Monday, June 4, 2012

Blizzard is claiming that they do not have a security issue.

Diablo 3 has been out for a couple weeks now. Everyone by now that's interested has heard of its launch troubles and all the various reviews that call it from cartoonish to amazing and brilliant.

The other issue that has arises is account security. There are many claims on the official forums and even in other forums about how their accounts have been compromised, and their ingame items and currency have all been stolen.

Blizzard has responded on various posts stating: These things happen, but are usually the result of the customer not being careful online rather than any fault with Blizzard's security.

Some are claiming that even with their authenticators(supplied by Blizzard) that are used to improve their security they have still lost items and gold. This can be several things that could be happening.

1. People are making these claims in the hopes that they can double their gold and items since they passed them off to friends to hang onto while they basically CON Blizzard for their items and gold back. Effectively duplicating their acquired wealth.

2. People are using the "Gold farming" and character leveling services of various nefarious website, who then after getting access to their accounts strip them of their wealth and run off with it rather than actually do as they were paid.


3. There really is a security breach on the authentication servers for Blizzard games. Thus, causing a spree of account thefts and gold loss which then spurs the "Gold farmers" to sell their ill gotten goods on the chat channels ingame.

Honestly, the gold selling websites are constantly spamming in games like diablo 3, world of warcraft, and even many other non-Blizzard games. They make a living scamming people and then selling the goods online to the people who have the cash to do so. This ruins a games economy and causes ill will to the company who runs the game.

Unless Blizzard comes right out and admits it has a problem with its security, we'll never know for sure what it might be. It doesn't really matter in the long run either, people will play their games. They will continue to make cash by the dump truck load, and gold sellers will always exist. What I do wish they would do is step up and be a leader in the field of combating the menace of account theft and gold selling. The currency market for video game currency is very very dark. There are stories from over seas of near slave like conditions where people are forced to reach quotas in how much gold they can make/scam/or steal from other players for their gold selling company.

In a perfect world people actually have to obey the rules of the game they are playing, no gold buying, no cheating, and hacking the games. If only people would just relax and enjoy the games, but competitive gaming forces people to do crazy things.

My original World of Warcraft guild for instance traded thousands of gold and cash to a farmer who was hacking the game to farm rare minerals. We used these minerals to progress in the content quickly and get ahead fast. I wasn't directly involved, but I did benefit from the guilds overall progression. I was there for nearly  every new boss kill and every new piece of content from the beginning till before the first expansion. So even though I didn't use this gold seller myself, I was there with people who did.

7 years later, I can't say I'd do anything different, but I do wish this kind of thing still didn't exist. Cause if one of the leading guilds on our server could do it, then anyone could. Except for the person who can't afford to spend cash. Thus creating a gap in the economy that really shouldn't exist.

So again, I wish Blizzard and other companies would come up with a true secure connection for their games. At least that way we could all game in peace and know we weren't vulnerable to someone out their looking to make a quick buck and ruin someones day in the process.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gaming Monetization: either the future or the fall of gaming as we know it.

I spent the last weekend playing Guild Wars 2 during its first "OPEN" beta weekend. By "OPEN" I mean a bunch of my friends and I paid full price for the game the week before the event to guarantee access to the beta weekend. This alone was a first in my memory a company has requested that you Pre-Purchase a game to get access to their "free" events before launch. Not to say that this isn't a good business decision, just one that I haven't seen people take before. This is probably due to the fact that if the game didn't receive amazing reviews during its pre-launch events then people would be clamoring for their money back and telling all their friends to avoid this title at all costs.

Before I get into the reason I mention Guild Wars 2, I'd like to state that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend event. We spent hours exploring, questing, crafting, and pvping. The game is broken down into three distinct areas of gameplay.

PVE- Exploration, leveling, and the thin personal story for your race. I do say thin story for the fact that it doesn't really have much of an impact on 90% of your PVE experience. The story quests are meant to tell a specific story as you level through areas. This is not to say that games shouldn't have story at all, but after playing Star Wars: The Old Republic a little less story is refreshing. A game that I can just grind away and collect some loot and explore new zones is kind of appealing.

PVP- Immediately you realize that all PVP is done at level 80. You even are leveled to 80 while in pvp zones. There is no low level PVP at all. You have a completely different set of gear, and skill and trait points allocation than from your PVE ones. Meaning that even at level 1 or 80 you don't have to worry about not being powerful enough. This being said, there is a wide variety of customization that can be done for your pvp. Making your decisions in your exact player build unique and interesting. Without going into too much depth since I've only played one class in both PVE and PVP, there are so many choices in your specific character build that I could go on for many pages and still barely explain how everything interacts.

Crafting- I say this as its own category because of how deep the system is. Even starting at level 1 you begin collecting scraps of materials to use in crafting. You use consumable kits to salvage these materials to make useful items for crafting. You can have 2 active crafting professions at any time. This doesn't mean you can only level up 2 professions ever though. At any time you can go to another trainer for another profession and switch to it, without losing the progress you've made in your previous profession. So swapping back and forth becomes just a small effort to switch and then continue to progress. The second good part is that the recipes you learn come from the discovery tab in your crafting page. You can mix and match items for a particular profession and it'll tell you if there is an available pattern to learn. If you have all the relevant materials it will allow you to create this item and also learn the pattern permanently. You get substantial experience for crafting and discovery as well. So even if you do it while leveling, you aren't "wasting" your time in town buying and selling items you craft.Also unlike other games, your bank has a tab for crafting materials. This tab allows you to store all of your crafting materials in pre-designated slots for each type of material. Meaning that you can store all your crafting materials there without losing bag space for the rest of your goodies and gear. I didn't get to test it, but someone said that in Guild Wars 1 all of your characters could access this bank tab. Which would make having a bank alt quite handy.

So my verdict for Guild Wars 2 after 3 days of continuous play?

Quite good. The combat, leveling, exploration, crafting, and pvp all had refreshing elements that most MMO's I've played recently just don't innovate on. The combat truly disposes of the Holy Trinity (Tanking, healing, and damage dealing._ of all other MMO's. Making everyone self sufficient, but also reliant on friends to help you take down larger enemies. Having other players means additional damage absorbtion, healing, and people to take the damage from you. I played a Mesmer for the weekend which gave me a high damage potential, but also allowed me to spread "boons" to all my party members and allies while we fought enemies. "Boons" being the term for beneficial effects in this game. They vary from small heals, to outright dmg absorbtion, to increases in critical strike and flat out power of your abilities. From what I can tell almost all classes have a way to benefit their allies in this way, but some classes specialize in producing alot of these boons.

So do I plan to Guild Wars 2 when it comes out? damn skippy, it was a ton of fun.


Now onto the reason behind the title of this post.

Guild Wars 2 is a free to play MMO. This doesn't mean its FREE, just that once you purchase it you can continue to play it without a regular monthly fee as some other MMO's still charge.

Guild Wars 2 has decided to create a cash shop where you purchase a form of game currency that can be spent in a particular ingame store. The items vary from simple asthetic items to realm transfers. Some of the items are experience gain boosters, as well as a few other items that improve your over convenience level in the game. These items can be bank access from anywhere in the game world for 5 days or boosts in magic find, giving you a higher chance at finding rare or interesting items while in the game world.

Overall the items in the shop are "required". though a few are somewhat troubling, Bag slots, bigger bags, account access bank tabs, additional character slots.

Having items like this means that they assume that people are going to spend at least a marginal amount of cash to acquire some of these items.

On the flipside another game, Diablo 3 has another way to generate revenue post purchase.
An auction house that you can spend real cash in to acquire the items other people are offering. Blizzard entertainment will take a small cut of each transaction and a percentage of the final amount when you transfer the funds out to a real world account.

Both of these approaches have a chance to generate a large volume of revenue for each title. But is this a good thing?

Is having a game free to play, but have secondary revenue generation really going to be the future of gaming?

I've heard two ways that people feel about this. Either it is an amazing way for people to enjoy games with their friends without costing them alot of money each month. On the flipside making it possible for someone to progress faster and more efficiently by spending real world cash on items and boosts in exp, means that the average play will always be at a disadvantage to someone who has money to spend.

The latter argument has a truly frightening potential. If you know you are never going to be able to compete against someone else because they will always have access to far superior gear in a shorter timespan than you. Would you even try to compete? Would the game even be fun or worth playing? If people decide it is no longer worth playing games with these options. It could actually ruin a portion of the industry. This is a big gamble. Do you possibly alienate the consumers who have been loyal to your brand or your market just to make more money per active consumer?

The businessmen of the world would state that having the potential to make more money per active consumer is just good business, but at the same time people who view the industry as a form of entertainment or creative expression would view it as prostituting their creative vision in such a way that only those with extra money can truly experience their game as fully as it can be.

Just because a consumer has more money to spend than another should it really make him a more valuable person in the eyes of the gaming industry? Shouldn't the broader customer base who maybe has less money to spend but chooses their entertainment more carefully also be considered? Those customers who want to get the most out of their money do end up playing your games for as long as possible. MMO's in general are a prime example of this.

I'm just afraid that creating an imbalance within your gaming economy on purpose, and justifying it by the potential increase in profit from a smaller set of gamers, might just end up backfiring on the companies that try this route.

Friday, April 27, 2012

SW:TOR patch 1.2 (or how the game should have launched.)

So Bioware/EA finally released the much anticpated "Jesus" patch for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Patch 1.2 brings the Legacy system, many fixes, adjustments, and content. Sadly, everything they added couldn't save the game from becoming yet another game in my collection I no longer play.
Star Wars as an MMO seems like a no brainer. A huge galaxy with a grand conflict being battled out on nearly every planet. With many deep stories, and colorful characters; SW:TOR seemed like a perfect idea. The failure here was excecution.

Broken content early on, excessive grindy leveling, with little to no incentives to level alts. For me the patch is just too late. My friends that wanted to play this game SOOO badly for years, who patiently waited for its release, have all quit. They all had their reasons; whether it was glitchy content, lack of depth to endgame, bad social encounters, or a pervasive feeling of playing an unfinished product. Many of us had been in the beta for SW:TOR for months before its release. We all saw how things were, hoping against hope that they would get fixed. We trudged onward, seeking the core of what just HAD to be a good game. Finally, after months they released this patch.......and we found it...shriveled and alone in a corner. Much like a rotten bowl of fruit left on the counter while you went on vacation, there were recognizable bits that still looked good, but the rest was so rotten that it wasn't worth trying to salvage.

Okay, so now that I've painted a picture of how I FEEL about SW:TOR here's the facts.

If the game had launched with all the features from 1.2 and possibly those features that they left out of 1.2 stating that they will come with future patches, then SW:TOR would probably have held mine and my friends interests. The fact of the matter is that we spent alot of our time and money trying out what we all felt was a "PAID BETA" experience. Everything they've added should have been in the game at launch. Five months after launch adding core mechanics such as the Legacy system means that if you happened to roll alts after running out of endgame content to do, you probably created them with fewer options than what is available now. Also that alt you rolled received none of the benefits of already having a level 50.

The biggest issue I saw for those of us that rushed to the endgame to experience all the level 50 content was that it was mostly broken. This state persisted for months too, not just the first few weeks as they would expect to tweak for the influx of people, but literally broken. We never got to test endgame well in beta. I think I was one of maybe two or three who banded together with another guild in beta to run endgame maybe once or twice. What we tried was the easiest modes, with the least risks. We didn't have time in the beta to gear up properly to attempt the harder difficulties, even if we had the easiest content had proven to be broken enough to prevent us from clearing bosses.

So it all comes down to this question, Did SW:TOR fail?

Probably not, but it failed to keep me and my friends interested while they fixed their shit. The game isn't BAD, it just wasn't good enough to make me want to spend hours a day grinding dailies and leveling alts while I waited for them to fix all the issues we had with endgame itemization and content.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

SW:TOR the first month.....

So we've reached the first month of live gameplay.

The time when the free month for most subscribers runs out.

This is a tipping point for most games to see how well they are doing. Do they get enough subscribers to keep the game going, or do they slowly scale back their investment to eventually kill the project.

While I know some people who are not subscribing, I honestly can't say if they are reflective of the whole community. Some of the people I play with are quite demanding and get a little whiny when things don't go their way. If things don't meet their expectations you can expect rants, posts about quitting, yelling at devs for their failures, and so on.

I find this frustration and anger misplaced.

The expectations for this game were imposed by the community, not by the devs. The devs knew that this wasn't going to replace games like Warcraft in the community. It was only meant to be their form of the MMO. It has similar functions: Leveling, questing, PVP, PVE, Raid content, and alot of crafting.

This doesn't mean it's supposed to copy it. They took what they thought worked and polished it with bioware flairs. To a great extent this was achieved. The leveling process from 1-50 is good. The story is engaging, the classes interesting, and the loot cool to play around with.

Where most people seem to start getting frustrated is the end game content. The level 50 raids, pvp, and crafting.

The itemization is probably the biggest downfall of the raiding at the moment. I'll forgive technical glitches, and issues with mechanics acting improperly. My issue and the same for alot of people is, the progression of gear based on difficulty isn't linear.

In games like warcraft each level of gear is received for completing harder content than before. In the current endgame you can receive items sometimes 1 or 2 times higher in quality than the current content you completed. This is random and happens often enough that gear levels are bleeding into each other.

There are 3 difficulties for SW:TOR endgame. Normal, Hard, Nightmare.

Normal should give entry level endgame gear with the kinds of stats that would make you a well rounded character for your chosen role. Unfortunately its giving gear at random times from the next tier up, making you far more powerful that you should be.

Hard is giving the second tier of gear, but also randomly the highest level of gear which would normally come from nightmare. This is the crux of the issue. Why would anyone do nightmare? If they can complete their full set with some LUCK rather than actual effort involved?

Nightmare was poorly tuned and mathematically impossible for the first month. The final encounters had situations where no matter how well geared you were not going to finish it.

If these examples weren't bad enough, the PVP in this game offers gear of a competitive value to hard mode gear. Making the first tier of gear irrelevant.

Without forcing people to gear up in a linear fashion, half of the content in the game is being skipped. (This is especially true up until the last patch of 1.1, which now they've made some chages to PVP, slowing the gear grind down a bit. so you can't get a full set of gear as quickly as before, this introduced new mechanics for valor ranks though which were heavily exploited and bioware has stated will now be actionable if continued.)


So for the TLDR crowd.

There are issues with the game. People are frustrated with them.

My opinion though hasn't really changed. The game is good.

What's happened is that people who rushed to the level 50 content are finding it not quite as polished as it could be, and are complaining about it. Rightfully there are some issues to be brought up, but for some they take it almost personally and are rashly quitting because of it.

I for one don't plan on going anywhere. I enjoy the game, and plan to level several characters.

This is Karayne from Body Type Four on the "Wound in the force" Server. Assassin tank extraordinaire!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

So the game is out....

You may have noticed a gap in posts.

Mainly because I've been actually playing Star Wars: The Old Republic during the beta, but also now because its been released.

I've already leveled one character to 50 on the Imperial side. I plan on at least one more character to 50, but not at the pace I did during the early access before the game launched. I've already geared up my character to the point where we should be able to run the first raid this evening in fact. We have a tentative time today were supposed to see if we have 8 people all geared up and ready to go. (I have some doubts, but we'll see where we are.)

The game for about 95% of it is perfect. There are still bugs.

This is what sets a game apart from other mmo's is just how well they handle these bugs. So far the ones I saw in beta haven't repeated themselves, all except one. The User interface has a consistent bug where it stops updating. By this I mean, /who /guild, and sometimes for healers even health pools in raid frames. So it can be hard to tell who's online, and what health a person has in pvp or pve content.

Aside from these, the game is still crap tons of fun. Lots of content to explore, kill, and loot.

And that whole "Story" thing is actually interesting on almost all the characters. Sometimes it can be a bit repetitive or cliche but hey its star wars. Who didn't expect a little cliche by now?


So, I was saying 95% perfect? Lets say this applies to the game itself. Not to the website that handles all the account information, which has been pummeled and overloaded since early access. It has gotten so bad that you now have to sit in a waiting room queue just to update your personal information and credit cards so you can even log into the game once the grace period has ended. So yeah, game 95%, website a weak 70% at best.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RIP: Anne McCaffrey

I just read the news that Hugo winner and Science Fiction Hall of Fame inductee Anne McCaffrey died yesterday. Anne created one of my favorite worlds and spawned my own career in fan fic writing. During the course of running my Play by Email Pern role playing game, I actually struck up an email conversation with the Dragonlady herself – an acquaintance will I treasure always. She was sweet and generous and happy to share her wonderful creations.

Thank you, Annie. You will be missed. Your gold dragon has gone *between*.

Monday, November 21, 2011



I haven't been posting at all the last two weeks. Mainly because I've been so distracted playing the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta. I haven't even bothered to tell you such, mainly since I was under an NDA and there wouldn't have been much I could actually say without getting myself in trouble.

NDA Lifted on Friday the 18th. I'm now able to share my experiences.

I leveled a Jedi Consular-Shadow to 50 in the last 2 weeks. I've tried tanking and both DPS specs.

I love the balance tree for pvp and general questing. Tanking is fairly easy, but the difference in mitigation from one spec to another is drastic. I switched to a DPS spec at 50 to try different things and immediately walked into a group of enemies just as I would have before. I got destroyed. Tanking had given me this sense of toughness that you just don't have as a DPS spec.

I've also been playing with DarthHater crew during the beta. I've also been streaming content for them on their livestream account over the weekend. Good people, if there hadn't been some pretty major bugs that we've had to overcome we'd have a full raid of 50's and be testing endgame content, but as it stands we've had to refocus and try other content to show on the livestreams.