Links of the week

  1. We’ve seen a lot of discussion about Blizzard’s plans for the Icecrown patch (3.3). Fives writes the clearest and most heartfelt summary of them all. This isn’t just an analysis, it’s a love letter from a hardcore raid leader who sees his game on the verge of extinction. Six words that terrify Blizzard.
  2. The other big topic of discussion in gaming blogs has been some little shooter called Modern Warfare, perhaps you’ve heard of it? (It slays me that this outsold dragon age by about a zillion to one. Expect to see a slew of FPS based MMOs in about 5 years time.) Rock Paper Shotgun explains why the real problem with the ‘moral dilemma’ level wasn’t the moral dilemma, it’s that it was rubbish.
  3. As anyone who’s been keeping up with this blog knows, I’m totally enamoured of Dragon Age Origins. I finished my first play through earlier, but haven’t had time yet to marshall my thoughts. In the meantime, check out what the effervescent Tipa has to say in her DAO review. ElectricDeathRay also has a super review in the form of a love letter, explaining just why he loves the game so much.
  4. Overly Positive has another angle on DAO. In his view, Bioware have put their money where their mouth is and shown us now that they really are way ahead of the field in storytelling right now. So what does this mean for Star Wars: The Old Republic?
  5. The Final Fantasy XIV Core blog asks “What kind of gamer are you?” Apparently I’m a generic gamer, I’m not even sure if that’s good or not. (Or maybe a storyliner – they added that later after I’d read the post!)
  6. Dragonchaser takes a first look at skirmishes in LOTRO and loves what he sees. This is a really neat sounding feature that’s coming out in the next patch. It involves instances that scale from single player up to a full group. It involves randomised encounters. It involves customisable NPCs who can help out with healing, tanking, or dps. What’s not to love? (I think Tobold’s on crack when he says he’d rather play Cataclysm than Mirkwood – but more on that next week.)
  7. octalblack is upset because she thinks that people give Champions Online an unfairly hard time for the cash shop, where WoW gets a free pass. Why can’t people be consistent in how they criticise features? I fear the sad truth is that most people who criticise CO have no intention of playing it, whereas most people who talk about WoW are current players, so that affects how it’s seen.
  8. p@tsh@t echoes the feeling that a lot of oldtime MMO players have, which is that we’re slowly losing the worlds from our virtual worlds. Can the mass market support a virtual world or are we relegated to a shiny 3d chat room with a right click adventure menu?
  9. Anyone else noticed that lots of people are easing up on their MMO playing at the moment because of all the great single player games that have been coming out? Dusty asks (tongue in cheek?) whether single player games are ruining our MMOs.
  10. And in honour of Twilight, here’s an old Halloween link. The Escapist asks whether you can identify these 30 vampires in 30s.

By the way, check out the new banner, courtesy of Veneretio. I think it’s bluerifficly awesome, and not just because  this font makes me think of ice creams at the seaside.

The sadness of pet collectors

I’m always interested in finding people who play MMOs in a very different way from the way I do, so I was intrigued to read comments on the official forums by pet collectors who felt that the Blizzard Store was ruining their game by selling minipets. There is a fantastic site for WoW pet collectors at warcraftpets.com — and even on the front page, they mention that they are catering to hardcore pet collectors as well as ‘people who just want a new pet.’

I’m impressed because that specific site has pretty much created the entire pet collecting minigame. You can register your collection, compare it with other people, see who else is collecting on your realm. Why it doesn’t have a proper forum I have no idea.

(I also wonder why these guys don’t play EQ2 because it’s the most collector-friendly MMO I’ve ever seen.)

Just as background, there are lots of novelty non-combat minipets available in WoW. Some can be bought cheaply from an in game vendor, some are given as rewards for quests, achievements, or for being logged in on an anniversary week. Others are rare drops which can later be sold for high prices on the auction house. And you can also buy them with real cash — not just in the pet shop, but buying rare CCGs with minipets attached, buying collectors editions of the various expansion packs, and so on.

I’m quite surprised that so little of this pet collecting minigame has ever been incorporated into WoW formally. Sure, the pets are there, but the tools to locate, compare, and brag about them really are not. There are a few achievements involved but otherwise, the pets are just thrown in willy-nilly. I’m sure that for the collectors that is part of the appeal. Because there’s no real rhyme or reason to it, collecting a lot of pets shows that you know how to research the game.

Also, there are no mini pets which drop in raid instances. Pet collecting absolutely can be done solo — there’s one pet in a 5 man instance but all the rest are not. This is a type of gaming which lends itself to soloing or even casual play.

So why would adding buyable pets change that? It doesn’t. There has been a notion that cool or interesting pets should be more difficult to collect but that’s rather down to personal taste. There’s also a notion that it’s cooler to be seen with rarer pets, but with such a wide range to choose from, it should be easy to pick one that no one else likes. What the cash shop changes is that now it’s likely that cute pets might be very easy to get in game. You don’t even need to visit the local pet vendor.  And I think that is what is messing with people’s heads.

To non pet collectors, it’s a non issue. Pay cash for cute pet, job done. But for pet collectors, it’s more of an adjustment. Should they even include the buyable pets in their pet count, because there is no difficulty involved?

And for the rest of us, we can ponder whether or not Collector is a different style of play from Achiever (I think it is), and the happy coincidence that led “ok, lets throw in some more minipets'” to becoming a fun game for the minipet collectors.