Category Archives: Blizzard

UbiSoft’s favorite Software Company

Brak | hobbyDB

Two days ago (at time of writing), the State of California filed a suite against Activision Blizzard for several counts of sexual harassment, abuse, and other related crimes. Since then I’ve ben soaking in it, so to speak, too stunned and bummed out to really write about it.

In a way this is surprising, seeing as I have seemingly written about it so many times. This is, by far, not the first time Blizzard has had this sort of scandal. The rot really does seem to reach back to the origins of the company, settled in around the roots. Time and time again they claim they’re turning around. Time and time again I have opined that maybe, just maybe, they’re turning a corner. And time and time again, they disappoint us.

First of all, I want to say, I believe these charges, I believe the women that have spoken up, and I believe the women that have subsequently joined in to confirm.

But I also have to say that simple belief, simple support, is not enough.

These women aren’t the source of the problem. It’s the men they work with. And if you are in the software industry, it’s you, as well.  I’m not saying you’re guilty of harassment and assault. I’m saying that you may be letting little things slide that are Not Okay. When you hear someone disrespected, when you hear someone being abused, hell, if you hear someone BRAGGING about it – it’s your job, as an ally, if you are in fact an ally, to push back.  To shut then down. To make them see the light.

Because that’s the source. People just “going along”. Refusing to “rock the boat”.   Not “wanting to embarrass a friend.”   I mean, seriously, what kind of friends you got if they’re rapist-adjacent?

As men it’s time we stood up against this shit whenever we can.  I’m not talking full on drama queen here, but just against the little stuff. The stuff you can get away with without getting in trouble (though getting the rep as a troublemaker in this particular case isn’t a bad thing, IMO).

Let’s talk (my) history. (in no way exhaustive – I got too depressed to keep going)

Here’s the current scandal du jour.

A lot of people have cancelled their subs. I’m not one of them.  Why?  Because I haven’t payed for a subscription in years, since the Token came out. I’ve been paying for my game time using auction sales. I am a burden to Blizzard. I will continue to do so until I run out of gold – which is at minimum 2 years from now.

Also, switching to another game is silly.  If you think Blizz is alone in all this, you have paid zero attention to the news.

All I’m gonna say is Riot and Ubisoft are big fans of Blizzard right now.

I was not prepared?

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As is customary in my WoW life, every two months or so I poke my nose back into Classic, continuing the epic adventures of a Dwarven BM hunter and friends as they advance through the ranks. My experiences thus far have been mixed – I like the game mechanics better, but also you can’t futz around – or you’ll find out.  Classic WoW is a lot more dangerous than Retail.

I haven’t been on since before TBC rolled out to Classic, and when I last left my guy, he was struggling through a bunch of Elite quests and areas in the high 30s to low 40s.   Pretty much everything green was Elite, and everything that wasn’t Elite was pretty much yellow, orange, and red.  With the limited toolset of the Classic hunter, there was a lot of struggling.  Not impossible, but I worked for every bit of it.

So I was nowhere near max level anyway (or even 58, when the cheaters head to Hellfire) so regardless of when TBCC rolled out, I wasn’t too concerned. And that was pretty much how I was thinking about the transition from Classic to TBCC. Probably have to reset talents, but no big deal, ya know?

In my defense I did not recall a lot of the differences between Vanila and TBC – I quested to around 54 on my highest toon in Vanilla, then quit, and didn’t return until just before the TBC launch, where I started all over again (we didn’t have character restores back then).

So I was not prepared for the complete night-and-day contrast between Classic and TBC Classic.

Hunter pets are more resilient. They hold aggro far better. Shot rotations are far less cumbersome. Hell, even mounts are cheaper! Those elite quests? Far more in line with what I expect for a BM hunter (i.e.: no sweat). Yellas, pretty much same thing.

Also, remember this gal? Wonder what she’s up to these days?

imageAlso, I’m very annoyed that Disco priest is so unpopular that the more popular strategy sites (looking at YOU, Icy Veins) don’t even HAVE a Disco guide.

That’s all right, I’ve been doing Disco longer than Icy Veins have been around. They can suck it.

 

Dragged it out, but here I am

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Roughly a month after Shadowlands released, here I am at 60. I was in no particular hurry and have probably been left far behind by my guildmates. However, if you gulp you can get indigestion, so I’ve been chewing slowly and steadily.

My approach has been to take one toon up a level, then another, and then another, with a level’s separation between Grimm / Illume / Jasra / Floramel. So, today I popped 60 on Grimm which means when I next level Illume, she’ll pop 59, and so forth.

This has worked pretty well before, but there’s a problem with Shadowlands.

In the past, there has been a barely-visible set of railroad tracks under your feet, but they took multiple paths to max level. In BC we all started in one place, then took multiple paths out of there. In Wrath we started in two different places. Same for Cataclysm, with a reversion to the BC model in MoP and WoD and BfA, and a great multiple entry model in Legion (the best IMO).

But here, in Shadowlands, we’re locked on to very strong tracks, and they will not abide deviation from a given path.  You don’t advance from one zone to the next without achieving certain key points – Maldraxxus is the most blatant, with its five runes.  Get all five and you’re off to Ardenweald.

I do see that there are flight points available to all zones at some point, but I’m not sure if you can actually fly to one out of sequence.  Something to look into.

So, overall it’s been a slice, but it’s been an increasingly boring slice. Hopefully once I complete all the storylines I will have more choice in what I do next, but right now it feels like some bloke in Irvine is playing the game for me. The levelling game feels like it’s been written out of the story so we can rush into endgame.  Seriously, why not eliminate it completely if that’s how you feel? Publish a comic book and be done with.

I’m pretty sure that this game would be a lot more playable for my alts if I maxxed out one character before levelling any of the others, but that basically means I needed to have foreseen this and adjusted my playstyle before I ever played. Pretty stupid assumption if I’m honest.  Never trust a software engineer – or game designer – to be particularly smart.

The most annoying part of this is that Shadowlands would be easily playable as a four-starting-zones game, ala Legion. But they chose not to do it that way. Reflect on that.

Delayed

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Today we got the news: Shadowlands has been delayed until later this year. And the response has been … well, kinda mellow.

I think everybody involved was kinda aware that, a month out, the beta was kind of a hot mess.  I, personally, can not relate that one way or the other – even though I have a beta invite, I’ve never felt all that excited about unstructured testing of software that hid its design from the tester.  I come from a QA past, and I prefer my testing more structured.

But I digress.

While I was not involved in testing, I hear things. From people that were testing. And those things were along the lines of “damn this worries me”.

And then there’s Blizz’ contribution to the general zeitgeist. While they’re very clearly hiding the design behind very thick walls, they can’t hide the patch notes without, well, just not issuing patch notes – and we’re not there yet. So as each beta patch came out, and they indicated that yet again another system was reset, or tweaked, or redesigned, the mood among those of us that are noting this sort of thing becomes more and more uneasy.

Let’s be clear. A month out from the announced launch date, there should be NOTHING subject to redesign, rebaselining, or reset.  And yet, we’ve seen all three within five weeks of the proposed launch date.  So, let’s be clear, SHADOWLANDS IS A HOT MESS.

This evening Blizz announced via public channels that they were definitely not ready for launch, and via private channels (email) that they’d even refund your repurchase for Shadowlands if this for some bizarre reason caused you major butthurt. (They wrote it more diplomatically but I don’t give a damn about diplomacy so if you have issues with that, take your butthurt ass about a mile down the road and make a left turn into I don’t give a fuckland.)

out of my face

The upshot I have seen from most humans has been positive. They are aware of the issues currently in place (i.e. covenants suck) and are more than happy to wait for this to be fixed.  I agree. The 10% or so against that I’ve seen are basically the entitled asshats that bitch about anything, especially the ones that haven’t pre-purchased. Go demand to speak with the manager, Karen.

Back in the day, Blizz had a “it will ship when it’s ready” attitude. For example, BC was scheduled to ship in 2006, but actually shipped in 2007 when they famously delayed the launch to put in some polish (whereas “polish” means fixing game-killing bugs).  Side note: Day One of the patch was, in fact, a major clusterfuck. I was still levelling in Wetlands and the entire realm crashing when my guildies entered Hellfire was an experience I wish not to repeat.

So it’s nice to see that that attitude still exists.  I have no doubt that somebody will take a fall for this, and when they do, look for Activistion and Bobby Kotick to be holding the smoking gun. That will tell you all you need to know – who the hero(es) are, as well as who the villain is.

I personally am pleased that Blizz is committing to quality over schedule. As a former QA person, I am especially pleased, but, as a customer, I am also pleased. I feel comforted that somebody is trying to avoid pushing rotten code onto my PC.  I have enough rotten code sitting here already, so anyone pushing against rotten code is my hero.

Listen, guys, “later this year” is at most an 8-week delay.  8 weeks is nothing. The year 2020 has been what, 200 weeks long so far? We can do this.

Inscription in Shadowlands: some disappoint.

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Investigating for YOU

I’ve foray’d into the PTR and, if it is accurate, there are zero changes regarding glyphs in the new expansion.

We’ve always previously seen some glyphs dropped, some added, in the pre-patch.  But in this expansion there are zero changes.

This is an incredibly disquieting development (or rather, lack of).  Kind of makes you wonder if we’re seeing the final days of Glyphs.

Okay, so, considering that there are zero changes regarding glyphs – all glyphs that existed before, are still there, and there are no new glyphs – then this is what is what Scribes can expect from the new expansion. Brace yourselves – it’s pretty disappointing.

Inks

We get, as best I can tell, three new inks.

  • Tranquil Ink (green)
  • Luminous Ink (normal)
  • Umbral Ink  (normal)

Each requires a pigment of the same name, plus Aerated Water and Rune etched vial.  Pretty much like we had in BfA – RGB.

Vantus Runes

The same old crap is carried forward.  Rather than per-boss as Legion did, we’re per-Raid as with BfA.  Which is fine by me, but, I need to point out, in these BfA required more in mats than it sold for. So I expect these to be of minimal usefulness.

Equipment

We get a few bits and pieces here. Past experience indicates that this stuff will be quickly outpaced by raiding content.

  • Fae Revel Masque (Cosmetic, so not likely to go “out of style”)
  • Soul Keeper’s Column (staff)
  • Soul Keeper’s Spire (staff)
  • Newly Departed Codex (off-hand) (and might I add, sounds like a Beetlejuice callback)

Darkmoon Cards

The usual dealy here. Crank a card. Get a random.  The Death recipe is the usual deal, except occasionally it produces a blank card of one of the four suites.  That’s where the other four recipes come in.

  • Death – Randomly one of the four suits
  • Putrescence
  • Repose
  • The Indomitable
  • Voracity

Optional Reagents

These items represent a new feature of crafting. Basically, depending on whether you have learned them, these can be applied as an optional reagent to gear you are crafting. I’m not sure if they are soulbound or not, but, if they are, they’re immediately worthless.  It looks like all professions have a version of this, which also means the market will be flooded if they ARE sellable.

  • Novice Crafter’s Mark
  • Crafter’s Mark I
  • Crafter’s Mark II
  • Crafter’s Mark III
  • Crafter’s Mark IV

New item type, ensures an item has a specific spec.  This works similar to the Crafter’s Marks.  From the looks of it, only Scribes can make these, so it looks like this might be a source of income.

  • Critical Strike
  • Haste
  • Mastery
  • Versatility

Contracts

We know what these do. Past experience indicates that these quickly devalued and cost more to make than they sold for.

  • Court of Harvesters
  • The Ascended
  • The Undying Army
  • The Wild Hunt

Books and Scrolls

Not sure why we have to have a codex/tome per expansion for this. Seems pretty stupid TBH. (and thus, Grimmtooth is forbidden early access in the future. Suck it, Blizz).

  • Codex of the Still Mind
  • Tome of the Still Mind
  • Writ of Grave Robbing – this is basically a lockpicking scroll.

Mass Milling

So these are the various herbs that we get to harvest?

These appear to follow the pattern of BfA, more or less, in that particular herbs are not bound to particular zones.

  • Deathblossom
  • Marrowroot
  • Nightshade
  • Rising Glory
  • Vigil’s Torch
  • Widowbloom

Accidental Joiner

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Minding my own business in Dalaran (Wrath version) and this guy appears with a quest icon over his head.  Says I, “this looks interesting” so I clicked on him.

imageAfter that, I looked him up on WoWHead.

Maybe I should have done that first, since he shortly disappeared. Turns out that he’s summoned by using the special mount that you get when you buy the deluxe version of Shadowlands.

So basically the only way I will be able to turn in the quest, assuming it completes, is if someone near me summons him.  I think.  It would be just typical if I couldn’t actually turn in.

I thought about dropping it, but I think I’ll hang on to it and see what happens.

Legion was a Bad Idea

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Okay, hear me out.

Throughout WoW, there was no big bad badder than the Legion. We were told, this was the ultimate goal.  We were even teased that the war against the Legion would continue into Anduin’s old age.

And then came the Legion expansion, and we chumped Sargeras and, somehow (?) the Legion was rendered moot.

Now, we’re in a strange place where instead of hopping world too world after Dem Legions, we’re fussing around with Fancy Trolls and Thicc Bois and blowing each other up. And something something Teldrassil, and “anticipating” an adventure in the land of the dead.

It’s weird. Pursuit of the Legion had enough built in content to keep this game going for decades, with a wide diversity of possible worlds, multiple opportunities to switch things up, and ample opportunities for engaging new races and characters and maybe even classes.

Compared to this, Shadowlands feels – to me – like flailing about wildly for “what’s next”, a Dr. Strangesque excursion into a place that we didn’t really feel compelled to go in the first place.

I’m not sure who’s idea Legion was at the point that occurred, but I really feel “don’t schedule the endgame until you’re ready for the endgame” seems to be fairly rational advice, and I can’t believe nobody gave this advice to that person.

I’m surely giving Shadowlands a fair shake. But I feel somewhat less than excited to do so. BfA at least stirred my blood with the burning of Teldrassil, but this time I feel like, “can we just close the gateway and leave her in there?”

Hey, there are a few things I am truly looking forward to, starting with (and primarily) the new appearance options we’ll get for our characters. But everything else I’ve seen so far leaves me feeling flat.

I wonder how others are feeling about it.  I imagine the hardcore raiders / pvpers are indifferent, as long as they get new raids and stuff. 

#AuctionGate

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Yesterday, June 16 2020, Blizzard surreptitiously pushed a change to the Auction House, forcing a “throttle” on auction activities such as posting or cancelling.

This throttle seems to be around a batch size of 30 to 40, and has met with great levels of unhappiness amongst the masses.

A few items of concern:

  • Batch size too small to qualify as “power auctioneers”, the stated target.
    • For example, I average between 50 and 100 auctions per session, which is mostly glyphs
    • You can easily exceed the limit just dumping mats you salvaged while being totally casual
  • No testing on PTR
  • No feedback gathered from testers
  • Pushed to production with no discernable testing

Basically it works out that if you do more than ‘x’1 actions in a minute, all the actions beyond that value in that minute will be throttled. Massively.

This is less of a patch than a hit.

The outcry was immediate and loud.  We had bloggers, streamers, twits, twitchers all calling this out, and who can blame them. I mean, sure, you wanna tackle certain bad actors, then fine. But honest pizznesmens? Optics are bad on this.

The interesting part of this is, while I was writing this, things changed. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, Blizz backed things off a bit.  I don’t know how far, but I do know that it’s at least as far as sixty actions in a single minute since that’s what I had to test with.

The other guy blinked.

They’re leaving the throttle on cancellations, but I can live with that (even though it really sucks)


1 Where ‘x’ is somewhere between 25 and  40 based on what we’ve heard so far.

Be careful what you ask for

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It has been commented, by myself as well, that it’s not really cool to lock all of the interesting lore moments behind raids.

Not everyone raids, so it is quite often the case that non-raiders find themselves relying on blogs, videos, and other venues to find out what actually happened, to find out what key lore elements happened outside of their view. After a while, upon hearing that there was some awesome stuff going on in there, I’d roll my eyes and comment, bitterly, “welp, there’s more lore we don’t get to see” —  because, you know, our guild could barely raise the headcount for Karazhan, much less a 25-man, at its peak.  And we ain’t at our peak.

Well, it looks like Blizz has been listening, to some extent, because guess what we got in 8.2.5?  Exactly what we were asking for.

Only, I wonder if they took it just a bit too far.

Without giving anything away, there are a number of cutscenes and one cinematic that get played, and in between are a number of fairly inconsequential and completely trivial quests that stitch them all together.  It’s as if they said, “well, we can’t just play a series of cinematics, we best put something in between and call it content.”  You can virtually see the outlet that the phone that they used to phone it in was plugged into.

Maybe I was expecting something more grindy, or at least something we might have to put some effort into.

Lest anyone accuse me of being a sore winner, let me say right now that I am very glad that everyone, no matter how not into it they are, will have the skill level necessary to complete these quests.  So assuming they made it through the various gates along the way, everyone gets to see it.

But maybe, next time, put a little effort in, guys?  It should feel like an achievement! Otherwise, yes, just play the damned video.


So what do I think of the thing? It’s … interesting. It’s setting something up. No telling what. And the Horde is now in a bit of a tizzy … there was nothing in the post-cinematics that really indicates that they have much of a plan going forward.

I’m more concerned for the Night Elves. Tyrande is out there somewhere, Night Warrioring things up, and – without giving too much away – she doesn’t really have much in the way of resolution. OK, I’m actually more concerned about her. How long can she contain that power without going critical? Are we getting another heel turn here? Will she go mad and take out anyone in her way to her objective? Haven’t the Kaldorei suffered enough, Blizz?

The dot-3 release is generally speaking the final time-waster release for most expansions – assuming they get that far. It’ll be interesting to see how they intend to fritter away our time this time around, or maybe they have something new and exciting, such as an additional content patch.   But right now, I’m banking on old tried-and-true.

Looks smaller from above

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One of the little secrets of Vanilla was that there were three Stormwinds.

There was the Stormwind you saw when you approached from outside.

There was the Stormwind you saw from within the city.

And there was the city you saw when flying by.

One gimmick they could pull off this way was to make Stormwind Keep look ENOURMOUS.  I’m not even sure what that is behind the gate – a hill? But at any rate, the thing fades into the mist from the streets outside the Trade District.  In Retail, it’s a lot less imposing, because in Retail, there’s only one Stormwind.  And that doesn’t allow them to engage in any of those nifty little tricks of perspective.