We don’t usually bat an eyelash when a game’s official forum undergoes a policy change, but we’re making a special exception and batting harder than a mafia hitman against someone’s kneecaps at Blizzard’s decision to switch its forum over to a real ID system. In a nutshell, this means that in order to post on, say, the official World of Warcraft or StarCraft II forums, you’ll soon have to display your real name for all 11.5-million some-odd players to see.
“The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild,” said Blizzard’s announcement of the change.
“Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.”
Makes enough sense at first glance, right? Look closer, though, and you’ll realize that Blizzard’s missing so many points that anyone not hiding behind a giant, red bull’s-eye probably oughta duck. Foremost, there’s the issue of potential identity theft or other forms of harassment. In this day and age, odds are, if you've got someone's name, you'll find a treasure trove of personal information waiting for you on Google. Also, in these games, you are your handle. You are your character. Why play an MMO if not to become part of another reality – live another life? Worst case scenario, having your real name attached to your character could even change how you act in-game.
On top of that, has Blizzard taken a look at its own game lately? Of course there’s conflict on your forums. It’s called World of Warcraft for Pete’s sake! The trolling, flaming, smack-talking, etc is symptomatic of WoW’s intrinsic, PvP-based design, and forcing players to display their real names isn’t going to change that.
Is general hostility and confrontation an issue in many gaming communities? Certainly. “Issue” is probably understating it, in fact. But this definitely won’t fix it. It will, however, in all likelihood turn Blizzard’s forum into a ghost town. Please, other developers, learn from Blizzard’s potentially community-destroying attempt to unify its community. Think about the consequences of such a huge change before you make it. Look before you leap.
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. And there ain’t no such thing as a free MMO, either. But there is such a thing as an MMO that doesn’t slowly-but-surely siphon a small fortune from your bank account, and it seems to be all the rage these days. Dungeons & Dragons Online rolled a last-minute, tide-turning 20 by giving the boot to its subscription fee, and Lord of the Rings Online seems poised for a similar resurgence. But what about the perennial king of the subscription-based MMO hill?
“At some point, it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee,” World of Warcraft lead designer Tom Chilton told PC Gamer.
Of course, at this particular moment, 11.5 million subscribers say it still makes plenty of sense. In fact, many have speculated that subscriptions are going the way of the Dodo precisely because Blizzard’s hogging all the potential subscribers. Chilton, however, doesn’t buy it.
“I feel like they’re doing that to compete with other games that are on a similar subscriber level to what they were at. I imagine that when one of them went free to play it cannibalized some of the other subscribers. I can definitely imagine that being the case with World of Warcraft. If another game comes along and blows us away it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee. Or even further down the line, when we have another MMO out.”
For now, though, keep on pinching those pennies. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, after all, and WoW’s the most well-oiled machine on the block. And besides, we all know where that money’s really going. Yep: Warcraft IV. Please, Blizzard? Pretty please with a reactivated WoW account on top?
Normally, designing a headset for one specific game would limit you to a relatively small segment of the gaming community. But we’re talking World of Warcraft here—a game whose massive popularity makes a game-specific headset seem viable.
Enter the Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset from Creative Labs. The headset uses a small USB dongle that broadcasts in the 2.4GHz range. We found the reception to be fairly good, allowing us to walk into a different room during use without static.
Videogame movies, right? They’re all the same, every one of them. Each flecks of corn on the same festering pile of dung. Or are they? Between Spiderman director Sam Raimi, Dark Knight producer Legendary Pictures, and “Saving Private Ryan” screenwriter Robert Rodat, the Warcraft movie’s assembled a dream team that most major motion pictures only, well, dream of. Actually, you might want to pinch yourself too, because Blizzard’s resident lore master Chris Metzen – the man behind the worlds of Diablo, Starcraft, and of course, Warcraft – is heavily involved in the project as well. When asked about the movie’s progress, Metzen told VG247:
“I wouldn’t say ‘considerable’ at all just yet. We’ve been through a number of story meetings, and we’re still kind of getting it together with Raimi and his team and jamming on themes that we want to chase. We’re kinda getting a lot of values together – what kind of story we want to tell, what do we want people to feel, what is the best way to look at this big franchise.”
“My intention with the feature is that it is as close as possible to what people have experienced and what they know of our canon, but we’ll have to see the way it plays out. And I don’t mean that facetiously – we’re still trying to figure it out.”
Unsurprisingly, Metzen acknowledged that the Warcraft movie won’t adhere to its source material 100 percent. However, he likened it to Spiderman’s organic web shooters in the movies, versus his mechanical ones in the comics. Slight, mostly inconsequential changes, in other words. Don’t think, however, that Metzen has forgotten about the fans who rallied around Warcraft in the first place. Turns out, they’re priority number one.
“I have… from the day we decided it would be a good idea to have a movie in any shape… I worry about [disappointing the fans] constantly,” he admitted. “Hell, I worry about it on the games side. It’s all so complicated and fast moving – I have nightmares about screwing it up or just missing the mark. Even a movie that’s 85% good; that’s not 100% good, and our fans are very particular. But the point where we are today, with Sam and his crew – we’re still feeling it out and I think everyone shares that."
A long time in the making, Creative Technology today announced that its Creative Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset is now available for purchase.
"As the leading innovator in precision audio for PC gaming, we were well positioned to develop a headset that could live up to the high standards set forth by Blizzard Entertainment games," said Steve Erickson, VP and GM for Audio and Video at Creative. "The Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset is a result of this, providing an unprecedented combination of wireless technology, THX TruStudio PC technology for enriched audio performance, and a unique design that stands out from anything else available to gamers."
The headset comes with interchangeable headset lenses so your mom knows where your allegiance lies when she brings you dinner during a raid. Other features include oversized padded earcups, built-in rechargeable battery, VoiceFX technology, a detachable microphone, and an optional Voice Tap accessory to eliminate the need to put down the hot pocket and push a key to talk.
Don't burn your credit cards or start sending recruit-a-friend notices to everyone in your address book: World of Warcraft is not going open-source. You will still have to pay a monthly fee of $14.99 for the privilege of stomping your virtual friends and NPCs into corpse dust, and you will not be permitted to split WoW off into a side project that grants anyone with your name a free pass to level 80 (and/or a fixed "I win!" button). Blizzard isn't stupid.
WoW might not be going open-source, but the company behind it is using the 1-2-3 trick of the open-source world to encourage increased adoption and interest in its core piece of software. In what I believe is a first for the genre, you'll soon be able to access in-game mechanics from a separate Web or mobile app. You might not be able to run your daily quests off of your iPhone, but for WoW enthusiasts looking to make a tidy profit throughout their adventures in Azeroth, Blizzard's mobile access should give you up-to-the-minute information for your business profiteering.
We – as in, this particular blogger – don’t actually play World of Warcraft anymore, but we still have something of a personal stake the Lich King’s passing. Arthas’ fall – or his whiplash-inducing plunge, really – in Warcraft III still remains one of our favorite gaming stories, so it’s a bit surreal to just wake up one morning and find out that someone offed the old cold king. We always figured we’d get to close the book on what we started when we yanked Frostmourne from the ice all those years ago, preferably in some form of RTS.
Even so, congratulations are in order. A guild by the name of “Blood Legion” did the deed, earning the title of “Kingslayer,” along with a World First achievement and – hopefully – a single night off from their assuredly rigorous raiding schedule. This, of course, also means that Blizzard’s officially run out of drops of Lich King content to drip-feed players. Until the run-up to Cataclysm kicks-off, don’t count on any new content or real estate for the biggest MMO on the block.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty – perhaps too many – fish in the MMOcean, and even the hardest of hardcore WoW players should now be able to find time in their schedules to sample them. Or, we guess you could go outside or take a vacation or something, but we hear that murdering 30 boars and stealing their innards is actually frowned upon out there. Best to stick with what you know, after all.
Gotta say, it’s a bit ironic that a blood-soaked week of virtual warfare – during which, more than twelve million casualties met their abrupt, though most assuredly excruciating ends – is the perfect template for videogame immortality. But hey, when happenstance writes my jokes for me, who am I to complain? And so it is with Valve’s Team Fortress 2.
As you’re probably already aware, last week saw Valve launch its latest update for the now two year-old Team Fortress 2. Which, in videogame years, roughly equates to dead. And a half. At the very least, you’d expect the public eye – easily distracted as it is -- to have wandered elsewhere by now, leaving Valve’s wacky shooter to the vultures and tumbleweeds of the world. But it hasn’t. War, as with each of TF2’s other updates, grabbed all kinds of attention – even as newer games like Modern Warfare 2 watched jealously from the outside.
So, why hasn’t interest in Team Fortress 2 faded over the years? Well, I can’t uncover the entire recipe for Valve’s incredibly intricate immortality potion, but I can outline one of its major ingredients: presentation. When Valve gives TF2 a tune-up, it does so with style. While other developers are content to toss their DLC out into the cold, harsh world with little more than a press release to keep it warm, Valve rolls out the proverbial red carpet with comics, videos, week-long Advent Calendar-style reveals, and – most recently – in-game competitions.
If a speed run is the videogame equivalent of a 100 meter dash, then a WoW character by the name of “Little Gray” just won the Tour De France. On foot.
The character – given virtual life by a Taiwanese power-player – completed 5,906 quests, killed 390,895 creatures, and raided 405 dungeons en route to unlocking all 986 of WoW’s achievements, effectively 100% clearing the game.
Well, mostly. Little Gray hasn’t quite bagged the elusive “B.B. King” event-based achievement, but a glitched PVP achievement still brings his grand total up to 986.
According to WoW Armory, Mr. Gray hasn’t logged-in since November 23. We wish we could say he’s finally hung up his tier 9 pauldrons and moved on to some other game, but – having spent far more time with the game than we’d like to admit long before achievements turned its addiction factor up to 11 – we imagine he’s simply started an alt.
Wow. Just wow. We already fork over $15 per month to play World of Warcraft, and Blizzard seriously expects us to drop more of our hard-earned cash on a couple of… Good Lord. They’re adorable. Here’s all our money, as well as a winning lottery ticket and our collection of first edition Charizards.
Lucky for our credit histories, though, only two pets are on sale at the moment. First up, there’s the Pandaren Monk, which – in addition to warming the cockles of our hearts – brightens the days of sick children. From now until December 31, half the proceeds from each $10 Pandaren purchase will go to the Make-a-Wish-Foundation.
Lil’ K.T., the Littlest Lich, on the other hand, isn’t so charitable. Perhaps that’s because he’s the spitting image of his pop, the evil Kel’Thuzad. Apparently, he’s even been known to “randomly wreak icy havoc on critters who dare to cross his path.” But look at that face. Omnipotence and iron-fisted dominion over all existence notwithstanding, all Lil’ K.T. really wants is love.
So, readers, Pandaren Monk or Lil’ K.T. – which is it gonna be?