Wednesday, May 18, 2011

OMG Premium Fees??!!?1

I kinda pay attention to the blue tracker on MMO-Champion just because I like to see what the devs are commenting on...even if half of them end up being "locking this thread because the community can't handle their shit".

The problem is that after about 10 minutes of reading these posts, I get into the same state of mind that reading the comments section of news articles gets me to...namely pissed off at how ignorant and spiteful everyone is. I realize it's a small, but very vocal minority projecting this image. But when something is inundated with that kind of vitriol, it's hard not to generalize.

So of course, this morning there's about eleventy-billion threads about Cross-server Friends List LFD being a Premium Service that people have to pay additional for.

Now, before I go further, I'm going to fully admit my bias on the subject.
  1. All the people I want to play with are already on my server. So this isn't a feature I really need.
  2. I am a full-time working adult with a decent job, as is Norfin. The only debt I'm currently carrying is my mortgage. The only "dependents" I have are our two dogs. With rare exceptions, I don't rack up more on my credit cards than I can pay off at the end of the month. So I have a fair amount of disposable income.
I realize a lot of people aren't in the same boat as me. That said...

Seriously, people? Get over yourself.

Yes, you already pay a monthly fee. You want to know where that goes? Two years worth of content assets, class mechanics, animations, zones, boss encounters, questlines, etc. CMs that read the forums, put up with your BS, and respond when appropriate. GMs that answer the endless stream of tickets submitted and are generally very quick to respond. Oh, and let's not forget the servers that run the game. In case you were unaware, Blizz worked closely with AT&T to design some really crazy, proprietary stuff that lets (all 11M+ of) us play the game as seamlessly as we do. And if you think that designing or maintaining that kind of technology is cheap, you're either dumb or delusional. This isn't a desktop system you can just replace every couple of years and occasionally upgrade your graphics card.

And that fee is nominal. Seriously. Your monthly fee buys you, on average, 730 hours of play time. I can't go to the theater and watch 4 hours of movies as cheaply. What the hell are you complaining about? If you don't already feel you're getting your value out of it, that's your own fault.

But, San! Why should I have to pay more money to play with my friends?

I'd ask why you aren't already playing with your friends. No one's forcing you not to. Last I checked, you can choose to roll a character on any realm you want. Blizz doesn't pick for you. So, somewhere along the line, you and your friends made your own choices to not play together.

If you've since realized you made a bad choice, server transfers are available for a one-time fee that's less that what the premium services cost for a year. Rerolls are free. And it's ridiculously easy to level to the cap, even with zero heirloom gear. Hell, you can even level together. Then you get the whole game with your friends 24/7, not just LFD.

Of course, if being in your level-25, 1337 13/13H raiding guild is more important to you, then that's fine. That's your choice, too. But don't complain when you can't have everything your way. Sometimes you have to make those kinds of choices.

Only now the choice isn't "do I want A or B?" It's "am I willing to play a little bit more for B so I can still have A at the same time?" That seems reasonable to me. It's kind of how the world works.

But, San! Blizz has said over and over they won't charge us for services that give certain players advantages over others! And now they are!

I fail to see how this does that. Granted, I'm a competent player in a big guild that also has many other competent players. I don't need LFD. That said, I still sometimes use it. And I get by just fine.

How do you know your friends are any more competent that the average LFD'er anyway? What kind of "advantage" does this feature actually provide that you can't get anyway? Please, make a logical case if you can.

But, San! This is the next step in the inevitable free-to-play, microtransactions-for-everything end-goal. Soon we'll have to pay extra for instances and raids and epic gear and...

Ah, yes. The slippery slope argument. Did you know that if we allow gay marriage, soon people will want to be marrying their box turtles? It's true.

Also, if I keep reading and talking about this drivel, I'll end up as mentally paralyzed as all the half-wits spewing it. I mean...probably not. But just in case, I'm going to stop now.


  1. All this time that WoW has existed Everquest2 has had two servers where you could purchase gear directly from them for money.  I never quite got how the whole system worked or if it really took off but the option was always there. 

    These games really can't survive on our crappy little monthly fees.  They have to come up with something else to stay competitive. 

  2. "Did you know that if we allow gay marriage, soon people will want to be marrying their box turtles?" Hehe, made me giggle. But it doesn't really adress the slippery slope argument (because you can't really compare a human with a turtle, can you?). This feature in itself doesn't give players a huge advantage, I agree with that. But you can't deny that it is taking a step in that direction by making a part of the core game design (that of socializing) available only to people who pay extra. So I ask you, if they are allowed to cross that line, how will we know where it will end? We don't, and I think that is what is scaring people tbh.

  3. I'm..going to disagree a bit. I actually think it's a lot more of a "core" feature, considering that cross-realm LFD already exists. As such, I don't think it's so much equivalent to a server transfer, I think it's more equivalent to say the LFD system in the first place.  I don't think it's really slippery slope to mention the possibility of other similar features..even ones that already exist..becoming premium only. It would be slippery slope to mention say..a new raid becoming premium only.

    Of course, the big question is will it have any impact on players who don't partake of it. I actually think it will. I think it'll make for less quality players in the LFD system, meaning harder runs for the people that are left.

    But yeah. Like it or not, it looks like a cash grab, smells like a cash grab and feels like a cash grab. That's something that can offend and insult people. Now, Blizzard might be bleeding money right now and might need the added income. Maybe. I really doubt it however.

  4. But there's nothing preventing you from socializing with your friends on other realms.  Or even in other Blizzard games.  Real-ID chat lets us do that, and they implemented it for free.  It's covered by all Blizzard games.  I don't believe (of course, I have no way of knowing) that they're suddenly going to start charging for that.  And if they do, I believe it'll be because the game is already well on its way out of relevance.

    Running dungeons with your friends, regardless of realm or battlegroup, is not what I would consider core functionality.  Especially because there is nothing preventing you from choosing to play on the same realm with your friends and do this normally.  Again, there might be sacrifices you have to make in order to achieve this (leave your current guild, pay a transfer fee, reroll, etc.) but there's nothing actively preventing it.

    If WoW chose a realm for me when I created accounts or characters and then tried to make me pay for this kind of feature, I would be pissed.  That would be unfair and that would lead me down trails of "where is this going to end?"

  5. What they're doing here is letting you group with friends of the same
    faction to run dungeons, regardless of realm or battlegroup
    differences.  Being a programmer, I know how hard it can be to take
    systems that were never architected or built to communicate outside
    certain boundaries and give them the ability to do so.  Opening up all
    realms in a battlegroup to stick players in BGs and Dungeons was probably a
    monumental undertaking, but they did it, and they did it for free.

    I would argue that doing so actually leveled the playing field, though, and so it made sense to do it for free.  Realm to realm there might be a lot of fluctuation in availability and quality of players.  Battlegroup to battlegroup, though, I would imagine that most things average out.  There may still be small differences and anecdotal exceptions, but on the was a good move for everyone.

    Opening up all the battlegroups to link players is probably an even bigger, more expensive hurdle.  It's possible (obviously).  But it gets to the point where the gains don't outweigh the costs.  It's poor RoI.  Blizz is a business, even if it's a business of making games.  You don't get to be where they are by making financially unsound decisions just because you don't NEED the additional income.

    This doesn't feel like a cash grab at all.  This feels like Blizz is putting down a lot of money that, honestly, a relatively small (but vocal) portion of the player base is going to use.  Blizz is charging so that it doesn't become a net loss.

    I also have to disagree that this will lower the quality of players in LFD.  That argument makes a number of assumptions that may not bear fruit:
    1) Your friends are all high-quality players.
    2) If you're not a high-quality player, you don't have friends that will run with you.
    3) If you don't have Real-ID friends you want to run with, you can't find or make any.  (Or, as is the case in our guild, find people on your own realm you actually enjoy grouping with.)
    4) The only thing preventing Real-ID friends from running together is being on different realms.
    5) Everybody who has Real-ID friends will suddenly stop using the default LFD.

  6. I believe all the battlegroups are already linked up in terms of the LFD. It's basically a new UI, as much of the work on the backend has been done since the start of the integration. You actually can already party up via which is how I'm assuming it's going to work. It works better through the SC2 end than through WoW however. I've grouped up with a few local friends cross-game a few times to chat. (Although now we use Facebook)

    I think it's basically a matter of tying a few systems together definitely an effort but much less complex than say the original roll-out of the LFD system. (My guess is that the extent of the UI changes are going to be a button on the LFD screen that says Join as party)

    Of course, a million things could come up via debugging. And that's a real cost. But again, I don't think it's anything too special.

    Companies make short-sighted decisions all the time. They're penny-wise and pound-foolish. They're concerned about THIS quarter, and next year will take care of itself. Honest, if I had to guess I'd say that the numbers are much worse than they look, that most of the subscriber gain took place in China, and there were pretty substantial subscriber losses in America and Europe. They thought this would mollify Kotick. Ego reigns supreme, (Can't make a game as great as WoW without said ego, really) they thought it was a good and a cool idea, and thought that everybody else would agree with them. They're just wrong on the "everybody" part.

    The third party is iffy I will say, I just have a feeling it's more true than false.

    And yes. I'm saying flat out, that the unsaid thing behind this that a lot of people are thinking is that this is Activision getting some form of control over Blizz for the first time, and that's very worrying. (It probably should be)

  7. Chatting
    != running an instance, though.  When you chat across, all
    it has to do is find out what game you're logged into and send the
    appropriate text via that game's API.  You're not really linking
    services, you're just sending simple messages out one system, through a
    common hub, and to another.

    Running an instance as a group is far more complex and requires orders of magnitude more architecture support.

    I'm going to start spewing a lot of conjecture here, any of which may be wrong.

    Given the time Battle.Net integration was announced/released, I'm
    guessing it was developed alongside SC2, meaning both systems were able
    to be coded from the ground up to play nice.

    WoW doesn't have that advantage.  Early design of the game (iirc)
    basically isolated each realm to its own group of servers.  So imagine
    Sen'jin as one self-contained box.  Inside that box were the city
    servers, the continent servers, the instance servers, the bg servers,
    etc.  And all the realms were like this.  Just a grid of individual

    Then we could group across our battlegroup.  To make this happen, a new
    big box had to be found.  All the realm boxes had their instance and bg
    servers pulled out and were then put in the bigger box.   The new
    collection of instance and bg servers were put in there as well.  But
    now they had to find a new way to connect them.  Additionally, a new way
    of load balancing had to be devised and the instance and bg servers now
    had to keep track of more variables in order to make sure the people in
    them get sent back to the right places when they leave.

    It sounds simple when I describe it that way, but that's just the nature
    of the way I'm trying to describe it.  Actually doing something like
    that, when you're starting with an existing code base and hardware
    architecture that wasn't designed to support it is a huge pain in the

    Now they have to do it again on a much larger scale.  Because of their
    own short-sightedness?  Maybe.  But that doesn't change the fact that
    they have to do it.  And that it's not cheap or easy.  I know Blizz
    wasn't prepared for the speed at nor the extent by which WoW grew in its
    earliest days.  It was more than they were expecting.  And I get the
    vague sense that they've been scrambling to keep up ever since, never
    really managing to get ahead.  Due in no small part to the demands of
    the community for more, more, more.

    I believe you're right.  At some level people fear this is Activision
    sinking their claws in a little bit.  I also think, whether it turns out
    to be true or not, that it stems from a pretty narrow view of a much
    larger reality.


  8. I don't have any problem with this feature.   Its a purely social convenience that gives no gameplay advantage or added access to items.  I see this being similar to the way that you can buy a mini-Kel'thuzad.  Its a nice social perk, but in the context of gameplay it is meaningless.

    I don't really think that Blizzard has to justify charging on the basis of their increased cost.  They can justify it by the simple fact that people will pay for it.  Businesses are there to make money.  If adding this feature brings in more income than it loses due to people leaving in outrage, then its a reasonable business decision.

    I have no need for it, so I won't buy it.  Just like I didn't buy the Mobile Armory feature, or the mini-pets, or the sparkle pony mount.