The Problem with Night Elves

| Saturday, December 20, 2014
A giant crytals space ship crashed into Azeroth a while back. It irradiated a nearby lake and mutated the wildlife. The alien survivors set to work understanding the damage they'd caused. At times this was a violent process, gathering blood samples to study them. As they learned more, they found a way to clean the lake. Moving outward, they worked to inoculate nearby wildlife from the remaining radiation. In further stages they sought to understand the damage and limit further harm.

Contrast this with the night elf method:

Quest Giver: Demons have corrupted the poor widdle bunnies! You have to kill them!
Me: Sure thing!

I go off to kill a dozen demons and return, looking for a reward.

Quest Giver: Demons have corrupted the poor widdle bunnies! You have to kill them!
Me: Huh, must be bugged.

I go off to kill a dozen demons and return, looking for a reward.

Quest Giver: Demons have corrupted the poor widdle bunnies! You have to kill them!
Me: Third time's the charm?

I go off to kill a dozen demons and return, looking for a reward.

Quest Giver: Demons have corrupted the poor widdle bunnies! You have to kill them!
Me: Could you clarify that pronoun there? I think we're having some problems with the "them" that you want me to kill.
Quest Giver: You have to kill all the bunnies!
Me: Sure thing!

I go off to kill a dozen bunnies and return, looking for a reward.

Quest Giver: Demons have corrupted the poor widdle bunnies! You have to kill all the demons. And also some more bunnies.
Me: Why didn't we just kill the demons in the first place, then decurse the bunnies?
Quest Giver: Because I'm not secretly an ambitious demon using you to kill bunnies and my rivals.

Archaeologists should fight only three things: Snakes, Nazis, and Unimaginable Tedium

| Monday, December 15, 2014
Since I can't fly in Draenor and I keep forgetting that I can fly elsewhere and the ores there aren't worthless, I've stopped using mining as my chilling between missions/queues activity. Archaeology has filled that gap. I go somewhere and press a bunch of buttons on my mouse. Sometimes I press my keyboard. My screen fills up with various colors marking off where things might be. It's the world's slowest laser show.
In case you're wondering what prompts the grats in that shot: someone has an auto-grats addon, and I think the other person is being sarcastic about it. Also, I spelled you're wrong the first time. And while trying to write that. I am filled with shame.

But do you see that other thing? Over there. Left. Not my character portrait. Right of that. Up. Those are the words above the picture, not that far...

That's an elemental fighting another elemental. Not a problem, right? Except sometimes they have no one to fight, so they fight me. It's little more than a momentary distraction, but the whole point of this archaeology expedition is chilling. I'm just not in a mood to hit things with my sword.

Most days I don't have to fight to get my artifacts. And I don't even thing I'd mind, but implementation matters. I don't want to fight some over-sized bird or rocks that don't know how to sit still. If I'm going to fight, it better be a Nazi, crypt filled with snakes, or the crushing boredom which is slowly, very slowly, digging up a giant plot of sand, only to find a few bits of pottery from the early 21st century and a taunting note from Dr. Evelius, my archeological arch-nemesis.

Get back to where you once belonged

| Tuesday, December 2, 2014
I have a love-hate relationship with the timer on missions. The missions themselves are fine, good even, but that timer...

On one hand it can make me feel rushed. I have some quests that I want to to, and I have half an hour to do them, otherwise I feel like I'm wasting valuable clicking on followers time. But then there's the travel time, so I don't want to rush out and rush back, or in all my hurry I'd be wasting even more time.

Then they decide to switch it up, they being the mysterious forces that manipulate small events against us. They steal our socks and give us hat hair. This time it's a 45 minute quest. I go out and do a fishing daily and some fishing fishing and a kill everything daily. I have a few minutes to spare. The archaeology site is across the zone, so I'd use up half my time just getting there. So now I wait. Or do I go farm? Maybe hit a few mining nodes? Or just wait.

On the other hand, it can be nice to have that out and back again feel. I'm going on my own mission and I have a particular amount of time to complete it. Having that timer means that I have to think about what I'm going to do. I define a goal, figure out whether I can complete it, and set out to do just that. That can be a welcome change from wandering off and wondering what I'm going to do, only to end up doing nothing because I had all the time in the world to figure out what to do.
The endless outdoor nature of leveling, of chaining quests back to back, doesn't fit well with missions. Either the missions break the flow or there's this glowing reminder during the quest that you're missing something. At the more free form level cap, where activities aren't so often lines of quests, having some sort of structure to the time is to be appreciated.

Brb, phone timer is going off; my alt's missions are done.

The new Molten Core is the first genuinely bad experience I've had this expansion

| Saturday, November 22, 2014
I'm not saying this expansion is perfect, but overall I've had fun and there haven't been many things that I've pointed at and said "this thing is reducing my fun." And then I queued for the Molten Core raid.

I was immediately dropped into a trash pull in progress, and it was not going well. A bunch of bosses were dead already, which made it odd that they were fighting at the entrance. And chat, chat was filled with people yelling. All of it was wrong. Somehow they'd become convinced that AoE attacks cause lava spawns to spawn or clone. Or maybe that AoE attacks did too little damage, which is true, but the better way to phrase that is "focus fire". People spent the entire rest of the raid yelling about how AoE attacks are terrible.

I opted to entertain myself by chatting with someone who had been there in vanilla and understood the absurdity of the situation. I might have also claimed that AoE attacks make Onyxia deep breath more often. I had just as much evidence as anyone else in the raid.

It was a slow, bumbling process of 40 people slowly bumbling their way toward bosses, without any idea of how they worked. People kept yelling nonsense directions in raid chat.

Apparently they'd been there for hours. I was sick of it after a few minutes, but I figured I'd see it through to the end. I got a hat and a mount. Wee.

Then I did things that were fun, such as heroics and follower missions. I'm going to have a hard time picking my favorite heroic, but so far, Shadowmoon Burial Grounds is winning.

We are the Warlords of Draenor

| Thursday, November 20, 2014
Orcs have warchiefs, not warlords. So who are the warlords? Us, of course. We are the warlords.

It was inevitable. We'd spent years gathering powerful magical items, built up reputations, amassed fortunes. And finally, we have our own private armies. People are seeing that when they throw their lot in with us, they get results, and tend not to die as often as when they go alone, or even join a faction. Notice how when followers join they don't say "I want to join the Alliance!" They say "I want to join you."

One could argue that we're more like Colonel Kurtz. We were sent out in an official capacity, and then took our mission to heart, seizing power locally in order to accomplish the goal given by our superiors. And then promptly went insane with power.

However, we are still in direct contact with our factions, receiving intel and the general strategy, rather than being off in the jungle while Sartin Meen tries to kill us. Those are how I interpret quests and follower missions; they can't quite tell us what to do, but they can reward us well and try to point us where they want us to go. However, before you think we are part of the organized military, we don't receive any sort of ongoing material support; it's all based on specific missions, making us appear more like an warlord for hire. Everything else is generated locally, from the production we set up and manage (gathering and work orders).

I rather like this situation. It feels as if we're finally getting our due. We used to run around murdering for trinkets and armor, then get called heroes, but rarely did our factions reward us for our deeds. Now we've set up our own armies and can finally take what we've earned. The mines we liberate send their ore to us. The soldiers we rescue join us. This world that we're pacifying is ours. We are the warlords of Draenor.

The best laid plans fall before the might of the overlooked detail

| Monday, November 17, 2014
I had it all figured out.

I was mere hundreds of experience away from level 100. I had to make it count and I had the means to do it: N.U.K.U.L.A.R. Target Painter. What could possibly go wrong?

I rode out of Telaari Station in Nagrand and found the nearest rare. I got line of sight and painted the area. Not the target itself; the AoE is pretty big.

Ten seconds later the area was covered in ash. A windroc was dead. My skin was charred. And that was it. Redclaw the Feral still lived.

It turns out that this is not a ground-penetrating weapon. It explodes on impact, blowing up everything outside the cave and leaving him entirely unharmed.

I returned to my garrison and resolved to find another rare, outdoors, with no pesky layer of invincible terrain to save it. While I was there I checked on my completed follower missions, and hit 100.

Please stop making exciting zones

| Friday, November 14, 2014
Jade Forest is a nice zone. It's pretty. The story is awesome, particularly on the Alliance side. And I never want to do it ever again.

In the title I don't mean actually exciting, but rather the highly-scripted, frequently-interrupted, linear "exciting" that has been an increasing trend since Cataclysm. Rather than informing us of the need to kill some quantity of reskinned rats, we are instead treated to voiceovers, flybys of things, and short vehicle events. These are all fun, the first time around, when the story is new, the events are new, the flybys are of new things, and the voices haven't yet been reused a few dozen times. I'm not saying Blizzard should higher a different voice actor for every single NPC. At least they don't have people with identical voices carrying on random conversations consisting mostly of hello, goodbye, and their hatred of mudcrabs.

The first time around the breaks in the flow come with a reward in the form of something new. The second time around, they're just breaks in the flow. Even worse, you know they're coming, so it's that much harder to kill into a rhythm of murder. On a related note, I actually like the ridiculous name floats for new enemies; gives it a Kill Bill sort of feel.

I propose a solution: Background Hero Mode.

It is often the case that a scripted sequence features someone in an endless battle, off to the side, barely in the camera. Endless slaughter is kind of our thing, so why not have an option to play as that person? Let the scripted stuff run its course nearby, while you spend the time happily drowning the grass with blood. To spice things up a bit, give bonus xp if you kill a certain number of enemies during a sequence, or let us run some of the off-screen machinery, such as crashing Ogrim's Hammer and carrying boxes while asking everyone nearby if they're going to give them more work.

Best End of Expansion, Ever

| Monday, November 3, 2014
I've had a great time in the weeks leading up to the expansion. It's not because Mists of Pandaria is ending. Maybe a bit... But actually, I think this is due to a few things added during MoP that only recently have I taken advantage of.

Soon before the patch I finished the legendary cloak on my paladin. It was a profoundly anti-climactic moment. I effectively got a legendary for running LFR a lot, and for putting up with the utterly ridiculous need to win two specific BGs for a PvE chain. If it had merely been two generic BGs, or even to win two Pandaria BGs (including the same one twice), that might have been okay. I was glad to get it, but I think I've gotten bigger thrills from finding khorium nodes.

Then I heard that the Brawler's Guild was closing. I misinterpreted this as being permanently gone, or that the entire thing would be scrapped and return in some vaguely familiar, yet wrong form, as happened with Naxxramas, or Azeroth. This led to me spending pretty much my entire weekend before the patch trying to get to rank 10. I managed to do it, beating the paladin the morning of the Monday before the patch. Hexos, the first boss in rank 8, was probably the hardest thing I'd ever done in WoW.

My warlock had tried to get green fire, which meant flying to Black Temple and dying a lot. I'd not expected this to be a skill check. Gear helps, but it's like Hexos: it can reduce the length of time that you need to play well, but you still have to play well for a solid 5-6 minutes (Hexos was only two minutes, but was also even more unforgiving during that time). The result was that she died a lot. And then more. I looked it up and found that this wasn't typically people did with an ilevel of 490.

She had puttered around for a while, never even gone to SoO, barely done any LFR at all. That had to change, and that was the first part of the fun. All this time I could have gotten better gear, but for what purpose? Higher numbers for their own sake aren't that appealing to me. But, when they have a purpose, then I very much enjoy the collecting of near gear. Some time on the Timeless Isle (no idea how long) got her a couple timeless items, one of which replaced a blue. (did I mention that her gear was awful?) Some LFR brought in a necklace, Ordos donated a very nice belt, and a Celestial gave her her first tier piece. I gemmed, enchanted, upgraded as much as I could given my lack of lesser charms of good fortune (she was so neglected that she barely even had the currency they gave out for sneezing).

I flew to Black Temple and proceeded to die a lot. I was doing this fight, not perfectly, but I think pretty darn well, except for my one inexplicably stupid habit of running away from cover and getting killed by a chaos bolt. It was as if I'd were being possessed by a Spirit of Stupid. I yelled at that spirit. Then I ignored it. I focused on my pretty red and purple flags on the ground. "Stay near those flags and everything will be okay", I told myself. I didn't and I died. I explain the fight again, "stay alive and stay near those flags. It's not a DPS race until late in; just survive until then." And finally I listened and I downed the boss.

Now I have green fire. This has the unexpected downside of making all of my spell icons look different than I remember, and all the same. But by golly, I have green fire, a weird title, and an Feat of Strength.

In other news, the price of arcane crystals has skrocketed on Blackhand, for no apparent reason. I knew my odd habit of farming thorium would pay off someday.

The Victims of the Stat Squish

| Tuesday, October 28, 2014
When you hear the One Ring, do you think, "To rule them all?" Well you're wrong! Everyone knows that The 1 Ring is, "Not quite as good as the 2 Ring". Thankfully, it can only be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, which does not exist, so everything is fine.

The 2 Ring is, obviously, "Vastly superior to the 1 ring." It was a glorious sight to behold, with a magnificent 22 of every stat. What paladin could ever say no to a ring with strength, stam, intellect, and agility... and I guess spirit is allowed to be there. Alas, the fires of Patch Doom (6.0) have damaged it. Now it is a mere 10 of every stat. It's not the 10 ring! The 10 ring is a terriying thing to behold. This is just... a joke, killed by so-called "updates". Just like this. REND IS SUPPOSED TO BE BAD. *ahem* The worst part is that they were so close. All they had to do was make it The 01 Ring and everything would be okay.

This brings us to the last one, The 5 Ring. "This ring appears to have eaten the 3 and 4 rings." It has 17 stam, 17 crit, and 17 haste. Add up all the digits and you get 24, which is 6. 5+3+4 is 14 which is 5. Basic math says that this patch ruined everything.

I take it back, there is SO MUCH to complain about.

What's there to complain about?

| Sunday, October 19, 2014
I love a good complain. Change anything and I bet I can complain about it. And that's why the pre-warlords patch has me so angry. I'm at a loss for legitimate complaints. Oh sure, I have a few, but it's just not enough for a frothy-mouthed rage.

As might be expected, I'm a bit peeved about the switching of UBRS. And at first I found it to be terribly boring. Then I remembered an old pet peeve: people who watch TV while playing: paying no attention, making mistakes without even noticing), and generally making me wonder why they're even logged in. I'd become one of those people.

Pausing Netflix, I turned the sound back on, and focused on the game. Suddenly I could heard what I'd been missing, and generally notice. I pulled more carefully, rewired the gun turrets to help us, and soaked in as much fun as I could. Turns out, there's actually a bit of fun to be had. Maybe when it isn't half an instance I'll enjoy it more. In the meantime, it's nice to run a place where I can actually die if I play badly. I need to remember to bring my ring from LBRS to see if I can get a second Vael.

On the other hand, I like how the weird squish-non-squish has screwed up the already-broken tuning of old raids. Everything dies as if it were meant to be soloed, perhaps because Blizzard realized that people are typically running these solo or in small groups. I wouldn't say they're "tuned" for that, not in the sense that they're remotely challenging for such groups. It was fun to be able to just run straight into some of these places and knock them out without trying to rally friends to the cause, what with their annoying habits of having lives outside of outdated raids.

The invasion event was mildly interesting, though also almost an exact copy-paste between Alliance and Horde. Oh no, my filler content wasn't carefully customized for each faction! At this point the Iron Horde seems somewhat generic, but it probably doesn't help that I've seen literally nothing about the expansion outside of the game and whatever I saw on wowhead while looking for UBRS loot.

People in trade are mad about the squish, or some ability being removed, or... something or other. It's an enlightened bunch. Someone claims the squish ruined everything. As best as I can tell, in practical terms nothing changed, except that my Thunderfury, due to a fully-powered proc, seems to work just fine. (I got buffed! Wee!) I am still in the habit of trying to refresh Inquisition. I asked in trade if hunters still need mana; someone replied that they never needed mana. Jokes are wasted on some people.

I'm glad to have an enchanter; strange dust is selling well in pairs, thanks to the Fire and Poetry event, though I'm guessing that will slow down as people finish the quest. And then pick up again as people realize they haven't finished the quest.

Trolls look weird when they run.

Farewell, Brawler's Guild

| Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Since The Great Betrayal soon after Cataclysm, I've been a bit spotty on the raiding front. My rogue did some in Cataclysm, but mostly LFR and I saw nothing outside of Dragon Soul beside a few wipes on whatever the first boss in the first raid was. Mists of Pandaria has mostly been LFR for me, because finding guilds is not my strong point and I'm not interested in PUG raids.

As a result, I've been missing on the challenge high, of failing over and over until I get it right, and then feeling amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't give the Brawler's Guild much attention. The best time to do it is first thing in the morning, which is also the best time for me to forget what I was planning to do.

Then I heard rumors that it would be gone. I misinterpreted this as gone gone, gone forever, Cataclysmed gone. So, with no time to lose, the Friday before patch day, I started Brawler's Guild. And then immediately wished I'd started sooner. It turns out that, despite my ranking as the number one level 90 paladin with a partial Justicar transmog on my server, I couldn't one-shot everything.

It all began with Hexos. In a way, that was a great boss, because it forced me to actually learn how to DPS without paying much attention. A momentary distraction from the pink of death was death. Over the many, many, many attempts, I reworked some keybindings, finally macroed my gloves, potions, and wings together, and stopped clicking rend. Then I died some more, until finally, I won, and then worried that I'd pass out because a pot of coffee does not constitute a complete breakfast. Good times.

 From there I learned that, those things which are fought least are also fixed least. The snake was awful, filled with either bugs or just bad behavior. It would stop for no clear reason and get a stack, one of which is enough to end the fight. It would drop poison directly in its path. I hated that fight, not for being a crazy gimmick like Hexos, but for being a badly-made fight. The fire elemental angered me almost as much, though it at least took fewer tries. The stun would fail and the elementals would seem to go out of their way to run into the fire. But I beat them, and it felt great because it had not been easy and because I'd gotten better in the process.

Then finally the paladin. While it took fewer tries, I think it was a more accurate skill check than Hexos. Adapting movement to a rapidly-changing situation, seeing small changes, identifying the goal, timing, and finally winning a harsh DPS race. That's almost everything someone would need for an actual raid, beside other people.

And yet, there were other people. It had some of the social elements of raiding. There was the begging for a res from the person who had gone AFK and blamed you for dying. There was the delay as other people failed in their own unique ways. There was the every-growing repair bill. And there was the congratulations, because when everyone is trying to get the achievements on the last available weekend, they tend to stick around and recognize each other. We'd offer advice, learn from them, and cheer and smile as they finally beat a boss. It was a temporary crowd, but somehow, this solo activity seemed to bring people together better than LFR.

So here's to you, Brawler's Guild!

Next time, please have more arenas; it's not fun waiting 15 minutes for a fight.

The Long Dark

| Saturday, October 11, 2014
I saw this the other day, looked interesting. Don't Starve had been a good bit of fun, this reminded me of it. Ha. Don't Starve is a walk in the park in comparison.

This isn't a base-building game. You don't get fancier toys as you go along. You might get none, stuck smashing cans of pork and beans, losing precious calories as they spill on the floor. Then you find one, and it is your precious. You sit shivering in your unheated cabin, fixing a can opener with scraps of metal, knowing that the wolf might still be outside.

It mauled me on the way in. I bandaged myself, applied my only bottle of antiseptic, and slept. I woke up hungrier than ever. Outside was a deer carcass, but I lacked the tools needed to gather any meat.

I did what anyone else would do: I walked outside, nearly dead from hunger, shivering, and barely conscious from lack of sleep, and shot my five bullets at the stars.

At this point there's not a lot of content: one 'sandbox' map and no story mode. But I see a lot of potential. It's not a game that encourages wandering, because that's how you end up like the frozen corpses that you find here and there. But you must explore, so it pushes you onward to find food, and firewood, but the cold and fatigue want you to stay here, where it is warm and peaceful. You can be perfectly safe for the moment, and doomed to die if you don't go out to face the wolves.

 I'd say this game is like a small box of legos. There is a lot of potential for fun, but at the moment, you're pretty much limited to a very small spaceship. Note: There are no spaceships, but there is supposedly a secret bunker somewhere with great wealth, which means lots of fire wood.

DPS the targets in this order that is always changing, or we all die

| Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I'd decided to give healing a try again. It was never my strength. I might even dare to say that I am awful at it. And yet, I cannot help but blame how healing is done.

Let us imagine if DPS had a two dozen targets. Each one would need to be attacked within a particular time, hit a certain amount, or else the raid could wipe. These targets would change unpredictably and frequently. There are too many to simply assign a DPS to each one. They have to each, somehow, know which one to damage, and make these decisions within fractions of a second. Meanwhile the healers keep healing their targets, because their healers are too damn stupid to not make their jobs harder.

Wouldn't that be terribly unfun?

With a coordinated group, perhaps it would be doable. With a small group, only five or ten, it would be doable. But when your DPS are dropped into a chaotic mob of uh, chaos, it gets to be more difficult. The mobs move, so you lock them in place, but of course if you lock their positions, then you can't really see what's going on in the fight and it becomes that much harder to predict what little you could before.

My own experience has always been rocky. I'd done it about since I started playing, here and there. I love filling in for a lost healer or a tough spot. As a primary job, I am just not good at it. I never have been. I tended to get mad at it, and yet often got stuck doing it. Something about it just doesn't work with my brain. Maybe it's just a lack of practice. It is not unlikely that a lack of gear causes some problems as well; I only just created an incomplete Timeless set, without a weapon, no trinkets or rings, and so on. I'm sure it adds up to a blue set, but when the tanks pull like they're expecting a healer in purples, I don't see myself as overgeared.

On the plus side, I had a lot of fun trying to figure out macros to make it work. Somehow I had managed to fit all my prot and ret abilities into an action bar and a half. I roll to another bar if I need AoE and some are macroed to fit in extra spells. Holy has not quite managed to fit comfortably. On the plus side, I may find use for my mouseover macros elsewhere; though ironically, they don't work as well when the spells are bound to mouse buttons. For some reason mouseover doesn't work on party portraits when the macros are bound to my mouse.

And of course, above all, it is something new to learn. I like having those things.

The other day I went healing with some friends. One was used to healing, so we made him DPS. The other tanked as usual. I learned that the second-to-last boss in Niuzao Temple does not summon adds if you're alone, and his damage isn't actually that high, so as the last one standing I was able to slowly, very very slowly, kill him for about 10% before my friends told me to stop wasting the time of the PUG people. I granted their request to no longer grace the group with my greatness and switched to ret for the last boss. Somehow having far superior gear in a role that I am more experience with led to a better outcome.

I'll heal some more. Some. 

At least Engineering is supposed to do that, but Blacksmithing is terrifying

| Sunday, July 13, 2014
Copper. Tin. Iron. So far, so good. These are all fairly safe things. What about mithril. Is it dangerous to smelt and work with it in an open setting in the middle of a major city? Or worse, an unventilated room?

Then there's thorium. That's a nuclear fuel. Can you imagine if people were commonly melting down uranium, purifying it, and then making armor with that? What happens to the slag? Do we purify it to get the more or less radioactive isotopes? What about the radium that is generated by decaying thorium? Powdered thorium can spontaneously burn in air at near-normal temperatures, though that's true of many metals. It should have no problem exploding in a forge.

Just to the next expansion and we're working with fel iron. Fel iron? As in, iron that has been corrupted by demonic energy? It's not as if we forge it into something that isn't demonic, making either fel iron bars or felsteel. That is followed by adamantium, which is likely mostly safe, and given the willingness of vendors to purchase it, seems to have some ability to be recycled. Due to its name and rarity, I'd guess that khorium is terribly radioactive or in some way unstable. Why we would then mix that with demon-tainted iron is anyone's guess.

Cobalt. Well cobalt doesn't sound so scary, right? It really isn't, except for cobalt-rich ores tending to produce arsenic when smelted. It is named from kobold (which means goblin). And for some reason, despite being commonly found as a by-product of copper production in real life, it is instead found in pure form and is never seen during copper production. Perhaps it isn't actually cobalt and we've been working with some terrifying other mineral. Or it comes from meteor impacts. But how often do we see meteors? How much more often do we see infernals crash down?

Saronite is the blood of an Old God.

Elementium and Obsidium don't sound like anything all that scary, though it is a little odd that we only discover the latter after Deathwing triggers the Cataclysm. The original elementium was also an extraordinarily rare and expensive alloy created from a variety of materials recovered from hostile elementals. The new version is much easier to find and smelt, but is entirely incompatible, suggesting that, despite having the same name, it is something different. What are we working with? Pyrite is a sulfur-iron compound, which seems dangerous to be smelting, and who knows how we're turning that into something other than poor-quality iron bars.

Ghost iron.

Kyparite, as best as I can tell, is fossilized amber. That's where you get transgender dinosaurs, a stirring soundtrack, and certain death.

Engineering is supposed to be horribly dangerous and irresponsible. But blacksmithing? No one said that it would be hammering radiation, demons, ghosts, and congealed madness into armor.

Cobalt: This one weird ore that can make you lose your mind in just a few minutes

| Thursday, July 10, 2014
Why it was okay that fel iron and cobalt were annoying to find

Once upon a time when leveling took a while, it was not unreasonable to need a lot of a crafting material to level the profession. You'd be out in the world so much that you were bound to get what you needed. Ores such as cobalt were widely-dispersed and tricky to gather without flying mounts. Yet you got them.

Upon hitting the cap, you likely needed the other ores more. So there were more of them. Saronite could come out the wazoo. Adamantium could also come out the wazoo. Meanwhile, fel iron would remain persistent even in higher level zones because it was still needed for high level items.

These are all fine and dandy when you're in a leveling-capping situation. These days, it becomes a problem. You may level out of the cobalt zones before you've naturally farmed enough. Then you're in the saronite-flooded zones for plenty long, a situation made especially noticeable thanks to the level 80 start on Cata, rather than the 58-60 or 68-70 that could fudge the starts and ends of continents a bit. So you have saronite out the wazoo, but there aren't capped crafters setting ten dozen stacks of saronite ore on fire to make a single "Boots of the Pretty Good That Can Get you Started on Raiding".

There are two ways to fix this. One way is to slow down leveling. The other is to replace some saronite with cobalt. My money is on the Third Way: ignore the problem.

Shared Health

| Monday, July 7, 2014
What if groups shared a health pool?

Incoming damage is calculated, and able to be seen, individually (no hiding that you were in the fire). It then feeds into a larger, combined health pool. Overall damage taken in unchanged. If the entire raid takes damage, then the proportional spike is as big as ever. If a particular player takes damage, just as much healing is needed. But, the spikes that hit individual players are proportionally smaller relative to the health pool, giving more time to deal with such things. More importantly, this cuts the number of health bars to deal with by 80%. Now the 25-man raid has as many health bars as a five-man instance.

I'd heal that.

Coming tomorrow, the post you've all been waiting for: Cobalt ore.

That guy who leaves the party and comes back and then pretends he never actually left...

| Saturday, July 5, 2014
It just leaves us thinking that he spent the past two hours in the bathroom.

Apparently at some point I stopped writing posts. I cannot imagine that it was because I had nothing to complain about. Here, a list:

  • Requiring specific BGs for the legendary cloak
  • PvP pet battles
  • My inability to ignore cross-server
  • Healing
  • Not having three specs
  • PvP having a gear grind
  • Not being Horde (I admit it, I think male trolls and female blood elves look awesome)
  • Cobalt nodes
  • The next expansion (nothing in particular; I just get angry at change)
  • My usual bank alt name being unavailable on Blackhand
  • Healers who heal DPS who pull
  • DPS being allowed to talk
  • Groups that don't kill Ahune during the first submerge
  • The valor cap during the Have Lots of Valor in-game event
  • The lack of target dummies for healing

Where does one start? By putting that in another post, of course!

In the meantime, some positive things. I'll try not to make this a habit.

Despite three months to do so, I have not yet been fired. Madison has a lot of farmers markets. I met some cool people. I'm moving to a larger apartment. There is a bag of popcorn just out of reach, so that if I really want it, I can get it, but I won't waste it on a stupid whim (sorry, I might have just slipped into another complaint about badly-implemented 'accessibility'). And I'm still playing WoW, alongside a few other games.

Even if not great, Hearthstone is still really good

| Tuesday, May 20, 2014
I've been having a lot of fun in Hearthstone. I saw the potential for more fun and decided to pay actual money to buy a lot of packs. This increased the fun.

With a flood of cards I was able to fill in a lot of decks, and create a lot of possibilities for new ones. These are no mere Lots of Powerful Cards decks. They have themes, ideas, goals. The cards are meant to work together. While certainly some of the increased fun comes from having a generally more powerful set of cards to draw from, at least as much comes from the greater complexity as I can call on a wider variety of mechanics and find new ways for them to fit together.

At the simple end this just means a rogue Combo mechanic: play one card and the next is more powerful. This creates some same-turn order of operations to consider. Throw in something like a Gadgetzan Auctioner and Violet Teacher and it turns into a spellcasting deck. Alternatively, I could have tried for a weapon-based deck, filled with daggers, poisons, and some minions and affect or are affected by weapons. The latter isn't as much fun for me; it's too direct.

Somewhere in the middle is my warrior deck based on enrage mechanics. It has a lot of minions with enrage and a lot of abilities that cause minor amounts of damage. This makes attacking a delicate matter for both me and my enemy. The minions don't have a great deal of health, so the line between enraged and dead is very thin. Frankly, this deck doesn't work particularly well; I need to get more charge effects in so minions don't just get knocked out after they enter. But it can be a bit of fun.

At the extreme other end is my priest. By itself it isn't particularly powerful. I don't have any cards in it that will win a game. Instead, it's based entirely on stealing my opponent's power. I copy their cards, I mind-control their minions, I clone them, and then I kill them. This gives it an element of unpredictability as I could steal great cards, or terrible ones. As for cloning, I don't know what my opponent might play, let alone when, so I have to guess based on what is on the board and what strategy they might be using. It also means that I have to play two heroes at once: my priest and whoever I stole from.

I love my priest deck. It's an absolute blast, at least for me. I suspect my opponents hate it, because so much of it consists of stealing anything good they have and turning it against them. But that just makes it their own fault. I don't even have Velen, let alone two, so it's not my fault if I cast a Holy Nova for 8 damage and healing.

Vash'jir was the best zone in Cataclysm

| Friday, May 16, 2014
It's like they say, "Second time's the charm." They were too impatient for the third. Anyway, I ran Vash'jir on my warlock. It was pretty awesome.

The first time around I just entirely missed the story. I read the quests, but I never put them together into a complete story. I missed the forest for the greens.

Speaking of greens, it's pretty. I didn't realize just how much better it looks than Hyjal. Of course by the story they're telling, Hyjal is supposed to be a dark, burnt-out, smoke-filled wasteland. It's not a failure to deliver, I just didn't like what they were delivering. In general, my favorite zones are green, orange, or white. Grizzly Hills: green and awesome. Durotar, Silithus, and Barrens: orange and nostalgia-filled. Alterac Valley, Storm Peaks, Winterspring: white and filled with awesome, nostalgia, and excellent music. On the other hand, Icecrown is white, but also very dark, so maybe it's more like grey, and I really only like it because fighting with the Ebon Blade is just plain fun.

Vash'jir is colorful, but not garish. It isn't filled with humming purple crystals. On the other hand, if you pop up to the surface, it's just flat. The island over which we're fighting is a small atoll, of no use except as a naval base to attack Stormwind. It's obviously just a battle for the sake of a war. The water is flat, perfectly flat, without any features at all. Maybe that's lazy design, but it's also perfect for indicating that you are in the middle of nowhere, stranded.

That's the story: war and folly leaving us stranded. I'd somehow managed to miss that this isn't a zone of triumphant victory. It's us sailing off to glorious battle and getting our asses handed to us by a much worse enemy. It's an entire zone of us fleeing for our lives, trying to accomplish a little bit while we can. We're not rescuing lost marines out of kindness, but out of absolute necessity: we have no reserves, no backup, and no army. We cobble together a decent fight here and there, only to retreat when we find that our enemy is orders of magnitude more powerful than we expected. At the end of the zone we lose.

In Hyjal, despite the gloominess of it all, we won, driving out Ragnaros, rejuvenating large parts of the land, waking the ancients, and killing a whole lot of Twilight cultists along the way. It's essentially an unending march toward victory. Vash'jir is a beautiful zone of crushing defeat. Yet, it's not entirely a lost cause. We accomplish a lot while we're there, dealing major blows to the Naga and Old Gods; it's just not enough.

I like a little desperation in a story. I like the feeling that our victory is not pre-ordained, but is something that we will struggle for, and not get the first time around. While Hyjal consisted of us waking up the ancients so they could do the heavy lifting for us, Vash'jir was us doing the hard work, and everyone got creative with everything from improvised explosives to finding air to breathe.

My title might be hyperbole, since I think Twilight Highlands was great, particularly on a PvP server, but Vash'jir is definitely competitive, and makes the other zones look simplistic, ugly, and boring in comparison.

The Cruelty of the Server Transfer

| Friday, May 9, 2014
Transferring characters feels weird. It's like moving, but when you can go back anytime, and you're the people left behind too.

I imagine that, if they could thin, those characters would be rather angry. In the time leading up to the transfer they may have dramatic shifts in their routines. The bank alt is in a rush to move inventory. The farmers stop. The character who is moving shifts into a bag-emptying mode, trying to maximize space for all the things that they'll be ferrying.

The characters may have once been part of an integrated economy. Resources would flow between them. The main always got the profits, or was reserved the right to anything it wanted, but there remained some back and forth. An alt might raise a trade skill, get gold for flying, or some few scraps of gear. It wasn't much, but it was something slipping out of the tight fists of the main character.

Soon before the move, one character after another is forced to mail off most or all of their gold. Items that cannot be sold on the auction house may be liquidated at a vendor.

The flow of resources moves in one direction from then on. It is a black hole.

Once it has moved, the main becomes a white hole. A bank alt is created and resources pour out to it. Other alts may be born, also receiving a large flow of resources. Where once there was nothing, from the main grows a new economy.

Yet, do not mistake this for growth. There is left behind a cast of characters. They once picked, mined, skinned, disenchanted, and looted just as well, if not better, than these new alts. They aren't destroyed, not exactly, but where they once had a purpose, to support the main and to grow around it, they are now disconnected, adrift, and without purpose.

As the cycle repeats itself with the main seeker further, greener pastures, more alts are born and left to rot. Eventually some may be deleted to make room for new ones. Most will be insignificant losses, generic names of generic characters who were never interesting enough to play. For them it is a mercy, created with the intention, but not devotion, to be played. The names recycle, the character spaces open up, and the account goes on.

The server list remains littered with broken character stables: bank alts, particular farming professions, a profession alt who could have been somebody, could have been a crafter. They might, at times, reignite when an alt looks interesting, like a stray gas cloud falling into a dwarf star. For the briefest of moments it may ignite, yet will likely grow dim again.

But once or twice, that cloud was enough to light a spark, to draw in more, and to make a blazing sun big enough to form its own solar system of characters. And then, it too collapses into a black hole as it prepares to leave. And this is a science fiction black hole in which a black hole of the same mass as the star it came from has a greater gravitational pull, rather than less after blasting out a whole lot of matter.

The sequel to the thing that was imitated feels so unoriginal

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014
I finally tried Diablo III. It felt like Torchlight. That is all.

Hearthstone will never be a great game

| Sunday, May 4, 2014
It is, most definitely, a very good game. It might even be the goodest game ever. But great? No. It is not a great game. I do not think it has the potential to be a great game. In fact, as much as I enjoy it, I do not see it sticking around for a particularly long time.

What makes it good?
It's accessible. For the most part, cards make sense. The way they interact makes sense. There is some nuance, but you're never going to get into a two hour discussion of the stack or how casting a spell has (12?) distinct steps. For the most part, if you try to do something, you will succeed, and rarely will you be unsure if you can do it.

It looks nice. Magic: The Gathering online is ugly. The UI is ugly. The cards look ridiculous. In contrast, Hearthstone is vibrant without being flashy. It is easy to see. It is fun to see. It adds a bit of life to the game. Note that my comments about Magic are only about the online version, not the actual physical cards, which are awesome. However, I do not think the offline card game is a direct competitor with Hearthstone. Of course we might wonder whether people will rather spend money on one or the other, but that applies to any entertainment. In terms of time, I think they'd be in different budgets.

What makes it impossible for Hearthstone to be great?

You don't actually play with other players.
Instead, you take turns showing off your decks. I will never react to a player's actions, because I cannot; I am completely pacified until it is my turn, during which my opponent is pacified. I can only deal with the minions that are already on the board, whether mine or my opponents.

"The best defense is a good offense" gets taken to its illogical conclusion. There are no blockers except when the attackers decides to attack that minion. They'd only do that if either A) the minion has taunt and is in the way or B) they want to ensure that the minion cannot attack back at them. Contrast this with Magic where the defender declares who blocks, or not, and is an actual participant in the battle.

The result is that combat is a frantic back and forth, with each playing trying to ensure that minions are not on the board for long. Board clearing effects are common, and yet can seem to accomplish little, given the ease with which a a board can fill up again. And then empty again. It tends make everything unreliable, without really being exciting. "Will he kill all my minions this turn? Or next?"

Play to win.
Given the "take turns showing off" nature of the game, this is a bigger problem for Hearthstone than Magic. The effect may be magnified by the non-physical, no investment nature of it. People have to pay, or worse, befriend nerds, to get their first deck of Magic cards. Since sunk costs aren't something that the human brain readily understands, it becomes easier to put money into the cards. The net result is that I get mad at someone who plays a half-dozen legendaries in a single game, while I have one, that, due to being Harrison Jones, is not all that great (except when I destroyed a shaman's Doomhammer).

Coupled with any sort of pay to win scenario is the care factor. Someone who cares more will pay more, which is likely to increase their interest in the game even further. In addition, someone who cares more will be more willing to deal with the randomness of the packs. If you're only getting a few a week from the dailies, then the luck from those is going to make a substantial difference. If you're buying packs by the dozens, then things will tend to even out and no particular pack's luck or lack thereof will matter. If the game had card trading, then some of the randomness could be smoothed out, allowing lower interest players to still pursue cards they want without needing to burn tons of money on pack RNG or the terribly inefficient crafting system.

How population affects the world

| Sunday, April 20, 2014
Some quests are better with an empty world. The lone hero who saves everyone quests in particular work best when there isn't someone else also around saving the world. Waiting in line just gets to be ridiculous. "Excuse me, sir, but could you hurry things up a bit? I also need to destroy this threat to the world." Kills and spawns can get silly too when you've destroyed the threat to the world, only to have it pop back up again and fight you while you're riffling through its pockets. This gets doubly bad when the next guy in line to save the world has to wait because you've gone and tagged the threat to the world. It's not as if shared kills solve this, as then we end up with a handful of Lone Saviors of the World teaming up to repeatedly kill the threat.

On the other hand, if things are too empty, then quests can get to be too hard. Many quests with elites are of this sort. Many of those are gone. This can still end up looking silly, because the quests were clearly designed for multiple players involved and went from being a significant accomplishment to being lame. I'm looking at you, Jintha'Alor. On a side note, not only was that place tricky to run at level, but it's also the worst Archaeology spot in the history of ever. Quests for mass killing are simultaneously well- and poorly-suited to a high population. On one hand, if those rats/orcs/rarcs are such a problem, then it makes sense that there would be a ton of people hired to kill them. It makes it feel a bit more like a war/magically oversized pest control when you have a dozen people busily killing them. Yet this depends a great deal on the spawn rate: if they come back quickly, then all is good. But, if the respawn is slow, then you have a bunch of guys standing around drinking coffee and yet, none of them claim to be supervising or on break.

Population variance can take a turn for the comical, utterly ruining the quest, but creating an equally-great situation, if only you can see it from the right perspective. For example, Westfall is meant to begin with an investigation into a murder. This should mean the lone player carefully questioning various vagrants, possibly bribing them, a feature that I believe all quests should have. In practice, it means racing people for the opportunity to punch a homeless person. Perhaps not what the developers intended, but it works just as well. And the ragamuffins have a field day.

Neutral Blood Elves

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The other day's post about the factionalism of some Pandaren led to an interesting comment which, among other things, suggested that Blood Elves should be neutral. The idea intrigued me.

It's somewhat of an accident that the Blood Elves are in the Horde. As High Elves they'd been part of the Alliance. Their 'conversion' to Blood Elves was recent. Their joining with the Horde was even more recent, and was not inevitable. There were doubts, and justifiably, that this more-than-devastated nation would be little more than a burden. Surely a Horde that had only recently broken away from demonic influence would be wary of a race that was dependent on demonic power.

In terms of personality, it fits as well. Elves are generally arrogant, and high elves perhaps even more so. Why would they not stand alone, away from the savages and corpses?

They have their own problems, trolls and the Scourge. Remember, BC was long before the Lich King was defeated. Could they really afford to go marching off to someone else's war with the many powerful Alliance armies on the continent? But perhaps that's irrelevant, since they have a powerful buffer zone against the Alliance: the Plaguelands and Lordaeron.

Who would become paladins? I still think tauren paladins sound ridiculous, even though I also think that Sunwalkers are a somewhat logical extension of druidism. There has always been a bit of a push for Forsaken paladins, but those also have various problems, even if they sound cool. Perhaps they'd be the inverse of the Blood Knights: rather than being so dark that even their brethren shun them, they'd be rejected for their embrace of the Light.

Geographically, Silvermoon isn't of much use to Horde players. Undercity already gives good access the north of the Eastern Kingdoms.

Most importantly, it's too late for World of Warcraft. The story already happened, not that that has necessarily mattered; Cataclysm was more than happy to erase player actions, such as killing Onyxia. Players are Blood Elves and I suspect would not react kindly to a forced race change. A splintering, as we saw with Pandaren is possible, but also sets an annoying precedent, because what race could not be justifiably picked apart? Break off the Dark Irons again, divide the orc and troll races, might as well just have every character pick its faction. Someone probably likes that idea.

Future Story
This is where I think the idea shines. Or, gets exceptionally ugly.

Despite regaining the Sunwell, I do not believe the Blood Elves are particularly powerful still. They were hit far too hard and were never a populous group. If no longer under the umbrella of the Horde, they'd end up with a potential enemy: Sylvanas.

I'd love to see this dark... darker.... black hole swallowed by another black hole, but without the huge energy releases from gravitational waves... darkerest turn by Sylvanas. Why should her former brethren not rejoin her? Perhaps the Forsaken could find some use for the Sunwell.

This leads to her army marching right back up along the Dead Scar and her journey to becoming the Lich King-lite is complete. Might the Alliance, seeing the risks of the Forsaken gaining such a powerful source of magic, intervene? Things could turn out ugly for Vereesa.

Alternatively, they just get overrun by trolls and breakaway undead.

Finally got a pandaren off of Turtleland

| Monday, April 14, 2014
Their quests made me angry. I'd make a monk, because frankly, a non-pandaren monk and non-monk pandaren just don't make sense to me. Then I'd play the monk for a bit. Then I'd get bored by the wonderful mix of "you are the greatest person ever" and "you must learn humility" and go play something fun.

I finally decided to go for it. I'm on my new server, so I have no shortage of character slots. I struggled through it all, until finally, I got in a balloon and talked to a turtle. This confused me for a couple of reasons. First, it was a bit out of nowhere. "Our turtle island is dying" didn't seem to come up much. There was some issue with the little element guys, but that struck me as being their own version of Cataclysm aftermath. Second, why had no one talked to him in so long? Surely a little check up would make sense. Maybe some small talk. Or big, slow talk. Perhaps ask permission to mine the copper nodes.

Then I went to a forest and suddenly... the trailer made sense. This was the strange island that the Alliance and Horde washed up on. Of course I then was wondering what ever happened to Turtle Island. Did it just go on its merry way and ignore all the problems in Pandaria? Did it get lost? Maybe I missed a bit of quest dialog somewhere along the line.

I greatly enjoyed getting to Stormwind and talking to Varian. He sold the Alliance very well, as what appeared to be an Azerothian NATO (an attack on one is an attack on all). The brawl, or the aftermath, was perfectly done.

It did leave me wondering through, is Pandaren society screwed? From the sound of it, there are a lot of Pandaren who are leaving to join the Horde or Alliance. Clearly joining one faction or the other, or being totally neutral, strike me as safer situations. In the former, there are allies to back them up. In the latter, each side has an interest in avoiding a conflict, since that could force them into the other faction. Being mostly neutral but losing new recruits to the factions surely must be causing some terrible societal divisions. When no one is joining anyone, then opinions about the factions don't matter too much. But what about when someone's offspring, siblings, or parents, want to leave to join a faction? Just the notion that they can leave, that they can abandon all they knew, can shake a society. Now make where to go not just a matter of choice, but of division, and things get messy. Even without outside manipulations, there would be those who want to promote or disparage a particular faction, and those people surely will not get along well. It isn't yet a civil war, but what is to suggest that it will not be?

Perhaps that's a good sign, when I'm left with more questions and caring what happens afterward.


| Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Falling cow
Flying crow
Waving at the fel cannon below
Flak clouds
Demons surround
Totally worth it, still

Flying high with angry tall women
Making our way to Ulduar
Circling a temple
Drake hopping battle
I remember Titans
In the mountains

Break the tree line and flying is worth it
Notice the tree lines and you're not so sure
Ironforge airport
Wallclimb exploit
Dance with dancing trolls
Until a Cataclysmic hole
And is it worth it anymore?

Flying serpents are ugly and hard to land
The end.

All of these things are not like the others

| Saturday, April 5, 2014
Mr. Child had a fascinating post the other day about the so-called Match 3 style of games. He had some good points, but as they say "journalism is the first draft of history", which is of course not actually applicable here except to the extent that I need to have at least one famous quotation in every post. If you think you haven't seen them, that's because I'm attempting to make what I already say famous, thereby retroactively fixing my posts and allowing me to graduate from junior high. I've been running off a fake degree this entire time, despite having never mastered algebra, European History (section two: 1472-1532), or overuse of homophobic epithets to avoid having them aimed at me.

Anyway, the point I was trying to get at is that Match 3 games are misnamed, since, while the basic gameplay is directed at matching three, that's essentially like saying that World of Warcraft is about autoattack. Sure, it's there, and it was a 95% accurate description of a vanilla paladin (the other 5% was unspeakable things done between judgement cooldowns), but it's also simplistic and missing all the nuance. They really should be called Match 5, so as to correctly convey that matching three is, at best, a set up for fives, and at worst a level of noobishness that makes you unworthy to even own a phone that is clearly smarter than you. (did you know that AMD processors are physically incapable of running Match 3 games?)

In addition, he entirely failed to address the concept of not-Match 3. Consider the game Set. Some of you might know it as the game that is banned. Others might remember when an adult insisted that it have turns, which only makes it worse. If it's real-time then getting none means you're maybe just slightly slower. As turns, if you can't get the totally obvious one that everyone else can see is right there, it means you are stupid, and I hated you for it. Seriously, it's so obvious, how can you have been staring at these for this long and not gotten it? I've already figured out the next three sets and I can't even see the next cards.

In this game there is a sort of matching of three cards. They can be all about the same, such as three cards with three unshaded diamonds of different colors. Or, they can be more different, such as one, two, and three, but one is shaded, another is unshaded, and another is filled in entirely. It can even blow your mind with different colors, shading, and numbers. Like, woah.

Why does a Match 3 not break the mold and add this "all of these things are not like the others"? Obviously in a set of three this is going to be trivial,but that would be a boon to casuals who can't figure out how to keep their board going, and instead whine about "getting screwed by the RNG" rather than being prepared. This gives them a little less to whine about, but the score value can be low, so they aren't competing with their superiors. With so many available colors, this allows for highly-perceptive players to get extremely long matches, further differentiating them from their freakish color-blind inferiors.

Allowing non-matched matches, far from dumbing down the game, is in fact a brilliant way to appease the idiotic masses who 'financially' support games while giving a more complex game to the good players who truly support it with their enthusiasm and disdain for others.

The Joy of Anticipation, Heightened by Preparation

| Thursday, April 3, 2014
As a student, and then unemployed person, I had a lot of time for gaming. I also had a lot of flexibility with my time. I could play pretty much any game at any time. Paradoxically, this would periodically cause me to become very bored. I could do too much and in the midst of trying to decide what to do would give up.

It also meant that, as much as I thought about gaming in general and my experiences in particular, I didn't think much about goals. Since I had so much time I tended to start a game and do... something. Maybe a random? Or conquer a city? It was a sort of aimless wandering. That's an activity well-suited to something like Skyrim, but not for a strategy game or reward-driven MMO (unless you're indifferent to the rewards, which I was not).

Now that I can't play whenever I want I find myself thinking about gaming in a much different manner. It is less generic philosophical rambling and thinking about how awesome I am, and more planning. It's not as if I have particularly limited gaming time. I am still single (ladies...) and my job is a nice 40 hours a week. But it's something that, at any given moment, I am not just not doing, but cannot do. That adds an element of anticipation. The Germans have a word for this, but I'm in a good mood and don't want to sound angry.

Yet the anticipation isn't merely "I will get to play this game". It's about my goals in the game. What do I want to do long-term? What can I do to move toward that? What are smart short-term actions? Are there short-term problems to deal with? In the abstract I suppose this sounds rather boring, like I'm planning an Action Strategy for Leveraging Strengths in Mental-Positive Recreational Activities. In practice it means thinking a about gaming and how cool it is and how cool it would be to accomplish this or that.

For example, I am currently trying to take over the world as Russia (little Novgorod is all grown up). In the abstract that means killing everyone. In particular, it means that at some point I need to directly confront France, Britain, and Castille in a sustained and successful conflict. Before I can do that I need to have an adequate military and economic base. Those mean developing technologies and acquiring land. The land means other wars, wars which I must carefully manage so as to avoid getting pulled into another world war that cripples my country. At an even greater level of detail, this meant trying to grab more land in Asia to connect my mainland with the areas I took from China, since otherwise they are considered very distance colonies and have been producing no income at all for at least a hundred years (I didn't know that this was the reason). And of course I'm always trying to shed war exhaustion, a task made more difficult by my extraordinarily bad reputation (due to the Asian land grab).

During breaks I can think about my empire, what weaknesses it has, what strengths it has, what opportunities are available. Then I can get home and set my grand plan into motion. Sometimes it is promptly ruined by an opportunistic enemy, such as when France attacked my European front with about three times my local army, while I was already deep in a huge Asian war (note to self: refusal of military access does not count as casus belli).

This isn't even an isolated example. In Skyrim I fund myself back into it and having a lot of fun after wondering which skill to make legendary (an ironic name, considering it resets the skill to 15 and strips the points). Then I came home and did that, spending the points from destruction to get more two-handed skills. I did a switch from caster to melee, if you were wondering what that was about.

Now, what to do next?

How to be a Scammer

| Sunday, March 30, 2014
Step one: Advertise to sell something.
Step two: Sell it.

I had some extra heavy junkboxes sitting around for a few years. Since they're a box, they can't go in the AH, so it's a matter of finding someone online that wants them. If you do find someone who wants them and can take many COD over time, it can be a nice boring few hundred gold an hour, depending on what price you get.

Again, I advertised at my usual 25g. Someone offered 20g, which I took. I traded them over and then cringed as I saw it, "so and so looted empty poison vial."

I'd been in the habit of unlocking all my boxes. I could, and did, get a Teebu's Blazing Longsword out of one, so it was a good habit. As long as I kept auto-loot off I could safely and quickly unlock and check them before mailing them off for turning in.

At first I thought he'd mistakenly opened it. Then another opened. I was off to do my pet battles, so I dropped group. Then he whispered me, saying that it is rude to scam people. I asked, "what scam?" Surely someone wouldn't be so stupid as to use a level 60 box as a way to loot gold for the achievement. Surely someone would know what they're buying. And if they don't, they can see that it is their own fault.

The last time something even remotely like this happened involved someone buying a sword for transmog, only for them to realize they couldn't actually use it. They told me this, in an "oops, I screwed up" kind of way. I offered to buy it back, since it's not as if it was damaged just by being traded. They kept it, maybe for an alt. No accusations of scamming.

I'd have even kept the same policy. If he'd said "these aren't what I thought they are", then I'd have bought back the unopened ones. Of course that's unprofitable, but I can see myself mistakenly buying something that is almost what I wanted and I'd rather play in a game, and live in a world, where people offer an undo button. And maybe a world where people don't immediately assume it's a scam when they make a mistake.

Alternative Incentives for Returning Players

| Saturday, March 29, 2014
Giving someone a reward is easy, but does it actually make any difference? I've analyzed all my data on new and returning characters in the top ten MMOs and found no effect. Note: I have absolutely no data. Since the traditional approach does not appear to be working, here are some alternatives.

Here's what changed
There are patch notes and maybe spell tips, but do those help? Of course not. If they did, then players would be all up ins that game.

Instead, give a narrative of what happened. Say which awesome abilities are gone, admit that the new ones aren't as good, and give a general idea of how the class is completely unrecognizable. To go along with this, check the most recent play time of more than ten minutes (that is just confused stumbling, like a drunk man with no light poles), and then say how things are different relative to then. Is your melee class now a spell caster? Does your spell caster use strength for some reason?

Bag Organizer
"What's all this shit in my bags?" Not only does the player not remember putting this stuff in there (reverse-hackers?), they have no idea if it is any good. You come back with three empty slots and end up rage-quitting immediately, or at best, spend two hours figuring it out, only to quit because your first new impression is that the game is a miserable mess of bag management.

To help, give returning players an automated analysis of the contents of their bags. What is the median sell price over the past month? Is this piece of gear better than something you'll get from the new content that drew you back in?

Here's how bad you are
Last time I played I was hot stuff. I was awesome and did cool stuff. Now I'm not sure what's going on. Rather than surprise players by leaving them to get horribly stomped in PvP and perhaps PvE as well, just bluntly inform them that on a scale of one to ten, their gear is now a zero. Then show them some options on fixing that, such as "go to noob island of free epics to get up to two" or "die a lot in absurdly unbalanced PvP to get to a four".

Your guild master was arrested for selling meth
Who hasn't come back to a disbanded guild? Or as GM of a guild that is inexplicably flagged as "kill on sight" due to some misdeeds in your absence? Give returning players some idea of what happened, whether that was a mass transfer, a mass quit because of the same expansion that made you leave, or the Rapture (nope, you're not in).

The Ancient
It's a title to indicate "I wasn't always this awful, give me a moment and I'll show you how good I can be. Or at least I will spend the entire run telling you how good I used to be, because let's face it, the years away due to a brief 'misunderstanding' the a mob boss did not make me a better gamer.

The End-Game Transition

| Thursday, March 20, 2014
Anyone who complains about an end-game transition is being stupid.

Part One: Inevitability

In any game with any sort of progress you're going to have a tendency toward an end-game. Either all measured progress stops or it changes in form. This is not necessarily by the design of the developers.

Consider a game such as Banished or Don't Starve. The initial game is a struggle to not die horribly. You try to get sustained heat or light and food. This means chopping trees, foraging, hunting, and hitting rocks. Eventually you've chopped so many trees, foraged and hunted, and hit so many rocks that you're not likely to die a horrible death at any given moment. You've stabilized your situation. Your people have shelter, they make enough babies that enough will grow up to make babies to sustain the baby-making cycle, and you generate enough surplus food that even if the houses are filled with babies you won't suffer from baby-induced starvation. Alternatively, you have enough trees and grass around to keep catching rabbits, your rock-based structures are set up, and you have enough non-renewable materials to last a very long time.

Now you're in the end-game. In a game that doesn't have one, but it does anyway.

Unless you do something actively stupid, such as switching all your farmers to the quarry, or going in caves naked with no torches, you're unlikely to die any time soon. With the basics taken care of you can focus even more on exploration and expansion. Now you can build another Market Economic Zone branching off from your original Capital Economic Zone, and eventually fill the entire map with housing and farms, altering their design to ensure the maximum number of non-starving people. The survival game has become a spreadsheet-based optimization game.

Part Two: Your Counter-Argument to Part One is Stupid

Part Three: By Which I Mean, Adding New Problems Isn't a Good Solution

Banished could figure out new problems to throw at you. Maybe you think you're such hot shit for having stone houses and locally-sourced plum brandy from a sustainable orchard. Well what about when the developer patches in alcoholism and makes the dead rise up and eat all your peppers? Now you have to divert your precious iron supply to swords rather than tools and your physician has to do something other than wait around for dirty nomads with their weird foreigner diseases. Bam, challenge returned! In a totally artificial and annoying manner.

At least for me, and my opinion is the best one, these sorts of games are about the struggle toward that stable point. You figure out the immediate crises (food), deal with those, work on the near-term problems (housing), figure those out, and amidst all of that work toward dealing with long-term issues such as not running out of tools next year. With that generally worked out, you create some guarantees for the future, such as a trading post, so that you can supplement your theoretically-limited supply of stone, iron, and coal, with pepper trades. Now you can survive forever. That's kinda neat.

If the game then added in a new type of problem, then I'd probably just get mad at it. I just built this town hall and now you're telling me I need to beautify the streets or get voted out? I'm the incorporeal dictator!

The game could add a decay mechanic, but how are you going to tune it? If the decay uses resources that can be unlimited, such as trees or rabbit corpses, then it's essentially just another long-term sustainability mechanic. I'll set up a few more traps and declare victory.

If the decay uses resources that aren't unlimited, then the game is essentially saying "this game is about survival and I am going to kill you, guaranteed." I don't mind the inevitability of death in a game, but can I at least go out with a bang rather than a whimper? Surely it is more fun to see that the end is coming and bravely stand against the onslaught of violent death than to mine the last rock and know that the next baby born will die shivering in the cold. Maybe that's just human nature, to want to face something that we can punch, such as Russians, rather than resource depletion.

Part Four: I Stop Writing Soon

A truly pure survival game sounds stupid to me. Survival is a limited thing. It is either a pointless struggle against the inevitable or a pointless struggle. I like it when a game has survival that can be overcome, and when it is, something can be built. In Banished I didn't just survive a winter, I also built a town that can survive many winters. Perhaps that is also a bit of human nature: while animals survive, humans build and develop. Even if the rules of the universe still call for survival, it is no longer at the front of our minds because we've built to insulate ourselves from it, with markets, laws, and literal insulation.

So I say to you, if you think "the end-game transition" is both bad and preventable, then you, sir or madam or other old-timey polite moniker for your identity, are an opponent of all human progress, and probably alien progress as well.

How your keybindings are killing you

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014
For years I've used ctrl as a modifier to get additional spells on my bars and ready to use. It's not so far away and with my pinky on it my normal keys were still readily accessible. It all seemed perfect. Then it struck me: I shouldn't be constantly twisting my hand to use common spells. I didn't have any symptoms of anything, but why push my luck? I'd never liked the two buttons on the side of my mouse, but I figured I'd give them a try.

Immediately that was two more readily accessible spells. That means two fewer spells that need ctrl to use. Most of my hand-twisting was gone. It felt good. It felt more relaxed and comfortable. It also felt smarter than destroying my left hand just because I didn't like two of my buttons.

I still use ctrl, but differently. First, it works well with the mouse buttons, since ctrl-mouse doesn't use the same hand, so my pinky moves down to the key but my other fingers aren't extended up to get at the numbers. Second, because I've effectively freed up four keys, I can save ctrl for things that aren't so frequently used.

I might even get one of those mice with a dozen buttons in various spots. They always seemed stupid to me, but perhaps not if they're going to be better for my hands.

Like Alexander, if he hadn't died in the field

| Thursday, March 13, 2014
Last post I wrote about my utter failure at domestic policy. Maybe violence in games is more common than anything else because it's so much easier. Destroying things can be a matter of simple brute force or cleverly identifying a weakness, but once it's done, it's done. It helps that games, and media in general, don't portray the mess that is left behind. It's fun to wave the flag at the top of the Reichstag, less fun to figure out what to do with millions of stained consciences and a rubble-based country.

I had to deal with that aftermath. My wars gave me land and that land gave me some wealth, but those wars also gave me a bad reputation and a larger army that took that wealth. Strangely, this was a more immediate crisis than any battle. I'd made huge military mistakes in the past, but worst case scenario I could just end the war. Failing on the domestic front could destroy my country now and in the future. Action had to be immediate and on a large scale, before it completely overwhelmed my economy and foreign relations.

I had to take aggressive action. As much as I could, I trimmed my army. I switched my one national idea to the national bank (reduces inflation). I centralized my government (less inflation, more taxation). I stopped starting wars of blatant aggression and instead guaranteed the independence of small nations, waiting for them to be attacked (the tribute and vassals were too valuable, and necessary for my budget). I invested in government and trade research. Eventually I managed to balance my budget for the year and even started bringing down inflation. War exhaustion went to zero and the rebellions died down. Since then I've closed most of the tech gap with my rivals, built a navy, and cut overall inflation by more than two thirds.

Despite my switch to a domestic focus, I did still wage a few, highly-successful wars. They took down Castille and Lithuania, two countries with a long history of attacking me.

Things were looking good. Rebellions we down, revenues were up, everything was looking good.

I saw opportunity in the east of Europe: vast empires with backward armies. I went for it and it worked like a breeze. I looked south and saw the powerful Ottomans. They looked backward too. They turned out to be close enough in technology that I couldn't just knock them out in a single battle. The war dragged on, but my slight technological edge and rapidly-growing army won the day. All seemed to be okay. I even had a strategy to take down some of Castille's friends so that I could, someday, directly confront them again.

Then came the endless wars. I didn't start these fights, not all of them, or even most of them. But they happened and I had to win them. My vast armies marched all across Europe fighting everyone from Hungary to Sweden and even out to Asia for a fight with Persia. Countries, big and small, declared war. Algiers, my supposed vassal and ally, not that I blame them for their actions, supported rebels that knocked out my stabilization forces in northern Africa. The southern force was occupied with endless rebels. That was the theme: endless rebellions. As the war weariness inched upward so did the revolt chance, breaking 30%, and resulting in multiple provinces lost, though most regained before it was too late. I ended up losing two provinces in northern Africa, though at least they defected to a vassal, so it's not a total income loss. A terrible, tiny African country declared war, and with my African armies in shambles, managed to take a few provinces.

Tax revenues plummeted, leading me to use minting to balance my budget. Thankfully, I have two masters of the mint, centralization, and my national idea to keep inflation from growing. Army spending has to stay high as I am fighting constant rebellions and expect that one of these days the Ottomans are going to want revenge. Meanwhile, I suspect Castille and Austria are waiting for their moment.

Yet it is not all bad. I have the armies needed to keep down revolts. I am at peace. I'm returning some annexed provinces to vassals as a way to reduce the areas of revolt. Inflation is slowly creeping down. Except for Austria, the Germanic areas are almost entirely vassals. My colonies in Africa are growing and Brittany saved the day with its own armies. I crushed Sweden and liberated Norway and Finland. Newly-liberated Georgia is not very friendly, but at least it means that Persia is divided. France is stable, without debt, and at technological parity with anyone.

If it were not an absolute monarchy, I can only imagine that it would all make for some excellent spin from government and opposition parties. In retrospect, I wish I'd kept the administrative republic, but, "L'etat c'est moi."

You can play your own story of utter incompetence

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I bought Europa Universalis III (not the new one) the other day. So far it's amazing (also, fun). The amount of choice is new to me.

In part, this comes from the game not pretending to be balanced in any normal sense. France is clearly the dominant power on the western European continent. But you can, if you want, play as Burgundy, France's smaller, weaker neighbor. I opted for Burgundy and then waged a long champaign to take control of France, so much so that I was able to declare myself to be France (that helped a lot with the French nationalist uprisings).

Yet, despite the "not balanced" nature of it, the game doesn't consist entirely of big AI nations devouring smaller ones. The diplomatic and domestic cost of a war of pure aggression is pretty steep, as I learned. In fact, things can go dramatically wrong for big countries. France was devoured by my upstart Burgundy. I won countless other wars and prizes, both large and small.

I probably sound like a pretty capable leader at this point. I mean, just look at me, making vassals of over a dozen small countries, gaining monopolies in over a half-dozen trading hubs, taking on everyone from the Ottoman Empire to Milan, and taking down the greatest power on the continent and then remaking it in my image. That's the thing: my image.

I had no idea how to actually run the country.

Before World War I the doctrine among the great powers that they should have an army large enough to fight any two other nations at once. I thought that sounded completely ridiculous. Surely that wouldn't be necessary, or even possible, since only at the trivial case of 0 can you assign values to y=2x and x=2y. Math says Europe was stupid.

Yet that is exactly what I did. I'd regularly check on the ledger to ensure that my army could beat anyone. It could. Yet I couldn't rely on my total, because I had rebels to put down, so I'd have half my army big enough to beat anyone, and the other half as the other half of an army that could beat anyone. Why did I dedicate so many forces to dealing with a handful of rebels? Because they weren't and handful of rebels.

For years I was essentially at war with my own people. Norman, Orleanais, and Breton nationalists were a constant problem. I almost wished I could have just killed all the Dutch, but they run a really great trading port. Throw in peasant uprisings and patriots from whatever war was going on and domestically I was facing a larger army than from the actual wars.

And then there were the wars. Sure, it made sense to unify France. But why was I constantly poking my head into the Germanic lands? A country here, a country there, and next thing I'm widely hated. The constant war also caused war exhaustion, which raises the risk of revolt.

Meanwhile my inflation was through the roof. I'd been messing with the treasury to pay for my absurdly oversized army and complete inability to create an annual budget. That didn't just reduce my research, but also caused inflation, which makes everything, including research, more expensive. I was killing two of my own birds with one stone.

I had even taken visible steps backward. To save on army costs I abandoned the defense of my Danish holdings. Those were eventually captured by rebels and returned to Denmark. I gave up on defending the small countries between me and Castille; I couldn't fight wars on their timetable anymore. Those small nations were captured and annexed. My holdings in North Africa were cut off due to my poor naval logistics, leading me to cede land to get a peace treaty rather than losing everything.

From the outside, newly-unified France-from-Burgundy (such a British name) was extremely powerful. It had won countless wars, made many vassals, and had an army so absurdly large that it could probably fight the entire continent to a stalemate. Internally that army was tied up with perpetual unrest. Its budget was an inflated mess. It was frequently borrowing to pay for wars that made the world hate it. This wasn't a country on the verge of collapse, but it was one facing stagnation and eventually, defeat.


| Monday, March 3, 2014
"Don't Starve," I told my citizens. "We love that game," they replied. I attempted to clarify, "No, I mean you should not starve." "We sure hope not!" They did.

Tech trees are a lie. They suggest, incorrectly, that if you have built Structure A that you are ready, and should, build structure B. More likely you should have built three of Structure A before even considering Structure B, so it's a tech pyramid. Banished does not tell this lie. It instead says nothing. It stands there, watching you, without any expression. You look at the game and ask, "Should  build this yet?" It does not reply.

So you figure it out yourself. You stumble through getting enough food. Your first town starves. You try again and try harder with the food. They freeze to death, homeless. Finally you get it all worked out, with food, housing, and firewood. Now things are rolling. Until your tools break.

Rather than building iron monuments to your greatness, which unfortunately do not exist, you instead create quarries and tools. Then someone gets crushed by a rock. Your aging population is not making enough children. Meanwhile the few are growing up uneducated. Productivity suffers. You find that food reserves are low because someone has stuffed ten thousand deer carcases in their house.

Much of the game is a juggling act, trying to get workers in the jobs needed to get the resources needed. Eventually you realize that you have a labor shortage. Everyone has a job. There's so little slack that even if you wanted to build another farm you can't. But without that farm will you have enough food to feed a larger population? The coats run out.

I'm at a point where my town is stable. It has plenty of diverse food, high health and happiness, and plenty of resources. I could turn up the game speed and leave it to itself until the quarry ran out. But that's boring. I'm trying to grow the town. That means trying to get more housing so people can make more families, but I need enough food for them, so I must have a surplus and that must be sustainable enough to hold up with dozens more useless children. Meanwhile the infrastructure needs a step up, with more firewood for all the homes, nearby markets, and before long, another school.

I've noticed that a strange patterns emerges, almost like a boom-bust economic cycle. There are recessions. Things slow down, waiting, just waiting, for enough resources for something to happen. This might mean more people or more stone, but even if I have a plan, it isn't possible, not yet. These are less severe as the town develops, as I get more workers into stable jobs like mining, rather than the cyclical farmer/laborer division. It all becomes more predictable and manageable.

But I know one of these days those nomads are going to bring a disease.

Understanding Understanding BitCoins

I have a shiny new game to write about, but until I'm horribly burnt out and hate it I can't really give a fair assessment. In the meantime, here's a brief I wrote about how comprehension of BitCoins works.

Understanding of BitCoins operates with a complex system, but here are a few concepts to know. Some people try to understand BitCoin and will spend a great deal of time and mental energy trying to work out complex mental patterns. All understanding is tracked in the BitCoin Comprehension Ledger, a list that everyone has of people who understand BitCoins. Two people can agree to talk about BitCoin, with one transferring their understanding to the other, as illustrated here, which is then witnessed and recorded by others in the Ledger. In this way the system can carefully regulate how many people understand it, thereby creating value through scarcity.

There is some risk that too many people will understand it. The inventor has assured everyone that they will work diligently to ensure a sufficiently confusing system in the long term. However, the system has been shaken by some large events such as the FBI's Silk Road action and something happening with MtGox. Spreading through media channels, these resulted in dozens of additional people understanding BitCoin and dramatically increasing the popularity of trying to do so.

Into a New Land: Part One: The Scout

| Monday, February 24, 2014
It's a near-certainty that I'm going to transfer servers. It's not a common experience for me, so I figure I'll write about it. Who knows what strange things I might encounter. Maybe they'll all use a different set of acronyms or have slightly different AH prices.

I log in. I log out to disable my pile of addons, many of which I do not ever use and did not realize even stil existed.

I log in. I pick frost specialization. I no longer have a 'finisher', since Blood Strike is supposedly replaced by Death Strike or Obliviate, not available until 56 and 58, respectively.

I get a guild invite. While I write this I get another one. The first was at least for my own server.

Auto-loot is off. This is the first thing that frustrates me with all alts. At least I didn't spent ten minutes grinding mobs and wondering why I wasn't getting quest drops.

Instructor Razuvious does not use Oxford commas when he talks. I regret that his words are allowed to appear on my screen.

I receive the second invite for a guild on Galakrond. He asks that I press Accept. I decline to inform him that the options are "Join Guild" and "Decline Invitation".

As I run through the DK starting area I find myself torn between being eager to run through Outland and eager to run through Northrend. I end up picking the fourth guild invite I got, a level 2 that, of course, has big plans. In the meantime I am getting 5% more xp and someone gets some free guild leveling. Their invite macro seems to be working well, with equal parts Blackhand and Galakrond.

It all looks promising, but I still have that nagging question, "Would I be better off spending my $25 on a flying mount?" And then a voice says, "No, that's a stupid question. One of these will improve your playing experience while the other is a flashy thing that you'd never use, just like every other flashy mount you own."

Looking for an Alliance PvE server

| Sunday, February 23, 2014
My paladin is looking for a home. I'm not aiming for a particular guild, just a PvE server, within an hour of CST, where the Alliance isn't terrible and where the population is high enough to have a decent AH and guilds.
Quel'dorei, Blackhand, Draka, and Rexxar look promising: high population, decent faction balance (for the BG queues). Does anyone have any experience with of these servers?

Or does anyone have any advice in general? I've never needed to look for a realm, just found some friends and followed them for a few years.

I wish there was something like a 'realm preview' feature. Pay your money and then you get to play your chosen character on a selection of five realms, with a month to pick one.

"I'm not afraid." "You should be."

| Sunday, February 16, 2014
The other day I got over my fear of meaningful roles in LFR. I tanked. Other players were generally helpful or at worst, indifferent. It was gloriously fun. In fact, the only bit that wasn't much fun was when I somehow got placed in the Gates of Retribution as... well as retribution.

Galakras made no sense. The Iron Juggernaut was a bit of fun thanks to the "step on the land mines on purpose" mechanic. The Dark Shaman was just awful. It's a chaotic mess of messes and chaos that never felt like we had the slightest bit of control of the situation. I'm all for a dynamic fight, but I don't like feeling like we're getting thrown around randomly. Maybe if I had been the tank it would have been different. Nazgrim was boring and I was annoyed that people kept attacking during defensive stance when there were still adds up.

Today I got in as a tank for The Underhold. Unfortunately, the queue popped as I was reading the fights, so I wasn't as prepared as I'd have liked, particularly since the first boss was already dead. Even worse, the Spoils of Pandaria fight sounds much different in text. I was much slower than I would have been had I seen the fight before; I'd thought the boxes opened on their own. People yelling at "tank" weren't much help, given that there were two tanks with much different situations and I couldn't be focusing on figuring out where the whiner was. Thok seemed to go okay, once started ignoring the jailers and letting the other tank figure out where they went. Again, a fight that didn't translate so well into text. We ended with me being yelled at to kite, so I kited, then I was told it was too fast, so I went slower. DPS died in the fire. He enraged. I left after someone started insulting both of us tanks. My ignore list grew. I have no time for people whose response to problems is senseless insults.

You might be thinking that I'm in the wrong for queueing without having watched a video first. To that I say, "fuck off." If I'd queued as DPS then my ignorance would be no issue. However, the queue times for me, and for all the other DPS, would be an issue. Furthermore, I'm not going to spend my time to please these sorts of assholes. Frankly, they should be grateful I queued as a tank at all to carry their mindless, abusive selves through the fights.

After a cooling off session involving a great deal of profanity I queued again. Again, I got a raid with the first boss dead. I jumped into the action and did a fine job of tanking the rest of the place with no issues. The tank switches were a glorious thing to see, if I say so myself.

I still find myself a little more reluctant to do LFR. I could run it as DPS for the visuals and then go again as a tank. Since I don't enjoy the DPS I might as well just watch some strat video and suffer through the awful explanations and accents that come from some part of the UK that is as indecipherable as the Welsh but without having the excuse of living inside a whale. Some part of me rebels at this idea. It seems contrary to the idea of LFR. Isn't it a place for less-geared, less-organized, less-prepared randomly formed groups to get some gear and learn a bit? Or is it just an awful alternative to real raiding? I intend to do some more LFR in order to get more gear and learn some more in anticipation of finding a guild. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Cowardice is the Killer of Fun

| Sunday, February 9, 2014
I'd been avoiding tanking in LFR. I didn't know the fights and didn't quite trust guides to get the ideas across. Obviously this was stupid. LFR is the training ground for raids. It's where people go to learn. Yet it all seemed so complex.

That's only because I'd been in as DPS and DPS are stupid. It's just something that happens when you switch role. Healers are smart. Tanks are smart. DPS are barely literate cave beasts. They run after a crowd hitting things. Sometimes they try to appear smart by quantifying their contribution with damage meters. It never works.

In actuality the fights only seemed complex because I was too stupid to see the basic patterns. Going in as a tank meant that I had to have some understanding of the fights. Stand here, keep aggro on these, interrupt that. Keep the holy power rolling and be ready with a CD in case there is a damage spike. A few mechanics are still over my head, but I don't play a draenei.

It turns out LFR can be rather fun to tank. It's a little more dynamic, a little more engaging, than DPS.

Oddly, people aren't as horrible as I thought. A more experienced tank gave me some pointers on a fight and things went well. A tank of my experience (lol, nub) hoped I could do the same, which I tried, and it worked fairly well. I stood in slightly the wrong spot, someone pointed it out, I moved, and they thanked me. Afterward I thanked them for their patience. I suspect I have a magical power to make people like my tanking, regardless of the quality of it. Perhaps they appreciate a quality transmog. I got a neat 2h sword and some vendor trash along with the opportunity to do more LFR.

During my daily shopping at the PvP vendor I was invited to do some arenas. I haven't done those since sometime in mid-Cata. They didn't go well or last long then. They never were my forte. I accepted, on the condition that they not mind that I am terrible.

Perhaps the matchmaking tool has gotten better. Maybe at this point in the season the arenas are filled with bad players. Whatever the reason, we won a bit more than we lost and I walked out with some conquest points, which I spent on a cloak. That then got me killed because a shaman knocked me off the lumber mill before I'd remembered to add a parachute to it. I don't blame arenas for that. In fact, they turned out to be a good bit of fun. Even losing isn't so bad when it doesn't take long. Lose, think about it, then get ready for the next fight. It's not like a BG where you can clearly see that your team is losing and yet it won't have officially lost for a few more minutes. Then you find yourself wishing the Horde would cap a fourth so you could get to another, less-losing match.

I'm going to find more arenas. I don't expect much winning, but the payout for a win is pretty generous, so I can't complain too much. Coupled with BGs and converted justice points I anticipate that my PvP set will steadily become less awful. In fact, I've even reached the point where my PvP and tanking sets are not identical.
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