Showing posts with label sociology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sociology. Show all posts

A Timeless Problem

| Wednesday, December 4, 2013
/w Want to group up for rep?
/1 lf rep group
raretimer huolon
RareCoordinator: hulon died 500 weeks ago
RareCoordinator: huolon died 5 minutes ago
rartimer hulon
when is huolon back?
raretimer Huolon
/w may I join your rep group?

The Timeless Isle is a nice place. It's sunny. The flight path isn't too far. It showers players and their alts with gear. I was glad Chromie sent me there, as it got my newly-90 rogue into LFR much more quickly than waiting on LFG queues as DPS. My DK will be geared up in no time at all with all the plate drops I've gotten.

I like the rare mechanic. Everyone who gets a hit gets a hit. The only problems are ones that I wouldn't directly attribute to Blizzard, though perhaps they could help with. First, it makes me very sad when a rare dies when I'm a second away. That is why I try to just get my hit in and then wait it out, particularly if there aren't many people attacking yet. Second, I get annoyed by rare timer spam. I'd prefer if the addons used a separate channel.

Then there are the rep mobs. First off, Kilnmasters are ridiculous. Get hit and you die. For hunters this is a trivial matter, maybe because of the reduced AoE damage to pets. I can solo them, but to do so requires either perfect rhythm back and forth or spinning it in circles. The former is hard to keep up for the entire fight while the latter means that I'm causing random instant death to anyone nearby. I hate it when people bring their kilnmasters near others for this exact reason.

The bigger problem is with grouping. Since the loot is so generous it makes no sense at all to try to hoard it by taking your own kills. Rep is the same whether soloing or in a group, so grouping means that you have that much higher chance of being tagged on a kill, plus a much faster kill rate. If someone in the group is a hunter, well then everything is wonderful.

Yet people don't group up. Every person who is there for rep should be in a five-man group. To do otherwise is just stupid. Every time I am there I try to form groups. Sometimes I succeed. If I see more people, I try to bring them in too. If I could get rep in a raid I'd do that, once the daily elite kill is done, of course. Though even then, I suspect it would be worth missing out on the quest in exchange for having a tag and five-second kill time on every mob in sight.

I wonder if there is another mainstream title that has a solution to this. Not automatic grouping, but something like what Blizzard already does with the rares.

Is class identity a thing anymore?

| Thursday, August 29, 2013
In the beginning, I was a troll shaman. This blog is named for their exceptionally terrible racial ability of Regeneration, which at that time allowed them to continue a whopping 10% of their out-of-combat healing, which was based on spirit. Thankfully, back in those days everything, including warrior gear, had spirit on it. So we could regenerate our awe-inspiring 5 hp per second. Though really it would have been 25 hp every 5 seconds, because that's how things were: mana/5 and hp/5. I don't recall the numbers anymore, but I suspect that 5 hp is a generous amount, despite being terrible, even back then. I'll be honest, the results of this Google search were a mix of nostalgia and not finding myself for three pages. But at least thing the I was searching for is archived: "Troll Regeneration must be nerfed."

For some reason I hung out a lot on the paladin forums. The shaman forums in vanilla were an awful place, full of people whining that shamans were OP (20% of the time, sometimes). The paladins were, of course, our rivals. So I made silly posts there and ending up finding a few friends. I eventually played with them for years until an epic betrayal and some epic fail, the latter being my own fault. When BC rolled around I found myself making a blood elf paladin, because why not? My shaman slowly faded out, finally dying to a pair of tanking bracers in Karazhan. Since then I've played a paladin, with other classes being little more than distractions.

I loved class-based quests. I chased them down. I didn't care about the usefulness of the reward, or eventually, the necessity of the quest for getting the reward, as in the case of druid flight form. Until I'd done those quests I felt that I was an illegitimate member of the class, like when you're the bastard child of the king and cannot claim the throne until you complete the quest chain to murder all your siblings.

As Erinys says in "Proving your Worth: Why Class quests had value",
What I loved about all three of these quests was the fact that they made you think about what it meant to play that specific class. Not only in terms of playstyle although all three required you to explore your spell book, perhaps the Druid and Hunter more so than the Priest, although plenty of people I knew did take Holy Nova especially for the quest but also from an RP perspective if you wished to indulge it.
These quests weren't just quests. They were a matter of class identity, of exploration of the world and character, of learning how to play.

Class quests interact in an odd manner with the concept of class identity. If we identify strongly with a particular class, then we're likely to play it more, to the exclusion of other classes. This means that under a scenario of strong class identity class quests are going to have a small audience, with a small proportion of the population getting the relevant class to the needed level to take advantage of it. Yet the quests themselves may help to cement the identity.

However, if class identity isn't a thing for much of the player population, with few people imagining themselves as primarily playing a particular class, then the class quests may become widely experienced. If play time is spread out more, then it is more likely that players will get their rogues to Ravenholt and their priests to the Plaguelands. Weaker class identity makes class quests more generally used, and therefore more justifiable from an eyeballs per developer dollar perspective. I'm assuming you're all using the latest eye-tracking technology for your gaming; the precision of movement is jaw-dropping, just like mage DPS (and just like my ability to make obscure jokes out of side comments by developers years ago).

The general theme is that if we don't particularly identify as a class, or maybe more importantly, identify as not the other classes, then it doesn't matter as much which class gets the cool toys. If we're as much a priest as a rogue, then are we going to mind much if the rogue update comes before the priest update?

But of course all this semi-sociological identity stuff means nothing if your raid leader wants you to pick, gear, and learn how to play a particular class. (do people still do organized raids?) One class will get leveled a little faster, have a little more luck with gear, be a little bit stronger, and you'll gravitate toward it. Once that happens, then it snowballs, with one always being ahead and therefore better able to get more ahead. While the rest can gear up by other means, that means more time, and sadly, everyone is forced to stop being a college student with next to unlimited time to play games. In the end you're playing a priest, not because your raid leader said so, but because your boss said you can't play at work and your kids refuse to use the can opener in a safe manner.

Something I didn't consider in my first run is that while strong identity will reduce the number of people who do a class quest, I expect that it would also tend to increase enjoyment. The class identity is part of what makes it more interesting than any other quest. Many quests send you around the world, but how many do it specifically because you're a shaman making drugs to find magical sticks? If we're willing to give some weight to actual enjoyment rather than mere play, then it can even turn out positive: few people see, but those who do enjoy it a lot more. As long as everyone gets a nifty quest there won't even be an issue of fairness.

The triple dot should be censored

| Monday, January 28, 2013
*something happens*

Wow, that was informative!  I'm glad someone took the time to deliver that important information and clarification.  Without the triple dot who knows what I'd have done.  After it, I know exactly what is going on.

More seriously, the triple dot is worthless.  Worse than worthless.  It's condescension masquerading as communication.  It's saying "something went wrong, but the thing that went wrong is so blatantly obvious that I won't even say what it was.  Which of course also means that you are a total idiot for not getting it.  And I still won't explain it because you're not worth it."

To be clear, since I've spent much of this post bashing a lack of clarity, I'm not referring to the trailing triple dot, in which a word is followed by three dots.  That's different.  This post is only about the isolated triple dot.

In conclusion, we should put "..." at the same tier of offensiveness as "fuck all ya'lls".

I hope I never live a gaymer lifestyle

| Monday, October 15, 2012
This post is long. It might offend you.  It is only tangentially related to gaming.

The other night when I couldn't fall asleep I did what anyone else would do, ruminated about the philosophical points in District 9. You might remember the main character, initially a socially inept and completely unsympathetic man who was more than willing to trick the aliens into moving into worse conditions. Then he turned into one and had a slightly different perspective on the matters of oppression and dissection of living, sentient beings.

I doubt I'm going to turn into an alien. Or a gay person. My guess is that I'm going to be more or less the same person for a while; maybe with a different haircut or slightly changed political views, but essentially a middle class white male. I might not change much, but society might, or almost certainly will.

My hope is to live in a society, not where I am always the winner (though that would be nice, for me), but a society in which losers are not utterly crushed. I don't imagine being a white male is going to be a liability any time soon, whether ten or a thousand years from now, but if it does, I hope it is a very small one. Maybe I'm pessimistic to think that it is human nature that some groups will be better off than others and more acceptable to society than others, but I'm also an optimist, that I think we can have this up and down in society but that down doesn't have to be all the way down.

I never want who or what I am to be a reason to deny to me basic rights, justice, and livelihood. That is, unless who or what I am is somehow innately harmful to other people, such as if I were infected with radioactive bird flu. But, beside that obviously absurdly extreme example, I think major powers shouldn't mess with people's personal lives [too much, because sometimes personal lives overlap and then it's not so personal anymore].

Speaking of gay people, I have a confesion to make: I find it slightly amusing that Rachel Maddow, who for context is an openly lesbian liberal on MSNBC, is really pushing the birth control and abortion battles as new stories. I'm not suggesting that they aren't news stories, but is birth control really such a big deal for a lesbian?

Of course. Well maybe not birth control literally, but symbolically, very. Birth control isn't just for heterosexual whores (or even just bisexual whores). Am I offensively stating the obvious? Probably. Sadly, that is a view that some people don't seem to share. We had multiple presidential candidates who are against birth control. I suspect that two of them see it as politically advantageous. But Rick Santorum, he's the real deal. He's not a smooth-talking, slickly-presented politician who says whatever you want to hear. He's an honest man of consistent values and he's a terrifying person because of it.

Birth control is a health issue. It's also a women's rights issue. It's about the ability of women to regulate what happens to their bodies, even after that oh so shameful act of... you know.

My aunt and godmother is one of those wonderful Irish women who is like a pillar of awesome, acting as an example to all of good behavior: respectful but not timid, hard-working without being taken advantage of, and when she was younger she could beat quite a lot of men at arm-wrestling. Maybe she still can, but we're all afraid to challenge her. My point is that she was the sort of person you want around kids, someone who radiates Good Values. Then one day she went and got pregnant, by her husband, to whom she had been married for well over nine months (I don't know the particular years), and when the school she taught at found out, she was immediately escorted out. This was not paternity leave. This was horrified "what would the children think?" get out RIGHT NOW. Apparently pregnant women are traumatizing or might give fourth-grade children the wrong ideas.  This was the sort of stupidity that is on the downturn, or was.

I obviously don't have the full perspective on this. I cannot exactly comprehend the idea that sex could result in my having to carry a child, birth the child, and raise the child, possibly on my own. And you know what? I think that's great (for me). I'm glad that I cannot fully imagine that, because I will never have to deal with that. And I think it's a pretty important part of equality that slightly over 50% of the world share that as well (the not being enslaved part, not the lack of imagination).

The previously-mentioned lesbian cares about birth control because it is a matter of women's health and rights. She might be once-removed from birth control as a need, but she's directly in the crosshairs of attacks on women's rights. Me, I'm once-removed from women's rights. But I'm directly in the crosshairs of attacks on human rights and I don't want to become the oppressed group.

Maybe I am already.  You might have noticed up in Maine that a candidate for state senate is being attacked for playing WoW.  Somehow this hobby is not merely a hobby, but a lifestyle.  It reminds me of the less-often heard notion of the "gay lifestyle", that gay people were somehow not merely people who had sex with the same sex, but who lived a different life entirely.  It conjures up notions of them being foreign, of living like Frenchmen or Pakistanis, rather than people who live some variant of an American lifestyle with a particular private aspect of it being different.  If this attack succeeds, gaming may go the same way.  Or given the stigma that I thought was on the downturn, merely return to where it was.  Gaming would be a "lifestyle choice" rather than a hobby.  Of course for some people it is a lifestyle, but it is wrong to generalize a population based on a few outliers; it often pushes people toward those extremes.

The person who made, and broke, WoW for me

| Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Scandal!  My first WoW account was shared and after it was taken away I was lost.  Not merely lost, undone.  My level 60 shaman and warlock, gone!  I wasn't particularly close to my guild, not close enough that I could see much hope of getting help with leveling back up to 60.  Besides, the name Klepsacovic was taken on that server.  I could have bought the account, but the price was high (thanks to me) and that's hardly secure.

That could have been the end of WoW for me.

I opened a new account and was ready to start again.  But how?  I was lost and alone.  On a whim I went off to Wildhammer (or so I remember) and did some whoing.  My hope was to find a few friends I had from the paladin forums.  Despite being a shaman or sometimes warlock, I had ended up on the paladin forums.  Thankfully, they were there.  I talked to them about the problem.  My first attempt was a human warrior.  But that was a joke (literally, it was a joke).  Second was a warlock, which was also a joke, but at level 1 she beat a level 3 mage, so I had a good feeling about it.  Incidentally, I won by using melee rather than spells, which might explain my distress at the removal of firestones (a conjured offhand which boosted spell power and added fire damage to melee attacks).

I stuck with that warlock for a good bit of time.  Later we went to Horde and Klepsacovic was reborn.  Though I think I got his hair color slightly wrong.  With the release of Burning Crusade a protection paladin engineer was created.  In a raid with two of the forum friends (the third had wandered off into the nether by then) Kelpsacovic became my main and remained so for years.  They were good times, with only brief upsets related to guild merging.

Wrath of the Lich King brought more of the same, though with a plethora of things to care about, yet nothing to kill WoW.  Perhaps Cataclysm brought the same as well.

But something else changed.  One of the friends, or maybe both, convinced me to do something stupid and expensive: transfer servers.  The plan was to transfer and start a new guild.  We had been in a guild at that point.  Not a great guild, but I had some friends in it and I didn't think anyone was complete garbage (though some were not so great), so in retrospect, it was probably the best I could have asked for.

For $50 I took my main away from the guild I'd known and the friends in it and went off nearly alone.  One friend wandered off and eventually betrayed the other (but that's another story for me to not tell you) and before long I was more or less alone.

I can't say whether Cataclysm would have kept me entertained the entire time and I still don't think it was as good as BC or LK.  But I do think that if I had been with my guild I'd not have quit after only a couple months.  Not even quit; it wasn't a rage-quit, just I didn't care.  I had no friends, no one to talk to or share with, no one to group with, and I wasn't going to stumble across anyone in a cross-server random system (as I had in the past).  Ultimately it was not any particular change in WoW that killed it for me, but a change in my social interaction with it.

I have a second data point for this theory: Guild Wars 2.  My two friends from college (different people) started playing, and then wandered back to WoW.  I am alone (though not without offers from Syl, who is unfortunately, foreign).  Consequently, I have wandered away from GW2.  It's a neat place, but it's a bit too big to be in alone.

New games should learn from this, not my story in particular, but the importance of social ties.  Maybe offer group discounts on the box prices, to encourage people to move to the new game, not as individuals trying a new game, but as friends and guilds.

And why should I care what happens to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every benefit has a cost

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

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

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

Not every cost has a benefit.

Down the the Dictator, but not the extensive bureaucracy that maintains civilization

| Wednesday, July 25, 2012
"There must always be a Lich King."  Lame, right?  Or is it?

The other day I watched Equilibrium, which is basically what would happen if you wanted to make the Matrix but couldn't legally do that, and replaced machine-driven illusion with drugs to block emotion.  For various reasons it irritated me, but one in particular stood out: the downside of ending the regime was never discussed.  The film of V for Vendetta had this same problem.

It might be because I'm a Stalinist*, but I'm not a fan of the pattern of "dictator falls, everyone lives happily ever after."  That's not actually how things happen.  Ever.  I can sense the objection rising up inside you, so I have these two things to note.

*according to my critics

First off, I don't think the downside to the fall of the dictator must necessarily be shown, at least not right away, but there should be at least some notion that something went wrong.  Take Star Wars for example.  After A New Hope we're all happy that the Death Star was destroyed.  Then the Empire strikes back in the appropriately-named The Empire Strikes Back in which the Rebels are stuck on a planet made entirely out of ice and wampas.  In the extended universe we learn about how just because the Emperor eventually died doesn't mean everything is great.  Instead, people go out to celebrate and are gunned down by the millions and a whole new form of civil war breaks out, which as best as I can tell, never ends no matter how many times they kill clones of the Emperor.

Compare this with real life where we celebrate the fall of a dictator, and then all go "so... now what?"  That's when every single suppressed grievance explodes and suddenly people start missing running water and streets paved with something other than unexploded ordinance.

Despite that, there is my Second thing to note: just because there is a downside does not mean it is bad that the evil regime has fallen.  Of course it's bad when the basic infrastructure is wrecked and rule of law breaks down, but that's something to consider when taking down the dictator.  This doesn't mean "oh well, things would be worse without them", but instead "let's have a plan for what happens when the Elite Guard of the Evil Government are all out of work."

The admission of a downside is part of what can make the story complex and interesting.  It makes the enemies, the villains, a little more understandable.  Sure the dictator is bad, but perhaps his supporters are just people who see stability as worth the occasional murder and rampant corruption.  Maybe they think it will be even worse without him.  This makes them people with different philosophical leanings and social predictions, rather than evil people.  That's what the world is filled with: people with different perspectives, who we may still find ourselves in conflict with, but who are not evil faceless goons.  After the rebellion they may even join the winning side, not because they are traitors or flip-floppers, but because they see it as the best way to protect what they value and to continue to do their jobs.

They are the bureaucrats.  They are the police and the army.  The judges and administrators.  Are they on the wrong side?  Perhaps.  But that doesn't mean they cannot be on the right side.  Nor does it mean that they are necessarily evil.

I remember an argument in a Star Wars novel in which the hero is arguing with his future father-in-law about smuggling.  The father was a smuggler, running Imperial blockades and bypassing their customs.  It paid well and seemed to be righteous work, sticking it to The Man.  But the hero points out that while the Empire was evil, those import taxes were what paid for roads and schools and healthcare for children.  So even as it is a blow to the Evil Empire, it is also a blow to those who are subjects of the empire and who have no choice in the matter.

Perhaps the best book I ever read that showed the downside, the cost of victory, the burden of maintaining civilization, was called The Star Conquerors.  It's an old science fiction novel in which humans are gradually getting crushed by an alien empire.  It is approximately a gagillion times bigger, which is not helped by a human population which isn't very interested in paying for the war effort that keeps them from being crushed in a week.  The hero does the sensible thing: rounds up what ships he can and goes flying off to kick some ass, which after a mix of luck and brilliance, results in him capturing the core planets.  The aliens hand over control of the entire empire, about a third of the galaxy.  Cool, right?  USA USA USA!  Er.. TERRAN EMPIRE TERRAN EMPIRE TERRAN EMPIRE!  Except for one problem: Before they leave the aliens explain that now we're responsible for administering it all, of managing the flow of trade, of preventing starvation, of keeping everyone in line so it doesn't all collapse into a giant civil war among the various species.

Should we have just given up and lost?  No.  But knowing that there is something after victory, some burden of leadership, of survival against entropy rather than war, makes the story that much more complete and interesting.

And so, when we hear that there must always be a Lich King, maybe let's go ahead and say that in the literal sense, that sounds ridiculous.  But let's not forget that there are still the Vrykul up there, who are going to wonder what happened to their Death God, who are going to need to be either crushed, assimilated, or some mix of the two, and better hope we don't get that wrong.  There are still Scourge agents, dedicated to various agendas of evil, power, and insanity.  In fact, we run into one in the Eastern Plaguelands, a spider who thinks he's going to start his own Scourge.  A joke, for now.  We should wonder, without the leadership of the Lich King, what will the mindless ones do?  What about the sentient and free agents?  What happens to the Plague?  The diseased and corrupted land?

Perhaps we should even be glad that Deathwing showed up.  Imagine the chaos, the destruction, if the greedy, amoral adventurers with incredible magical and combat powers backed with even greater magical artifacts and armor, found themselves bored.  Perhaps that's what was meant by the Scourge going on an even greater rampage of destruction.  With the Lich King, we had a target and that target was something everyone could agree on.  Without him, then what?  Perhaps he did not actually need to convert or corrupt us, merely step aside and let us do what we do: mass slaughter of anything which might be remotely profitable.

Maybe those daily quest givers aren't so bad after all.  I shudder to think what we'd do otherwise.

RDKP: Refined

| Monday, June 25, 2012
Last week I proposed adding a currency, called RDKP, to groups which would be spent when winning need rolls.  It was meant to reduce two problems: perceived unfairness and ninjaing.  Since the first one is a perception problem, it is going to be tricky to convince anyone that there is a problem and even then, that there is any solution or even a way to reduce the problem.  Ninjaing, while seemingly so easy to define: taking unneeded items from those who need it, is not so easy, in fact.  There are many grey areas: relative upgrades, sidegrades, offspecs, and so on, and it is unlikely that we'll see developers implement a feature which perfectly blocks ninjaing.  After a great number of helpful comments I think I've gotten a better grasp on how the system should work.

While it is implied, I want to clarify that if I say  "roll need" or "win a need roll" or anything like that and mention spending RDKP, what I mean is the following.  Picking "need" has no cost.  Winning an item has no cost.  Picking need and winning the need roll costs a set amount of RDKP (or none if the player has none)

All characters start with enough RDKP to roll need on two items.  The exact number isn't something I'm tied to, it's just meant to be enough to get the system moving.  Because it's zero-sum and players cannot go into debt, there needs to be some initial amount.

In the previous post I noted that if someone has insufficient RDKP they can still roll need, but will automatically lose to someone who spends RDKP.  This still stands, however,  RDKP would only be gained if people roll need and spent RDKP.

The amount of RDKP gained is based on the ratio of spending to group members.  The goal is that the income matches the spending.  For example, in a typical 5-man group, if two items drop and both are needed on, then each group member will get the following: (10 RDKP x2)/5 or 4 RDKP, so that altogether, there are 20 RDKP spent and 20 RDKP gained.  In implementation, it is likely that all RDKP values would be increased tenfold, in order to avoid decimals and to make it seem more lucrative.  If this sounds complex, it can be thought of like this: winning a need roll causes the winner to automatically split some RDKP with group members.  This equalizes spending and earning and also explains the situation when the winner has no RDKP.  You might have noticed that I divide the RDKP among five people despite one of those five being the one who won the need roll: it's just accounting and could be done just dividing among the four, with a corresponding reduction in the RDKP cost of rolling.

Because the system is close to zero-sum, it is not necessary to worry much about inflation.  Someone running an instance for no loot with other people who need no loot will not gain any RDKP, so farming is not an issue.  If players are running when they don't need loot, the amount they gain still does not exceed the amount spent, so even farming cannot cause inflation.

Because inflation is not an issue, RDKP can be safely traded without creating adverse incentives because it cannot be farmed except by joining groups that spend it, so that instance running transfers RDKP without creating it, just as player-to-player trade would.  The rule exception is that a character must be at least level 60 before they can trade, to ensure that players do not make new characters just to trade the free initial RDKP.  Again, the exact level isn't something I think is important, just so that it is high enough that no sane person would spam characters just to farm RDKP.

The benefit to having a trading system is that it would allow for market flows to even out the irregularities of distribution which would likely be created by instances.  Some classes and roles are likely to get more from instances than others, so they will need more RDKP while others need less.  A trading system allows this imbalance to be corrected.  This could also provide some useful information to developers: if they notice that a particular class or role is buying or selling a high amount of RDKP, it would indicate that they are too dependent on instances for gearing, relative to other classes, or are finding little useful loot in instances

The downside to a trading system is that it could create the impression that players are getting loot because they bought RDKP, despite the amount of RDKP a player has not influencing rolls.  It is irrational, but given that one of my goals for this system was to reduce a potentially irrational sense of unfairness, creating a different sense of unfairness is not productive.

For consistency, RDKP would be used in all non-raid instances (though it could be extended to raids).  This includes pre-made groups and partially pre-made.  Due to the ability to trade RDKP, friends can undo any redistribution the system causes.  By making RDKP a constant feature, there is no ambiguity or confusion when forming partial groups.

As before, comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

DKP for Random Groups

| Friday, June 22, 2012
This is a modification to the standard need-greed-pass loot system which would reduce the frequency of ninjaing in randomly formed groups and increase the perceived fairness of loot distribution.  It does this by adding a currency from killing bosses which is then spent when rolling need.  The exact mechanics would need working out, but I think the general framework would be beneficial without adding much complexity.

All players in a group when a boss dies gain  Random Dragon Kill Points or RDKP.  There would only be one kind of RDKP, though higher level and higher difficulty instances would grant increased amounts.

When items drop, players can then spend RDKP in order to roll need on items.  The amount would not be set by the players, but would instead be presented to them as a set charge for picking need.  They would not lose RDKP unless they won the item.  Players with no RDKP would be able to pick need but would be subordinate to those without enough.  This is so that early on, when players may have no RDKP or are frequently finding upgrades, that they are not stuck rolling greed (that would negate the perceived fairness and effectively cause unintentional ninjaing).

Players could not have negative RDKP.  RDKP could not be traded.

The Benefits
The first goal is to increase the sense of fairness.  An earlier post related to whether players should roll on items when they were only present for the final boss, with some pointing out that it seemed unfair that they didn't have to help the group through the rest of the instance and some taking the position that can, may, and should are perfect synonyms.  By having an RDKP system, players would still have a sense that someone was only helping them for one boss", but would also get an indicator that they had helped other groups over other bosses, and on average, we'll have joined at last bosses as often as we've missed last bosses.  In effect, this creates a social accounting, so that even if two individuals have not helped each other in an instance, they will have helped someone who helped someone, and given the size of the pool, let's say fifty steps, and finally Kevin Bacon will have won the item you wanted, but it will be slightly less annoying because by spending RDKP, he's showing that he's not just some lucky guy who perpetually hops into groups on the last boss and runs away cackling with all your loot.

Or in short form: even if they haven't helped you, they have helped others, and others have helped you, so it all loops back around to be fair.

The second goal is to reduce ninjaing.  By putting some cost on items, a ninja roll is at the cost of a later, legitimate roll, so the ninja may be setting themselves up to lose on an item that they wanted.

Technical stuff that would need muddled through but shouldn't impact the two main purposes
The amount of RDKP overall, per player, from kills, and per roll, would need to be managed.

Clearly there are more details to work out.  With that in mind, I want to make a request regarding comments.  I'd love to hear suggestions for improvements and for filling in missing details.  However, criticizing details is utterly pointless because there are none (beside the half-thoughts at the end), so stick to pointing out that the overall idea is terrible rather than the specifics.  That is, unless someone brings up a specific, then you can say it is stupid (or great).

Values and Rules

| Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Syl's at it again, stealing ideas before I could even think of them.  Pretty awful, right?  Now she's talking about loot rules and how people have different perspectives on when it is okay to roll or not.

I'm of the general opinion that laws should be based on values.  These values may be general, such as valuing human life, resulting in specific laws regarding murder, pollution, and healthcare.  I suspect people share my opinion on this (laws based on values), though the particular values will not be the same.  This is why we have voting, compromise, and geographic and other separations of jurisdictions.  The idea there is that I live under the laws I want and you under the laws you want and if there is overlap, we have to work things out somehow so that the resulting laws are not in excessive conflict with either of our values.

This is why we have legislatures which get voted in and out, petitions and protests, and at times, even have direct democracy, with the public voting on particular rules.

Games tend to have none of these.  Instead, there is just a set of rules.  In the case of this subject, loot rules.  The developers say "These are the rules for action and beside a few anti-scamming rules, if you can roll on it you may roll on it."  The result is that people of widely different values are playing under the same rules.  This is inevitably going to result in disappointment.

What's to be done about it?  Some would say that there is nothing wrong, but denying the existence of a problem doesn't actually solve it.  Given that the problem in this case is a matter of individual perspective, of what is a fair loot system, the perception of a problem is the problem, though obviously it is a bigger or smaller problem depending on how many people care and to what extent.

I suggest a "create your own rules" system.  Developers would create a set of rules which could be set on or off and given thresholds and groups could then create a rule set which works for them, and people wishing to join the group would accept or reject the rules.  For example, there could be a "minimum bosses killed before current" rule, which Syl might want to set to 2, so that if a player has not killed at least 2 bosses with the group before the final, they will be ineligible to roll.  Players who dislike carrying others might set a minimum percentage of damage done.  Players queuing up for groups would then have the option to toggle whether they'd automatically accept certain rules, reject others, and manually accept or reject particular sets.

It's complex, of course.  That's what happens when trying to create rules that more closely match the values of those playing under them.  The question whether the complexity is worth it.

I play WoW because I am violent toward minorities

| Thursday, May 17, 2012
 I am writing this from America, where Asians, Africans, Caribbeans, Arabs, Indians, Indians, Russians, Gypsies, Jews, and the British are all minorities.  I hate all of them.  But that's just my culture.

Of course WoW is a great game for people like me.  Night Elves, Pandaren, Orcs, Trolls, Pygmies, Tauren, Draenei, and Worgen are all based on these groups to varying degrees.  And I get to kill them.

Even better, a game like this which allows simulated violence against minorities is a great place to meet other people like me.  Of course it's a pretty risky place for those minorities, with people like me around!  Ha ha!  Oh but don't worry, it's just my culture.

But seriously, folks...

Isn't it time we told developers to stop making these sickening games where we're allowed, even encouraged, to attack minorities?  It's terrible that we constantly hand over money to these people, these sickening developers, who so willingly depict death and violence as if it were "just part of the culture."  Only in the East, in China, did they take any sort of stand and change anything, covering up some bones, but doing nothing anywhere else, as if just to reinforce the idea that it's "just part of the culture."

But seriously folks...

Isn't that a rather absurd stance to take?  Sure, trolls are obviously based on a Caribbean accent and more than a little bit of voodoo and night elves borrow from Japan.  Would we ever say that because World of Warcraft allows us, and to some extent, requires us to attack them, that therefore WoW is encouraging violence against minorities?  Even suggesting that games could have any link to violence will provoke a heated response, let alone suggesting that the games encourage particular racist behavior.  Let's watch where we aim our accusations of virtual moral decay, lest we shoot ourselves.

We can be disturbed and disgusted by the strangely child-like bunny-eared race with the heart-shaped vagina covers (it can hardly be called armor).  I sure am.  But let's wait a moment before we jump to accusations that the developers and publishers have released Pedophile Online.

It's a common way to mock American culture, that a million gunshots are fine but a single nipple is unacceptably destructive to the psyches of our youth.  But isn't that what we're seeing here?  Kill a million trolls and that's fine.  But dress the aliens the wrong way and oh my god what is wrong with you you sick sick person!?  Why is mass killing something we take in stride but the sexualization of children crosses the line?  It's not about the children, or at most, they are a slight increase, not the root cause.  Female armor gets a similar sort of outrage.  It's the skin.  It's somehow terrifying in a way that a rotting corpse cannot be.

I don't plan to buy TERA.  The very thought of it makes me feel slightly ill, the sort of feeling a person gets from hearing the sound of vomiting.  But should I declare a crusade against it?  Call it an abomination?  Or should I accept that as much as it sickens me, it is ultimately a fictional universe with fictional races and fictional results and is no more responsible for child abuse than WoW is responsible for ethnic violence?

On the other hand...

I've noticed that if one person expresses a negative opinion it can be interpreted as a single negative opinion and if it's about a particular aspect, it may be worth considering change.  If a dozen, a hundred, or thousands have the same opinion, then we call it a crusade and mock it, as if a thousand people cannot have the same opinion without colluding.

Making a race not sicken millions of people on sight might be a good idea, regardless of so-called cultural differences.  Child abuse is not a "cultural difference" any more than female circumcision is a "cultural difference."  Well sure, it is in the literal sense, but it's the sort of inhumane "cultural difference" that should be eliminated or at least reduced (which was done with foot-binding).  I still won't say that the game itself is some horrible abomination (even if it makes me sick), but it is reflecting something wrong (as might also our obsession with zombies: nearly-human creatures which have strangely become our enemies and can only be slaughtered, not reasoned with).

Get your sexy children and animals out of my violence

| Monday, May 7, 2012
I've been trying to sort out quite what is wrong with the Elin.  My gut isn't much help, since it just screams "oh god what is wrong with those people!?" and gut-based psychoanalysis of developers isn't usually a successful endeavor.  My brain kicks in eventually and says that no children are harmed by the development or play of the game, that is it fantasy events with fantasy characters in a fantasy world.  Well okay, but that doesn't make me feel any less sick, so it appears as though my gut has triumphed.

Maybe by focusing on the children I'm looking at the wrong problem.  Maybe the actual problem is the general habit of turning anything female into a sex object, at at least a thing to stare at.  From this perspective, then there is a general societal problem of making female things (I say things because I'm going to go past the human realm soon) sexual, often primarily sexual.  There is a particular mental disorder of being attracted to prepubescent girls.  I won't use the word pedophilia because that's used for both law and psychology and of course the legal one, despite being the one we use to lock people up and ostracize them, is inaccurate.

And then there is the anthropomorphizing of animals or non-human beings, which by itself isn't so strange, but when we selectively apply it to female things, it gets weird.  Take the worgen forms for example: the males are clearly not just wolves on their hind legs, but they are also clearly not just people who need to shave a bit more often.  The female worgen are inexplicably more humanoid.  Is it unimaginable that something can be female and not be eye candy for human men?  I'm not saying they have to be unattractive worgen, by worgen standards the males might be quite the sex objects, but it seems like quite a bit of stretching to turn them into something halfway toward being sexy for humans.

The objectification of women within games can be opposed on multiple grounds, but rather than the usual sexism grounds, let's try good game design.  Why must there be sexy stuff in my game of violence?  MMOs tend toward violence.  Argue against that somewhere else, but for here, let's take it as an assumption that games will be violent.  Given that, why add sex objects?

Let's imagine the reverse, that World of Sexcraft is a popular online game where players control avatars which have sex.  This probably exists but that is not a search history that I want to have.  Within this game would it make any sense for the armor to have severed heads as kneepads and knives as sex toys?  Beside a particular fetish group, no.  It wouldn't make any sense at all.  It would distract from the actual purpose of the game.  Beyond that, it would simply be pointless.  Shoehorning violent imagery into a game about sex would make it a worse game.  Reversing back away from the reversal, why shoehorn sexual imagery into a game about violence?

Worst Gaydar Ever

| Monday, April 16, 2012
It was a typical weekend. I was tired, bored, and playing WoW. Specifically, running old raids. I went to Ahn'Qiraj, which due to a summoning error started in the usually-soloed AQ20. After that was BWL, but a bugged Rend event mixed with a lack of patience and inability to follow basic directions eventually resulted in only four of us in the raid. Razorgore died. I rushed off to grab the goblins before they could escape with their precious average of .08 elementium ingots.

One of the two mages said something to the effect of "whoever dies is a faggot", in reference to the Burning Adrenaline buff which eventually kills them. I was still chasing goblins and hoping to outrun the boss speech.

I considered explaining that there is no evidence for a link between the buff/debuff and homosexuality, and furthermore that as it is commonly used, faggot is a pegorative term, making it a pointless and unscientific insult against a group that I have yet to see harm me, either collectively or as individuals. Alas, time was short, so I went with "worst gaydar ever".

I'm not actually opposed to the use of the word faggot, but I think it should be restricted to faggots, either bundles of sticks or homosexual men, with it usually referring to the latter unless hobbits are involved and it's not a slashfic. I think it's very important to have the word faggot as a negative reference for gay men. It helps me identify and avoid homophobes. The usage of faggot as generic insult mostly confuses me. Sure, that's what people did in 8th grade. Everyone was a jumbled mess of immaturity and ignorance and the concept of masculinity was poorly understood but understood to be very important, so linking someone to a group often associated with femininity made perfect sense in the strange logic of cruelty. Gay or not, labeling someone gay, or with a gay label, was a useful tool in inflicting social and psychological harm on others. Then at some point I figured people went to high school, spent a few more months using gay or fag as generic insults, and then switched to Shakespearean attacks in an attempt to win points with the English Lit teacher and avoid punishment from authority figures who did not realize that telling someone to "get thee to a nunnery" wasn't a Catholic joke. I generally expect people to grow up.

Boss dies, shaman friend gets shield, and burning adrenaline, and dies. Faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot.

Ah. So now we're past the one-off immature joke. Now he's being insistent. Spamming it. Pardon me a moment.


What the fuck is wrong with people that they think that this is any way remotely acceptable behavior? What circuit is wrong in their heads to think that any spamming is appropriate? Even worse, spamming at someone with a probably-inaccurate and definitely-irrelevant insult? It makes no god damn sense. This isn't a college frat where everyone is drunk and being an immature jackass helps a person fit in. It's a small group in a game. What could possibly be the point of this? Is it some mental disease? Is it contagious? (yes, unlike homosexuality, which is a great irony)

*end rant*

I kicked him in the middle of his spamming. For whatever reason the chat message is "so and so has left the group" rather than "so and so has been removed by irritated raid leader". The shaman friend whispered me, asking if I'd kicked and I said I had.

 But why then? What actually changed from the first mention of faggots to the last? A bit of spam? Surely I can better survive a bit of spam than pointless hate directed at 10% of the population (they're everywhere, look out!) and hitting 100% due to terrible aim.

I've been called a faggot before. There I was riding my back to the high school, not or school, but for summer sports camp when I was going onto 7th or 8th grade. Someone was riding behind me saying "faggot", not close enough or loud enough for me to even realize anyone was saying anything, but eventually I noticed. It was someone my age who caught up and asked where I was going and somehow my school came up, a nearby Catholic school for kindergarten to 8th grade. He called it a fag school. Having been there, I can assure you, there would have been little tolerance for any fagging. This is the Catholic Church we're talking about here. If that's a fag school, then fag is clearly meaningless.

If I woke up tomorrow and fag was universally used as a generic insult, that would be fine. It's not. Instead it's sometimes generic, creating the fag=bad connection, if that hadn't quite been drilled into people yet, and sometimes specific, allowing it to act like one of those parasites that has a dozen stages of life all of which allow it to better survive and infest hosts. If it were generic, it wouldn't be hateful to gays. But as a hybrid, it's hateful to gays, suggesting that they are so bad that even the description of them is bad, and to be described as gay is not merely inaccurate (it usually is), but offensive. That's the key. If someone says fag they aren't saying bad+homosexual, but rather homosexual->bad. If fag was merely pairing two unrelated terms, one neutral and one negative, that would be okay. It instead acts like a very short [il]logical argument: If gay, then bad. I wonder if it's coincidence that one of the first people to explicitly explain to me that gay is bad was also someone who told me to carry a pocket Bible. I think I'd need the word of a deity before I'd start hating people for a behavior which doesn't harm anyone else (not that I'm suggesting it harms them either).

I've never been attacked or significantly harassed (I just have a particularly good memory for bad memories). So then it makes sense. If I've never been hurt by homophobic behavior, then it's no wonder I'd let it slide, at least until they start spamming. That's what is bugging me now, that it was the spamming that got him kicked. But isn't the initial comment the real problem? A bit of spam here and there never hurt anyone. It's the little comments that slide by unchecked, un-fact-checked, un-questioned, which act like little seeds. Call it the "broken windows theory of hate".

Yet if I were to ignore, kick, and report every single hateful comment from the niggs in trade chat to the faggots in a pug raid, where would that leave me? Well thankfully, I'd still have my guild because I can't recall them being hateful assholes. But I'd definitely find myself labeled a nit-picker. "Choose your battles" sounds like common sense, but there is also "death by a thousand cuts", like when in Wyoming two men tortured him most of the way to death and then left him to slowly die tied to a fence. Then people (I'm using the term only in the genetic sense) showed up to protest his funeral. I'm not suggesting that there is a direct link between calling a female shaman in BWL a faggot leads to murdering people. But I am suggesting that a little bit of hate goes a long way. Seeing someone as a little less human makes them a lot less safe. That spreads. Maybe we should be more careful with what we say and how we say it and why we say it.

If you've read The Giver, you might remember a part where the protagonist yells at someone who is playing poorly "You're released!" and is reprimanded by the adults, because "released" isn't just a word for being free to go; it means something very serious and specific in that society.

Persuasive and Authoritarian Roles in the Holy Trinity

| Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Some people tell you what to do and you have to listen because they're the ones in charge.  They have the law or guns or mind-control.  These are the authoritarians.

Some people convince you to do it by manipulation: bribes and blackmail and friendly smiles with the knife behind their back.  These are the persuasives (not a real word)(or so the authoritarians would say).

Some people don't tell you to do anything, they seem to never order anyone at all, but they are always there, making things happen, invisible and often uncredited, but necessary beyond imagination.  These are the nameless ones, because I can't think of a good label and maybe that works anyway.

Consider control over mobs within WoW.  I think we can map these labels onto the group roles.  Not the holy trinity of tank, healer, DPS, but to tank, crowd control, and healing. 

Tanks hold aggro by mechanic and mind-control.  They use sheer numerical power to force enemies to attack them.  That's what aggro is, a number on a table that tells the mob who to attack, and tanks make very big numbers.  Taunts are the mind-control, forcing them mob, regardless of any other preference (except when specifically disabled) to attack the tank.  Tanks are ultimately about straightforward use of power to force the mob to do what they want.  As WoW tanking has evolved from aggro being difficult to survival being difficult (relatively speaking), this has become even more accurate as an analogy.  Indeed, authoritarians can impose their will, but then people try to kill them, with varying degrees of success.

Crowd control uses tricks.  The crowd control cannot easily tell mobs to attack them, but some classes can tell them to attack others.  They can pin mobs in place, stun them, fear them.  They kite them, using constant effort to make it happen, in contrast with the tank who can more often start off with aggro and keeps it, with little effort.  A kiting hunter cannot ever stand still because the mob is always moving, just as a persuasive leader must constantly counter the intellectual, or blatantly false but nevertheless convincing, attacks against him.  One misstep can be the end.  But the results can be more beautiful to see.  While the power of a tank may be impressive, everyone enjoys a story of intrigue.

And then there are the healers.  They don't tell anyone what to do, not directly.  Without them, everything else falls apart.  They are the bureaucrats and the secretaries, who we may see, but never quite acknowledge as essential, and they may try to keep it that way.  Their bosses are likely to be authoritarian or persuasive and neither likes to have their spotlight stolen.  If we notice an amazing healer, it probably means something went wrong.  They take the heat when someone stands in the fire.

Or if you were expecting this to be about God, then let's say God is the authoritarian, Jesus is the persuasive, and the Holy Spirit is the nameless.  It doesn't even get a name.  Sometimes it's the Holy Ghost, which sounds like the least terrifying Halloween movie ever.  God tends to kill people, the Holy Spirit does something I can't quite remember but is important, and Jesus once crowd-controlled a pack of demons by putting them into sheep and running them off a cliff into the sea.  And then he self-rezed and BAM, casted frost shock.

Clinging to outdated, out-of-context tradition

| Monday, March 19, 2012
I have two taunts on fairly short cooldowns. I can throw a shield that generates enough aggro that whatever is not attacking me, will. I have an AoE with a pretty decent range. Add to that my usual attacks of crusader strike/hammer of the righteous and judgement, and aggro should not be an issue, regardless of who pulls. At level 70, very few enemies hit hard enough that someone will die from pulling.

In terms of safely clearing an instance, it doesn't matter much who pulls.

So why do I care?

I could twist together all manner of arguments for why people shouldn't pull if they aren't the tank (or acting at the request of the tank).

Is it a bad habit? Maybe. But if we're learning our habits from level 70 random heroics, we're already in trouble. "It's a bad habit" is a form of the classic slippery slope argument, that once someone does something, it is permanent.

Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable when others pull because they are going faster or going when a CD is down. Is this enough reason? Maybe, maybe not. Is my slow pulling making them uncomfortable? Do they have a buff wearing off? Maybe they're in a rush and I'm ruining their run.

I've always been 'right', not because my instance running was at the ideal speed or because there was some divine mandate that made a tank-led pull always inherently better than any other. But I've always had something on my side, a mystical force which made my opinions worth more than others, regardless of their actual merit. I've been a tank and as long as tanks have been in short supply, I've magically been correct. Supply and demand said that my opinions and feelings were more important than those of other players.

The only ethos of "Might Makes Right" has been replaced with "Market Makes Right", in which certain people who by luck are in greater demand relative to supply have become something more than mere humans, something more than individuals offering individual opinions for individual regard.

In the process, the particular whims of these sorts of people have been carried on and enshrined in the collective concept of good behavior, regardless of the actual merit of the behavior, regardless of whether "good behavior" is actually helpful or whether "bad behavior" is actually harmful.

In the past I've espoused a "let them die" strategy. Do two wrongs make a right? If someone has aggro, I get it back. I'm a tank. That's my job. Why should I suddenly break this rule just because someone broke a rule that doesn't matter anyway? I've said that a tank should pull because the tank knows his (or her) limits. Why not give the same trust to a DPS and if they want a mob, they can have it? It's not "let them die", but "let them live", tank as I would and heal as you would and let's get back to the serious matter of killing actual enemies.

"Their actions make me slightly uncomfortable" is not a good justification to go stage a mini-strike and jeopardize the shared goals of the group.

I still think tanks are the natural leaders of the groups, but maybe that doesn't mean they have to be so damn self-important.

People who want to be where they are

| Monday, February 6, 2012
Why would a level 70 be in a BC heroic? Or a 74? Yesterday I decided to try something different on my mage and queued for a BC random heroic.

Surprisingly, I not only found a group, but found it pretty quickly. But that wasn't the best part. The people were.

I didn't run into a single rude or "go go go" type person. No one complained about gear except for one brief mention of a tank's gear, who had a grey belt, but no drama come from it.

We had mistakes and bad pulls. People died. But no one whined or raged. Why?

They were all people who wanted to be where they were. They could get more xp and better loot in LK instances. BC randoms don't even give points, just a bit of gold and bonus xp. They would only go there if they actually wanted to run BC heroics. Maybe it was for achievements or to see what they hadn't seen before. Maybe it was nostalgia. Maybe it was for something other than the same three or four LK randoms. Whatever it was, the basic fact remained that they were not in places for some quick external reward, but for something in the instance itself.

I'd never tried this before. I didn't even know it was possible. And that may be the problem. People will run lower-reward, higher-fun (subjective, of course) content, if they know it is possible.

Maybe the most important thing I learned from this experience is that even with the anonymous cross-server grouping, putting like-minded people in the same place is possible and yields a better experience. But I already knew this!

My mage is now level 63* and has never been to Outland... He's found a handful of groups, most of which were populated by players above level 58. That means that players who could be running Outland for bags of useful items, higher xp, and short queues, are instead specifically queuing for older instances. There are players specifically choosing older content with fewer tangible rewards (in a virtual sense)... Players are specifically choosing to run these instances and are exhibiting unusually high levels of patience for pulling speed and tolerance for wiping... I have to give some credit to the cross-server group-making tool. Without it I'm not sure there would be the population needed to form groups at all.

This was the mage who, well here's the start of an earlier post
In the past I've complained about people skipping content with the obsolescence of every raid that isn't ICC and heirlooms to speed through leveling. I decided to go a step further and do that to an entire expansion of content.

My mage is now level 68. He has never been to Outland.

I think I might do this again on my next mage (she's the one I talk about earlier in the post). I don't like Seahorse Land much, so if Hyjal doesn't tick, that could be my plan: run BC randoms until they run out, then run LK heroics until they run out.

Playing Without Friends is Overrated

| Friday, February 3, 2012
My paladin is all alone. There are no friends on her server, no one to play with. So she does randoms. Ugh. Mostly the people are okay, but a few bad apples can really spoil the mood. Even worse, at this point no one takes anything slow or explains anything at all, except once in Stonecore I got lucky with a surprisingly friendly group and got my first heroic Ormok kill. That was nice.

The worst may have been in the new instances. Or maybe they aren't new anymore. Someplace before the well of eternity. I zone in and immediately the group is gone, hopping around trash and lava. I tried to keep up and hoped for no surprises in the bosses. There were none. How... boring.

It was quite fitting when I got to the last boss and his death yell includes, "You know not what you have done," and all I could think was "Yea, exactly." I grabbed a couple healing items because there were no other paladins and got some new DPS gloves from the quest. I'm not sure if I'm annoyed more by the easy loot or by the way I ended up stumbling through an anonymous and rushed instance.

I wish I was playing with friends. I think that's the thing that could convince me to give Blizzard another $15. Alas, allein. I could find a guild, probably. But that's not a fun process for an introvert, of actively seeking out people, totally unknown people, and engaging them, particularly in a salesman role. That's why I liked the non-random, non-cross-server groups, they brought people together who would see each other again and who might actually communicate for a reason other than convincing someone to give a guild invite.

The Well of Eternity was a lot more fun. Maybe it helped that I'd read War of the Ancients, so I had something to connect to. But the group wasn't quite so rushed either. Maybe it was the design of the place, maybe it was the people. Though I got a bit mixed up about what I was supposed to be doing, because still, people don't explain much. Maybe I should have read up beforehand, but that seems excessive for a random.

Finally, the Hour of Twilight. I said I was new. The healer said she was trying a new addon. Nothing much got explained, so I ended up riding ride past the ambush. Then an overpull near the second boss wiped us. I was then kicked without any reason given or anything said. That's a pretty shitty way to do things. And I'm saved for the day, so no queueing for it to try again.

I'd rather have bots

| Friday, January 27, 2012
When I make friends in a game, I want to play with them. If they're not on, but I still want to progress, what should I do?

I could hope that enough people are online on my server so I can form a group. This used to be the method, but was rejected.

I could play with people from other servers who I will never see again. This is the current method.

I could play with bots, which, if we given them a slightly randomized AI and name generation are functionally identical in all positive aspects to the people from other servers. I will never play with them again. I will develop no ties to them, because I will never see them again.

There is a benefit to bots. A social benefit, in fact. Since I likely have no concern for the random players, I am likely to treat them worse than I would friends or same-server players. Not with cruelty, but you cannot expect generosity in this situation. I have every incentive to take all I can, without regard for their needs or desires.

If they are already dehumanized, why not replace them with non-humans and minimize the damage inflicted upon the helpless other?

P.S. I'd rather play with the friends I made from the first scenario.

NPCs, it's okay to not be gay

| Monday, September 12, 2011
Jonnie of MMO Melting Pot seems to be unhappy about the absolute heterosexuality of virtual worlds of Warcraft and Star Wars.
Blogger and my laptop are disagreeing about how to add links, so I hope you don't mind a bit of copy-paste.

Let's try the usual disclaimers to start off: I'm not gay and I'm not homophobic. But despite being called a fag more than a few times, I clearly do not have an insider's perspective, so maybe I just "don't get it."

That said, who cares? I think we may be making too much of this. By we I don't mean myself, since I disagree with him, and I can't speak for you, the reader, so it appears that we was a terrible word choice.

Azeroth is a fantasy world. This is important is several ways.

First off, the cultures and views within it are not necessarily those of the creators. Second, these are not necessarily idealized cultures. In fact, I'd say that the portrayal of every major race in WoW has gotten progressively less rosy. All of the races have major flaws, with only the tauren, in my opinion, being able to truly say that the evil is isolated to one group, the Grimtotem. In other words, this isn't a perfect world, made so by the lack of homosexuality. Not much is said on it one way or another, beside "me not that kind of orc." It's not shunned or accepted, just not there at all.

Why should it be? From what I can tell of the science, homosexuality is not a choice, but a matter of brain chemistry. Yea, I'm trying to tip-toe there, because "brain condition" and "mental state" all make it sound like something is wrong. Maybe in Azeroth the genetics and brains just don't work out in such a way that homosexual behavior or desire exists. Is this so different from how there don't seem to be dark-skinned humans or white orcs? It's all just biochemistry and it would be strange to claim that an alien universe should work the same way as ours.

Of course it would be equally strange to claim that an alien universe shouldn't work the same way as ours, given the fact that we (useless we, once again) created it. The writers could have decided that the chemistry exists to create black humans and white orcs (they come in several colors already, what is one more?). But why would they? Do these things add to the universe? Do they make the stories any better?

Potentially, yes. It could be interesting to see how various sexual or romantic attractions could change the sub-plots in a game like WoW. Variety can spawn variety. Maybe the tendency to not read quests could be fixed by a bit of gayness. After all, nothing quite catches the attention like an unexpectedly bit of tauren uh, beef.

I'm going to leave that aside for now, since I don't thin I'm getting anywhere on that path. Instead, let's think about how there came to be a lack of homosexuality.

Maybe the writers just never even thought of it. This seems unlikely. So then we have to wonder, if it came up, where did it go? I'm picturing a committee sitting around working out some quest chains.
"Alright, dragons captured his friend and he wants us to go free him. Anything to add to that?"
"Why not make it his boyfriend?"
"Make them gay?"

Why not? Maybe they don't want to anger the people who would be angered by that sort of thing. Maybe it feels forced to them. These are things I could understand. WoW seems to be aimed at a very wide population. Some of that population includes people who think that rescuing a girlfriend is romantic and heartwarming, while rescuing a boyfriend means that Azeroth Jesus is crying. As for the second, when does a gay character appear? I mean, when is it a natural part of the story for someone to be gay, rather than being a forced "hey look guys, we added a gay character for you, aren't you happy yet?" It's the paralysis of not wanting to do something wrong, so doing nothing at all.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the most double-standards of all?
I'm trying to imagine if WoW had been made by a majority gay development team and they acted the same way, creating a world in which everyone is gay. Would I play this game and think "oh yea, sure, everyone is gay, so what? Just coincidence and dev habit, not like it matters." I doubt it. I'd probably think it was a little strange. I mean, an entire world in which everyone is gay? How obviously forced! So maybe the reverse is the same.

But that's silly. Let's face it: an entirely gay universe would need some other means of reproduction, meaning that homosexuality wouldn't be the same. In the real universe, homosexuality is not "normal", is is the exception, not the rule. It is unusual. But that doesn't mean it is wrong. Somehow this distinction fails to sink in for many people, that different is not wrong. But by the same token, not wrong doesn't mean typical.

Games could benefit from a bit more gayness, not because it is politically correct or polite, but because it would allow for more variety in story-telling. And that's the key, it should be for the story, it should add to it, rather than being forced in. If it is going to be forced in, then it is just as ridiculous as the crusades of homophobes, who might be all in favor of gay relationships in TOR, as long as they gave dark side points.

In conclusion, I have no conclusion.

P.S. Upon a second reading, I noticed this phrase "When a personal choice is singled out" Why would anyone ever choose to be gay? It sounds pretty stupid, if you ask me. Who in their right mind would choose to be hated and discriminated against? Doesn't sound like much of a choice to me. Maybe the underlying self isn't a choice.
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