Talking about World of Warcraft in 2016 is really different because the game had two different years this year. And unfortunately for anyone trying to develop a comprehensive picture of the past year (yo), we're on the positive side of the year.
I mean, remember when Legion launched at the end of August and everyone was pumped? I sure do. I remember the prepatch and the events leading up to that launch, too, and everyone was excited. You could run around and get weapon skins and transmog outfits, that was nifty. And you could level your alts up nice and quickly; I took major advantage of that. There are issues right now, sure, but the general feeling is that Legion delivered what it promised with aplomb.
But I can't just talk about the past three and a half months because before that came eight months with nothing. No expansion, no patches, no new content, nada. I freely admit that I'm spoiled by the content cadence of other games, but it makes this past year - and its much busier last third - a very complex thing to discuss in the context of WoW.
It's been a little while, friends, but that happens. Last time I was making bets about what we'd see for World of Warcraft at BlizzCon, and as it happens I came up within a pretty solid margin of error. Since then, it's been a pretty straightforward few weeks of plugging away at the test server whilst punching at various enemies on the live servers, running through world quests, looking for Legendaries that never appear except by pure, blighted luck.
Of course, seeing as how luck has been the watchword of every part of this expansion to date, it's not exactly a surprise.
I could rant about that, obviously, but at this point it seems a little counterproductive and not particularly new; the fact that this expansion is a soup of random rewards with random stats at random intervals is a problem, but not one I haven't already discussed, and not one I want to dwell on right now. Instead, I want to focus on the patch after 7.1.5, because we've heard enough about 7.2 that I'm already looking forward to it, even though it's a way away. It's something every WoW expansion has tried to have, but this time it might actually get pulled off.
As we start to come to grips with the fact that we will be turning over the calendar into 2017 in one short month, it might just be for the best. In the real world, 2016 was a rocky, unpredictable year, and even among our collective favorite hobby, it featured some highs and lows that very few saw coming.
This will go down as the year that Daybreak broke our hearts, a mobile game erupted into a global phenomenon, drama over an illegal emulator sparked multiple stories, and some of the biggest MMORPG launches came from eastern imports.
So while there might be a few more huge stories left in 2016, let's spend some time revisiting the major headlines to get a better feel for the shape of the year that we are about to leave behind.
Hey you! Yeah, the player who actually reads quest text and lore entries when all of the other hooting madmen are furiously clicking past them so that they can go back to the digital bloodbath! There's no shame to settle in with a good book that just so happens to feature your favorite MMO or touch on the genre as a whole. Many of us at some time have cracked open novels, art books, and even graphic novels to dive more deeply into the worlds of the games we love.
So if you're looking for a printed companion to help you while away the hours this winter, we have a list of recommended reads for you today. You can get many of these as e-ink digital books, of course, but the bibliophiles should be happy to know that these are all available as physical tomes as well.
Getcher credit cards ready, folks. It's time.
(New additions are at the bottom!)
The holidays are almost here! Seriously, they're rushing forward at a rate of two seconds per second, or something. Which means that it's time to start buying gifts for the Blizzard fan in your life, and also buy gifts for your parents in all likelihood. Depending on your family, that may involve a single trip. Heck, depending on your parents, they might be trying to buy presents for you and you're a huge Blizzard fan. This gift guide does not discriminate.
So what is this gift guide? A quick rundown of some cool things to get the Blizzard fan in your life. There are games, there are books, and there's even a shiny helping of awkward pauses in the middle of a Q&A session. In spirit. Use it, send it to friends who want to know what to get you, or hey, pick up a little extra for yourself because you never knew some of this stuff existed. This gift guide also does not judge.
My original plan this week was to talk a little bit about patch 7.1, but two things have made that less than possible. The first is that a rather nasty depression jag has kept me from having the gumption to do everything required to hit the inadvisably limited revamp of Karazhan, and the rest of the patch just feels like, well, the parts of the expansion that were pretty much finished but not quite ready for launch. The other is the fact that this is the BlizzCon weekend, and that means I really ought to be talking about that first and foremost.
Last year, obviously, BlizzCon managed to hit some weird notes for World of Warcraft, made worse by some baffling decisions surrounding Legion's test schedule and information release. This year, of course, the expansion is already out, so we're not waiting in an awful drought of information. So it seems like now is an excellent time to predict what, exactly, we'll see out of BlizzCon for WoW fans. There might be some stuff for fans of other franchises too, but that's not what I'm here for at the moment. So what are the odds we'll hear about this stuff?
Patch 7.1 is just around the corner for World of Warcraft, and it makes me just a little bit anxious. Why? Because the expansion has been out for a pretty short span of time, that's why, and I remember the last expansion where we got a plethora of big patches early and then had a long stretch of nothing. That was Mists of Pandaria, and while that was, strictly speaking, better than what happened with Warlords of Draenor, it's still not good...
But that's not what I want to focus on today. No, today I want to talk about the lore going on just beneath the surface of Legion because it may be our best chance to do exactly that before things kick into high gear. After all, while we're happily preparing to dive headlong into Karazhan, there are much bigger implications about the nature of what we're really dealing with... and the not-so-subtle implication that Sargeras isn't the enemy we once thought he was.
You know what I usually hate? Superhero fight discussions. Any fight discussion, really. Asking "who would win in a fight between Superman and the Hulk" always has the same two answers: whoever the writers want to win, and neither of them because people have more fun discussing it than actually reading about it. At the best of times, you're looking for proof that your personal favorite is going to be marked as the winner.
Not that this stops us. The fact of the matter is that we like having competitions. We like seeing two competitors enter into a match where only one leaves. And thus, this feature, a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun examining two different MMOs and asking which one has the edge on the whole.
This first time out, we're taking on two big titles: World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. The former has been the top dog in the MMO sphere for over a decade, ruthlessly crushing all competition, while the latter has quietly risen from a terrible original release to being a pretty big name in the MMO sphere. I've seen former WoW players call it the better game, and I myself have even named it as a worthy heir to WoW's best-loved expansion. But is it the better game? As the sixth expansion for WoW is out in full force, which game has the edge all down the line?
This past week, Blizzard denied a quote from a Polish print magazine attributing a post-Legion 10.1 million subscription count for World of Warcraft to Tom Chilton. Blizzard did not outright deny the number, only rebutting the claim that Chilton revealed any to the magazine. "This was a misquote, or some kind of misunderstanding on the part of the journalist," the company wrote. "Our policy for almost a year now is that we do not talk about subscriber numbers, and Tom did not do that with this publication."
Even so, the 10.1 million number doesn't even seem farfetched -- in fact, it'd be pretty good news for the game, since that's about how well it did at the launch of Warlords of Draenor. So let the speculation begin! How many subscribers do you think World of Warcraft has now? (And yes, China counts; they pay the same sub we do now.) To the pollmobile!
Blizzard has denied part of a translation of a Polish-language magazine article that appears to show World of Warcraft Leader Designer Tom Chilton quoting 10.1 million active subscribers for the MMORPG. That number, presumably including the Chinese players who now pay monthly subs, would have been unusual indeed since Blizzard stopped reporting monthly subs almost a year ago when its subscriber base plummeted 45% in nine months, down to 5.5 million.
"This was a misquote, or some kind of misunderstanding on the part of the journalist," Blizzard told Gamesbeat. "Our policy for almost a year now is that we do not talk about subscriber numbers, and Tom did not do that with this publication."
To be clear, Blizzard has not strictly denied the numbers themselves, only that Chilton did not reveal them to PIXEL.
The last time we know for sure that WoW's subs were just over 10 million was the launch of Warlords of Draenor at the end of 2014. The only number Blizzard has given since the launch of Legion was 3.3 million copies sold, coupled with a vague claim that concurrency during launch week was at its highest since Cataclysm.
Do you scoff, chortle, or sneer when you hear the phrase "casual raiding" among the MMO community? You might be laughing at your own ignorance of modern trends, according to Frank at Overly Positive.
"Led by a movement in games like WoW and others who want to create more inclusive endgame, raids have gradually become more accessible to casual players," Frank writes, "whether that is from reduction in the required number of raiding players, removal of difficult gated requirements, or the ease by which you find other people to do raids with. Some people might call this a perversion or a ruining of the idea of raiding, but I’d say that it’s more of an evolution of the practice in MMOs."
Strap yourself in (we're all about safety here at MOP), because we have a huge tour of the MMO blogosphere today, including a farewell to Chris Metzen, a roast of Angmar, and a visit to one of the most beautiful player homes in online games.
I've still been having a blast in Legion over the past few weeks. Nithogg might have been unkind to me by offering me no loot on two separate characters, but that's not going to derail my overall enjoyment of the game as I do world quests, group up for difficult targets, queue through heroics, head off through older raids, and so forth.
Unfortunately, World of Warcraft's dungeon situation is still kind of a hot mess. And with Mythic-only Karazhan on the way whenever 7.1 actually hits, I can't help but think it's going to get messier before it gets better.
This speaks to problems that have sort of rolled through WoW ever since the end of Wrath of the Lich King, so it's something that requires a fair bit of unpacking. It also runs through some pretty long-standing misconceptions that persist in portions of the community, too, but those are also well worth unpacking. The short version, though, is the same as it's ever been: The dungeon queue does not exist merely for bad players; it exists for a huge portion of the playerbase, and excluding it also excludes that same portion.