Friday, April 4, 2014

My Apologies to League of Legends

My Apologies to League of Legends

I've been having ongoing login issues with my primary game, World of Warcraft. I could make angry accusations at what I went through, but I've cooled down enough to let that all go now. While wrestling with that issue, I went looking for something else to play, and League of Legends (LoL) was recommended. League of Legends is a free game that is a lot of fun to play. I went so far as to get it installed (simple and easy) take the short "get to know the game" tutorial, and played a few tune up games against the computer. Unfortunately, real life intervened and my gaming time went down considerably for a time.

When I was able to spend a little more time on playing, the issues with the Warcraft login were finally (hopefully) resolved by switching from the standard Warcraft Launcher to the Battle.net launcher, which seems to avoid the login issues. That's the long way around of explaining why I'm not playing LoL.

Back to Warcraft, I checked into getting the pre-release upgrade from Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor (WoD). The WoD expansion won't be available until the end of the year, but buying the pre-release still allows me to "boost" one character up to the max 90 level. I have planned all along to boost Jocelyn, my young level 27 paladin, to level 90. Today I did just that. She got a new set of i483 gear, courtesy of the boost. She got Holy spec gear (for healing), which is what I wanted. Wild and JB had also been collecting gear on the Timeless Isle, and had six pieces of i496 gear available for Jocey. She chose Retribution (damage dealing) as her secondary spec and used the Timeless Isle gear to fill some of her retribution gear slots. Jocey had about 7,000 gold and spent most of it buying fill in pieces. Surprisingly, Jocey hasn't asked Happy for any gold. Yet. I thought that the gear for sale would be cheap, but knowing that boosted players are going to need additional gear has kept prices fairly high. The closer to the release of WoD, the higher the price will get for that gear. Jocey likely got a bargain by buying early.

Getting a boosted character was relatively easy. After paying the $50 (it's $60 for additional character boosts after the first one), a button appears on the character screen. You have to decide what your main spec is, and once that is done the change appears instantaneously. The character gets a full set of gear for the selected spec, and then there is the work of setting talents and buying the secondary spec from the trainer. I was really annoyed when Jocey seemed to have lost all of the items in her bags. She got a full set of embersilk bags, which was great, but they were empty! Not to worry - it took about a half hour, but Jocey got mail and all of her old gear and items in her bags were all returned to her. Note, though, that boosting a character under level 60 will wipe out all profession gains made. I planned on changing Jocey's professions anyway, so it was no big deal to me. At level 90 she should be able to grind through her professions pretty quickly.

All in all it was a pretty simple and painless transition. Now I just need to learn how to play a paladin again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wrestling with Warcraft

Wrestling with Warcraft

Blizzard makes my head hurt. On the one hand, they are feeding my obsession by announcing just yesterday (10 March) that I can pre-order the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor (WoD), even though it's not expected to be released until this fall. Why would anyone pre-order that early? Well, because of the "Boost to 90" opportunity. The idea is that when WoD is released each account would be able to boost one of their characters (even a newly made level 1) instantly to level 90. The boosted character would get a set of green i483 gear (a decent starter set), 150 gold, and a full set of 22 slot bags (worth about 2,000 gold). If the character is at least level 60, learned professions are boosted to max level 600 as well. What makes this intriguing is that the boost can be done NOW, instead of having to wait for WoD. I am very tempted to pre-order and boost my level 27 paladin, Jocey, to level 90 right away.

On the other hand, Blizzard is making me really angry. I've started having connection problems with WoW. For quite awhile now I've been experiencing random disconnects. If I were raiding I'd have been a lot more worried about that, but since I'm not doing anything that affects other players, the disconnects were only an annoyance, not a game breaker. I could immediately log back in, so no big deal.

Well, now I'm having a problem with the Warcraft Launcher hanging with a greyed out PLAY button. It started a week or so ago and has gotten progressively worse. Yesterday I spent more time with a hung screen than I spent in game. Last night I gave up after numerous attempts to login failed at the launcher. Note that the failure affects only Warcraft. All my other programs and Internet connections work just fine. Even so, I took the computer, modem, and router through all the trouble testing and they checked out fine.

I put in trouble tickets, of course. Blizzard "answers" them, sort of, and I sent copious data to them, but nothing they've suggested has worked. I'm on my fifth ticket now. The situation as it stands is that Blizzard is blaming my Internet carrier, Cox Cable, and Cox Cable is blaming Blizzard. What little coherent information I've been able to get is that there is a network hop somewhere in Los Angeles that is causing dropped service. Apparently, no one is responsible for it (or is willing to admit it). The Cox Cable guy I talked to (I was directed specifically to him because he is a network/server tech and personally deals with all Blizzard issues) said that about this time every year the same thing happens. Players complain on the forums, and Blizzard tells them to go complain to their Internet provider. When they do, Blizzard says, see, the Internet provider is getting complaints, so it must be their problem. Sure they are, because Blizzard passed the buck to them. But, note that the problem affects other Internet services, not just Cox.

In Blizzard's world this is just a little blip. One technician said exactly that. Millions of players can access the game just fine, so it's not their problem that I can't. Really, that's what she said.

This morning I was happy to see that the Launcher is working. I get a nice, live Launcher PLAY button. Of course, this is Tuesday and the game is down for maintenance. I fully expect that once the game is live again I'll be treated to a greyed out PLAY button again.

Why do I keep trying to play this game?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Big Dump

The release of the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor (WoD) is being predicted as somewhere between July and September. The trend has shown increasingly long beta releases of at least six months. So, there is still a very long wait for the actual release. However, the beta release could be very soon - this month, even, or, more likely, March.

The waiting game has started to have a rather dramatic affect on Happy's business. The last two weekend cycles have been chaotic. Many items were being dumped on the Auction House and bargain basement prices, as if the sellers suddenly realized their huge stocks were about to become worthless. The flood of goods began to subside in the second week, and prices rose . . .  and rose. Was there a buying frenzy now? No. Buyers stopped buying.

One would think that if no one was buying, then prices would go down. That wasn't the case. Items on the AH would expire, and someone would post a higher starting price on the item. Without buyers, though, the stock just sat there, with minimal reductions. It would expire again, and an even higher price would be posted. A good example are volatiles. Volatiles stack up to 200, and Happy had a whole 24 slot bag full of the five types. In the run up to the dump Happy sold a lot, and I mean a LOT of volatiles. The prices kept rising and Happy kept selling. Happy's problem now is that the prices are now sky high, and the buying has stopped. No one is posting new volatiles for sale, either, so Happy can't replenish his stock with discounted goods. The same thing is happening with most of the things that Happy sells.

Weird things start happening when the market does the unexpected. Happy sells various bags. High end bags don't sell in volume, but bring a pretty high profit for the cost. Happy knows exactly what price to pay for the mats (cloth and dust) required to make a bag for the price Happy wants the customer to pay. Those prices are pretty resistant to change, because of the comparatively low volume. Well, the price of cloth climbed with the other stuff on the AH and has stubbornly stayed there. Paradoxically, Happy's competitors have been significantly dropping the price of bags, even though their costs have to be rising. That doesn't make sense to me. If they think the old bags will become useless, I beg to differ. The price of last expansion's Frostweave bag (20 slots) sells for around 250g. The current expansion Embersilk bag (22 slots) run around 500g. The newest bag is a 26 slot bag that sells for 2500g. Imagine the cost of the next bag in WoD. Frostweave and Embersilk bags are still going to be good sellers. For now, Happy is waiting them out because the margin of profit has gotten pretty slim.

Predicting when the next release will come out is a dicey game. But, predicting when the player base decides that the current "stuff" is no longer valuable due to the coming next expansion is even more difficult to predict. This may just be a bubble that will burst. Or, it may be a sign of further upheaval as we all try to predict what will remain valuable and what has become trash that no one will buy anymore.

Happy may be wringing his hands over his profits, but he blows off steam flying around on his new mount, the Iron Skyreaver. The two-headed dragon is a sweet ride with a set of afterburners that light up when airborne. The dragon has a menacing roar and can do loops and rolls in the air. Truly cool. JB also took it out for some herb farming and had a blast.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What Parental Controls?

What Parental Controls?

Blizzard Entertainment, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that I have a child. I know this because I discovered a few days ago that parental controls have been set on my account. I don't know what those controls are, of course, since they seem to think I'm the child. So far the only evidence of the controls (and how I even knew they were there) is that I tried to look at the in game shop. I received a warning that I was not allowed access to that feature.

I then played a circular game with Blizzard that started with me trying to figure out what had been done and how to undo it. The instructions eventually led me to submit a request to reset parental controls. So I sent the request. Which, not so promptly, but eventually, was returned as an error message. I submitted a trouble ticket two days ago.

Today I received a reply. Here is one of the funnier requirements. I am required to provide "A legible photocopy of the identification of the current registered Battle.net account user, displaying the full legal name, date of birth, and the ID's expiration date (if applicable). Acceptable forms of identification for the child are: Passport, Driver's License, State ID, Military ID (with the back photocopied), or Birth Certificate. School IDs are not accepted." Apparently I must validate that I have a child before I can turn off parental controls for the child I DON'T HAVE.

As I was working on this post, I checked in with Battlenet to see if there was an update on the the ticket. The first thing I saw, in large orange letters, was this: "Help! I can't use the in-game shop/Real-Money Auction House anymore!" Apparently, a "recent upgrade to the system" has disabled the in game shop. The explanation notice tried to assure me that it was actually a new feature that I should appreciate - the DEFAULT setting was to turn off access and invoke parental controls. This was all new to me and to everyone else, I assume. The Blizz guy who responded to my ticket must have been in the dark, too. He simply sent me an email telling me my issue was "resolved."

Ok, I got it now. They MEANT to shut down access because, hey, I might be a child. All I have to do now is go to the link where I first activated parental controls. Umm, excuse me, but I NEVER activated parental controls. You, Blizzard, activated them. No, I don't have that email you think I have. You'll send it to me. Go right ahead, but but that part of the circle I've already been around once and it ends in an error message.

Finally, I got this: "If you want to completely remove Parental Controls from your account and you are a legal adult in your country of residence, please contact us for assistance." You know where this is going. "Contact us" sent me right back to the support site. Where I started.

I am now going to try their new Call Back system, where I should get a real person to talk to. The feature was enabled a week ago. I'm sure its working fine. Stay tuned . . .

Well, that didn't take long. The Call Back feature is Offline.

You know, I'm pretty sure that if I had a kid, I'd know about it. Even better, he or she would know exactly how to get around this mess. Me, the parent, certainly doesn't have a clue. Obviously, Blizzard doesn't have a clue, either. They should hire my imaginary child.

There is some good news about all this - I can't access the in game shop, so I won't be tempted to buy anything. So there, Blizz. Oh, and I submitted another ticket.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Of Cabals and the Old Guard

Of Cabals and the Old Guard

As another year winds down I find myself reminiscing about old times. It was prompted by a blurb that the Karazhan raid might be upgraded in the coming Warlords of Draenor expansion. Other than the Molten Core (MC was Wild's "first time" and special), Karazhan is far and away my favorite raid. That got me to thinking about all of Wilds friends during that awesome time. The height of Wild's raiding was in 2007-2008. For example, who would believe that Wildshard was once a guild officer and in charge of all the healers in our raids? No, I'm not making that up. We were actively raiding Ulduar, a complex and challenging fourteen boss raid dungeon. Wild made the decisions about how many healers to carry and what role they would play for each encounter. Wild also provided training and gave advice to raid healers. Ok, you can stop staring at Wild in stunned disbelief now.

Ulduar was a fun and challenging raid dungeon, but as mentioned above, Kara was Wild's absolute favorite. Why? Well, the first reason was that the attunement quest line just to gain access to Kara was extremely time consuming and required a lot of coordination with other guildies (many five man dungeons had to be run as part of the attunement). It took Wild literally months to complete it and has it's own tale to tell that I will collect and include at some point. Then there were the encounters themselves, of which there were twelve. This was a level 70, ten man raid dungeon. Kara was the first and only ten man raid in the game's first expansion, the Burning Crusade. Until Kara, there were no raids of less than twenty raiders.

Running a raid with a small group of ten added a sense of intimacy that the larger raids simply could not match. The encounters were not only fresh and challenging, they were a hell of a lot of fun to do, even after many runs. Sure, a lot of things were new back when the game was young, but even now the encounters in Kara seem somehow more unique and original than most raids that have come after it. That's a personal opinion, of course, and it's heavily weighted by the people and personalities that Wild ran with during those Kara runs. There is just no comparison.

I am assembling a post specifically on Wild's love of Karazhan. If the coming expansion really does update Kara, that alone will be good enough to bring Wild back into the fold as a full fledged raider. That assumes, of course, that there are still friends around to join him. Just for fun, I devised the perfect Karazhan ten man/flex raid: Bloodknuckle (tank/raid leader), Talatiana (#2 and our cheer leader), Guttzes, Goover, Pearla/Odiesim (alt or not?), Ristan, Shibby, Fenn, Shimmi and Wild. Few of these players are active anymore, but they are still around. Like Wild. Wild can hope, can't he?

I also have to give a special nod to Jomamma, the force behind Fate Sealed and the original first cabal member. She is still around but does not play anymore. I should also recognize two players who had a great, positive influence on Wild: Rhonna, Wild's first raid leader, and Frohgurt, who was instrumental in making Wild into a real healer. Both still play, and Frohgurt is still a member of Fate Sealed. Imagine that. In fact, Wild is friends with many players in FS, despite the fact that Wild was forced out of the guild. But that's another story for another day.

Finally, I want to acknowledge Cormyk, a truly wonderful person and friend who in real life was killed in an accident. We all miss him.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Message From Our Leader

Message From Our Leader

While the real and imagined Bell and Wild families spent the last three weeks on the road visiting with relatives, a long time in game friend reached out to guildies in what may be a last chance for a guild that has fallen into disrepair. Lady Tala has taken the reins of our guild, Meitha, after several officers departed or bowed out for various reasons. Wild hopes to get the full story at some point, as these were good people the guild has lost. Tala and Wild go way back.

Lady Tala recently sent out a series of in game messages that Wild received on Saturday. She was frank about the sad state of the guild, and asked that everyone check in with her. She is hoping to get an idea what guildies want out of the guild and suggestions on how to reinvigorate it. The level of response will also indicate if there are enough guildies still active enough to make a difference. There are few guildies seen in game anymore, despite a roster of 461, most of which are likely alts. There is no raiding or any other guild led activity. The comatose daily guild message is now a plea for help.

I'm not sure that Wild has much encouragement to give her. The cabal is gone. Ok, not totally gone, but down to the fingers of one cloven hand. There isn't enough of us to make a revival on our own. We need new blood to step forward. Here is what I sent back to Lady Tala.

"Hi Tala! Just returned from visiting relatives and saw your post. Raiding with friends has always been my favorite part of WoW. I'm rusty with disuse and time constrained (working on that novel) but am game for fun runs and other events to ease back into things. Sorry to see those that are leaving. Hope things are well with you and yours."

As for Wild, things may be coming full circle. Wild loves his guild (each and every one), and has always been fanatically reluctant to change guilds. Once Tala gets her feedback, if the circumstances really are as dire as they appear, I believe the best option is to establish a new guild aimed at being ready for the coming expansion, with members made up of those still wanting to participate in guild events. Meitha is a bloated guild of members pursuing mostly their own interests. For the first time in his life, Wild WANTS to make a guild change.

Wild's second message to Tala is this (though I am waiting the results before sending it): "I seriously think we should consider starting a new guild. Bring along those who truly want to be involved in guild activities. We are in a deep lull, buried in a stale expansion but still months away from the (to me) exciting next expansion. During this lull I'd love to revisit old content on fun runs, plan an updated Naked Race, do pet combat contests, get reacquainted with old friends, and meet some new ones. The LFR has nearly killed raiding for Wild. Old content raiding and flex raiding with guildies and guild friends is my hope to get that excitement back. I doubt that guild raiding will ever be as good as Kara back in the day (rose colored glasses time), but I do think it can be great fun again. We just have to make it happen. "

Monday, November 18, 2013

Downtime Thoughts

Downtime Thoughts

We will be off on a three week auto trek to visit relatives on the far east coast this week. The Wild family will be on their own as both accounts will be suspended until we return. I thought about keeping an account open, but that would only encourage me to attempt a WoW upgrade on Mom's computer to check Auction House prices instead of spending time with my real life family. If I'm going to be on the computer at all, it will be to work on the book, not World of Warcraft.

That said, I am already thinking about the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor (WoD), which I went into exhaustive detail on in the last post. The new expansion is still a ways away. How far away is it? Well, predicting release dates is a dark, arcane art in WOW-land, but that hasn't stopped practitioners from trying.

Did you know that the current expansion, Mists of Pandaria (MoP), was released in September 2012? It's over a year old now, and it's really starting to feel it's age. After reading the tea leaves, the earliest, most wildly optimistic date for the release of WoD is around April 2014. I give that date a zero chance. Maybe that will be when they release the Beta, but even that sounds a bit unrealistic. The most depressing release date is around October 2014. They will lose a lot of subscribers to other games (ie, the next Diablo expansion) if it takes that long.

There will almost certainly be WoD pre-expansion patches to try and keep us interested. One such possible patch involves the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands that is used to enter Outland which, of course, is a piece of Draenor. The war with Draenor will come from that portal, so be prepared to pitch your battle tents in the Blasted Lands as the expansion nears.

Here's another tip about Blizz's plans for WoD. At Blizzcon they announced that there will not be an MoP patch 5.5 (MoP is currently running patch 5.4). Instead, all their effort is going into the WoD release. That could mean an earlier supposed release in June 2014. However, my prediction is that Beta will begin in June, not the release. My release prediction? WoD will go live on Tuesday, 5 August, 2014.

The Wild Family has their own prediction to make. The first family member to be "boosted" to level 90 in WoD will be . . .  drum roll please . . . level 27 paladin Jocelyn. The paladin class is the only healing class that hasn't reached at least level 85. My tentative plan is to make Jocey my main in WoD. On the Alliance side, another paladin, Javajoo (level 63), may get the nod for the second boost. That would give the Wild Family two level 90 paladins, one Horde and one Alliance. Of course, I have an enormous amount of time to change my mind . . .