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?
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