Cheating on WoW: He’s a Re-Rifter + WoW Possibly Gaining a Cash Shop

He de-Rifted, then he re-Rifted…

My rogue taking on an early dungeon in RiftIt’s time for something a little different from my “cheating on WoW” segment. For the first time ever, I’ve returned to a game I previously tried and found wanting: Rift.

I covered Rift very early in this blog’s life. So early, in fact, that I hadn’t even come up with the “cheating on WoW” tag yet. I found it a technically competent but generic game, and ultimately, it failed to tickle my fancy. However, its transition to free to play gave me an opportunity to see how it had changed since launch.

I wrote up my thoughts for WhatMMO, so head on over to read my views on how Rift has changed.

As an aside, one thing I found bizarre is that Rift is apparently having some sort of cross-promotion event with Defiance right now. I had heard something about this a few weeks ago, but I assumed the event was already over. Imagine my surprise when I ran into a fire rift and found it full of Hellbugs.

On the plus side, I got a free mount out of the deal.

My rogue on a gulanite hellbug mount in RiftWorld of Warcraft Might Be Getting a Cash Shop:

Dataminers discovered something interesting in the World of Warcraft test realm files the other day: An elixir that increases experience gain, listed as coming from an “in-game store.” Exactly like the kind of boosts sold in free to play games.

Needless to say, the implication that WoW might be getting a cash shop caused a bit of a stir. This could be an early indication of Blizzard laying the groundwork for a transition to free to play. Certainly, if they add a cash shop on top of the subscription, it would come across as rather greedy.

Now, WoW technically already has a cash shop for its pets and sparkle ponies, but what’s proposed by this elixir is another beast entirely. This would mean a shop accessible in-game, presumably stocked with a variety of boosts and items. Just like free to play and buy to play MMOs have.

Blizzard has confirmed they are looking into the possibility of implementing new ways for people to buy items in-game — and, presumably, new items to buy — so that more or less confirms a cash shop is at least being considered.

It’s worth noting, though, that they mentioned they were testing it for “certain regions.” Most people have taken this to mean “Asia,” and I think this is a likely bet. Asia is where the majority of the recent subscriber losses have been, so it makes sense for them to try and recoup their losses in the region, and Asian gamers have traditionally shown themselves to be more open to micro-transactions than their Western fellows.

My Night Elf monk at the Peak of Serenity in World of Warcraft: Mists of PandariaStill, if the cash shop proves successful in Asia, it’s hard to imagine it not eventually making it to North America in some form. Which brings us back to the question of whether this going to be in addition to the subscription fee, or whether it’s a sign of a change to free to play.

[EDIT: I am hearing reports at MMO-Champion that Blizzard has confirmed the cash shop is only intended for Asia, but I stand by my belief that it will likely make it to the rest of the world eventually if it proves successful.]

Although I’m generally a defender of micro-transactions, I’d find the former a little distasteful. Considering how much Blizzard already makes off of account services, expansion prices, subscription fees, and sparkle ponies, it would make them look very greedy.

On the other hand, if it’s a sign that F2P is on the horizon, I’d be overjoyed. I’ve made no secret of my distaste for the subscription model, and it’s one of the reasons I find my interest in WoW waning. It’s not even a question of the money; F2P is just a more equitable and enjoyable way to play — when it’s handled well — than a subscription.

I do view a free to play WoW as an inevitability at this point, and no matter what happens, this news further strengthens my belief that WoW losing its subscription is now a matter of when, not if.

What say you? Is this the end of the world (of Warcraft), a sign of a welcome change in business model, or a non-issue?

The Secrift World of Guild Warscraft Aionline

Or Building the Perfect MMO:

If only...I’ve tried a lot of MMOs in the last year or so. Though I’ve generally wound up going back to World of Warcraft after every one, each has had at least one little area in which they blow WoW out of the water, and it’s always left me wishing I could smoosh all of them together to create the perfect game.

So just for fun, I’ve come up with a list of all the best features of the MMOs I’ve played, the traits that when combined would form what I believe to be the perfect MMO.

World of Warcraft: Class design and backstory

Say what you will about WoW, but I think their class design is second to none. The classes provide very different playstyles, and while some are occasionally similar, they’re generally very different from one another. A combat rogue plays nothing like a demonology warlock, and both are totally different from a retribution paladin.

The end result is that there’s something for everyone. In some cases, multiple somethings. Why do you think I have so many alts?

All my Warcraft charactersThe other great strength of Warcraft that other games can’t match is its years of backstory. More than half a dozen games and countless novels, comics, and short stories have created tens of thousands of years of fictional history that simply makes the universe come alive.

Guild Wars 2: Overall design and philosophy

It’s difficult to succinctly explain if you haven’t played GW2, but when I tried the beta, I just felt… free.

All the pressures and pointless crap you put up with in other MMOs are gone. If you want a linear story experience, it’s there for you. If you want to wander the world as an itinerant adventurer with no specific goal, you can. Play alone or with other people; it doesn’t matter. Just do whatever you want.

Battling a major boss during a dynamic event in the Guild Wars 2 betaYou don’t need to worry about gearing — upgrades are cheaply available from vendors. You don’t need to worry about other players stealing your loot or your kills.

Guild Wars 2 may be weak in peripheral areas like story or class design, but when it comes to the bones of the MMO experience, it’s a quantum leap forward.

Rift: Patch cycle

Rift isn’t a game that greatly impressed me. But the one thing you have to give its developers, Trion Worlds, credit for is their patch cycle.

Trion has managed to completely embarrass the entire MMO industry with the speed and regularity with which they’ve been able to roll out new content — all without a huge subscriber base or the massive cash behind something like WoW. In the long months between patches, bored Warcraft players look at Trion’s record and cry themselves to sleep.

Rift patch 1.5: Ashes of HistoryAnd these aren’t insignificant updates, either. We’re talking whole raids and game-changing updates, like merging the playable factions. Most games would reserve such changes for an expansion pack — if they found the balls to do them at all.

Rift is the evolving game all MMOs try but largely fail to be.

Aion/Star Trek: Online: Customization

I’ll be the first to admit that Aion is a game with a lot of problems, but I still have a soft spot for it, and the character customization is a large part of that.

Aion’s customization options are nearly limitless — some even say it went too far, allowing people to play as bizarre freaks. But I don’t really think there’s such a thing as too much customization. It’s just too cool to be able to make a character look exactly how you want, down to the finest details. I was even able to perfectly recreate characters from my novels with Aion’s amazing character creator.

A character from my writing recreated via Aion's amazing character customizationStar Trek: Online is another game with great customization, if not great gameplay. It doesn’t have quite so many options as Aion, but it’s close, and it does have perhaps the best customization option I’ve ever seen: the ability to choose your character’s animations and body language.

I’ll never stop wishing other games had that option. Never.

The Secret World: Story, ambiance, and quest design

I read a comment on Massively the other day that struck a cord with me. Paraphrasing: “It’s funny how SW:TOR spent all that money on all that voice-acting and story, and then The Secret World sneaks in with better voice overs, better writing, and better cinematic direction.”

That about sums it up.

The Dragon mission "Into Darkness" in The Secret WorldI would go so far as to say TSW probably has the best quest design of any MMO to date — Guild Wars 2 doesn’t count because it doesn’t really have quests. The quests are challenging and diverse, and they actually help teach you how to play the game, introducing you to the kind of mechanics found in dungeons and raids.

More importantly — to me, anyway — the quests have good stories that are well-told. Funcom, the developer, hit the perfect balance that needs to exist in video game story. There’s plenty of story for those who like it, but it’s not obtrusive.

Each major quest has a good voice-acted cinematic to explain its basic plot, but then it’s pretty much non-stop action to the end. If you want more story, you can engage the NPCs in conversation, but that’s entirely optional.

Out at night on Solomon Island in The Secret WorldThis is both more streamlined from a gameplay perspective and more engaging from a plot perspective than either the “busywork occasionally interrupted by a story” approach of WoW and its clones or Star Wars’ technique of ramming story down your throat at every turn whether you like it or not.

Blend until smooth:

The end result is a game with diverse, compelling classes; non-obligational, BS-free design; unmatched customization of every aspect of your character; rapid content updates; and a compelling, well-told story based on massive history and backstory.

Sigh…

We can dream.