lot of people that you want to keep up with.  Once you factor in places like twitter and other social media…  the 100 slots are just too limiting.  I hate the process I have to go through regularly of trying to find someone I don’t really talk to that often to delete… in favor of adding someone new to the list.  So the first item on my Xmas wishlist is for Blizzard to greatly increase the number of available battle.net slots.  I hate to admit it, but I would even be willing to pay some sort of premium subscription to have this number uncapped, or at the very least tripled.  Especially once you factor in that I have different groups of friends that play different blizzard games… bumping this number up is going to become crucial.

Cross Server / Cross Game Social Channels

One of the ways we have managed to get around the limited size of friends lists in the past was through the use of social channels.  During the heyday of non-guild based raiding, we had several channels that served the purpose of giving us a much larger extended guild chat for both the Late Night Raiders and Duranub Raiding Company.  These were great, and I would love to see this concept come back into vogue.  The problem is at this point single server channels are just too limiting.  Our raid currently pulls in folks from other servers on a somewhat regular basis, and if we had a raid chat channel, we would really need it to work across realms.  I realize you can have some limited chat functionality with battle.net but what we need are persistent channels similar to the way Diablo 2 used to have them.  That way regardless of server you can keep in touch with your social friends.

To take this to the next step we really need these channels to also exist across all of the current battle.net enabled games.  As it stands currently we have House Stalwart folks that are playing all of the available Blizzard games.  Last night we had groups in Diablo 3, World of Warcraft and a whole bunch of us in Heroes of the Storm.  It would be so much easier to keep a common guild continuity if we could all hang out in the same “guild chat” in the form of a shared cross game battle.net chat channel.  Essentially Blizzard has the beginnings of something amazing here, and they keep building these really infectious games in different genres.  Coupling them all together in a shared communications infrastructure will only serve to reinforce the “stickyness” of each of the individual games.  That way players can feel like they can have the freedom to play ANY game in their line-up without losing any aspect of that rich social structure they have built already.

Final Wish

The final wish I have for blizzard is to let me have European friends, or friends from other regions in general.  I find it maddening that I live my life in a connected world that allows me to have friends from all around the world… but I am playing a game that tries to separate off these players into regional buckets.  I realize this is likely a tall wish but I know so many people thats lives would be made better by it.  Sure I would love to have cross region grouping…  but I would settle with just being able to have some basic “hey how are you doing” style communication between the server regions.  I realize that you guys kinda screwed yourself early on by recycling server names between the regions.  However it seems like your current battle.net connection system takes this into account by referring to the servers by the fully qualified names of “Argent Dawn US” or “Argent Dawn EU”.

Blizzard already does some pretty amazing things, given the age of the game and what has to be an insane server infrastructure.  At the end of the day however we just want to be able to play freely with our friends, without having to ask them to completely uproot their established social structure and server transfer…  or in the case of other regions start completely from scratch.  Warlords of Draenor is an expansion where you have very much learned the lessons of just how important nostalgia is.  Players don’t want to abandon their servers and their existing pools of friends, but at the same time keep meeting new people from around the world that they also would like to play with.  If you can somehow leverage this social connectedness it is only going to serve to strengthen the player bonds to your game.  Here is hoping that you are at least working on some of the things I have talked about, because you have some really good systems at work here, but you are one or two steps away from absolute greatness.