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NPR looks at WoW's virtual economy

National Public Radio ran a story about players paying real money for virtual goods and characters the other day. There's an accompanying text story at the NPR website which is rather mundane, but the broadcast story is much more in depth and interesting, including claims that sales of gold and items is a $200M - $1B yearly industry.

The story is broad but it does tend to focus on WoW, probably because NPR's game reviewer plays WoW"every day, sometimes for three hours a day". He's in a guild named Pirates of the Cove so a wave of the hand to his fellow guildies from NPR.

The story both reports and editorializes, coming down on the side of getting your stuff the old fashioned way: "For me, the point of playing these games is not to win -- it's to be immersed in the worlds, and to interact with fellow players. You miss out on truly experiencing the world if you don't earn your items and character abilities."

If you go to the story you can hear a replay of the broadcast. It's worth a listen. You can even hear the commentators talking about the game and getting interrupted when one of them has to fight a mob in the game. He gets nearly two silver from it!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Dear Stabby

Our roguish Azerothian advice columnist, Stabstab, answers your questions, often before you even ask them!

Dear Stabby, far too often I find my friends and guildmates referring to me as a "rouge". Should I correct them or would that be rude?

-- Perplexed in Orgrimmar

Dear Perplexed,

A rogue worrying about someone else's feelings? That's like the Unabomber sending postcards instead of packages and hoping someone gets a nasty papercut. Rogues don't worry about being polite. They worry about landing their ambushes when their victims least expect it. It's called "backstab" for a reason.

Given that, I think calling you "rouge", "lipstick", or even "powder puff" is entirely appropriate.

My other advice is to reroll as a shaman -- everyone else is. Of course, in your case they'll probably call you a "sheman"....

Filed under: Tips

Casual content came first, says Blizzard

Tigole, one of the big kahunas on the World of Warcraft development team, recently defended the game on the official message boards against complaints that it was tilted towards large raiding guilds.

Tigole noted that casual gamers' interests were served first with the addition of Mauradon and Dire Maul patched in after release before any new raid content was patched in. "Rather than rushing to get Blackwing Lair, ZG or AQ done, we then focused our attention on Maraudon and Dire Maul. We prioritized those two dungeons OVER raid content even though we were lacking in the latter department, because we wanted to fully flesh out our casual experience first."

There's quite a bit more in his post and I think anyone who's fair-minded will see that he makes many valid points. Still, as a long-time level 60 who doesn't like to raid in Molten Core, I see the other side and understand some of the discontent. All the really cool stuff drops in the big raid dungeons, and I feel a bit shut out of that.

And it's not as if I don't play as much as the guys in the raiding guilds. I do. I don't even want to do a /played and see how many hundreds of hours I've spent in Azeroth. I'd rather not know. Think of all the potholders I could have knitted instead of playing WoW. Think of all those burns I could have prevented! Oh the shame....

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion

World of Porncraft

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man will pluck out his good eye after seeing this stuff. We're talking World of Warcraft porn, more specifically topless pictures of Helga the dwarf. If only we could be mercifully turned into a pillar of salt after viewing this!

Hey Helga, honey -- put a little something on, will ya? Like maybe a couple hundred pounds of platemail?

Although our evil twin gaming blog site Joystiq reported this first, we felt a need to pile on too. It's not often we get to link to naked cartoon characters and claim we're working.

This skin and many others can be found at the World of P0rncraft forums.

[Via Joystiq]

Filed under: Fan stuff

Blizzard player, I am watching you!

If you've ventured into Zul'Gurub and come up against Bloodlord Mandokir, you've heard him announce that he's watching a player in your group: "Sneakythief I am watching you!" Then he kills that player. Usually.

Fortunately, Blizzard's anti-cheat software that runs while you're playing WoW doesn't attempt to actually kill you while it watches, but it is checking your computer for hacks and programs that violate the EULA.

Some players feel it goes too far and violates their privacy. The anti-cheat program is known as Warden and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has declared it spyware and is making murloc noises of outrage: "Blizzard calls this an “anti-cheating system.” We call it a massive invasion of privacy."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Eggheaded WoW stuff: Price-fixing

Wondering why wool cloth is so expensive? Solid stone? Maybe flasks of big mojo? There may be someone manipulating the auction house market on your server, according to an article at Terra Nova, an MMO blog for brainiacs.

Terra Nova posted an interview with a price-fixer in WoW. The guy scans the auction house for items he thinks are being bought by bots. He then turns the tables on the bots by artifically inflating the price of the goods in question and outwitting the bots.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Happy Birthday to you World of Warcraft!

One year ago today, World of Warcraft was released in North America, Australia, and New Zealand.

That opens WoW Lead Producer Shane Dabiri's remarks on the one-year anniversary of the launch of World of Warcraft. Dabiri goes on to thank the community and briefly touch upon upcoming content, including the 1.9 patch and the Burning Crusade expansion.

If you're interested in seeing a timeline of the past year's events, Blizzard has provided one. It's been a fun year for me in the game -- I've tallied more than 40,000 kills of Alliance players and loved every minute of it. Now if only they would stay dead....

So happy birthday World of Warcraft! Let's blow out the candle on that birthday cake -- er, not you dwarves -- no one wants dwarf  slobber on their cake. Ssh, you'll still get a piece.

WoW 1.9 patch notes released

Blizzard has posted the WoW 1.9 patch notes. The notes include the expected Gates of Ahn'Qiraj content (two new raid instances), the paladin class changes, other class tweaks, and a number of other changes. The patch is now live on the test server but as always, the notes are subject to change before going live. My favorite part?

Nida Winterhoof in Thunder Bluff now sells Flowers for the sensitive Horde player.

Flowers! Aw...that brings a tear to my undead rogue's eyes, or it would if my undead rogue still had tear ducts! About the only thing that would make this very sensitive undead rogue even happier is if Alliance players got baby seals as pets and I could club them to death.

Ok, I'm kidding. I wouldn't do that. I'll settle for clubbing level 20 baby Alliance players to death. I'm getting all verklempt just thinking about it.