Lawful Evil

| Friday, December 31, 2010
Recent topic brought up by Bio Break:

“I recently had an accident that resulted in the permanent lose of my hearing… I felt more alone than ever.”

“He tells me that i can’t raid unless i have vent. Guild rules and all. I was pissed. After a huge blow out between us i get removed from the guild and put on ignore.”

From Dark Legacy Comics
Lawful Evil: "If you can't do your job, you're worthless."

I suppose it's not a fair comparison, since he can still do his job, just not quite as easily.

It makes me wonder, what type world do we want to live in, virtual or otherwise? Do we want one where setbacks and magnified or one where we work together through problems? Do we want a world that discards people at the first chance? Maybe some people do. Well fuck them.

Happy New Year. Unless you're Chinese or Mayan. In which case, go back to Mayachinaland.

The Blue Wall of Death

| Thursday, December 30, 2010
Okay it's more of a Blue Wall of Can't Fly There, but either way, I'm sick of it.

You might have seen it. It's the strange glowing blue wall, sometimes floor or ceiling, through which you cannot fly. I guess its unloaded content.

I wasn't really familiar with these walls until the day my mage fell under Scarlet Monstery and found these walls along the edge of what seemed to be the sky, though I was at the bottom of it, not the top, due to falling.

Lately I've been seeing them a lot. This is usually during my cross-Azeroth flights for archaeology. I'll set a course and autofly, usually while blogging or playing Angry Birds. Totally worth the dollar.

They annoy me.

I can't figure out why they are there. I mean, many of these places I've flown over before. And many I've run into at times after I was done downloading everything. I mean that WoW said, "yep, whole world's there," and the next day it says "not this place, nope, just hang out here a minute." Was there such a major zone change that it called for a blue wall of not going there?

Maybe these walls are actually a good thing. They indicate that I haven't actually downloaded the whole game, but I still get to play, most of it. Surely a wall here and there for a minute is better than sitting around with the download manager claiming it is behind a firewall and must therefore retrieve individual bits by carrier pigeon.

Or maybe I have no damn clue what causes the walls. Maybe they are caused by my computer running out of RAM to store zone data and the wait time is some other zone getting dumped, seemingly the next zone I'll need to fly to. But since the wall is often accompanied by a red you have a lot to download wheel, I assume that it has something to do with my failure to download half of Uldum, which, by the way, I have already done, so clearly it's not a new zone. Or is it? Maybe Blizzard is needing to fix phasing issues or something and that requires redownloading entire zones.

I took the GRE yesterday. It made me very very tired while I wrote this. So I apologize if this post made no sense. Actually no, screw apologizing, making no sense meets my usual standards.

So that's how they did it

| Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I fell out of the loop for a bit. Well, more of a stopped paying attention to the loop because who cares? There was some disconnect between the loop and me. No, fuck that, me and the loop. It's a fucking loop, it doesn't get the respectful "you first" grammar.

So anyway, something about an achievement for guilds and legendaries.

I turned in my cooking daily and WOOSH WOOSH ACHIEVABLES BING BLANG BOOM WOWZA! I was momentarily confused as to why a cooking quest would have caused me to make my guild legendary.

Turns out I'd finally hit honored guild rep, which I guess I needed to be able to give the achievement. That appears to be Blizzard's fix for the issue of what to do about grandfathered legendaries and preventing guild-hopping to sell the achievement.

Carebear Highlands

| Tuesday, December 28, 2010
After playing through Twilight Highlands and seeing how often the quests there, especially the faction dailies, would push opposing factions players into the same space, I wonder, could it possibly be any fun at all on a PvE server?

Sure, I suppose the quests can be done faster and with greater convenience. But I sometimes wonder if the focus on faster and more convenient isn't such a great universal principle in MMOs.

Reports of my insanity have been exaggerated

| Monday, December 27, 2010
Today I want to talk to you about misinterpretation of actions and perceived priorities and goals. Let's imagine for a moment that someone runs into Tol Barad and after picking up quests, leaps off the nearest bridge, plummeting into the lava below. You might think this is a sign of insanity. But is it?

Speaking purely hypothetically because obviously this incident had nothing at all to do with me, I'd like to offer a modest proposal, a new theory on motivations and actions in this situation. Perhaps the lava was not the intended target, but instead the nearby walkways. This changes insanity into simple accident. And perhaps the motivating factor was not insanity, but merely curiosity, which in this case killed the human paladin that I definitely was not playing. So the overall result is that the apparent insanity is merely exploration.

I don't think I like Christmas much

| Sunday, December 26, 2010
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, I just hate being involved in it. Despite my pro-social attitudes, I'm not really a people person. Social interaction beyond more than a handful of people quickly tires me out. Guess what Christmas has a lot of? Yea, family parties. Then there is the gift-giving. At times I wonder if it exists solely to remind people like me just how bad we are at thinking of other people. What is this person's life? What else do they want? Need? That I can afford? Sadly, paying off mortgages and law school loans are not within my means.

Sometimes I feel like an alcoholic who's been asked to stop drinking and gets that ultimatum: If you loved us you'd stop. Yea, if I loved my family I'd get them gifts they'd love. But dammit, maybe love and buying thoughtful gifts don't always go hand in hand. I'd love it if I could just "stop being bad at buying gifts". But that's just not how my brain is wired. I do the best I can, but please understand that the itunes card isn't because I was lazy, it's because I don't know much about music and have no ability to pick out CDs.

There's always the sociopathic/loner route, but fuck that. What's a world alone, without family, without friends? At that point a person might as well just die and save some time in being forgotten. That sure was cheerful.

On the flip side, I often can't fully enjoy gifts. I tend to just feel bad that the exchange was clearly unequal. In my favor, but that's not the point. In some imaginary world, by now I am fully capable of affording and finding the nice gifts that people give me. Which on that note, all I really want this year is either a job or to be young enough to play with legos again. Obviously not everyone can get me a job, or possibly anyone, so said list would just be one of those irritating ones that offers no help at all to lost searchers.

Actually the other day I got very mad at WoW and did a rare and regrettable ragequit. Not even on a PUG, but a guild group. That was a few days ago and since then I've logged in twice: once to empty my bank alt's mailbox of failed auctions and another to send a couple Christmas gifts to friends, who happened to have been in said run.

But the point was the legos. I really miss playing with them. Creating directly from my imagination. That didn't happen this time. Instead I was confused, because I had forgotten my organizational system and because last time I touched them I had slightly changed it to fit all the creations I was deconstructing. So I was lost. But it was a good system, so I figured it out (Resume: strong organizational skills: check out my legos, I had those organized even when I was a kid). But then my mind was just blank. Well, not fully blank, I had some vague, ethereal idea for a heavy fighter. This wasn't uncommon back when, but it was usually enough. Ideas would grow in my mind, shaping and becoming more certain as I built. That didn't happen. Instead I stumbled through a half-built fighter that I had to partially deconstruct to make the cockpit close fully. It had no elegance, but it did not have any blocky utilitarian theme either. It was just a bunch of crap stuck together with a dusty lego guy jammed in the cockpit with no control panel.

Not much like a bicycle, I suppose.

Tree Weirdness and How Netflix Saved Christmas

| Friday, December 24, 2010
Tree Weirdness

My family has its own vocabulary. Words like exuberance and surprises, rather than indicating positive ideas, are for us, negative events. This is not due to any sort of cynicism or negativity, but instead because these are the chosen words to describe a couple dog problems. Incidents you might say.

Dog God rest her soul, a few years ago my family had a dog named Lily. She added her own phrase to the vocabulary: tree weirdness. We've seen it in no other dog. Nothing even similar.

Picture a mix German Shepard and Doberman (or perhaps Rottweiler). Now picture a Christmas tree in the living room, covered in lights, bulbs, and really awful ornaments made by my brothers and me as children. Back to the dog: she's slowly, ever so slowly, with the utmost caution and silence, circling. She does not notice us or the other dog. She can be shaken out, by a literal shaking out, or a lot of noise. She does not look at the tree or away from the tree. Instead her head is slightly lowered, facing ahead, and slowly, slowly she circles.

Like clockwork, it would start when the Christmas tree was at home and vanish when it was away. That was tree weirdness.

How Netflix Saved Christmas
'Round this time o' year a few brothers were in a panic. They searched boxes and crates. They searched this house, that house, an attic here and a basement there. Everywhere. Nowhere to be found. Where where?

Oh the holiday could be lost, for tradition itself was at stake! A holiday film, a capture of the season, a heartwarming tale of heroes and villains and lots of snow. Where where? Every season it must be watched or else can we call it Christmas? I think not!

Where oh where is Die hard 2? What you ask, a Christmas movie? Well of course! Of course.

But where is it? Oh have we misplaced that old VHS for the last time? Perhaps. Oh no. Is there no Christmas?

But a thought, an idea, the youngest had, an idea that could save Christmas. Netflix! No, silly, it won't get here in time. But what if it was instant? And in an instant, it was! We watched and laughed and joked and cheered, for with a Wii and a wireless and a webstreaming video we'd finally survived without a VHS. Technology!

And that's how Netflix saved Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Americans. Happy Christmas, Brits*. Happy Holidays, Atheist Europeans. And have a happy winter, or summer depending on hemisphere, to all the rest of you, known as most of the world.

* That goes for the Welsh too. I don't know if it's at all realistic, but we do love A Child's Christmas in Wales.

P.S. Today I learned Wales it its own country. I found this to be a silly idea.
P.P.S. I have no idea who sent this box of tea and chocolates, but thank you, if by some remote chance you're reading this. And if you didn't send it, I ask, why not? Hm?
P.P.P.S. Yes I opened what appears to be a gift early. I wasn't sure what it was. If it was a mail bomb it certainly makes sense to have it go off before Christmas, so as to not ruin the ever-important Christmas morning.
P.P.P.P.S. Mystery solved. Let's just say it's a good thing I didn't eat the chocolate yet. And my initial guesses were only off by one.

Hitler vs. Plato

| Thursday, December 23, 2010
I had planned to write about how gearscore and racism are not at all similar, but Iapetes pointed out that gearscore is irrelevant these days. And I figure, racism is over too, so instead I decided to write about Hitler.

And logically, Plato.

It is from these old Greek guys like Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle that much of the Western world inherited reason, logic, and questions. Presumably the rest of the world does not yet have these things, having failed to study Greece.

If you've ever run into an obnoxious jackass who insists on asking obvious questions and claims that his goal isn't merely to be an obnoxious jackass, then you're probably familiar with the Socratic method. In theory this helps to bring out some deeper truth or challenge assumptions. In practice it tends to be an excuse to be an obnoxious jackass. Note that children are excluded from this rule since the first word they learn after "no" is "why", so they must be forgiven.

In contrast, there is Hitler. I'm sure we're all familiar with him as a man who bravely tried to unite and purify the white world and in the end was forced to commit suicide to prevent capture by Slavs.

Which of course leads to the Great Battle of Logic.

On one side we have the old Greek guys who are more or less credited with the idea of logic and who have retained the credit through their after-life armies of professors who have ruled by the logical theory of "might makes right", which is a shorter way of saying "give them credit or I will fail you and you'll end up homeless on the street". And on the other side we have Nazis.

You might be asking, "what contribution have Nazis made to logic?" Of course you'd ask that. How about I just use an example.

Imagine that you want to reduce poverty. A logical, reasonable approach might be to analyze the characteristics of people in poverty, their situations, how they spend money, how they get money, where they live, that sort of thing. The general goal is to figure out the causes of poverty. Then formulate theories on how to remove the causes, attempting to separate symptom reduction and actual solutions. Weigh costs of implementation and benefits of various plans. Finally you may even attempt to implement some of the plans, most likely those which are cheapest or offer the quickest improvement. At this point some obnoxious jackass will come along and, pretending to use the Socratic method, ask why we should care about the poor at all, thereby proving that he is an obnoxious jackass. Well damn, so much for reducing poverty; it's all over. Or is it?

Call him a Nazi! Problem: solved.

Until of course he claims that your attempt to improve society is actually much like the plans of Hitler, ergo you want to kill 11 million Jews. In practice he wouldn't say ergo because he probably thinks ergo sounds gay. But the point is, he calls you Hitler.

And here we can see that logic has ultimately lost out to Nazis, a proxy war for the true war in which Hitler always beats Plato.

Hitler may have lost WWII due to his arrogance and racism, but he always wins arguments for the exact same reasons.

Hard heroics are good for my ego

| Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I used to not like doing heroics as DPS. But sometimes I'd end up in a guild group with a tank and so I'd be ret. I hated it. I was just another nobody to be measured by a meter.

But these days, I like ret. The heroics are harder, so we have to actually play our classes more fully. The other day I remarked something like "CC and an interrupt, I feel like a real class!" It wasn't just that ret got an interrupt, but that it became needed. Repentance is used on most of the trash pulls because things just plain hit hard. I'm interrupting bad cast after bad cast. I'm using hammer of justice if things get dicey. I'm using divine protection during bad phases. Even my Holy Radiance can do something helpful.

I'm not looking forward to the day when we overgear everything again and I'm back to trying to spam AoE as best I can just to keep up.

Wrathgate in Restrospect

| Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I noticed that Wrathgate quest chain was voted the best of the year last year over at the Pink Pigtail Inn Awards Ceremony of Awards and Honors. Pardon me, but I have to ask a painful question: Was it really that great?

Okay okay okay, put down the pitchforks. The torches too. The cutscene was cool and the Battle for Undercity was cool. But the actual chains leading up to Wrathgate, were those really that great? Riding a red dragon was fun, but I don't remember much that was particularly amazing. Kill 5 of these and loot that. Woo hoo. Did I forget something? Perhaps. But that I forgot it seems to indicate that it was forgettable.

If I had to pick a quest chain that ended well, and was actually memorable itself, I'd pick the DK starting zone quests. Who can forget the sheer joy of committing acts of pure evil? It sets the tone right away with killing another initiate, next thing I'm killing civilians, and before long I've destroyed the Scarlet Crusade. There was a clear plot running through it all, not the open-world tendency to have five stories going at once which just by coincidence happen to involve killing mobs in about the same area. The quests themselves were often more than just "kill ten rats which have Scarlet Crusade models", showing off Blizzard's new-found love of vehicles, cannons in particular. I share their love of cannons. WoW really needs more cannons.

Can you imagine calling a job great because it has a good Christmas party, but the rest of the year your pay is crap, your boss treats you like crap, and your coworkers have brains of crap?

The Imminent Death of Archaeology

| Monday, December 20, 2010
I have a theory for you. It's not a particularly complex one, but it may make you try, just like I did. I'm exaggerating. Maybe.

Of course I'm not going to just tell you the theory. No, I have some talking to do. Let's start with a strange coincidence: getting two artifact spawns in exactly the same place. Last survey points to an artifact at (X,Y). Drop another survey and aha, an artifact at (X,Y). This is, of course, not impossible with random placement of the artifacts within the boundaries. But it's highly unlikely, especially if it happens multiple times. Clearly something is going on here, something more than random (X,Y) with a Z to match the elevation. For starters, certain areas are blocked: such as walls and deep water, as well as nothing else that I can think of. And yet when going from really tiny odds to three times as high as really tiny odds, well it makes me think of those studies that find that X causes a 200% increase in the rate of Y, only to find that the usual rate of Y is something like one in a hundred million, so who gives a shit?

I'm trying to suggest that artifacts, much like ore or herbs, are not random in an area, but random over certain spawns. Even further, said spawns may not even be all that numerous. See where I'm going with this?

Imagine that you have a small field with three artifact spawn locations. You know where they are, having dug them up, or looked online. Just by dropping the survey in the right location you can know exactly which artifact is there. Don't argue too much with the geometry and exceptions, it's beside the point, which is that if we know the spawn locations, we can very easily determine optimal surveying locations in order to test the limited number of possible spawn locations.

Currently archaeology is a bit of an Explorer activity. You don't know quite where the fields are, though someone will make that database soon enough. But you definitely don't know where the spawns are, though someone will make that database soon enough. But at least the actual finding isn't... oh hell, it's all over, we know the best places to drop a survey at a given field and that's that. Shit.

I'm not a perfect explorer. I've a bit of achiever in myself. A bit of killer. A bit of social. Depending on the situation, one may appear dominant. Do I explore the one tiny corner of the map that I've flown past but not quite looked at? (marginal gain) or do I go hang out at CoC and throw hammers at people wiping to bosses? (FREE XP WOO!) The achiever/killer wins that one. And so at some point the achiever may say "Hey, quit fucking around with the random surveys and put one here, here, and here so I can get my artifacts and make something cool. By make something cool I mean get more numbers. Do you see that number? Is it as big as it could be? No? Then start surveying in the right place!"

Well, on a more positive note, I'm very glad that Blizzard included the panel for what has already been created, including the flavor text. A pack rat like me would go insane having to throw away that precious, precious yellow text which may or may not contain a joke.

[edit] There's also the Imminent Death of Archaeologists.

When a post fails

| Friday, December 17, 2010
Warning: This may be whiny meta-blogging. You have been warned.

On Monday I asked if Blizzard has an anti-fun team. I figured people would have some opinion about it, the idea that relentless pursuit of bland balance can be rather bland and useless. At the least someone would disagree or claim I was cherry-picking problems. Instead it seems that the care cup was empty. No one cared.

Trolls annoy me, but trolls are just an expression of the statistical fact that a few people are dumb and all people are sometimes dumb, so trolls or idiots will happen. After the fact I could only laugh after someone called me a fascist. But irrelevance! Oh, that's a painful pain.

I can't possibly blame readers, because I know that commenting can be hard, in a way. Maybe it's just a personal flaw, but I have great difficulty responding to posts that I agree with but don't have much to add. I don't like writing "neat post" or the equivalent. That's boring! Give me a post that I can disagree with, or agree with and add something. I seem to have just implied that there were few comments because everyone agreed... They could have also thought it was a stupid theory, a boring theory, or just not relevant to the rush to level, gear up, and grind reputations which dominates at times like these. In other words, no one cared. Except a few awesome people. Archmage Vagoth, will he ever be truly free?

Parallel Single-Player

| Thursday, December 16, 2010
Shintar's comment yesterday said a lot, perhaps more than she thought: "I can see dozens of other people doing the same quests as me right next to me, we can't all be the top ".00001% of Azeroth"."

She is both right and wrong. We can easily see that killing ten rats is an endlessly repetitive task, even without game mechanics and respawns. But the quests and kills we perform are not always of the ten rats variety, but sometimes of the heroic or assassination variety. For example, I killed Archmage Arugal, cut off his head, and turned it in for a reward. Others have done this as well. Does this mean that there are a million Arugals around for us to decapitate? Pardon the irony, but that just isn't believable.

Instead I think what we're seeing is something Blizzard, and no MMO developer wants us to realize: we're barely playing a multi-player game. Instead we're playing single-player games in the same space. Parallel Single-Player. Note that I did not even say same world. We're not in the same world. In my world, in its history, I killed Arugal. In your world, you did. In another world, someone else did, or perhaps even no one at all, and the question of how he died is unanswered.

The other players you see, they aren't proof that you're just one of many. They're all their own heroes and you are your own hero. WoW is a game of heroes. Sometimes those heroes are sent to pick up poop, but none are common grunts and all have done what they think they've done.

How would we really play in the same world? We'd need player actions to influence the world, the shared world. Arugal dies once to one player or one group. The world would have to be able to change itself. But how? There's where it gets tricky, because a randomly generated world isn't going to fit easily into a pre-determined storyline, but a manually created world to fit the storyline cannot be made as fast as players kill it. What do you do with eleven million murders? Even the real world can barely handle such massive conflict on an ongoing basis and before long we end up with a devastatingly brutal peace, which no one can bear, so we grind our economies and faction rep up again for another war.

A random world could work, with terrain which is shaped by weather, and mob leaders with randomly generated personalities, such that we can fight forever and never run out. But highly random content, at least for me, ends up inspiring nihilism. Minecraft was a lot of fun, until one day I just stopped caring. I didn't feel as if I was exploring anymore, that there was nothing to find, because it's all just random variations of what I've seen before, with no story to send me there, no reward, just random endlessness.

Then there's the whole issue of regulating progression and rewards with randomly generated content and before long the parallel single player theme park model looks pretty good.

So uh, good point, Shintar.

P.S. What's a good tag for a post like this? I've been trying to tag my posts, but ones like these don't fit any of my existing tags, at least as far as I remember them.

The not getting it award of the week goes to...

| Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Do I even have to say?

I completely disagree with the conclusion. "Playing through a story will always be LESS believable in a single-player RPG, EXACTLY BECAUSE the player really *can* change the world."

Do you find it believable that you save the world?

I find it much more believable that I'm one of the countless grunts fighting in the battlefield. I see other players and NPCs doing their part.

- Gevlon

Yes, apparently it is not believable that in a fantasy game, people do fantastical things. One of the foundations of fantasy in general is how a person does extraordinary things, far beyond what would be expected of anyone. It's not supposed to represent the majority of the population who till fields and get shot in a trench. It's supposed to represent the few who did something bigger than normal. The spy who uncovered the plot, the assassin who killed the general, the lone survivor of the attack which sunk the ship which saved the battle which conquered the seas which won the war.

We're the .00001% of Azeroth. We're not believable and we're not supposed to be. We're different people in a different universe.

But is this any surprise from the person who does not wish to be a hero in a game about heroes, but merely a cog in a machine? It makes me wonder, if he wasn't so full of hate, would people then notice that he is a remarkably boring person?

The Butchers of Maraudon: Reconstructive Surgery

Back in October I finally got around to pointing out that Maraudon had been butchered. Two bosses were effectively removed by the path chosen by LFD while the overall instance was chopped up so much that it was barely recognizable.

Since the Shattering it has been changed again. This time, it was for the better.

The two 'lost' bosses are back in. I can't say the goblin makes much sense anymore, but at least he's in a place where people will kill him. As for the other, he's where he always was, but the instance completion has been changed so that players will start on a wing and finish with The Ugliest Princess, which means that they will pass through him on the way.

The instance isn't as long as it once was, and probably justifiably so, but it is no longer trivially short. If I had to pick a simple good or bad label, I would pick good.

Does Blizzard have an anti-fun team?

| Monday, December 13, 2010
Here's a single example which I think should demonstrate what I mean.
Torch of Retribution

The torch used to be an item which was equipped as a 2h weapon. Players could keep it after the quest was done. This meant that the quest effectively supplied a cosmetic staff. Which btw, was an unusual item because it generated light. Not glowing, but actually light which would brighten the surroundings. Pretty neat item to have.

The quest was (is) available to both factions and all classes. It requires no instances, raids, or groups. It does not require level 80, 70, or 60. It is an accessible quest.

Does this item adversely affect PvP balance? Raid balance? Does it trivialize anything? Does it break lore? Immersion? Does it do anything at all? It does one tiny little thing: it makes melee characters switch weapons in and out a total of four times, ever. That's it. Four times a melee character will have this slight inconvenience and that's it, forever.

Okay it did one other thing: with it equipped a player would use unarmed skill but do zero damage, since they had a 'non-weapon' equipped. This made it a lot simpler to level unarmed skill, as a player could simply fight rats. So based on this I can almost understand the change, since Blizzard wouldn't want a quest to trivialize their intended difficulty for unarmed skill. Except that unarmed skill was removed, making this a non-issue and this item was left it for a very long time while unarmed existed as an achievement.

So in the current WoW this breaks nothing at all, but removing it hurts people who want to play dress-up*. In other words, it hurts fun for no good reason.

Another bit that bugged me was the XP change, so that if you are in the level range for the next expansion, the old zones only give 10% XP. So what? We all go to the next expansion anyway, right? Well no, no we don't. Sometimes people like to finish what they are doing or play in a different way. This doesn't hurt anyone or trivialize any rewards. Instead it serves one single purpose: It tells you to get back on the rails and don't you dare more off of them.

Oh maybe it's so that with the new challenge in Cataclysm Blizzard doesn't want us to be able to make it easier by staying in Northrend a bit longer to get another level or two. But why? I say, let people trivialize the game if they want to. Let them remove all fun and challenge for themselves. So what? Who does that possibly harm? Whose experience is ruined by it? No no... stay on the rails!

I've been bouncing this idea around for a while, wondering if it was merely nostalgia, or if indeed something was changing, and not for the better. I was able to dismiss many of my ideas and evidence as mere "making things easier/simpler is bad" reasoning. But it's all piling up. Pointless change after pointless change, which doe nothing at all to improve the player experience and instead just serves to push us onto the One True Path on Which to Level and Play in the World of Warcraft, that none may stray for long.

I left this comment over at Player vs. Developer, an often thought-provoking blog which I highly recommend.

I think what happened is that somewhere along the line a policy or person came along dictating absolute adherence to the correct way to play and design. This is why we end up with changes that do nothing for balance, or have a minimal effect, but come at a great cost to fun or flavor. An easy example is the old quest item that was a trinket that hurt you if you weren't worthy, in other words, killed you pretty quickly if you equipped it. I think it ended in Darnassus, if that helps anyone remember it.

The XP change is them saying "you will get on this rails and you STAY on these rails". Why? I don't know. Something went wrong over there in the mindset.
I can't really argue with the ever-increasing streamlining of quests. It is what has worked for WoW. I prefer fewer rails, but that's just a personal preference, an opinion, a subjective judgement. But there's a line between offering rails which will scoot you along to 85 with a modest dose of lore and minimal travel time and being lost. That's a good thing! Players want to go along for the ride sometimes, or for some, always; even I like sometimes being able to coast along. But an item that looks like a staff but does nothing, does that interfere with the rail system?

In the end, I have a request for you to scour your memory. There was once a quest item which could be equipped as a trinket and had text saying something about being worthy and harming those who were not. Of course no player was worthy, so equipping the trinket would quickly drain their health and mana, killing them. I'm sure I wasn't the only player who never turned in that quest, since the item was such an amusing novelty. Since then it has been changed to just another item in our bags and the fun is lost. It sounds strange to intentionally not complete a quest, but isn't the truly strange thing that we'd think it strange to actually make a decision? We don't make many decisions these days, at least not many that matter, but it's empowering in a way, to be able to say "I would rather pass on a bit of experience in return for keeping this toy". But such choices may lead us off the rails, so away they go.

Fixing all of Wall Street in one question

| Sunday, December 12, 2010
There are big, complex problems over on Wall Street, but ultimately they boil down to one problem: if someone is greedy enough, no law, regulation, or humanity will stop them from grabbing whatever money they can. Hence the easy solution:

Add a one-question test, with a lie detector, as a requirement to do any work in the financial industry.

"Is Gordon Gekko the hero of the 1987 film Wall Street?"

If they answer yes, they fail forever. If they have no answer, they have six months to watch it at least five times, along with a minimum of one viewing of Bambi, and retake the test.

Relabeling xkcd for WoW DPS

| Friday, December 10, 2010
Let's go with...

Retribution paladin


Feral druid

and the graphic

Single player games will never die

Here's a fun quote snippet that Common Sense Gamer picked out:
Speaking to Develop, Gibeau said “I volunteer you to speak to EA’s studio heads, they’ll tell you the same thing,” he said. “They’re very comfortable moving the discussion towards how we make connected gameplay – be it co-operative or multiplayer or online services – as opposed to fire-and-forget, packaged goods only, single-player, 25-hours-and you’re out. I think that model is finished,” adding that “online is where the innovation, and the action, is at.”

Here's the one glaring problem with this idea: Sometimes people want to play alone. They don't want to solo in a MMO or do a co-op of a map that they could do on their own; they want to be alone. No one else. No chat or voice, not even another name running past on their screen. Sometimes people want their own world. Their world and only their world.

This isn't merely a social vs. non-social mood issue, though that is part of it. It's also that there are things we can do in single player that we can't in multi-player. Like cheat as much as we want. Sometimes people want to type poweroverwhelming and just wreck everything. Or they want to mod their game, tweak difficulties, add content.

Then there's the aspect of gameplay: single-player games can offer better gameplay. Ignore the AI for that claim, my focus is on the choices a player can have. With no lag, fights can be faster-paced. Abilities can be more complex. Difficulty can be variable, beyond the harder-but-different methods we saw in Ulduar and ICC.

If Mr. Ebert will allow me to briefly suggest that games might be art, or at least to use art as an analogy, there are paintings and sculptures and different paint choices and techniques and a million ways to make art with are entirely not alike. Maybe we can do more with paint than a block of rock, but only an idiot or troll would claim that "sculpture is dead".

In closing, I'd like to suggest that in the third galactic rotation of the eighth universe close when we are all part of the robotic hivemind, that yes, at that point there may be little sense in developing single-player games.

Vash'jir: First, Second, and Third Impressions

| Thursday, December 9, 2010
In the beginning...

This boat is taking forever. At least the NPCs have some dialogue to read while I wait.
Finally here. I want to capture it for the Bloodsail.
Poor Budd.
Wow, those guys out there are screwed. Maybe we should keep moving.
That was cool.
This zone sucks. It's a gigantic zerg rush for 10 total mob spawns and I get all turned around underwater. Fuck this, I'll go try archaeology.

Archaeology was fun.

In the thing directly after the beginning, making it second, which took place the next day...

Not so crowded, maybe now I can actually play. This is kinda fun.
I'm still a bit disoriented, but at least I can find my way around and am not perpetually facing the wrong direction.
Where the hell is all the ore?
I want to tell Budd that he's not crazy, at least not for that one specific reason. Where's his troll mask?

In the last of three things which would be the third...

I can walk on the bottom, and run, and the animation looks silly but fun.
This place is alright after all.
I still want to know where all the ore went.

Digital download is stupid

| Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Burning Crusade required me taking the train into places where I feared for my life and made me wonder why someone would put a gamestop there.

Wrath of the Lich King required me walking over to the campus mail room and asking for packages.

Cataclysm requires me to sit here staring obsessively at the realm status page.

New games/expansions are supposed to force gamers out into the world, to remind us why we so love these virtual worlds. Digital downloads ruin that, and consequently, gaming.

Subjective and irrational are not the same thing

| Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I'm not sure why I bother with posts like these, since they can pretty much all be boiled down to "Gevlon has absolutely no clue how humans think, including himself", but what would blogging be if we never pointed out the obvious and said it fifty different ways?

This recent post is about how people don't need alts to experience content, based on the claim that the only difference between alt and main is the time it takes to complete the quests and therefore any sense of difference between alt and main is irrational.

Let's assume this isn't a ridiculous approach to experiences and assume that indeed, speed is all that matters. In that case, I would say that in fact an alt is the worst possible character to use. In fact, so is a main. Yes, one time you should ride around on your main to see everything. After that, go to wowhead and read the quest text and if you're too dumb to visualize things, look at the screenshots. This will yield the fastest possible experience and exploration. Anything other than this is clearly irrational. I'm trying to say that Gevlon is stupid, just in case you didn't pick up the theme of "I say obvious things in this post."

Which brings me to my title: subjective and irrational are not the same. As one commenter pointed out, an alt will gain from the questing through XP, reputation, and running near resource nodes. Of course this progression will never reach that of the main, but for a person who enjoys the sense of progression, there it is. Subjective, yes, but not irrational. In fact it would be irrational to block said sense of progression and therefore lose out on the enjoyment from it.

Experience itself is subjective and different people will notice and care about different aspects. This means that even for the same circumstances, experience will be different. For one person the experience may be the quest reward plus some wasted time, for another it is the quest text plus some vendor silver, for another it is a XP boost.

For many it is not merely the quest taken and turned in, but the process as well. Levels and gear will change that process. Something as simple as an aggro range can change how a player perceives an experience, and therefore change the experience. Along these lines, it is worth remembering that the quests are designed for players in a certain level range, possibly losing out on aspects of the experience otherwise.

Again with the aggro, since it is simplest to use, but imagine an ambush: at level 15 the enemies will be on you in a second while at 80 they may fail to aggro at all. While fighting the enemies an 80 may kill them in a single AoE while the level 15 will go target by target, not necessarily in grave danger, but still with the sense that it is something more than trivial, which will change the experience. On the subject of intended level range, the tiny aggro range of a level 80 in a level 20 zone, to many players, is a constant reminder: "you are not supposed to be here". That again, changes the experience.

He ends with this:
So the difference between doing the content as lvl 80 vs a new alt is simply less time spent having the same experience. You absolutely don't need an alt for exploration purposes. The only exceptions are starter quests (they are race-specific), the DK questline, and having one alt in the other faction to access faction specific quests and visit faction cities/towns. If people would really want to explore content, they would do it on their main. They prefer alts for irrational reasons.

Now you may decide to nitpick and say that I keep talking about experience while he talks about exploration. You'd be wrong to try that. First off, much of the content of the post is about the process, the experience, and claiming how alts are merely slower rather than any different (which I have proven to be false, at least based on the assumption that the player in question is human). Second, exploration is itself based on experiencing content, not merely seeing. You could see everything on wowhead and youtube, yet you instead ride around, why? Because the riding, the searching, are both part of the exploration as a process of experience. We don't merely see content, we experience it.

Now that I've attacked nitpicking, I will go sentence by sentence pointing out all the stupidity.
So the difference between doing the content as lvl 80 vs a new alt is simply less time spent having the same experience.
- As proven in the rest of the post: false, assuming a human mind.

You absolutely don't need an alt for exploration purposes.
- True, if we are counting exploration as merely looking at places rather than doing anything. In other words: false.

The only exceptions are starter quests (they are race-specific), the DK questline, and having one alt in the other faction to access faction specific quests and visit faction cities/towns.
- Ignoring the "only exceptions" part, refer to my section on just reading the quests and watching videos online if the only goal is speed. In addition, a patient player could merely wait until 85 to run around enemy cities.

If people would really want to explore content, they would do it on their main.
- Repetition is the key to indoctrination.

They prefer alts for irrational reasons.
- As the title says: Subjective and irrational are not the same thing.

But before you get the idea that I think the entire post was wrong, I agree completely with his "no alts in the guild policy". It really is the ideal that no alts join his guild or play with him. Even better would be to extend that to mains as well. It's not like he'd be lonely.

How Much Content?

| Monday, December 6, 2010
I've been thinking of Shattering patch as an expansion. I mean, just think of the huge amount of new content. Just guessing I started thinking that the free patch was bigger than the expansion it's meant to introduce. So then I asked, which has more content?

For me, I'd guess that Shattering now vs. Cataclysm week one, Shattering has more content. Sure, a few zones are essentially unchanged; so far I've noticed that Arathi for the Alliance isn't majorly different; mostly some quest progress smoothing and tweaking of the timeline. Iapetes reports that Ashenvale isn't much different for Alliance either. But Teldrassil and Darkshore are quite different, and as I've posted earlier, a whole lot better. Dun Morogh and Loch Modan are much changed, with a major expansion of the troll and dark iron conflicts. Wetlands was fun, but perhaps because the progression was so smooth, it felt insubstantial. Not spending most of my time traveling and lost in marshes really changes the experience.

But what if I had started say, today? For a new player the new zones aren't new at all. They're the current zones. Not old, but not new. For a new player WoW has as much content before 60 as it did at the end of vanilla, less if we count that Zul'Gurub and Naxxramas are gone, but since I'm not counting instances added (Were there any? Don't answer that.), let's ignore the raid changes. My point is that all this new content isn't added content, it's replaced content. So Vanilla vs. Shattering isn't a matter of amount of content, but quality of content. While I inevitably mourn this or that change, I see the new content as giving a much smoother playing experience.

New for old and old for new, how much content was added for you?

Venemous Tome

| Sunday, December 5, 2010
Sidney's third tip: "Prototype. Prototype. Prototype. (Gnomes make great test subjects)"

I can't help but think that this is terrible advice. I mean, what sort of awful person would use a gnome for testing? The body weight will be all off on normal subjects!

You're a hard person to find, Kelpsacovic

Clearly not hard enough.

I have no clue who that is, but damn did it make for a funnier gank than the usual.

[edit] As I look over this again it might not be entirely clear that I am the dead rogue.

Don't Leave Deadmines

| Friday, December 3, 2010
The communicator you get at the start: You never get it again. So if you leave you're going to be doing a lot of inconvenient running back and forth.

It's a stupid oversight, that players cannot get a new one, or at least that there is no obvious way to get one.

Apparently I hadn't thrown in my hat about portals or lack thereof

As seems to happen so often, Tamarind's posts inspire excessively long comments from me. Or in some cases, misunderstanding. I checked, this one was definitely written by Tam. So because my comments are of course born of much experience and wisdom, here it is reposted, because that's what I believe should be done with experience and wisdom.

I've played with extremes. On one hand there is my engineer paladin with a teleport ring to Dalaran, a Hearthstone at Light's Hope, a Northrend Wormhole Generator, a BRD remote, and goblin explosion transporters for Area 52 and Everlook. With a single button I can get just about anywhere very fast. It makes me feel like an engineer, to have all these strange devices to travel, which may at times kill me, or worse. But in clear contrast, I've leveled a rogue, yes rogue, so not even a mage with teleports, to level 80 without changing her hearthstone away from the BE starting area. I've played with zero travel time and with 100% travel time, except when I got my mounts: those were super-convenient.

Neither is good for a normal person. The portals to everywhere would ruin the world if they were reduced to a mere game mechanic rather than part of a professional experience. But running everywhere was just as absurd. Maybe we just need two hearthstones. One is Home and one is Away. Then we could have convenience, but not at the cost of the world, and without eliminating all travel forever.

Windshear Mine: Worst place ever, of all time

| Thursday, December 2, 2010
Where do I start?

The peons are ever so slightly bugged. By that I mean they have an unusually long aggro distance. As in, I ran all the way out of Windshear Crag and they were still following me. I was not attacking them and had not for at least a minute. They only 'reset' after a druid ganked me. They didn't actually run back, but were glued in place before eventually vanishing.

The peons do not consistently display the rocks, though they may exhibit the behavior of carrying them. I am not referring to the ones outside who will carry them out, drop them, and go back for more.

This next one is more of a mage bug. A really stupid mage bug. Impact spreads DoTs. That's fine, and I can accept that it might spread those DoTs to otherwise non-hostile mobs. But even if there is no DoT, it still triggers some sort of spreading effect. In other words, fire blast in the mine can aggro the peons, who then chase me forever.

Mines in general are poor ideas for solo content. The twists and turns interfere with ranged abilities, which hurts warriors as well who miss out on charge. Terrain is inconsistently solid or not, resulting in the ever so fun 1 milimeter below the ridge is out of line of sight annoyance. Respawns from behind, which may happen if the player happens to die in the mine because three adds came and said player is playing a mage who does not deal well with now four melee enemies in an enclosed space, can further limit mobility. My first sentence is perhaps too negative. At times a mine can add challenge where otherwise there would be none. But do not combine it with buggy mobs.

Also, quest NPCs should be sanctuaries of a sort. By that I mean, I should be able to read the quest they give me without being attacked unless it is obviously an under siege sort of area. These particular ones clearly are not, based on their apparent attempt to be sneaky, which I'd expect they would either talk faster (short quest text) or help me hide a bit as well, or at least not stand right next to two different mob pathing areas.

Also, please remove male goblins from the game. Their attack sounds are incredibly irritating. I would rather listen to an hour of constant human aggro sounds of "huh!" as I run through Defias camps in Westfall than fight one goblin. In case it isn't clear, goblin attack sounds are really fucking obnoxious and make me want to murder them, except that the process of murdering them would cause said attack sounds.

While we're on the subject of Windshear Crag, Hellscream's Legacy needs some work. Specifically, if the quest says to attack the oil can and I do so and don't get credit because I didn't also attack the elite mob it is attached to that I was specifically told to not try to attack, there is a problem.

And then just to top off the fail cake, Big Papa and Large Daddies cannot fight, nor did I see a Tall Female Sibling.

Nerfing instance quest XP: A great idea

| Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Thanks to Glyph for pointing this out: Dungeon Quest Experience Reduction
We are applying a hotfix today to all level 1-60 dungeon quests for Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms dungeons which will significantly reduce the amount of experience they award.

While dungeons should remain integral to our evolving storylines, and great places to collect gear in cooperative environments, we need to make sure each player’s questing progress remains relevant as dungeon quests are completed. In many cases we’re seeing players enter dungeons to complete quests, only to come out ahead of the leveling curve for the zones they’re in.

This change should allow players the opportunity to reap the benefits of running dungeons, while not outpacing the leveling flow from levels 1-60. At this time there are no plans for making any adjustments to dungeon quest experience for Outland, Northrend, and level 80+ Cataclysm dungeons.

This really does get the best of all worlds.

Yesterday when I suggested that instances shouldn't give experience, I left out a group, specifically players who like to play in groups, in other words, people who prefer to level through instances. Removing kill XP in instances would have ruined the game for them. Instead they'd be entirely in solo situations. Oh sure sure, they can group up for quests, but quests aren't really designed for multiple people: they become trivial (even more so) and there's no simple mechanic to encourage grouping (no quest finder tool), in addition to the XP drop with two players compared to 3 or more. So I still think that instances giving XP is excessive, but it's also necessary. Nerfing the quest XP isn't as big of a deal with this grouping group, since they'd be in there many times and the quests are one-time deals.

This works out well for the questers as well. We're unlikely to run an instance more than once, though I did do WC twice because I was put in a partial instance with a quest boss dead. This means that for us, quest XP in there is a huge portion of total XP from an instance run. Nerfing that will cut out the total XP by a lot as well, so we aren't getting 1-3 levels from a single instance run. That means we can still quest and still run instances, since we also want to do the quests in there as well.

All in all, I think it's a great change. It's simple (though I imagine quite boring and repetitive for the guy who has to go to each instance and pick each quest and change it, not that I'm saying that the devs work by running around the game world, as cool as that would be). It's effective. It won't cause all sorts of weird unexpected problems like we'd find if they had made the XP requirements higher or tried to tweak group XP bonuses.

So bravo.

Why do instances give XP?

| Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Run an instance and odds are you'll see someone level up. Or multiple people. Multiple times. Instances are giving huge amounts of XP and it's throwing off the leveling curve.

Once upon a time this made sense. It took time to get to instances, to get the quests for them, and groups could possibly wipe, meaning even more lost time. Without XP, instances would have likely been ignored until 60, especially back before they all gave well-itemized blues.

Now we have teleports and the looking for group tool, meaning that instances cost no more time than the run itself. The loot has gotten to be so good that that itself could be enough to bring in players. On my new dwarf shaman I'm finding that instance blues are giving over double the DPS of same-level quest greens. Throw on top of that the change to put quests inside the instances, with their own blue loot and XP, and I think it's worth asking: Do instances need to give XP?

I forgot, thanks to the new city tabards, they give reputation too!

Would you do an instance that gave no XP? Sure you would! You do them all the time at the level cap. Oh but that's when you don't need XP, but leveling is about leveling. Or is it? Players already quest, often running inefficient quests with low xp/hour, rather than the faster and more efficient mob grinding. Not that I'm saying quests are always inferior, after all, if you can get a quest to kill what you're grinding, it makes sense. My point is that we're already leveling in a slower manner in return for quest rewards, story, and variety, so it is that hard to believe that maybe instances could go without XP?

Enchanters: The vendor sells vellum

| Monday, November 29, 2010
Oh man, I got these great deals on enchanting vellum! The market price looked like 1g! Some guy had them up there fore 20s! I made off like a bandit. Oh, they're about 9s on the vendor? Oops.

In related news, I went from 130 to 175 with 3 stam to bracers. Only two soul dust each and for some reason it was extremely cheap, only about 10s each. From orange to green that gave only 5 failed skillups. 45 levels for only about 10g, pretty good in my book.

Being Too Helpful

For Peat's Sake and The Threat of Flame are a pair of quests in Wetlands, and a perfect example of Being Too Helpful.

For Peat's Sake you put out fires using a magical enchanted blessed lily blossom which sprays water. And the quest giver gives some helpful advice.
"The blossom may also prove useful against the elementals themselves."
And in fact using it near them will cause them to become doused. I don't actually know if this makes them hit softer or have less health, but they do look smaller, so that must mean something good.

Except Doused Fire Elementals are not part of the quest objective. That's right, if you follow the NPC's advice, you will not be able to complete the other quest, because his advice changes them into a mob that doesn't give credit.

And that, is Being Too Helpful.

Excellent work, . Are you certain you haven't done this before?

| Sunday, November 28, 2010
I'm pretty damn certain I HAVE.

Remember that time that we killed Onyxia and then Blizzard said "lol no, our king has to have accomplished something", so then we hadn't killed Onyxia. Apparently that whole thing was uh... nothing? I'm not quite sure. I'm the sort who considers quests to be a source of canon. I mean, they are Blizzard's own writing. It's not as if I'm suggesting that Onyxia was slain my Sneakstab the gnome rogue. But what we do, happens.

I was even willing to set side all the strange repeated villains, with my own twist of illogic.
The NPCs with the same name are just that: the same name. To avoid the perception of a breakdown in leadership, someone else takes up the name.

But I'll be damned if little Pamela somehow forgot all about us and her doll broke again and her father was recorrupted. Was there some massive temporal time distortion of the timeline? I'd believe it! But apparently no. Just someone decided that anything we'd done in the Plaguelands didn't actually happen.

I'm not saying that new players shouldn't get to do the quests for Darrowshire. I'd rather they had the opportunity. It's a nice chain, even the trimmed down new version. But is it asking too much for Chromie to just casually mention that the Infinites did some tinkering, so maybe we can fix some stuff while we're here? A bit of offhand dialogue can go a long way.

When I get to Light's Hope Chapel I'll have to see if they're still offering to attune me for Naxxramas.

And Joseph Danced On...

The Scarlet Monastery instances have been tweaked to reflect the apparent civil war within the Scarlet Crusade. Now there is a Joseph the Crazed handing out kill quests. In the case of Cathedral he is in the middle of the lower level of the pool, battles raging around him, as he dances. Remember that.

Our tank was a feisty, hasty gnome who pulled fast and killed fast, like a dragonfly darting here and there. Woosh woosh woosh. WOOSH! She pulled a path right up the middle of the cathedral. You see? Oh yes, you know where this is going.

Right up the middle, right up to the boss. Yep, those side wings: untouched. So we had friends. Lots of friends.

I ran for it. Being a ghost wolf and much better at sensing imminent death, I survived.

Teleporting back in, I found that the boss and friends had followed me, obviously. And then somehow gotten into a fight with the renegade crusaders. Those NPCs are practically invincible, but also don't hit very hard, so the boss and his friends were all clustered near the entrance.

We whittled down the adds and by the time we got to Mograine he was at about 60%. This may be something for Blizzard to look into fixing, if at some point the fight becomes hard enough that anyone bothers to exploit this for an easy kill. But the result was a strange fight. See, Whitemane still spawned way back at the cathedral, so we all had some running to do to get to her. And then more to get back. So in the end we were fighting the two of them right near the entrance, an epic battle with the leadership of the Scarlet Crusade in entirely the wrong place.

And Joseph danced on.

Creating a Scene

Spoiler alert: I talk about Jintha'Alor in the Hinterlands.

I'm running around the corner to the altar area at the top and three thoughts go into my head in this order:

First: Damn, I bet those were the mobs I needed for the kill quest.
Second: Uh oh, are there Horde around who just killed them?
Third: Holy shit, that is a lot of sacrificed trolls.

I'm talking everywhere, dead trolls. The stairs are covered. The grass. The stones. Everywhere. All sacrificed.

You can read all the quests you want that talk of the savagery of the trolls, but when I went around the corner and see it, that's when it hit me.

So I starting thinking back about my troll lore, both distant and what my characters have actually seen, and I realized that trolls are absolutely frightening. The Scourge and Twilight cults have their suicidal tendencies and doomsday prophecies and horrors, but can they really compare? Those are all recent. New kids on the block. Fads. The cult of today and gone tomorrow. But the trolls, for them worshipping murderous gods, sacrifice, and torture, those are not isolated events. Those are tradition. There's cult and then there's thousand-thousand year old culture.

Thanks, Shifting Perspectives

| Saturday, November 27, 2010
Odds are you read WoW Insider, since apparently everyone does. It's true, I used numbers. Specifically I used numbers like "they linked one of my posts and I got a lot of views. Then everyone went away because not everyone rads my blog. Ergo: everyone reads WoW Insider". So recently Shifting Perspectives had a bit about trolls. It's a good read. To add my own two cents: trolls are awesome.

But here's the best bit.
Regeneration This has been the subject of many a hyena laugh from players. However, it did give the wonderful blog Troll Racials Are Overpowered ("I'm regenerating five HP per second and there's nothing you can do about it") its motto, so it can't all bad.

I'm a sucker for random plugs and praise.

Thanks, fellas!

One Free Kill

| Thursday, November 25, 2010
Blessing of Kings had an interesting topic yesterday: progression raiding vs. raid the current tier.

In Vanilla and TBC, the raiding endgame was based around the idea of progression. A guild did Molten Core first, and after they moved on to Blackwing Lair, then AQ40, and finally Naxxramas. This was the pattern guilds and players followed regardless of when they started. A new guild or raider was expected to start in Molten Core and move their way upwards.

In contrast, Wrath raiding was based around a different idea: focus on the current tier. In general, at any given time the community--including newer raiders and guilds--focused on the most recent tier. When TotC was released, that was what everyone did. When ICC came out, everyone went for ICC. You could essentially solo your way, gear-wise, to the entry point for the most recent tier.

Personally, I liked progression more. In a progression system we didn't beat bosses by drastically overgearing them. We didn't do much farming of outdated content. We did what suited our gear and personal experience levels.

But progression has a couple huge downsides. One is rerolling. If you want to change class, you start at the bottom and there's no quick way up to where you should be, based on experience. LK's solution was heroic automatically putting players at the second to highest tier (I'm counting raids, not sets, so 245 is second to highest since ToC is second to highest raid). I'd have preferred a system of retirement and hastened gearing and progression. Obviously this doesn't work quite right outside of a badge system, but the general concept is the same: trade one character for another.

Then there are the guild-killer bosses. These are the bosses that you get stuck on and do not get past. If you can't kill Vael, you're not going any further in Blackwing Lair and you're done on the 40 man track. Go back to MC, ZG, and AQ20, because you're not getting any further. Oh hey, three substantial raids even if you get stuck. Funny, that doesn't sound so bad after all. But no one likes to be stuck. The strange thing is that bosses in a raid don't follow perfect progression of difficulty, so Vael is harder than the bosses after him. If somehow Vael wasn't there, a guild could get a bit further along and possibly even kill all the rest and move on to the next raid. Or gear up some more (but not a ton more) and that would help. And then they can go on to the next raid.

So I propose a One Free Kill mechanic for raids. Each week you get one free boss dead. It gives no loot, no achievement, no quest progress, cannot be skinned, mined, or engineered. It's just not in your way anymore. Go on and die to something else. Note that this isn't one boss per raid, but per week, and it will be preserved by raid saves. By that I mean if you carry over a raid ID, you also carry over your kill limit. So you can't kill, save, kill next boss, save to next week, and so on. Also raid achievements would be tied to every boss, so skipping a boss will mean no raid achievement.

Obviously this hurts the model of progression. Even worse, it hurts some of that thrill of finally downing a boss. The raid itself will lose some meaning when the toughest fights can be skipped (or at least one). But I think it would be worth it for many players. Content isn't trivialized, just that the one particular fight that ruined everything cannot ruin everything.

My guild in vanilla actually was stuck on Razorgore, not Vael. So maybe we'd have not gotten anywhere anyway. But maybe having a different boss to wipe on would have helped. It's frustrating to do the same failure week after week. Diversifying the failure could help.

I think Cataclysm will add another mechanic to make progression raiding more playable: smaller raids. When a 40 man was banging its head against a wall, it was often hard to see exactly what was going wrong. Just recruiting was hard enough with so many people, getting the exact right players even harder. Dropping to a 25 man maximum helped. Making 10 man raiding a more significant progression path will do even more. It's a lot easier to troubleshoot a smaller group. It's easier to recruit and replace. Maybe 10-man Vael would have still help up guilds, but I think it would have killed a lot fewer.

But progression is dead.

Funny how cooperation can make us richer

| Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Someone misread some quest text in Darkshore and got lost. He asked for help, so I gave up a few seconds of my time to point him the right way. What a waste, am I right?

Later I offered free disenchanting in general channel. How generous of me. How generous of me to get enchanting skillups without using my own mats. Ha, generously greedy!

The person I'd helped gave me a few greens, told me to keep them.

Sometimes karma isn't so mean.

My god, I enjoyed playing a night elf?

Let me make this clear: I have nothing against night elves. Well okay, I do, but that's not the point. The true problem is that they have the lamest, most boring, most emo, most awful starting zone ever. Teldrassil is a worthless pile of crap.


The new quests aren't majorly different in theme, but the way they are given is a lot more fun. Where to start?

I like the 'mini-elite' named quest mobs. It's cool to see the portrait of them with the quest. It fixes that weird problem of "How did I know who to kill when you never told me and let's face it, I'm pretty sure most enemies don't have their names floating over their heads?" The little bit of added background on them is a nice touch. The quest 'bosses' themselves feel a bit tougher. Not hard, but just they take a few more hits. It's not adding challenge, but it is helping to differentiate them from all the trash around them.

The mist in the cave. Players who have done it will understand. Players who have not done it, I don't want to spoil it, so just imagine a mechanic that doesn't ruin immersion but can help prevent getting lost in caves.

Earlier, the teleport out of Fel Rock, a nice touch. It shows some recognition that some people get lost in caves and do not much enjoy having to battle in, battle to the right path, then fight the same trash all the way back out, hopefully without getting lost this time. Respawns are easily deadly in caves.

It helped that I somehow found two rare spawns. They dropped greens. I was floored.

Dolanaar is slightly too spread out, such that I ended up not seeing a quest indicator and lost the last quest path. However in Blizzard's defense, they had established a trend of "talk to the moonwell guy, then go to a moonwell", so I should have known to check for quests at him again.

The profession trainer in the newbie area is a great idea. Finally, we get start professions on time, without going way out of our way. That means they fit better into leveling. The descriptions of gathering and crafting professions was well-done. Going even further to describe the individual professions and the pairings, just great. Something is possibly lost in new players not figuring this out themselves, but something is gained in them not ending up poor and ignorant, stuck tabbing out for professions guides to fix their major mistakes.

What confused me was that there didn't seem to be much chatter about night elf mages. I'd have expected the starting NPCs to talk more of the Highborn and Shendrelar.

So far I'm very please with the Sundering.

Oh wait, no, I forgot: It gave me the achievement for surveying the damage when my paladin hadn't even left Dalaran yet. That irritated me. I'm assuming it's tied to some sort of zone discovery and since I had them all, there you go. On a related note, my hearthstone had been Light's Hope Chapel. They reset it to Stormwind. The shiny new AH looks weird.

You're just trying to shut down dissent!


This is just like the obvious Nazis over at NPR who hate dissent.
Rohan is a liberal Nazi.

Okay, I'm done.

Goodbye: Zul. Goodbye, Gurub.

| Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Yesterday I did ZG, perhaps for my last time ever. I got there many hours later than I expected.

Somehow I'd ended up selling some bijous for the guild. Then I offered other rep materials for other grinds. Somehow we ended up going to Molten Core. It seemed like a good way to gradually draw people into the madness of our guild. They needed AQ20 too, so we went there. Then we did AQ40. Why? Why not? They left and a few guildies and I went to Blackwing Lair. There I was disappointed to learn that Styleen's Impeding Scarab had been reduced from its glory to a mere boring +parry trinket. Once upon a time it was glorious:
Equip: Increases your block rating by 24.
Equip: Increases the block value of your shield by 24.
Equip: Increases defense rating by 20.
I don't remember the original values, before ratings. But I'm pretty sure that was 2% block chance, no idea on the defense. These were the BWl trinkets; items so well designed that they were often used even at 70. Or maybe it just showed that people didn't like the level 70 trinkets much. Too many procs or on-use to keep track of.

But I wanted to talk about ZG.

It dropped blues and epics and used a strange loot system, one which I don't think we could imagine these days. There were of course the usual random drops off bosses, with some loot shared across them. And then there were these strange things: bijous, coins, and paragons. The first two were sources of reputation while the last was a gear token, much like we saw in Burning Crusade. They could be used to create a set. Strange sets with strange bonuses, which make little sense now and possibly not much more back then. Oh but no mere armor. No no, trinkets! Ah the trinkets.

Can you imagine a place called the Edge of Madness? Surrounded by imps and demons and with a strange darkness in the air. Madness indeed. And on a rotating basis the troll ancestors could be called. Gurubashi Mojo Madness brought the boss, but was hard to make. This week it might be Hazza'rah. They weren't especially hard and they weren't especially generous with loot. But this one drops dream thread. And the other drops his tooth. Collect all four! And find a voodoo doll. Find the one for your class. But beware the hoodoo pile, for it is jinxed! Even says so: "Jinxed Hoodoo Pile". Touch it, take the reward, and ask yourself "Will Hakkar rule the world?" Many would say yes, and we would kill them. Put it all together and what do you have? Trinkets yes, pretty trinkets! Power, great power! Power in trinkets!

Ah, but now you have your paragon of power. But do you have the reputation you need for it? No? Then no armor for you! BEGONE! Come back with more.

It's all our faults anyway. We're the ones who brought back Hakkar. We were fools. Easily tricked. You and I did it. We brought him back. Why did we not listen to the green flight? They knew. But we found the screechers and we stole the egg and we went to the Sunken Temple and we drew him BACK. Blood. Nothing good is summoned by blood. We used the egg and put him in the egg and then we gave away the egg. For what? Not worth it. No no.

And he enslaved the Gurubashi. Or did he? Perhaps many desired the power of his presence. But the priests, they were caught. Ensnared. Oh they would bless us to free them. And so we went with the support of the Zandalar. They sent us in, brave heroes and adventurers, to invade the city and stop Hakkar before he drained the world. Five priests and priestesses under his thrall and forced to empower him. Oh you'd not want to fight him without them. Oh no. He would do terrible things to you. Worse than usual! We kill them and they thank us. What a welcome change!

Hakkar the Soulflayer. Not a nice name. He controls minds and corrupts blood. And steals your life. So we did the unthinkable and we dipped ourselves in poison and we never removed it, so that when he tried to steal our life, he stole poison instead.

We fished up another boss with the help of Nat Pagle. Or was it Pat Nagle? We were rather drunk at our last meeting.

And Broodlord Mandokir did kill many of us and the ghosts brought us back and he did level up (indeed he did!) and he did yell, "Ding!" and Jin'do the Hexxer did respond with a friendly "Grats!" And we all laughed for it was silly and we had nothing else to do while running back from the wipe. And all the while he was watching us. He was angry when we killed his raptor.

Jindo has the most frightening assembly of concubines since the brothel in Karazhan, and the flesh beasts in Medivh's bedroom. Gnomes and mummies. GNOMES AND MUMMIES.


Goodbye, Zul'Gurub. I shall miss thee.

But thanks for the three Razzashi Hatchlings.

What is Accessibility?

| Monday, November 22, 2010
I will now describe the most accessible raid in the world.

Get 40 people, tanks, healers, and DPS, and go to Accessible Raid, a place in which the bosses do not hit hard and follow normal aggro rules with no phases, adds, or strange debuffs to worry about. The gear requirements are: the starting zone gear, so if you are wearing a single green, you are completely overgeared. There is no need for consumables. No key. No attunement. No strats to learn. Also there is a teleporter from every major city to the raid portal, which is next to a summoning stone in a sanctuary zone.

Now everyone can do this raid.

Oh. 40 people is too many? How about 10? You can't get that many healers? Fine, it's easy enough, just go solo it. But then it takes too long and you don't have time?

Okay, new Most Accessible Raid in the World: It is balanced for one player to faceroll it and takes five minutes, along with having all the previous features. And it can be accesses by a Solo Looking for Raid panel which will teleport you, just in case your computer cannot handle the lag in Darnassus.

Are you having fun yet?

Was that raid accessible or merely trivially easy? Where's the line, anyway?

Molten Core was fairly easy, but FR fights and occasional forced raid makeups meant that it wasn't accessible.
The original Naxxramas was hard and inaccessible with strange tank requirements and consumables so out of control that eventually Blizzard nerfed alchemy, seemingly just in response to Naxx.
Icecrown Citadel is harder than Molten Core and certainly more accessible. Well, that is unless you count the dozens of heroics to run to gear up for it. Suddenly it looks just as grindy as any MC FR gear run.

But what is accessibility? I'm still using this word that I haven't defined. To me, accessibility is the ability to walk into a raid and kill a boss. It's not a number and even ordinal ranking may be impossible, since what makes a raid inaccessible may vary between players. So maybe it's better to ask what makes a raid inaccessible. What makes it harder for players to walk into a raid and kill a boss?

Time, duh.
Number of players: as this goes up, so the time gets harder to manage as more and more schedules must overlap just right.
Specific player requirements such as a class, spec, or even just role, as anyone who called a raid due to lack of healers can testify to.
Gear, whether it's FR or EH.
Strategies which must be known ahead of time. By this I mean needing encounter-specific responses which must be done faster than a raid could be expected to figure them out on the fly or reasonably anticipate, such as needing a tank being something we should expect.

Reduce these and the raid is more accessible. But it will lose some fun. A very short raid will let people in, but may end up feeling insubstantial. Needing fewer players will do the same, but also constricts raid design and may hurt the enjoyment players get from working in large groups. Avoiding the need for specific classes also restricts raid design as well as risking homogenization of classes to fit raids. Reducing gear requirements may cause overgearing to happen too easily, trivializing fights and reducing the fun, while also causing players to burn through content even faster and quit that much sooner. Having strategies which can be figured out on the fly, meaning with sufficient buffers of time and health, may force encounters to be too easy, especially if players pull a second time knowing exactly what will happen.

Accessibility reduces fun, but it's also what allows us to get to that fun. Clearly this calls for quantification of both terms and the graphing of graphs with pretty lines to show optimum fun-accessibility points for criteria such as highest average fun over the population, highest fun over raiding population, and whatever will make the game designers richer, faster.

Finally, some support for my pro-slavery agenda

| Saturday, November 20, 2010
As you all know, I am a Pazi (that is the Patriotic Capitalist Party for those of you who don't know) who yearns for the days of freedom. And by freedom I mean slavery. Yes, slavery is indeed freedom. Economic freedom with rising tides lifting all boats. You see, as any market fundamentalist can tell you, absent intrusive government regulation, the market will always do the mot efficient thing possible. So logically if for a century, give or take a few decades, slavery was legal in America (not to mention all the time before the revolution) and practiced by people seeking a profit, then slavery must be an economically rational system and therefore just fine. Unless of course you hate freedom, and by freedom I mean slavery, and by slavery I mean capitalism.

Or as my favorite social, Gevlon, says:
People have an inherent FEELING (as opposed to rationally proven/challengable opinion) about what is right or wrong.

Whenever the majority votes "wrong", a social person will consider these voters "wrong" or "evil" and feels urged to punish/change them.

Like you CAN'T accept slavery even if great majority of your country would support it, Frostheim can't accept "these kids ignored my earlier statement and did not respected me enough to care to tell me that they will go for optional bosses"

Yes, slavery is just fine as long as only a minority oppose it.

Not having nice things in Minecraft

| Friday, November 19, 2010
The last few days as I've wandered my world in Minecraft, I could only imagine it as some wrecked post-Soviet landscape, scarred by strip-mining, shoddy architecture, bombs, and partially torn-up rail lines. Yes, that's my world in Minecraft.

A few small glorified huts that I call fortresses are the starting points for tunnels deep down, where I've torn apart the earth. Meanwhile ill-fated battles with creepers have done the same up above. If you haven't played Minecraft, creepers are these green things that explode if they get too close. That will dig a small hole in stone walls, but if you're in sand or dirt, it will blast a decent crater.

It is these creepers which have wrecked so much. A farm which I'd built out into the water was blasted by a creeper. The explosion opened up into a cave below, causing a quarter of the dirt to be washed away, disrupting the water flow, and nearly drowning me. A small fort I'd built so I could safely dig a mountain at night was breached, letting in a skeleton who killed me. I lost all my items from that. My most recent building has had a few holes blown in it. Creepers are a blight upon the world.

But the creepers cannot take all the blame. Scarce resources have taken their toll. Rail lines to connect my forts have been cut short by lack of iron. And then torn up to build transportation through mine tunnels. The stone and dirt which help up the rails are left in place, a monument to failure. Along the way, vast stores of gravel have been built up. While not particularly useful by itself, gravel can be placed and re-dug to yield flint, a necessary resource for arrows. But this reprocessing is a slow and boring process, so instead the gravel sits in giant wooden chests, accumulating more and more, like some poorly-rendered parody of nuclear waste.

It was time to end the build-destroy-decay cycle. It was time to build something nice. So I did that. I built something nice. I found a tall hill, hauled a bunch of stone, dirt, and glass to the top, and started leveling an area to use. Lacking a real design program, Excel generously offered to let me pretend that filling cells with grey, black, and brown was a blueprint. Over a few nights of battling skeletons, zombies, and the damned creepers, the walls were built, windows installed, and a front door added so work could continue in peace. It grew up with walls of stone and glass. A ceiling of wood became a floor of wood for the floor above. And that floor would be framed in stone, to limit the spread of fires, a step which turned out to save a great deal of white paint. There is no white paint. But there is wool. After much punching of sheep I had walls of white, a ceiling of white, big, tall, wide windows, and a second floor with wide open, well-lit space. The balcony around the house was eventually demolished after I found that it blocked the sun and encouraged the congregation of skeletons, zombies, creepers, and spiders. A basement was dug out, lit, and watered, to create a fully enclosed farm. The plot isn't huge, but it can keep me alive.

It is a nice house. It is a nice thing. Finally I have a nice thing in Minecraft. Pictures will come eventually, since I must admit that some of the dirt framework still needs replacing.

On a nearby, slightly higher hill, I'm growing a World Tree. Now where are those vials...

How carebears have ruined WoW

| Thursday, November 18, 2010
This post will contain nothing but facts, so if you disagree, it's because you hate facts and American and are therefore a Communist. Europeans, you can just move along right now, along with anyone not from real America.

Rogues thrive on world PvP. By world PvP I mean people who are either afk or at half health while fighting ten mobs. With the addition of guards and sanctuary cities, rogue PvP became harder, but thanks to vanish could still be done. Then came flying mounts. By the time Blizzard added teleports to instances, rogues were all switching to sword specialization in order to get the highest possible DPS. While commuting seppuku.

This lack of world PvP also hurts everyone else. With a safe, carefree, or should I say, carebear, world, no one has to pay any damn attention. Situational awareness has plummeted. When players fall out of the habit of spinning their camera and character in circles to watch for rogues, or on some days, warlocks who will fear you into even more mobs, it's not a surprise that they also lose track of things like adds, fire, and adds on fire.

But how does world PvP come back? Simple: make it.

The fact is that world PvP cannot be based on any sort of encouragement or positive effect. Small rewards didn't make sand, I mean Silithyst, any more fun. Significant rewards will only work for a short time, until we outgear them and no longer care. There is only one way to cause world PvP: give us no other choice. Put summoning stones in vulnerable locations, such as anywhere, and make it impossible to summon from outside to inside an instance. Remove teleporting to dungeons. While you're at it, put a bunch of instances all in the same area so that inevitably players will run into each other. Or at least so rogues will run into them.

Getting chain-ganked by rogues also hardens players, giving them the strength to deal with wiping continuously for hours on end. After all, I've killed some bosses in less time than it takes to run from Thorium Point to Blackrock Depths while a raid is gathering for Blackwing Lair.

Carebears have also ruined gathering. It used to be that a mineral node was a serious deal. People might fight for days over a regular thorium node, until finally someone won Alterac Valley. Gathering used to be hardcore. Dismounting to mine or pick herbs meant you were vulnerable to someone else coming along to kill you. Now everyone is spread out and not flagged. The greatest happiness came when I switched back to PvP and got into the habit of killing anyone who even dared to glance at my ore.

Carebears encourage bots, leaving them free to bot away at bot activities such as botting. If instead they were killed on sight... Let me put it this way: I started this post talking about hating America and Communism and here's where it ties in: bots. The economic growth in China is not due to stealing jobs. It's due to stealing spawns. That's right, bots and gold sellers in WoW account for over 75% of China's increase in GDP over the past five years. Kill the bots and we'll stop those damn Communists right in their tracks as they attempt to sell us gold at market prices.

Redistributing the Wealth

| Wednesday, November 17, 2010
What's the point of jewelcrafting?

It allows us to better use gear, giving more flexibility by not capping caps on gear, but with gems. So upgrades are upgrades rather than "well it's better but I'd lose the hit cap". That's nice. But we have way way more sockets than we'd need for that. Why not instead have more things like belt buckles and maybe have an item or two which always has sockets? Because that would accomplish this first goal with few negative effects.

As you can see, gemming based on blacksmights adding sockets and a handful already on gear would make a decent bit for blacksmithing and a decent bit for jewelcrafting. But jewelcrafting was supposed to be the great new profession, so it must be profitable. A handful of sockets is not enough!

The driving force behind gem and socket design was not to help players use a wider array of gear. It was to move gold. The goal was to move gold from you to jewelcrafters. This resulted in lots and lots of sockets. Those sockets would have to be filled. And not just filled, but filled quickly, since when an item has two or three sockets on it, particularly meta gem sockets, the upgrade isn't an upgrade until that socket is filled. This puts players in a rushed state, accelerating the natural desire for quick results, to the point where players will willingly pay for hugely profitable gems, and lots of them.

It's time to nerf jewelcrafting. Just give a little service to tailors, leatherworkers, and blacksmiths: ripping gems out of gear, destroying it in the process. Yes, that's another idea I ripped from Torchlight. One of the NPCs in the game can destroy a gem to free up a socket (a service that we don't need since new gems can do that) while another can tear apart an item to liberate the gems inside. That second one would be more than a little bit valuable, and would significantly reduce the need for new gems every time an item is upgraded. This would actually destroy the market entirely, meaning that players would only need a few dozen gems ever, which is perhaps excessive. So instead the gem recovery process could scratch them, meaning turning them into uncut gems which would need to be recut. This at least cuts out the perpetual prospecting gold mine. It also hurts mining. But there's an easy fix for that: buff engineering.

In fact, that might be the fix for everything.

Kelpsacovic the Undying

| Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It feels wrong to have this title.

I don't mean that the achievement is borderline trivial these days. I mean that I personally die a lot.

Laying Bare the Bear Threat

| Monday, November 15, 2010
It's time we got some objective, quantitative evidence. It's time our fear-mongering had the selective statistics to back it up. It's time for massive charts to scroll past in search of one single number that we can use to measure how afraid we should be. It's time, for you to scroll down really far so I can tell you what to think after pretending to give you the facts.

Zone Bears Furbolgs Either
Alterac Mountains Yes No Yes
Arathi Highlands No No No
Ashenvale Yes Yes Yes
Azshara No Yes Yes
Azuremyst No Yes Yes
Badlands No No No
Blades Edge Mountains No No No
Blasted Lands No No No
Bloodmyst Isle Yes Yes Yes
Borean Tundra No No No
Burning Steppes No No No
Crystalsong Forest No No No
Darkshore Yes Yes Yes
Deadwind Pass No No No
Desolace No No No
Dragonblight Yes Yes Yes
Dun Morogh Yes No Yes
Duskwood No No No
Dustwallow Marsh No No No
Eastern Plaguelands No No No
Elwynn Forest Yes No Yes
Eversong Woods No No No
Felwood Yes Yes Yes
Feralas Yes Yes Yes
Ghostlands No No No
Grizzly Hills Yes Yes Yes
Hellfire Peninsula No No No
Hillsbrad Foothills Yes No Yes
Howling Fjord Yes Yes Yes
Icecrown No No No
Isle of Quel'danas No No No
Loch Modan Yes No Yes
Moonglade No Yes Yes
Mulgore No No No
Nagrand No No No
Netherstorm No No No
Searing Gorge No No No
Sholazar Basin No No No
Silithus No No No
Silverpine Forest Yes No Yes
Stonetalon Mountains No No No
Stranglethorn Vale No No No
Swamp of Sorrows No No No
Tanaris No No No
Terokkar Forest No No No
The Barrens No No No
The Hinterlands No No No
Storm Peaks No No No
Thousand Needles No No No
Tirisfal Glades No No No
Un'Goro Crater No No No
Western Plaguelands Yes No Yes
Westfall No No No
Wetlands No No No
Winterspring Yes Yes Yes
Zangarmarsh No No No
Zul'Drak Yes No Yes

Yes 17 12 20
No 40 45 37
Ratio 0.425 0.267 0.541
Percentage 0.298 0.211 0.351
without Outland 0.333 0.235 0.392

Over 35% of zones have either bears, furbolgs, or both. That's over a third of the zones. While we may take some comfort in the fact that Outland is free of bears and furbolgs, that also means that in our native Azeroth, the ratio is even higher, reaching nearly 40%. In some areas the bears are even more deadly than normal, carrying the corrupting influence of the Scourge or Burning Legion.

Even if we could simply kill all of them, a difficult feat requiring major coordination, they would all come back, possibly in mere seconds.
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