Multitudes of Smoke

The thoughtful ramblings of a space goat and his alts.

Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Warlords of Draenor – My Thoughts

Posted by Smokimus on December 9, 2013

I will absolutely play “Warlords”, but the announcement left something to be desired. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was that I’m missing. It feels as though the expansion is really set-up to be a large content patch as opposed to something we should spend $40 bucks buying into.

I know this is in no way a unique opinion, and I’m not claiming that it is.

I heard this view point most well put in the Azeroth Roundtable podcast (by Ben, I think). This whole expansion seems to be trying to “set-up” something else, possibly the next expansion, and I’m not sure that feels so great.

I will say, however, that I am intrigued by the Garrisons. This step to player housing sounds like a great idea and if anyone can pull it off successfully I believe that Blizzard can. The rest of the announcements at Blizzcon were kind of “meh” IMO.

As “Mists” winds down I hope they can continue to make good on their promise to deliver content more quickly. If Warlords isn’t in beta in the next couple of months (end of Jan/early Feb.) with a release in early summer, I think there will be an acceleration of subscription losses and there won’t be any amount of “neat” content that will bring those that leave back.

Posted in MMO, Thoughts, World of Warcraft, WOW | Comments Off on Warlords of Draenor – My Thoughts

What Happens to All the People ?

Posted by Smokimus on August 9, 2013

This post will have little/nothing to do with gaming or WoW. I’ve been thinking about this issue for awhile and this is as good a place as any to get these thoughts out of my head.

What is going to happen to all of the people displaced from “productive society” with our continuing technological advances?

I had been thinking about this issue before and then I read this article.

http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/

In the western world, we seem to be in an era of redefinition where the traditional measures of individual and community success are becoming less and less valuable. Yet, the impact of some of the conditions that are being measured can be profound. Specifically, I’m thinking about – unemployment. For most of the western world (North America and Europe), we seem to be on a path of accepting that double digit unemployment rates are the “new normal”.

I’m concerned that this may in fact be the case.

Many jobs that were done by human laborers in the past are being done with many fewer people, thanks to tremendous technological advances made over the past 150 years. Previously, there had been a pattern of displacement, caused by a technological advance, followed by a readjustment and economic growth. Think of the transition from horses being the primary form of non-people powered transportation to trains and automobiles, as being the primary way to move people from one destination to the next. Certainly, the auto industry produced 1000s of additional jobs compared to the jobs lost by people who made a living from horses.

This pattern of displacement and readjustment, where the technological advance ultimately produces more jobs/economic growth than what it is replacing may be slowing down even though the pace of technological change is accelerating. I think this is part of the answer to the economic growth we are seeing in the west while unemployment rates remain historically high.

If this is the new normal, how is society supposed to accommodate what may be a class of permanent unemployed/underemployed?

I believe that almost everyone has the ability to add value to their community, but what is supposed to happen when the special skill a person has isn’t valued by their community? What happens to the ditch digger when their community doesn’t need a ditch digger? What happens to attorneys/doctors with specialties that aren’t needed anymore?

Do you hang your hat on retraining these individuals as they come? Do you force these people to relocate? I’m not sure these are viable solutions in a situation where you have more and more people competing for fewer and fewer jobs.

I do think that part of the solution will be the redefinition of “productive” in the context individual contributions to a community. We will need to have a larger discussion on what we value and how that value is rewarded.

As an aside, the concept that one must work 40 hours per week to be fully productive is a relic of the Industrial Age that is in some need of adjustment. For many jobs, the idea that you can measure the value of the work done by the time it takes to do it is absurd.

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Who Needs LFR?

Posted by Smokimus on June 20, 2013

With the announcements of virtual realms and flex raiding, it seems to me that the WoW developers may be setting us up for a replacement for LFR. These two new features, if they work well, when considered together create an environment that may be similar to what we saw in the “Wrath” days, with an active 25 person pugging environment, but without the potential for loot drama.

Here is my thought process:

First, I don’t think that they want to have 3 different lockouts. This would go against the development path that they’ve charted since Cataclysm. There is a certain portion of the player base that would feel compelled to raid all three lockouts every week (LFR, Flex, and Normal/Heroic). This would lead to burnout by a good portion of this group, which would lead to a continuing decline in subscriptions. I’m sure that the powers that be would not want that. So one must go, and I think that one would likely be LFR. This is the raiding structure that is experiencing the most “toxic” player behavior.

Second, as I understand it, characters will be able group and join guilds across these virtual realms. This will allow guilds that are struggling to fill their normal raiding slots a larger pool of people to access and thereby have a greater possibility of completing their raids in guild groups.

Finally, when you combine these two systems you have an environment where you are going to be able to form pug raids from your own server and across your virtual realm that has the real potential to bring back some of that community feeling that seemed to be lost with the introduction of dungeon and raid finder.

Who knows Blizzard consistently finds ways to surprise us.

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Let’s Get Squishy

Posted by Smokimus on November 21, 2011

In a recent Developer Blog, Ghost Crawler discussed the issue of item/number inflation.  The problem being that, if things keep going the way they are, the numbers will very soon get to be so large that player stats will get to be ridiculous and particularly dps numbers will get to be so large as their display will take up a good chunk of our screen space.  They suggested two possible solutions “Mega Damage” and “Item Level Squish”.

I would prefer that they do the item level squish.  However, I would prefer they do it in a very specific way.

I want them to provide a steady upward sloping of ilevels in a manner that allows a character to be able to progress from expansion to expansion without the need to have heroic dungeon/raid gear.  By this, I mean that a character should be able to go from Northrend to Mount Hyjal/Vashj’ir as a fresh 80 without ilevel 270-280 gear.  They should be able to go to the new zone of the expansion in the quest gear from the prior expansion.  This flattens the gear curve (reducing the gear inflation from expansion), this makes having raid gear from the prior expansion last a good deal longer (IMO – if you are in full heroic raid gear from the past expansion, you should be able to run heroics at the “end game” of the current expansion.  If you are a heroic raider, you don’t want to trash the gear you worked hard for in the first zone of the new expansion.  Also, you aren’t likely leveling your toon because you enjoy the process.  You are leveling because you want to participate in the new expansion’s raids.  The gear from raiding should be meaningful for much longer than it is currently.), this allows alts that come up later in an expansion to effectively run current leveling content without being smashed in the first few levels while they are gearing up on quest greens.

What say you?

Posted in Cataclysm, Thoughts, World of Warcraft, WOW | Leave a Comment »

Taking The RPG Out Of MMORPG One Step At A Time

Posted by Smokimus on July 6, 2010

Or why the implementation of “Real ID” may be the most stupid thing ever done by Blizzard.

Don’t many people play an MMORPG to escape from real life?  Isn’t this type of game supposed to be a refuge from our real life drama?  Doesn’t having your real name pop up anywhere while in game remove whatever emersion there was?  Don’t most people, while in game, go by the name of their main character?

When “Real ID” was announced, I didn’t really pay much attention.  I figured that it would be nice to talk to friends or guildies when I was playing alts on different realms or other Blizzard games.  When it went live, I knew enough that I didn’t care to participate as I don’t see the point of everyone knowing my real name (I don’t use my real name in real life, so why would I want to use it in game) as I don’t interact with any of them outside of the game environment.  Also, isn’t one of the first “rules” of internet security to not give out your full name?  Not a big deal to me at the time, would have been nice, but not necessary.

I could choose not to participate.

I so chose and I believe that many/most people also chose not to participate.

Then “Official forum changes, real life names to be displayed”.  Are you frick’n kidding me?  So, in order to post on the official forums, the hub of the game’s community, you will have to display your real name when Cataclysm comes out.  Apparently, they are out to destroy the usefulness of the forums under the guise of eliminating the trolls.

Many may believe that the forums are useless as they currently are, but I would disagree.  When I started playing, the forums were the first and in many cases the only place where I went to look for information on how to progress my character.  This was very noobish. I know, but I still think for information on leveling the various professions, it was the best place to start as there were some great guides put out by some very dedicated community members.  In cataclysm what will the incentive be to do this?  So that some asshat can go all nerdrage over some advice freely given and start to cyber stalk the person outside of game?  No thanks.

The law of unintended consequences cannot be violated.  What happens when some freak gets hung up with someone in game and proceeds to track that person down as a result of the information they were able to get from Real ID?  What happens when that freak gets violent?

As stupid as it may sound, I think this (unless changed) may be the beginning of the end of WOW as we have known it.  Much more than the pets or the sparkle pony, the whole of Real ID strikes me as some very poor implementation and design of something that could have been great and expanded the WOW community, but will instead shrink the community and be a very large negative to the game.

The problems of Real ID are correctable (allow for aliases, invisible settings, character specific opt-in), but it doesn’t seem as if Blizzard has any concern for these and is going to go full bore ahead with whatever their plans are.

What say you?

Posted in MMO, Thoughts, World of Warcraft, WOW | 2 Comments »

Jumble O Thoughts

Posted by Smokimus on June 17, 2010

Wouldn’t that be a great character name?

There has been a lot going on around here. Real life happens. I guess.

Raid Changes

I don’t think the additional rewards conferred upon the 25 man raids in Wrath have been warranted. There I said it. I got that out of the way. Now you know where I’m coming from.

It is certainly the case that it is harder to get 25 people together than it is 10 people. However, it is only harder for 1 person, the raid leader and it is only marginally harder at that. It is not 250% harder. For the 24 other raiders, there is no difference between what they have to do to get ready and what their 10 man raiding counterparts are doing. Everyone still needs to be repaired and have pots and buff food. They need to know not to stand in the goo or to stand in the goo (depending). They need to know how to DPS, heal, or tank depending on their role. These skills don’t change because one group is larger than the other. Sorry, I just don’t think that it is so much more difficult to run in a 25 man raid that it justifies giving such significantly greater rewards to those who do. If 10 mans are at all easier, it is because many people are running them with 25 man gear and are able to brute force their way through them with the higher stats. Thankfully, this is scheduled to change in Cataclysm.

Summer Doldrums

It is abundantly clear that people are slowing down their in-game time. It’s harder to get raiders to show up; RDF queues are getting longer; and some traditionally heavily trafficked farming spots are much less populated than previously. In game, we are experiencing the double whammy of Summer Doldrums and Pre-Expansion Malaise. People just aren’t that in to it right now.

This is completely understandable and I don’t think it represents a failure on the part of any party (Blizzard or the Players). It just is.

Unless you want to level a bunch of alts up to 80 or reach the gold cap or some other character goal, there really isn’t much left to do. We’ve been there and done that. No amount of filler content (see Ruby Sanctum) is going to get people to spend any more time in game at this point. We know that whatever gear or doodads we get now will be obsolete when the expansion comes.

I think Blizzard intended to have Cataclysm done some time ago, clearly however that didn’t happen and it appears as though there is a long way to go before it will come out. While this is a problem, I don’t think it is a failure on their part. A game this big that has been around as long as it has is an incredibly complicated enterprise and every adjustment has an impact on everything else. You are not going to have a bigger change than what is happening to WOW in Cataclysm. The stakes for WOW are incredibly high. If they don’t get it “right” a lot of people will leave and they will leave in a hurry never to come back. Blizzard knows this, so there is going to be an extensive testing period for the expansion and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a release come after Blizzcon. I think Blizz is willing to sacrifice a few months of subscription fees (from some) in order to make Cataclysm better, so that you will want to buy the expansion and re-up your subscription for another year or two when it does come out. I truly hope this is the case and I understand that to some this will seem like wishful thinking.

Have you seen this SWTOR trailer? It looks awesome. I do hope to get into the beta for this when it comes out. A trailer is not a game, however. We’ll see what develops between now and Beta/Release.

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Posted by Smokimus on May 3, 2010

Change of any sort is almost always met with cries of impending doom.  The potential changes to raiding in Cataclysm appear to be no different.

In case you’ve been under a rock, Blizzard is seriously considering the homogenization of 10 and 25 person raids for Cataclysm to the point where the only noticeable difference between them is the number of people in the parties (i.e. 10 or 25 people).  They are even likely to have the raids share the same lock-out.  I think these changes are very positive, but I’m selfish that way (I raid 10s and don’t have the real possibility of raiding end-game 25s).

From various vocal quarters around the WOW community, this homogenization is being met with much indignation.  Many seem resigned to the fact that guilds will break-up over this change.  This may be so. However, what gets confusing is these people will say that they don’t play for the shiny loot.  They just want to play with their friends.  While this is admirable and all, it is confusing because the announced changes aren’t doing anything to prevent them from playing with their friends.  Blizzard isn’t removing 25s, like they did to 40s between Vanilla and BC. Blizzard is just making 10s more equal to 25s.  The complainers, in my mind, while indicating that they don’t play for loot are considering changing their preferred play style as the result of loot changes.  25s aren’t going to be considered “special” any more and they aren’t going to do them because they aren’t “special”.  What about the friends they so desperately want to play with?  How good of friends are they if you don’t want to play with them because you aren’t going to have access to the elite super special pixels of shiny WOW loot?

It seems to me that many who are complaining have some degree of misunderstanding about the situation they are in at this time.  I would argue that the “friends” they have wouldn’t be around now except for the opportunity to get loot, and that they may want to reconsider their definition of friend.  I believe their concern/agitation at this proposed change is the direct result of a light being shown on the truth of their situation.  In their heart of hearts, they know this to be the case.  Those players that they’ve been thinking of as friends are just people who want the shiny special pixels and when those aren’t exclusively available through their elite raiding guild they will go elsewhere without a second thought.  Maybe they recognize this, hence the consternation, but I think they should attempt some introspection about the situation before proclaiming the sky is falling.

The best post I’ve seen on this is from Ava @ Tales of a Priest.  She is in a high-end/elite raiding guild (Dark Nemesis) and is willing to take a wait and see approach.  She’s been there and done that and I think she has a good deal of credibility in this area.

Are 25s harder to organize and keep together? No doubt.  Logistics aside, are 25s harder to complete than the corresponding 10s? No.  I think in many cases it is much harder to consistently achieve in 10s because missing one person from your regular group in 10s is significantly harder to make-up for than missing  one, two or even three  people from a 25s group.  For this reason, I think it is perfectly reasonable to have 10s and 25s share the same loot.

I know your waiting with baited breath, because this post hasn’t gone on long enough, but I will make a future post about what I think Blizzard is hoping to accomplish with this.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

(turn and face the strain)

Ch-ch-changes

Don’t want to be a richer man

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

(turn and face the strain)

Ch-ch-changes

Just gonna have to be a different man

Time may change me

But I can’t trace time

(David Bowie)

Posted in Cataclysm, MMO, Thoughts | 2 Comments »

Bone Stormed

Posted by Smokimus on April 26, 2010

I take a break for a couple of weeks to attend to real life issues (like work and kids) and come back to find that it’s the end of the world as we know it.  Apparently we’ve been Bone Stormed.

The Class Change Preview Hullaballoo –

OMG <fill in the blank> is going to be OP.  I’m gonna quit.” Or “OMG my class is getting beat with the nerf bat.  I’m gonna quit.” These seem to be the predominate items that I see being spewed as a result of the Cataclysm Class Change Previews.  To which, I respond with “slow your roll.”  As I understand it, many of the changes that were contemplated for Wrath were not implemented in the end and those that were implemented were somewhat different than those changes that were initially discussed.

My only real observation from the whole exercise is that many of the changes are being made for the purposes of changing/balancing PVP.  I don’t PVP beyond the occasional battleground. This concerns me from the perspective of the effects PVP changes have on the PVE game that I play.  When taken in light of the recent PVP related changes to various classes, I think this is an area of legitimate concern.  However, I will take a wait and see attitude. My roll is officially slowed.

My Pretty Pony –

It’s only a matter of time before they start selling levels and Tier 11 gear.  I’m gonna quit.”Or “Isn’t it so cute.”

When the pet store first came out, Blizzard said they it would include pets and MOUNTS.  I don’t think they were referring to activities that occur in the Deep Run Tram when they said this.  I’m fairly certain that they were talking about in-game pets and vehicles your toons can ride in game.  It wasn’t the end of the world when they announced it then and it’s not the end of the world now.  They are no closer to selling levels (see Refer A Friend) or game changing items (see Race Change) beyond what they currently do.  They are doing what they said they were going to do.  If I were in their position, I would do the same thing.  They are in the business to make money and the pets and mounts appear to be doing so very well,  thank you.

As a result of Blizzard selling these items and appearing to do well with them, Is there the possibility that they won’t raise the subscription fee or in other ways make the game more real money expensive?  They haven’t raised the subscription fee in 5 years, even in a low inflationary environment this seems to be exceptional as certainly their hardware, development, and maintenance costs have increased.

Were you forced to buy any of the items currently on the store?  Did the fact that others did buy the items negatively impact your game? Outside of the annoying noises the new pet made (and you no longer have to hear), I believe the answer to these questions is no.  When you are denied a raid slot because you don’t have a Spectral Flying Cockroach, I will then believe that it is the end of the World of Warcraft.

It’s My Raid and I’ll Cry If I Want Too.

Here is an area that I will proclaim utter noobitude.  I think there should be additional reward for being able to successfully put  and keep together a 25 person raiding group over doing the same for a 10 person group.  From my understanding, that will continue to be the case.  It just may not be as large a distinction as it currently is, but the distinction will be there.

The guild I’m in has attempted to put together 25 person guild raids in the past, but it has not been effective for a variety of reasons. It seems that getting 25 people together on a consistent basis is very hard except for the most elite guilds that are able to recruit people from all over the community/world and basically enforce the necessary discipline on their members with the threat of being able to replace their position at the drop of a hat.  Even with notoriety and recognized accomplishments, many top guilds have issues with this as well.  For a many (most?) casual guilds, maintaining the necessary “dedication” among its members to consistently run 25s is not a legitimate possibility.

It seems to me that Blizz is seeing this trend.  They’ve made the content much more accessible and so much more of the community is able to see the “end game” content.  My guess is that they are noticing the bulk of the new people are seeing the content in 10s versus 25s.  As a result, they are attempting to continue a system that will support most of the people who want to see the content, yet the system that they propose will allow those “hardcore” guilds to see it sooner and “gear up” more quickly.  I don’t have a problem with that, but what do I know.

It may be the end of the world, but I feel fine.

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Why SWTOR Won’t “Kill” WOW

Posted by Smokimus on March 19, 2010

I’m an MMO noob, but I don’t believe that the Star Wars: The Old Republic will come at all close to meeting the projections the developers have laid out for it.

I like light sabers as much as the next person. I’m a Star Wars fan from the beginning. I saw it 8-9 times in the theater when it was released (1977) and I saw the next two movies 4-6 times each in the theater as well as had every action figure and vehicle that I could get my hands on. (Episodes IV – VI, were great.  Episodes I – III, blew in almost every conceivable way).  When I heard that there was going to be a Star Wars MMO, I instantly thought that that would be awesome (I didn’t know about Star Wars Galaxies and that is probably a good thing).  My opinion regarding this is changing drastically.

As I’ve said before, I’m new to WOW and MMOs in general (1.5 years), but there are clearly some things that WOW is doing very well, regardless of what the QQing trolls say.  You don’t have millions of people paying $15/month if you don’t.  Many of these things are going to be difficult for SWTOR to do in a manner that is sufficiently different from WOW to pull the player base away for any length of time.

One word may say it all – Variety.   In WOW there are 2 factions, 10 races, 10 classes with 3 specs each that can be put together in a multitude of ways.  Most players have multiple toons with different combinations of all of those variables.  Additionally, there are three very different roles that are available for group play: Tank, Heals, DPS.  SWTOR doesn’t seem to have near this amount of variation.  In fact, SWTOR seems to be very binary.  You are going to be a Jedi or a Sith.  I’m sorry.  I don’t believe that anyone is out there chomping at the bit to be a Bounty Hunter or any of the secondary classes that will be available.  You are going to play the Star Wars MMO to be a light saber wielding force using bad ass. (full stop) That is the appeal of the whole Star Wars universe.  This seems analogous to WOW if the only choice was being Horde or Alliance Death Knight and that would be very boring after making it through the starting zone on your first character.

I’m sure that SWTOR will have better graphics and better sound and some wonderful bells and whistles as compared to WOW.  However at the end of the day, what keeps people coming back is a variety of things to do and ways to play.  I believe that much of the QQ in WOW is the result of people feeling that the variety is diminishing and that everything is becoming too similar.  That may be the case. I’m not in a position to be able to judge that effectively. I do know that I have 11 different toons in WOW and not one of them seems the same as another one and any one of them could be my main.  I don’t think that is going to be possible in SWTOR, at least from what I’ve seen thus far.

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Top of Mind

Posted by Smokimus on March 9, 2010

I listen to several (too many) WoW podcasts and recently there has been a lot of QQ from some quarters about the catering to the casual. It is becoming tiresome. The “I’ve been playing for 5 years and I can ‘t believe how easy they are making this game” crowd needs to wake up and realize that their pixelated avatar won’t be a special snowflake in of itself.  The unique aspect of anyone’s character is going to be the person playing it behind the keyboard.

I’ve only been playing for a year and a half, I will never be a ‘leet player.  I try to play as well as I can, but I’m not (don’t want too) going to raid 5 days a week for 4 hours a night and beat my head against bleeding edge content.  I can’t imagine something more boring. However, I can run dungeons and raids and I can at times be a better player than most (= >50%).  I don’t feel like I’m being handed the shiny bling.  I’m earning it.

For the vast majority of players, end game raiding isn’t “easy”.  Getting gear via running heroics and badge farming does nothing but get the typical player the opportunity to begin seeing end game content.  A less experienced player is still going to stand in the goo, get hit by the flame walls, not move to get the needed burr/de-buff regardless of gear level.  Everyone has to learn these skills and the only way for them to learn them is to practice.

I think Blizz understood that running Black Temple, Molten Core, Sunwell (or any of the end game raids of the era) week after week after week waiting for that one piece of gear to drop that would allow the player to move to the next piece of content was not attractive to most of the playing community.  Therefore, most (90+%) never saw endgame content. That content took a lot of development time to make.  They implemented this current system to change that stat and I think that is a great thing.  Could it improve? Absolutely.  Is it better than it was? Absolutely.

Posted in Thoughts, World of Warcraft | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »