Fishers Aren’t Even Trying Anymore

I got this email today:

 

Greetings !

Prepare for Pandaria with 7 days of FREE game time for your account, and try out the latest updates to World of Warcraft! Simply click below to claim your time… but act fast, as this offer will expire on October 25.

The latest patch (5.0.4) sets the stage for Mists of Pandaria? before it arrives on September 25, and includes a number of new features and improvements to help you get ready for the new expansion:

Goblin and Worgen – Play as a shape-changing worgen or a cunning goblin, and adventure through their unique starting zones and quests… even if you don’t haveCataclysm?.

New Talent System – Perfect your characters skills and abilities with the new simplified talent system focused on unique abilities and spells.

Account Wide Achievements, Pets, and Mounts – Track accomplishments across all of your characters, and travel with your favorite companion no matter which character you’re playing.

And much more…

We look forward to seeing you on the fields of battle.

– The World of Warcraft Team

 

The email came from a random Yahoo account and the link…well, it wasn’t any more convincing than the sender box.  So…yeah, I totally need to get those 7 free days of WoW before Mists of Pandaria hits last month.

 

WoW Just Keeps Getting Better and Better…

I’m kinda torn here.  I did say over, and over, and over again that I thought that Cataclysm would be the high water mark for World of Warcraft.  That it would jump the shark there and be on its way out.  And, by all accounts,  I was right about that.   Subscriptions have  been on the decline, and the grumbling has gotten louder.

One of the current concerns is the “dumbing down” of WoW.  I know, a month or two ago I would have been laughing too – how do you dumb down the dumbest and simplest mainstream MMO on the market?  But awhile back, I got in on the unlimited free trial, ostensibly to see how some of the areas had changed, and found that all the abilities had been overhauled as well.  I went digging for information and found that this was indeed the dumbing down that had been referenced.  And it is true in a literal sense – Warlocks no longer need Soul Shards to summon pets for instance.  But I was stunned at how much more I enjoyed the classes, and found myself nodding in positive directions at the changes I had seen.  I liked the streamlining of the abilities, and the new starter areas are well done for the most part – will special kudos to the new Troll and Undead starting areas.

And that’s why I’m torn.  As WoW continues down the backside of its career, the moves it is making seem to be, to me, all the right ones.  I know I am in the minority in that, by the way.  No argument there.  But I can’t help it, I approve of what they are doing…

Which is why I almost felt better today when I read that they were doing away with Talent Trees.  Or at least, the traditional version of them.  I read the article, and agreed, that’s a terrible idea.  The talent tress are fun and allow someone to invest in personalizing their character, a great move.  To get only one talent point and three choices every 15 levels?  You must be joking, that’s a terrible idea!

But then in the comments someone gave a link and a simple suggestion.  Did you bother looking at how the new talent system actually works?  I hadn’t, so to be fair,  I jumped right on over to see the fail up close and personal.

A pox on you Blizzard.  That’s actually rather brilliant.  I *like* the new Talent System.  I like the streamlining, I like the “dumbing down”.  What is wrong with me?  What is to keep me from subscribing to WoW and starting all over again in the grand golden standard of MMO gaming!

 

 

Oh, right.  That.

The Day the Whole World Went…splat.

Apologies to Trent Reznor.  But it was so appropriate.  As followers of the blog know, I recently did my ten free days of WoW (since I never upgraded to Wrath of the Liche King), but despite enjoying a brief return to Azeroth,  I couldn’t actually bring myself to spend money on the game.  Which, to date, makes WoW the only MMO that I have not resubbed to once I left.  That should tell me something, but I’m not sure what yet.  Perhaps that class imbalances are more than just a pet peeve to me.  Perhaps that immature gamers can permanently ruin a game for me.

So I find myself in the contrarian position on this day.  As millions of fans crash the WoW servers and celebrate giddily the release of glorious new content and hope (foolishly) for a new generation of customers, I stand soundly on my prediction:  this is the high water mark for WoW.  From here, it is all downhill – both in terms of subscription numbers and in terms of quality and polish.  Why?

Veterans will eventually want the old areas back

Yes, even WoW gamers get nostalgic, especially as those young gamers who grew up on it start climbing through their twenties and into their thirties.  The logical step is to offer such rollback servers.  I think we all know what that would mean.

The lore has been altered…pray I do not alter it further

From personal accounts from friends, the Horde is not longer the “not bad, just misunderstood” other white meat.  Its truly *bad* now.  Evil.  If you think that won’t affect new players, alts, perception of characters, etc.  think again.  Those subscribers who left at Burning Crusade left by and large for one reason – they couldn’t stomache the perceived changes to the lore – the backstory – of the world.  Same at Wrath of the Liche King.

And the number one reason…

[insert drum roll]

Because Blizzard Can’t Go Wrong!

Or at least they (and many other people) think they can’t go wrong.  Which is usually the moment, corporately speaking, when the floor falls out from underneath you.  See also:  Enron, US Automakers, Indianapolis Colts…

Blizzard almost went there with their RealID fiasco this year, but pulled back right at the brink.  Its only a matter of time before they reach that brink again, and this time, they will have drunk so much of their own Kool-Aid, that they will plow right on ahead.  The funny thing about this is that is may not even be all that important a matter, but it will become one in the course of the steamrolling. 

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Cataclysm release date “may ultimately prove to be incorrect.”

At least, according to Blizzard’s Small Print (tm):

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: Information in this press release that involves Blizzard Entertainment’s expectations, plans, intentions or strategies regarding the future are forward-looking statements that are not facts and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Blizzard Entertainment generally uses words such as “outlook,” “will,” “could,” “would,” “might,” “remains,” “to be,” “plans,” “believes,” “may,” “expects,” “intends,” “anticipates,” “estimate,” future,” “plan,” “positioned,” “potential,” “project,” “remain,” “scheduled,” “set to,” “subject to,” “upcoming” and similar expressions to identify forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause Blizzard Entertainment’s actual future results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements set forth in this release include, but are not limited to, sales levels of Blizzard Entertainment’s titles, shifts in consumer spending trends, the impact of the current macroeconomic environment, the seasonal and cyclical nature of the interactive game market, declines in software pricing, product returns and price protection, product delays, retail acceptance of Blizzard Entertainment’s products, competition from the used game market, industry competition and competition from other forms of entertainment, rapid changes in technology, industry standards and consumer preferences, including interest in specific genres such as real-time strategy, action–role-playing and massively multiplayer online games, protection of proprietary rights, litigation against Blizzard Entertainment, maintenance of relationships with key personnel, customers, licensees, licensors, vendors and third-party developers, including the ability to attract, retain and develop key personnel and developers who can create high quality “hit” titles, counterparty risks relating to customers, licensees, licensors and manufacturers, domestic and international economic, financial and political conditions and policies, foreign exchange rates and tax rates, and the identification of suitable future acquisition opportunities, and the other factors identified in the risk factors section of Activision Blizzard’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. The forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Blizzard as of the date of this release, and neither Blizzard Entertainment nor Activision Blizzard assumes any obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements believed to be true when made may ultimately prove to be incorrect. These statements are not guarantees of the future performance of Blizzard Entertainment or Activision Blizzard and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond its control and may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations.

Also, small print h/t to Tuesday Morning Quarterback, my favorite football column.

Good Things, Small Packages

I am home from vacation, yay!   A few things that need addressing before we get full swing into the posting week:

1)  I came home to good news too, I was one of the winners of The Ancient Gaming Noob’s EVE Screenshot Contest.  I’ll be honest, I pretty much submitted a variety of shots that covered as many categories as possible – but I had no idea that there was a “most orange” category.   Not that that makes the win any less fun.  I am due to re-up my account this week, and the extra 10 million will come in quite handy!

2) As some of you may have seen, I got a very special email this week.  I’m still awaiting some confirmation that was, in fact, the real deal, but at this point  I don’t really have any reason to suspect otherwise.  I am impressed, and I have to take back my PR relations failure assessment.  If Trion is trolling the game blogging community looking for feedback and checking things out, and keeping open lines of communication – well, thats a huge PR win.

3) I have decided to engage in NaNoWriMo this year.  I’ve been wanting to do it for awhile now, but after sitting in on the intimate Q&A sessions with some of world class authors at LibertyCon this year – I just have to do it.   I have to do it not to be published or be a full time author – but so I can look at myself in the mirror and say “I wrote a full length novel.”   Which is something I grew up believing I could never accomplish.  If anyone else wants to jump in this year – I’m happy to support you in whatever way possible!

4) I’m sticking by my guns – Cataclysm will be the highwater mark for WoW.  It will be all downhill after this.  Nothing lasts forever, even the 800 pound gorilla.

NEW YEARS PREDICTIONS

Sorry, I guess somehow I didn’t realize I was supposed to do this since I had a blog – and I apologize for totally missing the boat last January.  So here’s five predictions and a few tidbits from me to  you about the year to come:

Five Predictions…

1.  Despite the obvious interest and backing they could generate, no on will announce work on a Transformers or G.I. Joe MMORPG in the coming year.   Which is probably fine, because if the movies are any indication, their ability to completely trash the IP is unparalleled.

2.  Bethesda will finally…officially… announce their Elder Scrolls MMO.  Also, this is a hunch, but…it won’t be set in Tamriel.  I know it would make no sense not to use their established IP, but…companies don’t always do the smart thing.

3.  SWTOR will not be released in 2010.

4.  WAR will finally announce what everyone has been waiting for – more races and classes.  I’m betting Wood Elves and Vampire Counts.

5.  EVE will finally get ambulated.  They won’t have a choice – its time to step up to the plate, or let STO own a patch of the space mmo business that they don’t have a flag already planted on.

My most….

Anticipated Release:       Star Trek Online

I’ll know in about two weeks if it was worth the sleepless nights I’m enduring right now.  And honestly, some of my anticipation is the happiness of again having a game with real life friends playing along right beside me.  The last time I had  that was, outside of a random few nights in Vanguard, World of Warcraft.  How this will stack up with my online community in EVE will be interesting.  I have no beef with Cryptic myself – I’m enjoying Champions, so I’m hopeful that the game will be halfway decent.

Anticipated Failure:  Cataclysm

You can smell it in the air already.  Big, successful companies start dying when they start drinking their own koolaid, and believing in their own invulnerability, buying into their own hype.  WoW believes it can’t be killed.  It believes it has too many people and too much control over the market to fall.  And so they are going to do something that is guarenteed to alienate people – making changes to old favorites – and they believe that it can’t hurt them – that they will carry on and grow even bigger from it.  They are wrong.  This will be WoW’s “jumping the shark” moment.

Desired Beta Spot:  The Secret World

It just looks awesome.  And its either that or World of Darkness, but I’m not a huge fan of WoD.  Anyway, it looks good, and I’m hoping to get in.

My least…

Anticipated Release:  Everything that’s not an MMORPG

There is a growing trend of releasing shooters online and calling them MMO’s – which they technically are – but covering them and treating them and in some cases even trying to call and designate them as RPG’s.   Stargate, The Agency, Jumpgate, That…criminal one who’s name I can’t remember.  I have no interest in any of these.  By the current market definition, Modern Warfare 2 is an MMO.  Something about that just isn’t right.

Wanted Game Death:  Pirates of the Burning Sea

I don’t want it, but I’m pretty sure its going to happen.  Which is sad – the combat by ship is solid, proof of that comes from its reincarnation in Star Trek Online.  The avatar combat is fun and the builds are myriad.  But…the economy is a horrific mess.  It is literally impossible to build most of the ships with one character – even with one account.  And there is…very little else to build.  The supply bundle and unrest system though is amazing – I’m surprised EVE hasn’t done something similar yet – and I hope it shows up elsewhere.   Not to mention the raw material sludgefest that you need a chart or six to untangle.  Anyway, the bottom line is that SOE will need to clear some cap space to bring in its new games, ands it already proven its willingness to ditch titles with the loss of Matrix Online this year.  Sad but true.

And award for the game that will interest me the most and make me watch the most this year…

Heroes of Telara

Van Canegham has had a hand in breaking  new ground in the RPG industry not onceNot twice.  But three times.  So we can be reasonably assured that he sees or is working himself on something very new and intriquing with his backers at Trion.

Anyway, that’s my 2010 stuff, such as it is.