Did antisocials ruin MMOs?

| Monday, November 30, 2009
I remember doing a lot more grinding and waiting in WoW. From what I've heard, other games had even more. On the surface these things are bad. After all, grinds are repetitive and who likes waiting? But there are benefits to them.

Waiting around is a time for guilds to bond. There's not much time to chit chat during raids; there are more immediate concerns to be handled. Sure, there are a few minutes before pulls while you buff and summon and all that, but are you going to be friends from talking for five minutes a couple nights a week? Are you going to feel any loyalty? I doubt it. By my own experience, that chit chat is annoying. A handful of people who knew each other before talk about stuff no one else understands and it can be alienating. It ends up being "I wish we'd start so they would shut up."

Grinding on its own isn't very social. However if a grind is long enough and based on mass killing, it encourages grouping up. You get a few DPS and maybe a healer to go commit genocide. It's low-key so you can chat and do the sort of numberless theorycraft that can do a surprising amount to open people's minds to the mechanics of the world: "What if we used shockwave when those spawn and then they'll be easier to bladestorm?" "Really, those can be stunned? I didn't know that."

The activity itself isn't much fun, but it's a time to gather and talk. Think of it as the barn-raising of MMOs. Get together and build something and eat pie while the younguns try to hook up and make more younguns. Maybe that last part of the analogy only works in Goldshire.

So what killed boring stuff in MMOs? Maybe it was the antisocial people. They couldn't have fun with people despite the activity. They wanted to log in, get their pixels, and log out without having to deal with other people any more than necessary.

But you say "Isn't this really because people like being able to get things done in a short amount of time?" Maybe. But I wonder, would people be willing to spend more time if they were with people they socialized with more? Sure, there are the log in for an hour twice a week people, but why structure everything around them? Why are all the instances short and all the grinds based on an hour of dailies here and there? I remember people farming in guild groups or waiting for PUGs to form and talking along the way. I joined my first guild while waiting for a ZF group to start.

As I was digging through screenshots to find some for GIMP to grind up into a banner, I stumbled across some very old ones. They were of a few guildies and me on my warlock in Darkwhisper Gorge. We were farming the eye of shadow. I don't recall if we were farming it for a guildy in the group or if we were just farming as a group. Either way, I can't imagine that anymore. What could we possibly need to farm that we cannot do alone?

It's all soloable. Sure, these mobs were soloable, but they were tough enough that a group was appreciated and we were still in a mindset that farming was more than just a solo activity between raids; it was part of what guilds did. I won't pretend we didn't mine solo or hunt some mobs solo, but there was much more group activity outside of raids and instances. The bugs in Silithus used to be elite. Soloable, but still tough enough that it was smart to bring help. Part of the rep included summoning outdoor mini-bosses, which we'd pull together groups for, sometimes entire PUG raids.

These days I almost laugh when people group up outside instances. LFM TFA/cit? Heh. Noobs, learn2solo. That strikes me as wrong. These are supposed to be multi-player games, MMORPGs, and yet increasingly we demand the ability to solo. We push away any hint of reliance on others. Then when we join a PUG we wonder why everyone is so unreliable. We try to raid and wonder who recruited these disloyal idiots.

The other extreme was certainly bad, waiting hours for a spawn and needing a group at almost all times. But this extreme might not be all that much better. Why play online if we're going to play it as a single-player game?

Are we too antisocial to pass the time talking? Are we in such a rush that everything must be able to be done right now? Are we replacing slow-cooking with microwaves and losing all the flavor?

Did you know the tram has a ticket booth?

| Saturday, November 28, 2009
I just noticed this a yesterday. Since I was a gnome, I decided to jump through the opening. Then I got stuck and had to use my death gate to get out.

You read this?

| Friday, November 27, 2009
Every now and then I get completely surprised when I find that someone reads my blog. I think of it as a little tiny itsy-bitsy piece of the blogosphere that no one ever notices. Well sure, I know my favorite gnomes read and a few other people as well, but I'm no Tobold or Gevlon or one of those other names that is just... you know it. Even if you don't read it, you know the name, but odds are, you read it. A strange habit of mine: when I find a new blog I check their blogroll. If I see Greedy Goblin I frown and shake my head, and then go back to a slight smile because it's so much more fun to smile. If I don't see mine I smile a little big less. If I see Pink Pigtail Inn I say: "Well at least they have some taste."

Every now and then a real life friend of mine makes some comment about a recent post. I get confused. "What do you mean 'only I could make therapy disturbing?' Oh! You read that?" This recent exchange led to my idea for a post 'soon': Where do bank alts come from? Or I made a post on the general forums and someone responds that they like my blog. A druid of all types! Somehow this never struck me as a blog that a druid would ever read. Except Hana but she's a druidadin.

Of course once I get going on this line of thought I get all confused. What class would read this? I know because I've been told, that my blog address has pulled in some people looking for a shaman blog. Oops? My labels you might find this in a search for paladins. Or as I recently noticed: hunter BiS weapons. Yea, that's from one post a while back.

Not a class blog. Not a lore blog. Not an economics/gold-making blog. Not theorycraft. Not news. I actively avoid this being a "here's what I did yesterday" blog, though it still happens since what I did yesterday was so amazingly amazing and funny and omg leik can u believe wut dropped!? Sorry. Sometimes I feel like a knockoff PPI with some mix of social posts and commentary and general being a nice person-ness. That's right, I am being outblogged by a Swedish mother and her friend who I am not really sure but I thought was from Arizona.

What does it mean that when I try to write these sort of posts where I'm curious about my audience that they end up all self-deprecating? Oh you say you've never seen me write one of these? That's because I delete them because I hate that emo crap. Cheer the f- up!

Yesterday I learned that I can solo the tiger boss in ZG. I was worried that I'd not have the interrupts to do it. It turns out the heals are infrequent enough that I can damage through them and only need to interrupt close to the end. And it appears that the madness boss is the one I need, so unless it switched tomorrow, I think I'll be able to get it and complete my trinket. Truth be told, this is just a scheme to free up the bank slots. Oh damn, I just did one of those "read this and care about what I'm doing" type of posts, or part of one. That's so... social.

P.S. Just to ensure that I'm not ripping off Larisa by being a nice person, I plan to be an asshole for a while. I figure I'll make it a day or two.
P.S.S. I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving. Or a Happy Thursday since I know you're not all Americans.

This seems broken.

Hunter armory. Ignore the gear and check the achievements. Specifically check the date of the Onyxia achievement. Compare that to when Onyxia level 80 came out.

BG attendance and RL seasons

| Thursday, November 26, 2009
Do people do AV more in the winter?
How about AB in the spring?
Is WSG a fall BG?
And who does not immediately think of glowing purple skies and capture the flag when the calender rolls over to summer?

I do think of AV as a winter BG. As it gets colder I think about it more. My first AV was in the winter. In the same pattern, my first WSG was in the fall. But these are not due to seasons, but simply that was the timing of when I started playing and the levels at which I could do the BGs.

Something about snow drifting past the window doesn't match with the sunny Arathi Basin. Nor does it match the torrential downpours. Those are spring weathers.

I imagine Blizzard has data on this, of BG attendance on a given day, and that could be matched up with the seasons. Maybe there's a pattern, but we don't have that data. :(

But I can ask you. Do you see any correlation between your BG attendance and the outside seasons?

A new approach to dealing with damage

| Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Currently damage is mostly dealt with by two types of players: tanks who mitigate it and healers who undo it. For tanks it's mostly about gear while for healers it's mostly about fast responses, anticipation of damage, and somehow surviving knowing that a single screw up can kill everyone. I admire healers for this. DPS don't do much in this process. You might see a ret throw up a sacred shield or maybe a mage or warlock throw up a specific absorb type, but in general DPS aren't involved in the damage control.

Let's change that.

I propose a way for DPS to increase their damage by protecting the raid. It would be a way to redirect certain types of hostile spells to themselves, absorbing most of the damage, and as they get more they accumulate spell combo points. These could be released for various devastating attacks.

Imagine you're on Thorim and Sif is throwing around a lot of frostbolts. You could throw up a resist aura and heal through them. Or, you could get a mage. They could redirect the bolts to themselves and with frost ward absorb the damage. After a while they could strike back with the absorbed damage. Other classes and specs would have similar abilities: shadow priests, warlocks, and DKs controlling shadow. Fire mages, destruction warlocks, and elemental shamans would control fire. Frost mages, DKs, and elemental shamans would control frost. Arcane mages, DKs, and warlocks would control arcane, though warlocks would retaliate with shadow damage. I spent too much time typing those out: the idea isn't meant to be so specific.

Lore-wise some of these might not make enough sense. A warlock protecting the group doesn't seem to fit, but maybe if it's boosting his ability to hurt other people? If it's a net gain in pain, a pain profit if you will, perhaps he'd do it. Other classes would seem to make more sense since several are healers or tanks and mages aren't social rejects (well, maybe only in lore)*. Hunters might have some sort of special arrow which they shoot at spells to catch them and then can be shot back, maybe this would tie into arcane shot.

What would rogues do that would help the group? They're not nice or even casters, so I'm not seeing any potential spell-control utility. Maybe they could have an anti-melee ability: looping a string around the enemy's weapon and pulling it taut, so when they swing at the tank it gets pulled back towards them.

* No crying, it's a joke, I have enough water for now.

DKs in Outland, perhaps not so ridiculous

| Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I've held the belief that Death Knights should not run off to Outland almost straight from their starting area. It seemed to make no sense. They break free of the Scourge and swear to destroy it, and yet right after they run off to Outland to fight an enemy which they may have never ever heard of. How could Illidan and Kael'thas possibly be a worthy distraction to their pursuit of Arthas? They have no vendetta with them.

I left out some factors. There are reasons for the Knights of the Ebon Blade to wish to venture into Outland.

The last thing you hear before leaving is the need for allies. The Alliance or the Horde is the ally. These allies seek to secure Outland. While it would not seem to be in the immediate interests of the DKs, to maintain ties it is worth supporting their allies.

Personal Strength
While DKs leave their area with powerful armor, a potent runeblade, and the might of Death at their control, they are hardly in a position to directly challenge Arthas. They've obtained the most powerful armor of the Scourge, at least as they can tell, so it is unlikely that further battles in the Plaguelands will yield much gain. In contrast Outland is likely to have many undiscovered items of power.

Furthermore, Outland has entirely new challenges. It has direct confrontation with the Burning Legion in addition to all sorts of unknown enemies. To battle against them will give needed experience and versatility of tactics. It is a training ground for when they take the fight to Icecrown CItadel.

While I claimed that the DKs have no score to settle in Outland, this is not entirely true. They might know that the Scourge was created by the Burning Legion. While Arthas may have been their direct enemy, the Legion is responsible for the existence of the Scourge. Depending on the DK, they may even have been veterans of the previous wars against the Legion. An elf in particular could have been fighting them for thousands of years and could regard them as their main enemy even above Arthas.

Arthas would expect the DKs to chase right after him. He would be prepared for them. For them to go off to Outland instead would give the appearance that they are afraid. From that he might underestimate them. Then when they return, it is as a surprise, and with greater power for their struggles.

This was all general factors, things that affect all DKs. What about our own personal DKs? My orc, Weisserose went to rediscover his identity as an orc by facing the fel orcs and hoping to discover the untainted ones. My gnome, Fizzledbang, is drawn by rumors of arcane and demonic energy which he might be able to craft into a new and more powerful bomb.

Why is your Death Knight in Outland?

I got a dwarf rogue!

| Monday, November 23, 2009
I was camping outside the Alliance inn in Dalaran and I saw another dwarf coming out. As I was standing I got annoyed and started complaining in gchat: "hunter... DK... paladin... wwwwwwww" And finally I caught up to it and nailed it with the turkey shooter that I'd stuck on one of my bars. I was prepared and it paid off.

The dwarf rogue was MINE.

Now I have two shooters left and only need Horde rogues: troll, orc, undead.

And I've cooked up the food for the next four days worth of dailies, so I can start at TB and work my way east.

Turkinator was tricky, took some patience to find a spot and time with no competition. My advice: don't be persistent. Give up quickly so you're not getting in the way of other people. Then they can finish and get out of your way. Eastern Tirisfal seems to work well, I guess people are too lazy to run over there, especially northeast. Actually I got the buff a second time while farming turkeys for the cooking.

Did I kill raiding?

Not your raiding of course, just mine.

Brief history lesson: A while back there was a troll shaman who had a strange attraction to paladins. He got into a lot of conversations on the WoW paladin forums and eventually developed a few friendships. One day that shaman rerolled with a trio of them. Stuff happened and one day they were on Zul'jin, making their own guild: Word of Redemption. I was an officer in said guild, though I must admit that I was not big on exercising power, in other words I was a glorified member, albeit a member with an unusual level of respect from the GM and other officers.

I loved this guild and the people who founded it. I don't mean loved as in "I loved that movie." I mean loved as in, these were friends who I respected and depended on and who I felt a connection to. The guild was our home; our treehouse, our fort, our sanctuary.

I doubt anything can match that, ever. I doubt I will ever again start a guild with a few friends and built it up into something. I doubt I can get anything close to that feeling in any guild that I join. People will have their cliques and habits and rules already. I will always be an add-on and will always be separate.

We didn't get especially far. Time just didn't work out for us. Christmas break took me out of the raids as my schedule shifted by an hour. Many others were reduced in attendance as well. This was while we were trying to push new content, TK I believe (we formed pretty late). Missing people while trying to advance leads to stagnation, and so it slowed and eventually stopped. People hopped off the epic train and eventually we were back to our core and left to pick between the slow process of rebuilding or merging. The merger killed off the guild and we ended up as an isolated clique.

I think this has left me with two problems: excessive expectations and a nagging thought of "we could have done it, it's not over yet."

I won't let myself settle for loyalty to any old guild that I happen to be in. I can't sacrifice for a bunch of strangers. I can't devote as much time and energy when it's not my guild advancing, but just some guild that I happen to be in. No guild culture is ever perfect because none of them are the ones I helped create. No loot system will ever be quite right and no officer will have quite as much trust from me, or the reverse.

And there's still that nagging thought that maybe it's not over yet. I could jump back and start recruiting and get it going again. I know this is ridiculous. The other founding members are gone. I'm still friends with two people who joined later and who I felt became part of the central group. We've been following each other from guild to guild (mostly me following them) and now we've been in the current one for... a while, over a year. We couldn't be the core of a reborn guild.

Maybe someday I'll move on to another game and be able to start over, but I suspect any attempt at raiding in WoW will be plagued by memory. I'll always remember my small town.

Part Two: The Joke
I'm sure we were all disappointed to see the worst blogger ever attack gold guides. Then to make it worse, he brought with his alternate personality. The result was a conspiracy to shoot down a brave entrepreneur. Well I say enough is enough. In a show of solidarity, I am making my own guide.

Unfortunately, I lack marketable skills in WoW. I don't make a thousand gold from five minutes in the AH. I can't get you to 80 in two days. My raiding skills leave something to be desired.

Well you know what I say: If there's no market, make one. With that in mind, for only $5 I can teach you how to live in eternal wistful nostalgia, yearning for days lost and irreclaimable. You can just stuff the money in an e-nvelope and send it here.

Here's a sample to whet your appetite:

There are two routes to take. The hard route involves being awesome and missing those days. But the Fast EZ-Nostalgia Path is faster and easier. The fundamental principle is unfinished business. You must be a mediocre raider with higher aspirations who is cut off from progression by the untimely arrival of an expansion. Forever after you will know that you're not done, that something was stolen from you. Over time you will 'remember' how much better the old days were.

Buy now, only $5 to ruin raiding and PvP forever after!

P.S. This is meant to be a joke, as the title indicates. Tobold is not the worst blogger ever; he's somewhere high up on the "Good Blogger" list.

Gnome Racials are Overpowered

| Sunday, November 22, 2009
I finally started leveling engineering on my gnome DK. This is after farming tons of mats, up to thorium, I have more farming to do to be ready for Outland. I based my mat collection off a guide I'd found and gathered a bit more than what was recommended. This means a few stacks of copper, a few of bronze, and so on.

Time to start leveling.

Okay first, I have to explain what a nerd I am. Playing WoW: check. Using 3rd party resources: +1. Copying the mat list into a spreadsheet: +1. Making that spreadsheet a Google doc so I can have it up in Firefox instead of having to run an extra program (Excel): +1. Moving on...

Oh, I'm at 16. Weird. Oh, gnome! +15 seems like it would save some gold near the end, not having to level the last 15. Oh but it's more than just that. +15 means that I can make items 15 higher than normal, but with the equivalent skill chance of the normal level. The result is that I start making powders at the normal level, but they last 15 longer. That's 15 fewer levels of needing expensive metals. The overall result so far has been to save me about 75% of my metal. Remember, it's often the last 15 before a new tier that is most mat-intensive.

Now I have tons of extra ore and bars that I can sell.

Gnome racials are overpowered.

Part Two: Am I a Carebear?
A conversation with a friend of mine, with his parts cut out for reasons of privacy and me obviously being so much more important.
I'm trying to decide if a recent action makes me a carebear
so I'm on a PvP server
I see an enemy druid fighting some elite
so I help him out, even taunting it off of him
and let him loot the quest item
then I promptly remove his last remaining health
does that make me a carebear?

Part Three: GADPVP
Gnomes Against Drunk PvP
so instead of a normal DPS plate hate
I wear this cloth quest reward
because it looks cool
and once an hour I can pull booze out of it
Brian: Horray!
well seeing as I lost to this DK and shaman with the DK living by only a few health, I suspect the hat got me killed
leading to the suggestion to not PvP while drunk

Part Four: Slogans
Escape Artist: I didn't have enough ways to kill mages as a DK.
Losing in PvP? QQ more! No seriously, my PvP trinket is bound to Q.
If it's red, it's not released yet so you can keep spamming emotes at it. Asshole.
Gnomish Engineering: Smaller explosions, bigger disasters.

Death of the Small Town: Part Two

| Saturday, November 21, 2009
Part two was supposed to talk more about AV, but that never got off the ground. Then a dev told me to write this. True story.

"That segues in nicely to this question: Cross-server gameplay. It's convenient, but do you think that it runs the risk of destroying server communities?"
As for the community question, I used to ... I think that 5 years ago, I would have answered this question differently than I would today. I was all about preserving the small realm communities, but already... Well, look at Battlegrounds, it's a good case in point, because it doesn't diminish social relationships that matter on a realm. Sure, everyone can bring up "that one guy" that they know, the ninja looter who stole his stuff. But I think your real community isn't the whole realm, but it's your guild and the friends you group with, and the cross-server LFG won't undermine that at all.

I'll start with a small bit of opinion: I don't mourn the death of small towns IRL. I am annoyed by politicians' pandering to 'small town America' as if it is some unrepresented demographic made up of honest, hard-working, moral people while everyone else is a big-city banker or homosexual artist, both of whom hate God and freedom. Why do I bring this up? Because then you can play "find the contradiction," since odds are at some point I'll get sad and nostalgic for the 'small towns' of WoW. Oh. I already did that!

"But I think your real community isn't the whole realm, but it's your guild and the friends you group with, and the cross-server LFG won't undermine that at all."

This is where I see risk: redefining community. As we join larger communities we tend sometimes define our community in reverse: making it smaller. While we always had our guilds and our friends and those were special, they were not the entire definition of community. We did have servers and guilds were influential on those servers.

As the community expands outward to include the entire battlegroup, our perception of community cannot keep up. We cannot know the entire battlegroup, we cannot even recognize the guilds. Our server is diluted. In reaction we invert our community and restrict it to friends and guilds.

The result is that if we don't have a guild, we're lost. We must find a new one or risk being outside the community. This risks isolating people. Isolated people are dangerous because they have no social institutions to follow and will tend to act out of short-term self-interest, with harmful effects on those around them. In real life this is theft and all manner of crimes while in WoW it is ninjaing and flame wars.

Sorry, this is getting too slippery slope. We're not on the edge of chaos. This mean that small towns keep us moral while cities encourage lawlessness. It does mean that we need to keep an eye on social institutions and be aware of the possible trouble from transitions between them.

The cities of WoW, battlegroups, can have the same benefits as in real life. These benefits overcome any losses. Sure the social structure gets rearranged, but I believe that this actually encourages involvement in stabilizing structures. In real life this takes the form of what would otherwise be unsustainable minority populations being able to concentrate enough to form a self-sufficient community and from these build themselves up and approach the outside world as equals. For a good example, look at Jewish enclaves in the US where they built themselves up into a powerful group whereas when they were out in the European countryside people tended to kill them as the most convenient cure for a poor harvest.

Cities allow small activities to gain the population they need. Can you imagine a grand art museum in a town of 10,000? It's possible when that's 5 million instead. Cities allow residents to poll common interests to do what they could not otherwise and in that process they create a more varied and valuable culture than the pockets of homogeneity of small towns. In WoW terms this means a handful of scattered lowbies can run an instance together. This means the smaller faction can pool together across servers to fill a BG. This means getting groups for something other than the latest raid and daily heroic.

Overall I'm glad to see the benefits of the larger community, but we must be aware of the costs of this community in order to minimize the downsides and get the most possible benefit. I'm not going to stop missing the faction feel of old AV and knowing the names of people on my server for something other than trolling trade chat, but I can accept that this are smaller losses than the gains of more frequent instance groups. And perhaps we'll even see the full benefits of diverse populations and options as more people find that the perfect guild was waiting on the other side of LFG all this time.

You can do it!

| Friday, November 20, 2009
There's my little gnome out farming fel iron. Oh no, the next node has a rogue at it. I want my fel iron.

Too bad I'm 65 and he's 72.

But I want my fel iron!

So I death grip him in the middle of his mining. Icy touch, plague strike, and start going with obliterate. I'm frost, so I'm not wiping out my diseases.

Somehow I was landing hits. Many hits. Many hits that made his health go down.

He didn't really fight back. He seemed to try to run away and I was going to hit him with chains of ice, but then he vanished. The diseases broke that. He gouged me and then seemed to be trying to line up a backstab when it wore off and I again put my polearm into his rotting face.

He died.

I mined.

I learned something important. I learned to never give up, never shy from any obstacle. I learned that nothing, not even seven levels, can stand between me and my mining.

'PvP' fights

Could this explain why so many people dislike arenas?

I'll start off with some facts.
1) People tend to dislike those activities at which they are terrible.
2) I am terrible at arenas. Like, really really bad. If I still did them, I'd be the reason you'd be sitting there wondering how such terrible people got into your bracket. They would be lower, but they're standing on my hunched-over shoulders as I shake in fear/am chain-feared.
3) I don't like arenas much.
4) The champions fight in the ToC raid has been described as a "PvP fight."

What can we get from this?

First off, people apparently think that PvP means a massive zerg rush against an enemy with no clear target. This means that they might potentially attack healers rather than the guy with plate and more health than you can count on thirty thousand fingers. With this in mind, I better understand some of the teams I ran into in arenas or BGs which would go after the absolute wrong person: they learned PvP from NPCs.

Taking this all together we can see a clear conclusion: Many people hate arenas because they are terrible at them.

Part two: The one where I don't launch half-joking attacks on PvErs.
I deceived you. I'm still going to attack PvErs, but I'm very serious this time. Read through some of the comments at Larisa's post.

"In TotGC, I honestly hate limited attempts. Why? I don't like PvP. Nearly no one in my guild is heavily interested in PvP or Arena. In short: We absolutely suck at Faction Champions Heroic. It's a drag every week and I just don't like being punished for not caring about PvP."

"Of course we know how the threat works and we all drag our PvP abilities in our action bar. We send people to get new specs just for this encounter.

BUT, on 25 heroic you will get destroyed if your fellow raiders aren't great at controlling their assigned targets."

"But I absolutely dislike fights, where PvP veterans have a big advantage and many PvP talents will make your life easier... PVE players often don't have those abilities keybound, if they use them only very very rarely."

There's some misguided belief that playing one's full class is a PvP skill. Maybe it is. Maybe only PvP actually draws out the full class. If so, that indicates that PvE is horribly designed and that 'PvP' fights are a step towards fixing that.

However I'm not going to accept this argument. It's giving up and giving it. It is accepting lack of skill and blaming the raid rather than the player.

The fact here is that whether something is a 'PvP' skill or a 'PvE' skill, having or not having this or that aptitude is part of what differentiates good from bad players. It goes beyond just having skills hotkeyed and being used to casting them. It taps into situational awareness. Good PvPers have to know what's gong on everywhere at all times. They watch their backs.

I've been described as a good tank partly due to my fast reactions to adds and other bad situations. How do I do this? Well first off it's just what a good tank does. But I didn't learn that adaptation and awareness from tanking. I learned it from learned paranoia on a PvP server. I learned to judge a pull before I did it: "Can I kill these mobs if I get jumped? Can I somehow kill that guy without aggroing the mobs near him?" I learned to always be aware because other players don't care about whether you're busy, they want you distracted and will take advantage.

PvP and PvE aren't using radically different skill sets. The problem is that in PvE we tend to focus on dumbing things down, on eliminating skill as much as possible. On regular Anub we used to try interrupting the adds so they wouldn't burrow; but that required rogues to keep an energy reserve and to pay attention, for the DKs to do the same, for people in general to do something other than a DPS rotation. We opted to drag them onto the ice instead and let the healers heal a bit more. Can you imagine how stupid it would look to see an arena team trying to fight the other team in a specific spot because they suck at interrupting? I don't mean a place where they can use LoS to screw with damage and heals by moving in and out of cover, but just someplace that they stand and suddenly enemy spells are automatically interrupted.

It's fundamentally a problem of attitude. People don't approach these more open fights as challenges. Instead they're PvP fights and omg we're not PvPers! They decide that a certain set of skills are not the right ones to use in raids and any fight that requires them is bad. This is a ridiculous mindset.

Until the mobs are controlled by a GM, it's not a PvP fight, it's only a more interesting PvE fight.

Does WoW need therapists?

| Thursday, November 19, 2009
I don't know if my paladin is very happy.

"He doesn't pay attention to me anymore. We sometimes go to Dire Maul, but I feel like we're only together because of the ravasaur hatchling. It's going to be grown up soon and then I feel like he'll just throw me away. What do I do then?"

How does this make you feel?

"Frustrated! I get so angry. Sometimes we go tanking, but it feels like he wants me to be another class. I caught him with a death knight once. His death knight he used to call her. I thought they wee done, that he'd stopped with it. But no, I get summoned into this ToC group and I'm thinking 'Why would he be here? He must have gotten the idea that I want something in here.' I knew it then, he's just been there with his death knight. Tanking! Without me! I bet they got the Black Heart."

Maybe you're just imagining it.

"Imagining? Do you know what if feels like to walk into an instance and know that someone else was there first? And then you say I'm imagining it!?"

I'm suggesting that you not lead yourself to conclusions.

"He gets me gems sometimes. But I know this one was just some reject that his rogue didn't want. Ugh, she gets all the gems and all she does is pawn them."

I heard he recently bought you a new mount.

"Yea, a new mount. How romantic. It has this ugly goblin and troll always in the back. And it smells. He only got it for Dire Maul anyway. I'm so sick of that place, saving that stupid goblin in there. It's so stupid. First we killed them and now he's saving them? What's next, I rescue the Ogre Prince from the Naga? Oh have I mentioned I was made queen of the ogres? That was such an honor..."

Why did you two start going to Dire Maul?

"It was supposed to be someplace fun. Just the two of us. No crowds or idiot PUGs. But he's just using me. And halfway in he left and started spending all this time with his rogue and druid. Grinding gold. Yea, great euphemism; those whores. And his shaman too! I thought they were over. I thought..."

Go on.

"I remember our first raid. We were in in Karazhan and these tanking bracers dropped. I wanted them so much. The raid leader asked if I was his main. Oh my god I was floored by that. THE QUESTION! Oh my god. He said yes and just like that his shaman was gone and I was his main. And oh my god those bracers. Eventually we had to sell them, but then one day he surprised me and took me back to Karazhan and got a new pair. Sometimes he so sweet like that."

Perhaps these are positive aspects that you can focus on, build on those.

"Yea, sure. Sure. Let me tell you about another 'positive aspect'. Raid performance. Half the time he doesn't even show up. Yea we do some 6-9 tanking sometimes, but almost never. It's always ret and 'first come first serve.' Yea, that's him just dropping all his cooldowns at once and then complaining that sometimes my mana doesn't last the whole raid. Like that's my fault. Ugh. There's no timing to it, no rhythm. It's just all there and when it's ready again he goes and it just feels terrible. He never asks me how my DPS is doing. Can you believe it, no Recount during, not even a glance at WWS afterward. It's like he doesn't care about my performance, or his."

I will refer you to one of my colleagues about that. Can you tell me more about the alts? Those seemed to come up a lot.

"Yea they do. All the time. When we were in Dire Maul he got some felcloth and I got rid of it because, ew? But turns out he had me send it to his priest. Oh yea, she's a tailor, all the styles too. Turns out he took her to a moonwell. Can you believe it? Logs me out in that crummy SEWER bar so he can take her to Ashenvale."

I'm picking up faithfulness as a problem. Perhaps we can work on that next session.

Maybe I'm not supposed to raid

| Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I don't DC. I mean, of course when the servers are being bad I have the same problems as anyone else, but I'm not one of those people who DCs and the raid is waiting for them and it's a huge waste of everyone's time. That's not me.

Recently I've not been raiding except for Onyxia.

But tonight I decided to try it again. My guild started hardmodes in ToC a week or so ago and that sounded interesting. So in I go.

I'd entered too many instances recently. Apparently DM shares that cooldown with ToC. That was so stupid I didn't even consider it. So I missed the first attempt.

Second time I got in. Then I proceeded to DC constantly. Sometimes on relogging I'd get stuck at success. I'd hit cancel and get the realm list. Pick Zul'jin and then WoW would suffer a fatal error. The one that asks you to send an error report to Blizzard.

On and off and on and off. I was at least able to be on to get badges, and some unwanted holy boots, which now makes me feel bad that I was 75% useless over the fight. I missed the entire faction champions fight when I decided to restart my computer since I had nothing else to lose if I'd DC anyway. That didn't fix it.

At one point I couldn't even log in fully; I'd DC once the loading bar filled. I was able to get on my bank alt, hoping that would help. It didn't.

I've changed nothing with my hardware. I've added no addons except ones which were disabled anyway. I don't know what could have possibly changed since the last time I raided.

Can't get in.
Wipe wipe wipe.
Can't stay online.

Maybe WoW is trying to tell me to stick to my rep grinds and crafting and leave the raiding to other people.

To top it off, on this last DC before the fight started they asked if I could stay online for it. I thought so, since I'd been online for a while at that point. The moment I swung at the Valkyr: DC. If I'd left before the fight, someone was waiting in line to take my place. What a way to end a night, wasting 3 badges that someone would have otherwise gotten.


The best FP in the game

It is the one from Dalaran to River's Heart in Sholazar Basin. No, not because it finally crosses over Wintergrasp or because it's a good farming zone. You're thinking of the wrong flight.

I mean the one that gets shot down, leaving you to run the rest of the way. That's how flights should work: they save you some time but they're not a trivial ride, skipping over everything in between.

Math says retribution is OP

| Monday, November 16, 2009
Iapetes told me that he was doing Wintergrasp and beating people 2v1. You might think this just means he's skilled. Math says that's exactly the point and proves that ret is OP.

Let's run over some facts.
1) He was facing another ret paladin plus another player.
2) Math.

To elaborate on fact 2: If you have two equal infinities and add a finite value to one, then divide them, you'll get 1. This is because next to infinity, everything else is infinitely small and therefore zero, so adding the finite number has no effect on the ratio.

To put this in terms of player skill, let's imagine a power ratio exists between all competing groups. This is the ratio of the composite of player skill and class power. In cases where one group loses, it is clear that one is higher than the other. But how can 2 be greater than 1? Simple: Make 1 in each group infinite. This will cause the power ratio to go to one; at which point luck, which is innately infinite, to be the deciding factor.

In other words: Ret paladins are overpowered and this explains how ret+player can lose to another ret.

The Auction House

| Sunday, November 15, 2009
Alternate title: Why is the WoW economy not like real life?

The broad answers lie in survival and advancement. Your character will not die, starve, or go homeless due to poor economic decisions or even by totally withdrawing from the market. To improve the quality of life for your character, he needs not interact with other players for crafting or through the AH. Alts allow you to sidestep all of this; though arguably they are a sort of managed economy. In my case if that were true then my main is clearly an autocratic leech, stealing the production of my alts. My JC words hard, making thousands and thousands of gold, and yet she does not even have epic flying despite my main riding around on mounts that cost three times as much.

But let's go deeper. Let's look at the WoW economy specifically. Let's see how the mechanics and structures of the game influence the economy. I'll focus on the auction house and how its fees change how the economy works, or arguably doesn't depending on what you're measuring.

Before we start, no matter what regulations, restrictions, taxes, bribes, crashes, booms, wars, or anything else that happens, none of them can escape the market, for people will always be trying to make themselves richer with the least work necessary. That's not lazy, that's efficiency. And before you start arguing about charity, don't restrict definitions of wealth to mere cash and material goods; people make markets with their own currencies for everything from cars to to love.

Auction House
It is the auction house that makes everything interesting in the economy.

In terms of destroying gold, the AH does it by two means. The first is deposits which are returned on successful auctions and act to punish failed and canceled auctions. The second is the cut taken by the auction house. This means that for the same profit, players would need to charge more than in direct trades. Think of it as the income tax, which can be avoided by using the black market. Yea, trading with other players is the black market of WoW. :) What are the effects of these two methods of destroying gold?

The deposit encourages players to ensure that their auctions sell. This means making their product more desirable to buyers. The obvious method is to make a better product, but since crafters are effectively clones, this won't help much. The feature list for Titansteel Destroyer is the same no matter the crafter. There's no option for embedded graphics or a larger hard drive.

Sellers must use other methods. The simple one is to charge less. We call this undercutting. If you'd lose a 5g deposit, it's worth losing 1g profit to ensure the sale. Get a few dozen people doing this and you'll see buyouts drop by half over the spread of all the auctions. Each person acts in rational self-interest to avoid the 5g loss, but the total loss of price often ends up being much more. Two personal factors play into the undercutting as well. Impatience can cause players to trade half their profit just to ensure that the auction sells quickly.

Ignorance is likely the larger cause. Imagine if you knew that the market would take 500 stacks of saronite per day. You see 100 up. It is likely that you could charge more than the average price and still sell. But in all likelihood you don't know what the market can take per day or how much it has already, so you play it safe and undercut. On a smaller market you can judge these things, but good luck fully understanding the behavior of hundreds of people with wildly different profit margins.

However with no deposit to lose, players would be less eager to undercut. They'd charge a bit more and see if that sells, knowing that it's worth it to try 50s higher when they're not going to lose anything by a failed auction (except a bit of time, but let's remove impatience to simplify things).

AH deposits encourage market crashes as uncertainty and fear of loss drives prices rapidly downward.

The other way to sell better is to sell in a way that the customer wants. When the cooking daily is for 4 northern stews, no one wants 3 chilled meat. They don't want 5 either. Or 20. They want 4. Not just that, they might pay a higher cost per unit for 4 than 20 because to them the extra 16 is wasted anyway. The same applies can apply to dusts or other goods which are used in specific quantities. Careful stack creation can yield greater profits. In this way it's actually a lot like real life, the equivalent of the single tube of toothpaste at the checkout which is much more expensive than buying a four-pack in the aisle you were just at, but you're in a rush and don't want your teeth falling out.

The inverse comes from making larger stacks. Sometimes people want a lot of something. They want 400 dust. They could get it for 2.5g each, one at a time, or they could pay 2.55g each and get stacks of 20. 400 clicks or 20 clicks for 20g more, not to mention making it so much easier to keep track of. There are mods that can overcome this, but they're not so common as to defeat the value of high stacking.

Dusts have no deposit, so they're not as vulnerable to crashes. This doesn't mean they're immune: recently on my server dust prices crashed. This is an inverse speculative process: people think prices are going down so they try to jump ahead and get something before the price goes down further, but it is exactly that which drives prices even further down until people are tripping over themselves practically giving away dust. Since I have some spare gold, I might buy some up in anticipation of the new raid and arena season when demand is sure to go up. Why? Because I'm the kind of nice guy who hates to see people end up with no dust for enchants, and who believes no good deed should go unrewarded.

After you sell, the auction house takes a piece of it. At first glance this wouldn't appear to affect all that much. Just a gold sink, right?

The cuts have a big effect on crafting and flipping.

Let's start with crafting. I see that I can sell a cut gem for 175g. Low, but that can still be profitable. The narrow margin may act as an incentive for buyers, so I might end up with more profit on many gems than I'd get only only a small number at a higher price. There are raw gems up for 170g. Ouch. A mere 5g profit, but volume should make up for that. Let's ignore the risk of spending 170g for a 5g profit, that was yesterday's topic. Instead consider that a 5% AH cut means that you only get 166.25g for the cut gem. This means that there much be a higher gap between raw materials and crafted products than would be expected just by the crafter's time. He could get around the cut by selling in trade, but that requires him to be online to make the sale and possibly to have to travel to another city. The 5% loss is more than worth the time flexibility and saved travel.

Ah cuts discourage slow prices in prices from flipping. The mechanism is the same as with crafting: you're going to have to charge 5.26% more just to overcome the AH cut. Add in the risk of losing a deposit by charging more and it's easy to see that if someone is going to flip, their going to flip when items are far below market price rather than just a few percent. Instead you'll see crafters buying cheap materials for crafting later or rarely buying to resell in trade channel; 15g ore with a 17g market rate: "WTS ore 16g, cheaper than AH!"

In conclusion...
There are actually real life equivalents to these: shelf costs, employee costs, taxes and the like. However they are much less apparent to the average consumer than the AH costs are. Why? Well odds are you've sold something on the AH so you've experienced these costs first-hand, changing how you sell.

Have you seen similar trends of crashing prices as supplies flood and sellers panic, only to be reset the next day or week when the auctions expire? Then everyone forgets what they did last night but wonder where all their gold went. Meanwhile I'm scrolling up through chat demanding that my mods tell me where all this gold came from. Don't get me wrong, I'm hardly rich. I don't care enough to gather gold purely to gather gold, but I have found some fun in finding a fundamental truth: People desperately want to give you gold, all you have to do is figure out how they want to give it to you. It might be chilled meat, cut gems, armor vellum, or even the lowly copper ore which lowbies don't know what to do with and level 80, skill 1 BS don't know what to do without.


| Saturday, November 14, 2009
Who's the cutest little avatar of death? Who's the cutest little avatar of death? Oh he is, yes he is!

Behold, Fred Fizzledbang, gnome death knight. Bringer of death, decay, explosions, and oh so snuggly cuteness. You just wanna pick him up and nuzzle his cute little nose.

Aw... he 's hopping up and down and screaming.

What's that? You're hungry for souls?

Oh but he just ate.

Yes it's my new gnome death knight Fizzledbang. He served with... potential honor, in the Plaguelands, before he we mauled by ghouls while planting demolitions in the Plaguelands. Sadly, he did not complete his mission, having miswired the charges. His last thought was that his bangs had fizzled and when he was brought back, Arthas was unable to eliminate the competing voice in his head: "fizzledbang fizzledbang fizzledbang."

When he was betrayed by Arthas, he was left free to pursue the fixing of his name.

Fun facts about critters

| Thursday, November 12, 2009
Did you know that when you attack critters there is a slight delay between them being under attack and them getting one-shotted? In this time we can learn a little bit about them.

Rats and snakes run away.
Roaches fight back, for one damage.
If you happen to find a school of fish, there are some swimming near Sen'jin, they will also fight back.

The plagued insects from the Stratholme gates have strange behavior as well. If you run through the gates fast enough, some will still aggro. However, you can get pretty far away because they're slow, and I have rocket boots. They will chase you. The strange part is that not all will aggro on you, but they will still follow.

This same behavior can be found in Botanica. The first boss walks back and forth along the raised area. She also will periodically walk over and talk with the trash before her. If you happen to pull them as she is going over to them, but before she is close enough to socially aggro, she will continue to walk over to it, even as it chases you across the room.

I wonder what causes that.

Risk: Crafting, Undercutting, Tips, and Farming

| Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Why is crafting so much more profitable than farming? Why will a crafter who could buy a gem for 130g and resell it for 190g accept a 10g tip? If crafting is so much more profitable, why do so many people still farm for mats? And why do people keep undercutting me constantly? It's all about managing risk.

Risk demands reward. I won't make the claim that we must reward risk-taking. That's a stupid claim to make. Risk isn't some special activity that we must throw piles of money at. That's the exact opposite way to look at risk. Instead of rewarding risk, add incentives. Some risk is necessary but if risk carries no more reward than non-risk, then who would choose risk? In other words, if risk is not sufficiently ore profitable than safe activities, it will be rejected. I'll come back to risk in a moment.

Don't just say they're stupid
If we assume people are rational in the ways they collect gold, we would expect that as farming or crafting or dailies became more profitable that people would shift to those activities. This would cause other activities to gain profit as supply falls and back and forth a bit until finally things settle on a certain potential gold per hour. The easy explanation is that people are too stupid to find the highest gold or that they are too stupid to figure out crafting. Well that's a lazy, stupid, useless explanation. It offers no practical solutions; short of massive education programs and/or eugenics, human intelligence is what it is.

Risk offers answers and solutions. Crafting is more profitable than farming because it takes on higher risk. If I could make 50g in a minute by farming, why would I buy a gem off the AH and cut it for the same profit? I'd be taking on risk for no reward. The risk has two effects. First, it sets minimum profits; so if I risk 150g on a raw gem I'm not going to settle for cutting and selling it for a 5g profit after the AH cut; that's too much risk for a small reward. Imagine the AH deposit as well; a few failed auctions can wipe out profit entirely. Furthermore, people have varying levels of aversion to risk. This means some people are driven away from crafting by the risk.

These two forces serve to lower the supply of crafters. If profit falls too low, people leave the market. If risk (and its relation to profit) gets too high, people leave the market. The net effect is to make it so that regardless of the rarity of recipe drops, there will be low numbers of crafters. This shouldn't be confused with people not taking crafting professions. Jewelcrafting and blacksmithing both have great bonuses for raiding, so there are many of them, but a large portion of them are not active in the market, so for this discussion they don't count as crafters.

Let's move on the risk moderation. In practice this can take many forms, but undercutting is one of them. While my earlier post came off as critical of undercutting, I do not regard it as a stupid practice. All people accept some ratio of risk to reward and this will influence their behavior. When people undercut, they lower their risk (increase chance of sale) along with their reward (sale price). There are other explanations such as impatience or ignorance of market demand, but risk is something we can objectively analyze, without the veneer of superiority.

Finally there are the situations of next to no risk, when we gamble none of our gold but also receive very low profit. Since we've been talking about crafting, let's start with that: tipping. As I've said before, gems can run 50g+ profits, but tips may be only a few gold. So why ever work for tips? There are two reasons and both involve risk. First off, there is no guarantee that the customer was planning on buying your more expensive gem off the AH; he might have bought a competitor's instead (let's avoid discussing the many reasons why your gem isn't the lowest). Your working for a tip brought in revenue that you would have not had otherwise. It also denied revenue to a competitor, effectively lowering his profit/risk, potentially to the exit point. I won't get into business ethics, but we can agree that it's much more profitable to not have competitors. The other side of the risk is that you take none: you don't have to buy a gem and risk that in addition to the deposit. Pure profit with no risk, nice, right?

On the customer's side, there is a taking on of risk. They may have bought the gem before finding the crafter (let's not ask why) and as such have taken on risk. As such, they demand greater profit. This profit takes the form of a lower payment for the conversion of raw->cut gems; 10g instead of 50g. That's a pretty nice profit, actually; perhaps us crafters should be charging more! People do tend to give more than that, but it might be from my elvish good looks.

Then there's farming. As my post earlier this week discussed and criticized (mostly for humor), there's no challenge or risk in farming. When there's no risk, people will work for lower profit. Farm for as long as you want, unless you go hunting those herbs in the middle of Scourge, there's almost no chance that you'll die and have to take a repair. Beyond the training and inexpensive tools, gathering requires very little investment/risk. Skinning is slightly more risky, but even then, very low when you consider the chance of death and compare a few gold for a death with an expensive gem, stack of herbs, bars, or whatever base material the crafter is using.

Solution to inequality?
Let's imagine that we're Blizzard and we want to make gathering more profitable. What could we do? Removing AH deposits might help. This would allow crafters to post their products at higher prices since they lose only some time (mostly offline) rather than gold from failed auctions. I believe gatherers would benefit more though. Their items move in the thousands of stacks per day. This would seem to make it easy to establish a market price, except that they cannot be sure of it and the lost deposit might not be worth it, so they undercut. If they lost nothing by a failed auction, they'd be more eager to try that slightly higher price and therefore greater profit. This has the effect of reducing risk, which could mean even more of a flood of gatherers. To compensate, let's raise the risk of crafting itself, bringing in more aggressive and dangerous mobs, though with higher resources as well; meaning that gatherers will take on more significant risk, to the point that some will leave the market and drive up prices while others may even go to crafting, lowering prices there and also increasing demand for gathered items.

Then there's the lowly daily grinding. The risk is even lower than farming because it doesn't even require interaction with other players. Do a quest, get gold. It's not a hard quest, but it gives gold anyway. It won't give gold as fast as farming or crafting, but what do you expect?

So there we have it, why we undercut, why crafting is so profitable, and why dailies are so incredibly boring. Okay not the last one, but surely you can agree with it anyway. You could get a more complete picture by adding in ignorance and stupidity and laziness, but why delve into the murky realm of subjective judgements if you're attempting to find reality?

I think I broke it

| Tuesday, November 10, 2009
A few days ago I did some tinkering, hoping to fix what appeared to be a broken feed. As a result, I seem to have ruined the direct link to my blog, so on blogrolls it won't update anymore. I'll try to revert it back so it does work, hopefully without breaking the feed, but in the meantime, I have a feed link in the upper-right which should work. I hope.

I should have learned my lesson from the last time I changed anything.

[edit] I nuked the redirecting stuff, so the direct address should work, but I expect the feed I added won't. I plan to switch over eventually, but clearly I should have given some sort of heads up before doing it. Stupid me.

When the Titans come... will we be prepared?

When the Titans eventually come, they may not agree with Algalon's assessment. If so, we may find ourselves facing total annihilation. So far we've struggled, successfully, with constructs of the Titans. Loken, Algalon, Archaedas; they've all fallen. But the Titans are likely much more powerful.

There aren't many reference points, but they exist. Sargeras was a Titan and while he has become much more powerful since he betrayed his mission, he is likely still within the same realm of power. The Old Gods were also a common foe, as were their elemental lieutenants. Let's go backwards.

Elementals: We've run into all sorts of these, ranging from small aggressive spirits to the lieutenants Ragnaros and Thunderaan. We defeated them. The Titans did as well. This isn't saying much though since x>a and y>a says nothing of the relationship between x and y. Raganaros was in a weakened state when we fought him though. With the coming of the Cataclysm we'll face him again, likely in his full power, and this will serve as a better measure of our abilities.

Old Gods: We've taken down more than one of these. The Titans killed one and imprisoned the rest, unable or unwilling to kill them. This raises some other questions for another day. In the meantime, we can remember that the Titans could kill Old Gods, they just had reasons not to. Fortunately for us, should we ever come into conflict with the Titans, this means they are not all-powerful. If they were, they could have gotten around whatever was preventing them from destroying the Old Gods permanently. Since we've killed two Old Gods, this would appear to put us at an advantage. However it seems C'thun isn't quite entirely dead. It remains to be seen the full effects and permanence of the defeat of Yogg-Saron. In other words, we again cannot measure ourselves well against the Titans.

Sargeras: Only twice has Azeroth directly confronted him. The most recent event saw him totally defeated by Aegwynn. This is good news. But... She was effectively the focus of magical power, the Guardian of Tirisfal; in other words her power was beyond any we would see now, excluding Rhonin becoming even more god-like for no clear reason or Thrall becoming the new Guardian, which sounds as if it just might happen. The worse part is that Sargeras wasn't interested in winning, he was interested in implanting himself into her son in a dark reflection of the Holy Spirit blessing Mary with Jesus. It was a mere avatar and was possibly weak even by our standards.

The first encounter with Sargeras was when Azshara attempted to summon him. His armies nearly destroyed Azeroth. To give some perspective on his power, a portal was created to let him in, it was this portal's destabilization which created the Maelstrom and fractured the land. That was what was needed to get him in. While the portal was collapsing he was almost able to hold it open. Think about that for a moment: overcoming magical force by sheer strength. The summoning incident was also the only time he was ever wounded: by an axe created by Malfurion and Cenarius and wielded by Broxigar. To put that power into perspective: he single-handedly killed hundreds of demons, making a little hill from which to taunt Sargeras. He was then killed in a single swing.

That we could wound and drive back Sargeras gives me hope. However despite being more powerful, he is still a single being. The Titans are more numerous. We also do not know their method of transportation. Sargeras was able to be beaten because he had to be summoned, making him dependent on weaker minions. The Titans may very well show up instantly and unannounced. Or they may destroy Azeroth from afar. As Algalon was so kind to point out, they are almost unimaginably powerful. We defeated him, but he was a glorified accountant compared to the Titans.

I hate to be a pessimist, but I suspect we're totally screwed. While we might sometimes try to be decent, it should be remembered that most of us are afflicted with the Curse of Flesh: humans, gnomes, dwarves; are space aliens: orcs, draenei; or are horrible mutants with a tendency to summon demons: elves. Who isn't on this list? Only trolls, and the majority of them don't have much of a reputation for not being evil. We killed one of the aspects. And the Prime Designate: "I swear, he was crazy, we had no choice!" And keep breaking into their cities: "But someone else broke in first, so it's okay, right?" And dug up the troggs. Did I mention that we keep summoning demons?

Our only hope lies with the Light. Maybe the Paladins, Blood Knights, and Druids of the Light can surround Azeroth with a gigantic divine shield. And hope none of the Titans trained shattering throw.

Are you prepared? I didn't ask you, Illidan.

Gathering should be more interesting

| Monday, November 9, 2009
What's the worst that happens while gathering? Not much. Ooh, you aggroed a same-level non-elite while swinging your mining pick. So what? Other professions are even more dull with the possible exception of skinning which has to at least kill something. Or follow someone else like a hyena and skin their kills.

I say we fix this! Make gathering hardcore.

You want to mine cobalt? Fine. That one will be easy. Saronite? Turns out that was actually a faceless one you just drove your pick into and he's pissed. Don't worry, he will yield more ore than even a rich node. BTW, you might go insane.

Want herbs? Fine, but they're going to be Outland-style herbs. By that I mean they're walking around and you have to kill them first. The little herbs sitting on the ground, they're just buried. Or if you're lucky, it's just nightmare vine and you'll get poisoned, and potentially end up insane or dead.

Skinning can stay as it is.

Engineers can still use their mote extractors But sometimes you accidentally pull out an elemental spirit and have to beat it into submission. These will yield eternals instead of mere crystals. Tinkering will sometimes cause the construct to get back up and need to be beaten back down again.

Tailors may retain their extra cloth at the cost of having to see that it came from stripping down an iron dwarf. Engineers can make goggles which filter out such horrors, though they also make it impossible to target Yogg-Saron while wearing them.

Smelting or working with titansteel should have a small chance to summon a Titan minion who can be looted for more bars, if he doesn't kill you.

Fishing. Sharks. 'Nuf said.

I like this thread

| Sunday, November 8, 2009
Troll Regeneration
[insert picture of cat nuzzling ball of thread]

It's so OP!

Was Loken the only trigger?

Loken was corrupted. We killed him. That triggered Algalon. Was Loken the only trigger?

It seems rather short-sighted to have only a single warning system. How was he intended to work anyway? The plans of the Titans are hard for mortal minds to decipher.

Can Loken trigger Algalon himself? If so, then this would allow Loken to act as a sentry. I imagine this was the original intent. Loken dying was the backup, that if he died something was seriously wrong.

While us killing him did activate Algalon, it seems unlikely that the Titans set up the system as Corrupted Loken -> Dead Loken -> Algalon. A corrupted world should have been detected and reported by Loken, before he was corrupted. That he was one of the first to be corrupted ruins everything. Would the Titans have expected the world to kill Loken and thereby activate Algalon? I doubt it. He wasn't supposed to be a pushover. Besides, if Loken was corrupt, isn't it likely that the world would be as well?

It is a strange irony that it is only our perpetual greed and love for violence that allowed the Titans to have any idea that Yogg-Saron was released and corrupting the world. By that I mean, if we weren't so bloodthirsty, we might have not killed Loken but instead imprisoned him. That would have effectively disabled the trigger since I doubt Loken was planning on drawing the Titans here to remake the world, again.

All in all this looks to have been a poorly designed system. The corruption of a single entity was sufficient to disable the warnings about Yogg-Saron. If we had not wandered in to kill Loken and take his stuff, the world might be lost.

I will accept that things have turned out okay in the end. Algalon did see that we are not so awful after all. But this appears to have been a special case. From the sound of it, any other world in our situation would have been burned down. However any other world in our situation, but without our heroes, would have both been unworthy to Algalon and also would have not triggered him. In other words, if not for the chance emergence of a small group of heroes, Azeroth would be ruled once again by the Old Gods and the Titans wouldn't even know unless they were already on their way for a routine visit. The early warning system failed.

Was there a backup system? I suppose there are the routine revisits, but how soon will that be? Were the Earthen the backup? They were admirable defenders and never gave up, but let's face it, they were losing to Loke's Iron Dwarves until we came along. Maybe the races in general were believed to be the backup, but they were just as easily corrupted.

The Vrykul thought the Titans had betrayed them and ended up turning to the Scourge. Even if they had remained loyal they might have fared no better against the Iron races than the Earthen. It was their corrupt form, humans, which successfully fought back.

Were the trolls expected to help? I don't know if they existed when the Titans were around. If their emergence had been anticipated, then they weren't a long-shot. They did subdue the initial Silithid (Aqir) though I'm not sure they were part of the Old God's schemes yet so that might not count. Besides, the trolls summoned Hakkar who is of comparable evil as the Old Gods. They became the elves and it was the Highborne who nearly brought Sargeras and who are now allied with an Old God in the Maelstrom. Currently the elves and trolls under the major factions were useful in fighting off the Old Gods, but that was hardly a guaranteed security.

There were backup defenses, but for actually warning the Titans, it appears that Loken was the weakest link in a single chain and without him it all falls apart. His susceptibility to corruption was underestimated, or Yogg-Saron was underestimated. A lot seems to have been gambled on the ability of the races to defend Azeroth and on the effectiveness of Loken as part of the early warning system. This isn't an isolated incident either. C'thun's defeat at the hands of the Old Gods was temporary at best and he was not contained adequately. It was only the intervention of the elves and dragons that saved the world.

The dragons were another defense system. How reliable are they? Ysera is falling to the nightmare. Malygos turned on the world. Deathwing was absolutely corrupted by the Old Gods. For the Titans to have expected the aspects to keep effective watch was clearly asking too much. While the dragons did play the large part in defeating Deathwing, the actions of mortals were not inconsequential.

I hope you're noticing the theme: The Titans failed to adequately secure this world against the corruption of the Old Gods and now the mortal races are stuck fixing the problems, struggling to stay alive. We've also been busy fighting with the Burning Legion with mixed success; the fact that we've survived puts us at the top of the rankings for how worlds are faring against the Legion. The Titans would have very likely wiped us all out because of their failure. Is that not absurd? We defended our world far better than they did, we preserved some amount of order and good, and we'd have been consumed by the very same fire as the Old Gods.

I'm very sorry, Blizzard

| Saturday, November 7, 2009
In the future I will not attempt to bring up good ideas on the forums. If I have something to say, I will put it here or bury it in another thread. Which you will then delete. I will avoid disagreeing with you and voicing my disagreement. I will also have just lied; there's no way I'm going to start saying nothing.

Here's how it goes down: I see a thread about disenchanting. I post in in, responding to arguments with my own and being far more civil than most of the posters deserved. The only uncivil thing I said was early on that someone was terrible for complaining that enchanters are rich and they couldn't make any gold from inscription. Moving on.

That was the only DE thread I'd seen at the time. I decided to make one titled "Disenchanting is not a crafting profession." I don't recall any threads specifically about that; they all seemed to cover unfairness or compensation.

Or in the case of one thread I made a couple weeks ago, it being Communism. Maybe it was deleted or it fell off the forums, I can't find it anymore. I intended it as humor, and people seemed to recognize it as such for the most part; though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit serious. I reposted it on Driven Draenei if you care to read it. When I posted it, I didn't have that last line about lazy people and Obama; that's a Driven Draenei exclusive!

Getting back to my original topic, I didn't see my post as being spammy. There didn't appear to be many enchanting threads and I felt this one was sufficiently distinct. Apparently not. I was given a 24 hour ban for spamming, presumably because of that thread since it didn't have any specific posts linked. The last time I was banned I recall they showed exactly what post caused it (I still say it was only me repeating Blizzard's words).

My other reason for thinking that it was due to that thread is that it was moved to professions and then locked. After I looked back at the general forums to see if I'd missed a few enchanting threads (turns out I had or they'd popped up very recently), I saw my thread still there, which surprised me, with the little "this thread has been moved to a different forum" symbol (the green arrow).

I'm not going to try to argue any more that my thread wasn't spam. From Blizzard's perspective it might have appeared so and I can't do much about that. I am annoyed at how they handled it though. The ban seems entirely unjustified. There's a difference between posting something which happens to have been posted by others and actually spamming. The thread itself may be redundant, but the poster is not a spammer. If my thread had been deleted, I'd have not been as annoyed. Ideally it would have been deleted and I'd have gotten a message saying "please post in the currently existing threads." That would be completely reasonable.

I'm also confused as to why they would move and lock the thread. Moving it makes sense. Locking it makes sense. Both seems redundant.

When I was searching for the Communism thread I did find a similar post of mine about DE from about a month ago. Could it possibly be that two threads on the same subject in a month qualify, or three if you count the Communism one? I doubt that the moderators are digging through month-old post records. If you happen to care, here's the old post.

Giving General a last glance, it looks like all threads about enchanting are gone. I guess it would be tricky to pick just one to allow: "omg blizz y u delete my thread and not that 1!?!?!"

If you care to read the thread, I happened to have copied it just before posting since I know the forums sometimes eat posts if you take too long to write them. As a result, I had it saved. I posted it just before this so that it's not at the very front since people might be tired of hearing me talk about enchanting.

Disenchating is not a gathering profession

Let's do a quick comparison with gathering professions, see how disenchanting compares.

Let's go farming. If we were miners we'd find nodes, herbalists we'd find herbs. I can't seem to find the shard deposits.

Maybe it's like skinning. They both kill mobs, loot them, do some hand-waving and then they have mats. But skinning doesn't actually need to kill anything, it can follow others and skin their kills. Enchanters could trade with them for greens and not kill either, but there's a significant difference here: the skinner does not take anything from the other player, the enchanter does. The skinnable corpse has no value except to skinners while unwanted items have vendor value for anyone.

Fishing? Nope.

It doesn't look like disenchanting is like any of the gathering professions. Maybe it's a crafting profession. Let's see how it compares.

Let's start with raw materials of some sort: herbs, cloth, greens. A scribe will crush the herbs into pigments which have no value except to scribes, a process which is similar to disenchanting. He can then turn these into a valuable product such as glyphs. If you trace the vendor value, you'll see that he actually loses gold to NPCs when he turns a 50s parchment into a 1s glyph just as enchanters turn 5-25g greens-epics into mats with no vendor value at all; but both glyphs and enchants are highly valuable to players.

In other words: crafting professions take something with low value to players or NPC and turn it into something of high value to players.

There is still the strange issue of enchanting having no gathering profession which would suggest that enchanting is a dual profession. Perhaps that is unfair? If so, tailors would be in the same boat, having no corresponding cloth-gathering skill aside from their own boost to looting.

I know it can be hard to grasp, but disenchanting is not a gathering profession. It is instead a crafting profession. This means that two common gripes need to stop. First, non-enchanters need to stop complaining that enchanters would want compensation or at least control over their profession. Would you drop a bunch of mats in a BS' bags and demand a titansteel destroyer for no charge just because he happened to be in a heroic with you? Second, enchanters need to stop complaining about people rolling on 'their shards.' The unwanted loot is the group's and you consented to turn it into shards, those are the group's shards still.

No post today (but then what is this?)

| Friday, November 6, 2009
I have a few lined up, but I didn't feel any were appropriate for the time. I've been struggling to decide on a direction to go, if any. There's a long post about this ready, but to save you the time it boils down to choosing between that which would quickly bring in readers and that which would retain the readers who I value so much. In all likelihood my choice will be to carry on as I have, but I must admit that the temptation is there.

Fear not, this fit of conflict and emo will end soon enough. Coming up will be Alterac Valley, Loken, and a few ideas for mages, so keep your eyes peeled, my favorite gnomes.

Before you go, I leave you with this wordy collection of nonsense regarding a game of words.

I want to talk about the letter E.

It's a common letter, the most commonly used in the English language. It is an essential letter. So you'd think this might be a letter which is given out in some amount of scarcity. You know, make it something you want and might not have so you'll trade letters for it. But no, Scrabble is beset by welfare Es and it is dying from them.

Any player can just pull out a set of tiles and the odds are that they'll have an E. First pull! No need for them to trade with the bag or with other players. Why the easy Es? Or not just easy. These Es are welfare. And they are killing Scrabble.

Oh sure, E is only worth one point, but that's a very narrow-minded way of valuing it. Think of the words in can produce. Query. Equal. Axe! We're no longer talking about a one-point tile, we're talking about a tile that enables much higher value tiles. That one point is just icing in the cake which is a Q on a triple-letter, or even triple-word score space. The Q is hard to get, as it should be. The E is handed out to anyone. The fact that it is used in some many words means that it should be scarce, since it would be so easy to use.

In its current form, E is overpowered and welfare for noobish Scrabble players.

I guess that counts as a post and now I look like a liar. Oops?

Deleteing comments: A confession

| Thursday, November 5, 2009
Every now and then I run across a comment that is far too stupid, off-topic, or poorly written to leave in existence. I delete it. I take the stupid and just wipe it away. A clean slate, minus the deleted comment message. But no one knows what it said. I make no record of it and never mention it.

They're all my own. I post a comment and look at it a second later and go "wow, that's stupid" and away it goes.

Is this much different than making an ignorant claim and then editing it and deleting the comments that remain as evidence? The reason is the same: to hide a brief moment of stupid. Does it really matter all that much that they're my comments and not those of others? Yes.

The speed of the second thought and deletion is such that no one actually sees it. This is significant. It's one thing to say something stupid that everyone has seen and then to try to hide it, another to say something stupid and hide it before anyone sees it. The method is varies, but in effect isn't all that different from my draft folder filled with posts that I intended to post but realized were crap? There's nothing wrong with changing what you say to make a better impression; changing what you said is a different story.

The inconsistency is another difference. I don't delete everything that I find is stupid. If it's been up for long enough to be seen, it stays up unless the blog owner deletes it. The same with my posts here: I sometimes post something and then retract it a few seconds later, sometimes editing it to post on a different day; but my posts which have been up for a while stay up. Go searching my archives, I'm sure you can find something stupid without much effort.

Sometimes I do edit my posts, usually to add in something I missed. I put a little [edit] marker in and put new stuff at the end. Sometimes I rephrase things slightly to assist comprehension. But I do not remove content after it has been added, at least not without mentioning it. Even my stupid comments leave a little marker that effectively says "the commenter didn't like this enough to leave it up."

But in the end, aren't we all running our own little version of 1984 as our very minds rearrange our memories?

Yesterday's post has a deleted comment. You can't see it because I deleted it so hard it ceased to exist at all. Gold spam gets no mercy.

CC, hunter tanks, and the square root of -1

| Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Imaginary, right?

I decided to burn off some rested XP on my hunter (60) last night. Amazingly, I was able to find a tank, healer, and two other DPS for ramparts. It was a smooth run, minus pulling the first boss early, which isn't much of a problem anymore.

Since we'd just done the quests, we all agree to run BF next. Then a paladin DCed. I gave him some time before getting a shadow priest as a replacement. Turns out that was our tank that left.

"How much faith do you have in a pet tank?" I asked. "None," came the reply.

"Just for that, I'm proving you wrong. Let's go."

It was a tricky run. I lost aggro a lot when people didn't assist my pet. My traps were sometimes broken. The mage pulled more than once with sheep.

But we got through it. I thanked the group for giving it a try and apologized for the rough spots. They said it was fun, that they missed using CC, and they couldn't believe it had worked.

Who'd have thought?

The Death of the Small Town

| Tuesday, November 3, 2009
What server are you on? Don't answer; I don't care. I'm not sure you should either.

Servers used to mean much more. They were small towns. They had that small town feel of everyone knowing everyone and people being so bored that they'd start using meth/rep grinds.

We all knew each other to some extent. Not friends, but names got around. We knew who was a jerk and who wasn't and who made the best pre-mades which of course you couldn't get into. We had rules about what the honor cap was for the week and if you broke it we figured it out and shunned you. We even knew the other faction because we saw them every day in the BGs and out farming. The world's changed and the small towns are dying.

These are not intended to be in chronological order.

Cross-server battlegrounds were a major blow. PvP was no longer against the people you always saw. It wasn't 3000 vs. 3000 anymore, it became ten times that number. You wouldn't remember all the names before, but you would recognize them; not anymore. The rivalries went away.

Arenas took it further. No longer were you representing half your server against the other half, or even half your battlegroup. You were torn away from your faction to fight a thousand other teams. You would have rivalries between teams, but they weren't community.

Server transfers took it further. You were no longer so tied to your server to live and die there. With a few clicks and some cash, you were somewhere else. You could reroll before, but that was a much longer process, a much higher barrier to movement. Rerolling didn't allow you to carry with gold and materials. The transfer of a particularly wealthy player can completely disrupt the economy as they start to unload mats and put their gold to work getting more of yours. An entire guild may move, shaking up others as people jump back and forth between guilds as the progression rankings change.

Even the way we farm is changing servers. We used to all be on the same level: the ground. We were often farming an area rather than a resource: I'd see people grinding in parts of Silithus rather than flying loops around Sholazar. Back then we'd actually group up to farm; you had to to get through the silithids at a reasonable pace even though they could be soloed. This is part of the overall shift towards more and more solo play.

Now cross-realm LFG is coming. Server will no longer matter even for heroics. Raids are all that remain. I wonder how long for even those.

Someday we might see battlegroups as we used to see servers. Maybe they will be the new community, just much much bigger. I don't think it will be the same though. Humans can only interact with so many people before they start closing off any extras. At best I see servers being neighborhoods within a city, but not so much communities as ghettos; people trapped in their location even as they try to interact with the rest of the world.

I don't mean to sound so gloom and doom. There are benefits to the changes. That's why they were made, after all. We can get into BGs faster, we can get into groups faster, we aren't stuck on dying servers. But something is still lost. Community is weakened and dying servers are accelerated as people leave them rather than having a stake in them and a reason to save them.

Are NPCs Economic Morons?

| Monday, November 2, 2009
The economy of WoW is one which constantly loses gold. Mail, repairs, AH deposits, AH fees; we're constantly losing gold. Yet we have inflation. This means we are getting more gold than we lose. Even the least economically savvy player has more than zero gold. That means that he has more gold than when he started; he's made a profit.

This gold comes from NPCs. From this it's not that hard to say that moron players made their gold from even more moronic NPCs. It's rather unlikely that NPCs have much use for troll sweat, basilisk tails, and cracked carapaces. Yet they constantly hand out gold for these items.

Paying for worthless items, is that not vaguely similar to digging ditches and filling them in for government pay? NPCs act as a spend-easy government, handing out gold for whatever we do. This drives inflation and distracts players from what might be more productive tasks such as killing dangerous creatures or crafting. To counter this inflation we have AH fees and deposits, effectively taxes, in addition to all manner of repair costs and a NPC monopoly on reagents and all but a handful of mounts. Think about that, how easily we can list the few mounts that are not controlled exclusively by NPC vendors: a few drops from raids, three from engineers, and four class mounts. That means that about 80-90% of the mounts are controlled by NPCs. That's socialism! And we all know that socialists are morons.

Or are they? When we call NPCs morons for constantly taking our crap in exchange for gold, we make two major assumptions.

We assume gold has value to the NPCs. As far as we can tell the vendors have unlimited gold. They can keep buying and buying and buying and never seem to run out. If NPCs have unlimited gold then logically gold would have almost no value to them except for what it can buy.

We assume that the trash has no value to the NPCs. This may not be true. Perhaps they recycle much of it, so it is effectively a raw material for them; as useful to them as ore and cloth are to us. Maybe they disenchant or smelt down the armor and weapons, extracting valuable metals and magical substances. Think of the vendor value of crafted armor from Ulduar designs. If you could extract even 10% of the input materials, the vendor price still leaves massive profit, and NPCs are buying up thousands of pieces of old armor every day.

Once we challenge these assumptions we see that the NPCs may in fact not be morons. They may be the smart ones and WE are the morons. We hand over valuable items and materials to them in exchange for what is to them a worthless substance currency. Even if it is not unlimited, it is clear that the NPC economy has massive inflation and so their goal is to reduce the supply of gold and any input of material is a benefit. They subsidize our return of materials to them through artificially low vendor mat costs, such as rune thread which could easily sell for ten times as much, but the low price encourages mass crafting and therefore high amounts of materials turned over to vendors.

Furthermore, I claimed that vendor trash distracts us from pursuits such as crafting or killing. In fact it encourages these activities. If we could not vendor the surpluses of goods we make while leveling skills (enchanting cannot fully handle them), the net cost of crafting would be even higher, acting as a disincentive to leveling skill and resulting in a much smaller pool of crafters with useful skills, meaning higher unemployment. In addition, vendor trash comes from killing dangerous mobs. Few people farm by slaughtering neutral and harmless NPCs. Instead they kill minions of the Scourge or demons or all sorts of other dangers. Again, vendor trash is an incentive, and sometimes the only reward, for killing the many threats to Azeroth.

It may be an even more complex picture.

I suspect that the governments are short on gold. This is why the government-sponsored (take note of their affiliations) auctioneers and repairers are so eager to take bits of our gold. They have been paying out huge sums to fund their armies. The goblins also appear to still need more gold. It is likely that their operation of many flight paths, ships, and zeppelins are on their own losses but are maintained as stimulants for the trade which brings them gold. The trade wars between them and the large numbers of employees they maintain also require inputs of gold.

In contrast the vendors who accept materials in exchange for gold appear to have a surplus of gold relative to their material goods. They function as crafters and we are the gatherers. We bring them materials and they craft them into vials and thread and even powerful armor which they then sell back to us. In this process they appear to lose gold, but we do not know the full picture. They may also be furnishing the NPC armies and it is from the governments that they get the gold to balance their books.

Overall we are terribly ignorant of the full activity of the NPC economy. We should remember this when attempt to judge the economic intelligence of NPCs. It could be that we are the true morons, trading away valuable artifacts at a fraction of their potential value.
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