Blizzard is a Bad Butcher

| Friday, August 31, 2012
I don't think Blizzard has any clue what to do with existing content.  Adding content, that they can do, and they do a great job of it.  But changing anything seems to go badly in most cases.  Perhaps this is what happens when two different design concepts collide.  Older content tended toward the sprawling and complex while newer content is steamlined.  Doing either is easy, but turning a maze into a line is much harder.

A long while back I complained that Maraudon had been sliced up for the random dungeon finder, but in such a way that two bosses were left out entirely.  They eventually fixed it up slightly, moving one boss so that groups will pass by it on orange side.  One is still left out, but it has been my experience that if suggested before the Bag o' Loot boss is dead, players will stick around to kill it.

Was there actually a point in splitting the instance?  I suppose there is some benefit on the technical side to only need to load half the instance, but beside that, it just makes the theme of it a little odd.  It's not as if one side is purely Scourge and the other purely Scarlet Crusaders, so the split isn't even in a particularly good place.  Perhaps they could have had the Crusaders clear out an entire side or alternatively, had the other faction staging an attack on the cathedral, which we attack from behind, thereby creating a non-Scourge wing and a Scourge wing.  Beside that, there is the mailbox problem.  If you open three mailboxes you get an extra boss.  However there are only enough boxes on the Scarlet side, so the one or two boxes on the other side just result in vendor trash and a few elites with a ridiculously high spell resist rate.  It might have made sense to either remove the box (lame) or add another box or two (awesome), the latter of which would have allowed them to add another boss and maybe make the Postermaster set a little less rare.

Blackrock Depths
Splitting this instance into two parts makes sense, given that a full clear can take a solid hour or more.  But they didn't really split it very well.  The lower city may technically have several bosses and could take a decent bit of time, but unless someone drags the group in the opposite direction, they tend to kill the Bag o' Loot boss in a few minutes and then it's done.  Meanwhile an upper run has the complete opposite problem: to do the Heart of the Mountain quest requires, in a single run because the keys despawn if you leave the zone, 12 coffer keys, which do not have a high drop rate.  That makes the upper instance exceptionally long, not just due to having a huge number of bosses, but because the group will want to kill every single trash pack in the entire instance because the key drop rate is so low.  Thankfully, there are the mole machines, so players can move around and not have to run much to backtrack when needed.  Unfortunately, there are the mole machines, and so you might run into a group that worships Bag o' Loot bosses and insists on skipping 90% of the instance.

What would fix this?  First, increase the drop rate on keys.  Make them a guaranteed drop from dwarf bosses (which makes sense!).  That would remove the need to kill everything.  Second, make the hound, rock, and (maybe) arena bosses part of the lower city.  That could be done by putting a barrier around the prison area which is opened using a console near the arena and hound bosses or from the kills themselves. (Da shield be down!  Rise up, Atal'ai!)  Third, disable the mole diggers until the nearby trash has been killed.  People who want to skip to the last boss can still do so, such as players farming for transmog or achievements, if they aren't adverse to lava.

Battle for Undercity
Thanks to the Cataclysm, this quest is gone.  That's right, an epic quest event that is only one expansion old was removed.  The result is that the Apothecaries attack everyone and the Horde apparently does not care at all.

After the patch I decided to check out the new Scholomance.  The new layout was meant to be "less confusing", which makes little sense given that the original was laid out with only minor branching and in my opinion, little opportunity to get lost for anyone with a basic sense of direction.  Of course this means that the new instance is perfectly linear.  And highly scripted.  With scripts that aren't particularly good.  I don't think I'd want to do it more than once.  Ever.

Since I'm talking about the reworked instances anyway, I'll include the Scarlet Monastery, despite it not fitting the theme of failure.

Scarlet Monastery
Chapel Gardens appears to be the new graveyard/cathedral.  It's not entirely clear to me what is going on, but it seemed a bit as if they were trying to clear out the undead from the graveyard.  The flame tanks were highly effective and make me think that the new rule will be to kill that guy first.  The claustrophobic crypt is gone, with the boss just at the top.  Killing him opens up doors leading to the cathedral, and some drunk scarlets.  Cathedral seemed about the same, though aggroing Duran(d) doesn't bring all the trash (lame!).  Overall, this seemed to actually work out, with a very light touch.  Oh and... Lillian Voss makes a brief appearance which explains what was going on it Scholomance, though I still think the events in Scholomance were lame.

Scarlet Halls combines the library and armory.  I can't say I enjoyed them much, but I suspect that's because the originals were exceptionally long trash-fests and they didn't change that much.  These may confirm my "mazes to lines" theory, since the original instances were already straightforward.

Dire Maul
To end on a positive note, the new Dire Maul instances worked out well.  I suspect that this is because they were not changed much, so nothing could be broken.  Consequently, they're somewhat out of place.  The tribute run was tweaked to not need outside materials, which is perfectly sensible given the nature of groups, though it does require a bit more patience and a bit less killing everything in sight than many groups can handle.  East appears entirely unchanged, though this only leads to very minor backtracking.  West and North were cut, with the elves ending up in West (which fits the theme and lore anyway).  Beside that, West appears unchanged, which is just fine if you like a bit of adventure and a break from the hallways, but which involves quite a bit more backtracking than the typical linear hallway.  To be clear, I think the current Dire Maul instances are quite good, they are just clearly from a different time (which is not a bad thing; it gives variety which might otherwise not be present).

Confusing in a brand new way for no good reason

| Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Patch 5.0.4 (or so) is out.  It has a lot of changes.  This post is going to focus on things which I believe are objectively stupid.  This means I'm going to ignore "change sucks" things, such as the new specialization, talent, glyph system which are clearly different and confusing, but I can't yet say that they are stupid.  Let's get to it.

Glyphs: Everything I have is now a major glyph, which isn't the problem.  However there is something odd about minor glyphs now: the category doesn't make sense.  Bladed Judgement is an icon change.  Falling Avenger adds slow fall to avenging wrath.  The first is a pretty benefit while the second is potentially useful.  Focused Wrath makes holy wrath a single-target ability, which isn't merely visual or a slight buff, but a total change to how the spell works.  It might ahve looked odd having three categories of glyphs, but maybe it made sense.  Minor glyphs could do the truly minor things of appearance and reductions in the mana costs of 30 minute buffs.  Major glyphs could do something significant.  Prime glyphs even more so.  Maybe separate those and make one category "improvement" glyphs and the other "tradeoff" glyphs, since there are clear trends of some glyphs simply buffing an ability and others having an upside and downside.

Spellbook:  "What has changed" barely scratches the surface.  In fact, all it really confirmed was that the seals on my aura bar weren't a bug.  Also, "holy power is generated faster" isn't quite right: it's still generated by player actions, but the phrasing makes it sound like it's rogue-style energy that automatically fills up.  Even worse, it appears that the space needed for this worthless tab was freed up by dumping guild perks into the general spell book, creating a nice big mess.

Why does Seal of Truth say "replaces seal of command"?  We've not had seal of command in a long time.  Now I'm just plain confused.

The new spellbook is overwhelming and confusing.  It is good that I can find all my abilities in one tab rather than needing to go through three.  However, why have a huge list of the spells for other specializations?  Tie that into the specialization tool.  While we're on the subject of bad sorting, why are the spells alphabetical?  If I can't find a spell, am I really looking for "A... A... avenger's shield!" or am I looking for that one ability that throws the shield and hits multiple things in which case I'd be better off with the abilities being sorted by effect: damage, healing, buffs, etc.  Furthermore, the information on what other specializations have is scattered too much, with the spec tab giving only the faintest overview and requiring major digging into the pages-deep spellbook to figure out what is different.

"Core abilities" for protection does not include hammer of the righteous, yet somehow finds space to tell us to use holy wrath when no other ability is available.

To end on a high note, Blizzard did finally find a use for that valuable real estate freed up by removing the key ring: moving mounts and pets to their own book.

Cancel that, low note: Reset the damn talent points when you upend the entire system!

Maybe I'll have good things to say later.  Actually, since I'm not having much luck, I'll get to them now: Or not.  I had one, I swear I did, but I forgot it too soon.  And the world server is down so I can't easily look.  Oh here, the "core abilities" thing, that seems nice.  Way to go with that.

Time to stop apologizing for Guild Wars 2 because it's an 'MMO'

Remember the hullaballo about Diablo 3 needing to be always online just to play?  And then the servers would go down and the game that you'd paid for was suddenly unavailable.  People were justifiably unhappy.

And yet the Guild Wars 2 Apologists, or GWAs as I will call them despite probably not needing an abbreviation, they say that the horrible GW2 launch with servers down and logins down and that hideous bugged model of the gigantic-headed short things, is just fine.  Pay money, not play game.

Regarding spam comments

| Monday, August 27, 2012
I have a spam filter on.  I forget to check it often enough.

 It apparently caught some comments. Coreus, Mana Manipulator, Laura, and Umrtvovacz all had comments eaten in the past few weeks (no clue about further back, I think they get auto-deleted after that).  Sorry about that.  They're up now.  Very late.

With that in mind, if you leave a comment and you don't see it, send me an email.  If I delete a comment I will almost always leave some sort of response such as "no trolling", in a terrible bit of hypocrisy, and unless there are many such comments, I leave it only in the "this comment has been removed by an administrator" state, rather than the super-deletion that makes it as if it was never there.

Sometime this week I'll get Guild Wars 2.  Then I can begin making unwarranted comparisons to WoW!  Someday, when another game comes out, maybe GW2 will be my go-to game for bad comparisons.

Thanks for all the comments!  Except the spam comments, I don't want to visit your website.

A better future doesn't mean the past was a hellhole

| Thursday, August 23, 2012
There is nostalgia, the biased view that the past was better.  And then there is the opposite, the biased view that the past was worse.  Note that I am not talking about analyzing past and present and picking the better one, but the biased process of picking one first and then shaping everything else to fit it.

Is WoW a better game than EQ?  I can't say for myself, but it seems so.  Is current WoW a better game than previous incarnations?  For me, no, I preferred BC.  That doesn't mean that I think BC was the perfect game.  It had problems.

Similarly, if you prefer the current WoW, that doesn't mean that all past versions of WoW were terrible hell-scapes of misery.  Nor does it mean that every single change to WoW was perfectly wonderfully better in all ways.

"Everything is better" is just as absurd as "everything is worse."

A good group

| Wednesday, August 22, 2012
I've a weird habit of wanting to complete dungeon quests, even in Blackrock Depths where they appear to have gone out of their way to make Heart of the Mountain hard to complete.  Getting enough keys requires pretty much killing every dwarf in lower and upper city and they despawn on zone-out, so no saving up.  That last part is new, and I don't know why Blizzard would add something to make it harder to complete a quest at the same time that they made it easier to get the quest (used to be out in the Burning Steppes).

I managed to do this on my paladin thanks to being a tank and therefore being able to drag the group anywhere I wanted.  Usually just explaining that the quest they all had needed it was enough.  Other times people just had no clue that I was taking them on the grand tour.  Strangely I never had problems with people just in it for the loot bag at the end.  My hunter did it with the help of two friends I was leveling with: a tank and a healer, so again, we could go anywhere we wanted and didn't need anyone else if they all wanted to leave.

My mage was not so lucky.  She has no tank and healer to queue with, so it takes a while just to get in.  First group had a special flower snowflake tank who wanted to rush to the end, acknowledging that he was skipping every quest and almost the entire instance, regardless of what anyone else needed.  Sadly, there is no "report for being a douchebag" option.  The second group was going well enough, with the tank seeming to want to do the quest.  Alas, I could sense trouble.  The two other DPS wanted a speed run.  That made it obvious that "we'll do the quest after the boss" was just a blatant scam.  I tried to explain that even if they weren't being deceptive liars it was still faster to get the keys before the end boss, but no, he was going to charge bravely ahead to no clue where he was going at all.

Finally, finally!  I got a group.  A group that responded to questions regarding a full clear for the keys with affirmations and references to experience points.  Oh, glorious.  Even better, the tank responded to directions, following me, seemingly recognizing that if someone in BRD knows where they are going, you go along with them, lest you find yourself lost in endless tunnels.  It all went marvelously, with so many keys that we had enough to rob the bank without even needing to loop back after the bar.  Normally I find that we need to do some looping to get enough keys, but nope, plenty.  So we robbed the bank and looped back to the main path to the bar.  Things went well, at least until the bar when the tank had to go after a terrible incident with the Dark Keeper.  As these things go, they went downhill, until I was the only one left.

I decided to stick around.  I had a wonderful present after all: an open bank.  Finally, a new group formed.  With a little bit of confusion on their part, we finished off the bar and the Dark Keeper boozing within.  Four people got the heart of the mountain without needing to spend an hour and a half in BRD slaughtering dwarfs, which I suppose could be seen as an unfortunate loss on their part.  Still, I'd seen how tricky it was to get the quest finished, what with people rushing and not reading, so I was very happy to have been able to help out four people like that (plus the previous four).  We move along smoothly, with people again following directions.  At the end I thanked the tank for that and he thanked me for the guiding and everyone else thanked the tank for tanking.  The healer joined me in queueing for Lower Blackrock Spire.

Our tank didn't know the way and told us to say if he was going the wrong way.  I asked if that was our cue to trick him into doing upper spire too.  The healer said yes and the tank went along.  So up we went.  There were some problems regarding the healer forgetting that if we're not 85 we're not invincible and then a DC.  Still, the boss died.  I then invited them to a rousing game of Jump From Upper Spire to Lower Spire and Hope We Don't Die From the Fall.  We all survived the fall and proceeded to replicate our previous orc-killing success with the addition of troll and ogre-killing.  Things were spiffingly great.  At leat until we were afflicted with Sudden Tank Dropping Group Syndrome.  That resulted in a bit of a game of Two Mages Showing Off Their Kiting Skills followed by Klepsacovic Demonstrating His Total Knowledge of Shortcuts in LBRS, which unfortunately descended into a game of Priest Dying from a Misplaced Jump Onto Hard Surfaces and then Lava.  We got a tank, we killed a boss, then another boss, and finally the last boss at the end.

Sometimes things are pretty good.

And why should I care what happens to you?

| Tuesday, August 21, 2012
An idea was floated by some unspeakables who suggested writing a sort of collective post, whatever that means, about individualism vs. collectivism in various games.  Bit biased from the start, don't you think?

As I see it, collective action relies on the future.  People work together for future results.  They sacrifice for the group for future results.  I give to you because at some point you will give to me.  This works best with small, tightly-knit groups, such as friends and family.  In this form it is a rational exchange.

On larger scales it gets fuzzier.  There is no guarantee of reciprocity, making the future benefit aspect unreliable.  And yet, we still act together.  Usually.  We merge on the highway in the 'zipper' formation, one from the right and one from the left and one from the right and so on.  Except that one jerk who rushes out ahead, nearly causes an accident, and then uses the shoulder of the road.  But that's why we invented police.  On the small scales, social habits will generally suffice, while on the larger scales, we need people with guns.

This was supposed to be about gaming, so fine, let's get to that bit.  The habits and instincts we have in real life also exist in games.  At least initially.  We take the habits of life and apply them as best we can in the game.  Not always consciously, but it happens.  We take turns.  We share.  Over time though, we develop new habits, habits based on the game world.  And as that game world changes, we develop even newer habits.  That's what I'm supposed to be writing about: how the changes to the game world affect collective and individual interaction.

You ain't got no life.
You ain't got no friends.
And I know you want to spend your weekend with 40 people you don't know,
And some guy named Puff telling you what to do!
- MC Raiders, Mindflame Lyrics
WoW has always been a game that you could solo to the level cap.  Certainly there was a neat feeling to seeing 60 near your name, but there's 60 and then there is 60.  The first one is merely a level higher than 59 while the second is the level where you begin to do awesome things.  In groups.  Groups which you formed yourself.

Before the dungeon finder there was the looking for group channel.  Everyone, from level [something low] to level 60 was in it, looking for groups.  You'd talk to people to form groups and then run to the instance (the latter part perhaps wasn't so good).  Then you'd spend some quality time there.  Or not.  It depended on the quality of the group and whether or not you were doing someplace good or Razorfen Kraul.

This all tended to make players more collective.  When a group took time to form, there was a strong incentive to not have to make a new one.  Quitting at the first sign of any challenge wasted more time than a bit of deadweight in the group.  So you dealt with the deadweight, trying to fix them up well enough to get through the instance.  It was to your benefit to work for the benefit of the group.  Beyond that, since groups were server-based, having a reputation as a jerk wasn't going to look good on your next guild application.

Contrast that with the current grouping system.  The queues may take time, but they take no effort, so the cost of switching groups is low.  At the first sign of a problem you can leave, without explanation, or with a bit of flaming.  The other day I ran into "learn to tank before you queue", whatever that is supposed to mean.  Since the groups are from a pool of many servers, you're not likely to see anyone again, except during some low-population leveling times, so a reputation as a jerk doesn't exist.  Even still, the most someone can do is /ignore, pushing the jerk to another group.  For the individual the problem is fixed, but not for the group.

Manually forming groups also made players more informed about the group and the needs of the players.  The player looking for a Baron 45 run (a difficult quest speed-run of Stratholme which no longer exists) was not going to be in a group with someone who wanted to farm Argent Dawn rep and needed every trash pack dead.  They knew before grouping that they had different goals.  Contrast that with a randomly-formed group where one person wants their loot bag and wants to skip everything (BRD mole machines, I'm looking at you) getting grouped with someone on their first run who wants to do the quests.

The trends are not entirely in the direction of individualism.  There is the deserter debuff, seemingly to discourage players from dropping groups too soon.  I've only experienced that debuff once, in a group where the tank wanted to skip all of BRD while I was trying to do the quests.  The vote kick system allows bad players to be removed and replaced, allowing most of the group to carry on.

However even these are somewhat individualistic.  Vote kicking just means the player requeues and ends up with another group.  Removing them benefits the individual player, but has no benefit to the pool of random runners.  It doesn't help that the vote kick message is not relayed to the kicked player.  "Keeps pulling ahead of the tank" might be useful.  But no, the kicked player has nothing.  They're just suddenly, unexpectedly not in the group anymore, for no apparent reason.  Maybe the other players were jerks, maybe they misclicked, who know?  There is little incentive for self-reflection and therefore little incentive to improve, leaving a bad player still out there, perhaps unaware of his problem.

Even fleeing disaster used to be harder.  Once upon a time you fought with every last ounce of will to prevent a wipe.  Graveyards were further away and there was no mass resurrection.  Now an imminent wipe is easily averted: drop group and you're safely far away, untouchable by NPC and PC.  I don't know about you, but I tended to bond a bit with people who had fought beside me, even if we failed, because it was the struggle that mattered; it showed the character of the player.  Maybe we'd invite that person to our guild.

That's another big thing: guild formation.  These days it seems to take place mostly through spamming invites to my unguilded alts with messages about the guild level.  I much preferred joining a guild based on having played with them, seeing how they played and interacted with others, rather than what level their guild was.  Or if they were jerks, I could yell at them in trade chat.  Then people would know, Raiders of the Twilight Latin Phrase were a bunch of jerks.

I recall an incident in which a guild member had ninjaed a BoE epic staff from a pug.  Since it was the same server there was still the ability to find them and trade it back.  We insisted on this.  We weren't going to have our guild reputation tarnished by someone stealing.  These days, would any guild care about what happens in a pug?  Even The Guild of Adorable Puppy Huggers has little ability to govern behavior in pugs.

There aren't even as many opportunities to help other players.  Once a mage portal to Orgrimmar was a great thing to have, since getting out of Maraudon was a bit of a pain and my hearthstone was set to Light's Hope Chapel.  Now I just get teleported back out to the front of the bank.  A warlock summoning or the group members getting there first meant someone was saved a potentially very long run.  There were those who refused to run, waiting for a summon, and thus did we find the lazy leeches.

All taken together this adds up to a world of individuals.  Some will prefer that.  Some will not.  Some will look at all the changes I list and insist that they are good things.  For many of those I will agree.  For example, teleporting players to the instance, while I was initially resistant, is a good thing, saving a whole lot of time.

Still, all things have costs.  We are placed in groups and lose the benefit of forming a group.  And even when nominally in a group, we are not in a group, merely a set of individuals.  Some revel in this, believing it is freedom.  I believe it is a loss of opportunity.  It is a loss of teaching and bonding, leading to fewer and fewer good players who know how to cooperate.  That's a downward cycle: with no incentive to help the group, we reject the group, acting more and more individualistically, often at the expense of the group, and as others do the same, we see the group more and more as the enemy rather than as the friend.  We comfort ourselves, and no one else, with the thought that we only need tolerate them for a short time before we roll the dice on a new random set of individuals with whom we can group alone.

The lyrics I quoted above aren't quite right.  I may have had no life, but I did have friends, and I was not with 40 people I didn't know.  Though strangely, ever single raid leader I ever had, every single group leader, every single guild leader, was named Puff.  And no one wanted vendorstrike.

Another Torture Quest

| Monday, August 20, 2012
Maybe Blizzard learned from the torture quest in Borean Tundra.  For context, it was a quest in which you're tasked by some mages, who are themselves not allowed to use torture, with torturing information out of a prisoner.  Some people were not happy with this quest, giving us no choices or options, only requiring us to go ahead with the torture, or abandon the quest and the many that followed.

There is another torture quest, added with Cataclysm in the Northern Barrens.  Though that's not the right term.  It's an interrogation quest.  Note the word choice.  Interrogate. The goal of the quest is to get information and it can be done by means which do not involve the use of a neural needler.

Here are the summaries, if you hate clicking on links:
Librarian Normantis on Amber Ledge wants you to use the Neural Needler on the Imprisoned Beryl Sorcerer until he reveals the location of Lady Evanor.
- Prisoner Interrogated
 Question the nearby Razormane prisoner. If he's not there or unconscious, Togrik can revive him for you.
 - Razormane Prisoner Interrogated

Both use interrogated in the quest completion part, but the brief descriptions have a different way of phrasing it.  The Borean Tundra quest only mentions, specifically mentions, the torture device.  In contrast, the Barrens quest gives the more general word of question.  And it means it.

You get five options at first.  One is the predictably ineffective choice of demanding to know who is leading the Quilboar.  Second and third options are punching and kicking.  Fourth is to give food and the fifth is tickling.  All of these options work.  In fact, the last two options, the non-violent ones, work faster.  Apparently no one can resist tickling or criticizing food.  You even get a buff based on the actions you take, though the 'nice' buff isn't very useful.

I wonder what the extra development effort is for this compared to a few jabs of a neural needler.  I suspect it's not a terrible increase in effort.  Enough to not do it for every quest, but I think not so much that it cannot be done more often.  It's only a small change, with no impact on the quest text or rewards.  But small changes, small choices, are important to players, especially when we've got a neural needler and a willfully blind mage.

Hipster Hunter only pulling aggro ironically

| Sunday, August 19, 2012
I'm only generalizing based on a single aspect of appearance ironically.

A panda beats up an orc and human

| Thursday, August 16, 2012
Epic sea battle! (so far so good)
Orc washes up on shore (seems less badass than usual)
Human makes spear (good thinking there)
Orc and human see each other and fight (so far so good)
Panda shows up and with a lot of flashy moves easily kicks both their asses.  Both look dazed and confused. (queue rest of post)

In the past, the cinematics gave some sense of the enemy to fight.  In the original we had the factions and the Burning Legion.  Burning Crusade gave us Illidan and introduced the new races, without either stealing the spotlight entirely.  Wrath of the Lich King gave us Arthas showing off his power while his father's words echoed in his head, perhaps giving us insight into the madness and evil within.  Cataclysm had Deathwing blow up the world.

And now... who is the enemy?  The panda?  He does seem to be what we fight.  And against the panda we are helpless.  Utterly helpless.  Two of the three core races (nelfs as third) are in a hopeless fight for survival in an unknown world, a world manufactured entirely for the pandas, and the pandas rule here.  There is no place for the old ones except as comic contrast to the shiny and new.

[edit] Correction: I listed belfs as third, I should have said nelfs.

Cutting bitches out of my diet

| Wednesday, August 15, 2012
It started with the occasional bit of ironic emphasis while telling stories.  Something something something, bitch."  Then it became something closer to a running joke, but without the humor, or even hint of humor.  A verbal tick almost. Nothing meant by it, which isn't a defense at all, since why something if it means nothing?  Worse, why say something if it means nothing but will be perceived as meaning something, something which you'd not want people to thick you mean?  So, I cut the bitches out of my diet.

I wonder what else there is in speech which "means nothing" to the speaker, but which others hear as meaning something.  I wonder what the cost is of those words.

A weekend of tanks

| Monday, August 13, 2012
I decided to actually record the tanks I run into in randoms for a weekend, to hopefully find that I've been focusing on the negative and things aren't so bad.  We'll see.  In this I'll keep a running tally of the tanks I am in groups with.  I won't just give "good tank" "bad tank", but what I thought was bad, or anything that stood out as good.

Zul'Farrak: Mage
First tank dced, so the feral DPS filled in and did well.  We eventually got a paladin, who also did well.  Pulled quickly, but correctly, and did not skip any quest bosses, even without prompting.

Zul'Drak: Paladin
DK tank was fine, and did not stop just because of little problems like the healer lagging, DCing, or dropping the group.  I mean that as a good thing; I was glad to see a tank who recognized that a ret paladin could do the job well enough and didn't need to sit around for a Blizzard-approved healer.

Zul'Farrak: Mage
Tank wandered off aimlessly, but slowly.  Despite not being able to handle it, pulled most of the stairs event.  He died.  Didn't reseal.  Kept overpulling for what he or the healer could handle.

Stratholme Dead Side: Mage
The warrior tank kept on top of the unending stream of adds.  I won't count this as a bad tank, but the ret paladin wouldn't remove righteous fury and when he died, refreshed righteous fury but not his seal.  We eventually kicked him for being perpetually bad.  I did feel a little bad though, the boss had dropped Banshee Finger and Banshee's Touch and it looked he'd rolled on the wand, not the plate gloves, so I pointed out that paladins cannot use wands.  He might have been kicked anyway, but now I'm afraid he might think he was kicked for a misread loot roll, rather than for being persistently stupid.

Sethekk Halls: Hunter
This was the Group of Endless Turnover.

Stratholme Live Side: Mage
Tank DCed, so a feral DPS filled in.  He didn't have much survivability, but didn't seem to do anything obviously stupid.  Still, it caused some wipes and near-wipes, so the group eventually broke up.

Sethekk Halls: Hunter
The DK tank moved along at a good pace and seemed to know the pulls.  He did not break my traps when I'd throw them onto the mob that fears.  However the healer wasn't very good, for some reason using righteous fury and wearing some strength gear, and seeming to be incapable of healing anyone who wasn't the tank.  But that's  not a tank, so this run is a "good tank" overall.

Gundrak: Paladin
The paladin tank pulled at a good pace, though he seemed to have low aggro generation.  I couldn't find anything wrong with his spec (I once ran into a prot paladin without hammer of the righteous) and he wasn't just running in and auto-attacking one target, so I'll attribute the aggro problems to a gear difference between us.

Actually, while flying around Sholazar for my last farming runs before I get to 80 and Hyjal, I noticed that I have righteous fury up.  That's why I was pulling aggro.  I'm surprised the tank didn't say anything, given my habit of pulling aggro.  I should have noticed, but why would I expect to have righteous fury up?  It drops off when switching specs.  It must be leftover from when I was running a friend through Old Hillsbrad.  I'm a retard.

Culling of Stratholme: Paladin
Bear tank didn't seem to get the concept of constantly moving to get to the next set of mobs.

Culling of Stratholme: Paladin
Warrior tank moved along quickly and efficiently, holding excellent aggro.

Culling of Stratholme: Paladin
Warrior tank moved along quickly and efficiently, holding good aggro.

Utgarde Keep: Hunter
DK tank seemed new and not entirely sure what he was doing in terms of how to hold aggro or how much to pull.  He overpulled right after the first pair of enemies, blaming the near-wipe (he died, druid filled in) on blood boil being on CD, rather than having way too many mobs.  The druid then yelled at him in xbox english.  Yadd yadda yadda, tank didn't pull very well, death gripping melee rather than casters, getting us and himself killed, arguing with any advice.

On a side note, during the run a green grossbow dropped which was a huge upgrade.  Alas, due to having spirit (and agility), I was unable to roll need on it.  At the end, the boss dropped a 2h axe with strength and hit, which I could roll need on.  It seems that Blizzard should tweak their rules so that hunters can roll on any ranged weapon, regardless of the stats, and put strength on our 'ban list'.

The Group of Endless Turnover

| Saturday, August 11, 2012
Location: Sethekk Halls
Time: 5:00 Central Server Time (estimated)
Class: Hunter
Role: Awesome

I want to get the leatherworking patterns, so I've been queueing for Sethekk Halls and Escape From Durnholde on my hunter.  Sethekk pops.  Awesome.

The DK tank pulls.  And then fails completely ay anything remotely like holding aggro.  I trapped one mob, taunted the others off the healer.  Yes, hunters have a taunt.  I don't know why, but I am glad they do.  Mobs died in time for the tank's party icon to go grey, disconnected.

They were kicked.  I saw no reason to do nothing, so I threw a trap on one mob and kited the other to death.  And then did it again a few more times.  Meanwhile the DPS DK went AFK.

I kept going, since it can take a while to find a tank and the healer wasn't complaining, or having to do much.

Finally we got a new DK tank and a mage.  The tank immediately went afk.  I kept going because why not?  We had no problems.  In the meantime I realized that the healer was on my realm.  That was a surprise.  The tank went afk again.  And again.  Eventually someone kicked him.  He'd moved no more than ten yards.

All this led to a druid healer, a hunter, and a mage staring at a boss, wondering if we could kill it.  My pet wasn't talented for tanking so it wasn't going to be able to hold aggro on the boss, let alone the four adds that he summons.  I asked if we should try.  The healer said yes.  So, we went for it.  The boss was at about 15% when we wiped.  We gave it another try, with more DPS cooldowns, and the mage just barely outlived the boss.

With the first boss dead, we finally got a tank and replacement DPS.  The tank then overpulled, grabbing almost the entire next room, including all the birds, a pack with a mob that MCs, and the patrol.  The MC totem wasn't killed, so I almost killed the tank.  We survived.  This was when I concluded that the healer had stolen my job of being awesome.

We struggled on.  After one near-wipe, prevented only by feign death (that counts, right?), I suggested pulling back the mobs that fear.  The tank seemingly did not understanding the concept of "pull back before terrible things happen" when he said he got feared before he could pull back.  This was when the healer whispered me "you made a better tank, haha"  I replied "I should hope so, been tanking since BC."  We friended each other at the end of the run and chatted a bit more about healing and tanking.  I think that's the first time I added someone to my friends list in a few years.  That made me happy.

Second-guessing ourselves

| Friday, August 10, 2012
I've noticed that we as bloggers have a tendency to second-guess ourselves.  We have an idea or opinion and write it down, but before we hit publish we get all worried.  Did I forget a side?  A perspective?  Am I being balanced and objective or just claiming to have the absolute truth and moral high ground?

It's all quite discouraging to see that.  I say we should just go ahead and put out our opinions, right or wrong.  Just like relatives at a Thanksgiving dinner.  Excluding Canada, because they celebrate Thanksgiving wrong and are too polite.

Though I don't actually have much evidence for this.  There is me and my ten million drafts.  Probably less.  I should confirm that figure before I post this.  Sometimes I chat with Syl and she tells me that I second-guess myself too much, but that's probably just her trying to trick me.  You know how those Europeans are, all pretending that they don't speak English no matter how loud I talk and other things like that.

I don't want to just jump out on a limb and act as if my experience is common or representative.  This needs more analysis, more thinking, maybe some other perspectives, such as people who think we're underthinking, or single or triple-guessing.

This made so much sense before I started writing it.  Note to self, don't hit publish until you've given it a few days to work out the bugs.

If zones gave experience

Rather than quests giving experience, zone completion would.  With this model, a zone designated as level 20-25 would take the player from level 20 to level 25, no more or less.  Quests are already grouped into hubs, so give each hub a level, or a level for two hubs, however they need to be divided up to fit the zone leveling.

Obviously mob kills, dungeon quests, and heirlooms are all unaddressed problems.  I'm ignoring them just to focus on the zone leveling idea.

One of Those People

| Thursday, August 9, 2012
My second-most hated activity in groups is silence in response to questions.  Questions like "why did you roll need on that?" or "can we do the boss over here?"  That second question could be answered with body language (pulling the boss over there), so maybe it's a bad example.  The first, well there's where it all began...

*swirling graphic with that sound that I can't quite type, like doodloo doodloo doodloo*

Despite having had it repeatedly demonstrated that every single other tank in LFD is a huge asshole or at best, total noob*, I nevertheless decided to relax a bit and queue as a DPS.  This was, of course, stupid, since dealing with random tanks is not relaxing.  It makes about as much sense as deciding to have a relaxing day at work by assigning all your responsibilities to a two-year-old child.  But I did it anyway, because I am stupid (note to haters: this is a great thing to take out of context, maybe reword to get something like "have a relaxing day at work by assigning all your responsibilities to a two-year-old child.  I did it... because I am stupid.")

*except the one DPS DK who I convinced to tank when the tank dropped and who did well enough and seemed to enjoy it, so I felt good about that.  And the warrior in that ZD run who told someone to take stairs and generally did everything correctly.  There were probably a couple other tolerable ones.  Of course then there was the DK who'd been assigned DPS (no idea how he was queued) and who kept using death grip, responding in /say with "I AM" when we asked if he wanted to tank and who, after we gave permission, then proceeded to do nothing different, including remaining in frost presence.

So there I was, in AN, which might stand for Azjol'nerub, which sounds spidery, so I bet that's it.  Things started off well, with me successfully recognizing that the bear was a druid and therefore I should do might instead of kings.  Then a one-handed mace with agility dropped, causing me to facepalm and wonder why they didn't make it an axe, seeing as agility is a shaman/rogue/hunter stat and all three classes could use an axe.  Also druids, apparently, since the druid tank then rolled need on it.  I told him that it wasn't a druid weapon.  And then asked for mark of the wild, since I'd noticed that my list of buffs wasn't sufficiently diverse (affirmative action gone mad).

This was when I got the no response.  I hate the no response.  Is it a bot?  A child ordered to never ever talk to the pedophiles lurking around every internet corner?  Are they incapable of typing and tanking?  Or are they just an asshole who doesn't think the legitimate point that one-handed maces are not good druid weapons is worth responding to?  Correct responses would have included :"oops, misread that", "transmog", and "sorry, thought I was on my shaman".  Note that the mace lacked any stamina and was lower DPS than his current green 2h.

My first-most hated activity in groups is unnecessary hostility in response to reasonable questions and comments. I interrupt this post to link Big Bear Butt and the remarkable example which he presented to us, seemingly while I was writing this post.

For example, a warrior the other day was at about 12% of damage done (in a 5-man, with other DPS in the 20s) and was disappointed about it, but got mad when we pointed out that intellect is useless to warriors and that his talents weren't chosen well (we said it nicely).  He insisted he needed better gear, which made no sense, since he had at least some quest items (agility ring?  strength? intellect!), meaning that he wasn't undergeared, he was stupidgeared.

Eventually a response comes, something like "no one cares" from the tank and "shut the fuck up" from the healer (in the same guild).  That wasn't on the list of correct responses, which while not an exhaustive list, does cover the general concepts of mistakes and transmog.  I pointed out that it was worse, yielding "duel wield" as a response.  That's when I suggested that maybe he'd mixed himself up with an enhancement shaman, prompting more profanity from the priest.  I should note that despite my searching, the druid appeared not to have used any profanity and may have ultimately just been someone who misread, but was overshadowed by a total asshole of a priest in his guild.

We jumped down the long long hole to the water.  The druid died.  Someone asked how.  I replied "karma".  In the meantime one of the DPS whispered me to stop arguing because they were trying to kick me.  Why?  Why is it that the person who points out that someone is a dick is the one who gets blamed, rather than the dick?  So the druid made a mistake, that's fine!  Say it was a mistake and tell your friend to chill out about the profanity.  I won't say problem solved, but maybe problem sedated.

Who am I kidding?  I really am just stupid, thinking that there is any point to pointing out dickish or stupid behavior.  For every "oops" there are a dozen replies of "shut the fuck up".  It's all just a bunch of randoms in randoms, who don't give a damn where they are or who they play with, beyond bringing along a guildy or two to provide an r-rating for the run.

I started writing this post thinking that I would single out the druid or priest as "one of those people" and complain about the jerks who sneak in to ruin the game for everyone else.  But that would be wrong.  I am "one of those people", the person who won't shut up, keep his head down, and ignore the widespread anti-social activity, ruining the facerolling reward parade for everyone else.  Sorry.

The Old Gods

| Wednesday, August 8, 2012
In your day to day life, how much are you affected by the Old Gods?  Okay, badly-phrased question.  But let's face it, how much importance do we give to the Old Gods in WoW?  Oh sure, the lore nerds can tell us of the various nefarious schemes and their parasitic nature which corrupts everything, but who listens to them?  My point is that they too often seem to be behind the scenes, despite being present at all times.  It's strange to me.

In vanilla it was the Old Gods who had corrupted Deathwing and through him, the black dragonflight.  They were central to a raid and a few instances as well as several zones, ranging from the low-level Alliance in Redridge Mountains to the near-60 Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes.  Through Ragnaros, they controlled the Dark Iron dwarves, which were key to a level 50-60 instance and led directly into the raid against Ragnaros himself.  Most directly, there were the Ahn'Qiraj raids, the larger of which had us directly fighting the Old God C'thun.  Despite this, do we think of vanilla as being the Old God-themed time?

Burning Crusade was of course about the Burning Legion.  Even then, there was a brief, easy-to-miss sighting of something which seemed much like an Old God being summoned in Shadowmoon Valley.  Later, in the Arcatraz, we find an imprisoned minion of the Old God.  They're everywhere.  The Netherdrakes are descended from the Black Dragonflight, being from black eggs exposed to the nether, and are trying to forge their own identity, free of the corruption of Deathwing.

In the Wrath of the Lich King the Lich King took center stage.  And yet, his Vrykul minions were themselves victims of the Old Gods who turned away from their gods as they felt the Curse of Flesh had been inflicted by them, leaving them open to the accept the Lich King as their Death God.  As a human, Arthas came from the effects of the Curse of Flesh on the Vrykul.  Grizzly Hills and Storm Peaks were heavily based on the corruption of the Old Gods, leading into a pair of instances, which themselves led into a raid.  Dragonblight dealt with the Black Dragonflight, leading to the Sartharion raid, as well as the Old Kingdom instance where, rather than the Scourge being the main threat, it is the Twilight Cultists and the Faceless Ones who feature prominently.

Given this context, the complaint about Cataclysm that all this Deathwing and cultist stuff came out of nowhere is absurd.  We've been dealing with the Old Olds and Black Dragonflight all this time, both directly and indirectly.  If there is a complaint to be made, it is that we've had too much exposure, like a recurring background villain suddenly becoming the primary enemy.  Maybe that is the problem, that the entire expansion is so purely devoted to the Old Gods, Deathwing, and their elemental minions.  The Scourge gets some minor notes in the Plaguelands, mostly reinforcing the notion that it has been defeated and we're in the mop-up stages.  I don't remember anything outside of the Blasted Lands that dealt with the Burning Legion.

Previously the expansions had a variety of foes.  They even interacted.  We saw the Legion and Illidan in conflict as well as the Scourge and Yogg Saron going so far as to have a Scourge leader directly mention undeath as releasing one from the Curse of Flesh, which combined with the obsessive use of saronite (blood of Yogg Saron), leads to all sorts of interesting questions.

The Cataclysm is unique in its complete focus on one side and one event.  Vash'jir is about the Naga, minions of an Old God.  Mount Hyjal is about the elementals and cultists, also minions of the Old Gods.  Uldum almost has variety, bringing in a new race and culture, but that too is ultimately about us finding an ally, who is fighting minions of Deathwing and the elements.  Stonecore is also us fighting elementals and cultists to fix the damage caused by the Cataclysm.  And finally there are the Twilight Highlands, dominated by the Twilight Cultists, with a dash of Horde-Alliance conflict.

I don't think this singular focus is good for the game.  It reduces complexity, reducing the amount of interesting lore discussion and debate to be had.  Is the Scourge a greater threat to us than the Legion?  Is it even a potential ally?  What is our fate in the battle between the Old Gods and Legion?  Will we be wiped out if the Titans show up?  This last one is, for now, no, though we came pretty close.  Contrast that with the current battle, in which the Old Gods control Deathwing, the Twilight Cult, and the elementals.  It even seems as if the old conflict between Deathwing and the Old Gods has been pushed aside, as if he forgot that they tried to steal the Dragon Soul.  Now they're all best friends in blowing up the world.

Now Deathwing is defeated, the elements are all fixed, and happiness and sunshine forever!  There are no equivalent questions to what will happen to Bolvar, whether he can truly control the Scourge and avoid corruption.  No questions about what will happen if we keep killing Old Gods, given that the Titans thought destroying them would threaten the world.  Instead we have the dragons becoming mortal and declaring it the age of portals, saying that we're the protectors now, except by all indications, we always were.

Playing for the quest completion sound

| Monday, August 6, 2012
On Friday I wondered about nostalgia, and lack thereof, resulting in comments pointing toward the quest design as a possible culprit.  Maybe they were on to something.

What's the big deal with quests?  Is it the story?  The bonus experience and gold?  The tendency to point toward mobs of approximately our level?  Maybe we simply need the structure, being lost and despairing without it, incapable of figuring out who to murder or not without direction.

Everquest was a game strangely lacking in explicit quests, instead being a sort of "make your own quest" game, by which I mean "kill ten million charizards" (my gut tells me that's a creature from Everquest and nothing I've looked for disagrees).  WoW, being based on EQ, by which I mean it used EQ players as developers, EQ players as players, and EQ everything else, actually didn't always have a lot of quests.  Early leveling had quests, but they ran out and players were thrust into the wilderness of plagued lions and glacial slimes (my gut tells me I made those up and it's usually right).  During testing they found that players preferred the quests to the grinding.  Somehow killing ten snow meese (little-know plural of moose) was okay if someone gave a quest for it.

I propose science.  Using a time machine, go back and beat up WoW developers until they do what we say.

First, remove story.  Reduce quests to nothing beyond "kill # of [thing]" and don't even give a name to the location, just a dot on the map.  See if people still do quests.  Since that's how people quest these days, maybe we can skip this round of developer-punching.  If players still quest, it will suggest that non-story elements are sufficient to drive quest-following behavior, though it does not mean that story does not also contribute.

Second, remove the experience bonus and other rewards such as gold, gear, and reputation.  If players still do quests, then it suggests that non-reward aspects are sufficient.

Continue on, beating up developers and removing aspects from quests.  Remove both story and rewards.  Remove the level-appropriate aspect (vanilla already got that part in a few).  Throw enough science at the wall and something is bound to stick.

And then I'll know why my paladin won't just fly up to the Grizzly Hills and fight bears among the wonderful scenery and beautiful music without a quest telling her to do so.

It's been a while, so where's my nostalgia?

| Friday, August 3, 2012
Raise your hand if you're nostalgic for vanilla leveling.  Keep it up and if you're nostalgic for BC leveling, raise it (you don't have to raise both).  Same for LK level.  Okay, who doesn't have their hands up?  Duck down and hide if you started in Cataclysm.  In my imagination, in which I get to make this stuff up (I love punditry), everyone has their hands up.  Okay Cataclysm people, you can stand up now.  Everyone hands down.  Now, hands up for Cataclysm leveling nostalgia?




I started in vanilla, played pretty much non-stop through the start of Cataclysm.  Looking back, and playing through again, I had fun going through the content again.  I'd even look forward to it.  This wasn't a "I want to get out of the current content", but looking ahead to what was coming.  As Azeroth wrapped up and I ran BRD, I still looked forward to Hellfire Peninsula and Nagrand.  In Nagrand I looked forward to Grizzly Hills and Storm Peaks (I'm cherry-picking my favorites).  But now that my paladin is on the verge of Grizzly Hills, I am thinking ahead to Cataclysm and neither Mount Hyjal nor Vash'jir hold much appeal to me.  Twilight Highlands sounds nice, but that's not for a while, particularly given the 90% experience nerf for previous expansions, so no sticking around Icecrown a bit longer.

I don't know why Cataclysm has not created this sense of nostalgia or fondness for what is to come.  I could try to blame it on my lack of love for the Cataclysm end-game with its heavy emphasis on randoms and dailies.  But that was the case in LK too and I look forward to the LK zones.  Perhaps it is the limited selection, with Cataclysm adding only 5 zones while Northrend contains 8 (I'm not counting Crystalsong or Wintergrasp).  This means less repetition.  Outland has 7 zones, so perhaps it fits.  But LK and Cata both have a pair of starting zones while Outland has only 1, so there doesn't seem to be much of a link between choice of starting area and nostalgia.

Maybe it's the linear nature of the Cataclysm zones.  That makes it feel more like watching a movie a second time than playing a game a second time.  Different classes will play much differently, making the play different as well.  I'll go with that.

Every benefit has a cost

| Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Imagine that I said something like "I think groups were better, meaning more polite and patient, before cross-realm randoms."  Someone will inevitably respond by claiming that I am an elitist who doesn't care about casual players and fifteen hour wait times for dungeons.  And then I'll delete their comment for being worthless crap.

Having single-server groups had a cost in terms of time.  It also had benefits.  Similarly, random groups are faster, but have a social cost.  Some people value one more than the other or may have diminishing returns on one.  For example, I'd gladly trade my instant queues for 15 minute queues (in the form of yelling in trade chat) if it meant that my groups weren't filled with jerks.  Going from group of jerks to not group of jerks is a big upgrade, whereas adding 15 minutes to the wait time isn't a very big deal to me.  If it is to you, then fine, encourage the system that encourages jerks, if that's what you think will maximize your fun.  I will, of course, argue with you.  After all, I am paying the same $15 a month (I've always wanted to be able to say that right back to the "you're elitist and I pay $15 a month" crowd).

We've had the grand experiment with anonymity.  We've seen the proliferation of unrestrained jerkery.  We know have the information to make an informed decision, based on our own personal values, on how much we value one aspect over another.  We know the time gain from the cross realm randoms and we know the social cost of that time gain.  Was it worth it?

Not every cost has a benefit.
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