Saturday, June 15, 2019

I Am The Fox : WoW, New World

Massively OP may have struggled to come up with half a dozen topics I cared about over the ten days I was away but they made up for it this morning with a 33% hit rate on the overnights. I woke up to two items of interest: Amazon Games is apparently retrenching already, despite not even having a single game in production, while World of Warcraft might be adding foxes to the roster of playable races.

I'd like to avoid MOP-bashing at this point. The site is what it is.As with late-period capitalism, which it uncannily resembles, there's little point in wailing and whining. It's what we have so we're just going to have to make the best of it. Even so, the way positives so routinely turn into negatives, if not in the headlines or the body of the pieces, then in the comments is depressing.

When we hear about game studios dropping staff, closing departments and shuttering games it almost always reflects difficulties with the finances. In the case of Amazon I would think we could safely discard any such concerns. If the press release states

"These moves are the result of regular business planning cycles where we align resources to match evolving, long-range priorities"

then I think we can take it at face value. When they go on to say the moves will

"...allow us to prioritize development of New World, Crucible, and new unannounced projects"
 we should probably feel re-assured, optimistic, even excited, rather than piling on the doom and gloom.

So far, Amazon seem to have been following an exemplary path in their foray into game development. They aren't rushing unfinished games to market. They aren't asking anyone to pay to test their experiments. They would appear to be running a professional operation, adequately funded for the medium and long term, operating under solid project management.

If they have slipped at all, I would say it might be in the tightness of New World's NDA. My feeling is that, had alpha testers been allowed to express an opinion of the lengthy alpha process and share some of their experiences - and screenshots - the general level of anticipation for the game would be very high indeed.

I'm still by no means sure that New World will be a game I, personally, want to play long-term but I feel fairly confident that, when it finally comes to market, it will be polished, professional and coherent in a way few other major releases have been in the last few years. That it has been taken back behind closed doors for more intense work by a re-focused team seems to me to make that outcome even more likely.

Blizzard used to be a byword for the same level of well-funded professionalism in the gaming industry. That crown has slipped a little in recent times following a number of mis-steps and muddled decisions.  

WoW isn't the be-all and end-all of the Blizzard empire, of course, but even diminished as it is, it remains a behemoth, both in the genre and in the company's portfolio. The late-summer launch of Classic will see WoW back at the very top of the news cycle and, most likely, the sales charts. Meanwhile, over in the Live game, something is stirring.

There was a leak yesterday concerning the rumored "Level Squish". A poll went out by email to some subscribers. It included the question
“Are you aware that the maximum level of 120 will be reduced in the future (ie Level Squish)?”
Wilhelm, considering the possibility well before the recent leak, judged that "we won’t see a level squish" because "it just changes too much for too little benefit". He also included the eternal issue of Levels in general in in his shortlist of "problems MMORPGs are never going to solve".

Kaylriene, however, discussing a possibility that now seems more like a probability, concluded that, while polls do not indicate something definitely will happen, "...Blizzard has committed to a decision one way or the other by now, as the expansion development for 9.0 has to be well underway". He also pointed out that  "Blizzard inherently sells expansions on the value of the leveling experience and has always made a bullet-point in their expansion presentations about the new levels to achieve".

Still, they seem determined to go ahead with it, just as they went ahead with removing flying from the game going forward, a decision that was received extremely poorly by large sections of the audience and which has been subject to considerable refinement and re-evaluation ever since. Since I love both leveling and flying, these would seem to be strong disincentives to my chances of re-subscribing to the Live game in the future.

Not, however, strong enough to suppress the thrill of excitement that swept over me on reading the news that Azeroth may become the next virtual world to fall under the thrall of the mighty fox!

I have to confess I had no idea WoW even had fox-people NPCs.  I don't believe I've ever heard of the Vulpera, who seem first to have appeared only as recently as the latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth. I've read a lot of blog posts about BoA but if anyone mentioned foxes I must have missed it.

Since Vanguard introduced me to the joys of  the fox life with the incomparable Raki, my favorite MMORPG playable race of all time, I have had the strongest of joneses for the race. It's not impossible that, had I known there were talking foxes in BOA I might have bought the blasted thing just to see them.

If Blizzard does go ahead and add the Vulpera as a playable race, complete with their own starting area, concomitant quests and lore, I will pretty much have to re-subscribe to try them out. Even if it also means buying the current expansion, though I have yet to set foot in Legion, which I already own. And I don't think I'd be the only one.

Of course, since a subscription is required to access Classic, which I almost certainly won't want to miss, at least for the opening frenzy, all may come together in a harmonious synchronicity towards the end of the summer. It's something to look forward to, at least. It's going to be a much longer wait before we see the fruits of Amazon's labor, I fear.

Some images borrowed from the Interwebs. As always, if one is yours and you'd rather it wasn't here, let me know and I'll remove it.


  1. Vulpera would likely be an Allied Race. As such they would start at level 20 meaning no specific Vulpera start zone, quests, etc. This lets Blizzard slot them into the existing zones with minimal development effort.

    You would need to do the Voldun zone quests in BfA to see what lore there is about Vulpera. You would likely need to be exalted with their faction to unlock them -- this is the pattern for other Allied Races unlocks -- so you would be familiar with their lore anyway.

    1. The rumors were pretty clear that Vulpera would be one of the additional "Allied" races but I'm not sufficiently up to speed with WoW to realise that means they start at level 20. I never really thought they'd get a full starting area, though, unless they came as a featured race in an expansion. I'd still be interested in playing one even if it meant playing through BfA, which actually looks like one of the more interesting expansions as far as leveling is concerned. My record with Legion does suggest it might not be the best use of my money, though...

  2. The problem with that level squish survey is that I haven't read anything from anybody who actually received the survey. There is just that one guy on Reddit, and in his thread I didn't see anybody saying, "Oh, I got that too!" So I am suspicious about this being a fake. The wording of it, which strongly implies that the level squish is a done deal, seems far less polished and professional when compared to other communications from Blizzard. It was, if you will excuse me, a Daybreak level of effort. It could still be legit, but I'd like to see somebody else stand up and say they got it before I get worked up about it.

    You can bet if I get the survey you'll see a post about it.

    An additional allied race without its own starting zone and back story doesn't thrill me. I already have a level 110+ character of every class I enjoy playing, several I don't really enjoy, and dupes on a couple. Another "start at 20 and pick one of the same old classes" option isn't on my list desires.

    And when it comes to Amazon, that is just how they are. They like small teams, specific projects, and if they don't see progress they shake things up then shut them down and move on. They feel no need to ship every project they start. They have the budget and bandwidth to try all sorts of things, throw away the ones that falter, and run with the ones that look good.

    1. I thought one of the early comments in the MOP thread was from someone claiming to have received the email survey but I might have misread it - and even if I didn't, a random comment from a Moppet doesn't throw a lot of weight behind the rumor. The whole squish thing seems to be a non-starter to me, though. If it just halves the number next to your name but takes the same time to do, almost everyone is going to hate it but if it makes leveling faster an awful lot of people are going to hate that too - leveling speed has a lot to do with why we're getting Classic, after all. It just seems like a good way to tick everyone off, whatever they do. Not that that has ever stopped any game developer from doing anything...

      If I was more of a conspiracy theorist I'd be looking for a tie-in between the level squish - or the rumor - and Classic. There has to be a powerful synergy there that could be exploited for profit, somehow, even if I can't quite see how it would work...

    2. It would be oddly interesting to have both live and classic have a level 60 cap.

      My theory is that any skill squish has to come in conjunction with the next expansion, which is more than a year away, and will have to squish all of the current content to a level cap of 50 or 55 so they can add 5 or 10 more levels with the next expansion. It would be crazy to squish to 60 then pop an expansion that adds 5-10 levels.


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