Category Archives: WoW

This Is What We Wanted All Along

Today I’m just going to leave the text of this SUPER-LONG post by Community Manager Lore here. This is what I’ve been soapboxing about lately. This is EXACTLY the kind of communication we’ve needed to see during this expansion: transparent and honest. As they say, bad news doesn’t get better with time, so it would behoove Blizzard to be honest about delays and what is causing them in a timely manner.

Kudos to CM Lore for posting this, even if it was late. This is what we want. Please, please give us more of this as it happens and I think you’ll find that the players will be more receptive and forgiving.

—WARNING: HERE THERE BE PERSONAL OPINION DRAGONS—
I’ll start with this: we’re a software development company. More precisely, we’re a video game developer. Anything and everything can change in the software development world, for reasons that are often impossible to predict ahead of time. As a result, we’re hesitant to 100% commit to anything. We’ve learned that, no matter how confident we are at any given point, there’s always a very real chance that there’s something we haven’t thought of that makes what we want to do impossible.

The whole “weeks, not months” thing makes an easy example. At the time that was said, we firmly believed that it would only take us a few weeks to polish off Tanaan and fix a few areas we knew were likely to have some bugs, and then we’d roll out the flying patch. It’s easy enough, right? We just change a few 0’s to 1’s and it’s all done.

Then we started finding a lot more bugs and glitches than we expected. We found tiny pockets of the world that weren’t properly obeying the flight rules, and would drop players to their deaths if you happened to fly through them. We found issues with certain mounts and class abilities that were caused by hotfixes to resolve exploits, which resulted in those mounts and abilities not working. We found situations in which if you fly into your Garrison at juuuuust the right angle, you get disconnected and can’t get back onto your character for a good half hour or so.

Finding those bugs, implementing fixes, testing those fixes, finding more bugs (sometimes caused by those fixes)… it all added up to a lot more work being needed to actually enable flying than we had originally expected. And as a result, what we originally thought would only take a few weeks ended up taking a couple months.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not making excuses here. And I don’t at all blame the players who are frustrated and upset that we didn’t hit the timeline we originally stated. Honestly, we probably should never have said that it would only take a few weeks. That was clearly a mistake, and I apologize for it.

But that should hopefully give you an idea of why — ESPECIALLY given the missteps we’ve made in the recent past — we simply can’t 100% guarantee that nothing will go wrong between now and September 1st. Truth is, we’re more confident in this release date than we usually are this far in advance of a patch. That’s why we felt that we could give a date at all.

There’s just always — ALWAYS — a chance that something can go wrong at the last minute. We could, say, be finishing the fixes for the last couple of dismount bugs on the Saturday before release, and when we compile the final build, all of a sudden activating your flying mount teleports you to the graveyard in Westfall and deletes the contents of your inventory. Is that likely? Not really, no. But it’s possible, so we need to make sure you’re aware that things can change, just in case something like that does happen.

There are alternatives, of course. We could just not give a date until we know for 100% certain, which is our usual strategy. Like I said, we feel a little more confident in this date than usual, so we thought it was okay to share it.

The other option would have been to try to have the patch ready to go by the 1st, but not actually plan to release it until a week or so later. That would let us announce a date we’d be extremely confident in, but we’d essentially be delaying the release of flight even further, and we definitely don’t want to do that. So, we gave a date that we feel pretty good about, with the reminder that we won’t be able to release if something catastrophic happens.

This ended up being a giant wall of text, but I’ll leave it with this: I know it’s super frustrating when it feels like we’re not being as open as we possibly could be. And I know it’s equally frustrating when it seems like we’re completely unwilling to commit to anything concrete. I spent 8 years as a player before I became an employee. I know exactly how it feels.

I just also know that it’s better to not expect much and be pleasantly surprised, than to feel like a promise was broken. At least that’s my opinion.

Regarding the transition from 6.2.1 to 6.2.2: we actually had two potential plans that were dependent on how things fell in terms of development timelines, which is why some of what we’ve said seems contradictory.

The core of it comes from our PTR testing process, and the fact that we are blessed with some extremely savvy fansite operators who are capable of combing through patch data, finding nuggets of information, and drawing educated conclusions based on that information. If we’d put, say, the Illidan-themed Murloc pet into the PTR data before Legion was announced, that would have been a pretty big tip-off. At the same time, we needed to get PTR testing for flight underway as quickly as possible, so that we could make sure we found all those silly obnoxious bugs I mentioned in my earlier post.

So, our strategy was to create two separate versions of the patch. 6.2.1 would have all of the relevant patch features (including flight), and 6.2.2 would have everything in 6.2.1 plus the upcoming stuff that the art team has been working on. In the unlikely event that everything went EXTREMELY smoothly with flight, we’d have the option to go ahead and push out 6.2.1, and 6.2.2 would come separately. If not, we’d just carry on with 6.2.2, which was basically the same patch plus some stuff that other parts of the WoW development team had been working on. As you’re all aware, things did not go extremely smoothly with flight, so the latter option was what ended up happening.

I’ll make a silly analogy. Think of the patch like a bus. This bus is waiting for a high-profile dignitary (flying) to finish up some negotiations, and as soon as she’s done with those, she needs to leave to get to another conference. That bus will not leave without the dignitary, and it will leave immediately once she’s on board.

That said, the bus is also capable of taking on other passengers (who for the sake of the analogy we’ll assume are headed to the same place). The longer the dignitary’s negotiations take, the more opportunity there is for other passengers to hitch a ride. The other passengers, in this case, are things like Mercenary Mode or the new pets and mounts. If the dignitary had finished unexpectedly quickly, there would be another bus coming by later that could take those passengers, but since she hasn’t, the bus company decides to just take one trip instead of two. Make sense?

One other note: 6.2.1 was briefly labelled as a “Release Candidate” on the PTR prior to the switch to 6.2.2. “Release Candidate” is an internal term we use to basically mean “we think we might have fixed everything.” As it turns out, we hadn’t. In this case, if we hadn’t had the transition to 6.2.2, 6.2.1 would have just stayed as “Release Candidate” until September 1st. But since we had this weird extra “hide your kids” strategy going on with the Legion stuff, the title was switched back as part of the changeover. I completely understand why that looks like “Blizzard delayed the patch to add some pets” to those who aren’t familiar with our internal workings.

Regarding “you should have designed the world with flight from the beginning!” We actually did, we just had to do a lot more development after that, and some of that stuff broke flying in ways we didn’t fully anticipate.

For example, when Warlords released, our servers were unable to handle the massive numbers of players trying to log into the game. Our server technicians pulled some absolutely crazy magic to dramatically increase the number of players who could be on a given server at one time. That solved the load issues, but ended up creating a large number of the dismount/de-instancing issues that players who have been testing flight on the PTR will have noticed.

Another example: a few weeks later, some exploits surfaced that were allowing certain players to fly in clearly unintended ways (such as Druids being able to leave Ashran with the Flight Form book still active). We hotfixed those exploits as they came up, but some of those hotfixes broke flying in Draenor in ways that continued even with flying properly enabled.

Obviously, we knew that both of those things were likely to cause some issues, we just severely underestimated how widespread (and difficult to resolve) those issues would be. And we didn’t want to delay rolling out those fixes, because they had major implications for the live game (especially the server stuff), where no one was supposed to be able to fly at the time anyway.

Given the choice between letting thousands more people actually play the game and potentially breaking something that (at the time) we weren’t sure was even going to matter later, it was an easy decision. But even easy decisions have consequences, and now we’re having to deal with those in 6.2.1/6.2.2.

So, again: if you suspected that the new content would cause problems with flight, then why did you choose to heap MORE features on top of flying in his patch, knowing that would cause delays and thus upset people?
Because we knew it wouldn’t, and it hasn’t. None of the other content in 6.2.1/6.2.2 has delayed flying in any way.

There are multiple teams of people here working on multiple things. The people working on fixing up Draenor for flight are not the same people working on Mercenary Mode, or the class tuning changes, or the pets and mounts, etc.

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For GREAT JUSTICE!

So yesterday I shared about how I came to play on the Emerald Dream RP-PvP server – but I didn’t go into what exactly I consider RP. Roleplay is one of those things that I love the idea of more than I probably enjoy doing it, to an extent. Sitting in a tavern and listening to characters have a in-character conversation is great, and I love¬†being on a server where that is welcomed and available. But when it comes to participating, I sometimes have a difficult time. That same sitting around and having in-character conversations feels weird because in real life I’m not that social either. It feels like I’m always trying to think of things to say and how to word them so as not to offend and keep things fun and interesting, and that’s more like work than anything else. Why yes, I am an introvert, thank you very much.

This changes somewhat though if we’re doing a roleplay event. We’re going to march through the Eastern Kingdoms on our way to pay tribute to Uther’s Tomb? YES. Going to have a Horde vs. Alliance roleplay event with some PvP action. Oh yeah. Costume contests, beach parties, in-character dungeons and raids. Sign me up! I prefer activities where there is action and the subject of conversation isn’t dependent on me, but on whatever we’re doing at the time.

The other aspect of roleplay that I think you don’t hear a lot about is just old-fashioned game immersion. When I play, I do try to get into the mindset of my character and play as her in my head. That doesn’t mean I yell GLORY TO THE ALLIANCE before every pull or speak in archaic dialect. It’s just when I’m killing those 20 muckgoblins, it’s not me playing a video game killing muckgoblins for 13,000 xp and 2 gold. It’s Teaghan Rose Stoutheart of Thelsamar, Initiate of the Argent Crusade and Harbinger of the Light killing those muckgoblins for GREAT JUSTICE and to collect their livers so that this sweet family can have dinner tonight. And sometimes if somebody is questing in the same area and asks me a question, I’ll answer in a dwarvish accent (which isn’t so far from my normal southern accent) so as not to ruin the immersion for them.

I think there’s room for lots of different types and levels of roleplay as well… more on that tomorrow. ūüôā

The OTHER Emerald Dream

In World of Warcraft, I’ve played on a handful of regular PvE servers (Garona, Terenas, Runetotem) for short periods of time. The far greater amount of time has been spent on¬†Roleplay servers:¬†Feathermoon (first RP server), Steamwheedle Cartel (the one I’ve spent the most time on), The Scryers, Wyrmrest Accord and finally Emerald Dream. Steamwheedle Cartel (SwC) holds such fond memories for me – at the time it was a new, bustling server with an amazing roleplay community, tons of community events, and an¬†active raiding and PvP scene. As it always does on RP realms, drama happened, and when Moon Guard and Wyrmrest Accord came online, most RPers gradually left for a new RP promised land. Over the past several years, SwC’s population has dwindled, with only maybe a handful of RPers left on the server. It’s a sad commentary on the WoW RP community that SwC and so many of the other RP realms are¬†in the same situation – but then again I’m part of the problem.

Sometime during Cataclysm I transferred most of my characters to Wyrmrest Accord. Wyrmrest is GREAT for roleplay, but I found a weird problem there as well: there were SO MANY roleplay guilds, but very few casual, friendly, fun,¬†RP-lite guilds that are my ideal atmosphere. It was almost too much roleplay, with a whole lot of strongly-themed guilds and little room for out-of-character banter. While it’s a great server if you’re a¬†hardcore roleplayer,¬†it just wasn’t a good fit in the long run for me.

Eventually I started researching realms again. I was tired of transferring between realms and drifting. I had a few requirements:

  • RP Server preferred.
  • Room for all playstyles: RP, World Events, Casual, Raiding, PvP.
  • At least a couple interesting looking guilds that I would want to look into joining.
  • POPULATED. I didn’t want to be on a dead server.
  • A good number of my preferred character names available.
  • A sense of community, whatever that was.
  • Active official forums & Facebook. I know, I know, it’s the OFFICIAL FORUMS. But still, that’s a pretty good indicator of population and community.

While researching, an option came up that I had never considered before:

Emerald Dream RP-PvP… PVP

I’m not really a PvPer, I fully admit it. While I have fond memories of running Alterac Valley and the old Southshore/Tarren Mill world PvP zerg battles, I considered PvP servers to be that place where those players go, where you can’t level because everybody is out to gank you and the e-peen reigns supreme. But other than that, it hit all the requirements. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to roll a lowbie there and check it out. And of course, I got ganked in Elwynn Forest. ūüôā

But I was pleased with what I saw. I contacted the awesome people in <Meddle> and spoke to them about what I was looking for and what it was like being on a PvP server. “Jump on in!” they said. “It’s not so bad, it can actually be fun!”. So I transferred one character over and I’ve been there happily ever since. I do¬†get ganked pretty much every night, sometimes multiple times a night, but it’s important to have the right mindset for it. Just accept that it’s going to happen, and that if you get camped, you’ll just need to move to another area for a little bit. It’s no big deal really, it just adds to the Alliance vs. Horde atmosphere and yes, it does actually add to the immersion and roleplay.

So I’ve been a happy Dreamer ever since. ED like any PvP server has a reputation of being full of drama and rivalries, and it can be a volatile environment at times. But it’s incredibly active and full of life and fun times, and that’s all I really need.

Player Housing? Yes. No. Maybe.

I love player housing. Almost all of my favorite games include it in some form or fashion: Animal Crossing. Wurm Online. World of Warcraft. LotRO. Of course the World of Warcraft version right now is the garrison, but it just isn’t the same. When I think of player housing in a theme park MMO, I think of an actual “house” somewhere in the world, instanced if necessary. It should be customizable, with lots of decorations, exterior and interior options, and music. It’s a place to show off items from the gameplay that you’ve done, plus get a little creative. It’s NOT a place to send followers out on missions, do major crafting, farm profession materials, do defense missions, or sit around all day.

I’m going to say something here that might get me cast out of the MMO blogger community altogether, but here goes: I really don’t care for the EQ2/Rift/Wildstar format of player housing. I know, it’s incredibly customizable! You can build your own crazy thing! But something about that in a highly story-driven and thematic MMO just seems slightly off to me. You may be in a medieval world, but you can build the Starship Enterprise in your personal instance. Or you might be in a futuristic sci-fi game, but you can build a giant medieval castle. That doesn’t seem so crazy to me in a purely sandbox game such as Minecraft, which is for all intents and purposes a blank slate that can be medieval, sci-fi, futuristic, wild west, or any combination of the above, and tells no specific story line.¬†But in a game like EQ2, or Rift, or Wildstar, or even WoW if they were to attempt it, it just seems out of place.

“I’m going to go over to Samurai Jack’s medieval castle and we’re going to play his asteroid platformer jumping puzzle”.

No. Please no.

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All The Things!

LotRO’s housing gets a lot of guff from the big boys because it’s not as customizable and comparatively there’s really not a lot going on there, but honestly, I like their housing model the best. It’s a house, themed by race, that you can decorate as you like and show off trophies and items that you’ve crafted, won¬†in seasonal events, or gotten during raids, and it has a modest storage area. That’s about it. There’s no stables, no crafting facilities, no auction house… it’s basically just an extra milestone/hearth. I’m okay with that, because people in LotRO generally don’t hang out at their house all day long. They may stop by once a day to grab something from storage or update a decoration slot, but other than that they’re out in the world. The only thing I would add is the ability to see where your guildmate’s and friend’s housing is, and the ability to quick-port there to check it out.

If they were to implement this in WoW, I would be ecstatic. Instead of Garrisons, this is my concept:

  • Instanced housing zones for all the different races, plus a few neutral options.
  • House locations that you “buy” with weekly or monthly upkeep (gold).
  • The ability to change the color of the exterior walls, doors, and roofs, as well as interior walls, ceilings, and flooring by room.
  • The ability to place any trophy anywhere, interior or exterior. To reduce lag, a limit on how many items you can have in your instance… maybe 100? 200?
  • A jukebox so that you can change your housing theme music.
  • If you kill Onyxia, you get her head to place in your home or yard as you see fit. You could take a shard of Frostmourne from the Lich King, or Garrosh Hellscream’s tusk, or… well, the possibilities are endless.
  • Crafted decorations from each profession. Tailors make carpets, pillows, and drapes. Leatherworkers make nice chairs, rugs, and upholstered items. Smiths get to make candelabras and rod iron furniture. Scribes could make paintings for the walls. Alchemists can make paints and dyes for the interior/exterior. And so on.
  • The ability to have a little for-looks-only stable with some of your favorite mounts and pets.
  • Plaques that can be made from any achievement that you currently have. Did you get Insane in the Membrane in 2010 when it was super-hard? Make a plaque, hang it on your wall, and show it off.
  • The ability to set up “home tours”, basically a set of linked housing instances either between guildmates or friends. People could then go from house to house easily on a tour of sorts.

It honestly isn’t the biggest or most ambitious housing system, but I think it would scratch the player housing itch that so many players have, it wouldn’t be so high-maintenance and indispensable as garrisons are, and players would still be out in the world rather than rotting inside a private instance 24-7.

Be Still My Beating Heart…

This… this…

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I’m not planning on playing a Demon Hunter other than to see the starting experience, but I MUST have this little guy.¬†I’m really hoping that¬†he¬†goes “mgrlrlrlrlglglrlrlr… not prepared…megrlrlrlrlrlglr” and shoots other pets with laserbeam eyes. LASERBEAMS. I also wasn’t planning on buying the Blizzcon Virtual ticket since you can get all the info for free afterwards, but yeah, I might shell out the $40 just for this little guy.

Yep, I’m a complete sucker.

Also, this…

pepeHalloween

How cute is THAT? It looks like Blizzard is revamping the festivals for the latter part of the year, which is a good move. After 10+ years, most of the festivals need updating and players need motivation to participate if they’ve already completed all the achievements. Interestingly, there is no update for Lunar Festival in February. I wonder if that was a natural stopping point because, oh, I don’t know, maybe there will be another major event around that time? Hm.

 

Criticism, Communication, and Call of Duty (not!)

Last night I was scrolling through Twitter and somebody mentioned that WoW fans should just shut up about Ravenholdt and let the WoW devs do what they want. While my last post wasn’t exactly criticism of the Ravenholdt vs. Sewers¬†decision, I wanted to take a moment to address the role that criticism plays in our gaming, the way that we as fans interact with the developers of the games that we love so much, and how communication from developers can actually improve the situation.

criticism

At the risk of being one of “those people”, I’m going to state this up front because I want you to understand where I’m coming from (not that it elevates my status above any other player AT ALL). I’ve played WoW off-and-on since beta, mostly constantly during Vanilla/TBC/Wrath, and in spurts through Cata/MoP/Warlords. I love Warcraft. I love the lore, I love the world, I love the stylized graphics and crazy colors juxtaposed over dark and gritty stories and quests. I had never played the original Warcraft RTS games before starting WoW, and I’m not really a RTS player, but if they released a Warcraft 4 RTS I’d play it just to see where the story goes. I have all the books, the old WoW magazines, some plushies, t-shirts, etc. Basically, I’m a FAN. I love this franchise, even if I take breaks to play other games. I think the cinematics teams and music teams are #1 in the industry, and the developers over the years have done an amazing job of creating fun game experiences for millions of people.

All of that said, I will not back down from criticism when I deem it necessary. Here’s the thing: criticism doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate whatever it is that you’re criticizing. On the contrary, it shows that you care for it so much that you don’t want it to suck. The real danger in the gaming world is apathy. I’m not a Call of Duty player, so if you come to me and tell me that Call of Duty is implementing rainbow guns and playable purple manatees, I’ll probably just shrug my shoulders and say “okay”. It’s not my thing, so I don’t really care what they do. But if I were a fan, I’d probably be VERY upset about rainbow guns and purple manatees, because I don’t want the game to suck.

So if the developers make a decision that I don’t like, yes, I will¬†criticize that. It’s important to note here that criticism doesn’t mean NERDRAGE. Nerdrage does nothing but get your opinion thrown out the window immediately. You have to be able to communicate your criticism in a way that is calm, doesn’t insult other players or the developers, and preferably includes other better options. That’s the kind of feedback that helps developers in the long run. If you don’t like something, what don’t you like about it? Why don’t you like it? What are other viable alternatives that would accomplish the same goals that the developers are going for?

It goes both ways though. Just as fans need to be respectful to the developers, they should be respectful to us, and part of that is in how they communicate. After this past weekend’s Dev “Q&A”/Chat/whatever that was on Sunday, players were steamed (and rightly so)because it wasn’t exactly as advertised. After reading the comments from the devs and CMs afterwards, it sounds like there was confusion in what it was actually to be – basically the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. If you’ve ever worked for a big corporation, you know that this isn’t all that unusual. It happens, and it’s an honest mistake. Blizzard apologized for the confusion and said they would try to do better in the future (yay! thank you!), but they also said that they are trying to avoid confusion and that in the future they will be tighter-lipped about their plans.

No. That’s not how you do it. Guys, if you want to establish good will among your customer base, this is all you need to do:

“So we think we have some really cool locations for these class halls. Lights Hope Chapel for paladins, a fel planet for warlocks, and the Dalaran sewers for rogues are all options that we are looking at, but we’re still investigating¬†the¬†options.”

“What we have planned for Legion is the launch raid tier followed by an additional raid tier with the first content patch. We’d also like to add flying into Legion with the first content patch if possible, but we’ll have to see how much time it takes to finish up the raiding and other content.”

“We are planning on revamping professions to implement new UIs, new craftable items, specializations for each craft, and recipes for cosmetics and artifact enhancements for each profession. We think it might be really cool for mini-pets to have a miniature artifact that they use during pet battles. It’s still a work in progress so things may change, but we hope to show more once we have that locked down.”

“No promises, but we will¬†take a look at¬†a moose mount.”

A little transparency and humility would make a MAJOR difference in how the Blizzard devs are perceived and treated by the WoW community. Back before SoE became Daybreak, the communication from Dave Georgeson to the Landmark beta community was astounding. Every single day, and multiple times a day, he would post updates on what bugs were being fixed and what the team was working on. I’m not saying that Blizzard should do daily updates, but quick Producer’s Letters every couple of months¬†wouldn’t hurt. The community managers shouldn’t be afraid to respond to player questions either, even if it’s a “I don’t yet have an answer, but I’ll see what I can find out.”

Increase the communication about the development process without making “promises”, and you’ll build player trust. Build player trust, and the tone of player communication will change over time to something far less toxic than it is currently.

On Ravenholdt

I have to admit that I’m fascinated about all the drama surrounding the Rogue Class Hall in Legion. The devs at Gamescom, while building up the idea of class halls being in these really cool iconic locations, made a couple of off-hand remarks about placing the rogue hall in the Dalaran Sewers.

dalaran-sewers1what

Of course rogues went ballistic, since Ravenholdt is THE iconic rogue location, where rogues have been going for class quests and the like for years, and well, nobody wants to hang out in a sewer. Unless you’re a goblin. ūüėČ

So #RavenholdtOrRiot was born and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth on Twitter and Reddit and the official forums, the devs of course said they would discuss it at the office, but what if they could make the Dalaran Underground (notice the name change here) WAY COOLER than Ravenholdt?

ravenholdt

Either location they go with is going to need some artistic reworking done to make it cool. The thing about Ravenholdt currently is that it burned down in the legendary dagger quest. So it would need to be rebuilt, which means new art anyway. Hmm…

I’m thinking an old, stately yet mysterious stone mansion… something in between Human and Forsaken architecture, so that it’s evenly balanced between Horde and Alliance.

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Once you step inside, it should be clear that these rogues don’t do sewers. They may be loners and n’er-do-wells, but they make bank from all that pickpocketing, with grand staircases and fine furniture.

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victorian-gothic-living-rooms-ideas

Gramercy_Mansion_Stevenson_Maryland_56553

Each race could have a wing… a la the Harry Potter “houses”. There could even be a cool purple-and-green gothic wing for the Forsaken rogues.

gothic-living-rooms-design

Maybe a little Karazhan music for kicks and giggles?

Trap doors, secret entrances, levers on the walls leading to secret corridors, a poisons laboratory, and a weapon arsenal (as a location for customizing those artifacts) are a MUST. And of course, rogues have to practice their lockpicking abilities. How about a dungeon in the basement?

dungeon_001

I dunno… Ravenholdt is looking pretty cool now. I’d be curious to see how much better the Dalaran Underground would be. ūüėČ