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Month: April 2016

Nostalrius: The Inevitable Post (Updated)

Or, what happens when people get confused about what they actually want…


So Nostalrius, the “fan” managed “vanilla” server was forced to be closed down by Blizzard.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Blizzard were absolutely in the right here. This was essentially an illegal mis-use of Blizzard’s IP, and if they hadn’t closed it down then they would have been damaging their own rights and ability to defend their IP in the future.

Now, there have been figures bandied about all month regarding Nostalrius:

  • 800,000 registered users
  • 150,000 active users
  • 12,000 concurrent users

These are the figures being quoted by those demanding that Blizzard set up official vanilla servers, and using the above figures as evidence of “demand”.

However there are several potentially fatal flaws in this line of reasoning.

First and foremost?


Nostalrius had no subscription fee.

Players signed up, created an account, and played for free, never once having to pay a subscription cost. Nostalrius’ management did ask for and accept “donations” towards the server’s running costs, but no payment was demanded either up front or on an ongoing basis. Which is probably why it, and other “fan”-run servers like it have gotten away with existing thus far.

In fact, when polled by PC Gamer about how many Nostalrius players would be willing to pay a regular subscription for its continued existence?

Barely any Nostalrius players were prepared to pay for it.

They wanted a specific version of the game set up to their liking, and never ever wanted to pay for it. And therein lies the reason why Nostalrius was so popular. It was merely a haven for the vanilla-crowd who no longer wanted to pay for a subscription based MMO.

I mean, who hates free stuff?

However the popularity of this server, it’s greatest strength, was ultimately its downfall. When you have tens of thousands of players playing something you’ve created, and you’re not being compensated for it in an official capacity? You have to defend your IP.

That’s the way the US Copyright laws are setup. If Blizzard hadn’t shut it down, then Nostalrius could’ve been used as a precedent against them being able to shut down other servers like this in future. Including ones that may have demanded a subscription fee. And obviously Blizzard wouldn’t want that either.


Content and updates.

People are complaining vociferously and have been for months about the lack of content in Warlords of Draenor, and rightly so. But if you have a server that’s locked and capped on a single expansion? What exactly are you hoping for in terms of content?

The best you’ll get are “events” run by the GMs of the server, where they spawn NPCs in locations and have players take them on.

Don’t expect new dungeons, raids, systems, pet or mount models etc etc, because they won’t be coming. All I’ve ever seen on any of the forums or websites for private servers like these are this type of event, because they obviously lack the tools, developers and artists to create fresh, actually new content. They merely re-mix, rehash and fiddle with what’s already in the vanilla box.

Just imagine if you could never have another album by your favourite (living) artist or group ever again. Imagine the best you would ever have ever again are endless remixes of their début album for the rest of eternity.

Not so appealing now, is it? Wouldn’t you rather have new albums? New potentially great tracks?


Conflating Experience with Content.

Nearly all of those who played on Nostalrius and those who have been demanding official Vanilla servers began playing in Vanilla.

Ask most people what their favourite expansion is, and 99% will give you the exact same answer: Whatever expansion was current when they began playing.

But why is that?

When you began playing WoW (or any other older MMO for that matter), everything was new. EVERYTHING. Including all the stuff that was old hat to longer-term players.

I began in Vanilla. I did. But Vanilla was so bad I quit after 6 months and swore off the game for over 3 years, and missed out TBC altogether, coming back at the start of Wrath. So is Wrath my favourite expansion?

Nope, that would be Mists. But Wrath is a very close 2nd.

It’s all about nostalgia. Rose-tinted spectacles, and thinking back to how you felt playing during that time period, when everything was new, the world was your oyster and there seemed like no end to the fun you could potentially have.

Very often people’s fondness for their favourite expansion will be tied directly to how they felt while they were playing at that time. Rarely will it be about the actual content of that time, and that’s where most people’s demands for vanilla servers hits a sticky patch.

I seriously doubt very many people will prefer the basic, simplistic raids of vanilla in Onyxia, Molten Core etc, to more modern raids like ICC, Siege of Orgrimmar, Blackrock Foundry or even Hellfire Citadel. The game has evolved, in terms of both complexity and the actual engine itself. And the playerbase has evolved right along with it.

Some of them have moved on to other games, like Black Desert, Eve Online, Wildstar etc, whilst those that remain have increased in skill level in order to cope with the demands of newer, more complex content.

Sure, Blizzard have been accused of dumbing down the game to a certain degree in order to bring in more casual players. Hell my last article included an element of that.

But wouldn’t going back to Vanilla, a version of the game that was at it’s base the most dumbed down the game has ever been, just be volunteering to play what these self-same elitists are debasing Blizzard for doing to the current game?


So, wrapping this up, there are many reasons why Blizzard are right to not only shut Nostalrius down, but also be reticent to open official vanilla servers.

They would have to support multiple versions of the game (if you think players would stop at demanding Vanilla only servers, think again), and it would also fracture and splinter the already dwindling player-base ever further.

If you think your server’s empty now…


Update:

After publishing earlier today, this tweet appeared:

Interesting times, given Blizzard’s response about pristine realms…

It’s Official: iLevel is the one true stat.

Chose that tweet to lead with, as it contains a link to Alt’s blog, which, as per the Blogroll page, is always worth a read 🙂


So, to the matter at hand…

LFM: ToT Transmog run. iLevel 746 or GTFO Scrubs.
LFM: Molten Core Transmog run. iLevel 746 or GTFO Scrubs.

Fuck those pesky and confusing stats, amirite?

Who cares how much of “X” stat you have? Who cares if you have your gear gemmed and enchanted, or if it’s even the right armour type. Who cares if you’re using a wand as a rogue? Or wearing spirit mail as a Fury Warrior?

FUCK THAT GAIS!

Blizzard are now going down the “ITEM LEVEL IS YOUR NEW GOD” route.

And that character sheet?

Looks like something from a pretty shitty action game, where there’s only 1 stat that matters.

Eurgh.

They may as well stop calling it Item Level and just call it E-Peen, or Power Level.

yuck
Eeeeeewwwwwww

I love fiddling with my characters’ stats. I’m not a min-maxer by any means, but I do like to tinker with stats until I’m happy with them with the gear I’ve got. Item level isn’t really the end all and be all for me personally.

I’d rather have stats I prefer or feel are more useful for my individual character than a higher item level.

An attitude borne out by my characters frequently never wearing the highest level gear they have, unless the gear they have marries up with my preferred stats.

As a consequence of this change by Blizzard, which you should note may or may not make it to live btw, you will need to use an addon just to see the stats that you can see today.

The biggest pain? The change from points to percentages for the likes of Crit etc. I’d like to know if I have 2100 Crit, or 2158 for that matter. A single percentage display is terrible, and obfuscates breakpoints and an awful lot of variability.

Hopefully this is display at the very least in the tooltip as it is on live, but again, no beta Alpha.

tumblr_ln2h1yAIAc1qejy5r
Proud member of the No-Beta club since 4eva. /sadface

Plus, any unused stats are now hidden, which may be streamlining, but to me it, in conjunction with the other changes, just dumbs down the individual character’s entire existence to less than a handful of numbers.

I get what Blizzard are going for here, I really do. They wanted to go one further than the greying out of useless stats that they went for in WoD. However the result just simplifies the stat sheet far too much.

It looks sad and pathetic, and frankly like someone who’s been asked to write 10,000 words on the American Civil War, and all they can think of is Capt America vs Iron Man, and wrote down #TeamCap then left the rest of the page blank.

I really hope they beef it up a bit more before it goes live, I really do. I know on live all that the idiots running pugs care about is iLevel. I tweet regularly when I’m pugging about some of the ridiculous item level requirements pug leaders look for, like 720+ for Mythic Highmaul:

Or 720+ for Normal Archimonde, a fight which rewards 705 gear…

So are Blizzard just going with the flow and caving to the iLevel morons?

Sadly it looks like it, and as gear increases in power until the next squish, the problem will only become more compounded as increased iLevel over the next couple of expacs will lead to greater increases in power.

So yeah, you’ve got it from the horse’s mouth: Item Level is soon to be the One True Stat, the Only Stat That Matters.

tumblr_ln2h1yAIAc1qejy5r
/sadface again

Final Tier Lengths: Still a WiP?

Are Blizzard doing any better at shortening the lengthy raid tiers at the end of every expansion? The evidence is damning…


Have a look at that header graphic. I’ve reproduced it below, along with a bar chart for your edification, courtesy of @elvinelol on Twitter:

raid_pies

CgZeSBJW8AERgaL

435 days for Hellfire Citadel, by the time Legion launches, 6 days longer than the 429 days of Siege of Orgrimmar.

Since Vanilla, and with the exception of Dragon Soul, expansion end raids have consistently increased in duration, from 209 days (7 months) to the now 14+ months of recent expansions:

  • Vanilla: Naxxramas – 209 days (7 months)
  • Burning Crusade: Sunwell – 230 (8)
  • Wrath: ICC – 364 (12)
  • Cata: Dragon Soul – 301 (10)
  • Mists: Siege of Orgrimmar – 429 (~14)
  • Warlords: Hellfire Citadel – 435 (>14)

Blizzard, as we all know, have been promising to increase the production speed of expansions since at least Wrath. However it appears that promises like this are putting more pressure on the devs, which, ironically, ends with results contrary to the initial promises.


Personally, I much prefer a 2 year expansion cycle, with 3 raid tiers:

  • x.0: Launch Day – Raid Tier 1.
    • x.1: Three months later – 1st Minor Patch for features & systems
  • x.2: Eight months in – Raid Tier 2.
    • x.3: Three months later – 2nd Minor Patch for features & systems
  • x.4: Sixteen months in – Raid Tier 3.

That leaves a final raid tier as current content for 8 months, 2 of which would be pre-patch for the following expansion.

I think that would work perfectly fine. The clamour from players for faster expansions I think is actually more of a desire for regular content both across and between expansions, not faster expansions per se.

If end tiers were 6-8 months long, including pre-patches for following expansions to give players a then familiar raid tier to bed class changes in with, then I think players as a whole would be pretty damned happy with that.

2 years is a solid time to spend in an expansion. It doesn’t rush raid tiers, it allows the lore of the expansion time to develop more naturally, whilst giving plenty of time for minor patches to bed in with additional system changes or features.

Most importantly it means we’re not stuck with final raid tiers that last 14 months or longer.


With World of Warcraft aging and getting towards that final expansion, it’s high time for Blizzard to throw in the towel and settle on a rational release schedule, such as the one I’ve suggested above.

It would serve Blizzard as a developer better in the long-term with regards to player retention and income stability, and would hopefully minimise the sort of population crash that Warlords saw over the course of 2015, falling as it did from 10m+ players to less than 4m.

Legion: Coming 30/08/2016!

So, only 3 weeks prior to that “On or before 21st Sep 2016” date….nice.


So Legion is coming in 4 and a bit months from the time of writing, so that means the systems patch should be with us in early July.

After a bit of thought, calling the pre-patch dates as 5th – 6th July. That’s the week after the film comes out on June 30th.

That pre-patch date gives us 11 weeks (or 19 wks to expac release) from today to:

  • Hit gold caps (I should get this one done!)
  • Fill bags with transmogs for the Wardrobe feature to get a headstart on that “…the Fabulous” title!
  • Clear Normal/Heroic/Mythic HFC.
  • Level and/or Gear any remaining alts.
  • Play your classes before they change irrevocably (Hunters, you know dem feels, amirite?)
  • Spend time with your loved ones.
  • Spend time above ground and see daylight.

That also means of course, that Legion pre-purchasers get to play with their new Demon Hunters about August 23rd onwards.

And of course we should get Gnome Hunters at the start of July with the systems/pre patch!

The “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” Crux Review

This  is going to be a spoiler filled review, so if you haven’t seen it yet? Look away now…


Today was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 65. 
He died 5 years ago and I miss the hell out of him.

It’s apropos, trust me.


So I finally got around to seeing Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (hereafter referred to as simply: BvS), after it being on release for over a week already. Having read and watched reviews being less than kind to it, I wanted to see for myself if the less than glowing critiques were justified, and if they were, what was it exactly that made the film so bad?

For a start, BvS isn’t quite as bad as the current rating of 31% on Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe. There were some pretty good points about this film…

Batfleckg0EhmhH

The first positive of the movie. Seriously.

Christian Bale was and probably always will be my favourite on-screen Batman. So when Ben Affleck was announced as Batman, I was seriously questioning what the fuck DC were thinking.

As it turned out, he makes for a great Batman. Not Bale great, but great nonetheless. Bats in this film is a perfectly realised Frank Miller’s Batman of The Dark Knight Returns. Right down to the story beats, age and even his bat costume & armour. All are directly referencing and lifting from Frank Miller’s defining work.

This is a pissed off, grizzled and just plain fucked off Batman. A man who is sick of shit and just wants to clean up and protect his Gotham from any and all threats.

As Bruce Wayne, he was in Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel (MoS) and saw and experienced first-hand, at street-level, the kind of wholesale wanton destruction that Kryptonians are capable of when they have a tiff.

After a short dream sequence (the film is full of them), the intro sequence to the film depicts the destruction during the end of MoS as witnessed by Bruce. The background to this destruction laden intro is the World Engine that was unleashed by Zod in MoS, battering the city.

With buildings collapsing left, right and centre, Bruce dodges his way through the destruction, in an effort to see who he can save. His main goal is the Wayne Industries building in Metropolis, which he witnesses being sliced in half by Heat Vision, and collapsing, killing everyone still inside.

From that point on, you can understand how an ordinary man like Bruce would view aliens like these. Mega-powerful, god-like creatures who can’t be stopped or killed by mortal weapons and who could, on a whim, destroy all life on the planet. As he said to his butler, Alfred:

“Count the dead, thousands of people. What’s next? Millions? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”

Thus begins his mission to take down Superman…

Supermanbatman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-trailer-henry-cavill-warner-brothers-youtube-12032015-1276x850

Henry Cavill returns as Superman, his second appearance as the Last Son of Krypton.

I bloody loved Man of Steel, and a lot of that was down to Henry Cavill. I think he not only makes a perfect Superman, but also a great, more modern Clark Kent.

Christopher Reeve for many, will of course, and rightly so, be the best Superman. However as good as he was (and he was!), he never quite had the physicality that you would associate with someone as physically powerful as Superman.

Cavill fills that suit with aplomb.

If it sounds like I’m completely man-crushing here?

#guilty #broner

He returns to the role, and does just as great a job here. The impact that the events of MoS had both on Metropolis and Clark play out here.

There are two diametrically opposed views on Superman in this film. Those who support Supes, and believe he’s only here to do good, and those, like Bruce Wayne, who believe he presents a clear, present and potentially future threat to the citizens of Metropolis and beyond.

Cavill plays the guilt-ridden and conflicted Superman/Clark to a tee, and events later in the film show him pushed to the breaking point, ready to go full on nuclear on the film’s main antagonist and first major failing, Lex Alexander Luthor.

Good job Henry.

Call me?

*ahem*

Alexander “I’m not Lex” LuthorEfgtr

No, not the Lex you’re used to. Just not yet at least. Jesse Eisenberg, again playing himself as he does in every film he’s ever in (hey it worked for Sean Connery right?) plays Alexander Luthor, son of Lex Luthor.

Here, Alexander…fuck it, Lex, is a tech billionaire, of much the same ilk as another character Eisenberg played in the Social Network: Mark Zuckerberg. Here he’s full of twitches, tics and really hams it up as a man with psychological and pathological daddy issues.

His portrayal of Lex frames the character as one that might actually be clinically insane, which was honestly the best thing about the character.

But the biggest negative about his character is his motivation.

What the fuck was it?

It was never made clear throughout the entire film exactly why Lex was doing what he was doing. He just seemed to hate Superman and wanted to kill him. He kept referencing imagery of angels and demons, so maybe he was meant to be thinking that Superman was a demon in human form and he saw himself as the saviour of the world?

But if that was the case, then that doesn’t track logically with his unleashing of the villain that criminally was shown in the trailers: Doomsday. A creature hell-bent on destroying everything. But we’ll come back to him in a bit.

Cameos: Wonder Woman

Underused, but we got to see a decent glimpse of how Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will be realised in her first full length feature that’s set to début next year.

There were initially a lot of concerns, similar to Batfleck, about Gadot’s casting. Happily though, again similar to Batfleck, Gadot pulled off the Immortal Amazonian Princess shtick with not a little bit of credit to her name.

No, she’s not built, like some would have liked, but she did well with the little she had handed to her to work with. That amounted to a few scenes outside of the Doomsday battle, and of course the majority of that battle itself.

It was good to see DC’s holy trinity on screen at once for the first time though.Batman-V-Superman-Trailer-Trinity

But what of the other cameos? Flash? Aquaman? Cyborg?

Well, these were all “blink and you’ll miss them” cameos. Seen mainly as surveillance footage gathered by Lex in his research, each cameo was on screen for less than a minute each.

For me though, Flash aside, none of the others really have me all that pumped. And I only exclude Flash from that because I love the completely unconnected TV show. But frankly, the guy they’ve chosen to play Barry Allen in the DCU?

Looks like a skeevy drug dealer to be frank:

flashvszoom15
Barry Allen on TV: Clean cut, fun and wholesome.
ezra-miller
Barry Allen in the DCU – $5 a baggie?

Bleh. I remain to be convinced about any of the coming Justice League members outside of the Trinity. They’re not the Avengers, that’s for damn sure.

And as an aside? No-one even fucking likes Aquaman. I feel sorry for the frankly miscast Jason Momoa. He’s been stuck with a fucking terrible superhero to portray. I predict his solo film will absolutely stink.

Not even the guys on the Big Bang Theory, who all love superheroes, even like Aquaman.

cdec069e361d3e41b0259fe6991e48a2
Fear him, he can swim like, really fast…?

And as for Cyborg? Anyone care?

Thought not.

Anyhow, the remainder of the MoS supporting cast are all here too: Lois Lane and Perry White (a returning Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne), as well as Martha and Jonathan Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner).

The actual emotional highpoint of the film for me was when Superman went AWOL for a while to try to clear his head and to get away from Metropolis, following a bombing at a trial where he was the only survivor.

He went hiking in the snow, and had a vision of his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent whilst there.

Pa Kent had a few wise words for his son, and the line that got me, after the vision ended?

Clark: I miss you dad.

Told you it was apropos.


Lowpoints of BvS

Anyhow, onto the failings then, and what dragged the film down, Lex Luthor aside…

First off, there was very little humour in this film. I can remember two jokes, one of which was the “I thought she was with you” line from the trailer.

Other than that, and an aside from Alfred (who seems to have been merged with the character of Lucius Fox in this DCU continuity and provides Batman’s tech support), there was bugger all to lighten the mood of what was otherwise a fucking grim spectacle.


Serious spoilers for the end of the film follow from this point right through to the end. You were warned!

Spoilers-Spoilers-everywhere-memeWhen you think about it, the reason it’s really grim is because the storyline of this film is quite simply The Dark Knight Returns vs the Death of Superman.

And yes, DC are using a bastardised Zod’s body (as seen in the trailers!) as that Doomsday. And here? He looks like a fucking Mutant Ninja Turtle. Like a pissed off Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtle that didn’t get his pizza delivered within 20 minutes or less…

doomsday-and-raphael-separated-at-birth

Anyway, the storyline follows that particular character’s most notable story to a tee.

Yeah DC, you done blown your load early.

You killed Superman.

You went and utterly blew the Death of Superman storyline by cramming it into the last 20 minutes of the second film in the DCU?

Seriously?

/facedesk x infinity

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu….

Death of Superman should have been a storyline that had an entire film dedicated to it. Man of Steel 3 perhaps.

You should have given the general audience time. Time to bond with this iteration of Superman beyond 1.5 movies. Give them time to see him redeem himself from the events of the first movie, to prove himself to be the hero the world knows him to be.

Then? When he’s a proper saviour, and adored by the world of the DCU and audiences worldwide? Then drop the hammer of Death of Superman, without any hint that he may still be alive, unlike what they did with the final shot of this film.

Alas that wasn’t to be. Instead, DC rush things in an effort to catch up to Marvel, and cram Superman’s most important storyline into the last 20 minutes of only the second film in the DCU, thus robbing the character’s sacrifice of much of its gravitas and importance.

Fuck.

But, as anyone who knows the Superman comic history will attest, Supes does come back after the Death of Superman storyline, and this version will too, but I’ll swing back round to why in a second.


There were many dream sequences I mentioned earlier, and two of them are relevant to where I think the DCU are heading with their overall story arc. Particularly that of Superman.

The first dream sequence involved a more overt cameo from the DCU’s Flash. In it, he warned Bruce Wayne:

“Listen to me now. It’s Lois, Lois Lane. She’s the key. I’m too soon? I’m too soon. You were right about him. You’ve always been right about him. Fear him. Find us, you have to find us.”

The other sequence, partially in the trailers, was set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland outside of a city, presumably Metropolis. In it is carved a huge Omega symbol, and there are troops with Superman’s S logo emblazoned upon their arms.

In this dream, it looks like Superman has gone evil, and amassed an army that worships him like a god, and he’s destroyed everyone that has gone against him.

batman-v-superman-final-trailer-6

Given these two dream sequences, I have a feeling they are going to really fuck things up. Especially for Superman fans.

How?

A few years back, a fighting game was released by WB featuring the superheroes of DC.

It was called Injustice: Gods Among Us.

It was set 5 years after the events of Death of Superman, and in it, he and Lois are married and she’s pregnant with his child.

The story goes that Superman, after the Joker tricks him into killing Lois and destroying Metropolis, Superman decides that he needs to impose a forced “peace” on the world. He warns the governments of the world to cease fighting, or that he’ll do it for them.

In essence he becomes a global dictator and rules the planet with an iron fist.

If you want to read more on it, you can read the Wikipedia synopsis, or a longer fuller description of the comic prequel.

So yeah, that’s where I think they’re going, and maybe why they’ve blown such an important storyline so early in the DCU.

It’s also fairly obvious that the major villain in the DCU, and perhaps in the last JL movie proper, is going to be Darkseid. In the aforementioned apocalypse nightmare, Darkseid’s henchmen are fighting alongside a corrupted Superman and his troops, so it looks as though both Superman and Darkseid could be teaming up in a future DCU installment.

In essence, Darkseid is going to be DC’s Thanos.

Except Marvel will have threaded the threat of Thanos throughout 12 movies over the course of 10 years.

Not so much patience being shown by DC.


Conclusion

Am I glad I went to see the film?

Yeah, of course. I love superhero films and TV shows, and it takes one to be really really bad for me to regret seeing it. Potentially Aquaman’s solo flick will be falling into this category.

Would I recommend you go see it?

Eh. It depends if you’re as big a fanboy as I am. If not? Maybe wait for the Blu-Ray release in 6 months.

Ultimately, it’s a very mixed film. Storyline was sketchy to non-existent, and the characterisation of some characters was off or incoherent at best.

The premature use of the Death of Superman storyline so early on in the DCU is so very nearly unforgivable, and Zack Snyder is going to have to really justify trying to run before he can walk with this nascent Justice League IP. This should have been a story that would have been built up to over the course of years, and if Darkseid’s coming? Have him resurrect Superman as his lieutenant.

But the film did have some high points. The fight sequences were good, and the effects were well handled. Batfleck and WW both came out of this with credit in their banks, and we’ve got a possible showdown with Darkseid on the cards.

I don’t usually score stuff, but it would be around a 5 to 6 out of 10. It was far from awful, but it was also far from great. And I say that as someone who adored Man of Steel, a movie that has had no shortage of critics in the years since its release.

An appropriately bitter-sweet experience then, for a bitter-sweet day.

Happy Birthday Dad.