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.

Paul Sams: Trolling Asshole

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, October 23, 2010

What a jerk.

"I have a big announcement for everyone!"

*cheers*

"Now, you've all heard about our new Next-Gen MMO that we've been working on?"

*crazy cheers and tears of happiness*

"Well I have a little sneak preview for all of you!"

*insane cheers*

"I give to you: World of Jerseycraft Shore!"

*booooo*

"No, just kidding.. here's the real MMO exclusive preview!"

*more insane cheers*

"I'm pleased to announce.. Gleeablo!"

*booooo*

"No no.. seriously. Here's the real announcement. Are you prepared!?"

*slow clap*

"Booty Bay Watch!"

*booooo*


At this point you could distinctly hear some F-U's from the crowd. So yeah.. a lot of excitement built up only to break everyone down brutally.. way to go there Paul.

I guess he thought that he could recover that massive failure (of his terrible jokes too) by announcing "free" Diablo 3 beta keys for 1,000 lucky attendees (out of over 27,000 total mind you.) It didn't work and just further pissed most people off. In the end, the Blizzcon 2010 closing ceremony was definitely not cool.

Perhaps it was because all hope and expectations were shattered, or maybe because I set the bar so low.. but the second day was less disappointing.

Here's a summary of events and notes:

- The developers/designers at the World of Warcraft Q & A panel were visibly irritated with a lot of the questions, and most of their time was spent ridiculing their customers. It wasn't a pretty sight, and they didn't look like they wanted to be there.
- There were no intentions of actually implementing any of the suggestions. It would have been nice to give the "appearance" of listening to their customers by writing something down.. but you could tell that many of the question-givers were unhappy with their responses and the attitude of the panel.
- The Diablo 3 Q & A was actually a lot more professional, sincere, and they weren't making cheap shot comments like the WoW team.

In regards to WoW,

- Hints that the next WoW Expansion Packs would involve the Emerald Dream, and the return of old (undead) enemies. =]
- Blizzard will not be increasing character slots for World of Warcraft (will be stuck at 10).
- I liked this comment: "We have a process and we adhere to that process." It was in regards to opening up voice talents to other people rather than the same guy doing 20 voices. It was pretty much a "screw you", and confirmed what I've been writing about Blizzard's many internal processes.
- They'll be auctioning off the old Classic WoW server blades, not sure how many they're giving away yet.
- They will be modifying the racial traits and appearance of the old races (since the Worgen/Goblin aesthetics and abilities were so cool.) Other races will be getting better abilities and looks, and will probably happen ~4 months after Cataclysm release. Just like WOTLK (DK nerf after Christmas), they want as many people to buy the expansion pack as possible and then they'll do nerfs/buffs afterwards to stabilize everything.

In regards to Diablo 3,

- I liked that they admitted that they weren't sure where the game was headed yet, and that it's still being worked on. Most of the work done so far was graphics content, artwork, music, and prototype gameplay.
- They're not sure about end game content yet.
- There will be no PVP variation (like Capture the Flag, Defend/Siege, Escort, etc) - it's all just Arena/World PVP for now. No plans to make any changes to that.
- No guilds, everything will be done through Battle.net (ie, Friend lists)
- No PVP specific gear, all gear is PVE & PVP - it's the skills you select that most affect PVP.
- They're using a lot of ideas from Torchlight. There will be a "stash" that shares loot amongst all your characters.
- There will be no Arcane Sanctuary level, or any cool architectural zones that are similar.
- Diablo 3 will not support mods.

And finally, who's that "Kat Hunter" person anyways? She says she plays Alliance, but I don't think she's ever leveled past 20. She seems more suited for "The Sims" or "Dress My Boyfriend" type games.. I think she just plays WoW to dress up her characters actually.

"I don't know if I'm allowed to release this information or not, but I think there's like a quest where you can, like, punch Deathwing in the face or something."

She was referring to [The Day Deathwing Came] quest. Hardly a Blizzcon exclusive. She was just terrible the entire time, and I hope she's not back for next year.

Oh yeah, this one too: "I'm a hardcore Warcraft girl."

Fail.

Blizzcon 2010 Day One Sucked

Posted by Daeity On

The consensus seems to be that Blizzcon 2010 was the most horrible one yet and many have been voicing their extreme disappointment.

I think the highlight of the evening at Blizzcon was when a flock of seagulls flew over head.

Here's a summary of everything else that happened so far:

- Very long line-ups for panels.
- Very long line-ups for food and crappy merchandise.
- Very long line-ups to goto the washroom.
- Very long line-ups to get into other long line-ups full of sweaty nerds with poor hygiene and a strong sense of self-entitlement.
- The final Diablo 3 class was revealed, even though Blizzard promised that they had BIG news to reveal.
- Diablo 3 will have PVP (this is NEW information because apparently Diablo 2 didn't have PVP.)
- Diablo 3 will finally get a dye system, like so many other MMORPGs.
- Paid (Blizzard RayV) HD Live Streaming feed failed horribly (choppy video/sound).
- Server crashes during the SC2 Main Event (PVP Tournament between Fruitdealer and SlayersBoxer)
- Goodie bags were a big disappointment for those who didn't read the leaked internet posts revealing it's contents.
- Graphics team demonstrated art work showing that almost all new mobs were just palette-swapped older models.
- Some guy broke his leg in the dance contest while doing the Undead Male hop.
- Opening Ceremony speeches were ill prepared. Mike Morhaime (Blizzard President) and Chris Metzen (Sr. VP) demonstrated just how much they've lost touch with their players. Most of the opening speeches were just re-caps of the previous Blizzcon (trying to build up hype in the crowd) and the GEEK speech. I got the hint that the speeches were just filler because of the complete absence of new announcements this year. The crowd looked bored, they found the jokes unfunny, and the filler speeches just made the opening ceremony seem longer.

So the first day was very disappointing, nothing unexpected, and it's all old information. I'll keep my fingers crossed for Day Two (going on right now) - I'm hoping that they're just playing with us and actually have a big announcement planned for their closing ceremonies. They definitely need it at this point. It's bad.. really bad.

If you're a long term gold strategist such as myself, you'll start stocking up on "Hallowed Wands" now for next years Hallow's End event.

On the opening day, transformations sell for over 25G a piece so you can quickly make a lot of gold on the first day before anyone else collects Wands from the Innkeeper Trick-or-Treat bags.

The next day, prices will drop to 15G, then 10G, then 5G, etc. So you'll want to advertise Achievement transformations as much as possible on the first day of Hallow's End next year.

The cooldown on "Trick-or-Treat" is 1 hour whether you're logged in or not - so just rotate through all of your realm characters and try to collect as many Treat Bags/Wands as possible and just store them in your bank. All of the other Hallow's End items pretty much expire and disappear.

With Christmas coming up, you'll also want to fill up a couple (personal) Guild Bank Tabs with the Gingerbread Cookie and Egg Nog recipes. Wait a few months after Christmas, and you can re-sell those recipes for 25G a piece or more (and there's almost no competition in Jun/Jul/Aug).

Next-Gen MMO Update at Blizzcon + More Pets

Posted by Daeity On Friday, October 22, 2010

During the Blizzcon 2010, Rob Pardo finally confirmed what I had already revealed 3 months ago. =]

They have a small team working on the project (up to a total of 50 people now - most of which is artwork related), and they're not likely to even announce the game details until 2012 at the EARLIEST. He also mentioned that the team has been pretty much working on prototypes. It's funny because most websites and "professional" analysts had predicted that their Next-Gen MMO would be released in 2012 or 2013 at the latest, but I figured a 2014-2015 release date was more likely due to the little progress actually made and what my internal sources were telling me.

Also, Blizzard is doing some more charity work like what I've been eagerly anticipating in past posts. Blizzard announced during the Opening Ceremonies that a new [Moonkin Hatchling] would be added to the Pet Store in the near future, and whose sales would be donated to charity. They also plan on auctioning off used server equipment and donating those proceeds to charity as well. Past trends have shown that these types of activities occur when sales are low or they need to substantially increase revenues to impress their investors - so this initiative will probably happen during the Cata release quarter (if they're worried about sales) or during a slow month.

.. utterly predictable and very disappointing.

It's the announcement of (only) one new Diablo 3 class. That's it.

So yeah, the new class is called a Demon Hunter yay. This class doesn't dual-wield swords, they dual-wield long range weapons!! OMG! That's totally new, innovative, and interesting.

On a side note: don't get this class confused with World of Warcraft's Demon Hunter class. Apparently, it's not going to be a Hero Class any more like what Blizzard was originally planning years ago but I guess they found a new use for the name.



Even the video was very disappointing.. what happened to their graphics quality and polish?

Game Director Jay Wilson promised that the Diablo 3 announcement would be the biggest one they've ever had. Jay WTF??

No real surprises here though. Back in August though, I was fully prepared for this sort of announcement and the resulting disappointment: "I really hope it's not just the introduction of 1 new class.. but it probably will be." I was hoping there would be at least 2 new classes "revealed" based on Jay Wilson's hype.

So ummm... yeah.

This new development also answers the question as to why Blizzard changed the Sylvanas Windrunner model. They needed her for Diablo 3.

Undocumented 4.0.1 Patch Changes

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Here's a summary of some of the more interesting 4.0.1 patch changes.

I'll keep updating the list as I learn more.

- All characters can toggle on & off all Minimap options. For example, you can see Mining, Fish, and Herb nodes all at once now. (Just turn each option on.)
- Hunters can also now track Beasts, Humanoids, Hidden, Elementals, Demons, etc all at once. It's pretty awesome.
- Characters can now collect XP from mining Herbs and Ores. It's a great way to level new characters especially now that you can see both node types.
- Discarded PVP gear can be sold or disenchanted.
- Several other items that previously couldn't be disenchanted can now be.
- Tailoring Specializations have been removed permanently.
- Leatherworking Specializations have been removed, however it's currently bugged and you can re-learn the specializations from the quest givers.
- Transmutation cooldowns reduced (significantly) to 4 hours.
- You can pickup Master Riding (310% mount speed) for 5000G. Don't bother trying to fly in Old World yet, that will only happen after Cataclysm.
- New scaling spells & skills have made leveling much faster and most low lever characters quite overpowered. Health and mana regeneration is significantly increased as well.
- Older (Level 70) Heroic dungeons have been tweaked, making mobs hitting a lot harder. I used to solo Kara quite easily, but it's become a lot more difficult now.
- NPC that have quests available (or are part of active quest chains) now show text above their heads identifying them. It makes it much easier to find "points of interest". This was actually a very subtle, but extremely useful update and I liked it a lot.
- I like the new Thorns spell. Instead of a buff, it's an instant cast defense spell that tears apart melee characters. Works great on Rogues. =]
- Lockpicking now scales with your level. All 80 Rogues automatically have 400 LP skill. Since all skills have been removed, weapon training is no longer required and everyone always has full weapon training. Goodbye "Knuckle Sandwich" Achievement.
- Many Hunter Pets now have unique abilities that can benefit the entire raid. Right now, you can swap in-and-out 4 different pets depending on your needs. The 5th pet will be available when Cataclysm is released. Low level pets also now auto-level to 3 levels below you instead of 5.
- Level 20's can now move at 100% mount speed. All mounts now scale with their riding skill.
- Most PVP Daily Quests now no longer provide Honor Points but rather gold. I think only the Venture Coin quests down by the shoreline provide Honor Points now - but it's very little and not worth the trouble.
- No more vellums, it's all just one new all-purpose Enchanting Vellum for armor/weapons at all levels. Makes things much easier.
- Power PC, Windows 98, and Windows 2000 users will no longer be able to play WoW.
- Flight paths are shortened, and don't make as many stops any more.
- There are a couple minor pre-Cataclyms events going on (other than the earthquakes). There are new conversations taking place in Thrall's chambers for example, and Emissaries should be arriving in cities soon for the new elemental invasion quests.
- Honor Points and Justice Points can be converted into each other, however it hasn't been implemented yet. I think it's pretty cool that you can PVP for points, and then exchange them for Raid PVE gear. Here's the original post from back in April.

We do plan to have a way to convert Honor points (PvP) into Justice points (PvE), and vice versa, at a loss. The conversions will be possible, but it won't be a 1:1 rate, and you'll have fewer points after the conversion process. We won't allow the higher tiers to be exchanged for each other, however.
- Auction Posts and Cancelling now have a secondary confirmation request. It's a big annoyance, and there were plenty of other options available if their reason was to prevent automated auction posting. The thing is - it's automated.. they just need to add an extra step to their automation. So, all this does is hurt legitimate users (who now need to spend a lot more time in the AH) and I'm pretty sure they weren't complaining about accidental auction posts being such a huge problem or that they requested these new features. "Hey Blizzard! Can you make it first ask 'Are you really sure?' than ask again 'Are you really really sure?'. That sounds like a great feature that everyone will love!"
- There are also rumors of Shaman Tanking being possible in the future (Plate armor upgrades too.) I think it would be pretty cool for a new tanking class. All of the tanking classes are MELEE, but what about a SPELL CASTING TANK? That would just be cool.

* Moved from my previous post "A whole lot of cheating going on.."

Blizzard's gaze is currently upon those Battle.net (SC2) hack developers, but much like Sauron's gaze - it shifts frequently. I'm expecting the same swift and decisive actions on these recent WoW cheaters in the same manner. These exploits and cheats completely DESTROY the gold markets, fairness, and ruin the enjoyment and participation of a competitive online experience (just like what Blizzard claimed in their lawsuit.)

"When users of the Hacks download, install, and use the Hacks, they copy StarCraft II copyrighted content into their computer's RAM in excess of the scope of their limited license, as set forth in the EULA and ToU, and create derivative works of StarCraft II."

"The harm to Blizzard from Defendants' conduct is immediate, massive and irreparable."

"By distributing the Hacks to the public, Defendants cause serious harm to the value of StarCraft II. Among other things, Defendants irreparably harm the ability of Blizzard's legitimate customers (i.e. those who purchase and use unmodified games) to enjoy and participate in the competitive online experience. That, in turn, causes users to grow dissatisfied with the game, lose interest in the game, and communicate that dissatisfaction, thereby resulting in lost sales of the game or 'add-on' packs and expansions thereto."
So if Blizzard actually believes this statement to be true, they'll definitely action this exploitive behavior within a week minimum. If they don't stand by their beliefs, however, they'll probably just hotfix the issue, leave the players alone, and then ban them much later when it suits their purpose.

After all, these exploits are truly game breaking and completely destroying the economy (while also ruining a legitimate player's experience.) So, I'm really interested to see how quickly they'll action this, especially after preaching about SC2 cheaters and the serious harm they have caused to the value of their games and their legitimate customers.

How long will it take to action? SC2 cheaters were banned on Oct 1 and then Blizzard launched their lawsuit by Oct 16. Will Blizzard fix this customer-impacting issue and practice what they preach, or will they instead use this as a strategy to improve revenue? It will be a good example of whether they stand by their "stated beliefs" or not.

The Global Cooldown (GDC) Hack also comes to mind. This has been exploited for not just days, weeks, or months but rather YEARS. Even in the most recent Ladder Arena Tournaments it has been estimated that almost 3/4 of all players have cheated using the GCD hack and obtained their Gladiator titles unfairly. Blizzard banned very few people and there are probably tens-of-thousands (if not hundreds-of-thousands) of players who have used the GDC hack without any fear or action by Blizzard.

It's scary to think of all of the cheaters out there. From all of the various official announcements, Blizzard has banned millions of players for online cheating. MILLIONS! I wouldn't be surprised if 50% of all online players have knowingly cheated or have exploited bugs.

On a side note,

Their new lawsuit actually worries me a bit. I don't care that Blizzard is going after cheaters and the developers of these applications (like BnetD), but I am concerned about the repercussions. If successful, it will set a legal precedent that single-player or multi-player cheats or addons/mods (even when acceptable) would be completely illegal. Virus scanners, operating systems, performance apps, tools for impaired users, etc all fit within Blizzard's classification, and it would make it very easy for them to be able to sue any software developer or users of these tools (harsh charges, prison time, etc). Blizzard probably wouldn't do that of course (bad for PR), but the case would be available for other (less savory lawyers) to reference and many people could suffer badly as a result.

The thing is, Blizzard claims that these hacks cause irreparable harm. But that's not actually true: the harm CAN be repaired by hotfixes, patches, player bans, and resetting Ladders & Seasons - all of which they already do quite frequently. All of the players cheating to get Honor Gear for example will lose it all next season.

Blizzard also knew about the map hack tool the minute it was released (they even stated that they were following it's initial development), and there have always been tons of Starcraft 1 maphacks available. Warden uses hash values to determine whether a user is running a Maphack or not, so SC2 could have easily prevented users from even launching SC2 if a hack was running. It was easily detected by Warden, and they could have done something about it right away - but instead they waited months to ban the users, allowed them to cheat, and it seemed like they wanted "damage" to occur so that they could sue the developers on purpose. They've done insta-bans before, why did they wait so long for "damages" to occur? Was it on purpose for a planned lawsuit?

Blizzard was already going to sue SC2 hackers, but then they suddenly decided to drop the charges. If I, for example, was interested only in profits from court settlements, I would wait until significant damages were incurred so that I could sue for a larger amount of money. That's what the patent trolls do too.. they wait until businesses become successful before they sue. Patent Trolls are not interested in protecting their Intellectual Property, but rather the revenue they can generate from settlements. Based on what I've seen, it seems that these lawsuits are just another alternative revenue stream for Blizzard, and there's little emphasis on actually protecting the legit players (although public statements make it look like users are their top priority). If there were concerns for the legit players, users would be prevented from even launching SC2 (or other Blizzard games) if they have a maphack running. Hash files are very unique signatures too, so Warden would not be triggered by a false positive.

With all of the balancing issues, client issues, crashes, melting video cards, account thefts, and bugs (all of which were complained about for months during PTR/beta, but were STILL released live) wouldn't Blizzard themselves actually be causing even more irreparable harm to their players?

Anyhow - I've been tracking a lot of players on my own server who have been cheating like crazy. Still no ban as of today, even though many of them have probably accumulated 15,000 to 30,000 JPs in one day without running any raids. Yeah, definitely suspicious having all brand new high-level raid gear without having run any raids.

Zul'Gurub Mounts - Temporarily Unavailable

Posted by Daeity On Friday, October 15, 2010

Blizzard finally made an official announcement about what will be happening in 4.0.3 regarding those unique ZG mounts and items.

To summarize: the [Swift Zulian Tiger], [Swift Razzashi Raptor], and [Razzashi Hatchling] are being "removed" because the Raid is being converted into a low-level questing zone.

However, Blizzard also added "Although we have no current plans to introduce new ways to obtain the Zul'Gurub mounts, pets, and the tribute mounts, they may return should we find a place where they fit in the future."

While everyone on the WoW forums and websites were claiming that the mounts would be "gone for good" (and to farm ZG as soon as possible), I heard information to the contrary from my inside sources. I had actually predicted this in a post I made last month. =]

Also, although their statement says "no current plans", Blizzard actually does have plans (or should I say "options that they are considering"). The "original mounts" with their "original achievements" will be gone but the mounts will be making a reappearance (as explained earlier) either through drops, rewards (eg Archaeology), the Pet Store, or other ways.

The Pet Store definitely has a very high probability. =]

Also, a little birdie tells me that a mount similar to the [Black Qiraji Battle Tank] will be making an appearance in Cataclysm as well. My sources weren't as certain on the new scarab mount as they were on the ZG mounts, however.

Brief News in my briefs

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, October 10, 2010

I'll make this quick and summarize some news items. I'm exhausted and about to get some shut-eye. =]

- Forbes recently had an article about WoW's "12 million" subscribers announcement where they talked briefly about Blizzard's Next Gen MMO. Basically, the size of the team working on their Next Gen MMO is now more than 140 employees (which is close to the size of the team currently working on WoW.) It's a sign that project development is "in full swing", but it's still actually pretty new (ie, the team) and they're actually very far behind in development. The basic idea/story is ready, and content is still being developed - but it's still several years away.

- The Blizzcon Schedule makes no references to their Next Gen MMO.. I'm hoping they might show _something_ in the closing ceremonies though, even though game development is still early they still have some graphics content that they can show off. If there is no information released though, I'll have to go back to my sources and see if they're taking a different direction for the game. I'm still looking forwards to their "HUGE" Diablo 3 announcement though. D3 isn't supposed to be ready for public beta testing until late 2011, though, so the release date will probably be Christmas 2011 or very early in 2012 meaning that the release date announcement will happen around next years Blizzcon. I have strong feelings that this "HUGE" announcement will be silly.

- Regarding Blizzard's "12 million subscribers" announcement, it's funny how people never read the fine print on those posts. Active subscriptions in China (where a large chunk of their players are located) provide Blizzard a completely different calculation system used in their "total subscriber" figures. Keep in mind that in China, WoW and all of the expansion packs are completely free, and they don't pay monthly subscriptions. Instead, they buy time cards and can add time/points to them. The average player typically has multiple cards and they never expire until they reach 0. By purchasing these cards, they count towards an "active subscription" even though the time card isn't being used.

If you want to see real Census information, go here. During peak hours, there are about 2.6 million players online. You can't get accurate information like this from EU/NA realms though, Blizzard doesn't allow it. I have two CWOW accounts by the way, and can attest to the Chinese census information. =]

The thing is, that 12 million subscriber announcement doesn't fit in at all with Blizzard's revenue statements for EU/NA and NetEase's revenue statements for China. It also doesn't match up with each country's realm counts and sizes, software sales figures, and live census information. It does work, however, when special exceptions are made for active accounts (that can't be played or aren't being played), when you tweak numbers for China's special timecard system, and when you adjust the definition of what an "Active Subscriber" actually is.

- For those that didn't know (or forget), the next SC2 expansion pack release date is due in 2012 (Heart of the Swarm) and following in 2014 (Legacy of the Void). That's right - a 2 year gap between each Starcraft 2 Expansion Pack. Bah.

- Many online sources have been claiming Guild Wars 2 to be the next panacea for all MMO problems. Although I'm very much looking forwards to trying out GW2, I wish they wouldn't specifically focus on the problems of other MMOs. WoW, for example, has done a lot of things the RIGHT WAY and GW2 should be taking the same approach and simply improve proven concepts or working ideas. And don't forget that because GW2 will be doing a lot of cool new stuff, they'll be having a lot of cool new problems. =] I'll write up more on this though when I have some free time.

It's funny how just the other day I was posting about how Blizzard can (and will) ban you for any reason or for no reason at all.

Coincidentally, I just learned that Blizzard banned possibly thousands of players for using Single-Player trainers and cheats.

Check out this very interesting post from Cheathappens.com.

Here's my favorite bit:

Still though, some question Blizzard’s motives. “I’m surprised they took such a blind step without doing some research into the games played,” gm0ney added. The user has been through a similar situation before, with another game -- where he suspects the company had monetary motivations for the bans, “A bunch of people’s accounts got hacked and used cheats, so we all got banned. The company already had our money so they didn’t care about our accounts.” Many people, including Cheat Happens’ Business Operations Manager and Content Editor Chris O’Rorke, believe that Blizzard is also thinking monetarily, and points to the company’s blockbuster MMO World of Warcraft as evidence. In WoW, which (unlike Starcraft 2) carries with it a monthly fee, users who are found to be cheating are only handed temporary bans as to not interrupt the monthly flow of cash coming from those users.
It echoes a lot of concerns and supporting evidence that I've been posting about. Many of Blizzard's activities seem to be motivated by monetary purposes (especially when there are so many alternative methods available that are more customer centric rather than profit centric.)

Blizzard's official announcement, however, made it sound like the users were cheating on Battle.net or during live competition with other players:
We recently took action, including suspensions and bans, on over 5,000 StarCraft II players who were in violation of the Battle.net Terms of Use for cheating and/or using hack programs while playing. In addition to undermining the spirit of fair competition that’s essential to play on Battle.net, cheating and hacking can lead to stability and performance issues with the service. Maintaining a stable, safe, and secure online-gaming experience for legitimate players is a top priority for us, and we'll be continuing to keep watch on Battle.net and take action as needed.
I especially like the part about how cheating and hacking affects the stability and performance of their Battle.net service, hence the reason for the ban even though the single-player cheats were used offline. That's some deceptive wording.

Those banned players were also questioning the "legality" of Blizzard's actions. But, Blizzard's EULA and TOU documents are worded very carefully. Players don't actually own any of their games, they are merely "renting" the service from Blizzard who can terminate said service at any time, without notice, and for absolutely no reason at all.

Note: Even though I have a 100% clean account (I know a lot about bots and exploits for example, but I've never actually used them on my WoW), I'm pretty sure my account will get banned one day. It will probably be this Blizzard employee too.. he still regularly checks the blog, but has kept quiet with his comments since I called him out on it. He'll find SOME reason to ban me. =]

The timing of this SC2 ban-wave is definitely "coincidental" for other reasons as well. It happened on the first day (Oct 1) of the new Q4. It could have been done a few days earlier, so that it was reflected in Q3.. but no, Blizzard waited until the same Quarter as when Cataclysm would be released. This specific date was actually quite a strategic move and will pad Blizzard's profits (users need to purchase new licenses) for the same Quarter when Cataclysm is released. After all, they need to show a large profit to their investors during this time.

I had talked about this before, and how Blizzard can make these types of strategic actions to pad their numbers (especially during months when they are showing lower than expected profits.)

Here's the link where I noted an "interesting trend" about how new services, content or game releases, or bans will happen in quarters when sales are hurting.

If Blizzard's profits from WOTLK China Launch are lower than expected (Q3 statements not released yet) or Blizzard is really worried about about Cataclysm sales performance, we might see another WoW (or other BNET games) banwave during the next couple months. So if the banhammer drops before mid-December or you see new services (or paid pets for example) introduced - it means that Blizzard has some very strong doubts about Cataclysm. Blizzcon revenue (whose ticket prices keep increasing mind you) should help significantly improve their profits for Q4 however.

On another related note, the reason you haven't seen any in-game advertisements yet in Starcraft 2 is because Microsoft's Massive Inc. is closing their doors. This announcement was made to their clients (Blizzard being one of them) before the Blizzard SC2 banhammer dropped and before their public announcement was made. I'm thinking that's probably a real coincidence, but the timing (ie, Oct 1) of the banwave was definitely not a coincidence in my opinion. It fits in perfectly with what I've been writing about these past few months.

Just wanted to throw this one into the mix because it's a question that comes up a lot.

Dungeons and Dragons Online has doubled in revenue (old post) and then doubled again just recently apparently. Because of Turbines success, many people are wondering if their Asheron's Call game will also be going F2P. (Well, actually all of these "F2P" games should really be called NRF2P since they're not really free to play now are they?)

Anyways, Turbine has already answered this question. The answer is, "there are no plans for it right now. I will however not say this won't ever happen".

DDO and AC were actually both discussed to go F2P, but AC was much more difficult to build an in-game Item Shop / new billing system. DDO was much easier, so it was selected as their first candidate. It was very experimental at the time too, so they wanted to make sure the project cost the least amount of money as possible, and the AC engine would needed to have been rebuilt from the ground up.

Asheron's Call is one of my favorite MMORPG's next to WoW, so I'm hoping it will go F2P sometime in the future. Rather than taking the same approach to so many other NRF2P games, I wish they could try something new..

That is, don't worry about rebuilding the game so that an In-Game Item Shop and Purchasing System can be implemented. Instead, make it web-based (and mobile) and focus less on the game engine and more on the web app's integration with their back-end databases. Those are where items, weapons, character stats are located after all. Maybe test out some in-game advertising.. or make it free / open-sourced for PR purposes. Would be a nice way to give players a little taste of MMO's and then transition them over to their other NRF2P games.

What Happens to WoW Classic Players Post Cataclysm?

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Many readers here were interested in knowing what happens to players if they don't have the Cataclysm expansion pack and what to expect.

There's no phasing or anything like that (although it would have been cool) that will split up Cataclysm vs Non-Cata players.

The Cataclysm change will affect everyone in the Old World. Meaning cosmetic changes, new quests, new cities, skill/talent changes, etc.

So you will see everything that Cataclysm players see. You just won't have access to the new zones, you'll be level capped to whatever expansion pack you have (or don't have), and you won't be able to create Goblins/Worgens although you can still party with them. Talents, spells, abilities, glyphs, gear will all still be available to you just like everyone else at the same level.

Summary of Changes

- Outlands will NOT be changed.
- Northrend will have MINOR cosmetic changes (ie, stuff they've always wanted to fix).
- Mobs have not been deleted, some have just been relocated and others haven't moved at all.
- There's no point in farming certain mob (rare) drops, since they'll all be back in Cataclysm.
- Some hard-to-get drops have been moved to rare elites, making it easier for players.
- A few cities/towns have been destroyed, and new ones have popped up elsewhere to replace.
- No new graphics changes or engine improvements, except for water textures.
- No new audio changes or improvements.

There's been a lot of hype built around Cataclysm - ie, EXPECT MAJOR CHANGES, COMPLETE DEVASTATION, A NEW WORLD, THE FACE OF AZEROTH SHALL BE CHANGED FOREVER!

But if you actually believe the hype, you'll be setting yourself up for some major disappointment.

For the most part, there hasn't been a lot of changes to the Old World. Blizzard designers literally took all of the assets and models from WOTLK and drag-and-dropped them into the Old World. Some land masses have been shifted up-and-down, quests have been changed (there are some new fun ones here and there), and there are new "familiar looking" mobs/NPCs (ie, same mobs as in Northrend, with different colored textures). That's really about it.

All of the cool new stuff is in the new 80-85 zones and dungeons - but keep in mind that the NEW content is less than half the size of WOTLK.

Since the new areas and content are so small compared to past expansion packs, Blizzard is pretty much counting on most players creating new toons and to experience all that the Old World has to offer. Which is why adding new realms is so important, and why I'm still expecting new realms to be created (while everyone else is saying they won't be.)

Total Number of Quests in WoW vs TBC vs WOTLK vs CATA?

Original WoW Quests Added: 2,600
Burning Crusade Quests Added: 2,700
Wrath of the Lich King Quests Added: 2,350
Cataclysm Quests Added: 3,000

Note: 1,000 of those quests will be in the 80-85 zones, while the remaining 2,000 are in the redesigned old world areas.

Of those 2,000 quests, however, many of them are actually based on or redesigned from old quests. So "3,000 new quests" is a little bit of an overstatement.. it's probably closer to max. 2000 "new" quests.

Another Note: This is a little piece of historical trivia I guess. Back in 2004, Jeff Kaplan stated that they originally planned 600 total quests for World of Warcraft. It grew to 1350 shortly after, and continued to grow some more (as seen above.)

------------------

In my humble opinion, the December 7 release date is still too soon. There are so many changes that still need to be made in the Cataclysm Beta (that still haven't been fixed) and I'm fully expecting these bugs (and overpowered NPCs, boss mechanics, lack of innovation) to be released in retail.

Anyhow.. here are some videos demonstrating the "DRAMATIC CHANGES" made in Cataclysm, I think they'll help put things into perspective for you:

Tirisfal Glades & Silverpine Forest Flythrough



Eastern Plaguelands & Western Plaguelands



Wetlands, Loch Modan & Badlands Flythrough



Elwynn Forest



Swamp of Sorrows & Blasted Lands



As you can see for yourself, there are very little changes.

It might just be me, but I have a different eye for these sort of things. Coming from a programming & game design background, I see 3D objects, textures and level design different from average players. While in the beta, none of the changes have impressed me at all.. there's nothing really new or cool, and all of the content from WOTLK was just copied over using Blizzard's internal (world) design tools.

When Cataclysm was first announced, I was hoping for complete underwater cities and questing zones (massive areas all underwater), a completely reshaped Azeroth, new underwater races (that you could create yourself), floating cities, class-specific quests and chains (like the "Rogue Guilds" they were initially planning for WoW Classic), new mobs, removed mobs, and most importantly an improved graphics engine. But none of that happened.

Maybe it's just me, but I'll get confirmation on my opinion once retail hits and more players can voice their own opinions. =]

I suspect there's going to be a lot of disappointment though..

Cataclysm doomed to repeat the past?

Posted by Daeity On Monday, October 4, 2010

One of the biggest problems with new expansion packs, is that it makes all previous dungeons completely useless.

When TBC came out, Old World dungeons/raids were no longer visited. When WOTLK came out, TBC dungeons/raids were no longer visited. And when Cataclysm comes out, no one will be visiting WOTLK/TBC dungeons any more.

A ton of hard work went into the design of these instances, it's a complete shame that they're no longer experienced.

Sure, they're fun for nostalgia, power leveling with help from high levels, and for twink gear - but let's be honest: they're complete ghost towns. When was the last time you saw "LFG RFK", "LFG ramps", or "LFG seth" in chat or tried to join a group using the Dungeon Finder?

Everyone skips old dungeons for leveling, because it's much faster just to quest or AOE grind - and the dungeon gear is a waste of time (if you can even find a party to help you out).

Cataclym will be introducing 6 new level 80-85 dungeons and 2 remade old instances. It's nice that they've remade a couple old instances but they still have the same problem. And, there are other ways to fix this issue rather than just releasing new dungeons each exp. pack or creating revised point systems (e.g., Justice/Hero/Valor points, etc.)

Here's the solution: make all dungeons scalable to the player's level.

There can still be normal (original non-scaled) dungeons, heroic dungeons (special tailored instances with slight changes to drops and boss mechanics), and then scalable dungeons. They could be renamed to "Original, Normal (scaled), and Heroic".

Boss mechanics in the new scaled dungeons will not even need to be changed, but it would still require algorithms to scale mobs and items drops. (I hear Guild Wars 2 will be introducing randomly generated loot which will be very interesting to see how well it works.)

The obvious issue is, "Well if you just scale mobs, then there's no challenge." Let's be honest.. there's not really a lot of creativity in any of the current dungeons nor is there any innovation in the new Cataclysm dungeons/raids. It's always the same tank-and-spank strategy over and over, with a couple little movement or time-based DPS games sprinkled in here and there. There's nothing clever about it.

With scaled gear, you can still have the same old equipment look (with or without a slightly different name) but with different stats scaled for the player. They've already been doing this experimentation with heirlooms, so it shouldn't be that hard to do it with old instance drops.

Just like player classes, dungeons should also have a "paper, rock, scissors" attitude. If you want players to visit old dungeons, give them a reason. For example, players can visit old dungeons to collect lower tiered gear that are required for special mechanics in higher-tiered instances. (Like collecting fire resistance gear for other instances - make it optional.)

Dungeon gear could be scaled for the player, just like quest gear (at the same level) is made available. Because of the challenges involved, there could also be small chances that more powerful gear stats would be dropped. There could also be special gear (for certain classes) dropped only in certain dungeons, encouraging players to try and find groups to visit specific old world instances. This would all be optional too - making it easier for newbies to get geared up for higher level raids.

Mandatory dungeon quests, however, should not be making a return. =]

So, here are some of the benefits with this new approach:
- Get players to visit old dungeons again, have fun, free up space, get geared up properly, and give players more options.
- Introducing drops for specific classes encourages them to find groups or give them a reason to return to old instances.
- Make it fun for players to collect special gear that makes it easier to survive other high-level encounters.
- New gear aesthetics not required. This gives players a wide variety of equipment "looks" (with similar stats) to prevent everyone from looking the exact same in capital cities.

Blizzard's approach is to simplify everything - removing tokens, emblems, badges, marks, coins, shards, etc. and just making 2 point systems for PVE and 2 point systems for PVP. But this is still only applicable for level 85's in the long run. Something must be done for players between 1-85 who want to do something different.

An alternative option is to allow players to collect Hero/Valor points from old dungeons, but a smaller amount. Level 85 dungeons will give large amounts of hero points for example, but visiting a level 70 dungeon or raid will give you a less amount. But the points can still be used for purchasing equipment at your current level or level 85 when you reach it. This would encourage level 85's to still visit (or solo) old world dungeons for points.

I have a feeling that we'll still be stuck in the same cycle though.. new expansion pack = all previous instances abandoned.

How To Solo Halaa Battle Tokens and PVP Achievements

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, October 3, 2010

Since Halaa has been very quiet since the WOTLK release, it can be very difficult these days to farm PVP Tokens. If you have a friend on the opposite faction, it definitely makes things easier to collect the 2 Talbuk mounts or PVP rewards.

But if you have no support, there's still a way you can collect PVP tokens all by yourself. It's just a little bit more time consuming then doing it with a friend too.

You need two characters on your PVP/PVE account, one from each faction. Remember, you can only collect PVP Tokens if the player you're killing gives you honor.

Here's how you do it:

1. Remove all gear from the toon you want to kill.
2. Bring both of your characters (Horde and Alliance) to a certain location. You can park on the GY or on the bridge, as long as you're within the vicinity of Halaa you'll get the tokens.
3. Open up two copies of WOW.EXE (you can open up as many as you want from one install folder FYI)
4. On one WoW window, just login and position them where your other toon logged out.
5. Alt-tab to your other WoW Window and login again.
6. Play your other character and kill your naked toon. (The naked toon will still stay logged in for about 30 seconds or so.)

A 58 DK for example can kill a naked 80 pretty quickly, so don't worry about your other toon disappearing. You'll get a PVP token and about 150 honor for killing yourself. =]

Now, the more expensive Talbuk mount costs 100 Battle Tokens (plus some Research tokens too) so you'll need to do this 100 times - you'll also end up with about 11500 honor in the end. This will take a few hours, but it is possible to solo. Since most of your time will be spent logging back in again, I would recommend copying-and-pasting your password each time (login name is saved).

You don't need to close out each window, just keep alt-tabbing back-and-forth and logging back in with the same 2 windows.

This also works for the other PVP tokens in Outlands, as well as the daily quests in WOTLK that require player kills (e.g. Ice Crown, Grizzly Hills, etc.)

And, you can use this method for obtaining the following achievements:

[City Defender]
[Make Love, Not Warcraft]
[That Takes Class]
[Wrath of the Alliance] or [Wrath of the Horde]

This technique has been around a while and I even wrote about it back on MMOWNED a few years ago. It's very useful for self-buffing your characters or de-buffing them (like during the Valentine's event where you need to remove "Broken Heart" from your own toons.) But, not many people are aware that it can be used for PVP tokens/rewards/achievements.

What's nice about this "exploit" is that it's even approved by Blizzard too. :)


You can mage port your own characters too, but it requires a 3rd party in order to invite the second toon. It beats paying for ports though. =]

Interesting Note: While we're on the subject of creating parties, you can also create your own Raid group without asking for help. Just play Wintergrasp until the end, and you'll stay in the Raid after everyone leaves (if you leave WG early though, you will be auto-removed from the raid group). Then you can head to ZG or solo any other raid you want.

The Next Level

If you're a hardcore (and patient) player, there's also a way to get two of your opposing factions into the same Battleground too. =]

This is especially useful for soloing the harder-to-get PVP achievements like [Wrecking Ball] and [The Grim Reaper]. All you gotta do is park your two (equally leveled) toons at a special low-traffic location, like Snowfall GY, strip them down, and kill them over-and-over until you get the achievements.

It's very difficult to get two characters into the same BG, and it used to be a LOT easier when you could select the BG number. But, here's how you can do it now in AV:

1. Queue up for a BG on one character, once you join the raid, jump to the other WoW window, login and queue up with your other toon. After a while, the first toon will appear as "disconnected" but will not be dropped from the raid. If it's very early in the morning and there aren't many players on, there will be a (small) chance that you'll join the same AV as your other character.

2. Queue up for AV on one character, and as soon as one player quits (report them all AFK and wish for the best), jump over to your other window and queue up for AV. Hopefully, that toon will join the same AV.

This works well if you've ever joined AV matches in the past when both sides are unequally matches during certain periods of the day. If you notice a lot of open slots after the raid is created, there's a probability to get both of your single-account toons into the same AV.

Keep in mind, that this is very hard to do, but once you get in with both toons - you can just jump back-and-forth between your characters (WoW windows), get the kills and achievements all in one AV match.

Of course, this is all much easier if you have a friend from the opposing faction to help you out. =]