World of Warcraft Cataclysm Launch Parties Are Go!

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A friend of mine was telling me, over lunch, that Blizzard is hosting Cataclysm launch parties. Apparently the party/event closest to him will have developers on hand to sign retail copies. Sounds pretty sweet to me!

Check out this link for a list of stores and events surrounding the December 7th Cataclysm launch.

Bridging the Gap

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Awhile back I blogged about World of Warcraft’s new Dungeon Finder system and my initial experiences with it. I ended the post with a list of thoughts so far. Today I would like to add to that list in light of continued use of the system (new thoughts in bold).

Pro’s-

  • Instant access to a dungeon party.
  • Easy experience (XP) earned.
  • Feels like you’ve accomplished something within an hour.
  • Instance Teleporting.
  • Meeting random new friends.

Con’s –

  • Your playing with random strangers.
  • Party members dropping out for no reason (not dedicated).
  • Dungeons seem to take about an hour to clear (45 minutes at minimum). Dedicated time is needed.
  • Finding out that the random person you just met and enjoyed playing with is on another server.
  • No penalty is given to party members who suddenly quit.
  • Lower level players are not able to play with higher level players (no scaling/ “Level Sync” system).

The friends that I play World of Warcraft with out-leveled me long ago (currently a 23 level difference and counting). Choking on their leveling dust, I manage to continue on towards that level 80 goal. (One can dream can’t they?) My high level friends occasionally fly down from Northrend and help me quest and run through dungeons — very kind of them I know–.  The other night I partied up with a few of these friends and decided to do a quick dungeon run with the Dungeon Finder. To my horror, I soon found out that the Dungeon Finder would not let me enter the queue due to my friends being too high of a level for the dungeon. What!?!

Bridging the level gap by adding a “Level Sync” system, ala Final Fantasy 11, seems like the next logical step for Blizzard to incorporate into World of Warcraft. Otherwise, for players separated by multiple levels — like me! — the level of frustration and feeling of being left behind makes one want to just give up. So Blizzard, add a scaling feature to the Dungeon Finder and let me play with my comrades in arms! Please?

World of Warcraft Auction House Going Mobile

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Original Post:

Since the launch of the World of Warcraft Armory, we’ve been regularly releasing updates and new features designed to help players stay connected to the game even when they’re not logged in. Today, we wanted to give you a heads-up about a new service now in development that will let players access the Auction House directly through the Armory website or Armory App for iPhone or iPod touch.

While there are still plenty of details to be worked out, we’re designing the service to offer auction functionality similar to what’s available in-game. Players have been requesting — and we’ve been hoping to implement — a feature like this for a long time, and we’re excited that the Armory and the game have evolved to a point that makes it possible.

This is a fairly complex service to develop, due in large part to its unprecedented integration with the game, so we don’t have an exact release date yet. It’s important to note here that certain elements of the service will be premium-based, which we’ll go into more detail on once the service functionality is finalized. As with all of the services we offer, we plan to integrate the Auction House and Armory in a way that won’t disrupt the gameplay experience, and we won’t release it until it meets the quality standards that we’ve set for our other features and services. You may be seeing bits and pieces of the Auction House service pop up in the test builds we use for the public test realms as we go through the process of internal testing. We’ll have more info to share with you here and at http://www.WorldofWarcraft.com as we get closer to release. – As originally posted by Blizzard Poster Bornakk.

Thoughts:

As exciting as this announcement is, many details still have yet to be hammered out like:

1. Cost

It’s important to note here that certain elements of the service will be premium-based…

Blizzard seems to be on the pathway towards requiring a monthly subscription fee + additional fees for what is deemed “premium content”. What does premium-based content look like?

  • Tier A – Players are given mobile access to the Auction House as well as in-game chat capability (premium-based monthly fee required).
  • Tier B – Players are given mobile access to the Auction House for a one time app fee.
  • Tier C – Players are given mobile access to the Auction House for one character (for free).

There are so many variables involved (access to multiple characters, number of auctions allowed per day, etc.) that speculation seems mute at this point.

2. Release Date

As with all of the services we offer, we plan to integrate the Auction House and Armory in a way that won’t disrupt the gameplay experience, and we won’t release it until it meets the quality standards that we’ve set for our other features and services.

Translation – The Auction House feature is still in the early stages of development. As with all Blizzard products, expect to see it released when we feel it meets our high standards.

Be sure to check back with JohnnyBGamer for the latest in video game news crumbs.

Confessions of an MMO Tourist

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My vacation into the virtual lands of MMO’s began with Asheron’s Call in 1999. Playing with friends in a persistent world had a certain novelty to it. Granted, the release of Diablo II the following year quickly put my stay in Dereth on hold. Not one to limit myself to one game, I “toured” multiple MMO’s up until World of Warcraft’s (WoW) launch in 2004. Multiple MMO’s huh? Take a look at this virtual itinerary:

  • Ultima Online (1 month)
  • Everquest (1 month)
  • Final Fantasy XI (1 month)
  • The Sims Online Beta (a few days)
  • Asheron’s Call 2 (a few months)

The release of Asheron’s Call 2, in 2002, marked the first time I had set up a base camp in an MMO since the original Asheron’s Call in 1999. My stay in AC 2 did not last long, however, the group of friends that I was playing with ended up quitting the game. For the first time in years, I was no longer traversing the virtual landscapes. A whole year would go by before I would once again venture forth.

  • Saga of Ryzom Beta
  • World of Warcraft

In 2004, the perfect storm came together in the form of the Warcraft universe becoming an MMO.

Blizzard + Warcraft + MMO = WIN!

Blizzard games have been a staple of my PC gaming diet for years. Warcraft II, Starcraft, Diablo, and Diablo II were go-to games for me and my friends.

Sidenote: How many of you remember playing the original Diablo with a modem? I remember many late nights, on my Macintosh, spent listening to the pinging/ ponging modem language as I hooked up to battle.net. Good times. Haunting music. No option to run!

World of Warcraft came out the year that I went away to college. The game quickly became a way to communicate/ game with friends three states away. WoW had a darkside, however, one that almost cost me my love in the summer of 2005.

Guild Wars launched the following year (2005). Though technically not an MMO, Guild Wars provided a few alternative to WoW. Unfortunately, the beta period for this game all but killed the game for me (there are only so many times you can create a character, level, and then have it deleted). So I went back to WoW until things came to a head with my real life. Decisions had to be made.

Girlfriend or WoW?

Girlfriend of course! She won.

Girlfriend now wife.

I have played many MMO’s since WoW.

  • Dungeon Runners.
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Warhammer Online
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online

So many hours poured into games I never plan on returning to again. Reminds me of books left half read, tossed under a bed. In the end, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the different worlds that I have explored. Each has offered a different experience that the game previous could not provide.

2009 marked the year I returned to Azeroth with my wife’s blessing. In playing, I have found that World of Warcraft does not have the same pull it once did. So I left the game once more to try:

  • Maple Story
  • Guild Wars (again!)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (again!)

As you can see, I am an MMO tourist with a passport full of stamps. If 2009 has been any indication as to my less than monogamous gaming habits, 2010 is sure to be a busy year.

(Used as a resource for this article http://biobreak.wordpress.com/mmo-timeline/)

(1/26/16 Update: Reader Kevin Woodberry emailed me and asked that I link to his guide as a further resource. Check it out: Guide to Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games.)

Going Forward, Gaming Forward

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After receiving the prayers and blessings of the local priests and holy men, Tharyn, the elvish warrior, directed his company of soldiers into a long cavernous corridor. In the furthest reaches of that cave lay the fearsome demon-hound, Magmadar. A less-seasoned warrior would easily fall victim to the demon-hound’s mind tricks. He commonly constricted his adversaries with fear and sent them running into a frenzied panic. On this night however, Tharyn would not become Magmadar’s prey but stood defiant as his predator. Really though, this night was not about Magmadar. Tharyn and his guild of fighters were barely prepared to fight when they “accidentally” attacked him (stupid impatient tanks). Some members were still getting home from work, while others were fixing dinner for their families. Really only twenty-some of the recommended forty were present and armed to fight (yours truly the dynamic rogue included), but it didn’t really matter because the fight with Magmadar was trivial content as it had been for the past month. Everyone get your buffs. Everyone to your locations. Tanks in, dps in, backstab backstab backstab, run to your healer, backstab backstab backstab; and so the fight persisted until Magmadar fell and we gotz the uber loot! Very soon everyone else would arrive, and following several hours of mini-boss battles that night’s real conquest would come, Ragnaros.

It’s been 4 years since I braved the caverns of the Molten Core, or anywhere else in the World of Warcraft for that matter, but my first life marches on even while second life is left behind. Occasionally, I find myself pining for the good ol’ days when I fought alongside my Alliance brethren, but for the most part my “serious” gaming days are behind me. No more all night 16player Halo matches (and we were all in the same house. That’s right kiddos! No wimpy Xbox live in the early days!). No more power-leveling another character to level 20 in WoW. No more super smash bros. gaming tournaments. No more weeks spent just going to school and gaming.

Don’t get me wrong, I still game. I indulged in a night full of zombie killing in Left For Dead a month ago (splattering zombie guts all over the wall really helps getting over the girlfriend who suddenly decides she wants to become an ex-girlfriend….ahh coping mechanisms), but now I look forward to playing simpler games like Bloons Tower Defense 4 on my computer or some of the arcade-ish games on the PSN like Super Stardust HD.

I can’t really say for sure what happened. The transformation changed when I arrived at college, and I became a “yo-yo gamer.I guess I suffered from “the grass is always greener” mentality. I owned a Gamecube, Xbox, PS2, and a Mac computer when I went to school. The following summer I sold all my gear (including my classic consoles like NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis) and built myself a sweet gaming pc because obviously if you want to play the really good games you need a PC. Enter the yo-yo effect. My euphoric delusional state lasted all of two months before I yo-yo’d again.

Time to face the music. I’m a console kind of gamer. I like to sit on my couch that has worn out springs. I like to play games on a big screen, and no I don’t count a 24 inch monitor as a big screen. I like the feel of cheap plastic making my palms sweaty after six hours of intense button-mashing. Like I said, I’m a console kind of gamer. Yadda yadda yadda, fast-forward fastforward, and now when you come visit me you’ll find a PS3 in my living room. I love it! It’s been a great machine. I would even classify it as a prized possession, but now I find myself in grad school and I show pride in my PS3 by allowing it to collect dust in the corner. Feel the love buddy.

Now by way of Freudian analysis, I have isolated several key factors that are to blame for this recent gaming abstinence. I have no money. I have no time. I have many new important responsibilities. All truthful and possibly accurate answers, but ultimately, I have no desire. So what will become of my long lost hobby? Is my current state of affairs simply a matter of my circumstances or is there another more subliminal transformation occurring?

What about you? Where does gaming fit into your life now, and how has it changed over the years?

Why Pay Monthly?

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The standard $15 admission to most MMO’s is one that I would gladly say goodbye to in a heartbeat. Spending $50 to outright buy a game in the beginning and then maintaining the game at $15 a month is simply insane. Why would anyone pay a developer/ publisher monthly for something they already purchased for $50? Server maintenance, free monthly updates (until your eventually hammered with a $40 expansion), and customer service are but a few things that come to mind.  But why pay monthly at all?

  • Community: Paying $15 a month automatically grants access to a moderated community of fellow gamers. The riff raff (gold sellers and various spammers) are kept at bay (theoretically) by the monthly pay.
  • Brand: Allegiance to a particular licensed brand can often prove to be costly. Take World of Warcraft for instance. Ones interest in playing in the Warcraft world online (outside of the battle.net hosted Warcraft RTS) comes with a $15 a month cost. For an individual nostalgic over the Warcraft license, the monthly cost is not seen as a deterrent.

Is the cost of a movie night with a friend worth the associated community and brand? No. There has to be more to cause an individual (in this author’s opinion) to surrender some monthly cash.

  • Quality:The monthly fee required for most MMO’s ensures a quality that is unfound in free-to-play MMO’s. Words to spark a civil war by. I believe that $15 a month brings to the table expectation, by the consumer, for a refined product. Though this is not always the case as some companies seem perfectly happy to take money without improving their games (SOE). Other companies, such as Blizzard Entertainment, continue to refine and polish a game (WoW) that is now five years old. Quality has a price my friends, a price now listed as $15 a month.

What about games such as Guild Wars you say? Community, brand, and quality are alive within the game and there is no monthly fee needed to play. On this matter, I would like to note that no other game follows the Guild Wars model of pay-per-expansion (if you want to upgrade the game).

In the end, sometimes it is best to bite the bullet and take it like a man. So quit your whining! Community, brand, and quality come at a price. Like it or not, the days of free are over. Publishers and developers have seen the income MMO’s provide. A virtual goldmine my friends; a new gold rush for the modern era.

Notes –

Different subscription models:*

  • Free-per-expansion: Guild Wars (not really an MMO)
  • Free-to-play (but make sure to visit our store!): Maple Story, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, and Free Realms.
  • Monthly: World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, & Final Fantasy XI.

*not an exhaustive list by any means

Videogame Addiction Center Opens in Britain

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Internet Addiction

Reminds me of something I would have seen in college.

Yesterday, the Telegraph reported that Britain’s first videogame addiction center opened.

Mr Dudley* believes treating game addiction needs a different approach to “conventional” vices like drink and drugs.

”Obviously this is the very early stages of researching how many youngsters are affected,” he said.

”But I would stick my neck out and say between five and ten per cent of parents or partners would say they know of someone addicted to an online game.

”However, you can’t simply say to a 23-year-old male ‘you should never use the internet again’. It’s just not practical.

”So we go through all the issues surrounding gaming use and ensure there are triggers through which an addict recognises their usage has become a problem.

”Behavioural shifts include users becoming agressive, with chaotic lifestyles that result in irregular eating and sleeping patterns as well as social exclusion.’

”I don’t know anybody else who is treating such cases in this country. There’s no helpline.”

Having spent a summer of my life playing World of Warcraft from dusk till dawn, I can personally attest to the power of videogame addiction. If you find yourself living and breathing videogames 24/7, I encourage you to talk to someone. There is a difference between living in a virtual world versus playing videogames as a hobby. No duh, huh.

(*Brian Dudley, the center’s chief executive)

Asheron’s Call Celebrates 10 Years

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Asheron's Call 10th Anniversary10 years ago, I stepped through the portal into the lands of Dereth. As a beta tester, I remember spending hours chatting with friends, watching sunsets/ the virtual sky, and adventuring forth into the unknown.  Asheron’s Call (AC) marked my first introduction to the world of the MMO.

In the years following AC’s launch, much has changed in the virtual landscape. EverQuest is no longer the reigning MMO champion, the Warcraft universe has expanded into World of Warcraft, and the sequel to Asheron’s Call, dubbed Asheron’s Call II, has come and gone.

With all the changes in the MMO landscape, Asheron’s Call is still the only game—to my knowledge—that features an allegiance system. This system introduces the unique concept of vassals and patrons. In this system, a vassal swears allegiance to a patron. The patron then acts as a protector, item giver, and basically a guild leader. The reward for being a patron equals a daily award of experience points based upon a small percentage of experience that the vassal makes while playing. The allegiance system ultimately encourages the formation of miniature kingdoms, much like guilds found in today’s more modern MMO.

Unlike a fine wine, MMO’s do not age well with time. MMO’s are all about refinement. Each new MMO takes (hopefully) the best ideas from what has come before and melds them together with new ideas. Sometimes this creative process works on an epic scale (World of Warcraft) and other times fails tragically (Star Wars Galaxies). In the end, I think we can all thank Asheron’s Call and developer Turbine for helping to blaze the trail to bigger, better, and more forgiving online experiences.

Happy 10 Years Asheron’s Call!

May ye die eventually and honorably.

Amen.

Have a memory from Asheron’s Call you’d like to share? Post in the comments.

World of Warcraft Armory

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WoWArmory

Press Start:

Another late night in the lands of Azeroth has left you bleary eyed at work. Time seems to have come to a stand still, much like your morning commute had earlier. The caffeine that had once enabled you to drive to work has long since left your system. Just six more hours until you can go home, sleep, and repeat this cycle for another day. Trying to stay awake, you distract yourself from the mindless tasks at hand by logging into the World of Warcraft Mobile Armory (link will open iTunes) on your iPhone/ iPod Touch. A few quests away from hitting your characters next level, you sit there and calculate talents, peruse future item purchases, and check your guilds calendar to see what the raid schedule is for this week.

World of Warcraft Armory

Ideology/ Worldview:

All your base are belong to us. Translation: Look your already giving us $15 a month to play our game, why not spend some more time (for free of course) in it?

Mobile Talen Calculator

Interaction/ Gameplay:

Nothing fun here…move along.

Calendar

In the End:

The World of Warcraft Mobile Armory is a well refined reference tool for those seeking to study talent, armor, and character upgrades. Being that it is free, I do not see any reason why someone wouldn’t download this app.

 

Highly polished but lacking elements that expand the World of Warcraft experience (access to the Auction House, etc.).

– Level of Impact –

Low: Little to no impact unless your in love with World of Warcraft. 🙂

BlizzCon: Day 2

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JBG at BlizzConJBG correspondents Scotto and Lord Andrew write from the depths of Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon. Follow their adventures below!

———— Photo Update ————

StarCraft 2 Voice Actor Panel

They have brought all of the voice actors on stage to talk about the new Starcraft 2 installment.

Right as you walk into BlizzCon.

Right as you walk into BlizzCon.

Illidan!!

Illidan!!

Wow, Lord Andrew and I have had a chance to play a lot more of the new games.

Starcraft 2 is really fun. I wasn’t that excited about it before, but now I cannot wait for it! It is SO polished. The units are gorgeous. The in game cut scenes are incredible. Lord Andrew kicked my butt really bad but it was still amazingly fun.

Diablo 3 is great too. Lord Andrew and I stumbled into a dungeon this last time. The atmospheric effects are so cool. Everything is beautifully animated…and it runs very fast. I was playing the witch doctor this time and Lord Andrew tried the monk. The spell effects make it very fun too. I love that every creature had rag doll physics so the deaths always look different.

We’ve gotten to play both of the new races for the new WoW expansion Cataclysm. The Worgen look great. You start as a human and you can transform into a worgen whenever yo want. His racial is a swift run ability that you can trigger every minute or so.

The new goblin race for horde is awesome too. They added a ton of facial detail…he looks awesome! He probably has the most fun racials of any class too. He can rocket forward with a jet pack, and also shoot a missile!?? So good. We liked him a lot.

We just heard that they will be bringing the old Onyxia boss fight back….all new updated items and stuff. They are going to make it possible to do cross-server LFG’s with th new path. So you can do 5 man PUGs really easy now. WAY easier to find groups.

I‘m really looking forward to being able to go back through the original game and play it with all new content.

————  Update ————

We are leaving now 😦 so sad. Lord Andrew kicked my butt at Terran, Protoss, AND Zerg. Really really kicked my butt. Great way to end BlizzCon! Wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Note to self – build more units…build them faster.)

– Scotto

This concludes JBG’s BlizzCon coverage. Hope y’all enjoyed the ride!

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Announced

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JBG at BlizzCon

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

For the trailer click here.

–  Two New Playable Races: Adventure as one of two new races—the cursed worgen with the Alliance or the resourceful goblins with the Horde.
– Level Cap Increased to 85: Earn new abilities, tap into new talents, and progress through the path system, a new way for players to improve characters.
– Classic Zones Remade: Familiar zones across the original continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms have been altered forever and updated with new content, from the devastated Badlands to the broken Barrens, which has been sundered in two.
– New High-Level Zones: Explore newly opened parts of the world, including Uldum, Grim Batol, and the great Sunken City of Vashj’ir beneath the sea.
– More Raid Content than Ever Before: Enjoy more high-level raid content than previous expansions, with optional more challenging versions of all encounters.
– New Race and Class Combinations: Explore Azeroth as a gnome priest, blood elf warrior, or one of the other never-before-available race and class combinations.
– Guild Advancement: Progress as a guild to earn guild levels and guild achievements.
– New PvP Zone & Rated Battlegrounds: Take on PvP objectives and daily quests on Tol Barad Island, a new Wintergrasp-like zone, and wage war in all-new rated Battlegrounds.
– Archaeology: Master a new secondary profession to unearth valuable artifacts and earn unique rewards.
– Flying Mounts in Azeroth: Explore Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms like never before.

For more information, please visit the Cataclysm FAQ.

BlizzCon: Day 1

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JBG at BlizzCon

JBG correspondents Scotto and Lord Andrew write from the depths of Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon. Follow their adventures below!

BlizzCon1

We are waiting for opening ceremony to start! We have our bags of “swag”. We got Starcraft action figures.

It has been quite the cultural experience. I’ve seen a few succubus, night elves, Druids…and one dude in leather…hmm…I think he was going for a tree. I’ve been surprised though. It’s at least 15% female. All of whom are dressed in black. I’m not wearing a dorky enough tshirt. I’m starting to feel self conscious about it.

– Scotto

———— Photo Update ————

Picture of statue from Blizzard's Irvine Campus!

Picture of statue from Blizzard's Irvine Campus!

The SWAG! (Lord Andrew modeling)

The SWAG! (Lord Andrew modeling)

————  Update 1:17PM ————

Listening to the WoW Cataclysm feature panel. This new expansion is going to be amazingly cool. They are changing the whole game.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Panel

————  Update 2:23PM ————

We just played Diablo 3! I loved it. Feels very similar to Diablo 2. I played the new “monk” class. Very fun.  – Scotto

—– : —–

Unless noted, all photos have been taken via iPhone.


World of Warcraft: Online Therapy?

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World of Warcraft logo

Websites such as WOW_widow and GamerWidow serve to allow those who have lost friends and family to the addictive nature of World of Warcraft (and other MMO’s) to vent and find support. Real life horror stories of absent spouses and divorce are common on such sites. The existence of online support groups for the popular MMO speaks of one truth, World of Warcraft (WoW) is addictive.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Dr. Richard Graham is interested in combating WoW addiction by traveling to the very lands of Azeroth itself.

“Those effected don’t exhibit the same outward warning signs as most teenage anti-social behaviour issues do because they’re in their bedrooms most of the time, seemingly out of trouble. Because of this we can’t get through to them in the traditional educational environment or intrude on their actual bedrooms, we need to turn to the internet itself to tackle these problems.”

Those worried about random in-game therapy sessions need not worry.

“I think it’s already clear that psychiatrists will have to stay within the parameters of the game. They certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the game in white coats and would have to use the same characters available to other players,” said Dr Graham.”

The therapy begins this year.