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How much should an expansion cost?

We've talked about this briefly in a recent Breakfast Topic, but that's not the same as actually standing up and taking a position on an issue, and I (specifically, I, Matthew Rossi, not all of WoW Insider) do have a position on this one - namely, that this expansion will likely contain as much if not more gameplay, art assets, and overall design work as any game coming out, and that frankly the last couple of expansions have been under what they should have cost.

I didn't come to this decision in a vacuum, either - I come to it as someone who does not want to pay the price as established. I'm extremely penurious. almost outright parsimonious when it comes to money. I don't like spending it. So when I heard how much the expansion was going to cost (the day the pre-orders became available) I immediately balked at it. It's only ten bucks more to buy Titanfall, I said to myself, and that's a completely new game. And then I read this post by Kim Acuff (who often comments here at WoW Insider as Ember Dione) a developer on Skylanders, and I started to rethink my position on the relative cost of the expansion, how much it should cost, and the validity of the whole "as expensive as a new game" discussion.

Because here's the fact - each WoW expansion has effectively been a new game.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Diablo 3, Warlords of Draenor

Telling a story without quest text


Tyllendel's friend had an interesting reaction to the game when he first played it: he felt that all of the quest text was unbearable, and that he wanted to play the game rather than reading what NPCs told him. We've talked a little bit about this before -- obviously, when Blizzard kicked off WoW nearly five years ago, quest text was just the way quests were done, and while Blizzard has expanded the concept a bit since, it's still mostly the way MMOs work: you go to a character, talk to them, and they tell you where to go and what to do.

But I can see Tyl's friend's point: games are much less about telling these days and more about showing. You might understand how, if you've never played an MMO before, reading the quest text can take you right out of the game, rather than running off with an NPC or having the game show you rather than just tell you what to do. And Blizzard is getting there: later in the thread Slorkuz points out the recent Afrasiabi interview, and talks about how Alex mentions new ways of doing quests. For example, the quest team is trying to do a quest with no text, or direct players' attention without actually telling them, "look here." Text is the easiest and most basic way to help players accomplish goals, but as the game moves on, even the developers realize it's not the most elegant or immersive way to do it.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Quests, Lore, NPCs

511 characters per quest

One of the most interesting things we heard from Jeff Kaplan last week (besides that he agrees the Green Hills quest sucks; won't do that one again) was that quest designers are given only 511 characters (not words) to put their quest text in.

It's surprising to think that they've created all the backstory, throughout Azeroth, in just 511 characters at a time. But even Kaplan said the limit is a good thing: it means Blizzard has to show story to the player rather than tell it.

Still, doesn't seem easy to

Crap. Out of room -- that's 511 characters. Of course, they can fudge things a bit by having those "story quests" where characters can use multiple pages to build up their background, and the 511-character limit doesn't apply to all of the dialogue -- some of the later quests have pages and pages of dialogue as the quest goes on. But squeezing enough information to keep a player interested in just 511 characters is quite a feat.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Quests

The forums have been RP'd


Blizzard has made a nice cinematic tweak to the forums today -- as you can see in this impassioned Engineering QQ thread, they've added a little bit of font flavor and some roleplaying text to everyone's posts. Instead of just whining about Engineers, "Aurainsoph's brow furrowed in concentration" before speaking, and after every paragraph, we get a much clearer picture of what our characters are doing, whether that be "putting on her robe and wizard's hat" (yuk yuk yuk) or "liberally applied his custom fragrance, which was made with bits of real nightsaber." Wait -- eww.

And every post ends with a nice RP finish as well, most of them more silly than dramatic. All in all, it's very well done -- not only are there lots of different combinations, but the syntax works, and each post really does read like some bad fanfiction. Players seem to really enjoy it, even though their hair was a bird, and they found their point to be invalid. Whatever that means.

I like this one more than the Pimp Your Mount joke, actually. Well done Blizzard.

Update: Apparently the RP forums have gotten a special change of their own lol. I lol'ed IRL. Does Blizzard really think the rest of the forums talks like that? lulz.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Humor, Forums

Pronouncing character names correctly

Sylphine suffers from a problem that's very close to home for me: her character's name is often pronounced incorrectly by others in game. And while it's close not only because I routinely mangle names on the podcast (both accidentally and sometimes, I'll admit, for comedic purposes), but my own name is of questionable pronounciation. When I was creating my very first character ingame, I was stumbling around for a creative name, and I ended up going with a variation of the word I saw on the "Random" button in front of me: Rande. Truth be told, I have no idea how to pronounce it -- I guess I prefer "Rand" over "Randey," only because the second sounds so close to "Randy," so usually I'll just go what whatever someone says in the game. But I can see Sylphine's issue: it's probably a pain to spend so much time on a name only to have it wrecked daily.

And of course, this epidemic isn't only connected to character names -- being that this is a virtual world where text is the usual form of communication, it's very common to see place names and NPC names mispronounced more often than not.

In the end, you just have to do what I do: try your best and hope you get it right. And from the other side of it, don't be too angry when people mess up your name. There are 12 million of us out there, and nobody's going to get everything right.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Humor, NPCs

Best Buy Canada not looking forward to Wrath of the Lich King


Hawkawkari of Khaz Modan sent us this one -- apparently somebody on the Best Buy Canada site is a little miffed about some expansion news, and it's showing up in their description text for the game. There's some QQ in there about siege vehicles ("1% chance to drop, bind on pickup"), a "hairstyling" profession for Blood Elves and Night Elves, and a special "Unbalance Game" power for Death Knights "on a one-patch time limit cooldown." Pretty funny.

I thought this was just a case of Best Buy cutting and pasting from another more informal site, but Google doesn't find the same text anywhere else, so this might actually be a disgruntled WoW player in their system writing out a fairly biased description. The text still says a release date hasn't been announced (and of course it has) so look for the text to change soon (just in case it does, the full text is after the jump). But wherever you are, disgruntled WoW player, thanks for the laugh.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Humor, Classes, Wrath of the Lich King

Fuel for the PetEmote addon

David B covered the PetEmote addon way back in the beginning of this year, and now the Great Green Hunter has posted some really great ideas for custom pet emotes, for a few different families of Hunter pets. PetEmote lets your pet automatically show up in your emote text randomly, and is really good for giving your pets a little more personality of their own -- instead of just doing what you say all the time (and eating all of the food you've got to buy), PetEmote can make it seem like your pets are doing their own thing: chasing a stray bug that passes by, flicking their tails, or "giving you a sly look."

GGH's descriptions are really great, but of course whatever goes in the "Localization LUA file" in the PetEmote addon folder is what shows up in the game, so you can customize it as necessary. If you want to say your cat "waggles his butt, ready to pounce," you can do it.

Of course, if you think of your pet as just a DoT you have to feed, you might not be so interested. But having a pet and keeping track of where it is is such a huge part of the Hunter class (though PetEmote works for Warlocks as well) that giving your pets a little more personality goes a long way in game.

[via Mania]

Filed under: Hunter, Warlock, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Add-Ons, NPCs

WoW Rookie: Communication Part 1


WoW Rookie is brought to our readers to help our newest players get acclimated to the game. Make sure you send a note to WoW Insider if you have suggestions for what new players need to know.

The joy of MMORPGS is being able to interact with other players.At some point we all group up for quests, instances, raids, battlegrounds, arenas, guilds, just for company.This column is dedicated to the basics of how we communicate in game.Next week we'll discuss the third party programs that are frequently used in games.

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Filed under: Tips, How-tos, Features, WoW Rookie

Forum Thread of the Day: Quest text that makes you laugh

Relyndrel sets us off on a hilarious ride through Blizzard's real genius: turning something as straightforward as playing a videogame into a rich, entertaining, and sometimes even meta experience. He starts off a collection of the best quest text in the game, including the various letters, yells, and whispers that float around while doing said quests. All the best stuff is here:
I don't see my favorite mentioned in the first few pages-- as I've said before, my favorite quest in the whole game is probably the Absent Minded Prospector, in which a dwarf leisurely browses through a dig while you're left to fight off all kinds of huge golems.

Really, this game is just all about clicking buttons-- you click a button to start a quest, you click some buttons to kill things (or do some thing), and then you click another button to end a quest. But it's the flavor that Blizzard adds-- all of these weird characters, strange stories, and references to everything else we know-- that really make the experience what it is, and show off just how good Blizzard is at making clicking buttons interesting and fun.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Quests, Humor

"Now rezzing %t... stand back, this could get ugly."

Some people say "Liiiiiive agaiiiin!" Some people make jokes. Some people, as they're rezzing me, just say "Rezzing %t in 10 seconds" (useful, but boring). Invidiously over on LJ is looking around for a rezzing text macro. It's a little /say that you stick on the casting of a rez spell to let other people know they're about to come back to life.

There's an art to writing stuff like that, really. A few mods do it automatically (I believe Castparty will send a /party chat for you, and Serenity is mentioned in the threat), but the best ones are homegrown and customized. Invidiously has some good answers to choose from: "%t, your subscription to Life has expired. Would you like to renew?", "Warriors now have a Feign death. It just requires a Priest reagent, right %t?", and "Now ressing %t. Please don't anyone else try because we could end up with half each, and that would just be awfully messy" (for the noobs, the "%t" in a macro just substitutes the target of your spell; in this case, the person you're rezzing).

But some of the best text macros aren't even for rezzing-- tonight I had a mage in the party that cast Polymorph: Pig with the simple "Water into wine, enemies into swine." And warlocks go crazy whenever they summon people-- I've seen paragraphs of text coming from them, everything about who to call if this summon goes bad (a lawyer, obviously) to "Click on this portal to summon someone to do your job for you!" (that one comes from a mod, I believe, but not one I've used). Some warriors (I used to do this, in a previous MMORPG) even shout out a macro when they're pulling something, just to make sure the party is ready.

For my characters, a normal "Sheeping %t..." or "Rezzing %t..." seems to work just fine-- it's quick, utilitarian, and to the point. But some people go all out, and I do chuckle when I see the good ones. What do you think-- waste of screen space or fun way to keep other players informed? And of course, what are the best ones you've seen?

Filed under: Priest, Warlock, Tips, How-tos, Odds and ends, Add-Ons

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