So as you are undoubtedly aware, Blizzard announced a “pre-order” for Warlords of Draenor today. In exchange for plunking down $50 less a penny, plus tax, you will receive in about nine months time the right to have your characters participate in a time paradox too convoluted for even DC or Marvel to print. You also get to “boost” a character to level 90 to join all the other level 90 characters you have. If you toss down an additional Jackson you get what looks to me to be a mount, a non-combat pet, and some things for games I don’t play.
Call me a pessimist or a grouch. It’s not something I’m going to jump into right away.
I don’t think I’ve hidden my scorn for the actual storyline of Worlds of Draenor. I think the whole setup is a sham, intended for people who want to write about manly orcs doing manly things. I complained about the promotional material being sexist, but I think that’s because the entire setup, the entire story, and the concept is sexist. (Not to mention racist, too, but I think if one were to touch that subject nine-tenths of fantasy would come crashing down.)
I’m holding myself open to being convinced that it will all work out, and it will all be compelling. With each day that passes, though, and as each new nugget of information comes out, I become more and more skeptical. Also today my attention was drawn to the Amazon listing for “War Crimes”, which is apparently how Blizzard will deliver the lore concerning Garrosh’s trial in Pandaria. Here’s what I consider to be the (counterfeit) money quote:
The list of the heinous crimes alone was powerful enough to make Jaina tense. She glanced over at where Vol’jin and the other Horde leaders sat. She had heard of the treatment of trolls under Garrosh—and what the orc had tried to do to Vol’jin himself. “Enslavement. The abduction of children. Torture. The killing of prisoners. Forced pregnancy.”
I will let other pens dwell on the vulgarity of the phrase “forced pregnancy”. Mine will dwell on how lost the author seems to be with the plot. Here we have such a grandiose event that it’s the grandiosity, not the characters and certainly not the story-telling that will carry the day. Perhaps the rest of the book is better, but I’m of the view that most publishing companies like to use the best bits rather than the worst. If the best the company can do is a section which indicates Garrosh tried to forcibly impregnate Vol’jin, I’m not looking forward to the worst.
Even so, my view of the game itself is not going to be determined by the ridiculousness of the plot, but how that plot is presented and how the role of the adventurer is developed within the story. My sense, from what I’ve seen from Blizzard, is that this is going to get the short shrift: we are supposed to be so in awe of these powerful lore characters that we just get swept along into the fight. I’m not. I just don’t give a shit about orcs.
I also really don’t care about the carrots they’re using for me to plunk down my credit card nine months before I need to. Another level 90? Well, that sounds swell, except… I have a level 81 monk, a level 80 priest, a level 70 paladin, another level 65 mage, among others, who petered out during the adventuring process and who, if I really wanted to take them to 90, I would do it the old fashioned way. I have four level 90s and three of them I don’t play to any significant degree. Am I really going to jump into end game content I’m already tired of with a different character? The level 90 boost seems a waste for me.
The mount and pet would be +1s to a set of things I don’t really care about. And I don’t play Starcraft or Diablo so neither of those goodies appeal to me either. I don’t think they’re worth plunking down the extra $20 in any case.
In short, I have no desire to spend the $50 to $70 to commit myself to a game nine months from now I may not be interested in playing. Your mileage may vary, of course, and of course you have your own blog for that.
I suppose I might have a rosier view of the whole thing if World of Warcraft right now were compelling at all. It isn’t. I haven’t run any progression content in a couple months (since our raid team’s tank decided to cancel her subscription). It doesn’t feel like I’ve run any content at all in a month, save for a few attempts at the Proving Grounds.
RP is RP, but I’ll have another post about that soon.
I’ve never been less certain that I’ll be playing Warcraft in the next few months. It may be time for me to move on.
So it seems to me that one of the strongest criteria by which an expansion is judged is the “fun” of running heroic dungeons. When people pine for the days of Burning Crusade, it’s my sense that they are remembering fondly how heroic dungeons were challenging and fun.
Burning Crusade had a number of advantages in this regard. Beyond Karazhan, people were required to have the organization to create 25-man groups, and the 25-man raids beyond Gruul’s were rather challenging (as in the “one boss every few weeks” challenging rather than the “two or three bosses a week” I’m familiar with now.) The end result was that there was a sizable population, even of raiders, that simply did not have gear to overwhelm those heroics, even after later patches introduced better gear. It wasn’t until 2.4, with Magister’s Terrace (which was extremely difficult at level) and Zul’Aman that non-elite raiders began to get the gear to overwhelm the heroics. They had staying power.
Wrath began that way. Wrath, however, continued the ways of 2.4 as to getting gear, and as a result people started overwhelming the heroics as of Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader. But Blizzard kept introducing new heroics with each patch, which made them more tolerable. As of 3.3, the ICC heroics were still very challenging, at least until everyone was decked out in 25-man ICC gear.
I’m not going to talk about Cata or MoP heroics, because in all honesty I lost my taste for them. I would run them, but only as a means of getting gear for raids. They weren’t fun in themselves and if you’ve read any of my rants about the LFD system, you’ll know why.
Still, I gather that for most people the heroic five-man may well be the determinant of the quality of the game. It brings the multi-player aspect into the game, in that it requires cooperation from others, but it’s not something that requires a tremendous amount of coordination to put together. Even without LFD, it really should not be that hard to put together a group of five people to do that content.
The question for me, then, is what makes a good five man heroic? What can we look to in order to tell whether Blizzard has “gotten it”, in the sense that the heroics will last, or has just treated heroics as a hoop for raiders to jump through?
It would be very easy for me to say “they should be challenging, but not impossible.” Or “more difficult than Wrath, easier than pre-nerf Cata.” It’s an amorphous standard that doesn’t help anyone. That would be lazy.
Instead, what I’d like to think about are the mechanics of the fight. Long ago, someone (I don’t remember who) divided boss mechanics into three types:
Examples abound from all sorts of different fights. A mechanic where a boss hits particularly hard at one point is the first type of challenge. A mechanic where something needs to be crowd controlled or interrupted is the second type of challenge. A mechanic where a dps is picked randomly and forced to do something to stop the group from wiping is the third.
So let’s imagine a boss in a hypothetical heroic. Let’s imagine that every thirty seconds, the boss will pick the second person on its aggro table (theoretically, the top dps), paralyze them, and put a DoT on them that will kill them in ten seconds. Either this person can be healed but the tank would die if the healer moves off of her, or the person cannot be healed at all. The mechanic is such that both of the other dps would need to shift to destroy the thing trapping that person, or that dps would die, and then subsequent applications of this mechanism would be certain to wipe the group. (This is essentially Sindragosa’s frost tomb mechanism).
That sort of mechanic requires all five people in the group to be competent. We assume the tank and healers have their own problems. The two weakest dps have to know to switch, and have to be able to do enough damage to destroy the trap. At least until gear has improved to the point where the second highest dps in the group is sufficient to break the trap, this mechanic requires the weakest dps in the group to be competent.
In my recollection, this type of mechanic is not generally used in heroic five-mans, but I could be wrong about that. Think of defile on the Lich King, infections on Rotface, buzz saws on Blackfuse, and so on. These are mechanics that the weakest people had to get right. And they are the way of ensuring that everyone in a group has to meet some minimal level of competency for the run to succeed.
That’s what I think you look for in WoD heroics, far more than anything involving numbers of mobs or health pools or the amounts bosses hit for. One assumes that the strongest dps in a group will be able to handle any practical mechanic thrown at them. It’s whether the weakest dps can, and the consequences if they can’t. Will it wipe the group? Or will the group be able to complete the boss anyway?
If it’s the former, my sense is that the WoD heroics will be remembered like Burning Crusade. That’s what I think I pine for.
So there is this blog post going around from Azerothian Life, lamenting the gating of random heroics in WoD. There are several bits in there that are worth addressing, but here is the money quote, as it were:
We don’t need gating, what we need is for people to show just a centimetre of tolerance. That is all. Just show some respect to a fellow human being who loves this game as much as you and start using the kick function for the cyber bullies in this world who feel it is ok to abuse people.
I’m going to take a step back to address this, going back to a post I made long ago about why I didn’t run randoms. In that post, I theorized that there were a few reasons why people would run random heroic dungeons, but right now I’m going to boil it down to two groups:
I will now suggest something incredibly radical: most of the problems that occur in random dungeons is because these two groups are mixed.
The first group wants the dungeon to be over with as quickly as possible. They have no tolerance for mistakes or even slow play because what they are doing is unenjoyable. People in this group are far more likely to be abusive as a result. (Yes, I know, I’d love it if people weren’t cranky when they were doing something they didn’t want to do within a game. It isn’t happening.)
People in the second group are likely to be far more social and tolerant of mistakes. They are more likely to make mistakes themselves. Part of the fun of the process is that these things are considered challenging, and part of the fun is the socialization with new people. They’re likely to enjoy taking their time.
Putting these two groups together results in a clash. People in the first group don’t like it because the run goes slower and people make mistakes. People in the second group don’t like it because they feel rushed, there’s no time for socialization and they are often the brunt of abuse of rude people in the first group.
Allow me to make a radical suggestion about the gating requirement.
For people in the first group, who are used to having hoops to jump through to get to their end goal (and indeed, for whom random heroics are a hoop), the addition of the gating requirement is a welcome change. It’s not a difficult hoop and if it keeps bad people from slowing down their progress, great.
For people in the second group, the gating requirement seems horrible. Not only is it likely to be a difficult hoop to jump through, the people in this group don’t have the tolerance for jumping through hoops to get to something enjoyable. It is at its best a nuisance and at its worst an overwhelming task to get to the randoms they seek.
Gating requirements are designed to get the second group to forget about random heroics. My radical suggestion? This is a good thing.
It’s all fine and good to suggest that the first group of people not be abusive toward the second, and that everyone (including people who are in the first group) should use the tools at hand to remove abuse people. This suggestion has been made since the first days of LFD, however, and apparently people aren’t willing to do this. In my experience people are much more likely to be kicked because they are in group two rather than because they are abusive—people in group one tend to control the vote in the vote-kick process.
People aren’t going to suddenly stop being abusive. This is the internet, and in random dungeons people have anonymity. I would guess that most people can resist the urge to lash out in such circumstances, but too many don’t.
The thought that people won’t run random heroics as a result of the gating requirement makes me smile. Not because such people won’t be in my group, but because I think that will return them to the satisfaction of running the most challenging content they want with people they know. I think people will be very surprised, and pleasantly surprised, by how much fun heroics can be when the effort is made for them to not be random. Don’t bother to bring in the miserable people who don’t enjoy running heroics but feel they need to because the game requires it to get gear for raiding. They will just bring you down.
If the gating requirement works to push people to run heroics on a non-random basis, it will have achieved a far loftier goal than to keep scrubs from randoms.
One of what I consider to be the fundamental principles of RP is that each player has complete and total dominion over his or her own character. This applies actively to whatever is happening in a scene: one cannot impose any immediate effects on a character without its player’s consent. (To do otherwise is called god modding.) But just as importantly, one cannot impose canonical changes to another person’s character; any change in the history of a character is decided by his or her player alone.
I realize many people don’t connect the two. Many people expect RP with another character to change that character permanently, and especially commitments made by that character during the course of RP to be honored through RP with other people.
I’ve determined, for me, that expecting RP to have instant and permanent effects on the character throughout all of its RP, is an inferior way to RP, one that often leads to pain and misery. I prefer to wait until RP has developed to determine whether and how my character changes, and I prefer to start RP with other characters with a personality of my choosing, not necessarily one that incorporates recent events. I have decided this after a great deal of consideration and experience and it is not something I will change easily.
So yesterday I got into a bit of an argument with someone. This person has, or had, from what I could tell, a rather extreme view in the other direction. When I offered to RP with her, she said that I had a bunch of people to RP with and that she didn’t want to be one of several. I took this to mean that, before RPing with her, I would have to commit myself to limit the sorts of RP I would do with other people, and essentially treat her as my primary focus, as if she were “The One”.
Obviously this was a non-starter, and so I wished her the best of luck.
But then she kept bugging me. And other people said some things that provided the background. Here’s how things looked to me.
This person, who I’ll call N, had agreed to an exclusive arrangement with someone’s character. That person left the game for a while, and upon returning told N that she no longer wished to honor that commitment. N was also “heartbroken” when other characters allegedly made commitments to N and broke them. (This I was hearing from N’s perspective, which I consider to be tainted. I’m not sure what commitments were actually made.)
I should also mention that N said that she was canceling her subscription because of all the RP that went wrong for her.
Now, I will suggest something to all the Ns out there. All of the people who insist that all RP is canonical, that push people to make commitments and uphold them. I am going to suggest to you that asking people to do such a thing inevitably leads to heartbreak. Even if you forget the notion that people will sometimes want a bit of variety in their RP, consider the practical realities of the game. Your RP “partner” will not be on at times when you are on. You will not be on at times your RP partner is on. Do you really want to limit yourself to not being able to RP during those times? What if your RP partner gets sick and can’t log in for days? What if her computer breaks down? Or what (gasp) if she decides that WoW is no longer fun?
Devoting your character’s story and history exclusively to that one other person and expect it in return is nice in theory, but as a practical matter it is well nigh impossible, not unless your schedules are incredibly similar. It will inevitably lead to pain.
The way I approach RP is that I will RP with a person as long as it is fun. The fun factor is the limiting bit; if I’m not having fun, or you’re not having fun, the RP ceases and there’s no need to try to reconcile a history. It just ends. It’s clean.
Now, when this person continued to argue for an approach involving purely canonical RP, I didn’t chose to argue the point. It wasn’t because I didn’t think she was wrong, but rather I didn’t see the point. But I will note something:
With my approach, I’ve managed to meet many different RPers, have gotten some excellent RP and for the most part I am rarely at want for RP.
With her approach, she is miserable, considers herself hurt by several different roleplayers, considers her character destroyed, and dislikes her situation so much that she is quitting the game.
I don’t think this is a coincidence.
Something happened tonight that bugged me. I was talking to a friend, who I’ll call B, someone who was playing a character that was, in part, formed to present a challenge to a group of people, of which I am a part. I was expecting an interesting bit of adversarial RP, in which Jana’s skills would be tested (and ultimately defeated, as discussed) by someone with very strong powers.
It never really got off the ground. About a minute after the real RP stated, B noted that she was having problems dealing with tells from someone else. It seems that the other person had some objections to her RP.
I should let it be known that I am all in favor of working out RP problems OOCly, and cooperating to see if some common ground could be reached. This, however, did not seem to be the case.
No. As described to me by another friend of mine, the problem with B and how she was being played was that she was “unkillable”. In essence, B was someone who was far too powerful, far more powerful than others.
This struck me as a load of crap.
Let’s start with some standard roleplaying principles. A person has complete dominion over her own character. What this implies, in one sense, is that no one can touch, much less kill, without consent. Most people (including myself) do not generally consent to have their characters killed. Claiming that a character is being RPed poorly because he or she cannot be killed ignores that most people would never let their characters be killed in the first place.
But here we have more factors at work.
The character of B was created to fulfill a certain part in a roleplaying scenario. I don’t want to get into the specifics of it, but B is meant to be a very powerful character, and certainly not one that is easily killed.
RP is a little more complicated than Superman. Not every evil or powerful character needs to have some obvious weakness such as kryptonite. What can be a lot of fun, in RP as well as in PvE, is figuring out the weaknesses of a character and how to exploit them rather than instantly being able to one-shot them.
But no, apparently the objection was not that B was unkillable, but rather that B’s weaknesses were not out there for someone to meta-game to death.
The end result? The person playing B has lost what little confidence she had (she was a beginning roleplayer). Me, I didn’t get my scene. And the whole concept for which the character was created in the first place may very well be shelved.
All because one idiot couldn’t figure out how to kill B.
Some people irritate me.
There were a few more things I thought about in regards to my last post, so I wanted to follow up.
From MMO-Champion, we know that:
Reading between the lines, I see the following:
Now for some guesses and a response to the common complaint about this setup.
One of the strongest implications of this system is that more dungeons will be added with every raid tier. If heroic dungeons are the gateway to normal raids, then they should remain so over the course of the expansion, otherwise one would have a very rough time catching up. I think the strongest principle at play here is that no one should ever feel the need to run LFR in order to progress. That doesn’t work if the LFR in the 6.1 raid offers better gear than anything but the normal 6.0 raid. There will have to be 6.1 dungeons dropping gear appropriately. (Similarly, there should be no requirement to run 6.0 heroics to qualify for 6.1 LFR.) I think it’s clear that there are two approaches to the content:
I expect these paths to remain separate, and the implication is obvious. LFR is for lesser skilled players, Heroic Dungeons are for more skilled players.
And that leads to the second point. There is the complaint that Proving Grounds is unfair to certain specs and the like. Some specs are better at Proving Grounds than others. This argument suffers from two flaws.
First, the Silver requirement is not exactly an onerous one. I’ve tried and confirmed that you can’t be horrible at your class and get a Silver. While some may find it easier than others (e.g., frost mages will find it much easier than fire mages), it’s not exactly something that will be difficult for any spec.
Second, to the extent some specs are worse than others in Proving Grounds, they are probably worse than others in Heroic dungeons as well (with benefits elsewhere, such as for progression raiding or for PvP). The point isn’t to provide a level playing field for every spec. It’s to provide a minimal level of competence for the people you will join in a random heroic dungeon. If you choose a harder spec, then you should be prepared for a harder challenge.
But let’s step back a bit and look at those two content approaches. To the complainer who says that he can’t get Silver on his character because of lag, or slowness of fingers, or because it’s just to difficult, I would ask: What exactly are you missing?
There is no content a person who can’t hit Silver in the proving grounds is missing. Dungeon content can be had on normal. Raid content can be had on LFR. That heroics are now in the same off-limit territory that progression raids have always been for these unskilled players really doesn’t make a difference.
In short, the complaint about the Silver requirement just seems knee jerk to me. If you are one of the people who can’t satisfy that requirement, you are missing absolutely nothing in the game. If you are one of the people who CAN satisfy that requirement, you won’t have to carry unskilled people through random heroics.
The point of heroics in WoD is to gear for normal raids. If you have no desire to be in a normal raid, there’s no reason for you to ever touch heroics. Whine about something else.
Regular readers of this blog know my relative disdain for the random group matching features. Less regular readers might want to read this post for a summary of my thoughts.
Before I get to the random grouping part of it, I’d like to talk a little bit about heroics in general. I think in Mists of Pandaria, the heroic system got badly broken and I want to discuss that first before moving on.
Heroics were considered as a way to acquire gear to move on to the next level of the game. When one hit 90, the gear one had was in no way sufficient to enter end game raiding. There was a progression: questing to max level, running normal five mans, running heroic five mans, and then finally running raids once you were decked out in heroic five man gear.
In the Wrath and Cata expansions, however, that was only part of the process, and it really only applied for the .0 patch. After that, heroic gear wasn’t sufficient to get into the present raid, but random heroics dropped badges which could purchase gear of the level needed to enter the raid. The effect of this was that people who ran heroics were typically not interested in the gear they wanted, but were running the heroic because of the badges.
In the end patches of Wrath and Cata, Blizzard added several heroics to provide actual gear that could be used for running the end game raids. This provided renewed interest in heroics themselves and gave people a means of quickly acquiring gear for the end game.
In Pandaria, however, Blizzard broke this pattern. Item level 463 gear was available from heroics, but that’s as high as it ever got. One got badge bonuses, but those badges were useless unless you had the rep to cash them in, and there was no way (unlike in Cata) to get that rep from running the heroics (until 5.2, I think it was). Right now heroics are an odd thing, mixing people trying to get to the first level of raiding with people at the end game looking for badges. Gearing up for end game required many extra steps, and heroics were all but cut from the equation.
Right now, heroics aren’t even part of the equation when it comes to gearing. Scenarios are more effective at getting valor, the Timeless Isle provides much better gear for your alts than heroics do. Heroic scenarios provide better random gear. And then there’s LFR, which now seems to serve as an intermediate step between heroics and real raiding.
In short, as of right now heroics are broken. Unlike in previous expansions, Blizzard did not add new heroics to make them relevant for gearing. LFR now seems to be intended to serve that purpose, with heroic scenarios offering a very slow alternative.
It is from that perspective that I want to look at the news, broken to me by Alt:ernative Chat, that queuing for random heroic dungeons will require a character to have completed the Silver Proving Grounds. Needless to say, I have a few thoughts on this.
One of the downsides of the LFD system is that it has really discouraged people from finding their own group. (Again, I wrote about that here.) People have forgotten the way it was done in BC, forming up a group with four of their friends, and have forgotten the advantages of doing things that way. Alas, gating heroic dungeons does not seem to be a way to bring back the fully formed group; LFD will likely still be far too enticing for players who don’t need to carry bads for them to expend significant effort finding friends to run one.
Long, long ago, I said what I think was an implicit guarantee by anyone who queued for LFD:
I think generally when you join a random, you’ve committed yourself to make a reasonable effort to clear the entire instance, whatever instance that might be.… You’ve also committed yourself to be reasonably competent at playing your role; incompetence should be inflicted only upon people you know.
One of the bigger downsides of using the LFD system is that people have often breached these commitments. We all have carried bad dps. We all have suffered with bad tanks or bad healers (although these are less frequent). The gating requirement is one way of trying to enforce the reasonably competent commitment.
Now, I’ve read a few things about how using the Proving Grounds as a requirement is a problem because it’s imbalanced. And it certainly is true that some specs are better at it than others; as a fire mage, too much of my damage is delayed or wasted on low health mobs for me to be very good at the proving grounds. I personally have come within a few seconds of getting Gold, but I haven’t bothered to try in a while. It is definitely a challenge.
But that’s Gold. Silver was a piece of cake. Anyone who is reasonably competent, no matter what their spec, should be able to get Silver. So I have one thing to say to the people who whine about their spec being so bad that they can’t get Silver:
If you can’t get Silver on the Proving Grounds, you are one of those dps. You are one of those tanks. You are one of those healers. You are one of the people who makes running LFD miserable for others because of your incompetence.
And frankly, I don’t mind if you’re never in my group.
There are other things brought up in the Alt:ernative Chat post that I find interesting. I would love it, for instance, if heroic dungeons offered better loot than LFR, and continued to do so over the course of the expansion. I think taking LFR out of the gearing equation is a wonderful thing. My contempt for LFR is well known. But that’s something for another post.
Sometime earlier this week the news broke that for the princely sum of $60 you will be able to create a character and make her or him level 90. That may have been confirmed, or it may have been a placeholder. I’m not terribly concerned as to which. The arguments flew back and forth as to whether it was too expensive or too cheap and so forth. That this is an option at all could be the source of an interesting blog post—one far more interesting to me than how costly the amount actually is—but I’ll leave those thoughts for another day.
What I like to do is try, in my own goofy way, to think about what the price says about what Blizzard thinks of us as players. What follows is likely highly inaccurate but to me is a rudimentary guess as to what Blizzard’s model is.
The first assumption I have is that Blizzard has picked its price to maximize income, rather than artificially inflating the price to protect the sensibilities of people who prefer to level the old-fashioned way, or artificially deflating the price to get more of the player base to a high level. I have only one reason to make this assumption other than it is necessary to allow me to think about what will happen and what it says about how Blizzard thinks about us. That reason is that I think Blizzard, with a service like this, can set the price point at a level that does maximize revenue without overtly antagonizing the player base in either direction. But I could be wrong and it’s important to remember that.
The assumption that Blizzard is maximizing revenue allows me to create a formula that will guess at how popular this sort of thing will be. This is mostly for fun rather than an actual guess. What I am doing is applying a certain formula that would purport to determine the percentage of people who are interested in boosting their character who would actually do so.
Here are some obvious ideas: at some arbitrarily low price (let’s call it $0), everyone who is not opposed to the principle of paying for a 90 will do so. At some arbitrarily high price (e.g., $300), practically no one will pay for that. Between those points on a graph there is a line of an arbitrary shape, one that can be described by a formula. At any given point, the percentage of people who use the service multiplied by the price set by the graph equals the revenue Blizzard will get. Altering the variables allows me to set $60 as the revenue maximization point and see what that implies.
The shape of the line is the biggest problem, but the first and simplest formula to apply is a linear one. The formula takes the following form:
F(x) = mx + c
In this case, x equals the price point, F(x) equals the percentage of people choosing to use the service, and m and c are variables to play with. One solution that maximizes revenue when x is $60 is where m = -0.83 and c = 100. (I assumed that c would equal 100 to reflect the idea that everyone would use this if it were free.) With this formula, approximately 50% of people would use the service, and each additional $5 increment would cause a little over 4% of people to not use the service.
A linear model is not particularly likely in my mind. My hunch is that people will more quickly refuse the service at low levels, while even at much higher costs some small minority will continue to use it. This graph is a curved one and can take the form of the following:
F(x) = m*log(x) + c
My math is too rusty to remember what exactly a logarithm means, although I do know it makes the curve shape I want. (I told you this was going to be sophisticated, right?) Basically the slope of the line is sharply negative at first but then becomes flatter as x gets higher (provided that m is negative). Anyway, one formula that maximizes income at $60 sets m to -45 (with c at 100, as set above). With this formula, approximately 20% of people will use the service at $60.
Of course, you can change the slope of the line by adding an exponent. If you take the square root of log(x) instead of just log(x), you get a sharper curve. With that you can set m to -87 to maximize income at $60, with a percentage of people using the service at a little over 10%.
All this is a lot of words saying absolutely nothing, but for the notion in my head that Blizzard is both maximizing revenue on the service and using a rather simple model to guess at how popular it might be. A plain logarithm seems likely. And in playing with that model it seems that for most reasonable prices of the service, the percentage of people using the service that maximizes revenue is around 20%. (As m gets closer to zero, the percentage gets lower and the optimal price gets higher. With m at -40, for instance, the optimal price is around $110 and the percentage of people using the service is about 17.6%.)
I’ve assumed too much about Blizzard’s intentions and the curvature of the line to put any money on this prediction. It would not surprise me, though, if about 1 in 5 or 1 in 6 people used this service. My guess is that’s what Blizzard expects and is what will maximize its revenue.
I’ve longed believed that one of the weaknesses of Warcraft as a game was the inability for players to make meaningful choices that affect their game in significant ways. (See, e.g., this recent post.) The closest Warcraft comes to this were the Aldor/Scryer choice back in Burning Crusade, and the Steamwheedle Cartel/Bloodsail Buccaneer choice leading to the Insane title. The former affected some gear choices, while the latter is, in my view, too obscure a tangent to really be considered a choice. I’ve believed that providing meaningful choices and a multi-faceted story rather than a linear one is one of the biggest things Blizzard could do to draw people back into Warcraft.
When Warlords of Draenor was announced, I was disappointed that there wasn’t really any mention of this sort of thing. I figured it’s the sort of thing that would require a major effort and would be something that Blizzard would trumpet to the skies if it were true. I think the means for such a thing is available through the faction system, but it would require a significant reworking of the quest system for there to be really interesting choices (imagine, for instance, an orc that is exalted with Stormwind.)
But there’s another way of going at it, suggested in an interesting post at ALT : ernative Chat. It starts with a forum post by community manager Bashiok in reference to customized art for Garrisons:
Certainly there will be updates and changes as the expansion progresses, but I don’t believe there’s any current intention to add full sets of additional buildings. If we were to work on those for an expansion patch it would quite literally come at the cost of a raid tier. That is where that work would come from. We have to make decisions on how to spend our time.
I think if the Garrison becomes a long-term persistent feature there’s certainly a possibility for larger additions, but we’re focusing on it being a feature for Warlords of Draenor as your fortress against the Iron Horde. I think we’ll have to see how it goes.
The gist of post that follows is that Garrisons could bring the experience of Sandbox games such as SimCity or the Sims (or Minecraft, which I have not played). Since Blizzard brought in Pokemon and Plants vs. Zombies into Warcraft, why not these games as well?
Of course, Garrisons as they are presently constructed don’t seem to be able to do that. There aren’t really any options for building types, and the progression of Garrisons to the best of my knowledge seems as linear as quests. But changing this seems to be easier than reworking the entire quest system to use faction reputations as I believe they were intended.
One thing I would like to address is Bashiok’s assertion that new Garrison artwork “would quite literally come at the cost of a raid tier”. Although I have no doubt that’s what Bashiok has been told by Blizzard, I don’t believe it for a second. Warcraft’s subscriptions from October through December brought in $201 million in revenue, at what I’ve estimated at a 60% profit margin. Yes, new hires add complexity but it strikes me that artists are among the easiest to coordinate and manage. There also doesn’t seem to be any shortage of starving artists if my DeviantArt is any indication—there are all sorts of talented artists there working for $20 a commission who would likely appreciate a steady paycheck from Blizzard. Bashiok’s statement is undoubtedly true given the current staff of artists at Blizzard. More accurately, though, Blizzard’s position can be more accurately amended to say: “We don’t think it’s worthwhile to make that kind of investment in new hires until we figure out how popular Garrisons are.”
Hopefully they will prove popular, and Blizzard will figure out that it’s worthwhile to have enough artists to create both new raid content and Garrison content as well. It would be a small way of having our characters leave a mark on the game.
And maybe that would lead Blizzard to think it worthwhile to allow choices to a far broader extent. I can only hope.
Activision Blizzard 4Q13 Financial Results (PDF) -
Some surprising results, to say the least. The key figures:
Obviously these two numbers are consistent with each other, so it doesn’t seem like Blizzard killed its revenue from Warcraft to spike its subscription numbers. Revenue/subscriber actually went up, which is probably as surprising as the actual increase in subscribers.
I don’t have any real explanation for this, as the increase in subscribers does not really jibe with my experience of many people canceling their subscriptions and trying alternatives. My only hunch is that Blizzard got a bounce from the announcement of Warlords of Draenor. I looked back to the Mists announcement and there wasn’t any bounce there, unless you want to call a slowdown in subscriber loss a “bounce”. Back when Cata was announced, subscriber totals were still growing.
In an environment where realms are being joined willy nilly and an end game that suggest people will burn out in droves, this is really good news for the game. I’m at a loss to explain it fully.