Daily Archives: July 3, 2009

Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah dare hope to survive.

The stampede across the gaming news savannah by the raucous rampaging herd of wildebloggers was dramatically split yesterday by the sudden and unexpected appearance of the Blizzard Speculation Lion, which leaped into the midst of the unsuspecting herd, sending groups off in wildly tangential directions, their eyes rolling around in their heads as they simultaneously tried to avoid being trampled by their fellow wildebloggers and to also stay ahead of the Speculation Lion itself. As such there has been a fair bit of discussion as to what Blizzard’s trademarking of the word ‘Cataclysm’ might mean.

Now if I was a Blizzard marketing monkey the first thing I’d do is take note of this manic phenomenon that occurs whenever their company so much as twitches its majestic mane, and then I’d go off and start trademarking random words from the dictionary, just to mess with the heads of everyone. I’d probably reserve the word ‘pogonophobia’ to start with, and then go from there.

Others have speculated, even before this latest fuelling of Blizzard’s perpetual hype machine, as to what might happen in the next World of Warcraft expansion:

“For the next expansion, the whole of old Azeroth gets a phasing makeover, we become servants of the scourge in a very dark setting.” — Spinks

Now just as a casual observation – because we don’t want to invoke the wrath of the rightfully snarkful – if such an expansion as that described above were to happen it would be quite the cataclysmic event wouldn’t you say? Also, were it to happen, it would solve the ‘nobody cares about the 1-60 game anymore’ problem for World of Warcraft, with Old Azeroth simply being made to go away, it being replaced with a freshly scourged Azeroth.

In the house of the Old Gods:

“Hi honey, I’m home! MMmmm, something smells nice!”

“Be down in a minute! Oh, and there’s some freshly scourged Azeroth cooling on the window sill.”

“Oooooo! Can I have a slice now?”

“Ok, but mind you don’t burn yourself on the Kalmidor, it’ll still be piping hot.”

And finally, if such an expansion did happen to be on the cards, I would casually observe that a really rather funky way to introduce it would be to do ‘flash-forwards’. Use that oh-so-clever phasing technology to have sections of the scourged Azeroth appear for shortish periods of time at random; have it last an hour or so, in order for those players who aren’t online to have a chance to be notified by friends and get themselves in to the game to witness it. Then revert back to the original Azeroth again, but perhaps leaving a little of the portent remaining: a few charred corpses in the streets, say. The added bonus is that because this would only affect the original 1-60 content of Azeroth, those elements of gaming society who don’t like to have their game time interrupted with inconveniences such as story telling and world changing dramatic events – as mused upon elsewhere recently – will not be effected.

As an aside, while speaking of using phasing for fun and profit: I’m really intrigued as to whether pjharvey’s mind-fondling idea of what I’d dub ‘socially networked phasing’ would work in its attempt to remove server boundaries between player populations.

Anyway, there’s no evidence as to what, if anything, the trademark of ‘Cataclysm’ might mean to Blizzard. It could simply be the marketing department deciding to have a bit of fun with the community after having returned from a particularly lengthy liquid lunch, but I found it fun to let the idea-ball roll around the roulette wheel of my inner mind, and when it finally came to rest, ‘cataclysmic scourging of Azeroth with portentous flash-forwards’ was the slot that it landed in. As such, I’ve reported the result here to you in order to see if it’s a winner.

The common seed within which all these fabulous beings slumber in embryo is taxation

Van Hemlock‘s podcast question of the week on Twitter a while back was “[Podcast Q] Fed up with the usual Tank, Healer, DPS and Crowd Control. What new class or role shall we make a requirement for group work?”, and I suggested “Accountant, Lawyer and/or Clerk. The paperwork of most groups is frankly shoddy, auditors wouldn’t be at all impressed.”

Unbeknownst to me Anarchy Online actually had a Bureaucrat class that they mentioned on the podcast, which sounded quite fun. Still quite combat oriented, though, rather than focusing on the form-filling, so perhaps a missed opportunity, as what games really need is some decent paperwork (a field in which they’ve been lacking for quite a while).

Most MMOGs have some form of economy, from a simple auction house or crafting and sales mechanism to the pan-galactic complexity of EVE, but none of them offer true challenge or enjoyment to real cognoscenti. Take Warhammer Online, for example; it has a guild tax mechanism, where guild leaders can set a tax rate such that a percentage of a guild member’s cash loot is automatically siphoned off to the guild vault. What sort of nonsense is that? Do Magic Tax Pixies oversee all looting, and instantaneously teleport the precise tax amount to the vault? It’s utterly immersion breaking. What should happen is that, once a year, players assess their overall income of the previous tax year, including cash directly pilfered from the pockets of dead opponents, the sale of items to vendors, the sale of items to other players, the cash value of magical weapons and armour (factoring in depreciation), with deductions allowed for work-related items (not applied to cosmetic clothing) and complete schedules B-H (excepting D) of Form 20381 (revision ii) (unless self-employed, in which case schedules A-K apply twice, and schedules D-Q once, or a contractor, in which case Form 2038i (revision 11) applies), and submit those to the Guild Treasurer along with a cheque or postal order of the amount owed. Doesn’t that sound *much* more exciting? Then there are the flat fees applied to auction house sales, when clearly a superior option would be a multi-tiered set of taxation rates including Value Added Tax that would apply to chocolate covered rations but not conjured rations or beverages, leading to hotly disputed court cases over whether a chocolate covered beverage should be zero-rated or not.

Then there’s housing in EverQuest 2. A flat fee to buy and fixed weekly rent? Where’s the thrill of deciding between a variable rate offset or a fixed rate endowment or capped rate repayment mortgage? The option of becoming a landlord, and renting out shoddy properties to other players at exorbitant rent? Surely it can’t just be me who sees the appeal of a Not Very Independent Financial Advisor class, nefariously steering clients towards inappropriate products that offer large commissions while avoiding ombudsman investigation.

Finally, World of Warcraft recently announced they would be allowing players to change faction. Bravo, I say, about time! I do worry, though, that they’ll implement this through some half-arsed “give us a few quid and pow!, faction changed” mechanism, I’m desperately hoping they take the opportunity to present players with an all-action immigration process, where initially there’d be a complex scoring system, assessing the desirability of a player to their prospective new faction, considering factors such as age, class, equipment and ability to correctly use punctuation. Should the required criteria be met a series of interviews with low level functionaries at the consulate would follow, each requiring identical forms to be filled out (in triplicate) and stamped by at least four other departments. Successful presentation of correctly completed and stamped forms at a desk, only open between 9am and 10.17am on two randomly selected days of the week, appointments not possible so you have to stand in the queue, would give a 17% chance of acquiring a visa allowing travel to your new faction. Once there, an epic quest chain would become available with a residency permit being the ultimate reward, though with only a month to achieve it you’d better get a move on, or face deportation back to your old faction. I’d definitely resubscribe for that.