War of the MMOs

More than seven years back Blizzard launched the World of Warcraft. What initially started off as a small campaign within the Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne game, suddenly shadowed the entire Warcraft RTS series … Blizzard had struck on a gold mine with the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), a game which would later on be synonymous with the entire category … World of Warcraft took the real world by storm, and at its zenith it was known to have more than 12 million monthly subscribers.

Yes, the bad part about this was that there is a monthly subscription to play the game, and more than 12 million people were gladly willing to part ways with their 15 USD per month to fight the forces of evil and defend the lands of Azeroth.

Over the period of years, the game put on several features and became easier to play … this attracted a lot of new users (including me!), but it also detracted a lot of the previous loyal following that the game had. After 3 successful patches (Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm), the game’s growth in popularity suddenly started sputtering. After over a year’s launch of Cataclysm, the game subscriptions started dipping … now at a figure of 9 million users (that’s a drop of 25% in users folks!), the people at Blizzard are getting worried about the launch of their next patch … Mists of Pandaria.

With this drop in users, there came in a distinct need for other MMOs, something which would stave gamers’ need for playing online games. Thus followed a slew of MMORPGs … Guild Wars (I and II), Rift, Dungeons and Dragons, Vanguard, Star Wars, Torchlight 2 … the list seems to go on.

I have seen quite a few of them and though most of the games differ slightly in game play with World of Warcraft, I think almost every one of those games have borrowed elements from the game. Mounts, factions, guilds, dungeons … these are the things that the good folks at Blizzard had already thought of … to make a WoW Clone goes ahead and fuels WoW’s popularity … in the end, the only game which ends up winning this War of MMOs, is WoW … not because of only being the first successful MMO, but also it has become the de facto genre defining game.

All the other MMOs that I have seen copy from WoW. If a new MMO were to be launched which would be drastically different from WoW, I wonder what would happen to its popularity? Or perhaps, thats what the hush-hush secret Project Titan is intended to do.

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The changing image of Orcs in Pop Culture

OrcThis Sunday, I was watching the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on TV and it struck me that the orcs in the movie are positively evil … Chaotic Evil in fact. They are completely selfish and have no respect for society, value personal goals above everything else and are seeking to destroy things. Do note, that the book was written in the 19th century by J. R. R. Tolkien and he intended to pose orcs as those wretched and evil creatures.

Many games were inspired from this epic … Dungeons and Dragons, Diablo … and not to mention Warcraft. Warcraft at the outset posed Orcs as Chaotic Evil as well … but in later versions, Blizzard decided to make this race playable … no doubt due to player demand. First the race became playable and was turned into Chaotic Good … then they actually took a u-turn and finally became Lawful Good.

The reason why this shift in alignment was done, was so that players could identify with certain aspects about the race and start playing with the race. Secondly, in all the previous references of Pop culture, the Orcs end up on the losing side … because they are evil and good always triumphs over evil. No one wants to end up on the losing side … why would you play a game where you know that whatever you do in the end you will lose? Thus, to stop the obvious end … the Orcs were made into a lawful society, with a war chief to rule over them.

Over a period of time, characters developed in Warcraft … and you had Thrall the War chief of the Orcs. Thrall was honourable, Thrall was good and benevolent … Thrall later on went on to become one of the most powerful druids of the Cenarion Circle in World of Warcraft.

A race which initially started off as pure evil, has now to date become a race which stands for honour and pride. From the human flesh eating orcs in LOTR, to the honorable orcs in World of Warcraft, the orcs have certainly gone a long way in their brand image. Although I am an Alliance fellow myself, I can understand why the Horde has an appeal to people … I wonder how many of those people would have stood by the Orcs had this image transition not been done.

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Curse: A Gamer’s Blessing

Curse

If you are into games as much as I am or if you are either into World of Warcraft of Skyrim, then this post is definitely for you! One of the things that differentiates a good game (such as Torchlight) from an awesome one (the ones I have listed above) is the developer community.

Not the folks who make the game, but the folks who add to the game. Add-ons, additional content, these are the things which make the game experience even more unique for the gamer. The game itself becomes a custom-fit for the player.

The problem of having the community develop add-ons for you is the installation and customization part. Why should the game developer’s support that? Well, that’s where Curse comes in.

Curse is a add-on client which allows for easy browsing and installation of add-ons of your favorite games. You do not have to be techie to do this … in fact installation of an add-on is now simply a click away! I remember in the days of Morrowind when the player has to put the additional game content in a particular folder … well, it still works the same way, but now Curse provides the user friendly abstraction required for mass adoption.

The wow-factor is the fact that whenever the add-on developer releases an update, Curse notifies you of the same and you can update your favorite add-ons within minutes! If you like mods, then this application is definitely the one for you!

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WoW on Wine

No, I don’t drink and raid :)

I recently have taken a lot to playing World of Warcraft during my free time (I think this also reflects pretty well on the blog :-)). I also have bought a good powerhouse of a desktop, and had dual booted it with WinXP and Win7. The problem with Win7 is that I have the 64-bit trial distribution and it hangs a lot, it has driver issues. The problem with WinXP is that its WinXP :-)

I am not that much of an operating system nazi, but the machine slows, down, the wireless network card that I am using is not fully utilized (WinXP sucks when it comes to driving the wireless interface!!). All in all, when it comes to playing an Online RPG, the environment does not deliver it’s 100%. Thus, I tried to give Ubuntu a try.

  • I already had the 11.04 distro with me, so the first thing I did was update all the repositories, include the third party repositories, and install Wine. Wine stands for WINdows Emulator. You can read more about Wine here.
  • After Wine, I went for installing Winetricks, which is a third party software. It’s used to easily streamline commands via a wizard which otherwise I would have been forced to use the console.
  • Somehow the Wine commands that get integrated into the shell (the right click menu of your explorer) are a bit different from the wine that got installed. So at first the program refused to run giving some obscure access management errors.
  • So, refusing to be let down, I went and searched for third party alternatives. You can skip this step, and definitely do not install the Crossover Games application because its just a trial, however, the PlayOnLinux (POL) application is recommended here, since after installing that, at least the icons of the .exe files will be visible
  • However, when I ran the Launcher.exe of World of Warcraft via the custom command console (by right clicking on it and selecting Open with Other Application, and then simply typing wine in the command box)
  • That’s it. Now the World of Warcraft launcher will run, and the game runs seamlessly

Since the game does not use the latest DirectX drivers, instead it replaces them with its own set, the textures and the games will be slightly different. I noticed a different texture for the water in WoW for example. But otherwise, the game is perfect for running. The network card works better, so I get a faster ping rate.

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diablo3.jpg

Diablo 3: Updates

diablo3 I have been waiting for almost three years for this game to release. Along with me thousands of other Diablo fans are waiting for Blizzard to announce the public beta launch date. Truth be told, it’s going to negatively impact the subscriptions of the other Blizzard games, especially World of Warcraft. Perhaps they are working out on when to announce the launch of the 4.3 WoW patch, and when to announce the Diablo public beta. Here’s a list of all things that I have heard about the game.

  • The private beta has been released last week, and is open to all the friends and family members of Blizzard employees. Not only is it a way to find beta testers ;-), but also it’s a brilliant HR ploy.
  • The game will fear an Auction House (AH) like the WoW series, but this time players will have an option to use real money in the AH. This is going to be a game which will somehow impact the economy, at a micro level albeit, but interesting to note that no other game has the balls to try this out. Then again, this idea might just backfire.
  • The solo game will require the player to still be connected online. I guess the online part is made mandatory due to the ease of operations. The game can be updated later on, DRM issues are resolved, piracy goes down, instead of a one time purchase a player can be made to pay the subscription amount month on month. Most of the game houses are trying to include this concept (even Microsoft with X-Box live).

Having said all that, the game is still widely awaiting and you can start checking out the game play videos of Demon Hunter, Monk, Wizard and Witch Doctor. With the private beta now live, you can always hope to see a lot more content and videos on youtube.

Here’s hoping that the game releases before 2012!!

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Economics of Gold farming in World of Warcraft

image I have been playing World of Warcraft (WoW) for over a year now, and I am thoroughly enjoying the break it provides over the weekends. It’s a great product and has been running for the past six years or so. Blizzard has done a real good job there, especially in capturing the player versus player interactions (PVP). One such place is the auction house (AH), wherein players can buy and sell items offered by other players in the virtual marketplace. In fact, the concept of auction within its games have been so popular that Blizzard has decided to include real currency in it’s beta version of Diablo III.

But, other than the in-game auctions, a surge of enterprises have sprung up around the game, right from WoW based clothes, to power leveling services (which I think are pretty pointless! If you want to play only the end-game content, then you are missing out on a lot of good content and not to mention the lore!!). That brings us to this post’s topic, ever since 2006, people have realized that players will be willing to pay up good money to buy virtual currency. That’s where a horde of enterprising gamers realized that they can make their game-plat profitable, and even into a scalable business enterprise. This is called Gold-farming.

How it works

Whenever you complete a quest in WoW, or sell any item to a Non-Playing Character (NPC), or sell an item on the AH you get paid in the virtual currency which is Gold pieces. The higher your level, the more gold you get. A dedicated player who plays the game for 8-10 hours can easily collect 3000 gold pieces a day (there are players who make higher as well, as high as 3000 per hour!!). You put 3 different people to do the same thing and keep farming and you have a gold generating machine. Currently (in the year 2012), a 1000 gold pieces are selling for USD 2.7 (roughly 120 INR).

I know it’s not much, but consider the fact that you have to pay USD 15 per month per account. Now you make around USD 27 per day per account. That’s approximately INR 35k per month. A gamer who is farming, will get paid around 6k-8k per month, leaving a profit of 10k per account.

Where

Obviously, one major assumption I have taken over here is the gamer remuneration. This salary will only work in places where the cost of labour is low … namely third world countries. In fact in China, one prison was making the prisoners farm gold all day!!

Threats

Now, all was hunky dory at the start, but there is a teensy-weensy problem here. Laws of Economics.

ecoConsider this graph, those are the demand and supply curves. As the quantity available for the same demand increases, the price that people are willing to pay for that good goes down, and vice-versa that as the quantity available for the same demand decreases, the price that people are willing to pay for that good goes up (since its going to be rare!!).

Now apply this to the gold farming business in WoW. Over the years, the number of people playing the game has seen upswings and downswings (in fact with the recent release of Rift, it has reduced quite a bit). Hence, the demand has actually gone down.

Also, the amount available/supplied is ever increasing … what I mean is that since its virtual currency, there is no limit to it. In the real world, the total volume of gold is 300673 cubic feet, but in WoW the virtual gold is infinite. You can farm as much as you like, its not going to be depleted. EVER.

What that means, is that over a period of time, the price of the virtual currency is going to drop. I did some searching, and this is true. The price for 5000 gold pieces in WoW in 2007 … was a maidenhead. Now, its just 600 INR :-).

Not a sustainable business, this gold farming thing no? I wonder what that girl must be feeling now that those very epic mounts are being sold within WoW for 80 Gold a piece.

Well, there’s always the dragon mounts.

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Bored in WoW: Things to do

bored

Have you ever waiting for minutes on end in the dungeon queue? Reached Level 85 and not known what else to do? Gotten bored by playing mind-numbing quests one after the other?

If you have been playing World of Warcraft for as long as I have been playing, then I am sure that you would have gotten jaded a bit with the continuous onslaught of Dungeons, Raids, PVP and Quests.

I have seen perfectly fine guilds as well as guild leaders throw their arms in despair and just stop playing WoW after getting too bored to play the game. Well, if you can identify with what I am talking about, then read on further … if you are wondering what the hell I am talking about, there’s this super awesome game that you have to check-out. It’s called World of Warcraft!!

  1. Level up your professions – It might seem mundane at first, but the awesome kind of items you get at the higher levels is definitely worth it. Not only are you adding a few Achievements to your belt, but helping out your guild as well. Not to mention the kind of trade surplus you get at the Auction House (AH).
  2. Auctioneering – Speaking of the auctions, the AH is a good place to hunt good items and good trade deals. If you see a poorly priced item, buy it and promptly put it on the AH again. Pure profit!! In fact this point deserves a post or two!
  3. Miss Goody-two-shoes – Become a good-two-shoes in your guild and offer help to anyone who is stuck or lost at any level. There is joy in contribution :-). Keep a limit to offering a helping hand thought. Like help a n00b a day types :-)
  4. Achievements – Do your research, and go after weird Achievements. Or Achievements which talk of sheer determination like The Explorer, or Loremaster, etc.
  5. Guild Achievements – Try getting towards the Guild Achievements. Your Guild officers will herald you and everyone will be the happier.

I will add to this list, but putting together this list has given me an urge to play WoW!

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