Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Year In Review

So as is my tradition on this blog, I've decided to do a quick year in review for 2015.  Interestingly enough, as I finished up 2014, the Warlords of Draenor expansion was relatively new.   Has it really only been a year?  It feels like forever.  At December 31 of last year, I had managed to level exactly 3 characters to 100.  I will likely finish up #19 sometime this week (and #20 probably sometime next week), so you can do the math on that.

Unlike previous years, I didn't have any shiny new MMO releases that I tried.  Last year involved a brief flirtation with Wildstar and some time spent on Diablo.  This year, while I did play a little bit of RIFT, there wasn't really any major attention spent to other titles.

A lot of this year was spent on Garrisons and using them to accumulate gear and gold.  That's been fairly successful with really minimal effort and has really replaced inscription as my low effort gold raising technique.

I did the legendary quest chain on 3 different toons, and then promptly asked myself why the hell I bothered doing that.  The effort burnt me out on raiding and LFR pretty badly, and as a result, I haven't set foot in LFR in meaningful way since August.

But I'm enjoying the leveling scene, and I'm looking forward to Warlords.  My rogue is currently sitting at 91 in his garrison accumulating garrison resources and will probably push to 100 next week.  After that it is alliance priest, warrior and monk, probably in that order.  Then I may do a third hunter and a third mage if time allows.  I may level this one as fire just because I've never ever ever even tried that.  So why not, right?



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rogue Progress

So I managed to finish up Northrend yesterday on my rogue.  Rogues are an odd conundrum for me, because I really enjoy leveling rogues, but it's not a class that I enjoy at all at end game.  But every time while leveling I always find myself wondering why that is.

So the rogue will be heading off to the Cataclysm zones now shortly and hopefully not too much longer until he's safely parked and accumulating Garrison Resources while I finish the push on my warlock from 91 to 100.

Next up after the rogue will be my shadow priest, followed probably by warrior and then monk.  And then if I still have time after all that, I may start a third hunter.

Garrisons continue to be very lucrative with only a minimal time investment, not only in terms of gold generation, but the added benefit of improving my alts' gear, which should make leveling them in Legion that much easier.  Of course, if there ends up being some kind of loot pinata as part of the pre-expansion event, all that time gearing up followers may have been essentially wasted, but that's okay.  Not everyone will need to take up the stick and whack the pinata.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Not Much of An Update

So I haven't published anything here in two weeks now, and it's honestly because, particularly with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in the middle, there really hasn't been much going on.  My Warcraft activity has been fairly limited and has consisted mostly of getting up and doing Garrison missions across 18 different toons, and then working a little bit on leveling warlock #3.

So the warlock is sitting at level 79 and almost almost done with Wrath and ready to move on to Cataclysm.  I pretty seriously dislike the Cataclysm dungeons, so I'll probably be mostly questing through those zones and may pick up the dungeons again in Pandaria.

My plan is to park the Warlock in their garrison at level 91 to let them accumulate garrison resources for a bit while I go back to working on some of the alliance toons.

So that's it for now.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

You Really Can't Go Wrong With a Third Warlock

So I went ahead and started a third warlock last week so that I could have one of each spec at max level when Legion came out.  That warlock is now sitting at level 60 and working his way through Hellfire Peninsula.  Good progress for just a few days worth of work.

After the warlock is done, I'll likely go back to my alliance group, where I have four more toons that need to be pushed from somewhere in the 60's or 70's through to max level.  Rogue will be up next, followed by priest, then monk then warrior.  Because warriors are always last with me.  For absolutely no good reason.

If I'm able to finish those four up, I'll probably go back and start a third hunter on my new third Horde server.

Meanwhile, Garrison operations alliance side are now making good progress and starting to generate some cash for my toons on that server.  One of the interest side effects of leveling some of these toons from pre-90 is that they didn't have time parked in their garrison accumulating garrison resources, so most of them are running very short on resources by the time they hit max level.  What that means is having to wait a few days in some cases to accumulate enough to upgrade to level 3 and then to build out the various buildings I need for my gold making and leveling strategies.

And yes, I'm well aware that I could build lumber mills for each of them or fly around looking for treasures, but I'm not interested in investing that kind of time.  I'm looking for something that I can do in a minute or two per day with each toon.

So that's the update at this point.



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thoughts on Legion Info From Blizzcon and Ding, Level 100 #18

So I could spend the next several hundred words going completely nuts over this and that gameplay element that was introduced at Blizzcon and that we can expect in Legion.  But I went back and looked at reactions that I'd written after the last couple of Blizzcon intros of new expansion content, and it seems I pretty consistently missed the mark.  What I was most excited about in each case either never happened, or ended up being something disappointing.

So I'm going to go with these general comments:

  • The idea of zones scaling to fit where you are and give you more choice about which order you quest in is fantastic.  How it actually works in practice will likely depend on if you are able to leave one of the zones out completely and still hit max level (which I'm guessing will be possible with full heirlooms and other xp boosts).  If that's the case, then I'm a huge fan.  Otherwise, I'm not sure the ability to just change the order in which I quest does all that much for me.  But we'll see.
  • Transmog stuff.  I know this is going to bug most of you immensely, but I'm just not a big transmog guy.  Can't be bothered.  So I honestly don't care.  Big fan of freeing up tabard space though!
  • Artifact weapons.  Sounds cool.  Reserving judgment until I see how it works.  My main worry here is if you'll have the ability to go back and complete an artifact for a second spec on the same character without it being too insanely time consuming.  In the meantime, I'm almost feeling like I need a separate character for each spec.  Of course, that's absurd.  But, we may try that anyway.
  • Class halls.  Same deal.  Sounds cool.  But so did garrisons.
  • Profession overhaul.  Anything that you can do to fix professions at this point will be hugely welcome.  That being said, I'm also going to reserve judgment on this one until I see it in action.
I also managed to hit level 100 on my mage this week, making him my 18th max level character.  Technically my rogue is up next.  He's currently sitting at level 69 in Borean Tundra, so he's got a ways to go.  The mage was fun, but started to feel extremely squishy toward the end of the leveling train.  After the rogue, it'll be shadow priest, then warrior then monk (how did the monk end up last?).

There is a big part of me that wants to go ahead and start another warlock and level them all the way up on another server.  We'll have to see how that goes. If I get around to leveling a third set of toons (probably Horde side, either on Thrall or Drenden), it'll be warlock for sure and then hunter.  After that, not as sure.



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Analysis of Q3 Earning Release and King Entertainment Acquisition

Activision-Blizzard released their third quarter earnings last night followed by an earnings call this morning.  A few highlights from the release:  GAAP Warcraft revenue was down 5% for the quarter.  Non-GAAP revenue was down 26%.  See my post on the second quarter release for explanation of what the differences between those two are.  On a year-to-date basis, GAAP revenues were up 14% but non-GAAP revenues were down 18%.  Note that based on discussions in the slide deck that they went through in their earnings call, it appears that foreign currency is actually driving a lot of these decreases rather than any real decrease in results.

For those of you wondering how the whole foreign currency thing works, I'll use an average European subscriber to illustrate.  The subscription rate in Europe is €12.99 per month.  Last year, during the third quarter, the average exhange rate was 1.32 dollars per Euro, so last year, in the third quarter, that subscriber would have shown up on Blizzard's financial statements as generating US$17.15 per month.  This year, the average exchange rate in the third quarter was 1.11, so that same subscriber paying the exact same thing shows up as US$ 14.42, a decrease of 16%.  On a year-to-date basis, that decline would work out to 17.8%.  So that's what I'm referring to above.

Total Blizzard revenue was down 5% for the quarter with operating income down 22%.  Unlike a lot of multinational companies, the currency declines may have a bigger impact on their bottom line, because a lot of their expenses are in the U.S. in dollars, so don't benefit from the same foreign currency changes decreasing expenses as well as revenue.

Year to date, total Blizzard revenue was down 7% with operating income down 30%.

Despite those results, for Activision Blizzard as a whole, it was still an extremely profitable quarter with year to date earnings per share up more than 50% over prior year.  They are sitting at the end of September with almost $4.4 billion of cash on their balance sheet and $4.1 billion of debt, or $300 million of net cash.  Of course, the transaction with King Entertainment, which I'm going to discuss a bit more is going to cause cash to go down, and debt to go up.

One other interesting point came out of the earnings call itself.  The Company noted that they would no longer be disclosing total subscriber metrics for World of Warcraft after this quarter.  What they said on the call was that they believe there were better metrics out there for tracking "engagement."  I suspect this means that rather than information on subscribers, we'll begin to see data disclosed on Monthly Active Users ("MAU's") which is the metric that they use for most of their other platforms, along with information on play time per day per user.

Last but not least, there were absolutely no Warcraft related questions in the Q&A session following the call, which is not completely surprising given the King transaction.

King Entertainment Transaction

So in terms of the King Entertainment transaction, here are a few highlights.  The total purchase price of $5.9 billion is going to be paid using $3.9 billion of cash that they have on hand and $2.3 million of new debt (that is basically just being issued under their existing credit facilities).  They will inherit almost $1 billion of cash from King, so their cash balance following the deal should still be in the $2 billion range.

For the first six months of the year, King Entertainments revenue has been declining at a rate of around 11%.  However, their SEC filings are reported in US dollars, so they are subject to the same foreign currency issues mentioned above for Blizzard.  Their monthly active users grew at about a 3% rate over prior year.

King Entertainment is a little bit more profitable overall than Activision Blizzard.  Here is a great slide from their call this morning that shows how the two companies compare in terms of revenue and EBITDA for the previous twelve months:

Following the completion of the transaction, the combined company will have approximately $6.4 billion of debt.  However, the two companies combined generated around $1.8 billion of free cash flow in 2014, so there should be some really strong opportunities to pay down debt over the next few years.  Even at $6.4 billion, their debt stands at only 2.5x their expected EBITDA, which is a very reasonable ratio.

As further evidence, Activision Blizzard's debt was actually upgraded to investment grade by Moody's following the announcement last night.  Some very interesting comments below from Moody's in connection with the upgrade:

"Activision Blizzard's upgrade to a Baa3 senior unsecured rating reflects its leading position in the growing and fragmented gaming industry, strong diversification across multiple genres and gaming platforms, and strong track record of developing profitable and sustainable franchises with international appeal. The ratings and stable outlook take into account our expectation that management has the ability to make strategic investments to create new intellectual franchise properties to replace aging ones which face the potential risk of decline over time, and leveraging existing ones across various platforms."

The only other interesting point to note, is that unlike a typical transaction like this, there doesn't appear to be any kind of break-up fee built into the deal if the transaction doesn't close.  In the press release, they indicated that they expect the deal to close in Spring 2016 and they expect it to improve Activision Blizzard's earnings for 2016 by 30%.

So all indications are that this is a good deal for both companies.  It gives Blizzard access to a big player in mobile gaming as well as shfiting up their demographic a bit (King has a much larger percentage of female users than Blizzard, something both companies highlighted on the call).  For King, it gives them a partner than can hopefully help reignite their growth.

What will this mean for the average World of Warcraft player?  I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion on this in the coming months, but my initial reaction is probably not much.  They plan to continue to manage King Entertainment as a separate business unit, much as they do with Blizzard now.  While there is certainly some opportunities for cross promotion and increase mobile interfaces, that was something that Blizzard was working on anyway.  There isn't currently much of anything in terms of cross promotion between Activision and Blizzard, so not sure that aspect of how they operate will change adding one more party to the equation.  So while this is a great overall strategic move for Activision Blizzard as whole, it may not have much impact down in the trenches with individual titles.

One interesting data point that I ran this morning.  If you had chosen to invest 11 years worth of your subscription dollars in Activision Blizzard stock back in late 2008 / early 2009 after they acquired Blizzard from Vivendi, that $1,980 would be worth $8,400 today.  And things continue to look up for Activision Blizzard from here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Loremaster Update

So I have managed to make a crazy amount of progress on Loremaster in the past week.  Part of this progress was actually a little bit of discovery and memory rather than actual questing, but there was a ton of that as well.

So first to the discovery and memory part.  After talking about my progress with some guildies, I was gently reminded that the overall zones achievements are in fact account wide, and that there was one character - my warrior - that I leveled AFTER Cataclysm.  I even talked about it here in this very blog:   Love That Warrior Blog Post

So not only had I leveled this character after the old world reboot, but I did it in Eastern Kingdoms.  (I fortuitously discovered this at the point that Joar was almost completely done with Kalimdor)  So perusing through the epic Joarmama's achievement list, I discovered he had made enormous progress on many many of the zones in Eastern Kingdoms.  By the way - Joarmama - great name for a goblin warrior, am I right?

In the meantime, I had been feverishly working through completing Kalimdor on my warlock and managed to get through all of that last week.  After that, I went back to the warrior and did the last few quests in each zone that he needed to finish them up.

So last week, I was sitting at 890 quests to go, with 397 in Kalimdor and 493 in Eastern Kingdoms (or so I thought, but not really as it turns out).

As of this morning, Kalimdor is done and I have a total of 97 quests to go in Eastern Kingdoms in the two Stranglethorn zones.  And that's not going to take me long at all.

The process itself has been a lot of fun.  Quite a few really cool quests that I hadn't done before and really enjoyed.  A couple of challenging spots as well - typically any quest that involves "weakening" an NPC and then capturing him doesn't work really well when you're one-shotting things immediately.  Main issue in Kalimdor was a quest in Feralas that involved capturing an Ogre-Mage.  The key, unfortunately seemed to be getting naked and giving myself rez sickness, and that seemed to do the trick.  That was only one quest out of hundred, but I would not have been able to complete that zone without it (I tried).

Oh, and Ghostland sucks.  Combine having to run with a serious of quests that don't seem to be well organized geographically, and it was probably my least favorite zone of all.  That one needs a revamp.

So that's it for this week.  Assuming I'm done in the next few days, I'll go back to leveling my alliance toons.  Mage is up next.  He's currently sitting at 78 or so.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Revisiting Loremaster

So back in the fall of 2010 I decided to take a crack at finishing up Loremaster on my main.  I got pretty close too.  Within 40-50 quests or so.

I had been planning on it changing with the release of Cataclysm and was planning to get it finished by then.  But then the pre-patch for Cataclysm dropped, and the ability to finish it actually died a couple of weeks before I had anticipated, so I never got it done.  Everything in Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor effectively completely reset except for a handful of zones on each continent.  And I never went back.

So now I'm taking another look at it again, anticipating a long drought of new content between now and when Legion drops in early 2017 (joke!).

As of this morning, I have 890 quests to go, 397 in Kalimdor and 493 in Eastern Kingdoms.  So I think I'm going to work on it a bit, in between fiddling with leveling on my Alliance toons.  I had my 17th toon hit 100 last week, so I now have 5 to go to have a max level of each class from each faction.  And given how fast the leveling process is now, I could finish those 5 easily in 2 months or less, so I've got plenty of time to finish this up.  The mage is up next, who will be further boosted by a nice shiny new heirloom ring out of my shipyard missions.

So that's it for my Warcraft entertainment these days.  I'm going to be going back and doing some old school questing rather than worrying about more and more garrison missions to accumulate more and more gold that I'm not actually sure what I'm going to do with anyway.



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Too Much Speed for Immersion

So I've discovered that the downside of leveling my alliance lowbies one at a time is that it really brings home just how incredibly fast leveling is these days.  Most place, I'm only getting in one or two quest chains in any given zone before I'm ready to move on to the next.  In Uldum for example, I managed to unlock Ramkahen and went to talk to the first guy, killed some scarabs and some raiders and I was done and off to Twilight Highlands.

In Twilight Highlands, after babysitting Anduid around Stormwind for a while, I didn't even get far enough in the actual zone to unlock the portal back to Stormwind before it was time for Pandaria.

And I'm doing absolutely nothing unusual to boost my leveling speed.  Just wearing my heirlooms and queuing for dungeons regularly.

It makes me glad that I did all of those zones at level when they were current, because it sometimes feels a bit sad that I'm missing out on the story.  On the other hand, given that this would be my 17th time reading this particular story, it's probably not all that critical for me personally.

It does make me want to go back and finish up Loremaster on my main.  I got really really close before Cataclysm dropped.  I was down to less than 50 quests to go to get it completely knocked out and I just never quite got it over the finish line, so all of that work effectively evaporated once Cataclysm launched.  I think I'll probably finish up the druid before I take that on though.

In the meantime, I'm still just enjoying playing the game.  There's not much in the way of news, so rather than get upset over every little twist and speculation, I'm just focusing on playing.  As much as I love my various Warcraft podcasters, it also means I'm not listening to much these days.  I'll pick things back up once the beta goes live.  Hopefully that's before March.

My druid is sitting at level 87 now and on his way to Kun-Lai.  It's at least possible I'll have him all the way to 100 before the end of this week.  Then it will be time to decide if I want to move on to the mage, or take on the Loremaster challenge on Joar.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On To The Lowbies! And Ding, Level 100 #15 and #16

So I managed to get my last two alliance level 90's pushed through to 100 over the last couple of weeks - my shaman and my paladin.  Both came in right at that 9 - 9 1/2 hour mark on played time which seems to be pretty consistent.  Note that I'm not doing anything extraordinary to cheese these - just using garrison potions and full heirlooms.  Their are clearly opportunities to level much faster than this using stacked bonus objectives and the huge xp boost potions.  But I still enjoy the questing process, so this is basically just straight questing with some bonuses added in.

So with all of my previous max level toons now sitting at 100, I'm moving on to working through some lowbies.  Rather than the previous approach that I've taken of leveling them each a bit at a time to maximize rested xp, I've decided I'm just going to bang them out one at a time, so that rather than having a bunch of toons stuck at some mid to high level but not max when the next expansion launches, I'll instead have several more hopefully sitting at 100.  We'll see if I can get all of them there in that amount of time.

Next up is my alliance druid, who is currently at level 76 and working his way through Northrend.  After that, I will probably do my alliance mage, just to leverage a shiny new heirloom ring I got from a shipyard mission.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Garrison Gold-Making and Ding, Level 100 #13 AND #14

So it's been a couple of weeks since my last blog post, and most of what I've been doing during that time has been leveling my various toons and working on odds and ends.  All 11 of my Horde max level toons now have fully productive level 3 Garrisons which are netting me a metric ton of cash every day.

I've managed to get 2 more of my Alliance toons to max level as well, so I'm now starting the process of getting my alliance garrison and gold-making operations up and running as well.

For both of the alliance toons that I recently finished, I focused on questing as quickly as possible rather than flying around gathering treasures, and I found that did actually make the leveling process go a bit faster.  Both finished around the 9 1/2 hour mark, or about an hour and a half faster than the flying around looking for stuff approach.

My enhancement shaman is up next.  He's already worked his way through Shadowmoon and is heading for Gorgrond now.  Will probably do the Fight Club version rather than Lumber Mill, just for something different (Blacksmith, Farm and Lumber Mill...Go!)

I'm really interesting in seeing in what the payback period is for an investment in max level garrison, because these things aren't cheap to get started.  I had enough of a gold base on the Horde side that it wasn't really noticeable, but alliance side, I can definitely see the total cash levels drop when I invested the money to start them up.

So here is what it is costing to get a Garrison up and running for some basic gold-making (note that the way that I'm questing, I'm generally not finishing with any Outpost Building Assembly Notes and usually have at least one Comprehensive Outpost Construction Guide, which allows me to get my Level 2 Dwarven Bunker / War Mill for free.)

Level 3 Garrison - 5,000g
Level 2 Salvage Yard - 750g +300g
Level 2 Inn - 1,000g +300g
Level 2 Dwarven Bunker / War Mill - free with Outpost Guide +300g
Level 3 Salvage Yard - 1,000g +500g
Level 3 Inn - 1,000g +500g

So that's an investment of a total of 10,650g to get your garrison up and running.  Once you've got your staff of followers outfitting with a good complement of treasure hunters, you can generally be generating at least 500g per day, which means you're looking at just under 3 weeks for a full payback.

What I'm generally doing is making sure that I have at least two followers with the scavenger trait to keep the garrison resources rolling in and then recruiting the rest as treasure hunters.  I check the other traits when recruiting to make sure that I still have a good overall balance for other mission types.

Then, once or twice a day, I'm collecting my missions, opening my salvage crates, DE'ing any Warlords gear, which goes to my enchanter and then either vendoring or sending other gear to an AH alt to sell.  I'm generally only worrying about trying to sell other gear if it looks like it has a market value of at least 500g.  It's just not worth my time to try to manage 100's of relatively low value greens.

I'm also putting in War Mill work orders to help with gearing up my toons for the Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry mission gear.  Mostly to make sure that these alts will be relatively well geared to start the next expansion.

Now one thing to clarify is that this approach lets you gear up your followers to get raid gear as well as just gold making, very few of which require specific item levels for your followers, so if you want to do the bare minimum, all you absolutely need is the Inn at level 3, which will cost you 7,800g, so a faster payback on that one.

You could also include a trading post to make some money off of garrison resources, and I may actually start adding that to a few of my Horde toons now that I've got several at cap for garrison resources.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Legendary Ring Complete and Level 100 #12

So this week, I managed to finish up both my legendary ring on Joar as well as get my 12th character to level 100.  I will admit, I must have taken a bit of time away from some of the major news sites, because (and I'm not going to spoil it for those of you still working on it) but the quest chain that leads up to receiving the ring was actually a surprise for me.

So now I have my styling new legendary ring, but I'm pretty tired of HFC at the moment, so not sure when it's going to actually get used.

In leveling news, pretty much as soon as that was done, I fired up my last Horde class sitting at 90 and drove for 100 to see what impact flying would have on his leveling speed.  The sad answer to that question is essentially none.

He came out exactly in the range as the previous sets of characters that I'd leveled with both full heirlooms and garrison xp potions.


So here is my theory on this one.  The one difference that I did notice is that taking the exact same approach, I ran out of rested xp much faster than I had on the previous characters.  On the others, I'd run out about half way between 99 and 100.  On this particular run, I ran out towards the end of 97.  In theory it's because I'm getting to and killing things much faster using it up more quickly.  That's my theory anyway.

I've got 4 alliance toons up next, so we'll see if we get any different results out of those.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bite Me Archimonde

So with Archimonde opening up on LFR this week, I decided to jump right in (after reading the Icy Veins guide and watching a few videos, of course).

So I won't be doing that again.

We had what I would characterize as a very strong group.  Both tanks knew the fight and had done it on heroic.  The DPS was really good.  Heals were strong.  It still took until 5 stacks of determination.  And after all that, I didn't get a single Tome, leaving me at 32/33 for the week.

The interesting thing that keeps occuring to me, is that I'm working really hard on this raid instance in order to get the legendary ring, and after that's done, there's really not much incentive for me to raid anymore, making the legendary ring more or less useless.

So why am I bothering.  I don't have a good answer to that yet.

And I know, I know.  This is me:

In the meantime, as soon as flying drops next week, I'll finish leveling the rest of my level 90's to 100.  In the meantime, I've been working on my 6 lower level alliance toons and have pretty much all of them moved on to Northrend at this point.

Not sure if I'll get all of those to 100 before Legion comes out, but if I do, I'll be starting another set of Horde toons somewhere.  So that's the plan for now.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Look Back on Warlords Expectations

So I always feel bad that I don't do a more detailed analysis on my blog about new expansion announcements when they come out.  I guess my general feeling is that there are a lot of sites out there that are able to provide a lot more detail on it that I really care to.  I also tend to be of the perspective that, yes, this all looks shiny and pretty and everything that you're talking about sounds really good.  But I'm going to hold judgment until I see what makes it to live and how it plays live.

As part of contemplating a post, I went back and looked at what I wrote almost two years ago on the eve of Blizzcon 2013 about my expectations for the expected new expansion announcement.

Here was my list then:

Most of what I'd like to see in the next expansion are really pretty minor game mechanic type items, so here they are:

  • The ability to send BoA items cross server.
  • Solutions to the bank and bag space issue.  More bank tabs, bigger bags, more void storage, and a system for storing tabards, similar to the key chain of old.
  • A new primary profession.  It's been too long since we've had a new one.
  • It would also be nice to give players the ability to do quick catch ups on professions similar to the way they handled cooking in this expansion.
  • The ability to run old content at scaled down gear levels to give the feel of doing it at level.
The interesting thing with this list is that with the exception of a new primary profession and tabard storage, Blizzard delivered on pretty much all of these items at some point during Warlords.  And yet it was still a disappointment.  How about that.  In general though, I think my general thoughts on Legion was, yeah, looks cool, I'll give it a try.  Please don't fuck it up.

Of course my other thoughts was - 36 different artifact weapons?  Does that mean I need a new set of 12 new max level toons to level up somewhere so I can be sure to try one of each.  

So in other updates, I haven't had a whole lot of steady play time in the last few weeks.  I've been working on the legendary questline on my warlock.  He's finished the shipyard piece of it and is sitting at something like 24/33 tomes (although because of some personal travel last week, I only did 2 of the 4 LFR wings available last week).

I've also hit exalted with both Vol'jin Headhunters and the Order of the Awakened and finally picked up enough claw thingys to grab one of the mounts from the Sabergrinders.  Screw those guys.

So I've got a couple of styling new pigs to show for my trouble.  I think this one is my favorite:

So for Winter Veil this year, my plan is to dress Joar up in his standard Santa outfit and parade around Orgrimmar in a sleigh pulled entirely by pigs.

So that's it for now.  If flying gets released any time soon, I'll be switching off from leveling the lower level alliance characters and getting those last few 90's on to 100.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Analysis of Activision-Blizzard's Q2 Earnings Release

Activision-Blizzard released their Q2 earnings after market close this afternoon, followed shortly by their quarterly call with analysts and investors.  Overall for the company, it was an extremely good quarter, with both revenue and earnings beating expectations and prior year.

A couple of interesting overall points to note.  Blizzard typically provides a bullet point list of highlights for the quarter and a similar bullet point list of outlook items.  Warcraft was #6 on the highlights and #7 on the outlook.  I'm not intending to imply that's the end of the world as we know it.  It may just be an interesting indicator of where Warcraft stands in their overall corporate priorities at this particular moment in time.

It's also very possible that that says nothing about priorities and they just tend to lead with the Activision stuff because that's the order that they're used to seeing things and that's how they manage things.  I went backed and looked at their press release for Q4 2008, the quarter of the Wrath of the Lich King release.  World of Warcraft was presumably riding high then with 11.5 million subscribers.  It was still #6 on the bullet point list

They have about $4.4 billion of cash on hand and increased their dividend by 15%.  Right now, their dividend is sitting at slightly more than 50% of their free cash flow year to date.  And even with a 15% increase, the yield on the stock is still less than 1%.

They also specifically mention in the release that patch 6.2, released in late June, helped to stabilize subscriber numbers for the quarter.  It does raise the question if subscriber numbers had dropped significantly below the 5.6 million that they disclosed in May or early June.

Last overall point is that there was a significant emphasis, both for Activision and Blizzard, on overall customer engagement.  There was a new metric quietly rolled out this quarter in the release called "Monthly Active Users" or MAU's.  Comparisons to prior year was given for that new metric for Activision and Blizzard each as a whole.  It seems that they're doing a lot more to track their overall customers across a variety of platforms.

So here is the specific financial detail for Q2:

Let me talk for just a minute about the difference between GAAP and Non-GAAP revenue (and for those of you that aren't sure, GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.  It's basically the set of rules that people have to follow in keeping their books and preparing their financials.

For a subscription type product like Warcraft, on a GAAP basis, you'll spread your revenue over the life of the subscription and recognize it when actually used.  For people that are just paying monthly, it doesn't make a difference, but for people paying 6 months or a year at a time, or for token sales, those transactions get deferred and don't get recognized until actually used.

So as you can see from the chart above, GAAP revenues were up 13% over prior year for Warcraft, which is good, but non-GAAP revenues, which really just reflects current orders and purchases, were down by 22%.  What you are likely seeing there is the impact of token sales in prior periods being recorded as the monthly subscriptions represented by those tokens are used.

They don't break out details on their balance sheet by segment or by platform, so there is no way to tell what the deferred revenue balances for Warcraft were as of the end of this quarter compared to the same quarter in the prior year.

So here is another interesting chart:

One thing that I want to point out is that this chart is in the opposite order from the first one.  So when it says "segment net revenues" on here, that's on a non-GAAP basis.  The interesting thing here is that while non-GAAP revenue for Warcraft was down, non-GAAP revenue for Blizzard overall was up 13%, which really points to a lot of strength in their upfront "orders" in their other product lines.   However, the income from operations for Blizzard was actually down 19% despite that increase in revenue.

So after the official press release, the next item up was the actual earnings call.  For those of you that may not be familiar with these, typically the company will go through a series of slides and prepared remarks (the slides are available on their website if you'd like to see them).  They'll then spend 15-30 minutes taking live questions from key analysts and institutional investors.

Most of what they said in the prepared remarks related to Warcraft were just a rehash of what was in the press release, focusing on Hellfire Citadel being one of the largest non-expansion content patches ever.  They mentioned the upcoming mini patch to bring flying to Draenor and also mentioned changes in that patch to PvP matchmaking.  Finally, they also addressed Thursday's upcoming announcements at Gamescom.  It was pretty brief, but basically what they said was that they've heard the players feedback from Warlords, and we're going to be very excited by what we hear on Thursday.  A lot more time was spent on the other Blizzard platforms.

In the Q&A, the vast majority of the questions related to other platforms.  Their Merrill Lynch analyst, however, asked them about the outlook for Warcraft given the subscriber loss and asked if they could provide some breakout of the subscriber decline by geography (which isn't something they disclose, so they politely declined).  Addressing the subscriber loss, Mike Morhaime had some really interesting to things to say about how they plan to address it.  He said, "Great content is what draws players in, keeps them engaged and brings them back."  He mentioned that there were more developers working on World of Warcraft than ever before and also mentioned plans around faster content releases.  Finally, he also said specifically that they view the movie as a "key inflection point."  He sounded very confident that their plans around new content would lead to a subscriber rebound.

Of course, they also thought Twitter integration and some new Harrison Jones quests qualified as a "content patch" so it's possible that interpretations vary of what qualifies as content.  (Sorry, so much text without any typical Joar snark...I just couldn't resist).

So overall, all of this still fits with the view that I've laid out previously of them treating Warcraft as a cash cow.  They're investing in it because they want to maintain that cash flow, and a steady subscriber base is key to that, but it's not a growth engine for them anymore.  There is definitely a lot more interest and attention going to the other platforms at the moment.  It will definitely be interesting to see if the "inflection point" created by the movie might change that.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

Grinding in Tanaan and Leveling the Alliance Army

So I've been working on rep grind and the legendary questline on Joar and when that's all done, I've been focused on leveling the alliance army.  Making good progress there too, with one toon now on to Northrend and everyone else other than the monk making good progress in Outland.

Oh, and I've gotten far enough along in Tanaan that I got my Corrupted Dreadhawk.  It's pretty!

Right now Joar is sitting at 13/33 Tomes, with two bosses still to do this week.  I seem to be averaging around 1.5 tomes per wing, so if that works out, it should take me four more weeks after finishing the current week to be done with Tomes.  I also managed to FINALLY get my Submarine to Epic, which now allows me to resume my work on the Shipyard portion of the legendary chain.

Interestingly enough, my last update on leveling on the alliance side was one year ago today.  How weird is that.  Totally random that I thought about posting this today since I've been doing a lot of leveling of the alliance group lately.

In any case, here's the update on the rather sad progress that I've made in the last year:

Priest -  level 56 -> 66
Mage - 52 -> 71
Rogue - 52 -> 64
Druid -  56 -> 62
Paladin -  54 -> 91
Warrior -  54 -> 64
Monk -  25 -> 44

So that's where we are.  I'm likely going to continue leveling this bunch until flying is released and I can restart the last 5 characters sitting at 90 or 91 waiting for the push to 100.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy 6 Year Blog Anniversary To Me! (And Ding! Level 100 #11)

I managed to completely miss my 6 year blog anniversary, which was now over a month ago.  Shows you how much importance I assign to stuff like this.

I've managed to get quite a bit done in the last couple of weeks, though.  I finished up the Draenor Pathfinder achievement on my warlock.  So the Order of the Awakened is now officially dead to me.  Go get your own damn fel apexis crystal thingys.

I'm still doing the Apexis dailies just to try to accumulate enough for some mounts.  I also took a stroll through the new LFR wing, and got exactly 2 Tomes for both wings combined.  So much for the good drop rates that I was experiencing the first two weeks.

Also, with the announcement that this was the last raid of this expansion, I've decided there really isn't any point in finishing the legendary quest chain on more than one toon.  By the time I finish it on the one, I'll like be sick of HFC, and since it doesn't sound like it's going to unlock any special world bosses, or really be of any use at all other than as a "looky at what I've got" type thing, there doesn't feel like a lot of point.  But that will give me more time to continue to progress the alliance side of things.  Maybe have all 22 at max level by the end of this expansion.  Crazy talk

I also finished getting my rogue to level 100, and am now working diligently on getting his engineering maxed.  Engineering and Leatherworking are the last two professions that I need in order to have absolutely everything maxed.  I should be able to finish up leatherworking in the next day or so, but Engineering may take a bit more time.

In between all of that, I've also been working on leveling some more of the toons that are below 90 on the alliance side, working a bunch of folks through Outland.  The first of the Sub-90's are now officially heading for Northrend as well, so that was good news.

So it's been busy, but not particularly stressful.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Things I'd Like to See in 6.2.1 (or 6.2.2)

So I've almost finished getting my main to revered with all the relevant Tanaan Jungle factions to unlock flying.  I've got about 3 days left, but I'm not in any rush, so it may be a week or so until I finish.  I expect we won't see the patch that officially unlocks it until the end of the month anyway, so I don't think there is any particular hurry.

Finishing up my second week of LFR, both my warlock and hunter are at 4/33 Tomes, so we've been getting some consistency.  I've decided to wait to start working on it on my death knight to benefit from any drop buffs they might introduce later on.

I also took my druid into LFR to do a bit of healing, and that went really well, even on a Monday.  So far, Iron Reaver seems to be the biggest challenge in the opening wing, and that's really just a matter of not standing in bad, running out of the raid when you're supposed to, and not getting out of range of your healers.  People will learn.

So I was thinking a bit about things that I would like to see in later mini-patches, particularly from the perspective of an altoholic, and here are a few things I came up with (some of these are incredibly obvious).

  • Make all the Baleful tokens BoA - I'm fine with them not being that way at the moment, but later on in the cycle, it'll be incredibly helpful in gearing up alts to get ready for next expansion launch.
  • Allow the collection of Fel-Corrupted Apexis Shards even when not on the quest and in excess of the 10 that you need.  So you can save up for tomorrow.(**)  I hate you Order of the Awakened.  You're on my list next to the Sons of Hodir, Therazane and Emperor Shaohao.
  • Make the Shipyard equipment items available to all characters on an account after you get the drop on one.  Tanaan Jungle just isn't at all friendly to an undergeared clothie, so it's just not going to happen for a bunch of my characters.
That's my list.  It's not a long one.

I haven't been doing much on my rogue, although that may change.  I've said I was going to hold off on leveling him the rest of the way until flying gets unlocked, but I may not end up waiting that long.  I'd love to get a level 3 engineering building to make it easier to finish that profession.



**  From The Grump Elf Blog, one of the most beautiful idea I've ever seen for this!  Quoted below.

"For Fel-Corrupted Apexis Shards do this:

Turn auto loot off if you have it enabled. Now every time you kill something, rare included, you have to manually loot, but you will also never loot a fel corrupted apexis fragment off the body of the mob again. Leave it on the body. As soon as the body despawns the fragment gets mailed to you from our friendly neighborhood postmaster. When you are done for the day go to the mailbox, pull 10 out, turn in the quest. Everything left over is a head start for tomorrow.

http://thegrumpyelf.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-ultimate-unseen-influence-tip.html "

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The First Week of 6.2

So I'm looking back on the first week of 6.2, and I must say that overall I'm enjoying the new content quite a bit.  Blizzard seems to have found a good way to leverage some of the things they learned from Timeless Isle while really effectively encouraging people to group up to get things done.

In my first week, I managed to get my Saberstalkers rep to Revered, working with a couple of different groups over a few hours.  I also managed to get my Vol'jin rep to Honored and I'm making some progress with the Order of the Awakened folks.  They're clearly going to be the last to Revered.

So far I'm enjoying things in Tanaan Jungle.  You seem to have several different options for things to do on any given day and it provides a nice catch up mechanism for alts, although at the moment, I'm preoccupied enough with getting it done on my main, that I have tried running any alts through yet.  I'm not sure the content there would be as soloable with an undergeared alt, so there would be a lot more incentive to find a group in that case.  Or you'd be looking at a sad dead mage.

On Shipyards, so far so good.  I managed to upgrade mine to level 2 and am starting to work through the various legendary naval missions (or at least will be once the servers come back up).

I managed to blow through all the rares that I needed in Tanaan to get the various equipment blueprints in a fairly short period of time.  I still need to do the Whale Shark, but there seem to be plenty of groups for that these days (although I need to get that done before those dry up).

So all told, the current impressions are positive.  It is giving me plenty to do, and not something I'm quickly getting bored with.  I'm anxious to try the first LFR wing of Hellfire Citadel once it is out today and see how that feels.

I've also done a little bit more leveling on my rogue.  I'm anxious to get him to max level, because he's my last profession holder, and having level 3 profession buildings will make it a bit more efficient to knock that last one out.  So he's sitting at level 95 and working his way through Talador.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Content! Faction Quest Hubs! And Now With More Boats!

So Patch 6.2 drops today in the U.S. and I'll be interested to see what the new faction quest hubs in Tanaan Jungle are like, as well as getting started on my shipyards.

I've sort of missed maxed level quest content this time around, so I'm anxious to try it out and see how they've learned from the various lessons of Mists of Pandaria.

I managed to finish up the non-Tanaan prerequisites for flying on my main, so I'll be pretty focused over the next couple of weeks on finishing up the rep grinds for that and also starting on the next stage of the legendary quest line on the three toons that I've been doing that on.

There seem to be quite a few new mounts available in this patch, so I may work on seeing if I can knock that stuff out as well.

Not much else in the way of updates this week.  I was away on vacation with the family last week, so no WoW was played at all.

The rogue is sitting at level 94 and parked in his garrison waiting for my main to award him flying to make the whole leveling process easier and faster (it'll be interesting to see how it impacts my leveling times!)

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Lot of Consistency in Leveling Speed

So I managed to hit 100 on my mage late last week, marking my 10th toon to get to max level in Warlords of Draenor.  The interesting thing is my last three toons leveled have all done it with full heirlooms and with full use of Garrison experience boost potions, and there has been an enormous amount of consistency in their leveling speed.

Here are the played times from 90 to 100 for the last three:

Priest:  12 hours, 9 minutes
Monk:  11 hours, 58 minutes
Mage:  12 hours, 7 minutes

So three characters with played times all within 11 minutes of each other.  That is some crazy consistency.  Now I will say that is at best a complete coincidence, especially given the amount of time that I spend just alt-tabbed out on the phone or doing something else while that character just sits there (these are in no way meant to represent record of fast leveling speeds given my play style)

But it still surprises me.  I only have one level 90 toon still to make the trek through the Tanaan Jungle starting area to be ready to go for the run to 100, and that is my alliance paladin.  And I may go ahead and knock that one out this week sometime.

Next up for me is my rogue.

I've also been going back and doing a little bit of work on the various alliance toons that are sub-90 for me, working both the alliance mage and the alliance rogue a bit through Hellfire Peninsula and a bit into Zangarmarsh for the mage.

So that's it for this week.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Outland Dungeons and Thoughts on Flight in Draenor

So after finishing up my monk to level 100, I started on my mage.  He's not sitting at level 64, having made quick work of Gorgrond.

I also went back and started working on a few of my alliance toons.  I picked up the alliance mage as well, who had just gotten started on Hellfire Peninsula in Outland.

I'm not sure what got tweaked or when, but there is now a significant difference in the amount of xp per hour to be obtained when running dungeons (which for me tended to run between 800k - 1.2 million per hour) and the xp from questing (which tended to be in the neighborhood of 400-500k per hour).

Part of this is with cross realm zones, there is a lot of competition for mobs in Outland, particularly named quest mobs, so you may spend a fair amount of time either waiting in line or searching for spawns.

The net result is that if you're planning to level through Outland, I'd highly recommend going the dungeon route as much as possible rather than questing.  Queues for me at least, were extremely short.

I did manage to get the alliance mage to level 65 and I may pick up the rogue next, who has also just gotten started on Outland.

So there has also been a lot of discussion in the community this week about Blizzard's announcement that there will definitely be no flying in Draenor.  I haven't weighed in on the discussion at all (other than a few of my normal smart-ass tweets) and I sort of feel bad for not having contributed at all to the discussion.

But try as I might to get excited about it, I just don't care.  Flying just isn't a part of what I feel like I need to do in Draenor.  There are no daily quest hubs that require a lot of moving around.  The Apexis dailies, to the extent that I even care about doing them at this point, all have easy flight point access, and with the introduction of the mine and herb garden, I no longer need to fly around farming nodes on anyone.

Frankly, if there is one area where I wish they had allowed flying, it's Timeless Isle, not Draenor, but only because I hated running all the way up to Ordos.

There seem to be a lot of people looking at this announcement and also the decline in subscriber numbers and pointing to it as an indication that Blizzard has lost touch with their player base.  And maybe they have.  Or maybe this is just a 10 year-old game, and there are more options than ever out there for video game entertainment for people.

As I've pointed out in blog posts in the past, this game is just a cash cow for Blizzard.  They're not looking for growth from this platform - they're just looking to generate as much cash as possible to finance the other areas where they do see growth.  Even if subscriber numbers dropped to 4-5 million, I still don't think that would concern them in the slightest.  It wouldn't even surprise me if they had those kinds of drops built into their financial models for Warcraft.

But I digress.  Back to the topic of flying.  As long as the game is entertaining me, I'll continue to play, and I won't give a crap about flying.  Honestly, I'm hoping I'm not even in Draenor that much longer, but if I am, it'll probably mostly be in my Garrisons.  And if I feel the need to fly to check out some of my pretty flying mounts, I'll go to Azeroth where I can still do it, or level some toons through Outland or Northrend or Cata zones, where I can still definitely do it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Top Ten Things I Still Love About Warcraft

In not so subtle tribute to Dave Letterman, thanks for so many years of laughs.  It's going to be as hard getting used to you being gone as it will be getting used to the fact that there actually is a "t" in Colbert.

Number 10.  Through all the expansions, hero classes and new additions, there is still no "Accountant" class, making it a decent escape from my everyday life.

Number 9.  I can play a game, with my son, even though he's 500 miles away.  How cool is that.

Number 8.  Chaos Bolt all the things.  Especially Gnomes.  But generally everything.

Number 7.  There is always some little nugget or something that I hadn't noticed before.  I nice little touch in an out of the way place.  Despite having leveled a ton of different toons at this point, no two times are the same and I can really add a ton of variety to my approach.

Number 6.  For the Horde!  I know it's probably no longer cool, but I still have a ton of faction pride. Unless I'm on an Alliance toon in which case, not really for the Horde...

Number 5.  Look, I'm a cat.  Look, I'm a bear.  Look, I'm a tree.  Look, I'm a owl thingy.  Sometimes you have to go play with your druid just because shapeshifting makes your kid giggle.

Number 4.  There are 6 elemental shaman in this LFR and we are chain lightning'ing the hell out of everything.  "crackle"

Number 3.  I've been in the same guild for like 6 years.  Some of my guildies are kinda weird.  Okay, most of them are kind of weird.  I don't get to spend as much time chatting with them anymore as I used to, but I still love the place.  A great group of people.

Number 2.  The Wrathgate.  That still gets to me.  Every time.

And the Number 1 Reason I Still Love Warcraft:  The character creation screen.  Even with so many alts, there are still permutations that I haven't tried, and approaches to leveling that I haven't done yet.  It still provides an almost endless variety of entertainment for me.  (Let's do a Blood-Elf Fury Warrior leveled purely through battlegrounds this time!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Back to Leveling!

So do you know what is the most exciting thing coming out in 6.2 for me?  No really, I'm asking.

So I've been doing a little PvP over the past couple of weeks, on both my alliance hunter and my Horde shadow priest.  I still enjoy it now and then, although it usually doesn't take long to see some of the same childish behavior that made me stop PvP'ing regularly to begin with.

But it was fun for a bit.  I also tried Ashran for the first time.  I was surprised that there seem to be a lot of people doing Ashran these days.  Some pretty decent groups fighting back and forth up and down the roads.  Not sure I ever really figured out what the point was, but it was fun to do while waiting in queue for my battlegrounds.

I'm working on leveling the monk now.  He's sitting at level 94.  I decided to hang out in Gorgrond for a bit longer, so we'll see if that makes any kind of difference.  Like the shadow priest, this one is going incredibly fast.  If I just focus on leveling, I'm curious how many of the remaining level 90's I can get done between now and when Hellfire Citadel releases.  Especially if that ends up being mid-June.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ding, Level 100 #8, Impact of Heirlooms on Leveling Speed

So I managed to hit level 100 on character number 8 last night.  This was the first one that I ran through with a fully upgraded set of heirlooms, so I now have a full set of data to support how much time I wasted on my paladin.  Now I'll caveat this by saying I'm not an absolute speed leveler.  I tend to AFK now and again, get distracted by things, sit there chatting with Thrall, mess around in my garrison, go running after treasures, etc.  My fastest leveling time prior to this character was 17 hours and 51 minutes played.  With fully upgraded heirlooms, and full use of xp potions, this one came in at 12 hours and 9 minutes, so almost a full 6 hours better.

I was pretty happy with how the priest felt while leveling.  He seemed a bit squishier than what he's been in the past, which is in no small part due to the inability to keep renew rolling for added heals.  I may try to do a bit of PvP on the priest now rather than immediately jumping to starting on leveling the next toon, which will definitely be the monk.

I also managed to finish the legendary quest chain on my third character, the death knight.  Interestingly enough, with Death Knights being known throughout Azeroth for their stealth, I was able to finish the Garona quest on the very first attempt.  I'm sure that's because of the extreme stealthiness of my DK and not because of all the practice I've gotten on other toons.

So that's it for this week!  With the added xp from monk dailies, it will be interesting to see if it's faster than the priest.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Milking My Cash Cow

So I just realized that this is my 300th blog post.  Odd that it is going to be somewhat business focused rather than my normal altoholic / leveling stuff.  But oh well!

So I posted a comment on a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Alternative Chat who was kind enough to follow it up with a very thoughtful analysis of my comment.  She's copied the text of my original comment at the top of this post (although the comment itself was on an earlier blog post.

So a number of the high powered consulting firms have developed quadrant approaches for looking at your business strategy.  Each firm's iterations are a little different, but they basically involve segmenting your businesses into pieces and putting them into different quadrants.  A basic version of this matrix looks like this:

So you take the elements of your business and divide them up based on different critera (not all versions use growth rate and market share on the various axes).  What I've tried to point out, is that if you look at Activision / Blizzard from the perspective of a business, and not as a game, I'm sure they've done an analysis like this as part of their regular strategy process.  If you look at their results as disclosed in their SEC filings for the last few years, I feel it is highly likely that World of Warcraft falls squarely into the cash cow quadrant (probably along with things like Call of Duty, Diablo and maybe Skylanders heading that direction).

Now what does that mean if a business unit is a cash cow.

First of all, you're looking to maximize the profitability and cash flow generation of that unit.  You are looking for opportunities to continuously improve and streamline and make things more efficient.  Again, keep in mind, I'm talking about Warcraft as a business, not as a game.  I want to invest just enough capital to keep my customer base happy and to innovate where needed and the constant improvements often mean some additional capital needed for those efficiency projects as well.  You may be looking at opportunities to consolidate or outsource certain operations in order to cut costs.  Every investment will be looked at with a very careful eye towards the returns that will be generated by those investments.

But I'm not investing my growth capital here, and it's probably not where most of my management attention is going.  Most of the management attention is probably being spent on the fixer uppers,which are generally the upper right quadrant above, and definitely the
Stars - the areas where I'm looking to invest the most capital, because that's where I'm driving the most growth.

It's my assertion that many of the steps that you see Blizzard taking are the result of their attempts to make the business of Warcraft more efficient and improve cash generation for them, trying to produce new content more cost effectively, keep a broad group of customers satisfied to maintain revenue generation and protect their market share.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Level 100 #7 and a Second Character Finishes the Legendary Chain

I managed to hit level 100 on my paladin on Monday.  His total leveling time was the second fastest of the toons so far, after only the Death Knight.

Next up is the shadow priest, who I'm kitting out in a full set of upgraded heirlooms just to see what kind of difference that makes in the time.

I also managed to finish the legendary quest chain (available so far) on my second character - my hunter.  My Death Knight is currently sitting at 115/300 toward his third tablet, so it'll likely be next week before he is fully done.  Then it'll just be focusing on leveling until the next tier hits.

I may go back and do a few circuits on the various alliance toons that are currently sitting in the mid-60's, just for a bit of fun.

I also finished the achievement necessary to upgrade my inns to level 3 on all of my Garrisons, which gives all my characters access to the lucrative treasure hunter missions.

My standard garrison build now basically includes a Salvage Yard, an Enchanters hut, whatever profession building is relevant for that particular toon, a War Mill, an Inn and then whatever else strikes my fancy at that particular point in time.  Usually a Barracks.  I feel like I have enough Barns going at this point.  I'll add the Lumber Mill here and there, although most of my remaining toons have now been waiting so long to be leveled, that they've all accumulated a giant horde of Garrison Resources.

So that's it for this week.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Initial Thoughts on Patch 6.2

So patch notes are up for Patch 6.2 and as a crazed altoholic, I had a few general thoughts.

  • While a Shipyard sounds conceptually interesting, I'm not really looking for more regular garrison chores thank you very much.
  • We've combined all the things you hated about Hellfire Peninsula with all of the things you absolutely despised about the Timeless Isle in a fabulous new zone, Tanaan Jungle, all beautifully planned to drive you to start playing Overwatch instead when it releases.
  • For those of you who hated the intro sequence to Tanaan Jungle to the point of actually going back to the damn Timeless Isle to try to get out of it, we've added a whole new Tanaan Jungle series of quests that you're sure to hate just as much!
  • Our developers and artists have been hard at work designing a brand new, not new at all raid instance that is a place you've already been before a thousand times!  Welcome to Hellfire Citadel.  As an added bonus, you'll still have no clue how to run back to the instance when you wipe, just like the BC version!
  • In order to enhance our development productivity, parts of the new raid instance will just port you directly to old raid and dungeon instances where many of the "new" bosses already are.
  • Some classes have been buffed, some classes have been nerfed.  In general, the world is not coming to an end.  
  • While no details are yet available on the last portion of the legendary questline, please rest assured it will be grindy as shit.
So all cynicism and sarcasm aside, I'm always up for new content and trying something new, so I'll reserve judgment until I get the chance to run a few characters through.

As an update on other developments, I finally finished both the currently available legendary questline and the garrison campaign series on my warlock, Joar.  I'm currently working on my third elemental tablet on my hunter, who is about 22 runes in towards his 3rd, and am close to finishing up the 2nd tablet on my death knight, who is sitting at 264/300 runes on his second tablet.

I also finished up the quests necessary for upgrading the lumber mill and am currently working through the inn quests so I can upgrade that.  Because what else am I going to do?

My paladin is getting close to done - he's working his way through Nagrand and just a few bars from 99.  The shadow priest will be up next.  I'll be using fully upgraded heirlooms on the priest, just to see what difference that makes to leveling times.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Closing In On Elemental Tablets

So I made good progress on Elemental Runes and Tablets across all three of my characters currently participating in that nonsense last week and there's a pretty good likelihood I'll finish up, at least on Joar this week.

So Joar is sitting at 193/300 on his third Elemental Tablet, so a very good possibility he'll finish this week.

The other two characters, my Death Knight and my Hunter are both working on their second tablets.  The hunter is sitting at 156/300 on his second, and the death knight is sitting at 79/300, so they've both got a ways still to go.

I've also made decent progress this week on leveling my paladin, and he's sitting at level 97 and working his way through the Spires of Arak.

My shadow priest will be up next and I plan to have him venture forth with a fully upgraded set of heirlooms, just to see what difference that makes in leveling time.

So far, there's been a larger amount of deviation in my times than in previous expansion, which is probably a testament to how much there is in this one to distract you and result in unnecessary dicking around (that being the technical term for it).

So that's it for the update for this week!


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kind of Bored And Waiting for the Next Expansion? Already? Really?

So we're not even 6 months in to this, and I'm already kind of done with Warlords.  Not that I'm going to stop playing.  After all, I've got something like 10 more toons that I need to get to level cap to be ready for the next expansion, and as a severe altoholic, I do enjoy the leveling.

Even in Warlords, that process is something that I'm still enjoying.

But the rest of it, I'm kind of done with.  Unless they've got some interesting new content coming in 6.2, I have sort of lost interest in the rest of it.  Garrison's were a neat idea and something that I was pretty excited about going in, but now it feels a little bit like the list my wife leaves on the fridge for me every weekend.

I could really go for a couple of interesting faction daily quest hubs.  Something with some interesting rewards at the end.

The legendary chain has been interesting, but I think I decided to do it on more toons than I should have this time around.  Three was just way to much, and it's not leaving me enough time for leveling.

Right now, I've got two elemental tablets put together on my warlock, one fully put together on my hunter, and I'm pretty close to having my first put together on my death knight.

So my plan is to finish this phase with these three and when the next phase rolls around, decide if I want to move forward on anyone other than the warlock.

In the meantime, I've been making a little bit of leveling progress on the paladin and he's sitting at level 94 getting ready to head for Talador.

Shadow Priest will be up next.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Recharged and Refreshed

So my day job can be pretty stressful and always has been.  It's one of the reason's that I enjoy escaping to Azeroth every now and then.  It's always sort of gone with the territory that even when I've been away on vacation, there will be several work related calls that I have to take, and a certain portion of the day and evening will be spend reviewing things, or responding to things, or approving things, or what have you.

Typically, some of that time in the evening after I finished my work stuff would also be spent on World of Warcraft - doing dailies (now garrison chores), running LFR, doing heroics for valor - really the same types of to do lists that go with my work.

So it was with much personal surprise this past week when I did none of that.  Nothing.  No e-mails.  No calls.  No WoW.  I sat on a beach, with a drink in one hand and a book in the other.  I stuck my toes in the sand,  I played with my kids in the ocean.   I went for early morning walks on the beach with Mrs. Joar, or I just sat and had coffee and watched the ocean in the morning.

In the evenings, I read a book - a total of three actually over the course of the entire week.  In short, I relaxed.  Utterly.  It was glorious.

So now I'm back at work, refreshed and recharged, and ready to dive back into Azeroth as well.

So cheers!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is This Really How I Want To Be Spending My Time?

So I've got a total of three characters that I'm currently running through the legendary quest line that are all currently engaged in accumulating Elemental Runes.  As I pointed out last week, I expect that it's going to take me somewhere from 7-9 weeks to finish that portion of the quest line across all three of these toons, and I'm really questioning whether I want to even bother.

My schedule with work and real life now has made it extremely difficult for me to find the time to knock out full LFR clears across three different toons each week, so I may decide to just abandon it and focus on getting it done on my warlock.

The paladin finished up Frostfire and is now working through Gorgrond.

Both the shaman and the druid are hanging out in their garrisons gearing up and making money via garrison missions, which as an altoholic, works quite well for me.

It lets me keep gearing them in a way that they'll be ready for the next expansion, or able to hop into an LFR if I feel like it, with minimal investment of time.

Oh, and I finally got the Selfie camera on Joar.  I was a little disappointed to realize that it doesn't actually take a screenshot for you when you use it.  How hard would that have been?

This week will be more Elemental Rune grinding, more follower missions and leveling the paladin.

Next week I'll be out of town on vacation, so probably won't be playing at all.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ding, Level 100 #6, and Grinding Through Runes

So for those of you that get annoyed by the Ding titles on my blog posts as I hit max level on various toons, I apologize.  For me, it gives me an easy ability to quickly track my progress from expansion to expansion, with my blog history being an easy display of who hit what level when.

Now that I've written that down, I could probably just add those data points to my existing spreadsheet and spare you all the pain.  Amazing how that works some times.  This is what that particular exercise looks like character by character.

So as you can see on here, I finished my alliance hunter earlier this week finally.  The time on him was a bit disappointing frankly, but this particular character was one that I was leveling using a method that I'll fondly refer to as "screwing around with a friend".  While it's lots of fun, it's not the most efficient leveling process.

Next up is the Horde paladin, who is getting close to being done with Frostfire.

I've also continued to work three characters through the legendary quest chain - my warlock, death knight and hunter.  If my calculation on elemental rune drop rates are correct, it looks like it is going to take me between 7-8 weeks on each to finish amassing Elemental Runes.  No, that's not a grindy pain in the ass.  Why would you say that?

My warlock had a bit of a head start, and is also further along on Garrison followers, giving him a few extra here and there, so he may end up a bit faster than that, but it wouldn't make the difference of more than a week I think.  My shaman is also now geared enough to start running LFR courtesy of the Joar empire crafting guild, but not sure I'm actually going to be doing that anytime in, oh, the next 7-8 weeks.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ding, Level 100 #5

I managed to hit 100 finally this week on my shaman.  As I mentioned before, the leveling time on this one probably isn't a good indication because I spent quite a bit of time on this guy early on in the expansion doing the glyph thing, so he was probably quite a few hours in by the time I started leveling.

With that though, his total time was 33 hours and 44 minutes.  Feels like that was probably pretty slow, even with the glyph time at the beginning.

Paladin is up next, and I'm going to go back to chugging xp potions on this guy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Approaching the Finish Line on the Shaman

So my shaman in sitting just a few bars short of 99.  I had plans of switching him to enhancement for the last half of his journey to 100, but after not being able to find a single agility weapon from late in the Talador zone until mid way through Nagrand, I've pretty much given up on that.

I think I've decided to have my paladin be the next character through, just so I can work on getting jewelcrafting maxed.  That will leave engineering as the last profession, because that one is always last for me.

I need to grab 6 more Abrogator Stones for my hunter at some point today, and then all three of my characters working their way through the legendary quest line will be at the same point so they can also start working on the new wing of Blackrock Foundry LFR.

That's about it for now.  As soon as my shaman and alliance hunter are done, I should be able to report some data on leveling time for both of them, but not expecting anything too different from what I've seen on other characters.

A brief update for this week, but that's it for now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Progressing the Shaman

So I'm continuing to make good progress on leveling my shaman.  He's currently sitting at level 95 and working his way through Talador.  I don't really have much interest in raiding on this character at this point, so I'm likely going to just get him to 100 and then park him back in his Garrison and Orgrimmar to keep working on his professions.

I will likely finish the Highmaul Abrogrator stones portion of the legendary quest line on my death knight this week and am continuing to make good progress on the hunter.  I think I've decided that I'm going to limit it to those three characters at this point.  I may add one more at some point, but I'm definitely not looking to work through the quest chain on a toon of every class, which is something I'd originally considered.  While I will almost definitely level more to 100 than that, I think I'm pretty happy with the group working on the legendary quest line.

I'm still debating which toon is going to be next.  I'm leaning towards having it be a melee class, so that I can alternate between casters and melee.  Right now my monk has been parked in his garrison accumulating resources, but I may move the paladin into that position as well.

I'm not using xp potions on the Shaman because I didn't find it to be all that helpful on the druid.  That, and since the Shaman spent a decent amount of time early in the xpac continuing to work the glyph market, I really won't have good leveling speed data on him anyway.

The process of getting all of my professions leveled continues to be really slow.  I'm just taking the points as I need to craft various gear for alts, not really pushing to get anything done.  At some point I'll decide I just need to be there, but at this point, I've only got 3 or 4 that I've maxed at this point.

I'm looking forward to patch 6.1, especially the heirlooms tab.  Not much else in the patch that I'm all that jazzed about at this point, but I guess we'll see once it finally drops.  LFR for Blackrock Foundry also starts in a couple of weeks and I should be in relatively good shape to have all 4 of my current max level characters in a good spot to run that once it's open.

Regular Gaming Update

Right now, I've been playing many different games, but I'm not really focused enough on any of them to have much to report. In terms...