Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pay for Play?

We all pay to play WoW, and it ain't cheap! Initially purchasing the game is approx. $80 if you want all of the expansions. Then $15 per month. I've been doing this for years, so I obviously think it's worth it (or I just have no self-control and/or I'm plain stupid). In any case, I'd rather spend money on WoW than spend $60 on a new PS3 or Xbox game that I'll beat in a month and never play again. You'd think with the amount of money that Blizz is making from the game alone, it would be enough. I guess not. It's apparently never enough.

I got the idea for this post from Miss Medicina. I started to comment and realized I have way too much to say on the topic. Basically, the question is: At what point does providing in-game product for out-of-game money cross the line? Well, let me give you some history... and I mean WAY back.

In the early 1990s, this guy in Philadelphia created this online text-based game called Medievia. Well, he arguably lifted the base code from someone else. The base code goes back to DIKU or Circle or any other number of MUD (multi-user dungeon) engines at the time. MUDs were the predecessors of MMORPGs. Anyway, the original creators (some guys in finland or something) of the base code said anyone could use it to make their own MUD with two rules: 1) they had to be given credit for creating the base code on the login screen; and 2) you couldn't charge players. Well, within a short time, this guy broke rule 1 outright, then found a way around rule 2. Here was his work around: DONATIONS. Now, there was nothing wrong with charging for donations as far as those Finnish guys were concerned, but this Philly guy was selling in-game "donation" items. And here's the real kicker. These items were BiS. And I don't mean they were a little bit better, I mean A LOT. So much so, that if you didn't "donate" you couldn't compete with those players who had. Then he started adding more donation items. Then he added item deterioration, which gave a 1 year lifespan to most of the donation items. Then he made it so you could "donate" to get certain OP in-game items that could be sold for mucho dinero. In other words, it was out of hand. If you want to read some good flames about this guy, just google medievia.

So, this brings us to WoW.

Paid Transfer: At first, I think the only thing that was available was paid server transfers. I can't argue that this isn't a good thing. What if you want to move to a server that RL friend is on, but you don't want to reroll? This just makes it more enjoyable. Also, if you're on a low population server, or on a server with a time zone that doesn't fit your schedule, you can move. But there were rules! You could not go from a PvE server to a PvP server. This stopped players from leveling without worry of getting killed by the opposite faction, then after they had gathered enough epic gear to transfer to a PvP server and rape people. While this is just a minor advantage, Blizz didn't allow it. Now, there's no restrictions on this.

Faction Change: Not only can you transfer, but you can change factions. So, you can level up on a server as one faction, then switch to the other. Initially, you had to change servers too, so you couldn't have a Horde and Alliance on the same PvP server. Not any more. Now we have to see on trade chat or pst someone logging on their opposing faction toon to berate you for killing their main. Ugh. Thanks, Blizz.

Name/Sex Change: Really, I have no problem with this. If you get bored with your name or gender, feel free to pay to change it. It doesn't affect me unless you're on my friends list and I go "who the hell is that?"

Race Change: Now you can level up human, get 10% bonus to your rep which makes the grinding for rep rewards easier, then switch race (or faction) to get the new racial. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to abuse this. Thanks, Blizz.

TCG/Pets: Really, I could care less about this. As long as you don't actually get something that truly has an effect on in-game performance, who cares how many pets/mounts you have? Just because someone has a different graphic for their mount doesn't make it better. And sub "nerd points" for "achievement points". As long as they are worth nothing that actually affects game play, who cares? Now, you may be an achievement whore who spends a good portion of your time racking up those nerd points. Here's the deal though: achievement points reflect YOUR achievements. They track what YOU have done. If someone else has more, it doesn't affect your ability to get more; it just means they have been at it longer (or have no life). And yes, sometimes it could mean that they bought a ton of pets or trading cards.

Invite-a-Friend (or whatever it's called): Oh, now this is the most suspect of all. If you invite a friend to play WoW, your account and your friend's account become linked. (feel free to correct me on what follows) When you group together, you get triple exp up to 60. Your friend can also "give" you levels up to 59. Here's what I see people doing. Inviting their imaginary friend (themselves), and create an account. Dual-box and level characters up to 30, then "give" levels to their character up to 59. Then transfer the character to their account. Even if they used it legitimately, this is WAY too much. I mean, how hard is it to level now anyway? Blizz already doubled xp from quests and kills up to level 30 and then increased it up to level 60. If you wanted to level your friend up fast without having a linked account, you could just speed run them through dungeons with your 80. This feature is perfect for people who want to sell toons. Besides, if you just rush your friend through the first 60 levels, how are they going to learn to play the game or enjoy all of the earlier content?

Mobile AH: PVD has a great post about this here. A question I have is will this feature be available while you're logged in? If so, what's to stop you from using your iphone (or whatever mobile device) to sell stuff on the AH from anywhere in the world? Full bags? Don't wanna port back to a city? No problem! And the idea that Blizz will be charging for this through "premium service"? This is a big game changer. And I'm sure gold-farmers are salivating over this as I type. With a ton of restrictions (such as you must be logged out for a minimum of 30 minutes before it's available) and free access, this could be a neat little addition. But the potential for abuse otherwise is insane.

Mobile Mail: On PVD's comments, "what's my main again" made mention of mobile mail access. This would be a nice feature to add. I'm not talking about being able to send items, but receiving mail would be nice (though not wholly useful). Also, being able to send an in-game note through the mail would be useful, but not game changing.

Final Thoughts: One other thing WMMA brings up in his comment is the "players want this" argument. Who cares what players want? Ok, that's too harsh. Blizz should care what players want. The problem is that some players want the game to be easy. Ok, most. These people are too lazy to start their own orange. Just because players want something doesn't mean they should get it. When parents give their child everything they ask for, we call the kid spoiled. And spoiled is a bad thing. It seems Blizz is finding more and more ways to spoil the kiddies. I guess all it takes to get free stuff nowadays is QQ'ing, stomping your feet, or holding your breath.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Product Review

Yeah, I steal my ideas. Whuddup? But I give credit. I was reading a post by BBB, and it occurred to me that there are some WoW type products I've used and can review. As per FTC guidelines (thanks 3B), I have received no compensation from any source. I only use these products that I purchased with my own hard-earned cash.

A few months back, I got sick and tired of using my keyboard because I had to move my hand a whole lot. The 3-4 inches that I had to move my hand between "1" and "=" had become too much to handle. Basically, I reached the epitome of lazy. So, I went in search of alternatives. I was using the Zboard with BC Keyset.

Ok, if you're looking for pretty pictures, this is the keyboard for you because that's about its biggest offering. It's only around $35, which is less expensive than a lot of other standard keyboards. The keys aren't raised, which I love (I'm too lazy to pick up my fingers). It isn't wireless. Some people consider wireless or bluetooth a bonus; I don't. Nothing is more annoying than having batteries crap out on you in the middle of a boss fight, so I'm wired all the way. But basically, this is just another keyboard with a pretty sticker. I have the BC key set, but there is also one for WotLK.

Instead of a numberpad on the right, there are some pre-mapped keys. Basically, these are pretty useless. Does anyone really need a series of keys instead of /yell /g /p /r etc? Not really. If you're expecting any added functionality out of this thing, forget it. It's just a pretty keyboard. For thirty-five bucks, what do you expect?

World of Warcraft Gaming Mouse:
I had a bunch of Best Buy gift cards and they were burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided to buy some new hardware to play WoW with. I had been itching to try the Steel Series WoW gaming mouse since it came out, and boy, was I disappointed.

It's got 15 buttons. Too bad they're all placed in difficult to reach spots. The thumb directional pad is the most unwieldy thing in the world. It's not raised up enough to use properly. The other buttons positioned all over the mouse required you to regularly reposition your hand. Can you say carpal tunnel syndrome? Also, it's functionality as a mouse pointer is horrible. It doesn't slide easily, mainly because of the way it's designed. The only slightly cool thing about this was that it lights up. OOOH PRETTY.

Basically, mouse fail. Thank God for Best Buy's return policy.

Logitech G13 Advanced Gaming Board:
So, I took back the crappy WoW mouse and got the Logitech game pad. I bought the G13 for around the same price as the WoW mouse: $80. This thing is sweet. It has 24 programmable buttons and a thumb stick (25 buttons if you count pushing down on the thumb stick). You can link each button to any key or combination of keys and save them to a profile. You can have numerous profiles and up to 3 key sets in each profile. Switching between the key sets is done by hitting one of the memory buttons. This is great for my drood. I have 3 different keysets: resto, bear, kitty. There is also a quick macro button so you can program these on the fly, but I haven't taken time to play around with this feature yet. Basically, this thing has more utility than I could ever need.

Some people have complained about the thumb stick because it's not analog. Really, I have no problem with this. It works great. Sure, with analog, I could move it a little to walk, a lot to run, but really, it's nothing to QQ over. The other complaint about the stick is that it's uncomfortable. I thought so too at first. Really, it's no biggie. If you're that upset, I did find some guy online who put directions up with how to replace the stick with one from an Xbox controller. Neat, but it looked like a lot of work and, like I stated above, I'm lazy.

It also has an LCD display. It has a clock, CPU usage, and WoW stats. Not really useful, but the keys and the display light up. I like to set each key set to it's own color so I can tell which one I'm using.

In any case, you can program this thing to put your most used keys in the easiest to reach spots and place less used keys elsewhere. Just a note: the G13 does not give you extra keys; you still have to map keys from your keyboard to it.

So, to sum up:
Zboard - nothing special; worth the $30; buy it, but you've been forewarned
WoW Mouse - crap; don't buy; not worth the CTS you'll develop
G13 - awesome; no device is a must have, but this thing is worth every penny

If I ever feel like shelling out $100, I'll buy the G15 keyboard and review that. I've heard good things from guildies about it. If I really lose my mind, I'll drop $200 on the G19.