The World's Most Popular MMORPG

Posted by Daeity On Friday, December 24, 2010

Recently, a U.S. Senator called out the University of California, Irvine on their shameless waste of tax payer's money "studying" World of Warcraft.

Walt Scacchi, a research director at UCI in response stated that "They absolutely don't get what we're doing". This study can only benefit mankind right? I mean.. playing World of Warcraft SAVES LIVES man. They're heroes!

What I didn't understand, though, was that they called World of Warcraft the "World's Most Popular MMORPG". I suppose everyone interprets the definition of a "MMORPG" differently.. and even the whole definition of "subscribers" is pretty flexible.

WoW is certainly very popular in Irvine CA and the rest of the Americas.. but the entire world? I suppose it is popular in some areas of the world due to the massive amount of money Blizzard invests in promotion.. so, it's "very well known". But most popular? Does popular mean most amount of players? I'm assuming so.

So, let's see how WoW holds up against other MMORPG subscriber counts worldwide. Here are some of the largest MMORPG's by population or "popularity" that have listed their subscription figures:

Dungeons and Dragons Online - 2 Million
Knight Online - 4.25 Million
Flyff - 5 Million
Guild Wars - 6 Million
Metin2 - 7 Million
Gaia Online - 8 Million
Lineage 1 - 10 Million
Free Realms - 12 Million
World of Warcraft - 12 Million
Wizard 101 - 15 Million
Silkroad Online - 18 Million
Lineage 2 - 20 Million
Second Life - 20 Million
Dofus - 30 Million
MU Online - 40 Million
DarkOrbit - 50 Million
Perfect World - 50 Million
Scions of Fate - 50 Million
Ragnarok Online - 60 Million
Farmville - 80 Million
Westward Journey Online II - 86 Million
Maple Story - 100 Million
RuneScape - 130 Million
Dungeon Fighter Online - 200 Million

All of these numbers are certainly debatable, but these are the official subscribers counts.. apparently.

So in the end, I wouldn't necessarily call WoW the "World's Most Popular MMORPG". When I heard "World's Most Popular MMORPG" I immediately thought of Maple Story and RuneScape actually. Therefore, it would be much more appropriate and accurate to call it "The Most Well Known Non-Free Non-Browser Client-Based 3D Fantasy MMORPG In Some Parts of the World."

Maybe "World's Most Popular MMORPG" is a trademark or a registered company name that Blizzard owns. You know, like McDonald's "100% Pure Beef" marketing strategy. It's written on their packaging, but "100% Pure Beef" is really just the name of the company that manufactures the processed meat. It doesn't actually MEAN the meat is 100% pure beef though. =]

Blizzard Leak Confirmed

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, December 16, 2010

Check out this video interview between Destructoid and Blizzard.

He confirmed that they are indeed calling the game Titan (their internal codename), that people weren't supposed to know about it ("the media's not supposed to know anything about that, it's our Next-Gen MMO"), and that it has been used quietly ("limited") within the organization.

In the beginning of the video, Destructoid was obviously referring to the recent leaked release schedule, and Frank Pearce cracked a big smile. =]



So - I think that's pretty much a confirmation that the release schedule was indeed legitimate. The release dates are all estimates of course (ie, setting a general roadmap for the company) and the actual release dates will fall short of their original goals based on trends, but at least they give us a really good idea of when they want to release the games even though our own estimates were pretty close. Unfortunately, this also means that all of that other critical financial and subscriber information is out there in the wild too!

Blizzard recently stated that they intended to develop smaller expansion packs so that they could release them much sooner - giving that release schedule more legitimacy (ie, one year apart versus every two years.)

Cataclysm Sales Were Actually Bad

Posted by Daeity On Monday, December 13, 2010

Blizzard announced their Sales Figures today, and all of the major media organizations (IGN, Joystiq, Gamepro, etc. etc.) are reporting that Cataclysm sold 3.3 million copies within the first 24 hours.

In actual fact, all of that information is completely false. It's like they just read the Subject Header without actually reading any of the factual information.

Blizzard sold a "record 3.3 million copies sold through as of its first 24 hours of release*". There was even a asterisk pointing to a small little caption at the bottom of their announcement, but no one seems to be paying attention. =]

Normally, Pre-Sales are included in industry announcements - but the new Digital Download process makes this a very different case. It's like heavily hyping a game, pushing it's "first" release date, allowing players to buy the game and install it on their PC, then have a "second" release date but say all of the sales were actually made on the "second release date". Most if not all other developers can't do this, making this a special case.

That 3.3 million sales figure was based on ALL sales over the past several months and included Pre-Order Sales and Digital Downloads (which went live Nov. 3, 2010). Blizzard is a master in the communication arena and it's like what I've always been saying - it's all about wording. Sales during the first 24 hours were probably significantly less than 2.5 million, but there's no way to tell since Blizzard opened up Digital Downloads during the same quarter as the release. Very sneaky.

Jay Allen Brack originally stated, "We expect the Cataclysm sales to exceed the levels of the previous versions, but we do not have an exact target." So that new announcement needed to be worded in such a way that it didn't make him look bad. I'm really disappointed with the lack of transparency.

But it gets even more sneaky..

1. Let's ignore all of Digital Downloads (over one month prior to retail launch day) for a moment.

Blizzard didn't actually count sales during the first 24 hours of Dec. 7th. In fact, they included sales from Dec. 7th, Dec. 8th, and Dec. 9th. Dec. 10th was the actual "ending date" of the 24 hours sales period. =]

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was simultaneously released in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Europe, Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand on December 7, and became available in Korea and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on December 9.
Cataclysm became available in Korea and parts of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on December 9th. So, they counted the 24 hour sales period from geographies that contained the smallest number of sales but added in 3 WHOLE DAYS OF SALES from their largest subscriber based geographies. Nice.

That's a HUGE amount considering the daily trends of average game sales. For example: 5M sales opening day, 3M sales next day, 1.5M next day, 750k next day, etc. If Cataclysm sales were based on previous Expansion Pack sales (and there was never a Digital Download), that 3.3 million number was actually calculated over a 3 day period, and it would have ACTUALLY been closer to 2 million on the first day, 1 million the second day, 300-500k on the third day, and so on.

2. Blizzard stated that Cataclysm sales made "it the fastest-selling PC game of all time.*". However, that statement also had a little caption attached. It was, in fact, the "fastest-selling PC game" based on Blizzard's internal lineup of games and the use of special calculations from their own "internal company records". Meaning that they included 2 months of sales, but are classifying it as "sales in 24 hours".

3. They also called it a "PC game", but Cataclysm is not a stand-alone video game. It's an expansion pack (it could even be classified as a large patch or DLC) with a much cheaper pricing model than a real PC game purchase. I don't know if you could even classify the retail DVD as a large patch.. it's just the 4.0 update which players can (and already have) download for free. Really, if you get technical, you're just paying for a code to "unlock" new stuff for your account.

Sales did not actually "shatter" anything and if you've been reading earlier posts you'll know that 3.3 million sales over a 2 month period are not good at all. It also looks like this little prediction came true. =]

Blizzard Springs Another Leak

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, December 9, 2010

This time it's leaked video footage of the work-in-progress Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm ending CGI.

Here's a link to see the video yourself. Keep in mind, it contains big spoilers. =]

(NEW LINK HERE - they're being pulled down all over the place.)

It might have been an alternative ending to Wings of Liberty, but based on Activision Blizzard's flurry of recent take down notices - it probably is indeed the ending to Heart of the Swarm.

(Update: Confirmed to be a legitimate leak.)

What's on the video (SPOILERS):

Kerrigan either turns back into the Zerg hybrid, or she's a clone created by Mengsk so that he could take control of the Zerg armies for himself.

It appears that up until now, the Zerg have always been controlled by some nefarious overmind. In this case, Arcturus Mengsk has been working with Kerrigan (or a clone) for some time and possibly controlling her. So the Zerg's actions (in WoL or HotS) were all the result of Mengsk's decisions. He has a lab full of Kerrigan (human) clones with PSI abilities that can reach out to Zerg/Kerrigan to hurt and possibly control her.

Mengsk calls her his greatest failure, and then she and Raynor kill Mengsk. The Zerg/Kerrigan also appears to be super-PSI powered as well. =]

Basically, the Zerg are finally free from all control and can now decide their own destiny. In the end, Raynor asks "What now?" Kerrigan responds with, "I keep my end of the bargain, and leave humanity to it's fate. The Zerg are free now.. slaves to no one, not even me. So whether they be the bringers of light or destroyers of worlds, I'll help them find the answer out there amongst the stars."

The Excitement is Unbearable

Posted by Daeity On Monday, December 6, 2010

So yeah.. Cataclysm is out tonight.

For the past couple weeks, there's been a lot of hype about the game and all the "amazing new changes" to starter leveling zones.

It's funny listening to all of the forum comments. For example, "Wow! There are so many AWESOME changes in the Undead starter area.. this is my first time starting an Undead character, but I can tell that they made a lot of changes! This is great!"

I even noticed that some people were complimenting the massive changes made to the Blood Elf & Draenei zones. /sigh

Based on the amount of time spent working on Cataclysm and all of the features removed, I think people should stop sucking Blizzard's dick for a moment and be a little more critical. Now that I've personally had a chance to see all of the changes done to Azeroth, I have to say that I'm a little disappointed.

Sure, there are some cool areas and some fun new quests but for the most part nothing has changed at all. All of the zones are the exact same, but with new NPCs, grass, trees and textures sprinkled in. I still remember the excitement built up when Cataclysm was first announced. Blizzard promised that the "world would be devoured by rage", "Azeroth would be shook to it's foundations", "the lands torn asunder", "Azeroth re-forged", "classic zones forever changed by the cataclysm", and that the "face of Azeroth will be changed forever by the awakening of Deathwing."

What happened, Blizzard?



I was expecting some pretty exciting and massive changes, but it looks like all of the best parts (ie, the biggest visual changes) were already displayed in the Cataclysm teaser video. It still funny to watch though.. I think everyone was more excited about flying mounts in the Old World then anything else.

Cataclysm File Size

The Cataclysm game isn't as big as some people are expecting. For the most part, you already had Cataclysm installed with those 4.0.1-4.0.3a patches. =]

The Cataclysm retail DVD mostly contains old files and patch data to make sure your version is most up-to-date... to 4.0.0 that is. If you install Cataclysm from the Retail DVD, it will in fact downgrade your entire install to 4.0.0 and you'll have to go through all of the updates from scratch again. There's going to be a lot of pissed off players when they realize this.

Here's a faster way if you purchased the retail copy. You can actually do this too without purchasing Cataclysm, but you'll still need the upgraded key to play Cataclysm.

With your existing 4.0.3a patch, it's also possible to upgrade your game client to the Cataclysm retail with about 327MB of data and even then, some of that data is just replacement information too. The new Cataclysm Digital Download [expansion3.MPQ (632.3MB), expansion3-speech-enUS.MPQ (55.5MB), expansion3-locale-enUS.MPQ (1.0MB)] is a little less than 700MB size, but it contains a lot of replacement information that's about as superfluous as a third nipple.

All of the Cataclysm data files amount to about 1/4 the size of WOTLK, but it should increase as Blizzard Blizzard applies for fixes, patches, and content updates to Cataclysm over the next several months.

Cataclysm Sales Predictions

Surprisingly, there really haven't been a lot of predictions made for Cataclysm.. possibly because they learned their lesson from the last expansion pack (overestimates.) Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia predicts that Cataclysm will sell between 3.5 and 4 million copies in their first month of sales. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter predicted instead that Cataclysm will sell over 6 million copies in December (and 6 million for SC2).

For the sake of comparison, WOTLK sold 2.8 million copies in it's first 24 hours and TBC sold 2.4 million copies.

Even Blizzard themselves made a prediction, which I haven't seen in a really long time! Jay Allen Brack said, "We expect the Cataclysm sales to exceed the levels of the previous versions, but we do not have an exact target."

Very interesting indeed, but it shouldn't surprise me since Blizzard really went ALL OUT for this expansion pack and are trying to push as much revenue as possible this time around.

So, what exactly has Blizzard done?

This year, Blizzard has done quite a number of things to push sales of their new expansion pack while also driving revenue for the quarter across the board. It's quite a big deal too.. maybe they're trying to prove something to their investors. =]

- Cataclysm was designed from the ground up for intro-level players, and is a way for new players to join without fear of too many high-leveled or experienced players. It's sort of a "reset" to bring everyone back to the same level ground. It also encourages veteran players to invite more friends since they will be creating new characters (possibly on new servers too.)
- Cataclysm was also designed to bring back old players who miss the "good ol' days" and want Classic realms to make a return.
- Introduced the new Digital Download system for Cataclysm.
- Paid Faction and Race Changes available on the FIRST DAY for the new race/class combinations.
- New [Moonkin Hatchling] and [Lil Ragnaros] pet sales "for charity".
- Special Christmas (limited time) offers: Blizzard lowered the cost of WoW to $5, TBC to $5 and WOTLK to $10.
- Heavy media and email campaigns to bring back players, friends, and family members.
- Offering 7 days of free game time to all non-active players (right up to the day before Cata - Note: the expiration date was actually extended). These game offers actually concern me sometimes.. whenever Age of Conan, SWG or another failed MMORPG tried to get players to "Come Back!" it just came off as a sign of desperation.
- New forum system - completely cleaned house and made it easier to remove negative comments and old critical posts, while also further crippling search capabilities.
- The new Blizzard Digital Sales system will now obscure true sales numbers (since retails sales are tracked by NPD) and Blizzard is under no requirement to release sales figures to the public. They can pretty much announce anything they want - e.g. "biggest sales yet!" without actual figures or breakdown of Cataclysm vs previous expansions.
- And of course, the game was released right before Christmas during the largest sales period of the year.

All of these activities were planned for years in advance and deployed simultaneously to drive revenue as high as possible for the quarter. It will be very interesting the see the results. Their MMO revenue for this quarter should be at minimum in the $600 million mark based on analyst's predictions. (WoW currently makes about $270-300 million per quarter on average by the way.)

Internal Breaches at Blizzard

Posted by Daeity On Friday, December 3, 2010

I've been sitting on this story since the end of November, still deciding whether to write about it. I was waiting for another confirmation before posting anything. But, it looks like some new information has hit the news outlets confirming what mmogamesite.com has been writing about.

Here are some links to bring you up to date:

Blizzard Product Slate Leaked
China Management Reshuffle
China GM Fired for Leak
Blizzard Release Schedule Leak?
Blizzard Angry, a Lot of Other Information Leaked
Competitors Trying To Buy Confidential Information

The information was leaked from a 178.com forum user, which mmogamesite.com, a very new website, picked up.

One item that concerned me was that new MMO was called "Project Titan". However, "Project Titan" is the exact same name as Ensemble Studio/Bungie's secret "Halo" MMOFPS project that was cancelled. It would be easy to get that information confused with Blizzard's MMO from all of the random internet sources out there. The "Codename Titan" has been around for a while too (I've even used it too), and there have been obscure forum posts calling Blizzard's new MMO "Titan" as well for several months now. The Portuguese translation ("WOW BRAZIL") has also been known internally for some time for example.

Keep in mind that "Project Titan" is just a code name too and it wouldn't be the actual name of the new MMO (which hasn't been decided yet).

For example,
Diablo 3 was called "Project Hydra".
Starcraft 2 was called "Project Alpha" then changed to "Project Medusa".
Cataclysm was called "Project South Seas" then changed to "Worldbreaker". (Another reason for the name change was because they significantly reduced the scope of the game so that they could reserve parts/zones/content for later expansions.)

(Note: For the past few years, Blizzard has been using names from Greek mythology to label their secret projects. Hydra, Medusa, Titan, and Phoenix are all from Greek mythology so if you wanted to create a new fake roadmap - just pick a name from mythology that can be interpreted a hundred different ways to keep people guessing.)

Here were the more interested tidbits of information I pulled out from these leaks and related news stories:

- It appears that we're getting a Warcraft movie (didn't need a leaked doc to tell us that), there's a Starcraft 2 Phoenix project that looks related to the Map Marketplace (probably map and game designs using the SC2 engine), and there's going to be an online multiplayer Warcraft trading card game. Sounds like a lot of fun! =]

- It also appears that the information might have been given to a Blizzard competitor already (sold?), and that someone there was the one who leaked it that Chinese forum. If this production release schedule is proved true, this is very bad for Blizzard's security.

- Other competitors are showing interest in purchasing this information (due to the sales information, full income/revenue breakdowns, advertising budgets, media plans, and subscriber details.)

- Global subscriber information (yes - you) is all out there in the open market now. It wouldn't contain credit card details though, this was a breach from a different database so to speak.

- Although it was believed that NetEase fully operated WoW in China with impunity (and Blizzard only provided Technical Support), apparently Blizzard has a deep penetration and large say in the complete operation and maintenance of WoW China. This means that Blizzard HQ is "okay" with the massive account selling/gold buying/selling in one country, but not okay with it in others. Talk about double standards. This is very interesting to know.

I've been talking about this for a little while now. For years, Blizzard has been stating that there have never been any breaches, there never will be any breaches, all echoed by Blizzard CS and Forum reps and fanboys. Well, it just happened like what I've been writing about all along.. simply put, it's all about the internal personnel breaches and leaks of information. "External hacking" attempts are much more rare and significantly more difficult by comparison.

But these internal breaches by employees are more frequent, this one just happened to make it public before Blizzard could seal the leak.

This is a pretty massive breach too - all global subscriber database information in fact. Paul Sams (remember him?) in fact had to take a trip to Shanghai to fix things there, and what was interesting is that they had a very quick (external) replacement after the "unexpected resignation" of their GM. Strange how they had someone so readily available..

Meanwhile, Blizzard maintains that this Release Schedule is just rumor and speculation, and that the resignations, management shuffle, and executive management travelling overseas are all just coincidence. =]

Oh! By the way.. here's what Blizzard has officially stated on the matter of security breaches:

There are substantial and multi-layered safeguards in place, after all. An inside job is IMPOSSIBLE!

The list just goes on and on..

Here are some other interesting reads from Forum Reps and Blizzard fanboys on the matter. Many players actually believe (falsely) that Blizzard is required by federal and/or state law to notify of data breaches, so logically there have been no breaches at all.

And finally.. here are some examples of security breaches that did actually occur before said official statements. These are just the ones that made it public too, there are tons of cases and even blogs/websites have received take-down notices from Blizzard.

Blizzard GMS, CS/Forum reps, and Community MVPs are all trained to say "There have been no security breaches." Don't believe everything you read though, that's just what they're trained to say - whether it's fact or not. But that's the beauty of plausible deniability.. plus, they may actually believe what they are conveying is the truth.

Hope you kept these recipes.

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, December 1, 2010

If you followed my cross-faction gold-making strategy, chances are that you still have a guild bank full of recipes like I do.

Well, stop posting [Recipe: Fillet of Frenzy] and [Recipe: Tasty Lion Steak] immediately!

Some of your recipes might have become Bind on Pickup, but HOLD ONTO THOSE AS WELL if you have them stored in your (personal) guild bank! The two recipes I just mentioned are no longer available - meaning that prices for these two cooking recipes will sky-rocket once people figure this out.

For the new soulbound recipes [Recipe: Westfall Stew] and [Recipe: Cooked Crab Claw], hopefully you still have those in your Guild Bank. If you do, they're not soulbound and can still be sold! First, just wait to see if they become rare or not. If they're introduced again after Cataclysm, just vendor them. If not, you can sell the recipes (after a long wait period) in Trade Chat. What you do is move a single recipe to a Guild Bank tab, and invite players to the guild who want to buy the recipe from you. You give them access to the single Guild Bank tab only (or only allow 1 withdraw for their rank), and then kick them after. =]

For Frenzy and Tasty Lion - as of right now, no one has been able to find any vendors that offer these recipes. The Tasty Lion/Menace quest has been removed from Southshore, and Laird (the NPC who sold Fillet of Frenzy) was killed during the Shattering.

No word on whether these will be available after Catacylsm, so I would recommend you hold onto these for dear life!

Right now, they don't seem to be available but they might be back in Cataclysm.

If you like taking risks, you should start hunting down these recipes and buying them out on the Auction House before others realize how valuable they've become (spend up to 500G per recipe for example). The other option is to advertise that the recipes have been removed, and try to sell them for 5,000 gold each or more - in case it does make a return in Cataclysm.

Otherwise, if you don't want to take any risks - just wait to see if they're available again from NPCs after Cataclysm, or watch as they become extremely more rare and valuable. (The longer you wait, the more valuable they will become.)

Remember the [Ruby Shades]? They were widely available for 5 copper, Blizzard removed them, and now they sell on the Auction House for over 100,000 gold.

(Note: I'll update if I find any other missing recipes - I heard that there are 6 recipes missing from Tanaris, but I haven't investigated yet.)

* Update:

The other missing Tanaris recipes are sold by Gikkix (first 4) and Jabbey who are both MIA.

Recipe: Grilled Squid
Recipe: Nightfin Soup
Recipe: Poached Sunscale Salmon
Recipe: Spotted Yellowtail
Recipe: Undermine Clam Chowder

According to Blizzard, however, the recipes will be making a return sometime after the Cataclysm release but they weren't sure on an exact date.

If you have these recipes, you should buy them out on the AH and start selling for very high prices (tell everyone that they were taken out of the game.. you know, a half truth.) =]

No word on Tasty Lion and Fillet of Frenzy however.

* Update (12/03/10):

I've received confirmation from a GM that [Recipe: Fillet of Frenzy] and [Recipe: Tasty Lion Steak] will NOT be making a return. The NPCs were killed during the Shattering and therefore the recipes died with them. So, hold onto these recipes - they can only go UP in value. In 6-12 months, they'll be worth 60-75k at least. Maybe they'll even reach the heights of those Ruby Shades one day (eg 150,000-250,000 in a couple years)..

[Recipe: Keldorei Spider Kabob] has also been removed - another extremely valuable recipe if you still have it sitting in your bank space.

The Best Race/Class for Mining & Herbalism

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, November 28, 2010

If you're looking at creating a new character for the purpose of Mining and Herbalism (especially since you can track all types of nodes now), here's the absolute best class benefiting from both speed and utility:

Tauren Frost Deathknight (with Unholy Presence)

What's also nice about DKs is that you start at 55 and you can practically level yourself to 80 from just gathering. By the time you hit 80, you'll have enough to purchase all flying upgrades including [Master Flying] (4000G with Exalted Rep) to get your 310% mounted flying speed.

Benefits:

+20% Mounted Speed
+15% Foot Speed (Stay in Unholy Presence)
Cultivation allows you to herb very quickly
Path of Frost
100% Underwater Movement (*with [Hook of the Master Angler])

Frost abilities are also awesome for crowd control and survivability:
- Hungering Cold!
- Freeze, silence, or slow down players and NPCs alike.
- Frost Fever disease on enemies causes a 50% reduction in speed for 10 seconds. Howling Blast hits multiple enemies too.
- Immunity to knock-back or pull mechanics (other DKs).
- Fast escape skills (if you just want to keep gathering and avoid combat).
- Summon ghouls to keep NPCs busy while gathering.


* All of the benefits listed above make this class ideal for Fishing (Path of Frost FTW) as well, and the class is perfect for beating the Stranglethorn Fishing competition. Just make sure you do your research before competing!

Other Notes:

Mining and Herbalism used to benefit from Haste Rating, but I'm not sure if this is still the case. Herbalism might, but I couldn't tell with Mining - if you know for sure, please let me know.

With Haste Gear and Lifeblood (Herbalism ability), you could pop it every 3 minutes for super-speed mining if you're in a rush. =]

If you're interested in Herbalism only, I would recommend the Tauren Druid race/class instead. You don't get the extra +20% mount speed, but when you're in Flight Form, you don't have to "dismount" to farm herbs which is very nice (for avoiding combat as well). Skinning also goes well with this build, since you can remain in Flight Form the entire time (easy to skin/herb then escape.)

Unfortunately, if you want mining and herbalism - you have to sacrifice the mount/dismount time. It's worth it though for all of those precious herb and mining nodes out there. =]

On a side note, with Death Gate and your hearth set to Orgrimmar, it gives you very easy access to UC, ORG, Blasted Lands (then Shattrath), and the portals to Cataclysm locales. During downtime, I would also recommend doing the Argent Tournament daily quests to get the [Argent Pony] for remote access to your banks.

[Note: I don't want to make a habit of these types of posts, but I see a lot of people still looking for information on this. I'd prefer to be a more obscure blog containing non-mainstream information (unless it's something I find really interesting), so I won't be doing this too often since this can be found through a little research already on other sites.]

With the recent changes to Dire Maul (Ogre Suit reputation reward + Free Knot gone) you pretty much have to sacrifice your Bloodsail rep (ie, go back to being hated with the pirates) in order to get reputation with the Cartel. Although it would be nice to stay Honored with them, there's really no way to build up Cartel rep without losing it.

There's supposed to be something introduced in Cataclysm where you can keep your Bloodsail rep but also increase Cartel rep without damaging it. So, if you're patient - wait until after Dec 7th and avoid Cartel cities for now. Level 85 Bruisers hit hard. =]

I would recommend waiting if you can.

If you don't want to wait, keep in mind that you only need to obtain the Bloodsail Honored reputation ONCE. Meaning once you're hit Honored, you can decrease the reputation without losing the achievement.

You can track your [Insane in the Membrane] achievement by typing:
/script AddTrackedAchievement(2336)

To remove tracking, type:
/script RemoveTrackedAchievement(2336)

Basically, even if you're hated with the pirates again, you still get to keep your Bloodsail Admiral title and the Insane in the Membrane achievement prerequisite.

So here are the current methods to grind Cartel rep after obtaining Bloodsail Admiral:

- You can still kill pirates around Ratchet, Gadgetzan, and Booty Bay. They reward 5 per kill for the closest cartel member, and 2-3 points for the other cartel members. Named NPCs can give 25 rep per kill. Spawn rates are very fast.

- Venture Co. Evacuees in Grizzly Hills grant +5 to Booty Bay and +2-3 for the other Cartel members. What's nice about Northrend mobs is that they drop Frostweave cloth, you can use them to level (you or your pet), and they drop other Northrend items.

- Killing all of the pirates (except for STV pirates) will not hurt your Bloodsail reputation, so you could farm these guys to build up Cartel Rep and still keep your Bloodsail.

- There are new groups of Gadgetzan pirate mobs (Lost Rigger Cove) that spawn fast, it's a nice place to grind Magecloth cloth (for turn-ins) without losing Bloodsail rep too.

- Note: Other than Dire Maul, all of the Feralas + Burning Steppes Quests (e.g. Zapped Giants, Fuel of the Zapping, Egg Freezing, and Egg Collection) have all been removed as of 4.0.3 as well.

- By far, the fastest method to regain rep are the Cartel Rep Cloth Turn-in repeatables. These cause -500 to Bloodsail by the way. Cloth prices have dropped significantly on the AH due to all of the new toons, so this is a very cheap and fast method now.

[Mending Old Wounds]
Requirements: 40 Linen Cloth + 4 Empty Vials
Location: On the road out of Ratchet towards Crossroads
+500 Ratchet, +250 For Other Cartel Members

[Traitor to the Bloodsail]
Requirements: 40 Silk Cloth + 4 Red Dye
Location: On the small hill of east of the road outside of Booty Bay
+500 Booty Bay, +250 For Other Cartel Members

[War at Sea]
Requirements: 40 Mageweave Cloth + 4 Strong Flux
Location: Just outside of Gadgetzan, near the road coming from old Shimmering Flats
+500 Gadgetzan, +250 For Other Cartel Members

[Making Amends]
Requirements: 40 Runecloth + 4 Coal
Location: Near the fork in the road towards Winterspring, he's easy to spot
+500 Everlook, +250 For Other Cartel Members

Note: You can only interact with these NPCs if you are lower than Neutral. Once you hit Neutral with the Cartel member, you can't turn in cloth to that NPC anymore. (Once you hit Neutral with Everlook for example, start turning in cloth with Gagetzan instead for example.)

Other ways to improve reputation gain:

During Christmas, [A Smokywood Pastures' Thank You!], [Treats for the Greatfather Winter], and [Metzen the Reindeer] give you +500 Steamwheedle Cartel each.

Although it's too late now, the Thanksgiving [Spirit of Sharing] and Halloween [Invocation of the Wickerman] grant 10% reputation gain for 2 hours.

If I learn more (ie, new quests before Cataclysm), I'll update this blog post.

Nothing is happening to Northrend!

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So, this "Farewell Northrend" video is making rounds on the internet. Not only that, but there are many other commemorative photos, webpages, and videos being created for "remembering" Outlands and Northrend.

To be clear: Nothing is happening to Outlands or Northrend.

There are just some minor aesthetic changes. The Shattering/Cataclysm changes only affect the 1-60 Old World areas. The 60-70 (Outlands) and 70-80 (WOTLK) leveling zones are unchanged.

But, this just goes to show you the power of hype and how it shapes your perception. =]

Unfortunately, this hype can lead to false expectations and resulting disappointment. The new changes are pretty cool, especially starting in some of the Capital Cities. But, once you get over the initial novelty of the new cities and do some exploring - you'll realize that not a lot has changed in the 1-60 zones.

If you've ever played "god games" before, you'll know what I mean. Everything looks pretty much the same, but it's like the developers just dropped in some trees and grass here-and-there, shoveled out some trenches, threw in some water, and reshaped some of the mountains. Once the geography was changed, it was just a matter of dropping in some new quest givers and NPCs.

For the new 80-85 leveling experience, don't set your expectations too high. I think the new zones are awesome, but please just ignore the hype as it will give you a false impression of what to expect. You might not remember this, but a lot of people complained about the new WOTLK leveling zones (ie, it was "too small"), but keep in mind that the new Cataclysm 80-85 zones are even smaller.

The original WoW had 2,600 quests (1-60), BC had 2,700 quests (60-70), WOTLK had 2,350 quests (70-80), and Cataclysm has just under 1,000 quests (80-85). (Note: 80-85 is supposed to take the same amount of time as 70-80 leveling.)

Although the number of quests isn't really a fair comparison of size, it does give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. =]

Cataclysm was more designed for the newbies and for veteran players who wanted to create new characters. It's a way to keep people playing longer, and encourages players to invite friends to play with them. Previously, many people didn't want to start playing WoW because of the sheer number of high-level characters and how far ahead everyone was - Cataclysm is a way to start players on an even ground and to bring in more new customers.

In regards to any New Realms, we won't know for sure until around Dec. 3-6. Currently, subscriptions counts don't warrant the creation of new realms and even with 1-2 million new players, it still wouldn't warrant new realms.

However, if Blizzard makes an announcement that "new realms are required to meet the demands of new players" - it sure would make their investors happy. =]

They might even wait until 1-2 months after launch to make it look like new realms were never actually planned and that they had to "suddenly" purchase and build out new servers and realms to meet the explosive growth. Realistically though, the new realms are probably ready right now and the servers were prepared months ago.

Average wait time: 59 Mins (Last 10 players)

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, November 18, 2010

One of the biggest complaints that WoW users have are the extremely long queue times for Battlegrounds and Dungeons, and the always present shortage of sufficient Tanks and Healers.

With those most recent changes to Wintergrasp too, things are even worse now (there are heated arguments on the forums at the moment) and Blizzard may just have to revert back to the tenacity method until they can find a more suitable solution.

Note: Speaking of WoW Forums, I've still been monitoring them for Account Hack issues over the past several months and there has been a significant drop. It's absolutely nothing like back in June/July during that explosion of hacked and re-enabled/locked accounts.

Additional Note: Tenacity was pretty awesome actually.. sure the Horde were able to complete all 5 WG quests for a total of ~80 honor points - but I was able to complete 4 of the 5 quests and also one-shot Horde with my Arcane Mage. (Hell, even my Hunter dealt 20k white damage with melee swings.) Horde would get maybe 0.1 to 0.25 honor per kill, but I would get the full 3 honor points every 3 seconds or so. At the end of every match, I would get a minimum of 300 honor points from kills alone plus ~64 honor for the weeklies. Not bad for 15-20 minutes of work!

So yeah.. tenacity was great. In all of my experience over the past couple years, it's clear that WG losses were more attributed to failed organization and strategy then anything else. Much like AV premades, if you have good communication and players listening to you (even with bad gear), a win is very easily obtainable.

There is a SOLUTION however to all of these problems (e.g. tank/healer shortage, long queue times, and BG imbalances):

1. Cross-Faction Dungeons (Horde and Alliance together)
2. Cross-Faction Battlegrounds (Horde and Alliance on the same PVP team)
3. New Dungeon Mechanics

This solution will of course stir up some anger from the hardcore role players, but consider this:

- there are ways of doing this so that it fits in with the "lore" and updates to "historical facts" are made up all of the time
- you can already fight side-by-side with opposite faction players and NPCs
- NPCs from opposing factions also fight side-by-side against common enemies
- Horde & Alliance have worked together many times (hell, their leaders have even met with each other and sipped tea together at peace summits and various events)
- both Horde & Alliance have MANY common enemies and fight them in the same dungeons already
- they have also worked together in major wars and battles
- both Horde & Alliance are both members of the same "neutral" factions so they work together constantly for the same common goal
- both Horde & Alliance worked together (or cannot even attack each other) within the same specific zones/areas even when they're members of different factions
- there are a whole TON of factions that you can belong to where both Horde & Alliance work together
- there are PVE realms where you can't even attack them anyways (even though you should be able to and you're "supposed to")
- and there's so much lore out of whack already.. so who really cares?

Anything can work, you just need a proper justification.

Cross-Faction Dungeons

This one is easy. Allow the Dungeon Finder to group both Horde and Alliance together, and/or create a neutral meeting ground where PUGs can be grouped together for non-Dungeon Finder available instances.

In virtually all dungeons, both Horde & Alliance are already fighting the exact same common enemy anyways - and both factions have worked together many times to fight common enemies or for different goals. So this shouldn't be much of a stretch.

If you want a role-playing excuse to group them together, a series of quests can be created where a player is "magically transformed" visually into a member of of the opposing faction for the purpose of gathering information or completing a side-quest that requires Horde's help without their knowledge. CoT already does this where Horde players are visually changed into Alliance and fight side-by-side with the Alliance.

Also, players wouldn't even be able to tell that they were previously Horde/Alliance unless they actually tell them. (It's that good of a disguise!) =]

Justification: Fighting a common enemy under the banner of a neutral faction's orders.

Cross-Faction Battlegrounds

This one is a little more tricky.

So.. why would opposing factions help each other out in PVP? Why, for Secret Intelligence Gathering Missions of course!

Repeatable Quests or Quest Chains can be created where players are disguised and therefore fight with opposing factions (to blend in and avoid "blowing their cover") during various battles. At the end of a battle (and if certain requirements are met), they can get certain rewards. This would definitely put SI:7 Stormwind Intelligence to some good use! This has also happened (and still does happen) in real life, so it's a very reasonable excuse.

Now if "cheating" is a concern, Blizzard already has several methods in place already to prevent this. AFK Reporting (for those who aren't fighting - but the purpose of joining BGs is for the accumulation of honor points anyways), random cross-realm queuing, chances of joining friends within the same BG is low, and inability to communicate with "opposing factions" in the same BG.

For those that really want to get away with cheating (ie, sending troop movement information), they can already do it anyways under the current approach. That sort of information is pretty useless anyways, especially in the smaller BGs.

As it stands, it would be very difficult and even non-productive for you (ie, no honor) to try and sabotage your own temporary faction. It's almost impossible too, since your real friends won't recognize you and they will attack you on sight! Although, sabotage does open up some interesting possibilities for BG gameplay.. and maybe it could be highly useful for new "Spy Vs Spy" Battleground designs. =]

One other option is just to make Battlegrounds less about Horde vs Alliance and more about Team A vs Team B.. but it's not as fun. =]

This approach is definitely a very smooth way of balancing teams so that you won't have the "10 Alliance versus 6 Horde" problem in WSG preceded by 30-50 minute wait times anymore. Plus, since players would be "in disguise", it allows VOA to be open to both factions after WG ends regardless of the winner. (This was actually one of the original reasons for the WG changes.. one faction would always be losing, and they could hardly ever get into VOA. Big complaints.)

Justification: You're a spy gathering secret intelligence information, so you need to fit in under orders from your King or Warchief. All of their deaths will be a necessary evil so that you can gather information of the utmost importance.

New Dungeon Mechanics for Tank/Healer Shortages

This is a pretty fun approach, but a little more challenging to implement. I'm going to focus on 5-man dungeons (and the Dungeon Finder), but these new methods could certainly be used for raids with some tweaks.

Option 1 is to create new dungeons (or modify existing) that break out of the 6-year old mold (ie, the fixed ratio of DPS/Heals/Tanking) that has obviously been creating a lot of issues related to player availability and time, but has never been solved.

If there were dungeons for example that attract 100% DPS class groups, it would significantly cut down on queue times for other DPS playeres who are queued for normal dungeons. Such examples would include dungeons that require no healing and instead involve puzzles and/or DPS combat alone, or dungeons with very little healing required, no tanking, but a completely timed instance that requires 5 DPS players to complete successfully.

There are many clever ways to build dungeons with these designs in mind, boss AND mob mechanic changes, there could even be NPC Tanks, NPC Healers, dungeons that require no DPS but rather all crowd control in a timed environment to win, or healing "games" where DPS players constantly need to run back and forth to a certain item or area.

This course of action no longer follows the classic Tank & Spank approach and unfortunately Blizzard might be discouraged from doing this since the more time a player waits in queue, the longer they play, and the more money they ultimately make. If they are more concerned about the players themselves however, you should see innovative approaches like this in the future.

Option 2 is pretty cool. Have a fun (and possibly long) quest chain where any class can summon a NPC that "magically transforms" them into a temporary class for (specific?) 5-man dungeons. Or maybe it can be available within the dungeons themselves, where the player temporarily inhabits a body or vehicle with the abilities that are missing from the group.

For example, a DPS class can be converted into a Healing/Tanking class by way of conjured weapons and gear that either meet minimum requirements for the dungeon difficulty OR they match in similarity to the player's existing iLvl gear. It would just be a temporary conversion for that instance only. Another example is to have more "vehicles" in dungeons what have certain purposes (much like the starting Ulduar fight), like support, healing or tanking.

I hate using this term, but Blizzard really needs to start thinking outside the box. There's too little innovation in dungeons and Cataclysm is no different (other than that they're bringing back crowd control.) There are many reasonable ways to combat priest/tank shortages and long wait times, and these are some good examples of changes that can make the game more enjoyable, more optional, more fun, and very different to combat boredom.

New Patch: 4.0.3.13287 Undocumented Changes

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So, this is the patch with all of the Deathwing content and other changes that are "paving the way" for the Shattering.

I'm still collecting more information on what WASN'T announced in their official patch notes, so I'll have more soon. But, it appears that most of the official changes are just bug fixes.

Here's the undocumented stuff though not found in the link above:

- One big change will affect players working on the [Insane in the Membrane] achievement. New changes are now in effect so that the [Gordok Shackle Key] no longer drops, and the Gordok Suit quest only rewards 75 points now (instead of 250 per turn in). So, if you've just gotten your Bloodsail Admiral title and were planning on building up your Steamwheedle Cartel reputation - you're pretty much screwed now until after Cataclysm. Stay away from Cartel cities in the meantime. :)

(Note: You can still kill Bloodsail Pirates at a rate of 5 rep per kill (for Booty Bay, 2-3 rep for other cartel members), but you'll lose Honored reputation. However, once you've obtained Honored for the first time, it already counts towards the Insane achievement.. so it doesn't really matter that your reputation with them decreases again unless you want to stay honored with the pirates.)

- The [Insane in the Membrane] achievement still includes the Exalted Shen'dralar requirement, however it will officially be removed on 4.0.3a when the Shattering occurs.

* Update: I'm told that the Shackle Key is still dropping, so I'm not sure if the change has been made yet. Right after the servers (US realms) went live, 3 guild members ran DM separately about 5-7 times without the key dropping which they noted has never happened before. So, there are some conflicting reports on this and it would probably be best if you just test this out yourself on your own realm.

- The new patch also contains more data for the various landscape and zone changes for the upcoming Shattering event which will take place within the next couple weeks.

- Wintergrasp tenacity has now been removed so there a limitations to a 1:1 ratio now. So if your server has an overabundance of Horde PVP players, you'll notice that you won't be able to join WG much anymore (it will be locked out and you'll be placed in queue.)

- Rewards for Random Heroics are now displayed properly in the LFD window.

- Shift-click buying of those Inks from Jessica Sellers is finally working again. It's been down for over a month and a lot of right-clicking was needed. =]

- It doesn't look like there are too many other interesting changes (that's all I'm really interested in). [Glyph of Mage Armor], [Glyph of Long Word], [Glyph of Vanish] and [Glyph of Armors] are all still broken too - they're still not available from the trainers and they cannot be researched. And there's a Cataclysm Cinematic available at the Login Screen, however it can't be launched just yet. Video is going to be streamed now for the Digital Purchase users.

I was hoping for more, but this recent patch is just a whole ton of data/maps/textures/sound/etc for the Shattering event.

4.0.3a is currently on the PTR, so you can see most of the aesthetic changes yourself. Old World Flying will not be live Cataclysm however, and I'm not sure if Archaeology will be implemented Pre-Cataclysm (* Confirmed: Archaeology cannot be trained in 4.0.3a, will only be available after Dec 7.)

[Glyph of Mage Armor] is working again on the PTR, so if you have any left you should sell those as quickly as possible before the next patch hits and Scribes will be able to start making them again. You can also sell a bunch for high prices that first week before other Scribes clue in too.

Diablo 3 for Consoles "Announced"

Posted by Daeity On Monday, November 15, 2010

Yay, I was right again. It's almost as if I knew all of this information ahead of time.. ;)

So, back in August I was expecting Diablo's "BIG NEWS" at Blizzcon to just be the introduction of the final class (I was still hoping for more though), but my number 2 runner up was Diablo 3 for consoles.

Looks like I was 3 weeks off on the Diablo console "announcement" as Blizzard has just updated their Careers section with 3 new job opportunities.

Diablo 3 Lead Designer, Console

Diablo 3 Lead Programmer, Console

Diablo 3 Senior Producer, Console

I wonder if they have an official announcement planned.. but I think that these recent developments are very strong indications to convince the unbelievers. (Keep in mind that it won't be Diablo 3 exactly, they'll focus on the PC/Mac first of course and probably release the console version at a later date.. maybe under a slightly different name too like what most game developers have done with their PC to console/portable conversions.)

It's too bad they never made this revelation at Blizzcon, but they're probably still thinking it over. They've worked on console games in the past (Ghost), and ended up cancelling them.. so, it will all depend on how the game plays and if the console version is up to Blizzard's expectations and level of standard.

Anyhow - if you're bored and want to have some fun, do a Google search for "Diablo 3" and "will never happen", "Blizzard will never", etc. and reply to their forum posts/comments with something rude. =]

Oh! One interesting note, when Blizzard was asked a couple years ago whether there would be a console version for Diablo, their response was "We don't have any plans." Sound familiar? I've written about that very common (corporate) phrase in the past. =] It's actually the same thing Rockstar said about RDR for the PC.

* Quick Update:

Ah! Here we go, there was an update regarding the new jobs on the Diablo 3 Community Site.

It's what I was saying earlier: "We’re exploring a Diablo-related concept for consoles and are currently looking to fill a few senior console-related positions on the Diablo III team. We are first and foremost developing Diablo III for Windows and Mac PCs and don’t intend to allow any possibility of a console interpretation to delay or affect the release of the game."

NEWS FROM THE FUTURE: The "H" in THQ must stand for Hypocrisy.

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, November 11, 2010

Posting Date: March 26, 2011

As you all are aware, yesterday is when THQ's highly anticipated tactical shooter "HOMEFRONT" game was released for the PS3 and XBOX 360. News sites are reporting that over 4 million copies of the game have been sold so far, making the game a highly successful venture for the company and opening up future growth with this new intellectual property.

However, last year in November of 2010, THQ CEO Brian Farrell told the BMO Capital Markets conference that, in a nutshell, video games need to be cheaper. Here are some old posts from 5 months ago as a helpful reminder: Eurogamer, Gamasutra and VG247.

THQ planned on an "alternative business model for retail games" and instead wanted to launch at lower price points and selling more incremental content later. "That's where the industry is headed", said Brian Farrell. Launching at $60 for example was considered too expensive and "keeping people out", however a mass market-friendly price of $40 would do much better.

So how much did Homefront retail for? That's right: $59.99 USD.

I still don't know what the PC version will cost (since it was pushed back as you're aware) but we should know within the next few months.

tl;dr; THQ said games are too expensive, then sold a game that was too expensive.

In other news, THQ is planning a "United Kingdom" expansion pack which will be "released sometime next year." The official title of the expansion pack has not been decided as of yet. THQ representatives also hinted at a Zombie DLC planned sometime within the next few years (possibily influenced due to the massive success of AMC's "The Walking Dead" - and I hear there's also another new zombie-based TV series in development too!).

And finally, it's estimated that Blizzard's Cataclysm expansion pack sold a "record number" of just under 3 million sales within the first month, making Cataclysm "the most successful fantasy expansion pack in 2010" according to Blizzard's latest news release.

Anyhow.. I'm heading back into Cataclysm. I heard there's a major nerf coming down the pipe that's affecting most of the classes. It was fun while it latest.. =[

The Games Blizzard Plays

Posted by Daeity On

This is sort of a continuation of my last post, I wanted to further examine Blizzard's "repeated history of abuse".

It was originally a very long post, so I'm trying to break it down into components for easier reading and because I go off on tangents. =]

So..

Other than unintended changes (bugs) that have had negative effects on customers, how about intentional changes?

A profitable business operates like a professional con artist: they'll take your money and you'll thank them for it. Or, they'll cheat you out of money but you'll never know that it even happened. The only difference between the two is that "marks" are called "customers" and the scams are actually "business strategies".

Blizzard has done a lot of cool things from a customer perspective (like charitable donations), but how about examining those critically and from a business perspective? (After all, I'm pretty critical.)

Race Changes

Let's ignore the fact that Blizzard charges $25 for a simple database record change. (It's like charging $800 for pouring windshield wiper fluid while claiming that the service is in fact a highly complex procedure that requires dismantling of your vehicle.)

When Race Changes were first introduced, Will of the Forsaken was the most powerful PVP ability in the game. Many players switched races to Undead purely for the WOTF ability. However, Blizzard secretly nerfed the ability on that same day. =] Players who switched to Undead had to pay another $25 to switch to another race with the next overpowered racial trait.

What excellent timing. They had months and months to make the change (it was planned after all), but chose to make the change when it would be most financially beneficial to the company. =]

More Paid Faction/Race Changes

Blizzard recently announced that they will be allowed Paid Faction/Race changes on the first day of Cataclysm. This was unexpected, but welcomed, by many players.

What this tells me though, is that they're desperate to ensure highly profitable numbers during that quarter. They could have just relied on Cataclysm sales numbers alone, but with all of the hype and promises made to investors they're desperate to ensure that strong revenue figures are reflected. There are also other services/features being introduced in the same quarter (coincidentally) as the Cataclysm release, and you'll probably see a lot of other new services, class buffs, and other stuff in the following quarter to keep revenue figures high.

All of these changes within the same quarter tell me that they're worried though.

Digital Sales

This also relates to the item above. Digital Sales will be available for the first time when Cataclysm is released. This is very convenient for customers, but how about from Blizzard's perspective?

- Blizzard is cutting out the middle-man, so that they receive pure profit now.
- Digital Sales do not include physical boxes, so Blizzard has eliminated the huge costs associated with shipping, packaging, and the physical boxes/contents themselves (ie, no need to manufacture manuals, DVDs, boxes, etc.)
- However, they're still charging the same cost as the physical box! (The best part!)

This new service will dramatically increase revenue figures for the quarter and it was very well timed (it could have been implemented at any time within the past couple years.) =]

Also with the introduction of Digital Sales, several research groups will no longer have access to accurate sales numbers to determine subscriber counts or revenue figures. For obvious reasons, Blizzard doesn't want to announce player subscription counts (like when they lost 5-6 million players in China) and cause investor panic. But with this "new service for the customers", they can now keep all sales information secretly hidden within the company. Very clever indeed, and another example of their dedication to reputation management. =]

You're A Good Person If You Donate To Charity

Blizzard also recently announced that the pet store will have "Lil' Ragnaros" and the "Moonkin Hatchling" pets available during the same quarter as the Cataclysm release (yay, more revenue for the quarter.)

Not only that, but 50% of the proceeds goto charity.

There are a few things to keep in mind here:

- The graphics model for these virtual pets probably cost like $50 to make (that's including the $0.05 worth of electricity used by the development station) but Blizzard will be re-selling this virtual item in the hundreds of thousands. It won't cost Blizzard anything to donate 100% of the profits (donating 99.99% of the proceeds would still cover all of their associated expenses) but they need that massive profit for their quarterly results. Was this truly altruism or was it business? Based on history, I'm thinking the latter.
- It's like selling bottles of air (except they don't have to pay for the bottles).
- Charitable Donations = Tax Cuts + Public Relations + Reputation Management + Good Feelings For All
- As human beings, we're all very selfish. Everything we do is for actually for a selfish purpose when you think about it (donating to charity makes you feel good about yourself for example). However, we're very good at pigeonholing our selfish acts into different levels. Buying a pet for vanity purposes is "bad" and some will do it.. BUT if the proceeds are going to charity, then that will JUSTIFY the purchase and you can feel good about yourself. This is a common business strategy actually.. manipulation of our feelings is just proper marketing strategy, so don't take it personally. If you ever wanted to sell something that makes a person look vain, just tell them you'll donate some of the proceeds to charity - it works wonders.

Anyhow.. yeah yeah, I'm a jerk for mentioning all of this. "Blizzard could have just kept all of the profits themselves you know!!" is what the Blizzard fanboys will probably say. =]

Buffing During Sales Periods and De-Buffing After

The Death Knight was originally extremely overpowered. Everyone was lead to believe that because they were a "Hero Class" that they would remain overpowered with reason. It was kept overpowered during the highest sales period of the year, and then they "suddenly" nerfed the class to hell approx 3-4 months after (when the big sales period ended.) Coincidental? The DK class sure did bring in a lot of new players via word-of-mouth and friends inviting friends due to their "special abilities". =]

The DK class was tested for years internally, beta testing, and PTR testing - but Blizzard kept them OP until after sales dwindled. I'm predicting the same thing with Cataclysm - ridiculously easy dungeons and item/gear collection, overpowered abilities and classes, and then there will be a massive nerf followed by the reset of items or "introduction of new gear" the replaces all existing gear. It will probably happen in March/April. You know.. because all of the awesome changes (that have been tested for years mind you) were in fact "accidental" or "unintentional".

Promises Promises

When World of Warcraft was first released, I was very hesitant about paying $15 per month for their service. However, Blizzard reassured me that they had major content upgrades planned to be released every month. That was the big selling point for me.. the promise of major content updates on a month by month basis.

It never happened.. they later changed the idea into "Expansion Packs" so that they could reap additional profit on top of the existing monthly subscription payments. What a huge disappointment. They also removed all forum posts that had mentioned monthly "major content" patches, if I had known I would have taken screenshots.

In 2008, Mike Morhaime revised that statement and changed it to yearly expansion packs. That was the plan anyways.

Over the years though, Blizzard has made a lot of changes to their public announcement process and they are much more careful about what they say now. But even then, they still make announcements or hints of upcoming features and services that never materialize. They lead us to believe something big is coming, so that we keep playing, but word their announcements so that they can be interpreted many different ways. (I've talked about this sort of thing in the past.. it's all about wording.)

You can also expect Blizzard to make regular changes to their forum system (ie, "clean up operations"), which is also extremely beneficial to their Reputation Management process. Whenever a new expansion pack comes out or there are forum changes, you can expect forum posts to be deleted. Typically, negative forum posts (ie, ones that cast Blizzard in a bad light) are removed right away - but not all moderators can catch them. So "starting fresh" on the forum system is more like deleting evidence (ie, the posts that weren't caught or promises and comments made no longer exist and cannot be linked to anymore) even though forum posts can easily be migrated over to new systems.

Class "Balancing" Acts

Ever notice that every class is given the opportunity to be overpowered for a month or two, and then it switches to another class? That might not be a coincidence or unintended. It's almost as if every class goes through a rotation, buffed intentionally, and then nerfed later on purpose (as though it was all planned all along.)

After 6 years, the classes still haven't been balanced properly even though they have been tested by millions of players world wide. The balance issues are just a very small finite number of permutations and variations in class gameplay compared to the variations in gear (and raid/NPC mechanics) which is balanced. I think this is just another game Blizzard plays, and I'm sure others believe it as well.

Sure, sometimes there are some unintentional bugs.. it happens. But the constant balancing act encourages players to switch classes, level them up, and then switch to another class. More time is spent playing the game, and therefore more revenue for Blizzard. Taking subscriptions numbers into account and game size, I've never encountered any other game or MMORPG that has gone through as many balancing acts as WoW. If I ever get a chance, I might look into this in more detail.. but right now, there are just too many coincidences in opposition of the claim that class balance is a result of unintended effects.

Realm Character Limitations

Everyone has always been restricted to 10 characters per realm. It's very easy to increase this limitation, as it's only a database entry and it applies no extra load on the servers. There's nothing keeping Blizzard from increasing this number.. who knows, maybe additional character slots will become a "Paid Service". But because of this restriction, once players are full they are forced to delete characters and start from scratch or create new characters on other realms and start from nothing.

I'm okay with a limitation of 50 total characters across all realms, but I sure would like to create a Worgen or Goblin on my two realms that are full. It's a very heavy investment of time to create a new character, level them up, and start collecting gold again from zero, but it's a way Blizzard can keep players addicted and busy wasting time. It's also a way for force players to purchase Race changes if they want to play the new races. Time-wasting activities (such as pets, achievements, and archaeology) are actually an indirect method of increasing revenue when you consider the domino effect.

Minor "Features"

These are the small tweaks here and there and increase the amount of time playing the game at the excuse of fixing "Lore" or improving the game-play experience.

For example,

- In Cataclysm, Blizzard will be removing portals so that travel time is increased (no changes to mount speeds however - how about a 400% mount that anyone can get?).
- Players will need to visit dungeons first before they can queue for them.
- Auction posts and cancellations now require confirmation (it does not prevent automated auctions at all.. that's why they're called "automated"), increasing the amount of time on AH dramatically.
- Blizzard always lowers the XP requirements before each expansion pack, and you can expect the same with Cataclysm. This is so that players can level more quickly to 70 or 80, are encouraged to level more characters, but they get "stuck" at 80 when they get hit with all of the time intensive activities that shouldn't be there.
- Big changes to racial traits (for other races) will occur after everyone gets used to Goblin/Worgens, encouraging them to swap characters again and spend more time playing.
- And don't get me started on the queue times for Battleground and Dungeons (that were originally promoted as time saving, but had the opposite effect.)

We Can't Stop Supporting Broken Games

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You've probably already read this blog article entitled "Stop Supporting Broken Games". It's in regards to Bethesda's pattern of releasing games that are incomplete or crippled with bugs.

As a gamer you should expect a completed game when you purchase it. A final, working product is not something to be created with patching. There is no excuse for this pattern of disrespect to gamers.

I realize that Bethesda is not the sole perpetrator of these kinds of acts. But Bethesda also shows a repeated history of abuse with no plans as far as I can tell to change the course of their development process. They stand as a testament to the broken game release -> patch -> repatch cycle.
I agree with it and it's something that I personally do myself. I never buy a game on the first day and I will usually wait until the first or second major patch before I consider purchasing it. The trick is to ignore the hype (of new releases) and build up a game queue that you still need to play first before moving onto something new. There are many players doing this already, but like the blog said - there should be a lot more. Enough to the point where it forces game developers to strengthen their Quality Assurance process and ensure that "complete games" are released. It will never happen (consumers are impulsive and businesses are cheap), but it's a nice idea.

I've seen this "repeated history of abuse" before though and it's even worse with another big-name corporation. =]

When I was in the World of Warcraft closed beta, the bugs and issues were terrible. Constant crashes, application hangs (requiring frequent reboots), server instability and resets, server lag and latency problems, screen tearing and video bugs like what you've seen in FNV, and incompatibilities with many system builds, operating systems, video/audio cards. The game was unplayable by many.. that is unless they were technically skilled and had a few different computer systems available. The game was awesome but the bugs were absolutely crippling. I believed that Blizzard would fix the worst of the bugs before the RETAIL release, but they didn't.. they released WoW incomplete and still with the bugs that were present in the beta for MONTHS.

So, right now there are players complaining about Bethesda bugs that take a week (or a couple weeks) to fix. But imagine if critical issues and crippling bugs took MONTHS and even YEARS to fix? What if each "patch" would fix some small issues, but cause even MORE problems? Blizzard did it and they still do it.

To make matters even worse, Blizzard's online games are PERMANENT. With single-player games, there are issues that you can fix yourself, methods to continue progress that might have been lost, unofficial patches, or temporary workarounds available. But with Blizzard's online games, you can't fix the issues yourself and any changes made to your account are permanent.

Since time is considered a commodity, bugs in online games are significantly more damaging.

In 2009, Blizzard announced that they were tracking approx. 180,000 bugs in WoW. Keep in mind that these were the "official" bugs on record that they were troubleshooting. Their bug tracker would have a different definition and scope then that of other companies.. unofficially, there are probably 10 times that number but it would all depend on what you classify as a "bug".

So right now FNV has one serious graphics related bug, game saving issues, and quest related bugs. Blizzard games have also had those same issues (not specifically "game saving", but they've had WoW/Diablo character resets that could not be recovered) but they have ALSO:

- melted video cards and destroyed gaming PCs (that severe bug was actually discovered during February beta testing and remained in the retail) which took 7 months for a non-Blizzard workaround to be released
- allowed an insane DPS exploit (Global Cooldown Hack) for 6 years
- WoW & SC2 corrupted video (1-2 years for WoW, 1 month for SC2)
- random PC resets & application hangs for 2 years
- random server crashes, severe client drops (to the point where a user couldn't play for weeks at a time and there was no time reimbursement), latency issues for 2 years
- unfair PVP due to mass cheating and exploitation
- WoW duping bugs that destroyed economies for 7 months (and then there are bots = 6 years of damage)
- the infamous "Corrupted Blood" incident which resulted in several server restarts, populations being wiped out, Blizzard quarantines, players unable to play (1 month to fix)-
- the similar WOTLK zombie plague (1 week to fix - was it really intended?)

.. the list just goes on and on. Most recently, there was the "cogwheel issue", BG/Dungeon crashes, stuck on loading screens, broken Glyphs, valuable recipes randomly deleted, the Hallows Eve event issue, and players who join an in-progress BG do not receive honor or the daily reward (this has been going on for a month now). And there are also INTENDED changes that have completely ruined a player's gameplay experience and/or increased the amount of time they play the game.

It just never ends.. with each new patch comes brand new issues and sometimes very severe bugs.

A Blizzard fanboy will be quick to point out the EULA to me however. The excuse is that we're not really entitled to anything, we're not a special snowflake, Blizzard can do whatever they want to our PC or our time and they're not responsible for what happens to our PCs. Does that make it alright though? What does it say about a company that makes it clear in their contract that they don't stand by their products or their services?

I do what I can though. When there are major game-breaking bugs, I simply cancel my subscription and wait until things improve before I continue playing. Blizzard never knows this though. I don't think they would really care either.. history has shown that Blizzard takes their time in fixing game-breaking issues or severe bugs. That's the beauty of a monthly subscription based model.. they still have my money even though I only played for the first week before giving up and they know I'll be back.

Blizzard positive about Q3 earnings, but..

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, November 4, 2010

With everything Blizzard has been bragging about over the past several months (e.g. successful WOTLK China launch, largest ever "12 million subscribers", huge number of people returning to WoW in anticipation of Cataclysm, etc.) you would expect this quarter's World of Warcraft earnings to be highly successful.

I think you'll be shocked by the results:

World of Warcraft revenues were $289 million for the 3rd quarter.

That's the exact same amount of revenue as their previous quarter.

In 2009 during the same quarter, they made $306 million (even though they have much larger subscription base in 2010).

During the 2nd Quarter (Ending June 30 2010), they released the Celestial Steed, the RAF Flying Mount, and introduced the Remote/Mobile Auction House service at the end of the quarter (so revenues for that new service actually carried over to the 3rd quarter.)

To help put things into perspective: even with ALL OF THAT FANFARE, the China launch, the "huge climb" of subscriptions, and Cataclysm coming soon, they still only made the same amount of revenue that they did during a quarter when absolutely NOTHING happened.

This is bad news indeed.

It gets much worse though. According to ActiBlizzion, they raked in $745 million in revenue with only $51 million in actual profit. That's a huge amount of expenses that cut deep into their revenue. (Although, they put a very positive spin on their Q3 results.)

World of Warcraft generated $289 million in revenue but their own expenses (staff costs, server operating costs, etc. according to Blizzard) were only about $13 million for that quarter.

So, WoW generated over $270 million in profit - but the Activision side of the family laid a gigantic smackdown on their overall profit, They must have some pretty insane expenses and I wonder what the investors feel about this? Look at it this way: if there was no "Activision", that $51 million profit would have been over $270 million instead.

World of Warcraft, by the way, is ActiBlizzion's flagship product and amounts to almost 40% of the entire company's revenue stream. You can see that Vivendi is incredibly dependent on Blizzard, but without WoW there would be a massive deficit. (See "What Vivendi Fears Most".)

* Addendum: Back in March 2010, Kotaku had an interesting article.. Activision's reports pointed out that World of Warcraft amounted to 98% of Blizzard's revenue which was up from the previous two years (97%). WoW also accounted for ~70% of Activision's net revenue. 'nuff said.

During the Q3 earnings presentation, Activision also kept bringing up Starcraft 2 and how successful the launch was. They mentioned everything else I said they would, but I was surprised they kept talking about Starcraft 2. Details had already been announced during the previous quarter and was talked about at great length at the time. But, I didn't think they were desperate enough to bring it up again ("SC2 launch! SC2 launch everybody!".. you know, even though the information was released already last quarter.)

Starcraft 2 sales figures were also very disappointing. They only sold 3 million units to date. By comparison, Red Dead Redemption (a more recent release) sold 5 million units in less than a month and it was considered a moderate success. Using that same time frame as a basis of comparison, the original Starcraft sold almost 2.5 million units (SC1 launched in 1998 plus BW units which launched 8 months later during that same year). Tiberian Sun (1999) sold 3 million units by year end, and Red Alert (1996) sold 1.5 million in under 4 weeks - and another million more over the next few months.

Keep in mind that those sales were from over a decade ago, and they're comparable to Starcraft 2 sales as they are now!

Worldwide, the video game industry revenues in 2007 were about $41.9 billion, in 2004 they were $25.4 billion, and in 1994 they were $7 billion. So, since 2001 video game revenues have almost tripled in size (2.7x actually), and even with that explosive growth, SC2 still only sold the same amount as Tiberian Sun from over 10 years ago (within the same timeframe, the only difference is that SC2 sold more on opening day).

"Professional Analysts" had initially predicated that SC2 sales would be significantly higher: 7 million sales within the first 5 months, 4 million within 3 months, 6.5 million within 5 months, 5 million in 5 months, and finally 6 million in 5 months. Apparently, Cataclysm is also supposed to sell 6 million copies on the first day, according to one of the analysts.

Keep in mind that these "professional analysts" are the best and brightest in this field. Man, were they off.

So anyhow.. overall the Q3 conference turned out just as depressing as Blizzcon 2010 - no news, no major announcements, just very boring and disappointing. If I was a major investor in the company, I would be very angry and asking a lot of questions.

* Quick Update:

One of the readers didn't understand the comparison of Blizzard's "3 million in the first month", compared to analyst predictions of "7 million sales within 5 months", etc. If you read back over past posts, this makes more sense as I've talked trends and sales figures.

What happens is that the largest amount of sales occur on the first day. And then the numbers steadily drop each follow day. SC2 for example sold 1.5M on the first day, on the next day they sold half that amount, and then 50% of that figure, and so on.

Almost all game releases follow the same trend, here's an example:

5 million during the first week (largest amount on the opening day)
800,000 during the second week
600,000 during the third week
400,000 during the fourth week
200,000 during the fifth week
150,000 during the sixth week
100,000.. 70,000.. 50,000 etc.

As of right now (4 months after release), Starcraft 2 is at about 3 million units sold. With only 1 month to go, there's a very unlikely chance that SC2 will suddenly sell 4 million units within the next few weeks. I hope that clarifies.

Hallow's End ends soon with a disappointing end

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, October 30, 2010

The whole Halloween event has been crippled so badly for the past couple weeks, Blizzard should seriously consider extending the event for their faithful customers.

The Hallow's End event takes place between Oct 18 and Oct 31.

However, between Oct 18th and Oct 26th there was a nasty bug taking place. Players on all realms would freeze, disconnect, and crash when trying to summon the Headless Horseman. The same issue impacted battlegrounds and other "dreaded cogwheel" items that could normally be interacted with.

On Oct 26th, a new fix was implemented to correct the issues. However, it did even more harm. Immediately after the fix, BG/dungeon/event queues crashed and the HH event couldn't even be accessed anymore. Also, the Shade could not be summoned by the Matron in most locations for the "Putting Out the Fires" daily quests.

I don't even think the Halloween event was truly fixed until around Thursday the 28th. That really only leaved 3 actual days for the players to participate in the Hallow's End event. There have been no extension announcements so far and no free game time for the millions of players that were impacted or unable to participate in the event over the past couple weeks.

I'm not sure why it took so long to "fix" the issue, but I suspect it's because everyone at Blizzard was so busy with Blizzcon and their support staff were directed by Sr. Management to prioritize Blizzcon gaming events over everything else.

So, here were the big highlights of past Blizzcons.

I'm including the Worldwide Invitational as well, since it was the EU version of Blizzcon. (Note: There was no Blizzcon 2006, and WWI was cancelled in 2009 in favor of Blizzcon moving forwards.)

* Oct 2005 Blizzcon - World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Announced

* May 2007 Worldwide Inv - Starcraft 2 Announced

* Aug 2007 Blizzcon - World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Announced

* Jun 2008 Worldwide Inv - Diablo 3 Announced

* Oct 2008 Blizzcon - Starcraft 2 Trilogy Announced

* Aug 2009 Blizzcon - World of Warcraft: Catacylsm Announced

* Oct 2010 Blizzcon - Some guy in a red shirt asks a question

I hope this isn't going to be a trend.

Activision News Incoming, More Take-Two Problems

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, October 28, 2010

Activision-Blizzard's Third Quarter Investor conference call will be taking place next week (Nov 4.) I'm excited.

Sure, it sounds boring to you - but these are the calls where they review the company's current situation (I look forwards to the raw data to get a better insight into the company) and discuss future strategic plans or growth for the following quarter that will generate even more profit for their investors. Sometimes the results of these calls won't be made public for a few weeks following, but some information will typically leak out.

BlizzCon is reserved for all of the big Blizzard announcements, but this upcoming investor meeting might describe a plan for some future Activision/Blizzard interaction. There's a strong possibility, for example, that Activision may announce full integration of their own software line (complete with digital downloads, social interaction, match-making, etc.) on Blizzard's Battle.net service.

Activision will give the typical speech to bolster customer and investor confidence (ie, Blizzcon was a big success, WOTLK launch in China was a big success, upcoming Cataclysm release will be a big success, blah blah blah) especially since they performed so poorly last quarter.

But I'm hoping that there will be a hint at more "console development", but not actually point their finger's in Blizzard's direction. Or maybe they will. =]

Back in August, I made a post about how Diablo 3 looked like it was designed (with purpose) for console platforms. It had the perfect GUI, interface, and gameplay. WOW & SC2 are no where near close, but D3 is ready for the transition. It would be fitting for Diablo to be back on consoles too.. third time's a charm, right?

The reason I'm mentioning this now, is because just recently Blizzard has been hinting at D3 development for consoles and the information is being picked up by various gaming news sites.

In other news, I was anticipating a Red Dead Redemption PC port announcement this November as their quarterly announcements were supposed to happen next month. There aren't any gaming conventions occurring during the next quarter, so most of their big announcements would have been taking place next month. I'm was really hoping for a RDR PC announcement too, but it will probably be about GTA 5 (a new GTA release wouldn't be the only reason for moving their Fiscal Year by the way - that would just be silly).

HOWEVER, they just MOVED their Fiscal Quarter! (Yes, this is legal with special approval.)

That's actually big news in itself. =]

There are only a few reasons why a company would be moving it's Fiscal Year-End. Sometimes it's done by companies who want to match their own Fiscal Year with that of their parent company, sometimes it's for minimizing taxes (meaning that they're hurting financially), sometimes it's due to the termination of a partnership (hmmm...), sometimes they do it because there are indications of (seasonally) low revenue, or sometimes it's if they will be giving up control of their corporation (EA has been interested in Take-Two for a while now).

Most likely though is that they have some MAJOR re-structuring planned for the next few months and their revenue isn't as high as they were expecting. There are two things that can happen: they need to reduce costs or they need to increase profits by pumping out more releases and at a faster pace. =]

On a related note (ie, "re-structuring" in the future), Rockstar Toronto has been hiring a lot more people recently. Game Programmers, Designers, and Support Staff.. and they all seem to be replacements due to attrition. Maybe the Rockstar remote sites know something we don't?

With this recent announcement though, it's safe to say that there's something big coming down the pipe. I'm predicting lay-offs, as it's always the easier way out and the path taken by most companies these days (ie, when they need to cut expenses to increase profit, rather than using money to make more money.)

Update (10/29/10):

Take-Two just made a new announcement, so yeah - there's definitely some major re-organization taking place. Their CEO is stepping down. =]

This is a good indication that they might be giving up control of the corporation (ie, being acquired by Electronic Arts), hence one of the reasons for moving their Fiscal Year. There are some other companies that were interested as well (including Activision), but EA is the front runner.

I still think there's more lay-offs on the way. Many people will say that Take-Two has been doing really well. Sure, they have been doing well but not "well enough" and investors want them to do better. Besides this upcoming reorganization, it will also give Take-Two more time to develop their various (ongoing) technologies and work on their big name games. Should be interesting.. I'm looking forwards to their next game announcements. It'll most likely be sequels though, and no new IPs. =[

Another Update:

Apparently this post caught the attention of many employees from Take Two and Rockstar. =]

The visitor log has been showing a lot of visits from the internal offices of Take Two. Apparently, they must not have a very strict policy for internet usage. =] There are multiple hits from a few external facing IP addresses: Take-Two Interactive Software (69.10.95.2), Rockstar Games (69.10.69.2), Rockstar Toronto (63.145.31.10), Rockstargames Ltd (212.46.144.57), etc.

(On a related note, I still get visited by Blizzard employees a lot too. They haven't been posting any new comments though since that last guy.)

So anyways, it appears that because of Take-Two's latest announcement there's a stock trader "feeding frenzy" going on and they're looking for as much information as possible. It's pretty funny watching all of the guess work going on.

Unfortunately, all of their visits were very specific as many were only looking at the one page and ignoring previous posts from months ago when I was mentioning Rockstar Toronto activities. I followed Rockstar Toronto specifically since I was primarily interested in the Red Dead Redemption PC port and they're the team most likely to produce it. Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Update (01/27/11):

I was right. =]

Now, management at Rockstar London and Lincoln have also been given their pink slips. These are just the big names though that were made public, but there have been many other exits as well within Take Two over the past few months.

There are also rumors of more impending layoffs at the Rockstar London facility.

It seems like just yesterday when Take Two was denying studio layoffs, and claimed that there were no impending layoffs, or an intention to lay off 20% of it's workforce in an attempt to "restructure and improve it's financial standing." Some of the rumors confirmed apparently.