Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Own Hyper-Personal View on Companion Nerfs/Buffs

Recently, Bioware made some changes to the overpowered companions that launched with 4.0.  I believe the actual technical term for the companions' power level was "WTFBBQSAWSE."  Let's all face it ... when your companions are outperforming some players (per reports, I never personally experienced it), there may be a very slight problem.

And I do mean slight.  Honestly.

I was not one of the doomsayers, naysayers, or any other type of -sayer (save for soothe) that lobbied hard for companions to be nerfed.  Frankly, I couldn't care less if my companion was nigh-unkillable (they weren't) or they made me basically indestructable (I wasn't).  I got close in a few fights, notably the showdown near the Gravestone ... and well, that was it really.  Everything else was roflstomp.

I'm ok with that.

In fact, I'm more than ok with that.  Look, I'm of the opinion that sometimes in MMOs we become so enamored with the illusion of difficulty that it blinds us to fun.  When people say that MMOs were 'harder back in my day,' what they're really saying is that the MMOs they used to play had an extremely long, punishing grind.  The rose-colored glasses are strong in the MMO genre; they make people believe that back in days of yore, everything was harder, better, and funner.  Funnier.  MORE FUN, OK.

But were they?  I guess only you can answer that, really.  For me personally, they were hit and miss.

My main MMO for almost a decade now has been WoW.  Back in TBC, which everyone seems to remember as awesome, things sorta sucked for me.  Some specs simply weren't viable as end-game raiders.  Hell, most *players* weren't viable as end-game raiders.  It was normal for a raid team to be doing content that was 2-3 tiers old.  In fact, you sort of had to just to get attuned.  Most folks remember this expansion fondly ... I don't.  I remember long attunement grinds, whole tiers of content I'd never, ever see, a leveling curve that at the time was borderline sadistic.  There were puddles of water that dismounted you, the hellaciously long Hellfire Peninsula zone, the utterly forgettable Bore's Spire, I mean Bladespire ... shadow DISC priests were a joke (thanks, Shintar!), enhancement shaman were nonviable due to their effective health.  It was a personal nightmare.

The one expansion I remember more fondly than any other is Wrath of the Lich King.  My shorts get tighter when I talk about this expansion.  I loved the raiding.  The world.  The stories.  The classes.  You know what else I loved?  Quitting WoW.  I quit WoW a remarkable 4 times in WotLK.  So, what was there that made me constantly walk away?  Was it the expansion length?  The lack of things to do (lol no really) at max level?  The difficulty (well, at the difficult) of the raiding?  The people I was playing with?  Maybe a mix of all those and more.  For an expansion that I get such a raging nerd-boner off of, I sure didn't mind walking away from it.

But it never fails to bring a smile to me.  Grinding weapon skills.  That damn jousting.  Ulduar.  The feeling of flying over Icecrown Citadel.  Wintergrasp.  The dailies.  Reputations.  Such a glut of stuff to do!  I do conveniently forget all the reputation grinding.  The times Wintergrasp crashed whole servers.  The faction imbalance that basically meant me and my fellow Horde owned Wintergrasp for more than a year on Blackwater Raiders.  The pretty long grind to 80.  The raids that had uninspired, re-used mechanics (hello Naxx) or were just fights in one room (hello Trials) or the places we spent over a year in (hello ICC).  I don't remember the badge grinds for last tier's gear (OK, that was actually pretty effin' amazing).

I don't remember any of that stuff.  I just remember the good.  And that's why when folks say they like their MMOs harder and they like companion nerfs, I understand.  I really do.  I may not agree, because at the end of the day, I'd rather have fun then grind, but I understand.

So when folks asked for nerfs to companions, I didn't care one way or another.  Were companions OP?  If we're honest with ourselves, we'd have to say "hell yes."  Was it fun when the companions were OP?  Well, I certainly like to think so.  It just made things easier (oh no, filthy casual alert!) and for me, who has limited time, that was attractive as hell.  I could blow through the story and not worry too much about it.  That's probably not a good thing if I'm honest about it, but it is what it is.

Fast forward to yesterday and apparently they're coming out with new companion buffs.  They took a scalpel too deep to the companion abilities, it would seem.  Now they are reversing course, mainly with the healing.  I think a lot of players voiced concern that the Heroic 2+ missions would no longer be available to most players; I tend to agree.  I know I'll out myself as a filthy casual, but I actually had a few problems on Belsavis Heroic 2+s.  Died a couple of times.  Had to use Heroic Moment.  And that was *before* the changes.  Now with the nerf/buff they've received, I don't know how it'll play.  I should probably check it out.  Either way, I'll be playing SWTOR and is that really a bad way to spend the night?  Nah.

I guess this long-ass, rambling post could really be boiled down to this: watch the rose-colored glasses about difficulty and have fun.  I coulda probably said that at the top.  Oh well.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Legion Poster Leak

WoW Player: Whoa, Legion pre-order page leak!

WoW Player: Huh, what's this down here?
WoW Player: FUUUUUUUUUUU *flips table* /unsubscribe
SWTOR Player: Hey,  I think we'll get all our chapters before Legion comes out.  Sweet!

Faster expansion releases, right?  This oughta be fun.

(FYI, I know it's tied to a financial quarter statement, but watching the playerbase freakout is delicious.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Blizzard Q3 Results - A Token Call

Every now and again, I like to listen to the financial calls for the publishers that I enjoy; EA has SWTOR, Activision/Blizzard has WoW.  Today (11/3/15) is Blizzard's call.

Blizzard is having their financial call today to go over Q3 (Jul-Sep 2015) results.  In rather untypical Blizzard fashion, they've released their sub numbers early ... it's an odd move for a company that's usually pretty tight-lipped about the data.

  • World of Warcraft® subscriptions remained relatively stable, ending the quarter at 5.5 million subscribersC. Players are excited about the upcoming expansion, Legion™, which will feature a new class, customizable Artifact weapons, class order halls, and much more. World of Warcraft remains the No. 1 subscription‐based MMORPG in the world.

Wait, does it actually say that?  Really?  Fuckin' ... no, there's no way.  Like, what?

So, Blizzard is *CLAIMING* to have lost only 100K subs.  LOL OK PAL.  Let's just go with that for a moment.  Only losing 100K would be an absolute COUP for our friends in Irvine.  Recent trends show that the game should have (and probably did) shed tons of subscribers in the recent content drought.  Q3 fails to take in any impact from the latest news about patch 6.2.3; that hasn't even hit the live servers yet (and won't for at least a while).  Are they saying that the Tanaan patch held people over?

Since June?


Like, did ... did they play the Tanaan stuff?

My guess is that the WoW token's pricing had a lot to do with the current subscriber rates.  The token's launch at 20K for NA servers was probably a very, very shrewd move on Blizzard's part.  For many players (not me, but apparently many), 20K gold for a month of game-time isn't much of an ask.  Combine that with garrison dailies and the ability for alts to churn out (reportedly) obscene amounts of gold, even with the 6.2 gold nerf, the WoW token suddenly became a very attractive option for a portion of the playerbase.  I've seen first-hand at least three people in my immediate circle who are subscribed through the end of the year (and into the next year for two of them) through tokens alone.  And let's not forget the financial impact of that; the token sold for 20K gold (or thereabouts at release ... fluctuated from 20-25K), providing wealthy in-game players an avenue to buy monthly time.  In turn, Blizzard charged $20 per token, an increase of 33% on their regular sub price.  This extra money, both from the token sale itself (+$20 to Blizzard) and the gold price (+20-25K gold to seller) pumps up both the real life finacials and the in-game economy.  That seller now has more gold to play with, meaning he/she could possibly go fund a month of WoW if they really wanted to (but who would do that) or spend that money in-game, thereby increasing engagement.  That means another month or two of subscription, just by having a gold reserve built up.  It also means that Blizzard stealthily charges an extra $5 for a product that has retailed for $15 since 2006.

It's genius really.

So, I'm thinking that maybe the sub numbers really didn't drop all that much.  Maybe that 100K loss is pretty factual?  But do all the token buyers stay engaged in the game once tokens are redeemed?  How many of them buy six months of time and then don't log in for the final four?  Since the token can't be postponed or resold once bought, you're creating a system where you get to have your cake and eat it too; sell the sub at +33%, create an 'active subscription' through token redemption, and maintain the illusion of an actual player.  The real questions to ask are these:

  • How many tokens are sold since inception
  • How many token buyers are actively engaged in the game right now
  • What is the engagement rate for token buyers vs sellers
  • What is the overall engagement rate

I know we'll never actually get those numbers.  It's cool.  It's just stuff I like to think about sometimes.

Oh, and with Blizzard's new policy of never reporting sub numbers anymore, we won't have a true barometer of the health of WoW.  Well, not until they announce the shutdown in 2025.

Monday, November 2, 2015


I never really got the chance to do the Shadow of Revan stuff, so I'm taking the opportunity to knock it out with my Sith Warrior before moving on to some freshly brewed KotFE.  I've already done the KotFE line with my boosted 60 (Assassin, PLAYSTYLE SO BAD OMG) and sort of just stopped; I have zero intentions of going any farther on my Ass (yes, that's his name name, Lord Ass) and have been having SERIOUS MAJOR regret on not rolling a Mercenary.


While the boosts are cheap(ish), I may splurge for another one and get me a lady Mercenary ... but eeeeeeh.  The boosted experience was sort of flat for me.  It was nice to have this new character and all, but I really felt like I was seriously missing out on everything that made SWTOR great.

Crap, I just talked myself out of a LadyMerc.  Oh well.

Anyways, getting back to SoR, I'm kinda diggin' it.  The stuff on Rishii was really well done, if a tad annoying (do a missions here!  now go back!  and then back again!  to the same area!), but all in all pretty well put together.  The storyline is pretty nice too; I've not gotten to the end of it, but I have seen the part where you find out that you're really a god and you're playing Populous, oh wait.  Wrong game.  I mean, you find out that Bad Revan and Good Revan are like, two totally different dudes or something.

Anyways.  It's fun and stuff.  I'm really excited about getting into the KotFE stuff though.  Super stoked to see it from a non-asshole viewpoint.