Out Of Continues Episode 196 – Pin-holing The Legion Baby!!!

Out Of Continues Episode 196 has posted in various formats over on the Out Of Continues website.  Tune in to listen to perhaps what could be my token show of 2015…  😀

http://www.outofcontinues.com/?p=1459

The main discussion includes some mention of World Of Warcraft: Legion, the most recently-announced WoW Expansion, but only insomuch as a means to an end in order to discuss Metagaming – the disturbing trend in video games these days where gamers are disproportionately affected by stuff outside the games they play and it taints their experience in-game.

Clarity-wise, without a doubt the properly-polished MP3 Version is probably the best-sounding Out Of Continues I’ve ever heard, and my contributed audio has the same filters as MultimediaJay RadioStyle this go-round, but it has zero sound stage whatsoever.  =-O  The dialogue is about as pinhole mono as it gets, probably to keep the file size down.  If your audio system has a chorus function or a way of spreading out the sound so it doesn’t all come from your center channel it would probably significantly improve the listening experience to cut your system down into stereo mode or “more spread out” mode to spread out the audio.  😀

The opening is blasting in awesome stereo, but when you have everything coming out the center channel afterwards, that’s the time to make the switch.  🙂

Molten Core 2014 – There’s A Reason Why Content Like That “Couldn’t Happen Again”

Last night was my first Molten Core run at Level 100, having missed the original Level 60 Molten Core back in the bad old days of WoW Classic when paladins were pathetic buffbots who specced Retribution to get a whole 5 minute Blessing Of Kings then dumped their points in Holy and “tried to heal” alongside constantly recasting the 5 minute buffs again.  I quit the game for several months after getting Holy Shock at Level 40 and by the time I got back I had no chance of getting into any raids before Burning Crusade launched.  😛

…or, for those who need a quicker summary of those days, WoWCrendor to the rescue.  😛

…yeah.  Classic/Vanilla sucked.  Legions of Warcraft fans and RPG fans who’d played paladins or militant cleric types (like myself) signed up to be some kind of holy knight only to end up as someone’s healslave for the first two expansions, unless they gimmick-Porcupine-tanked in Burning Crusade or blew people up as a Shockadin in PVP.  Anyone care to guess why I blew off raiding until the Retribution fix in Patch 3.0.2 with my small 10-man guild?  😉

Either way, I made sure to make fun of those days with a few snarky instance chat lines during the run as we trudged through and eventually got Mister “BY FIRE BE PURGED!!!” Ragnaros to shut his mouth.

“Loot the stupid core hound!”

“Wait for sunders!”

“DECURSE DECURSE DECURSE!!!”

Actually that third one was a legitimate issue.  😛  Everyone forgot their de-curse buttons and there was a wipe or two because the mages and other curse-removing folks forgot about the abilities while priests were trying to use Mass Dispel.  Oops.  😛

Interesting though that these very 5-minute curses are the things that Blizzard says they’d never use again, and I can see why, when the denizens of LFR forget that this stuff has to be dispelled.  However with the demographic issues with this game, I can see why they wouldn’t use it again.

Over the past several years WoW’s significant growth has partially been fueled by folks playing this game who couldn’t handle something like dispelling a 5 minute curse.  While the term “Dumb Casuals” is indeed derogatory towards players who don’t spend 16 hours a day playing WoW or something, there is some legitimacy when you consider all those WoW players who had their girlfriends or parents or someone start playing who normally don’t play videogames of any sort.

I particularly ran into this with healers.  Perhaps one of the things that Blizzard needs to fix the most is the issue where it’s far too easy for someone to roll a healer as their first character and get completely carried through the game because they just stare at health meters and just heal their buddies.  They otherwise wouldn’t give a flip about anything else but when you can get free progression just by healing others, it creates one of the big problems with the “MMO Trinity” as we know it, as opposed to previous RPGs where dedicated healers were more of a bonus that saved you money on health potions since games in those days had more robust potion systems.  If you want to spot one of these carried babies today, just look for anyone who does absolutely nothing when nobody needs to be healed, or those whiners on the forums crying about, “Please don’t make me DPS!!!!  I didn’t roll this character to DPS!!!”

Either way, demographic choices like dumbing down the game and making it more casual-friendly has its consequences – one of them being that a raid like Molten Core remains a challenge 10 years later no thanks to people not being bothered to read little debuff tooltips on their screens.  😛

Then of course there’s the problem of 40-man-raids with all the spells going off.  My current system which has *no other problems* running the game at max settings these days wound up conking out in a 40 man raid, so I dropped everything down to Low mode and got the REAL Classic WoW experience with crappy graphics.  😀  I know Blizzard wanted to give people a taste of the bad old days with this one-and-done MC run as part of the 10th Anniversary Celebration, but needing to drop the graphics and having the game crash once when I wasn’t proactive enough on dropping the graphics is a little excessive ya think?  😀

I don’t miss those days.  😛  Before I say good riddance though I should try Tarren Mill Southshore at least once though….  Hmm….  🙂

Guild Perks – How To Suck The Life Out Of A Guild System

In perhaps the quickest revolving door WoW guild situation I’ve ever been in, my very first guild on Turalyon had me in and out in a matter of days.  For those who don’t follow my silent Twitter experiment that I’ll eventually start making more use of, after blasting the server queues on Stormrage I took the free character moves to Turalyon-US because Stormrage’s reputation as an Alliance country club pretty much dooms the server to keep getting too big for its own good.  Stormrage had just had some FCMs in July of last year, and now in just about 6 months, they were already back to hour-long queues.  Perception is reality here, and I don’t doubt that the recent round of FCMs will ultimately be negated within a few months tops again.

Upon arrival on Turalyon though, I joined a guild that was explicitly and in a very friendly fashion recruiting transfers.  Unfortunately, the net effect was the guild being a revolving door on most nights with numerous gquits happening on a regular basis.  I ignored all of that though until a mountain of drama led to a mass-exodus of raiders when they couldn’t get enough people for Siege of Orgrimmar and the raid leader rage quit followed by everyone on the raiding team, which caused even more drama in guild chat, which I had no interest in putting up with.  /GQUIT!!!

This would be the reason why I don’t mess with guilds most of the time.  I have better things to do most nights than have an extra chat channel of people whining at each other.  These people though were so desperate for numbers that they even invited someone who was causing drama in trade chat (who /gquit not long afterwards).  That of course would explain why the idiot starting all the drama after the raiders /gquit was able to sound off despite being only an “initiate” even with officers online.  Ahhhhh numbers.  The follies of these Level 25 guilds who’ll look the other way on literally anything.  😛

This sadly serves as yet another example of how Blizzard’s guild perk system has sucked the life out of the guild system in this game.  Once something other than people became a compelling reason to join a guild it was all over.  The last good guild I was in wound up disbanding when too many of our people left and nobody wanted to join us because we were only guild level 4 or something instead of a 25.  When the guild level system first launched, former “noob social guilds” suddenly wound up becoming the biggest guilds with the most perks and attracting everyone to them, including raiders, putting some raiding guilds who were more serious about progression out to pasture, and leading still others to cross-server-recruit when nobody on their home server would join because they would rather be in a 25 guild.  (Many years ago cross-server-“poaching” meant your guild was so horrible you couldn’t recruit on your home server.  Now it’s par for the course.)  When I compare this to the best guilds I’ve been in who were more of a good group of friends, it’s just ridiculous how mechanical everything has become, and that’s really the best way to describe this disaster on Turalyon — a revolving door machine that might as well have been bringing people in and having them come out on conveyor belts.  😛

I still maintain that World of Warcraft’s state of decline doesn’t need to be so, but with some of the nonsense I see in this game that’s so ridiculously tolerated, I can’t help but wonder if any of this is on purpose.  :-\

Earth To Blizzard – It’s 2014 – Get Rid Of Server Queues – PERMANENTLY!!!

Following my recent disappointments with Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn, I switched back to World Of Warcraft as my subscription MMO of choice, but at the rate Blizzard’s going, I may just dump that game too.  Believe me, I have plenty of other games I could be playing if these people don’t want to get their act together.

I decided to try gearing up my Alliance characters and using the new cross-server heirlooms feature to catch up my Horde characters, except… oops!!!  For no reason whatsoever, Stormrage-US now has regular 500-1000+ server queues in the evenings.  I am quite serious too.  There is absolutely nothing to explain this sudden surge in people on this server.  We’re in the dog days of the Mists Of Pandaria expansion, the game has been losing subscribers, and the holiday school breaks are over (except colleges who don’t go back until around Martin Luther King Day).  Only poor server management could have led to these queues from Blizzard not being prudent enough with allowing or not allowing server transfers to this server.

I originally moved to Stormrage-US in 2007 after getting sick of the drama that consumed Alexstrasza-US and killed the server progression.  Back then Dramastrasza had queues on a regular basis and Stormrage was a medium population server with good progression and lots of top guilds with funky Latin names (Ante Meridiem and Militis Justica are still around, but I remember my WoWCensus results being a barrage of Latin names back in the day).  Stormrage back then was also the home of Cosaga, a well-known Shockadin in the Paladin community who bucked Blizzard’s trend of making Paladins into sissies with his spell-damage PVP videos like this one.  Unfortunately, the Armory lists him as only being an inactive 80, meaning he hasn’t played since Wrath Of The Lich King.

Now though, I have no idea what happened, but one thing Blizzard has had problems with is people flocking to high-pop servers because low-pop servers can be a mess when barely anyone’s playing.  This drove their recent experiments with alternative infrastructure setups to get away from the every-server-is-its-own-kingdom setup via things such as cross-realm zones and now the ongoing connected realms experiments.  Unfortunately, as people continue being frustrated with low-pop server issues and transferring to high-pop servers it makes things worse for people on high-pop servers, and the people transferring over just trade one set of problems for another and ruin the gaming experience for everyone already there.

One of these years Blizzard needs to wake up and realize that this server problem is a two-pronged problem and they can’t just focus on low-pop issues when high-pop realms are turning into the gaming versions of early-2000s FilePlanet with how much time you end up wasting by waiting in virtual lines to play this game that you paid for.  Maybe in 2004, 2005, and 2006 server queues could be stomached as a way to deal with realm stability issues caused by the then-exploding popularity of this game when the infrastructure literally couldn’t handle the demand from players, but not today when we have all these Medium and Low Pop servers with miserable players on them while all the High Pop servers require workarounds such as logging in early and doing something else while sitting in the queue.

The fact remains, with World Of Warcraft’s 10 Year Anniversary coming up this year…

IT’S THE YEAR *2014.*  *NO* SERVER QUEUES ARE ACCEPTABLE ANYMORE.  *PERIOD.*

This needs to be Blizzard’s attitude if they want to stop the game’s gradual hemorrhaging of subscribers that has been going on.  Server queues are a woefully outdated mechanic that has had its day, and competing games have ways around them – plus Blizzard’s own experiments with rigging up their infrastructure these days make server queues an utterly stupid and embarrassing mechanic to keep around.

There Are Various Ways Blizzard Could End The Problem Of Server Queues Once And For All:

First, Overflow Realms.  Whether Blizzard wants to admit it or not, other games have good ideas, and they have been known to belligerently talk down players who bring up these good ideas then sheepishly implement the ideas later once the drama died down.  Overflow Realms of course are the genius idea in Guild Wars 2 which is the reason why I’ve never ever seen a server queue in Guild Wars 2.  The way it works is if your realm is full, you get to play on an overflow realm until your turn pops up in the queue, then you can either switch to your realm or just stay on the overflow realm.  Blizzard could also use this kind of technology to eliminate that infamous error – “World Server Is Down” when certain world servers have problems as well or there are overcrowding issues in certain areas of the game (*cough cough* TIMELESS ISLE!!!).  The point is, this could eliminate the waiting nonsense which competing games have already eliminated.  The solution’s right there, and it’s already successful in other games if Blizzard would like to implement it and stop stroking their ego.

If Not Overflow Realms, Then Queue Lobbies.  As an alternative to full playable realms, Blizzard could make it so if your server had a queue, you could instead be sent to a lobby area where you could queue for Dungeons, Scenarios, Raids, PVP, etc., a.k.a. things you would normally be teleported out of the world for anyways.  Got a server queue?  No problem.  Just run some scenarios or battlegrounds and be sent into the world either when your queue pops or you finish the last thing you were doing when the queue popped.  Simple, plus extra copies of the world wouldn’t be necessary.

Connected Realms Plus Free Character Moves To Connected Realms.  This is something Blizzard could do with their current existing infrastructure setup.  Instead of connecting together a bunch of Low Pop servers to try to alleviate the issues with low-pop realms only, knock out two birds with one stone by linking a high pop and low pop realm together and allowing free character moves to the smaller realm.  Suppose for example Stormrage was paired up with a fictitious low-pop server we’ll call Tumbleweed.  Open free character moves from Stormrage to Tumbleweed and connect the realms.  If too many people transfer before the FCMs are cut off, flip them the other way until the population is balanced.  If both servers become too high of a population, connect another low-pop realm and repeat.  This would knock out both low-pop and high-pop server problems at once and eliminate the outdated server queues without needing to copy any mechanics from other games.

… and I think I killed my own discussion here.  Really this third idea blows away the other two, and is something Blizzard could do rather quickly to solve their queue problems once and for all AND better manage their server populations, but the fact remains, most of the annoyances that drive people away from this game are things that are tied to dated mechanics or other things that make the game look old, so why wouldn’t they want to implement something that addresses some of these issues except maybe for ego-related reasons because someone else came up with the idea?  😛

Bottom Line – Server Queues Should Not Exist Anymore – At All – Anywhere – Ever.  There’s a little something in Business called a BHAG, which is a term that stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which is a major difficult-sounding goal that a company goes for in a “shoot for the moon so if you miss you’ll land among the stars” kind of way.  Blizzard should seek to permanently say goodbye to server queues before this game’s 10-Year Anniversary later this year.  Now that would be something.  🙂

…by the way, I typed most of this 1000+ word article while waiting to log on to Stormrage.  😛

World Of Warcraft – Warlords Of Draenor – Initial Reaction And Response

With the announcement and first preview of World Of Warcraft: Warlords Of Draenor on November 8th, 2013, I decided to echo sites like MMO Champion and WoW Insider and “liveblog” my responses to the announcements as they posted, editing this blog entry numerous times over the course of the night.  Based on the initial day one announcements, I wound up severely editing this post many times after posting it, and made sure to point out that I would be doing such a thing.  Now, with the initial rush of announcements finally having been finished, it’s time to finalize this entry and any further commentary will be in separate entries, but here was my initial responses to these first showings of the next World Of Warcraft expansion.  🙂

First, the announcement video that’s now on YouTube.

First impressions…..

  • I knew Blizzard would eventually start experimenting with time travel in WoW.  We already have Azeroth, Outland, Northrend, and Pandaria, and players react both positively and negatively if any of them are severely altered.  I was thinking maybe there would be some kind of WoW nod to Chrono Trigger at some point where characters traveled through time.
  • Time travel in small amounts is already in the game.  There already is a small amount of time travel with the Bronze Dragon Timewalkers at places like Theramore in-game after the event where Garrosh bombs it off the map, plus the Caverns Of Time of course.  🙂
  • This expansion pack is pretty much going to introduce pre-destruction Draenor from the looks of it.  What about post-destruction Outland though?  Players already complain that the Burning Crusade content is among some of the worst content in the game now that the 1-60 leveling experience was revamped in Cataclysm and really creates a drag on the leveling experience compared to Azeroth and Northrend these days.  Grinding dungeons with dungeon finder sort of gets around this, but Outland is easily the worst part of the game with its outdated questing mechanics now.
  • With Warlords, WoW will now have 100 levels in it, while WoW remains a stick in the mud about dynamic downleveling to experience older content at an appropriate difficulty level.  Enough’s enough Blizzard.  Guild Wars 2 has level adjustment, Final Fantasy XIV has level adjustment, and it’s time for WoW to finally incorporate this feature.
  • This expansion is supposed to be when the number squish finally happens in the game.  Is Blizzard going to fix the uneven leveling too so the leveling curve is smooth again instead of exponential, especially around the Cataclysm content?
  • WoW is on the decline because it has fallen behind on gameplay features in some areas.  What is Blizzard going to do to address other online RPGs like Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 pulling ahead in some areas?  Sure they may not be better than WoW in all areas, but Blizzard has traditionally been good in terms of not having its top dog MMO lose that top dog spot because some up-and-coming game does something better.
  • Player Strongholds Should Be A Form Of Player Housing.  Kind of like the home instance in Guild Wars 2 and the Pandaria player farm, the Warlords Stronghold should serve as some kind of home for the player.  For nearly 10 years this game has featured a ton of homeless people doing all these heroic deeds (tongue firmly in cheek).  Even if Blizzard doesn’t like the concept of player houses, the not-so-online RPG world has had them for years.  It’s about time WoW caught up to games like Skyrim.  😉
  • MMO Champion of course is doing what I’m doing here too, so to not reinvent the wheel…  🙂  http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/3524-Warlords-of-Draenor-FAQ-and-Videos-Heroes-of-the-Storm-Videos  http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/3526-World-of-Warcraft-The-Adventure-Continues
  • Blizzard has a site for the new expansion now.  🙂  http://us.battle.net/wow/en/warlords-of-draenor/
  • While the Outland question not being answered isn’t such a good thing, the recreation of Draenor is an awesome idea.  The features being added to this game, should they all go live at launch, will definitely make Warlords into an expansion that I will definitely buy on launch day, probably the box version too, unlike Mists where I bought it in digital form only after the game went on sale for half price.  One thing that I think all of us knew that Blizzard would do with this game is bring the entire Warcraft story into the WoW engine and make 3D versions of these great stories they’ve come up with over the past nearly 3 decades now.
  • Yes, Blizzard’s technically pulling a Disney/Nintendo here.  Back in the 2000s I remember making fun of Disney for re-releasing The Lion King on DVD and making a huge deal out of making a DVD version of a 10-year-old movie, but then it occurred to me that younger audiences might not have seen that movie yet unless their parents had a VHS copy of it, since they might not have even been born when the movie first was in theaters.  Nintendo did a similar thing with Game Boy Advance remakes of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games.  With WoW heading towards 10 years of success it’s more than feasible that today’s Warcraft audience might not have even been born back during the RTS days, so technically Blizzard can extract some value here and attract a new audience to these stories.
  • The Big Question – What Happens When Blizzard Can’t Do This Anymore?  World of Warcraft has been successful in part because of these long-running stories being implemented into this MMO game.  Having Garrosh become a time traveler is even more desperate at tying old lore to the current game than bringing back Deathwing was, though Draenor being recreated is a better idea.  I think this time travel stuff is the last frontier though.  Once the bottom of this pot has been thoroughly scraped, Blizzard had better be on their A-game at advancing the story in this world.
  • …and of course, as the Daughtry song goes, what about now?  Usually these Blizzcon WoW expansion announcements come a year before the game launches.  If this timetable is going to happen for Warlords too, what will be going on in Mists over the next year now that Garrosh has been defeated as far as the current game goes?
  • “This isn’t a time travel expansion, time travel is just a tool to explain the ongoing story. It isn’t being used to massively change the current timeline. The past is fine!”  Surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre Blizzard.  😉  We’ll see about that…  😉
  • The instant Level 90 boost is one of the best ideas ever implemented and will probably boost sales and subscriptions.  One of the problems with this game is that it’s so intimidating to start from scratch and level all the way to whatever the max level is.  This one time boost should help people start the most current content set a lot quicker.  Some may decry this idea as a way of further eroding the skill of the WoW playerbase, but bad players are already a significant problem, and this kind of service probably wouldn’t make things that much worse than what’s already going on right now in the game.
  • For garrison followers, Blizzard should consider having a customizable AI-controlled player companion NPC at some point.  I’m not saying we need to go back to the original Guild Wars heroes in terms of having so many customizable followers that players no longer need to play together, but something like Neverwinter’s companion system could work well for soloing in WoW or even dungeon runs if this type of system could be used to speed up queues like if DPS got sick of always having to wait for a tank, or maybe have a healer companion for questing and soloing, or to eliminate the need for a healer in a dungeon run if there’s no healers queuing or something.  The only drawback would be that certain companions would probably be valued over others depending on what class someone was.  The healer cleric girl in Neverwinter for example was very popular the last time I played.
  • Character art overhauls – FINALLY!!!  This should help eliminate some remaining snarkiness from people who think WoW is an old game when in reality the engine and other stuff has been incrementally upgraded over the past 10 years so the WoW of 2013 is most definitely not the WoW of 2007, or even 2009 for that matter.
  • Hmmm…..  Subscription fees…  For the first time in my subscription MMO days, I’m seriously thinking of paying for two subscriptions at once between WoW and Final Fantasy XIV.  Hmm…
  • The upcoming stat changes are a good idea.  Hit and Expertise being retired is a good idea.  Blizzard has long spoken of “concentrated coolness” as one of their driving design philosophies for how they make this game work, but stats had fallen out of that model for awhile, with some of these stats like +Hit just being chores in terms of getting up to the hit cap in order to raid and stuff, as opposed to something like Strength, Intellect, or Critical Strike rating which directly make your character feel like more of a hero that’s getting stronger and stronger.  😛
  • I will definitely upgrade my video card before Warlords launches.  Tuxedo was borderline with Mists, and is getting borderline with Guild Wars 2.  Since I’m on the fence about whether to move to a new system yet or not, I’ll probably get a new video card (most likely an Nvidia this time) before this game launches since video cards are the most transferrable upgrade if I choose to build a new system in the next year or two compared to something like RAM.  I’m on the fence about building a new PC because my processor in Tuxedo is still one of the better AMD chips to have (Phenom II x6 1090T Thuban) despite the chip being a few years old.  A video card upgrade would be a smarter idea at this point.
  • Crafting Directly From Your Bank.  *cough cough* GUILD WARS 2!!!!  😀
  • UPDATE – Garrisons Are A Form Of Player Housing.  Hat tip to Joystiq/WoW Insider.  🙂  http://wow.joystiq.com/2013/11/08/garrisons-player-housing-in-warlords-of-draenor/#continued
  • Account-wide heirlooms, toys, and possibly tabards.  Finally!!!  The heirloom thing is the biggie here.  There’s nothing more annoying than having to pay for mule server transfers because supposed “bind to account” items  are really de facto “bind to server” with how they work.  😛  As far as toys go, all they need now are playable musical instruments ala Guild Wars 2 and Lord Of The Rings Online.  😀
  • Quest Items no longer taking up bag space.  Nod to FFXIV I see.  😉  All they need is a “hand over” or “use” button now.  😉  Still though, Blizzard should copy features from other games that make WoW better, and have done so before with other MMOs that threatened them, so I don’t see why it has to be such a taboo thing here.  😀

All things considered, after a somewhat wishy-washy Cataclysm and Mists expansion that didn’t grab my interest as well as Wrath Of The Lich King did, Blizzard has done a complete about-face here and gotten me excited about a WoW expansion for the first time in years.  If they can pull this off and correctly respond to Warcraft’s competition that now exists these days, we’re probably looking at a much better MMO landscape in the next year or two, even among the more dated second-gen style subscription MMOs.  For the time being, I’ll continue playing Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV, and Neverwinter with WoW just something I check out from time to time, but Warlords will most likely become a major MMO for me again if Blizzard does what I think they’re going to do with this expansion.  🙂

Oops. Looks Like Warlords Of Draenor Is It. :-D

In a classic multimedia gaffe, Blizzard accidentally had the new WoW logo in the background on the Blizzcon pre-show footage.  Looks like the next WoW expansion is going to be Warlords Of Draenor.  😀

http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/3517-Warlords-of-Draenor-Logo

…unless of course this is one sinister joke on their part just to get everyone worked up.  😉