WoW: Warlords of Draenor Gets November Release Date

The next World of Warcraft expansion promises…time travel?

If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet given up on the soul-sucking chore that is apparently playing World of Warcraft, you’ll be keenly aware of the announced release date for the next chapter in the never-ending story. (Not that one, although any quests involving riding Falkor would be pretty sweet.)

WoW Warlords of Draenor announced

Announced at BlizzCon 2013 by Chris Metzen during the opening ceremony, Warlords of Draenor will have been a year in waiting by the time it’s released – long enough for the diehards to break the whole thing down repeatedly, and certainly long enough for the fair-weather fans to decide if they want to spend a long time maxing out their characters ready for the next ten levels.

Yes, if you’re in it for the long haul, you’re finally going to reach Level 100. A century; which must be how long it feels like between expansions, but with this Blizzard have also announced their intention to release more regular updates – once per year according to Greg ‘Ghostcrawler’ Street, lead systems designer.

“We find that expansions are what bring players back to World of Warcraft,” he explained. “Really good patches will keep them, but they aren’t as good at bringing players back to the game.

“We really want to get to a cadence where we can release expansions more quickly. Once a year I think would be a good rate. I think the best thing we can do for new players is to keep coming out with regular content updates.”

Anyone with an eye on the subscribers will know that the base always jumps up a bit in the lead up to a new expansion, before tailing off again once everyone has either a) completed the new quests and levelled up in quick style, or b) got sufficiently pissed off enough at the daft difficulty spike to stop trying.

And the new storyline could be enough to pique the interest of long-lapsed players, as the events played out at the end of Mists of Pandaria lead to the creation of an alternative timeline which prevents the destruction of the orc homeworld Draenor which occurred at the end of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.

That’s as spoilery as I’m prepared to go at this point, but I’m sure you all know the story if you’re reading this.

By going back on their own lore, Blizzard could lure in some of the older generations of Warcraft players but risk the wrath of others. We’ll find out in November what the community makes of this but until then, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments box.

Dungeons & Dreamers: a book about global gaming

You kids, with your Halo and your hip hop – you don’t know what real gaming is.

Well before you were telling your console to switch itself on, or before you could physically wave your controller like a tennis racket, or even before you were holding funny-looking pads with buttons in your hands, there was a kind of pad where the deepest, most immersive and imaginative kind of gaming got played – on a notepad.

Gaming legend Gary Gygax came up with the miniature wargame Chainmail in 1971, which was based simply in medieval times, and devised rules of combat among ordinary men. However, Gygax’s fellow gamer Dave Arneson would add elements of fantasy into the game, bringing spells and mythical monsters into the mix. One year on this modified version of Chainmail would be repackaged as a standalone game called Dungeons & Dragons, and the rest is history.

The unique combination of fantasy and role-playing elements was something that inspired video game designers and programmers through the years as advancing technology began to produce all kinds of weird and wonderful computer programmes. As computer gaming became more popular, it was the hardcore groups of D&D gamers of these times – close-knit communities brought together to slay dragons and forge long-lasting relationships – that tried to find a way to bring people together online to enjoy their hobby.

It’s this struggle to unite questing gamers from the 1970s to now which is covered in Dungeons & Dreamers: A Story of How Computer Games Created a Global Community – an extremely insightful book that explores the role of games in bringing together players from all walks of life to the same dungeons, space stations and virtual worlds to bring (massive) multiplayer fun.

Dungeons & Dreamers

The narrative of the book is seen in turn through the eyes of key figures in gaming history such as Richard Garriott of Origin Systems, and the two Johns – Carmack and Romero– at id software (whose Quake title was a character from their regular D&D games). It contains plenty of informative reporting on world events which shaped the industry such as the Columbine shootings that tried to vilify games as forms of violent escapism, alongside great insights on the industry itself whose users wanted the very best in technology and design to enjoy fresh new worlds – leading to innovations like Ultima Online, World of Warcraft and Second Life.

There’s also plenty of discussion going to show the dedication of the players who found a new calling in life through these offerings, like the annual QuakeCon events which continue to attract Deathmatchers from all over the world. Much as I enjoyed seeing from the creators’ point of view how their games matured and became new worlds of their own, it’s great too to read about how the players found themselves a part of these worlds.

One other thing which struck me was the great comparisons drawn in which two of the featured companies told the story of relocating offices across country as if living in Frontier times – changing their own landscapes in order to create more of their own, with Origin splitting their bases across Texas and New Hampshire, and id hitting the trail between Louisiana and Texas to form their company. (Romero also worked in New Hampshire for Origin at one point!)

Dungeons and Dreamers is a great read if you’re interested in how gaming got to where it is today in terms of reach and the pursuit of that killer multiplayer experience, written so knowledgeably and with real reverence for its subject matter.

There are now “only” 8 million Warcraft players

Activision-Blizzard fears fewer money piles after WoW sees sharp subscriber drop

Don’t you just hate it when you hear a sports pundit on TV say something like “compared to two years ago, when he was only making £20,000 a week”? REALLY? ONLY twenty grand a week? That poor bastard; how did he ever manage to pay the bills?

It’s a sentiment I’m aiming squarely at World of Warcraft creators Blizzard this week, after their quarterly report went out yesterday as part of Activision’s fiscal duties. Multimillionaire chief executive Bobby Kotick lamented having only 8.3 million subscribers paying them ten pounds per month for the privilege of paying their game, on top of their record-breaking sales of Diablo 3 and the latest WoW expansion pack, Mists of Pandaria.

Poor Bobby. Poor, poor Bobby.

Poor Bobby. Poor, poor Bobby.

Yes, by comparison, that’s a number of players which is significantly down from the 9.6 million reported for Q4 2012, but 8.3 is, nonetheless, a huge fucking number that’s way beyond comprehension – or at least, it should be if not for the bean-counters ruining our fun.

I understand that yes, having 1.3 million people no longer paying you ten pounds per month for the privilege of playing your game can be harmful, but these steep drops have been occurring ever since the game’s audience peaked in 2010 at 12 million so why the big surprise only now?

Kotick sobbed uncontrollably into hundred-dollar bills as he commented: “We expect to have fewer subscribers at year end than we do today.”

Yes, but that’s because your company is charging people ten pounds a month to play your game – not to mention the expansion packs, the dungeon-busting trilogies and all those blasted annual updates to the FPS shooter you call the Call of Duty series. You really can’t expect a game which is nearly eight years old to keep churning out original content year on year, can you? Oh, hang on, that explains CoD; just answered my own question there.

The scariest bit of it all for me comes from this article in the Wall Street Journal; apparently, WoW, CoD, Diablo III and Skylanders –yes, fucking Spyro and his mates- accounts for “83% of its net revenues and “a significantly higher percentage” of its operating income for the year.”

Now that’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? Think about that while you’re on your next raid, and try not to get too emotional; us poor folk can only afford those regular old tissues to dry our eyes with.