WoW Premium services: Yes/no/murloc?

Over the course of a game’s lifetime, things change. Features are added, pricing models change, content evolves. Blizzard’s fantasy epic World of Warcraft is no different. The game has been around for over six years at this point, and in that time we’ve seen many things change.

Remember when the game was first released? There were PvE server and PvP servers. On PvE servers you could have toons of both factions no problem, but on PvP servers it simply wasn’t allowed. Over time that changed, and Blizzard allowed you to make toons of both factions on a PvP server. There was also a time when Blizzard said you wouldn’t be able to pay to transfer your toon to another server, that it was only for server stability / population control. Not too long after the service became available for a small fee, the birth of the WoW premium service. From there we’ve gotten to recustomize our characters look, the ability to race change or change factions and all for a small one time fee. Every time this has happened, people have drawn a line in the sand. Either they love it, or they love to hate it.

Recently we’ve seen more in the way of Micro-transactions and premium services being added into the game. In game mounts like the Sparkle-Pony or the Winged Lion coupled with numerous in-game mini pets are available for purchase with real money. Pets will run you $10, mounts will run you $25. When they are purchased they are made available for all of your characters that currently exist, and any that you will create from this point on. Permanently attaching the items to your Battle.net account. There are also other premium features, such as the remote auction house. For an additional $3 a month, you can set up and purchase auctions from your enabled mobile device, and as an added bonus you can talk to your guild mates using the application as well.

The most recent announcement was that the developers at Blizzard are working on a Cross-Realm Dungeon Feature. In case you missed it, or are reading this post from somewhere not Blizzard-site friendly here’s the blue post

With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends ( http://us.battle.net/en/realid/ ) of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We’ll have more details to share with you as development progresses — in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.

So there it is, for a small fee, you will be able to invite your friends across servers into a group for 5-man dungeon running. This actually caused almost as much a stir as Real ID did when it was first announced. People either love, or hate the idea of having to pay to play with friends across different servers. Ignoring everything else, premium services or these additional cookies are luxuries. They don’t break the game, or give someone an unfair advantage. They are options, and love them or hate them they are very much real.

My personal opinion on this particular premium service is that I like it. I like the idea of being able to play my alts with friends from other servers for dungeon running. I recently moved servers and left a lot of my friends behind. I’m exactly the demographic that this premium service is aimed at. Is it for everyone? No, not even close. For some people though, they’ll gladly pay the extra cash for it.

Do premium services ruin the game? Are they a betrayal of the customer / supplier relationship we have with Blizzard Entertainment? I don’t think it does. These are all optional and don’t really have an impact on the overall game-play, they are just nice cookies for us to enjoy if we feel the price is right. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it. If it suits your needs, you can indulge in it. Our $15 a month has brought us many improvements over the years. New servers, higher population caps, improved development in characters, raids and the UI. The ability to talk with friends across servers anytime I want. I don’t think our free upgrades are done by a long shot, and if Blizzard wants to charge for additional services, that is their choice. While I can understand both sides of the coin, at the end of the day I see it as you’re paying your monthly fee to play the game, all the other stuff are just extra. The things they develop as premium services aren’t for every audience, so developing them for smaller groups, sure there may be a cost attached. I mean hey, just because you aren’t paying for mobile armory every month doesn’t mean you’re going to miss the chance to punch Deathwing in the face.

What do you think?

The Stranger Side of Shaman

This is a guest post by Vrykerion of Oddcraft

This year I participated in the Blog Azeroth Secret Santa blog post exchange. You can view my submission at Jaedia’s Menagerie. ~lodur

Salutations and greetings! I am Vrykerion, writing this post as part of ‘Blog Azeroth’s Secret Santa Blog Post Exchange Thing of Happiness’.  If you’ve come here looking for the amazingly informative and extremely clever writing that you’ve come to expect from this site, I sincerely apologize but don’t worry, I’m just here for this one post.  And if you thinking I was kissing up a bit in that last sentence, you are probably correct. With this little introduction and/or disclaimer to save Lodur and I from being flayed alive out of the way, let’s begin shall we?

As you probably know, shaman are the masters of the four elements.  Master might be a bit strong of a word.  Shaman are shrewd negotiators of the four elements. Five elements technically, everyone kind of forgets about the element of the wilds.  I suppose you really can’t blame them, since that does start to step on the druid’s toes.  I mean, how would you shaman feel if someone like a mage were to be able to summon and control an elemental?  That would be just silly.  Besides, next to Fire, Earth or Water, you might as well just call the wilds ‘Heart’ for all it’s actually worth, but instead of a South American kid that no one likes, we get a green skinned former warchief who has gone all hippie on us as of late. All in all, I’d call it a wash.

In regards to restoration shaman in specific, I suppose you could say that their patron element is water. (Again, mages, you are thin ice with the Shaman Union.) From healing rains of the magic liquid, to splashing back a chunk of our mana, water is a consistent theme in the resto tool set.  Heck, it even possesses the power to remove curses and magical ailments!  Now granted it would make more sense that water would be able to remove more natural problems like diseases or poisons, but hey, since when did logic or verisimilitude ever enter into game design and class balance.

Shaman even get a magic stick that shoots out water and does all sorts of neat healing things too, but why can’t I sit there and drink it like a portable water fountain?  I mean, even outside of a game mechanic, I can’t imagine a shaman crossing Tanaris wouldn’t have thought to do that at least once, can you?  It seems like a fairly good way to prevent dehydration on those long journeys.  The point being is that when it comes to resuscitative magics, water is the shamans’ go to element – or is it?

There is a gap in the shaman spell book in terms of explanations that needs to be addressed.  The majority of the powers that a shaman wields make perfect sense in terms of their elemental origins.  Lightning bolts from the air, bursts of magma from fire, rumblings quakes from the earth, and the aforementioned watery heals, but what about the basic healing spells of the Shaman arsenal: the healing waves, chain heal and surge? Are they supposed to be some kind of yellow healing water?  Is it Gatorade? Maybe these are part of the mystical and rarely mentioned element of the wilds or something.

I mean, shaman use them all the time but we never really ask exactly what they are supposed to represent or what power source they draw on.  Maybe it’s some other element that the Earthen Ring would rather not make public.  Like uranium!  Resto shaman are using radiation to mutate your body into repairing its wounds!  No one noticed before because we were being cleansed of the radiation poisoning before it became a problem, but now that shaman can’t cleanse poisons in Cataclysm?  Well, why don’t you ask Marie Curie what the future holds? (On the other hand, this pretty much completely explains the existence goblin shaman.)

Okay, perhaps jumping to uranium is a bit of a leap in logic.  It could be aluminum or zinc or something.  Chlorine is the right color at least. There’s an entire periodic table for shaman to play around with.  But if it is the supposedly-more-powerful-than-the-other-four-elements-combined element of the wilds, isn’t using that gift to fill the little green meters of your friends a bit underwhelming?

The wilds is an element that rules over every living thing on the planet, and can even be convinced to get animals to walk up and let you kill them for food, and we are using it to get phat lewtz.  It’s that reasoning that makes me think that Healing Wave can’t be from the wilds, because if it is then pretty much every player character shaman in the history of WoW is a terrible person (in character that is) and somehow I don’t think that is working as intended.  Especially when shaman are one of the top classes in the matter of getting lore love, along with druids and paladins.

In the end we may never get a real answer as to what power source fuels shaman heals, other than ‘raw awesomeness.’  The truth is probably hidden along with all the other secrets of unanswered WoW lore.  Somewhere out in the nether between Chris Metzen’s brain and the place where all the missing left socks go, and someday we will find it – the Chain Heal connection.

Anyway, I’d like to thank you for sticking with the brief departure from Lodur’s usual posts to indulge or endure this little Secret Santa gift.  I’d like to wish you all a happy holidays and a glorious new year!

20 Questions with Kestrel

20 Questions with Matticus

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen by his Worg Pup. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

To kick off this weekly feature, Kestrel of Kestrel’s Aerie was awesome enough to set aside some time in his schedule to answer a few questions.

I noticed you have an affinity for birds. Where did it come from?

The answer to this question dovetails (like that?) with the answer to the second. So let me explain…

Several years ago, I read a fantastic Mercedes Lackey series, “Bardic Voices.” Among the titles are The Lark and the Wren and The Robin and the Kestrel. Searching for a new character name when Asheron’s Call II was released (I’d gone by Earendil, from The Silmarillion, for many, many years), “Kestrel” fit perfectly: Back in my role-playing days (Shadows of Yserbius, on the ImagiNation Network, né The Sierra Network), I fancied myself a bardic type–never mind that I can’t play the lute or mandolin, nor can I carry a tune. See the next answer for the rest!

What’s the background behind your character’s names? (Kestrel, Osprey, Talonis)

When it came time to name alts (and yes, I’m an altoholic–explains 4, almost 5, level 70s on one server!), I stuck with the birds of prey theme. Currently, my characters include Kestrel, Osprey, Talonis (from Talon, which is always taken as a character name, but is the name of Talonis’ hunter pet), Sparverius (from the Latin for hawk), Owlhawk, Falken (German origin), Falconer, Raptor. Oh…and Earendil is my little-used Dranei Paladin.

What’s a typical day in the life of Kestrel like?

Pretty dull! Weekdays, I get up just before 6:30, get ready for work, eat a bowl of cereal while Auctioneer Advanced is performing my daily scan of the AH. Usually, I have time to do a daily quest, and I also review the Aerie for new comments, as well as check the feed reader and Blog Azeroth very quickly. I’m a human resources manager in a call center, so I generally have time during the day to catch up on blogs (sometimes, even my own if there aren’t too many interruptions).

I go home for lunch each day, so I’ll log into the game, check on auctions, maybe hit another daily. After work, my wife and I generally have dinner fairly soon after I get home (and after I spend a little bit on my bike exerciser; in nicer weather, we go for a walk or bike ride 3 or 4 times a week). We usually watch a travel show or cooking program from the DVR while eating.

Then, it’s up to the computer room and an evening of WoW. I may delay my login if I have an article I want to finish for the blog, and I generally have Google Reader open on my second monitor to peruse on longer gryphon flights.

Most people around your age tend to not care about video games and consider them a waste of time. How did you get into gaming and WoW?

For the uninformed, I’m in my mid-50s. That already may be TMI for some people. *grin*

When I was a young captain in the Air Force in the mid-70s, I was an instructor for Minuteman missile crews. The computer that operated our simulators was a DEC PDP-11 minicomputer. In the observation cab, we had small 11″ monitors, and a couple of the more enterprising technicians had installed a game called “Dungeon” (I think). It was a very simple maze-like layout with typographic characters–letters and symbols–representing characters, monsters (this was before the term “mob” entered the lexicon) and treasure. I was hooked.

This was also about the time I started playing D&D 2ed with co-workers. Then one day, a coworker brought an Atari brochure into the office. Within a year, I was the very proud (and much poorer) owner of an Atari 800–still the most comfortable keyboard I have ever used, including the classic IBM Selectric.

From there, it was an easy evolution to cassette- and 5.25″-floppy disc-based games. A few years later (1986, to be precise) I upgraded to my first IBM-compatible PC (and I splurged on a huge 30MB hard drive!). “Bard’s Tale” and the D&D Gold Box collection, King’s Quest, Ultima IV, and my favorite, the Wizardry series. Time passed, I discovered The Sierra Network and Shadows of Yserbius. Eventually I got involved in Asheron’s Call, a teeny bit of EverQuest, and so on, culminating with World of Warcraft.

Your long lost cousin happens to find your blog and manages to get in touch with you. To your amazement, you find out he works at Blizzard as a lead designer. As a birthday present, he allows you to include another playable race in the game. What would you choose and why?

Oh my… what a great question! There are so many reasonable possibilities. Unfortunately, I’m not a lore master by any stretch–I never played the Warcraft series, or even Diablo. So whatever I say may make zero sense from a lore standpoint. But let me throw out a few ideas, then I’ll settle on my #1 choice. What about Arrakoa? And if you put them on the Alliance side, maybe Ogres on the Horde side? Of course, one could argue for Murlocs on the Horde side, to balance out Gnomes? Or how about an elemental race? Scratch that…no one wants to see eleventy-seven variations on Thing as a character name. But the romantic in me would probably go for High Elves (I completely lost it the first time the High Elf female in Allerian Outpost haughtily informs you she’s NOT a Blood Elf). And how about this: High Elves on both sides of the conflict, Horde and Alliance? If nothing else, the lorefiends would have a field day!

You have your own Guild. Tell us about them and the direction you are steering them.

Originally, the guild was just four of us who left Icecrown and our (large raiding) guild there because we had a lot of problems logging in to the realm. We picked up a few other friends who entered the game, but we have always been rather small and close-knit. Unfortunately, we lost several members a couple months ago who wanted to progress faster than the guild was currently moving. That’s how I inherited the GM mantle. Right now, we’re trying to get everyone (almost everyone in the guild has at least one 70) through the Outland 5-man instances. Several of us just finished off the Gronns this week, so we can start doing Ogri’La dailies, and we want to get everyone else who’d like to, through that. We have a couple druids (my two remaining co-founders) who want to get their epic flight form, so Heroic Sethekk is definitely coming up in the near term. And, I’d like to help everyone get attuned for Karazhan. We may have to pug it or join with another guild to get into Kara itself, but by ourselves, we can at least finish the attunements. And at some point, I expect we’ll have to address the question of whether to expand our membership.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to a new and aspiring GM?

Just so you understand, this isn’t my first stint at being a GM. I was a realm GM for a couple years in Shadows of Yserbius (at that time, if not the largest, one of the largest online guilds in the world), and in Asheron’s Call II and Horizons, I was the #2 person in one of the largest guilds in both games (we moved from AC2 to Horizons). So I’m not exactly a rookie. :)

Thus, the one thing I would tell any GM is, “You can’t do it all.” Don’t even try. Have trusted lieutenants, delegate responsibility AND authority. But don’t forget that YOU are the Guild LEADER. When a tough call has to be made, discipline, or /gkick, then the GM has to be the one to make the call. But being a GM isn’t a power trip: /gquit is even easier to do than /gkick.

Seeing as you are clearly a bird enthusiast, do you have any ethical objections to the use of Gryphons by the Alliance for their day to day purposes?

Another great question. Having done the Hinterlands quests and having become acquainted with some of the Gryphon elders, I think they appreciate the service they do for the Alliance. After all, I’ve never seen a tether on one of them; they can leave any time, or simply drop us in the Twisting Nether if they liked. However, I think we, as riders, should have the opportunity to maybe slip them a tasty treat occasionally. Then, they might be persuaded to take a more direct route once in awhile. After all, have you SEEN the route they fly from Shattrath to, say Area 52??

Tell us more about your blog like the background and history and your future plans and goals for it:

Like so many of us, I caught the blogging bug after reading BigRedKitty in WoW Insider, then checking out his blog. I went from there to several others–Vonya’s Egotistical Priest, since Osprey was in his mid- to late-60s and about to really get into the healing business, as well as Kirk’s Priestly Endeavors.

And as I read their blogrolls, my horizons expanded quickly. The one thing I didn’t see too much of at the time (early August) were blogs by non-raiding types, yet I know that raiders make up a relatively small part of the WoW population. So I thought I could help to fill that void. I’m not sure I’ve met that precise aim, but my readership is growing, so something is working! My biggest problem is finding the time to do all I want to do with the blog: I’d rather play! (But that’s about the only thing I prefer to writing, so I hope I can find more balance between the two going forward).

While I’ve been playing since beta, I really am a pretty casual player, in terms of what content I’ve experienced. But I am getting more experience, and I feel pretty confident in my expertise in some areas. So I expect to post some “how-to” articles in the future. I also want to get back to reviewing UI add-ons. But I’ll still keep the stories, the rants, and the shout-outs to exceptional bloggers in the mix.

Where do you see yourself in 10 months in WoW?

Oh, maybe 1/3 of the way to level 71? But on about 6 characters. *laugh* I hope by the end of this year, I’ll have downed all the bosses in Kara. I’d also like to complete all the Heroic Outland instances. But one thing I’m sure of: I’ll be logging into Wrath of the Lich King on Day 1!

Speed Questions

Most cliche’d excuse in the game:

“Sorry…I hit the wrong button.”

Nerf:

Fear. I hate Hate HATE being Feared!

First thing you do in the morning:

Take a shower. THEN I log into WoW.

Blogging is like:

Eating chocolate – all the flavors are good!

I like to play WoW in my:

Sweatpants and quilted flannel shirt.

Most hated zone:

Oh… tough one; I like ‘em all. Swamp of Sorrows.

Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos, or Denver Nuggets?

Avalanche! Take that, Matt! ;) (Dodgers, Rams, Lakers in case anyone’s curious)

5 things that annoy you in WoW:

1. Trade channel spam (i.e., non-trade chat; it’s the new General channel!)
2. Duels in Iron Forge
3. Roundabout Gryphon rides (fly in a STRAIGHT line, dammit!)
4. W-A-S-D
5. The UI–SO hard to simply move or resize elements.

Matt needs to:

Send more people to Kestrel’s Aerie!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down and answer my questions. Shout outs to?

BRK for opening my eyes to blogging, and to the BM spec. Vonya and Kirk for the blogging inspiration and the encouragement to keep growing my Priest. Galadria, Pelides and Mania for the blogging encouragement. Phaelia and Matticus for their friendship through this blogventure. Phaelia and Valenna for kick-starting Blog Azeroth.