Life is a strange place

| Saturday, July 31, 2010
Last week I was my brother's best man.
Today I carried my grandmothers casket.
Tomorrow my niece will be baptized.

Last night during the wake my cousin from Wyoming said something like "I didn't know wakes could be so much fun." I suspect he's not been to many Irish wakes, because the true surprise should have been our sobriety!

My grandmother was a devout Catholic, one of those women who can be called a saint without exaggeration, though also without official Papal recognition. She was a perfectly selfless woman, kind, stubborn, serious and humorous, and intelligent, one of those women who would have been given awards and scholarships and grants if she'd been born a little bit later. Alas, hers was not a generation in which women went to college. Nor was my mother's, but my grandmother made sure that all her daughters and her son went to college.

I've not been to many funerals, due to young age and the sort of family which isn't prone to dying too early of stupid causes. So I was amused by the cemetery ceremony ending, and then the funeral director calmly explaining the traffic and best route to the restaurant. Then some workers came by and lowered the casket. That felt strange, but I didn't mind the apparent lack of reverence at that point. I knew my grandmother wasn't in the casket; that was just a corpse and she was somewhere else.

Throughout the ceremonies and mass and prayers people would offer condolences. I didn't quite understand why. My grandmother had already been dying and I had plenty of time to accept that, so her physical death was not sad for me. All the sad parts had happened weeks before. All it meant that she was no longer in any pain, and if anything she believed was true, was in a glorious, deserved place. So in a strange sort of way it was a happy occasion. I will admit it was still a somewhat confusing occasion, but today as I watched my niece look around in bewilderment I remembered that confusion is part of life and learning, that a perfectly understandable world is boring!

As the priest said during the Mass, she was the only person to ever be kicked out of hospice for doing too well. So she went back to her condo and my oldest brother and I were glad that she would have a change to appreciate our excellent repairing and repainting. I know it sounds silly, but we'd had a lot of regret when she was in hospice that she'd have only seen pictures.

My grandmother died without a ton of money, but so what? She had six of her children with her, many grandchildren, and even a great-grandchild. No amount of medical care or money can give the form of immortality that comes from a loving family.

The Blame the Player Mentality

Blame the playerbase!

It's too common and I am guilty of it as well. Not having fun? It's our fault. It's tempting to just say that we're cynical or lazy or greedy or whatever else. We probably are.

But isn't it the job of the debs to set up the fun? If we cannot RP perhaps we lack a suitable world. If we are loot whores maybe that is what we were taught. If we avoid grouping with unknown people without gearscore checks, why?

Certainly some players do seem to actively try to not have fun, but that hardly justifies pointing the finger at players for every single problem, but I will try for at least a few minutes after writing this to not blame players for every single problem.

Eating like monkeys

| Friday, July 30, 2010
This post is about India. The title is both relevant and misleading.

I'll just get the bad thing out of the way. Just about everything I encountered in India, specifically the city? of Trivandrum (or Thiruvananthapuram) in Kerala was different than in my usual suburbs of Chicago. That wasn't the bad thing. That was my attempt to lead into something like "everything was different, some of it I didn't like, but almost none of it was objectively bad." The sole exception was their airport which was the first and last thing I saw and a giant pile of crap. India wins no cleanliness awards, inevitable due to the climate (not to dismiss human action), but I never really thought "wow this is terrible, how can they live like this?" Except at the airport. It's a dirty, disorganized, ugly place which appears to have been build too long ago, fixed up approximately never, and seems to have never ever been cleaned, based on the truly amazing buildup of ticket-related debris everywhere. I take that back, the vast waiting areas for customs and immigration appeared to have clean floors and I believe the fans were newish, just not turned on and clearly styled to match the ugliness of the rest of the airport.

Upon leaving the airport I was given my first impression of non-airport India: lots and lots of people. I'm no stranger to cities or crowds, but nothing before has managed to so fully express the idea that there are over a billion people in a country. Walking out of the airport and seeing the crowds and cars felt as if a few thousand people had showed up to personally tell me that there are a lot of people there. Then I got in a cab.

I believe India has the best drivers in the world. This is based on simple natural selection: bad drivers would be dead ten times in ten seconds. You see, they don't drive like in America. Here we tend to crash because we're speeding or not paying attention. We pick a lane and stay in that lane unless we switch to what is distinctly a different lane and we are in that lane. We have traffic lights and stop signs and when we get into traffic jams we beep for no conceivable benefit. Indian drivers use a different system, which is approximately summed up as
- Lanes are a suggestion.
- Honking is an acceptable substitute for turn signals, brakes, and music on the radio.
- There is no such thing as personal space, only wasted space that something could have fit into. In other words, motorcyclists don't get a whole lane to themselves. Instead they share that lane with other riders, small cars, trucks, buses, and pedestrians who are somehow successfully playing real life Frogger.
In the cities I felt safe because no one went particularly fast, so any accident is more of a slow crunch than a deadly event. On the highway I learned to hide behind other seats on the logic that what I can't see happening is not a bus about to smash into us head on at 60 miles an hour. What we'd consider narrow one-lane highways with a dirt shoulder, they used as one lane each direction, but with plenty of space for people to be passing constantly and in both directions at once. They seem to survive by using the strange strategy of paying attention.

The reason for being there was my older brother's wedding. His wife is born in America, but her parents are from India and most of her family is in India. Note that family means more than parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. In that case she might have had about 50-50 US-India. Instead family counted great uncles and cousins once removed and uncles of cousins and nephews of cousins and let's just say it all added up to quite a lot of people, to the point that at the reception we ran out of tables and many people were in rows of chairs.

My first meal there was at her uncle's house. He'd, by he I mean his wife and servants and maybe mother, had created a traditional meal for the area. The central part was a pile of rice, which was then mixed bit by bit with various sauces placed around the rice. Served on a banana leaf. Eaten by hand. It was delicious. I'll say more later, but for now I want to ensure that you know that eating Indian food with your hands while surrounded by new family is a great experience. Forks are overrated. Their ice cream is different, and I think better.

Apparently Kerala is a very conservative area, something I believed based on the fact that except for the few family who came from America, I did not see a single woman who was not wearing a saree. Or is it sari? I see it sari here, but signs there said saree. Supposedly in other areas women wear strange clothes like pants and skirts, but we didn't have time to go exploring all of India.

I encountered some wonderful contradictions, or what would seem to be contradictions to a stereotyping idiot (me). One family we visited (I don't remember the connection, I think an aunt) had chickens in their backyard and a coconut tree next to their house that they regularly harvested for the coconuts (that's right, they do not harvest bananas or tomatoes from coconut trees). I forgot the father's job, but the mother was a biologist, one of those people who can casually talk about the parts of plants in scientific terms and is in all likelihood better educated than whoever you are reading this. It seemed a bit odd to me, until I realized that my own family of highly educated middle-class white Americans has a vegetable garden, which isn't even as conveniently accessible as the coconut tree, which bore fruit right at the level of their terraced roof. The chickens made less noise than the kids next door riding around in their miniature car. They also had two dogs. Both were friendly toward people, but one had a strange hatred of ducks and if not caged would kill all their ducks. He didn't mind chickens, even when their chicks would wander into his space.

The wedding was disorganized and a fun experience. It didn't involve me standing facing the sun for an hour like my oldest brother's. It did start late, resulting in the choir starting their practice while we were taking pictures. Or maybe sooner. I suspect they snuck in and used the wedding hymns as part of their practice.

Only my brother (the groom), my dad, and I were able to go. As such, we adopted the photographer as a fake sister to fill out some of the pictures. We were still outnumbered at least 50:1. This led to a revelation. As a white American I tend to think of myself as part of a majority, with everyone else being a minority. Only by actually seeing somewhere other than America or Canada could I fully understand that on a global scale, there aren't a whole lot of us. But we're not alone, there aren't all that many people of African descent either (that is, if you don't go general and include the entire human species). It took a day or so after coming back to stop thinking that white people looked weird, though in comparison I still think American women dress like whores (they show shoulders! and ankles! ANKLES, can you believe it? well, and other stuff, but I'm trying to be silly).

After the trip I decided that it was for the best that my oldest brother and mother hadn't gone. My mother would have not liked the traffic (have I mentioned the shortage of seatbelts?) or the perpetual disorganization. My brother has a bad habit of making fun of anything different. This leads to the monkeys.

At lunch yesterday I was telling him about the tendency to eat with one's hands. He reacted with some nonsense about it being unsanitary and uncivilized and "eating like a monkey". I pointed out that some Asians would find him to be uncivilized with his use of forks. Can you imagine the barbaric nature of eating with the same type of tool that you use to prepare food? Chopsticks are the only civilized way to eat! His response was some sort of vaguely politically correct nonsense about different cultures have their ways and that's fine, followed up with more about it being uncivilized and unsanitary. I pointed out that we can wash our hands, which he didn't seem to see as enough.

So I brought up his lunch, which included two apples (eaten by hand) and a sandwich or two (also eaten by hand). How uncivilized! He claimed that his hands didn't get dirty so it was okay. Fine. A person can use a lot of naan (it's somewhat like a pita; some lazy places will just use pita as a substitute) to keep their hands clean. Besides, it was only a few weeks ago that we'd eaten quite messy barbecue when we were in Georgia, a mess possibly worse than sauce and rice based on being much stickier. In the 'civilized' Georgia they gave us a lot of napkins (actually they were more pragmatic and just put a roll of paper towels at each table) while the 'uncivilized' India houses (and the banquet hall for the wedding reception) all had small sinks near the tables where we could actually wash our hands rather than just gluing bits of napkin to them.

It saddens me that an educated person like my brother (though still less educated than the uncivilized Indian families who we stayed with) is so blind, that he cannot see that all cultures are adaptive, that their customs work for where they are. Using banana leaves as plates (actually this wasn't common on the trip, but let's just run with it) makes sense when they literally grow on trees, right next to the house, and are free unlike paper plates. For more durable dishes we used what were basically wide metal pots, strange-looking, but far better at keeping food on the plate than the shallow, nearly-flat dishes I'm used to. They build homes of concrete which are hard to remodel and decorate, but which unlike wood won't rot to the ground in five years in the tropics; making American wood homes look stupid in comparison, except that wood works in a cooler, less humid, less buggy area with still tons and tons of trees ideal for construction. While there is a lot of ornamental, and possibly wasteful, culture, the core of all cultures is practical: survival in the environment which births it.

I guess that got a bit preachy, didn't it?

Our flight path was Chicago to London to Abu Dhabi to Trivandrum. The Atlantic flight was on American Airlines and wasn't much fun at all. Their food is mediocre and the in-flight entertainment was lacking. The Abu Dhabi flights were on Etihad, which was a lot nicer, with a pretty decent entertainment system, good food, and seats that weren't a depressing and claustrophobia-inducing dark blue. I still can't say I enjoy 8 hour flights. Something about the constant vibration and air pressure change makes me feel ill. Have I mentioned that the airport in India was terrible? They haven't even figured out the idea of those trays to put stuff in before going through the metal detector, or maybe they just haven't figured out that people carry metal objects that aren't cell phones. Also they had none of those giant boards that tell you your flight is delayed and it doesn't have a gate yet.

Quitting and Cleaning Out Your Mailbox

| Thursday, July 29, 2010
I have a simple test to predict if someone will be returning to WoW or not: what they do with their mail.

If you're like me, you use the mailbox as an extended bank. 30 days of storage for only a few copper per stack is a pretty good deal. Sorry, make that 60 days. Either way, mailboxes aren't just for transportation, they're also for storage. Like those warehouses out in the distant suburbs with names consisting of mixes of stor, lock, and u.

If I leave for too long, a lot of mail may be destroyed, taking with it huge stores of inks, glyphs, and enchanting mats in addition to a mix of other junk which may add up to thousands of gold. While a thousand gold isn't what it once was, it's still not something to let vanish.

The few times that I've 'quit', I've sorted out my mail, found alts to hold it, vendored some items, mailed some to friends. This indicates that I care what happens. I don't have much use for those items and gold, unless I have some expectation that I am coming back.

An even stronger indicator is if the person uses the auction house to use up items. They might not stick around for the completion, but it does show that they care to take that extra time and effort not merely to maintain resources but to further increase them. And since AH mail deletes after 30 days, they are either waiting for AH results or they're planning to be back in 30 days at most. This person is on a vacation.

At the opposite end is the person who simply quits. They don't take time to save anything because it has no value. Someone who does not care about the game will clearly not care about items in the game. Of course this could merely be a temporary rage-quit But someone who calmly decides to quit and ditches the mail, they're gone.

For the record, my mail is all very nicely stored on the appropriate alts. I sorted it all out before I left.

Gear as an Enemy

| Wednesday, July 28, 2010
All manner of ideas have been given: finite durability, decay, increasing repairs. All of these were intended to... I forgot why. I think it had something to do with crafting? Yea, that's it, if our gear breaks all the time we'd use crafting more and run older raids more and everyone would be so much happier.

What a stupid idea! No, not because people dislike loss. Instead the problem is that it doesn't go far enough.

Gear should be your enemy.

Let's take the One Ring as an example. The first time Bilbo put it on, not much of a problem. It saved his life. Poof, invisible. But repeated use gave him long life, stretched life, like butter spread over too much bread. He was lucky!

Isildor was attacked by orcs and his attempt to use it to escape was thwarted when it grew too big for his finger and slipped off. He was betrayed by the ring.

Smeagol (Gollum) fared little better. His life was stretched, his mind corrupted, all hobbitity driven from him (or was it?). But at least the ring did not get him killed. No, instead it simply abandoned him in the bottom of a goblin-infested mountain. And drove him to murder and treachery, but the greatest of loyalty, for he could not break his word upon his Precious.

Frodo learned that the Ring does not give universal invisibility, but instead makes him more visible (and able to see), the terrible Ringwraiths: victims of other corrupting rings (I oversimplify their story). Even worse, the Eye of Sauron has no problem finding him in the shadow realm.

Strangely, Gandalf claims that wearing the ring too long will cause the person to fade. A strange claim because he has no actual examples. Sauron, Isildor, Gollum, Bilbo, Frodo. Beside a few people who briefly touched it, these are all the bearers and none had faded away. Gandalf did say it takes a very long time, but how long? He clearly knows more than us to be able to predict such an effect.

Our loot does not betray us. It does not abandon us in hour of need. It does not slip off or render us vulnerable to our worst foes. Perhaps it should!

Of course not all armor, because that would be a huge hassle resulting in us running around mostly naked. Then again, female armor suggests we already are mostly naked. But that's beside the point. Betraying items would be unusual, both in rarity and in slots. Rings, necklaces, trinkets. These would be items of great power, but which would be needed to be controlled or destroyed at the wrong time.

Think of Quel'dalar. At one point during its cleansing and renewal it attacks the player, but by defeating it we become stronger. Why do we not do this more often? Most loot is rather boring.

Imagine a necklace which grants great power, but which will eventually choke you to death, reducing stamina. When I say eventually I mean weeks of game time, so there is no great rush and any player with time to get the neck will have time to save themselves, but it could not be entirely ignored. Maybe the neck would need to be cleansed or maybe destroyed or maybe given away to a greedy enemy as a trap. Perhaps the player can choose a path with significantly different rewards for each.

Gear is mostly non-interactive. We get it and then we have it. We click on a vendor when we get something better. For the most part it is like auto-attack. While that's certainly a solid foundation, I'd hate to have no auto-attack or to spend every other day fighting my latest evil boots, it is boring.

Or maybe we just suck at RP and are incapable of sensing adventure. A random encounter with trolls granted Bilbo's party several powerful and legendary swords. Taunting a dragon, which was then killed by someone else completely out of sight, gave Bilbo his mithril armor and everyone involved ridiculous amounts of gold. The One Ring was found by Bilbo getting lost in a cave and playing riddles. Perhaps by comparison our invasion of Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel is epic and heroic and the boring nature of loot is all in our heads.

Our loot does not betray us. It does not abandon us in hour of need. It does not slip off or render us vulnerable to our worst foes. But it is... our Precious...

We will eventually return to our regularly scheduled programming

| Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I am pushing 51 hours awake and my keyboard is more mountainous than I remember. Also the walls are swimming and refuse to put on any clothes or even a towel. Clearly this is a problem that I will have to deal with.

I have returned from India, having gone there for my brother's wedding. I'll have to write about the experience sometime, but I can at least say that it was a ton of fun and I don't like American Airlines very much.

With next to no internet access I wasn't doing any playing or much blog reading or much of anything that I normally do. However I did reread War of the Ancients and for some reason dislike Illidan more this time. And I wrote down some ideas for MMOs which would never work in WoW. Some of it was inspired by reading a lot of Lord of the Rings on planes and whatnot. Sneak preview: death, crafting, and the One Ring will betray you.

Indian highways frighten me.

Hello, everyone! I think my keyboard cord is plotting against me.

WotLK: the stuff I liked and the stuff I wish they'd done differently.

| Sunday, July 18, 2010
Disclaimer: I am not Klepsacovic. This post is written by Iapetes, which is why it is somewhat sane.

Yeah a lot of people are doing these 'reviews' and most of them are pretty pointless (maybe not so much on blogs, but on forums etc). I don't want to 'rate' WotLK though. Overall I continued to enjoy WoW, etc, there's your rating. What I wanted to do instead was highlight a few things WotLK did really well, and also a few things that it didn't do so great on.

Let's get the bad out of the way first-

1) PvP really took a nosedive, and it didn't have much to do with class balance so much as it was really just this huge mistake blizzard made in trying to make pvp faster paced. There's way too much burst healing and burst damage, which is another way of saying we didn't have enough HP. I really think blizzard should have scaled stamina's value up again, and also they shouldn't have changed the values of resilience.

They were trying to make pvp gear worse for pve, because that was a big complaint from bad players still doing karazhan back in tBC- pvp gear being better than their ez pve epics. Of course, what ended up happening in WotLK is players just switched to pve gear in pvp and it kinda went downhill from there.

2) 5 mans were too easy this expansion. Giving every tank AoE threat and every dps heavy AoE didn't help. These days we just barely use CC and heroics are really much easier than they need to be. Hopefully they get this right in cataclysm.

On that same note, certain raids (lookin at you ToC, and naxx) were too easy on normal difficulty. Normal modes should still provide reasonable challenges as you progress even if you don't do hard modes. Otherwise most of the player-base is going to be bored very quickly. But blizzard seemed to learn their lesson. ICC does a good job of providing a really wide spectrum of challenge, from faceroll (first wing on normal) to whatthefuckisthisthisisfuckingimpossible! (LK heroic).

3) ToC and Malygos. I'm grouping these 2 together because even though they're unrelated problems I think the ideal solution for both involves both. I actually like the concept of ToC. I dont want blizz to do it all the time, but the tournament idea was pretty cool. But it should have been supplemented with a second raid instance at that tier. 6 bosses just isn't enough.

And with Malygos... Malygos' story ended way too early in the expansion. When we were leveling up there were 3 major storylines developing: The Scourge, Ulduar, and Malygos. 2 of the 3 got great endings at the raiding level, very satisfactory. Malygos? Not so much. It was over way too soon, and it wasn't even in a real raid instance. Just a room with one boss.

I really wish they'd saved Malygos for tier 9 and put out a 6 boss raid instance with him, alongside ToC. Also obviously it would have required Oculus Drakes =) =) =)

And that's really it for my major complaints or regrets or whatever. As for things WotLK did really well?

1) Class Balance and Design. Blizzard doesn't get nearly enough credit for this. While there are still specs that are worse than others, the difference is sooo much smaller in pve, and there are sooo many more viable specs in pvp. It makes BC look like a joke in terms of class balance. And then there's just how much more interesting ever class is now. From basic functionality to much more interesting rotations and playstyles... I'll give you 3 examples. Ret Paladins- now no longer slaves to RNG and a boring seal system, now no longer need intellect, now scale properly with all their spells. Warlocks- now CAST MORE THAN SHADOWBOLT. Mages- The Arcane tree is an actual, you know, tree. not just a glorified subspec. This stuff is huge. People forget how much worse classes played in BC.

2) Graphics. Ok, technically art direction more than anything. But zones and instances look 10x better than they did in BC, and armor is a lot more detailed and nuanced as well, so much so that you almost don't notice how awful our old player models look today.

3) I really like the hard mode vs normal mode settings. It's going to be great for letting blizzard build content for 'hardcore' raiders at early tiers, and still lets them provide more casual content at later tiers. Such a huge improvement. Only thing I'd change from the ICC model is letting people switch difficulties without killing LK (or whoever) first, so that you don't learn the fight on normal before trying hard mode.

4) New services and features. Some of this gets some real negative feedback, but I really like most of it. Stuff like character transfers, race changes, LFD and random BGs are all really nice additions to WotLK. You never saw those sorts of additions before WotLK, and I think they've overall added a lot to the game.

Anyway that's pretty much it. I just wanted to highlight some of the ups and downs of WotLK. I think people tend to ignore all the great changes blizzard's implemented, and similarly are probably too hard on their mistakes (pvp health pools aside, wtf blizz!). And I'd be interested in hearing what other people really liked and disliked about this expansion.

Oh yeah and unrelated: Holy Power looks FREAKIN AMAZING. I cannot wait to try it out. Really can't get over how great it sounds.

Do not confuse altruism with stupidity

| Friday, July 16, 2010
There's nothing wrong or stupid about helping others. There's even nothing wrong with sometimes putting personal benefits aside in favor of group benefits. These are good, admirable things. Delaying personal benefit is the foundation of any stable society.

But do not confuse altruism with outright stupidity. While collective gain is good, do not value it so much that it ruins personal gain. There's no point to helping a collective which does not help in return. Or an individual.

So while it's good to help friends, it's also good to have good friends. The person that you always help and never seems to offer anything in return, is not a friend. Friends are mutually beneficial, not one-sided leeching interactions. At times friends may ask a bit more and may give a bit less, but when that becomes a pattern, it should not be ignored.

I'm sure you have your stories of lazy friends, stupid friends, bad guilds, all manner of situations which seem to make friendship and altruism look stupid. Notice the adjectives? Lazy, stupid, bad. These are not inherent characteristics of all friends or groups, but of specific groups. To avoid all connection is to be as stupid as those who embrace all connections.

Maybe you had a bad experience in high school or middle school with all the cliques and arbitrary exclusion. I remember the annoyance of drama. My solution wasn't to reject all friends and all groups, but instead to have good friends and join good groups which did not sink into the mess of stupidity which dominates young social interaction.

It just is
Altruism, friendship, kindness, being helpful; these are generally good. Like water. I'm a fan of water. Drowning isn't so good. Should I reject water to avoid drowning? Of course not. That would be as stupid as swimming with an undertow. But I avoid times and places where I cannot safely swim. Similarly, I avoid damaging social relationships.

Mograine has Fallen? You shall pay for this not quite treachery!

| Thursday, July 15, 2010
I must make myself clear, this isn't actually treachery. It's not as if we have any sort of legal, social, or national ties. So it's not really possibly for you to commit treason or betray us. Or as the dictionary defines it, ahem:

"violation of allegiance or of faith and confidence"
"an act of perfidy or treason"

Clearly you've done neither of these, at least not by any reasonable interpretation. We clearly had no allegiance. It would have been rather silly of Mograine or me to have any faith in you or confidence. Treason we already talked about.

But really, I'm not very happy about this. I'm sure you can understand that and perhaps you can understand why I chose words which were not entirely accurate, but which served to convey my extreme displeasure at your actions.

So in short, I am going to attempt to kill you now.

The line between the instance and the world

| Wednesday, July 14, 2010
All instances have context. Their instance portals are somewhere, maybe they have quests leading up from the surrounding zone. Not all zones are truly part of the world. Of course this is somewhat inevitable merely due to being instances, cut off from the world which we otherwise inhabit together, at least per server.

There are three broad ways to classify the extent to which an instance is part of the world, based on how much it is connected and therefore remains part of that world.

At the lowest extreme are those instances which are connected only by the portal. Furthermore, they have no scenery which could be perceived as outside. Examples include Azjol'Nerub in LK, all TK instances (excluding Hellfire Ramparts), and Blackrock Depths in vanilla.

In the middle are instances which have visual connections to the world. Drak'tharon is a LK example, Hellfire Ramparts in BC, and Scholomance in vanilla.

Then there are the very few instances which are connected to the world beyond just the portal. At certain points the player can actually leave the instance and land in a corresponding spot in the world. I've found none in LK, while BC only has Ramparts, and vanilla is blessed with Blackrock Spire and Shadowfang Keep.

Even though they have, for most purposes, no effect on how the game is actually played, I rather prefer those instances which are connected to the world.

Atlanta has an awesome aquarium

| Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Sorry that this isn't about WoW, but I'm a little bit burnt out. I'm going on another trip in a few days. No 12 hour drives, but maybe 20 hours on planes? I hope Kerala has wifi everywhere.

So as the title says, Atlanta has an awesome aquarium. My earlier post wasn't very nice to my brother, which now I feel is rather unfair. I'd written that after the driving and was in a terrible mood, mostly because of rain and my other brother. The Atlanta brother really showed us a great time. Though I don't see what's so great about the barbecue. Maybe it wasn't the best place that we went to.

Have I mentioned that the aquarium is awesome? You practically walk through one of their tanks. And you get to touch manta rays. I wish I hadn't, they feel weird. The layout is great, with a central hub and branching self-contained wings that you cannot get lost in. Though the central area felt too much like a mall. The exhibits were a lot of fun, especially the otters. We were there during feeding time. They reminded me of dogs, with heads like cats, and weird hind legs. I wish I could play with the otters.

I don't know if I'll have much to say about WoW for the next couple weeks. My time will be very restricted and I'm a little bit unenthusiastic. Something about the corporate side rearing its ugly head is a bit of a downer. Blizzard looks like a puppet that can do all its own talking, but someone else is pulling the strings.

Non-Damage Classes

| Monday, July 12, 2010
Would you play a class which did not do damage, but instead was only a debuff/buff class?

Fuck Atlanta

| Friday, July 9, 2010
Nothing personal.
Short version:
13 hour drive
blinding rain
slight detours
middle brother is offended that we got a motel rather than sleeping on his floor in an empty apartment

sorry, no post for tomorrow since I don't like typing on my ipad mini and don't have a laptop

Who cares about Realid?

Old news. Lets focus on what's really important.

edit: Actually, on that subject, I am glad they rescinded their original plans. I don't mind posting my real name but I can understand why a lot of people would. And trolls would make fun of people's 'real lives'. I've seen it happen a few times on my realm forums.

Reload... Okay now I know there's one around that corner

I think there's a mental problem with WoW players. I do not if WoW causes it or if it causes us to play WoW. Maybe it's a raider-specific problem. I turned a semi-sandbox into a scripted and predictable fight.

A few weeks back I bought the Ghost Recon everything pack off Steam. I was rather protective of my soldiers, not wanting them to die. This is despite their tendency to shuffle around corners into enemy fire. Just like raiding...

I'd constantly save and reload. As it went along I'd memorize enemy positions and behaviors. Behaviors appeared to be semi-randomized, but were still predictable enough that I could know "there is an enemy around that corner, throw a grenade". What was originally a sandbox of sorts with many paths and tactics, I progressively broke down into discrete steps, a dance of slow choreography. I wasn't playing Ghost Recon assaulting a hostile camp; I was raiding with a different UI.

Yes, there is a planning element to the game. Player are supposed to anticipate obstacles and figure out ways around. But those aren't supposed to be scripted out based on foreknowledge. It's meant to be a more dynamic process of combining knowledge of the land (that we do get ahead of time for some planning) and each team adapting on the fly. We're supposed to know the terrain, not every single enemy position and behavior. But I made it into that anyway.

Sometimes I'd start all over, recognizing that a certain path just wasn't smart to take, and use a different strategy. But more often I'd simply be reacting to the individual enemy actions.

No one told me to do this. I had no repair bills. I had no one on vent yelling at me. Just me. A bit of lost time and some swearing were the only cost for deaths.

Maybe I can't really blame Blizzard for predictable fights. Maybe we'd demand them if we didn't have them. Maybe we'd do all we could to make them even they didn't deliver.

Holy shit, we're boring.

Friends ruin everything

| Thursday, July 8, 2010
I have decided to join with Blizzard in their push to eliminate trolls, at least the bad ones. So to ensure that I am not trolling, I have created an anti-trolling disclaimer.

Dear reader,
If you were offended by this, that was not my intention, so it's your own damn fault. My goal was instead to show you a different perspective, possibly to make you laugh, possibly to make you think. I am not sitting in front of my screen giggling at how I'm going to reel them all in with my brilliant troll. If you fail to laugh, it may be because I wasn't funny or if may be because you're a humorless dope. Have a nice day.


Cool Lore
Wouldn't it have been awesome if the entire Forsaken had split off into a new faction? Imagine them waging a two-front war against the Alliance and Horde; both seeking to reclaim what they believe to be theirs. Imagine an all-out battle in Howling Fjord to drive out the Forsaken betrayers, stretching northwest into the Dragonblight, and back south to every Horde city. Imagine the armies of the Horde and Alliance meeting outside the Undercity, and battling over an invasion path; puppets of the betrayers.

This won't happen. Too many guilds would be torn in half. Too many people couldn't play with their friends. Friends, those out of game, out of lore, wreckers of possibility.

I'd use RealID if it didn't chain. So I'd use it only with people who have no friends. But they do. Therefore I do not use it. Yes, friends ruin the social networking tool.

Imagine how much more productive raiding would be if we just kicked anyone who made a mistake. Or if we quit guilds that made mistakes. But no, we stick around because we want to stay with friends. We get some sort of enjoyment from friends, and pursuit of that detracts from our ruthless pursuit of imaginary rewards. Friends may leave you, but achievements are forever, unless you reroll, get banned, quit, or WoW dies.

Next time you go out to lunch with some friends, think carefully: are you at the restaurant you really want to eat at? Odds are, no. Instead you compromised so you could eat with them. In a friendless world you could instead eat alone wherever you wanted, maybe yell at the waiter if he brings you the wrong dish.

Class Design
Why do we have "bring the player, not the class"? Because someone somewhere missed a raid with his friends because he plays a stupid class. If instead there were no friends, he'd not care so much that he missed the raid for playing a stupid class. Maybe he'd find a stupid raid to join that likes BM melee hunters, but no, he wouldn't want to be friends with those people.

In a free world I could rob your house. But no, someone somewhere cried too much that their friend's house got robbed and then they all cried to the government and now we have police. Also known as socialism. Social, like friends. They should call it Friendism. So now even people who are too cheap and lazy to install high barbed electric fences, train guard dogs, and hire a few sentries, they get free police help. Oh, and it's all paid for with my taxes. Who's the real thief here? Hint: Not me, I'm unemployed thanks to welfare security.

Over the years I've made a few friends, only to find that some of their friends are total douches. Who wants to hang out with people like that? Friends ruin friendship.

Trolling in the other direction

| Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I don't have too much faith in this idea, but RealID could limit trolling and flaming, not by revealing the troll, but by revealing the victim. It's easy to be a jerk to Lawlgoleslo, but what about John? Maybe the assholes will see that they are being assholes to real people, just like them. Could this evoke mercy, sympathy, human connection?

I'm sure it will.

I'm equally sure that the truly horrible people will have that much more with which to attack a person.

I'll take a thousand flame wars over one real life incident.

ICC bosses are stupid

"The only escape is death"
- Said by Marrowgar during bone spikes
Apparently he's never heard of breaking them.

"What is this disturbance?! You dare trespass upon this hallowed ground? This shall be your final resting place."
- Lady Deathwhisper at start
"All part of the masters plan! Your end is... inevitable!"
- At the end
She tries so hard to kill us, too soon?

"Riflemen, shoot faster!"
"Mortar team, reload!"
- Muradin Bronzebeard
A classic example of excessive micromanagement.

"Your soul will find no redemption here!"
- Deathbringer Saurfang
Clearly never heard of paladins.

"Fun time!"
- Festergut
That fight is boring.

"Sleepy Time!"
- Berserking Rotface
Clearly he is a troublesome child.

"Good news, everyone! I think I perfected a plague that will destroy all life on Azeroth!"
- Professor Putricide
Doesn't know his audience. (yes I am aware of the reference)

Such wondrous power! The Darkfallen Orb has made me INVINCIBLE!
- Prince Keleseth
The orb is what makes us able to kill him. Yes, it does the exact opposite of what he says.

"But... we were getting along... so well..."
- Blood Queen Lanathel
No, no we were not.

"Heroes, lend me your aid! I... I cannot hold them off much longer! You must heal my wounds!"
- Valithria Dreamwalker
Weren't not heroes, we're greedy psychopaths. Some aren't even role-playing.

"A flaw of mortality..."
- Sindragosa after killing a player
Yes, death is a slight issue with the whole being mortal thing. Right up there with Dr Kazzak's bold discovery that "all mortals will perish."

"Is it truly righteousness that drives you? I wonder."
- Arthas
Considering we do nothing that doesn't reward us with showers of gold and epics, obviously no.

Anonymity, Intelligent Posting, and Trolls

| Tuesday, July 6, 2010
RealID is the Star of David on the shoulder.
RealID is an Orwellian nightmare.
RealID is going to tear out your perfectly healthy appendix and eat it in front of your children.

Moving on from the trolling part... Or can I ever?

First off, I do believe that anonymity is somewhat of an enabler for assholishness. The guy who calls you a nigger cunt fag jew is probably not going to say that to your face. However he was still an asshole before he was able to be anonymously profane. Or as Chastity put it (omg what's his real name!?) It is a common misconception that trolling is caused by anonymity. It is not. It is caused by people being assholes. Anonymity removes some of the inhibitors which normally keep assholes in place. It's virtual booze, which explains all the anger and sadness. Some people are troll drunks.

With their push for real names, Blizzard seems to be trying to kill trolling and thereby encourage intelligent discussion. Bollocks! Intelligent discussion is not the opposite of trolling. Removing one does not cause the other, or the other way around. At times trolls can be part of intelligent discussion, forcing us to think a different way. This should be differentiated from trolling which takes the form of "I'm pretending to be stupid and you believed me, so I'm going to act superior." Sometimes I troll in real life, not to annoy (sometimes), but to force the person to more fully explain themselves, both to me and to themselves.

Even with no trolls, intelligent discussion is not guaranteed. Listen to the average conversation and you'll see what I mean. Trivial topics may be backed with some fact, but bring in politics and religion and facts, and intelligence, tend to go out the window. While WoW isn't religion or politics, it's a pretty good virtual equivalent. For some people they may even be more affected by the latest round of nerfs than the latest round of taxes. There won't be much intelligent discussion even with no trolls. I wish I could say better.

In fact it may be the complete opposite: anonymity may encourage intelligent posting. Imagine if your dissenting opinion of class balance, while correct, was able to be punished not with a flame war, but with something more real. Anonymity gives safety to dissenters. It gives freedom of speech, free from retaliation. Some misuse this to spread lies and hatred. Some use this to spread truth where it is unpopular. The first group can go fuck themselves, because they give ammunition to those who hate freedom, while the second group is one more line of defense against tyranny.

Of course that's a bit of an exaggeration, rather ridiculous, and I am sorry if anyone thinks I am putting anonymity on the WoW forums in the same league as protesters and dissenters who have spread freedom. They are in different leagues. But maybe they're playing the same game; like children in an alley compared to the World Cup. If no children played, we'd soon have no adults to play either. So while they are clearly different, they are also similar: freedom starts in the small places.

If Blizzard does truly wish to reduce trolling, flame wars, and spam, I'm with them on that. But let's find better ways. First off, a middle ground of anonymity. Use a single name across all characters, a name which is entirely unrelated to our ID or our real name. We could choose different characters to post with, but we'd still have the overall name displayed. This isn't perfect, but I think it's a much worse loss than real name display. Second, increase the pyramid of forum punishments for trolling, so that repeat offenders can eventually be banned from the game itself. We can still post anonymously, dissent safely, but we cannot so easily break rules and spread chaos.

But maybe I've been looking at this all wrong. Maybe this is just an elaborate plan to get me to stop posting on the forums without resulting in a "I've been banned" post, which would surely result in the loss of thousands of subscribers in protest. Instead I'll go on my own, but I'm still going to make my ban post.

I have been banned from the forums, if not by the letter, then by the unacceptable consequence.

I don't cherish my anonymity absolutely. This name has been in use by me, and as far as I've ever found, only me, for around 10 years. At my young age of 23 that's a very long time. I still hide behind this name, but at least my disguise is consistent. I don't always hide though. Sometimes I give my real name. But I give it when I wish to (or screw up my email), not by default to everyone. A few bloggers know it, a few players know it.

What does it indicate about our society that we so often assume that people who wish to be anonymous must wish to do terrible things? Why do people so often defend intrusion with "well then don't do anything wrong"?

Good night, and good luck.

One Free Bullet

I decided to take a crack at a hardmode, not in WoW, but in Half Life 2: Episode One. The title name comes from the achievement, One Free Bullet, to complete the game firing only one bullet. Rockets, grenades, and stuff fired from my gravity gun is acceptable, and of course my crowbar. The one bullet is to break a lock, not even to kill something. This creates a very strange way of playing a FPS.

My best friends were radiators and explosive barrels. Radiators are great for launching with the gravity gun, a device which can pick up and fire stuff very quickly. Radiators are big, heavy, and have convenient spaces so I can actually see where I am going. Explosive barrels explode. Concrete blocks are also great because they are fairly heavy, but small enough to be easy to aim.

Most of the game wasn't much harder. Generally the hardest fights involve either flying things to shoot with rockets or tripods to shoot with rockets, and neither are affected. The cannon fodder was easily dispatched with thrown objects or the gun of my increasingly clingy companion, Alyx (short version: they saved each other many times, she keeps dropping hints).

Except for the antlion guardian. Think big thing that can throw cars, run fast, and likes to charge into you doing tons of damage. It's hard to kill with bullets. It's harder to kill without. Instead I have to kite it as best I can, keeping sufficient range so that the barrels don't kill me as well. Meanwhile much smaller antlions are flying around trying to attack me. By smaller I mean about half the size of a car. Speaking of which, cars are great for crushing the small ones, while the big one just shoves them right back, harder.

As I've played Half Life I've noticed that it tends to hold the player's hand in terms of learning. It rarely just tosses you into a fight with no clue. Instead you might see someone else use a particular method to kill something. Sometimes they even giver direct advice "shoot for the head" (zombies) or "throw a grenade in the window" (snipers). It sounds more useful in the game, in case that sounded dumb. There's even a training session before one of the boss events, to practice launching and blowing up a bomb.

Why doesn't WoW do this? Why are so many raid boss mechanics new and unexpected, throwing us for a curve when we see them, and requiring retraining of everything? Oh, but it does. It does! We just rarely notice. Next time you run your randoms, watch the boss abilities. Many of them are exactly like raid bosses. The difference is that the heroic does so much less damage that we tend to just ignore it, out-heal it, out-damage it, out-tank it. Then when we hit a raid and our gear can't carry us, suddenly it's a problem.

I can't entirely blame players for failing to learn raid boss mechanics from heroics. For one, there's a time difference. In Half Life I might see an example and then use it a minute later. In WoW you might have weeks between a heroic fight and the similar raid.

But getting back to the heroics, they might also be teaching us bad lessons. How quickly will the poison puddles in AN kill you? It is often healed through. The incentive to move is weakened. Why move out of this puddle when the others don't hurt much? There's no rush. In Half Life you might be shown one enemy, kill it easily, and figure out generally how its done. Then there are five of them, ten of them, and now you can apply those same skills. In WoW it often seems that we're instead shown a trivially weak version of an ability, learn to ignore it, and then get flattened when the 5x stronger version shows up.

Comparisons across genres don't always work. They're not the same game and aren't supposed to be. Still, it's worth thinking about, the different ways to teach a player.

How enchanting can save the raids

| Monday, July 5, 2010
You might have noticed that I'm searching for ways to save old raids from being totally ignored. Last week I suggested that all raids be at the same gear level. This week: remove all epics from heroics and increase the abyss crystals needed for enchants.

Randoms would no longer be a source of any abyss crystals. The higher cost would mean that disenchanting in the highest tier raid could not supply enough materials. People would have to go down a tier.

Or would they?

Clearing old raids for shards wouldn't be a quick process. Despite gear advantages, some fights would need to be relearned. It could become so slow that abyss crystals wouldn't be worth the effort. The few that come from the highest one or two raids would be enough for the specifically awesome enchants like berserking. The 2 more stats from +10 stats to chest vs +8 wouldn't be worth the farming unless you're extremely determined to min-max.

This wouldn't be much help for restoring progression either, since the last thing a farming guild wants is someone who will use the gear.

Independence Day?

| Sunday, July 4, 2010
It's a strange thing, which as far as I've seen, is uniquely American. We don't say Independence Day very often, instead preferring Fourth of July. This of course leads to endless tricks such as asking if they have a fourth of July in France and people say no. Why do we call it that?

Mostly simply, it's easier to say, with fewer syllables overall and shorter words. And it uses the common date format, as opposed to using an unusually long and infrequently used word like independence.

I also think we just don't think so much about independence. It's more of a fireworks and barbecue day mixed with parades and hyper-patriotism. America, fuck yea! Also it's a fireworks day. We like fireworks and set off a lot, even where they're illegal without a permit.

Besides turning into an excuse to make noise, I think it's also because of the British and our relationship with them. For many countries which fought for independence, it was more recent, and they didn't come out of it very well. There's a lot of animosity, and understandably so. While we certainly had our grievances and our decently long war, and then our capital getting burned down during the war of 1812, at present times we're pretty good friends as far as nations go. We've had over two and a quarter centuries to break the habit of saying "fuck you!" to each other. Those places which broke away in the 1900s haven't had that time.

It helps that until the declaration we were English citizens, both by right and by blood, as opposed to many other colonies which were essentially occupied territories. We fought for independence while others fought for liberation. This might have turned out differently if we hadn't by one means or another killed off millions of native Americans. If they had been fighting for independence, we'd see a much different set of relations.

Which brings me to Canada. What's their deal? I mean, are they their own country, are they a British colony? Don't they still bow to the Queen? It's all very strange to me. But they seem to do pretty well, so I'm in no position to criticize. In fact, Canada is the only country which has been invaded by us and not gotten pounded flat. True story. We tried at least twice and lost both times. I'm not claiming we won every time we invaded or occupied or whatever you want to call it, but we did at least bomb them senseless. See Vietnam. We did an excellent job ruining everything. We lost, but at least they didn't get to enjoy it. Not Canada though. That northern neighbor has resisted everything, and not for lack of trying. How? What is it about Canada that has resisted us for so long? I know we did grab some bits when we were drawing the border out west, but that was more a matter of us shouting louder during negotiations. It's not like Mexico that lost half its land to a few rowdy Texans. How Canada, how do you do it!?

Happy Fourth of July to everyone, even if this isn't the day that you took on and defeated the most powerful empire of the day, though we did have the help of the French, who are totally underrated militarily.

BRD has the solution to all problems

| Saturday, July 3, 2010
Are you bored by mindless faceroll trash? Do you hate having to fight a bunch of boring bosses just to get to the end one with the good stuff? Has your class been marginalized and turned into a leather-wearing warrior? Do you ever wish every instance run wasn't the same? Do you feel like you don't kill enough dwarves in a day? Have you ever wished that instances had more love stories, or at least the unethical use of potions by a succubus waitress?

Blackrock Depths can solve all these problems, and more!

Thanks to mobs which flee and patrolling bosses, faceroll trash will faceroll you! But don't worry, if you still love faceroll AoE speed-running, then you'll love the Lycaem. In this room you'll have to quickly locate, kill, and loot flamekeepers, all while dealing with innumerable swarms of dwarves. That's a two-for-one deal! Or is it three?

Thanks to the river of lava and all manner of doors and paths, you can skip anywhere from one to a dozen bosses, almost going right to the very end. But don't worry, you still get to do facerollroom!

For all the rogues out there, there's the bar. No, not to drink yourself into a haze to avoid the horror of your class. Instead it's one of the few places where pickpocketing is actually useful. You can steal a key! As an added bonus, it also angers the bartender and literally dozens of dwarves, while also alerting guards, meaning that from the safety of stealth you can cause a really big fight which you can just ignore!

For people who like a bit of variety, not only does BRD offer multiple paths, it even offers multiple ways to beat the dreaded Bar Door Boss. Yes, it is truly a versatile encounter. A rogue can steal the key, a succubus can open it with some persuasion, a dwarf can blast it down with an exploding keg. Or if you prefer to be straightforward, starting a big enough fight will call the guards, who open the door on their way in. There's also a random boss event, which may or may not give you an incurable fear of bugs.

If you love love, or at least stories in which someone can't say no, then you'll love Mistress Nagmara's heart-breaking quest for love. She makes a potion which makes a drunk dwarf love her. Now I don't mean to imply anything, but one would think a drunk dwarf wouldn't need much convincing to go make out with a succubus, unless he's, you know, like a blood elf. I mean to say he might actually be a she with a beard.

The thrills don't stop! Check out these features:
  • Food to steal
  • Vendors
  • The chance to kill a dwarf emperor
  • Pregnant dwarf princesses! (just one)
  • Key quests that require you to die
  • Dwarves, getting tortured!
  • Prisoners
  • Prisoners who have gone insane and make for good entertainment
  • Puppies!
  • Lava
  • Bank robbery
  • Secret bank robbery
  • Bridges with lava very far under them
  • Gnomes to kill
  • A band! Yes, whatever that group is calling itself these days, they're in the bar!
  • Mole diggers
  • If killing dwarves wasn't enough, you get to fight their ghosts too!
  • Unique forge and anvil, the only places you can work with Dark Iron
  • More boss fights than ICC
  • And to cap it off, at the very end is a portal to Molten Core, so finish on a high note by trying to five-man a pair of molten giants which could wipe a 40-man raid!

Buying Back BoE Emblems

| Friday, July 2, 2010
How much emblem gear have you bought, upgraded, and then destroyed? It's an endless cycle of destruction, which I'm sure the NPCs do not appreciate. Their hard work is destroyed over and over. Though I wonder why they hold such a monopoly, that players cannot craft the same. But that's tomorrow's subject.

My alts are mostly 80 and not very geared. Worse yet, they're DPS. This means that gearing up is a slow process of random heroics and PUG raids, neither of which are much fun. I'm a fan of pyramid schemes, which is why I'm a big supporter of social security and the stock market. So I figured, how can I apply this perfectly sound concept to WoW, specifically to my alts?

For gear which has passed the two hour mark of a full refund or been socketed, enchanted, poisoned, or otherwise made unrefundable, instead allow it to be turned back in for 50%, rounded down in the case of odd costs. This makes a reverse pyramid scheme in which each alt passes down fewer and fewer emblems, demanding more badge farming, but thanks to the marvels of accounting, actually calls for less overall farming. It's as if currency was being created from nothing, except without technically being fraud.

For the BoE part, this means that I can effectively sell half my badges. For tanks, this could be a good source of income, possibly enough to bring in more tanks. For DPS, it means they can spend their queue times doing dailies or farming and use that to bump up their badge count.

What would they cost? If we were all perfectly rational, they would cost at least double the equivalent number of gems. In other words, there is currently a 'market price' for badges based on buying gems with them. If we could instead get half that number of badges and sell them directly, they'd have to at least match what we'd get from gems. However there will inevitably be some fraction of the population which regards its badges as free, somehow failing to recognize that the gems would be just as 'free', so they might actually drive the cost below the double-gem threshold. Rubies are around 100g on my server, or about 5g per badge, suggesting a market price of at least 10g for resale badges.

10g per badges puts a wide variety of 232 and 245 level gear at 250g to 750g. For the quality, that's cheap, so we might expect prices to go up. But from months of people running randoms for 2 frost, and a half-dozen unwanted triumph, there are a lot of triumph out there to sell, meaning that early on, people are unlikely to be charging their potential value, and by the time supplies run down and prices go up, the upcoming cataclysm may destroy interest in the gear anyway, perhaps leaving only the heirloom market. 750g for a 232 level item is cheap compared to crafted gear, possibly enough enough that GDKP runs become less appealing, and crafting below the 264 level would likely be ruined.

On the plus side, I could gear up my rogue so much faster.

Try and...

| Thursday, July 1, 2010
We're going to try and kill Sindragosa this week.

Try what?

Try to kill.

We could of done it sooner, but we had some obstacles.

Could of what? Could of silver? Could of wood? What's a could?

Could have. Could've. Incidentally my spell check says that's not a real world, but would've is. Well fuck you, spell check. Yea, I used the comma. I'm proper and shit like that.

Epics are Undergeared

I'm now recruiting epic-geared players for level 80 heroics. My recruitment thread has gone up on the Zu'jin forums as well.

Heroics these days are boring. More importantly, unstylish. It's time to fix that.

I need four level 80 players in pre-BC gear to run heroics with. Pick whichever tier you think looks best.

I'll also be running raids on Fridays at 8pm to help gear people down. We'll do whichever raid best fits our numbers, so if we don't have enough for AQ40, we'll do 20; if we don't have enough for BWL, we'll do MC. These will not be undergeared since we're likely to be undermanned. As a rough estimate, AQ needs 20, BWL 15, MC, AQ20, and ZG just need someone else to show up to give me an excuse to run them.

3k GS maximum. Send a letter to Kelpsacovic to apply.

P.S. DKs are welcome, but will have to scavenge since there are no sets for them.
P.P.S. This is a silly serious project, meaning that it is intended to be silly, but it's serious enough to happen. Let's do this.
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