Why I almost skipped Cataclysm and the reasons I changed my mind

WoW: Cataclysm.

As of this past weekend, my mind was made up. I was going to skip Cataclysm altogether. I wasn’t going to try it, play it, think about it, nothing. I hadn’t seen anything wild or crazy that would make me want to come back and I was perfectly content with the other games that could fill my free time. I was so convinced.

But lo and behold, I ran some errands today and came home with a copy of the game. It wasn’t really an impulsive decision – I had done a decent bit of research about the expansion so I knew what to expect. I really went for it because, well, why not? I hadn’t been a part of an expansion launch yet. I missed Burning Crusade because I had started playing shortly before it came out. I missed Wrath because I had taken a break and didn’t feel compelled to come back at the time. As someone who writes about games for a living, it seems appropriate that I should see at least one launch.

So far, things have been pretty good. I’m playing a Balance Druid, something I’ve never really messed with before. The new zones are certainly bright and colorful and there is plenty of new content to see. I am pretty disappointed, though, by the lack of time spent in the old world. The whole point of this patch was a shattered Azeroth, a world we used to know being torn apart by this big, evil dragon. So why am I swimming around underwater? Why not send me back to the barrens to do some leveling. The old world place I’ve spent most of time is Orgrimmar, but that’s not really different from previous expansions. I’ve always had to go to Orgrimmar for various things, mostly the Auction House. It’s really cool that it’s been redone, but I want to see more of that in other parts of the world.

For now, that’s my one big criticism. I’ll be playing over the next several days if anyone feels compelled to join in. I play on Archimonde under the name “Milkstout.”

You want WoW news, you got it

WoW Cataclysm wallpaper.It figures just one day after I write a post wondering what happened to everyone’s favorite MMO, Blizzard decides to unveil some of the major changes coming to each of the game’s ten classes. Oh, except Paladins, but really, who likes Paladins anyway?

Technically, we don’t have the changes just yet. There was a post on the official forums, though, that said we’d get a preview of the new spells, skill changes, talent trees, and other class modifications to be found in Cataclysm within 24 hours. As to the Paladin thing, here’s what Blizzard had to say:

The paladin is still deep in development. Instead of giving a preview that would be potentially less comprehensive than the other classes we made the decision to post it when it’s ready, in order to properly honor the paladin class and those that play them. The wait isn’t too long however as we’re expecting to be able to post it on April 16.

I would never have guessed that “deep in development” meant one week from public consumption, but I’m not a developer now, am I.

This is a big day for the crackheads. It’s the first real news about specific changes in Cataclysm since the expansion was announced.

Source: WoW Forums

Blizzard bends you over the customization fence…again

WoW race change.Blizzard’s unveiled its latest scheme to boost profits from World of Warcraft in the face of declining subscriptions: race change. You no longer have to traipse about Azeroth wishing you had made your warrior a Tauren. You can finally pay to get the best arena racials without buying yet another account.

The service costs $25, and only works for a change within your current faction. A faction change runs $30, though you obviously get a race change for free. Personally, this isn’t something I’d be spending money on, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in that unique state of WoW-drunk where almost anything seems reasonable.

Though I wish for the people still playing that Blizzard would lump some of these customization fees together, I also realize people are paying for this crap, so it’s hard to blame Blizzard. At least let me say, I feel for you, crackheads. It’s tough to pay for stuff like this when you’re calling off work to grind out those last few levels.

September was a great month for MMOs

Aion angel flying.The NPD numbers are in for September showing strong sales among MMOs in the PC market. NCSoft’s Aion topped the list, bumping last month’s Sims 3 down a slot. Third and fourth went to Champions Online and Wrath of the Lich King respectively, and the Collector’s Edition of Aion. took fifth.

Aside from the MMO scene, the list was dominated by older titles and smaller games. September wasn’t set to be a huge month for blockbuster titles, regardless of the fact that most of the major Q4 releases have been pushed to 2010. Any time Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships is in the top 20, you know it’s been a slow month. Here’s the full list:

    1. Aion
    2. The Sims 3
    3. Champions Online
    4. World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack
    5. Aion Collector’s Ed
    6. Mumbo Jumbo Assortment
    7. The Sims 2 Double Deluxe
    8. World Of Warcraft: Battle Chest
    9. Reel Deal Slots Treasures Of The Far East
    10. World Of Warcraft
    11. Spore
    12. Grand Theft Auto IV
    13. Starcraft: Battle Chest
    14. Zuma’s Revenge
    15. World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Expansion Pack
    16. Batman: Arkham Asylum
    17. Reel Deal Slots Adventure
    18. Nancy Drew: Ransom Of The Seven Ships
    19. Civilization IV: Complete Ed
    20. The Sims 2 University Life Collection

Blizzard COO Buys A Chunk Of The Steelers

Blizzard COO Paul Sams.Blizzard COO Paul Sams has reportedly gotten into the football business, and I’m not talking about a Madden competitor. No, Sams and his family are listed as one among ten of the new joint owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise. The news came courtesy of the Steelers’ official website, which gives a quick bio for both Sams and his wife.

I guess when you’re at the top of a company whose biggest title has 11 million subscribers and sits on the verge of another expansion, whose critically acclaimed RTS has an upcoming sequel, and whose dungeon masher is about to become a trilogy you simply have more money than god and can buy just about whatever you want. That includes Super Bowl champions.

WoW Faction Changes Go Live At $30 A Pop

For the horde.I really hate the fees that come along with Blizzard services for World of Warcraft. Name changes are a completely absurd $10, server transfers are $25 per toon, and the “re-customization” service, which will include a name change, runs $15. Blizzard made an addition to the list of money-minting scams with the faction change. The service, which a lot of people have been after for some time, will run you a whopping $30. That’s almost 3 months of gameplay on a subscription plan, which is just ridiculous.

While the rest of the services seem to truly be aimed at character customization, and not necessarily just making money, this one looks to be designed to bleed players dry. For starters, there’s no included server transfer. I don’t know about you, but for my part, changing factions to play with other people means changing servers. I would think it’s pretty rare that your friends just happen to play the opposite faction on your server. Changing factions for this reason means you’ll be spending $55 per toon. Pretty rough.

Also, Blizzard is looking to roll out a Race Change feature in the future, at what I assume will be similarly rapacious prices. For a full list of limitations to the new service, check out Blizzard’s two-page FAQ.

WoW: Cataclysm – What Is Coming And Always Should Have Been

picture-11What follows is a very long narrative of my history with WoW and an admittedly romanticized look at the new expansion. I am not discussing hardcore game mechanics. I’m not theorycrafting. I’m writing about the scope/themes of the game and what those things mean in a social/cultural context. If you make it to the end, I applaud your effort. If you put in that much work, I also hope you’ll leave a comment.

When I first caught the rumor that Blizzard would be announcing another World of Warcraft expansion at this year’s Blizzcon, I was completely apathetic. I haven’t played the game in nearly 6 months, and only then after some friends and I rallied from a similar hiatus for WotLK. The game had long since lost its former charm, which surprised even me. I was fairly hardcore for a while there. I wasn’t bleeding-edge by any means, but I led raids in a T6 guild before calling it quits on The Burning Crusade.

To understand why I quit I should probably begin with the reason I started. I joined WoW late in the game, late fall of 2006 in fact, because I was living in a small town with little to do. I had just graduated college, I was working my first serious job, and I wanted an enjoyable way to spend my wee hours. I also only had a Mac at the time, so WoW was one of few options for an MMO.

rogueI got hooked fast; I almost made my way to 60 before TBC dropped, but not quite. From what I can only think to call “an academic perspective (meaning thinking about gaming/culture in a social context),” that was actually a good thing. I got to witness the first flight from Azeroth, and it was massive. I played on a med-high population server and I immediately noticed the lack of players in town. Trying to find groups for Sunken Temple could be a nightmare, where before the expansion there were plenty of people around. Now granted, this would have happened to a degree, even if the expansion wasn’t a new continent. A lot of the people I was playing with were playing alts, and they would have returned to their mains for new content either way. The problem, though, was that I was no longer a part of the same game.

People always say that the real game is the end game, so when the expansion dropped, everyone was rushing to 70. And then they were rushing to get geared for raids. And then they realized they didn’t need the gear and they would just raid for gear. But all of that was taking place on a different continent. It was a whole different game. Where I would once see 60s roaming the same zones I was leveling through, there was now nothing but people rushing to grind through the Dark Portal. That kind of excitement was great for the first couple weeks, but after that, Azeroth was a ghost town. There was the occasional blood elf and then people like me, desperately trying to be a part of something out of our reach.

I wondered then why Blizzard hadn’t just changed the original world they created. Part of what kept me interested in the game was that things felt dynamic. The first time I walked my toon into Orgrimmar and saw Onyxia’s head on a pike it was exhilarating. Sure I was a few years late to the party, but there were still people around, having fun with what was there. That’s the kind of stuff that made me want to be level 60. It wasn’t just gear, it was the parts of the game I wanted to see.

I got over that pretty fast. I made it to Outland without any Azerothian raids (barring Kara, of course, though much later), hit 70, and started raiding (alright, not that much later). I leveled another toon to 70 and raided with him. I made that second toon my main and kept on raiding, picking up all the flashy gear I had seen around town. And then my guild hit T5 and we had to make some changes. We had primarily been casual raiders but the regulars wanted to progress and we couldn’t do it with our casual members. Several horribly terribly awful guild mergers later we were moving into T6 and my interest just died. Read the rest of this entry »

Blizzard Announces WoW: Cataclysm

Deathwing is back, baby.Following the leaks about the rumored WoW expansion, Blizzard has officially confirmed the release, titled World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Events of Cataclysm take place in good ol’ Azeroth instead of that played-out, new continent horse excrement. Personally, I’ll say this is the most intriguing expansion I’ve seen, even if it does mess with the lore of the world in a pretty huge way. Tauren Paladins…come on.

The new expansion has almost all of the leaked features, for which I’ll defer to the official Blizzard FAQ page. I have to say, I’d be glad to get back to Azeroth if I was still playing. In fact, I just might resub when the xpac comes out, you know, just to kick the tires a bit.

Here’s the relevant info from the FAQ page:

    * 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.

As you might imagine, no word on a release date other than 2010.

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