Is ‘Azeroth Choppers’ a Waste of time?

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By now you will have all probably seen Blizzard Entertainment’s recent venture into reality television; Azeroth Choppers. A show with one goal in mind; to create a real-life motorcycle based on in-game themes for both the Horde and the Alliance. The bikes will be voted on, presumably towards the later stages or end of the show, with the bike generating the most votes by viewers getting immortalised within World of Warcraft for the winning faction as in in-game mount.

So, as the title may reveal, im worried if this is in some way a distraction for a much greater issue ahead of us. The estimated time between now and the next expansion / patch will surely prevent the game from being as enjoyable for those who have already cleared progression bosses by this late stage in the expansion. We get information at Blizzcon that Warlords of Draenor will be arriving “a lot sooner than many people expect.” Well, that’s great news, but honestly with a possible October release of the expansion and the testing process not even past internal company Alpha stages at this time, it could be a very long wait and ultimately tedious time to play.

The major lack of content has previously been my one major complaint for World of Warcraft, but then on the other side im trying to be patient. If you remember, or are unaware, the previous attempt to create filler content between expansions resulted in Ruby Sanctum. The Ruby Sanctum was arguably a good raid instance, however provided only one boss for raiders to encounter and definitely felt ‘tacked on’ to an expansion that had previously seen one of the most memorable and enjoyable raid instances; Icecrown Citadel. Where my patience runs out somewhat is when we have a lack of information on the project that matters and instead see a reality television show with questionable intentions brought out of nowhere instead of the information we all want to hear.

Azeroth Choppers is a very high production value piece of media entertainment and that comes across clearly in each episodes editing. The opening scenes are fully animated with bikes roaring through Azeroth to a ‘bad-ass’ rock soundtrack, the camera cuts are akin to those seen on high-end reality television shows and the general idea on paper at least is actually quite a cool concept. The problem then comes with both the length of each episode , the understanding that this is a concept brought to light to fill time AND how the ‘contest’ itself will be received by the actual players of the game.

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Firstly lets evaluate the time aspect of the show, since this is the more irritating aspect of the show for me personally. The latest episode reached just over seven minutes, which would ultimately be acceptable were there actual content portrayed within each minute, however it consisted of endless recap of the same question or situation played over and over. It was almost as if every full minute of video there had been some unseen AD break and the show was recapping for those who had just tuned in. As far as I can tell, the show is published only on youtube and embedded as an internet tv show via episodes on the official Blizzard website. The whole ‘series’ if you want to call it that will presumably continue this timeframe for each episode, with the list of all the expected episodes shown on the official website, numbering only 8 episodes. Maths has never been my strong point, and im infact numerically dyslexic yet even I can calculate that would only mean on average, even if every episode was as long as the longest out so far (9 minutes of length) then we are only going to see 72 minutes of actual series. Another aspect which was brought up recently in discussion with people in my WoW guild was that this is already pre-filmed. Clearly in the previous episode you can see snow on the ground in the area of the workshop, however the snow has been vacant from that actual area for over a month. Considering they only had ‘5’ days to build the bikes, that would mean that they have both already been built. So the question is, why string it out into such small episodic content? Why not just put 3-4 episodes up of a decent length. The show itself suffers from over-editing and definitely would benefit from being 15-20 minutes in length, then perhaps we could avoid the speculation on what the ‘good news’ and ‘bad news’ actually is in the same episode, instead of asking that same question for 9 minutes only to find out in the first 2 seconds the following week.

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Imagine If This Happened…

Next lets look at the actual concept of the competition, or contest part of all this. The idea is to create in-game mounts which players will get presumably for free as a result of that particular bike winning enough votes, and the other bike will NOT be included in the game. These two bikes are faction based, so If I play Horde and the Alliance chopper wins the contest I cannot get that bike for my character in game. Here’s the problem with all that; The community in and around World of Warcraft like to be vocal about many aspects of the game, more noticeably than anything else is the endless “Blizzard favours Horde over Alliance” or similar biased statements that usually result in a preverbal ‘Shit-Storm’ on the official game forums and affiliate fan sites. If then you take that into context, and expect the community to react well to the winning bike going to either faction, and not their own, im pretty sure I don’t have to break out the calculator again to tell you what will happen. Now I have talked for hours with fellow guild members and other Stratics members to guage their opinions and predictions and I think its fair to say that everyone predicts significant whinging and a fairly negative atmosphere in response to whoever wins. One such thought is that perhaps the winning bike will be put into the game for the respective winning faction for free, and that the other bike WILL also be put in, BUT will cost people of that faction IRL money to purchase from the in-game store. How better to increase profit from such an expensive and time consuming project than to sell the losing teams bike alongside other designed store mounts.

Finally there is the filler aspect, and the fact that this is taking attention away from the game itself. The Mists of Pandaria expansion is all but over, with no plans to make new raid content between now and Warlords of Draenor’s release, the following months are going to be fairly unproductive for many players, and could cause numbers of subscribers to drop again quite significantly until the next expansion. Personally I feel that no matter how little in size the show is, or however stretched out and terrible it actually is, can actually be seen as nothing more than wasted assets and time that could possibly have been used to expand on something more fitting in-game. Seeing a 7 minute long show each week for 8 weeks doesn’t make me any more interested in logging into WoW, but then im not sure if anything would, short of something fantastic in game that the whole guild could do, like say old scaled raids or something. Either way, I feel that the idea, concept and execution of Azeroth Choppers is not ideally suited to the game we play, nor is it something that I would like to see repeated in the future. Whats next?! ‘Azeroth Zoo Keepers’?! ( A show where Blizzard staff try to breed a new form of animal IRL and add it to the game) or even better, how about ‘Azerothian Cupcakes’ ( A show where Blizzard staff design their own faction related cupcakes, the winning faction gets customized mana food for mages and food buff tables for the tier.)

I decided to create a piece of Machinimation, a parody based on Azeroth Choppers. I think the result is almost as good, if not better than the real thing. Enjoy! :)

If you have enjoyed this article or have YOUR OWN ideas for the next big Blizzard waste of… I mean.. Contest, drop by our forums and drop us a line!

WoW News Roundup – 17th March 2014

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Today news comes in the form of news about future events featuring Blizzard Entertainment, with interesting speculation towards a possible Blizzcon 2014.

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The Blizzcon Virtual Ticket page has recently seen changes to its terms of service page and in doing so changed the title to 2014, rather than 2013. This could be an error internally, however it could also be that we could see another Blizzcon this year, allowing for possible reveals for the new ip’s and post release for Warlords of Draenor and Heroes of The Storm. This comes as a suprise to me after the event finally returning after it’s hiatus, however i feel that people will be particularly excited by seeing this, and if it’s true then we are likely to have a very good year for Blizzard News. Such News does mean there would be certain reveals of information to be posponed until the event, as Blizzard does enjoy giving information exclusively on stage at their own event. Early predictions for such an event would be of a possible open beta for Heroes of the Storm or a release date, and possibly information on Diablo 3 and future patches after this months Reaper of Souls release. The event usually sells out instantly when tickets become available, so keep your eyes open and we at Stratics will try and give you the heads up as soon as anything comes from this. Whilst we wait for any noise from Blizzard themselves to either confirm or deny such an event exists for the year, one event that is sure to be taking place is Pax East, a yearly event featuring tournaments in all areas and genres of video and table top gaming, it also features some of the most prominent developers and development teams from around the world, here to showcase their latest and greatest products for early feedback and testing.

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Today’s press release unveiled the presence of Blizzard Entertainment at the convention, where they are allowing visitors from 10AM-6AM on both Friday April 11th and Sunday April 13th to get hands on playtime with the Warlords of Draenor playable demo we have seen earlier last month. Visitors will also be able to visit various Q&A sections of the Blizzard schedule, including Developer talk for Diablo 3 : Ultimate Evil Edition for the Playstation 4, a brand new demo for Heroes of The Storm, with the developers present and on hand for interviews and questions.

Expect information from these Q&A sections and events to be reported on here on Stratics when new information becomes available for discussion, I’m fairly certain the amount of time players will have to access the demo, we will be sure to see more footage and screenshots float around the internet that we will be sure to collate into readable information for you. Heroes of The Storm’s demo will feature heroes never before seen or played outside the event and will be the first stage of hands on feedback before they are included into the technical alpha which is also presently being sent out to press and streamed over on Twitch.tv channels. It could also be a time for Blizzard to send another wave of access out for the technical alpha but don’t hold your breath.

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Not to forget that Pax East also provides certain rewards this year, in the form of Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft exclusive content, presumably in the form of the exclusive card backs we saw leaked earlier in the month, or possibly Pax exclusive cards that we may of not seen, many of the card packs have been confirmed for in-game rewards and achievements, however the card featured to the right has not, and it wouldn’t be suprising if this small cosmetic addition was the reward they are talking about. With the various press events and featured demonstrations of Warlords of Draenor in full swing over the past few weeks, we can be sure for more information on the beta soon, with our previous predictions in out bi-weekly podcast coming to an end and our estimates changing every week, we have to get news on even a closed alpha for the game at some point soon. This year does however look to be a wonderful time for both Blizzard Entertainment and those who play Blizzards games! If Blizzcon 2014 is confirmed at some point it would certainly be the icing on the cake for this year.

You can find more here about Pax East and a full schedule for the event. CLICK HERE

This about wraps up today’s World of Warcraft and Blizzard news, we expect information on future beta / alpha events and unveilings further this week or next, so be sure to become a part of WoW.Stratcis today! Fantastic rewards from the Sites with Benefits feature on the side of the screen, along with monthly giveaways on our forums and a great place to talk about all of the topics we feature. We are always open for guests and your questions on our bi-weekly podcast, so if something makes you opinionated, make a post and Get your voice heard today!

Forbes: Guild Wars 2 Lead Producer Chris Whiteside Believes Subscription MMO Model Offers Huge Barrier To Entry

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John Gaudiosi over at Forbes did an interview with Guild Wars 2 Lead Producer Chris Whiteside. I agree 100% with Chris Whiteside view on the old subscription model. Many players may gain interest in an up and coming MMO but one of the main questions “Is there a subscription fee?” Companies may be missing potential future customers by already limiting their player base by subscriptions. Subscriptions doesn’t make a game successful.  Good development and good content does that. Subscriptions only make a game profitable for a time period.

 

 

GW2 Stratics want to thank Forbes John Gaudiosi and GW2  Lead Producer Chris Whiteside  for the great interview for all the GW2 fans to read.

 

 

 

John Gaudiosi

John Gaudiosi, Contributor

I’ve been covering video games and technology for 20 years

        8/10/2012 @ 2:26PM            |13,582 views

Guild Wars 2 Lead Producer Chris Whiteside Believes Subscription MMO Model Offers Huge Barrier To Entry

With NCsoft readying to publish ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 on August 28, the game’s lead producer, Chris Whiteside, took a short break to discuss the evolvingWith NCsoft readying to publish ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 on August 28, the game’s lead producer, Chris Whiteside, took a short break to discuss the evolving massively multiplayer online (MMO) games business. The free-to-play model has changed the business, forcing even huge subscription-based games like Electronic Arts’ BioWare-developed Star Wars: The Old Republic to turn to the model.

With only Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft succeeding with the old subscription-based model – and even that game is losing millions of subscribers – Whiteside discusses the future of MMOs in this exclusive interview. He also details the unique approach ArenaNet has taken with Guild Wars 2, which the developer hopes will open up the audience for MMO players beyond the core niche gamers

 

What have you been able to apply from your social and mobile gaming background to Guild Wars 2?

 

You develop the game for the business model you’ve agreed to sell with. One of the big things about this business model is it brings a lot more players through the doors in terms of accessibility. That’s where we have to make an accessible game that retains a much more diverse selection of gamers. Some people could see that as a negative in terms of making the development hard.  For us, it’s certainly been a positive in understanding how to build a game for exactly the types of customers that will be coming through the doors.

 

What are the challenges of appeasing ArenaNet’s dedicated fan base, while also opening up Guild Wars 2 to a more mainstream audience?

MMOs at one point were a niche, mainly because of the technology required to play them and the way in which they were designed. I wouldn’t go so far as to saying they were spreadsheet design, but many of the early MMOs were niche in terms of fundamentals and mechanics of gameplay. While MMOs have certainly evolved, I still think there are certain staples within MMO design that have outstayed their welcome. This really opens up a good opportunity for the developer to understand that really the best game that you can make for a customer is the one the customer is telling you to make, or at least giving you advice on.

What’s been the key to ArenaNet’s approach with Guild Wars 2?

We worked from the understanding that the business model is going to open the doors to a lot more players, and you’ll have potentially a more diverse audience with arguably more casual than the hardcore niche. Then you have to think about the core mechanics and the core design of the product, and how you really bring the player into the game. These mechanics lead to more in-depth mechanics that are more typical of an MMO because we don’t want to alienate people that love the core complex mechanics of MMOs. I’m certainly one of those players. I think that that’s fantastic. As an industry, we could all do a better job of teaching the player how to get to the point where these more complex systems are in the game. And then have more enjoyment by understanding what they are, rather than feeling like an outsider. Having a more diverse community and listening to that feedback gives us metrics, and the information required, to really understand how to build a big, great accessible game.

 

 

What do you see as the challenges when it comes to the MMO free-to-play space as we see more and more games coming out and consumers having more choices?

From a dev point of view, you have the irony of having a subscription-based model in MMOs that’s a very polarizing area financially for people playing. Research indicates that the average gamer can’t really support more than two subscriptions. I know for me, I don’t really want to keep more than one subscription going. That makes things massively competitive and really polarizes not just people’s attention, but also where they flock towards. The game that has the most people flocking towards it has the biggest income, and therefore it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. The interesting and ironic thing about it is when you do more free-to-play games it becomes more competitive, which is even better for the consumer. But it means you have a lot more people having a lot more choices and a lot more eyes on your product. You get a lot more feedback from gamers, and so I do see it shifting more towards that. I don’t think it’s going to make it any easier for developers. I think it’s going to create new problems.

After the failure of Star Wars: The Old Republic, do you see room for another big subscription MMO in the future?

It’s pretty simple. The best quality MMO is going to pull customers towards it. Certainly a subscription model does offer a huge barrier to entry, so unless the game that comes out with the subscription is miles and eons above anything in the free-to-play or traditional purchased box space, then it’s going to struggle. At the end of the day, the players and the communities are going to go to the game that matters to them the most.

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