A Wander Through Skyrim, part one of too many

| Saturday, December 31, 2011
Rather than try to rehash my half-formed and half-forgotten thoughts after the fact, I'm going to do what I did with my WoW starter posts, that is, constantly interrupt myself to write down what I'm thinking of the action at the time. I suppose if someone read deeply enough into these posts they'd be like a walkthrough of a sort. A really useless walkthrough.

I don't like "action" at the start of games. I'm in a new world with a new game and having to run around at the start tends to disorient me. Oblivion had a much better first start, sticking me in a small cage for a while while Captain Picard talked about stars. And I couldn't quite hear the dialogue early on ad had to put my system volume much higher, with the game already maxed out. I expect to be deafened if I play anything else (take note of the use of if vs. when and consider it part of the review). It feels a bit like Oblivion with prettier graphics and an inexplicably worse interface. That's an impressive feat, given that Oblivion already had a pretty bad interface, particularly for spells. At least now it seems to break them up better into restoration vs. destruction (Are there no other types? Don't answer) whereas Oblivion seemed to have "all powers" "active effects" and "random assortment of some of the powers".

The continuous casting is pretty nice so far. I can't explain why, but I like the feel up of it more than the magical quanta of Oblivion. On the other hand, holding up my glowing hands constantly makes me wonder when I'm going to hear a crackling voice over the radio, "Hit em with the combo! Zap em and whack em!"

My first death came early on, when I was picking up a cabbage. I couldn't quite get the other, so I tried to jump onto the cart for a better angle. Then the physics engine woke up on the wrong side of the bed, stuck me through the cart, and threw us both against the wall until I was dead. Thankfully, I quicksave compulsively after even the most minor of events (excluding death by cart), so I wasn't set back very far.

So stuff happens and I kill a bear with an arrow in the knee and next thing I'm being told we should split up but meet him at such as such place where his father works or something and I'm thinking:
1) We just met and you think we need to break up?
2) Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'm not into men.
3) We just met and you want me to meet your father? Woah, slow down there!

So I did the logical thing and wandered off aimlessly. I caught some flowers and killed a couple bandits. Then I met some hit woman living in the mountains where I was searching for a dragon. She taught me to shoot a bow and I didn't kill her. Then I wandered some more and died a few times to a Sprig monster that seemed to kill me with magical floating bugs. But eventually I wandered into a town and did my first alchemy and got annoyed that it gives the option to randomly combine ingredients when none have known effects, failing to carefully explain to the noob that you're supposed to eat the ingredients raw and if they don't kill you, use them for potions. So I ate a bunch of stuff and then needed some healing. Then I went off to kill a great beast and wandered into a cave that I should have guessed was a bad place to be, based on the large quantities of blood. Shriekwind Bastion isn't exactly an inviting name either.

Things were going quite well until I found myself incapable of seeing the chain to opena door. Eventually I googled it and got through, but this annoyed me, to be searching outside for information. Then I ran into a master vampire who demonstrated a remarkable ability to kill me in three hits on the middle difficulty while also being faster. I searched again and didn't find anything special beside him supposedly being vulnerable to fire, and yet he was still taking a long while to die to my double-casted fire, or at least a long while relative to the three seconds needed to kill me. Even after putting the difficulty at the lowest I found myself chugging potions to get him down. I guess that's a boss? Maybe I'm not supposed to be here at level 3.

More later, but that's enough of this round of rambling.


| Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I'd heard good things about this game, so I finally gave it a try. Hm.

Let's start from the beginning. So, a screen is here with some grey and some black and maybe it is trees. Right. Is this a loading screen? Some sort of credits? An intro? Nothing seems to be going on. I did have to press any key to continue, so I'll do that again. Nothing. A? No. D! Nope. Space bar must do it.

Oh, arrow keys, gotcha. Neat. So let's run along now. Let's run along as demonstrate one problem with puzzle-solving games.

I don't think the same way you do. Sometimes I think this is because I am smarter than everyone else. Other times I think this is because of some undiagnosed mental illness. Usually I figured everyone has their brain wired a little bit differently (but mine is still wired better :P).

So what do we do when we see a giant spider? Well let's see, I saw a trap in that tree back there. That must be significant. The spider seems to be pretty tall, so maybe I can lure it back to the trap. Huh. It doesn't move. Well, maybe I can climb it! Nope, can't climb it. Maybe there was something else back there that I missed, like that previous puzzle that I tried to do the wrong way (we'll get to that one). Oh. Yes, of course, the trap fell on the ground. Well let's just drag that right back here and okay, problem solved.

Rewinding a little bit, let's see right here we have some water and a box. Hm. Well let's see, my swimming isn't so great. So I drown. Maybe I can float on the box. Nope. Maybe I can hang on to the box and sort of have-swim, half-float, then climb up at the end. Nope. Uh... shove box out farther and do a jump-jump maneuver. Also nope. Oh well of course! This time the usually background nothing trees are in fact the solution, I just need to climb a bit and push over the conveniently rotten one and walk across.

It's not all bad. There were at least two occasions where I was running or rolling right along and saw something come on the screen and instantly understood: "yep, that is going to crush me" or "yep, I gotta keep hopping and keep this rolling before a spider eats me" or "yep, I say yep a lot in my fake dialogue, despite it rarely being a word I use while gaming." So that was good. I liked that. It felt like it had some of the flow going like in Mirror's Edge.

But I'd guess I only played for 10 or 15 minutes (or I have no sense of time and Steam says 23 minutes). That's not very long for me when I'm on break from anything remotely like work or school for at least a couple weeks. I ended up quitting, frustrated, thinking "this stupid game." Maybe I'll come back to it later, possibly with a better impression. In the meantime, I can watch Firefly and wonder why I only get around 200-500kb/s at home.

Passive Patricide

| Tuesday, December 27, 2011
If Luke had just learned to heal Vader might have lived.
That's what happens when you don't learn to heal: your dad dies

I'm stealing that.

Is it plugged in? Idiot.

| Monday, December 26, 2011
If you're the sort of person who remembers this sort of thing, you might remember that a bit back I had some random crashing issues related to Civilization V. Fun stuff. I decided it was due to the RAM. So I did the logical thing:

No of course I didn't run a RAM test. That takes too long! Instead I pulled one one of the sticks and replaced it with two older ones. Yea, wrap your head around that. I'm just that good. At first things seemed better. And then not. This suggested that it was either the other stick or something entirely different.

I went with the third option: ignore it and just start playing Civ IV again.

Then one day I went poking around again and noticed something odd: one of my replacement RAM chip wasn't fully seated. Huh. So I gave it a good shove back in, checked all the others, and for good measure, stuck back in the "bad" stick.

No more crashes.

So no, it was not plugged in.

At least that's not quite as dumb as my headset with the non-functional microphone. I mean, duh, of course I want "mute" set to off. Months later I flipped that switch and have not stopped talking since.

Apparently there was a Christmas yesterday, which would explain why people kept giving my boxes wrapped in strangely flimsy paper and why I had a strange compulsion to put perfectly usable items in similarly oddly-wrapped boxes. Short version: I have Firefly and Serenity DVDs, a lot of tea, and some nice dress shirts, as if I were not classy enough already. Next to me, Trump looks like a barbaric pig, and not just because that's because what he is.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have ten thousand cookies to eat.

I Hate Christmas

| Friday, December 23, 2011
I used to enjoy Christmas. I'd eat cookies and get legos and it was a lot of fun.

These days Christmas isn't any fun at all. In terms of school it means a major crunch as everyone stuffs finals and projects into the last week. That week is, of course, right before Christmas, leaving me little time to shop. Oh sure, in magical fantasy land I could do my shopping before then. But no one writes lists until around then anyway. Maybe other people can get by without lists, but that requires a level of social connection that I do not achieve. I pride myself on remembering the names of family.

Of course it doesn't help that people mostly just talk about work. Why not hobbies? Anyone can work any job (take this in context), but hobbies actually tell you about who a person is. Without them, I am left wondering without the slightest clue. It's on par with St. Valentine's Day for holidays dedicated to making introverts feel bad.

It's also just plain too much socializing. A gathering now and then is nice. I wrote this on Thursday after spending too much time trying in vain to find gifts, wondering why stores exist if they don't sell anything worth buying. Then the evening was spent watching Christmas movies. The next day (today) will be occupied with a trip downtown to the German market, which was a lot of fun in high school when I went with my German class, but now it's likely to involve a lot of walking in the cold and making fun of stuff for no good reason, before heading back home. That night my brothers and I will go to dinner with my uncle, a Christmas tradition that bucks the trend by always being a lot of fun.

The next day is of course Christmas Eve, a name which makes no sense if you actually break it down. The day will be spent rushing around to make food to take to my brother's house where I will spend far too many hours being bored by talking to people with whom I share no common interests. One of these days I should retaliate and subject them to a mob by mob description of grinding for Insane in the Membrane.

But hey, next day is Christmas, when I can cringe when I see that I have, as usual, given relatively few gifts, and am not certain whether anyone will want them. Then I can, rather than enjoying the gifts I've received, spend even more time in excessively large groups. For context, I don't much like any more than five people, and even then, it has to be of a composition that doesn't cause two pairs and an extra sitting around awkwardly (me).

None of this results in me getting enough sleep either.

Merry Christmas, from all of us (just me) here at Troll Racials are Overpowered.

Did Trion get hacked or is this a marketing scheme?

| Thursday, December 22, 2011
I got this legitimate-appearing email regarding Rift, which says scary things backed up by their own website, among them,

We recently discovered that unauthorized intruders gained access to a Trion Worlds account database. The database in question contained information including user names, encrypted passwords, dates of birth, email addresses, billing addresses, and the first and last four digits and expiration dates of customer credit cards.

You should have continued, uninterrupted access to RIFT, and we do not anticipate any disruptions to your playing time.

Nevertheless, if you own the RIFT game, you will be granted three (3) days of complimentary RIFT game time once you update your password and security questions.

I don't own it, so nothing for me here just yet.

Additionally, once you update your account and set a new password, your account will be granted a Moneybags’ Purse, which increases your looted coin by 10%, even if you have not yet purchased RIFT.

Wait, what?

I can see giving some gift to subscribers for all their mental anguish (ma epics might possibly be gone!), but "even if you have not yet purchased RIFT"...

"Hey guys, we got hacked and your information might or might not have been compromised, but you know what? Here's some free gold if you start playing!"


In defense of insanity

Blizzard's writers have a standard way of making new bad guys: take some good guys and make them go insane. Violin: bad guys. This method is criticized for being lazy and formulaic. I disagree. The nature of the Warcraft universe requires that any true enemies be either innately evil or have been corrupted/gone insane.

Look at it in context. Within the real world greed is a powerful driver. It pushes people to do stupid or evil things. But how powerful can greed really be, in the Warcraft universe? In the real world, greed can get you killed. That's nothing in Warcraft. In that universe, greed can get you tortured for all eternity, and I don't mean "I read in a book that if I am greedy I'll get tortured for all eternity", I mean that you have literally seen demons and magic and know quite well that eternal torture is a strong possibility.

When there are forces that seek to unmake reality itself, everyone is on the same side. This idea first came to me from the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card, my number one writer for veiled homophobic writing. In the series the hero is in a fight against the Unmaker, a being who seeks to unmake everything, somewhat reminiscent of the Burning Legion. A wise old man tells Alvin that even Satan, the obvious enemy of God, would on his side in this, because Satan wants to rule something. Even evil hates chaos.

From this perspective, we can see how it makes no sense at all to ally with the Burning Legion. There is no reason to trust the demons. Given their propensity for cruelty, it is not hard to imagine them turning on all their allies and destroying them as well. Any alliance is merely putting off the day of personal horribleness while increasing the chances of it coming. It would be like guaranteeing you won't get cancer today by taking a drug that doubles you risk of cancer tomorrow.

One cannot ally with chaos, one can only join chaos. Think of when you see a protest. The protestors are thinking of a cause, a reason. You may disagree with them, but odds are, they are sane. Now contrast that with a riot, of broken windows and arson and police being attacked. Are those people thinking or considering the costs and benefits of throwing a rock through a window? No. They are chaotic. They are, temporarily, uncontrolled, inhuman, and insane.

Think of Kael'thas, who had once sacrificed everything to protect his people, and who then joined the Legion. It could be nothing less than corruption of his very nature, insanity. There is no future for his people in the Legion. Similarly, the Lich King could not be just an angry prince who went a bit too far. He had to be corrupted because only that would allow him to turn against his father, kingdom, and the very world. Merely being a little less empathetic and a little more fanatical would not do the trick. The Scarlet Crusade is another group which is not merely extremist, but entirely out-of-touch with reality. They would not otherwise attack anyone on sight as Scourge (note that I did not say "possible" or "suspected").

Beside the enemies, think of our own actions. When the world is at risk of ceasing to exist, are we going to quibble over small matters? We may argue strategy or tactics, but when there is a demonic army coming, it's not so important whether there is a troll standing over there. We're not going to go raid Stormwind just because Varian talked some smack while Deathwing is cataclysmizing the world.

On the other hand, there is also the "really stupid, short-minded idiot" method, of making someone a threat to the world not because they are evil or in league with evil, but because their sheer stupidity is threatening survival: for example, Garrosh and other orcs who kept picking fights during the campaign in Icecrown. I wouldn't call them evil, but we'd definitely have been better off killing them before they could do any more damage.

Either way, we're not likely to be flying off to a raid against a reasonable person with whom we have a legitimate disagreement.

A philospher walked into a bar

| Wednesday, December 21, 2011
And said "Which sort of bar are you refering to? The ambiguity makes it impossible to offer anything close to an accurate prediction, particularly given the impossibility of prediction unless we assume cause and effect, but maybe that's just me assuming the assuming cause and effect allows us to make predictions and oh god I've gone cross-eyed."

The theist and atheist look at him, puzzled. Then they went back to shouting.

"How can you possibly have anything to look forward to without knowing the wonderful things behind this door? The room is filled with possibilities!"

"So is the rest of the house. It's filled with the possibility of all the stuff I bought when I moved in. What's the big deal about this one room?"

"You inherited this house from your grandfather and clearly this room was important. Thing of all he means to you, all you owe to him, and you cannot even accept that he gave you this wonderful room?"

"He gave me a house, that's pretty wonderful enough."

"Aha, so you acknowledge the existence of your grandfather!"

"Uh, yes."

At this point the philosopher chimes in.

"We cannot actually prove his existence, as he is no longer capable of direct interaction with this world, existing only as a memory, a memory which could be false, making any actions based on it illogical."

"What the fuck?"

"In fact, I'm not sure either of you exist."

By now the scientist has returned and overheard much of the conversation. He pondered the mysteries of the universe, such as why he only brought two bullets.

A voice drifts in...

"Hi! I'm a psychologist and I can explain to you why people often fail to anticipate future problems. Furthermore, you are referred to as a generic scientist, which given that psychology is a science, means that I should be redundant. However I understand why this oversight occurred and have developed a series of exercises we can use to work on this social issue..."



The scientist was found innocent of killing the philosopher because we cannot prove that the philosopher ever existed and he'd have wanted it that way.

An atheist, a theist, and a scientist walk into a bar...

| Tuesday, December 20, 2011
By "bar" I mean "door", and by "walk into" I mean "stand in front of".

They try the knob, but it's locked. There is a weather strip at the bottom so they can't see in at all. The scientist sets about tapping on the door and attempting to move it around in its frame.

Meanwhile the atheist and theist begin to argue.

"What wonderful thing musts be in this room."

"It's empty."

"Of course it's not empty. Why would someone lock an empty room? Why would there be a room for nothing in it? No, it is logical that there would be something in there."

"We had no proof at all of anything in there. It's illogical to assume anything at all, especially that the imaginary items are 'wonderful'".

"You're just being blind. The room is clearly there. It is clearly artificial. It must have a purpose."

"It must have been built. We cannot assume it has a purpose. We definitely cannot assume that purpose is to store 'wonderful things'".

"You're being ridiculous, you cannot even see inside. Anything could be in there!"

"Also, nothing could be in there."

At this point the scientist is thoroughly annoyed with their attempts at philosophy based on poor logic and zero evidence. Thankfully, he carries a gun for these situations, but with one bullet; he's almost a pacifist, but not quite. But what should he do with it? He sees only one way to silence both of them.

He shoots the door, blasting a small hole in it.

Immediately the two combatants switch to physical methods, shoving each other to try to peer inside. It's a small hole and they block the light every time they look, not that they can concentrate, since they keep pushing each other away before they can focus on the dim conditions. But they are at least certain of one thing: the room is dark.

Finally the atheist has come to the conclusion he already had.

"See, I told you it's empty!"

"But it's dark, it could be in that shadow right there."

"The entire room is shadows!"

"Exactly, just imagine all the wonderful things!"

The scientist wanders off to ponder uncertainty and whether a coin flip would determine if God plays dice, musing that the true answer to Schrödinger's cat was to think inside the box.

Bosses are too small

| Monday, December 19, 2011
Shintar did not seem to enjoy fighting Deathwing much because he is too big to see. The sense of scale gets all thrown off and things just get confusing and disorienting.

The solution is obvious: Make him even bigger.

If Deathwing were even bigger, we could have the fight on him.

Phase one: Dodging claws as you run toward him with the goal of everyone being securely hanging onto a claw before he takes flight.

Phase two: Stab his ankles. Gnomes do 50% extra damage due to having a higher ankle-stabbing skill. Much of this phase is "dance" as you have to move to avoid him smashing you against walls.

Phase three: Climb onto his back and attack the plates. As they are broken, fire blasts out, breaking LoS and being an instant kill. It is important to kill them in something like a reasonable pattern. Black dragons are the main opponents, swooping in to grab people and fly them away. You must kill them before they can fly too high, somewhat like valkyr and LK in ICC.

Phase four: Deathwing is spewing fire from everywhere and clawing like mad. The goal is to run away and hide, fighting through waves of enemies while he slowly drags himself along after you (remember, his ankles are a mess). The phase ends with the escape ship flying away, a 30 second timer which begins when the first person is fully on board.

Phase five: You fly away and Deathwing explodes in the background, showering the deck with loot.

Eliminating Test Anxiety

| Saturday, December 17, 2011
I have my last final of the semester in a bit under four hours. So test anxiety and stress are right on my mind. Some people deal with these with studying. Psh. It's a stats exam, so of course I spent last night teaching someone the basics of energy in chemical bonds. This morning I'm writing this and I can't imagine missing "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", the NPR news quiz which is in less than an hour.

Most importantly though, I deal with tests with creativity, with applications of my vast knowledge, some of which is psychological. See where I'm going with this? Yep, I have my own way to deal with stresss based on proven psychology. We all know the "flight or fight" response. But have we ever truly applied it? We get all worked up over an intellectual challenge, but prepared for a physical challenge. So why not fix that so we can focus on thinking?

The general idea is to allow the flight or fight response to manifest itself fully, activate, and then go away. In specific applications this means I release a couple tigers into the building before exams and then we can all fight them or run like wimps. Once that's done, we're in the perfect mental state to tackle t-tests, z-tests, and of course, f-tests, which make a great stats exam pun. It makes sense, what is a bit of over-hyped algebra compared to tigers trying to kill you?

I'm still left with one nagging thought about regression. We (our classes) describe them as taking four general forms: level-level, ln-level, level-ln, and ln-ln, but no cow-level.

It's like social loafing, but the opposite

| Wednesday, December 14, 2011
What was supposed to be a three-month project is being done in about three weeks. So we're working our asses off. All the other groups think we're crazy. Maybe we are, and were, even before this.

The final bit of the project is a paper. A mere 20 pages, a trivial length for 5 people, and perhaps too short for the scope of the topic. But that's what we have to work with. The main idea is that there is a paper to write, with grades going to 5 people.

Some people would be social loafers. They'd know that 4 other people are there to do it. If I don't edit, they will. If I don't write enough, they will. If I disperse profanity throughout the paper, they'll catch it. To some extent this is true, that I am allowing them to pick up some slack, because that's what teams are for, distributing the load, playing to strengths.

But I cannot just sit back and let them do it all. I know it won't be as good as it could be. So here I am now thinking that the paper is good enough. I'd turn it in for myself. But it isn't a grade for 1 person; it's for 5 people. Any problem is multiplied. Maybe I'd accept an imperfect grade, but I cannot impose that on 4 other people. That's the wrong thing to do.

So I end up inversely socially loafing, doing more because of others, rather than less.

It reminds me a bit of raiding. When I solo I don't mind the deaths because it's entirely my own risk, my own cost, my own failure. But in a raid, if I screw up, I screw up for 9 or 24 other people. Or 39 once upon a time. That's not a good feeling. Early on, when everyone is making mistakes and raids aren't quite so difficult, it's manageable. But eventually it gets to me, it stresses me and angers me, that my mistake is hurting others, and I don't want to be that person.

But what is my benefit from working twice as hard at the raiding and preparation? It's a terrible scenario where the cost of not preparing is massive, hurting me a little and added up over everyone, a lot. But the extra work to fail less? Minor benefit to me, and also to the raid, because then someone else does it wrong and I cannot fix it for them. It's like Tobold would say now and then, with a raid testing the weakest member, rather than the strongest, or the average.

I like tests of strongest or of average. In the former, one weak member may cause no harm at all. In the latter, one weak member may have little overall negative impact. Not none, but little enough that it can be compensated for. But when the weakest member decides the outcome, then it's a race to remove the lowest, and then there is a new lowest, and in theory you remove all the low ones and have a core of high ones and then everything is good, but that's a chaotic process, a disruptive process, a particularly unfun process when everyone is under attack.

So that's that. And I really hate doing citations. I wish I could just paste in the source link. Here, professor, you want my sources, here is the agency budget and newspaper articles investigating it. Alas, I cannot do that.

In unrelated news, I think I'm going to hold off on buying Skyrim, as I've just started playing Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl again, with the excellent Oblivion Lost mod, and this time I plan to explore a bit more. Last time I had played a bit, hated the UI, and eventually rushed off because I wanted to see Chernobyl after I watched one too many documentaries on it. I'm looking forward to giving the Zone a better look. I'm not looking forward to the next leg of my journey, which is going to the underground X-18 laboratory, which is filled with mutants and dead babies in jars. It's a terrifying place. I might have gone there sooner, but during the day I don't have time and there is no way I am going there at night, not if I plan to sleep. It's a remarkably good game, which you should definitely buy. If you saw my review many months back I'd been less kind to it, but I think the mod, which is free and easy to install, improves it a great deal. Despite already having a reputation as a frightening and unforgiving world, the mod makes it even harsher. Because what we really needed were mind-controlling hostile mutants taking over the few safe areas. I take that back, two. There were two safe areas. Unless the military got aggressive, then only one. Or with the mod, none.

WoW has definitely moved away from world toward better gameplay. Stalker manages to have solid gameplay but without sacrificing the world. And what a world it is.

Students, good luck with finals. Parents, good luck with offspring with finals. Teachers, good luck with students with finals. Everyone else, you better be buying the rest of us some great Christmas gifts.


| Monday, December 12, 2011
As part of an aggressive campaign of procrastination, I finally played Crysis. Thankfully, despite also featuring a conflict between America (good guys) and North Korea (like China, but not a major trading partner, so okay to portray as universally evil), it was not a huge pile of crap.

If you remember my review of Halo, which you shouldn't, because I never wrote one, I was a bit annoyed that the game starts off by firmly establishing the Covenant aliens as the Threat to Humanity and just as you're in the habit of sticking grenades to elites and meleeing hunters to death, suddenly the flood comes and you're spending all your time shooting popcorn. A twist is cool and all, but it felt like too much, too soon.

Thankfully, Crysis avoids that. There are several solid hours of using advanced technology to kill North Koreans in a variety of imaginative ways, such as shooting them with guns, shooting them with other guns, beating them to death with guns, and using guns to shoot nearby things which then explode and kill them. And this one time I ran over a guy with a humvee, but that was only because I missed with my gun. In all seriousness, the physics do offer some neat options beyond just shooting them, such as explosions and making roofs collapse on them. Or, use strength mode and one punch will send them flying.

Along the way the game gives fairly open areas to work in. It's not quite a sandbox, but you're given more than just "use this route if you like to get shot or this route if you are smart". Rather than walled-in levels, you get bits of map in which you can freely move about. Not everyone needs to be killed to complete the objectives, but since killing is half the fun (the other half is their screaming), I almost always did a sweep to make sure I didn't miss anyone.

The open areas give you options, as well as your enemies. You might think you're so sneaky to stealth over to the ledge and then use strength to jump over and hit them from the other side, but it turns out they were already going that way to try to sneak around and flank you. Yep, the ol' double-switcheroo. You can attack from all sides and get attacked from all sides.

I actually found myself getting a little antsy, when were the aliens going to really show up? I wanted to shoot some! Sadly, I had to continue to make do shooting North Koreans. Oh the drudgery of mindless human slaughter. But finally, after a few attacks by aliens who somehow always knew when it was a cutscene so we couldn't shoot back, finally I got to get stuck in a mountain and wander into their cave temple base thing. Yea.

The game ends up making Marines look like total pussies, not because they are, since earlier one takes on the giant scary monster that is the second to last boss single-handed to buy time, but because they are contrasted with the super-human guy. Oh what's that, a little rock fall has me stuck half a mile under a mountain? You guys go, I'll just find some more guns and shoot a hole out if I need to. What's that, gravity just went away? No problem, I'll just float right along and shoot anything else that flies. The carrier is getting blown up? Hang on, I need to go get my nuclear grenade launcher, but not before I go into the nuclear reactor and sheer strength to push down the malfunctioning control rods.

Sadly, the game gets a bit less awesome toward the end. Due to the necessity of having a bajillion aliens attack rather than just a few at a time, the player is given various unlimited ammo weapons, such as an alien gun and a humvee machine gun. Even though the game was never stingy with ammo, it was something to at least pay some attention to, making this a strange contrast which I didn't much enjoy. The flying part was even worse, until I realized that while the gun was an ilose button, the missiles were an iwin button. The last level on the aircraft carrier suffered from some major bugs. The game didn't seem to be certain whether I should or should not fall through the floor, so I had to keep going back a few save points to find one where the floor was properly defined as being impenetrable to feet. The really bit aliens were also at times unsure of whether they should be on the flight deck or a hundred feet up.

The ending might have been really cool, but it ended up being more of a relief that I had finally gotten past the physics bugs and could now play again, just in time to realize that the game was over. And that they definitely wanted me to buy a sequel.

My suggestion is to buy it; it's only $20 on Steam. Maybe in a few years I can give you an outdated review of Crysis 2. And in a few weeks, Crysis Warhead.

He was no dragon, fire cannot kill a dragon

| Saturday, December 10, 2011
A concerned reader sent me this distressing news: Nefarian is no longer immune to fire damage. Shocking, I know.

Gameplay vs. Simulation
Using wording shamelessly stolen from Nils we can see that what is happening here is a weakening of simulation in favor of gameplay. It is easier to balance the encounter, and gives classes more options in their talents, if one tree of magic is not blocked. It also doesn't make much sense that a powerful black dragon is vulnerable to fire. These are the same dragons who come from eggs stored in a cave where lava is all over the place and whose mother, and/or wife, and/or sister, since dragons are weird like that, breathes fire all over the damn place, including on the eggs. His distant cousins under Wyrmrest have a tendency to throw waves of lava around with no damage to themselves. Fire just is not their main problem.

At an extreme I could see it. I'm sure if Deathwing started spewing fire they'd get toasted. Just like we can imagine that a sufficiently powerful mage could damage Malygos with arcane damage, but that bridge has been crossed, burned, and washed away. Not as if that fight demonstrated much gameplay-simulation tradeoff since it didn't do either very well.

I replied with this line from Game of Thrones: "He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon."

Not at all a waste of time
I'm being sarcastic. Changing the fire-immune status of a boss who has been old news for three expansions was a waste of time. It is an attempt to balance content that doesn't need to be balanced because it's already trivial.

It's all connected and I can prove it because I'm saying it very loudly
Dragon Soul comes out or came out or something, I've not been paying much attention, and people say it is too easy. Dragon. And at the same time, another dragon is retuned. Don't you see? The devs wasted all their time testing Nefarian to make sure he's balanced for level 85s soloing him for hats rather than testing the new raid. Normally I'd make a chalkboard drawing some dragons and an arrow or two, maybe with an exclamation point, but this is far too serious for mere chalkboards. Instead, I'm going to just leave you with this chilling thought:

P.S. Someone please leave a chilling thought in a comment; I'm coming up blank.

Ignorance Recognition Week is Coming

| Friday, December 9, 2011
AKA: Finals week.

I'm not sure I'll have much to post. This isn't due to lack of time, but due to brain damage caused by excessive thinking.

At least my final project is going well. So far what I've taken away from it is that avoiding regulatory capture is hard, but working for a captured agency is pretty damn fun! Look up the Bush-era MMS Royalty in Kind offices and tell me you'd not want to have a job filled with sex, drugs, money, more money, drugs, and in all likelihood if you quit, a higher-paying job in the industry you were supposed to be regulating. Sure the IRS brought in more money, but I bet they didn't have half as much fun.

In unrelated news, it is getting cold. This causes my bike-riding to be a little uncomfortable. At least my face freezes quickly enough that I never really feel it.

Ability Dance vs. Movement Dance

| Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Yesterday I talked about a great game that you might enjoy if you enjoy that sort of think (my apologies to President Lincoln for the butchering). I also talked about the interruptions of raiding, in particular, about how many boss abilities break the flow of abilities. At first glance this may seem inevitable, that if the encounter is going to be dynamic we must be interrupted. I disagree, with that vague strawman that I just created.

Sticking with the boss AoE, how can we deal with this without running away? Well obviously there is the "make the healer's deal with it" approach. I'm not a fan of that one. Let's backtrack: why are we running away? To avoid the damage. We can do that other ways, and in dynamic, reactive ways, which do not break the flow of play.

Anti-magic shell is one approach: have the DK drop it in time and it will negate enough damage to make running out pointless. This has the downside of placing the burden on one class, though it does add some coordination skill opportunities.

Let's imagine remaking the boss special so that rather than an AoE, it is a single-target, instant-kill, on a random play. Everyone is going to run out still, especially the tanks! Or, we could drop grounding totem. Now players can keep playing but the shamans will be reacting.

Fights could include some sort of added player ability, such as temporary immunity to a spell tree. Incoming AoE? Trigger the ability, but don't go running around and breaking your flow.

With these suggestions, players will still be reacting to the fight, paying attention, but without running all over like headless chickens.

Even with movement, it can have better or worse implementation. Grobbulus was a fight which I did not much enjoy. The constant movement was a physical problem, of actually pressing the right buttons while maintaining movement. It wasn't that it broke flow so much as it never allowed it in the first place. In contrast, I enjoyed being a slime kite on Rotface, where while I was moving and therefore my abilities were limited, it all fit together into a coherent set of actions, much like my vague example the other day where I enjoyed picking up streams of adds; in this case I am using fewer abilities in favor of more movement.

I don't mean to suggest that movement itself is bad. As I just said, it can be enjoyable, but it seems that devs often take "dynamic fight" to mean "players run around a lot" rather than "there are events for players to react to", with reactions including more than just standing somewhere else.

Mental Momentum and the Dances

| Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I recently started playing Mirror's Edge in some ways it reminds me of raiding in WoW. There is often a single set of correct moves, with only slight variation. Though not always; I've sometimes surprised myself by finding new paths on the fly.

Here's the trailer from EA, which has game footage, so you have some context. The clip isn't perfect, since what it shows is a pretty linear path, as well as one where most of the movement points are highlighted. That's what all the red is: objectives, particularly points to jump or doors to get through, are highlighted red.

There are other levels which are around on themselves. in which you cannot clearly see where you are going next. Think of it like going into a boss fight blind. What do you do next? There's no good way to know, beside looking up the fight, of course. But that's cheating!

Mirror's Edge is a game of momentum. You will spend most of your time not just moving, but moving based on how you were before: a jump into a roll, straightening up for a jump and climb followed by a sprint for the speed to get over a bigger gap, halfway along which there may be a bar to grab and quickly release, using it just for a second to avoid plummeting to your death.

The result of that, and of course good level design, is that you don't need to know what is next. Instead it tends to be what makes sense. Not always, but in general I have not had to stop and stare around wondering what to do, nor do I need to reload to know what to do. It all flows.

Contrast this with raiding, in which nothing flows. Play and now stop. Phase two: play and now stop. Phase three: play and now stop. Even worse than the major interruptions of the phases are the special abilities, with the generic "boss is going to AoE, run away" being the easiest to picture. There is a flow to the DPS or tanking, with one ability coming after the other in a chain that you can learn and master and in my experience, it can feel pretty damn good to get a good run going. But then it's time to run away, and all the flow is gone. Start over again, interrupted, mentally disrupted.

This doesn't mean that a target switch is itself a problem. When tanking I loved steady streams of adds, for the flow of finding, targeting, grabbing, juggling the rest of the mobs meanwhile. It was a smooth process, uninterrupted by more adds because they were part of the process.

Some of this is due to the mix of challenge and practice. Long-learned practice can feel like intuition. The third add is dead? Well of course we all run to the other corner! This is an illusion. There is no logical process that says that "third add dead means we should stand over there", not unless we add another step of "third add dead which we know from previous attempts triggers phase two which starts with an AoE over the rest of the room". Going back to the clip, I've done that particular run, successfully, but less smoothly. I had stops here and there, interruptions, not because of any flaw in the level, but from my own lack of familiarity with the game. With more play I've gotten smoother. Though wall running still causes problems.

Can raiding be more intuitive? Can it have more flow, with one action logically following the other, not because of what we've been told to do, but from what we can figure out along the way? This would be much harder to design, but I'm sure it is possible.

Trivial task experts are annoying

| Monday, December 5, 2011
"So that's what I sounded like..."

Between classes I work at a grill on campus, making burgers and fries. Note that these are much better than McDonald's burgers and fries. But that's beside the point. Recently, a more senior employee returned, someone who has worked there longer than I have and may have worked in food service before. In other words, someone who knows more than me.

I'm not slow or incompetent and I follow the food safety standards in both letter and spirit. But there are things that she knows that I don't, such as slightly better technique for burgers to make them a little bit better. Nothing dramatic, but worth knowing. So it's not as if she's nitpicking every damn little pointless detail. There's someone else who does that, who I do not believe has ever smiled.

It's annoying to me. The thought process is something along the lines of this: I'm doing an adequate job and have little incentive to improve beyond that, please stop bothering me.

Which brings me to my opening line: "So that's what I sounded like..." That's me. Or was me. I was the person telling people who were doing well enough that they weren't doing this little thing right. Change this thing or that thing. It's not that I was wrong or that all of it was trivial and pointless, but damn, it's annoying being on the other side!

The real kicker may be the triviality of it all: a burger joint, a trivialized heroic. In the context, performance improvements just don't mean much. But some people just cannot keep their damn mouths shut and have to point out everything. It's mentally painful for us to not point out the deficiencies of others and sometimes we're lucky enough to be in an area where we are the experts of the trivial task. For her it is food. For me it was WoW. And damn are we annoying.

4% Is Exciting

| Sunday, December 4, 2011
You, person whining about how passive talents are boring, please shut up. About that specific subject, not in general. Passive talents are exciting. EXCITING!

Let's walk through things a bit. Here is a level 51 rogue. What does he have going for the next level? Well let's see... nothing. Next? Nothing. Only at level 54 does he get envenom. Woo! Excitement! In... three levels.

Now let's give him a Terribly Boring Passive Talents-Filled Talent Tree (TBPTFTT). Next level he can... well actually I'm not sure what talent he'd take at level 42 because the trees already got butchered. So let's say he's combat and will get Improved Sinister Strike for 4% damage to sinister strike, a terribly boring passive talent that I just made up and which he took after having picked up the 31 point talent which was exciting: Super Sinister Strike, which is like Sinister Strike, but it does more damage and adds a buff to increase his Sinister Strike damage by 25% for 20 seconds, with a three minute cooldown, which because it is a button makes it Fun & Exciting. In time he can get an entire 5 points for a total of +20% damage to Sinister Strike which leads into Even Better Sinister Strike which causes his Sinister Strike to have a chance (Ooh, no stated chance! I bet it's a PPM! Quick, theorycraft the slow weapons! Or maybe fast! What is the poison mechanic this week?) to reset the cooldown on Super Sinister Strike and also Improve Sinister Strike will now apply to Super Sinister Strike.

In other words, he hits level 42 and presses another button. Wee. WEE! INDEED!

That added button makes level 42 just a little bit more rewarding and eagerly anticipated. And level 44 too! With this boring passive talent he now has something to look forward to for level 42. It's not a big thing, but it is something. Contrast this with the typical nothing. Now what is boring? Yea, NOTHING. Nothing, outside of philosophy, is pretty fucking boring.

The boring passive talent isn't just a button. It's also a tantalizing possibility. Now there is that box that says 1/5 Improved Sinister Strike increases the damage of Sinister Strike by 4% and if you mouse over it also says that 2/5 would increase it by 10%. Right there, that is room for growth. Oh man, 2/5 is on its way. And then 46, that's 3/5! 48 gives 4/5. And then... oh shit, it's level 50! Ooh, side-track time to get that sweet 40 point talent (note that there may not actually be a sweet level 40 talent, if not, shift things up or down by 10 levels and you'll find one). But level 52, bam, box is filled up with a 5/5 and now he can see that Even Better Sinister Strike is at an empty 0/2. Looks like he has a plan for level 54 and 56. Sweet. Who knows what 58 will be, but damn, it's only going to be one point before level 60 and we know level 60 is going to ROCK.

But leveling ends and now... Now he's just a level 85. Or 97, whatever the level cap is for MoP. Now he's filled up his tree and there's nothing left. He can respec. And now, well now those passive abilities are pretty damn boring. Woop-dee-doo, 4% damage to Sinister Strike. Who fucking cares? On the other hand, Super Sinister Strike... also, who fucking cares? He's now making exciting choices anymore. He's picking the talents that he's supposed to have. There aren't going to be any exciting talents because there is no more advancement and no choice. Blame the level cap and excessive optimization, not the TBPTFTT. You thought I wasn't going to get to use that. Idiot.

"But," you say, "we have MoP now and we don't have all those silly talents. We have Fun & Exciting choices." Like hell you do.

Science in the News

| Friday, December 2, 2011
It's been an exciting week for science, just like last week, except last week was too hard for me to understand, so I ignored it, just like global warming.

New Hope for Hypochondria sufferers
Researchers have found a multi-stage program which could dramatically ease the symptoms of hypochondria for those who suffer due to the previously untreatable condition. One major problem is that those who have the condition refuse to accept that they have it, in favor of hundreds or thousands of often-obscure diagnoses. The first stage involved dramatically broadening the list of symptoms, thereby causing any given person to fit the new criteria for hypochondria. New symptoms include: shortness of breath, lack of desire to increase the rate of breathing, sleepiness during late hours of the day, and a desire to stay awake during later hours of the day. The second stage involved planting claims on websites and non-peer-reviewed medical journals, suggesting that hypochondria is under-diagnosed and that doctors are intentionally refusing to diagnose or treat it. Doctors believe the new program will encourage those with the condition to seek a diagnosis for hypochondria, thereby relieving the suffering of the doctors.

Chinese Cyberwar Plot Goes Unnoticed for Decades
A series of high-level defections within the People's Liberation Army have brought startling information to light. It turns out that as far back as the 1970s, China had sought to infiltrate the World Wide Web and Internet and destroy them from within. Plots included the spread of disinformation and personal attacks, a technique they branded "trolling". Individual elements included spreading conspiracy theories regarding government plots and the creation of wikipedia in the hopes of destroying all other sources of information. American cyber-war specialists and sociologists were shocked: "We figured people were just assholes, we never suspected that we were all decent people and it was the Chinese all along."

Government Denies Adding Paranoia-Causing Chemical to Water Supply

Lucas Wins NASA Deal to Create Next 'Moon Landing'

Taser Releases 'Solid-State' Variant

Bipartisan Vote Approves Funding to Create 10,000 New Jobs Based on Arguing About Global Warming

Nature Magazine Warns Readers About Possible Extinction of "Letters to the Editor" Page.

Reporter: Laser Was the Brightest Thing I Ever Saw

Civ IV: Part IV: Cities

| Thursday, December 1, 2011
Cities are the foundation of any civilization. In fact, the world civilization comes from the word "civilopedia" which was an ancient text tradition of storing information about cities, which has since split into the worlds "city" and "wikipedia".

Civ V uses the next generation of city management interface, and in this case, the next generation is really fucking stupid. Kids these days... In Civ IV it is easy to queue up production; just shift-click the next thing you want in line. Civ V added the ever so slightly useful ability to rearrange the queue items, but did it by shifting the queue to a different menu, so for 99% of use, it is less convenient by a lot. In Civ IV I would regularly queue up units and buildings, no longer in Civ V. To top off the bad production management system, in Civ IV if a producton item has any progress, clicking another item will put the new item at the front of an automatically-created queue, so that a temporary shift in production is a one-click affair, such as if you find yourself needing a jail for anti-war protestors while building a bank. At times Civilization is disturbingly realistic.

Population management has been made less convenient as well. To rearrange the tiles being worked you must open a submenu which is usually minimized, a small issue, and perhaps nice to avoid accidentally clicking and screwing up all the tiles. Specialists have been given a pointlessly less convenient interface. It used to be that adding a specialist meant clicking the up or down arrow for the specialist. Now they are manually assigned to specific buildings. Why? I do not know. They don't have any different production. So rather than a simple click, you must instead find the correct building, which is in alphabetical order, so library and research lab aren't right after each other as would be convenient for someone trying to assign more scientists.

On the plus side, conquered cities no longer have zero culture. Culture is now based on the city rather than the civilization, so conquest doesn't result in a bunch of culturally-dead cities which revolt and join a nearby third party at the first possible opportunity.

When you're sick of micromanaging and don't trust the AI to not fuck it up and spam great people points, both games offer ways to indirectly control cities. Civ IV offers the vassal system, in which a foe who has finally realized that he is utterly defeated will capitulate and must then pay tribute and join you in future wars. This has the downside of making everyone else mad, but also more scared, so they capitulate more quickly, thus proving the domino effect and making Nixon not seem so bad after all. Civ V instead uses the puppet system, where you still conquer every damn city, but by puppeting them rather than taking direct control, you can gain the benefit of their science and gold and suffer less unhappiness, but cannot tell them to make anything in particular and they will never make units (or at least I've never seen one).

If I had to choose one or the other, I'd go with the vassal system. It reduced the repetition of conquering city after city of a defeated foe. But I like the puppet idea. Could these be mixed? Puppets seem like a good system for conquered city states. For larger territories, looks ridiculous to have half the planet consisting of puppet cities. A city here and there makes sense, but at such a larger scale there must be some overall government. For this, vassal states seem like the simple solution: allow large groups of culturally-related cities to be collected into a new civilization which would be a vassal to the larger civilization.

In the area of rapidly building up new cities, Civilization V is far better. Hurrying production in IV required either huge piles of gold or mass murder and neither of those are practical since you can only murder people in the one city. Horribly unrealistic. This meant that starting a new city meant a very long time slowly building up population and buildings. Contrast that with Civ V which has turned gold into a significant mechanic (that's another post right there) and allows you to quickly build up population and production, for a price. With a granary, watermill, and hospital, a city can have a production of 9 food right away, with aqueducts and medical labs speeding up growth indirectly, and there are multiple buildings which add production, all of which mean that a brand new city can quickly get the food and production to build itself.

Looking only at the city management itself, I think Civ IV was superior, since the purchasing of buildings is part of the great change to gold (oops, just spoiled that post).

Your friend asks if they should try WoW

| Wednesday, November 30, 2011
How do you answer?

For all my complaints, I think I'd still say yes.

Having played it recently, even after having played much newer, more graphically-detailed games, I can still say that WoW looks good. It doesn't look realistic, but it looks good. It is getting dated, but I don't think the graphics are going to seriously harm it for another few years. And frankly, Im not sure I want to play with the "I want a pretty game" crowd.

You can still jump in and play, without wondering what all these buttons do. Not that there are a ton of buttons early on.

Ultimately I think the issue is expectations. When I play WoW I expect, or wish for, a different game than what it is now. A new player would not have that burden. Without that burden, I think they could have a great deal of fun.

For reference, I've given a little bit of time to lotro, rift, and eq2 and none of them quite caught me. I just felt disconnected from my character, as if I were controlling a marionette with very loose strings. Also, the fonts: I am very used to WoW's fonts and eq2 and lotro did not work for me. Has anyone else had a problem with the different fonts between games? I know it sounds silly, but I often felt like I was reading over someone's shoulder rather than reading words meant for me.

Rotting castles don't need to burn

| Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sandboxes are trouble. If we build too easily, the world runs out of space. If we destroy too easily everyone is afraid to build. We're not all online at the same time.

Here's my vague, generalized solution:

You can build anywhere. However destruction by players can only happen in contested areas.

Safe areas are safe to build and travel in, hence the name, but are resource-poor, so you cannot hope for much more than a hut and a rusty sword. Yes, the sword could be newly made and still rusty. The local iron is just that bad.

Contested areas would have more resources and better resources. These would be the places to farm. And the places to build if you want to take control. In these places, you can die to anyone, your buildings can be destroyed by anyone.

However safe areas are not places where you can just build away and never worry. Buildings will rot, decay, and be worn away. This would be a percentage of the cost, so that more expensive buildings require more upkeep. They won't fall down in a day, but after a few days of game time they will fall apart until they are ruined and need to be rebuilt. "Game time" is the time you are logged in and time offline if you are leveling skills (such as in EVE). To prevent permanent structures being built by people who never log in, even offline there would be a very slow decay; not so fast that you feel you must log in every day, but so that if someone is inactive for a couple months, they aren't cluttering up the world.

To maintain structures you will need to go out to the contested areas. You can gather and return home, but not without risk.

The overall goal is to allow players to destroy other's buildings without it being a game of waiting until they are offline and then torching everything in the night. You'll instead need to starve them.

Various mechanics would work behind the scenes to keep things running as intended. Resource gathering would be slightly more efficient when the server has more players, so that players are discouraged, though not blocked, from sneaking out when no one is around, while those who operate at peak times are rewarded for the risk of being out when the bandits are too. There would also be an attempt to keep players in more or less the same real life time zone, partly to keep out the dirty foreigners, partly to keep a sense of time (day-night cycle would be related to RL), and partly so that players are taking similar risks.

There will be a risk-reward relationship in this game. Players who want no risk at all could stay in the safe areas and would consequently have pretty awful homes. Players who venture out can get more resources and have nicer properties and items, but will still be limited. Those who take big risks, building directly in contested areas in order to gain control over them* will be able to get more and better resources, but will need them to survive out there. In general it should be balanced so that players will see benefit to building in risky areas but without being so much that everyone feels forced into FFA PvP.

* Control would be physical, not based on game mechanics drawing borders. For example, you might have walls to enclose properties, preventing others from chopping your trees and keeping your herds in place. There could also be traps and magical protections, but nothing that would stand entirely by itself. The goal is still to have players be able to log out without wondering if in the morning everything is gone, but without logging out being a guarantee of safety. One specific mechanic might be self-repairing walls, which can use existing stockpiles to maintain themselves, so that you can log off and survive, but if you don't get back and replenish your stockpile, the walls will be down within a day or so.

Of course everyone loves a good fire, so I will add this bit: even in a safe zone, a building under 10% integrity can be set on fire and will burn down regardless of repairs. Outside safe zones, buildings, if they can be reached (walls will be pretty important), can be set on fire at any integrity percentage, but may be harder to light or will burn slower and can be doused and repaired. So sorry, you don't win just from one good torch toss.

I've not considered how NPCs would fit into this world. Maybe they too would build and gather. I certainly don't want them to be just passively waiting around to be killed or as just a generic malevolent group of bandits.

In closing, I want to let everyone know that I never had a sandbox as a kid. Instead, I had the far superior "dirt place", which was an approximately 5'x12' area next to our house which had no grass in which they used to store coal. It probably gave us all cancer, but coaldirt is a much better structural material than sand, especially with easy access to the hose.

P.S. Thanks to Adam for the inspiration.

Civilization IV part II: A turn

| Monday, November 28, 2011
I don't enjoy making decisions without proper information, especially when that information is available but is obscured by a bad UI.

Example: At the start of turns in Civ IV you get bombarded by new production order requests. You cannot get rid of these until the cities have their orders. So stumble through and get them out of the way, and maybe you gave sensible build orders. Then go look up tech progress, where your enemies are, what techs you can buy, and then go back and change a few cities. Civ V has a much better system, with new production being something you just need to pick before the end of a turn, similar to new research and giving orders to units.

And yet, Civ V managed to create all sorts of annoying problems when dealing with turns. Automated units act at the start of the turn, rather than at the end. This means that exploring units have a bad habit of blundering into big groups of barbarians. Hitting "end turn" results in a giant pile of truly awful game design. Units with movement points remaining will demand that you use them up or skip action, which in the case of workers means a lot of moving a unit one more tile, intending to have it build something, but nope, you released the mouse and now you are DONE. Sometimes the remaining movement is because a worker got scared, a useful indicator of enemies nearby but not necessarily in your territory, except you cannot move units to defend, because your turn is DONE. All you can do is shuffle the worker off somewhere.

The autosave for a turn is effectively done at the end of a turn in Civ V, so that the turn numbers are all off by one.

Both games force decisions on conquered cities, though both also allow for an inspection of the city first. At least in V you can raze a city later, though doing so will require annexing it, raising the culture cost of social policies. It would be nice if these were also handled the way production is: get it done before the end of the turn. This might be a problem because of how culture borders are drawn and affect movement speed, but that's a non-issue in IV because newly captured cities have very weak borders.

They're Everywhere!

| Friday, November 25, 2011
Chatting at work I found that I am surrounded. At least one supervisor plays Modern Warfare 3. A few employees do as well. More chatting found that of the three people I was working with one night, one plays Fallout 3 and played a ret paladin in BC, another plays EVE and is a new Goon, and yet another plays Skyrim (sadly, pirated) and used to play WoW (started in LK, clearly this means LK players are people who demand reward with no work*).

* This is sarcasm. If we're looking for other correlations based on a sample size of one, he also quit during Cata, for no specific reasons.

Now I know what you're thinking, but no, we're not all that prepared for a zombie apocalypse, because the building is mostly glass and weapons are not allowed in the building. Though we do have a decent bit of food, much of it is on the first floor. While the stairs are a bit too wide, they are not blocked by walls, so as the zombies go up along the predictable path, people all along the balcony can shoot. However once the zombies are up, there are few additional barriers. Even worse, there are outside stairs, which lead to higher floors also with lots of glass. Beside the roof, pretty much any location is an easy way to get surrounded and overrun.

This post is in no way influenced by the sight of hordes of shoppers on Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving

| Thursday, November 24, 2011
307.007 million in the US
7 billion in the world
That gives us about 4.39% of the world.

So happy thanksgiving to the best 4.39% of the world. Like my parents always said: choose your grandparents wisely.

And some for you too, Canada. You should be thankful. Without us you'd be the top hat to a completely empty land.

Civilizations IV and V

| Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Apparently my Civ V crash problem was not fixed by my RAM switch. It must have just been coincidence that it seemed to be better. Maybe my world was a little bit smaller that game. In light of this, I decided I'd jump back to Civ IV. Being what I am, I decided to compare them, not in a vague sense of which was better, but actually seeing how each felt moment by moment. Having played Civ V for a few months, what is Civ IV like?

As might be expected, my first reactions were negative. It's an uglier game. Whether the UI was better or worse in any approximately objective sense, it was confusing for a player used to a newer game. Way to not have backwardforward compatibility! Beyond that, I was just generally confused. What was good anymore? I remembered rivers were good to build on, but my cities wouldn't have a watermill building. Is there a best first tech? In V I go for pottery so my second construction is a granary. I went with pottery because I had some wheat nearby and it made about as much sense as anything else.

There are a lot of inconvenient aspects. Just about everything is a special tradeable resource that you want connected to your cities, so I was building more roads. Thankfully they were free. Also thankfully, the bear was just a little bit too slow and my settler did not get eaten. But that reminded me that cities are helpless and need units sitting in them or else barbarians wander in and take over everything. Now I absolutely must have a spare warrior built. I don't have a Liberty social policy tree, so I need to make my own workers, which stops city growth. Now I'm at needing a worker for any improvements, a warrior for my next city, and the settler for that next city, which is going to be pretty slow.

I can't find the happiness count. Oh, it's all city-based.

I'll have more later as I play more, but for now, I'll end with this idea: Civilization V is about civilizations, while Civilization IV is about cities.

Future Research Outside the Continuum of Established In-Game Reality

| Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Let's all pretend this is about Skyrim and not Oblivion so I can feel hip and with it. 'K? Good.

Yesterday I wrote that when we get information later in game can matter earlier, turning what would normally be "additional research" into "outside research". This specific subset might be classified well as "future research". It's not that our characters cannot do it, they just need time travel.

Enter Klepsacovic, the destruction, restoration, alteration mage who wears heavy armor and specializes in punching people. He had a great idea: Use the sign of the Atronach (no normal regen, but absorbs spells). This would give him some great ways to solve problems. For example, if his problem involved casters, he could absorb their spells and have tons of magicka, which could then be used to burn, freeze, and/or zap their faces in/off/inside-out. Against melee he would fall back on his heavy armor and skills at punching people in the face.

Unfortunately, Klepsacovic failed to know a few key future facts. The first was that he would not be an invincible punching wall of death against melee. Instead, he would get hurt sometimes, and need to heal. Heal with magicka which he could not regenerate. The second was that there are a lot more physical attackers than magical. Third, the casters he does fight tend to summon... more melee.

He was essentially dead on arrival at the first real fight. He did, just barely, manage to fight off the enemies near the closest Ayleid ruins and headed inside. At which point he found himself struggling mob by mob, grateful for the places he could sleep as he crawled through a maze of melee.

Then God swooped in and changed his birthsign from one that crippled him to one that helped him regenerate mana faster. Sadly, God could not easily change his specialized skills, and so he remained cursed by a predilection for hand-to-hand combat in the false belief that the use of weapons would hinder his spell-casting, a myth learned from an old story about an age of dragons, but in which only a few dragons get slain, rather than a more recent story in which dragons have replaced rats for the job of being killed in sets of ten.

Thankfully, Klepsacovic was blessed with the Prophecy of Levels which foretold a Great Doom in which too many levels were had and marginal attributes were increased, to the Great Doom of All, and with this knowledge of the future to come, he did avoid the Temptation of the Bed, by which I mean the other Temptation of the Bed, not the one you're thinking of, since there is none of that going on, but in his single-minded zeal he did find himself with great skills of Destruction and Restoration but without sufficient magicka to use his greatest abilities, and thus did he succumb to the Sleep and when he awoke found that he had murdered a man and would find himself on a Dark Path, his soul at risk of too heavy a burden of infamy and only by the timely intervention of a Guild of Fighters did he save his soul and avoid the cruel words of angry city guards.

In other words, because I didn't know what enemies I'd be fighting later on, I picked a birth sign which made my character very weak, and resorted to the use of the game console to pick a new birth sign. Then I killed a guy for what I'm sure was a totally legitimate reason not at all related to a vampire hiding his identity and found myself in a secret society of murderers who were all really nice and helpful. Later on I think I will rob some monks.

National Bad RAM Day

| Monday, November 21, 2011
I just made it up. Deal with it.

My computer had developed a habit of suddenly restarting while playing Civilization. I thought it might be overheating because I hadn't put back on the side panel of the computer, with a fan in it, which might be the main source of incoming air. That didn't fix it and I didn't really think it was overheating anyway, based on the "touch stuff and see if I get burned or zapped" test yielding negative results (in the diagnostic community, negative means positive, which is the least confusing thing we say).

My next suspicion was a bad stick of RAM. So I did the logical thing, switched them into the other pair of slots. That didn't fix it, which confirmed my suspicion.

Finally I resorted to pulling out one of the two 2gb sticks and replacing it with a pair of 512mb sticks from my old computer. This wasn't as big of a loss as it sounds, since Windows only seemed to recognize 3.5gb of the supposed 4gb total, so I only lost 512mb. Maybe there is some performance impact from having the unpaired stick, but I've not noticed. It is certainly offset by the reliability gain.

Coming tomorrow, plus or minus a month, Skyrim!

Outside Additional Research

Andenthal's comment on Friday suggested a distinction between "outside research" and "additional research". I agree that there is a difference, but it is a blurry line.

Given enough time and perseverance, I would never need outside research for any game. Why not? Because given enough time, I can figure out any mechanic.

That's where I draw the line, on the vague continuum of "too much time."

I think we can agree that it is asking a bit much for every player to take out a few months to learn new mathematical techniques and gather data to understand a game. At that point, "additional research" has clearly crossed into "outside research".

Beside the time cost, there is that future use consideration. Is a +5% damage to elementals good? Yes? I'm sure it is useful, but how useful relative to the talent/perk/slot it is replacing? We can play play ahead and see how often we run into elementals and how challenging these are, thereby having the data we need to evaluate the usefulness of the +5% damage to elementals talent.

At first glance we might call that "additional research". It fits better into the "outside research" category. This is information which is unavailable on the first play, so right there, start the game, you need outside research in order to properly evaluate the talent, barring dramatic game actions such as NPCs using all their conversations to talk about how hard it is to kill elementals.

Developers could negate this issue by making talents easy to change, so if later on you encounter many elementals, then you can switch for 5% more damage against them. Or they could make it easy enough that whether or not you have 5% more damage against elementals, you will still beat the game with minimal profanity. These are both side-stepping the issue of whether the game is self-contained, by which I mean, if you play the game with some thought and consideration, you will, without opening Excel, know enough to make good decisions. Not necessarily the best possible decisions, but good decisions.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm running 50,000 pirated copies of Skyrim on a botnet to determine the disposition change formula based on either number of units traded or value of items and I need to get this done before the FBI or Russian Mafia get suspicious.

Game difficulty

| Friday, November 18, 2011
This post was supposed to come before yesterday's. I apologize for self-contradicting in the wrong order.

My game would not have trivial mode. Or story mode, whatever you want to name it. It would, however, have easy, normal, and hard.

- Low twitch requirements
- No need for outside research on optimized builds, but talents or the equivalent are not random. Sorry, necromancy archer thief.
- Pulling cannot be reckless. If there are a dozen enemies, you still need to wait for some to wander away or use some sort of crowd-control to deal with them.
- This is for people to just jump in and play, without spending time planning out every last step, but while they are playing they will still be thinking.

- You have to be somewhat quick, but not like a Korean Starcraft player.
- Some outside research will be necessary to avoid mistakes* but you won't need to perfectly optimize everything.
- Those dozen enemies will need to be dealt with even more carefully, possibly requiring clever use of the game environment for concealment or as an opening attack, such as making heavy things fall on them.

* By mistakes I mean running into unexpected mechanics, such as the leveling system in Oblivion that had me leveling up from marginally useful skills while enemies got stronger much faster.

- I personally do not expect to beat this. Nor would I want to, because for me personally, this is the point at which a game ceases to be fun.
- You will need to be fast and constantly aware.
- Failure may have significant costs.
- Outside research is absolutely necessary.
- You may need to play through areas at lower difficulty to get a feel for the environment before you play again on hard.
- You don't get any additional shinies or lore. You just get the satisfaction of knowing your capabilities. And getting to brag to others. If they care.

Normalizing Enemy Difficulty

| Thursday, November 17, 2011
Why do RPGs so readily allow us to create stupid builds? For example, that person has a stupid build.

What if they're not stupid, but creative? Why shouldn't the heavily armored mage who uses magic to stealth be unable to beat the game? This build would probably fail in a typical RPG. But it doesn't have to.

Add a system to measure the effectiveness of a build and adjust the game accordingly.

Think up your excuse plot as you like, but the general idea is to have the player fight a series of enemies which are representative of what they will encounter in the game. So they'll fight some armored melee, some flimsy casters, some archers who refuse to stay in place, and mixes of them, with varying strength. From these fights the game can determine approximately how well your build handles each of those enemies and adjusts their strength relative to each other. Now your build which is great against casters thanks to a quick attack from stealth does not need to be utterly useless against other melee. This will adjust both up and down, so that you'll still be stronger against certain types and weaker against others, but you won't ever fight an enemy which is trivial or impossible because of your build choices.

After the initial tests it would continue to adjust enemies for a bit longer, to ensure that if you got crushed by a certain archetype it was due to the build and not just ignorance of how to handle them. If you start rolling over a certain type of enemy, it will adjust accordingly.
For arbitrary numbers, let's imagine that against your build (and skill at playing it) a melee has difficulty 10, a mage difficulty 2, and an archer difficulty 6. Melee would be reduced in power, mages increased, and archers left about the same, so that when you venture out, melee might be at 7, mages at 4, and archers still at 6. You'll still see melee as harder than mages, but not so dramatically. This might be the difficulties at the "normal" setting, so dialing up to "hard" would make them 10, 7, and 9, while "easy" would be 4, 1, and 3. These examples aren't on any particular scale, just that bigger numbers are a harder fight.

Note that all this does is adjust the relative power of enemies. There is still an overall difficulty setting which can shift all of them up or down.

Coming tomorrow, an uninspiring, uncreative opinion piece on game difficulty.

If you want to see content, go to YouTube

| Wednesday, November 16, 2011
If you want to experience content, then asking for it to be gutted is counter-productive.

Raiding isn't about 25 random people wandering around in a big room. It's about people playing together, over multiple sessions, to overcome some sort of challenge. It's not for everyone. I don't mean that as "not everyone is allowed to do it", but "not everyone wants to do it".

Make raids for raiders. Make youtube videos for people who want to see content. Make other content for people who want other content.

PSA: Oblivion 75% off Tuesday-Thursday

| Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Normally Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is $20 on Steam, which I think is worth it. Currently it is $5. That's four times worth it. That puts it at 1/12 the price of Skyrim.

Math says you should buy it and math is never wrong. Unless I forget my calculator and do it in my head. Then there are problems.

5 too many and 15 too few, it's the amazing 10-man!

The week before today, also known as (aka) "last week" to you kids these days (yktd) I made some claims regarding raiding, such as suggesting that easymode raids would be nothing more than oversized dungeons and that oversized dungeons are stupid.

Well long story short, Upper Blackrock Spire, Karazhan, and Alterac Valley (before they ruined it).

This was a good start to a flame war back in the day. Someone would say something about raiding and not being able to raid and then someone would say that UBRS was a raid and someone else would say that is stupid. It was a raid and it was not. It was true that to create a full UBRS group of 15 people, or 10 after they did some changes to a few of the high-level instances, you would need to use the "convert to raid" button and would then have raid bars and all that stuff. It was raid-sized-ish, in the sense that anything more than 5 players required a raid. It was still smaller than the smallest raid of 20 people for ZG (or AQ20 later on).

It was essentially an oversized dungeon with the occasional raid-like element, such as one person being able to ruin everything. The loot was mostly blues, with some extremely rare epics (if you saw one drop ever you were lucky). This was the standard for the high-level instances at the time. Fights weren't quite faceroll, but most of them weren't especially tough. Mistakes could get you killed, but patient clearing minimized the risks. Randomly placed quest chains would lead through the instances. They'd take an hour or two to complete, though depending on the level of PvP activity at the time, just as long to get inside.

I loved that place, despite it not properly fitting with my "no oversized dungeons" philosophy of the previous post.

In fact, maybe that's what made it so great. It was a 5-man that you could bring a crowd to. Bring your friends! Bring your enemies! Bring someone with the key otherwise we're going to have to hire someone and that's a bit of a pain! This was quite handy because it was like meeting three groups at once, a useful thing back when meeting people in groups was how you formed guilds.

UBRS was a strange sort of place. You'd go in and do some raid-like stuff such as struggle to find a competent hunter and a druid (not competent, just a druid) and people would find new and creative ways to wipe the group. Bosses could have some interesting mechanics, but nothing too major. It was somewhere between raiding and 5-mans, but clearly on the side of 5-mans.

This was the best raid ever. Hands down (unless we're doing OWS finger waving things in which case it is hands up, but seriously, stop doing that). Nothing comes close. Why? Why indeed.

You know what? I could go on all day, night, tomorrow, and probably keep going about everything that was great. But I'm not going to. That's right, I'm just going to say that Karazhan was awesome and was a 10-man raid, and then walk away.

Alterac Valley
This is one case where I think having more people was critical. It was the sheer number of people that made AV what it was. Well that and an unusually important PvE element in a BG which was gradually nerfed into oblivion, somehow taking the PvP with it, until it was reduced to a boss race and I went home to cry.

Alterac Valley was the oversized place. There were a lot of people and there were a lot of flags and graveyards. It was like Texas if Texas were colder and the immigrants shot back more often. I think in this analogy the Orcs are Texans and the Dwarves are immigrants, which reverses just about everything we'd usually expect, given the dwarvish love of guns and the orcs being illegal aliens.

In a sense, AV was an oversized AB. You'd run around and try to capture flags and then the other side would try to take them back. Then people would yell at you to fight at the flag and someone else would run around behind everyone else and capture it. So then we'd all fight on some other road. Then at the end the winner would fight a boss while a bunch of idiots tried to wipe them, much like raiding. Mechanically, AV was like a giant AB, but by making it so big, it made it different.

It's not the size that matters, it's what you're trying to do with it.
UBRS isn't an easymode raid, it is an oversized dungeon and does not pretend to be anything else. Similarly, back when several of the dungeons were 10-mans, they were oversized dungeons, not easymode raids. Part of this is that they were not easymode, at least not at the gear level of people who ran them.

In contrast, an easymode raid will not be an oversized dungeon. It will pretend to offer challenges, and then not. It will pretend to require coordination, and then not. It will put on all the appearances of a real raid, and then not be that.

Karazhan, while a small raid, was not easymode. It would kill you and kill you again and then make you play chess. Then kill you for losing at chess. It was small so you could round up people without too much difficulty, though certainly nothing compared to an automated tool that can bring in anyone and then just as easily get rid of them so you don't accidentally form any human connections. With the attunement changed, Karazhan was accessible without being trivial. If someone still won't run it, then the raid is not the problem.

Government Accountability or Lack Thereof

| Monday, November 14, 2011
Hey Britain, WAKE UP. Especially you, lazy government employees. And you, BBC, you dropped the ball on this one. Or walloped the loo or whatever ridiculous phrase you have.

Downing Street is overrun with vermin because the ...

Okay on second thought, it appears that NPR had the BBC as its source for this story. So good job, BBC, I'm glad to see you're so proud to be taking over American media. Anyway, government incompetence.

No. 10 Downing Street's semi-official mouser is being defended despite mouse sightings at the glorified shack. Even worse, since being brought on in the winter, "Larry" has caught only 3 mice as of June. Either that place has so few mice that an official mouser is a waste of taxpayer dollars, or as you ridiculously call them, pounds, or the mouser us utterly incompetent. Or lazy.

Just look at that lazy, lazy cat.

Purple Pixel People

On Friday masterlooter suggested
There are players that like to raid (read: defeat difficult encounters with many other players), and there are players that want purple pixels.
I'm sure he didn't mean it as a dichotomy for the overall population, but for the population that raids. In other words, some people raid to raid and some people raid for loot. Even then, it's a bit of a stark divide. I raided because I enjoyed it, but I definitely liked the loot as well. I know that my preferences are not universal, but I think that the particular trait, being able to enjoy both an activity and the reward from it, is universal, or fairly close. People can enjoy raiding and enjoy getting loot and may raid partially for loot and partially for the experience.

In fact, I think these are linked, and that's the root of the problem with easymode raids. Despite my absurd claim that loot has intrinsic value based on the number attached to it, it doesn't. Loot is relative. Relatively relative.

Gear rewards have two parts: the gear (tool) and reward (reward). Higher stats make me better able to play and are a useful tool when attempting to kill internet dragons. But the loot itself, regardless of the stats, has a reward aspect to it, which is derived from the experience. The loot is a symbol of the experience. For example, getting Thunderfury was effectively useless as a tool because by the time I got it it was a couple expansions behind and was more useful to a different class anyway. But as a symbolic reward, it was tied to many experiences. It drew from my early days in MC and the status of such a weapon back then. It symbolized the time I had spent farming MC in BC and LK. It symbolized a social effort to get the raid members I needed and to find the materials as well. Also it just looks awesome.

From that we can see that the gear reward is not a matter of the stats or power of the item, but of the meaning it carries for the player. Certain tier pieces in BC symbolized having struggling and succeeded to kill a tricky boss. These days the stats would be laughable, but the symbolic meaning is still there.

Over time this meaning has become ingrained in the item system. Higher level gear came from higher level raids which required more perseverance, more struggle, more skill (please don't argue this last one, it never gets anywhere). With this pattern firmly established, it would be easy to see how the connection could get reversed. Gear, carrying the symbolic meaning of some achievement, could substitute for the achievement. To a limited degree this can work, with badges giving that tier piece that never dropped or in my case, going back later to get the badass sword that shamans could not use. If an experience gave loot, then it is not unreasonable to think that the loot implies the experience. Loot can become fun.

That connection relies on the loot, the reward, being linked most strongly to the specific experience. There can be side links, such as the badge system, but the reward should primarily invoke the main experience, such as killing a particular boss.

That connection can be distorted or broken if the reward changes sources. If a chest piece started off coming from a very hard raid, we'd link it to that raid. If much easier content began to give that reward, then the link changes. This is not necessarily a bad thing. That easier content could be a lot of fun, in which case the reward switches the link from challenge to fun. For some that is better, for some it is worse, but objectively we can't say that the item is degraded. However, if the easier content is not fun, then the reward switches the link from challenge to drudgery. In that case, the item is degraded.

So to get back to the Purple Pixel People, there may be people who are attracted to purple or big numbers, but they are a minority. Most people are instead attracted to the symbolism of the items and how they evoke an experience, maybe fun, maybe challenging, maybe social. The reward is a means to an end, the end being the experience. This can happen directly, with the reward-as-tool allowing them to confront and overcome the challenge. It can happen indirectly, with the reward giving them the image of one who has overcome the challenge, like putting on a uniform to appear authoritative, or lacy underwear to appear pretty. Not that I am suggesting that I or any other raiders, former or present, do or have done that.

There is also status. Good gear confers, or is hoped by the player to confer, status. "Look at this gear and know that I am a badass." This works as long as the gear is primarily linked to something badass, such as killing something badass. If the gear is instead linked to spending ten hours a day watching My Little Pony (before the remake of it), then even if it could also be gotten from a world-first Sargeras kill, it wouldn't confer much status.

Maybe I haven't quite convinced you, so I'm going to make you an offer. I'm running an MMO and if you want, I can give you a full suit of Awesomeslayer Armor which has +tenbajillion^7 attack damage power. Do you want it? Let me assure you, this armor is way better than anything else out there. Do you want it? Better question: Do you even care? Probably not. The armor has no link to anything, no symbolic meaning and no clear usefulness, given that for all you know my MMO was made up on the spot to prove a point. What if I said that it has a particularly purple shade of purple text? No? Okay.

In conclusion, Purple Pixel People are an irrelevant minority that are not protected under anti-discrimination laws so I can safely say that. If people appear to want epics, it is because they want epic experiences. It is because they want content. That does not mean it is content that showers them with loot. In fact, a loot shower may be counter-productive, as well as dangerous if we were to imagine the literal scenario.

No Easymode Raids!

| Friday, November 11, 2011
Raiding isn't a nice activity. It demands time, lots in the game, lots outside. It demands difficult-to-form groups, whether by size or by rigid class makeup, or both. It is an exclusive activity. It excludes people. It can, of course, be tweaked to excluded fewer people. Consumable timesinks can be reduced. Gear timesinks can be reduced. Saving IDs week to week can reduce the per-week time needed to advance.

But raiding is not an inclusive activity. Raiding is not something that should reach out and embrace you and invite you in. Nor should it demand that you do it. It should just be there, silently waiting, possibly giving you a hostile glare until you meet its standards.

All this "PUG-friendly" or "easymode" raid stuff is nonsense. It's just redefining raiding. I know there aren't distinct lines, but if raids get smaller, easier, and shorter, why are we calling them raids? Why would we make something like that? It's redundant! There is already a 5-man content type: regular dungeons and heroics. These fit the model of "PUG-friendly" raiding Tobold pushes
  • do *not* have studied the "dance" on YouTube,
  • do *not* have spend hundreds of hours gearing up before even trying the first boss in the first raid,
  • do *not* have an uninterrupted block of 4+ hours available,
  • do *not* consider wiping 400 times before the first boss kill reasonable,
  • and finally do *not* have above average skills in moving fast or playing their character extremely well.

Except perhaps the last one, 5-mans and heroics are all of those. So why make easymode raids too? What are they adding? Is it the size of the random crowd? I'm just trying to imagine the conversation here.

"Hey boss, we have some new dungeons for you to look over." "Great, let's see them." "Check it out, anyone can get in, it's not too hard, not too many out-of-game requirements." "Yea, it's great, but could you figure out a way to have a lot more people?" "Why?" "I don't know. It's a great dungeon and all, but maybe it just needs five or twenty more people."

There's the problem, right there. Somehow this absurd idea got out that everyone wants to raid because somehow being in a huge group makes everything better. It doesn't. When I think back to the typical random, the last thought on my mind was "You know what this group needs? Even more of these people." It wasn't that they were bad, since for the most part they did well enough. It was that they were not people. It's an asocial experience to run with randoms. Adding even more random people does not make that any better. If anything it would make it much worse. Have you ever been in a big group but felt left out or generally just not part of it? That is random raiding.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a player never seeing anyone a second time, ever.

Facerolling through heroics wasn't much fun. Making that bigger isn't going to fix it.

5-man content has been long-neglected, with Blizzard papering over the flaws of it with game mechanics rather than content fixes. Random heroics were their attempt at filling heroics that no one wanted to run and to get people who didn't want to run heroics to keep running them. LFD was their way to fill up heroics that people were done with. These did not fix heroics. Nor will random raiding fix raiding, if it is even broken. I don't believe it is. Instead I believe that LK pushed a bad philosophy that everyone should raid and everyone should raid one tier of content.

Raiding isn't for everyone. So don't make it for everyone. To do so would be as ridiculous as trying to design a Hummer to appeal to Prius owners. They are different markets and no amount of hybrid fuel-cell solar-powered hemp-tailored-seating will change the basic fact that a Hummer is a really big vehicle for people who need or want a really big vehicle and a Prius is a small car with fancy stuff to make it fuel-efficient for people who like to be fuel-efficient. Different markets.

If we imagine and accept that only a fraction of players want to raid, then what about the remaining fraction? Note that this remaining fraction might be a bigger fraction. Also note that non-raid content can still be fun for raiders without being raid content and without being a gateway to raid content. There you go: don't waste time turning raiding into not-raiding, which raiders won't want to do because it's a crappy version of raiding and non-raiders won't want to do because it's a crappy version of raiding. Instead, make non-raid content! That isn't a daily!

-Add more outdoor content, that isn't in the form of dailies.
-Add more 5-man content, some of which is not done in half an hour.
-Add sets to non-raid content.

Coming next week: I find the exceptions that make the ideas in the post sound stupid.
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