The Factor of WoW

You all remember this infamous timeline of releases that got leaked, it made a lot of sense at the time.

This chart came to light in 2010 and many used it as a metric for how close Blizzard was to their targets, something they've been notoriously cagey about. Mists was released in September of 2012, represented by 'WOW X4' on the chart. The following expansion, whatever that is, was slated to be released at the end of 2013. I seriously doubt that will happen, but it's easy money to say that it'd be released in 2014. Originally, Titan was scheduled to be released at the end of 2013, but we all know that will not happen now.

So the question I've been mulling around with is: With Titan going completely back to the drawing board then what happens to WoW? I can see the business meeting where these timelines were originally decided, by the time the majority of the subscriber base tire of WoW then we can roll out Titan and maintain the base along with the natural influx of new gamers. Now this won't happen, it can't. Not with ever-decreasing number of people willing to pay a subscription fee and the ever-increasing number of free-to-play MMOs. At best, we're looking at least three years before Titan v2 goes to consumers. If that's true, then is WoW supposed to carry Blizzard through it?

WoW is old. We all know this and have known it for years. And whether we like it or not the end of WoW is coming ever-closer to being a reality, or at least the end of it being the MMO of choice. This isn't to say that WoW subs will hit zero sometime soon, but I do think that WoW's place as the de facto MMO in the market grows more questionable with each passing day. The delay of Titan, I believe, will force WoW to even further increase it's lifespan longer than Blizzard had originally intended and I'm not sure players will stick around. My point here is simple, given the decrease in subscribers over the years, I do not believe WoW can continue to have a substantial impact on the market without some significant changes.

It would appear that the Titan delay will mean that WoW needs at least one more expansion other than the one being announced this year. This means more than simply adding a dance studio, new races, new classes, or even brand new models for every asset they have. A fundamental change to the game appears to be the only thing that can turn around WoW's subscriber base. I have no doubt that Blizzard has considered this point as well, but what they will do about it... I really don't know.

Of course, it is possible that Blizzard may not feel the need to turn around the decreasing subscriber trend. They may just ride out the wave until the end and then release Titan whenever they feel like it. It certainly sounds like something Blizzard would do. Though I would imagine that's not exactly an easy sell to Activision share-holders who are used to having subscriber money.

Regardless of what ends up happening, it'll be interesting to watch. This Blizzcon will be very telling.

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QA Contract Words

Allow me to put forth a scenario.

You have a group of 50 people with roughly the same skill-set applying for 25 positions of the same type of 9-month contract job. The job they are applying for pays very little, the hours are quite long, there are no company benefits, it is assumed that the employees are eager, but also lazy and inept (cause why the hell else would they apply for such a job), no one will thank them for their efforts, and there is little-to-no confidence that the job will lead to anything bigger in their career even though they are explicitly told otherwise. Out of those 25 people, 13 will quit within the first six months for a variety of issues, but mostly due to working conditions. This hardly matters to the employer because they can be quickly replaced by other very eager, lazy, and inept people that can get up to speed in a matter of hours rather than weeks.

If you are an employee in that circumstance, you may want to quit, you may think that it’s time for you and yours to unionize, and you may never want to do contract work again. If you’re the employer, that rate of turnover is bad but the labor requires so little training that it doesn't matter too much. Any real talent among those employees is lost because they all kind of blend together and distinguishing themselves in that group is difficult. Besides, these kids are mostly out of college or even high school and the job market isn't good to begin with.

None of what I just described is specific to quality assurance work in gaming or even the gaming industry in general. Contract abuse and having a cattle call to rally the work force is pervasive across all industries in nearly every country that can support said industry. The Kotaku article regarding freelance contract QA work does have some salient points, albeit points that have been made many times before across many different professions with gaming. “STRIKE!” “UNIONIZE!” These things are very easy to say, especially after the fact. But unionization is not an easy solution to implement nor does it come without a cost.

Most agree that the treatment of QA is a problem, but fixing that requires fixing the nature of how the industry treats contract employees in general. If you want to help video game QA, changing how QA is perceived by a publisher would certainly be a step in the right direction. That includes not posting articles on gaming websites essentially complaining about a job to which you should have known better what you were in for.

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DLC is important

There’s a lot of hate on DLC whether it be more content or a day one patch, and I get that. In a lot of ways it feels like we’re being sold parts of the game that should have been in the original product, and this is true in some cases. But, I would like to present the other side of this. People like to paint the DLC picture as publishers having to make a predetermined marketing date under any circumstances. There’s a good deal more to it than that. I would actually argue that the DLC out there has greatly improved the quality of our experiences.

First, the concept of shipping a broken or incomplete game existed long before the inception of DLC. All console video games must go through certification on their respective platforms, mostly because the manufacturers don’t want to look bad with a potentially broken game. Any time a game gets rejected it goes back to the publisher for more coding and testing, this means delays. Not only delays for the publisher but for the platform as well. Microsoft and Sony both had a big incentive to get titles on the shelves, it meant a greater revenue stream for them as hardware providers and licensers. So with an especially popular release, like say San Andreas was, it was much more likely that Sony would look the other way when a bug pops up because it would mean a delay in their own money. This is especially true if one platform gets certified rather than the other, it’s a huge sales loss for the console version that gets delayed. A conflict of interest for sure, but one that makes a good deal of sense for all business parties. The end result would be the user ending up with quasi-broken game with plenty of content that development had thought of that couldn’t make it by the submission date.

Today gamers find themselves in a similar situation, just with greater visibility. But this difference is that developers actually have the capability of fixing issues and adding content. Most people seem to view this as a potential excuse for releasing buggy games or not putting in content. While that may be true, in my mind, that problem is vastly outweighed by the idea that problems get fixed and great games get more content (neither of which were even possible before).

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Video Game publicity over-saturated?

So I have a simple question, is the video game publicity over-saturated? I'm not simply talking about the ads we all see on bilboards or television, it's everything. All of the supporting structures, news websites and podcast behemoths that exist out there. It would seem that most folks stick a few choice sources for their video game talk and never deviate much from the path.

If one were so inclined, would you even dare try to start something new in the video games space without a niche? Or even try to start something if you did have a niche?

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Renegade Ops gets delayed, again.

If a may go on a quick rant here, Renegade Ops for Steam has been looming and delayed three times now. The new release date is October 26th, we’ll see how that works. I realize the PC isn’t as high of a priority as the rest of the gaming market, but honestly, no communication? No twitter post or blog? It’s almost like Sega is trolling us. This needs to get here, I need to blow crap up with people without the threat of arrest. Okay, rant over.

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Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer - Paragon or Renegade?

The multiplayer in ME3 has had a seemingly polarizing effect, even though very little is actually known about it. The general concern seems to be that Bioware is losing focus from a story-focused game, whether it be resources or otherwise. By the way, regardless of what you think about any of this, this is the same strategy that has made Mass Effect the franchise that it is today. Given that, I definitely understand the concern. Also, Bioware's announcement seemed somewhat apologetic, as though they new people would be concerned. "Here's this great new thing, but don't worry, it won't effect the quality of the great old thing." Not exactly inspiring or confident, but whatever.

I sincerely doubt that Bioware actively decide to divert anything that would make ME3 anything less than awesome. At this point, who is to say that this decision has had a detrimental effect on anything? My only real wish here is that gamers, as a culture, would exercise a little more maturity and actually reserve judgement until they receive a final product.

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Kidlets

 So my wife and I have been married for about 5 years and the discussions about kids are becoming more and more frequent. I have been really on the fence about this one for a long time, so has she to a degree. Since we've been together I've probably leaned further away from wanting kids and she probably has leaned closer. 
 
Kids, really? Everything changes, I mean all of it. Every decision that I will ever make will have to factor in the kids. All of the time I'm not spending at work will be spent with the kids. I mean, shit. I have to make an active effort to not resent my wife for as much personal time as she wants from me. Now I have to take into account the kids? I don't want to resent my kids for the time that they need, it's not their fault. 
 
It's hard for me to look past all of the negatives. 
 
I've never done anything that big before. It's a responsibility that I can barely grasp. This is apart from the fact that I'm 31 years old and I love video games. Socially justifying that is difficult enough without questioning myself about my own maturity level, but that's a different blog post. 
 
Any reason that I have for not having kids are ultimately selfish, I know this. But I wished that changed something. Maybe I can convince myself that I'm just being an idiot and jump in with both feet? Or maybe that'll just make me self-dilluted. 

How the hell does anyone know if they're ready to have kids, or if they ever want them?

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Careering

 Some people just have that special something that makes them realize what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Others just kind of trudge along hoping to find something that works for them, and they're ok with that. Can't really say where I fall, I just know it's not either of these two categories. 

I've had a lot of varying interests at any given moment, everything from being an artist to computer programming to creative writing. But unfortunately none of these paths have grabbed me (yet) to the point of dedicating my career to it, at least realistically. I suppose my ideal job would be joining the ranks of the giantbomb crew... perhaps I should aim lower. Maybe get paid to develop whatever I like at any given moment by a mysterious benefactor in the hopes that one of these ideas could make money? I'm not sure which is more likely to happen. 

I swear, being this indifferent has some serious drawbacks. But I would like to think that have very clear ambiguity.    

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