Looking to the Future – LFG and Battle.net
After an 11 hour drive on Sunday, we are now back home. I logged into WOW yesterday afternoon and played for basically the first time in a week. It didn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things. Playing WOW is a habit when I’m at home – my laptop sits in a convenient location under the coffee table, and practically dares me to consider playing some other game. All thoughts of Spirit Tracks are forgotten with WOW so easily accessible. My pile of unplayed games grows higher, covered in a thick layer of dust. There are so many other things that I intend to get to, and yet WOW manages to consume all of that time. Does anyone else have this problem?
I am still on vacation until next Monday, which I am truly enjoying. One thing I’m noticing is that there seems to be a lot of children playing WOW this week during the day. Yesterday I ran my first low-level LFG on the Horde side with my 27 Priest. I queued her as DPS, along with Jardal’s enhancement shaman. It took maybe 15 minutes in the queue before a group was found for the random instance.
It tried to send me to Razorfen Kraul. I say tried because it failed – I had just hopped on a blimp from Ogrimmar to Thunder Bluff. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t allow you to use the dungeon teleport feature while on a airship. Now for those of you who have never played Horde, this is a rather long blimp ride, much longer than any of the Alliance boats (more like the Deeprun Tram). I had to wait until we arrived at Thunder Bluff to get to the instance. I know this is probably difficult to program, but there has to be some sort of solution. I’m very lucky that the 4 other people decided to wait for me (I’m not even sure they believed me when I said I couldn’t teleport, as one of them kept insisting I click the eye on my mini-map). I’m sure there are plenty of impatient people that would have kicked me immediately. Perhaps it could allow you to teleport, but warn you that you will be sent back to the original platform when you exit the instance?
Once I finally arrived in the instance, things went fairly smoothly. The healer and tank both seemed very young, but competent. The healer kept yelling at the tank in annoying sing-song way (in all caps of course) when he went the wrong way. He also asked where people lived, which I declined to answer. One of the DPS bailed after a couple of bosses, and the tank also had to leave about half-way through. Their spots were filled fairly quickly though. I was surprised at how well everything worked – the only death we had was when Jardal fell off a bridge mid-fight into a bunch of angry gnolls. There were a few enormous pulls, but the healer managed to keep us alive. It got me thinking – does it really matter that the healer is annoying, if he manages to do his job? How much do the personalities of group members really matter in a random group? I certainly wouldn’t want to have an extended conversation with these people, but they got me my random LFG reward and a levels worth of XP. Its not like we can be friends with anyone we meet in these cross-realm instances anyways – at least not yet.
I have high hopes for Blizzard’s new Battle.net platform. Some of the ideas that they talked about at Blizzcon make me shiver with delight. The ability to chat with people, not only cross-realm, but cross-game? I imagine a shiny new panel similar to an IM buddy list that is implemented in all Blizzard games. They showed us an example screenshot of how it might look in WOW. I’m not very impressed with it, so I’m hoping its just an initial prototype.
They’ve said that it gives people a “Real ID” so that you can identify friends easily, and it will tell you what game and what character they are playing. No more confusion on who an alt belongs to! I also hope there is some sort of ability to make yourself “invisible” so that you can play without everyone knowing, for those times that you just want to be left alone. I know now people have secret alts they play on, but an “invisible” feature would allow you to play any character in peace. Another amazing possibility would be to be able to queue up for a dungeon with a friend on another server.
I’m very interested to see how they implement the platform. Blizzard’s website says these features will be implemented “soon”. I know they will have to be somewhat in place before Starcraft II can be released, which is definitely slated for 2010. My guess is that it will be before Cataclysm is released. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this is within the first quarter of 2010.
I think that when Battle.net is fully implemented it will fill some of the holes we’ve noticed in the LFG system. Things like cross-realm whispers and the ability to add friends that you’ve met in random groups. The cross-realm LFG is wonderful, but it feels incomplete right now. I wonder if they originally intended to have Battle.net ready for 3.3? Or maybe they were just hoping we wouldn’t notice that things were missing?
What kinds of things do you hope will be incorporated in the new Battle.net system?