Tuesday, March 16, 2021

My Thoughts on Diablo Immortal's Monetization Plans

It has been over 2 years since the disastrous Diablo Immortal announcement that in my opinion resulted in a overreaction from the community, though it's an understandable reaction. Within that time period, there's been little in the way of announcements for this game beyond some trailers and other tidbits of info. However, near the end of 2020, Blizzard made a news post about how they were planning to monetize Diablo Immortal. Since I was busy with other projects at the time, I wasn't able to give my thoughts on it immediately and in fact, I only learned about this news post relatively recently.

Personally, I don't strongly like or dislike Blizzard's current monetization strategy. This is probably better than what some others may think, if only because they are unwilling to give the game a chance due to reasons such as the platform the game is releasing on or the fact NetEase or Blizzard are involved. However, the fact that I have a neutral opinion does mean I have some concerns and critique to offer that may be useful for improving the release version of the game or at least giving those who are undecided about the game more information to consider. In this article, I will convey why I have a neutral reception to the news post by highlighting certain parts of it and offering my opinion on them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Improving Genshin Impact, Master's Thesis Edition

About a year and a half ago, an upcoming game caught my interest due to comparisons being made between it and Breath of the Wild. As someone who liked that game but recognized that it was far from perfect and could be improved upon in many ways, I wondered what this game would be like and how it would improve upon the game that clearly served as its source of inspiration. As I've already made clear in past articles, the fact that the game was releasing on mobile was not an issue for me. Such a concern was also dampened by the fact that the game was also going to be released on PC and as it turns out, the game eventually released on mobile, PC, and PS4.

However, while the game made a solid first impression, I rapidly noticed potential content design issues that made the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft seem good by comparison. Unfortunately, as I progressed through the game, these concerns were sadly confirmed and I became annoyed that yet another game fell into the trap of using what I consider to be flawed game design philosophy since it tries to make player miserable to generate profit more than it tries to make players happy to generate profit. Such concerns, which I will go into more detail on below, were echoed by critics and players alike.

Many months and numerous arguments with fellow players later, it has become apparent that miHoYo, the company behind the game, seems more or less content with how their game is designed. While some meaningful content has been developed and released, much of it is rife with arbitrary limitations. In fact, the repeatable content that the game has to offer, especially for endgame players, has largely remained unchanged and still involves waiting for at least a few hours or the expenditure of money to meaningfully engage in. This factor among others has me worried about this game that I want to like, but clearly needs improvements. Therefore, in this article I will be providing an extensive list of suggestions to resolve what I believe to be problematic about the game.

However, before getting into the meat of the article, I want to address why I'm suddenly writing a Genshin Impact article instead of writing more articles on World of Warcraft. To put it simply, I'm on a break from World of Warcraft and I'm unsure if I'll be playing the game again any time soon. The reasons why are largely similar to the ones I made in the article on why I wouldn't be playing Classic WoW. However, I still have topics I want to write articles on and an article about a game that has content design issues similar to some past iterations of World of Warcraft seems like a good place to start, so without further ado...

Thursday, August 6, 2020

My Thoughts on Azerite and its Future

Azerite is one of the few features for Battle for Azeroth that I have yet to formally give my thoughts on. Considering my past thoughts on Artifacts and, more importantly, what I believed should have been done with them in future iterations, one might expect me to think poorly of the Azerite system. To a degree, this expectation is correct but much like with Artifacts, Azerite has changed greatly throughout the expansion to the point I believe it would be a mistake to ruthlessly discard many aspects of the feature during the transition to Shadowlands. This was more or less stated in the Blizzcon interview late last year since Azerite as a system will remain as a leveling feature but will be unusable in Shadowlands content.

Because I think Azerite should have more of a future than planned and also because this article is being published at the conclusion of the Battle for Azeroth expansion, I will be approaching the topic in a different manner. Specifically, I will deconstruct the Azerite system and review its components, such as Azerite gear and Essences, then determine if and how they can be adapted to work with changes made in the Shadowlands expansion so that they are available for Shadowlands content. I will also determine if it's worth keeping various components of the Azerite system at all. Much like previous articles on Battle for Azeroth features, this one will also be rife with (pretentious) suggestions regarding theoretical future iterations that will likely not be considered by the development team, let alone implemented on test or live realms. I hope my musings are enjoyable to read despite this.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Buying Time for Shadowlands

This is a polite reminder that this article was published on the 31st of March. This is a serious article and not an April Fools' joke. I don't intend to publish a joke article this year anyways.

Ever since the Wrath of the Lich King, the period between the last major patch and the next expansion has consisted of a lack of significant updates that lasted about a year. After Mists of Pandaria, attempts were made to address the issue in Warlords of Draenor, when a plan to release expansions yearly was revived and put into action, only to fail miserably almost immediately due to content design problems in the aforementioned expansion. This in turn led to the same lengthy content drought that happened during the previous three expansions though patch 6.2.2 and 6.2.3 were implemented to try to remedy the issue and much like patch 3.3.5, such patches were somewhat effective at best in terms of addressing the content drought.

Legion, much like Mists of Pandaria, staggered content additions with major patches adding story quests and other zone content, then raid availability coming a few months later, usually alongside a minor balance patch. This resulted in the final raid, Antorus, becoming available during late 2017. Patch 7.3.5 came out less than two months later and featured the level scaling mechanic in low level zones, improving the leveling experience somewhat, though I personally considered the addition insufficient for truly improving the leveling experience. The period between the end of Legion and the beginning of Battle for Azeroth was noticeably shorter with a content drought of 7 months at most, though it is worth mentioning the period between the major 7.3 and 8.0 patches was about 10 months.

Unfortunately, this came at the cost of the release iteration of Battle for Azeroth not being received too well. While the release iteration definitely had problems, I personally went on record saying it's not as bad as vocal players, some of whom claimed the expansion was worse than Warlords of Draenor, thought it was. I considered Island Expeditions a decent addition to the game even in its initial iteration because of its application as complementary content especially for leveling, which I believe should be expanded upon by making it available as early as level 10 after the Shadowlands level squish. While I have yet to post an article on Azerite, the initial iteration seemed to fix some problems I had with the Artifact system such as by dampening power-based Paragon progression further and not having Artifact Knowledge cause major numerical inflation.

The biggest problem with the release iteration of Battle for Azeroth in my opinion was Warfronts, which I mentioned in my article reviewing the content. I specifically mentioned a second Warfront being available on release would have helped to address issues with content accessibility since multiple Warfronts would help to reduce the possibility of downtime caused by the unexciting contribution phase. Control phase content could have also been improved to feature content that was added later such as World Quests. Ultimately, delaying Battle for Azeroth by a couple of months to add this second Warfront and refine other content additions, such as by fleshing out Island Expeditions into something similar to its 8.1 iteration, would have made the release iteration of the expansion much more enjoyable.

At the time of this writing, the only thing that is known about the release date of Shadowlands is that it will happen sometime in 2020. Considering patch 8.3 came out at the beginning of this year and the legendary cloak's Corruption Resistance upgrades cap out at 125 by early September, it is likely that the expansion will release around early fall of this year. However, I believe it would be more prudent to release later than that if only to refine content such as Torghast, the roguelike dungeon I am personally looking forward to, further.

Regardless, unless the highly unlikely possibility of the next expansion releasing in the next two or three months occurs, there will likely be a content drought that, while not as long as some previous expansions, is still quite lengthy. While this period should be strongly devoted to developing the next expansion, I believe there should also be more of an effort at keeping players entertained. Therefore, I have a number of suggestions to make for a theoretical minor patch that could be implemented a few months from now, preferably around early summer, to accomplish the goal that the title of this article states: buy time for Shadowlands.