Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Push to Premade Finder

As Legion is about to be released, there is a change afoot and Blizzard isn't flat-out saying it.  That is, the push toward the manual finder tool over the automated finders.

I think this is a great balance that will have a lot of automated-finder players extremely upset because they continue to feel like ALL content in the game should be accessible without ever trying to be connected to players in the game.

However, I think, this is the primary push back from what started the slide in WoW in the first place.  That is, when the automated finders came into creation there were many pros but they came with many cons.

The Pros of course, include no more screaming in trade.  No more hours and hours of waiting to form a group.

The Cons of course, no more group commitment, loss of community, loss of group accomplishment.

I think this new system of Mythics being outside the automated queue system is the perfect compromise and it fits the model they've used with LFR to Normal+ raiding.

Yea, players are going to complain.   But, it brings back some of the old WoW without eliminating the new.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Silence Penalty

Blizzard recently announced a "new" system called the Silence Penalty.

The forums seem to be up-in-arms about it, but what is entertaining to me is that nothing has changed.

The "violations" as players are the same.

The reporting system is the same.

The only thing that is changing is the type of penalty.  Instead of a verbal and then ban, players will be unable to talk in public channels or through other interfaces that might communicate to strangers.

I know the vloggers and bloggers love to hate on Blizzard, but this really is not a big deal.

No more reports are going out than before, unless more people report.

No more punishments are going out than before, unless more people report.

Blizzard's system has always been a reactive one.  If players don't report, nothing happens.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cross Realm Zones, Realm Hopping and Server Populations

If you aren't familiar with Cross Realm Zones and Realm Hopping, they probably use the same back-bone of technology which is the ability to make players move / appear / interact on different server  from their "home" server.   All of this added in the midst of server population problems and the established playerbase lacking new blood.

TLDR: Solution thoughts provided at the bottom.

History

Server Population

As the player population ebbs and flows it is mostly in the negative direction.  Servers have less players.  Less players mean less viable guilds.   Less viable guilds means more player migration and more subscription losses.  This is all simple stuff that Blizzard has to understand.

Their "psuedo-mergers" (a different topic) were great to help a little but it's a temporary fix and Blizzard knows this.

Without these cross-realm tools, many players wouldn't even be able to do much of the content which would result in more losses.   Yes, it encourages some to pay the fees and move characters, but I fathom a larger number just choose to quit all together.   Speculation, of course.

Blizzard has a set of tools they created so they wouldn't have to really solve the server population problem completely.

Cross-Realm Battle-Tag Grouping

Blizzard created the ability for players to group with players from other realms and play with their friends from other servers.   It required knowing their real-id to bring them in.    The technology would pull the lower level characters to the server of the high level players.

Pros: Friends could play together even if they are on different servers.  Allows players to participate in content that wouldn't be possible on lower population realms.

Cons: Players cannot trade items or gold.  Cannot join the same guilds.  Cannot participate in most current raid content (this slowly relaxed until it only excludes mythic raiding and only until it's mostly been completed).

Cross-Realm Zones

Using the Cross-Realm technologies, Blizzard decided that playing in the lower level zones of World of Warcraft was less fun because most players, after playing for any amount of time, all end up at the end zones or latest expansion.   That is 99% (made-up) are at max level expansion and 1% all played alone and might get bored and who knows, perhaps quit because there was no MM in the MMO (Massively Multi-player).

To try and improve that experience, they created Cross-realm Zones.  Any Zone below the current expansion, will coalesce players into sets of players trying to bolster the number of characters in those zones.

From a players perspective, there is no telling how many players are in that zone and what server that are from.

Pros: The zone feels alive.  The content is being used as it was designed to be used with a quantity of players.

Cons: You cannot join guilds or trade with players from off realms.  While the content is now being competed at the designed level, many players don't want competition for game rare creatures.

Pre-made Finder (Realm Hopping)

In Mists of Pandaria, the infamous TinySmasher (a player) created a game add-on called oQueue.  This add-on was highly debated, loved, reviled, and contested.  It used the battle-tag / real-id system to piggy-bag communication between realms in a mesh network of inter-server communication.  The purpose he initially created it for was for a community of PvPers to "cheese" random battleground by taking the "random" out of one of the competing sides.  That is, if you could bring 20 friends into your RBG, all on voice against just a bunch of random people, you'd win.   Well, they did.. they'd stomp them.  They did.

The add-on also allowed for people to create cross-realm raiding activities using Cross-Realm Battle-Tag groups of people on various servers all wanting to do the same content.

Essentially it was the predecessor of "Pre-made Finder", but it had no "auto-invite".

Today, we have pre-made finder, largely, I think, because of oQueue.  But the auto-invite feature allows players to quickly join pre-made groups, for whatever purpose and use them to pull their character to different servers.

Players do this for the sole purpose of hunting rare creatures that have long spawn timers, increasing their odds of finding these creatures significantly.

Pros:  Increases odds of finding these creatures significantly.  Players feel justified for doing this because Cross-Realm Zones decreased their odds.

Cons:  Can be disruptive to groups that have people join/leave without having any real intent to participate in the purpose of the group.   Defeats the purpose of Cross-Realm Zones.   Creates a whole new purpose for pre-made finder for which it was never designed.

Where from here

Much debate and argument could go here about Server Population, Pre-made finder Realm Hopping is fine or why Cross-Realm Zones is bad and I probably could agree with many of their points while at the same time disagree with others.

But, what I think, however, is that the whole system is broken because the original intents are not being accomplished and the features are being used for purposes other than intended.

All these partial solution are leading in one direction that Blizzard just doesn't appear to want to go.

Sure, I will use these systems to do similar things while they exist, but that doesn't mean I think it is the right technological answer.

Blizzard wants:
  • Competition for resources - Hopping for rares breaks this.
  • Pre-mades for playing with people - Hopping for rares breaks this.
  • Preserve the concept of realms.
Players want:
  • People they can play with.  
  • Ability to play with friends
  • Servers that are viable
Their solutions aren't working.
  • Servers are still getting lower populations and becoming non-viable as more players quit or migrate.
  • Cross-Realm zones is a partial implementation to ameliorate low population server problems. 
  • Pre-made finder is a partial implementation because it doesn't support ALL content.
  • Players can't really play / share / join the same guilds, it's just a band-aid.

Solution

Blizzard needs to fix their broke.  They are creating band-aids that just create more problems.

It is time to free players from their servers.   I have my own ideas on how it could be implemented but this is really something only Blizzard could design.

My basic concept is as thus:
  • Realm is just text appended to your toon name.   But servers are only an internal Blizzard thing.
  • As players you can join any guild.
  • Guilds are listed on a larger web site accessible in game or out.  This system would allow for a large set of search criterion that's not only complex but detailed.
  • Players appear on the same server as their guild (irregardless of their "realm" text).
  • Guilds are grouped to balance player population by a balancing system.
There are still servers, but they mean much less to the players.  What matters is what guild you join.

Pre-made Groups still can exist.  But they need to have their purpose enforced.  If you are not near the realm leader, you are not on his instanced server.   This stops hopping pre-made groups.

Cross-Realm Zones needs to exclude rares.  Then you no longer need to hop for rares anyhow. 

We could debate this and maybe my solution is the right one.  But the way we are headed isn't better as long as low population servers continue to die the game will suffer.  



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Max Zoom Removal

I tend to lean in favor of Blizzard's decisions on many things.  What can I say.... I love the game.

On this particular change, however, I am a tad flustered.  Not because I don't think the change is needed.  The frustration is over being lied too.   I hate being lied to.   If Blizzard really has a reason for the change, they need to be honest and explain why.  Even if the details are left out, they could still be indirectly honest about it.

For example, "Max Zoom is being removed and we hate it because of technical difficulties with the new visibility distance" (made up reason).   I could buy that.

What frustrates me is the disingenuous explanation for the change. I'm sorry, but I don't believe the "fairness" candy coating.

Blizzard says... the UI is so complex they can't show us our full stats.
Blizzard says... you can get an add-on to see your full stats.
Blizzard says... max zoom is an unfair advantage, we are removing max zoom.

Is having an add-on to see your full stats an UNFAIR ADVANTAGE?

  • If not, then why is max zoom?
  • If so, then why allow add-on for full stats... why even recommend this?

It does not compute.

Blizzard, give us the real reason for the change... or you just plain look like liars.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Guild Features Need Love

As a guild leader, it should not be a surprise that I think guilds are the heart of World of Warcraft.   That's not to say that solo-play doesn't work in WoW, and fun can't be had, but I wouldn't be here if it was a solo game.

Blizzard has definitely dropped the ball on giving some needed guild improvements.   Players should not be required to get add-ons to compensate for some of these core capabilities.

While they tried in Cataclysm with the guild experience and the guild recruitment tool, those were focusing more attention on the wrong areas, in my opinion.

Today, players walk up to any billboard in WoW and the game suggests a litany of solo-play activities.  But, for guilds, all they get is the guild recruitment tool that doesn't really work.

Guild Recruitment Overhaul:

  1. Ability to invite people that are offline or alts of your own.
  2. Automatically update the guild list to indicate how active a guild is... what activities they have done recently as a guild and allow queries on this information.  How many players that have logged in the last 3 weeks.
  3. How many players are in the guild (not characters).
  4. Have guilds that are inactive - no guild activities (no one logging into them) are grayed out as inactive.  They have a guild activity tracker system, let the players know when guilds are dead or at least how active they will be before you join.
  5. Ability to search on exact raid times, bt times, etc.  Find one that matches your schedule.
  6. Give players the ability to filter, search and set criterion to help them find the perfect guild.  
  7. Why do players have to know about wowprogress.com or guildox to be able to assess a guilds progress?
  8. Have a big block for guild leaders to fully write up on their guild and what it is like.

Handling Players and their Characters

  1. Guilds should allow up to 999 account instead of 999 characters.  The number of characters should not impact the number of players that can join a guild.   The more and more character slots Blizzard gives us the more characters players want to bring to their guilds but this limits the number of people a guild can have.   Please fix this!
  2. Build into the system to manage players (and their alternative characters) as a unit (by account) instead of having to manage them independently and try to figure out who is who.  Yes, I know this means that players give up some ability to have 2 toons in a guild and be anonymous on one or the other in the same guild, sorry, but I track alts already and have never had anyone have issue.

Guild Permissions:

  1. Allow us to have permission sets independent of the ranks.  Ranks usually imply what activities players do or how long they've been with the guild.  But, this doesn't mean they also need privileges.  They might, but they might not.   With permission sets, I could apply different "jobs" to different players regardless of their ranks.     Example:
    1. Member:  PvPs set, Raider set.  Bank Manager set.
    2. Member:  Raider set.
    3. Officer:  Guild Chat set.  Bank Manager set.  Raider Set.
  2. (7/6/16) Guild Note Permissions.  Add the permission that a player can only edit their own guild note.

Ranks:

  1. I'd like about 5 more ranks.  I probably don't need that many, but it's nice to have ranks to indicate length of service in the guild.   I can do this, but without permission sets, I need different ranks for different bank permissions.   Example:
    1. New 
    2. Member (> month)
    3. Tenured (> 6 month)
    4. Senior (> 12 months)
  2. Allow ranks to have a sub-titles that guildies can see on name plate.  Today you get "recruit" in your guild tag, but the guild could see guild labels instead.  The guild reputation no longer means anything:
    1. New -    Joeman
    2. Raider -  Joeman  
    3. Officer - Joeman

Guild Calendar:

  1. Ability to indicate when players are away and when they will return.  Sort of like a "leave calendar"
  2. With #1.  If someone is scheduled on leave, automatically decline for new events on their scheduled away times and link to the "away" notice.
  3. Ability to chat/set away notices from the phone app.
  4. Ability to give notes when you accept an event like "I will be 5 mins late", "can't make it, cat's on fire"
  5. Make calendar notices more "in your face" than just the blinking ?. Like when they log in.   Here are new activities on the calendar.  
  6. Allow creating repeating events so I don't have to copy paste week to week for regular raids. Perhaps just a month at a time if they are afraid of forever events.
  7. Allow for color coding activities on the calendar.

Guild Bank:

  1. Give us the ability to set types of items on a tab and when people donate the items to the bank it automatically attempts to place it on the correct tab.
  2. Make the guild bank auto sort.
  3. Have the ability to exclude certain items from being added to the bank.  If people submit junk and it's rejected and returned to the submitted ("your item type is not currently requested by the guild").
  4. Better API for monitoring suspicious guild bank activity.  People regularly withdrawing gold, regularly withdrawing items, etc.

Voice System:

  1. Provide an API for external voice providers to hook in for quicker voice joins.  Yes, I know WoW will have a new voice system soon, but unless it can compete... folks will still prefer Discord, Teamspeak, Ventrilo.   Don't close the voice economy down.    Then, if voice services choose to allow it, they can auto join voice servers in a single click.

Guild Notes:

  1. Give US a LOT more space for guild notes.  
    1. 1024 characters for the player (per account).  The play can tell a little about themselves, offer up contact information if they are willing, etc.
    2. 1024 characters for officers.  A small space to track notes about the players play schedule, teams the participate on, what kind of activities they like.
    3. 1024 character for the guild manager.  A small space to track issues or conversations with the player in case of dispute.

Guild Planner:

  1. Give guild planners the ability to plan activities.  Quick and easy way to add raids to the calendar.
  2. Suggest ideas for guild activities:  Raids, 5-mans, challenge modes, rated battlegrounds, pet battle tournaments, races.   Have a suggestion of the month that pops up.  Keep the players engaged.  Help guild leaders improve their guilds.
Just think of how much better organized a guild would be if we had the tools to make a guild sing.

Guilds didn't need guild perks, guild leveling.   They are nice, but they need tools.

What about your guild?  What would you add?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Leader Moment: Don't be a douche

My guild may just not be your style.  I get it!   But my guild is over 250 people from all walks of life and a multitude of age ranges.   I have learned that each generation has it's own social tolerances of what is acceptable.   Usually the younger the generation the edgier.

I feel I am pretty progressive for a 50 year old southern boy living in the bible belt that I can take a lot of what I would call "aggressive banter".   Perhaps playing WoW has added "salt" to my diet.

Anyhow, last night, I was recruiting and I give my usual spiel about the guild and the the only really simple behavior rule I have.   Essentially it is just a simple "don't be a douche".
  1. Don't bring up topics you know are going to get people all hot and bothered because if it gets you hot an bothered it will definitely do the same for others.
    1. Politics
    2. Gender, Gender inequalities
    3. Sexual Orientation
    4. Race, race relations
  2. Swearing is allowed, but don't be lewd.   And, as a southern boy, this means using any term that's derogatory against women.   You JUST DON'T DO THAT!
  3. Don't troll the trade channel.   Everyone that sees that will immediately think... their guild leader is also a douche because they allow this.
I personally don't think that's really asking too much.  I mean you have a full spectrum of topics to talk about and let's be realistic, 90% of what people talk about is the game anyhow.

And, I always tell folks that in smaller audiences... say like on voice chat, once you get to know the person you are talking to, the barriers will slack a little.

Now, why would have such a restrictive rule.   It is VERY SIMPLE.

Because:
  • I don't want to deal with whispers of the offended.
  • I don't want to deal with the overly emotional.  
  • I don't want to clean up a mess that you could of avoided.
Hey, disagreements happen.  But most people here are here to play WoW.

Play nice!

Check out my write up with dealing with the "offensive".  I guess I need my write up on dealing with the "offended" as well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Guilding up for Legion

With the way people play World of Warcraft today, Guilds have sort of become marginalized and this makes me a little sad.

You can essentially boost a character to end-game and gear up quickly with catch-up mechanisms and essentially complete all the content without ever really engaging with the other people that play.

I get it.  I understand that not everyone has the scheduled play time.  Not everyone can commit to a group of people all over the country and try to organize something larger than the temporary affiliations that the premade finder or raid finder can provide.  And, of course, not everyone has the social temperament to play with others.

But, I seriously feel as if I could never really enjoy this game that way.  Part of what makes me stick to this game as long as I have is not the game play at all, but all the people I have met and get to play it with.   If not for the people, I'd have left long ago.

If you are new to WoW, or if you haven't been guilded for a while, perhaps it's time to give a go.

If you have and had a bad experience, do your homework and try again.  Don't just accept the first guild that you see advertising but ask other members in that guild what it's like first.   Talk to the recruiter and find out what it takes to get involved and what the guidelines will be required.

You may find that guild just for you.  You may not.   But you'll be missing something if you don't try.