What made vanilla instances long?

| Monday, August 31, 2009
There are many possibilities.

Physical length
Many vanilla instances were very long; Mara, UBRS, LBRS, BRS, etc.; the physical size of the instance meant that it would take a while. This makes wipes even more time-consuming and has a multiplier effect on the time lost to respawns since longer runs mean more time for respawns.

Numbers: Did vanilla instances have higher trash than BC and WotLK instances? At first though of places like WC or BRD seem like trash-infested wastelands compared to a low-trash instance like... um... there's still a ton of trash. Think of ramparts and how much trash there is until the first boss or utgarde keep. There are the extremes of a 99% trash instance like SM armory/library (pull really fast or there will be multiple groups respawned by the end), which somehow people seemed to forget when praising SM or the extremely low trash of AN. Overall I don't see much change in trash from vanilla to BC, though a noticeable average decrease in WotLK.

Difficulty: If trash is hard, it will take longer. This could mean having to pull carefully, waiting on pats adding even more time. Or spending time figuring a kill order and maybe even CC. Sometimes I found vanilla trash harder than the bosses with lots of runners, enrages, fears, mana burns, spam summoning, and just plain high damage abilities. Scholomance had some particularly painful trash with everything from mobs that went immune to magic to zombies that exploded; and then there were the green clouds; hint: don't stand in them. This wasn't the sort of stuff that you just pulled and laughed off with a bunch of AoE, because it would have already AoEd down YOU. But much of difficulty is relative, gear changes it.

Relative gear: We're better geared than in vanilla. We don't run heroics (5-man Scholo pre-nerf or a Baron 45 run were the equivalents) in greens. We go in blues, even epics. That's to start. After a handful we're in half epics and unless we're doing some of the stranger achievements, everything is trivial. This is how tanks can survive AoE tanking and healers can survive healing that much damage. Gear is better itemized too; so we don't have shamans needing OOC spirit regen after 15 seconds of casting.

Class capability: On the subject of AoE tanking, there weren't any in vanilla. Warriors could tab-sunder and hold a handful off of healing, but may the Light have mercy on the mage who tried arcane explosion on anything that wasn't a trivial leveling instance or already fleeing from low health. We didn't need AoE tanking anyway because we didn't have a ton of AoE damage anyway (don't pretend I said we had none, I am well aware of the AoE requirements of Gluth, and the expected impossibility after the AoE cap); no seed of corruption or critting blizzard or bladestorm or fire totems that weren't bitten by critters the second they were dropped.

Trash definitely took longer, not because there was more, but because it wasn't so trivial. It was much more difficult in equivalent gear and it was much harder to outgear it. If someone did outgear it... well let's get to the next part.

Think of this as outgearing to the extreme. Someone who could not possibly need the gear drops runs the instance. This didn't happen too much in vanilla. If you didn't need the drops, you didn't go. There weren't badges or rep grinds to attract the overgeared raiders or to help overgear the rest. There were exceptions like live side Stratholme (for the righteous orbs, which were serious business), but in general people stuck to the content designed for their gear. There was powerleveling, but that was leveling. You didn't get run through a max-level instance like you can these days.

I won't try to speculate on this since I'm likely to slip into some haze of rose-colored elitist longing for the good old days when people worked hard and entrepreneurs would build bootstrap factories and we'd work there for 20 hour days until after a year we'd save up to buy a pair of bootstraps by which to pull ourselves up and dammit I never say an epic, but I did once hear a rumor of one from someone who'd run Scholomance 50 times in a row for a total of 200 consecutive hours awake and gotten an epic staff which was then ninjaed by a warrior who needed the int buff to level his weapon skills.

What I meant to say was: "Are players more or less patient with long instances, wipes, reclears, etc. than in the past?"

As Gnomegeddan points out, it's all about the loot. We want fast instances for loot, but might we also want slower instances for the feel of the world? Surely we desire something more than temporary virtual pixels.

My fears of fame: cured

| Sunday, August 30, 2009
To start off, I would like to apologize for having accidentally included potentially useful information/advice in yesterday's post. When talking about fun I did not intend for it to be used by raid leaders to figure out that wiping on the same boss 20 times is a bad idea. I can only hope that either no one read that or if anyone did, they already knew it. I hope to return to my usual uselessness in order to avoid offending anyone. By anyone I mean you.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Almost. Backstory time: I read this post by Tobold about twitter; apparently people say terrible things about him there which they don't say on his blog. This got me scared. I know people read this blog. Or at least Google claims they do. Are they saying terrible things about me too?

I was afraid that I might be e-famous in some tiny sector of disreality and that someone, somewhere in this virtual wasteland was saying bad things about me. I had to know. So I hop over to Twitter for my first time and type in my name. Nothing. Hm. Maybe I should have capitalized? Nothing. Good enough. Now I can rest easy, assured that no one is saying terrible things about me, as far as I know. And for that I want to thank all of you, for at least hiding what must surely be slanderous lies and misrepresentations from my fearful eyes.

This calls for cupcakes.

Temporary vs. Permanent: Fun

| Saturday, August 29, 2009
When is fun and how long does it last? I suspect this is a fundamental split in attitude which determines how people view WoW, and probably other activities as well.

After writing this I realized that the terms were a bit confusing, so I'll be repetitive. Temporary fun is that which you enjoy right now. You might log off and immediately forget what you were doing and the fun will gradually fade. In addition, when you log back in, the fun you had won't have made much difference. Imagine if you spent a night killing guards in Stormwind; no honor, no rep, no gold, no quests, nothing except the fun of killing. In contrast permanent fun is that which creates a persistent change. It could be a rep grind or getting a piece of loot. While these can become obsolete, they still remain as a permanent reward for the activity.

On one side is the temporary fun, it is right now. Fun is not something to be delayed or built up towards, ideally. Obviously in practice there will be moments which are not fun, such as logging in or loading screens. The goal for a developer should be to maximize instant and temporary fun, fun right now. If the player has a moment during which they are not having fun, the developer has failed. This doesn't mean that a game should be a constant ADD-driven festival of flashing lights and rewards at high intensity, but that at any given moment the player should be having fun. This can go up and down, but should avoid every being zero and should never be negative; with the opposite of fun being frustration, anger, and annoyance.

On the other side would be fun as a permanent thing; or to put it another way, fun is the additive process of everything before it. Fun is something to build towards. This may involve actually not having fun at many points. This draws upon the human tendency to more highly value those things which are preceded by that which they do not enjoy or that which they perceive as a challenge. A good example is a boss; rather than kill it in one go, take five tries. The first try will have positive fun, but it will likely go down from there, even into the realm of negative fun; however these low or negative fun moments will serve to increase the fun of the final kill. Consumables and reputation grinds would be more classic examples of building up to fun; they put the player through a potentially negative fun process which gradually moves towards positive as they get closer to the goal, peaking just before the goal is reached.

When looking at these two sides of fun, it is critical to avoid putting value descriptions on them. I don't mean that you can't try to put a number on them, like a rep grind will cause negative 10 fun followed by positive 15 or whatever; but moral values should be avoided. So temporary fun should not be described as mindless; this carries a negative label, in addition to being inaccurate. Temporary fun can be very conscious and active, such as solving a problem (assuming the person enjoys problem-solving). In contrast permanent fun can be very mindless (didn't I just say not to use this?), such as the example of rep grinds. Going even further though, mindlessness should not be undervalued for it can at times allow for an almost zen-like state of peace.

Since I love self-contradiction, I'm going to go ahead and claim that these are not opposing states, but instead are complementary. The success of WoW comes from the devs finding how to maximize the combination of the two, finding when a small loss of temporary can result in a lrger gain in permanent, or the reverse. For example, the reduction of true rep grinding (such as killing twilight cultists or skettis mobs) has given way to rep through instances, increasing the temporary fun of the process of the permanent fun. Another example is the reduction of consumable requirements, reducing the permanent fun of grinding mats in favor of the temporary fun of actually running a raid but with a gain of the permanent gaining of loot as well. Badge progression adds the permanent fun of item gains to the potentially temporary negative fun of running the same heroic for the hundredth time; or it might be adding permanent fun to the temporary fun of running that heroic that you really love.

So what's the relevance? For any given activity you can ask yourself about what sort of fun it is and whether it is worth it. If you're having temporary fun, compare that you other activities, especially IRL; so don't skip a night out with friends in favor of killing Stormwind guards (if you really prefer killing the guards, you need better friends). If you're not having temporary fun, make sure you're having permanent fun and then make sure it is worth it; keeping in mind that the relative values of fun are not fixed, so maybe now is the time to farm Stormwind rather than saronite; but later it will be the reverse. If you're not having temporary or permanent fun; do something else. This is especially important if you're leading others; so raid leaders, after the tenth wipe with no progress when everyone is frustrated, go kill something else.

RP in the wrong place

| Friday, August 28, 2009
Out of boredom I dug up the dwarf paladin I'd made for stalking Iapetes (my long-lost fellow poster). After killing Hogger I felt brave and ventured forth to Westfall. It was there that I started to role-play my paladin. This is not a RP server, it's a PvP server.

I was met with silence by a warlock who I'd advised to be careful when consorting with demons in response to her thanks for a blessing.
I expressed delight at meeting a gnome, for he wasn't so tall as the humans; he was confused.

I don't remember how, but somehow I ended up telling someone that it would be a bad idea to work with demons in exchange for the head and message of the Defias Messenger. The previous gnome responded uh, crudely. My response seemed to trigger the RP in a paladin in the zone and we proceeded to spend the next 5-10 minutes attempting to teach him the wisdom of the Light, with no success.

Finally being high enough to run instances, I joined LFG for Deadmines. Who should I see but the paladin from Westfall. I ask if they need anyone to bash skulls or have his skull bashed; also known as DPS or tanking. They did and we proceeded to spend the next half hour or more RPing in party chat while looking for more people. The draenei who seemed to be a RL friend was not amused, so we had to tiptoe around his constant crude language; with my character eventually concluding that the Draenei were demons in more than appearance, due to their foul tongues and apparent insanity as evidenced by constant references to people who were not there and some mythical creatures which he called Jews.

Unfortunately we never got a full group and I logged out because I was getting sleepy. Still, it was fun to run around whacking boars and RPing. At one point we debated the honesty of recruiting people with claims of powerful items. Maybe I'll see the paladin again (I did add to my friends list), but if not, it was still fun. I think I'll try more RP in the future, preferably in the wrong place.

Birth of a Shaman

| Thursday, August 27, 2009
It was August of 2005 and in a college dorm two friends were conversing. Finally, one convinced the other to try it: World of Warcraft. Then came the hard decision of what class and race to choose. The friend was Horde, so the other would follow. What to choose? Versatility, that was the goal. Heals seemed essential, but not being able to get chopped in half instantly like a priest. A paladin would have been ideal except that they were not Horde. And so it was settled: it would be a shaman. Orcs had the ugly look of anger while tauren looked like cows, so a troll it would be.

And so began the Troll Shaman, Klepsacovic.

In keeping with the traditions of Azeroth, traditions which cross all boundaries of class, race, and culture; he killed boars to prove himself worthy of the second level. He exceeded expectations and after much porcine slaughter he was level three. Soon he would embark on his quest to interact with the elements of the earth and acquire his first totem. But first, he had to fight demons. He was of the Horde, after all. He was also weak, and so first he hunted scorpids and hit sleeping peons, getting lost along the way and failing to find the abundant, roaming herbs of scorpids which crawl majestically along the plains of Durotar, instead contenting himself with stray stragglers, slim pickings when he needed many stingers. When it came time to fight the demons he performed his duties admirably and came away stronger and with a new, but still terrible shield.

It was time to speak with the earth. After much searching, he failed to find the Hidden Path, which should be understandable, considering it was hidden. Instead he found the cruel beings known as Makura, having fallen off a cliff into a gathering of them. For the first time, he met death. But he was resilient and returned to his body, swimming to the distant shore upon which he saw a goblin town which he would learn was known as Ratchet. However his flight from the lobster-men, as the Makura appear to be, took him away from the town and towards the Southsea pirates. They shot him and stabbed him and just as the Makura had done, they killed him. From this day after he would carry a loathing of the pirates and Makura.

It was in this way that the shaman discovered the Southern Gold Road and began his first mapping of the Barrens. But before he ventured fully into that land, he left it and navigated Durotar back to the Valley of Trials, which he promptly completed (the trials, not the valley, how would one finish a place? That makes no sense) and then left for Sen'jin, a nearby troll village.

The events of Sen'jin would wait for another day.

Loremasters, We have a new Quest!

| Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We've done the quests. Hopefully we have read them as well. We should know the history, at least up to the point that we began. For example, I know the history of WoW for about four years back, perhaps three and a half due to leveling, so I know the world after the changes to Silithus. Others will know before and can say what Silithus once was (from what I've heard, a pile of sand with pretty much no quests and no interesting NPCs; a loreless wasteland).

We must not just remember this, but preserve it. I won't say we should write a history book. Someone should, but it wouldn't be me and it would be hypocritical for me to call for others to do what I will not. But let us gradually write our own histories, when we started, what we did, what we saw, what we experienced. Don't just talk about the NPC-based history, talk about the players as well. What sort of gear did we expect to start MC? How about a month later? What were the memes of the time? How has the community changed? If possible, try to avoid terms like better or worse, but do not stray from potentially negative terms; so if you see the community (or at least your server) becoming more elitist, say so but also provide examples.

Individually we will not have a complete history, but collectively, we might have the world as we knew it. When the cataclysm comes, it will destroy our world, but let us not destroy our history as well. I am glad to see in my previous post's comments that Sojourner has begun the quest.

Over the next few weeks I will begin to chronicle my own history. To avoid boring you excessively, I will try to make it sound more interesting than it was: "I farmed Twilight Cultists for a week straight" would become, "Seeking to bolster my reputation with the Cenarion Circle, I went to battle with the Twilight Cultists of Silithus, looting their corpses for the texts which are so valuable to those who worship the Old Gods, and those who seek to stop them." I apologize in advance if the 'plot' seems convoluted; I have a very distorted sense of time (for example, I still feel like WotLK is a couple months old and that Ulduar is a few weeks old at most, it gets worse as I go further back; BC is only a year old) and my constant alting destroys any hope of a coherent story.

WoW needs historians

| Tuesday, August 25, 2009
When the Cataclysm comes, will we know what was before? Will a new player buy the expansion and never know that Desolace was a barren, demon-scarred land, the graveyard of the kodos? Will they know that we had to save the world already from the Scourge? Will they ever see pictures of the blighted lands and horrific armies? Will they know the dangers we faced entering Stratholme to purge it a second time?

I know it sounds silly, but I do feel as if we have been part of history. It has been human history of a sort and to lose it, I feel like that would be losing part of ourselves. If we cannot show other players what we experienced, can we entirely show them who we are? I know that my play is still shaped by the past.

Will new players know of an age when only warriors tanked? There were no badges, no heroics, only 5-mans with extremely rare epics. Would they believe if we said that we once had resist sets and they couldn't even be made purely through crafting? Would they understand looting hounds?

Will they have heard of the massive gathering of resources for the most recent war against the Qiraji and their Old God master? Will they know that a fire lord threatened the world once before and we had to beat him back? Will they care that we once flew in a frozen wasteland to save life itself?

Is it all going to be lost? I used to think not, after all, we could so easily reenact the events. It wouldn't be perfect, but we could show someone the Barrens and Azshara and Desolace. After the Cataclysm, all that will be left is the screenshots we took and the ideas in our heads. The new stories won't advance the plot, they will drive out the old. A new generation will grow in WoW which will not know of what came before, they will think it was always as it is.

Dumbing Down Stats

Is WoW catering to idiots who can't gear properly? Okay, done with trolling, let's get started.

Removing AP has a lot of effects on gearing. The first I thought up was dumbing down. Ironically, this is a pretty dumb complaint. It's dumb to have people pulling out third party programs when gear drops to see if it's better. That's not complexity that adds depth, it's just an obstacle to play. Removing it is smart.

The effect that I remain worried about is the cross-class use of gear. Non-armor physical damage items often have AP and agi mixed with hit, crit, ArP, and haste. This makes them usable by any class that does physical damage. Without the AP they will become far less useful to the plate classes and become the exclusive of shamans, hunters, druids, and rogues. Is this bad?

Cross-class loot has it's perils. Is this BiS for hunters or for warriors? Oh damn, both!? Alright let's run the numbers on which class benefits most, pull up Rawr. Rewind: why are we opening third party programs instead of playing the game? Maybe all the non-armor items were like this. Oh sure, versatility means simpler tables and less sharding, but any time you take the class designation off an item you open it up to drama and politics. Maybe we are better off going a little big backward. Now strength will be the plate stat while agility is the other physical damage stat.

Moving on to intellect, this really felt like dumbing down. Seriously, we couldn't handle spell power? It makes more boom! Then I realized that it wasn't what I thought. The real change wasn't the removal of SP; it was the changing of intellect. Is int good? How good? Who knows! Open Rawr. Dammit, close that and get back to playing the game. Intellect is agility for casters. It is your crit and your damage, with the bigger mana pool tacked on because you don't burn and regen your full pool in three seconds.

The defense change: I liked having a goal, something that I could get and say to myself "okay, now I know I'm ready." On the other hand, until someone else spent hours theorycrafting and experimenting to find that goal, I wouldn't know it. My precious goal was just another time for someone to not play the game: theorycrafters running simulations and tanks LF tank because they needed more defense gear. It was people not playing the game. I wonder if we'll go the way of druids, wearing DPS gear. That would counter the agi change, hugely simplifying loot tables. Is forceful deflection the future? That might be a pretty fun future.

Maybe this really is all just dumbing down. It's going from DOS to Windows. Oh noes, people who can't remember commands or even look them up (learn 2 refernce book, nubs) will be using computers! And they won't even be weaker computers, they'll have the exact same computers as the rest of us elite users. This is an outrage!

Oh wait... That's not dumbing down. It's a smarter system. It's better. Anyone who would oppose that is clearly an asshole who hates other people or a complete idiot. Some are both.

I sometimes feel elitist nostalgia

| Monday, August 24, 2009
Kids these days... They run into raids with full sets of epics, just like that.

What happened to going into raids undergeared? I remember wiping on corehounds because we were all in half greens. We struggled to get anything better. Running an instance with five people was our version of a heroic, because it could be damn hard when they were tuned for ten people and multiple CC. Oh but in these heroics you didn't get badges. If crap dropped, you vendored it. We still appreciated it, because back then epic mounts cost 1000g and 1g was a big deal. No dailies back then, not even gold for max-level questing. There was only coin drops, vendoring, and sometimes a few silver from a quest.

Rep grinds meant something back then. We didn't stack a dozen dailies on Quel'Danas and get exalted in a few weeks while swimming in gold. We farmed twilight cultists, over and over, and everyone else did too. The rep rewards were bad, but also all we had. Want better gear? Still grind! You need rep to turn in set tokens. Yes, the set pieces required rep. None of this "if it drops you get gear" pansy business. Have I mentioned scarabs? Think of them as extra tokens that don't bind and you need specific combinations of them.

That's not the half of it! We had these things called resistance sets: an entire raid would need hundreds of a certain type for a fight, more for tanks. You didn't get these sets from just any crafter. Oh no, more rep grinds and the mats weren't easy things like leather and elemental mats. These needed dragonscales and silithid crap and frozen runes. What are frozen runes? They were these things stuck on the walls of Naxxramas, used to craft frost resist gear, or to absorb frost damage if you were stupid enough to activate one (or somehow were swimming in them). If you didn't first spend weeks gathering and crafting, you couldn't go.

On the subject of crafting, let's talk enchanting. There were no scrolls. You had to find the enchanter and deal face to face. And bringing your own mats didn't mean a few seconds at the AH. Righteous orbs were hard to get. They were like runed orbs, but more rare, and only found in one place: live side Stratholme. You farmed those because you couldn't afford to buy them, they were too expensive.

CC mattered. Not just as the third boss of MgT. Oh no, this was every other pull. Focus target wasn't an easy matter back then either and sheep would sometimes wander across the room before breaking (out of range to resheep), meaning they found friends.

We had this concept called "waiting for three sunders." It meant you didn't start any damage until the tank had three sunders. What do you mean the other tanks don't have sunder? There were no other tanks!

Dammit, things were hard back then. We earned our epics. Hell, we earned our blues.

Then I wake up and realize, all that stuff that I just called "hard" was really just a bunch of annoyances, obstacles to actually playing the game.

The strangest buff/debuff in the game


On the buff side, it preserves rage. It also triggers a couple talents to generate resources in combat: rage and runic power.

On the debuff side it does a wide range of terrible things to us.
It stops all natural health regeneration. The only exception is troll regeneration at only 10%.
It prevents entering stealth without vanish.
One of the worst is that it gives mobs the ability to track you anywhere for the duration of combat. You simply cannot hide, they always find you.
You cannot eat or drink while in combat.
You also cannot switch between specs, mount up, or use flight paths.

The application of this debuff is also strange.
It may come from attacking a mob and will last until it dies. Or it can come from being attacked, lasing until it dies.
It may also endure even if you are far away and the mob has little interest in you, just as long as it is fighting someone.
It can be applied across an entire raid zone, even to players who are nowhere near the enemy.
Hostile actions involving pets or totems also trigger combat, even if the pet or totem are nowhere near the player; which then allow the NPC to perfectly track the newly debuffed player.

Against NPCs the debuff is non-durational, lasting as long as the NPC 'wants', since given time and distance it will lose interest. The debuff can even be triggered and maintained under odd circumstances, such as destealthing near a sapped mob.
Against players it is instead a short debuff, around 10 seconds, triggered by hostile actions to or from another player. The mere presence of other players will not trigger combat, not even under the circumstances of leaving stealth near a sapped enemy, or even blinding an enemy and simply waiting out the debuff.

Phrases you never hear

| Saturday, August 22, 2009
You can do that, even though you are stunned.
You probably have enough overlords.
This was not a mere setback; I'm totally boned.
I found Mankrik's wife.
Bring your friends to Azeroth, but don't forget to raid outside as well.
My chin says this is time for peace and reconciliation.
Voodoo is perfectly okay in moderation.
If I give you 1000g will you stop robbing my lair?
Crossroads is not under attack!

Remaking old raids

| Friday, August 21, 2009
Let's start at the beginning, with Naxxramas. This was a large and excessively challenging raid at the end of Vanilla WoW. To get to it you'd have to clear MC, BWL, and be well into AQ, which was also a very difficult raid. The gear requirements were incredibly high, the consumable requirements were even higher; it was commonly known that the high end guilds were buying gold in order to fuel their raids, since it's likely that otherwise they'd have barely had time after farming. It was in the aftermath of the farming for Naxx that consumable buffs were reduced to only a few at a time. The result of all this, insane requirements of all sorts, plus being very deep into the raiding content (and this was before there were any side paths, so not even heroic gear), was that almost no one saw Naxx. The highest numbers I've seen are 1-2% saw it at 60.

When the devs put that much work into a raid and no one sees it, it makes sense that they'd give it some tweaking and send it up to level 80. After all, for 99% of players it's not even recycled content, it's entirely new. At the least it's efficient, and since it was an excellent raid, it makes sense to show it to more people. Still, I'm not glad that they removed the old raid; I don't believe in removal of content unless it's replaced by something clearly better. In this case there was no clearly better, since the raid was simply gone. It's not the same as when they fixed up Dustwallow Marsh to make it not terrible; that's adding content or replacing bad content with good content.

Onyxia is coming next. I'm no happier. In fact, I'm less happier. I guess that's more unhappy. Why?

It's hard to make the argument that Onyxia was not seen by the playerbase. I cannot even imagine a vanilla raider who did not see Onyxia. As for non-raiders, I can still see them joining a PUG just for that one fight. She was very popular; people were getting her down and getting heads all the time.

Now she's left behind. People don't do the old raids much anymore. Sure, there are nostalgia or achievement runs now and then, but it's not as if anyone seriously runs them to gear up (except a few people who I suspect are complete idiots).

The argument does remain that they are good content and it would be nice to show them to people again. But is this all that good of an argument and even if it is, is this the way to go about fixing this problem? Let's look at leveling instances. SFK is a pretty cool place, but it's not as popular as it once was. Or for a better example, the late vanilla instances: Blackrock Spire, Scholomance, Stratholme, and Dire Maul. People just don't go there anymore. Why not? Because they are for 68+ and when people hit 68 they run to Outland. The gear is better, the xp is faster, and if don't care about instances being bad Outland has plenty to offer.

Should we remake Scholomance for level 80s or 85s? No. That would be stupid. It would be spending extra effort just to butcher a set of zones (the Plaguelands are inseparable from their instances). So then how do you get people to see the good content? Make it more 'profitable.' One of these is easy: give DKs an XP buff when in the Plaguelands. It makes much more sense for them to fight the Scourge than to forget about their revenge for ten levels to go hunt felboars and help goblins cook disgusting bacon. For all players add some badge-style loot for them, such as trading invader's stones for some blues maybe a corrupter's stone gives a really nice weapon. The minor stones would be for XP and the higher stones could be traded down (though at better than 1:1).

Don't remake the zones, just make them make sense to play in. Do the same for the raids. Remove the XP nerf for raids. Dramatically increase the XP from killing raid bosses and trash. Make it so that running a raid will be faster than questing or grinding, enough so that there is incentive to raid, but not so much that people are just logging in for the raids and then quitting afterward. We had enough of that at 60.

The only major changes I'd make would be to add zone-wise fire and shadow resist buffs so that leveling 60s don't have to grind resistance sets. That was not fun and would be a major disincentive. Also it would be much harder now that they've remade a lot of the FR gear to have, you know, useful stats.

We're never going to get back the feeling of the old raids. Even remaking them won't do it. Too much has changed. New class abilities make the old strategies meaningless or even trivial. The player culture has changed. We have new memes and new adventures and it won't go back to what it was. Nothing will make me look at a pair of lava giants at the start of a raid and go "oh my god, I'm here, I am in a raid!" New players don't need those lava giants. They have their own. They have skeletal horses and abominations and dragonkin.

The nostalgia train doesn't go very far. The practicality train is what can complete the journey. Remaking raids isn't the answer, fixing them up for leveling is.

Worst reason ever to go holy

I suppose there are worse reasons, such as getting into groups despite hating the spec, but this is clearly number two.

I was looking through my bank and noticed I had a few slots used for "well maybe if I get that item with this set of stats then I'll need this to compensate for that and maybe I'll go this spec and need that bonus and..." In other words, wasted space. I decided to fix this.

First off, why do I have an ungemmed, unenchanted 7.5 prot chest in my bank and a gemmed, enchanted 7 prot chest in my bags? I fixed up the 7.5 and ditched the 7.

Alright, I don't plan to be holy any time ever, but if I'm going to have all this holy gear I might as well be able to use it. So I go poking around set bonuses vs. off-set higher level pieces and decide on the set bonuses. Being able to vendor the offset stuff for gold was probably the major deciding factor.

Instant seller's remorse because it hit me: The off set holy stuff matches. Blue pants, blue chest, blue shoulders, gloves that don't match at all. I'd look pretty cool in this stuff! Looking cool outweighs gold, so the tier 7 got destroyed in favor of the off-set stuff. Now I was looking pretty cool. And still needed gems and enchants. Well, I loaded those up, spent maybe 200g, but hey, I'll have a cool-looking set if I ever use it). And then it hit me: I'll never use this. It will look so cool and that will go to waste! There's only one solution:

I had to go holy.

The Complexity of Blackrock Depths

| Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Blackrock Depths is one of the biggest instances in WoW by just about any measure. It has a wide level range, from 48 to 60. In terms of bosses, I count 20 encounters. Think about that, 20 bosses in one instance. I'll come back to the bosses near the end.

The actual floor space of it is huge, comparable to some raids. I've heard rumors that it was originally going to be a raid, continuous with Molten Core; though the first I ever saw it it was capped at 10 players with some quests I believe doable only with 5. BRD is not flat either. It has tunnels which twist and turn and go over and under and all around. There is a river of lava which goes all around the instance, which old-timers will give some special importance (I'll explain it).

BRD isn't just big though. Oh no. It is also complex. It is a city with all the complexity of a city. It has the bank and bar and senate and peasants and I've said this before...

Here's what truly makes BRD unique: it reacts to your actions. This is more than just press button to open door. Oh no, this is about choices and it actually mattering what you choose to do.

Most instances you just kill mobs. Pull, kill. Maybe you go right instead of left or pull an extra group, but in the end you're mostly just killing. BRD has plenty of killing, but also much more. I'll go through these, but it may end up being a little bit spoilerish. Skip the bar and bank sections if you want to discover things on your own, come back if you're not sure if you found it all.

Shadowforge Key
You must die and talk to a ghost to get the starting quest. Once you have the key, it starts to open up choices. You can go through certain locked doors to skip mobs. The biggest effect though is being able to close one of the massive gates along the Dark Iron Highway. Why would you want to block your progress? There's a boss behind there! And another one behind there, and another, and so on. Closing the gate also connects a tunnel through the top of it, allowing access to new parts of the city.

The Emperor
The parts you gain access to do not include the final boss. He was always accessible, if you didn't mind swimming in some lava. Yes, you can get to the end by swimming in lava, a lot of lava.

The room before him has a name I forgot and some giant like those in Molten Core. He's boring and who cares? The room before that is called the Lycaem. This is a huge room, filled with non-elites. Ugh, mindless trash. Nope. They also respawn really fast, so you have to kill and move quickly. You don't just have to cross the room though. You must also find and kill a couple special mobs carrying torches in order to light the fires that open the doors at the other end. This room was very difficult at level 60 and I've never seen a similar mechanic every since.

The emperor himself is surrounded by the Dark Iron Senate. He yells at you as you kill them, though if you pull him first it gets more interesting. Oh yea, and the dwarf with him, that's the kidnapped, brainwashed daughter of the current dwarf king. Do you really want to make her a single mother?

The bar is probably the best part of BRD for ths sheer number of options it holds. There are several bosses in there, but good luck figuring out how to fight them.

One is from breaking kegs, another you must threaten for being a bad guy. The third refuses to talk to you. What will wake up Phalanx? The last is the bartender, but he won't fight you either, he just wants to sell you booze and strangely, alchemy recipes. Oh, and you need to get through that locked door. What do you do now?

You have options. A rogue could pickpocket the key, but the bartender will notice and he won't be eager to sell you anymore alcohol. Try the usual violent route, attacking the patrons, and eventually guards will show up, opening the door while also guarding it. Two options and one not even violent? That's only half! Talk to the succubus and help her make a love potion; after that she'll gladly open the door, in order to seduce one of the patrons out back. Finally there's the semi-violent route: get one particular dwarf so drunk that he causes trouble; the property damage will wake up Phalanx, and also destroy the door in the process.

Find another instance which has four ways to get past an obstacle. And if you're willing to skip the bosses in between, you can get around it by going straight to the Lycaem with some lava swimming, so that's effectively five.

Oh, and there's a band. And a mole digger straight to the bar. These might be related.

The Arena
Yes, the original arena. No PvP in here though. It's a little bit like the events in Nagrand and Zul'Drak, fighting off a powerful enemy, except rather than a contest for gold it's the method of execution (you've committed crimes against the Dark Iron nation). The bosses are random, dropping a mail physical damage set which was quite good for shamans and even hunters back in the day, along with random other loot. Note that the fans above are eager to see you die, at least until you've proven how awesome you are.

The arena is also used for what was at the time, a challenging quest event. As part of the dungeon 2 upgrade chain you did an extra fight in there. It was a chaotic sort of fight, perhaps a preview of the third boss of Magister's Terrace.

The Bank
Open the picture and read it, I dare you. That triggers a randomly spaced boss, though the picture gives a strong hint as to where he is, which might be walking towards you. All those vaults can be opened with keys looted off the Dark Iron dwarves in the instance, though opening too many might alert the guards. There are two secret vaults as well if you can figure out how to get to them.

Ina typical instance, who are the bosses? For the most part they are best described as "no one knows and no one cares." They have no real story or personality. They're loot bags. BRD bosses are different. Okay fine, a few seem to just be generic "this thing is in your path and it has loot" sort of things. Maybe half are like that. But then there's the angry bartender, who would have sold you drinks only moments before, except he had his pockets picked and then was attacked. There's the golem who is the stern but not hostile bouncer, until someone causes trouble. There's the evil crafter of equally evil golems, who you know to kill because you are psychic (you'll get it if you do the quests for BRD), but who also isn't what he seems. There's the arrogant emperor, only too happy to watch you eliminate the legislature. The seven dwarves, who are not nearly so kind as in the story, but will you challenge them in order to break their bonds? How about the terrible architect who seized the claim to chief architect after the greatest designer among the Dark Irons was killed? These are not mere bosses. These are characters you'd expect to see. That they carry loot is a surprise rather than an expectation, for they are something other than mere bags of loot. Where else will you find so many NPCs who have a story and reason to be there?

That's all folks!
Probably not. You think you've done a full clear? You probably missed a boss. Try going down that tunnel. That one over there too. Did you get that area? Did you talk to him? 20 boss encounters, count em! Oh, and next time you come through, try a different path.

If you do manage to run out of things to explore, head upward to Blackrock Spire. Yea, the entire mountain was carved out by dwarves, that's why it all looks like that. Watch out for the dragons, and be careful about wearing a dress...

Loot is temporary

| Tuesday, August 18, 2009
This post has a three-part inspiration. First is common sense and experience (if I put an and without a comma they count as one thing); 99.99% of loot I've ever had has been replaced, with the sole exception of what I am currently wearing. Second is this recent post by Shy: Loot Idiotics. Finally there was a recent incident in BRD.

As with many stories of loot idiotics, it involves a hunter.

There we (I'm the feral druid tanking it) are in BRD (yesterday), fighting our way along. The rogue left, not sure why, but I was glad because he was a jerk. You know the type, elitist who thinks that because he's in a raiding guild it means he's perfect. Oh, and he absolutely refused to assist me; as in I asked him to and he outright said no. Then he bashed my gear.

The bartender dies and oh, it's a glorious day to be a druid, Mixologist's Tunic drops. The hunter outrolled me. Okay. Stay calm. Sure it's leather and not mail and would have been a pretty big upgrade, but who knows, maybe he was wearing mail of the whale. Turns out he was wearing leather, same agility, slightly less stam, in other words, pretty small gain. He left before I had a chance to call him out on it.


This morning I run again. It starts out poorly because the leader assumes that one of the druids or the paladin will heal. I guess he doesn't understand what the little symbols in LFG mean. Eventually we found a druid healer, after the dumb leader left. The run was going well, all the way p to the bar. It kept going well there too. The chest drops. Woo!

Wait. Let's back up a few bosses.

The hunter got the mail chest with agi/str/stam off the boss before the golem boss. The guy who calls for help and then reservists come and gank healers who stand in the wrong spot. In other words, the hunter used my stolen chest for about one day. Talk about temporary.

Chest drops, woo! Right? Let's back up a few hours.

There's my paladin in Dalaran, seeing what she can get with badges. Not much yet. I guess 7 is below the minimum cost of triumph toys. I can't decide on anything for conquest badges either, though I have enough to buy one of anything, or maybe two cheap items. Anything new for valor or heroic? Not really. Aha, I'll get the leather AP chest for my hunter, rogue, and druid and shaman when they're specced for it. I downgraded 20 valor and spent the last of my heroism and voila. My shaman enchanted it and I was ready to go.

In other words, if I'd gotten the chest instead of the hunter, it would have also lasted about a day.

We greeded, the resto druid won it. Now some vendor is probably wearing it, hoping someone will sell an upgrade to him.

In the next couple days I'll be back to my series on the balance between games and worlds, talking about my favorite instance: Blackrock Depths.

Grouping Wrong part 2

| Monday, August 17, 2009
The previous post started the story of a hunter pushing for a fury warrior to tank and an apparently feral druid to heal. To me this was an example of how being a game can interfere with being a world (or is it the reverse?), but also how we refuse to RP even when it's starting us in the face.

What do specs do for us?
The main thing is they make us different from each other. Our characters are slightly more special. This would be a pull towards the world side. The cost is that while fury can DPS better, protection would tank better. If the content is difficult enough, this distinction will matter to the players and in this case, prevent us from playing. The world came at the cost of the game.

Why do we pick our specs?
Even with relatively cheap respecs (50g isn't so much now that we can get that from a handful of dailies) and dual-spec, spec means something. I don't believe that most players pick their spec because it best fits the gear they have, but instead because that's what they want. In a way, the spec is who they are. It's a character identity. It's an invitation to RP.

It's not all that hard either. We don't have to imagine anything or pretend, we can simply say that we're not tanks or healers or DPS. For RP we might say it a bit more; we cannot bear to hold the lives of others in our hands, or we do not love the violence of DPS, or we lack the courage to stand between certain destruction and our group. Or we can just say we don't like doing that. Whatever we choose to say, we don't have to pretend much, since the choice of our character is really our choice as RL people.

Should specs go away?
WoW has been steadily moving in the direction of trading world for game. It seems to have been successful, after all, it has steadily gained subscribers (though there are rumors of a slowdown over the past few months). Are specs just another obstacle to the game? In the BRD story it is clear that spec prevented us from playing. Should they go away?

Specs are not the obstacle here. It is player choice. Specs only demonstrate that choice. Someone who doesn't want to tank might be more likely to tank if they weren't fury, but they still don't want to tank. Specs truly are a player choice. In fact, they are a good way to add to both world and game. They make us different (adding to world), emphasize our choices (again, world), and make us stronger at what we already want to do (that's making it a more fun game).

Grouping Wrong

| Sunday, August 16, 2009
Here's the situation: This morning I sold off the oldest and worst of my feral gear. This evening I got tired of going OOM constantly, so I went back to feral. I'm really winning so far, right? Oh, I didn't respec. The 15, maybe 25g annoys me. So I dual-specced. Yes, I spent 1000g to avoid paying 25g. So now I'm feral and eventually find myself in Jintha'Alor in the Hinterlands, because it's an awesome place, though less so since it appears to have received a second massive nerf. The mobs there used to be elite, so it was a sort of outdoor dungeon, which could be frustrating I suppose. Now the kill and gather quests seem to have much lower requirements, which seems dumb since you'd mostly run into the full number while heading up anyway.

Okay, point time: I was forming a group for BRD during this. I invited a warlock first, who didn't seem to quite know the norms of communication for forming a group. This isn't to say he was rude, but that he seemed too polite, perhaps he was new. I wish I'd realized that at the time. Then there was a hunter. Finally a tell from the alt of a DPS warrior, who I told to not bother switching until we had a healer (I also don't summon people to instances until we know there's one open). Then there was the DK who apparently wanted to argue with me that my group didn't just need a healer, since I'm too stupid to figure out on my own that we only had three people in the group.

Still not there yet, here we go: the hunter says something like "last I checked druids healed and warriors tanked." Someone pointed out that I was tanking while I told the hunter to check again because MC was a few years ago. Time passes.

He starts saying how he's healed and tanked as the wrong spec and how we should do what is needed to get the group going. This sounds very nice doesn't it? Also potentially stupid.

Grouping Wrong
Let's pretend that all of this can be quantified, for sake of argument. There is some amount that that the fury warrior wants to do BRD. There is another amount that he doesn't want to tank, or perhaps would be frustrated by tanking or whatever. Point is, tanking would be a negative of fun. If the fun of BRD is outweighed by the unfun of tanking, then it would be stupid for him to tank BRD. He would be grouping wrong. Oh sure, he'd get into the instance and the group, but he'd not be having any more fun than if he was soloing.

Is this selfish? Yes. There would probably be a net gain of happiness if he tanked it and I healed and the hunter got to run along acting important despite being a hunter. But, this is a free world where we choose what to do based on what we want to do and where we submit ourselves to a greater good only at our own choice. It is not sensible to stop having fun at the whims of others for little gain. It's not as if this is a raid and wiping is learning and we're all guilded and working together. It's a PUG which will be forgotten the next day, unless someone is a real jerk.

Tomorrow I'll tie this into the world-game balance.

My Druid's First Honorable Kill

| Saturday, August 15, 2009
Was obtained by killing an AFK flagged warrior in Un'Goro Crater.

Optional Exploration

My shaman finally trained cold weather flying. I pressed jump and took to the skies, soaring.

And then landed and decided I didn't like it much. So now my shaman mostly rides around. It's slower and inconvenient, but I feel much more connected to the world.

I mentioned this to Iapetes and we ended up talking about Icecrown. He didn't think you could ride everywhere there. I suspected you could. Obviously this doesn't include the flying bases. The coastal areas can be reached, one-way. This isn't supposed to sound like he said this I said that he's wrong I'm right. It's not as if he was very insistent, it's just a perfectly reasonable doubt, since the zone is clearly designed with flying in mind.

Exploring Icecrown
I decided to try it out, see where I could ride. It turns out: pretty much everywhere, it's just inconvenient. The paths are not always obvious. Some are loopy or nowhere near a convenient spot. They are mostly unmarked, existing as just open areas in mountains. Finding them was a little bit like the old world exploration: ride until you can't, then try the next branch, see if you can hop over that (jump jump jump jump jump, nothing). The zone map is completely useless, which I loved. The area which looked like it was open was completely blocked.

Getting to Jotunheim (Vrykul area on the west coast) was a matter of finding some unmarked route through the mountains. When I did finally find it, I got that little thrill you get from a first boss kill (not the one you've been wiping on for a month, but maybe a first Attumen kill). I also found routes to all the elevated gates/walls and the DK area. Those weren't very difficult to find, but weren't entirely obvious either and certainly not short,direct routes.

Exploring Storm Peaks
The bigger surprise was Storm Peaks. Most of it can also be navigated by riding. Some quests cannot be done, neither faction base can be reached (Grom'Arsh Crash Site and Frosthold), and obviously no Ulduar; but all the rest can be reached. However the area with K3 is cut off from the rest. Some of the paths are obvious and even marked on the map, but I found a few which were unmarked and hard to find. Some paths also go through elites and overall the travel time is much higher; it could take fifteen minutes to do what normally takes one. If anyone else is able to find more paths, I'd love to read them.

Optional Exploration
This got me thinking of a new idea: Optional Exploration. It's what it sounds like. You can fly all over, but there are paths to discover if you want. Finding them doesn't give rep or XP or gear, but just a little bit of satisfaction. You'll see the zone in a new light, as connected and as more than just a place to do quests, but also as a place where beings live. I felt like I was wandering around like the NPCs might have done while searching for where to make their bases.

I hope to see more zones which are designed for flying, as Icecrown and Storm Peaks clearly are, but which can be ridden around. They are ideal for optional exploration. It's a start, but it could use a bit more.

Go forth and explore optionally! See new sights and wonders! Do what is entirely purposeless, except that it is fun and this is a game!

Why does Blizzard avoid the important question?

| Friday, August 14, 2009
Stop trying to divert our attention! We must know and you must finally tell us:

Will Onyxia deep breath more often?

When travel is hard

| Thursday, August 13, 2009
It's actually more fun.

Here's the story:
My shaman is 77, but for no clear reason does not have cold weather flying. My hearth is Dalaran, I have more than enough gold, but he can't fly in Northrend.

Lately instances have been unusuable due to a lack of additional instances which also cannot be launched and furthermore, have I mentioned that I can't run any instances? The exception was somehow I got into BRD last night using my remote, which I got from my bank using Jeeves. Someone probably wandered into that cave north of Northrend wondering why the hell there was a mailbox and flying robot.

My shaman has a lot of rested XP. I'd guess that combined with quests it will last until 80. When this happens I like to run instances; burn off rested, get some nice gear, meet people. But I cannot run instances.

So what do I do? I farm mobs. I looked up the enchanting formulas which I could farm, and found that three are Icecrown zone drops and three are off specific mobs. Great. I headed over to an area with two of them, near Aldur'thar.

I started in Grizzly Hills. From there I wandered around Zul'drak, noticing that it is an absolutely amazing zone, visually (the quests are good too). Over to the the woods with the crystallized trees (this is what happens when blue dragons explode). It looked amazing, btw. Up to K3 in Storm Peaks, since I might need the FP someday. Tip toe through the mines in pursuit of herbs. Back down to Crystalsong.

I've never before ridden up to the Argent Vanguard. It's a fairly impressive run which is practically invisible from the air. From there I ran through the breach and north towards the tournament, dodging spiders and ghouls, along with bone whelps.

It turns out you can run all along the south ridge of the nothernmost mountains, all the way to where they meet the general area I was going to farm. I wasn't there yet though. I first had to fight my way around the edge of the area to get to the mobs.

I got both enchants pretty quickly. It turns out elemental is really good at making things die quickly, even if they're 2-3 levels higher. Now for the hard one: Cultist Shard Watchers. I'd been to the area, but I'd flown. I had no idea how to get there.

My first path was directly south and then a little bit east through the Desolation Gate in order to find the Horde path up to Ymirheim. From there I hoped to go west onto one or both of level levels of the Horror Gate: Corp'rethar. That didn't work, so I had to fight my way back out of a town filled with hostile and higher level Vrykul.

Time to try the other end. You know the area where you kill converted heroes for the Argent dailies? Yea, that place, across there. Remember how they tend to patrol in groups of 6+ and have MS and a shout that snares? Uh oh? Well I managed to avoid the big groups, picking off 1-2 at a time as they came across my path. It was slow going and sometimes got a bit close.

From there it was up into the mountains again. My first path was too far south and didn't actually get anywhere. The second was further north. It was totally out of the way, running through the various sub-zones around the Fleshwerks. That was just as slow, going mob to mob, pulling carefully, and running on a surprisingly long path. Finally I made it to the top level of the gate, and promptly was rushing to the very edge to avoid the dogs and liches. I ran along the edge to the center with the shard watchers, without incident, though it was a long way down (good thing I don't get virtual vertigo). The view from up there is impressive.

I could have done all this travel in only a few minutes on a flying mount. But what fun would that have been? I enjoyed fighting my way towards a goal. I enjoyed finding a path which I wasn't even sure existed. I've rarely been able to really explore and I was glad I gave myself this opportunity.

I encourage you as well to try riding around and see how much more you can find when you don't skip it all in a flyover. The world is much larger and more interesting from the group.

P.S. I eventually found a path from Ymirheim to Corp'rethar, though it seems to involve a little bit of jumping into an angle until it catches.

[edit a couple days later]
About two thirds down the page; it's a Warhammer review
(Too?) Convenient Travel

Jumping around between WAR's zones is very easy, with Flight Masters happy to take you to any zone in your Tier or below. Being able to rapidly reach the fight wherever it is in the world, or experience the different flavours of each race's chapters with minimal fuss is excellent.

Flight is just a cutscene, however, and even by foot crossing Tiers requires a portal and a load screen. Given my ordinarily gamist leanings I'm loathe to complain about this, but the feeling of a meaningful virtual world is damaged. WAR's setting lacks Azeroth's sense of place, as much as I hesitate to suggest that inconveniencing the player has some value.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this

| Wednesday, August 12, 2009
It all began with me forgetting where I left a comment. It was something to do with SWG and me wondering if it still exists. Hm, how does one find such a vague comment? Of course, Google: "Klepsacovic SWG."

I didn't get that far since Klepsacovic in google lead to "Klepsacovic Larisa meet." Well that's a strange auto-fill. I thought those were generated by frequent search terms. Who is searching for something that hasn't really happened? Oh sure, I'd love to meet Larisa, even just in-game, I'm sure it would be an interesting conversation, but how often are people goggling wishful thinking? Upon further thought (writing is bad at chronology, this is after I've written the rest), maybe it's some mix of my own searches when I lost track of posts and tried to find them.

So, search results from that... Well most were pretty expected; a couple posts by Larisa, some by me, my comments on Gnomageddon and Ixobelle, ooh, link love from a fellow blogger. Thank you, Syrana, several months late. Shaman news.

Shaman news? I definitely have no shaman news. First, I barely play my shaman, let alone post all that much about him. Second, I definitely have no news. News is potentially useful and I will NOT have any useful information polluting this utterly useless blog. The very thought offends and insults me. What can this be?

Aha. A really bad program for finding shaman-related news seems to have gotten the stupid idea that this is a shaman blog. I guess I can't blame it too much, I do have a pretty deceptive address. I do have to feel really sorry for anyone trying to use this to get shaman news; about half the entries are links to what I wrote. Well, sort of links.

A curse upon the non-looters! Yep, that mine. And there is a little picture with the title of my blog in in, a small box that says "Troll Racials are Overpowered" Submitted by... wowrbot? Hm. Click title. Still no author. Aha, finally. Get the full scoop! Read the original at Troll Shaman. I suppose I get credit, eventually.

Now I have no objections to being linked. I love it actually. I appreciate it when people spread my address around for more to see. But I'm used to seeing my name there, you know, somewhere. I won't claim they exactly stole my writing, since they did clearly have my blog name and a link to it. But it felt very indirect, a bit like they wanted people to think they'd created it. Found it, certainly, but not created. I'd mind less if it wasn't in the shaman section. That reeks of bot, you know, aside from the submitted by wowrbot part.

What made it feel less creepy was that they have a giant list of the blogs they follow. 150+ they say. Somehow calling it following and saying exactly who they are following (they have links to the blogs and their title bar picture thingies) makes it feel less like a spider wandered through my stuff and took what it liked. Also sad as it sounds, I almost feel a little bit honored to be in the the clearly extremely exclusive (sarcasm doesn't work well with text) list. And this might be a good way to find more blogs to read.

To end, I poked around the first page of the serch again and found in my archive that I actually wrote a shaman post, with almost useful information. I do not know how to ease my shame.

And my SWG search didn't find what I was looking for. I thought it was on Stabbed Up, but I looked the recent posts there and couldn't find my question. Wait a minute... this is stupid! Why don't I just google SWG and see if it still exists rather than googling to find my question and the response that might not even exist?

Size of World: Perception

| Tuesday, August 11, 2009
How big is WoW? Kalimdor is about the size of Manhattan. But I don't mean 'physical' size. I mean your perception of it. This is important for creating the perception of being in a world.

We can measure size by time. How long does it take to get from here to there? When you can only run, the Barrens are huge. When you have regular riding, it's still pretty big. With epic riding it's still big. Maybe picking the biggest vanilla zone was a bad example. Let's run from Crossroads to Camp Taurajo instead. On foot it's a decently long run. Riding, not so bad. Flying they're right next to each other, no distance at all.

Speed makes the world smaller. When you bring places closer together (at least in our minds) and you lose more and more of the space between you also lose some of the world.

If it's hard to move between places, they seem further apart. Think of running through STV. Look at the area next to Lake Nazferiti. Here's a map. You could take the path curving around or you could take the straight path from one bridge to the next; we're going from the bottom of the lake to Nesingwary's camp. The path is longer, right? By perception, maybe not. Cutting across in your 30s or 40s will lead to a lot of mobs attacking you. Even if they don't daze you, you might find it taking longer as you try to dodge around them. If you are dazed, then you have to fight them.

While it's true that effort is indirectly increasing time, I feel it's worth dividing between your possible movement speed (running vs. mount) and your average speed (mounted vs. fighting). At an extreme example imagine a pack that you could not simply run through, it would automatically dismount you. Or even an area that needed a group to fight through it. Think of an instance; they're actually quite short, even the ones we consider long, it's the fighting which makes them seem long.

There is some mix of blocked and free sight which gives the greatest perception of distance. Too much blocked sight and you have zero context. Too much free sight and then "oh that's not so far away, it's right there." A mix would give an idea that things are some distance away, but nothing is right here within sight.

Grizzly Hills
The terrain there is excellent. The hills and trees and all that break your line of sight, reducing the problem in so many other zones of complete enemies right next to each other(see SMV for some of the worst examples). Sure, the zone could just be bigger, but that means more space to fill in (unless you're a fan of flat, featureless terrain) and more time spent riding around.

The hills and the wolves in them encourage the player to stick to the paths if they want to be safe, but if you're willing to dodge trees and wolves and who knows what else lurking, you can cut across and maybe save some time. Finding a path without a marked path can be tricky sometimes, but you won't find yourself stuck like in Ashenvale where attempting a short cut means a ten minute mob-filled run parallel to the road, trying to find where the random ridges end.

Flying kills size and terrain. You can see everywhere and nothing is far away. Mobs don't phase you. Hills are nothing but sights, not something which actually affects how you move. You pick and choose where to go with nothing in between. Flying effectively removes you from the world, it makes you a disconnected observer rather than someone interacting with the world.

World vs. Game

| Monday, August 10, 2009
Before you read this post, read this one by Larisa. It's a good start to this topic.

There is a balance between WoW as a game and WoW as a world. They can coexist, but there are diminishing returns, so going too far in one direction will have a major negative impact in the other. WoW has been steadily becoming more of a game as time has gone on. It is an excellent game. This is why it is so popular: because it is a good game.

Unfortunately, this has come at the cost of being a world. Immersion has been weakened. How? On what do I base these claims?

Let's start with Larisa's desire for long instances. Raids also come up, both in the post and in comments, I'll leave those for later. What makes a long instance better? Well, immersion. It takes time to get oneself mentally into the world. Not many people can walk into an instance and instantly be in it mentally. Sure, you might be ready to start pulling, but are you virtually living in it yet? Probably not. Ever notice how pinball tables usually have some sort of theme and artwork? Do you care? I doubt it. In the early minutes of an instance it's practically like pinball. With some time you might get into it.

Except something can get in the way: the game. If you have to pull carefully and fight carefully with full attention, you can't notice the instance. Easy trash is essential. Trivial trash. All it does is slow you down, keep you from reaching the boos, but without taking your attention too much, leaving your eyes free to wander and see the art which is a well-done instance. And as you take it all in, you are more able to be taken in by it, immerse yourself in it.

Instance design matters as well. It cannot be a hallway. Or at least it cannot be an obvious hallway. Sadly, this was a problem in many BC instances. They were very obviously hallways with practically no indication of being part of a larger world. You were clearly in a small area, isolated, with no impact on or from the larger world. That's hard to get into.

WotLK does this better. It still has pretty linear instances, but they are loopy and have large areas which add to the instance but aren't part of your travels. Gundrak is a great example, with parts sticking out which don't make you run further or get lost, but which add a sense of scale, that you're in a larger troll city. But even this is not as effective as simple making a big instance.

Enter BRD. I mean that both as fake stage direction and as an order: go to BRD. On your way in, look around at Blackrock Mountain. Now go down, down down down, into the heart of a mountain. Deep inside. BRD is practically a maze and very long. You would have to try to not sense that it is a city. It has a bank, a bar, peasants, forges, an armory, a highway which seems to lead to an even larger area which has its door shut. Notice how it looks so similar to the mountain. This is not an instance, it is a city, a part of a world.

Here's the problem: BRD can take hours to clear and you can easily get lost, even after being in there a few times. The quests go all over the place and there's no clear path. These make perfect sense in a world, after all, could you easily navigate New York by a narrow path with only a handful of turns? But they aren't so good for a game. They are frustrations. In contrast the BC instances were very good as games: straightforward and understandable, with no chance of getting lost (I'll admit people still managed).

This goes beyond instances to the entire game environment. However that will have to wait, since I'd guess the demand for really long instances is about the same as that for really long posts: low. If you get bored while waiting for the next posts on this subject, hop over to Stabbed Up and check out the recent posts about RP. Presumably if RP can emerge from gameplay, so can the immersion of a world, it just has to be properly done.

No longer will I use my mailbox as a bank

| Sunday, August 9, 2009
I'm probably not alone in discovering that mailing items back and forth makes for unlimited bank space. Or if not permanent, leaving them sitting fora month buys time. At only 30c per slot, it's very cheap, even when going back and forth and back and forth and... You get the picture.

The problem though is that it makes it much harder to find items. Does my bank alt have that or did it bounce back? Or did she send it to someone else?

It can be a bit of work too when an item is going to be deleted soon. I have to pull it out of the mail and then resend it. This also means I have to scroll back a few pages to check all my mail and I need bag space to make the switch, which is the thing I lack that makes me use the mail this way.

I don't actually know, but it might also be harder on the servers than a bank. Rather than remembering item and location, it would also have to remember the item, the location in the letter, the location of the letter, the time it was sent, who sent it, whether it was freshly sent or a return, etc. While this wouldn't need to be called up as often as bag information, it would seem to be more complex.

Then there's the issue of auto-delete. It takes two months, how could that be a problem? Well, wait two months and you'll see. A few weeks ago I started playing a lot less due to a very low care cup. Still, I cared enough to not want everything to get deleted. The result was a struggle to find space, scattering items across characters with a small semblance of reason, making some effectively unplayable due to their inability to loot anything. I also gave away a lot of cobalt since it wasn't selling well.

This inspired me though. I decided I would no longer use the mail as a bank. If I couldn't fit it in my bags somewhere, I'd have to find space by selling, vendoring, or finding someone else that could hold it. I actually made a little bit of gold off this, finally getting rid of some items which I'd not bothered to put on the AH. Not thousands, but maybe a few hundred, maybe a thousand.

I must admit that I am still not entirely successful. My bank alt still has a lot of weapon oils and some other miscellaneous items, sent to me by a friend from, well long story. And I've started using the mail as a vendor for trash. While my paladin and DK were farming Jeeves (my paladin finally made it last night and was disappointed to not have a mailbox) they pulled off a lot of trash from the library guardians. I used MOLL-E to send stacks of trash to my shaman. I suppose this isn't too bad since it's very temporary, getting sold off the next time I log in to my shaman (which these days is more than once a month).

How about you, do you use your mailbox as a bank and vendor?

Bring the Profession, not the Class

| Friday, August 7, 2009
No, this isn't a nerf cry for JC or BS or a demand for engineering buffs. Well, it might be a demand for engineering buffs, those tend to just slip into my posts accidentally. But moving on to number two on the daily agenda, I remembered to get more gum. Okay number three, this post.

There was my DK, running around Stratholme. He must run because otherwise he pulls too slowly and the disease kills him. It's the one I mentioned a couple posts back, blocks food regen, pretty annoying. So he has to pull fast so that the self-healing keeps him alive. Strange situation where pulling more mobs is safer than doing nothing. Anyway...

I was thinking, what if I had a Restoration Potion? My paladin doesn't have to worry much about debuffs, removing all but curses with a single spell, so this disease worried me more than usual. But it got my thinking, what if we used professions more to fill in gaps in classes?

No cleanse? Use this potion. Did your friend get sheeped and you can't remove magic? Maybe you're an engineer and can use this. Ah, a locked door and no rogue! How do we get by? Blast it open or get another key. Do you need to keep something rooted but have no druid? Get a net!

It's odd that professions have so much potential, and yet are mostly just a source of more stats or gold. Traditionally engineering didn't bring any great stats but it did have neat devices. It has lost some of these over time, others became too cumbersome or unreliable. Other professions gained little toys here and there, but nothing which would make you think "If we had a BS in this group we could have avoided that wipe." It's a hard target to hit, making professions useful, balanced, desired, but not required.

Moving into the realm of not ever going to happen, what if we could use professions to create sub-classes for ourselves? As my DK used his lightning generator (is it weird that I get excited when it hits me too?) I thought "what if I could more frequently use this?" Then I got thinking about the cloaking device and it all went downhill (though downhill for normal people is often more interesting). What if I could, unreliably, capture an elemental spirit in a device and gain that power, perhaps being able to cast lightning shield on myself or chain lightning? Or capture a demon instead and use it to fuel shadowbolts? Make it some sort of event/quest to create the device, overpowering whatever being you capture. Sometimes it might escape or die or for the most fun, rebel, and then you'd need to subdue it and get a new one. Other classes might do things like a mage blacksmith using a combination of magic and metal to be able to block attacks temporarily (it would be mentally draining to levitate and control the shield).

The best would be if the powers were gained from some amount of cooperation, or domination, of other classes. Kidnap a warlock's imp, bottle a warrior's rage, put a frostbolt in a bomb.

I know, it's not going to happen, but can a person dream?

Thinking about Jeeves

| Wednesday, August 5, 2009
To start off on a light note: I want to be able to have a servant competition between Jeeves and the Barov Servants. Who can cook better? Who can clean down to the last shine and bit of dust gone? And what wins, three undead or a titanium shell held up with saronite?

While farming the schematic, which I still do not have, I started thinking about the fun of it.

First off, do I like grinding? Honestly, it can be fun in moderation. Not fun like exciting fun, but a steady sort of calming pattern. Maybe enjoyable is more accurate. A grind here and there is good.

The grind also increases the perceived value. If I could learn Jeeves at a trainer, I'd value it less. Yes, it's dumb, but it's human nature: we add perceived value to those things which we put more effort into. I like the schematic more because it's not quick to be obtained.

So far all of this makes it seem very internal. I am having fun and that is my fun and there is no influence from other players.

However if after I farmed it, let's say in a week, they stuck the schematic on a trainer for 50g, I'd probably be annoyed. Huh? It makes no sense. I said that the grind makes it more fun and valuable to me and I am certain that my anger is not that other players are deprived of the grind. I don't lose anything since I already have my schematic. So what happens?

Maybe I lose perceived value. The effort I put in changes from added value to wasted time. After all, compare the grind of several hundred kills to the time it takes to farm 50g. Or 100, or 500, point is, gold would be faster. But wait, this is a game, why am I running calculations of opportunity costs for generation of virtual currency? What sort of idiot spends his time trying to figure out he proper way to have fun, to the point that he ceases to actually have fun? I'd keep that sort of person away from my children (if I had any) and society in general (alas, being inhuman is not a crime). Anyway, the added value is lost, pulled down to the 50g value, making the excess just that, excess and waste.

Fine, so I lost perceived value, but does that cover it entirely? Sadly, no. At some point someone, hopefully not me, will mention work. Work? In a game? Yep. Even though I said the grind is enjoyable, it still somehow gets perceived as work. Maybe it is work. Either way, that stupid issue comes up: I worked this hard and someone else didn't, why did they get the same reward?

This seems absurd. Shouldn't a game be fun, not work? If something becomes work, that seems wrong. And yet it is part of that work, that grind, that makes the result more enjoyable. Perhaps it is impossible to have fun without the misery of work; that only by knowing that you are not having fun can you fully realize when you are having fun.

[edit] And in related news, I figured my DK might as well farm the schematic since I had more than enough rested XP to hit 80. Well, he got it, and can't use it because I saw no point in hitting 450 on him. So, too bad for him, I have better uses for the saronite, at least in the short term. Gnomish army knives are green and I have 5 levels to go, I wonder if goggles would end up being cheaper. After I got that, I figured I'd go farm more stuff and at least get XP. He dinged 79. I'm still figuring out how to play as blood, but I have figured out that 1) Dancing Rune Weapon is amazing and 2) I miss having corpse explosion for a runic power dump.

Young Wolvar are polite?

| Tuesday, August 4, 2009
"Nice to meet you, dragon-lady."
The whole trip he was very nice to me, a bit disparaging of the matron, but it's understandable since she probably wasn't much fun in comparison.

I won't spoil anything more, so just know that the Wolvar orphan quests are definitely worth doing. One of my alts will try the Oracle quests.

I'll miss the little guy, but I do wonder, did something go wrong at the Bronze Dragonshrine that the matron thinks we've been gone a week?

What if only quests gave gear?

| Monday, August 3, 2009
Raids and instances and crafting would remain, but as content for quests.

Gear would remain, in fact become even more important, as the primary method of character advancement. Think of it like this: you start out with your usual terrible starting gear. The mobs early on will be easy, but they will get steadily harder. So much harder that you'll either have to start grouping up for quests or... do some easier quests and get gear from those.

There would still be 'levels' of gear, so a blue from WC will be much weaker than a blue from BRD which is much weaker than one from Gundrak. However gear would be primarily from quests or crafting. Instances would exist only for either lore or as places for more challenging quests and resulting better gear.

The result would be that a person in greens would be pretty common, all blues would be rare, and you simply would not find many epics at all. Think of the number of quest epics, that's about it.

What's the point? Well first off, I've recently found that I just don't like raiding. It's a lot of time being told what to do and failing because other people failed (not a bash at them, just the odds are against them). I also love quests. In fact I think I might like leveling more than end-game content simply because it is so much more quest-based. At the level cap you raid or do heroics, at least until you outgear them and then move on to only raiding. Maybe you do dailies, but they're not really quests; more like homework or a job.

Quests are discovery and adventure and lore. You learn more about the world and possibly take on some challenges along the way. What's wrong with them? For the most part, they give pretty poor gear. But that's only relative to raids which are gigantic loot pinatas, except every instead of just getting spun once, you get spun every time you swing, and someone steals money out of your wallet while you're distracted. My point is that quest gear is only bad because other gear is better. Yes, I know that sounded really dumb and obvious, but it has a lot of truth to it. We'd like quest gear more if there wasn't such easy superior gear from raids and instances and we'd not complain about the quality of it because there would be nothing to compare it to, except other quest gear.

I won't pretend this is a breakaway from the loot hamster wheel of current WoW. It's not. However it makes the hamster wheel a lot more interesting and less painful.

A curse upon the non-looters!

| Sunday, August 2, 2009
You know how normal people see sparklies and go "ooh shiny sparklies I wonder what that is?" Okay actually we don't. We stopped doing that because we learned that sparklies mean gold and other good stuff. We learned to click on the sparkly things.

Sadly, some people do not understand the sparklies. They seem to be afraid of them. They do not click and loot corpses.

The result is that I can't skin them and that makes my warlock unhappy.

In semi-related warlock news, a long while back I won Headmaster's Charge. Someone in Ironforge then yelled at me and said I was a ninja. Quite random. Anyway, my DK went into Scholomance yesterday since I felt it was fitting that he should grind Argent Dawn rep. Well, his first kill; up pops the achievement and as I loot I start laughing: Headmaster's Charge. If only DKs could use it, it looks so cool.
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