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.
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