Just a list of a few things that should be obvious but apparently are not.
One: if you have some sort of issue with my RP, my RP style, or how any of my characters are presented to the world, tell me. Don’t blab about it to someone else and certainly don’t blab about it in public to the extent that a friend of mine (who has better taste) can hear about it and report it back to me.
Two: my characters have relationships with NPCs, my other characters, and other people that are not represented by avatars. Jana has a father and had a mother and a sister. Jana fell in love with a guy named Jeremiah. Saxsy and Traxy are sisters and have family. Traxy saved Jana’s life. And now Jana has a relationship with someone named Bronlissa for the purpose of a story. (I created a character named Bronlissa because I thought it might be fun to RP her individually. We’ll see how that goes.) That my characters have relationships with each other is a part of my ongoing stories and I don’t see how anyone should reasonably object to that. (To be very snarky: yes, Bronlissa is Jana’s love interest right now. No, that’s not because I am incapable of getting Jana a love interest represented by a player. It’s because that is what is necessary for the story I am telling.)
Three: I don’t know what will happen with the story with Bronlissa. It is experimental. I am experimenting with it and seeing how well it works to control two characters within a story, two characters who I think have an interesting and complex relationship. I have some ideas for where it would go but a lot of it has depended on the people with whom I have RPed. (For instance: that Bronlissa and Jana are a “couple” now came about entirely because of the urging of two people I was RPing with. It was certainly something I thought possible, but it wasn’t exactly foretold.)
Four: I don’t know if the story with Bronlissa will become part of Jana’s “canon”. Again, it is experimental. Half the RP I do now does not involve Bronlissa at all because I don’t think either the RP is suited for it or the person is right for that sort of character. And by that I don’t just mean she stands on the outskirts and does nothing - I mean that she does not actually exist. I think parts of my story will go one way and parts another and I’m not sure how it will eventually work out. One possibility that will certainly not become canon is that Jana becomes a demon to be with Bronlissa. (In that incarnation, Jana would never again be seen by the rest of Azeroth).
That I should have to say these things to anyone boggles my mind. That it would be someone within my guild who needs to be told these things further irritates me. This is the sort of thing that causes someone to leave guilds.
Update: after a little bit of thinking about it and a retraction by the person who had informed of these things, I’m pretty sure that the person who prompted this post - someone who had disparaged my RP publicly - was not someone within my guild, but rather someone with whom I RPed briefly, using the scenario with Bronlissa, and who did not work out for reasons I won’t go into here. Still, it was pretty agitating to think it would be someone in my guild.
It’s been a while since I’ve said how things have been going for me in game. I’ve been meaning to write about it, but I just haven’t.
Right now, Jana’s the only toon I do any actual PvE content with. If everything works right, I raid Throne of Thunder with her on Sunday and Monday nights for a total of about 5-6 hours. We’ve gotten 6/12 down, but in the past week (and probably the next week as well) we’ve hit roadblocks because people have been unavailable. This is the downside of not having so many people in the guild willing to raid, but it’s one I’ve learned to live with.
Throne of Thunder has been a frustrating raid experience. A big part of it is the boss fights themselves. We have yet to run across a boss that we could figure out how to down with less than, say, ten separate attempts; progression has been at best one boss a week (Jin’rokh _may_ have been an exception to this, as it might have just been a gear issue at first). Some of the bosses seem to be complicated for the sake of complications. Horridon, for instance, has four different add phases, each with different adds that do different things and require different treatment. The top kill priority changes from position to position and the reason I don’t repeat it here is because I’m not at all certain I remember it correctly. This is on top of all of the normal boss mechanics that everyone has to deal with.
The problem with the boss fights, as I see them, are that they are complicated but not interesting. Once one knows what to do and how to execute it, the fight becomes relatively easy. It’s the process of learning the complicated mechanics and priorities, not on skillful execution of basic principles. Consider the Lich King normal fight in Wrath, one of the most complicated fights in that expansion. That fight could be reduced to five stages, with each stage having a couple different things (e.g., defile, val’kyr) that required reaction and execution. My experience with that fight was that, both as a tank and a dps, you had to go beyond understanding the principles of the fight and actually figure out how to do your best at executing those principles. The principles were generally easier to get but the execution harder. Fights in MoP seem to be the opposite; the principles seem to be very difficult to pick up, but once you do, execution is a breeze.
The real problem with Throne of Thunder, though, is the trash. There is just too damned much of it, a lot of it serving no real purpose at all. For some reason Blizzard has decided to give trash mobs zillions of health, so each fight instead of taking maybe fifteen seconds as it did in Wrath, now takes minutes. There are now mini-bosses that don’t drop any loot of any sort, provide mechanics along the lines of a typical dungeon boss, and take a long time to kill. None of it is terribly interesting, but it takes up far too much raid time to do. I don’t mind trash if it is interesting, illustrates a boss mechanic or is relatively slight in number (hopefully all three). But the trash in Throne of Thunder reminds me of those “fun loops” those people, who were trying to argue that Blizzard was being unethical in Warcraft, were using as the basis for their argument. They’re not fun, they’re just pains in the asses and it’s the sort of thing that makes me nod when I hear about subscriber loss.
Note: I’m not saying that any significant amount of WoW subscriber loss is because of raid trash. Rather, I look at the raid trash and I wonder if Blizzard has forgotten how to make something fun, which probably extends to a lot of other elements of the game.
So PvE is frustrating. I have a few specific frustrations (one, for instance, is that the best weapon for me in ToT has spirit on it. Why?) I feel like I’m playing very badly of late, in that I can’t execute things, lag is getting to me, and I can never get a crit when I need one. If PvE were all I was doing, I may well have quit by now.
But I don’t. I RP also, and here’s some updates on that. Note that some of these stories contain more mature topics, so if you’re not interested in RP or that sort of thing, stop reading now.
My RP of late has also focused on Jana. She’s easily my most developed character and the one with the best description, so it’s fun to play off that with new people. One of the minor frustrations I’ve had is that a lot of her RP tends to be of the revolving door variety. I can have a lot of fun with one RP with one person but then we never RP again for whatever reason. I can’t quite pick it out and I’m sure it has more to do with me than with them. There just didn’t seem to be much reason to return to the RP and it was more interesting to see how Jana works with a new person than to develop any specific RP.
I’m trying to break that cycle though, in part because I do actually want to get further than one day’s RP and in part because I want to develop Jana as a character. So one thing I’ve been experimenting with lately is what I think of as “storyteller RP”. That’s where I, as Jana, control a couple of different characters that form the basis of the story and other people play parts within that story. I generally control the development of the story.
The RP involves a former love of Jana’s named Bronlissa. If you follow my deviantart page, you have some idea of who Bronlissa is. She is an extraordinarily powerful Sayaad. The story behind their relationship is one that I’ve always thought to be interesting.
About five and a half years ago, Jana encountered a warlock named Illadra that took an interest to her. Jana was not at all interested in him: he was at best a two-bit warlock who thought too much of himself, was otherwise socially awkward and wasn’t that handsome either. Unfortunately for Jana, Illadra became fascinated with Jana and had the extreme luck of getting Bronlissa for a succubus when he summoned one. Bronlissa was much more powerful than Illadra (and more powerful than Jana, even then), but was forced by the warlock spell into serving him. Illadra ordered Bronlissa to seduce Jana and she did, very effectively, by warping her mind when Jana was sleeping and becoming able to control her memories, pain and pleasure centers.
Illadra had fun with this for a month, often forcing Bronlissa to force Jana into embarrassing situations, or just watching Bronlissa perform. The problem for Illadra was that Bronlissa was chafing about being under the control of someone so petty minded, and that while Illadra controlled Bronlissa and Bronlissa controlled Jana, Illadra did not control Jana directly. This allowed Bronlissa to hatch a plan, one in which she would control Jana in order to kill Illadra. A month after her introduction to Jana, Jana and Bronlissa succeeded in killing Illadra. This freed Bronlissa, but she maintained her control over Jana.
For the next four months, Bronlissa went on a spree against warlocks, using Jana both as bait and to ensure that she could not be ensnared by a warlock’s power. Thus her power grew and grew, while Jana’s spirit began to fade. While Illadra was alive, Bronlissa and Jana had formed a bond as partners against a common enemy, and this bond continued even as Bronlissa maintained Jana under her thrall. At the end of the four months, Jana was desperate and hatched a plan designed to gain her freedom back.
Jana told Bronlissa that she loved her, and she wanted to be with her for the rest of their lives. This had the virtue of being true; perhaps Jana was suffering from Stockholm syndrome, or perhaps she just admired Bronlissa’s admitted beauty, strength, intelligence and persistence. Either way, Jana told Bronlissa that she wanted to be her partner and wanted to love her as an equal, which would mean freeing Jana from Bronlissa’s mechanisms of control. Bronlissa was skeptical at first, but then revealed that she too was in love with Jana, something rarely experienced by a Sayaad. She freed Jana from her control, promising to love her as an equal.
Jana then killed Bronlissa with a vicious fireball, reducing Bronlissa to ashes. Jana would justify this bit to herself and others by claiming that she could never trust Bronlissa not to retake control and that it was the only way to ensure her independence.
Fast forward five years. Jana has not had any relationship success in all that time. She has been successful in other endeavors but hasn’t found a partner. She thinks about Bronlissa a lot and has come to believe that she made a mistake when she killed her; living under her control would have been better than not having her at all.
Bronlissa, meanwhile, has done what many denizens of the Warcraft universe do when they get killed: she razzed and bided her time, bruised by Jana’s rejection and considering her next move.
The RP I’m currently working on is one in which Bronlissa makes her next move, reappearing in Jana’s life. As you might imagine, Bronlissa’s a bit peeved at Jana. In order for the RP to work, though, Bronlissa can’t just simply want to kill Jana. I am wavering between having her really care deep down for Jana and want some sort of reconciliation on her terms, or just wanting to torture her into a very painful submission and death.
Jana is similarly conflicted. On the one hand, her fears were very real when she made that decision to kill Bronlissa. But as the years have gone by, Jana’s gotten lonely and no one has really measured up. She’s come to feel a great deal of regret for what she did, and even if it were justified she recognizes that it was a pretty wicked thing to do to someone you loved. Jana’s very conflicted and will feel that she’s about to get the punishment that is due her.
So this is where I began with this scenario, and I’ve tried it out with a few people to varying degrees of success. One problem that I have noted is that a few people just can’t abide an RP where someone else is more powerful than they are. This is true despite the RP never getting adversarial to any extent, and the person never being put at risk of anything. For a few people, the focus of the RP became about how to defeat Bronlissa, something I never really intended at all. The RP is about the relationship between Bronlissa and Jana and how that develops. At one point I thought part of the fun would be for Bronlissa to use other people to turn against Jana, but that requires a bit of depth or a bit of humility on the part of the other person, because people are naturally more sympathetic to Jana than they are to Bronlissa the demon. (This is true despite the fact that Jana is very clearly, IMO, in the wrong in this relationship.)
Fortunately there have been a few people that have a more progressive outlook on the RP and I’ve managed to bring it along with them. I think it’s been quite fun for me, and quite different in parts where I’m essentially telling a story rather than having an interaction with another person out there (during the times in which Jana and Bronlissa are acting and reacting to each other. And I do have some direction where I think I can take it, though I’m not sure how far I could get with just one person and whether I can meaningfully include other people along the ride. I hope I can.
Anyway, that’s what has been going on. I’m looking forward to the continuation of the Bronlissa RP, because it’s been a lot of fun and I feel it will help Jana develop as a character. As for the raiding stuff, I really hope it gets better. Right now I have the sense that we’re one bad week away from our raid team breaking up, and that’s a bad feeling.
After reading through a lot of my last post I realized that there was more I could do, both in response to a few comments I got and to refine some thoughts on Warcraft’s financial situation. The following post contains a lot of irresponsible speculation and irresponsible financial wonkery so if you’re not into that sort of thing you might as well stop reading now.
The most interesting piece of financial data to me is on the fifth page of the tables accompanying this press release. About halfway down the page is a table setting forth the “Non-GAAP Net Revenues by Segment/Platform Mix.” If I understand this correctly, this shows the actual revenue that Blizzard received from January 1 to March 31, 2013 (as opposed revenue that was received earlier but could not be recognized until this quarter under generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP).
That table has a listing for “Online subscriptions”, which might be sort of a misnomer given how it is defined in a footnote: “Revenue from online subscriptions consists of revenue from all World of Warcraft products, including subscriptions, boxed products, expansion packs, licensing royalties and value-added services. It also includes revenues from Call of Duty: Elite membershios.”
Let’s get that last part out of the way first. Call of Duty: Elite is the online service for the Call of Duty franchise. It was launched in November 2011. Premium memberships sold for $49.99 a year. As of August 2012, they sold 2.3 million premium subscriptions. Apparently that wasn’t enough to sustain it, though, as in October 2012 Activision announced that the service would become free.
If those numbers are accurate, there’s a total of about $115 million spread throughout the 4Q 2011 through 4Q 2012 non-GAAP figures, and the amount will likely trickle out in the GAAP figures through 3Q2013. For the non-GAAP figures it’s likely that most of this revenue would be recorded in 4Q 2011 and 1Q 2012, when most of the accounts were probably activated.
The upshot? 1Q 2013 “Online subscription” revenue is all Warcraft, but it’s not directly comparable to 1Q 2012, which may have had around $50 million in Call of Duty: Elite memberships.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the numbers. Warcraft brought in $228 million in the first three months of 2013.
Let’s get a few things out of the way quickly. $228 million is a lot of money. It represents 28% of the revenue Activision Blizzard received over the three month period. It’s only $20 million less than Activision’s entire console business (which is a damned long list). There’s no question in my mind that World of Warcraft and its customers are one of the top priorities at Activision Blizzard.
In my last post I made the prediction that there would be no further expansions for World of Warcraft. This was based on the following assumptions:
My understanding is that, in this part of the development cycle, the next expansion is being planned, but I highly doubt there would be anything even remotely close to playable. Going forward with it would represent a significant expense, and a decision whether to go forward with significant development or not would likely need to be made soon. They can’t say “Wait a year to see if things turn around”, because if they did they wouldn’t be able to make a June 2014 release.
The question posed is: does it make financial sense to green light a new World of Warcraft expansion.
Let’s get one thing clear: World of Warcraft is tremendously profitable. It is Activision Blizzard’s cash cow and likely has been since Burning Crusade was announced (and probably earlier). On the first page of the tables in Activision’s press release, there’s an entry for “Cost of sales - online subscriptions”, which shows a cost of $57 million. If this category corresponds to the revenue category of the same name (and I have no idea why it wouldn’t), Activision Blizzard’s gross profit from “online subscriptions” (i.e., World of Warcraft) was a cool $171 million. This is a gross margin of 75% - for every quarter Blizzard spent on World of Warcraft maintenance, they got a dollar back. It was also enough to cover Activision Blizzard’s entire product development cost with $46 million to spare for a pizza party for the programmers.
World of Warcraft, as it exists right now even with the reduced amount of subscribers, is the envy of practically every other gaming software maker in the world. $684 million in gross profit is nothing to sneeze at.
The problem is not where World of Warcraft is now. It’s where it’s going. And for this part I have to make a few guesses, ones that I think are reasonable but also could very well be wrong.
Activision Blizzard spent $125 million on product development last quarter. How much of it was related to World of Warcraft? Well, here’s the first assumption: the amount spent on WoW development as a portion of total development cost was the same as the revenue received from World of Warcraft as a portion of Activision Blizzard’s total revenue (not including “Distribution”). As of 1Q 2013 that would be 30% of $125 million, or $37.5 million. (Over the past year, that figure has varied from a low of 11% during major console game spikes to 50%, which makes me think 30% as a general figure is reasonable.)
With that assumption, Warcraft’s total gross cost goes to $94.5 million as compared to gross revenue of $228 million. That’s a gross margin of 58.5%, which looks good until you compare it to Activision Blizzard as a whole. As a whole (this time using GAAP because it’s likely to provide a more accurate gross margin for the entire company), Activision Blizzard had gross revenue of $1,324 million versus gross costs (net costs minus Sales and marketing and General and administrative expenses) of $541 million, for a gross margin of 59.1%. Thus, even though World of Warcraft earns a tremendous amount of money, right now it doesn’t earn the same return as an average Activision Blizzard game.
That, to me, is the rub. Absent a strategic incentive to do otherwise, business folk allocate assets to things that offer the greatest return. Right now, if you had a dollar, you’d be better off investing it in Activision Blizzard’s other properties than in World of Warcraft (although, to be fair, it’s really too close to call). In the future, World of Warcraft is likely to become a worse investment as it continues to lose subscribers. I think the heads of Activision Blizzard can see the same thing and - again, absent some strategic incentive - would invest in something other than Warcraft.
This presents the question as to whether Activision Blizzard would have a strategic incentive to invest in World of Warcraft. This is actually a strong possibility, I think. Blizzard’s new MMO is, from what I can tell from the slides, scheduled for late 2014. Under the laws of shipping date slippage, that means it might actually see the light of day as of mid-2015 (although releasing it on WoW’s 10th anniversary would be a neat thing to do). Can World of Warcraft be maintained through then, to the point where there is still a significant userbase ready to be transitioned to the MMO. Likely not without news of an expansion. If there is an expansion announced or released, I bet it’s for that reason rather than for finances. It’s more of a long term bet than a short term bet.
Now, for some further speculation as to the new MMO. I believe very strongly, no matter what the execs and devs said about not making a WoW sequel, that it is based on the Warcraft IP. At the time of the release, World of Warcraft is likely going to be on its last legs. Further, I don’t think Blizzard expects or could expect the average gamer to pay for two MMO subscriptions to Blizzard. A lot of the potential market for the new MMO will be World of Warcraft players, both present and past. It makes too much sense to say that the new MMO should be designed to appeal to Warcraft players and what would be more appealing than something related to Warcraft?
There is also the IP issue. Let’s suppose the new MMO uses a completely new universe, with new mythology and new lore. If that’s the case, Blizzard would no longer have a significant investment in the Warcraft lore, which is the very thing that made Blizzard rich in the first place. If there were some other Warcraft game planned (even not an MMO), then this might make sense. Blizzard without Warcraft is a company without its soul. I just can’t picture it happening.
I could be wrong, but it really just makes too much sense for a new Blizzard MMO set to replace Warcraft to use the Warcraft IP in some way.
There’s been a bit of a buzz in my Twitter feed (and rightfully so) about MMO-Champion’s recent rundown of Activision-Blizzard’s latest announcement that (among other things) World of Warcraft is down to 8.3 million subscribers. 8.3 million subs is a decline of 1.3 million from the end of 2012. That’s roughly fourteen thousand cancelled subscriptions a day. Extrapolating from the operative date of the press release (March 31, 2013), Warcraft is probably down to around 7.75 million subscriptions. At that rate, no one will be subscribing to World of Warcraft as of the first week of October 2014.
That’s a scary thought.
To put it in a slightly different perspective, Warcraft was launched in November 2004. In January 2007, it had reached 8 million subscribers. 5 days later, Burning Crusade was released. Warcraft got its 9 millionth subscriber in July 2007. We are now down to pre-BC levels of subscribers.
For me, the interesting bits are in the details.
Activision Blizzard has released a 12-Quarter Financial Model in the form of an Excel Spreadsheet and if you’re at all curious as to where it gets its money, that’s a good thing to check out. (It’s available at their Quarterly Results page.)
The closest thing to revealing the revenues from World of Warcraft is on the “Rev Mix by Platform” tab. That tab shows the revenue attributed to “Online subscriptions” for the past three years. ”Online subscriptions” is defined as everything related to Warcraft, including some not-so-online-subscriptiony things such as expansion packs (i.e., the box you’d buy at Game Stop), licensing royalties (e.g., payments made to Activision by figurine makers) and value-added services (e.g., paid server transfers). It also includes “Call of Duty Elite memberships”, whatever those are, thus preventing someone from simply renaming “Online subscriptions” to “World of Warcraft”.
In any case, the GAAP revenue for this “platform” for the first three months of the year was $275 million, and the non-GAAP revenue was $228 million.
What’s the difference between GAAP revenue and non-GAAP revenue? With the caveat that I am not an accountant, here is an example that I understand to illustrate the difference. Suppose you pay $120 on January 1 for a yearly subscription to WoW. Since that payment was for services that were delivered over the whole of the year, the entirety of that revenue could not be recognized under GAAP in the first quarter; instead, $30 would be allocated to each quarter. Under non-GAAP, the $120 would be recorded under the first quarter revenue because that’s when it was received.
This covers a number of different situations. If you bought MoP, under GAAP the entire purchase price had to be split over a 12 month period because the game was sold with a promise of continuing online support. Under non-GAAP the revenue could be recognized immediately.
We now bring you back to the land of the living.
In this case, the difference between GAAP and non-GAAP is actually interesting; $275 million in GAAP revenue is nothing to sneeze at and is the second highest quarterly total since Q2 2011. But non-GAAP tells the problem; $228 million is barely above the low of $199 million in Q2 2012, and is in fact the second lowest in the three year period. It seems to me that the Q1 CY2013 GAAP revenues are boosted by sales of Mists of Pandaria in September 2012, and that the non-GAAP revenues are closer to the actual revenue from the subscriber base would be.
$228 million over 8.3 million subscribers is about $27.47 per subscriber, or $9.16 per month.
What should be concerning to Blizzard and the rest of us is how far down that number is year to year. It’s 9% lower than the year ago quarter, which isn’t entirely representative because the quarter a year ago was one year into Cataclysm. A more appropriate comparison would be two years ago, just after Cataclysm was released. 1Q CY2013 revenue from Online subscriptions was $339 million. Over two years that’s about a 33% decrease.
What’s the point of all this?
Well, I have been asked a few times lately what the next expansion for Warcraft would be. (Why me? No idea, I have no better idea than anyone else.) My understanding was that Blizzard had planned two further expansions in order to get players to level 100.
After reviewing the financials, I don’t see that happening anymore. Whatever one thinks of Mists of Pandaria artistically, the financials show the grim truth that it failed to spark significant revenue increases. As a comparison, non-GAAP Q4 2010 revenue, when Cataclysm was released, was $544 million. For MoP in Q3 2012, it was only $345 million. It’s hard to justify another expansion when the current one failed to grow interest in the franchise. I think that Mists of Pandaria is the end of the road.
So what happens now? Well, to some extent we’ve already seen it. There’s an increasing reliance on cross-server mechanics, including the dreaded CRZ “feature” ensuring greater competition for mining nodes and extra-saucy off realm trolling with the added bonus of dismounting anyone you are carrying as a Sandstone Drake every time you switch zones. It would not surprise me to see some low population realms be consolidated as well, but I think Blizzard is highly reluctant to do such a thing because it will be interpreted (rightly) as a death knell. Most of the cross-realm features will allow players to play the game as intended even if a realm’s population won’t support it.
One thing I wouldn’t look for is subscription price cuts. I don’t think the majority of people are unsubscribing from Warcraft because it’s too expensive. Rather, I think the level of new subscribers has fallen to an insubstantial number because the game seems “old” and inaccessible (consider how many separate things you have to buy to get Pandaria content), and other people are leaving because of dissatisfaction with the game itself. Even if this were not true, though, it still doesn’t make financial sense (and at this point it would be a purely financial move). Suppose dropping the subscription rate to $5/month would net you 2 million more subscribers. That would cost Blizzard $22 million a month without any ancillary benefit.
In short, I expect to see more cross-realm features added, perhaps even allowing cross-realm raiding of current content. Perhaps cross-realm auction houses will appear. There might be other steps that I can’t anticipate that have the effect of merging servers without the death knell implications of actually merging servers.
The slides accompanying the press release mention a new MMO in development, one which has the code name “Titan” bandied about. My bet is that once Garrosh bites the dust, practically all game development will be shifted to that MMO, which I think is very likely to be World of Warcraft 2 (with “Titan” as a reference to the Titans of lore).
edit: Fritokal made two helpful comments that I think deserve some sort of response to illustrate where my beliefs are coming from.
First, she said (forgive me if I have the gender wrong): “[T]he development cycle suggests that they’re already likely working on another expansion.” This is true, but I think that unless the subscriber loss is unexpectedly stemmed, whatever is in development will be canceled. Expansions happen once every 22 months or so, putting the projected date for the next expansion in July 2014. Will Activision give the go on such an expansion if they expect that there will be less than 2 million subscribers left at that point? I don’t think so - I think it’s highly likely that sometime soon, if they haven’t already done so, that significant WoW development is throwing good money after bad.
Second, she says that “devs and GMs have said there will be no WoW 2.” I have heard this, but I think there’s enough wiggle room in what I’ve read the developers to say for it to be something set within the Warcraft Universe. For instance, in this article Mike Morhaime says, “We’re not trying to make a WoW sequel.” There’s a lot of wiggle room there - something within the WoW universe set, say, 100 years into the future wouldn’t necessarily qualify as a WoW sequel. My bet is that there is so much IP associated with Warcraft that Blizzard would have to try to leverage that somehow - and without WoW, there would be nothing along that line. (As one person noted, it doesn’t preclude the MMO being a WoW prequel.)
My money is on it being Warcraft related somehow. But I could very well be wrong.
Enjoy Azeroth while it lasts.
WoW Insider: Know Your Lore -
This article by Anne Stickney caught my eye last night, mostly because I’ve been thinking of doing a lore post about my experiences in Mists of Pandaria anyway. So here’s a good place to add my two cents.
Stickney notes that “Alliance players [are] worked up in a near frenzy on realm and story forums, bitter and angry about the direction the Alliance storyline has been taking and repeatedly demanding more.” She describes in wonderful detail the history of the alliance and how we got to Wrath of the Lich King, specifically the return of Varian Wrynn.
But then the article veers off in a direction that seems very foreign to me. Now, an important caveat: I don’t know what Alliance players are saying on realm and story forums. Even if I did, I can’t speak for them. I can only speak for myself. From my point of view, Stickney gets it very wrong.
(Note: none of the following should be interpreted as a personal attack on Stickney, who I quite like. If it seems that way, I apologize, as it’s not my intention to talk about her, but rather the ideas she puts forth.)
As I understand her argument, Stickney claims that with the return of Varian Wrynn, he displaces the alliance player in the role of “Hero of the Alliance”. ”That feeling of being a hero.… was taken away with the arrival of Varian Wrynn…”
This has never been my experience, not in Wrath, not in Cataclysm and not in Pandaria. It wasn’t Wrynn who performed the heroic deeds. Jana was the one who helped Bolvar defeat Thel’zan the Duskbringer underneath Wintergarde. Jana was the one who survived the cowardly Forsaken attack at the Wrathgate and went on to attack the Undercity. Traxy was the one who killed the Lich King. Saxsy was the one who defeated Ragnaros and pushed the Fire Lord back from Hyjal. Jana was the one who defeated Deathwing and ensured Azeroth’s survival. Saxsy was the one who saved the Valley of Four Winds by launching herself into the stomach of a giant bug. Jana was the one who saved Kun-Lai by rolling barrels of ale down a hill. Jana was the one who defeated the Sha of Fear.
Varian Wrynn had practically nothing to do with any of these things. Jana, Traxy and Saxsy were the heroes, were undoubtedly treated by the game as such and got the just rewards from their heroic deeds.
I don’t feel like my characters are not heroes. But I think Stickney is very close to getting what I feel the problem is with the Alliance when she says “Alliance players don’t really have a reason to be fighting right now.” I think that’s hogwash—there are and continue to be existential threats to the Alliance and Azeroth that demand a response. The problem for me is that the Alliance itself does not (and has not) provided the demand for this response.
Let’s review some of the events within the World of Warcraft game since the glorious defeat of the Lich King:
1. The Dragonflight discovered a breach in the Ruby Sanctum, fortelling of a dire attack on Azeroth. The Alliance did nothing.
2. Deathwing arrived and, among other things, destroyed the Park in Stormwind, destroyed the Stonewrought Dam, and destroyed Auberdine. The Alliance’s response to this was to send its forces to fight the Horde over an abandoned Kul Tiran prison.
3. The Forsaken marched on Hillsbrad Foothills, and destroyed Southshore by covering it with the plague. It also marched on Gilneas and carpet bombed that city with the plague, forcing the Gilneans to retreat to Darnassus. The Alliance had no response to this.
4. Orcs pushed deeper into Ashenvale, destroyed the town of Astranaar, and established strongholds in western Ashenvale from which they could launch attacks on Kaldorei settlements, and even Darnassus itself. The Alliance had no significant response to this.
5. A group of Goblins declared its allegiance to the horde and desecrated the historical capital of the Kaldorei empire by building a go-kart track over its ruins and terraforming it to look like a horde symbol. The Alliance had no response to this.
6. Ragnaros returned in Hyjal to threaten all of Azeroth. The Alliance left the response to this to druids.
7. Deathwing launched an attack on Wyrmrest Temple as part of his end plan to destroy all of Azeroth. The Alliance sent the Skybreaker and a few marines to assist Thrall and the Dragon Aspects.
8. Theramore was destroyed by the Horde using a powerful mana bomb. The Alliance’s response to this was to hand out fireworks and chant “Remember Theramore!”
9. The Horde sought a relic that would infuse its warriors with the powers of the sha. The Alliance found the relic first and hid it in Darnassus. The Horde invaded Darnassus and stole the relic. The Alliance’s response was to send a fifteen year old boy to find a Monkey King to learn how to destroy the relic. (Note: the Kirin Tor responded much more dramatically, with the express disapproval of King Wrynn.)
Note a pattern here?
My problem with the Alliance lore after WotLK has nothing to do with Wrynn himself or the thought of being a hero. My problem with Alliance lore is that it seems like the Alliance’s response to significant attacks and even existential threats is to yawn and say “Someone else will take care of it.”
I feel that this is a frustration shared by many roleplayers on Moon Guard. There are guilds dedicated to taking back Southshore, to taking back Gilneas, and even to taking back Zin-Ashari. None of them will ever succeed because Blizzard doesn’t even seem to acknowledge that anyone would actually want to do this.
5.3 doesn’t seem like it’s going to be much of an improvement on these parts. From what I can tell—and I hope I’m wrong—Alliance players will address Garrosh’s madness not through assignments from SI:7 or directives by Wrynn, but through following directives from former Horde NPCs who split off from Garrosh. I fear that the ultimate story ending for the expansion will be one of the Alliance players offering assistance to the rebels in a Horde civil war, rather than seeking retribution for the crimes committed by the Horde—many of which were not initiated by Garrosh! Will the alliance really ally with Sylvanas and forget Southshore and Gilneas? Will the alliance really forgive the attack on Theramore which involved coordination among ALL the horde factions?
This is what irritates me as an Alliance player. It’s not that Jana isn’t a hero—she definitely is. It’s that she’s not a hero of the Alliance.
This morning I ran into another seller of gems. We spoke for some time, talking about the gem market and how things worked. I knew his name from looking at the gem sale list (when people undercut you, you tend to recognize their names), but he wasn’t the sort of seller who really upset me. I mean, I get a little upset when someone undercuts me and I have to list my gem, but that’s the nature of the business. If you can’t stand that, you may as well not sell gems, because I do that to someone else every time I list a gem.
There are some things that do make me mad, however. Most of the time these things make me mad because I just think they’re stupid. A lot of the time these things make me mad because they cost me gold. And a lot of these things make me mad because they are stupid, cost me gold, and cost the gem seller gold as well.
1. Listing gems for 48 hours.
This is just stupid. Most gems, if they sell, will sell within two to three hours of being listed, or sooner. Otherwise they will be undercut. This is stupid because it quadruples the listing fee for the seller, and many sellers will cancel the auction and relist anyway. What happens with the 48 hour listing, though, is it effectively sets a cap for the price for that two day period unless it sells quickly. It prevents the market from clearing, and thus costs me gold.
2. Undercutting by more than a token amount.
This is just stupid. (Admittedly, I was stupid once.) Gems are a highly inelastic market; below some cap that I don’t really know the value, people will pay whatever the lowest price is, whether it’s 30 gold or 300 gold. If the current market price is 200 gold, listing a gem for 100 gold won’t make it sell faster, but it will deny you the gold you could have gotten for listing it for 199 gold. This also destroys the market for the gem because of the next tactic.
One exception for this is when the price of the gem is so high that it really is beyond the cap at which you think people will seek alternatives. In my opinion, I can’t fathom people spending more than 400 gold on a gem. On the other hand, I used to not be able to fathom people spending more than 300 gold on a gem, and I’ve since learned otherwise. If the current gem price is well over 400 gold I will often list my gem for 400 gold. I don’t think anyone has a right to complain that a gem priced at 400 gold is too low.
3. Mindlessly undercutting low priced gems.
I used to love it when people did this in Cata, because it gave me a cheap source for red gems, which I knew would sell well. With the variety of gems desired in MoP, however, I haven’t tried this strategy, as I fear I might get a stockpile of gems I can’t sell.
What happens here is that a volume gem seller, someone who really should know better, lists ten or so gems at a token amount lower than a gem listed by someone who undercut the market by fifty percent or more. This effectively establishes the new price as absurdly low until all of those gems sell, effectively preventing everyone from making a profit off of that gem.
The combination of two and three above leads to a tactic of mine that I might take up again, especially now that there seems to be an aggressive volume undercutter who I’ll call R. I would bait that person by listing a gem at an absurdly low amount (e.g., 40 gold), and then when that person undercuts me robotically, buy all their gems out and list for a new price. Since I have a whole bank tab ready for storage, I might try this as an alternative to ghost iron ore to restock my gems. But it’s a risky strategy.
4. Failing to clear the market when the opportunity arises.
Over the past few days, I’ve noticed several gems where one person had listed several gems for a token amount below one other gem, and that those were the only gems on the market. These gems were listed for a low but reasonable price (e.g., 90g). At that point, I don’t think there’s any excuse for a volume seller (who probably has scads of these gems lying around) to not simply buy the one gem other than theirs and reset the price to something ridiculously profitable. I do this myself most of the time - and I sell one gem at a time.
5. Selling a gem for less than its vendor price.
This actually amuses me more than it bugs me because it really only happens with gems that I don’t sell because there’s no market for them. But it boggles my mind that people would list Subtle Sun’s Radiances for 3g90 when they could go to the vendor and sell them without a listing fee for 4g. (In fact, any price below 4g60 doesn’t make much sense to me because of the listing fee, although really any price below 20g doesn’t make much sense to me either.) Of course, why anyone would cut a Subtle Sun’s Radiance boggles my mind as well, but that’s because I know from research that nobody wants them.
There may be more. But those are the things that anger and befuddle me. They cost me gold, and also cost the person doing them gold as well. The latter is really the thing that makes me shake my head; I don’t know why some people - who are obviously experienced with gem selling - throw away as much gold as they do.
Monday night our raid team went into Throne of Thunder with the intention of finally beating the Council of Elders fight, the third fight in the instance.
Council of Elders is an interesting fight with lots of different things to keep track of. It has four “bosses”, one from each of the major tribes. I’m not going to run down the fight here other than to say that the mechanics of the fight require you to switch targets from time to time, generally when they become “empowered”. As of the start of the raid we did not have all too much luck with this boss, although we had started to progress.
I was looking forward to this raid week because I had gotten some new equipment. I had gotten my 2 piece tier 15 bonus out of LFR, and I had gotten a new trinket (Wushoolay’s Final Choice) that was supposedly much better than the trinket I had before, despite losing 2 item levels.
The first part of the raid on Sunday passed without incident. I did well, I suppose, but not extraordinarily so. My dps was still topped by our fury warrior, who I like to think of myself as competing with.
But the Council of Elders fight changed things a bit. At the time I didn’t think much of it as far as a fire mage fight - there is some passive splash damage available when all of the bosses are alive and in a group, but between empowers and Loas there’s so much target switching I thought the plusses and minuses would cancel out. Our first attempt seemed to bear this out, as a 1:45 wipe had me second but still behind our fury warrior.
It was in the second attempt Jana started to shine. There, in a 2:30 wipe, Jana did 178k dps, a full 60k dps more than the first fight. What was the difference? I’m not really sure. But I was happy with the attempt and was hopeful that I could sustain it.
Then came the third attempt.
Now, I remember long ago when living bomb would spread to eight targets that there were certain trash packs where I (and, I would hope, other fire mages) could do ridiculous damage. Things like 140k in Firelands or the like. These were always short fights that took advantage of Combustion hitting several targets and living bomb exploding and hitting multiple targets without its now imposed limitations. They were fun, but they weren’t really meaningful.
Council of Elders is meaningful. And on the third attempt, Jana did 277k dps. Here’s the World of Logs parse.
Yes, the attempt only lasted eighty seconds. Yes, we had heroism up for half of that. No, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain that over the rest of the fight.
But still. It was a boss fight. It lasted for longer than a minute.
One of the frustrating or lovable things about fire mages, depending on your view of things, is that their performance can be remarkably erratic. Run through a long series of non-crits just after combustion comes off cooldown? No way you’re doing good dps then.
But when everything lines up… well. Something like this happens. It’s the sort of thing that makes me happy to play a fire mage. It’s also the sort of thing that boosts my confidence and helps me on the subsequent fights.
We downed the boss ten tries later. My dps then was a much more pedestrian 137k, spread over 6:45. I didn’t have another attempt quite like the third attempt. But that was okay. You have to appreciate those moments when they come.
Apparently gaythiel noticed the post of mine entitled “How to make a Saxsy MRP profile,” reblogged it. It is now apparently making the rounds of tumblr as things that people actually like do and things I generally post do not.
I don’t know how to do this in any other way but I did want to note to people who liked that post that I wrote a follow up to it rather recently. It is entitled, appropriately enough, “How To Make A Saxsy MRP Profile, Updated.” While I certainly think the former will let you create a good MRP profile, I think the latter will help make it truly memorable.
Now if I can only finish one of the five posts I’ve started and abandoned there might be something new up here.
I feel like I’ve written this blog entry before. I feel like I’ve sat down in front of my computer, looked at a blank text box, and filled it with words about how everyone seemed to be getting tired of raiding.
Tonight we raided Throne of Thunder for the third or fourth time. We got the first two bosses down; we had gotten the second boss down for the first time last week. Our raid night was rather short tonight, and if we had our normal raid time, we probably would have been able to get to the third boss and put a few attempts on them. (It’s a council style fight).
The first boss is an unremarkable fight. There is a mechanic whereby if you stand in water, you get a damage boost (double, I think). There is a mechanic where a ball of lightning follows a random player, and that player must move to the outside of the room to drop it off. There is a mechanic where the boss electrifies the water on the ground and you have to get out of it. I am intentionally not offering a thorough review of the fight. As far as mechanics, they’re not hard to pick up and the fight isn’t that much of a problem.
The second boss is a far more difficult fight. In that fight there are four doors that open sequentially. Random small mobs come out from the doors, and then a total of three bigger mobs drop down more toward the middle, one at first and then a pair. Finally, a large mob called a Dinomancer shows up. Once you get the Dinomancer to half its life, the Dinomancer drops and orb. When you click it, the main boss (which looks like a triceratops) charges the door, stopping the little adds from appearing. You then get to move onto the next door.
The frustrating bit about the fight for me is that the priority for which adds need to go down varies randomly from door to door. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to it, and you end up having to keep track of about sixteen different types of adds and different kill priorities. On the first door it’s important to kill the basilisks, which are little adds, because they can stun. On the second door there are Venom Priests which are the top priority. On the third door the Dinomancer is the top priority, as the adds have no aggro table. And so on. On top of this there are diseases and curses that go out that are rather deadly and can’t all be removed quickly because of the eight second cooldown on remove curse.
There’s more to the fight than that, but I think you get the gist of it. It’s a complicated fight. Once you learn it, I don’t think it’s a terribly difficult fight, but it’s the learning it that’s the problem.
But it’s really not the bosses that are the problem. It’s the trash.
The trash before the first boss is unremarkable. The trash between the first and second boss is sadistic. The way between the first and second bosses is basically two long bridges, one leading away from the first boss to a pillar, and the second a left turn from the first leading to where the second boss is. All along the bridges and platforms there are unkillable mobs surrounded in a blue shield. If you get hit by the blue shield, you are punted into the air and you will likely fall to your doom.
There is a breeze blowing across the first bridge, one that, unless you run against it diagonally, will push you off the bridge to your doom. There are four floating banshees along the edges of the bridge that will come down to attack you. Our accepted strategy is to stand in small areas where a pillar blocks the breeze, let the tank pull the banshees back, and then kill them. During this time the entire party must, of course, continue to dodge the blue shield guys. Complicating matters is the annoyance that the two blue shield guys wandering along the bridge move at slightly different speeds, and sometimes will block the entire width of the bridge and be nearly impossible to dodge.
The trash there isn’t really challenging so much as it is annoying. A bit of lag during the crossing will mean your character takes a dive off the bridge. Just running across the bridge with its wind is a pain, never mind having to dodge the blue shield guys. And to top it all off, this doesn’t seem to be a mechanic that’s used in any of the boss fights; unlike the trash in Heart of Fear, for instance, it doesn’t seem to be teaching you anything useful.
More than once during the trash people said in vent “I love this game” with the tired sarcasm of a person fed up with it. The conversation outside the raids follows along the same lines: many of the people in my raid group are just tired of the game.
I think that’s reasonable. Since I started raiding with this group near the beginning of 4.3 (Dragon Soul), we’ve had two personnel changes. The first was a rogue coming in for a warrior as we were beginning heroic Dragon Soul. The second was someone swapping in for our warlock toward the end of tier 14 content. We didn’t get heroic Deathwing down until a week before 5.0 hit, so we have been more or less continually raiding since that time.
But one of the things that I think contributes quite a bit to the fatigue is the general design of the raids. Terrace of Endless Springs seemed to be a pretty good raid instance, but to get there required slogging through Heart of Fear with its bosses with arbitrary mechanics. Amber Shaper was the worst victim.
The biggest problem with Throne of Thunder right now seems to be the overbearing focus on arbitrary mechanics. There is a horrifying amount of trash and it’s not that it’s terribly difficult so much as it doesn’t offer any “down time”; one slip up will get you killed.
I hope we can recover from this general feeling of fatigue. Perhaps later bosses in Throne of Thunder will present more stimulating of a challenge. Right now I worry. I worry that several of our members will need a break and I don’t know if we could find capable replacements.
I’ve been spending most of my Warcraft time since 5.2 hit selling gems on the auction house. I’ve run the new dailies perhaps three or four times, and poked my head into Throne of Thunder once. I’ve run the new LFRs once (yesterday). I haven’t RPed all that much.
I also spent five days on a forced vacation from Warcraft in the hospital with chicken pox, but the less said about that the better.
A new patch is an exciting time to sell gems, because a lot of people are upgrading equipment and buying gems. After the 4.2 patch hit, there were times when I was selling gems faster than I could relist them. I think the key to making a new patch work is to come in with a solid supply of gems (ore, for the most part, will be prohibitively expensive) and a good plan as to what gems will sell. I have a few posts on that earlier, but since I’m going to summarize my plan here I’ll let you find them if you want.
My plan was to focus on the following gems:
No good plan survives confrontation with the enemy intact, however, so I changed up some of these. The Puissant Wild Jade I had listed just did not sell, and its prices were spiraling down to oblivion. Meanwhile, after thanking someone for buying my gems, he or she placed an order with me for 10 Zen Wild Jades (+spirit/mastery). I figured if someone needed that many it would be worth adding to my list. The PvP gems also sold far better than I had anticipated, so I added the Assassin’s Imperial Amethyst (+agi/power), the Mysterious Imperial Amethyst (+int/power) and the Tense Imperial Amethyst (+str/power) to my list. This gave me a good chunk of purple gems to sell, of which I had a pretty high supply.
As far as the sales themselves, 5.2 resembled 4.3 more than 4.2; 4.2 was crazed selling out of the bat, and I had run out of supply of good gems in but a few days. 4.3 took longer to develop, but it remained a stronger market for a while longer, even for less popular gems. If anything, 5.2 has been a bit slower than 4.3, but far more sustained; there was never a moment when gems were flying off the AH as quickly as I could put them up, but they have consistently sold.
I suppose I should state my strategy for selling gems. I place one of each type of gem I am selling on the auction house, undercutting the lowest listing by one silver. If there are no gems of that type, I will set the auction price at 300g (that being my judgment as to the point where too many people will try to figure out another way to get a gem). When a gem sells, I cut a new one and replace it. Approximately as often as I feel like it, I will scan my auctions to see if someone has undercut me; if someone has I will cancel that auction and relist it at a new, lower price.
There are some exceptions. I will not list a gem if the buyout price has fallen below 25g, and I will not cut a gem if the buyout price has fallen below 50g. If there are a handful of gems or less at a very low price (generally under 100g), I might buy them all to reset the price of that gem.
I make a habit of hanging around the auction house to relist gems, but sometimes I get superstitious about that and decide I need to park myself elsewhere. I usually fly back when I have more than three or four gems to relist.
This strategy has served me well, and I’ve made a steady amount of gold since the patch hit. I’m up a little over 110k gold now (although this does include gold from other sources), and I’m approaching my record high gold level.
The good news is that the market is showing few signs of slowing down, while the listings themselves are showing a weeding out of less thoughtful gem sellers. I am frustrated by people who undercut me frequently by small amounts with one to three gems on a regular basis, but since I respect that strategy it doesn’t upset me at all. I take a dimmer approach to people who scatter the market with over five gems at a time, listing for 48 hours, and/or undercutting by huge amounts. The nice thing with the market is that the latter people seem to have been weeded out, resulting in stable and higher prices for gems.
I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to actively play the market this patch. I’m running low on vermilion onyxes, so I’ve further curtailed my listings with those gems to when the prices are relatively high. (I had curtailed the sales from the start by refusing to cut some fairly profitable gems like the Deadly Vermilion Onyx in order to meter my supply). Other gems have less of a supply issue.
One of the really nice things about 5.2 as compared to 4.2 and 4.3 is there’s a relatively even spread among the gem colors. Back in Cataclysm, the red gems sold about a billion times better than any other color, and green and yellow gems just did not sell at all. That’s a triumph of both the gem design process and the varied stat weightings for the range of specs. If nothing else, Blizzard deserves to be commended on this because they did a really good job here.
All of these gem sales have presented me with the happy problem of what to do with all this gold. I had planned on making my meta jewelcrafting mount (the 72k one), but I’m not sure I’m going to. One of the engineering mounts seems interesting. I’ve also been checking the Black Market Auction House for good PvE and RP items, but so far that’s come up empty. I wish there were more stuff on the BMAH.
So far, though, I’d have to say that my gem sales in 5.2 have been an unqualified success.