Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Going Free to Play

I'm going to start this post off with a story:

The same summer that I got my driver's license, the most important bridge in my hometown needed to be rebuilt. It was the kind of construction project that had everyone talking. Literally a half million people would be required to drastically alter their daily routines. A friend of mine even quit his job in lieu of tripling his commute time. This major transport artery was so close to my father's business, we had even more serious concerns at home about how traffic would be affected. Anyone who knows much about public construction projects, especially in areas that get ice and snow, will tell you to double the time they are supposed to take for a conservative estimate. I was 16 when the project started, and my father half-jokingly told me we would be lucky to use the new bridge to take me off to college. We did use it to take me to college. And to visit the college my senior year. We were using that bridge six months after construction began. Six months ahead of schedule. When the announcement was made that the project was completed, everyone in the community was surprised. Except my father. He told me about how this project had a contract that was unique at the time. For every month that the project was late, the contractor had to take $1 million off of the price. And for every month that the project was done early, they got to charge an additional $1 mil. The government agreed to this deal in a heartbeat because no one thought the project was even possible in a year. I'm sure someone literally laughed out loud when they heard about the clause for finishing early. And yet, we all got our bridge back early, and under budget even with those bonuses. Your econ teacher was right: people respond to incentives in a market economy.

You probably already figured out what this has to do with World of Warcraft. I'm honestly surprised that we are in yet another huge content drought, and I shouldn't be at this point. But, our community has been told a number of times that expansions will be roughly annual. They have publicly lamented content deserts (we're beyond drought at this point). Even worse, the last two expansions were horribly front-loaded. We got more content than most could handle in the first 6 months, and then, not much. And then nothing. And here we are.

So it is time for Blizzard to put their money where their mouth has been for years. While I would like to propose WoW going free to play any time a year goes by between expansions, that isn't likely. What may be more feasible is any time a year goes by without new content of some kind, we all stop paying a subscription until the content goes live. It still probably won't happen, but I think it should. Keeping players playing during these content deserts is very much in Blizzard's interest. As it has gone, tons of players unsub during these times. Then a new xpac is released and some of them come back. But not all of them. I don't know how many of my friends have left promising to return and are never heard from again. At least not in WoW. They are still gaming, many in Battle Net. But they don't come back to WoW or it's subscription. And at this point it's hard to blame them. If there were no subscription, I bet at least half of them would still be showing up to raid, if not playing the entire game more.

At the very least, this kind of arrangement would compel Blizzard to space the content they do have for us more judiciously. WoD would still be rather thin, but imagine if MoP or Cata had been under this arrangement. We could have gotten new raid tiers, or new troll dungeons, spaced out evenly over the course of the expansions. We wouldn't have had year-long periods with nothing other than Dragon Soul or Siege.

Ok, that last paragraph is what my history professor would call "counterfactualism." That aside, if you are Mike Morheim and Hazzikostas tells you, "We could make some new dungeons for them or give up $45 million in revenue each month for a while, what would your decision be?

Monday, February 22, 2016

At a Crossroads

About 8 months ago I committed to writing a series of positive blog posts in an attempt to counteract what I saw as a pervasive negativity in the WoW community. It lasted for one installment. I gave Blizzard the benefit of the doubt regarding their development cycle, and I assumed I would have a lot more nice things to write. I was wrong. And with the information we currently have about Legion and hunters, I have never been so unsure about my future blogging about WoW, playing a hunter in Legion, or even continuing to play the game at all. This will NOT be a particularly positive post.

I never started this to become a WoW "personality." I started this site because I found myself chiming in regularly while listening to The Hunting Party podcast. I can TALK about hunters all day. Ask my friends. Writing about them, without echoing other writers, proved much more difficult. But it was a different era when I started this blog. Today, it's all about the stream, or at the very least, videos on YouTube. The blog format itself is pretty dated, and not an ideal medium for covering a video game, when you weigh it against the other available options. So there is that.

I also wanted to be a voice for the survival spec itself, which I had loved since Vanilla and was virtually ignored by the hunter community until Cataclysm. Well, even I don't play survival anymore. I switched to my SV spec over the weekend. First, the only reason I did was to make it Marksman. Second, I still had the Lucky Coin on my bars. That's how long it had been since I even went into my SV spec! I just don't play it anymore. And that isn't likely to change.

If you're into hunters enough to read this neglected blog, you already know that SV will become a melee spec in Legion. I think that is fine. I agree with Blizzard that three ranged  hunter specs are redundant. Between hunter changes, and the Demon Hunter, I suspect that if they could design WoW again Blizzard wouldn't feel the need for every class to have at least three specs. So while I have no problem with the SV change, I won't be playing it. I've never really enjoyed melee, but if I chose to play it, I'll be playing an established melee class. While it's early, even if I wanted to play melee, the Legion info coming out isn't very exciting. I'm not dealing with pet pathing issues ever again. Been there and done that. To an old fart like me, hunters are ranged. With a pet.

If I play a hunter in Legion, it will be as Beast Mastery, as I have for virtually all of WoD. Bendak accurately called BM, "the last bastion of the classic WoW hunter." I totally agree. The whole dark ranger thing they have cooking for Marksman sounds interesting and fun, and I will probably check it out if the artifact system doesn't make dual specs prohibitive (we desperately need more info on this system). But I need a pet. So BM it is..if I play a hunter.

I have a Priest. Both shadow and discipline sound fun in Legion (the hybrid aspect of disc is especially intriguing). I have a monk. And a rogue. And a warlock. I have not used my 90 boost yet. If I buy Legion that will give me another boost. All these options means there is a LOT riding on Beast Mastery being fun and competitive for me to stick with my favorite class. If it isn't, with the little information about artifacts that I have currently (basically none regarding off specs) I keep thinking I may just have to go with one of my other classes or boost a new one. If I play Legion.

The ONLY reason I'm playing WoD at all is I found a super fun raid team with the perfect schedule for me. I was an inch away from unsubbing when I found them. But I have ridden my 2009 iMac as far as it will go for gaming. There is no way I can run Legion on it. As I was contemplating the purchase of a new system, I remembered almost doing the same for WoD. If I had, I would have been PISSED about it. Let's be honest: Warlords of Draenor sucked. It was the least amount of content for the most amount of money that World of Warcraft has ever sold us. There absolutely were good things about it. But I have never in my life been so disappointed with a video game purchase. So, while I am happy to keep paying my sub while I have this amazing team, buying new hardware just to run what could be another WoD is less than appealing. I am anxious to hear details about Legion's number of raid tiers, dungeons after launch, and again how artifacts will allow/prohibit alts and off specs. Someone recently described WoD by saying Blizzard basically gave up on it. I totally agree. There are plenty of hints that this is what happened. Remember the island inhabited by ogre pirates? WTF happened to that? I was dying to see that! Two raids, no new dungeons, and an ugly Timeless Isle rehash doesn't make for much of an expansion. At least we got a new, interesting final boss. Oh wait, nope. Killed him already. In two other games. And it was more expensive than all the previous (good) expansions. I understand inflation and a price hike was of course inevitable, but pairing it with the thinnest expansion ever was a public relations disaster. Warlord would have been really disappoing at $40. The extra $10 added at least $25 worth of insult to injury.

So I'm at a crossroads. I have a neglected blog named for a spec I may never play again, in a subscription game that does nothing for me outside of three hours every Thursday. To be fair, $15 a month is still a value for 12 hours of quality entertainment. But this game, and the hunter class, used to mean a hell of a lot more to me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pleasant Surprises

This is the first in what will (hopefully) be a series of positive posts. While it's understandable all things considered, I don't think I've ever seen the WoW community so negative. About a bunch of different stuff. Anyway, I think a few posts with a positive vibe are in order.

Today I'm writing about a few parts of the game that have become pleasant surprises for me. Things I like, or do, more than I thought I would.

Beast Mastery: For a guy who has "survival" in his blog's title, I play a shit ton of beast mastery these days. I like the pets (finally tamed Gara this week) and the play style. I used to dismiss BM as just a spec with one overpowered dot. The current iteration of BM is incredibly fun for me. It is an excellent balance of easy and skill. As long as I manage my pet appropriately, my dps will be ok. But BM adds just enough RNG and buff stacking to be really interesting. I love how Focus Fire works these days so much that I'm glad they adjusted the set bonus so it won't just always be up. Way more fun in it's current version. I'm so all in on BM that I recently changed all my enchants to mastery. My pet does a lot of damage. And Beast Cleave on Kromog? Super fun.

Pet Battles: When pet battles were announced I said, "Neat. I'll never do that. Ever." Then I did a few just to get some easy achievement points. Then I did a PvP battle to see what that was like. Then I wanted a rematch. Then I was close to some more achievements. Now I'm installing add-ons just to manage pet breeds. So yeah. I love pet battles. PvP pet battles are ridiculously fun. I don't care so much about collecting a million pets, but I really enjoy putting some oddball teams together and seeing how they do in PvP. I do have a few gripes about pet battles, but this is a positive post. The point is, no one is more surprised than I am about  how often I pet battle.

Fishing: Fishing in Warlords is pretty fun. More fun, and useful, than it's ever been before. Not a lot else to say about it, I mean, it's fishing guys.

I never thought I would enjoy any of these things. Just goes to show you shouldn't prejudge stuff!