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.