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MMOs are not given room to grow anymore. Launch perfect or die!

When World of Warcraft launched in November 2004 is was new, it was shiny, but it really wasn’t as polished or infallible as people think of it today.  Aside from WoW’s launch issues, which mostly stemmed from Blizzard not anticipating the demand, WoW had issues that crop up in most contemporary MMOs.

WoW was evolving constantly back then, and surprisingly continues to evolve regularly even today.  There were itemization issues, stat issues, and content issues.  End-game wasn’t clearly defined.  PvP was anything but defined.  It was clear that Blizzard was learning like the rest of us how their future would unfold. I was there for all of it.

I remember playing and having discussions in general chat with the other players about raids.  All we knew at the time was that there was a raid.  Looking back at the 40-man raids of WoW’s launch and all they entailed, then looking at the raid finder experience of today, it’s truly mind blowing how WoW has evolved.  If you played the entire time, you’re even more aware of how many changes the raiding system has gone through and different systems/mechanics/features/implementations the content has seen over the years.

Then there’s the PvP system, which started out … actually it didn’t.  There wasn’t a “PvP system”.   There weren’t battlegrounds, rewards, titles, or gear.  It was just the ability to kill other players in zones like Hillsbrad.  Evolving just like raids, PvP has gone through countless changes over the years.

What am I getting at by giving you this history lesson? [Read more...]

Battle.net Balance and Diablo 3 will earn me money

Need more gold! "Zug, Zug."

I’m oddly fascinated by the Battle.net Balance program.  First, here’s a quick official statement describing the Battle.net Balance system:

Battle.net Balance is a new Battle.net feature that will allow players to store value in their Battle.net account, which can be used to buy Blizzard Entertainment products such as World of Warcraft game time, paid services, digital versions of games, and in-game pets and mounts.

With the upcoming launch of Diablo III, players in certain regions will also be able to use their Battle.net Balance to acquire items from the game’s currency-based auction house. Diablo III players will also have the option to store earnings from items they sell on the auction house in their Battle.net Balance, to be used on future auction house purchases or to buy Blizzard products.

Players will be able to add value to their Balance by paying with their own money, but what I’m interested in is how this program can work for me.  I’m going to buy Diablo 3.  I’m going to play Diablo 3 and I am inevitably going to find rare items as I have in all past installments of the franchise.  Instead of trading these items for other items, or hording them all for myself, I’m going to put them up on Diablo 3′s auction house.  Players will buy my items with their Battle.net Balance and I will have increased the value of my Balance.

I will then use that Balance to buy Blizzard products — products I would have bought anyway with my own real money.  So, in a way, other players will be buying future Blizzard games or any Blizzard products for me.  Who knows?  A few lucky drops might buy me the next StarCraft expansion or I may even turn around and buy a rare item that I want.

The only people losing on this deal are those who buy into the Battle.net Balance system with their real money.  I have no plans to dissuade those people.  Actually, forget you even read this post.

Blizzcon 2011: Monks, DOTA, and Weakened Resolve

It’s Blizzcon time again.  Time to be reminded of my weak resolve, get hyped, and agonize over a wait that will surely feel infinite.

Mists of Pandaria was confirmed, as if it wasn’t already.  I am done with WoW.  I swear, I am.  Really.  I mean it.  Yet… Panda… Monk…want… No, I’m done.  Maybe it was the music in the trailer or the open-fist fighting styles of those pleasantly plump kungfu pandas that sucked me in and took captive my mind.  I am a slave to my own desires for polish.  It looks great.  A zone on the back of a turtle for crying out loud!

Maybe the coolest part of the opening ceremony was watching the Diablo III and Heart of the Swearm trailers.  I feel like we can piece them all together and make a real movie.  I have this fear that Diablo 3 is never going to release because the day it does the world might stand still.

[Read more...]

Guardian Cubs are not pure RMT

Cute and cuddly purchasing power

People are up in arms about Blizzard’s decision to allow their Guardian Cub to be purchased from their store (with real cash) and traded to other players in-game.  The issue here is whether or not this is considered “endorsed RMT.”  First, we need to get something straight.  RMT is not the same thing as microtransactions (usually found within a free to play game).  I sell my Sword for real money to other players — that’s RMT.  I buy a sword from the game company itself — that’s a microtransaction.  I’m seeing too many people mix those up.

Is this a full endorsement of RMT from Blizzard?  No, this is not.  A full endorsement of RMT is the Diablo 3 auction house where players list the items they found up for real money, all facilitated in-game.  This situation isn’t even pure RMT.  This is a sideways allowance of trade to cleverly increase the sales of Guardian Cubs.  Once the Guardian Cub is purchased by a player, real money leaves the equation.  It becomes an in-game item for in-game item trade.

Trading a Guardian Cub in-game for in-game gold or an item is no different than buying a Krol Blade with gold back in 2004 .  Krol Blades were simply awesome.  Krols were epic swords, looked sexy, and provided a very powerful boost to DPS for entry-level raiders back in those days.   As the goblins say, “Time is money, friend!”  When a player sells an item, aren’t they selling their time or their luck?  Time is often far more valuable than a couple of dollars and luck can be worth a whole lot more.

Guardian cubs are, at most, cute and harmless tools for players to leverage against others in the marketplace.  Bobby may have the time or luck to find a Krol Blade, but he may not have the means to get that Guardian cub from the store.   Allowing Billy to trade his means for Bobby’s is of zero consequence to me.  Everyone — mostly Blizzard — wins.

Diablo 3 RMT

Behold, the future of Blizzard games!

You’re living under a rock if you haven’t seen the news about Blizzard creating a player to player real money auction house for Diablo 3.  Players will be able to place items that they find in-game up onto the auction house and allow other players to bid on and buy those items with real money.  The massive wave of negativity in response to this idea should be absolutely no surprise to anyone.  Honestly, the idea itself isn’t a surprise to me.   Blizzard is still working on their custom map shop for StarCraft 2.  Diablo’s very nature does, as Rob Pardo said, lend itself easily to the idea.  There’s a reason why websites exist to auction Diablo items already.  Yes, ebay style websites do exist for Diablo 2 and they are very, very popular.  Blizzard wants a cut of what is already out there.  Why not?   It’s a business to act as the middle-ma, and a lucrative one at that.  Blizzard will take a cut from the buyer -and- seller.

Personally, I don’t like the idea.  Can I put my finger on why?  Hmmm… it just doesn’t feel right to me.  Does it change the way I play Diablo at all?  No, not really.  I’ll still play for the fun of completing the story, killing monsters, finding items, and seeing how strong I can become before I get bored with the game.  Nothing about letting some guy that I will likely never, ever, play with (like I would know if I did) buy his halberd for $4 really impacts me.  Reasons being, 1) it happened already for years,  2) someone found it and traded it for rl money instead of an exchange in-game, and 3) it does not change how Diablo is played.

Diablo is designed such that it won’t be hurt by this system.  Anyone able to use an item they buy could have found that item anyway.  Any item they do find, doesn’t change how individuals enjoy the game.  Don’t like the 3 people you’re playing with?  Leave and join a new game.  Diablo 3 will have a competitive PvP arena type system to facilitate PvP easier than making small rooms to play in.  This impacts that significantly, but honestly if you’re going into the competitive PvP you better have the best stuff anyway, found or not.

A persistent game or one where other players interacted with me on an unavoidable level, with this kind of RMT, would be cause for concern.  If they bring this to WoW, for example, the entire thing unravels and suddenly innocent bystanders are harmed.  There’s just not much at stake in Diablo 3, though.  There’s really no economy to care about.  It’s not Blizzard opening a store.  It’s players trading amongst each other.  Bottom line, if someone wants to pay $4 to another player for the axe that’s their prerogative.  Just don’t tell me.

If I’m lucky, I’ll find a rare and sell it for enough that the game actually pays for itself.  I would consider that “beating the game”.