The Most Interesting Questgiver in the World

Playing videogames still takes up my eyeball time these days. I’m derping around in the WoW beta on a baby monk that I’m leveling the whole way up. I thought I’d share a cute bit of Beta fun the developers have in the game at the moment:

WoW screenshot
The Most Interesting Questgiver in the World

The starter zone in Pandaria is closed for renovation, so the placeholder NPC has been updated to reflect that.

Another bad quarter for WoW subs

Via Wowhead News, Blizzard’s flagship MMO title, World of Warcraft (which I play), has lost another 300k subscribers.

This further confirms the anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen. Many of my friends that have played the game intensely with me and my guildmates have just stopped playing. I can only speculate as to what’s going on, which I will inflict on you.

Some possibilities:

While Blizzard developers were stating they wanted to make endgame content more challenging, much of it was by mechanics that penalized everybody for one person’s mistake. Many fights in the first tier of raid and heroic dungeon content had mechanics that had to be quickly dealt with by one person, or it meant a costly wipe. Examples are the slimes and fire ray in the Omnotron Council encounter; impaling Magmaw’s head in a timely manner, or blocking beams in the Corla, Herald of Twilight encounter. While devoted raiders can handle these mechanics, people who come on to play with their friends suffer the most, since the consequences for such easy failure tend work against the goal of having fun with your friends.

Blizzard also had the stated goal of making the game more accessible to players who are new to MMO games in general. The top executives at Blizzard liked to quote the stat that most people who start playing WoW never get beyond level 10. While I don’t have a demographic breakdown of who’s still around, I’d like to know if the game is indeed attracting and retaining more new players, but not able to make up for the veterans going away.

Blizzard made a front-loaded expansion. Most of the changes that went into the game were in the level 1-60 experience. The max-level endgame only had a handful of regular level 85 dungeons at launch, and not many more heroic versions. The raiding scene did start off with more original encounters, but done in a way that was tedious to get through. The spokesman for the guild Method had this to say about the first tier of content’s difficulty (via MMO-Champion):

Nefarian down, putting us at 13/13 (finally a breath of fresh air!!!). Thumbs up for the dedication shown by our raiding team. The current heroic difficulty of raiding is both enjoyable and demanding. We can all welcome, with open arms, the more challenging raid content, but the sheer quantity of content available since Cataclysm launch has required more time investment than ever before to remain competitive. Personally I would have welcomed a ‘reasonable’ gate-system or similar to allow for more real life time the past ~2months, especially with xmas/new years/exams etc. Taking a few day breaks over the festive period only to be notified that other guilds were currently raiding obviously wasn’t ideal!

This tier of raiding has unfortunately contained multiple bugs, with bosses like Atramedes, Sinestra, and Nefarian standing out. Sinestra had some notable issues for us; having infinite lines at Twilight orbs making progress prior to this current reset difficult. Twilight Flames properly spawning at the Egg locations in phase 1 was also fixed recently on the fight (can see they are non existent @ Paragon’s video). The issues on Nefarian are of more concern, with Blizzard seemingly overlooking certain class abilities on a key encounter mechanic. Unsure as to why it was waited with until after a guild had killed Nefarian before applying the fix, especially with “top guilds” apparently under surveillance, such delayed fixes are harmful to the ‘PvE race’.

Hoping that Blizzard can keep up with the quality of heroic raid difficulty while considering the quantity available and as always more vigorous encounter testing/monitoring.

In my guild’s case, we went from being able to fill 25-man raids with upwards of 5 standbys, down to being barely able to scrape a 10-man raid together after 2 months. People would quit playing the game without notice, or say that Real Life had reared its demanding head.

I’m still playing the game, but I find that other things are more interesting to me these days. The effort-to-reward ratio has reached the point where I can only afford to intensely work on one toon’s progress at endgame, and the other are profession bots. Consequently, playing the auction house meta-game ends up being more interesting to me. It’s a good thing that I have other means of getting in touch with my important in-game friends, since we’ve all expressed that we’re bored of the game.

All aboard the Northrend Express!

Instead of doing productive things, like updating this blog, I’ve been leveling up more alts on WoW.

My most recent feat has been to quest/dungeon grind up to the point where I have a character in each class at level 70 or above. Most of which are on my main server, Azjol-Nerub. Only 2 aren’t 80 by now, and probably won’t be by the time Cataclysm hits the shelves. But then, I’m an efficient quester when I put my mind to it.

LFM, no scrubs

As always, World o’ Warcraft has been my main timesink. As you may know, the next expansion is about to hit, and the few active remaining guildies and I have been trying to complete some missing achievements before the Cataclysm strikes.

We have had to go to the extraordinary measures of pugging in people from trade chat for Yogg+1, which has had poor results. This is why I hate pugging. Azjol-Nerub’s Horde side has slim pickings from available puggers, but I’m going to stick with the server. I will be persistent.

Guilds and taxes

Where it comes to World of Warcraft economics, the Greedy Goblin resonates the strongest with my thinking. He posted recently on guild “taxes”. I put taxes in square quotes because there’s a major difference in what a guild does to collect these “taxes” versus what a government does to get money out of their citizens.

A guild is a voluntary association, set up in the game by using the various amenities that Blizzard provides to guild leaders to provide for pooling of resources. A government is “an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” The guild leader can enforce his rules by restricting a person’s access to these pooled resources, or to even kick the offending player out of the guild. A government can use its police powers to extract a person’s property and worse.

So if a player doesn’t pay their “tax”, the worst that can happen is they are not in the guild anymore. Calling it a “tax” confuses the difference between a guild and a government.

As far as what it takes to fund a government, I can tell you what I learned in the way to get my economics degree. Along the way, I took a course that discussed and analyzed taxation. The fixed fee, “head tax”, is the economically best means of taxation.

The reason why the head tax is considered best, economically, is that other taxation schemes influence and distort individuals’ economic behavior. Flat taxes, sales taxes, VAT, progressive taxes, you name it—all these give people a reason to reevaluate their consumption and labor choices.

In the case of a guild, similar reasoning applies, but you have to keep in mind the voluntary nature of a guild, the nature of raiding, and also personal motivation. It is a travesty that a commenter on that Greedy Goblin post has mentioned along the way that BoE greens, blues, and epics all go to the guild bank instead of being put up to a roll for the raid participants, yet requiries that raid participants bring their own consumables. Another commenter said his guild bank is sitting on a cash pile worth 32K g, plus tons of enchanting mats. These are the spoils of raiding, but they’re not going to the raiders.

Raiding does have a cost, and people prefer that the costs be more predictable than not. If there is a “fee” that covers a base amount of consumables and provides insurance for repair costs, that is preferable to having everyone suffering huge losses due to repeatedly wiping. Everybody in the raid is there for that next piece of gear and the badges serve as a good consolation prize, and every extra bit of loot a player can bring home from the raid is a return on their investment for their own consumables, so what I will call guild bank communism won’t work to keep the best players around. Having a voluntary system in place that lets people smooth out their raiding expenses will.

On Randomness and “Easy” Achievements

After a weekend of dutifully checking in on my toons every hour on the hour, I got the last pieces of random loot that I needed to earn my Love Fool title.

Others have not been so lucky. And luck has a lot to do with it. Aside from that bag of candy requirement, the only other annoying part of the achievement was to run an Arathi Basin battleground so I could finish out I Pitied the Fool. The PvP requirements are my least favorite parts of these achievements. I can handle the randomness aspect—it is the great equalizer.

While I’m not in a guild that runs 25-man content, I consider myself to be a hardcore player. If anything, this achievement system allows me to earn the rewards that were once available to the loners in the game who lack the urge for the twitch-fest that is arena. These achievements take prolonged effort to earn, and reward determination over raw twitch skills, which is what I’m in the game for.

With all that said and done, I’m happy I got that achievement done and over with. The next title-earning achievement coming up is Midsummer. Happy hunting!

Edit 2009.02.20: updated link to Ferarro’s blog

Another month, another WoW title to earn

Late January brought us The Lunar Festival, and now at the tail end of it, we have Love is in the Air. While I don’t expect to be able to raid much on my rogue, I still consider that toon my main, and my achievement sponge, in spite of some achievements being easier to get on my healz priest.

So far, I have completed the Winter’s Veil and the aforementioned Lunar Festival title, and I’m not planning on losing momentum with this next one, in spite of the short period in which it’s available.