Did Cataclysm fail?

So, you’ve probably seen a number of these posts around lately, and to be honest you shouldn’t be too terribly surprised. We’re at the end of a cycle, with the last raid tier coming out soon and people already looking forward to the next expansion and the promise of bouncing pandas. The topic lately is whether or not that Cataclysm has failed as an expansion.

I figured the time is right for me to chime in on the topic, and I promise you it will be relevant to the site.

Healing Design

At the onset of the expansion, there were some very bold statements made about healing as a whole. They basically amounted to the following;

  • Shaman are the healing model that all healers will follow
  • Triage healing is vastly more important and mana is a concern
  • healing will be a lot harder and require smart decision making

So, in this regard did Cataclysm succeed or fail? Well to me the answer here is two fold. They both succeeded and failed at the same time. At the start of the expansion healing was definitely harder, mana consumption was much more of a concern and shaman healing really was the model when it came to triage healing. Note how I said at the start of the expansion. There was a bit of a problem though, once you started getting a pretty good head of steam going and gathered your gear the “model” started to fall apart. Spirit levels and regen abilities after heroic dungeon gearing were enough that some healing classes could just completely ignore the healing model. I’m casually whistling in innocence as I look at Mana Tide Totem from a year ago, I assure you. The problem exacerbated itself when some healing classes’ masteries got tweaked, and raid gear started circulating.

At this point, triage healing isn’t really used unless you’re just starting out, and some healing classes are just blowing others out of the water causing a lot of internal debate among raiding groups as to what the best healing setup really is now. Things are shaping up to be better in tier 13, but the healing model through tier 12 I would venture to say hangs at the edge of failure. We’ve been assured that the healing model will remain in tact for the next expansion, but only time will tell if that is true especially when adding a new healing class into the mix next expansion.

Guild advancement and recruiting

The new expansion brought with it the guild advancement system. Guilds earned experience points based on questing and the activity of the guild members involved. The guild was able to level up from level 1 to level 25 carrying various rewards such as XP boosts, mount speed increases and even alchemy patterns for flasks for the entire raid. It also came with some other perks like Heirloom gear helmet and cape slot items, mounts and pets as well as a Mass Teleport and Mass Resurrection. Honestly guild advancement was a huge success as far as adding perks to guilds that get rolling and stick to it and work together. Guild achievements also added nicely to this and added a further sense of accomplishment to a guild in certain respects.

The problem is that the success of the guild advancement system, however, in my eyes became a contributing factor in a problem that this expansion has had that I haven’t seen in either of the previous ones. Stagnant recruiting. Recruiting flat-out sucks right now to be honest. Any losses from people leaving the guild or leaving the game become increasingly difficult to replace. Let us face a simple truth, the game has been around for over 6 years at this point. People are taking a break. Maybe not out-right quitting, but they’re definitely going to start taking some vacation from Azeroth around this time. Before Cataclysm, replacing losses wasn’t nearly as difficult. I attribute this partly to the guild perk system. When a player leaves a guild, they lose all reputation they’ve gained with that guild. They then start from scratch just like with any other reputation when they join a new guild.

So the problem is that a lot of the guild perks don’t kick in unless you’re Honored with your guild. This can be a very unattractive prospect, especially when you consider there is a weekly cap to the reputation you can gain. Not only can swapping guilds be a daunting task on its own, but when you combine in extra things like rep to earn it adds to the heap. So, people are staying put in whatever guild they are in for the most part. Guild mergers seems much more frequent now, where whole groups of people make the commitment one way or another, but recruitment is certainly at an all time low.

Raid design, gear options, and accomplishing goals

This is another measuring stick by which to judge the success or failure of the current expansion. Raid design was a bit different this go around. In Wrath, all of the raid tiers were contained to one single zone. You didn’t have to go from place to place in order to see all of a raid tier.  In Cataclysm, the starting raid tier was divided between not one, not two but three different locations to contain all of the bosses and events. Honestly though, I think that served to make things a little better. Having different locations broke up the monotony of raiding in one single zone for however many hours a week. Some of the mechanics were fun, and the boss fights had the potential to give you at least some challenge. Overall I’d say it was a good tier. It reminded me of Burning Crusade where tier 4 and tier 5 were divided between different zones in different locations, breaking the long dredges through BWL that we were used to at this point.

The use of valor points to purchase tier gear, as well as off set items, was a smart move at first. It allowed a certain gear gating of the content as players had to earn their valor points to purchase the raid gear. Keeping a few pieces as raid drops only also made perfect sense. It eliminated the fighting over tokens at least a little bit, and while it could be annoying have to wait to restock your valor, it served it’s purpose well enough I think. Listening to the developers at BlizzCon it would appear that they too really liked how tier 11 worked out and will be continuing that style of breaking up the raids going into Mists.

One of the goals for Cataclysm was to reignite the fire the propelled the game to 12 million subscribers and get people excited about the game. New graphics throughout the world, Azeroth split and changed. Entire zones looking completely different and completely different starting zones and quests for the races of Azeroth. Well, this was both successful and a failure at the same time. The new starting zones did reignite the flame somewhat, but mostly in people with alt creation.  Some old players did come back to check out the new zones and explore some of the new content, but it didn’t quite have the kick that it originally intended. Subscriber rates pretty much stayed the same, and the number of active toons remained about the same as well. It just didn’t quite have the shakeup that was expected.

So what is it? Success or Failure?

Well, that’s the whole point of this post right? The big question. Is Cataclysm a success or a failure? The answer is honestly both. There are things that Cata did exceptionally well, and things that it fell behind on. To be honest a lot of the goals were pretty damn lofty from the get go. It was ambitious and new things were tried, combined with old things that we knew worked. Not everything was ever going to be achieved just based on the pure scope of the original intent. There were things it did well, and things it didn’t do quite so well. That said it was hardly the failure that some folks seem to think. The content is still there, there is still plenty of value in the game, and for a game that is going to be rapidly approaching the age  of 7 they can boast a lot of good things. The game hasn’t really lost too many subscribers and is going strong. Oh and they still get my money every month, and I signed up for my hear subscription with free Diablo 3 “phone”.

So what do you think?

Woopra: Not Your Mom’s Google Analytics

Woopra: Not Your Mom’s Google Analytics

Note: Not a WoW related post. You may mark as read. If you’re interested in learning how to stalk your readers, you may continue.

One of the few pleasures a blogger can take is to simply stare at their stats as they go up (or down). Think of it as damage meters for bloggers. In the past, I’ve used Google Analytics to examine and watch for trends on my blog. There’s a lot of useful information you can gather if you know how to make sense of it. I know there has to be some bloggers out there who have all these details statistical tools at their disposal yet have no idea how to utilize it and make sense of it.

Don’t worry! I’m here to teach!

Enter Woopra

Woopra is a program that allows you to track all sorts of crazy stuff about your readers. I caught wind of it several weeks ago and I didn’t believe it was true. Naturally my curiosity got the best of me and I grabbed it and installed it.

The installation process consists of two parts:

  • Installing a script or plugin on your blog
  • Downloading the software

After that, you need to set up an account with Woopra and twiddle your thumbs until they approve of your blog. There doesn’t appear to be any criteria. The limitations are purely technical. They’re slowly expanding their servers to handle the load, however.

Anyways, lets get more indepth into what this sucker can do. Click the images to expand their size.

woopra-1

This is the dashboard. It’s the first thing you see when you login from the client. It gives you a great overview of things that you want to know right away. The line graph on top shows you unique hits (in green) and page views (in yellow). If you’re interested in the hard numbers, the top left window shows you what your hits look like in the past few weeks. The window on the right displays the pages that have been viewed today. The windows on the bottom show your referrers, searches that people have used to find your blog and geographical locations of your visitors.

 

woopra-2This is the live portion of your blog. You can track in real time who is visiting your blog and what pages they are going to. It also shows the specs and platform of what your visitors are using when they view your blog. Here’s an example of me visiting my blog. It shows country and city of origin, OS language, local time, browser, and screen resolution. This information becomes important later on. I’ll explain why in a moment.

 

This is the analytics portion of Woopra. This shows traffic levels on a day to day basis. It’s a brief overview of your hits. It tells you the amount of time spent per page, how many new visitors you’ve picked up, unique hits, and total page views. It even tags your visitors with the names they leave when they comment. There’s even a systems section which tracks what your users are using to view your blog in bulk.

For example, if you know that over 85% of your visitors view your blog on a resolution 1024 x 768, you can factor this into your blog’s design – namely that your blog’s width should not exceed 1024 pixels to ensure maximum readability.

It also pays to ensure that your blog is useable on different browser platforms. 45% of readers to World of Matticus read on Firefox 2 and 43% read on Internet Explorer. The rest use a combination of Opera, Mozilla, or Safari.

This section is where you can start making some generalizations and realizations about your blog. The tab here shows information like your most popular pages, landing pages, exit pages, and outgoing links.

What can I learn here? I can tell the most popular pages I have are ones involving stats. They’re great for drawing search engine traffic to your WoW blog. No one really wants to go through the effort of cross referencing WoW DB and their character to figure out what gear they should shoot for. Instead, they turn to google hoping that some other poor sucker (a la me) has done the work for them.

Landing pages refer to the first page that your visitors land on when they load your blog. It’s not always the main page. It could be a link to one of your posts from a different blogger. Knowing this, you can spend a bit more time on what people seem to land on the most and develop and make it more attractive. I could add a little note to my Holy Priest gear page and ask new visitors to subscribe or "if they like this, why not check out my Kara requirements post?" kind of thing.

Exit pages are the exact opposite. They refer to the page your visitors are on before they navigate away. You might want to stick a note at the bottom of the post that says something like "thanks for visiting, please come again!" or some such.

Outgoing links are fairly self explanatory. It measures what your visitors seem to click on the most when they want to escape from your blog.

Here’s a graphical interpretation of referrals. There’s different sorts. It can track referrals by direct links, search engines, feed readers, emails, social bookmarks, and social networks. A funny note is that I appear to have gotten more hits from Master Ratshag and Egotistical Priest individually then WoW Insider today. It’s a neat way of realizing where your traffic is coming from so you can reciprocate in kind.

I like the social networks part because I think this is the first tool that tracks inbound links from my Twitter and my Facebook.

Lastly, you can see what your readers are typing in search engines to find your blog. From this list, I can see that most of my traffic comes from people looking up Priest gear or raiding requirements for Zul’Aman and Karazhan. Sure enough, a quick search for Holy Priest gear ranks my list as the top result.

In summary

If used properly and strategically, Woopra can be a tremendous asset. It can tell you key information such as:

  • Best time to publish a post
  • Visitor information that can be useful for your next redesign
  • Search engine trends
  • What your visitors deem popular
  • Which sites to suck up to ;)