Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

What I’ve Been Doing

Posted by Stropp on December 10, 2013

It’s been a while, so I thought I might let you guys know what I’ve been up to.

Aside from working, busy there, I’ve been getting a little gaming time in over the last few months.

Minecraft

I have pretty much cooled off on this one. Still occasionally get the urge to play but it doesn’t last long once I’ve logged in.

Terraria

I’ve been playing more Terraria than anything else. Mostly just digging and exploring and getting nuked by the imps once I’ve reached the Hell layer. I probably need to set a few goals to gear up before those layers.

Neverwinter

I’ve done a little bit of Neverwinter. I have run into a snag with one of my characters by having completed all the quests up to level 15/16 by level 14 and now can’t effectively beat the L16 bosses in a quest. And I’m not sure how to level without just grinding.

It doesn’t really capture me either. It just feels too linear.

World of Warcraft

I resubbed to WoW the other day, just out of boredom, and from reading Wilhelm Arcturus’ account of his return to Warcraft. I started the patching process and got to playing but ran into driver problems. After updating the video drivers I found WoW started crashing my ADSL, probably due to the updating process. It crashed when updating when not playing, and also while playing.

I’ve had this happen once or twice before with other games updating or downloading, but with WoW it seems a lot more persistent.

I’m thinking seriously of a new computer, mine is six years old and no longer effectively plays newer games. (Bioshock Infinite crawls like a snail.) I’ll probably update the modem at the same time.

Steam Games

I’ve spent a little on Steam sales over the last few months too. Bought a few early access games: Godus, some of the Zombie survival ones, and some others. The good ones seemed to also require a better PC, some didn’t catch my attention, and others were perhaps too early access for me. Those look like they’ll be good but not yet.

Wizardry Online

I started Wizardry Online when it first came out. Didn’t really care much for it back then, but I was curious to see if it had improved.

Nope.

The worst thing was the slow typing quest text. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been little of it, but it went on, and on, and on. So much so that the devs had a in-game joke with one character repeatedly interrupting for more text. Ugh.

It’s also very very empty.

Other

Other than that, I’ve been doing a little reading. Slowly getting through A Dance With Dragons. About a third to go. It was hard getting into this one, but I’m hooked now and progressing faster. I like that some of the earlier characters are getting some time again. I was feeling like I missed Arry. Tyrion just keeps getting in deeper and deeper. But no expectations. Red Wedding anyone?

It’s been a tough year business wise. Really hard getting new clients. It feels at times nothing is working, but now it appears some of my efforts are paying off. I spent $4K on a marketing program for tech businesses which has been brilliant and I feel like things are happening because of it. Still just got to keep at it. And looking forward to the Christmas break. I’ll still be available for work but I might leave the alarm off in the morning.

As I mentioned, I’m strongly considering a new PC. I just have to decide if the budget will cope with it, and how much to spend. The place I’ll be buying from has a number of models, but I’m deciding between a hex core with 16GB RAM and a hex core with 32GB. Frankly the 32 is very tempting, but budget might dictate the 16Meg instead. And of course, if I want 32 later it’s just an upgrade (maybe just a couple of extra sticks.)

Anyway, enjoy your holiday break and always remember: Winter is coming.

 

Blizzard’s New Looking For Spook Tool

Posted by Stropp on December 10, 2013

It really comes as no surprise to read that the NSA has been infiltrating online games looking for information and to recruit ‘agents.’ Spy agencies have been going where people hang out for decades in order to reach their recruiting goals. It’s just that a recent Snowden revelation has exposed the truth that everyone has known for ages, or at least suspected: that spy agencies have been recruiting through World of Warcraft.

Still, I wonder if Blizzard could help them out a little. Be patriotic and all that.

With the upcoming expansion, good ol’ Blizz have been fiddling with the looking for group tool again, to make it easier for group leaders to filter out players they don’t want.

Could they include a “Looking For Spook” option and give the NSA players the ability to filter on people willing to spy on other players?

But on the other hand, I wonder how the NSA folks have the time to spy and recruit anyway, what with all the raiding going on.

Side Effects

Posted by Stropp on October 8, 2011

If you read Tobold’s blog you would have seen a post a few days ago where he lamented the loss of his Facebook account. It’s in Facebook’s terms of service that the name you use must be ‘real.’ And by real, I guess that means the one on your birth certificate.

(I wonder when Stephen King will have his account banned.)

Today, Tobold posts about one of the consequences of that banning. He used Facebook Connect to add some social functionality to Castle Empires Online (aka The Settlers Online.) This linked the game to his Facebook account via an app, and now he cannot access that game until he removes the app. Of course he cannot remove the app because he can’t log in to that Facebook account.

No Castle Empires Online for you. Catch 22. That’s some catch, that Catch 22. It’s the best there is.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve recently noticed a number of blogs sporting a comment section that is basically a Facebook widget that requires a guest to login to their Facebook account in order to comment.

Aside from the questionable practice of forcing someone who may not want to have a FB account to have one to comment, or to have every comment they make replicated in their FB feed, the bigger issue to me is the loss of control the blog owner is giving to Facebook. No longer does the blog own the comments, they are now Facebook property. And if Facebook decides for one reason or another to ban that blog, well, what happens to all those comments?

This Tobold Facebook banning has brought another issue to mind.

Blizzard now has a policy of linking their various games together in the same account. Your World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, and soon Diablo 3 games will all be linked together, if you use the same Battlenet account.

Now what happens if in one of those games you do something against the terms of service and get yourself an account ban. Do you lose access to every Blizzard game linked to that account?

And hey, it might not even be you doing the dirty deed. Account hacks are not unknown, and folks have been banned temporarily on that basis. So your WoW account is hacked, and Blizzard shuts you down for two weeks while it investigates. And during this time you don’t have access to SG2, or D3 to fill the gaming gap. Nice.

That’s why it’s been my policy for some time to not do things like use Facebook Connect. If a game offers an update service such as tweeting achievements, fine. You can turn those off in game. But a game should never be disabled by the failure of an optional third party service. That is unacceptable.

This is also why I create a separate Battlenet account for each of my Blizzard games. I have used different emails for both WoW and SC2, and I’ll be creating a new email address for Diablo 3 when I buy that.

The world is rushing headlong towards a completely connected state where everything is linked. Don’t get me wrong, this can be very useful and save time by simplifying online life, but the problem here is if one link fails, does it bring down the rest?

Is anyone considering the side effects, or building in redundancy?

The Lie Of Innovation

Posted by Stropp on July 20, 2011

Innovation is one of the buzzwords we read about all the time, especially in regards to computer games. There is a general idea that in order to keep a game or genre interesting, then we need something new and innovative to generate that interest.

How often do you see development studios touting that their game has a bunch of innovative features that will make it the best thing since sliced bread?

But the concept that developers need to continue to innovate in order to keep the fun factor is a lie.

  • Aside from Star Trek chess, how much innovation has the game of chess undergone in the last x thousand years since its invention? How many millions play it?
  • Cop TV shows, doctor TV shows, lawyer TV shows. Aside from cinematographic changes (Dragnet vs NYPD Blue vs CSI) the basic format of these shows haven’t changed since the first. They don’t make these if noone watches them.
  • Monopoly the board game. No change there except for different cities. It still sells pretty well.

Blizzard didn’t innovate very much at all with WoW. They took a bunch of mechanics from existing MMORPGs, made some improvements and a ton of polish. World of Warcrafts success was entirely due to the fact that the game was fun and easy to get into. How many million subscribers still play WoW?

Rift is not much of a change from WoW. There are some new features, the Rift mechanic in particular, but I find it hard to call that innovative. But Rift is fun to play, and easy to get into. And it is successful, perhaps the most successful MMORPG since WoW was released.

It’s pretty clear that innovation isn’t the key to the MMORPG genre.

Give people a fun, easy to play game with a decent level of polish and you will be successful.

If You Buy WoW Gold You Are Supporting Slavery

Posted by Stropp on May 26, 2011

Chinese Prisoners Forced To Farm WoW Gold

I wonder how much longer that game developers like Blizzard, and gold buyers, are going to keep supporting slavery.

To be fair, Blizzard are one of the companies that do a lot to ban gold farmers and sellers, but sometimes I wonder exactly how much they really care about gold sellers. After all, each time a gold seller is banned, they simply open a new account. Often using a stolen credit card. It works in their favor.

It’s kind of like the relationship that governments have with tobacco companies. The gov pass laws to ban smoking in public places, they ban ciggy advertising, and make it hard for the tobacco companies to operate. But they never come right out and ban cigarettes because they make a huge amount of tax revenue on the sale of cigarettes. The revenue gained outweighs the cost to the health system.

I figure it’s the same with Blizzard. There are costs to allowing the gold sellers to operate; annoyed subscribers, customer service calls, and hacked and plundered accounts. But the benefit is a continual positive cash flow from banned farmers and sellers. The revenue gained outweighs the cost to the playerbase.

If Blizzard were serious about dealing with gold farmers they could do a number of easy things, including.

  • Remove the ability to send gold by mail. Instead provide an option to transfer between characters on a single account. Or perhaps just let each character gain its own gold. After all WoW is technically a Role Playing Game.
  • Ban players who buy gold. Full Stop. Most players would never contemplate risking their account if they knew Blizzard would ban them. There would be some difficulties with this simply because of false positives, but the first step would be to ban the most obvious gold buyers.
  • Disallow the transfer of gold between players; perhaps make gold BoP, and only allow transfer via the auction house and cap buy it now amounts to some multiple of the average price for the item being traded.

So do you support slavery?

If you buy gold, you are.

Yet Another WoW Scam – Return To Azeroth With 7 Days Free

Posted by Stropp on April 20, 2011

Warning Will Robinson, Danger Approaching!

You might have received an email from Blizzard this morning. It has a big WoWish image promising 7 days free game time if you return to WoW by clicking on the big button. This is what it looks like, at least what the top half looks like.

This scam is capitalising on the recent free game time offers made by companies like SOE for Everquest and Everquest 2. However the link doesn’t go to Blizzard, but to some .net address I won’t repeat here.

As always, if you get an email like this, no matter how convincing do not use the link, even if it looks legitimate. There are many ways to make a link look real. Instead type the address into your browser manually.

Also be aware that companies like Blizzard and SOE know about these scams and do not usually require the player to do anything to claim the free time. Instead any free time is automatically credited and available to the player logging in to the game.

In Defence Of Themepark MMORPGs

Posted by Stropp on April 11, 2011

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… oh wait. Let me begin again. A long time ago, early in my gaming career, I bought a little game called Warcraft 2. It was my first Real Time Strategy game. I played through both campaigns, then went out and bought the expansion pack. After that I looked around for other RTS games, and over time found and played Command and Conquer, Red Alert, Starcraft, and other several other RTSes. I simply loved the whole resource gathering, base building gameplay style. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Then one day I went out and bought another Real Time Strategy game, I can’t remember what it was called, but it thoroughly disgusted me. There was no resource gathering. There was no base building. The player was provided with a fixed number of units and had to complete the mission with just those. I didn’t complete the first mission. I felt conned because I didn’t get what I expected to get.

All of a sudden, there were heaps of these kinds of games on the market, and they were replacing the old-style RTS. At least it seemed that way. The commentators were proclaiming that these games improved the RTS concept by getting rid of the resource gathering design. I didn’t feel that way. In my mind, these games weren’t Real Time Strategy games because they lacked the basic functionality. Namely, resource gathering and base building.

Now I see it a little differently.

These two styles of RTS are completely different. The only real similarity between them is that the player controls units on a map and sends them against an opponent. But the basic style is that of a strategy game, and since the action occurs in ‘real time’ rather than turn based, it’s appropriate to consider both styles as sub-genres of Real Time Strategy.

So these days when I hear criticism that the MMORPG genre is stagnant and how games like Rift aren’t different enough from WoW I find myself wondering if many of these commentators aren’t missing a fundamental point.

 

Games like World of Warcraft, Rift, Everquest 2, Aion, and others that many disparagingly refer to as ‘Theme Parks’ are a single variety of MMORPG. Others like Eve, Perpetuum, and Darkfall fall into a second variety of MMORPG, mostly refered to as ‘Sandbox’ games. Simply put, the MMORPG genre has at least two sub-genres: themepark and sandbox.

Some players will prefer one type of game over another. Just as I prefered base building resource gathering RTSes and couldn’t stand the other kind, (I even hated those types of missions in WarcraftC&CRed Alert) there will be people who prefer themepark over sandbox, or vice versa. Some players will enjoy both styles of gameplay. However, most people will prefer one over the other, even if they enjoy both.

To state that Rift doesn’t change the style of gameplay that was developed in WoW sufficiently enough and then complain about it, is akin to complaining that Starcraft is not sufficiently different from Command and Conquer. Both games are themepark style MMOs with no real sandbox elements, to get upset about that doesn’t make sense. What is being suggested, by these complaints, is that developers should not be making new themepark games.

The simple fact of the matter is that Rift, Aion, and World of Warcraft all implement a style of game that people want to play. Complaining about it doesn’t change that fact that if a themepark MMORPG is made and doesn’t botch up the launch, then people will want to play it. It also appears that more people want to play a themepark MMO, than a sandbox MMO.

Unfortunately, big companies are only interested in developing MMORPGs that will provide a decent return on investment. Coupled with the huge investment required to develop a AAA MMORPG, these companies are only willing to invest in gameplay styles proven to generate that ROI. That means, for the foreseeable future, the predominant development of MMORPGs will be of the Themepark variety.

So when someone complains that Rift is too much like WoW (for example) they are simply saying that they would have prefered the developer create their MMORPG under a different sub-genre. That’s like suggesting that “When Harry Met Sally” should have been a wartime action movie, rather than a romantic comedy. (Although, I suggest any romantic comedy would be better as any other type of movie genre!)

Tell me what you think.

Time To Be Careful, Again.

Posted by Stropp on December 20, 2010

I just wanted to do a little public service announcement.

I’ve been seeing a huge rise in the amount of email phishing for my World of Warcraft account lately. I figure it is because of the renewed interest in the game because of Cataclysm. With thousands, dare I say millions, of new players and many old players resubscribing it must be like phish in a barrel season for the email scammers.

The scary thing is that a lot of these emails are getting very sophisticated and seem to be the real thing. They tell you someone has accessed your account (plausible), and use link anchor text to disguise the real destination of the link so that it looks like Blizzard is sending the email. Hover over the link however, and you’ll see the real destination in the status bar. This is usually some long combination of words like blizzard-account-security-something-something.net (or the like) that will take you to a website that will install a keylogger on your system to steal your password.

As always there are a few things you can do.

  1. Never click on links in an email. This is the biggie and most important tip. Not doing this will prevent most security breaches. If you’re a World of Warcraft subscriber you already know the address, just type it in to the address bar on your browser.
  2. Get the authenticator. That adds another layer of security to the login process, and it’s a layer that cannot be intercepted by a keylogger for any useful purpose.
  3. Use a secure browser. That means, DO NOT use Internet Explorer. At least don’t use any version prior to and including version 8. I’ve heard version 9 is a complete revamp and addresses security better, so it may be okay. I use Firefox mostly, but am moving more and more towards Google’s Chrome browser as it has some decent site malware detection built in. I’ve been warned off a few sites by Chrome now. Very good.
  4. Never give your password to anyone. That way anyone can not give your password to anyone else. I’ve heard a few stories where guy gives little brother access to WoW and a few days later finds the account cleared after little brother gave the password to a guildie. It’s in Blizzard’s terms of service too.

Just a final note.

The funny thing about this latest influx of phishing emails is the email address to which they are directed. For a long long time it was easy to discount an email because it was directed at my Stropp’ s World email address, and that is not the address I use for the account. The username I used to use for my WoW account was odd too and wasn’t guessable from any ingame characters. But since Blizzard has forced all WoW subscribers to use Battle.net and the username for that is my email address, I’ve been getting phishing emails to that account.

Anyway, just follow the tips and you should be okay.

Show Me The Players!

Posted by Stropp on October 20, 2010

There’s a hole bigger than the one Tom Cruise put in Oprah’s couch, in the MMORPG playerbase.

Last post, I suggested that World of Warcraft might be able to achieve greater than 20 million subscribers after Cataclysm releases because many former players will resubscribe simply to see the changes to much of the low level content throughout Azeroth. While I still believe that, I find myself wondering where all those old subscribers are hiding.

World of Warcraft has been out for nearly six years now, and WoW will be six years by the time Cataclysm releases. Yet despite the games growth, far more players have left World of Warcraft than have stayed. If you consider that there is a constant churn of players coming and going, then a best guess could put the number of former World of Warcraft players at more than 20 million, and that could be just the Western players.

I have no hard figures here, while Blizzard let us know the peaks of their subscriber numbers, we don’t know the actual churn rate. The actual number of former subscribers could be lower, or much higher.

So where are they?

I used to believe that despite World of Warcrafts perceived flaws, that it was a great gateway game for the MMORPG genre. When a player started to want more than WoW had to offer, then they would go out and find a game more suitable for their needs. I used to think that when a player got sick of WoW, they’d go out and pick up another MMORPG and give that a try.

That does not seem to have happened as much as the numbers suggest it should have. There are a few reasons why this could be the case.

  • WoW has less actual subscribers than we are lead to believe.
  • The churn rate is much lower than expected. Players that start the game stay with it for years, but not many new players are coming in.
  • The World of Warcraft experience is so offputting, players give up on MMORPGs entirely.
  • Players are just trying out MMORPGs starting with WoW and aren’t hooked enough to keep going with the genre. If box sales add to the subscriber numbers, then players leaving after the free month might account for this part of the churn.
  • Players may have liked WoW, but don’t want to invest the same amount of time in a new MMOG.

To be honest, none of these reasons is a satisfying explanation for the missing MMORPG player conundrum.

We do have sales figures from retail chains showing that box sales of WoW are continuing, hence new players are coming into the game. Coupled with the relatively static subscriber numbers, and Blizzard really doesn’t have much of a reason to lie about these numbers. The conclusion is that the churn rate is also consistent and that Blizzard has a very large number of ex-subscribers.

And WoW is popular, despite it not being everyones cup of tea, it’s been a remarkably successful game for a long time. That kinda indicates that the experience is enjoyable for a lot of players. These players should then be open to a new game, at least a reasonable percentage should be. That also applies to players that are unsure about the time commitment for a new game, many should overcome that and get into other MMOGs. Yet we don’t seem to be seeing that.

The only explanation that hold any weight is that a lot of players are just giving the game a try and don’t get past the first month. Blizzard in the past has said that a lot of players never make it past level 10, and these are probably the trial/free month players. Of course that means that Blizzard has to count a trial download, or a box sale as a subscriber for their figures, and they might do that for shareholder reporting. But is this enough to distort the churn rate enough to hide all ex-subscribers? I’m not sure it does.

So where have all the players gone?

What do you think has happened here?

Could World Of Warcraft Hit 20 Million?

Posted by Stropp on October 8, 2010

World of Warcraft, according to some articles popping up around the web, has just hit 12 million subscribers.

This is after sitting on 11.5 million subs for quite a while. It seems that the announcement of the Cataclysm expansion release date has spurred some players into reactivating old accounts in order to get started. That’s to be expected.

Still, I’m wondering what Cataclysm is going to do to WoWs subscriber count. That 11.5 million isn’t the same 11.5 million players that have been playing all along. There’s a lot of attrition in a MMORPG. And since Cataclysm is promising a radical change to the original zones, it’s entirely possible a very large number of former players will resubscribe.

Could we see World of Warcraft hit 20+ million subscribers the months after Cataclysms release?

On related news, I received an eMail from Blizzard late last night (early this morning.) It appears someone tried to log into my WoW account from a different IP and Blizzard locked the account. It’s kind of an interesting situation because I unsubscribed some time ago and haven’t been near it since then. It’s definitely odd since I’m wondering how anyone could get my account/login details if I haven’t actually logged into my account for months.

Anyhow, I logged in to the BattleNet account to verify the situation and changed the password.

Though, I’m yet to decide if I want to go to the trouble of getting the account unlocked as I’m highly unlikely to be one of those returning subscribers I mentioned above. Cataclysm doesn’t hold any appeal for me, and with my limited time I’d rather play other games.

I think I’m done with WoW.

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