Crazy or Crazy Like a Fox?

As North American realms came back online today, after the application of Patch 5.4.7, a new option became available for a short while: Boost a Character to 90. The price was set at $60 USD.

As I understand it, this option was not supposed to go live, especially since it vanished quickly thereafter. Still, it certainly gives one food for thought.

1) Is $60 a reasonable price to bring a character up to level 90?

Obviously, this depends on several factors.

a) Do you have a lot of disposable income? If so, $60 is going to seem a lot more reasonable to you than someone who only just manages to pay $15/month for their subscription to the game. It also means that you’re likely to see fewer new-to-90 characters, which may (or may not) be a way for Blizzard to throttle the number of people who have no idea what on earth they’re doing at max level.

b) Is the character level 1 or level 60? Level 70? Level 80? Level 85? Obviously, if the character is brand-new, you’re getting more bang for your buck. 90 levels divided by $60 is basically 1.5 levels per dollar. But what if you, like me, stopped playing regularly after Cataclysm and your characters are mostly level 85? 5 levels divided by $60 is $12 per level! That’s the point where I’d be all “well, eff that, I’m going to go spend 12 hours or so and get to 90 on my own!” Actually, I’d probably hit that point around level 70 or so, but that’s just me.

That said, time is money, friend, the goblins tell us in-game. What’s that time worth to you? That’s what it ultimately comes down to. For myself, I would have expected something around $25-$30 USD. I know that I would have paid easily that much to ding a few characters to max level, but remember, this is only max-level for a short period of time! The boost-to-90 option will still be available once Warlords of Draenor comes out, I imagine. Will there be a boost to 100? Maybe, but maybe not. You’re not paying for a max-level character for Warlords. You’re paying for a level 90 and, in just a few short months (I’m still saying June 10th +/- 2 weeks), that’s not going to be max-level anymore. Does that devalue it for you, going forward? Should it? Perhaps.

2) Did they mean to allow the option to be available?

I don’t think it’s impossible that this is a way for Blizzard to gauge reaction on a price point. Most people’s reactions seem to be “that’s way too much, they’re crazy!” Could it be that they “accidentally” left the option in the build, gave people enough time to see it and then hotfixed it out? If so, then perhaps they’re crazy… like a FOX. All of this market research! Not to mention all of this buzz. And potential buzz if they drop the price later on when it actually goes live…

Then again, I’m not sure this is the case, because there were rumours of people getting a question about this in a Blizzard survey/email or something a while back. Still, nothing can prepare someone for the reaction of announcing something to the world, not even surveys and polls. Maybe this was their way of doing that. Maybe not.

3) But seriously, $60???

I keep coming back to that price point because I think it’s somewhat ridiculous. The way I understand it, and I could be wrong, is that people started talking about buying multiple licenses for Warlords of Draenor in order to get multiple characters to 90. If the average price of a World of Warcraft Expansion is somewhere in the realm of $40 USD or thereabouts, then why price the level 90 boost to be ~150% of that? If kept at this price, a level 90 boost would be the most expensive purchase you can make for your character, exceeding even the realm-and-faction transfer fee of a $55 USD, combined.

4) The conversation has changed.

Hilariously, the conversation regarding 90 boosts, say, two months ago, was the fear that people who didn’t know what they were doing would infiltrate a highly-skilled playerbase. Ignoring the fact, of course, that much of the playerbase isn’t all that skilled to begin with, the conversation on whether or not people should be able to boost their characters to 90 has now been replaced by why does it cost so much? which neatly removes a lot of controversy amongst people who were concerned that the overall level of player ability would drop. (I’m still concerned about that, because I like thinking about how things affect the overall community.) The controversy now is “if I want to buy a level boost, it should be affordable, it shouldn’t be the equivalent of FOUR MONTHS’ worth of WoW!”

Lots of food for thought. We have a lot to look forward to on this subject, as well as the pre-order and, of course, beta testing for Warlords of Draenor. It’s going to be an exciting next few months, that’s for sure.

Speaking of excitement… My newest guide, Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raider is launching next Tuesday, February 25th! And don’t forget to join in the Twitter Q&A on Sunday, February 23rd at 3pm ET (noon Pacific) with the #AskKurn hashtag. :)

A Slight Delay…

So it’s been a crazy few weeks here, which means that, unfortunately, Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raider is being pushed back by a week. Instead of being released on Tuesday, February 18th, it’ll come out the following Tuesday, February 25th.

It’s due to a combination of family stuff (grandmother in the hospital, but is stable and doing well) and freelance work, which just haven’t allowed me to work on it much for the last couple of weeks, so I’m behind schedule.

That said, I feel pretty good in saying that it’ll be out the following week, since my freelancing is wrapping up and my grandmother’s doing well.

That also means that the pre-launch #AskKurn Twitter Event will be pushed back a week to Sunday, February 23rd at 3pm ET (noon Pacific).

On the plus side, the delay means my daily tweets with the #KickAssRaider hashtag will be extended to 32 raider tips instead of the originally-scheduled 25! So be sure to follow me on Twitter. :)

So that’s what’s going on with me. I’m looking forward to chatting with you all on the 23rd and I’m really excited for the 25th. I think you guys will really enjoy the new guide. Take a look at the Sneak Peeks, in the meantime and be sure to sign up for my announcement list to be reminded of all upcoming sneak peeks, releases and such!

Save the Date!

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that the next guide in my Kick-Ass series of guides, Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raider, is scheduled to come out on Tuesday, February 18! Hooray!

I spent a ridiculous amount of time writing up a truly (IMHO) comprehensive Kick-Ass Guild Master guide last summer and launched that in August.  (Seriously, that sucker comes in at 358 pages.) It was a pretty successful project for me, so I elected to follow it up with a whole series of kick-ass guides. Since November, I’ve been pecking away at a (much shorter!) Kick-Ass Raider guide. I’m actually not quite finished yet, but I’ve always worked better with a deadline. ;)

The Raider guide covers a lot of things that are common across all raiders. I don’t focus on a particular class or spec rotation or abilities — the game is way too dynamic and constantly changing for that to be remotely useful for longer than a single patch cycle. Instead, I focus on the fundamentals that go towards distinguishing a truly kick-ass raider from an okay raider. We’re talking about specific sections about class knowledge (and how to improve it!), avoiding mistakes (and what you can do to get better at avoiding mistakes!) and even a section about how to be a better team player. There’s more, too, obviously, so do check out my sneak peeks.

I’m also planning on a Raid Leader guide (which will be next up) and probably a role officer guide, too (you know, people in charge of melee or ranged DPS, the healing lead, etc), all of which should be coming out this year. It’s a lot of writing, but honestly, what else is a retired GM/RL/healing lead supposed to do? ;) No, seriously, I’m looking forward to it.

So what should you do while waiting with baited breath for the Kick-Ass Raider guide to come out? Glad you asked!

  1. Follow me on Twitter (@kurnmogh) and keep an eye out for a daily tip (#KickAssRaider). Every day from now until launch, I’ll be tweeting a single, helpful tip in 140 characters or less, to help you become a better raider!
  2. On Sunday, February 16th at 3pm Eastern (noon Pacific), I’ll be hosting another #AskKurn session on Twitter for an hour! Hop on and ask me your questions about how to be a better raider, a better teammate or anything to do with raiding. (Note that I have very little experience on specific MoP fights, so I can’t really help you out there, but just about anything that isn’t fight-specific goes!)
  3. Keep up to date with my sneak peeks! I aim to release one every Tuesday, so we’ve got a couple of weeks’ worth of sneak peeks left before the launch.
  4. Sign up for my announcement newsletter, either over at Kurn’s Guides or over here on the blog (there should be a box that shows up on the right-hand side). Subscribers get advanced notice on a variety of things, plus special subscriber-only discounts! It’s a very low-traffic list and you can obviously unsubscribe at any time.
  5. If you want to help support my efforts, check out the affiliate program I’ve got going on. If you’re responsible for sending someone to my site and they purchase something, you get 50% of that purchase!
  6. Finally, guild masters and guild officers out there, be aware that we’re entering the period of time in which you should seriously start looking at stuff for Warlords of Draenor according to my Expansion Planning module from my GM guide! Start planning now!

So there you go, lots of stuff to do while you wait for February 18th! Guys, I’m super-excited. :D

In other news, I know I have a lot of blogging to get down to. I’ve been (happily) swamped with freelance work and I’m obviously working on finishing up my Raider guide, but I do hope to get a decent blog post out there soon, talking more about the LFRs that I experienced while I had my free week of WoW back over the holidays.

I’ll leave you with this amazing tweet from the one and only @AngryOrc1, which seems rather appropriate:

WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE HAVING A CRAPPY MONDAY REMEMBER, SOMEWHERE, RIGHT NOW, SOMEONE IS A LVL 17 GNOME HOPELESSLY LOST IN WAILING CAVERNS.

— ANGRYORC (@AngryOrc1) January 27, 2014

 

Level 90 Boost on Pre-Order

Over the years, I’ve been, shall we say, less than adoring of the way Blizzard has handled a variety of things. Blizzard has made a lot of mistakes, in my opinion.

Giving out the free level 90 boost at the time of pre-order is not a mistake. It’s pure genius.

I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? There are no new races and no new classes coming out with Warlords of Draenor, so there’s no death knights or monks, draenei, blood elves, worgen, goblins or pandaren to “save” your boost for, so why not try to stave off end-of-expansion malaise by offering a free boost to level 90?

While I don’t have any hard numbers to prove it, I think everyone has anecdotal data that shows that the last six-to-twelve months of any expansion leads to boredom in World of Warcraft. While I’ve never quit playing during slow periods (I’ve managed to keep raiding and such), I’ve seen countless raiders in my guild just stop playing because they feel as though there’s nothing else to do. Of course, that’s kind of ridiculous when you think about how much content World of Warcraft has to offer. (Hint: there’s a lot.)

One of the things you can do is, obviously, roll a new toon and level it. A lot of people enjoy the levelling experience. While I’m mostly “over” levelling, I do enjoy the initial grind to the level cap on my hunter. But that’s usually just 5-10 levels. The idea of rerolling, from the start, going through Teldrassil, Dun Morogh, Goldshire… it all kind of makes me want to cry. If I were bored by the game, the last thing I would personally want to do is go through the starting zones yet again. (Even though they were changed somewhat in Cataclsym, the idea of going through Goldshire again makes me ill.)

So why not remove levelling from the equation entirely in the time prior to Warlords of Draenor?

With the Timeless Isle (or the Island of Phat Lewtz, whichever you prefer), it’s ridiculously easy to gear up. My hunter is sitting at a 503 equipped item level after spending less than a week going through various LFRs and spending a few hours out on the Timeless Isle.

The idea of getting a free express pass to max level in the dying months of Mists of Pandaria is a stroke of genius, just to continue to engage the playerbase. Even if it only ekes out another month or two of enjoyment (and thus, subscription), it’s totally worth it for Blizzard to allow people to boost to max-level, even if it’s just for a short period of time. (And perhaps, one might imagine, this experiment will allow Blizzard to gauge how they and their customers feel about paying to get to max level, skipping the levelling process entirely!)

I haven’t even touched on the fact that Blizzard has confirmed that they’re thinking about ways to get you other boosts to 90 for other characters, without buying multiple copies of the expansion, which, I would imagine, is going to be another bit of revenue for them.

So if boosts are going to engage a bored player for another month or two (at minimum, I would imagine), thus staving off end-of-expansion malaise, how about all the revenue they’re going to get for the expansion several months before it even comes out? You only get the boost on pre-order, after all. That means a bunch of people, God only knows how many, are going to happily plunk down their $39.99 or whatever, perhaps even before we have a release date for the expansion (my money is still on June 10th, give or take two weeks)! You can probably include me in those numbers as well, even though I’m still not resubbed and I still don’t know what character I would boost to 90…

Some may be wondering how I feel this will affect the playing community… and I’m going to say that this is probably going to have less of a noticeable effect than if it happened all at the launch of Warlords of Draenor. Why? Well, first of all, even though I suspect there will be a large wave of freshly boosted 90s as soon as pre-ordering is possible, they’re going to be dinged to max level amongst groups of players who already know and outgear most of the fresh-at-90 content. This is in opposition to a large population of players who probably don’t know what they’re doing being unleashed upon the regular population who might know what they’re doing, but are struggling to level up to the next level cap. Anyone remember how crappy heroic Stonecore or heroic Shadowfang Keep or heroic Deadmines were before people understood the dungeons, the abilities, the pulls? Gear helps, so boosted characters will be able to gear up relatively quickly, if my hunter’s experiences over the holidays were any indication, and chances are they’ll LFG into a group where at least one person knows what they’re doing… Honestly, I think dungeons and early LFRs will be okay (not 100% pleasant, but when are dungeons and LFRs guaranteed to be pleasant endeavours?) even with people dinging max level instantly. Certainly, the flood will be less noticeable than having a bunch of new 90s unleashed on the population and learning their abilities as they are also grouped with random people who are trying to get through the levelling dungeons.

So, really, this is a huge win for Blizzard. They get:

- more monthly revenue from otherwise bored players who might have quit for a bit before the expansion comes out
- more money upfront for the expansion than they would have garnered otherwise, perhaps
- perhaps more revenue by virtue of offering a boost-to-90 option
- valuable data on how people react to being able to skip the entire levelling process

Plus the players don’t have to slog through 90 levels of quests, dungeons and exploring before they can actually play “the real game”.

(Note that I do find some use for the levelling process, I really do, but I’ve done it a lot and I have no desire to revisit the lowbie experience.)

Well-played, Blizzard. Well-played.

What do you think? Is this good? Bad? Brilliant? Stupid? Tell me which character of yours will get your level 90 boost!

Paying the Way to Dinging

Man, you play one week of WoW and you have blogging material coming out your ears!

Today’s topic is about that survey some players are getting, about how much you might be willing to pay to have a character instantly boosted to Level 90 (in Warlords of Draenor, where the level cap is 100).

During this year’s BlizzCon, Blizzard announced that purchasing Warlords of Draenor would come with one free character boost to 90. Why 90? Because that would enable you to skip all the previous content and jump right into content that comes with the expansion and, ultimately, that’s what they want you to do — get through previous content and be able to play with your friends faster if you ever took a break from the game.

So there’s a survey going out that’s asking people what they think a fair price is for the expansion (with and without the one character boost to 90) and what they think a fair price is for the boost alone.

Naturally, I have Things to Say. ;)

On the One Hand: No. Just… No.

While I do think there are some good points (which I will explore below), let me first tell you the story of Gneiss.

My brother, Fog, played a resto druid for most of Vanilla. Actually, he played a feral/bear druid and then was forced to swap specs to heal for raiding (as was the way of things back then) by the guild he joined. In order to avoid being asked to heal MORE often, he decided to level a dwarf priest (fear ward!) for fun, not yet understanding that he’d still have to heal as a priest at 60. So he played the priest, Gneiss, as his alt, playing as shadow, primarily. He soon tired of people asking him to heal in groups (this was pre-LFG, remember), so he abandoned Gneiss and started playing Slovotsky, a rogue. He loved his rogue and got him to 60 and geared him pretty well and showed up to some raids as a rogue (although he’d usually heal if asked). Gneiss lay abandoned and unused.

When Burning Crusade came around, my brother was focused entirely on his rogue, abandoning his druid, Fog, and never touching his priest.

Meanwhile, I was interested in learning more about the priest. So I took the priest and levelled Gneiss (who I name-changed to something else) to 70 and spent a lot of time running around Nagrand mining ore and collecting motes of air (Gneiss was a miner/engineer) after my raids, chatting with my Real Life Friend the Resto Druid as she wiped her way through Black Temple and Sunwell progression.

I didn’t do a whole lot with the priest, although I joined a guild for a short period of time and did a tiny bit of Tier 4 raiding as a holy priest.

Still, I never felt as though I really understood the class. So when Wrath of the Lich King had been out for a while, my brother reclaimed his priest, but then promptly abandoned it again to level a paladin tank. And, naturally, this meant that I was going to level a character with him. As I already had a paladin, a shaman and a druid, I elected to level a priest. We dungeoned our way through everything together and eventually both got to 80.

I thought I knew “enough” about priests during the bit of time I did stuff (apart from mining and such in Nagrand) in Burning Crusade, but I hadn’t really levelled the toon. My brother had. He had learned some important bits that I felt I didn’t know. I know I didn’t know that Dispel Magic was able to be used offensively until someone informed me of it. (Should read tooltips…)

I never really felt “prepared” on Gneiss. Not the way that I felt “prepared” on Kurn or on Madrana. But when I created my own priest, that sense of preparation came back. It’s as though the levelling process allowed me to really acclimate to the character and learn how to play it better than when I’d basically taken over my brother’s priest somewhere in the 40s or something.

So while I find the idea of instantly dinging 90 to be fairly appealing, I can’t help but think what it means for the community at large. Is the community going to suffer because of brand-new 90s running around who don’t know how to play their new classes at all? I can only guess that the answer is “yes”.

On the Other Hand: Hells to the Yes!

At present, I have several characters in World of Warcraft spread out over three main servers (Eldre’Thalas, Skywall, Proudmoore).

90s: Kurn & my shaman alt.
85s: Madrana, Baby Pally Madrana, mage, disc priest, guardian/resto druid
80: Prot warrior
58: Death knight (bank alt)
53: Mage
5: Rogue (bank alt)

And then I have a bunch of level 1s for storage/bank alt goodness.

I still don’t know who is going to receive my level 90 boost for Warlords of Draenor, but it might be the prot warrior (since I literally keep her around for inscription/profession stuff). Or maybe I’ll roll a DK on Eldre’Thalas and boost that to 90 and pick up engineering/blacksmithing, which are the only two professions I don’t have covered. However, it’s clear that I have a lot of characters who would greatly benefit from being bumped up to 90 instantly. And I still think it would be hilarious if my rogue bank alt hit level 90. Hilarious. He’s been level 5 for, oh, seven years. And he’s only level 5 because that was the level you needed to be to pick up a profession. So I picked up enchanting and was able to disenchant just about anything — until they put in a level restriction for the professions, meaning he will forever have enchanting no higher than 75 unless I ding him.

Anyhow, I digress.

For the experienced player, perhaps, a level 90 boost isn’t terrible. But even then, I wouldn’t queue up as, say, a death knight tank if I boosted to 90 on that character, because I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on others.

Other people are perhaps not quite so polite.

But would I make use of a pay-to-ding feature? To avoid going through umpteen expansions? Almost certainly. Hell, back in 2010, I was writing about how I would pay Blizzard $25 to start a toon at 68

It’s not an elegant solution to the fact that you have to go through Vanilla content (1-60), BC content (60-70), Wrath content (70-80), Cata content (80-85) and then MoP content (85-90) before you’re ready to participate in Warlords of Draenor, but it’s a solution. There are two kinds of people I think would take advantage of this: the new people who want to play with friends who are already there and people like me who have been through the other expansions’ content so often they want to cry at the thought of saving Corki again or trudging through Grizzly Hills once more or dealing with Vashj’ir yet again or even slogging through the Dread Wastes even one more time.

So is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Selfishly, I think it’s wonderful. If I were playing consistently and that was available, I would probably take advantage of it more often than not, were it something able to be purchased from the Blizzard store. If I ever wanted to roll a monk (not really something that’s interested me), that’s certainly something I would do.

But as I explained above, I do think it’s not going to be great for the community as a whole. Will it be good for Blizzard and for their bottom line? Sure. People get to play with friends, people can pay for a shortcut to the current expansion, all that jazz, it’s great. People are happy they don’t have to do Borean Tundra (and let me tell you, there is a LOT boring about Borean!) and Blizzard is happy to take their money. Everyone wins, right?

But I’m not convinced that’s the case. I’m concerned that it will lower the overall skill of the playerbase which, to be honest, is already pretty poor, when you look at people in random, transient content (LFG, LFR). I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but in one of my LFR adventures last week, there was another survival hunter in the raid with me… who used Explosive Shot a single time. Once.

I would argue that, as painful and tiring as the slog is, levelling is worth the time and effort if only to learn how to play your class.

The trouble is, of course, that people aren’t bothering to do that now. They have 90 levels in which they get to learn how to play and they still don’t know how to play.

It’s not a “casual” vs. “hardcore” thing, either. We’re talking about the core ability for a survival hunter. Not using Explosive Shot is, well, not how the spec was meant to be played. It’s like Cory Stockton said, about the talent trees when they announced Mists of Pandaria, a fury warrior who didn’t take the Raging Blow talent wasn’t being unique, but was being a bad fury warrior. Now you have people who have the abilities given to them, baked into the specs themselves, and they’re still not using them.

Is boosting these people to 90, throwing them into the deep end, really going to make those people worse players? I’m not sure that’s possible. But what boosting people to 90 will do is it’ll inflict them upon other people more quickly. Hit 90, start questing, queue up for new dungeons and then wipe your group because you are doing 300 DPS instead of 3000 DPS. Or, worse, they queue up as tanks and healers (for the faster queue) and then wipe their groups because they don’t know how to hold aggro on more than one mob at a time or don’t know how to cast on someone. (The latter does happen, even now. Trust me.)

I guess what I’m saying here is that the underlying problem, which has been increasingly apparent ever since LFG came to be in Wrath of the Lich King, is that people don’t know (or care) how to play their classes and these people are being let loose upon the game. Boosting to 90 will be incredibly beneficial to a lot of people, believe me, but, especially at the start of the expansion when so many people will have that boost to 90, I expect to see a lot of failure stemming from fresh 90s.

I don’t think it’s a problem that’s easily solvable, per se, but one way it can be addressed is to force the boosted 90s to pass Silver Proving Grounds for any spec they’re going to queue up for, forcing them to repeat it for a spec they haven’t queued up for yet. Silver is something most people should be able to easily attain and since Proving Grounds were made for 90s, it’s perfect for fresh, boosted-to-90 characters. Let them quest alone, sure, but make them prove themselves before inflicting them on other people who play the game. Even if the person is level 96 before they queue up, scale up the Proving Grounds for that level and make them work for it a little bit.

I’m someone who spent something like six months straight doing a daily heroic dungeon on Madrana once that feature launched in Wrath of the Lich King. I would queue up as a tank AND a healer (because I had enough gear and knowledge at the time to be able to tank or heal “heroic” dungeons adequately) and would invariably have anywhere between 1 and 3 people who didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve done my fair share of random dungeons throughout Cata. I did a bunch of LFRs back when that was first introduced. I’ve just spent a week doing a bunch of LFRs of MoP content. In short, I’ve spent a lot of time playing with random people in this game and, honestly, I’m not looking forward to fresh 90s who don’t know what they’re doing at the start of Warlords of Draenor. If Blizzard isn’t willing to educate them, I hope they’ll use the existing technology to restrict people from inflicting themselves on others. It’s an artificial barrier to entry, but if you just skipped 90 levels, can you really complain about the idea of doing proving grounds to show you know how to do your role appropriately? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I would welcome the challenge, myself. If that (and, say, $25) was the price to pay to skip 90 levels? Bring it on!

What are your thoughts about boosting to 90? What repercussions do you think this could have on the larger community? Would you pay for a boost?

x
Keep up to date on Kurn's Guides!
  • Stay up to date on Kurn's Guide series! (Raider's Guide and Guild Raider's Guide available!)
  • Be notified when a new Sneak Peek is out!
  • Get special discount codes for newsletter subscribers only!
  • Absolutely zero spam -- unsubscribe at any time.