Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Five Order Hall Campaigns Complete

So I finished my fourth and fifth order hall campaigns yesterday, finishing them up on both the druid and the paladin.

I'm still not particularly enjoying either of those toons this time around, although I've been debating gearing them enough to get into LFR and just try healing on both of them in raid instances to the extent that I want to play them.

For World Quests, not so much.

Both campaigns were pretty good with really interesting endings.  The stories on both were some of the more compelling so far.  The paladin one seems to have a little bit of cross over with the priest one (which I haven't done yet).

Making good progress on the Demon Hunter. He just finished up Stormheim as his second zone and getting ready to start on Highmountain.  He's at level 106.  I've also been working on professions a bit more.  Joar is basically done with all the stuff he needs for tailoring and enchanting (although not maxed on either yet).  The DK is making good progress on blacksmithing and working through all the stuff on alchemy.

My druid is my leatherworker, and there are a ton of quests to do for that one, so that may take some time.  Paladin is making good progress on jewelcrafting.  The only professions that I don't have a start on at this point is inscription and engineering, and both those toons are pretty far down on the leveling list.

Priest will be next after the demon hunter is done.  I'm going to make him a stylish set of 815 gear and then level him as Disc just for fun.


Monday, November 21, 2016

The Angst of What To Do With Alts

This time, more than any other expansion, I find myself torn about what to do with all of my various alts.  I hit 110 last week on my druid, my 5th max level character of this expansion.  Rather than the normal excitement, I find myself confused about what to do next.

In previous expansions, I might start running dungeons and possibly even work on getting a particular character into LFR, but my play schedule doesn't really work for running multiple characters through LFR multiple times, so I'm pretty much doing the raid tourism on my main and that's it.

The other characters I'm contenting myself with regular world quests and emissary boxes.   Normally on my druid, I would heal.  It's what I've done with that toon since Wrath.  So I'm sitting there with a Resto artifact weapon and bags full of tokens that I can use to quickly power that weapon up.  And they are sitting there.

Because powering up my resto artifact is pretty much useless for getting world quests done.  And that's what is creating the angst and the uncertainty on both my druid and my paladin.  Because the artifact weapon that I would rather have powered up for world quests is not necessarily the same one that I'd want powered up for raiding if I chose to do it.

I should probably just content myself with the fact that any raid content that I'm going to see is going to be on either the warlock or hunter and just power up world quest machines on the other toons.  But it's causing me a lot of angst.

Next up for me is the demon hunter.  I'm leveling him as vengeance, because I've generally enjoyed tanking specs while leveling this expansion, and at least so far, the demon hunter is no different.

After that, it's going to be the priest, and then the monk.



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fourth Level 110 Done, and Two Legendaries!

So I managed to finish up the paladin last week, and never really did decide throughout the entire process if I liked leveling as ret or prot better.  I kept switching back and forth right up until the bitter end.  For some reason, the paladin didn't feel as good leveling this expansion as it has for me in the past.  Your mileage may vary however.

His total played time to 110 was just about an hour longer than the hunter, and clocked in a 17 hours and 51 minutes.  While it was nice having world quests immediately unlock, I don't actually plan to do them on the paladin at this point.  I may change my mind later, but at least for now, he's going to sit on the bench.

The druid is up next, and I'm leveling this guy as a boomkin.  I went with the druid over the priest because this guy is my skinner and leatherworker, while my priest has the exact same profession set as my hunter.

I've also managed to accumulate two separate legendaries since my last post, one for the warlock and one on the hunter.  Both came out of emissary boxes.

I'm getting really really close to being done with the rep grind for Nightfallen on my main.  He's currently sitting around 18,000/21,000.  I'm looking forward to having that done and unlocking the new 7.1 quest chains for Nightfallen.  Once all of that is done, I might start doing the grind on my death knight as well.  Haven't really decided.

So that's it for this week's update.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Still So Much to Do! (And Pally Progress)

So I'm still working my there on toon #4, my ret pally.  I'm trying to do the emissary quests every day on my three existing max level toons as well as doing extra Suramar world quests for rep on the warlock each day.  Those end up taking quite a bit of time, making the leveling process pretty slow.

Oh, and can I just go on record that the artifact weapon tree for ret pallies suck.  It's the first one that I I've seen that almost seems like it requires a reboot at some point in the process.  There's this wonderful little golden trait sitting there, called Ashes to Ashes, with a nice short path to get to it, but with absolutely nothing on that path doing much to help your DPS.

But I enjoy those.  I still have a fair amount of quest content still to go.  Kalec is patiently waiting at the Azure dragon spot in Aszuna for me to come talk to him about something.  And I've got the next installment of the Illidan quest line waiting for me back in Kalimdor.

I need to get to those.

I also continue to discover cool little things.  On my beast mastery hunter, I had no idea that there was a quest you could do to get an item allowing you to transform Hati to look like something else.  That, and grabbing a mana saber spirit beast pet from Suramar made for a cool looking combination.  The quest for the device to transform Hati gets picked up from a platform right to the right of your mission board in your class order hall.  Interact with that platform, a voila, Mimiron will appear and ask you to go get a bunch of stuff that he'll then use to build you said device.  Pretty cool.

So I'm continuing to slog my way through Nightfallen rep on Joar to try to finish up the Good Suramaritan achievement for Pathfinder.  I've got two more pieces of the story left, but then heard from a little bird about this nugget in the 7.1 patch notes:

Yes, you read that correctly.  That's nine more weeks of Suramar quests ladies and gentlemen.  Nine more week.

I guess I can hold off on that strongly worded resignation letter I was working on for the nice folks of the Nightfallen.



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ding, Level 110 #3.

So I managed to hit 110 on my hunter on Thursday of last week.  Definitely starting to see some pick up in level time as mob competition really drops off.  So the hunter managed to get there in right at 17 hours (16 hours and 58 minutes technically), compared to 23 hours and 24 minutes for the DK.  I did end up switching to beast mastery at the half way point, and while it was an absolute beast for leveling, I'm not finding it as awesome for world quests as I would have expected.

I now have 3 toons that I'm completing world quests and world bosses on regularly and beginning to wonder at the wisdom of doing that.

The death knight continues to be my absolute favorite toon for doing world quests, although I am decidedly not going to go back and work on Suramar on a second toon, so I'll still be relying on the warlock to get to completion on that front.

I'm pretty close to hitting revered with Nightfallen, leaving me with two more major quest chains to get through for Good Suramaritan.  All the other pieces of the first stage of Pathfinder are essentially done at this point.

So now I'm off to leveling the paladin, although with working 3 toons through world quests on a regular basis, I suspect that one may take some time to get through.



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ding, Level 110 #2 and Pathfinder Update

So I managed to finish up my death knight earlier this week.  I did most of the leveling experience with him as frost, but ended up switching to blood at the end just for the ease of taking down some of the higher level mobs and large packs of mobs.  I'm thinking staying blood may be the best bet for doing world quests as well since I'm not likely to do much raiding on my death knight this time around.  I think that activity is likely going to be limited to my warlock and hunter, at least for now.

Overall, the leveling time for the death knight wasn't wildly different than it was for my warlock, finishing up at 23 hours and 24 minutes (or only about an hour and 45 minutes faster than the lock).  Of course, the warlock with pet is an absolute leveling machine with no downtime, so that certainly comes into play.

I'll be starting the hunter next while continuing to work on world quests on both the warlock and death knight and also trying to finish up the Suramar quest line on Joar in order to get the Pathfinder achievement under way.  There's one piece of the Good Suramaritan achievement that you need for Loremaster of Legion that can't be done without normal raiding until Xavius unlocks on LFR, but I'm not necessarily having the rep to unlock that piece anyway, so not a big worry at this point.

The hunter is up next.  I've started him as Marksmanship, but I haven't really been enjoying it all that much, so I'm thinking of switching to Beast Mastery, at least for now.  After the hunter, the paladin will be up next as I continue to rotate between melee and ranged.  It works out well that I have exactly six of each, at least on the Horde side.

Oh, and -10 points to me for using "at least for now" way too many times in this blog post.  I clearly need to cut back on that phrase, at least for now.



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Activision-Blizzard Reviewed by the SEC

Let me just start this blog post by saying that, while the title of this sounds ominous, being reviewed and going through a comment letter process with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") is not at all unusual for a public company.  In fact, the SEC tries to review most public companies at least once every 3-5 years.  Activision-Blizzard had not been reviewed since 2012, so in that sense, they were due.

This was a relatively short initial comment letter, particularly for a company as large and complex as Activision-Blizzard and they only went through three rounds of comments over about a four month period of time, which is fairly typical.

Typically, when you receive one of these letters, the SEC gives you two weeks to respond, although they are generally pretty flexible about granting extensions if there are circumstances that make it difficult to gather the information they're requesting and respond that quickly and Acti-Blizz actually requested and received an extension on their second round of comments.  Once you receive one of these letters and start working on your response, the response letter that you're drafting also gets reviewed by your legal counsel and by your audit firm, which adds to the length of time these take to prepare.

Typically, once you respond to the SEC's questions, they will then take somewhere around 2 weeks to review your response and will then potentially get back to you with either follow up or new questions.  So in general, these things typically take a month to a month and a half for each round of comments, and it's not at all unusual to go through a couple of rounds of questions and answers.  At the end of the process, you'll get the anxiously awaited "We have no further comment" letter from the SEC at which point the entire exchange gets posted to the SEC website for the world to see.

So that's the context and the background of the whole SEC comment letter process.

Acti-Blizz's original letter was received back in early April, and the SEC's first question was around a topic that we've discussed here a few times:  the Monthly Active User metric ("MAU's").  Here's the question that the SEC asked:

They asked two other questions in the letter, one related to the period of time over which they were recognizing revenues for certain games and whether they had considered disclosing that time period either by major game title or by game type.

The second question related to what was in some of their other cost of sales categories and whether those related to product sales, services or other.

Here is Acti-Blizz's response to the MAU question:

Monthly average users (MAUs) is a player engagement metric that the Company has been evaluating as an emerging “key performance indicator” in light of various business developments discussed below. Although player engagement helps drive players’ investment in our games, mainly through digital sales transactions, prior to the current year (2016) we have not viewed MAUs as a “key performance indicator” or concluded that a discussion of MAUs was required in Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (“MD&A”) for investor understanding of our business.  Instead, we have considered digital revenues, which we have provided and discussed in MD&A since 2011, as providing direct and relevant financial information about the growth in our digital business. We believe that our discussion and analysis of digital revenues performance has provided investors with the information required to evaluate the Company’s trends and performance, in accordance with Section III.B.1 of SEC Release No. 33-8350.
 In light of the development of our year-round engagement model, and growth of the free-to-play (“FTP”) and in-game items purchases business model across our franchises, in the second half of 2015 we began to consider the utility of the MAU metric by accumulating data, working to harmonize the metric across businesses, performing reviews and quality checks, and seeking alignment with senior management.  As a result, we began using MAU as a metric in communications with investors, such as earnings releases, beginning in August 2015, but do not believe that MAU was a key performance indicator required to be discussed in MD&A prior to 2016.

 With our recent acquisition of King Digital Entertainment Limited (“King”), which closed on February 23, 2016 and significantly increased the size of our FTP business model, we have concluded that MAUs are now a key performance indicator for our business.  Therefore, in future filings, we plan to include a discussion of MAUs within our MD&A.

So one of the interesting things here is it makes it clear that some of the additional disclosures that we were seeing out of Blizzard in the last quarter or two were at least in part in response to a request from the SEC.

In the third round of comments, the SEC introduced a couple of new questions to the conversation, including focusing on some of the non-GAAP measures that we'd previously discussed in an earlier blog post.  Specifically, there were three questions around their presentation of non-GAAP measures:

In Blizzard's response, they basically agreed to make the changes that the SEC was requesting to their future earnings releases, which led to the changes that we talked about in Q2.    And that ended the comment letter process for them.

The other mildly interesting point to note is that the SEC doesn't only review the official quarterly and annual Form 10-Q and Form 10-K's.  The 3 comments listed above are based on a review of the company's earnings release and not it's financial statements.