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.


+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: 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. =]


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.