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WoW Loses 600k Subs; Solution? More Paid Expansions

9 May 2011 | 13 Comments » | Amatera

Sometimes it helps to take the honey with the vinegar, but not even the announcement for an impending third-quarter Diablo III beta test could soothe the sting of losing around 600,000 World of Warcraft subs over the past couple of months. It is now around 11.4 million, down from over 12 million. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime had to break the news during the company’s quarterly conference call earlier today.

Like anything else, popularity ebbs and flows and the spikes and valleys on the sales charts can usually be linked to periods of new content or players losing interest in the old. The real problem is that the peaks aren’t lasting as long as they used to. Losing 600k is one thing, but the fact that it has happened faster after Cataclysm than it has following any previous expansion is the real kick-in-the-pants.

Undoubtedly, everyone will have their own take on the news and opinions as to why precisely people are leaving the game in such sizable chunks, but what it comes down to at the end of the day — the one idea that seems to remain constant — is fatigue. I don’t believe that people are tired of MMORPGs or even the story of Azeroth itself, but rather the way that Blizzard conducts itself and the ever (d?)evolving philosophy that shapes the game’s continued development.

World of Warcraft would not have reached such insane numbers of subscriptions if it weren’t for the casual players and as the Farmville-addled masses flooded the channels with their girth, Blizzard was forced to compensate. Always pushing towards equalization and homogenization; making things simpler and easier to understand; removing those elements from the formula that, while perplexing, also made WoW interesting. And we, the fans and media, are complicit.

Why? Well, we encouraged it. For better or worse, this is kind of what we wanted, but we didn’t know any better. Changes to the game over the past few years have been a double-edged sword, and Cataclysm has proven to be the sharpest, shiniest double-edged sword yet. Allow me to elaborate with a broad example: we’re tired of leveling through the same old vanilla content, so we get a vastly modified 1-60 game. Zones are more engaging visually, travel is streamlined, quests are given a spitshine to ensure that not all of them are simple “kill x/gather y” affairs (though many still are). And yet, for a better and more polished game, we also get a less “fun” experience. It’s okay one time through, but it becomes so damn easy and there is no sense of exploration left.

How else have we done it? We’ve killed any difficulty with boss encounters and completing quests beyond pure execution. We’ve created mods and posted comprehensive strategies on very high-profile websites, which has in turn prompted Blizzard to incorporate elements of such helpful third-party resources into the game itself. And yet that does not absolve the company’s reliance on casual players of blame, because an absolutely amazing number of players, even with all this help, still do not understand how to play. Continue Reading

RIFT 1.12 Preludes Upcoming Major Content Patch

4 May 2011 | No Comments » | Amatera

Don’t be confused by the numbers. Patch 1.2 is still scheduled for a May 10th release, along with some delicious new content to nosh on, but anybody who logged into RIFT today was greeted with an early “pre-patch” numbered 1.12. Included are a handful of new Earth and Fire rift events found in areas that would not normally be subject to those sorts of elemental invasions, as well as a set of four new daily quests in the main cities that can be completed to obtain rare items.

Most rewards can be earned in-game through more difficult or time-consuming means, but you also have a slim chance of winning a limited edition vanity pet. No word in the patch notes as to what exactly that pet is, but it could be related to the mystery beginning to unravel in 1.12:

Strange things—stranger than usual, that is—are emerging from the rifts of Fire and Earth. Fragments of ancient golden dragon eggs lie scattered wherever the Flame- or Earthtouched set foot. Even stranger, coins have been raining into both Sanctum and Meridian, inspiring unusual greed in the locals. Neither Guardian nor Defiant scholars can solve this mystery without studying these shells and coins, so the Ascended must collect as many specimens as possible.

You will be able to participate in the event from today until the release of Patch 1.2. That’s technically less than a week, so if you want a shot at the loot, you better start cracking!

Patch 4.2 Legendary Staff Preview: Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest

28 April 2011 | 6 Comments » | Amatera

The latest in the (admittedly short) line of Legendary-level items to grace Azeroth is the staff known as “Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest.” This is one geared towards the offensive magic users, with stats/procs engineered specifically to send those greedy, little healer types running in the opposite direction. Though said stats have not yet been released, the description given in the official preview hints that it will “duplicate destructive magics, and also bestow upon its wielder the ability to transform into a member of the Blue Dragonflight.”

The former would seem to imply a few different possibilities. Maybe it doubles an enemy’s spell and sends it flying right back? Perhaps it has a chance to cast a random, highly destructive spell from a pre-defined set (Stragos style)? Or could it simply, on occasion, cast one of your own spells twice? Nobody but Blizzard knows at this point, but if you ask me, they all sound like fun, highly-desirable abilities.

As you can see in the image above, the staff will be constructed in stages, but turning it from a humble marshmallow-roaster into a pointy, hurty, rune-laced weapon of mass arcane destruction won’t be easy. You’ll need to embark on an epic quest line involving both the Blue and Bronze Dragonflights and, at times, enlist the help of your fellow guildmates to complete it. Here’s the attached lore blurb for those who are interested:

Ever since the death of the Dragon Aspect Malygos, the blue dragonflight has struggled with appointing a new leader. Its members are now torn between the two likeliest successors: Kalecgos, who champions reconciliation with other races; and Arygos, a scion of Malygos who believes that his kind should withdraw from the world and forge a new path. To end the constant debates and arguments, the flight has agreed to gather during the Embrace—an extraordinary celestial event in which Azeroth’s two moons come into perfect alignment—in the hopes that a new Aspect will be selected.

Yet a recent discovery by the bronze dragon Anachronos bodes ill for this impending ceremony. The timeless dragon has detected sinister magic at work around the Nexus, the blue flight’s frozen lair in Northrend. Along with this find, he has glimpsed a terrifying vision of Azeroth succumbing to flames. The link between this chilling portent and the blue dragons remains unclear, but Anachronos has called upon what some of his kind deem the “short-lived” races to investigate further. If a hero does not rise to the challenge and find the truth, Anachronos’s dire vision of Azeroth’s undoing could become reality.

Sadly, as cool as it looks, this one isn’t for me. I just don’t have any offensive staff-wielders in my stable of Level 85 toons (and to be honest, my guild no longer has the wherewithal to fulfill such an endeavor). One last bit that may be worth clarifying, though. I noticed the following statement in the preview:

Only those who have emerged triumphant against the evils lurking within Blackwing Descent, The Bastion of Twilight, and the Throne of the Four Winds will be eligible to begin the legendary quest.

This seems to indicate that for a character to even begin obtaining Dragonwrath, they must have made significant progress in the game’s current tier of raiding. Perhaps you’re required to have cleared every boss in the dungeons mentioned above (or at least earned the achievements for them)? It would seem odd for Blizzard to state it that way, otherwise.

Either way, good luck to those who are prepared for and capable of making the journey! Claiming ownership of a Legendary item is certainly something worth bragging about.

Patch 4.2 Firelands Raid Official Preview

28 April 2011 | 5 Comments » | Amatera

Beth'tilac, "The Red Widow" is one of the first bosses you will encounter in The Firelands.

Yesterday’s videos were only the beginning of Blizzard’s Patch 4.2 coverage. According to Bashiok, here’s the line-up for the next few days:

4/28

  • “The Firelands” Raid Preview
  • “A Legendary Engagement” Legendary Staff Preview
  • “The Regrowth and Molten Front Quest Hubs”
  • BlizzCast 16

4/29

  • “Elemental Bonds” Quest Preview
  • Tier 12 Teaser

5/2

  • Dungeon Journal Teaser (Ama’s note: This is the integrated boss info thing they talked about wanting to implement at BlizzCon 2010).

As of this writing, only the first item on the list has been released, but it’s arguably the most exciting. The official boss descriptions (including hints as to their fight mechanics) follow my own summation of the features culled from both the official preview and an interview Cory Stockton recently did with Buffed (there’s even more info here, it’s worth reading in its entirety):

  • Seven bosses (including Ragnaros), the first four of which can be tackled in non-linear fashion.
  • No hidden or optional bosses, but Ragnaros’ Heroic fight is vastly different from his Normal one (indications that this will be the only way to see his entire body).
  • The raid instance will be about the size of the Alterac Valley sub-zone, and will take place mostly outside, so that players can mount up and attempt to bypass some of the mobs wandering about.
  • There will be more UI elements such as bars and meters to better track what bosses are doing, instead of having to always keep an eye on the debuff box. Also, there will be no fire resist required in the instance (and the bosses won’t have it, either).
  • “Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest” is the new Legendary Staff. It will have an offensive proc, take a long time to make, and require a few non-raiding efforts from the rest of your guild. Completing the staff will reward you with the item, a lengthy cinematic event, and everyone in your guild (presumably of sufficient reputation) will also gain access to a unique vanity pet.
  • Other dungeon rewards include the requisite Tier 12 gear, Epic recipes for all professions, and three new mounts (flaming Anzu likely being the rarest/most wanted).

Onto the boss descriptions! Continue Reading

World of Warcraft Patch 4.2 “Firelands” Preview Videos

27 April 2011 | 5 Comments » | Amatera

Hot on the heels of the latest content release comes two preview videos for the next patch. Though they are official, they aren’t exactly formal trailers, either. It’s clear that there is still plenty to be worked on and tested, but we do get a good look at some of the bosses (Anthricyst, Aranae. Fandral, and Ragnaros himself), as well as the daily quest area.

There’s not much more to say about them than what you can see in the videos, so check ‘em out below.

Patch 4.2 Firelands Raid Preview


Patch 4.2 Firelands Daily Quest Area Preview Continue Reading

World of Warcraft Patch 4.1 “Rise of the Zandalari” Now on Live Servers [Update 2]

26 April 2011 | 5 Comments » | Amatera

This is more or less a heads-up for people who haven’t checked their client or tried to log on today, but Patch 4.1 has indeed gone live! The files for the update round out to about 325 MBs, so it shouldn’t take long to download at all. If you’d like a more comprehensive look at everything this content patch has to offer, you can either click here or just scroll down the page a bit.

To those who have been living under a rock or just re-entered society from their decades-long hermitage and are still getting the hang of this whole “internet” business, Patch 4.1 does not include a new raid instance, PvP season, or tier of gear. While this is atypical for what we’ve come to expect from a content patch, we should see Patch 4.2 much sooner after this one than normal, and it should contain all of these things. In fact, I’d expect to see it in testing on the PTR within the next week or two.

For the time being, let’s all do our best to enjoy both “new,” arguably more challenging 5-man Level 85 Heroics, and handy UI features. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to log in and make sure that my guild still exists. And if it doesn’t, it looks like I’ll be giving an extensive report on just how well the Guild Finder works!

[Update 1] Patch day blues. Anecdotally, I experienced a lot of problems trying to enter one of the new instances through the Dungeon Finder and I know some friends had similar troubles. Officially, the first round of hotfixes has been applied. They certainly won’t resolve all current issues, but you can find the list of changes here.

[Update 2 -- April 27] Second round of hotfixes have been applied.

Patch 4.1 “Rise of the Zandalari” Megapost

22 April 2011 | 3 Comments » | Amatera

Whether you need a refresher or just haven’t been keeping up with it, Blizzard has put up a full post detailing every nook and cranny of the upcoming content patch. Despite my current disappointment with the state of World of Warcraft, I can’t deny the fact that packing 4.1 with new features at least partially redeems the lack of a new raid dungeon (it certainly shows they’ve been working on something). Here’s a quick summary of what to expect, with the full notes on Blizzard’s site:

Rise of the Zandalari

The days when great troll empires stretched across ancient Kalimdor are long past. Millennia of war and internal strife have stripped these nations of their power, lands, and glory. As Azeroth recovers from the destruction of the Cataclysm, the world’s divided troll populations face a bleak future. These dark times have spurred the trolls of the Zandalar, the historically wise and scholarly tribe from which all trolls originated, to take drastic action. They have embarked on a bold crusade to save their race by uniting trolls into a single mighty empire. With the Zandalari’s aid, the fallen capitals of the Gurubashi and Amani nations—Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman—are already rebuilding, replenishing their forces for a bloody campaign to expand their territories.

Yet Vol’jin and his Darkspear trolls are not aligned with the Zandalari. They have sworn to stand with their Horde comrades—and even work with the Alliance—should the trolls ignite a new war on Azeroth. Soon, Vol’jin might be forced to act on his promise, for if the Gurubashi and Amani are left to their own devices, the world will know the legendary strength and savagery of the ancient troll empires once again.

Guild Challenges

Built into the Info panel of the guild user interface, Guild Challenges are weekly tasks guild groups can tackle for additional guild experience, achievements, and gold. At the top of the guild user interface Info pane, a new Guild Challenges section is displayed and broken into three categories: Dungeons, Raids, and Rated Battlegrounds. Any guild group will qualify for Guild Challenges credit and there is a set number of times each challenge can be completed per week.

Guild Finder

Guild Finder is a new system designed to enable easier and faster guild recruitment. Guild leaders and players who are looking for a guild to call home will use the Guild Finder to meet one another and begin communications that can lead to a prosperous membership. Whether you’re a guild leader looking to fill your ranks or a player looking for a guild that meets your strictest requirements, the Guild Finder provides an easy way to make new friends!

Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms

A new system intended to lower queue times, Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms offers additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you’ll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/potion, a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount

Clearly the most important thing, though, is that this is a good indication Blizzard is ready to release the patch itself. There is a high chance we will see “Rise of the Zandalari” this coming Tuesday.

New TERA Trailer Released: “Vision”

21 April 2011 | No Comments » | Amatera

En Masse Entertainment, the company tasked with translating and adapting the Korean-developed MMORPG for a Western audience, released a new trailer today. There’s some gameplay footage, and various staffers from the company chime in about the game’s “vision” along the way (hence the name).

Despite the fact that TERA still doesn’t have a release date around these parts, it’s been out in its native land for a couple of months now, and impressions have generally been very positive. Savvy Westerners can even play the game right now as long as they can secure an account attached to a Korean SSN and some game time cards. Personally, I’m going to save myself the hassle and wait for the localized beta, but this trailer is making it very hard to do so.

Make sure to watch through the end to see some of the crazy elite/boss creatures the game intends to throw at you!