Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Clarifying WoW Token Misconceptions

As I'm sure you probably know, Blizzard has provided the first round of details on their announced legitimized gold-buying system, called WoW Tokens. The system essentially allows players to use real world currency to buy WoW Tokens worth 30 days of game time and then sell those tokens to other players for gold via the auction house - except that brief description is exceptionally misleading if that's all you read about the system. Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas did an interview with VentureBeat where he explained some additional details, and those details paint a vastly different picture of the system than you'd expect just by reading the first half of the previous sentence.

So, here is a post taking those clarifications and putting them in bullet-point form for easier digestion. There's a lot of info here, but most of it is fairly important, especially if you're looking to use the system yourself.

If you purchase a WoW Token with real world currency:
  • you cannot:
    • use the token yourself to add game time to your account;
    • set the gold price of your token (you either list it for the going rate or don't list it at all);
    • trade the token to another player via the trading interface;
    • mail the token to another player via the mailbox;
    • deposit the token into a guild vault;
    • vendor the token; nor
    • destroy the token;
  • you can only:
    • move the token around in your own inventory; and/or
    • sell the token for the current set gold price via the Game Time tab on the auction house.
If you purchase a WoW Token with in-game gold:
  • you cannot:
    • resell the token you purchased via the Game Time tab on the auction house;
    • trade the token to another player via the trading interface;
    • mail the token to another player via the mailbox;
    • deposit the token into a guild vault;
    • vendor the token; nor
    • destroy the token;
  • you can only:
    • move the token around in your own inventory; and/or
    • use the token to add game time to your account.
Regarding the involvement of the Auction House:
  • WoW Tokens are bought and sold via their own system that is not like the WoW auctioning system with which players are currently familiar:
    • there are no individually set prices;
    • there is no real "auctioning" involved;
    • there is no bidding;
    • there is no up-front deposit to list a token;
    • there is no Auction House cut taken from the sale price;
    • there is no expiration time on token listings;
    • token listings cannot be cancelled;
    • the system is region-wide (Americas, Europe, Taiwan, Korea, China) and not limited by realm;
  • the system is more akin to NPC vendors
    • anyone selling tokens puts theirs up at the currently set price, like vendoring an item except you have to wait a while for your gold to be mailed to you;
    • anyone buying tokens purchases theirs at the currently set price, like buying from a vendor;
  • the only choice players have is to:
    • buy / sell at the current price;
    • refuse to buy /  decline to sell at the current price.
Additional important stuff:
  • Real world currency cost for the tokens will not be cheaper than monthly subscription rates;
  • Gold prices for tokens
    • will initially be set by Blizzard on a per-region basis (because gold value varies by region), but
    • will eventually be taken over by an algorithm that looks at the historical supply and demand of tokens to balance prices per region;
  • Gold can be created or destroyed in the system, as
    • buyers will only ever pay the current gold price for tokens, regardless of the price at which the tokens were listed;
    • when a token is sold its seller will receive the gold price quoted at the time of listing regardless of the token's purchase price; thus
      • if the price goes up after a seller lists a token, the buyer will pay that price but the seller will not receive extra gold; conversely
      • if the price goes down after a seller lists a token, the buyer will pay the lower price but the seller will still receive all of the gold they were quoted at the time of listing;
    • Blizzard is okay with gold being created or destroyed as prices slowly change if it means that sellers don't have to guess about how much gold they will actually receive once their token sells;
  • Tokens will generally be sold in the order that they are listed;
  • If you run out of game time but have enough gold on a character to buy a token, you can do so directly from the character select screen and it will automatically add the game time to your account;
  • The WoW Token system launch likely won't launch everywhere at once - it will likely be a staggered release to allow Blizzard the opportunity to troubleshoot problems before it becomes available worldwide.
  • Blizzard will protect both buyers and sellers of tokens from fraudulent purchases, so
    • if a buyer uses illicitly-obtained gold to purchase a token, that gold will not be taken away from the innocent seller; and
    • if a seller uses fraudulently-obtained tokens to make gold, the tokens / game time will not be taken away from the innocent buyer.
  • Like current auction house systems, buying tokens for gold will likely be instantaneous, but selling them will likely include a delay while Blizzard performs a fraud review, though
    • players with established credit histories with Blizzard may have a shorter delay.
  • Additional limitations, such as a limits on the number of transactions allowed per account, may also be a factor.

I think one of the interesting aspects of the WoW Token system is that tokens that are purchased with real world currency can only be sold for gold, and tokens purchased with gold can only be used for game time. That seems to be a feature designed specifically to combat players who might otherwise try to play both sides of the market and thereby wreak havoc on exchange rates. Combined with the fact that tokens will cost at least as much as a single month's subscription, this means that each token transaction will require a fairly decent profit margin just to keep up with the discounts given by 3- and 6-month subscription options.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BWBT: Favorite Blizzard Title

Yesterday's Blizzard Watch Breakfast Topic (BWBT) posed the question "what is your favorite Blizzard title?". For me, that's a surprisingly difficult question to answer. I have and have played nearly all of the Blizzard games available to me - some long after their initial release, such as with The Lost Vikings and Blackthorne (both of which are available for download for free via Battle.net). All of the Blizzard-made WarCraft, StarCraft, and Diablo games have a home on my computer, alongside Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.

If the question were which Blizzard franchise was my favorite, I would answer "WarCraft" in a heartbeat - it was introduced to me at a young age by the same person who introduced me to other core geeky fandoms such as Star Wars and Magic: the Gathering. WarCraft: Orcs and Humans introduced me to the RTS genre. WarCraft II is why I care about game story and lore, not just in WarCraft games but in every game I play. WarCraft III showed me how awesome pre-rendered cinematics could be, thereby sparking my interest in the topic of video game creation.

World of Warcraft is certainly the title I've played the most, but at times I miss the army vs. army nature of its RTS predecessors. When World of Warcraft was still in early development, I remember seeing playable orcs dressed as grunts and humans dressed as footmen and found myself somehow attracted to the idea of playing the footman in a massively expansive RTS world. Of course, that's not at all how the MMORPG turned out, but if it wasn't for that idea lodging itself in my head, I likely would have passed on the monthly subscription fee.

I think in the end, I'm going to have to go with WarCraft II as being my favorite Blizzard title (the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion pack edges out the original Tides of Darkness if I have to pick between them). It's old and dated, and no longer nearly as much fun to play after having experienced the massive UI and AI advancements made in WarCraft III and StarCraft II, but everything I like about WarCraft games can be traced back to those titles. I became interested in WarCraft lore because the WarCraft II introduced me to characters like Anduin Lothar, Turalyon, Kurdran and Sky'ree. The first video game cinematic that ever hooked me in was the WarCraft II cinematic involving the catapult and zeppelin. WarCraft II is what drew me to the Paladin archetype, and where I became enamored with gryphons.

So yeah, it's more about nostalgia than anything else, but if I had to pick, that would be my answer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

To Answer the Question Lingering in the Air...

...a witch turned me into a newt.

...I got better.

On a more serious note, If you're wondering where I've been since late 2013, I've been working alongside several other Feathermoon realm RPers to co-host and edit the Feathermap Podcast, a small podcast that covers topics relating to RP on our realm. Feel free to check it out if that kind of thing interests you. A new episode in which we delve into the lore found in the Shadowmoon Valley, Frostfire Ridge, Gorgrond, and Talador zones just came out and should be available here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

How to City Hop Efficiently

World events like Love is in the Air and Pilgrim's Bounty can be exhausting - they ask you to trek across the globe on a daily basis, visiting each of your faction's capital cities in order to maximize your chances of getting whichever event rewards you're after. Without a mage to open portals for you, this might seem like a monumental task, but it's not as difficult as it initially appears.

First of all, it's best to start at one of the faction cities furthest from Stormwind City or Orgrimmar - either Darnassus or Exodar for Alliance or Undercity or Silvermoon City for Horde will work, since each pair has a mechanism to quickly travel to the other city (a portal between Darnassus and Exodar and a teleportation orb between Undercity and Silvermoon). Once you've completed tasks in both cities, take the Portal to Hellfire Peninsula near the portal trainers in any city. Once past the loading screen, you'll find yourself standing right in front of a portal to Stormwind City or Orgrimmar - just turn around and hop through the portal and that's 3 cities down, 1 to go.

From Stormwind or Orgrimmar, make your way to Ironforge or Thunder Bluff. It doesn't matter much whether it's by tram, zepplin, flight master, or hearthing to a Shrine or Ashran and taking the portal to the final city. And if you need to get back to Stormwind or Orgrimmar, the route through the Hellfire Peninsula portals is always open.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Farm Up Lovely Charms - Surprise They're Made of Spiders!

If you didn't read the title of this post to the tune of the Lucky Charms jingle, I am horribly, horribly disappointed in you. =P

The Love is in the Air world event is approaching its halfway mark, and if you're after all of the pets and toys and achievements you'll probably need a ton of Love Tokens, and that means farming up Lovely Charms. After all, each character can turn in up to 4 Lovely Charm Bracelets per day for 5 Love Tokens each (one per each of your faction's city leaders), and then each additional bracelet can be traded for a single token.

Now, there are lots of places where you can farm up Lovely Charms - WoWhead has a list of good farming spots written by Elvinelol, but I think I've found a decent place that's not on the list: Deathweb Hollow.

Here there be spiders.

Deathweb Hollow is full of spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Also, there are clusters of spider eggs that spew out a handful of small baby spiders when stepped on. All of these mobs (which, in case you forgot, are spiders) are level 95+, so level 100 characters can kill them relatively easily while still qualifying for Lovely Charm drops. They also award Bodyguard reputation if you happen to keep a bodyguard around, presumably to guard your body...from all the spiders. Additionally, there are two rare mobs in the area (both spiders, if you couldn't guess): Klikixx and Taladorantula.

Klikixx is inside the cave in the hollow, at the end of the upper path - a path conveniently filled with dozens of spider egg sacks which you can pop for tons and tons of potentially-Lovely Charm-yielding kills. Taladorantula, on the other hand, must be summoned in the clearing just up the hill past the cave entrance. How? By squashing dozens and dozens of baby spiders, of course! Sadly, these spiders don't qualify as proper kills since simply running over them will squash them, but the many adds summoned by Taladorantula do count, and are quite easy to one-shot.

Still not sold? Okay, I don't blame you, but look, just kill lots and lots of baby spiders with fire and tie their corpses into bracelets, then hand those to your faction leaders. I'm sure they'll appreciate it. What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Yesterday, Blizzard Watch reported that the Warlords of Draenor soundtrack was nominated for an International Film Music Critics Association award for Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media, and I wholeheartedly agree that the nomination is well-deserved. This expansion's music has been nothing short of stunning.

However, as amazing as the Warlords of Draenor music is, there is and always shall be one song that epitomizes WarCraft music in my mind - "Echoes of the Past".

This incarnation of the track originally appeared in WarCraft III, I believe, but failed to make it onto the WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos Collector's Edition soundtrack. It was, however, included in the original World of Warcraft Collector's Edition soundtrack, even though it didn't make it into the MMO until the Caverns of Time: Old Hillsbrad Foothills instance was introduced in The Burning Crusade.

In any case, there's just something inherent to the interplay of percussion and woodwinds that makes it the first thing I that pops into my head whenever WarCraft music is brought up. I'm just really sad that Blizzard missed the opportunity to update the track and call it "Echoes of the Alternate Timeline Past". =P

Anyway, I'm going to go listen to the song on repeat for the next few hours, because it's just that good.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WoW Insider is Dead. Long Live Blizzard Watch

It's probably somewhat telling that when I first found out that WoW Insider was closing its virtual doors, it was through a blog that wasn't WoW Insider itself. Over the years, I'd lost interest in most of its posts - opinion pieces, Know Your Lore, and The Archivist were pretty much the only articles I regularly read from that site, and even then usually quite a while after their publication.

Thus, it came as something of a surprise to realize how sad I was to see it go.

And a significant relief to find out that the former WoW Insider staff aren't dispersing into the wind, but rather sticking together to create the new Blizzard Watch site. I'm genuinely excited to see where they'll take the new blog, especially if they embrace their new identity and expand to regular coverage of other Blizzard titles. I get the feeling I'm going to be reading a lot more of their columns from now on.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Connected Realms: Is Blizzard "Illidan" Prepared?

Yesterday, in a discussion amongst my fellow Feathermooninites about Blizzard's upcoming Connected Realms feature and what it means for our realm, my friend and former raid leader linked to the Realm Pop website that gathers and analyzes data to attempt to create a census of the various different World of Warcraft realms. It's a pretty nifty site, and it starkly shows why a feature such as Connected Realms is so desperately needed when you compare the most character-heavy realm in the North American server set (Tichondrius, which has ~235,000 characters) to the least populated one (Chromaggus, which has only ~16,000 characters).

Judging by population numbers alone, it seems unlikely that my realm of Feathermoon will undergo connection to another realm, since it's solidly a medium-population realm that is within the top 20% of realms in terms of character population. However, realm population isn't necessarily the only consideration for Connected Realms. According to Blizzard's mini-FAQ (underline mine):

Q. Which realms will be connected as Connected Realms?
A. We haven’t decided yet which realms will be made part of a Connected Realm, or which other realms they’ll be connected to, though realms will only be connected to other realms of the same type (e.g. PvE to PvE, PvP to PvP, RP to RP). In the end, we’re considering a number of factors, including Battlegroup, population, and faction balance.

The faction balance portion of that statement is relevant, because it brings up the Illidan problem. Illidan is the second most populous realm with ~213,000 characters, but is also the second most faction-skewed realm with Horde characters comprising a full ~200,000 of that ~213,000 total (a ~15 Horde : 1 Alliance character ratio). So, what does Blizzard do in this case? Does Blizzard decide to ignore Illidan's extreme faction imbalance when it comes to connecting realms, or does Blizzard connect Illidan to one (or, likely, more) Alliance-heavy realms to mitigate the difference?

If Blizzard decides to use this opportunity of creating Connected Realms to try to solve Illidan's faction woes, then I'd expect Blizzard to aim for at least ~350,000 characters or so for Illidan's Connected Realm cluster, which is significantly larger than the previously-mentioned Tichondrius' ~235,000 characters. In such a scenario, this would mean that if Connected Realms are to be made roughly similar in size, then every realm will have to be a part of a Connected Realm.

I'm interested in seeing how Blizzard will decide to handle the Illidan issue - and if Illidan players will bombard Blizzard with "You were not prepared!" memes if Blizzard chooses not to address the faction imbalance with Connected Realms.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: A Little Sugar Goes a Long Way...

This week's Blog Azeroth Shared Topic comes from Mataoka of Sugar & Blood. It prompts:
"[C]onsider the nicest, cutest, sappiest, and sweetest quests in the game; nothing sad or depressing but sweet and light."

Personally my favorite "nice" quest in the game is Orphans Like Cookies Too! in Stormwind City. It's one of the random daily cooking quests and tasks you with searching the various inns and general stores throughout the city to gather bags of confectioners' sugar to help Robby Flay finish a batch of cookies for the city's orphans. It's short, simple, and sweet as a sugar cookie. =P

One of the reasons I like the quest (outside the obvious fact that you're baking cookies for orphans. Cookies. For orphans.) is that it's all the more meaningful if you've paid attention to WarCraft's lore. The cookies aren't just being baked out of the blue, they're being baked at the behest of King Varian Wrynn, who was himself orphaned at the end of the First War. Despite becoming one of the most powerful figures in the Alliance, it seems he's still able to spare some thought towards making the days of his city's most misfortunate a little bit brighter. A little sugar goes a long way, indeed.

PS: I totally didn't realize that the Confectioners' Sugar could be purchased from certain vendors around the city until I looked at the WoWhead comments while writing this post. I thought they were only obtained from looting the Sack of Confectioner's [sic] Sugar objects at the inns and stores. /facepalm

Monday, July 8, 2013

Why Raid Finder?

A couple of weeks ago, Rohan of Blessing of Kings asked Why LFR? in a blog post based off of an MMO-Champion forum thread, the premise of which is that normal mode raiders are abandoning normal mode raiding in favor of the Raid Finder. I'm not going to go over what Rohan wrote, because his post is short and to-the-point enough that it's probably easier to click the link and read it for yourself than for me to rehash it here, but I do think there are a couple of other factors that are worth mentioning.

First of all, the above tweet by Ghostcrawler indicates that Raid Finder players and normal mode raiders tend to be two different sets of people. There's certainly some degree of overlap, but by and large, players running Raid Finder are brand new raiders as opposed to former raiders. This calls the entire initial assertion into question, and considering Blizzard has access to far more data on the matter than the playerbase does, I'm willing to believe they know what they're talking about.

So, if normal mode raiders aren't switching over to using Raid Finder as the sole fulfillment of their raiding desires, what's happening to them? As odd as it may sound, I think the answer lies within a nearly year-old article posted on GamesIndustry International just after the launch of Mists of Pandaria - Blizzard's success isn't magic; just hard work and open minds. The article isn't terribly long, and I highly suggest reading it in its entirety, but the key point is essentially that Blizzard has always aimed for accessibility, and as World of Warcraft becomes increasingly accessible the vocal hardcore players become flummoxed over the fact that Blizzard isn't treating them like the influential "whales" that conventional gaming wisdom tells them that they are, and so they begin to complain about this process. The Raid Finder and other systems that are perceived as "catering to the casuals" become the scapegoat for hardcore players' ire, and I think this following tweet shows exactly that happening, as well as posits a more likely explanation for where these normal mode raiders are disappearing to:

In other words, players aren't abandoning normal mode raiding in favor of Raid Finder, but rather the available pool of normal mode raiders is drying up as the overall playerbase contracts. However, even if World of Warcraft's subscriber base continues to erode, there are still upcoming features that will likely serve to boost normal mode raid participation. Flex Raids will allow Raid Finder players to get a taste of more standardized raiding, and hopefully convince them to move up to normal modes once bitten with the formal raiding bug; and Virtual Realms will consolidate player populations, allowing raid groups greater access to players who are interested and available for raiding, but unwilling or unable to transfer realms to do so.

Hope is not lost. Keep calm and raid on.