Alts and the Way Forward

Alts.  The primary purpose of an alt is to provide a different experience due to the limitations of the primary character.   This is extremely applicable to class-based and level-based games, as the experience of a level 10 monk is much different than a level 40 wizard.  Skill-based games are a little different, depending on how they apply their cap.  Ultima Online for example, only allowed you to max out a subset of skills, while EvE allows to you max everything, if you play for 10 years.  People still end up specializing in skill-based games.  There are other reasons to play an alt, but these are really the most common ones.

The kink in this thought is the concept of an avatar, or a player representative rather than a character representative.  In 99% of games this is your game account, where you gain access through the character selection screen.  FF14 is the clear outlier, where a single character can complete all the content – alts are used for either cosmetic reasons (race/sex) or to play on a separate server.  All the game share a similar vein, where content is gated.  The warrior in WoW is generally separate from the Cleric – aside from pets, mounts and achievements.  FF14’s levels keep content separated, but quest progress is shared across the various jobs.  I’ll pick 5 games here to see where the similarities and differences lie.


After reading a bit more on the 6.2 dev Q+A for WoW had my thinking wheels going for a spin.  First though, I certainly can appreciate the candor in the responses.  Aside from the raiding progress, it’s fairly clear that the entire expansion had some serious core issues that were not addressed until 6.2.  (That certainly begs the question as to what they actually did for the 20 months between SoO and 6.2).  The second thing I noticed is how alts are mentioned as being the sort of evidence of many of these issues.  Rep grinding, garrisons, dungeons, professions and gold making are all linked in some form to alts.

Most telling is that using alts solely to farm gold (essentially just a 5 minute log on/off, and a weekly craft) is pretty clear that there are core issues with the content.  It means that the content available is of such poor quality that no one bothers to do it again, and that it has no relevance to the playerbase.

Rep grinding only being available from killing enemies is clearly a bad move.  It takes a long time to get through that and it’s eye-bleedingly boring.  6.2 addresses that.  So did the MoP rep commendations.

Garrisons were designed to be self-contained, in that you could level a character to 100 without stepping outside your gates (I did something quite like this with my Rogue).  Aside from companions and unlocking expansions to the garrison, there was no need to leave.  You could fully level and gear a player through the missions.  And supplement your main character with tons of gold from those missions.  I was making 500g per day in 5 minutes, with weekly spikes due to cooldowns.

Dungeons provided zero incentive to run outside of the story progress.  All the gear was supplanted by LFR or garrisons.

Professions were gated behind daily/weekly cooldowns, and could be done entirely in the garrison.  You’d complete as much in 1 minute as you would in an hour.


While there are more links between the characters in Wildstar (pets, mounts, linked housing) there’s still an issue with alt progression.  Unlocking raiding is still gated on a character basis, rather than a player basis.  Reputation grinds are there, locked behind daily quests that do not get faster with alts and gate items needed to do top end activities.  I do hear tell that both of the items are being changed for the F2P conversion though, so there’s some light at the end of that tunnel.

Crafting has cross-dependencies, more than most games, but still not terribly relevant once you get to veteran dungeons.

Ultima Online

Ok, I’ll admit I’m stretching back in time here as I haven’t been active in 10 years.  I did play (very) actively for a long time though, and made a habit of selling 7x GMs on ebay.  A typical account would have a miner/armorer/weaponsmith, a mage hunter, a tank, a treasure hunter and a house crafter.  Each filled a particular niche of the game, and each had dependencies on the others.  Due to the quick ramp up time of each skill, it was a relative simple matter to swap between characters at any given time.  And since there were no levels or content gates, a brand new character had access to the exact same content as 7x GM.  Their ability to excel at that content differed mind you, with is something EvE has in common here.


Rift is an outlier as it’s the mid-way point between distinct classes and distinct characters.  There are only 4 classes in the game, and each class can play each role (tank, heal, DPS, support) to relatively similar degrees.  It is certainly a different experience skill-wise to play a Rogue versus a Mage, but they still fill the same role, which is not the case in most other games. Most other games let you play 2 roles (DPS+other) for all the characters.  Crafting is different though, as you’re limited in which skills you can pick up.  There are few cross-dependencies though, so there’s little boosting of a primary character.  Planar attunement is even shared across all characters, which is a great incentive to play others characters.


This game shakes up the status quo and yet, maintains portions of it.  Content is gates through 2 mechanisms, level and progress through the main quest.  You only have to do the latter once and then it’s available for any other job on your character, assuming you have the job level to do it.  So my 51 White Mage has unlocked (most) everything before Heavensward, but my level 30 Dragon Knight can only access content available for characters 30 and below.

In an interesting twist, there’s a benefit to leveling multiple jobs through cross-class skills.  If my WM where to level a Black Mage to 26, he’d gain access to a skill that makes anything instant cast (like resurrection).  Crafting is similar, where there are clear benefits to raising everything to at least 15 to gain access to a host of skills that improve quality and future progress.  In fact, most crafting skills have a dependency on others, so either you have a really diverse guild, or you need to step up with your own materials.

Does an alt provide a benefit to the primary character?  Certainly.  But nearly all the content consumed by that alt is relevant to the player more so than the character.  All the jobs benefit more than the single one being pushed through.  And that’s a rather significant design shift compared to the rest of the market.

If you do have a “true” alt, in that I mean a separate character, then you’re in the same bucket as other MMOs.  It’s like you were a different person altogether, which is highly discouraged.

Sharing Alts

I would hazard to say that the shift away from distinct alts to shared alts is going to get more pronounced as games mature and come to market.  Or at least the game play would move away from a specific character and move to the actual player.  While level-based games will always provide some sort of gate to content, the majority of the game should be open to all alts once unlocked on a single character.  Having to “prove” yourself again and again makes little sense, outside of arbitrary padding to game content.

How Long Should a Content Patch Last

Tobold is a fixture on my RSS feed.  Sure, he feeds the trolls as much as anything but when you’re posting nearly twice a day, you can’t bat 100.  (Quick aside, his D&D posts I find the most interesting).  A recent post about hitting a milestone in WoW got me thinking.  He’s done everything required to get a flying mount to work in WoD, then realized the actual function won’t be available until a later patch.

For those in the dark, WoW disabled all flying in WoD but left the door open for a later option. Then closed that door a few weeks ago.  Then opened it again, with what is basically an attunement step.  The basic gist of that attunement is that you have to complete most of the solo-player achievements (exploration, reputation, treasures, etc…)  Given the complete lack of any material for solo-players since launch, I would think that nearly everyone playing today had 90% of that done, with the exception of the 6.2 Tanaan Jungle content.  That patch came out last week and required a reputation “grind” and a couple rare bosses to kill.  Well, Tobold did all of that in about a week and aside from a toe-dip into LFR, he’s never really been a fan of raiding.  So, more or less he’s completed the major milestones for the patch.  In a week.

I think even he would agree that he took that content at an accelerated pace, acting as a sort of content locust.  At the same time, you have to wonder what’s going on at Blizzard when people have “finished” months of work in a week.  Is there some sort of formula the devs use when making new content?  Some sort of line in the sand that says “this should take them at least 3 weeks to get through”?  I may not like artificial gating but I can sure as hell understand it from a dev perspective.  Daily/weekly caps, reputation grinds, drop rates & RNG… they all prolong content artificially but they also have the side effect of keeping the population active.  Which is sort of important in an MMO, no?

I’m not so much against quickly run content, there are plenty of games that offer DLC that lasts about 2 hours.  MMOs feel like they deserve more though, or at least a bit more thought.  I’d like to think Wildstar’s patches were well thought out, with content that was group and solo-based, with artificial gates around them (usually a form of reputation).  FF14 is certainly the shining example here, with classes and housing included in patches, at at a decent pace too.  SWTOR isn’t too far behind either.  Then there’s EvE, the content king.

I guess it’s a good thing that there are so many MMO options out there.  Not only can you find one that fits your basic tastes but likely in the case of a tie, you can pick the dev that provides content at an appreciable pace/length to boot.

The Problem with Mods

To start the argument, one of the largest games on the planet (League of Legends) owes its ENTIRE EXISTENCE to mods.  DOTA was a mod for Warcraft 3 and birthed a genre.  Counterstrike is probably the most known about mod and still played professionally – now with scandals!  WoW wouldn’t work without mods and over the years, the most popular have been integrated into the core UI.  And the FPS wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the Doom mods.

So, mods have been here for ages.  They have been free, for the wide majority.  The most popular have been worked on my dozens of people over the years, with it either being based on passion or as a sort of internship for an actual career.  There have always been donations as an option but nearly all of them have avoided the direct money transfer.  The main reason?  EULA.

Who Owns It

See, a mod is using a registered IP, which is owned by a company, who makes money off said game.  They tolerate mods as it keeps the game relevant and can greatly extend sales for minimal effort.  Some games are more restrictive on mods, since it impacts the experience.  If someone were to ask for payment for a mod, using someone else’s IP, then they would be in breach of contract (WoW’s glider mod is a famous example).  It gets even worse when a mod uses another set of mods and asks for money.  You eventually turn into a variant of a pyramid payment system.

A rather simple analogy is sampling in the music industry.  There was a precedent set this year that is going go spiral into all digital media at some point.  Using someone else’s material for your own gain, in part or in whole, is theft.  So you’re stuck with 2 options.  Either you do it for free, or you pay the company who owns the IP.  Option 1 is what we’ve seen for nearly 30 years.  Modding is getting more and more complex (as the games are) and there surely be someway to compensate a quality modder.

Mod Sales

While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Valve’s implementation of mod sales was flawed, the intent was solid.  Find a way for modders to get some money from their work, in a legitimate fashion.  The problems though, are quite similar to the app store for iOS and Android – quality and quantity.

Both of these systems use a curator model, where applications are tested/vetted and then put on sale.  That requires some overhead and time, naturally.  It also ends up filtering the junk, well some of the junk at least.  User ratings and black magic put games to the top of the list and there’s a search tool to help as well.  You can’t really say market forces are at play here, since Apple and Android hold all the rules.  If you have a complaint about copyright infringement, you can ask for some help.  Well, unless you’re talking about Zynga or EA….

To top it off, if a dev is paying a cut to someone else, that someone else has to earn that money. There’s a tiny drop of difference between the Steam Workshop and the Steam main page, so what exactly were modders paying Steam and Bethesda for?

Valve has never been very good at curating, they’ve always let the players decide on what’s valid.  Greenlight is an example of what works and doesn’t work in that regard.  I don’t think it’s even part of their psyche or business values to judge games on merit.  That conflict is the main reason they disabled mod sales, the water got too deep and too murky for their comfort level.

What Now

Solid question.  Mods are back to being free with donate buttons.  Bethesda and Valve are going back to the drawing board.  My gut would say that a new mechanism around donating (or having an optional price when downloading a mod) would be the next step.  Many modders put in hundreds of hours and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to get some compensation for their efforts.  After all, they are the main source of new game ideas…

Paying for Beta

I responded to Azuriel’s post about the recent updates in the online gaming world, taking issue with the paid beta aspect.  Actually, I’ve posted on a few spots about it.

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to beta test nearly every large online game since UO.  I had a “beta tester resume” for a long time.  For the longest time, it really was like being a beta tester.  You’d log in, do what you needed to do and send reports in.  There’d be a log on the forums about all the bugs and their status.  The reason they invited other people was that not everyone is practical and straightforward.  This was before “meta gaming” was a thing mind you, so internal test cases usually only focused on the “happy path”.  Beta testers were there to test everything else.  Like, what if I try levitating and walking across the ocean to fish.  Or finding a unique corner in a house where you could loot the neighbor.

Suffice to say, it was actual testing and there was noticeable progress until release of the game.  So when you actually were at launch, the majority of the issues were due to scaling, and only a few core bugs remained.

I remember beta testing WoW vanilla.  Even 3 months before launch, the game underwent a fair chunk of changes but nearly all of it was related to bug reports.  I filed a TON of reports on that game and only a couple remained at launch.  For those who were there, the game was highly polished but the servers took a break for 3 months.

It’s also important to note that it was at this point that I wrote guide for games, for profit.  I had written a lot before hand, FFXI in particular, but this was a turning point.

The Shift

I did the beta for most major MMOs from that point forward but the turning point for me is Star Trek Online.  Fall of 2009 I was in the beta group as I’m a fan of the IP and space battles are cool.  Earth and Beyond was a while back, so I was looking forward to it.  The content for beta only covered the first 2 zones up until December.  There was a kitchen sink patch that put in the rest of the game and they shut down the beta the week following, so that only early access folk could see it.  I was in EA as the guide company paid for it.

All through beta I had logged dozens of bug reports.  There were some core issues with the game, places where you just could not progress.  I think 2 of the bugs were fixed, everything else was still there.  Even during the EA portion the bugs were still present.  History has enough tracks as to what happened to the game.  After about a year, the practically rebuilt the game, outside of the art assets.

It was here where I realized that beta tests were obviously providing little benefit when the marketing folk wanted to get paid.

The Nail

The last beta I did was for SWTOR in 2011, or at least the last one where I consider it a beta.  The devs took feedback and chatted, they understood the issues.  I had mathcrafted DPS sheets for 2 classes, clearly showing issues with balance.  The community had provided a ton of feedback on needed changes.

I think Alacrity(haste) is going to be my stickler here.  Math is hard to argue against and math was clearly pointing out that it was a bad stat for almost everyone (knights and warriors were the exception).  And it’s not like this was raised just before launch, it was obvious months and months before.  Didn’t get fixed until patch 2.0!

The upper tier however had a different approach.  Every 2 weeks there’d be a full wipe and new content added.  You had to slosh through the early part again and again.  Imagine a day 1 launch happening every 2 weeks, that’s what beta testing was about.  Their PTR after launch didn’t have a character transfer or a boost to 50 and had wipes as well.  So you can guess how useful that thing was.  Top level content was seriously broken at launch and well… you know what happened next.

The Coffin

Betas today are not betas.  They are PR events and technical stress tests.  It allows companies to ensure that their network architecture works and to get some positive news before launch.  Where before you had to apply to get into beta, that overhead is gone now.  Instead there’s a paywall, which makes it easier for the dev to manage.  Since they are going to ignore everyone of your bug requests before launch anyhow, you aren’t of any actual value outside of stress testing and telling your friends about it.

What beta does provide is an easy out for the developer when things go bad.  “It’s just beta” used to be common on forums in the day and it was accurate too.  Since betas today have nothing to do except have the same name, it’s just an excuse to ignore you.

And that’s the kicker really.  Betas are just paid early access at a higher price point.  Like, you’re really eager to get into the door so you pay more.  If I wait a few months, I can get it for free (outside of box costs). So Heroes of the Storm is charging people for this and I’m ok with the process.  Just don’t call it beta.

Alphas…well let’s just be honest about that for a second.  You’re paying the developer on a promise of delivering something later.  Whether they listen to you or not.  You have no assurances that they will deliver on spec, or on time.  I personally think it’s more akin to venture capital than anything to do with gaming, except you have no voice in the matter.  The company already has your money and isn’t going to refund it.

“A fool and his money are soon parted.”

Player vs Class

I think it says something about Blizz that an ex-dev provides more design feedback than the current crop, at least in terms of overall design intent.  I think the current crop of designers are a little too much in the weeds, personally.   It’s good to take a step back and think about the big picture and how all the pieces fit together.  It’s sort of like walking.  If you spend your time watching your feet rather than where you’re going, you’re never going to get there.

I like reading the various tweets and blue responses about bugs and balance.  That Alchemical Catalysts have next to no use and are a limited to a daily cooldown sure is a head scratcher but to hear a dev say that they agree and need to look into it is disconcerting.

Usually when people design they take a top down approach.  Vision, concept, logic, physical.  More and more detail as you go down.  Then you have someone at each level making sure that each of those individual pockets is lined up with the other ones.  So the person in charge of professions for example, would be responsible that all the professions work similarly and provide some value.  Thematically they should be the same, gather materials, combine materials for effect, use result.  When the combination portion isn’t aligned, where some materials should have value but in fact don’t, then you have a profession with an issue.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  Actually, I’m saying the complete opposite.  I see it all the time.  Developers become incredibly insular to their environment, in particular during crunch time.  All you end up seeing is the trees and not the forest. The leads need to be strong.

And this again falls into more real world examples.  In many organizations, people get promoted to lead because they are a good programmer or developer, or they have experience.  You know what that makes you?  A senior developer, not a leader.  A lead needs to see the big picture and put the pieces together.  They need to match strengths and weaknesses across their team.  In a field like IT, which is heavily populated by people with somewhat limited social skills, these people are rare as all heck.  I think I’d be lucky to find 1 in 100.

And the problem gets worse the more people you have.  A small team can have informal talks and people are tasked with all sorts of work.  A really big project, you might have a guy that only does the RNG system, or a girl that just does terrain.  (Side note: it looks to me like the person who did Nagrand terrain in WoD forgot that Nagrand in BC had flying, then remembered at the end and put in gliders).

But back to the original discussion…

The main question to Greg was about remorse for diluting diversity and complexity to enable more inclusion (a little paraphrased).  And that he doesn’t have a yay/nay answer to me is a good thing.  As long as hybrids think they need to be on par with pure classes, you can’t have specialization.  While you can try to blame the devs in WotLK, you should also point the finger at the devs in BC.  There was a serious point in the expansion where raids were tuned for leatherworking drums and 3+ shamans per team.  If you even considered taking a balanced raid into Sunwell, you were going to have a bad time.

I’m not saying the thought process was wrong; “bring the player and not the class” portion makes sense.  Everyone should bring something but not everyone should bring the same thing.  Tuning and balance would be harder, in order to make more combinations viable.  I think, in the way that Blizzard typically does this, that the pendulum swung a little too far in one direction and that they’ve been unable to get it back since.  If anything, the advent of the DK (and remember, for most of WotLK it was super OP) set an expectation that hybrids were the way forward and that a player should be able to be self-sufficient.  That idea has gotten progressively larger, where in WoD and garrisons, it’s pretty much everywhere.

It’s actually interesting comparing to other themeparks to see how they approach this.  SWTOR is very similar, with massive skill bloat and until Revan, hybrids were amazeballs.  I never quite got those that were “pure DPS” but it was certainly an option.  Everyone has a stun, an interrupt, an AE, a heal and so on… RIFT is based on the concept of hybrids and while there’s always a flavor of the month, there’s a decent balance across all classes.  With only 4 classes, it’s hard to be pigeonholed.  Wildstar and ESO allow you to take a class of sorts, then have a wide array of skills but only a limited amount active at any time.  Maybe you need 2 stuns here and none there.  Hard to balance the skills against each other (ESO in particular had this issue) but the system gives the players tools.

FF14 is a bit different.  It’s a bit like RIFT in that you have many roles (through the classes) but you actively need to level each one on a character.  And at any given time, you are limited in the skills available – like 8-10 total.  Not everyone has a stun and each class tends to bring something rather unique to the game.  I’m curious to see how this lasts long term, what with new classes being added at a rather regular pace but since it’s always the same character, it’s not the world to swap between classes, in particular if they share the same base stats (and therefore gear).  You don’t need an alt.

Most games today are all hybrid but limit the skills available at any given time.  So you can bring the player AND you can bring the class.

Doctor Who, The Simpsons and MMOs

I thought it was a good title but it actually stems from an Observation Deck post about the Simpsons.  The theory, and one that applies more so to Doctor Who, is that any show of long duration isn’t actually a single show but rather a multitude of shows using the same basic premise/characters.  And really, if you spend a minute to think about it, this applies to nearly every single movie in the past 10 years.  Sequels and reboots.  But those get a clean slate.  Serials (TV shows) do not.

Doctor Who has had “clean breaks” because you know the Doctor dies and is regenerated, they can put in a new actor and a new spin on the character.  Eccleston was brooding, Tennant was like a brother, Smith was a nutter and Capaldi is aggressive.  All sharing the same name, all in the same setting, and all without a break between them.  So you end up with people having a favorite Doctor, one they identify with.  “Eccleston was great!” I can hear someone say.  “Sit down, you’re drunk.  Rose ran the show and you know it” I reply.

Any show that hits the 5 year mark is likely to go through this shift.  Actors change, plots close and open, people grow older.  The Simpsons is different as it’s animated.  Actors have been pretty much the same since the start, none of the characters have grown old.  It’s never been off the air.  26 years now.  It’s still shifted somewhat, with changes in writing staff, which has had a rather drastic impact on the storylines.

MMOs, the Change and the Reboot

Very few MMOs ever get a reboot and succeed.  Very few sequels ever succeed either.  FF14 is really the poster child for this since it was both a sequel and needed a reboot.  Most MMOs just putter along for years and years, hoping to find the right combination of people and fun.

But they change over the years.  Each patch by definition changes something.  Players won’t ever consider something an expansion if there isn’t some new mechanic or thing to do.  And it can’t really be more of the same all the time because player tastes evolve, technology evolves and the market evolves.

I think most would agree that expansions are the obvious point to look for change in direction within a game.  UO had the Trammel split.  SWG has the NGE.  EQ had PoK.  DAoC had Atlantis.  SWTOR had the swap to F2P.  There are more examples in each game and more games than I could list…

WoW… well WoW is delimited by each expansion plus the advent of LFG, LFR and Flex Raids, which were all mid-expansion changes – all affecting the social aspect of the game.

I mean, let’s take a high level look at the WoW expansions and the mid-strikes between.

  • Vanilla – This was more or less a solo-friendly version of EQ2.  40 man raids.  8m peak players.
  • BC – An integrated vision with a tight focus on raiding and achievements (without actual achievements).  All the systems worked together.  Flying introduced but only at max level.  10 and 25 man raids (mostly the latter). Gain to 11m players.
  • WotLK – A split in many of the systems with the introduction of catch-up mechanics and heroic raids.  The best and worst raids were here: Uldar and Trials of the Crusader.  Flying at max level. Gain to 12m players.
  • LFG introduction – this was a few patches in to WotLK and had a few iterations.  Dramatically changes the social aspect of the game and forced a simplification of many mechanics.
  • Cataclysm – Gutting of the talent system, rebuild of the 1-60 experience/world, increase in overall difficulty, healing triage was introduced.  Flying from the start.  Most would see Cata as a major shift in direction for the game, where it tried to please the raiding and pro-difficulty crowd, when the market was heading another direction.  F2P MMOs were all over the place.  Also introduced Cross-Realm servers to address low pop zones.  Loss to 9m players.
  • LFR introduction – Firelands raid notoriously had less than 1% of the players complete heroic.  LFR put in so people can play the raids, see the story and Blizz’s dev time on raids isn’t wasted on 20 people.
  • MoP – Pet battles.  Daily quests everywhere.  Story that had zero links to any previous lore.  Farmville.  Many catch up mechanics and simplifications.  By this point, most systems had limited (if any) ties to other systems, meaning a player could do near every type of content without talking to another soul.   Merger of servers (connected realms).  Loss to 7m players.
  • Flex Raid introduction.  In my opinion, the biggest positive change to MMOs in 10 years.  Removed many of the limitations for group sizes and benching people, allowing social guilds to raid successfully.
  • WoD – Break of all ties to previous content/structure.  Sale of level 90 characters.  Garrisons which make most players self-sufficient and bypass most profession requirements.  The largest player boost since WotLK too.  Flex Raid for everyone!  No Flying.  Focus on world exploration and “dynamic” content.  As close to WoW 2.0 as we’ve seen so far.

Each person is likely to identify best with a given version of WoW.  You can read forums or other blogs and people will proclaim “BC was the best!”, “LFG killed WoW”, “AQ rules” (no one says this).  Rose colored glasses abound and few people, for any given form of media, will proclaim that today’s version is the best.  It takes time to digest what you have today and when it’s fresh, you really see the good and the bad.  When you look back on any memory, you tend to see the good in it rather than the bad.  If it was bad, you wouldn’t be thinking about it right?

Which I guess makes most of the 10 year anniversary MC runs look hilarious.  It’s pure chaos, with maybe a half dozen people running the whole show.  The difficulty is half of what it was once you’re in the zone and there’s no roster boss (actually finding 40 people to do it, getting them attuned and then having them travel to the instance).  It’s so different from what it was yet still people find it hard to get through.

Moving Forward

And honestly, in today’s market place of MMOs and games, you are at a great buffet of options and all sorts of price points and all sorts of mechanics.  If you can’t find something out there that pleases you, across hundreds of games, then maybe it’s not the market that’s the issue.  Maybe you’ve just graduated to grumpy ol’ bugger, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, complaining about loud music the kids are playing these days.  We all know how much attention and credence those get.

Once people start to accept the fact that an MMO cannot be static and that a return to the past isn’t possible, maybe they’ll be ok with the fact that they are allowed to move on to another game.  Players tastes change with time.  Their schedules as well.  You finish school, get a job, then a career.  Maybe get married and have kids.  I read some of the guild invite spam and there’s always one that goes

Casual raiders wanted.  Schedule W-T-Su, 8-11.  Attendance is mandatory.

And I think to myself, I used to do that but I can’t anymore.  And when did that become casual?  I’ll try something else.  And I’ll have some fun.  ‘Cause that’s the reason we game in the first place, to have fun.

WoW – Gold is Worthless

I mentioned in the previous post that the WoW Plex-like system just is a poor overall idea because gold is meaningless in WoD.  I want to expand on that a tad and in particular on garrisons.

Garrisons have an investment cost, measured in Garrison Resources, Gold and Time.  The time factor is rather small mind you, an hour per upgrade (minus the character level requirement for the overall garrison).  Garrison resources can be tight to start off, so everyone should use a lumber mill while leveling to stay ahead of the curve.  Gold is a different matter.  The buildings have a build cost (100-500g) and the schematics to build also have a cost (750-1500g).  All told you’re going to sink a fair chunk of change to upgrade all the buildings, say about 8000g.  Unless things have gone really poorly for you, that money should be available already, either from the 90 boost or regular play and leveling rewards.  Still, it’s possible to be set back I suppose, though only for a short period of time.

Within the garrison there are 2 main paths to take in order to turn a profit.

First is the follower missions.  For this, you’ll need a level 3 salvage yard (for big salvage crates), a level 2 bunker (for follower item rewards), a level 3 barrack (for 25 follower limit) and a level 3 inn (for gold rewarding quests).  A UI mod for follower missions is recommended as well, such as Master Plan. The big salvage crates can give about 50g per, the missions from 30-200g each, some missions give gear which sells for 50g and so on.  It takes a while to get rolling but I can make about 500g per day from missions.  And that’s excluding the gathering materials (herbs, ore, leather) that I get.

Second method is from daily quests from small buildings.  You get 3 small buildings in a level 3 garrison.  The profession buildings are all small and give a daily quest if you assign a follower at level 2.  These daily quests require you to make something that has a level 1 skill (if any skill required at all).  There are various levels of rewards mind you… the inscription one is lackluster and so is alchemy.  Jewelcrafting can give you 200g+ per day though.  And since professions in WoD are absolutely meaningless because of profession buildings, you can swap between them daily to collect some money.

To combine both methods, you set yourself up for option 1 (followers) and use the last 2 small buildings for daily quests.  So in about 5 minutes of work, per day, you can make 500-1000g without stepping out of the garrison.

There are more involved methods, certainly.  Gathering professions give a fair chunk of primals in the wild, which can be exchanged (50 of them) for Savage Blood.  The daily fishing gives 4-5 as well.  The level 3 Barn allows trapping of elites for ~15% chance at Savage Blood too.  Selling gathering materials doesn’t seem to turn much profit.  Creating items either as LFR drops i640 gear and follower missions can give you i655 without leaving home.  All this requires selling to other people, the previous methods never leave home.

So, in a game where absolute minimal play can get you 500-1000g per day, it makes you wonder what value 1 WoW dollar actually would have.  10K?  100k?  Most RMT sites sit around $15 for 20k. So let’s say a a WoW dollar would have to go for at least 30k/$15, otherwise RMT won’t get cut out.

And then once you had sold it, what you would actually DO with that gold.  You need a fraction of that for the garrison and then there are only 2 sinks in the game and both relate to the Auction House and vanity gear/pets/mounts.  Those that can be found by other players and those that the game dictates are available for purchase.  The former usually has prices around 10,000g while the latter can be near a million for heavily sought after items.  Odd group that latter one, with slightly different motivations.  The point is, WoW has next to no sinks for the masses.  WoD might have gotten rid of the daily quest money faucet from MoP, but they put in a variant that takes less time and effort and provides more money.

You can’t build a secondary market on top of a non-existent one.  WoW hands out gold by the bucket, the distribution of that gold depends on how many times you ask for more.

WoW – A Reboot by Any Other Name

The more I think of WoD, the more I think it’s an attempt to reboot WoW in its entirety –  WoW2 if you will.  Here are a few items to support that theory.

  • Everyone is given a “free” level 90, with the option to purchase more. This bypasses 10 years of content, provides you all the gear you need to start as well.
  • Each profession can be completed from 1 – max in WoD through catch-up mechanisms. This invalidates any gathering node from 1-90 and all crafting items, which also guts a fair chunk of the economy.
  • The story is a 30 year return in the past with new characters. The actions of the past 10 years have next to no impact on the events in WoD, with the exception of Garrosh breaking out of jail. The lore context is not used at all (Illidan, Lich King, Death Wing) might as well not have existed, other than a kick off point. Reminds me of Marvel’s What If?
  • A near brand new graphics engine for combat and presentation. The game doesn’t look 10 years old and the new architecture is based on merged realms.
  • All mechanics have been drastically simplified, which has dropped the skill cap by a large amount. It’s much less an RPG as it is an action game.
  • The only reason to do any of the “old” content is for achievements or pets/mounts/toys/transmog. Given the power curve, you don’t need other people to do this.

In reality, the game is more accessible today than it has ever been.  If you skipped 2 expansions, you can easily jump in.  Never played before?  Probably the easiest MMO to get into on the market today.  It’s clearly the least feature-rich expansion ever launched and you’d have trouble convincing me that it took 13 months between patches just for garrisons.

Simple sells.  It sells enough to put the game back above 10m subscribers.  Are garrisons enough to keep those people around longer than 3 months?

It’s certainly an interesting balance of changing the game enough to attract new folk while not alienating their core audience.

SWTOR / WoW – Stuck in the Middle

Safety Note to start the post.  Be smart, don’t tailgate a vehicle that you can’t see around.  My bus got rear-ended by a car today.  The bus won. It will always win.

Day 6 was better, so I’ll start with SWTOR first.


Today was credit making day.  Given that I’m only able to run a single session of crew skills, what with them each taking 20-30 minutes, it was a cycle session on the GTN.  I found a few items that didn’t sell, namely items in the 47-55 range since Makeb/Oricon replaces it all.  It’s funny how a level 46 item will sell easily and a 47 won’t get the light of day.

I also remembered that my older characters had bank accounts.  Bank accounts full of materials.  Materials that are worth credits.  My Sorc and Powertech both hit the 50 GTN cap well before the bank was empty.  My Operative and Juggernaut are still rookies though, so the bank is relatively empty except for legacy/custom gear.  Side note, weapons in SWTOR, while customizable and quite unremarkable.  Which is an odd contrast to other games with customization.  Reminds me a bit of the Esper in Wildstar, where the weapon is an afterthought.  SWTOR does have the best looking gear though.  That stuff is sweet.

My Sorc 3 days ago was at about 700k.  He’s at 1.2m now.  I think I’ve made about 1m across them all, which gets me closer to the Tatooine stronghold.  It’s nice to have a goal.  All this working up to Patch 3, the Shadow of Revan expansion, which I should be more than prepared for.

Side note for a future post.  I am confused by the Dev Blogs for SoR.  The goal of the expansion (in particular disciplines) was to get rid of skill bloat and hyrbridization (it’s now a word).  That the dev blogs are introducing new skills that supercede old ones is conflicting.  Not a new skill that’s standalone – a skill that replaces an old one.  I’ll get into that closer to release.


At 7:30 the queue was just short of 2000 but dropped relatively quickly – 45 minutes or so.  There were only a dozen or so servers with queue times based on the realm status page.  Area52 and Stormrage the only PvE ones as well, at least from what I could see.  Once I did get in, the server was relatively stable with only a few lag hiccups.  I was in long enough to complete Gorgrond.

Shadowmoon Valley kicks off the campaign for the Alliance.  It’s an decent story of the Draenei foothold in the lands, their massive attack by the horde and some cool sacrifice/birth of a hero substory (Yrel is neato – the only female lead I’ve even heard of in this expansion).  It’s very intro-based and the zone is open enough to have a view of everything.  The zone starts with orcs, goes to a bunch of animals that are poisoned, then finishes with orcs.  There’s a scenario of sorts to finish the zone.

Gorgrond is half about orcs and half about poisoned natural folks (a theme maybe).  You get to meet some Gronn as well.  I read all the quest text but it had nothing to do with anything outside of shamanism (you resurrect what appears to be a demi-god) until the last scenario quest.  That one was all orcs and you take on attacking a huge base.  I died.  A few times.  I could have just stayed back and let everyone else manage it.  Yrel was there and the demi-god.  I didn’t get the point of this story at all.  The outpost was a Lumber Mill which gave me a giant shredder.  The thing did no appreciable damage but did let me find some garrison resources, so yay?

2 zones in, level 94 now.  Can’t figure out what perks I’ve gained, though it almost appears as if they reset every log on.  I’ve gotten the improved chi(?) 3 times now, since every time I log back in I’m at 5 chi.  I am of the firm opinion that random perks while leveling is a stupid mechanic.

Garrison is still a tossup for me.  I upgraded my mine for 1000g.  Ore sells for about 6g per, so 3 days or so and I make my money back.  My follower missions are annoying, with only a single interface point per zone.  What happens is that when I get to that interface, all of them have completed, so there’s no actual decisions to be made about who’s going on the mission.  I see what’s there, it automatically sorts on who’s best and I just assign from the top down.  My 2 year old daughter plays more complex games.  94 and still haven’t figured out how to get a follower with me in the field.  I cut trees to get more resources, to do what exactly?  Run more missions?  I mean, it’s polished to high heck and you have decision points while leveling but it doesn’t yet have any real impact on the game.  I get 5 different quests per zone.  Whoopie.  I think the thing that annoys me the most is the complete lack of customization.  I can’t put trophies, or medals or items that represent my progress in a zone.  All I get are followers, who I can’t actually see outside of a menu.

So far, my experience is one of high polish but no depth.  And I’m simply a stone skipping across the surface.

Restarting the Story

Day 5.  Kids were tired so I was able to start WoW at about 7EST.  That had a queue of ~2400.  I just left it open and played some SWTOR in the meantime.  I think it was about 10pm when I could finally log in.  From the garrison to any other flight point gave me an error that the instance could not be loaded.  It also told me that the world server had crashed.  Quit that pretty quick.  Good news is that I have 5 more days of game time, so yay?  We’ll see tonight but from what I can tell, there are still a few dozen servers that are in the red.


I had mentioned that I cleaned out my bags and re-focused on making some credits right?  Well, the previous night’s purge gave me about 500K in sales.  I collected my crew skills, assigned new ones, posted on the GTN and then moved on.

To a Jedi Knight of all things.  I’ve heard that a Knight and Smuggler are somewhat on par in terms of story quality and I have an odd dislike for the Smuggler (due to the IA), so knight I went.  Funny story actually, as I had played a knight in the beta, so there were quite a few spots that were a sort of déjà vu feeling.  I had tried to do a few of the Tython quests in addition to the class ones.  I completed 1 of them total, due to the way the items and drops were spread out – which I remember as being a grind issue back in beta.

See, while leveling my other characters, I tend to pick up the nearby quests.  Incidental completion means free credits, exp and sometimes gear.  If a quest was above 75% complete, then I’d take the time.  If it wasn’t, then I’d drop it.  This was if it was even in line with where I was going.  So assuming the quest was in the path, I’d say about 50% or so could be completed.  Makeb was more like 100% but that’s an odd one.  That I only did 1 on Tython was odd.

So I leave Tython at 11 and completed Coruscant by 20.  I was leveling at a crazy pace and it was hard to keep a trainer nearby to stay on track.  Eh.  I also wasn’t paying a ton of attention and forgot to get my advanced class after Tython and only did it at 20.  You forget about the playstyle differences between the classes.  I opted for a DPS only knight (sentinel), who from what I hear is the highest DPS class in the game.  We’ll see how that runs out.

Story-wise there’s not much to report.  The decisions given strongly push you to light side.  The dark side choices aren’t evil per-se, just a strong push for an emotional response.   Feelings lead to the dark side I guess.  I do find it funny to be called “the strongest jedi ever met” and I’m only level 10.  I’m fighting apprentices and masters like it’s a big deal.  From a story perspective, I get that line of thinking.  The level is an MMO mechanic, so that a level 10 sith master is technically weaker than a level 54 frog, but lore-wise it’s the opposite.

Story closing Tython and Coruscant is 2 folks who turned dark (or were always) and I hunted them down.  I’m the jedi police.  Balmorra is next I think.  I took slicing to get some cash while levelling.  The speed of progress meant that I was too low level to pick up boxes in the sewer portion (there are like, 50 friggin’ lock boxes there) but I’m good now for the next planet.  Companions are ho-hum, with a droid and a jedi padawan at my side, neither of which has much of a character to speak of.  I hear the story gets a lot stronger later on, in particular when you get Scourge at the tail end.  Looking forward to that.

What’s neat is that when my night was over, I logged into my Dromund Kass (Empire) stronghold with my jedi.  I think it’s a smart thing to have a single house for all alts.  Quite a few games support this today, or at least access from an alt to a main’s house.  SWTOR isn’t super alt friendly, but with legacy perks, collectible gear and strongholds being shared, it’s a solid step.