This week Blizzard debuted their new “WoW Token”, allowing players to purchase months of subscription time with in-game gold. I haven’t put a lot of thought into the theorycraft behind the Token so I’ll leave that to others who have but I can confirm that it alllllmost got me back into Azeroth.
(By the way, “WoW Token” just further cements my view that for all of their creative talents Blizzard is terrible at naming things.)
Ever since I stopped raiding my version of the WoW endgame has been playing the Auction House. Flipping virtual goods on a large scale, with all of its attendant weird mods and spreadsheets, scratches an itch that other games rarely do. WoW’s giant playerbase creates a busy and relatively volatile market and unlike EVE Online I’m not going to be raided by pirates while standing in the middle of Orgrimmar.
The Token is currently in the mid-20k price range, which seems shockingly reasonable to me. I haven’t played WoW since late Pandaria but to my knowledge someone who dedicated their time to gold-making would have no problem paying for their own subscription. Perhaps WoW has become the affordable Auction House Simulator of my dreams?
And so I booted up the game, only to be reminded that I spent the most of my gold on a shiny yak before quitting WoW last time so I didn’t have enough to buy a token now. “That’s okay,” I thought to myself as my mouse cursor hovered over the reactivate-for-actual-cash button. “You have to spend money to make money, right?!” But then I really started thinking — wasn’t part of my previous gold pile the result of max-level crafting abilities? I’m five levels and a ton of recipes behind now. And, ugh, Garrisons are in the game now and I’d probably have to make at least a moderate amount of effort to level one up. I was looking at a pretty significant time investment before I could even reasonably compete with the other Auction House Moguls.
And so, once again, I resisted resubscribing to WoW. The WoW Token seems like a cool idea and prices at the moment are very reasonable, but it’s still not an answer for that admittedly tiny niche of people who just want to play Bankers of Azeroth.
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This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide talk about the new Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC, lament getting sucked into more mobile games like Final Fantasy Record Keeper, and as usual insult each other over our choices in television and movies.
Aro has been playing the new Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC and she’s having a pretty good time! To be fair she’s also on her fourth or fifth playthrough of the game in general, so she’s clearly a fan, but the DLC is fun if not tooooooootally worth $15. She and Liore take some time to talk about how much they love (and in some cases love-love) all of the companions.. except Blackwall. Screw that guy. Also, Elly still hasn’t played DA:I, and he is mocked mercilessly for that fact.
What Elly has been playing, though, is crappy mobile games! He talks about a mining game that’s been his go-to time waster lately, while Liore has been dabbling in the new Final Fantasy Record Keeper. Aro is still playing Dragon Coins and sounds a liiiiittle bitter about it, while Liore has resorted to the grand-daddy of the genre, Puzzles and Dragons.
Also, Liore is, like, so over superhero movies you guys! Elly has been watching weird Canadian sexy sci-fi! Aro has strong feelings about James Spader!
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Yesterday morning a strange new channel started streaming on Twitch. The live video shows a distressed man who has been locked in an empty room. Eight different security cameras record his plight from just about every angle. A timer at the top of the screen slowly counts down to something, and a hashtag in the corner says “#cantkillprogress”.
As of this post, the stream has been showing the man for just over 24 hours. Occasionally he paces around and shouts at the cameras, but for the most part he just lies on the floor. Is he asleep? Is he hurt? Is he just incredibly bored? Who can say!
Welcome to the future of video game promotion.
Can’t Kill Progress is apparently an ARG event by Square Enix. It is also completely ridiculous. Take for example the name of the Twitch stream: “Square Enix Reveal”. I mean yes, I suppose that’s accurate but it kind of ruins the mystery.
Also, it’s going on way too long. Way, way too long. The story progresses at scheduled times and there are only two or three events each day. Each event takes under 30 minutes: the man is interrogated, the Twitch stream gets to vote on something, and finally a new Instagram URL is decoded with strange videos. For the other 23-ish hours the stream just shows the dude lying on the floor. Occasionally his captors play loud violin music (those bastards) which makes the man clutch his head and scream. The only interactivity that I can see is letting Twitch chat change the camera angle every few minutes. Yeeeeeap.
I feel kind of bad about being critical of this event. I really like ARGs and I love it when a game studio tries new things. The rumors are that this will eventually lead to an announcement about a new Deux Ex game, and I’m excited for that! But man, I feel like this event was forced into being a live stream because Twitch is soooo hot right now when it would have been much better served as a series of content-rich videos released gradually over a few days.
The schedule has the last plot event taking place tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. PDT so hopefully we get an exciting announcement and that poor guy will be released so he can go home and lie on something more comfortable.
While I’m still having a grand time in Final Fantasy 14, lately I’ve been reminiscing about the glory days of RIFT.
Before Storm Legion and before cash shops, RIFT was my favorite MMO ever. It didn’t start out that way: the game debuted with a weird anti-WoW advertising campaign that was kind of off-putting at the time, and it did a lot of patching and maturing over its first six months. But I maintain to this day that there are things that RIFT did better than anyone else. It introduced new concepts and honed old ones, and I think the game gets less credit than it deserves for influencing MMO development after it came out.
1. RIFT mastered the concept of public events.
Okay yes, the oft-lamented Warhammer Online introduced the concept of public quests, but RIFT took that system and designed a whole world around it. In RIFT public quests weren’t just colored circles on the ground that you encountered every now and then, they were full out invasions. An unchecked rift could take over the local town, scaring away vendors and eating your quest-givers. Occasionally entire zones would succumb, spawning rifts everywhere and angry gigantic world bosses.
And then when that wasn’t enough Trion created the crafting rift, a public event that encouraged crafters to group up and close rifts together for advanced crafting material and tokens. No game has done that since, which is too bad because I had a lot of fun hanging out in Shimmersand with a bunch of crafters and racing to pop the next rift.
2. RIFT created the modern vision of MMO housing
As with public events, housing of course existed in MMOs before RIFT but it certainly revitalized the idea. Although popular now, MMO housing was out of favor for a number of years. Blizzard was frequently snarky about it when asked about putting housing in WoW, and the players were generally not much better. And then RIFT debuted Dimensions.
Dimensions blew the housing in LotRO and EQ2 out of the water. Instead of just having a house where your belongings would snap to a grid, Dimensions gave the player an entire plot of land and the tools to build anything. People created statues out of painstakingly placed chunks of wood, and huge sky castles with libraries full of books. You could pave over your lot with cement slabs or fill it with nothing but giant tree trunks.
Dimensions were not perfect — the tools were a little clunky in the beginning and there were too few pre-built options — but after the system’s debut housing became an almost essential part of modern MMOs. WildStar’s admittedly amazing housing would possibly not exist if it weren’t for Dimensions whetting the public appetite.
3. RIFT taught us that fluff is good
Although it might seem weird now, one of the things about RIFT that grabbed my interest right away was how many different titles were available at low levels.
You see, back in 2011 WoW was pretty serious business. There was no costume gear and obviously no dye system. New pets and mounts were rare. Titles were even more rare, and for the most part reserved for significant raid accomplishments. And that was all well and good, because WoW at the time was still kind of hardcore, grimdark and somber.
RIFT, on the other hand, embraced cosmetic and costume rewards from the moment it launched. Titles were fun and handed out regularly while leveling. Players could wear anything as costume gear (a feature still not available in WoW) including hats that looked like goblins hugging your head. Mounts were plentiful, or more so than WoW, and occasionally silly. Right from its launch RIFT was a game that embraced fluff and faff in a way that WoW never did until Pandaria.
Nowadays of course in RIFT and many other games fluff is king, and it all costs a pretty penny on the cash shop. Sigh.
I don’t play RIFT anymore because I never quite gelled with the Storm Legion expansion and their free-to-play model interferes with my compulsive hat collecting. However in its day RIFT was amazing, and I think the game (and Trion) doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for its influence on MMO development.
Okay so I haven’t had much time to write here this week but I have just received incredibly important information that must be shared with everyone.
After logging on to Hearthstone this afternoon I was greeted by a friendly pop-up window informing me that the new Blackrock Mountain bosses were live. The announcement looked like this:
I’m that person who is usually the last to get sexy double entendres but… that’s… like… really really phallic, right? Tee hee. I feel like some designer at Blizzard needed to stand back from their monitor and squint for a moment.