April 2010


“… The Entry Fee for the Tournament is $20.00 USD for the Qualification Round of the Tournament. Canadian residents are not required to pay an Entry Fee in order to enter. Instead, Canadian residents may enter by submitting a 250 word typewritten essay comparing tournament video gaming in Canada to tournament video gaming in the United States on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper …”

Comparing tournament video gaming between Canada and the United States is somewhat difficult seeing as I don’t live in either country, but I assume that most Canadians don’t live in the US either, so maybe in comparison I don’t have that much of a handicap.

The main difference is that it’s fucking cold in Canada and this can cause your fingers to freeze up, even drop off if you’re not careful. Entrants from Florida would have a real advantage, and lets not even talk about Las Vegas. We also have to wear big wooly mitts to cover our ears which means that you can’t hear a fucking thing your team-mate is saying. Also they look really stupid which hurts your chances with the hawt chicks. My own ear-muffs are bright red, as I am sponsored by a local car-washing company, so I have to wear their shit. I bet players in the US don’t have to stoop to such levels just to enter a video game competition.

People in Canada are very poor, which is why we write essays to enter stuff like this instead of paying a months wages to do so. It’s lucky that our government protects us in such matters. Being poor, our computers are not of the latest high-tech standards which can be somewhat of a handicap when playing arena pvp. Sometimes you can find that the match is over before you have even left the loading page due to lag. So please let me win.

When I was growing up, my next door neighbors kids were, to not put too fine a word on it, the neighborhood rejects. For a start, even at the age of 9, we knew that having the surname, “Hancock” was just not a good thing. There were two kids. The older one was our age, lets call him Dick, and his younger four year old brother, whom we shall know as Charles. Dick wore clothes that his grandmother gave him for Christmas, he smelled funny, he ate funny food, he had coke bottle glasses and he had a ‘hawf hawf’ sounding laugh which kind of set your teeth on edge. He was renowned for having horrible accidents, like the time he was walking along the high asbestos fence which divided our two properties and he fell with a leg either side, slicing open his nut sack. There was a lot of blood. And it could have only happened to Dick.

His younger brother was renowned for being a retard. By the age of four he still hadn’t uttered a single word in front of us. He was prefectly normal, didn’t have any of those autistic problems or whatever they are. He just didn’t want to speak. Of course, our parents made us ‘include him’, which meant him following along behind us wherever we went at a distance of about 22 meters. I tried to convince him that I was a werewolf, but to no avail.

As it turns out, Europe is Dick and Charles in WoW. As far as Blizzard is concerned, we are the reject kids over the back fence. The type that they have to let follow along behind even though they would rather not have to. What other conclusion can I come to given the release of the 2010 Warcraft Arena Tournament. If you click on that link it takes you to the warcraft site where they give all the cool details on this years tournament, which features a total cash prize pool of $200,000! Cool huh? Apart from this, all participants have the chance to get the “exclusive” armored murlock pet. The word exclusive is in inverted commas due to the fact that this is the same pet that was offered last year. Players who finish in the top 1000 also get the “exclusive” Vanquisher title, which, yep you guessed it, is the same one as last year.

So Blizzard hasn’t put much effort into this but at least there is the 200 grand, right? Well yes … and no. You see, this is only for the US and Oceanic realms. If you play on the EU realms you need to click this link here. In effect, these two competitions are exactly the same. You go a special realm, make your new level 80 toon and gear it up to your hearts content with gear and weapons and gems and enchants and small furry animals. Then you go and play against other 3 man teams and you have the chance at the “exclusive” murlock pet and vanquisher title and you also get …

Oh wait. That’s it. No 200 grand. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 big ones. Not even 200 little ones. You get … well, you get fuck all.

So Europe, we’re just the leftovers. I suppose they could have split the 200,000 into two prize pools of 100,000, but obviously that wouldn’t make any sense. And I suppose it’s fair like this because the US and Oceanic players have to pay an entry fee of $20. In the FAQ they explain why there is this entry fee, (it’s the second last on the list, right down the bottom):

“… There are several reasons for the entry fee, one of which being that, as with most professional tournaments, the fee helps ensure that participants are invested in the competition and remain dedicated to it for the duration of the tournament. In addition, the stakes are higher for this tournament than for standard Arena play, with a total prize pool of more than $200,000 in cash prizes up for grabs. Furthermore, this format should help provide high-level players with an intensely competitive, even playing field on the tournament realms …”

Oh okay, so they pay an entry fee so they get a big cash prize. But hang on a second … I’m just looking at the EU site and it says that we have to also pay, €15. This can’t be right. Let me go and check the FAQ on that one:

“… There are several reasons for the entry fee, one of which being that, as with most professional Passes, the fee helps ensure that participants are invested in the competition and remain dedicated to it for the duration of the Arena Pass event. This format should help provide high-level players with an intensely competitive, even playing field on the Arena Pass realms …”

One of the other characteristics of the kids next door was that you could make them believe almost anything, (except that I was actually a werewolf). That’s because we thought they were idiots. It seems that Blizzard thinks the same way too.

So in the space of two days Blizzard has announced sweeping changes to the points based gear system and the stunning news that 10 and 25 man raid will have essentially the same gear drops, just more of them in the 25 man runs. Personally I think that the Cataclysm release is not all that far off.

So lets look at these. Larissa has already written a nice long post about the raiding changes, and she has linked to a lot of other blogs who have also commented as well. The main fear at present is that the top raiding guilds going after world firsts will just pick the best 10 players out of their 25 man group and go with them. I have been in a 40 man raid. We went in and and did AQ40. Well, when I say did I actually mean wipe a lot, but it was totally epic and we loved it. Just that once though. Organise that mess every week or 4 times a week? Please no. There is a reason that Karazhan was the most successful raid in the game, apart from the fact that is was ten tiers stacked up of pure awesome. Accessability. And this flows into the badge changes to gear that they have announced, particularly the changes to rated items. In short, items won’t have a rating anymore. If you have the points you can buy them. This includes weapons. For me, this is huge.

And all of these changes are meant for me – the casual player. It’s about making the game more accessable for those players who only have time to play for a couple of hours a night a few days a week. In Vanilla WoW, the best players were those who had the most time to dedicate to the game. I don’t know if many of you remember the old PvP ranking system but in order to get the coveted level 14 top level you had to play 26 hours a day, 8 days a week, whilst sleeping in a shoebox on the side of the road and eating cold gravel for breakfast. The best players were not necessarily the most skilled – they were more often the ones with no life.

Blizzard has come to the understanding over the years that $14 a month from a casual player is exactly the same as $14 a month from the no-lifer. And there are a lot more casual players out there than the no-lifer. I am presently playing arenas for the first time. We’re doing okay, but one of the main problems is my gear, particularly the weapons. If I could save up my points and get my hands on the top weapons I would see a vast improvement to my burst dps. But in order to get those weapons I need to have an 1800 arena ranking but in order to get that ranking I would need those weapons … Catch 22.

Catch 22 situations are not good for business, and Blizzard has understood this. I held a 10 man raiding group together by the skin of my teeth for almost two years. The main problem was losing people to 25 man raids because they could get better gear. Under the new system not only will a 10 man guild not have that spectre hanging over their head, but getting the same drops as the top guilds means that they will have more of a chance of becoming a top guild themselves.

All of this points to skill and ability over time spent playing. The barometer of success in old school WoW was gear, epics and even legendary items. That is no longer the yardstick for achievement in the present game and it will be completely absent in the new expansion. But players will still require a way to measure themselves against other players. Most probably the achievement system will reward more titles. This could be a double-edged sword for Blizzard. Players will no longer be able to hide behind the gear barrier as an excuse for their own lameness. For a lot of people, illusion is better than reality. Break that illusion and bad things can happen. So this is a courageous decision by Blizzard. One can only hope that it will work out for them.

This is a guest post from Gordon at We Fly Spitfires. A few weeks ago he asked his fellow bloggers if any of us would like him to guest post. I said sure! So here it is, and my thanks to Gordon, firstly for his offer and secondly for coming through with it. My apologies to my devout readers who will notice that we are missing the word, ‘fuck’. (See what I did there?)

“Phfft, bleh, ha!”. I used to make those sounds, scoffing at players who would whip out their damage meter charts at the end of the every encounter or boss kill. It reminded me off my (infrequent) times at the local gym, trying not to stare at the muscled meat bags who flexed and puffed towards each other like vain peacocks. I wasn’t one of them, I thought, I wasn’t a shallow gamer only interested in silly numbers on a chart. I valued the person behind the class, the player and their personality. I was better than those elitist maths morons and didn’t care about numbers or statistics.

And then one day, for no apparent reason I can recall, I installed Recount.

It started innocently enough out of simple curiosity – I was leveling my Mage alt and wanted to see what sort of damage he did in groups. That was all. I didn’t want to compare myself to others or feel more superior. But I did. After seeing my name at the top of a table of five other players, I was filled with a surprising sense of self-satisfaction. 35% of the entire damage dealt during that dungeon was mine.

It soon became a private game I played with myself. After every battle in a Dungeon Finder group I’d check the Recount chart to see what percentage of the entire group’s damage I’d done. Then one day a friend I was playing with asked me what percentage of the damage he’d done so, to oblige him, I published the results in party chat.. And then I published the results again after the next fight and then again and again. Soon it had became habitual and I did it constantly, regardless of who I was with.

And it didn’t just end there. I didn’t just publish the results and let them be, I used them to determine the “skill” and “worth” of the players I was with. Why was the Warlock doing so little damage? Why wasn’t the Rogue doing enough? I became annoyed when I thought players were slacking off or not doing enough damage. Soon I was judging everyone that I grouped with like some sort of sanctimonious overlord. It was wrong.

I can’t say what exactly lead to this revelation but one day I just realised that out of every group I’d had through the Dungeon Finder, we’d actually never failed to complete a dungeon. It hadn’t mattered I did lots of AE damage on big pulls or if someone hadn’t done what I had considered enough damage. We still finished the dungeon, we still got our rewards and we still had fun. Or rather everyone else had fun, I was too busy watching DPS charts and trying to judge my fellow players. It was shallow and superficial. It was ridiculous.

So I uninstalled Recount and never looked back. My brief stint as a damage meter mad man was enough to make me realise that it corrupts our sense of fun and camaraderie. I know it’s an old cliche about “it’s the taking part that matters” but it’s absolutely true. World of Warcraft is a hobby to me, a bit of fun and relaxation, not a chore or a job or a maths quiz. And the simple fact is that the game is actually flexible enough (in most situations, especially leveling up) to be able to accommodate a large degree of, well, slack. You don’t need to be the perfect player in the perfect party with the perfect gear to be able to succeed so don’t be fooled into thinking you do.

Now I don’t use Recount and I don’t care about damage meters and I’m back to having fun. Sometimes, when playing my Mage, I even take a break during my DPS rotating to take a moment to chat to my fellow players. It’s surprisingly good fun.

-Gordon

I didn’t think that I would again find myself writing about the Celestial Steed, or Greed Steed as it has come to be known, but I am. I read somewhere this week on another blog that these micro transactions of pets and now the steed are fine because they are not game changing. Pets, of course, are not game changing. They can annoy the crap out of you if nine out of ten people take out the same one in a raid, but they don’t change the game-play experience. You don’t have any advantage with a pet.

But the comment got me thinking about the pony. Gevlon wrote a few weeks ago about how many of the players in his ganking guild were levelling through Outland without a flying mount, and how dangerous this was on a PvP realm. The reason that they didn’t have a flying mount was that they couldn’t afford one. Maybe they managed to get the gold together for the training but the mount was just out of reach. Let me now quote the Blizzard store:

“Once activated, this World of Warcraft in-game mount key applies to all present and future characters on a single European World of Warcraft license.”

So if you roll a new toon on a new PvP realm, you have your mount, both flying and land. I don’t know if this would be available at level 1 or just when you train each level of riding, but either way this is game changing, make no mistake about it. This micro transaction has a direct effect in game. It could also have an effect on the WoW economy, as players will now have more gold left over during the levelling process to spend on other items instead of mounts. Perhaps this is a small point, perhaps not even worthy of a post, but I just thought that I would mention it.

I logged into WoW after a day spent behind people who couldn’t drive their finger up their own nose, let alone a car. I figured that a nice relaxing night playing WoW would sooth my shattered nerves and lend me some sort of peace after the day that I had spent. How fucking wrong that was.

I logged in and once again found myself in Dalaran surrounded by countless horde who seem to think that the only way to communicate in trade chat is to shout. Mix this in with the gold spammers and your screen becomes an endlessly flailing mess as it tries to keep pace with the syllables racing across it. Some twit rode up to me on his new shiny pony. He was a tauran. Do I have to say how fucking stupid this looked? Well, I will – it looked fucking ridiculous. I gave him the finger and he made coo-coo noises at me because obviously he is one of these really bright individuals who assume that the person sitting at the keyboard also looks like the hot night elf avatar facing him in-game.

I remembered that the arena points had come out today, so I scooted down to the sewers to get my helm. Like all rogue helms it looks like it was designed by a geriatric wombat who was suffering from renal failure. So the show helm option remains firmly in the off position. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that we had possession of wintergrasp in that moment so I sprinted over there to get the pvp head enchant. Then I went to Stormwind to grab an earthsiege diamond from the AH. Except, there weren’t any there. So I asked the alchemists in the guild if they could do a transmute yet. No, they couldn’t. What a fucking useless bunch of morons. I mean, why even have a trade skill if you’re not going to have it maxed by level 60? Sheesh.

So I stuck a 68 attack power gem in there and went and lost some battlegrounds. Yes, we lost. Why? Because Alliance sucks on this battlegroup? Why don’t I move? Because I like to have something to complain about, you bunch of fucking moron readers. Anyway, I decided to do the daily random heroic to boost my number of frost badges by 50%. It stuck me in a 5 man which I had never seen before. Turns out that it was Utgard Pinnacle. I never even knew it existed. So I zone in and my first thought was, where the fuck am I? My next thought was that I better keep my head down and look like I knew what I was doing. The group was okay and we proceeded through, although we did have one wipe. I worked out that you need to shoot the harpoons at the boss dude, (what is it and Blizzard with fucking harpoons in this expansion? Can they have any more of a hard on for them? I suppose the next expansion all we’ll be seeing is … well it’s supposedly underwater so I assume harpoons also. That’ll be fun.)

So I finish the run and my screen lights up with a million achievements including the northrend dungeon one, so much so that it seemed like I was spamming in guild chat. Man I wish there was a way to turn off achievements in guild chat. I would just about chew off my left nut for that, I can tell you.

So the group began to talk in Italian and I noticed that they were all from the same realm and guild. So I dropped a few Italian lines and they went apeshit with joy, as you would expect. So I asked them if they wouldn’t mind running Forge of Souls so I could have another crack at the dagger of the last boss and they said sure. So in we went.

And it dropped. You fucking beauty. I was overjoyed, I really was. All my bad day was forgotten in the moment that this came down. I hit need and thanked everyone as they all said grats in Italian, which is … grats. And I dropped the group. Back in Dalaran I’m cleaning out my bags of all the rubbish that I found on the run when I notice that … I can’t find the dagger. Now, this often happens to me. I have an item, I know it’s there, but I just can’t see it. It’s like the thing turns invisible for a moment, and usually at the most inopportune time. So I’m looking and looking and I can’t find it. And then I have a horrible thought. No, it couldn’t be true. Could it? After they all said grats to me? No way.

So I scroll back up through all the Dalaran chat log spam, and there it is. I can’t fucking believe it. The hunter rolled need as well and he won the roll. I hadn’t even noticed. Why? Because I was being nice to my new found “friends”. A hunter rolled need on a dagger that we had gone into the run especially to get for me. Well thank you very fucking much. And I logged off and kicked the dog.

I have been accused of being too negative and only writing about negative situations. True, I myself thought that these situations were amusing more than negative but I cannot blindly turn an eye to my readership and not take their feelings on this important matter into account. So today I will write a happy post about happy positive things in a happy WoW world.

It was with great joy that I sat down last night and typed my password, “123456789”, into my WoW account. My beautiful night elf rogue filled the screen and just the sight of her filled me with such happiness that I almost had to take a quick trip to the bathroom then and there. But I digress. I pressed the enter button and found myself on the deserted streets of Stormwind where I had left the day before. There was nobody but a lonely bank alt in the auction house, so I quickly hearthed to the more crowded streets of Dalaran.

Immediately I was surrounded by the colourful anctics of the multitude of players galavanting around me on their beautiful and shiny ponies. I wish that I could have a pretty shiny pony too but my wife wants to spend the money to feed our children. I would never stoop to beg my readership for one of these mounts but you don’t want the kids to go hungry now, do you? Today was a special wonderful day. Today was the day that they gave out arena points and I had enough for the ilvl 251 helm. I made my way down to the sewers to purchase it from the lovely goblin lady. I love the sewers below dalaran. They are so realistic in how sewers in a city floating a mile high in the sky really are. I wonder how the wonderful dev team where able to do that. They are really so very wonderful. I would so like to have a job with them it would be all the icing on my cake come at once.

Down in the sewers a few of the horde challenged me to a friendly duel, obviously due to the fact that they really respect my abilities and want to prove themselves against me. I had to gently refuse their somewhat persistant offers as I was set on acquiring my new helm. I clicked on the goblin lady and there it was! Such power that helm has! And then it was mine. I was so happy. So very, very happy. As happy as I could be. It is such a positve feeling when you get a new piece of gear that you have worked so hard for. I couldn’t imagine myself ever getting rid of it. This would be my new helm forever.

Later on I did a random daily dungeon and ended up in an instance which I had never even been in before. Just think about that! It was called Utgard Pinnacle. I kept my head down and did the best I could and then we finished it all together. It was a wonderful group. I didn’t get the frozen orb but that’s okay as I’m sure that I will get it next time. The other players were very well geared, they must raid the highest content. I am so happy for them that they can do that even though I don’t do it myself. It must be wonderful to be able to see those exciting fight mechanics.

Anyway, we finished and we were saying our goodbyes when I noticed that the other party members were talking amongst themselves in Italian. I speak Italian too! So I thanked them for the run in Italian, and they were like, Oh my God! and then I was like, Can I be your friend?! and they were like, Sure! and then I asked if we could run Forge of Souls because I needed the dagger and then they said sure! Wow, isn’t this world great? So we ran Forge of Souls and we got to the end and would you believe it, the dagger dropped!! And I said YeY!!!!! and then they said grats!!!!! and I thanked them all and promised to transfer to their realm and join their guild.

I got back to Dalaran and I was cleaning out my bags when I noticed that the dagger wasn’t there. So I went back through the chat log and that’s when I saw that the hunter had also rolled need on the dagger and that he had won! I hadn’t even noticed!! I must admit that I was a little, tiny winy bit annoyed at this but then I realised that he must have really, really, really needed it and I logged off happily at the end of a wonderful day of WoW.

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